Tag Archives: humor

My First Pandemic Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday – the first one (and hopefully the last) that I’ll have spent during a worldwide pandemic. And to honor the occasion (and also, to stop myself from obsessively checking Facebook for Happy Birthday greetings), I wrote a poem about how my day was going.

But first, I just have to show you some adorable monkeys.

corona-5032904_1920

Okay, now the poem:

My First Pandemic Birthday

It’s my first pandemic birthday
And it’s really no big deal
I’m thankful for the greetings
I’m feeling all the feels
Most people did remember
And if you forgot, that’s okay
But at least you didn’t send me
That cremation offer I got today.

Yes, I walked out to the mailbox
Expecting a card or two
Instead I got an election flyer
And junk mail out the wazoo.
But that offer for cremation
Was the icing on the cake
So I threw it in the garbage.
It was just too much to take.

When I returned from that errand,
I discovered I had a gift —
My new doggie who’d been hiding
Had left me something that I whiffed.
But she’s been the perfect canine
Well, up until today
I won’t hold one mistake against her
But I hope there aren’t more on the way.

Now it’s time to plan my evening.
I think I’ll make a special meal.
Cooking can be good therapy
For emotions I’m trying to heal.
I’m making my mother’s recipe
For Uncle Frank’s spaghetti sauce
And for dessert, I’ll eat a scone or two
Then we’ll see who’s boss.

Me or the corona virus?
Just which one will it be?
I think I can beat that bugger
Cuz I’ve got a mask or three.
And soon I will be Zooming
With some Tucson friends of mine —
I’m already getting ready.
I’ve opened a bottle of wine.

Photo credits: Chairs by ParentRap; Monkeys by Chiplanay (both on Pixabay).

 

 

TRAIN TRACKER, Season Three: Stranger Things on a Train

Episode 1: Banging and Clanging and Pronghorns, Oh My!

As you may recall from TRAIN TRACKER, Season Two, Episode 3, the post ended with a cliffhanger. I was somewhere outside of Little Rock, Arkansas, heading west, and I was eavesdropping on the passenger behind me as he discussed the intimate details of barbecue sauce with a woman he hardly knew. Would I ever get to hear his secret recipe? Well, no … I fell asleep.

music-1813100_1280.png

I was jarred awake at 1:30 a.m. by a sudden lurch, accompanied by loud banging and clanging. I later learned that we were coupling. Now, don’t get too excited. It’s not what you think. 

We’d arrived in San Antonio, Texas — the end of the line. Most of the train would be reversing direction, heading east again, but some of us (including the car I was in) were continuing west. This required a feat not unlike the mitosis and miosis that I vaguely remember from high school biology. The train split into two, each part with its own engine (or nucleus, if you will). So, basically, I got to witness train reproduction from inside the train.

It was a slow process, more like how I imagine turtles doing it. We sat still for hours, and the lights and A/C were turned off during this time. I started to doze.

Sometime about 2 a.m., two conductors came striding down the aisle with flashlights blazing. They stopped at a seat up ahead. “Sir, wake up. We need to see your I.D.,” they said. I was instantly wide awake.

They demanded that the sleepy man produce either his I.D. or his ticket, and they announced in front of everyone that they’d been told he was supposed to have gotten off in St. Louis. Several minutes passed before the poor guy could find his I.D. The conductors loudly read his name and then left. I think they must have made a mistake, because they never came back or ejected him from the train.

After another hour, I saw a conductor and asked him why we weren’t moving. “They had to fix everything and change the train,” he stated, continuing down the aisle. Not exactly reassuring, but he said it so matter-of-factly that I assumed it was all going according to plan.

Finally, at 4:45 a.m., we started moving. “Why are we going backward?” someone said, looking panicked. It was the lady to my left. She was looking to me for an answer.

I don’t know why people think they should ask me questions about directions. I’m the last person they should ask. I once drove 50 miles in the wrong direction before noticing I was heading west, not east. But I did happen to be holding my cell phone when she asked me, and she looked so worried, so I decided to “phone a friend.” In other words, I consulted my GPS. Indeed, we were heading in the right direction, and I said so. But I didn’t tell the lady that I was just as confused as she was. How the hell were we still going west when we were also going backwards? Where was Einstein when I needed him?

About five hours later, the crew came along and reversed all of our seats. We were moving forward again, and we had survived the strange night. I moved to the observation car and took in the views.

IMG_5794

Taking photos of scenery from a moving train is a challenge. To avoid reflections, I held my phone against the window and hoped for the best. The result was often blurry, but I like being reminded of how fast we were going (about 79 miles per hour).

A few specific places were announced along the way.

IMG_5799

The Amistad Reservoir, straddling the U.S./Mexico border, was pointed out as we zipped past. It lies 12 miles northwest of Del Rio, Texas. “Amistad” means “friendship” in Spanish.

IMG_5798

The famous Pecos River also was announced. It begins in New Mexico and empties into the Rio Grande River in Texas. I’m not sure, but I think we were on the Pecos River High Bridge. Yikes!

And then there was a scene I’ll never forget (and didn’t get to photograph): a herd of wild pronghorns galloping swiftly next to the train! I feel so lucky to have been at the right place at the right time to see them. I made a note of where I was (on the north side of the train, just after Alpine, Texas). Pronghorns, I’ve learned, are often seen in this exact spot. You can read more about them here.

In tomorrow’s episode (“I Want My Wi-Fi”), I’ll tell you how I passed my time on the train without a high speed internet connection. Believe it or not, it can be done!

 

TRAIN TRACKER, Season Two: Episode 3

(Note: For previous details about my train trip from New York to Arizona, see TRAIN TRACKER: Season One, TRAIN TRACKER: Season Two, and TRAIN TRACKER: Season Two, continued.)

Episode 3: The Good, The Bad, and The Good

They say bad news should be sandwiched between slices of good news. Here, then, is today’s Train Tracker Sandwich.

The Good
After riding through the industrial northern edges of Ohio and Indiana, we arrived in Chicago. It was 9:30 a.m. The sky was overcast and the architecture looked just as bleak. The train pulled into a dungeon-like underground terminal.

left: Whiting, Indiana (between Gary, Indiana and Chicago, Illinois); top right: unidentified building near Chicago’s Union Station; bottom right: lower level, Union Station, Chicago.

But then, like a rainbow after a storm, a Starbucks appeared, and they were playing one of my favorite tunes, “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers. Suddenly, as the song says, “the world’s alright with me.” I did a happy dance right there in the station.

While sipping coffee, I planned out my four-hour layover with the help of my new best friends, TripAdvisor and GPS.

First, I walked a block or so to the Willis Tower (the second tallest building in the U.S.).

img_5661-1
Willis Tower

Next, I hailed a cab (something I love doing because it makes me feel like I’m Elaine in Seinfeld) and visited the nearby Art Institute of Chicago.

I’d learned from Trip Advisor to buy my admission ticket in advance to avoid long lines. (Good advice. I got to skip the long line, scan a bar code, and walk right in.)

I’d also read on Trip Advisor that luggage and bags could be checked at the museum for only $1. This was also true. Goodbye duffel bag, for a while, anyway.

Unencumbered, I dashed around the museum for about an hour, lingering over some masterpieces, taking quick photos of others. I focused on the Impressionists and a special Manet exhibit that I paid $7 extra for.

I then hailed another cab for the trip back to the station (this time imagining myself as Carrie on Sex and the City). Both cabbies were friendly and very helpful. One, from Nigeria, even explained to me the layout of Chicago’s city streets.

I made it back to the train station an hour before my scheduled departure time and headed for my gate.

The Bad

The gate was crowded with confused travelers. There already were dozens of people in line, and the line wasn’t moving. Within minutes, dozens more had joined the line. At least 50 other travelers were clamoring about. Some were waiting for train number 21, others for number 421. At least three people approached me and asked if they were in the right line. I trusted my gut and told them,”Yes, but I could be wrong!”

I didn’t want to be attacked by an angry mob. They just might have pushed me down the Union Station staircase, as in that scene in The Untouchables.

image1.jpeg

After about 20 minutes, we were herded into a seating area where we waited for the boarding call. We waited. And waited. An hour later, we were still waiting when I decided to check my email. I had a new one from Amtrak: “Your train has been delayed, but don’t worry, we’ve already set up alternate transportation for some or all of your route.”

A passenger began loudly complaining; she’d heard the train wasn’t going any farther than Little Rock because of bad weather. We were assured by a harried Amtrak employee that we would all get to our final destinations. Finally, we were given the go-ahead to board our train, which turned out to be both number 21 and 421.

Once we’d started moving, though, there was an announcement: Flooding from Tropical Storm Barry had damaged certain portions of the track. We would all have to get off the train in Little Rock, Arkansas at 3 a.m. Those who were traveling beyond Little Rock would then take a FIVE HOUR bus ride to San Antonio, where they’d board another train for the rest of the journey.

Our train continued on, but not for long. Soon it was stalled for TWO HOURS, due to a signal problem with a freight train up ahead.

The Good

When we arrived in Little Rock, we learned that the flooded track had been repaired. No bus would be needed after all!

And even though we are now three or four hours behind schedule, there’s more good news to report. The new train (the Texas Eagle that I boarded in Chicago) is nicer than the Lake Shore Limited (the one I rode in New York State). The window curtain works, for one thing, and the bathrooms are cleaner. (There are FIVE bathrooms per car!) There’s a real dining car, too, with actual food, and an observation car with big windows.

img_5696

By the way, a talented musician friend, Don Armstrong, wrote a beautiful song about the Texas Eagle train. Of all the songs I’ve heard him perform, I think it’s my favorite. You can hear him perform it here or here.

Amazingly, I’ve still got two seats all to myself. It’s been a smooth, quiet ride with plenty of leg room. The only downer is that there’s no WiFi.

The most interesting thing about this trip is the people. Take, for example, my dinner partners (assigned by the servers): a 50-year old teacher who claimed to own over $1 million in Chicago condos, his four-year-old son who’s already been on four train trips, and a 70-something active retiree who travels everywhere by train.

Or consider this young man. His face, neck, arms, and hands (and perhaps more) were covered in mint green tattoos to match his hair. When someone asked him where he’d gotten his tattoos, he replied, “I did them myself.”

image1 (1).jpeg

And then there’s the talkative guy sitting directly behind me. His phone conversations are hilarious. He’s already told one of his lady friends that he plans on visiting her “on Hollywood Boulevard” as soon as he gets his restaurant up and running. This restaurant, he claims, is the best place for ribs in Detroit. Actually, he goes on, it’s the best rib joint in the country. When he comes to see her, if she doesn’t happen to be home, he’ll camp out on her balcony — in his sleeping bag. When she apparently protests, he assures her it’s no problem because he is “the original cat burglar.”

Another woman just called him. He didn’t remember who she was at first, but now he’s telling her about his barbecue sauce.

To quote Dave Barry, “I can’t make this stuff up.”

TRAIN TRACKER: Season Two, continued

Episode 2: Eight Is Enough (but Four Isn’t Even Close)

It’s 4:28 a.m., and I’m wide awake after somehow managing to get 4 hours of sleep. Now all I need is a cup of coffee and 4 more hours of sleep, and I’ll be able to smile again.

I had tried to listen to a podcast before “bed,” but it wasn’t working. If you think your Wi-fi at home is slow, you should try it on a train. After several failed attempts at connecting to the internet world, I called it a night.

Then I gathered my toothbrush, toothpaste, and sweat pants, mustered up every ounce of courage that I had, and paid a visit to the rest room. Thankfully, nobody had urinated on the floor (see yesterday’s post), but it wasn’t a bed of roses, either. I changed into my sweats, brushed my teeth, and was out of there and back in my seat before you could say “aromatherapy.”

I put on my neck pillow (which happens to be red, hence I’m calling it my redneck pillow) and invented various new sleeping positions: The Foot Rest, The Fold, The Sitting Squat, and The Lower Back Torture. Oddly enough, I was not able to fall asleep in any of these positions. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that none of them even vaguely resembled my favorite at home, The Dead Man Float with Pillows.

img_5575

Hey, does that person have 4 feet?       Photo credit: Pixabay

I then moved my duffel bag and purse off the seat next to me and onto the floor and attempted to lie across both seats, which together span approximately 4 feet. This was a challenge, since I am a full-grown human.

First, I curled up on my left side. My head was pressed against the arm rest and my feet were sticking out a little into the aisle, so I switched to my right side. Now my feet were on the arm rest and my head was out in the aisle. Not any better, but at least I couldn’t be accused of tripping anyone as they stumbled across my head.

I curled myself tightly into The Turtle (or maybe it’s the Pill Bug). My head was now protected by the arm rest, which was digging into my scalp. I adjusted my redneck pillow to relieve the pressure. There. As snug as a bug on a train.* I hoped I wouldn’t uncurl myself in my sleep.

*Ew.

Soon, I felt myself slipping into an altered state of consciousness while listening to the droning voice of the man standing in the aisle one row behind me. He was speaking Pennsylvania Dutch. (He and about six other people in my train car are Amish.) I think it helped that I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. It was like a lullaby.

It’s now 5:30 a.m. I have a slight coffee headache, a sore neck, and tired eyes. My earrings (which I forgot to remove last night) are being squished against my ears by my redneck pillow, which I am still wearing tightly around my neck even though I’m sitting up now. I think I’ll sign off and try getting some more shuteye. At least I’ll be in Chicago in a couple of hours. Hey, maybe I’ll miss my connecting train and have to fly home! Stay tuned.

 

TRAIN TRACKER: Season Two

(TRAIN TRACKER is a multi-post documentary about my train trip across the U.S.A. Click here for the prequel, a.k.a. Season One, and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog!)

Episode 1: T-Minus Zero

I’m on the train, which has just left Schenectady, and we’re moving fast. T-Minus Zero has arrived!

In this exciting episode of Train Tracker, since I’m on a moving train and being jostled around a little, I might try writing in a stream-of-consciousness style, without a whole lot of editing. Sort of like Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” but not nearly as good.

At 6:45 p.m., I arrived at the brand new Schenectady train station, bags in hand. The fact that the station was constructed in 2018 gave me a feeling of confidence as I awaited the announcement to board the train, scheduled to depart at 7:33.

img_5544

At 7:00 p.m. I got antsy. I decided to kill time by taking a quick photo of the station. I grabbed my camera and duffel bag and went outside.

After snapping the above picture, I returned to the waiting room, only to find it less full than before. Had the boarding announcement come during the one minute that I was outside? Just to be safe, I headed for the track. Several other passengers were already there, and they didn’t look too happy to see me taking their picture.

img_5567

But a few minutes later, a flock of cedar waxwings landed in the tree right across the tracks from me. (I took their picture, but they look like tiny ants. You’ll just have to take my word for it.) Cedar waxwings are favorites of mine, and I rarely get to see them. I think it’s a good sign.

At 7:27, the 7:33 train pulled in. (I’m not usually such a time nerd, but I was impressed with my train’s punctuality.)

img_5568

This is my actual train.

We boarded quickly, and the train started moving before most of us had found our seats. The first car was full so we walked to the next one which, to my relief, was practically empty.

(I’m going to start writing in the present tense now. I’m not sure that’s good writing, but I have a feeling Jack Kerouac would approve.)

7:35: I take a window seat. It has a curtain, which is closed. That’s okay. It will be night time soon, and there’s nobody else in this row.

The conductor walks by. I ask if the train from Chicago to Tucson is a double decker.

“Which train is it?” he says.

“The Texas Eagle,” I reply.

“Yes it is,” he says. “But wait. You’re going to Tucson? The Texas Eagle doesn’t go to Tucson.”

“Yes, I believe it does,” I say.

“No,” he says. “I ride that train all the time. It doesn’t go any farther than San Antonio.”

I look up the schedule online after he leaves. I am right, at least according to the internet … but maybe I’m destined for a new life in San Antonio.

7:39: I change seats so I can take pictures of the sunset on the Mohawk River. Most of the pictures are blurry, and the train windows could use a little Windex.

7:45: The setting sun is right in my eyes and the curtain is stuck open. I return to my original seat, the one with the closed curtain. I try opening that curtain and discover that it is covering up a blank wall. I remind myself that it will be night time soon.

I take out my laptop and try typing with it on my lap, but the top of my lap is not made for a laptop. It’s too round or something. Also, the ride is a little bouncy. This has nothing to do with my lap. I’m sure it’s just the train that’s bouncy.

The tray table is about four feet away. I lean forward and lower the tray table. I can type now, but the position I’m in reminds me of one of the more difficult yoga poses. I can’t sit in this awkward position for long. Lucky for you, my blog posts may have to be shorter than I’d planned.

Suddenly, I come to the realization that my tray table can be pulled toward me. Problem solved. So what if it’s tipped at a 10-degree angle? I can type with one hand while I hold my computer in place with the other.

All kidding aside, I’m about 1.5 hours into my trip, and things are going great! No complaints.

9:45 p.m. I’ve been so busy writing that I hardly notice that the train has stopped. Now a whole crowd of people are getting on (including a large family and a crying baby). It’s pitch black outside, and in the car, too, making it difficult to type because of the eye strain I’m experiencing.

But first this announcement, from the conductor. I swear this is what he said, word for word:

“If you make a mess in the bathrooms, please clean up after yourself, and PLEASE do not urinate on the floor.”

There is now a foul odor in my train car. By the way, I have forsaken the Jack Kerouac no-editing method. You really don’t want to know my exact thoughts at this moment.

10:16 p.m. I was going to watch a movie, but I’ve brought the wrong kind of headphones for my laptop. Hopefully, I can buy the right type during my 4-hour layover in Chicago tomorrow. And maybe some noseplugs! I’m going to listen to a podcast on my phone now. Good night!

 

TRAIN TRACKER: Season One

It’s T-minus six. The countdown has begun. In only six days, I’ll board a train in Schenectady, New York, bound for Tucson, Arizona. Who will I meet along the way? What exciting adventures will I encounter? How many times will I beat my head against the window wishing I’d opted for a sleeping car?

I’m calling this trip a train-umentary, and I’ve given it a summer blockbuster name: “TRAIN TRACKER.” Maybe Netflix will be interested, especially if true crime is involved! I’ll be blogging, taking photos, and maybe even interviewing people while sitting upright in a train seat for 62 hours, without access to a shower or bed. That’s a true crime already!

TRAIN TRACKER, SEASON ONE

Episode 1: Why A Train?

I live in Tucson and my family lives in New York. Out of necessity, I’ve flown cross-country annually (sometimes more than once a year) for the past sixteen years. I’ve enjoyed flying, but lately, due to plane crashes and what not, I wanted a lower-to-the-ground option.

Also, I’d wanted to bring my guitar with me this time. That’s actually what had gotten me started thinking about the train in the first place. Most airlines won’t let you carry a guitar on board unless you buy it a seat. Trains, on the other hand, treat guitars like carry-on luggage.

Episode 2: Why Coach?

Articles I’ve read, and sane people in general, strongly recommend the sleeper car, but I chose coach. Why? Price. By the time I decided to book my trip (two weeks ahead of time), the cost of one sleeper car ticket from New York to Arizona was $800 to $2000 depending on the date and route, while my coach ticket was only $219. I guess you could say I was willing to put up with the high probability of loud rumbling, screeching, swaying, shaking, a stiff back, swollen ankles, screaming babies, and odd smells for three days because I was too cheap to spring for a higher-priced seat. But I’d say I did it out of a sense of adventure. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Episode 3: Shopping

I went online two days ago, Googled “train travel tips,” and realized I’d need some extra items I hadn’t thought of before, like a blanket, a pillow, and maybe lots and lots of deodorant (for myself, and as free gifts to my fellow passengers). Did you know that Amtrak does not provide blankets and pillows? Well, I’m pretty sure they don’t, but I’ll check it out on the train and let you know for sure. (This is just an example of the fascinating, not -to-be-missed information I’ll be reporting on in Season Two!)

Here’s what I bought yesterday:

fullsizeoutput_2f2

The blanket should come in handy if I sit next to a baseball player, or to avoid eye contact with the conductor while I sneak into a sleeper car. I could also use it to throw over my head to hide from a train robber.

The red neck pillow scrunches up and fits in a round carrying bag, which I could always use as a stress ball if needed:

fullsizeoutput_37d

Today I thought about train food and realized I’d probably be stuck with a diet of steamed hot dogs, Doritos, and canned soda for three days unless I packed my own refreshments, so I bought a few healthy snacks (and toiletries). I know my $219 ticket makes me seem cheap, but, after all, I did splurge on Fiji water. The granola bars and cashews should give me energy for writing. More importantly, they’ll go well with any adult beverages that I might be forced to buy if my stress ball isn’t working.

fullsizeoutput_36e

Episode 4: Packing

Tonight, I made a pile of everything I’m going to need easy access to on the train, such as: camera, camera case, pillow, blanket, changes of clothing, water, snacks, sweater, toiletries, laptop, phone, and chargers. The pile was almost as big (and probably heavier) than my large suitcase. I guess tomorrow I’ll go shopping for a backpack for my carry-on items.

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of TRAIN TRACKER!

 

 

 

 

Birthday Breakfasts

My birthday is approaching. I’m not saying which one. That’s for me to know and you to Google. I will say this much: It’s a significant one.

As I mentioned in my recent post, Birthday’s Silver Lining, my birthday is causing me to ponder many things, such as the passage of time, the meaning of life, and … well, I’ve forgotten the third thing.

All this pondering is having an unexpectedly pleasant side effect: I’m finding extra joy in little things, like sunshine glittering on the lake, and the deep green color of the trees. I’m in a spectacularly good mood. Or maybe it’s just because I’m on vacation.

I’m staying in a trendy part of town, a neighborhood that I used to live in during my twenties. The area wasn’t always this trendy. Now it has cute little shops with names like Tru, and Roux, and Roam, and Hemp It Up. It also has a lot of gardens. Two days ago, after a rainstorm, I went out in search of some of my favorite things, like flowers with raindrops on them.

After taking pictures of flowers, I considered looking for more of my favorite things, like warm wooly mittens and bright copper kettles. But instead, since I hadn’t had my coffee yet, I headed to my favorite coffee shop, Glen Edith. It was only a few blocks away, right around the corner from the apartment I’d shared with three other roommates once upon a time.

As I walked past the old apartment, memories came flooding back: the music, the incense, the bell-bottoms, the vodka-spiked Kool-aid. (Just kidding, Mom.)

I kept walking, dressed in the long skirt, sneakers, and hipster sunglasses I’d donned that morning, and I suddenly felt young, energetic, and hip. Or maybe it was the thought of caffeine that was propelling me forward.

IMG_5381

I also felt rich, since I’d miraculously discovered some unexpected cash in my wallet the night before. I’m not making this up. There’s a secret hiding place in the wallet, right behind my driver’s license. I was looking for my Social Security card (don’t ask why) when I felt something wrinkly. I pulled it out and, to my shock, it was several twenty-dollar bills.

The last time I could remember having that amount of cash on me was on my previous out-of-town trip, and since then I’d lost my wallet and had it returned to me, contents intact. Good people still exist!

I went a little crazy that morning with my new-found wealth, deciding to treat myself to not one, but two breakfasts, since, after all, I have a birthday coming up, and life is short.

Breakfast number one was at the aforementioned Glen Edith, where I ordered a delicious cappuccino. It came with a tiny surprise: a mini-doughnut hole.

IMG_3916

And then, another surprise: a bright copper kettle on the counter!

fullsizeoutput_296

After the Glen Edith, I moved on to Jines Restaurant, a neighborhood institution since 1971, and ordered my old favorite, creme brûlée oatmeal.

fullsizeoutput_26e

The creme brûlée oatmeal at Jines is decadent. Come to think of it, the word “decadent” has the word “decade” in it. Maybe “decadent” actually is a contraction, as in this example: “Did you turn 50 last decade?” “No, I decaden’t.”

Having two breakfasts at my two favorite shops in the neighborhood was a small thing that brought me joy. It was all part of my preconceived plan to pamper myself, since, in case you forgot, I have a rather significant birthday coming up.

I’m Living in a Children’s Book

My two-week Airbnb guest house in upstate New York comes with ducks and chickens. I didn’t know this when I rented the place, but I’ve discovered that I enjoy waking up to the sound of quacking and clucking in the morning. Sure, I have to be careful not to step in duck poop when I enter and exit the building, but I’m getting back to nature!

It had rained overnight. Good weather for the ducks, who were quacking up a storm this morning as they waddled around drinking from the puddles. Then the sun came out, and so did the chickens, clucking and pecking and watching me with their beady little eyes.

One of them came up to me and circled around my legs. She didn’t try to peck at me, so I put her to work as my model. I felt like a professional fashion photographer as I complimented her fine feathers and jaunty gait.

fullsizeoutput_b5

The photo shoot continued as we headed over to the chicken coop. I was hoping the door to the nesting box would be open so I could collect an egg or two for breakfast. Sadly, the door was closed and latched. I thought about opening it, but I wasn’t sure all of the chickens were out roaming around.

Just then my model chicken started clucking like crazy. Apparently, she really wanted to get inside of the coop. I thought about opening the door for her until I noticed a pair of eyes looking out from an opening in the nesting box. It was a rabbit.

fullsizeoutput_b2

What was a rabbit doing in the chicken coop? Guarding the eggs? Keeping them warm? Just hanging out? Maybe the chicken and the rabbit are BFFs. I’m dying to know. Could this be the inspiration for my next children’s novel?

The “Frog and Toad” books were a big hit. Maybe “Chicken and Rabbit” would be even more popular with today’s kids … especially if I include illustrations of duck poop.

Any illustrators out there interested in collaborating? If you act fast, I can pay you in fresh eggs.

Seven Ways to Say “Curly”

I am the child of a father with thick, curly black hair and a mother with fine, straight brown hair. So what did I end up with? A head full of not-quite-curly, not-quite straight, fine hair. Thanks, genes! Actually, a better way to describe my hair is “a collection of limp, uncooperative cowlicks that behave badly in public.”

The only time my hair looks good is right after a new haircut. Here’s me straight from the hairdresser’s about a month ago:

lori-selfie-032019.jpeg

and here’s me today:

edward-lear-1823617_1280

But last week I bought some pomade that smells like limes and makes my wavy, unruly hair calm down and behave. I looked like this for about one day:

IMG_4787

As long as my hair stays exactly this length, I’m happy. I like the simplicity of my current morning routine: shampoo, apply goo, scrunch, and go.

But I know in about two days my hair will reach that stage again where I debate the pros and cons of yanking it back into a pony tail, getting it all cut off, or both.

The reason I’m discussing my hair has nothing to do with vanity, and everything to do with linguistics. You see, the little label that came with my pomade was translated into seven languages, none of which were English or Spanish.

I wondered why the company selected the languages they did (French, German, Swedish, Russian, Italian, Dutch, and Portuguese) and why they omitted English and Spanish. But I was glad to see the less well-known languages included for a change.

Being a language nerd, I decided to take up the challenge of trying to read the label. I still remember some of my high school French, which gave me a head start. The label began with a brief product description, saying it would lend control and shine to curly hair. It talked about how to apply the stuff.

For each language, there was a warning included, which said:

Precautions: Follow instructions. Avoid all contact with eyes. KEEP AWAY FROM CHILDREN.

After studying the label, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are seven different ways to think of “curly,” depending on where you live.

The French phrase for curly hair is “cheveux bouclés,” which actually means “loopy hair.” If you’ve ever seen a jacket made from bouclé fabric, you know the look. It’s kind of tousled and wild, something like fleece. I like the idea of appearing tousled and wild, so from now on I’m going to ask my hairdresser to give me a “bouclé.” I just hope she doesn’t think it means “blue hair.”

The German phrase for curly hair is “lockige Haare.” That may be where we get the word “Goldilocks” from. And I learned from reading the label and using Google that the German way of saying “control hair” uses the word “geeignet,” which means to make something acceptable. I guess I’d better not visit Germany looking like picture #2 above.

The Swedes refer to curly locks as “lockigt har/god til krollet har.” That means curly/crinkly hair, I think. I found it interesting that the English words for “medium” and “formula” are the same in Swedish, at least on this product label.

Then I came to Russian, a language that completely baffles me. Not only do most letters appear as upper-case, but some like R and N are mirror images of their English versions, and others look more like hieroglyphics. I had no idea which of the Russian words was the one for hair.

However, I did manage to figure out which one meant “Precautions,” since I’d already identified it in the French version (“Précautions”) and it was the only word followed by a colon. So I THINK that the Russian word for “Precautions” is something like this: Cnoco6 npNMeHehNR. I wonder if Donald Trump took Cnoco6 npNMeHehNR when he visited Russia.

Now for Italian. In Italian, curly hair is translated as “capelli ricci.” Rich hair! It makes sense that Italians would think of curly hair as “rich.”

The Dutch translation of curly hair is “krullend haar.” But before you start thinking that Dutch is just a slightly modified version of English, consider that the Dutch word for instructions is “gebruiksaanwijzing.” (It was on the label and I looked it up.)

The last language on the label is Portuguese. The Portuguese translation of curly hair is “cabelo encaracolado,” which almost literally means “hair like a snail shell.” What a great description of my hair! (See picture #2 above.)

The very last portion of the label was a long list of ingredients, and, for some reason, it was in English only. Maybe they didn’t want their readers to understand it. I understood only too well that I’ve been putting something on my hair that’s made with citronella, and is practically radioactive. But it smells good, and it probably will keep the mosquitoes away this summer.

 

 

 

A Lizard’s Tale

Yesterday, I met with my writer’s critique group at a local coffee shop. I was the first to arrive. The second to arrive was a woman I’d never met before. She introduced herself as “Liz” before excusing herself and walking toward the coffee counter.

For some strange reason, I decided I’d remember her name by associating it with a lizard. She in no way resembles a lizard. It was just the first thing that popped into my mind when she said, “Liz.”

Another writer — Elaine — arrived and joined me at our table. While awaiting Liz’s return, I told Elaine that I’d just met Liz, and confessed that I was associating her name (not her!) with a lizard. The weird thing is that a second later I realized that Elaine is another Liz. Her nickname is “Liz Lady” because of the work she does with reptiles.

Liz returned to the table and introduced herself to Elaine.

“I’m Liz,” she said, “but my real name’s Roberta. I go by Liz because of a lizard …”

I was too stunned to listen to the rest of her explanation. I’ll have to ask her more about it next time I see her. But while I was sitting there, in between two lizards, I remembered this photo I’d taken once.

lizard-2

Did you know that lizards sing the blues, and that they also like acronyms? To prove it, here’s a blues song written by my friend in the photograph.

DSL Blues

Oh, I’m a desert spiny lizard, but you can call me DSL
I’m a desert spiny lizard, but you can call me DSL
My life is hot and dusty, all this crawlin’ in the desert is hell.

Well, I’m strong and I’m fast, and my scales are a colorful sight
Yeah, I’m strong and I’m fast, and my scales are a colorful sight (that’s right!)
But when people see me comin’ I always give ’em such a fright.

Well, they scream and they holler, they run away and hide
It makes me feel bad, it hurts my pride
I wish they would stay, but instead they just go
I think they are so wrong, IMHO

Now, you may be wondering what I mean by IMHO
Yeah, I’ll bet you never heard a lizard say IMHO
It means “In My Handsome Opinion,” so there you are, and now you know.

And the acronym LOL was a lizard’s invention, I won’t lie
Uh-huh, the acronym LOL was a lizard’s invention, I won’t lie (or bat an eye)
It stands for Lizards On Lunchbreak, now it’s time for me to go and catch some flies … Bye bye!

— DSL

nanopoblano2018-notrim