Tuesday, October 6, 2015

What Kind of Pantyhose Were They??

The Charleston Jail

I just returned from 10 days in the Charleston area. Land of sweet tea, palm trees and Rhett Butler - and ghosts. I knew about the first three but was unaware of The Holy City's (didn't know about that nickname either)status as bona fide ghost country. Ghost tours abound - cemeteries, jails and the sites of infamous crimes, including those of 27 year old Lavinia Fisher whose rap sheet and list of exploits has grown dramatically since she was hanged in 1820 - or did she jump from the scaffold in defiance of the hangman? Did she really wear a wedding dress and say “If you have a message you want to send to hell, give it to me – I’ll carry it” ? Who knew that behind all that Miss Rosemary and Miss Becky (my pal) lay a tumultuous past?

We were there for a Habitat for Humanity build with a team my husband (Mr. Bruce) put together. Shout-out to Mark, Chip, Joe, Angela, Nicole, Maddy, Marianne and Laura, our fellow team members. I can't recommend HFH highly enough - great organization, great work and great fun with amazing like-minded people. The Sea Island Habitat office is on Johns Island, where we built and it was there that Miss Melissa posed the title question.

It seems the church next door to the SIH office moved down the road. Once that happened the issue of what to do with the bodies interred in the church's cemetery arose. Some families wanted them to stay, others wanted loved ones removed to what was now the hallowed ground down half a mile away. Others were long gone and unavailable for comment.

Apparently the moving of bodies is not unusual in Charleston. Sometimes it's a function of much of the area being below sea level. On a bus tour we learned that Vice-President John Calhoun's body "crossed the road more times dead than alive." Reason? His family could not be traced back more than two generations so his status as a "native Charlestonian" was challenged. That required his removal from a Charleston only plot to another across the street. At some point this was reversed and… well, you get it.

But back to the church. Inevitably the day came when the exhumations were to take place. Do you watch? Say a prayer and stay back? Put it on youtube? So hard to know the proper etiquette.

One man's family was removed without his consent - and like John Calhoun - they had to be returned to their original resting places. Now, I don't have a lot of first-hand knowledge about caskets. Although I should. I took MWA's awesome Woodlawn Cemetery tour last fall, but I was more interested in seeing Nellie Bly's grave. And Miles Davis' so I must have missed the part about when coffins fall apart. But, you know, nothing lasts forever and I imagine some of the wooden caskets just rotted away over time. Need I tell you what happened? Bottoms fell out. Bodies fell out. I leave the rest to your imagination. And that prompted Miss Melissa's question - "what kind of pantyhose were they??"

Which, I suppose, lends a whole new meaning to the term, support hose.

© 2015 Rosemary Harris

Sunday, October 4, 2015


God's Own Country Musings…

Kaye Barley, a beloved Southern writer, is well-known to readers of Jungle Red and Meanderings and Muses.

As are her husband Don and their cherished dog, Harley Barley.

Many of us have walked along with her in remembrance of her dear mother's recent sudden passing. And today photos of the simpler life of North Carolina draw us all together in the beauty of down home, simple life in a wonderful part of our beloved country.

The photos bring back my own memories of happy years as a child in that state, so far from the world we see nightly on TV with jagged words and horrid verbal slings and toupee touching!

You will enjoy Kaye's trip too…

Thelma in Manhattan

Today has been a good day.

I drove to Newland to Cranberry House and was struck once more with just how lovely the drive is and how many interesting spots there are between here and there.

I would have enjoyed the trip to and from on visits to my mom, and I doubt I would have ever tired of the drive.


Since my mom is no longer there, I'm blessed to have made some friends who are there.

I will always think of Gigi, Kathy and Rhianon as “Hazel's Angels."

And because I didn't have a single place I needed to rush to, I stopped at almost every place I had been promising myself I would stop “one of these days." Today was finally that day, and it was nice.

And I am so happy I had my camera with me, which isn't really that unusual, but sometimes - sometimes I walk out of the house without it and regret it every minute I'm gone.

And I'm also happy there's meatloaf left over from last night's supper and I can fix myself a meatloaf sandwich.

Life is good.

But there's a lesson behind all this.

The lesson is this.

I've missed a lot of opportunities to take some time to stop whatever it was I was doing. I've missed some fabulous photo ops.

I'm lucky though regarding this trip from Boone to Newland and back.

It's close enough that I can get a “re-do" whenever the urge strikes.

Sometimes, though, we even pass up the chances for a “re-do."

I think it's important to remember that we really don't have to be doing something we think of as important or critical or necessary all the time.

Sometimes it's alright to just “be."

To just allow yourself time to stop at that little place on the side of the road and see if it's as interesting as you think it might be.

It's okay to pull off the side of the road and take a picture of the sky just 'cause.

And I'm going to try to remember to do these things more often.

I don't think we're put here on this earth to rush through life, or work through life.

I need to remember to sometimes allow myself to just be.

Here's a few of the things I took a little bit of time to enjoy today.

A few places I finally stopped at, and a few places I just wanted to photograph.

Life is good. I want to remember to live it.

Kaye Barley

Saturday, October 3, 2015


NIGHTCRAWLER (2014), written and directed by Dan Gilroy, is a profoundly disturbing movie. The sociopath at the center of the action, Lou Bloom (played with an unctuous and creepy intensity by Jake Gyllenhall) does some horrible things, but it is the venality and complacency of the people and society around him that really got to me.

Bloom has no background at all. He comes into the story stealing copper from a construction site. He proceeds to whack the guard who catches him on the skull, take his watch, and then sell the booty to a contractor who turns him down when he asks for a job: “I don’t hire thieves.” Gyllenhall is more sensitive to the irony than the contractor, who does business with thieves but doesn’t consider himself one. And the contractor is not the only one in the movie who whines about the duplicity and depravity of others while not seeing those same qualities in him or herself. In fact, there is not one character in this movie that is not corrupted or proves to be non- corruptible.

Bloom apparently has no connection to anyone, lives by night and educates himself by day by surfing the internet. He is a 21st century self made man, an autodidact, a polymath, Frederick Douglas as Frankenstein’s monster, the American dream turned nightmare. He has got his eye only on the main chance. The idiom he uses when he is trying to manipulate or extort or deceive his way to the American Dream is a blend of Horatio Alger and Tony Robbins, corporate double speak that means nothing, all about communication and innovation and positivity , growth and negotiation, all those things corporate America holds out to us as the keys to our success, when we really know it is a con, a dodge, that it is not invention and initiative, innovation and hard work, that count, but deceit, cheating, and friends in high places. The vision of the world in this movie is a kind of inversion of the idea that a rising tide helps all boats—in this world, you only succeed by sinking the other guy’s.

And so Bloom sets out to do so. He stumbles across a new way to make money—driving around nighttime LA with a police scanner and a camera, collecting the most lurid images he can find to sell to the local news affiliates. He becomes pretty good, makes some of his own luck by committing a few felonies, hires a desperate guy named Rick he pays less than minimum wage (calling it an “internship”) to help out, and soon he is selling footage to Nina Romina (Rene Russo) at a local news station. Nina cheerfully tells Bloom: “if it bleeds, it leads.” She starts out treating Bloom like a leper, but his stock goes up with the quality (i.e., shock and sleaze) of his work. Still, she sees him not as a real player, but another worker bee. Everyone who underestimates Bloom in this movie suffers. He extorts sex and a foot in the door of the news biz from her in trade for his footage. She at first feigns shock at his offer, but then he tells her he could just go elsewhere, and ratings week is coming, and he starts to look better and better to her.

We learn that not only if it bleeds, it leads, but if the crime happens to middle or upper class people it gets more attention. The strategy is to play on the fear suburbanites have about urban crime landing on their doorsteps (even if it isn’t). So when some people in a chic neighborhood are shot-gunned (it was about drugs, but the news station buries that, because that isn’t as scary as violent urban hoods tired of waiting on you at McDonalds stealing the family jewels, kidnapping the kids, and maybe even dating your daughter), Bloom scores big with bloody, and exclusive, photos.
It’s only going to get worse, and we know it. And there is no hero in this noir tale, or even an anti-hero. Bloom flouts the law (which is not fooled by him, but can’t bring him to heel), gets what he wants, gets away with it all. He even manages to rid himself of a troublesome employee and get the shot of a career at the same time (I couldn’t figure out if the way he did it was illegal, but it was one of the most immoral things I have ever seen a movie character do).

There is nothing redeeming about Bloom, although the movie plays on our expectation that there might be. He is a lonely guy, socially inept, living in a shabby apartment that is so devoid of any kind of hominess that you wonder if there ever could be a home for this guy. And people do treat him like he isn’t there. He’s poor, after all. But at the same time, he is bright, very bright, and maybe he will overcome it all. Maybe he is even a little autistic. Is there anything redeeming about him? Shit, even Hannibal Lecter had a kind of charm, and a code of ethics, kind of.

But in an understated yet great scene, we are disabused of the notion that he deserves any sympathy (which is exactly the amount he has for anyone else). Rick tells the boss he might do better if he understood people more. Bloom responds: “did you ever think it’s not that I don’t understand people, but I just don’t like them?” And Bloom does understand Rick, well enough in fact to make a bundle off of him and get him killed all at once.

I won’t give away the final scene, except to say that Bloom becomes a kind of demonstration of the Heisenberg Principle, not merely observing, but altering the thing observed. It is great and chilling stuff. And the whole thing made me wonder about markets, both those for goods and those for ideas. Is this what we get when both are free? News that is really pornography, intellectually nourishing only in the way eight bowls of Count Chocula would be? And is everything else we sell and buy the same (and everything is for sale in this movie) —unadulterated crap that makes a few people rich and the rest of our lives empty, hollow, and cheap? Perhaps hard news about corporate criminality instead of cartoons about urban bogeymen would serve us better, but that is not what a “free” market for ideas is giving us. The irony, of course, is that movies like this one could be the answer. Then again, this one went from the theaters to pay-per-view faster than you could say “Heaven’s Gate.” Oh, well. You’ve got to give the people what they want. Or do you?

© 2015 Mike Welch

Friday, October 2, 2015

How Much Food is Too Much?

“…I pounded some lamb steaks I'd bought for lamb cutlets. Dipped them in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs. When they were what Julia Child calls nicely coated I put them aside and peeled four potatoes. I cut them into little egg-shaped oblongs, which took awhile, and started them cooking in a little oil, rolling them around to get them brown all over. I also started the cutlets in another pan. When the potatoes were evenly browned I covered them, turned down the heat and left them to cook through. When the cutlets had browned, I poured off the fat, added some Chablis and some fresh mint, covered them and let them cook… I took the lamb cutlets out of the pan and cooked down the wine. I shut off the heat, put in a lump of unsalted butter, swirled it through the wine essence and poured it over the cutlets."

The crime novel this recipe came from was not something of Diane Mott Davidson's, not even a cozy. It was Promised Land, by Robert B. Parker, and it won the Edgar best novel award for 1977. It looks like a perfectly good recipe, if you don't mind fried food. I wouldn't do that to a good piece of lamb, myself, but that's neither here nor there. The question is, what place, if any, does a cooking recipe have in a crime novel?

I'm thinking, it depends on the novel. For a noir novel the recipe would have to be something doomed and despairing. Beans out of a can, maybe, or a dreadful stew of some kind. Stewed road kill. For a detective story, if your detective cooks, like Spencer, you can describe something quite delicious. If your detective doesn't cook, maybe you want to draw the cloak of charity over his or her activities in the kitchen. I once put a recipe in a Mother Grey book that I got out of a Polly Pigtails comic book long ago, involving crushed potato chips, tuna fish, and canned mushroom soup; Mother Grey doesn't cook. (Notice how I used the Oxford comma in that sentence, where Robert B. Parker didn't. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since 1977, and fashions in punctuation have changed.)

I can see by the covers and the titles that a lot of cozy mysteries include food, with recipes, presumably, though I blush to confess that I don't read them. Would you put a recipe in a classic thriller or mystery in the modern day, or would it stop the action? Rex Stout's stories about Nero Wolfe always featured marvelous food, but not detailed recipes for preparing it. Menus, rather. That would be one way to go. Or send your protagonist to a great restaurant and have him order what you would like to have yourself, if only you had the money. Readers like sensuous treats. Sometimes they even like to go on vicarious alcoholic binges. What do you think about it? Food or no food with your crime? (Maybe fava beans and a nice Chianti.)

© 2015 Kate Gallison

Thursday, October 1, 2015

What You Can’t Make Up

Sheila York

I’m a Mets fan. It’s like being a writer. You spend time, love and hope on something that has every chance of breaking your heart. And it’s not like being a writer. In baseball, anybody with a keyboard or a cell phone and the talk show's number can declaim about you with the certainty of an expert. In writing, it’s anybody with a keyboard. 

But let’s get back to that time-love-hope thing. 

It’s been a long dry spell for a Mets fan. The last World Series they won – they’ve won only 2 in their 54 years of existence – was in 1986. They won a World Series in 1969, and lost in 1973 and 2000. And they got to what’s called postseason 3 other times, but not since 2006. (Of course, if you’re a Cubs fan, that sounds pretty good.) 

Then this summer, the team on which I have showered selfless affection through even the last several years of misery did more than I ever would have thought possible. 

The magical summer

In mid-July, the Mets were hanging on by their pitching staff’s fingernails to any chance at the postseason. Last Saturday night, they won the National League Eastern Division. 

They’re holding beer bottles because they sprayed
the champagne all over each other and the carpet.
I've never met a carpet I thought deserved champagne more than I did.
Photo credit: David Kohl/USA Today Sports

If you want to know how this happened, google Yoenis Cespedes Mets MiracleThis is the guy, after having launched another homer. Not sure what game. It happened a lot. 

Photo credit: Getty Images
On July 31, at the trading deadline – I mean, ten minutes before the 4pm ET deadline – the Mets announced they’d concluded a deal for Cespi (what we call him around our house). 

From that moment, the Mets went from 2 games behind in their division to win the East by 8.5 games over the experts’ favorite, the Washington Nationals. Google Papelbon Harper if you want to see what not living up to other peoples’ hype can do, and remember it when you’re tempted to say sports teaches teamwork. 

The Mets played .679 baseball. This means that in the last two months, they won more than 2 of every 3 games they played. Only one team in the majors (Toronto) won more in that stretch. 

My magical summer had one astonishing performance (please google Cespedes), but it was only possible because David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud came off the disabled list; the Mets acquired two solid bench players – Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson – and Tyler Clippard for the bullpen; and they called up Michael Conforto from the minors. The rest of the team managed to hang in before those guys arrived. 

It’s a story you couldn’t make up. Well, you could, but people would roll their eyes. 

I’d like to share my 3 favorite You Can’t Make This Stuff Up stories. 

David Wright is too good to be true. Talented, humble, mature. And the hardest-working gifted player you might ever see. Diagnosed early in the season with spinal stenosis, a rare condition in which the channel that contains the spinal nerves and spinal cord narrows, he was on the disabled list for most of the season, learning to treat the condition – it cannot be cured – all the while knowing he might never play again. And he came back. And in his first at-bat (see below), he hit a monster home run. Cue the exploding light stanchion. Our captain. 

Photo credit: Bill Streicher/US Today Sports

Jeurys Familia. My vote for team MVP. He’s the closer. This means he comes in in the ninth inning when things are bad, and makes sure the team wins. His best friend on the team, Jenrry Mej√≠a, was last year’s closer. Then Jenrry tested positive (twice) for a banned steroid so old-school a breathalyzer could have found it (the winner in the "you couldn’t make up somebody this dumb" category). Jeurys filled the role with power and poise at a time (pre-Cespi) when if the Mets scored 2 runs, it was a bonanza. He has saved 42 games. 

Photo credit: Brad Penner/USA Today Sports
Wilmer Flores. He’d never known any other team than the Mets, with whom he signed on as a minor leaguer when he was 16. Rumors hit social media on July 29 that he’d been traded so the Mets could get a bigger bat. The Mets front office wins the “clueless about social media” award for not realizing such a thing could be leaked and spread. Wilmer found out from fans in the stands. He was captured on TV wiping tears from his eyes while on the field. The trade fell through. And on July 31, the day they got Cespi, Wilmer hit the game-winning homer into the night sky in extra innings, and flew home clutching the Mets logo on his chest. 

Photo credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The stuff you can’t make up has made up for a lot.

Copyright 2015 Sheila York