Saturday, May 26, 2007

Yellow Tarantula Harvest Of Doom!

Sorry I aint bin around, kids; the server's been down for a couple of days.

So we went to Wal-Mart and bought a garden hose and some barbecue implements.

In the automotive section we saw a lady with bright fuschia hair in pigtails. She was wearing Strawberry Shortcake stripey tights. She was leading a small, condensed-looking redhead around who blinked and licked and gurned continuously as she stumped along. Flap stump, lick stump, squint stump, blink stump.

We saw an elderly black man weighing maybe 85 lbs flying full 'Crips' sign.

We saw a man with his few remaining hairs greased down with vaseline to a perfectly centered point in the middle of his forehead, and he had white cottonwood fluffies stuck in it.

We stood in the checkout line next to a man who farted almost continuously, a nice, neat looking average man who smelled like he was filling both shoes with diarhhea.
I checked. They weren't. But, yeah.

We then went to lunch at a locally owned 'BOO-fay' place where we were the smallest people present, including all the children.

Then we went home.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

the red currant

My grandmother felt no compunctions whatsoever about taking from the land. Hell, she came from a time when the land belonged to anyone who was willing to stay in one spot through a winter. She picked up windfall fruit off the sidewalk, berried behind the gas station, she seedheaded in garden centers and from public plantings without a second thought. In defiance of state law she transplanted rare trilliums at will, keeping twelve of them in a washtub under some pine trees behind her house. In this highly unusual setting they grew merrily in utter defiance of the common notion at the time which held that even to squint hard at a trillium would kill it.

One spring she decided that she needed a red currant bush. Now I recall that this had been a subject of some conversation for months and the conclusion was reached that none could be had from any of the nurseries around.

A red currant is a shrub native to the Pacific Northwest. It's habitat is at the forest's edge, nearby a creek or a river. In March it comes forth covered in a fountain of deep pink flowers, nearly red, and later on these are followed with clusters of berries just in time for the robins. That suited my grandma down to the ground; she loved robins.

But at that time native plants were seen as nothing special and not worth offering commercially (excepting fashionable rhododendrons, but those were so pricey that they were black marketed). People mainly wanted exotics and things they remembered from back East, or from the 'Old Country'. This was the heyday of the Hybrid Tea Rose and the petunia. Who'd pay money for something that grew wild?

Which was exactly the way my grandmother saw it.

"I want to go for a ride up in the mountains," she announced one weekend. Her word was law. The car was packed up with picnic things. My grandmother appeared with a shovel (blade polished like a diamond, handle varnished and topped with red paint) and some burlap sacking and the trunk of the Ford opened while my father dithered and sweated and grinned and turned red. "Oh for Heavens' sake Niilo, I'm not going to do nothing wrong. Anyway you never know. What if we get stuck? At least we can dig ourselves out!" she stated. She held the trunk lid open with one hand and tucked the shovel inside, while my dad's hand rested heavily on the lid, pushing the other way. I saw her elbow lock.

All the way up the mountain my father kept repeating "Now, you know we aren't going to bring anything back you know..." and my grandmother kept saying "Oh Niilo, let's just take a nice ride. I just want to see things in bloom." When things wound down my mom would stir them back up again with a provocative comment. I kept mum.

By the time we reached ZigZag, halfway up the mountain, my grandmother and my father were openly arguing, something I had never seen before. "Now, this is against the law, Mom," he announced in his 'I'm the man so I'm the boss' voice. "This is breaking the law! I don't want no part of it!"
"Oh, I'm not going to do nothing wrong! Just drive, Niilo", she said.
" I know what you're gonna do, Mom, and..."
" I am 83 years old and if I want a tree I'm going to get a tree! Now that's it!" she replied emphatically.

This cracked my mother up pretty bad. I was just astonished.

The woods were beautiful, foxglove and seafoam and alder. Rhodadendron bloomed in leggy wands tipped with ridiculous pompons of bright pink, shining between the evergreens. We passed a few 'rhodie rustlers' along the way. These were backwoods Joad families with shitty old pickup trucks loaded down with plants stolen off public land. They openly sold them by the roadside despite it's being illegal as hell. My grandmother pointed them out triumphantly. "Nope! That ain't right! They're breakin' the law!" My father groused. "Now, now don't you tell me you want one a them cause I'm not stoppin!"
" I already have some rhododendrons, Niilo" she replied. "I got them from behind Sherret's place when they moved out."
"Oh, boy" said my dad.

We turned off onto a state forest road and began to climb into the foothills. My father was red. "Look at all the people, Mom" he whined. And it was true; everyone was out enjoying the woods that fine April day.* "We can't, we don't wanna, we, we better not-"
"Keep driving, Niilo" she said.

For awhile the car was pretty silent, unless you count the sound of my father sweating #8 gravel.

"There" announced Grandma "I see one. Stop the car."

There was a brief skirmish. My grandmother finally plucked the keys from the ignition and marched back to the trunk, opened the lid, removed her gear and set out into the woods. Hairnet, dress, stockings and all.

"Go with her, Niilo" my mother nagged. " She's gonna get hurt or somethin'."

Off he trudged with my mom in tow. " You stay here!; I was warned. "I don't want you seeing this! If anyone comes by you just don't say nothin, you hear me? Even if they talk to you! Don't say a word! Nothin!"
And so I sat, and sat, and sat...while the sound of bitching and digging echoed out of the woods.

They returned with a nice little currant, reachy but glowing red. My grandmother directed it into the trunk of the car like an air traffic controller. 'Don't break it, Niilo! And don't just dump it on the ground! Wrap the burlap around the dirt! You're bending it! Just set the root ball in the trunk on the mat!"

I kept my head low and watched this in the rear view mirror. My father was very near a heart attack at this point. Breaking the law was bad enough...this was worse! This was VOLUNTARILY INTRODUCING TOPSOIL INTO THE SURGICAL CLEANLINESS OF HIS AUTOMOBILE!
"Oh come on. A little dirt isn't going to hurt anything!" my grandmother said.
This made my father laugh in sheer disbelief and outrage. It was DIRT! Dirt was DIRTY! Dirt was TOUCHING HIS CAR! AND IT WAS UNLAWFUL DIRT!!!!

It got worse. Once the thing was in the trunk, three feet of it stuck out the back. No, it COULD NOT be cut. No, it COULD NOT be bent. Just prop something up under the lid of the trunk and tie it shut, Niilo.

Everyone loaded back up and we headed off down the mountain with the currant bush waving and nodding behind us like a flag.

Which was when the forest service truck pulled out behind us and made us stop.

The ranger made my father get out of the car, show his license, open the trunk, explain his business. My poor dad could not finish a sentence, blushing and stammering, grinning like a dog, mortified way past rational thought. Finally my grandmother sighed and got out of the car.

She strode up to the ranger with her arms crossed. " This is a red currant bush. I dug it up; I wanted it. I pay taxes. This is a state forest and we own these woods, and if I want to dig up a currant bush I'm not hurting anything. I my taxes paid for it, after all."

My grandmother stood nose to nose with the ranger while my father slunk off and slid behind the wheel. The ranger tried, poor thing, insisting that they had to fine anyone who stole plants from the woods, it was against state law and she had to be written a ticket.
" See? I told you! I told you! It's against the law! my father said, feeling justified. Feeling it at a safe distance from the fray, of course.

My grandmother stood her ground, completely unconcerned. "I am NOT doing a THING wrong. I would NEVER break the law. How can you steal a tree? That's the most foolish't thing I ever heard of. Steal a tree."

And the ranger backed down.

He made her promise that she wouldn't sell it (which set off another stern lecture-"After we drove all this way? This is going in my yard! The robins like it!") wouldn't dig up anything else and that she'd go straight home, the ranger got back in his truck and drove off. Probably to the nearest tavern.

And the currant went into her back yard, and the robins nested in it.
She made my dad plant it for her, too.


*things bloom a month later up the mountain than they do down in the warm valley.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Not a fun one. Might want to skip it.

I can't stop thinking about my grandmother and I don't want to write about it. I've tried, and I just don't want to put myself through the sorrow that wells up.
Which is a clear and obvious indication that I should, I guess.

I think about her now, in the spring when I'm out in the garden. That's how I remember her...rambling around in her yard, wearing a dress, with a handful of weeds. she waved at every other car that went past because she knew everyone, and they honked back or stopped to chat. Sometimes she'd give them a pail of apples, or pull up a few onions out of the garden and smack then against her leg to knock the dirt off before she handed them over.

She was my friend.

The short version is: she died a horrible, slow and undignified death, one she didn't earn. My father and her other two sons were responsible. When I spoke up about it I brought a world of shit down on myself...shit you can't even imagine putting a kid through.

Three people shared the expense of her care: a union foreman (who abused his kid), a gas company executive (who molested his daughter)and whatever the other one did (when he wasn't assfucking his sons). And they couldn't afford to put her in a nicer place? Bullshit. The place they put her in made the front page of the local paper! For health violations! It was one of the ten worst rest homes in the state!
As far as they were concerned, it didn't matter. It didn't count. She was old, she was sick, she was taking up space.
She was a woman.

My last living memory of her is standing next to her in the rest home while the adults chatted over her head, her far gone, in pain and on serious drugs. her shoulders and her hips were nothing but a series of open bedsores and the sheets were stained. I was pushed forward. She latched onto my arm so tight she left fingermarks, and she kept repeating 'I want to go home, I want to go home, I want to go home.'

She didn't know who I was. I couldn't pull away. Nobody was paying attention. Oh, they saw, but played it off as though they didn't because they wanted to chat, and meanwhile this ravaged insane thing that used to be my grandmother hung on to me like death and tried to drag me towards her, crying 'I want to go home, I want to go home' in a voice i didn't recognize.
You can't imagine the smell.
She had dried food on her face.
Her eyes were so dilated they were completely black.

Finally my father turned me loose and told me to go sit in the car. My parents were angry with me, of course, they were always angry with me. I was yelled at all the way home.

I loved my grandmother. I have never forgiven myself for recoiling in horror at what she'd become. And for not helping her. But Jesus Christ...I was 10 years old.

Monday, May 21, 2007

eating crayons and glue

I know I come late to the party with 'V for Vendetta', but I wonder if I'm not one of the few people who didn't think this was just a totally marvelous movie?

It seems to happen usually that movies taken from graphic novels and comics are almost too big to fit the screen, that even CGI is just barely able to support the vision of the artist. V on the other hand seems like it was stretched to fit. This is not to say that there is not some very fine acting going on here because there is. I was prepared to pass Natalie Portman off but she does a damned convincing job. Now if only the child would have a sandwich. Poor Hugo Weaving has to spend the entire movie behind a mask, and just brushes the fine line between symbol and camp with his suspiciously well-tailored ensemble. His voice does the majority of the work and does it very well despite some of the lines he's expected to deliver. This is a role that could have easily given way to operatic gesturing and it doesn't...good thing. Steven Rea as detective Finch is fantastic. John Hurt playing the Chancellor is amazing (although Chancellor Sutler would never have made it politically on this side of the Atlantic without a set of porcelain veneers and a laser peel).

It's the story that seems stretched thin, somehow. We know that V idolized Edmund Dante, but in The Count of Monte Christo the backstory is a vital part of the architechture of his revenge. We get only the barest hint of a backstory with V...a numeral on a door, an image seen through fire. Evey's final 'He was all of us' made me want to ask for my money back. Except that I was home. Likewise the government baddies...just hints. Nothing at all about the evil Chancellor himself.

Furthermore I had a lot of trouble believing that the general population were mobilized into united action in only a years' time. That was the point at which the entire move fell apart for me.

It must have been a balancing act indeed to make this a movie about symbols and ideas instead of characters and plot, but what was left was like a Swiss cheese it was so full of holes.

Still, give the Devil his due; you do get to see Parliament go up in a huge, gigantic monstrous ball of fire, which kicks ass and is excellent. In my book a good explosion excuses a lot. (Almost as excellent as seeing the White House get firebombed by aliens in 'Independence Day', and also the only reason to rent it out.)

It is raining and I hate it. I hate it and it pisses me off. I have things to do out in my yard and I would rather be doing them than sitting in this stupid house.

Today I have to go in and wait on my father in law, and I don't feel much like doing that, although I know I will enjoy myself. Why I would rather stay at home and feel grumpy than go into town and shop is a mystery, like Howling Cave in Kentucky or why Lindsay Lohan cannot seem to keep her bathing suit areas in check for more than five minutes at a stretch.