Monday, December 28, 2015
We did make it through Christmas, and actually it was an excellent Christmas, with all the food and good cheer amongst our dwindling band, up in Greensboro. Work ended on a somewhat frantic note. We had a hurricane style rain on Wednesday last, which attacked our already battered driveway. Libby was aiming to head out and get a lot of supplies for her part of the Christmas cooking, but found herself instead bogged down in the driveway just as the serious upturn begins, where everything had turned either soft or deeply scoured. Usually we get stuck at this spot when there's a snow, not because of mere rain. So I took off early and got the mail and an extra large bag of cat food just in case, and got back home to find the Toyota just as she had described, and that's where I left it in the gloming, no reason to try to back up through the squish and hope I don't find the edge where a tree resides, wait till Christmas Eve. I did leave my truck out at the road side of the hill, so if we had to walk in and out we'd at least have some transportation once we got there.
The rains subsided some during the night. The local tv weather was dire, with flood warnings everywhere including where we needed to go. Christmas Eve arrived however, with just murk above and below, and no roar on the tin roof. Eventually Libby decided to venture out, and I backed the Toyota to a turn around I could see and drove to the house, so we were ready to pack things for Christmas Day assuming we could by then drive all the way to the road. Carrying Christmas out was in any event little better than heart attack territory, way too much stuff. When it snows and we're in such a fix, we've used a sled. No chance when it's mud and rocks. Either we'd go up to Greensboro empty, or we'd drive out. Libby went to Burlington to do the shopping she was aiming to do the day before. The clouds were so bad the Dish couldn't see the sat. That's pretty bad, particularly with no actual rain falling. I watched the Big Sleep again to pass the time. I hadn't recalled the pretty cabbie who helps Marlow follow that cab, and tells him to call her anytime but preferably in the evening, when she's not working. It was nice to think again of Doghouse Riley, an inspiration to all who try to keep a finger hold on the precipice.
It all worked out and we made Christmas, and while Libby did late night cooking we even finished up the tree.
You can see to the left the little Hindu shrine we built to the Houdahenians, which some of the more pragmatic would recognize as a fountain waterer. They've enjoyed the tree, and have grown mature enough to understand that climbing into the tree is a fool's errand. We avoided the glass ornaments as we have plenty of non-breakable ones, including crocheted snowflakes from long ago, and a little picture under glass of the kid as a baby, her first Christmas tree behind her, which was long ago as well.
After we got back from Greensboro in one piece, and with the company of a gorgeous full moon and clear if fleeting skies, we enjoyed the last of the day at home, and no need of a fire either, as it's been close to 80 and we even got out one of the fans that get put away when October arrives. In the morning I got to the post office, where I found presents from the kid and her hubby, which we opened in front of the tree once the lights were turned on. Day after Christmas we also opened a normally closed passage--a window, actually, that is now just an opening from the bedroom into the upstairs of the cabin. This was Libby's surprise gift to the kitties, a new route around the house, and it was enjoyed more than anything else we gave them aside perhaps from the little feather birds which they tried to eat whole, causing enough concern for me to "put them up," as parents say often after Christmas. Since the window was opened, all of them have spent a lot of time coming in and out in one direction or the other. After we retire at night we hear in the deep dark the startling "plop" of one of them, jumping off a shelf and onto the loft floor beside the bed.
Yesterday, the last of the Holiday for me, my old friend Mike, who taught philosophy and then went into grading work, came out to study the driveway situation with us, and offered proposals and suggestions which I think we'll probably take up pretty shortly. The dreadful storm--they've named it Goliath--devastating New Mexico and Texas seems mostly aimed a bit further north and we're hoping it doesn't decide to give us yet another hammering. The driveway isn't cut, but if that were to happen we'd be in a real fix. For now we'll fill ruts with bigger rocks and perhaps some Quikcrete patches. We're almost to a New Year. The general agreement is that 2015 was pretty awful. The Dish did come back on. Now it's time to go back to work.
Sunday, December 20, 2015
Sunday morning, and in a week Christmas will be past by two days! Yesterday we got our tree, a little orphan tree leaning into a small crowd against a fence at Walmart, and the only one without any brown needles, somehow having been picked past again and again, and it was in fact the perfect size we wanted. Bundled it home in the twilight. I sawed off a bit at the bottom to make a fresh cut for water to penetrate the trunk, and put it in a bucket on the kitchen porch. Libby started making some fudge for the folks I work with, and today we'll make sea foam candy for them, to add to their little Christmas baskets, and maybe some cookies. The shopping days are rushing to a rapid close. This year we get both Eve and Day off, which will be a coming delight. The kid and her husband choose again to remain aloof from the family festivities both hither and yon, the yon being our dwindling extended family mostly in Greensboro, but we'll drive up there Friday, another tradition that lives through the generations. While Libby cooked in the kitchen, I got a fire going in the stove and watched the IMAX film of the Rolling Stones circa 1991, called in our Dish version at least "At the Max," which is about right. Such a moment! The lads themselves are tiny on the gigantic stage, which featured two different pairs of Macy's Parade style balloon figures, first two females, a rambunctious teen girl on one side of the stage, a haughty cigarette-smoking blonde on the other, for "Honkytonk Woman," then later, two fearsome gargoyles to illustrate "Street Fighting Man." The show was as Artful as something by Christo:
When the fudge was ready I got to test a piece, and scrape the pot. The fire had warmed up the room. We brought in the tree and got it situated in front of the door we don't much use, where it'll be visible coming down the driveway. We've also put up a little string of lights powered by a tiny solar panel which highlights the other side of the driveway entrance, and comes on even if no one is home to throw a switch. As the evening lengthened, we welcomed the new tree with new strings of lights, which have a kind of "old-timey" quality to their colors and bulb size, though I guess the world has left behind the big bulbs grandmother Hicks used to decorate their big cedar tree in the parlor with every childhood Christmas. The fire in the stove, the warming of a cold room, remains the last direct evocation of those days from the '40s and '50s in the old farm house my great grandfather built on the east side of Durham, in 1872. That Christmas parlor had been first his country doctor's office, set apart from the rest of the living quarters and heated by its own fireplace. Then he moved into Durham and his son James, my grandfather, took up the work of farming after two years at NC State in Raleigh, where he learned the scientific methods of 1900. I saw the end of that as a child, the mules and sleds, tenant kids riding on the back and pulling the big leaves and tying them to sticks to be wood cured. My dad paid for his college with a field of tobacco James gave him to tend, from start to finish. When he was done with school he stayed at State, teaching, keeping well clear of the farming life, driving us to Grandmother's for Sunday gatherings now and then, big fried chicken meals that more than filled the table as did the big extended family in the early '50s, Grandfather James' remarkably elegant blessing, "Thank God For Dinner," still remembered by sis and myself, now the last of the whole shebang. And of course every Christmas we'd drive over there from Raleigh and have one of those feasts, and repair to the cold parlor across the hall, where the fire was laid but not lit, and Aunt Cecile or Aunt Libby would play piano and we'd sing Christmas carols (sometimes I'd play along on violin, as I started learning it in the 4th grade). Once the fire got going we'd all go into the room and presents would be opened, and the paper tossed into the fire. And eventually we would drive back to Raleigh, on old US 70, in the earliest days in daddy's black '36 Chevy coupe, which had a ledge under the back window that as a tyke I could lie on and watch the cold stars and bare tree branches whiz past in the night.
So last night as it got late and they reran a Tom Waits show from 1970-something on Austin City Limits, which featured props as remarkable in their way as the gigantic Stones' balloons: real gas pumps and an old tire Waits lugged around as he performed his poem-songs to great applause, we turned out the lights and looked at the decorated tree, or at least mostly decorated--we still need to add the star, and maybe an ornament or two, but not many because the five cats will be too tempted by glass balls they can bat and knock down onto the stone floor--Christmas arrived for its yearly visit out here in the woods, where it'll stay till sometime past January 1, 2016, on the living room couch.
The two links:
Both these pieces are worth your time. Both illustrate the obvious general truth, that reality is complex. We all want to simplify of course. That's probably human nature. It's a terrible and irresponsible thing when leaders encourage us in this, and a weakness in their leadership bonafides. It is a long-standing trend, this temptation, given into again and yet again, by those who ache for power. It's not new, but frayed and worn. This makes the current cycle that much more reprehensible. Consider this American history:
So I lied. That's three links.
Saturday, December 12, 2015
Yesterday on the pretty darn boring if horrible "news" show that MSNBC has posted to it's early evening lineup, that would be Chuck Todd's whatever it's called, Todd asked someone whether Hillary Clinton would simply vanish from view behind the Trump-glare. There were bemused shrugs. I think the interlocutor said something about how "she's waiting for her moment." After a bit of this I decided to spend my early evening watching Chabrol's "La Ceremonie," which is (as is typical of Chabrol) an outstanding piece of film-making, and apropos enough to the context of this particular end of Fall, drenched with blood from a range of fanatics (when pray-tell was Mr. Deal "radicalized," and what does that actually mean?--but I digress). By 8 PM Libby had come back from a quick trip to Pittsboro with a tiny solar panel connected to a string of Xmas lights, which we're going to attach to a big butterfly bush that is the most positive visible evidence of gardening activity in the year 2015.
It's true that Mr. Trump is good at attracting attention to himself. Chris Hayes devoted his show to a wait to see if Trump was going to attack Cruz live, at his rally of the moment in New Hampshire. I didn't wait. It wasn't hard. It was, eventually, much easier to actually go to bed. So the question really is, how come it's so hard for the whole phalanx of our so-called news media to avert their eyes, or at least do what we thought they were charged to do--cover stuff. That might include what Mrs. Clinton says, as well as any number of other things. I guess what Trump says on even this is relevant. He ups ratings. So they talk about him, unless someone is getting shot down in the street and they can catch that from their choppers and camera drones. And once they catch the blood being shed, they can of course go back and see what Trump thinks about it. They know he is watching.
I saw a little interview with some random voter yesterday. She said she didn't like a lot of what Trump said, but she liked a lot that he was "decisive." I think that's actually what Trump offers as his own "analysis" of why he'd be a great President who would make our country "great" again. Hitler was one of history's most decisive leaders. He was certain about all of his decisions. Sometimes, as in his attacks on Poland and France, his decisiveness was effective. He didn't wait around in front of the French defenses. Other times, as in his placement of key Panzer divisions prior to the Normandy invasion, he was decisively wrong.
Even as we listen and marvel at Trump's decisiveness at the podium--he's certainly willing to say pretty much fuck-all--we don't yet know the real-world outcomes of some of these remarks. I'd guess, though, that a lot of people who already have doubts about the character of the United States will point to Trump's various remarks and feel their doubts confirmed. "This guy is a serious Presidential candidate. What does that say?"
But I get tired of the idea, which in the coming weeks is going to be one of the themes coming from the GOP camp, that Mr. Trump is somehow not embodying true Republican values. How stupid do they think we are. A couple of months back Jeb!, who is certainly our moment's Taft, was calling for a religious test for admission to the United States. Pick out the Christians from the muslims, he said. He wasn't talking about Indonesians of course, but that's only a detail. Trump is exactly what they are, all of them. And apparently, that applies to the media as well.