Sunday, July 19, 2015

Buyer's remorse

A writing exercise on the theme of buyer's remorse

Played for a Fool

Nineteen-sixty-four was a big year for me. I turned 21 just in time to register to vote, and of course I planned to cast my first vote for Lyndon Johnson. His opponent was Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, whose slogan was In your heart you know hes right, which his enemies countered with In your guts you know hes nuts.The Democrats ran a TV ad showing a little girl plucking petals off a daisy  three, two, onefollowed by an image of a thermonuclear explosion. It ran only once, but it carried a devastating message: Barry Goldwater was a warmonger, unlike the incumbent. My vote was already a foregone conclusion when Johnson publicly vowed that he would neverno, not eversend a single American boy to fight and die in Vietnam.

Goldwater never had a chance. I was proud to be part of the landslide of sanity that prevailed on Election Day 1964. President Johnson would surely find a way to keep us from sinking deeper into the quagmire of a foolish war.

And then in April 1965, the Presidentthe one I helped electescalated American involvement. He said in a speech, the infirmities of man are such that force must often precede reason, and the waste of war, the works of peace. Translation: We have to kick Commie ass before we can talk sense into them. About to go into the military myself, I was furious with him. In my mind, Johnson had personally betrayed me. In the years to come, tens of thousands of Americans and untold numbers of Vietnamese would perish under Johnson and Nixons watches. Americans had been played for fools.

Sunday, July 12, 2015


A writing exercise on the theme of silence


The air is calm today. Smoke is long gone, soot and dust long settled. No sirens, no whistles or honking horns. No chatter in thirty languages or happy laughter or trucks unloading or bus brakes squealing.  Across the plaza, no one sits in the sun next to the torched tree stumps. Skyscrapers have crumbled as much as they ever will, the twisted I-beams and concrete clumps ten thousand monuments waiting for someone to remember. They will make perfect homes for any rats immune to radiation, but there may be no tenants for a thousand years. Stop signs blackened, but nothing to stop. Nothing moves in Manhattan.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Love at First Sight

A writing exercise based on the theme "Love at First Sight."

George, back in the day
George and Gracie joined us 11 years ago, twin purebred Bengal cats that tussled and slept and played and misbehaved and lit up our lives. In their early years they played fetch and leaped up on tall cabinets in single bounds. George loved to bring me leather sticks to toss from our bed, and he often somersaulted while trying to nab them in mid-air. But George had a genetic defect called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM, which we soon learned would shorten his life. At about age seven he slowed noticeably, never even resisting when we gave him his medication. The jumping stopped completely, and he spent hours snuggling next to Gracie or curled up on Nancy’s lap. There were scary episodes involving late-night trips to the veterinarian followed by days of careful watching and TLC at home.

Then on Valentine’s Day, 2013, he collapsed and appeared near death. We rushed him to the vet, but nothing could be done. I looked into George’s eyes as the vet put him to sleep.

We were devastated, although Nancy held herself together better than I did. For over a week I moped until she said, “Let’s go down to Safe Haven,” the no-kill animal shelter. We looked at many cats of various ages, all so deserving of good homes, but we agreed we’d take only one. There was one older cat with an ugly face that looked like he’d been in some nasty fights – the poor fellow deserved a better life than he’d had so far, but we had to consider how he’d get on with our gentle Gracie, and decided that he wouldn’t.

Then we found a 10-month-old cat that had just given birth to a litter of eight. We entered their enclosure, and Nancy sat down. We wanted one from that litter, but which one? All were gray and white mixed-breed beauties, but most of them shied away from us.

And then one of them jumped into Nancy’s lap as if to say, “Here I am. Take me home.” She was mostly gray with a white breast and white feet.


“Her name is Socks,” the caretaker said. We took her home, deciding to call her Calcetines – Spanish for Socks. Almost as quickly, Calcetines became simply Tina.  Our immediate love for Tina didn’t diminish what we feel for Gracie and George.

They are all family, always including George.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Moving back East

Our house is emptying as we prepare for a 1700-mile move a week from today. We have lived in Las Cruces, New Mexico for most of a decade, and now we plan to move to a 55-plus community in the Tampa Bay area in Florida. So we've been selling, donating, recycling and discarding what feels like no end of stuff, much of which we once cared about. The rest, we'll let the movers pack for us. Still we fear we'll bring too much. That non-functioning laptop, that old tower PC, the old papers my mom held onto, the Southwest-themed rugs--time is running out to get rid of it all. We are moving into a smaller house on purpose so we'll be forced to thin and trim.

We all go through stages in life, with so many years of accumulating stuff, but now we are in the less-is-more stage. Time and each other's company trump material things now. Being alive and active, traveling, making friends are more important.

All of this is possible where we are, of course. But Tampa is closer to family and will be an exciting change of pace.

Anyway, this is some of what we are leaving behind:

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A to Z Challenge: zenzizenzizenzic

Today we mark the end of the A to Z Challenge--whew! I've tried to dredge up uncommon words of dubious value. If you live in Seattle, you probably don't give a rat's patoot about xeriscaping, and if you don't play bridge or whist and haven't been a Green Beret, why would you ever care about a yarborough? 

Still, most of the words have at least some use to someone. So to bring the Challenge to an inglorious end, may I present zenzizenzizenzic, which refers to the eighth power of a number. Yes, really. Is there another word in English with more z's in it?

For example:

This is 2 to the 8th power, or 256. The zenzizenzizenzic of 2. Robert Recorde, who coined the word in the mid-1500s, wrote that it "doeth represent the square of squares squaredly." Eventually someone thought of the alternate word "cube," and it stuck. Go figure.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A to Z Challenge: yarborough

Here's a word that has several meanings. In Bridge, a yarborough is a hand with no cards higher than a nine:

A yarborough
Wikipedia says it's named after Charles Anderson Worsley, the second Earl of Yarborough and a member of Parliament back in the 1800s. The odds against being dealt a yarborough are said to be around 1828 to 1.

Yarborough also applies to a type of knife used by Green Berets.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A to Z Challenge: Xeriscaping

Anyone who lives in the Southwestern United States probably has at least heard of Xeriscaping if not practiced it. This is the practice of growing plants with minimal irrigation or none at all. The Greek root xer means dry, so this is dry landscaping. A yard with only desert plants such as cactus is said to be xeriscaped.

A xeriscaped yard with barrel cactus, yucca,
saguaro cactus, and desert flowers