Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Movie Review - The Imitation Game

There has been much press about this movie, The Imitation Game. Often that can be the kiss of the death. This time of year when the "Big" films are being dumped just in time for Awards season, it is easy for a film to get lost in the bunch or, worse yet, be disappointing given the current competition. All that said, this film fell victim to neither.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turning and Keira Knightly as Joan Clarke, lead the cast of this true story of the team ensconced at Britain's top-secret Government Code and Cypher School located at Bletchley Park (a British estate) during WWII tasked with breaking the code on the German's Enigma machine.

Turning, while most likely the world's best cryptanalyst, has a type of aspergers and to say he is socially awkward is the understatement of the year. Clarke brings out the humanity in him and, as she often does in her other roles, adds as much in her facial expressions as she does in dialogue. 

The story is fascinating, in that it is true but what happened was not revealed until the 1990's. The screenplay is well done and the cast is good. I read some reviews about the film not being historically accurate. Whatever! I did not go to see this film on a history class assignment. 

I can see Cumberbatch getting an Academy nod for his spot on ability to play a character who is so focused he has little idea of the world around him, and so lacking of empathy that he finds life confusing. When he does realize that he has feelings he is either surprised or totally unprepared - or both. 

Obviously I recommend the movie. It is 114 minutes well spent.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Re-Gifting in Kind

And, then there is the issue of remembering others while reviewing the more interesting gifts bestowed upon you during the Yuletide - ie re-gifting. Yes, I know there are different schools of thought on this. Some say it is open season, with the exception of giving it back to the original giver unless you have a serious bone to pick. There are those among us who are most proper and would never think of such. But then they are the ones who can use the bird clocks, magic pans, and purses with 17 pockets made of the finest leatherette.

This just brings me to the issue at hand. I know that those friends and family truly had me in mind (or maybe not) when selecting my gift. However even with my vivid imagination I am not quite sure I can incorporate the set of lava lamp salt and pepper shakers into my kitchen. And  I was taken aback when I unwrapped the "As Seen on TV" Hot Buns. Thankfully after reading "the hair accessory that lets you roll, snap and wrap your hair into the perfect bun" on the package I knew how to better write the thank you note. 

I did take offense to the "Rapid Ramen Cooker". Even if I am not the gourmet cook I think I am, I would hope friends and family would at least let me go about life enjoying my self-illusion. After all, I haven't poisoned anyone yet. And, no that unfortunate dinner party a few years ago when several guests had to visit the emergency room on the way home was just an anomaly. But, I digress.

So who should I consider as recipients for the Glowing Gnomes? Their friendly faces light the way down your walk way at night for your guests. They are solar powered, so they will never go out - joy. Unfortunately they just do not go well with the yard fairies, the half buried tires that line our drive way, and the macrame hanging bird feeders on the porch. I don't want to hurt someone's feelings, but those gnomes would just trash up the yard. Just saying.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

And By the Fifth It Was Over

I can now take a deep breath and relax. Well, that is before I begin the onerous task of taking down the tree, removing the elves from the mantle, and ridding the coffee table of carolers. Yes on paper I am an Episcopalian and all this should stay put until the magi arrive. But the madness has ended and I need to cleanse my house.

Our four "Christmases" are over. The Fifth Day of Christmas has arrived but not my Five Rings. I wasn't sure I was looking for golden pieces of jewelry or elegant game birds. Either way they must be lost in transit. Trust me, I am not mourning.

I have great expectations for the day. My list is long and ambitious. There are visions in my head of a clean den, an uncluttered kitchen, and fresh linens neatly folded and in their proper place. Mama always said I had a vivid imagination.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Three French Hens

I await my French Hens (it being the third day of Christmas). However, no one ever stated in the song whether they were dressed and ready to be frozen or baked. Or, whether they were alive and kicking. Please, God, let they be the former. I do not need any more livestock. There was a reason I never got around to taking a class in slaughtering and dressing out a live bird.

In the song they never commented whether the hens were moving about or in a dish. Funny, references to some of the other fowl was more explicit. The Geese were laying. Those very expensive Swans were swimming. And that Partridge was always in the Pear Tree. Come to think of it, out of the 74 gifts, 23 are fowl (well actually 28 if you count the Five Golden Rings as Ring-neck Pheasants which was the original intent.)

I guess I best not hold my breath since neither the Partridge, the Pear, nor the Turtle Doves have showed up yet. Perhaps I should not count my French Hens before they arrive, dead or alive.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

You know you are old when you are up, have started making home made cinnamon rolls, cleaned up the kitchen, taken your shower, and checked your email and have yet to open a present or even address Christmas at all. At 10 am any child at home is still sound asleep.  I pine for the days of the girls up early on Christmas morning and the anticipation.

Of course, this is the second stage of holiday life - the doldrums. These are Christmases when our parents have passed away so we do not have them to spend time with. Married children want to have Christmas at their home (which I can remember feeling the same way at their age) and the younger children want to sleep in pretending a certain indifference.

We are just a year or two away from the third stage, the joy of sharing it with our granddaughter. So if we can weather the doldrums the holiday season will be joyous again.

Don't get me wrong, it is only a matter of hours when chaos will ensue. They will all be here. We will share a large meal. Gifts will be exchanged and the den will be flurry of paper and boxes. 

As a child I always dreamed of a white Christmas (which I have yet to see) and something akin to a Courier and Ives print. I always felt cheated because my Christmases never included a sleigh ride, groups of friends constantly coming in and out of the house Christmas day carrying stacks of gifts, holiday parties every other night that required sophisticated clothes. But as I have aged I realize that is only in the movies of the 1950's. If it really happens in someone's life, spare me, I do not need to know - that would be much too depressing. Reality is hard enough to deal with, knowing someone else is living my dream holiday may just do me in. 

Whatever your dreams, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or enjoy whatever ilk of the season you prefer. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Movie Review - Top Five

I ended up seeing this movie because the moon and stars collided, ie it was the only movie on at the time, of the genre I was interested in, at the only theater I was willing to drive to in the rain. No, this was not on my list of "Holiday Must See Movies". However, I know Chris Rock is a genius so I was game.

The story-line of Top Five  is that of a former very successful comedian, Andre Allen (Chris Rock) who is trying to break into serious on screen acting - which is not going well, to say the least. He has a reality star girl friend Erica (Gabrielle Union) who has convinced him to have their wedding televised as a part of her reality show. His fans want him to return to comedy and he shuns the thought for fear of failure. 

In walks Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) who manages to get him, albeit begrudgingly, to allow her to follow him around for a day, interviewing him all the while. That one day happens to be the opening day of his latest film and the day before his wedding. 

The name "Top Five" refers to the constant theme of asking friends and family their top five list of entertainers. The movie is rated R for good reason (for very strong sexual content, nudity, crude humor, language throughout and some drug use). Those with high morals, modest ears, and prudish ideas save your money - you will not last five minutes. But, for those who understand a black comedy (literally) and Chris Rock, you will find that the sex, profanity, nudity, and crude humor are used in the normal context of the story, not thrown around to rouse the crowd.

So my top five:

  • the film is funny as heck 
  • it is well cast and the acting is very good
  • the story line is not as predictable as it may seem at first, in some instances but with enough twists to keep it interesting
  • the cameos by Whoopi Goldberg and Adam Sandler are weak at best, other cameos (too many to list here) work better into the plot
  • if you like comedy and Chris Rock, I recommend it - keeping the R rating in mind 
And as a postscript, it was written and directed by Chris Rock and two of the co-producers were Kanye West and Jay-Z.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

One Down

One Christmas behind us, three to go. The best part - we are all speaking . . . so far. Of course the event last night was the easiest of all. My step mother's family is so large and extended anyone can get lost in the mayhem. No matter what your dysfunction you will either fit in or can easily blend into the wood work. The noise level alone is just below that of a small jet engine.

I am a firm believer that the more the merrier, and the more folks, the more accepting. No one sitting around judging everyone. No one with their nose in the air. After all there was an open bar - literally. When my father and step-mother re-did the house they put a large full service bar in the new large sunroom/den. This was a brilliant move on their part.

So we move on. We are in Christmas present, yet I still hear the sounds of the chains from Christmas past. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Headed Back South

On the way back south.

The best quote I heard was a lady who asked me "How close is South Carolina to North Carolina?" Yeah, if you have an answer for that one, please advise.

I was not able to finish my Christmas shopping, the Broadway show we saw was disappointin aND it did not snow. However, I just spent 6 wonderful days with 2 very special friends and over adult beverages in 6 or 7 bars we solved almost all the problems of the world.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Windows in New York

Another set of Christmas windows in New York this season. These are from Saks. Each depicts a Nursery Rhyme. There are reflections in the photos because they were taken at night, with all the lights of 5th Avenue around while I was being jostled by several hundred other folks trying to see each window.


Red Riding Hood


Sleeping Beauty

Snow White

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Santas Everywhere!

Once again it is that magical time of year in New York when streets are merrier than usual. Laughter is heard throughout. Children are standing in amazement. Young teens dreaming of coming of age. And other mortal citizens are heading else where. Santa Con is here. And with it 1000s of Santas, as well as elves, reindeer, and the occasional Christmas tree roam the streets looking for a bar.

Each year this time they chose one Saturday to make Merry in part of New York. This year it was Hells Kitchen.

There were Santas coming:

And Santa's going:

Santas lunching:

And most of all Santas making merry in their natural habitat;  an Irish pub!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Windows of New York

I'm in New York on my annual trip to the big city. One of the big sites is the Christmas windows at Bergdof Goodman which are always great. Here they are:  




Wednesday, December 10, 2014

We Have A Problem

The phone rings and it is "Jack" my computer monitoring service. Seems a hacker has managed to get into my computer. So after ten minutes of looking into the files and running diagnostics I stop and ask, "Wait, how do I know who you are?", after all he could be the hacker! He gives me all the security information I need so I know he is legit.

He says he will work on it for twenty minutes or so and call me back. Sure enough in twenty minutes he calls me back. It is worse than he thought. He shows me on the screen where the issues are (and they are there). Then he says, "We need to remove these files."

No kidding I thought. "So can you do it?"

"That is why I am calling you. We have a program . . ."

"Here it comes," I thought.

Sure enough, "Our program will not only take care of this but make sure it doesn't happen again."

"OK, then do it."

"It will only cost you $199"

"$199? I have already paid you to take care of the computer"

"But this is different. And for $299, we can do this for 2 years."

I very quickly asked for his name and phone number and told him I would call him back if I decided to do that. Of course he launched into his spiel about if I did not use their program my computer would be ruined forever. I thanked him and rang off.

As soon as I could I powered off my computer but not before he put in into "Safe Mode".  First thing I did was go to my mobile phone, search how to get the computer out of safe mode, and handle that. The next thing was to research best anti hacking and clean-up software I could find online. I found an excellent free program that did what I needed and even more for an additional $24.95.

So within 20 minutes I had launched a program to take care of the problem. Yes, I would not have known of the problem without notification from the service, but that is what I pay them for.

Of course, this morning I had to start changing all my passwords just as a cautionary procedure. Changing them is not hard - remembering the new ones will be the problem. That becomes the old dog - new trick issue.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Movie Review - Elsa and Fred

The saddest part about Elsa and Fred is that it will not enjoy wide release. Shirley McClaine (Elsa) and Christopher Plummer (Fred) are not only endearing in their roles as two old folks who discover it is never too late for love, they fit their parts as well as one of Elsa's every present shawl's falls gracefully over her shoulders. Who else could be cast as a septuagenarian who creates her world to fit the day and a stodgy old man who emerges as a very attractive suitor. For most of her life Elsa has dreamed of being Anita Ekberg in Fellini's scene at the Fontana di Trevi in Rome in his movie 'La Dolce Vita'. In fact often it is hard to determine fact from fiction as you follow Elsa.

Fred on the other hand has been moved in next door, much to his consternation, by his daughter and her sleazy (Fred's description) husband just eight months after the death of his wife. Elsa enters his world like a whirlwind determined to bring him out of his bedroom and make him enjoy life again.

In addition to the Oscar winning lead actors the cast is rounded out with George Segal (also an Oscar winner) and James Broland (with several Golden Globes). Erika Alexander plays the care keeper tasked with looking after the curmudgeon Fred and Wendell Pierce is cast as Amande the handy man for the building.

The story takes place in New Orleans. And the 97 minutes moves along quickly. Parts of the story may be predictable but there are many parts that are surprising. The screen play is well written and, obviously, the film well cast. It is a most enjoyable movie for those looking for a good story that is at times humorous, at times uplifting, and many times poignant played by an excellent cast of well seasoned actors.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Plain Ol' Meatloaf

All I wanted was a simple meatloaf recipe. I knew the ingredients - I just needed to know the portions. I did what every cook does these days - I Googled it. The first recipe called for 2 cups of brown sugar. I don't think so. The idea was meatloaf not caramelized beef. The next recipe I found included 1 pound of tofu - not in this house.

There was a recipe that used Campbell Soup, one that suggested you start by dicing 6 types of fresh vegetables, um it's a meatloaf not a veggie platter. It amazed me the number of recipes that called for multiple cups of ketchup then brown sugar on top of that, I did not even want to see the calorie count in that one.

I was brought up with the traditional beef and sausage, crumbled white bread, eggs, spices, several tablespoons of ketchup, yada yada yada - one. Finally I found what I needed, a recipe that reminded me it called for 1 pound each of the meats. The rest I knew.

But what bothered me was how a simple American staple can get ruined by fru fru tweaks and healthy changes. It doesn't need to be sweet or healthy or vegan. If you want something sweet for supper fix crepes. If your thing is healthy eating perhaps spinach lasagna would fit the bill. And if you are a vegan, I have nothing to offer you, sorry I fear you may be on the wrong coast.

Meatloaf is, well, meatloaf. It is that crusty on the outside, moist and tasty on the inside creation that falls in the category of comfort food. And something as sacred as that doesn't need to be messed with.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Family Thanksgiving

For Thanksgiving our family, let's say, goes back to the original premise - we share a meal with savages. Oh, we have guests also. It is the family member responsibility to warn their guests about the "issues d'jour" of our blessed bunch ie who is not speaking to whom, which members are certified bat shit crazy and should be avoided at all cost, and who are curtailed by restraining orders. Other than that, the holiday is most enjoyable and the food is scrumptious, Well there was 1972 when Cousin Sal went missing (we haven't heard from him since). That year we had a big BBQ instead of turkey - a little odd I thought, but I digress,

Chances are someone is going to forget some major item. There is an aunt and uncle who are always late. Last year I wanted to vote them off the island, but the group, in the benevolence of the holidays, decided we would just start without them. It was agreed this year we would tell them the meal was being served at 11:30 in hopes that surely they would make it to the table by 1pm, the time everyone else was told we were eating. 

There is the family "bride". We have long lost count of the number weddings, divorces, and annulments she has had. We just assume if she shows up with a young man on her arm, chances an invitation will soon arrive and he will not be around next year.

There is the older aunt who brings food that is never completely cooked and everyone has to "try" some so as not to hurt her feelings. And the cousin who insists on bringing a dessert each year even though you know she cannot boil water. Often she doesn't even hide the grocery store box. Everyone is expected to bring the same item - change is not good. One year I took loaves of homemade French bread instead of my "assigned" homemade dinner rolls. Dinner was delayed simply by the confusion in the buffet line over something different. 

One would think that as the older generations have died, replaced by the newer ones that most of the insanity, the hard feelings, arguments over things the parties cannot even recall, and other ridiculousness, that cool heads and sanity would prevail. But no! Apparently there are still bats in the belfries and skeletons in the closets. 

Ah, families - we don't get to pick them but we  are lucky to have one. I am thankful as we all gather around the table that our family tree branches and the gene pool is deep. I also count heads and make sure we are not having BBQ this year.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Movie Review - The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

When we last left her . . . Yes, Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence) is back in the third part of the Hunger Games Trilogy, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1. The Capitol is bearing down even more to stop the rebellion brought about from the end of the Quarter Quell games. Survivors of District Twelve (which has now been destroyed) are now living in District Thirteen. Wait - Thirteen was annihilated prior to the first movie, right? Ah, not so fast grasshopper. 

Julieanne Moore as President Alma Coin (of District 13) with her grey hair, drab jump suit, and calm tone is a measured leader ready to use Katniss as the symbol of the revolution - the Mockingjay - against the Capitol. However Katniss is more distracted with Peeta being held prisoner by President Snow. Throughout the movie you sense a conflict there, although Katniss is dedicated to the people of Panem, it is Peeta you feel she is truly fighting for. 

Over all, I found the movie not as exciting as the first two.  This last part of the trilogy has been divided into two parts. The action is moving along, you are following the story, and wham! the director's name comes up and you realize the story will be continued in Part 2.

We are reminded of the great loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman who was making this film when he died. In fact I spent more time during the first 20 minutes of the film paying attention to Hoffman and mourning our loss than watching the story. 

I was disappointed, but I'll give "The Games" a second chance when Part II comes out. Hopefully the holiday movies will be better than the past few have been lately. I am beginning to sound like a bitter New York Times critic  just without the talent, the experience, the elan, or the credit.

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Historian, A Best Selling Author and I walk into an Arts Center

My first experience signing books did not make me feel like Patricia Cornwell. It also did not make me feel like giving up my day job. Wait what day job? I digress.

I was invited by the Arts Center in another town where my photography is sold to sign my books during their holiday open house. When they learned about my two books they were excited and said their audience could relate to them and they would be popular. I called a month or so ago to find out how many I should bring. 

"Well," Alex, the director, said, "Ken Burger [a very accomplished writer] sold over 60 last time he did a signing. But then again he has had three best sellers."

"Yes, but realistically, give me an idea."

After some hem and hawing, Alex suggested maybe 10-15 of each and then I could leave what was left at the center to be sold. I thought some and decided that the last thing I wanted was to completely humiliate myself by showing up with a stack of books and after an evening of a very well attended open house, leave with a stack of books.

So last night I walked in with a small bag containing a 7 copies of each - my idea of a happy medium. Full disclosure I had a large box of more in the car. Those were copies I planned to use as gifts and put in my gallery in town. 

When Alex showed me where to sit my stomach cramped when I saw I was stationed next to Ken Burger, the accomplished best selling author. (His book Baptised by Sweet Tea is a delightful read.) Great, talk about insult to injury. On the other side of Ken was a nice gentleman with his collection of guides and histories of local revolutionary battle grounds. What a group. Ken was most accommodating, of course what did he have to lose.

As soon as the doors opened the crowds poured in, which surprised me. This was a small southern town. But, then again there was free food and wine. Because of everyone's southern upbringing, they were forced to speak to me simply because I was sitting next to the hometown star, whom they all paid homage to. I was quick to stand, offer my hand, and introduce myself. The more polite ones asked about my books. The interested ones were actually engaged and asked questions.

One or two bought books and asked me to sign them. Then one lady walked up. "I need three sets and would you please sign one set each to Susan, Roseanne, and Skippy. That's S-K-I-P-P-Y." 

Whoa, I thought that's 8 out of 14 books. Meanwhile I felt for the history author. Everyone was very polite and spoke to him about everything but his books. Everyone who came in knew Ken. And overall he sold several books. Suddenly I realized I was down to 2 books and this nice lady was asking for two of my wedding books. I politely asked her to give me a second. I quickly went to the front of the center where my books were displayed and yanked a bunch of copies off the shelf.

The evening went on and the stack in front of me continued to slowly decrease. One lady came up, introduced herself as an English Lit professor at the local college. Then she said, "I have read your book. I like the way you write. The book is well done. I would like to buy one." I thanked she as she picked the book up. 

Another lady and her daughter approached the table and picked up the wedding book. "I'm a little late for this one. We just had her [referring to her daughter standing next to her] wedding." She looked at the title. "And I wore a blue dress." I quickly explained, as humorously as I could, the story of the blue dress. She chatted for a moment and put the book down. I wished her Happy Holidays and she and her daughter walked off. 

Later on I saw the mother and daughter in the book section of the center looking through the wedding book. And next thing I knew she was back at the table asking me to sign a book for her. I happily signed it and  thanked her for buying it.

It wasn't long before I found myself making my way to my car to fetch more copies. When all was said and done, I had books left over that the Arts Center could keep but I had none to take home. In the big scheme of things this was not much, but I was very surprised. I was so busy talking about my book I never saw if anyone purchased my photography, although several people commented about it. 

Everyone needs an evening like that to boost their moral. At least I did not humiliate myself sitting next to a best selling author. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Movie Review - Night Crawler

There are few characters that show little (or no) empathy for their fellow man. Even Hannibal Lector had a heart, albeit demented. Lou Bloom (played brilliantly by Jake Gyllenhaal) in Night Crawler  is another. In fact half way through the movie you begin to wonder if Bloom is missing not part, but all of that portion of the human brain that makes one feel for a fellow human. He comes across as calm and polite, but is really ruthless and psychotic. The story line is that Bloom is minor criminal looking for legitimate work. He stumbles upon a job as an independent photo journalist. And once he starts, nothing or no one will stop him from getting the story. He gets so involves he becomes part of the crime to get the story.

I cannot imagine the role being played by anyone any better than it is by Gyllenhaal. Rick Garcia does an excellent job playing his young side kick (also named Rick Garcia) who, unlike Bloom, has a conscious but finds himself involved in more than he signed up for.  But after that the casting falters. One of the other main characters, the news director of the TV station Nina is played by Rene Russo. In my humble opinion this was one of the weak spots in the film. This was a role of a professional woman forced to make a decision over her dignity or her career. Had a different actor played the role I think it would have improved the film.

All that said, that may not have saved the film. Night Crawler crawls. The story is interesting. Bloom's character is engaging. But I kept waiting for more, for a twist that never came, for a revelation that changed the story, for the ah ha moment. As we sped (literally) through the movie, chased the story, viewed blood and gore, witnessed shoot outs, and car crashes, I tired of the action and the drama and yearned for more story. 

The film had so much potential. It got rave reviews. After hearing the hype, I went in excited and anticipating a good movie. I came out tired and questioning what I missed. If there is a sequel, and the end left plenty of room for one, I'll save my $10.50. So close but no banana.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Movie Review - Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

I was an English major in college and if there is one thing an English major can do it is recognize symbolism and literation. Stay with me here. Often when we read a book or see a film it is the back story, the symbolism, the underlying meaning that is the true story. All that said, Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) was just noise to me. 

The plot (as IMDB describes it) is "A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory." The washed up actor, Riggan, played by Michael Keaton, seems to be possessed with (or actually more aptly by) some super natural powers. Emma Stone is almost unrecognizable in her role as Riggan's daughter, Sam. Other cast members include Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Jeremy Shamos, and Edward Norton which makes this all the more frustrating.

I found the first 35 minutes of the film just poor dialogue among a group of cast members trying to put on a Broadway play. It was frantic and dramatic - symbolizing nothing (to misquote Macbeth). And the genre of the movie is "comedy"? I missed the humor. I missed the plot. I never knew who the characters were because they were never introduced. It was if I had missed the first several key scenes or I was watching the second of a three part series without having had seen the first one. There were enough vague references, snarky comments, and loud exchanges to clue me in that there was some past history among the characters. 

The young man selling popcorn said it was the best movie he had seen this year. That led me to one of two conclusions: either he had only seen one movie or he and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to movies.

Bottom line - the movie sucks. Two regrets: that I wasted my time seeing it and that I wasted your time with the review of this worthless film.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Patient Pedestrian Postal Patrons

There is something about my walking into the post office that brings about a certain dynamic. It never fails. Yesterday I was in line several patrons behind an older lady buying money orders who had to go through her large purse to find the random piece of paper with the name and address she needed. Then once all that was done, the postal employee completed the transaction and told her how much it would cost. Then she acted totally surprised and had to, once again, go through her purse searching for money.

Next in line was a gentleman wanting stamps, not just any stamp but a certain type.  He kept making the postal employee retrieve additional sheets of stamps from the back until he finally was satisfied with a design.

By this time, a young lady (a diva no less) had approached the desk - ignoring the long line waiting to be served. As soon as the finicky stamp customer had been served she quickly approached the postal employee and sent him to the back on some mission. A minute or two a small letter was brought forth and given to the young lady, who turned on her heels, gave the rest of us pedestrian patrons patiently waiting in line a haughty glance and left.

Luckily the next two customers called to the desk moved through fairly quickly. Then came the little gray haired lady who did not comprehend the "security and restricted" question the postal employee is required to ask. (You know,'Does your package contain any nonmailable or undeclared hazardous materials such as: Aerosols, Lithium Batteries, Nail Polish, Perfumes containing alcohol, Pool Chemicals, Paints, Matches, Certain Glues, Live Animals, and Cremated Remains?')

"Well if you mean 'glue'? Then yes, I am afraid there is glue on the box. You see I am sending some of my homemade cookies to my granddaughter Mary Lou. She just loves my Snicker Drops. And I always make a special box for the cookies and of course I have to use glue on the box."

The postal worker assured her that no, that type of glue was not a problem and asked her how she wanted to send the box.

"Oh in the mail of course."

"Yes mamm, I understand that, but what service, First Class, Priority, Priority Over-night?"

"Oh they need to go overnight so they will be fresh when they arrive."

The employee measured the box, weighed it, and declared, "OK, that will cost you $32.42. Do you want the package insured?"

"$32? Why oh my? That seems a lot. I remember when a psotage stamp was 5 cents."

"Yes mamm, I understand. You know you could use one of our Flat Rate Boxes. I think the medium size box would work and that would only cost you $12.95. But you would have to use this box [she showed her the Flat Rate box] instead of the one you have now."

"How much is the box?"

"The $12.95 includes the cost of the box."

"Oh deary that will be nice." And she immediately started opening her box to transfer the contents. Before the employee could explain that the customer needed to do that on another counter so as not to hold up the line, she noticed a bottle of nail polish.

"Mamm, you cannot send that bottle of nail polish," the employee said pointing to the bottle.

"Oh, that is finger nail paint. And it is Rose Pink, it will look so good on Mary Lou. She has the prettiest rosy pink cheeks."

"Yes, mamm but that is on the list of restricted items."

That digressed into a "discussion" of the difference between finger nail paint and nail polish. I truly felt for the young postal employee, who by his response, I was pretty sure had never heard of 'finger nail paint'.

The young man behind of me asked, "Please tell me you don't collect stamps or are trying to slip restricted goods into a package. And for God's sake if you want a postal order please have the name and address ready," he laughed.

The lady behind him added, "And, remember don't be surprised if they asked you pay for your postage."

I just laughed and replied, "Trust me, I am prepared. My goal is to set a record once I get to the desk."

Another lady behind me laughed," My goal is to get to the desk."

[As a postscript, what I needed done I could not do on usps.com. Trust me, I do not go to the post office for kicks and giggles.]

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Colorful Decorations

In thinking about decorating the house this year, I thought it would nice to be more traditional and homie instead of trying to be so cosmopolitan and sophisticated. OK, my feeble attempts at those last two schemes have been laughable at best. 

Most homes' decorations "develop" over the decades. A few ornaments are added each year. Then after the kids get old enough, the mother decides she wants a "designer" tree, then all the popsicle ornaments are left in the attic along with the "Baby's First Christmas" and every other homemade ornament. The family room officially enters the "chic" years. Of course if Martha Stewart goes through a certain phase and deems it a "Good Thing" and Mom is of that ilk, then so be it because the Oracle of Ostentation said so.

Our house did not follow that usual track. There has been the ongoing argument about white lights (that I prefer) and colored ones (that my DH likes). I won that skirmish and we have had white lights for the past twenty five years or so. We have bounced around from theme to theme. Each year I tried to make things a little different, add a little flare. Sometimes it was well received and others not so much. The year I used tartan plaid and brass bugles went over fairly well. The peacock feathers - not so much.

One year there was such a fuss over which ornaments would be used, knowing I was out numbered, I selected certain ornaments, bought my own tree, white lights, and moved it into the living room. All the ornaments on my tree were either white or gold or of some celestial design. It was gorgeous, if I must say so myself. My family disagreed and said it was too fru fru. One of my daughters accused me of stealing all the "pretty" ornaments. The following year, I was told there would be only one tree. And so it was.

But I digress. Back to the matter at hand. In looking through the ornaments we have accumulated to go on the tree, I have selected the ones I think look best. They are not necessarily the fanciest or ones that match. And as the coup de grace, I think colored lights would look great. I know, say it ain't so. Now I just need to figure out how to get my DH to bring up the color versus white light argument so I can let him win. It just wouldn't be cotton for me to show my hand and admit I agree with him.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Brush with the past

Most of my teenage years I lived close to the edge - not on the exciting edge doing daring things, but rather on the fringe of the "in crowd". Oh, I had good friends and we were pretty close. But there were always those folks who were in a bigger group - the group you watched from afar. You know, the group who did things you could never imagine doing, or knew you would never get away with. 

How scandalous -  smoking cigarettes (and more) in the parking lot of school. Staying out all night, crawling back home in the early hours on the morning on a school day. Not showing up for school just because you did not want to. And my mother was concerned about my hanging around with the "right" kids, the ones from the better families, the old families, the upper class. She never understood some of these kids were from these families. But I digress.

Yesterday I was in my gallery rearranging photos and selecting ones I was going to take to a Vet's office in town that also displays my work. A lady about my age with dry blond hair, heavy makeup, and a haughty attitude about her, approached me. "Are you the artist?"

"Yes I am. Well actually this is all photography." (Often people think some of my work looks like a painting because of the effect I give it and I never want to claim I painted it.)

"Well, I have been admiring it. Actually I love it. Do you photograph people's homes?"

"I have in the past." I went on to explain some projects I had done with some families.

This led into a rather long rambling story on her part about her large home in Chapin that she may want photographed, her husband, her business (she sold clothes, antiques, and was a gemologist). Then she stopped, "Don't I know you? My mother owned the dress shop [she gave me the name] downtown for years. My name is Julie."

Then is struck me, I knew exactly who she was, she was one of those girls who lived on the edge when we were in school. Our paths had crossed. She had been dating a golfer at our rival in-town school who dropped her and started dating me. She was none too happy (although I had never met her at the time.) 

I can remember hearing all kind of threats from her through friends that I was treading on her turf. I was scared silly. In my mind I may as well have been Sandy at the hands of  Rizzo (of Grease) - well without being so cute with the blond hair and Australian accent. At that time in high school I knew I was way out of my league. Yesterday all these thoughts came whirling back to me.

"You went to [the other] school, " I said. "You were Julie XXXX. We had mutual friends." I told her my maiden name, that I went to the other high school, and named some of the mutual friends we had (excluding the boyfriend).

She just gave me a dismissive smile (much like I imagine I would have received 40 years ago). The young man I supposedly "stole" from her died a year or two ago - the last time I saw him was the summer after my senior year in high school. I had moved on with life and she had not crossed my mind since. I don't know who she married or how many husbands there have been, nor did I care. 

But some things never change, she still comes across as someone who is snooty and rough. I, in her eyes, probably come across as the same "little twit" (her words 40 years ago) who stole her boyfriend. Far be it for her to admit he asked me out. Like I care.

We said our goodbyes. She said she would talk to her husband and give me call.

I turned back to my work. Thinking more about it, I was sure there was more to her than I saw, that is usually the case with most people. Then again, probably not. That was one call I hoped I never got. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Shonda Doesn't Live Here

We often get random calls from people we do not know. They all seem to know us. Of course there were the calls in the past several days from Governor Haley, State Senator Sheheen, Congressman Clyburn, Senator Graham, and Senator Scott. Do they really think people are going to listen to them and say, "Wow, you know he/she really has a point?" 

The most annoying one is from "Lisa" at the bank who calls often. When I answer the phone there is a pause, then Lisa comes on with her automated voice, "Hello, this is Lisa calling about your credit card account. There is nothing wrong with your account, however I would like to inform you about some services that are available to you . . ." It never gets past that point. Once again, my question is: Are there people out there who listen to the entire message and are so convinced they wait with bated breath for her to tell them how they can get there "services"?

Other calls we get are for Shonda. Now we do not know Shonda, have never met Shonda, are clueless who she is, or why we continue to get these calls. However from the nature of these calls Shonda does not handle her finances very well. The calls for her are from collection agencies, credit card companies, loan companies, and finance departments at stores. More times than I can count I have politely explained to the caller that I do not know Shonda, that we get calls at this number constantly for her. We cannot help them and would appreciate them making a note in their files that this number is not her phone number. 

For any caller who does take us off their list, I swear two more are added. All I can figure is that she continues to perpetrate whatever  fraud she has been successfully doing for some time and somehow our number is on her file. 

We came in the other night to find a new message on our answering machine for Shonda. This one was quite creative. The caller said they were "calling from their legal claims department and if they did not hear from her in 24 hours they would be issuing a pre-legal warrant." I do not think they know who they dealing with. Whoever Shonda is, she is not going to be slowed down by the farce of a "pre-legal warrant". 

 For kicks and giggles I would love to get Lisa and Shonda together. Somehow I think they deserve each other, not to mention the contingent of yayhoos running for office. Maybe a party line (no pun intended) would be appropriate. Whatever, as long as they would leave is alone.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Fat Back and Collard Greens

I probably should re-evaluate my life. Just today I found myself competing with two ladies who missed their calling with Barnum's side show in what would now most likely be referred to as the "Lady with above average body mass" (ie The Fat Lady). We were at the refrigerated section that contained  packages of fat back. Not that there was a sale or it was in short supply. I simply reached to pick-up a package and found myself wedged between these two. I'm not even sure they knew I was there, seeing I was almost lost between their folds and under their muumuus.

I managed to escape, fat back in hand.  I looked in my buggy. Yes, this is your life. I had a bag of collard greens, a small container of sour cream, a pound of butter, and now  two pounds of fat back. Heck all I needed was bacon and I would have three of the four food groups down here. 

Let me explain myself or maybe justify my purchases. Supper was  going to be Hoppin' John, hot sausage, and fresh collards. As a treat for my DH, I was going to make him an apple pie. After you add the fat back to the mess of collards, the sausage to the pot of rice, and the butter and sour cream to the apple pie, any semblance of nutrition has been successfully eliminated. We may die early but we will eat good doing so.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Movie Review - St. Vincent

I'll skip the details - go see this movie. 

Bill Murray is one of the more talented actors of our time. His comedy is so well known far beyond just his days on SNL, Caddy Shack, and the Wes Anderson films Everyone saw his serious side in "Lost in Translation" (for which he received a Best Actor nomination from the Academy). Melissa McCarthy is brilliant. And the new kid on the block - literally - Jaeden Lieberher - is so ungodly talented for his age, you will see him again. Add to that cast Naomi Watts, albeit with a Swedish accent, and you are off and running. Oh, and I almost forgot Chris O'Dowd as Brother Geraghty.

Seeing the trailers of St. Vincent, one would think the story full of cliches and throw away lines. I also feared that this would be one of those films where the entire entertainment and best part of the story was in the trailer and the rest would be a disappointment - not so. The screen play is well written, the film well cast (need I say more on that subject), the story line humorous, heartfelt, uplifting, and always a little surprising yet not hampered by useless heartstrings or touchy feely moments (that make one want to throw popcorn at the screen and shout "Seriously?").

Murray plays Vincent, a down on his luck hard drinking elderly Brooklyn man (the role must have been written for Murray - he could have been able to play it without a script). McCarthy plays Maggie, who recently separated from her husband, moves in next door to Vincent with her young son, Oliver (played by Lieberher). No spoiler here if you have seen the trailers - Maggie is a cath lab tech who has to work long hours and Vincent, through a series of events, ends up taking care of Oliver. 

McCarthy plays a more serious role as a working mother trying to do the best for her son, balancing a full time job and motherhood. Watts plays a pregnant Swedish pole dancer (yes I could not make that one up). The story is a combination of each of the characters trying to find their way: Maggie as a new single mom, Vincent going through some rough times, Watts dealing with an unwanted pregnancy, and Oliver trying to make sense of it all as his parents go through a divorce, he is thrown into a new school, and Vincent introduces him to a world he has never seen.

It is Oliver, the quiet scrawny little one, who ties it all together and his presence puts it all in perspective. The New York Times in her infinite ability to pee on any decent film out of pure arrogance, says, "A big, sloppy wet kiss of a movie about an old grouch, a sweet kid and their odd-couple friendship. . ." Bah humbug to them. What they fail to acknowledge is that the story is well written, well cast, entertaining, and not necessarily what one expects. 

Oh, and when the movie ends - stay seated for the credits. Just trust me.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Movie Review, This is Where I Leave You

Jane Fonda is like the energizer bunny, she keeps going and going and going. And with two Oscars and such well known films such as "Barefoot in the Park", "The China Syndrome", "Nine to Five", "On Golden Pond", "Coming Home" and "Klute" at 77, one would think she would rest on her laurels, that would be a "No".   In addition to Fonda, are Tina Fey, Justine Bateman, and Adam Driver to name a few. 

In This is Where I Leave You, she plays the matriarch of a family of 4 children, who are so completely different, yet so bonded in different ways. The film opens with the father dying. Hillary, the mother, (Fonda) declares at the funeral that one of their father's (who apparently was an atheist) last wishes was that his family all sit Shiva for him. (A week long period of mourning when the entire family literally sits, grieves, and receives guests.) With the children come their spouses, significant others, wannabes, could have been's, etc. It gets complicated from the get go. 

This could have spiraled into a mad cap comedy, not unlike the British funeral film, "Death at a Funeral". But, to the screenwriters credit, it doesn't. The family is dysfunctional (as we all tend to be these days.) The mother has written a best selling book about the children revealing all their sexual tenancies from the boys' childhood fascinations with their penises to the daughter's first sexual encounter. And she is quick to talk about it should anyone bring it up, much to the dismay and humiliation of her children. 

All of the children bring issues home with them - marital problems, conception issues, and child hood relationships. There is humor, chaos, tender moments, and redemption. And, if you don't leave the theater saying to yourself, "Boy, maybe our family is not the only one . . .", perhaps you should do some soul searching. 

I recommend this 103 minutes. It is enjoyable, funny at time, hysterical at times, sad at times, but most of all, deep down, a little close to home. See it.

Movie Review, The Judge

What happens when you put two larger than life actors, Robert Duvall and Robert Downey, Jr, with one Oscar and six nominations between them,  in the same film? Contrary to the laws of nature you get a story of two strong characters with flaws played by two extremely talented actors, who allow the story to unfold and the audience to enjoy their genuis and well honed craft.

The Judge takes place in Indiana, the heartland, the corn belt of the country where everyday Americans live and go about life in a normal (whatever that is any more) way. Duvall plays The Judge (as he is referred to) who has been on the town's bench for 42 years. Downey plays his son, Hank, a hard nose defense attorney in Chicago who takes no prisoners; who felons want on their side (if they can afford him) so they will not be one. 

The film opens with The Judge's wife, Hank's mother, dying and the family coming together for the funeral. It is clear in the first 15 minutes that not only has Hank not been home in a while, it isn't something he has consciously missed. Driving through the cornfields as he makes his way back to his hometown is almost like crossing the great divide from his life in Chicago with his successful practice and marriage that has fallen to pieces and his estranged past he has spent years running from. The one thing that does connect all the pieces are his young daughter, whom he adores and seems to keep him grounded. (We all need the innocence and unfiltered truth of a child to keep us on the right path.)

No spoiler here, if you have seen the trailers, the story involves Hank's relationship with his father, which is acrimonious at best, his brothers, and his past. He ends up defending his father in a murder trial. I'll stop there. The 141 minutes made me pause before choosing this film but it could not have been done is less time and the story never lagged. (There was not a scene I thought they could have scrapped in the essence of time.)

IMDB gave it a rating 7.8 out of 10. I would give it a good 9 out of 10. The casting is outstanding, the story is strong, the screenplay is well written, and the story is not predictable. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Art and the Rabbit Hole

Before the county fair this year I received an email from another local photographer concerning another matter. I took the opportunity to ask him if he knew any details about the Art Competition at this year's county fair. This is when I fell down the rabbit hole.

What followed was a rant about the powers that be at the County Fair deciding that they did not need the local Arts Council to assist them in registration. This gentleman I was corresponding with happened to be an officer in said Arts Council. I had to hear (read) about how the fair people did not know what they were doing, and had hired someone who was totally ignorant of the process. He predicted the whole thing to be a debacle. 

Personally (and I held my thoughts to myself - thank God) I could not imagine the Art's Exhibit and Competition being any more confusing and more unorganized than it had been in the past. But who was I to question this? I was only an exhibitor - you know the citizen they were serving. Thoughts of the bad experience I had had in the past came to mind.  That varmit (yes that unbecoming description I gave the lady) who ran the Arts Exhibit for years came to mind. The one who never returned my phone calls, even though her number was given as the contact. The one who showed up for the registration with one pencil and a notebook for all the artists to record their work in.

Several days later I received another unsolicited email from this photographer telling me the Arts Council had met and they had voted unanimously not to participate in the county fair at all. He just wanted me to know the state of affairs. As an aside he commented that they planned to exhibit at the State Fair this year. He said this as if I was not even aware there was a State Fair. (I had delivered my two entries to the State Fair just that afternoon.) Then, as always, he signed off with "In sweet Jesus' name".

With the "varmit" gone, unlike the Art's Council, I was encouraged. And I was not disappointed. The registration process was well organized. When I asked about picking up my photographs after the fair ended, the young lady now tasked with running the Arts Exhibit and Competition, offered to keep them at her home if I could not be there that final day. (This was much different than the threatening phone call I had received from one of the varmit's minons last year.) 

I complimented her on the ease of the process and thanked her for her service. She just smiled very shyly. "Well it has not been smooth sailing. The first thing I ran into was the Arts Council who got upset that they would not be running the exhibit this year. Well, let me correct myself. I say running. They did register all the work and provide a judge - usually one of their members, but never had someone stay with the exhibit like the fair requests."

"So in other words," I said, "this year they took their marbles and went home."

"Pretty much." 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Art and Nonfiction

I often get asked what my next book will be about. My answer is generally, "What next book?" However after the happenings of the past week or two, I may have the next topic. The working title is "Art and the Third Reich in a Small Southern Town." Of course I will either have to move or wait until the characters die before I can publish it. Oh, the down side of southern nonfiction - so much to say about so many people who are still alive.

One would not think our fair town of 13,891 (as of 2013) could have a thriving art community. Well we have plenty of talented people. However there are more people concerned about running the show than being in it. My Daddy always said, "Blessed are the the big wheels for they shall always run in small circles." Folks, we are not talking about MOMA,  Antibes, or Montmartre. And, to be honest, I am not sure some of these people even know what I am referring to. 

It all started with the county fair. What can I say? How relevant can something be if the issue started with the county fair? Seriously?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Kitty Litter Issue

Every once in awhile I find something I must share with you - simply for entertainment purposes. This is an Amazon customer review (1 Star) for the Scoop Free Self Cleaning Litter Box. And, no, we do not have cats, are not in the market for cats, and to explain how I came about this is way too complicated to bore you with.

These are poor Matt's thoughts on this product. 

Maybe I'm just doing something wrong, but honestly, I can't understand all the rave reviews. I have a 4-month-old kitten and I am well aware that kittens will use up litter much faster than adult cats, but we're still talking ONE CAT and I am only on day 5 of a fresh cartridge and the smell is already so intolerable that I can't be within 5 feet of the box without retching. It literally smells like someone peed in a leather boot filled with oatmeal and then microwaved it for 15 minutes. Anyone that says they manage with one cartridge for 30 days is either a liar, criminally insane or lost their sense of smell in some freak, manure-huffing accident. To contrast, I had no odor problems with the scooping litter I was originally using (I'm talking a post-poopfest, pre-scoop, completely-thrashed litter box too). Also, even with the hood and the carpet (yes - I'm the sucker that bought all the accessories), the crystals get EVERYWHERE. Then there's the price of the refills. $51.99 for three, or $99.99 for six. The audacity to charge over 15 dollars for a piece of cardboard and a pound of litter is breathtakingly criminal, and that's even if they lasted as long as the company advertises. I bought a 3-pack of litter cartridges. With these, along with the one that comes with the box, I thought I would be set for 4 months of scoop-free bliss... how sorely mistaken I was. I am already on the third cartridge and I'm already about to toss it and pop in the last one.

On to the rake system: I will admit that it's a rather ingenious design and I'm sure it's a vast improvement over other automatic liter boxes (I really wouldn't know), but I still think those boys from MIT need to go back to the drawing board. Maybe my threshold for noise is different than others, but I find this box intolerably loud and annoying. The raking itself is loud, but then at the mid point of its direction change, the rake pivots and falls to the other side making a very loud clunking noise. This, of course, is endlessly fascinating for a kitten and he will promptly investigate the noise and end up going inside the box again, setting off the infrared mechanism, ensuring that the cleaning cycle will happen 20 minutes later. I can't really fault the manufacturer for a kitten's curiosity, but I do believe it's something kitten owners should be aware of. In addition to the noise, the rake spacing is still rather wide which will invariably lead to cat poop getting behind, and thusly out of the reach of, the rake system. Sorry, but I never had to scrape crap out of my old litter box with a butter knife. Just let that imagery float around in your head for a couple minutes. I haven't had any problems with urine leaking through the bottom of the trays, but then again, I haven't had a tray in the box for more than a week. However, I did notice that the corners to the tops of every box were broken at the seams; though I don't know if this is from how they were shipped, or a manufacturing defect. Anyway, long story short: I'm switching back to the old box once I use the last refill cartridge... so that should be in about 6 days.

Edit (1/27/08): After browsing around for a solution to the smell, I tried one of the suggestions which is to mix the litter around manually and that definitely seemed to help, though ScoopFree recommends you just leave the box alone and let it do its thing (that's what I had been doing). Someone else recommended using a small amount of baking soda on the bottom of the tray before pouring in the crystals. I'll give that a shot on the next cartridge. Anyway, taking 15 seconds out of your day to mix around the crystals isn't a big deal and if I can squeeze at least 2 weeks of use out of the cartridge, I'll definitely bump up the rating.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Closing That was to Be

The nightmare continues. You can only have so many moving parts before a wheel or two comes off the wagon. When you have a home in one state owned by two people who live in two separate states being sold to a third party who in turn lives in a third state, three time zones away - are you getting the picture? Now let's add a closing that will take 2 days because part of it is being done via FedEx and a large national bank. 

Well the closing that was orginally scheduled for Wednesday was "temporarily" rescheduled for Thursday. However given on Wednesday no one had a time or place for the closing the following day, not to mention no one had not heard from the bank - it did not look god for the home team. So Thursday morning there was a flurry of emails between all the parties - by this time, we have 2 sellers, a buyer, 2 realtors, an attorney, and a non-responsive bank. No closing on Thursday.

Later I learned that the closing package had been assigned to an incompetent loan officer at the bank - that was bad. He had been fired this week due to his incompetency - that was good. A new person had been hired in his place - that was encouraging. However she would have to figure out where everything stood before anything could be done with the loan package - that was bad. It looked like everything could start moving again on Friday (ie the papers be sent to California and returned) for a closing on Monday - this was good. Monday (naturally) is a federal holiday - this was bad.

Our best guess is Tuesday. And only then if the new loan officer figures it all out, Fedex does not have a stoppage, all the parties can be in one place (with the exception of the buyer whose papers will be sent in ahead of the actual closing), the numbers are correct on the HUD form, and Jupiter aligns with Mars  - will this happen. But like an old car salesman once told me, "Honey it ain't over until the bumper crosses the curb and the check clears the bank."

The fat lady hasn't sung yet. In fact the fat lady hasn't even gotten to the theater. I just hope we have the correct theater and have a fat lady to sing. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Realtor's Dream and Our Nightmare

When my mother died two years ago she owned a house in the North Carolina mountains. Anyone who knew my mother knew she went through mountain houses like most women go through winter coats - when they no longer fit , get rid of them and buy another. She was a realtor's dream. When she made up her mind she wanted another mountain house, it was not unlike her to find a realtor, list the current house, and expect him to spend the day showing her "new" houses that she would like to close on by the following week. She always paid cash. 

She started with our mountain farm and the house on it in Hendersonville, NC - that after 30 something years was never finished. In the divorce, that great unpleasantness we endured, she demanded (in a drunken stupor) the 200 acre cattle and horse farm. My brother and I tried to explain to her that given the annual upkeep and headaches (even though there was an overseer) that did not make a lick of sense. However, who were we to tell her anything. Several years later, when she had sobered up she realized that she indeed had no business with the farm and in true form found a realtor who marketed it.  In a week or two he had found a family who were looking for a farm for their Arabian horses and were willing to pay her asking price. 

By this time she was already settled in her new very large condo about 40 miles south west of the farm near Lake Toxaway. This gave her lovely views of the Jocassee Gorge. However after several years she decided perhaps this was a little large for her and maybe she needed to scale down a bit. Well this and her continual war with the manager/developer of the condominiums was enough reason for her to move on. Once again the condo was put on the market and within a matter of weeks, sold at her asking price.

Of course by then she had decided that maybe she would do better in a resort, so she purchased a small home in Cashiers, NC about 30 minutes or so south west from Toxaway. She was very happy. The place was small and neat and very low in maintenance.

The years went by and she was getting up in age, but not slowing down. She had a habit of deciding to go up to her mountain house and back in a day. (My brother swore he thought she went up there just to water her flowers.) Most of her friends now had houses in the Saluda - Tryon area which just happened to be an hour closer to home. So once again her realtor was summoned, the house was put on the market, and she was in Saluda house hunting.

This is where we get to today. She bought a house the first day she started looking, which was her MO. Now I never saw the house until after she died - which was a major bone of contention with her. But my brother kept telling me it was ugly. In fact he said, "There are so many lovely homes in Saluda, but I swear to God, she went and found the ugliest one and bought it." I found that hard to believe having seen her condo and house in Cashiers (the house on the farm being an exception but that had sentimental value). They were all very nice and extremely attractive. 

She wanted to be in a neighborhood so that she would have permanent residents as neighbors who could watch the house. Also, if something happened when she was up there, they would be there if she needed them. This made perfect sense to me. I did not expect some resort property or fancy condo. Months after her death, I finally went to Saluda to meet my brother and look at some furniture in the house. My brother was generous in his comments at best. The house is the most hideous, God awful single family dwelling I have ever seen. 

Now we have to sell this ranch style brick home that sits on a corner lot next to a busy street. The interior is in poor shape and has not been updated in the past 20 years or so. What is there reeks of the 60's and 70's. Oh no, she could not have left us a tony condo or cute mountain cabin to sell, she left this beauty. We found a realtor, held our breath, and prayed.

There is a God. After a year or so on the market, we received several offers that expected us to do a tremendous amount of work before they would buy or offered an unreasonable price. Finally my brother called to tell me we had an offer that was very close to our asking price. After a few counter offers which only dropped the price by a thousand or so, we had a firm offer and a contract. I asked my brother, "Is this buyer blind or what?"

"Better than that, he is from California, is buying the house over the internet, and has never seen it."

For days I have waited to either wake up and realize this was a dream and in fact the house was still on the market or have the phone ring at any moment saying the deal was off (for some unknown reason.) But a closing date was set for this week. When I spoke with the real estate attorney about the details of the closing he commented that the buyer would not be at the closing. He was handling all the documents via Fed Ex. I told the attorney that was great because the buyer had yet to see the house and it suited me fine to have his signature on the documents and money in the bank before he did.

"Oh, it can't be that bad. And even if it is, he's from California. With the real estate prices out there he probably thinks he is getting a deal and is going to spend money fixing it up."

"Sweetheart", I added, "You cannot put that much lipstick on this pig."

Yesterday I got word from the attorney that the date for the closing is not final. It may change. I hope I am not about to wake up.