Archive for March, 2008

Stubborn is as Stubborn Goes
March 28, 2008

 The more one gets to know of men, the more one values dogs.

-A. Toussenel (1847)

I tried to out-stubborn Shadow the other day. I suppose it all hearkens back to the days in which my dad laid a heavy hand on our poor dogs and forced them to do things they didn’t really want to do. My dog attitude is more of praise and reward for a job well done, not one of yelling and/or beating for bad behavior or a command not obeyed. I have learned my lesson about yelling at a dog for something he did not do, and I will never repeat that mistake again! 

But I can be a stubborn person, as anyone who knows me will tell you (thank you, Dad!). So when I asked Shadow (who was COVERED in oak pollen/pine tree ‘worms’ and assorted leaves) to do his famous “flappy flappy” trick (i.e. shake it all off), he wouldn’t do it. I tried hand signals, loud commands, brushing his fur all backwards. No dice. He looked at me defiantly and would just sit down, which is his own signal that he’s not going to do it.  

Well. I dug my heels in. He wanted to come inside, but I wouldn’t let him until he did what I wanted him to do. No yelling or beating was involved, but I just wasn’t going to let him in. And he wasn’t going to do it. We went around and around… he would bark to come in, and I would go outside and ask him to do this one small thing. He would sit down, and I would go back inside.  

Repeat.  

I should mention that Bailey was hovering anxiously and trying his best to do what he thought it was that I wanted, but he doesn’t know that particular command; it’s strictly a Shadow trick! I’m not sure what was going on in Bailey’s head as the drama played out, but I wouldn’t let him in either. Whether or not he knew of the power struggle at hand didn’t really make much of a difference. It’s hard to work with two dogs sometimes.  

Then the phone rang. Joel said he was on his way home! And so one of us was going to have to yield. I decided to play a dirty trick on Shadow, and I pulled up his collar so that it draped over his ear. He did not like that! And he shook his head. Success! I won!  

Or did I? It was a false victory, I know, because I knew I really didn’t win. And it was also a hollow one, because my heart wasn’t really in it. How juvenile it is to be in a power struggle with a dog!  

It reminded me of a recent horn-honking duel that transpired down around the corner. Someone honked at another car (who knows why), and the other car’s driver took exception. So he honked back. And then she honked at him again, and he honked back, and so they honked at each other all the way until they went in different directions! How ridiculous was that? 

I know I was being ridiculous, too, and as I looked at that serene dog face later in the evening, I was sorry for being so insistent that Shadow DO something. What did it matter in the long run? I’m not sure, but I wonder if his heart was hardened as a result. I know I am anthropomorphisizing human feelings onto him, but after all, he IS the smartest dog ever!  

Postscript: The next day, Shadow was his usual sunny self. All was forgotten. I love how dogs are so forgiving, as opposed to people. Something to think about!  

More Cross Words
March 21, 2008

 As we get older we do not get any younger.

-Henry Reed (1946)

While working on today’s crossword puzzle, I was once again confronted with the fact that I am hopelessly behind the times. The clue was, “send a message to, in a way”, and the answer was four letters long, none of which had been filled in yet.  

My puzzle strategy is to skim the clues, but not fill in anything unless I know for SURE what the answer is, and then the rest of the items fall into place. What was my old fashioned reaction to this clue? “WIRE”. (I know I am dating myself here!) But I passed it over for the moment and continued down the rest of the list.  

When I later returned to this clue, lo and behold, I discovered that it began with a “T”. Of course! “TEXT” was the answer! Do I know how to text message on my phone? Yes, but I don’t like to. It takes too long for me to hit all those keys as many times as it takes to get to the correct letter of the words I am trying to write, and I am reluctant to purchase one of those fancy devices that has a full keyboard with access to e-mails, internet, etc. Who needs all that with a life like mine? 

I’ve said before in this very space that I think I’m turning into my grandmother who never had a dishwasher or a microwave. Memaw’s refrigerator had sloped shoulders with a door to the freezer that one could only access after opening the main door. Inside the freezer, the walls were covered with a thick layer of ice that had to be defrosted every now and then. And because the fridge was so old, the handle to the freezer door had broken. Memaw’s solution was to keep a pair of scissors on top of the fridge, to use as a lever to open that interior door.

She had rotary dial phones, and even when presented with a cordless phone that she could carry around with her, she never used it. I always thought she was hopelessly out of date, but now I understand! She just had no use for things she didn’t really need.  

Last Sunday, the mother of one of my youth choir singers asked me how to best send me the photos she had taken at the choir’s annual fundraiser. She mentioned a few web based photo collection sites, and I’m afraid my eyes glazed over. I admitted to her that one of my worst faults is a distinct lack of curiosity; if I don’t need something, I just discount it. Just like Memaw. So I just told her to pick her favorite 4 photos and send them to me via my e-mail, which I understand is not the way young people communicate anymore. Shades of rotary dial phones!  

Oh well, one of the other clues in today’s puzzle made me feel like being a dinosaur wasn’t such a bad thing after all, at least in terms of solving a crossword puzzle. The clue was, “a stereo component”. Once again, I skipped over it until a few letters had been filled in. When I came back to it, I went, “Aha!” The answer was “TAPEDECK”. 

How many people still have tape decks? I think ours has finally been retired, but the one in our 12-year old car is still functioning (at least I think it would work if I knew where any tapes were to test it). Next thing you know, CD’s will be passé, and then what? I’ll have to get an iPOD or a MP3 or something like that?  Joel is on the verge of getting a new car; I wonder what it will have as its music playing options? 

Thank goodness for young folks who can help us oldsters “cross the road” into the new technology! Shannon will be home in a week or so, and I’m counting on her to show me a few new tricks, especially if good ol’ Dad gets that car between now and then!  At least I will maybe sound like I’m smart and with it, even if I don’t use my newfound knowledge for any other reason than to answer cutting edge crossword puzzle clues! 

YAWN!
March 14, 2008

It is no time for mirth and laughter,

The cold, grey dawn of the morning after.

-George Ade (1903) 

I especially hate the first morning of Daylight Savings Time. Mostly, it’s because it always occurs on a Sunday, and I have to get up before dawn as it is. So it really hurts to lose that extra hour of sleep! 

Last year, Joel was out of town that weekend, so I actually set my clocks ahead an hour on the Friday night before. It seemed to help that I had an extra day to adjust! Unfortunately, this year, he was NOT out of town, so I couldn’t entirely fake myself out all weekend.  

I did set my watch, my car clock, my desk clock, the microwave clock and my bedside clock ahead on Friday night, and I did warn him to not to be confused, but how could he not be, with the various times on display? For some reason, I didn’t sleep well on Friday night, so my experiment got off to a bad start, when I didn’t get up early as planned on Saturday morning. 

There was nothing to do but to soldier on, so I gamely kept to my schedule, eating lunch at 2:00 p.m. We hosted a dinner party on Saturday night, and I explained to folks that the clock in the kitchen had already been set an hour ahead, so to not panic, thinking it was too late.  

Once everyone left, I did a load of dishes, and headed for bed, as the clock read 11:30. It had been a long day, and I did fall asleep easily. My eyes popped open at 5:15 a.m., and I groaned wearily. I knew I had to be at church early, and so I got up about 20 minutes later before my alarm rang, in the pitch dark of course, now that dawn had been pushed back an hour. Or forward? I get confused by the semantics of it all. 

Speaking of confusion, the dogs were dead asleep and were likewise confused that I was getting up so early. Not even the concept of an early breakfast sparked their interest. It was just too darn early!  

The paper guy/gal (whatever) didn’t come at the usual time, so I just leafed through a magazine as I ate my own breakfast. Did I mention that it was too darn early? After walking the dogs and pulling myself together, I was about to head into church, when I looked at my cell phone and had a startling moment of extra confusion… the automatic clock feature on it hadn’t adjusted to DST! While I thought it was 7:20 a.m., my phone said 6:20 a.m. Had I done it wrong?    

My trusty computer affirmed that I was correct, and I drove on in. Nobody else’s phones had it right, either. Interestingly enough, though, as the morning transpired (I did survive!), my phone figured it out, and jumped an hour ahead, just like the rest of my clocks.  

The absolute worst DST experience was one year when the time change fell on Easter weekend, when our youth choir had to sing at the Sunrise Service, which begins at 7:00 a.m., which meant we had to show up at 6:30 a.m. Which meant we had to wake up at 5:00 a.m., which was really 4:00 a.m. So I am not complaining too much about this year!  

Now we’re all coordinated, and have the first week of DST under our belts. I am all set to go to bed at what WOULD be a really early hour for me, but I’m not going to think about it like that. All I know is that I’m really tired, and I hope to get a good night’s sleep, no matter what time it is! The worst is now over and now I can ease into spring with an extra hour of sunlight at the end of the day.  

I do like that part of the equation!

Walkin’ in New Orleans
March 7, 2008

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I’m going to need two pair of shoes
When I get through walkin’ to you
When I get back to New Orleans

-Fats Domino 

Last March, I returned to New Orleans after a two-year absence, thanks to Katrina. Things seemed pretty dreary all around, with boarded up storefronts, potholed streets, non-functioning traffic signals, a lack of basic services due to a shortage of workers, and the like. Everything just seemed run down, shabby, dirty and beaten down.   

Fast forward to this March, and I can tell you that NO is slowly recovering. Although I know there are some areas (out of sight to me) that are still very needy of attention, I saw many positives that indicate to me that things are getting back to what passes for “normal” there, at least for tourists. Small things that we all expect, like taxis running, hotel amenities, street lights and  traffic signals working, crowds in the French Quarter, the return of street musicians, artists, etc. Last year it was all so sad… this year felt different. 

We went to a dinner party on Thursday night at a lovely uptown home, adjacent to Audubon Park. Last year, the trip from our hotel to this same house was fraught with problems, beginning with having to wait for a run down cab (that stalled twice on the way) with a driver who didn’t pay much heed to traffic signals that were out (he didn’t even slow down!). Joel had to just about unclench my hands from the elbow rest when we arrived. Trying to get a cab to come back to the house after the party proved impossible last year, so we had to hitch a ride back with folks who drove their own car. This year, the same trip was effortless for everyone, with cabs galore, safe trips and a repaired infrastructure. Even the street cars were running on St. Charles Ave., which was a welcome sight.  

Friday was blustery and chilly; Joel and I walked over to lunch at the Bon Ton Cafe, which was his dad’s favorite old haunt. Talk about an old school, buttery, heavy lunch! How do people eat like that all the time? There were few options for light entrees, so I just sucked it up and ate a few bites of what I’d ordered, which of course, was delicious! Since I was car-less, I then walked to my favorite museum, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. If you’ve not been there, it’s a real jewel! I enjoyed exploring all the floors; two have revolving exhibits, and one floor contains their permanent collection, which I loved seeing again. I got caught in a rainstorm while walking back to the hotel, which caused me to kick into power walk gear! Perhaps I burned off that fattening lunch as a result? 

That night, we went to another party and then to eat at K-Paul’s on Chartres St. in the French Quarter, walking all the way there and back (again!). The food was delicious, but spicy, as one might expect. It seemed as if Mardi Gras hadn’t already come and gone, with a boisterous table of revelers who were quite noisy! Did anyone tell them that it was Lent already?  

Saturday was my favorite day; I intentionally made no plans except to go where I felt like going (on foot, of course). I exited the hotel in my sweater, anticipating the bluster of the previous day, but it was delightfully WARM outside! As I walked along towards the French Quarter, I had to make an executive decision to either go back and change, or do something innovative. So I walked to the nearby mall at the end of Canal Street, went into the Ann Taylor shop and bought myself a lightweight, long sleeve t-shirt. I had them cut out the tags, and I just wore it out the door, with my sweater in a bag!  

I walked around the French Quarter, sat a long while in Jackson Square, just enjoying the sunshine, the atmosphere, the crazy folks, street entertainers, wedding parties, chimes from St. Louis Cathedral on the quarter hour, the calliope music from the paddle wheel, jazz from afar, etc. It was great, even the aromas. It felt like “normal”, which was another reason to celebrate. 

That night, the firm party was at the venerable Antoine’s; what fabulous dinners and fond memories we have had here! And how glad I was to see it back in action, albeit with a young wait staff… they were all wonderful, but it was quite a change from the old guard. I wonder what happened to all the career waiters that we have had the privilege of being served by through the years, like Sidney, who treated Joel and me royally when we were mere newlyweds and knew nothing about “the way things are”.  

Years later, when we returned to Antoine’s on another occasion, we recognized Sidney from across the room. We asked our waiter to call him over to our table, and he came, looking a little puzzled. We thanked him for treating us to such a delightful evening all those years ago, and told him that we still talked about what great service he gave us, above and beyond the call of duty (for instance, he took us on a tour of the back rooms and showed us Antoine’s historic Mardi Gras collection). Well… he got a little choked up! I could tell that our appreciation really meant a lot to him, and it made me very happy that we took the time to thank him personally.  

Back to Antoine’s 2008: all that walking in New Orleans allowed me to eat heartily that night, which I certainly did enjoy! Puffed potato crisps, oysters Rockefeller, shrimp remoulaude, crab salad, the most perfectly sautéed fish with a delicious sauce, topped by more crab, a melt in your mouth filet of beef with a vin de marchand sauce, creamed spinach and a personalized baked Alaska that was paraded around the room prior to its serving. Yum!!! 

Although my “dogs” were “barking”, after all the hiking around in my nice shoes that evening, it was a small price to pay for such an elegant evening at that magnificent old institution. Because all that walking around is what allowed me to eat heartily all weekend long! So my advice to you is to ditch the wheels and forget about “rouler-ing”. Rather “Laissez les bon temps promener!” (the secret to enjoying New Orleans food!)