Friday, Gary and I went kayaking at Creve Couer Lake. Since then I have woven kayaking into every sentence I can. "What do you want for dinner, Ellen?" "That kayaking really made me hungry. Let's have pizza." Or, "Ellen, do you remember the last time I bought nuts?" "Friday, either before or after we went kayaking."
The actual plan was to paddleboard, but even the experienced paddleboarders said it was too windy. I saw their two-person kayaks were not the turtleneck-of-death kayak that flips over and traps you suspended under the water, but instead an open-top plastic "ocean" kayak that wouldn't flip over, and even if it did you could escape.
We kayaked for an hour. At one point an egret landed four feet from us. It was all lovely. It would have been perfect, but I fell up to my neck in the water getting out of the kayak. So close.
I felt about thirty on Friday.
I woke up well before Gary on Sunday, and I decided to do a little research on my insurance situation. My MS drug, Gilenya, goes generic in 2019, and that's when the kind Gilenya folks stop paying for it. Or rather, the kind drug "loyalty program" stops paying my deductible. I suppose since my deductible is $3k, i shouldn't care that the drug has gone from $4k a month to over $6k. All the same to me. Still, a generic version of a $6k a month drug isn't going to be $150 a month.
Still, that made me start thinking about what I'm going to do after I retire. it looks like the insurance will be $500 a month and the deductible with be $6k.
My head was full of Medicare and prescription bills when I went out to tidy up the house, and I found a pile of Werthers candy scattered across the cluttered table by Gary's recliner, and is there a better thumbnail image for an old couple? Oh, of course there is. I put the Werthers in a crystal candy dish. There, that just pins it.
Sigh. I feel sixty. And we were kayaking just days earlier.
Various people are up in arms because some sports figure won't stand for the national anthem.
In junior high we had to start the day with the pledge of allegiance. I was one of the kids who never said the end of the pledge, the "liberty and justice for all" part.
If only we had to say the pledge before ball games. I can picture it.
The crowd starts at full volume, "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,
(volume drops) and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation
(volume drops more) under God,
(just a few people) with Liberty
(one old white guy) and justice for all."
When it opened, everyone went to the Ikea in Saint Louis Midtown. We went Sunday afternoon. I think if I'd been there in a great throng I would have broken free and run for the wall. It's like the British Tube had a baby with an abattoir and called it a furniture store.
I wanted to go, since I wanted to understand what all the pop culture references to Ikea meant. (And by the way, I know they want their name, IKEA, in all caps. Too bad, Ikea.)
Gary surprised me by parking in Family parking. The sign makes it clear what they consider a family.
I pointed at the sign and warned him that we didn't qualify, and Gary said, "F&^k that. We're a family. You and me, babe." Very un-Catholic of him.
If you haven't been to an Ikea, it is a cement building designed to shuttle you like a slaughterhouse cow past displays of white furniture and random dreck with Swedish names. There is a dark gray path painted on the light gray cement floor, and if you follow the path as it angles and turns you will be sure to see every white bit of furniture Ikea makes. They have helpful mass transit-style signs to be sure you don't get lost:
After three departments of the Ikea Death March I'd had it with the forced shuffle, and we decided to hit the restaurant for the Swedish meatballs and call it "en dag." I looked around at the other diners and was surprised to see no one else had opted for the fabled meatballs. Everyone had chicken strips instead.
I though it was odd until I realized chicken strips are toddler food, Ikea is a store where you bring your family, and if the pop culture references are true, Ikea is the store where you fight with your loved ones. If the Family Parking sign is right you'd be looking after a toddler, a child in a baby carriage, and a husband as you all trudge single file past furniture and candy. Who wouldn't fight, just to feel alive?
Ugh. After that I felt bad for parking in their spot.
Sunday began with a nice healthy breakfast of this:
It looks like bundt cake, doesn't it? It's actually a phyllo - ricotta - herb torte. I found the recipe at one of the blogs I follow. Magpie Musing? I can't recall. You can also find the recipe at the New York Times, People at work likened it to something called spanakopita, which I have never had. It's damn impressive.
After breakfast I was determined to make it to the St. Louis verison of Edinburgh Festival Fringe. I hustled Gary out of the house at ten thirty in the morning, under duress. Such duress, such indignity, poor retired man leaving the house IN THE MORNING, my God, my God. I insisted we get there early to get a decent parking space.
Well, we got a prime space because we got there an hour and a half early. I had promised Gary a hopping street scene and the streets were deserted. It was in Grand Center, so we went back to the Contemporary Art Museum, where we were just a few weeks ago. The Cow was still enduring her agonizing breech birth, but thankfully Sunday was the last day of that. The CAM re-invents itself four times a year. It'll be closed for several weeks and then re-open with all new art.
The Fringe festival was a little like a music festival, only with theater. Unlike a music festival, there was no wandering from play to skit to monologue. You bought tickets and you didn't come late. We got tickets to see an illusionist, and since we didn't want to be late, we decided locate the venue an hour befoirehand.
A pretty young brunette saw us poking around by the Fox.
"Are you looking for the theater with the illusionist?" She was the event director for that particular show, and had she not introduced herself, I would have been taken in by the illusionist's most baffling trick. As it was, he pulled her "randomly" out of the audience. A plant! You would think knowing how a trick is done would make you not enjoy the illusion, but I find it's better. I'd rather solve a puzzle than be mystified. He did stump us for a while with a trick in which he joined three rings together, but we figured it out on the drive home.
If you'd like to see some excellent photos of the show we attended, click that link and visit the St. Louis Daily Photo blog. I visit that blog every day, and in fact that's where I'd first read about the festival, so I was thrilled to see the blogger himself taking photos. I went up to him and expressed my appreciation. Regrettably, I imagine I stepped over the line when I recognized his wife from her infrequent portraits, and then even worse, mentioned their granddaughter by name. Kind of a creepy stalker move. Ah well.
When we emerged from the show, it was to the same deserted street-scape that had led us earlier to reprise "My Time of Day" from Guys and Dolls. So we decided to head out and instead visit again next Saturday evening to see "Big Hair, Big Dreams" (the Trump Puppet Show Musical). That'll be from five till six, and then dinner, and by then the usual theater crowd will be milling around. I think that's what's been missing from my last two visits to that area.
After a dearth, a DEARTH of activity over here, we did enough stuff in two days to fill either one extraordinarily long blog post or three smaller ones.
So you get three smaller ones. Because I'm busy over here stringing trash together to hang around my neck -. or what Etsy calls "re-purposed jewelry with found items." There's been a Monopoly necklace, a stamp necklace, a button necklace, and a Scrabble necklace. In fact, I spent so much time Saturday turning an old map into paper beads that I didn't notice the time slipping away to two in the afternoon.
But at two, we set out to find what we've been calling "The ASMR salon."
I first heard of this place when I was talking to the counselor. I mentioned Gary had developed a fondness for ASMR, but I couldn't remember the name. "BDSR? BDSM? There's and S in it, because it stands for sensory. Automatic sensory someth -"
She shot out of the room. I did a panicked replay of everything I'd said ("BDSM!") until she came back in, bearing a flyer for a new place in town where they test your urine, blood, stress levels, and then plug you into a set of headphones and ASMR the hell out of you.
I showed the flyer to Gary that night and he reacted very strongly that he had NO interest in publicly experiencing ASMR. So strongly that I threw the flyer away with many defensive apologies.
That's why I was surprised that he wanted to hunt the place down Saturday, and that's why we were unsuccessful - I'd thrown away the flyer. All I knew of the name was that there's an X in the middle. So, we drove to the place I thought I'd remembered from the flyer, hunted on Google maps, tiptoed up to several locked glass doors, and peek through windows to see if we could see any sci-fi headphone relaxation devices. All I know is there is an ASMR Salon someplace around west county named ___X___. Keep an eye out for it.
Our journey took us out to the fancy bead store on Olive, where there was a trunk sale and I got twelve strings of semi-precious beads for forty bucks. I have plans to string the citrine around my neck with jolly accents of dollhouse miniature junk food.
I saw this photo today at work and turned immediately to the article to read more about this girl who had the stones to do a headstand on the balance beam.
Of course, she isn't doing a headstand. My mind turned this into an optical illusion and pulled the balance beam right under her head, I guess.
Anyway, I deliberately watched the balance beam competition tonight so I could witness this feat, then of course I had to go to the photos to see how I got it so wrong.
Still, given all the insane stuff they do, you can't blame me for the misinterpretation.
We went to the Contemporary Art Museum this afternoon. (Warning: one of the installations is of a cow giving birth. I had to walk away.)
i knew the CAM was downtown. Google maps confirmed that it's on Washington, by the Fox theater.
The first revelation came when we took the Grand exit. I realized I've never gone to the Fox during the day, and I was surprised to see the Fox is on the city side of highway forty, not the south side. We always take the 20mph ridiculous cloverleaf in the dark, usually late, usually panicked. That's my excuse.
The next revelation came when I looked across the street from the Fox and saw Powell Symphony Hall right there. Again, I've been to Powell at least eight times, always in the dark, and had no idea it was in spitting distance from the Fox. My Fox neighborhood awareness goes: scary exit, SLU sign, Fox, baptist church, turn to go back home. I was gobsmacked to see Powell Hall the other side of the baptist church in the light of day.
(I also confess that on the way there I had seen signs pointing to the Grand Arts Center. "I'll have to go there someday," I thought, as I have so often before. Today I realized the Grand Arts Center might not be a row of art galleries I have in my imagination, and it might be the area with the theater next to the symphony on the way to the contemporary art museum.)
We turned on Washington and there behind the Fox was the Sheldon concert hall. I said, "Are you KIDDING me?" As before, I've been to the Sheldon, I had no idea it was anywhere near the Fox, always in the dark, blah blah blah. It started to feel like the city powers decided to rearrange all the landmarks one night at two am so they could call it the Grand Arts District. And if I wasn't actually in the Grand Arts District and that's some other neighborhood with the Pageant music venue next door to the Peabody opera house I don't want to know.
And then, THEN when we left the Contemporary Art Museum, I asked the parking attendant which way on Washington I should go to get to the Arch. (Not because I wanted to go to the arch, it's just because I wanted to get some idea of where I was, because clearly I need to work on that.) He explained the arch is east, and Washington goes north and south. This reinforced my city rearrangement theory, but still I protested that I was pretty sure that Washington was right there by the arch. I almost argued, "I know it's downtown, because it's where the hookers were forty years ago," when he said, "Oh, that's Washington Avenue. THIS is Washington Boulevard."
Seriously, though. I need to lift my head up and look around when I'm out at night.
Gary was excited to find an ant graveyard in the garage.
I, personally, had no idea ants even had grayeyards. When I came home on the day that Gary made this discovery, I got an education on ant funerals.
The other ant graveyard is under the car. Friend #3 asked if they were segregated by religion.
Here is a close up of the same graveyard.
You can get a nice overview here. That link also answers the question, "What happens if you spray a live ant with oleic acid," and the answer is that the ant mob inisists he is dead and drag him off over the smelly ant's protests.
Now that I look at that photo, it occurs to me that looks a lot like potting soil. Time to get the jeweler's loupe and take it out to the garage.
Moments later. Well, damnit. It IS potting soil.
Friend #3 did ask what would happen if I sprayed oleic acid on Gary.
Yesterday, after Gary left for his parents, a woman with a baby rang our front doorbell. I was in my bathrobe, because noon.
She said: "I'm your neighbor next door. I know you feed the animals ... "
Oh no, here it comes, I thought. The neighbors are putting a stop to the 20 raccoons at our Wildlife Buffet.
"... and there's a dead skunk on our patio."
"Oh, no. Does it smell?"
She wrinkled her nose. "A little. I called my Mom, and she said your husband feeds the animals - "
I didn't let her finish. Clearly this was our fault. Of course, perhaps that wasn't where she was headed. Perhaps she was coming to us as the Community Skunk Doctors. Perhaps we could revive it. Perhaps we might break the news to the skunk's family.
"I'll take care of it," I said.
"My mom said 'Call conservation, because it might be RABID.'"
"I'll take care of that too. And I'll mix up some of the stuff Mythbusters says will get rid of the smell. I'll be right there."
As I was pulling on my clothes, I heard Gary in the backyard. I thought he'd left. When he came in I whirled on him and emphatically pointed at the neighbor's house five times while telling him the story.
"Which neighbors?" he asked.
I almost threw my arm out pointing. "THOSE NEIGHBORS. Go!"
Gary "didn't see them in the backyard" when he left moments later and ran like a non-dead skunk to his parents' house.
I didn't realize that, so I thought Gary would be there when I arrived next door with a bag to put the skunk in. Let's call it Bag Number One.
I met the husband, and we discussed a possible Conservation Department Skunk Autopsy because it might be RABID, and I went to their back yard to collect the skunk.
There was an unmistakable smell, but not so much it would made my eyes water. No blood. Some drool.
I checked for signs of life with a stick. I started to kick it into the bag. That was too awkward, so I grabbed the very end of its tail and dropped it into Bag Number One.
I took it home, where I put it in the garage where Gary would see it when he slinked home, the coward.
I mixed up the Mythbuster's hydrogen peroxide / baking soda / dish soap concoction. In the minutes it took to do that, the skunk stank up the garage (No!) so I put it in Bag Number Two and placed it in our back yard by the skunk den as a Warning to all skunks who might think Heavenly Paradise is better then Earthly Paradise.
I returned to spray their patio, which did make the smell go away, remarkably. After I came home I took a shower to prevent the rabies (RABIES!), then read up on how to dispose of a dead skunk (landfill) and the increasing population of RABID skunks.
I went out and popped Bags One and Two into Bag Number Three.
I called the local conservation department.
"The neighbors have a dead skunk on their patio and we're all worried it might be rab -"
"It's not rabid," she interrupted.
I paused. "Really?"
"Rabies in skunks is very rare."
"Oh. Okay. So you don't want the body or anything? I just take it to a landfill?"
"Oh, no. Just double bag it and put it out with your trash, or of you live by woods, just pitch it into the woods."
Awesome. So, after I checked the wildlife cam videos for evidence of someone smothering the skunk, I made a final report to the neighbor. Done, right? I handled the situation entirely without Gary. I wrapped it up like a double-bagged dead skunk.
I'd decided not to speak of it when he came home. The therapist advises flight, not fight. I've been trying it.
That lasted until he said, "Why did you put the skunk right next to the house? What are you thinking?"
"Put your dead skunk where you like. It's your skunk now."
When he paraded the bagged skunk through the house I noticed a definite odor. (It smelled like a dead skunk that had been decaying in three Oven Roasting Bags in the 100 degree heat.)
I said. "We can't put that thing in the trash bin two days." So where to put it? He put it in the middle of the front yard, because he didn't want to upset the backyard animals and he didn't want it by the house.
I made it until ten at night before I said, "You cannot decorate the front yard with a bag of dead skunk."
He conceded that the flower bed by the side of the garage might be a better place. Also, he added four more bags.(Hereafter known as Bags Four Through Seven.) I hatched a series of plans to dispose of the body if we couldn't make it the three days till trash day.
I vaguely remember a midnight conversation about calling a skunk removal place, because from my description of the body Gary identified the victim as Mother Skunk, and that would leave Baby Flag and Baby Bernie (very messy white hair) without a Mom. Gary believes the skunk removal company would place the baby skunks for adoption in the woods, whereas I believe they would be sent to the other side where Mother Skunk would be waiting for them.
We didn't have a fight, though. Therapy for the win!
This morning I got up, put on my glasses, visited the kitchen, and on the way back to the bedroom I thought, "Wow, my vision is really blurry."
I stopped, took off my glasses, and checked to make sure they weren't Gary's. Nope. I rubbed my eyes. Did no good. I couldn't quite tell if my vision was better or worse; it was just wonky.
"Ah," I thought, "My cataracts must be advancing. Sometimes that makes your vision worse and sometimes temporarily better."
I just took it in stride and by the time I got back to the bedroom I had plans to contact the eye doctor and accept my fate.
Until I looked on the table, and saw what were clearly my glasses, which meant that I was wearing Gary's. I'd checked that, but I took off Gary's glasses to check Gary's glasses, so I was blind when I checked. I put on my actual glasses, checked the glasses in my hand, and then the differences became obvious.
I'm really pleased with how well I faced imminent blindness, though.
Since I hatched this scheme to make a jigsaw puzzle necklace, I've learned a lot about jigsaws. The most astonishing is that some jigsaw puzzles cost 80 bucks. They are wooden, and some of the pieces are what they call whimsies - identifiable shapes that fit in with the other pieces.
Of course, I didn't need a fancy puzzle like that, I just needed a old wooden puzzle from eBay and if pieces were missing that was fine.
The first find I got was labeled "challenging." Good God. Every other piece was identical. I got the border done and perhaps ten percent of the rest.
I wasn't too motivated to get it done because I knew puzzle B was coming. I had first spotted it on eBay and was elated to see one piece that looked like a bear.
"Whimsy!" I gasped, and bid $16.
It came today, and I put it together. I was so excited to discover there were multiple whimsies.
How cute is that? A bird, a bear, a four-leaf clover, a running man, an arrow, a beaver, a rooster, a swastika, and a rabbit. You know. Cute stuff.
I read the box for more information, expecting "Made in Germany, copyright 1942." Instead, there was a faded handwritten message:
"To Mother - on her 29th Wedding Anniversary from Harriet, Henry and Harrison. Dec 6, 1934."
Whew. A pre-Nazi swastika. The box also said it was made in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. Just a nice innocent good-luck symbol.
While I was waiting for my ear piercing to heal, I tried to find earrings to match every necklace I have. I hunted for matching silver feather earrngs for one necklace. On the first of July it occurred to me that I could snip two feathers off the necklace, and "attach them somehow to some of those ear hook-y things. Solder them? I don't know. Hmdm."
Well, it didn't involve solder, and once I bought a pack of fifty ear wires for $3.98, I realized I've been paying Way Too Much for earrings. New sterling silver earrings for pennies, given that I still have 48 ear wires.
Savings = $19.84! That's what I estimate I'd have paid for matching earrings, minus the two ear wires.
This was the next necklace. Sadly, there were no two matching beads I could snip off of this one. However, the Internet had them. So, now I have five surplus red beads, a new pack of gold ear wires to match, 18 gold "pins," a number of bead caps.
That pair of earrings either cost about a dollar OR $15, including shipping and handling, depending on how you look at it. And, a new hobby, it would seem.
I remember Mom said flower gardeners pass through three stages when they start that hobby. 1) Annuals (initially cheap but expensive in the long run, initial gratification) 2) Bulbs (also cheap but you have to wait a season) and 3) Perrenials (a long term investment, and you might have to wait for flowers, but after ten years you can divide them). I just waited three years for my trumpet vine to flower.
There must be stages of jewelry-making as well.
Stage 1 would be earrings. Earrings are easy. especially if you have all the supplies. You start making earrings out of crazy stuff, like pencils and color copies of your nephew's stamp collection.
However, the purchase of the frames for those earrings (and the impending matching necklace) brought me into the next stage:
2) Findings. As far as I can tell, "Findings" means "Random crap that adds up to $200 over the July 4th weekend." Savings = -$200.00.
3) Tweaking your existing jewelry. I had a necklace someone on etsy made from found jewelry, which I suspect might have been jewelry she found on her workbench that didn't quite make the cut. I took it apart and put it back together with an extra gold bird I doctored with some patina I already had (more savings!)
4) Dismantling your existing jewelry for parts. The necklace above used to have purple beads in the center. Hey, I might need those beads someday. For earrings. Screw that lady and the necklace she made, and screw the Monet jewelry company, I need the beads you used to make your stuff.
5) Beads, or learning about foreign measurements. See these beads I bought. Aren't these beads glorious?
Fancy Czech Glass and copper glass-fired beads. It did say they were 6mm. "That's like half an inch, right?" I thought. Because we use inches here in 'Murica. After buying these tiny tiny fancy beads, each of which looks like a wee glass booger, I have learned what a millimeter is.
The step I'm currently on is Step 6) making ambitious and equally vague plans about a necklace/earring set made of wooden jigsaw puzzle pieces that are assembled in some places and loose in others.
Next, I'll probably buy a kiln and melt my old stained glass into beads. Or, I start knitting. I'm sure I would knit until I bought every color or yarn, bought a spinning wheel and a sheep, and unraveled all my old sweaters for the yarn. Then I would stop knitting.
Steven Page is finally visiting Saint Louis!
He comes with the Art of Time ensemble, doing a "re-imagining" of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. They idle quite a while around St. Louis in October, with one show in Urbana Il, 3.25 hours away, one in St. Louis (Oct. 17) at the Sheldon, one in Columbia Mo (90 minutes away), and one in Kansas City (4 hours away).
My love of this man's voice surpasses even my hatred of the Sheldon Theater. Plus, in October it'll be cold and uncomfortable instead of hot and uncomfortable.
Allow me to embed a little taste.
Sigh, tenors. Tenors and violins. My right hand is twitching at this moment.
While I still haven't brought my mindfulness rock out of its package, I have been viewing videos on mindfulness: ones my counselor published, and a Harvard video. Supposedly, when you succeed at it, you don't dwell on the past or worry about the future, you just connect with the moment.
You have to breathe, and concentrate, and center yourself. It seems to be yoga minus the physical effort.
In fact, it reminds me of the last few minutes of my yoga course at the MS Society, when we took five minutes to focus on breathing. I fell apart in tears on the last day. I think everyone assumed I would really miss yoga, but actually right before I'd left for yoga Mom and Dave had argued and it was the first moment I'd had to think about it.
I cry during my mindfulness exercises, too. I think that proves I'm bad at it. Strangely, they also make me impatient, as if I need to level up to advanced mindfulness. If only I were a Scientologist and I could just pay my way to Nirvana.
It also reminds me of Gary's latest enthusiasm, ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. He spends hours watching attractive women whisper and tap books and rustle pages, waiting for his scalp to tingle, or some such sensation. I tried it and found it was like the Magic Eye visual phenomenon, in that the appeal is lost on me even though I focus on it for half an hour. (Here's an amusing conversation about ASMR. Pretty on the nose.)
Well, it looks like my mind is the next body part to get under control.
When we view the videos of what Gary calls the "Backyard Wildlife Buffet and Petting Zoo," one thing we watch for is animal sex. Of course, animals giving birth would be the ultimate, but impossible, so we've been keeping an eye out for the next best thing, wildlife getting it on.
In the beginning of the video below, Gary claims he saw some skunk-on-skunk action. We rewound and replayed it over and over, like you do with porn, and while I have to admit the male is impressively male, I don't know if there was any action. Any action took place in the second of dark at the start of the video.
I finally conceded there might have been sex, just so we could watch the rest of the video.
Then the lights came on, and we saw all the raccoon babies staring, horrified, at the skunks. "In front of the BABIES!" Gary said, judgementally.
"Oh, they don't know," I said. AND THEN I WATCHED THE BABIES.
Everyone in Saint Louis but me has been to the hot new donut place, Strange Donuts. Gary slept in, so I went there to get one of everything. Well. Two of everything.
The thing is, a Strange Donut is a cake donut. Mom loved a good cake donut, and happily she lived close enough to Old Town donuts to get her weekly fix. I inherited her appreciation for the cake donut with the crispy crust. Deep fried cake. Who wouldn't love that? Gary. Come to find out, Gary doesn't love the cake donut. It's like I don't even know him.
Strange Donuts mix it up every day. There are a few normal donuts, but most have some little twist. At times they have a Stranger Donut. The latest was a donut crushed into a waffle shape, topped with fried chicken, to make a Chicken and Waffles donut. I missed that one, but I applaud the effort.
These were today's donuts.
These are token "normal" donuts, the donut cousin of the white rice at the Chinese restaurant. I didn't initially plan to get these, but I wanted some donuts for Gary in case he was put off by the odd ones.
I think this is what turned Gary against all twelve. Picture a glazed donut: a suspension of fat and sugar that dissolves in your mouth. This was not that. This was a cake donut with glaze on top, as the long johns above were cake donuts with icing on top. I understand his dismay. If they had sold me a French cruller and it was actually a cake donut, I would be none too pleased.
Well, here we go. Goodbye to the donuts that should have not been cake, on to the donuts that cannot be poor imitations because you've never had them before. This was unexpectedly bacony. 25% maple, 75% bacon. And it looked like real bacon.
Chocolate Whiskey Sour
Chocolate? Yes! Whiskey? No. Sour? What? Huh? That was orange glaze dribbled on it, but I couldn't taste it.
Peaches and Cream
A little too tart on the peach side, but the cream was lovely. This was one of my favorites.
Blueberry Lemon Sage
This was primarily cake donut, but in addition there were equal parts blueberry, lemon, and sage. 70% donut, 10% each of the lemon, blueberry and sage. I could have used more.
This was your classic crispy chocolate cake donut. Very nice.
Saint Louis is proud of our signature baked good, the gooey butter cake. It has a base like a chewy brownie, topped by a cloud of almost raw batter and powdered sugar. It's cake mix combined with a few sticks of butter. It's not just the taste, it's the texture. This donut asked sweet, I suppose, and buttery, but it felt like a donut.
I asked why this donut was in the "normal" side of the display case, and the cashier answered it was just a typical custard donut. I always shun the custard donuts. No more. Never again. This was wonderful. Like an eclair, but a donut. God!
This was another classic donut. They could have named this Kid's Cereal Donut. Color and sugar and not much else.
This might have been named southern sunrise instead of southern comfort. I'm not sure. I didn't notice an alcohol taste, or a sunrise taste. It tasted sweet.
When I was done tasting each one, I finished off the buttery tart peach one and the chocolate custard. (If anyone is curious, all my calories today came from donuts.) I thought about how sad it was that Gary doesn't like cake donuts - really, how did I marry him - and how my mom would have dealt with the selections at Strange Donuts. She would put on a pained expression and pitifully, patiently ask, "Don't you have any plain ...cake ... donuts?"
Gary announced his intent to make turkey soup, and I announced my intent to document his turkey-soup-making process, which involves sauteeing all the vegetables separately before putting them in the soup, and then he elected to make his soup after I went to bed.
That's why he was up making soup after midnight. It was officially Father's Day when he woke me up at three a.m. I had to be up at three anyway to run a test for work, but still I could see there was something extra he wanted to tell me.
"What's up?" I asked.
"The baby raccoons attacked me," he said, and chortled.
I was waiting while the onions cooked down in the butter, and I sat back down to read my iPad at the table by the french door. The house was filled with a delicious smell of onions, and maybe some of it wafted outside. I glanced outside and saw two little heads pop up in unison by the food dish. They made eye contact with me, and then suddenly they set off running full tilt at the house!
I thought they'd stop when they got to the patio, but they flew over the patio, leapt up on the stoop, and launched into the french doors at full speed. Then they tried to break through the door! They pounded their little paws on the glass and scrabbled as hard as they could, all the while making this crazed growling sound.
I was aghast. I was worried the glass wouldn't hold. They had these big eyes that said, "I WANT TO TEAR YOUR HOUSE DOWN."
I did not scream like a woman. Instead, I started to get up, just to see how close I could get to the door before they ran away --
I stopped him in this obvious lie. "You mean, you went to open the door, and then make them a plate of sauteed onions piled into a cone shape, and then pet them and dress them up until they infected you with rabies?"
No,he said, he didn't get a chance to even consider it, because Momma Raccoon twitched her tail and the kits "froze, then vanished like Zorro into the night."
It was the best of theaters, it was the worst of theaters.
In the past week I've been entertained at the best theater I've ever been in (the Starlight Theater in Kansas City) and the worst theater (a movie theater some miles away from my home).
Best Theater: Starlight Theater in Kansas City
The Starlight Theater is in Kansas City, and frankly, it is better than any venue in Saint Louis. Here's a photo from their website:
That shows off the brick proscenium, which is itself impressive, but it doesn't show the Disney-like array of fountains and flowers and wine bars you snake past on the way to your seat. It's just ... cunning, that's the only word I can think of for it.
Our seats were not the very best, but they were good:
This was the first BNL concert I've ever been to where there were seats in the mosh pit area. One of the openers, Howard Jones, had to plead with people to stand up and dance. I eyed the aisles leading up to the stage (and the large aisle in front of my seat) and thought, "Well, I guess there'll be dancing in the aisles, then." But no. See that lady in the purple shirt? People who tried to boogie their way to an upgrade got a dance-withering stare.
(Given the recent events in Orlando, many thanks to that lady for providing any security at a concert or dance party.)
The BNL Concert was, as usual, hugely enjoyable. I haven't watched Game of Thrones but I can imagine the words to the theme are indeed, "Horses,Tits and Horses." For the first time, though, I didn't recognize most of the songs in the encore medley. I need to get on that. I'm sure if I listen to one pop radio station for one hour I'll be caught up.
My only regret is that I spent half an hour getting Moscato and I missed seeing the bulk of OMD's set.
Worst Theater: Regal Cinema in Winghaven
We went to see Two Nice Guys at a movie theater that is a few miles from us. Just a few miles away, but in the Twilight Zone.
For some reason Gary wanted to see this comedy with Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. He knew the critics panned it. He was aware that he'd wanted to see it last week, and that this week suddenly we could only find it in one theater.
But, then, he read this quote, and he was sold.
"Dad, there are whores here n'stuff."
"Don't say 'n'stuff.' Just say, Dad, there are whores here."
And, to be fair, I laughed out loud a number of times. I also sat there in ... what's the German word for bored and in disbelief? Unglaubengelangweilt. I was in Unglaubengelangweilt. There was a final chase scene that must have lasted twenty minutes. EVERY car blew up (with no provocation.) EVERY major character crashed through something made of glass. EVERY minor character fell from a great height. Ridiculous, but not hah-hah ridiculous.
And the venue? A movie is supposed to take you out of your environment, and it didn't, because our environment was just creepy.
A) This cinema in Winghaven is one of the Regal Cinema chain. I have never heard of this chain. It's all AMC and Weherenberg in my suburbs. During the trailers various celebs showed up in pre-show ads promoting Regal cinemas. It was like we were at an off-brand cinema.
B) I don't know about other Regal cinemas, but the row we sat in had only two seats, because the rest had been removed ... I assume because of blood splatter or vomit or something else. Or, perhaps, they're replacing them with the leather reclining heated seats and our row was the only one they'd done the demo on.
C) It was isolated in a spooky farm field. This theater sits on a new exit in highway 40, Winghaven, where they opened the MasterCard headquarters ten years ago. There's a fancy shopping center, and executive homes I once gawked at, and a place where I once spent fifty dollars for lunch. However, the theater's not on the executive side of the highway, it's on the other side, and in my city that makes all the difference. There's nothing on that side of the highway but wildlife. You can tell they situated themselves in the middle of an imaginary shopping district that never materialized.
I suppose to be completely parallel, with good venue/ good art / good staff in KC, the cinema should have bad venue / bad art / bad employees, but all the employees were great. Funny, helpful, laid back, great. I had four interactions. The ticket seller was funny, the concession guys were helpful, and the ticket taker let us wander in and out for the hour we spent killing time because Gary will be late for weddings, funerals, but THE MOVIE IS STARTING IN NINETY MINUTES WE CANNOT BE LATE.
I'd go back to the Starlight to see a bad play, and I'd go back to the Regal Cinema to see BNL.
So I did go see a counselor, and it was not what I expected. I think I expected someone to call me on my bullshit, and my bullshit was not called on, Instead, she was very supportive of my concerns. She listened, and was calm, and yet horrified at the appropriate times.
She had three suggestions. I've got two weeks to do these things. I don't want to do any of them, but of course I'm not taking care of myself well right now, that's why I'm seeing a counselor.
A. Go back on just a wee dose of the Celexa. I'm waiting until the next time I have a teary episode. Of course, I cried a few times in her office, but I did not sob. Gary, of course, has been campaigning for the Celexa for weeks. "So I won't cry when you treat me like crap," I say.
B. Call a friend and cry to them, instead of Gary, since Gary isn't objective and will make the situation more emotional.
C. Hang on to this plastic pebble she gave me when i start to get emotional. I'm afraid I couldn't contain my skepticism when she made this recommendation. I don't want to do this any more than I want to take the drugs again instead of dealing with things, or crying to a friend instead of dealing with things, but it's supposed to promote Mindfulness, which is supposed to be a documented stress-reducer. I can't turn my back on stress relief, given that stress makes the MS worse.
Still .. holding a rock and going to my happy place doesn't seem like an effective way to deal with my emotions. Thrashing things out in my head seems like a better plan. I guess if the issue is that I've lost my mom and I fear losing Gary, and loss isn't something you can fix, you just have to deal. Fight isn't working, so flight is the prescription. For the next two weeks, anyway.
Mr. and Mrs. Gary S______
Are happy and proud to announce
After months of waiting and pounds of dog food
of Five Bouncing Happy Kits
at 2:34 a.m.
on the Seventh of June
There was one touch and go moment.
The kits hung out off and on till 5:15 am.
Since I made the appointment with the counselor two weeks ago, I've cried only once. I suppose this is like when you schedule a haircut, prompting your hair to look as cute as possible.
The last bout of tears was when we were driving to see Ken in the hospital. Gary was relating how Ken refused to "let" his wife call 911, and I said "Don't be that stubborn." I meant, "Don't be that stubborn when you are 92 and get pneumonia," but Gary thought it was just a random comment his present attitude, and set into me. A simple miscommunication, but somehow it turned into a big deal. Since then, he's been a cuddly bear.
I think the real issue is that both of us fear losing the other, because it's obvious now that it'll happen someday. I lost Mom, he was at risk of losing his Dad. Maybe we're both just suffering from the pressure of loss that we don't speak about.
Secrets. Hate them. Especially secrets I keep from myself.
(There is no Prince song appropriate for the past week, unless he has a B-side called "U R All on 2 Many IV Antibiotics.")
In some strange synchronicity between Albuquerque and Saint Louis, my brother in New Mexico and father in law in Saint Louis both arrived at the ER with vague infections, were admitted, fire-hosed with broad spectrum IV antibiotics, and then both were released on Wednesday.
I was especially concerned, because in both cases I never heard any medical professional say, "Your white blood cells are going down. You seem to be improving." Instead, I heard "MRSA! Superbug!" coming from New Mexico and "Heart infection! Pneumonia!" blasting from the other speaker in North County, then suddenly, "Pack up, you're fine, here's some penicillin, bye!" to both in the space of a few hours on Wednesday.
Ken is having a nurse come see him every day, plus he gets oxygen. Dave goes to see the surgeon for an evaluation on Tuesday. I never want to have a week like this again.
So we got home from the emergency room yesterday (Gary's 91 year old dad has pnuemonia) to find out that my brother in Albuquerque is having emergency surgery. So, two family members in the valley of the shadow of death.
Taking a personal day, though. My first day off so far this year. I need to focus on the positive today. The list of people NOT in the hospital is long.
The Mini is back in the shop. this time for the air conditioning evaporator. The internet says this is a five hour job. They've had the car for over a week.
I know all I have to do is change my mind. Or, just seem to change my mind. Gary won't play though. All he would have to do is call the Mini people to ask about the status of the car while I yell in the background, "Why do we need air conditioning? I'll just drive your car on hot days!"
Or, perhaps they're just used to west county executives bellowing that their daughters need their "Mini Coopers back now or I will sue."
We had no air conditioning in the first car we owned, a Honda CRX. And of course I know the Mini Service department wants us to buy a new car,so they're scooting us closer to the breakeven point. If we start spending five grand a year on repairs, it actally would make sense to buy a new car.
Well, I was going to delay any therapy until I spoke with the neurologist, but an epic fight yesterday clarified what I've been so upset about since last August:
I miss my Mom.
I miss my Dad, too. Frankly, I miss anyone who is isn't emotional, because I look at all family members, blood and in-laws, and I don't see anyone who is calm. I see emotional people stretching to the horizon.
I don't know who all those people go to when they want to be calmed down. Me? I know my brother comes to me when he needs me to "talk him off the ledge." I shudder to think what would happen if I cried to Dave.
Of course Gary can spend hours ranting to me, but I find that when I rant to Gary, he yells louder and we end up in a fight. And, given yesterday's fight, even if I explicitly say, "I'm feeling weepy, don't get upset" ... well that's just the type of thing that fantasy couples say after they've taken marriage counseling. You know. Those imaginary conversations when people say, "I hear you saying [fill in the blank]. Is that how you feel?" They probably end up in epic fights too.
I know Mom died eight years ago, but I think I haven't needed her to talk me off any ledges, probably because i was on the Great Celexa Mesa. And now that I might be (MIGHT BE) selling her house, it's stirring up all the emotions. Or, there's a wedding that stirs up all the emotions. Or any holiday. Since I don't have any calm family, there's no one to go to with my problems. Only people who would then just counter with their own, louder problems.
I could go to Mom-in-my-head. Mom? "Whine, whine, whine. Listen to yourself!" she says.
Earlier this year I read about a lavender farm way south and east of St. Louis in Eureka, MO.
St. Louisans of a certain age know Eureka as the home of: Six Flags, a KOA campsite, and every chain restaurant known to man. Six Flags is forty-five minutes away. An eternity to a child.
We planned to visit the lavender farm, but I was skeptical that a lavender farm would thrive in Eureka, since I couldn't see the crossover between roller coasters and lavender.
"Oh no," my friends said, "Eureka is all fancy now." Evidently the upper middle class ran out of space in Wildwood and west county and spilled over into the cheap land by Six Flags.
Even though we set out Saturday at ten, the lone elk park and wild bird sanctuary are on the way, so I didn't notice the lavender farm was going to close at three until it was two forty. Luckily we were only eight minutes away, so we drove across the highway and directly into a ridiculously nouveau riche subdivision called Legends. I know this, because this is the entry sign.
That photo doesn't show the scale. The lettering on that sign is bigger than our car.
The builders of the Legends houses must have had a competition to see how many windows will fit on the back elevation of a large house on a narrow lot. I can't speak to the fronts of the houses, we took the back way to the lavender farm. I'm sure they're very nice. They look quite tasteful from the photos.
About three blocks into the subdividion Gary joked, "I bet it's just the backyard of some lady's house."
Well, not quite the backyard. It was on the other side of Legends Parkway in what looked like a family farm, with a house and barn and a shed with a lavender roof. And ... the roof was all the lavender we saw. At the entrance there was a sign saying the recent weather conditions had severely affected the lavender crop. It has been rainy this spring, and of course the flood was all over CNN this past Christmas.
We drove in. We saw a rolling field of green."Perhaps it's the rare green lavender," Gary said.
We went in the lavender-roofed shed. The shed was decorated with the same contrasts the Legends exteriors had: one part lower middle class, one part upper middle class. From the road the outside of the shed looked homey, but your first step inside put you by an opulent fireplace that took up the entire side of the shed. I'd say one quarter of the available wall space was fireplace, so much so that I immediately thought, "That is not up to code."
The owner was bundling up lavender in the shed / tea room / gift shop. "Where'd you get the lavender?" I wanted to say. After some small talk about the soil and root-rot and the weather, she said they have another lavender farm in Salem, MO, further from the river with sandier soil. There is really no indication on the web site that the lavender is gone, but for a note that" there will be no u-pick harvesting this season."
So, that was a let-down. And, darn it all, we'd taken up so much time with the bird sanctuary and the elk park that it was time to go home. We didn't have time to see Route 66 state park. Remember the trip we took to the radiation-infested nature conservatory? Route 66 state park is built on the site of the Times Beach superfund site. That'll have to wait for another day.
It would seem the Weber barbecue grill people have parlayed their popularity into a series of restaurants, and the latest one is in Saint Louis.
I have great fondness for my Weber grill. It was my Dad's treasured possession. He knew all about the indirect smoking and the chimney and the water spritzer. He was a scientist of BBQ. I remember hamburgers and pork steaks made on the grill. I also remember waiting hours for the food to smoke. He was not a scientist when it came to estimating cooking time.
I inherited the grill, and it stands on my patio as a shrine to Dad. (I use it about once every two years.) So when I heard there a restaurant built around Weber grills I knew I had to go in honor of Dad.
This statue at the entrance even looks like Dad grilling pork steaks.
Right inside the entrance they have a shop where you can buy grills and grill accessories. They didn't sell the 1980s model ash catch pan to replace the dented one Dad left me, but the hostess tracked down the main office number so I could place an order.
The shop opens up to a test kitchen. They really dreamed big when they planned this place.
All the food - wait - most of the food - is cooked on industrial Weber Grills.
I scanned the menu for pork steaks, of course, but since it's a St. Louis thing and the chain started in Chicago, pork steaks didn't make the menu. I recommended that they add them, at least at the St. Louis location.
The place really shines when you eat the food you expect to get off a Weber grill. The barbecue was sublime. The French Onion soup looked spectacular and tasted ... fair. The chicken chili looked fabulous and tasted ... average. But the barbecue, especially the brisket - mwah. Slobber. The brisket was divine.
It was insanely pricey. Or, possibly, I'm using 1980s prices as a benchmark. I'm glad I went once, and I would go back if I were nearby and in the mood for barbecue. Now, I'm wondering if there are other theme restaurants. George Foreman Bar and Grill? A bakery based on 1990s bread machines? A diner with little Fry Daddies you can use to fry things, kind of like the Melting Pot - oh! The Melting Pot! That's already out there.
Well, in my defense, it's been a very busy week, full of change and riot. And sound and fury. And a cascade of debt and drama that began on ...
Monday when the sprinkler people were supposed to come, but didn't, possibly because it was raining. They were supposed to fix the leak and estimate what it would cost to move the sprinkler pump.
Tuesday was the End of the Political World as we know it. My mouth is still agape.
Wednesday the basement waterproofers came and drilled a hole through the basement wall to install a sump pump. Thirty years ago we were cautioned by the builder that we wouldn't need a sump pump unless our sump hole overflowed, and it never did. It would seem those people were wrong. It's been less than a week and that mildew smell that reminds me of GrandCeil has started to leave the basement. Little tiny emotional loss. Tear. Snif. And in other loss: twelve hundred dollars.
Thursday the cable people were called because the tiVo/Cable card shorted out while the drilling was going on. They were unable to get it fixed.
Friday the sprinkler people came out, and said I did not harm the system by gardening, it was just one of those coincidences that happen when a clump of dirt keeps a sprinkler head open. Gardening didn't cause the sprinkler flood, just as the drilling didn't cause the cable outage, and Congressional inaction didn't cause President Trump. They moved the clump, all is well, charged us nothing.They estimated it would take five hundred dollars to move the sprinkler pump out of the damp basement. Then, the cable people came out again and went through six tiVo cards before they found one that worked. I give Gary all credit for wrangling all the appointments and wresting the tiVo problem to the ground.
Saturday was the in-law's Mother's Day. Gary was as fractious as I have ever seen him. I had to yell over him IT IS MOTHER'S DAY STOP ARGUING WITH YOUR MOTHER ON MOTHER'S DAY. Eventually he settled down. He's been fractious and spending lots of money. Bipolar? Sure, let's say so. Why not.
Sunday was the day I was going to crack open Mom's box of letters, but instead I took two unsettling phone calls. First, my brother called in an angry yelling state because he was rejected by a friend he wanted to have coffee with, and now he is going to die alone. It was as if he went back an entire year of therapy. Then, the renter called about the house and it seems he might want to purchase it. I doubt it will happen. I am not making plans. Still, another set of memories about to fade as fast as the lost basement smell. Mildew memories may not be considered ideal but sometimes they're the best you have.
Friday night we took a tour of "downtown" Saint Charles, a shopping/historical district by the Missouri River. It's historical because it's the last civilized point Lewis and Clark left on their journey to find the west coast.
I've never thought of it as anything much but a place you can hear music at night and buy blue wooden geese during the day. However, over the last thirty years the wooden geese have flown to make room for more art galleries and now, evidently, a ghost tour.
The first stop on the tour was the Quilogy building. When I worked at Eliott, Quilogy (its real name) was the next stop for contractors leaving our company. I went there once for some day-long contractor thing and paid no attention to the building, except that it had steps leading up to the front door.
Now that I've taken the ghost tour I know that it was the International Order of Odd Fellows hall (the initials are carved in stone over the door). I also know that initiates to the Odd Fellows were confronted with skeletons in caskets. Newspaper articles state that when IOOF chapters disband they bury their skeletons in proper cemeteries. I want to know how to get the gig as an Odd Fellows skeleton. Hit me up, Odd Fellows.
Our guide also took us to the site of the oldest cemeteries, where they've built a reproduction of the oldest, tiniest church. It's off the main drag by about a block. It's lovely. I've never left Main Street when I've been down there, unless it's to visit the park. There were some skeleton references thrown in there too.
It was a wonderful history lesson, with a little rubbish about ghosts thrown in. I'm sure if we'd asked more about ghosts than history our guide would have spun it that way. At one point I asked about a rumor I'd heard about a skull being found in Sun Valley Lake, where we lived when we first came out here. He instantly said "Wrong lake," and filled us in about the murder and beheading at the lake a mile away from Sun Valley that happened the year we moved out there.
We had a nice crowd of about seven. It did start pouring rain toward the end, but Gary was a good sport about it, probably because he was wearing a hoodie. I had some difficulty seeing where I was because of the water in my eyes.
Of course, it made me winder what else is out there that I don't know of St. Louis history. There a Blues tour that's out there, and except for Frankie and Johnny and Scot Joplin's house I cant think of what else would be on that tour. Perhaps I'll find out some weekend.
No episode of hysteria for a month. The psychiatrist did call me back Monday and left an incomprensible ten second message. It was background noise and the end of a conversation he had with someone else. I called back, didn't reach him, and didn't leave a message.
Gary was as trying as he could be yesterday, yelling at the television, yelling at me, and I stayed calm.
Clearly the recent diagnosis and my intention to do something about it has whipped my emotional stability right into line.
In 1999, I fell in love with a loveseat. Mr. Stickley must have had me in mind when he designed the original. Look at that nice broad wood shelf, perfectly designed for a plate of microwaved leftovers. So forward thinking, Mr. Stickley.
I then assembled a collection of furniture around the loveseat. It was inspired by Mr. Stickley, and a chair inspired by Mr. Morris, and it was all influenced by Mr. Wright. It was nice, because if you pick furniture from the Mission/Craftsman era there are no decisions beyond that. Chair? Morris chair. Loveseat? Prairie Settle. Colors? I kept the Craftsman color pallete in my purse for a year. I made a stained glass table to match it.
The loveseat in particular cost a god-awful amount of money, but it was a reproduction, so it was a third of the price of a real one from the company Mr. Stickley founded. I told Gary, "The nice thing is that the dimensions of all this furniture are set in stone, so we can always get another identical Prairie Settle."
Sixteen years later, this happened:
I stood back and gave it a hard look. It was pretty broken down.
"Time for a new settle," I said. "Let's get out all the receipts and call the company and order a new one."
Nope. Company no longer in the settle-making biz.
"Let's get on the internet and find who makes reproductions."
Well, all kinds of woodworkers make reproductions, but not ones you can sit on before you buy them. If you want a Prairie Settle nowadays you have to get an original from the Stickley company.
"Let's get it fixed."
Nope. Leather people don't fix upholstery, upholstery people don't fix leather, and new leather costs double what it cost in 1999. I ended up dismantling the whole thing just to get estimates, only to find the leather people had no time and the upholstery people demanded all new leather.
After that, I said, "Let's go to the local Stickley vendor and see how much it might cost for a new one."
Three times what we paid for the first one, and that's on sale. Nope.
"Let's fix the old one ourselves and see if it's acceptable, because what have we got to lose? It could always stay in the basement."
I took it down to the wood ...
I labeled everything so I knew how to put it back together, then I bought and used leather cement, foam glue, dacron, two types of foam, and a heavy-duty stapler.
For a while it looked like this:
And now it looks like this:
It isn't perfect, but it only cost about $300, and it doesn't look like this anymore:
I'm very smug. I even sat on it for about thirty seconds.