Friday, August 27, 2010

Who Knew? Well, Everyone but Me.

OK, I'll admit it, I'm the last southern women to have ever heard of Sister Shubert and her famous rolls. Th only excuse I can claim for my ignorance is that I am never in the frozen roll section of the local grocer (the frozen biscuit section, yes, rolls, no). I make my own yeast rolls from scratch.

When I ask my oldest daughter about the famous rolls, she confirms that, yes, she, too, is in the majority of the "knowing" and has been since high school. To make it worse, some our good friends introduced them to her. And, none of them ever shared the secret with me. It must be a conspiracy.

Yesterday, Sister Shubert aka Patricia Barnes came to our fair town to promote her book at a fund raising event for a local retirement home. Here is this petite, nice looking lady with a degree from Auburn who parlayed a family recipe into a multi-million dollar business that she sold on the condition she could maintain the day to day control over the quality and operations. Ie she did what we only dream about. In fact, most of us don't even dream about this, we gave up long ago. Kudos to her.

Meanwhile, the rest of us pay to have tea and pastries, listen in awe to her, and stand in line to buy her cookbook (all the while trying to figure out where she got that darling blue mao jacket). Actually, my Mama paid for my ticket. Once again she plays the guilt card, saying we just need to spend more time together. She's right, we do and she is damn good at reminding me of it. I don't think I'll ever get my life in balance, much less parlay my grandmother's recipe into a Fortune Five Hundred company.

To make it worse, at the event I keep running into friends of mine I haven't seen in a while. And, their comments make it clear, that I have developed a reputation of having dropped off the face of the earth.  Great, now I feel like I have crawled out of a cave. Meanwhile, my Mama gives me that look of, "See I told you that you needed to get out more." God, is she always right? Will I ever be that good?

So, now I am riddled with guilt because I am not spending enough time with my 78 year old mother, I am living in a cave, and no one has ever bothered to tell me about the world's most famous rolls. Needless to say, yesterday, was not a good day for me.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Orange, Red , Whatever

"The National Security Threat Advisory is Orange", according to the recording you hear in any airport in the United States. Trust me, I hear it over and over, in the same friendly voice, along with the various warnings of not to take any packages from strangers. (Well, Hello, my Mama told me that when I was little, and the stories she added to back up the threat scared me enough that I have never since considered the thought.) Or, report any unattended luggage to the authorities. I assume this especially pertains to the ones with wires protruding and the gentle sound of ticking clock coming from within.

Back to the threat advisory. I can remember Saturday Night Live doing a skit soon after the five color threat level was put into place. In their skit, the five colors were offwhite, cream, putty, bone, and natural. With off white being the lowest risk and natural being an enormous risk. Don't laugh are we more vigilant between orange and red, than we would be if the level were changed from bone to natural? Could we really tell the difference? - Most likely not. 

I did not even know there was a green (low) or blue (guarded). Can we ever hope to see those? Probably not. So why even have them on the chart? (To make us feeler better.) Basically, we all pay attention to what is going on around us. Some are even paranoid (they should just drive and spare us the drama.) And, who knows, that friendly business man from Des Moines sitting next to you in 7B may just be a Sky Marshal. One would hope.

The bottom line, as I see it, is to make the flying public feel better. We will protect you by not letting the terrorists bring more than 4 ounces of liquid on the plane, checking every one's shoes, and keeping vehicles away from the terminals. Heck, if it were up to me, put Sky Marshals on every plane. Let folks know that there is one there, may be let them know who they are, may be not. Let's not play around with shampoo. American travelers are being treated like a bunch of weaselly people, and everyone is scared they may inconvenience them or hurt their feelings.

Well, I for one will take getting my feelings hurt and live to tell about it, rather than die pampered any day. Security lines do not bother me, I always consider the alternative. When everyone is polite and explains what they are doing, the program works. If one feels that flying makes them special, I would think that their desire to live would be assumed. Or, maybe they are "too" special to be bothered with such mundane matters.

The bottom line is that life has changed and our travel will no longer be the same. Deal with it. If you are so special that it is beneath you, then take NetJet (if your Gulf Stream is in the shop.) I can assure you that all the passengers in those four planes that went down on 9/11 would have stood in line, taken off their shoes, and moved their cars in a nano second given a chance to do so that morning. We are given that chance and some of us just don't get it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A New Destination

Something Old, Something New, the familiar start of the description of what a bride should either carry or wear on her wedding day for good luck. According to the Wall Street Journal, this now applies to wedding venues. Now down here, we are just getting used to "Destination Weddings". For a while, my Mama and her friends would roll their eyes when talking about one and describe it in "high faluten" terms. After all, don't you lose control, if you are in not the church? The church ladies think so.

But according to the Wall Street Journal, as always, we are far behind the times. The new "destination" for weddings is cemeteries. Now, personally, I have always regarded cemeteries, especially those old ones with magnificent monuments that are really works of art, nestled among large oak trees, as beautiful gardens. They never seemed "creepy" to me. (Of course, I have never made a habit of hanging around them at night, either.)

Funeral homes, usually the owners of cemeteries, and other organizations responsible for the care and upkeep of these grand pieces of real estate are finding themselves the victims of a national move toward cremation and therefore a less and less need for their space. Of course, that means loss of revenue. However, they still are responsible for the perpetual care of these large hallowed grounds.

For years one could visit cemeteries on Memorial Day or Veteran's Day for very somber ceremonies that included placing flags on the veterans graves. Now, some of these businesses have brainstormed - thought outside the grave - and decided to utilize their venues as a destination for more than just a final resting place. They want to increase their fiscal generating potential.

Their idea, let's get people "dying to come here" before the grim reaper shows up, while they are alive and kicking. The more progressive ones host bird walks, Shakespeare festivals, music concerts, and art shows. The more adventurous ones have "movie nights" using the backs of mausoleums as the screens for the shows, rock concerts, and fairs complete with food booths.

And, a natural attraction would be a destination for weddings - 'til death do you part. I can't wait until this comes to our town and my Mama gets her first wedding invitation to be held at "Memorial Gardens". Boy will there be talk about that.

The funny thing is that this is not a new idea after all. In the early 1800's cemeteries were seen as city parks, a place for people to go for strolls down the lanes among the tombstones (and terribly elaborate monuments) of their loved ones and community leaders. Instead of taking a chance that your peers would recognize you post mortem with a statute in the town square, one had total control of the legacy of one's memory by designing the monument to one's life himself. (But I digress.) There were picnics in the parks and musical events. Although, weddings were still traditionally held at home or in the church.

My guess is if (and when) this wedding venue idea ever takes off in our fair town, it won't take long for, at least part of, the old families to take a shine to this. After all, in our all older cemeteries, their families are the ones with the grand monuments and mausoleums memorializing their ancestors. In the past, these were only glimpsed at funerals, as mourners filed to or from the current grave side services. Now, hundreds of folks will have the opportunity to learn about the importance of the heritage of these "pillars" of the community. Their names will once again rise in importance.

One lady in our town already has her grand marker engraved stating, she 'was' the first lady of our town. (She anointed herself with this honor and put it in stone pre mortem to ensure she would be properly memorialized.) Town folk frequently visit the site having heard the rumors just to see if in fact it is true. They are not disappointed. But, hey, who said one is not allowed some poetic license when it comes to self memorializing themselves in stone.Maybe the monument people can hop on this bandwagon.

Like everything else, the "Cemeteries as a Wedding Venue" will eventually get here. And, even the church ladies will survive. Especially, those from prominent old families with the large monuments marking the resting place of their ancestors they, in their ever present ability to control a situation, can conveniently locate "the aisle" to run by.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Life According to Me

Things according to me:

  • Donuts are only worth the calories if they are fresh enough to still be warm.
  • Sheets should always be 100% cotton (long staple Egyptian if possible) and at least 400 thread count.
  • Never use cheap aluminum foil, you'll regret it every time.
  • There's a reason perfume is much more expensive than cologne and you get what you pay for.
  • If you wear any gold or silver jewelry, make sure it is 18k, 24k, or sterling.
  • When asked if a piece of your jewelry is real, the best answer is, "It was a gift. I didn't ask."
  • If all else fails, ketchup will polish copper and salt will put put out a stove top fire.
  • Pepper should always come from a grinder.
  • Cheap Balsamic vinegar is an expensive ingredient for homemade pickles, and nothing else. If a recipe calls for Balsamic vinegar its means honest-to-God real Balsamic vinegar.
  • While we don't have control over much in life, fortunately we can always control our hair color.
  • When he presents you with an extremely generous gift for "no reason", you can be assured it is for one of two reasons - you were real good or he was real bad. If you're smart, you'll just except the gift with great appreciation and ask no questions.
  • Pick your battles, if he doesn't do the following from the start - put dirty dishes in the dishwasher, make up the bed, or pick up his clothes, there is no point in nagging him, some things are not going to change, doesn't matter what you do, it ain't gonna happen.
  • You'll never measure up to his mother, just be nice and don't get your feelings hurt.
  • Don't try to dress like your teenage daughter, act like your teenage daughter, or be her best friend. Remember, you've been there and thank God you survived.
  • If you ever doubted God was a man, you have never experienced child birth.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pulling a Slater

OK, I travel enough to weigh in on the Jet Blue story and as a (fairly) frequent flyer - kudos to the flight attendant. Yes, he has several felony charges against him and I cannot argue with the law, but hope that he goes before a compassionate judge.  However, I can side with the passion he showed after reaching the limits of his tolerance when hit in the head by the baggage of an irate passenger and then cussed out by same passenger. If I had been there, I'm not sure I would not have aided and abetted him in his escape.

I watch these flight attendants smile and speak nicely to travelers who are incredibly rude to them constantly, all day, day after day, week after week. It wasn't their decision to start charging a baggage fee. Also, as talented as they are, they are not air benders who can defy the laws of physics and make that oversize bag of yours fit in the overhead bin. Or, better yet, they never got the memo that you were the "special" traveler who does not have to turn off your cell phone after the cabin door closes.

Everyone complains about flying. But, in reality, it is no worse than anything else. I think we have just lost tolerance. Gone are the days of showing up 30 minutes before the flight, parking in front of the terminal, having your loved ones walk you to the gate (I really miss that one), having as much room in your seat as you have on your living room sofa, and being served a full meal. We now know the size of 4 ounce bottle and a whole new packing routine.

Two planes that went into the World Trade Towers, one into the Pentagon, and another into a field in Pennsylvania quickly did away with the convenient parking, hugs at the gate, and last minute check-ins. But, welcome to the real world. The last time I checked, if asked, flight attendants, side with the travelers, at least the civil ones. But folks tend to look at this as an "us and them" situation. These decisions are out of their control. The travelers are just abusing the messengers.

I can remember being in line at a USAirways desk in DC during a raging winter storm. They were trying to reschedule everyone as best they could, any way they could, as quickly as they could. The "gentleman" in front me was down right belligerent with the lady who was doing her best to reroute him and get him home. I wanted to jerk his arm and remind him that it was in her best interest to get him home. She gained nothing by failing to do so.

When I heard about the events on that Jet Blue flight, I was heartened to hear that almost 100% of responses were in support of the flight attendant. To hear the comments, one would think all flyers were congenial and polite travelers. The sad part is that those ugly flyers probably don't even realize who they are. They are so "special" that they may be blind.

But if you are going to go out, go out in style. Make sure you are like Steven Slater, make your point, and make the national news. And, just to add style  - steal the two beers and escape using the emergency slide. In fact, his action may become a noun. "Did you hear, he pulled a Steven Slater." There is little doubt he has become a cult figure. Maybe his fellow flight attendants can stand taller, now that they have their hero. I know I feel better from knowing from the comments made that there are fellow members of the traveling public out there fed up with abusive rude travelers. Perhaps more vigilantes will be willing to step forward. If so, I'll buy them the beer. Maybe there is hope for civility in air travel in the future after all.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Mama's Muse

I have always said my Mama was talented and she is. Her minor in college was in music and she can play a piano very well. Unfortunately, this talent is not genetic, as six years of my enduring piano lessons, including five humiliating recitals finally showed her. Lucky, for my brother piano was considered "sissy" at the time so he was spared the agony. A point he reminded me of often as I sat relegated to the piano bench for practice - a fate worse than death in my mind. But I digress. 

As a young girl, often in the late afternoons, Mama would "tune up" on the piano. I never questioned the bourbon and ginger ale on the side table. I just assumed every family enjoyed "high balls" (as my Daddy called them) late in the afternoon (followed by drinks at dinner and then after dinner cocktails, and a night cap before bed.) How was I to know any different? 

But as she sat at the piano, no matter what her state, she could always play. Now perhaps the singing got a little louder. And, her talent was in piano, not necessarily voice. Throughout the house, we would hear the love theme from Dr. Zhivago, hits by Patti Page  (Remember "How Much is that Doggy in the Window"? trust me, I know all the words by heart.), different selections from My Fair Lady, peppered by hymns from the Presbyterian hymnal, with some Eddy Arnold thrown in. It was eclectic to say the least. 

Thinking back on it now, the image in my mind is fairly comical. Obviously, the later in the afternoon, the louder the music got. It was like personal karaoke in the living room without the monitors of rolling lyrics. That was never an issue, she always seemed to know the words. However, getting supper on the table sometimes became an issue. Whatever got on the stove or in the oven prior to the afternoon musical interlude was the menu for the evening. 

The frustrating thing for me was here was this woman who could play this music, under extenuating circumstances (to say the least) with such talent, time and time again. And, the selections she chose from were vast, so it wasn't like she played the same songs over and over again. And, I could not learn to play one simple version of Red River Valley after hours of practice. That was when I started thinking the secret was in the bourbon and ginger ale, after all I could never remember seeing her play without it. 

At fourteen, I realized this was a lost cause. All the practice in the world was not going to help me play the piano. I had learned the secret, my mother's muse. But, even at this early age, I was doomed. I hated bourbon. I always had. Now, if gin would bring on the same results, there was a chance.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sheer Luxury

Luxury to me is not shopping Rodeo drive or a Rolls Royce. It's not designer clothes. Nope, I'll take the simple things. For instance, the other day, I found myself in a theater, by myself, all by myself, to watch a movie. After a while when no one else came in, I realized I was having a private showing all for the price of a matinée ticket. Life was good.

A bag of popcorn, a large diet coke, an entire theater - how could this be? At any time, I expected the manager to walk in and say something like, "Mam, I'm sorry, but you don't expect us to run this movie, just for you?" Would I be polite and say, "Of course not." Or, politely remind him that I had payed for a ticket, the same price if there was one person, ten people, or a hundred in the theater. I don't remember there being a sign - 'Film will only be shown if a minimum of X people purchase tickets.' (I don't think there was one, was there?)

Then when the movie was supposed to start, the "Please silence your cell phones" screen came up with the obnoxious music. And, the music played, over and over. And, the picture on the screen did not change as the same music played over . . . and over for ten minutes. Now, here's the conundrum - do you I go complain that I payed to see the movie not this obnoxious warning and risk them seeing that no one is here - but me? Or, sit quietly and hope the movie will eventually start? Or, are they waiting for more people to show up? (I may be here for hours - until the next showing!)

Weighing my options . . . and anger, I rise to the occasion, gather my belongings and leave my private sanctuary. In the lobby I find a young man, who looks a little like Doogie Houser. When I explain my dilemma (about the movie - not the solitude). He responds that this has been an issue all day and he will take care of it. I quickly return to the theater and take my seat. The theater is still mine. And, the trailers start. Once again, life is good.

When the movie ends and I exit theater, I realize that I have just spent 120 minutes totally in my own world with just me - no phone, no computer, no one. Matinée ticket $6.00, popcorn $5.00, Diet Coke $5.50, a theater to yourself, priceless. There are just some things money can't buy.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Are We Having Fun?

When are we going to start having fun again? When I was ten, I was told - "Just wait until you are a teenager, you won't believe how much fun you'll have". (And, wow - it was a blast.) Then everyone said, "College will be the best days of your life." And, they were right. I had a large time. After that, "Boy, your twenties are so much fun." And, they were. And, don't get me wrong I've enjoyed my thirties and forties. But where's the party now? It's like Yogi Beara said, "It ain't over, 'til it's over" and the fat lady ain't sung. In fact, as far as I'm concerned, she hasn't even made it to the rehearsal hall.

But what happened to feeling carefree without the help of chemicals? Or, just spending the day  doing something that I do not have to justify to anyone, or worse yet, file a flight plan. Or, deciding on Thursday, that a three day road trip with some old friends you haven't seen in a while would be a blast and just calling them up to see if they were free - right then. (And, knowing they would say yes, because if they had plans, they'd change them.) Or, accepting an invitation without looking at your calender.

Some folks, would say, "You grew up, that's what happened. Welcome to the real world." Well, if that's the case, I'm ready to bail. I don't remember this part on my dance card. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not ready to do something nuts like get a tattoo or go vegan. I just want to wake up in the morning with the thought that something fun might happen today. (Or it may not, but there is the possibility.) I want some control back in my life. Control to lose control and not have to answer for it.

My youngest daughter is famous for questioning anything I start to do that she feels is "younger" than my generation. "You can't do that." "Why not?" "Because, you're fifty and people your age just don't." "Just don't do what." "Just act your age and don't embarrass me."  Now the truth comes out. It's a conspiracy. I'm a mother, a woman of a certain age. 'Having fun' would not fit the profile or the image. God forbid I enjoy life on my own terms. 

Are we having fun yet? No, but I haven't given up. (Just keep that fat lady off the stage.)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Primeval at its Best

In SC we are proud to have Congaree National Park, 22,000 acres of floodplain forest, most of it being a designated wilderness area. It is an Honest-to-God National Park. Granted it is a new one, but there are only 57 in the National Park system, and it was made official in 2003. 

As I was driving to the Post Office yesterday, I caught part of a SC Public Radio show on National Monuments, and National Historic Sites, Trails, and Battlefields in SC. Now we are chocked full of Historic places. We have Battle Fields, Statues, Forts, Parks etc. around here. Heck, you can't throw a dead cat without hitting one. The gentleman being interviewed was going on about the Cowpens National Battlefield, the Eutaw Springs Battlefield, Fort Moultrie National Monument. He droned on and on and the show's host politely asked questions. 

When it became clear that this gentleman was very focused on the warfare history of the state more than the national sites themselves, she politely asked, "And, we do have an official National Park."  "Well, we do have that," he replied with little enthusiasm. The host continued, "We are very proud to have a National Park in the state, since there are only 57 in the country. This is different from just a monument or a battleground." "Yes, but Congaree National Park is more for those who are interested in nature - you know hiking, canoeing, being outdoors. The park shows South Carolina's primeval history." "I've been there and it is a beautiful place. Everyone should go." "Well, it is a wonderful example of the swamps we have around here." Then he changed the subject. "Of course, we cannot overlook the Fort Sumter National Monument."

Listening to him, one would think that visiting Congaree was something like a trip to Jurassic Park. I think this gentleman missed "America's Best Idea". It wasn't battle fields or monuments - it was saving and preserving the best of our country's natural beauty for generations to come -   even the primeval parts. Come to think of it, especially the primeval parts, the parts of country untouched by man.