A Look at Family History (Italian)

My Nonna (grandmother) came to this country when she was six. She settled in Steubenville, where she met my Tatone (grandfather), who was also an immigrant.

A very long time ago, my Nonna gave my Mum a picture of herself. It was a postcard depicting her as a child. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, postcards were a popular format for communicating with family abroad. A photographer could be rather costly so, when one came to town, people eagerly paid to have their picture taken. These pictures were then reproduced onto postcard stock. (I have several from the Steubenville area, including one of our Country Club.)

My Mum was wondering if I had that postcard handy. It was for a personal reason that I scrounged around for it and located it tucked into a closet. I had taken it down from our family wall due to my aunt complaining that the women in the picture were not family. They are.

The picture above is my Nonna and her grandmother (my great great Grandmother) in Italy. My Mum could not recall her name. My Nonna, Lily (Gualtiere) Mininni, was born to Teresa (unknown maiden name) Gualtiere. Teresa is this woman’s daughter-in-law. Some more pictures are below.

My Mum held by her Nonna,
downtown Steubenville 1936

Mum's dog, Prim

Mum, classmates and their nun,
May Crowing Day

My Tatone Frank Mininni with my Mum
outside of their home on Spring Ave,
Mum's First Communion (?)

Nonna, my Mum and (I think)
my Aunt Helen

Snow Revisited & Etymology (Not Really)

When did this snow start? I thought it happened a week ago. I asked Better Half, “Wasn’t the day before the ice storm?”

“No, it was Epiphany,” he replied.

Epiphany? January 6th? Thank goodness I suffer from snow-picture compulsion. It was, in fact, the 9th.

We have had a solid month of snow, off and on with a few hours of thaw between. Our driveway bears witness to our futile attempts at making it a safe and happy place for walking or parking. It’s now a winter wonderland of jagged spikes of ice lying between crunchy patches of snow.

Tlapa is powder snow in the Eskimo language. We have tlapa that is quickly turning into slimta, which is snow that is crusted on stop by soft underneath. I’ve never been fond of slimta as I end up with jatla (snow between the toes.)

The Pomeranian enjoys her romp in the yard and comes in with dinliltla (tiny balls of snow that cling to husky fur, but I’ll exercise a bit of literary license here.) The quinyaya, or snow mixed with dog excrement, is nasty to look at but at least was hidden in the tlayopi in the last tlamo, or snow that fell in large wet flakes. (Tlayopi are snow drifts that you fall into and die.)

I’m joking. These words are from a satirical list.

Franz Boaz, an anthropologist from the early 1900’s, mentioned that the Inuit had four unique works for “snow”. Humans, being somewhat inane, added to it until it was surmised that the Inuit must have at least five hundred words for snow.

They do not.

Phil James wrote an article for the online ezine, Word, entitled “The Eskimos’ Hundred Words for Snow”; the source of my bogus Inuit words above. His work is absolute satire but I wonder how many people will take it to heart (Gospel truth, no less) one hundred years from now?

There are Inuit words, of course. Some sound the same whilst others do not. People often think that a language should have unique (unrelated) words for every single thing when in fact there is a common root word for each.


Information obtained from the Online Etymology Dictionary
cata - from Gk. kata-, before vowels kat-. Its principal sense is "down," but with occasional senses of "against" or "wrongly." Also sometimes used as an intensive. Most Eng. words with this prefix were borrowed through L. after 1500; e.g. catalectic (1589) "wanting a syllable in the last foot."

Catapult 1577, from L. catapulta "war machine for throwing," from Gk. katapeltes, from kata "against" + base of pallein "to toss, hurl." The verb is first recorded 1848.

Catalogue 1460, from L.L. catalogus, from Gk. katalogos "a list, register," from kata "down, completely" + legein "to say, count" (see lecture). The verb is first attested 1598.

But none of these are in relation to
Catamaran 1673, from Tamil kattu-maram "tied wood," from kattu "tie" + maram "wood, tree."

Or cat, the beast that goes meow and scratches my furniture.

Which brings me (in a round about way) to the Inuit and snow. A native speaker of Inuktitut will gladly tell you that there are many expressions regarding snow and all apply to what the snow would do. Snow drift, snow plow, snow fall, snow glare, snowman, snow angel, snowball, snowed over, crunchy snow, white snow, yellow snow, blizzard, fluffy snow flakes, small snow flakes, snow mixed with ice. There are many descriptive phrases in the English language for snow and snow-related snow-isms. I’m not trying to pull a snow job on you. So too do the Inuit have their own way of communicating. You can Phil’s list as well as an Inuit list at The Bemused Muse: The Words for Snow Question Answered.

In short:
apun/aput means “snow on the ground'”

Qanik' means “snow/snow-flake”

Qanik - snow
Qaniktuq – it’s snow

The point isn’t to draw attention to the etymology found in Inuktitut. It is not to show you how people misconstrue satire as fact. It is a grumble about snow.

Did you actually think that I had a point to all this? I'm probably wrong about the entire Inuit language. HA! That would suck.

Winter Snow and Ice

I thought I would capture some early morning pictures. Unfortunately I tripped over my Nemesis and almost landed on the concrete porch. The wrought iron couch was a better choice (not.) He wiggled his nose at me, hopped over and actually had the audacity to paw my shoe. Begging bastard. I gave him some carrots anyway.

We had rain this morning. The neighbors are attempting to clear their driveways and walkways. Better Half is sitting on the couch. Granted, he doesn’t feel well but I recall the ice last year: we will have a devil of a time getting out of our driveway and I will spend a few days in agony because the ice causes my feet to slide, which in turn puts pressure on my ankles. I will then have a manic moment and take my frustrations out on the entire driveway, all for want of solid ground to stand on.

The snow does not look deep but you are looking at solid layers of ice and not fluffy white stuff.

Frozen dusty miller
Dog path on deck
Front yard
Front of house
Clothes line

More photos can be found at:
The Bemused Muse: Winter Snow and Ice (Part II)


Winter Snow and Ice (Part II)

Primary entry at The Bemused Muse: Winter Snow and Ice
More images, from this afternoon:
Cherry tree "bat wing"

Frozen branches against the green fence

Maple leaf buds encased in ice (macro)

Frozen cherries

Trellis ice sculpture

I wanna play too!

(blog post time is not accurate)


Proximity Award

AnnieElf bestowed a Proximity Award upon me. I love things like this, not for any attention they might bring but because someone out there took the time to think of me. It uplifts the soul. Thank you, AnnieElf.

This award’s creators say:

Blogs who receive this award are 'exceedingly charming'. This blog invests and believes in the PROXIMITY-nearness in space, time and relationships. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers!

“Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award. According to the rules, you must mention eight more bloggers with whom you wish to share this.

The blogging community is a closely-knit one. We have our friends and acquaintances. One of my favorite blogger friends is, of course, Annie (and I can’t pass the Proximity Award back again.)

Unfortunately for me, I have been away from blogging for some time. Good people I once knew have given up on blogging or moved on to other things. I do have a small list (in no particular order.)

  • AnnieElf – would have the first nod, but as she has already received this award, I can’t bequeath it to her again.

  • Roadchick – of course I would nominate the ‘Chick. My God, where would I be without her insanely funny blog posts?

  • Granny Smith – if you haven't visited Granny’s blog, please do so. She’s such a remarkable woman and she draws you into her world

  • David – I nominate David for all sorts of things but he’s not a blog award displayer. Shame on him. His book, The Rainbow Kingdom, is a must-read for those who are attempting to reconcile their orientation and beliefs.

  • Thus the list stands at only four, not due to laziness on my part, but because I am out of touch with so many. My apologies. I have kept close to those who mean the world to me. My comment section does not need to contain hundreds of posts nor do I feel obligated to respond to every post my friends make on their own blogs. There is a quiet sense of family and when we do catch up with each other it is truly as if hardly any time has passed at all.


    Mole plaguing us all
    You dig in the soil and laugh
    One means fifty more

    Winter is the time for Aut’s really bad haiku (5/7/5, if you please)
    Spring is the best time to zap a labor of moles. (That's actually what you call a group of them, as in "Oh crap, killing these things is going to take a lot of labor.")

    The mole isn’t a bad animal. He’s a nuisance. He’s also clever in physical
    form, has poor vision and, in the case of the Star-Nose Mole, can eat a juicy earthworm faster than the human eye can process (around 120 milliseconds.) Moles are fossorial or underground dwelling mammals.

    Moles do not eat plant roots. They dine on your garden’s grubs and earthworms. You need the earthworms to keep your soil in a prime state. The grubs aren’t of any use at all. The mole tunnels through your soil, often disrupting the earth to the point where the plant roots can’t thrive or to where the soil around the roots doesn’t hold moisture. They’ve been dubbed “lawn terrorists” by quite a few gardeners due to the tunnels breaking up the nice green grass. (You can determine the direction of a run by visually connecting the dots of up-heaved soil in a line.)

    We’ve all seen video of placid fat moles scampering over tables or carpets, waddling through yards or held gently in the hand. Not all moles are docile. They can and do bite. They might take on a larger animal such as a cat or dog. Like a shrew, they have sharp and pointy teeth. If you really must handle a live mole please make certain that your chosen critter is not sadistically pissed off at that moment. (continued after video clip.)

    How to rid your yard of them?

    Poison works but can have an effect on other animals, especially those who might eat the dead mole.

    Traps are lovely. Humane traps are much better. Most mole traps are not humane.

    Wear gloves when you handle the trap so that the moles don't smell any human scent. Check the traps periodically as moles have plenty of runs and you might have stumbled onto an old one.

    Smoke bombs, pipe bombs, grenades and claymores are effective but tend to scare the neighbors.

    Shotguns. I have a personal issue with this method. Most people do not take the time to verify that it is a legal extermination method. The pellets in the mole’s body might be ingested by another animal. Depending on the ammunition, you can damage underground pipes (especially old pipes buried shallowly.)

    Any sound method might spook your moles away for a week. New moles can detect abandoned tunnels and move right in.

    No matter how many moles you kill (or catch and release) you can bet that there are plenty more to take their place. They don't obey fence lines at all; absolutely no respect for property lines. One mole in your yard might indicate twenty in your neighbor’s property. You’ll do nothing more than rid your yard of the current tunnel occupants.

    ”I’ll dig out the parameter of my property and pour two-inch thick concrete barriers!”

    Moles do move above ground, you know. One small step for mole-kind; one giant leap for a pregnant mole sow in need of a nursery.

    Mole, damn you odd beast
    You’ll fear my traps and poison
    Die die die die die!

    On a lighter side…

    I like moles. I really do. I’m fond of shrews as well. This is something that I don’t often admit, given the fact that tiny beasts took over once the dinosaurs died out. I’m currently working on a book involving these animals (with a lemming thrown in for good measure.)

    Roadchick inspired this post, by the way. She has mole woes. I wish that I could send her a copy of The Killer Shrews. That is an infestation. It might cheer her up to know that these don't live in her yard.

    My Obsidian Antagonist

    My obsidian antagonist, my nemesis of spring, he who eats $150 worth of plants in a single go, the Black Rabbit of Cuchulainn has taken up residency on my front porch.

    I’m a rabbit person. I love the way they nibble the clover in the spring. I find their twitching noses adorable. A fat buck is perfectly capable of ripping a cat to shreds (my apologies to cat fanciers). They do have a rabbity intelligence that seems to steer them clear of tight spots and pitfalls.

    Many moons ago the Black Rabbit of Cuchulainn was a sweet little pet bunny
    named Onyx. He had a sweet little hutch and a sweet little girl who fed him carrots and doted on him.

    “There’s more to life than this, as surely as I’m a black rabbit in a hutch, which I am,” said the rabbit.

    He escaped and become the neighborhood rabbit. We have all sorts of wild animals out here: deer, rabbits, mice, chipmunks (or shitmunks, as I call them), squirrels, and Things Which Howl in the Copse Down the Way. We have prowling cats, loose dogs, heavily trafficked roads and a plethora of curious children. The Black Rabbit, a fixture here prior to our arrival in 2005, has evaded them all.

    Our yard is set up as a habitat for animals and the majority of animals respect it. They don’t shred the sheltering plants nor do they greedily suck down every last bit of clover. They are content to munch on the crab grass.

    The Demon Rabbit eats the grass rather than the crab grass. He destroys the sheltering plants by parking his humongous body smack in the middle of them (he’s larger than a house cat, outweighing my Italian Greyhound by quite a few pounds. Should we ever need to take him for a ride in the country, he’ll require, by Ohio law, a toddler’s booster seat.)

    We fight every spring and summer. I’ll arrive home from an errand and there he is, chewing his pellets and staring at me. “Laissez-faire, toots. I do as a please.”

    On one momentous occasion, I marched right across that yard with the intention of spooking him off. He doesn’t spook easily. He never broke into so much as a hop. Rabbits do walk, you see, and walk he did.

    “Get – out – of – my – garden – you – bastard!”

    ‘Round and ‘round the maple we went, the gimpy chick and The Black Rabbit, until I caught up with his posterior and gave him such a whack on his ample rump that we didn’t see even so much as a whisker for several weeks straight.

    “Ah, I’m done with him,” I smirked one fine morning as I sat out on my porch and sipped my ice tea.

    He returned that day. He might have crouched under the holly for hours just to hear me utter those works. Surely the bastard wouldn’t hesitate to engage in a little illegal wire-tapping? Regardless, I went inside to fill up my glass and as I came back out, I saw his fat little body squashing my beautiful hosta flat.

    Hoses have no effect on a wild-yet-domestic rabbit. “Thanks for the bath, madam,” and he waves one ear as he lopes away.

    Critter-Ridder, a brutal capsaicin mixture, is a waste of time: apparently he has a poor sense of smell due to his age.

    Dynamite might work but it would mess up my garden.

    Yet here we are, The Black Rabbit and I. He squats on my porch and respectfully confines his potty habits to the yard. We have a temporary truce between us. Better Half feeds him carrots. I purchased some alfalfa blocks and pellets and leave those out for him. He allows Better Half to pet him and to pick him up. I certainly will put my foot down to any of Better Half’s pleas regarding a hutch or him (or worse, bringing him indoors.) He has become a fixture here.

    Until next spring. Then it’s war.


    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. | Dreams and Change

    This post is in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and is aimed at you, dear Reader. It's aimed at us. It's to no one and everyone at the same time. It's to the faceless and to the named, and to those who feel that the world keeps them down. It's to those who make the rules or those who break the rules. It is for all who believe in Dr. King's dream. It is for those who learned the true history from that time period, who have read about or seen the inhuman way in which blacks were treated. It is for those who lived it, who lived through it. It is for those who forget about it and passed down segregation and hatred to their children and grandchildren. It is for those who take the sacrifices of our nation's greatest civil rights leaders and drop the ball, never to pick it up again.

    Along with his last breath of life, a man handed over the reigns to future change. The drapes of racial oppression and segregation were torn down, exposing a promising future. To ensure that promising future, society stepped up and made demands on our government and our society itself. "We shall overcome" became a mantra of promise rather than just hope. Our government took measures to guarantee that all young men and women could achieve Dr. Martin Luther King's Dream.

    (You need to turn off the music player in order to hear videos properly. The music player is found in the sidebar. Click the pause button. Thank you.)

    (article continues after transcript)

    Martin Luther King, Jr.

    "I Have a Dream"

    August 26, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

    I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

    Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

    But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

    In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

    But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

    We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

    It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

    But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

    The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

    We cannot walk alone.

    And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

    We cannot turn back.

    There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."¹

    I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

    Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

    And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

    I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

    I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

    I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

    I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

    I have a dream today!

    I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

    I have a dream today!

    I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."2

    This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

    With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

    And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

    My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

    Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,

    From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

    And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

    And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

    Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

    Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

    Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

    Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

    But not only that:

    Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

    Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

    Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

    From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

    And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

    Free at last! Free at last!

    Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

    The question for all of us (all ethnicity types, all backgrounds, all social status and income levels) is: have you contributed to the solution or have you simply allowed yourself to be part of the problem? Do you listen to those who tell you that you are being kept down or do you rise up and show the world that only you can keep yourself down? Are you trifling, lazy, complacent in your civic duty, or a self-pleaser rather than a peace-bringer? Do you shirk off the challenges before you because it would be too much trouble, and then do you further use an excuse of "oppression", "aggression", "confrontation", "someone else's obligation", or "it does not affect someone in my situation" to justify your personal apathy towards your own life and the lives of those around you? Do you turn a blind eye on the very things that keep society down: drugs, gangs, prostitution and bigotry towards other races?

    If this sounds harsh, I'm sorry. It's my feelings on the matter.

    One determined and hard-working black man will be inaugurated on January 20th as President of the United States. What do I hear? Complaints from some people who insist that he's only half black, therefore not black enough to be the first black president. "He not one of us." Complaints that he is black and will give cause to have the white man oppressed. Nonsense.

    Who is the our greatest enemy? Is it people of other ethnic backgrounds? Is it the government? I believe it is us. We can't get ahead in life if we don't take control of where we are now, no matter our race. We can't blame anyone but our own self for how we approach life. Circumstances may not be favorable, but we determine if our life is bitter or sweet.

    As we enter into Black History Month, let's not forget the contributions made by civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Let's not forget organizations such as 100 Black Men of America, Inc. which I fully endorse.

    Let's recognize the hard work put into UNCF, which is dedicated to empowering our young men and women.

    Finally, visit The King Center in order to understand the struggles and triumphs of a people who gave all they had so that even the smallest and most fragile of souls, a child or young adult, a grandmother or mother, a man with the desire to serve, all who would seek this lofty dream could rise up in freedom and become a beacon of hope and change for all of society.

    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. | Dreams and Change, Part II

    Who is the our greatest enemy? Is it people of other ethnic backgrounds? Is it the government? I believe it is us. We can't get ahead in life if we don't take control of where we are now, no matter our race. We can't blame anyone but our own self for how we approach life. Circumstances may not be favorable, but we determine if our life is bitter or sweet.

    Perhaps Aaron McGruder, creator of the comic strip (and television series) Boondocks, says it best. His premise is that King did not die that fateful day but slipped into a coma only to awake thirty years later to a world where his dream was reality yet was also squandered away.

    The episode that pissed off far too many people; it points out things that are overlooked in favor of "me!" and "I am entitled!" I don't agree with McGruder on many of his political opinions however I applaud him for stepping up and expressing those opinions despite the negative (if not bitterly angry) attention that they sometimes garner.

    I will warn you: this Boondocks episode (Return on the King) might offend you. I've included it here after much soul-searching. One of my online acquaintances has spoken the same message for years. She preaches it on the streets and in the youth centers. It takes strength to stand up to popular beliefs and say, "Enough! This is not what men fought and died for in the bitter streets."

    Part 1

    Part 2

    Part 3



    An assortment of winter sounds surrounds Pembroke Cottage today: the gravely rattle of the city snowplow as it prowls past our house; snow flung from driveways and walks with a vigorous sssuk tik. (I’ve posted some scenes in the entry prior to this one.)

    What’s with the name, Autrice? Cottage? Is it a small home? (Yes, thank God!) Does it resemble a cottage? (Of course not. It’s a Craftsman.) What is Pembroke? (A name. All the streets in this particular residential area have names like this; we are the Country Club. Homes here range from Craftsman such as ours to large stone manors and modern mansions. It is eclectic and we are located close to the main avenue. I am pleased with that arrangement; we do not have to pay the slightly higher taxes in the inner area of the Country Club estates. Our home, however, was one of the first here, built at the same time as the Country Club itself. Our street is narrow and we haven’t any curbs. The homes across the street are from the 1960’s through the 1980’s. Our neighbors all chat with each other. We frequently tramp to each other’s porches or, in the case of our neighbors behind us, through our yards to visit at the fence or behind the garages and shrubs. It is quaint and beautiful.)

    I have always named my homes. My first apartment was dubbed Paisley Palace in tribute to the wild and wonderful wallpaper found in the entry. Carnage House was an actual 1890 carriage house (you were apt to die by falling through the floors or stairs.) Beanworld was a flophouse that I crashed in a few times but I did not name it that. There were a few places here and there.

    The Crypt was a basement apartment that Better Half and I shared prior to marriage. He is probably unaware that I called it that. The house (Royer House) stood on a lot that had housed bodies in a previous life: it was a cemetery. Due to the advanced state of casket decay, not all of the bodies were relocated. There was an article in the museum downtown that described in Victorian detail the ghastly story involving a heavy rain while a foot of water, stained and rotted bonnets still attached to some of the women’s skulls. This was the same year that Emma Crawford’s coffin was dislodged from the top of Red Mountain. She flew down the side of the mountain like a raging bat out of hell, coming to land somewhere on the side of Red Mountain. (This is the birth of the Manitou Springs annual Coffin Races.)

    The Crypt was haunted. I don’t mean that in jest. It was the basement apartment of an old 1890’s home, which itself was divided up into two more apartments.

    I spent a lot of time at Royer House. I was a tenant in the top floor apartment, so often did I crash there after a night of revelry and mischief. My best friend rented it for herself and her two children. It was a four-bedroom and bath converted into a 2-bedroom with common room and kitchen. There were three doors in (kitchen, common room and the main doorway downstairs) and a narrow porch connecting kitchen and common room, replete with rickety wooden stairs going to the pavement outside.

    There were afternoons when we’d hear someone tromp up those old stairs, yet no one would be there. The kitchen door would yawn slowly open although there wasn’t any wind. I spent an hour vacuuming the stairs leading up from the front door, dragging the handheld attachment over the hideous pale rose carpet until the pile stood at attention. I then went onto the front porch to have a cigarette. Upon my return, there were imprints in the carpet leading up the stairs (none leading down) that were dainty in size. No one could have walked past me while I was outside and no one was upstairs when I investigated.

    Oh cool, I thought. I love this house!

    I moved into the main floor apartment when there was a vacancy. I shared this apartment with a slob. It was a two-bed, common room and kitchen, with a side room and bath. At one time, this had been a grand old house, for the kitchen downstairs was large, and the bedrooms had once been the dining room and parlor, with the common room probably serving as a music room. This apartment also had three doors (a side door into the common room, a kitchen door and a locked door that would have lead to the hallway maintained by the upstairs tenant.)

    My “upstairs” friend and I had just returned from the grocers and we decided to drop off her milk before heading to my apartment. We opened her downstairs door and saw a figure standing with his back to us. Before we could say a word, he walked away, through that common door. Of course we deposited all our groceries and bolted around to my front door. A short fumble with the key and we were in. No one was there.

    My roommate moved out shortly after and I returned to my old haunts. The basement apartment became free eventually and I moved into that. Have you noticed my fascination with the macabre?

    The basement was creepy. I liked it. I had lived there for a month when I was 19 (that friend now occupied the main floor apartment.) It was too bizarre a space to describe accurately. You would walk down a level of stone steps (only one door in) and enter a horizontally long room. The microscopic kitchen and bath were at one end and the main room was in front. It was a large room, which we divided into a television area and an area for Better Half to tinker with. There was a bedroom and a small room that I used as an office of sorts (which later became a junk room.) The window in the bedroom was intended to satisfy fire code by serving as an egress. The only way one could egress would be to pop it open and crawl out of the earthen pit like a mole. It flooded the bedroom when it rained.

    This apartment was at casket level. Remember – the house was built on a graveyard where not all the bodies could be relocated. The basement was where some of those pioneer bodies ended up after a massive rain. My upstairs friend would knock on our door and hear voices laughing yet no one was inside the apartment. The saltshaker would be to the left of the tiny stove and then it would be to the right. I don’t think Better Half noticed any of this shit.

    The good times (yes, they certainly were) came to an end after a falling out between all three of us. Upstairs neighbor was moving and was upset because I spent more time with Better Half than her. My Main floor friend with through a raging asshole phase that we won’t get into here. Better Half and I were planning to move into a house down the way. So, we parted, grumbling, and the landlord found himself sans upstairs and basement tenants.

    I Hate This House house was a thrasher owned by a greedy Asian hairdresser. I thought it was charming and workable when I saw it the first time. Moving day came and I asked her if she would change the locks and install an actual doorknob on the side door. Can we say slumlord? It was like pulling teeth. We couldn’t get our mattress upstairs (which smelled like cat shit in the summer) so our living room became our bedroom and the dining room had to serve as dining room and living room. The claw foot bathtub was wonderful and so cozy to lie in. The kitchen, sans the new stove that she said she was putting in, was a nightmare to cook in. The back room hadn’t any heat and the ancient linoleum was peeling and cut my feet. The yard was long and narrow and workable but we never did anything to it. We did try to plant flowers in front. Nothing grew. This house had bad chi. It was a depressed old thing. On the day that we moved out, it rained, and a waterfall gushed between the main portion of the house and the kitchen. It was as if the house mourned my leaving. I was probably the only tenant who tried to give it love.

    Mrs. J’s followed. We never named that one. We were in the process of getting married and had stopped to see this beautiful home. She was a sneaking bitch and had a rent bidding war right there on the spot. We couldn’t go as high as the other tenants, and she offered us a duplex unit for a smaller rental fee. (The “winners” moved out a month later and she didn’t tell us the larger place was vacant. In other words, the greedy beast lied.) There is nothing remarkable about Mrs. J’s. The tenant behind was a hooker working on getting her GED. She would constantly lament about her antibiotics making her sick, then stating that she didn’t want to take a cut in her rates when the customer was willing to pay more for bareback. This is the same tenant that we rescued our dog Mattie from.

    The duplex apartment had a bad air to it. I hated it after a while. It was during our tenancy there that I had my biopsy and discovered the precancerous lesions. My old upstairs friend and her new husband stayed with us for a short while and they would fight over whose turn it was to change, bathe or feed the baby. I began to slip into a depression.

    We moved to Parkridge eventually, a nice little house and a big back yard. Things improved for me there and we started enjoying life again. We stayed for a year or so before moving on to the House on Maizeland. This house was the biggest yet, a tri-level with a basement family room to die for. I was torn between looking for an old home and looking for another Maizeland when searching for a house to buy in Ohio: I went for the old home and regret; had I gone for the Maizeland type, I would have regretted it. Ha! Do you see how I am?

    Maizeland had a beautiful deck, almost as lovely as the one we currently have. It had a nice yard in back. It also had a hot tub. You would wind your way downstairs and discover the laundry, or nooks for books, or a bathroom. You could wind your way upstairs and find an added on room. The top level had three bedrooms and a single bath. That the master suite and the guest bathroom, divided by the tub and shower, shared the same large room. Even the decks were a maze. We stayed there quite a while, and for a time we had my Upstairs friend and her family with us. That ruined our friendship (without going into detail) and I saw her for the worthless mother that she was.

    We had our exchange students while in that house. We also had one of our students in the house that followed: Chestnut. This old home was tiny compared to Maizeland. It had the most exquisite tree in the front yard. The floors were refinished. There was a single bathroom where we kept our finches. It was a unique and fun house to live in.

    Pembroke Cottage combines many features from most of the places that I’ve resided. I see shades of Maizeland, Chestnut and Parkridge. There is a touch of I Hate This House, as far as the narrow staircases go. There aren’t any touches of Mrs. J’s here, however. And the final sad note: It’s not haunted

    Snowy Morning (pictures)

    Pictures: snowy morning
    A dusting of snow on my dusty millers
    I have yet to pull some of the plants
    Our bird feeder, empty this morning
    A toad's summer home
    (actually an expensive
    broken pot)
    The snow really isn't deep
    The roads are slick, however
    and that plow has been through
    several times now

    New Year's Day 2009

    The first day of the New Year is unique: it is the only day of the year that we awake brimming with a sense of freshly baked optimism for the future and all the changes we must morph through in order to achieve it. Change becomes our mantra and we gaze (perhaps in a somewhat hung-over and bleary fashion) into the morning (or afternoon) sunlight and promise ourselves that each perceived personal flaw would resolutely be met by minute modifications in our individual habits.

    Or we say, “oh to hell with this” and go back to bed having sensed that we suck and there’s no changing that.

    I did neither this morning. Better Half woke me up and I stumbled downstairs to watch the 120th Rose Parade. I always stumble downstairs. It’s more effective than launching myself from the landing.

    The Rose Parade was, as always, pleasant. I prefer their coverage to the Macy’s Parade’s, which floods my television screen with a bunch of revolting pop stars and crappy actresses, cuts the show performances and purposely neglects to show the NYPD band. Why watch the NYPD band when we can watch Miley Cyrus and Push Play gush to all their admirers!

    I spent the rest of this day being an unproductive lump. I did eat some crackers and deli meat. That isn’t productive in of itself, but it did please my empty tummy. Better Half and I called our parents, and I called my aunts.

    Our New Year’s Eve was peaceful. (My whole intention was to write a post about it and you’ll notice that I was sidetracked. Shame on me.) We enjoyed a smorgasbord of wafers, pastrami, Prosciutto, corned beef ribbons, Chabis Feuille, Morbier (Le morbier, l'authentique fromage montagnard franc-comtois, au lait cru et à la fameuse raie cendrée. Délicieux), shrimp and red beans and rice. We sipped Prosecco DiConegliano, finishing the bottle at midnight. Per our tradition, we called my parents and wished them a Happy New Year.

    I feel a nap coming on now.

    Happy New Year!

    PS: the Pomeranian pictured above is suffering from a cheese coma. Yes, there's an ancient television in the background.

    Morbier and its distinctive black stripe

    Simmering shrimp

    PS again: just kidding about the dog. She's asleep and easily posed. Here she is without her head: