Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Umteenth Telephone Call

Miss Dell returned from the hospital after I spent a horrendous few hours of discovering from the telephone company and Miss Dell's relatives that she needed a motherboard. Expecting six weeks without my companion, I resigned myself to using Sis' computer and gave myself a moratorium from research and answering emails.

To my surprise, Miss Dell left for Memphis for her operation on Thursday, returning the following Monday! Looked fit as a fiddle. I hugged her as I took her out of her cozy box, hooked her up to all the wires required by DSL--making her look like a real patient--and turned on the power.

She didn't blink, wink, or sniffle. Her eyes were dark. I could hear a faint heartbeat when the power button was pressed. SHE'S ALIVE! But her breathing was shallow.

Another phone call to her parents. They weren't home, but their maid-- called a tech supporter-- on call somewhere on the globe, speaking in broken English I barely could decipher, was ready to help me. Time: 2:30 p.m.

--Tell me your problem.
--Well, I sent Miss Dell to the hospital because I couldn't connect her to DSL. She's home and won't even look me in the eye!
--I see. You say she doesn't look at you?
--That's right. She is as dark as night. Like, you know, like she's dead.
--Let's perform a few tests. Hit the power button and tell me what happens.
--OK, I have turned on the power but the little light at the bottom edge flickers.
--What about the second light?
--Oh, it's flickering--oops, it's now off.
--Turn off the power and look at the back of the notebook.
--OK, I'm looking
--See the large latch? Push it and pull out the battery.
--Oh, that was easy. So that's what the battery lookss like.
--Find the rectangular compartment on the left hand side.
--I don't see an opening that shape here.
--Do you see where drive dee is?
--The what?
--The seedee drive,where you put your seedees.
--Oh, yes, the CD drive.
--Take out the screw of the door near the ceedee drive.
--Gosh, I don't have a screw driver that small! Why didn't Dell send me one with the computer?
--Just take out the screw.
--Ok, ok, I'll go look for a screw driver. What if I don't find one?
--Don't worry, we'll do just fine.
(I remembered the small set I bought at the grocery store to repair eyeglasses. However, this Phillips screwdriver is a shaft only. I find a small pair of pliers, hoping to get a good hold on the shaft.)
--Ok, I've got a screwdriver. I'm loosening the screw. Hey, it won't come loose! Should I turn left or right to loosen?
--Just relax. You will do just fine. (Obviously, she doesn't understand my English!)
--What if I can't get it loose? Can we continue?
--I told you not to worry. Let's look at the other side for now. Do you see a screw near oh?
--Where is oh? OH, I see, you mean the letter O. I see it.
--Now, loosen the screw and remove the door.
--Look, I couldn't loosen the last screw; Why do you think I can get this one loose? Hmmm, this isn't as difficult as the other one...I think I've got it...YES,I'VE GOT IT LOOSE!! Now, what's next.
--Take out the memory cards.
--The what? I've never done this before. There're no cards in here.
--The little green memory cards. There are white latches on the side. Lift them out.
--Look, I've never taken apart a computer before. Are you sure you'll stay with me to the end?
--Have confidence. I'll stay with you. Lift the green cards at a 45 degree angle.
--Is it ok to put my fingers on them?
--Sure, no bother. Take them out and put them aside.
--Do you see the small black arrow? Push it towards the right and when you do, take out the ceedee drive.
--You mean I don't have to remove the screw?
--This is another way to get the ceedee drive out. Now, turn over the notebook and power it on.
--Hit the effentee.
--Uh, please repeat that...
--The effentee.
--Sorry, I don't know what that is.
--F as in Frank, N as in Nancy, tee.
--Ohhh, the FN key. Ok, I'm hitting it.
--Does the light turn on?
--OK, turn over the notebook and return the memory cards,the ceedee drive and the battery.
--Don't leave me, just in case I forget where everything goes.
--Just don't worry.

Time: 4:30 p.m. Final diagnosis for Miss Dell: her el eee dees were out. A minor short? The tech said I'd receive new ell ee dees on Friday and she'd call and tell me how to put them in.

Gosh, another few hours to look forward to on the darn telephone. I'm ready for an Apple.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine's Day Past and Present

In our family treasure trove of famous experiences we recall one Valentine's Day that daughter JE insisted on giving all her second graders a card. She waited until six o'clock the 13th to make this decision.Off to the local drugstore where a package of 50 was reduced to $1.00. Closing the door to her room, she refused let any of us see what she was writing on each of the 24 cards.

The following day her teacher sat down with me at lunch at the school where I and the three kids went daily. She asked, "Did you read your daughter's words on the cards she gave her classmates?" I gazed at her a millisecond wondering if this question meant JE showed cleverness or stupidity. I shook my head no and she continued, "She wished them a 'happy VD day'," and burst out laughing. I had to smile.

I've always admired my husband's ability to deliver two-liner rhymes. This year I decided to extend my writing ability to poetry. I began by finishing his rhymes daily (something we do when driving in the car long distances). I became brave enough to send rhyming birthday greetings to my friends. After all, these verses were original and funny. In a pinch I'd have to ask R for help. After a month of producing verses I was exhausted. Today, I woke up, stumbled to the kitchen where I found written:

Ode to My Valentine

Hip hip hooray for Valentine's Day
A time to love a time to play.
A chance to express my love for you
In a very, very special way.
So here it is, for what it's worth,
A V'day gift in an obtuse verse--
(That may suffice for candy and spice).
Again I say, hip hip hooray
For a wonderful, loving Valentine's Day.

Well, I couldn't refuse to pen my own words:

To R on This Day

Ho, ho, ho, hey, hey, hey,
Finally today is Valentine's Day
Thanks for always being here
Delivering your daily dose of cheer;
Luv ya', luv ya', luv ya', Dear.

Crazy poetry can be the spice of life!

Friday, February 10, 2006


The Strawberry Man has arrived. This vendor has been selling this fruit at the same spot in north Jackson for years. He has a loyal following of folks who depend on this Louisiana fruit. We usually don't see these berries until March. The only ones available are from California and Florida. Most folks around here know that California strawberries shipped in to the local grocery store aren't sweet--just sort of red. Florida berries are ok sweet, but there's a difference in the taste of those from Louisiana. UMMM. Sweet, red, ready to mash and pour over pound cake or shortcake or angel food cake. Dopple a bit of whipped cream on top and you have a delightful dessert. Anyone eating berries locally grown have the delightful advantage over eating those shipped long distances.

The reason for the early sale of the berries is, according to the LSU Agriculture Extention news, farmers in Louisiana have been using new methods to keep the soil warm. Row coverings of plastic mulch and cloth-type mulch. The old method was to spray water on top of the plants and as the water froze, heat was released to protect the budding plants. No longer do farmers have to flood their fields and risk disease problems. The new methods allow the farmers to produce berries as early as December.

Prices here are $2 per pint or $24 flat of 12. Florida strawberries are selling for $2.50 in local grocery stores. Rarely have I seen Louisiana berries sold in chain grocery markets. Vendors like the one above set up their trucks and vans at specific points around the metro Jackson area.

There's a bowl of mashed strawberries mulling on the kitchen counter with a bit of sugar (to hasten breakdown and give some juice). I'll be ready for my "afternoon delight" about 3:00 p.m. Then in the morning I'll have strawberries on my granola after that, there'll be pickings all day long for a berry or two to pop into my mouth, until this flat is gone. I've most of the month to enjoy this year's crop. Sorry you won't be around this afternoon for a sample.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Winter Feast of Theatre

Every year in February the Alabama Shakespeare Festival holds Southern Writers' Project Festival of New Plays. This year was the third visit for Sis and me to Montgomery to listen to new playwrights. This theatre has a repertory group and MFA students from UA. They read the parts of a new play with gusto, bringing life to the written word. The purpose of public readings of the new plays is to give the audience a chance to critique what they've heard. What is the theme of the play, was it clear? Did the characters grow during the play? Some six questions give us direction of criticism. Two plays were in their second phase of reading. These were composed of African-American actors in familiar situations. One was based on the story of four little girls killed in a school bombing(Four Saints) and the other was a story of a black church in conflict(Santified). All readers were excellent actors and singers. The former was a drama and the latter a showcase of the actors' virtuosity of acting and singing. Both written by new black playwrights.

New plays read included Gee's Bend by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder and Love and Other Strange Phenomena by Peter Hicks. The young writers contributed The Last Dance by Caitlin Bach, The Party Pie of the Year by Laura Bradick and Conscience: A Story of the Inner Psyche by Samantha Pace.

This year we saw two fully-produced on stage plays, The Bird Sanctuary by Frank McGuinness and Pure Confidence by Carlyle Brown. The highlight of Sanctuary was the appearance of Hayley Mills, well-known actress of movies and British plays. The other actors were from New York stage: Elizabeth Franz,Diane Ciesla, Martin Rayner, and Westley Whitehead. This play was originally produced by the Abbey Theatre, Dublin. This was a confusing play of a disfunctional family of three adult children arguing over selling the family home, which would leave the single sister homeless. It should have remained in Dublin, in my opinion.

Confidence was a typical Southern story of a black jockey and a white man whose horse the jockey rode. Written by a black playwright, this is a tender story of one white family who truly loved the jockey but were restrained from helping him achieve freedom due to the slavery laws of that day.

Besides hearing new plays and their themes, our attendance give us opportunity to discuss the plays with the playwrights, record our impression of the play that will help the author hone his writing skills. We become better audience members by this means and by listening to media critics and theatre directors explore issues and ideas of the theatre of today and where its heading.

The Shakespeare Festival is committed to the Classics and Repertory Theatre and feature a variety of plays throughout the year. Sis and I go for a weekend of plays a few times a year. This is our fix, our substitute for being unable to attend plays in NYC. However, in Montgomery, actors and directors from that great theatre city come to us. Few people we know take advantage of this opportunity. Maybe it's the 5 hour drive...maybe it's the lack of interest in theatre...maybe the unfamiliarity of this jewel in Alabama...

NPR's All Things Considered calls the Alabama Shakespeare Festival "a theatre junkie's nirvana." Want to join us? See www.ASF.net

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Thinking of You, Dad

Today marks the eighth year I've not sat in Dad's room talking with or listening to him talk. Our best conversations came when we walked around the block or were riding to an appointment.

When he and Mother closed their home and moved in with my husband and me in 1992, adjustments had to be made. There was no guidebook on how to deal with the elderly, so we created our own. Mother was the most adaptable of the two parents.

Dad challenged us in many ways. Tempermental and impatient to anyone but his kids and grandkids, he was a voracious reader, a sports enthusiast, an inveterate worker. He was a junk food addict, a repairer par excellance of antique clocks, a consistent church attendee, a devoted letter writer.

A lover of birds, he once cared for blue jays that had fallen from their nest. The enclosed porch became a large bird house to keep them warm until their feathers grew. When they were ready to fly, he released them and enjoyed their frequent return. He was a gardener who encouraged birds to visit him often by planting bird-friendly flowers.

Having only an eighth grade education, he had a flourishing handwriting, an inquisitive mind, and a knowledge of good grammar and spelling. His work as a telegrapher with Postal Telegraph (which later became Western Union) required him to use correct English. He abhorred the idea that anyone would mispronounce words, write incoherent sentences, or misuse commas and apostrophes. He was valued as a telegrapher and worked during WWII to relay messages by Morse Code between Memphis and New Orleans. He never lost the ability to tap out letters, but was too deaf to hear the code played at the end of each week's episode of the television series NYPD Blue.

I have wonderful memories of my dad: his pushing me in a swing at Poindexter Park; teaching me to ride a bike on a brick sidewalk; washing my hair in the kitchen on Saturday nights; washing the family car on Saturday afternoons; the funny remarks he'd leave attached to the notes my sister and I left pinned on the front door; modeling his first "leisure" suit ...a real Dapper Dan. Even as a young man as you see above, he loved to dress well.

He was the only dad of all our friends who helped with housework and shared in taking care of his daughters. He had a sense of humor that to us sometimes was misused, other times embarrassing(whenever we were expecting a call from a young man, he'd answer the phone with "Insane Asylum" or "City Jail" sending us into dire embarrassment). Basically, his humor got us through a lot of difficult times, made experiences unforgetable.

When we had dates, if the young man didn't have polished shoes, Dad discourage us from a second date, emphasizing that the care of one's clothes and shoes was paramount. Dad, himself, never failed to polish his shoes to perfection weekly.

Every month when the Readers Digest arrived in our mailbox, the assignment at the dinner table was to review the "How to Increase Your Word Power." He made a game of teaching us the meanings of new words every evening.

One of Dad's proud moments was to receive a "commendation" from a poetry group(whose advertisement was always in magazines)indicating he was a First Rate Poet, or some such title. We never told him that probably every person who sent in a poem received the same printed paper. His poetry rhymed in a lackadaisical way, but he celebrated any and all special occasions with a ditty. At the insistence of many church friends, he'd pen a poem about that person for a birthday gift.

He had the ability to express himself with the written word. He wooed our mother with the sweetness of honey in telegrams he sent her in the early 1930's. A regular Romeo, he was. Later when each of his daughters were born or when some special occasion occurred, Dad penned a telegram. When fax machines became the staple of Western Union's messages, those telegrams stopped. Those sent to our family are yellowed with age and a prize of the family.

Despite Dad's faults and narrow focus of world changes, despite the fact that he didn't know how to express his love with "I love you" verbally, he expressed his feelings in other ways. He was generous and sensitive, using humor to hide his disappointments.

When I began to understand and appreciate my dad more, his life had run its course. He died at home in the loving comfort of his four "girls"(wife, 2 daughters, and only gran'daughter).