It’s 51 F out and sunny at the moment, but the wind is blowing pretty steadily at 25 to 27 mph, with occasional gusts of 40 to 50 mph. That means local authorities have issued a small child warning.*
Humidity is 27%. **Note to self: Take out your ear buds before you pull your microfleece lap robe off.
*Small child warning -- if your child weighs less than 50 lbs, you'd better throw a rope around them and belay them to something like a car or a tree before you let them go outside.
**If I don't take the earbuds out first, the static electricity generated by pulling the lap robe off goes right up the ear-bud wires and shocks me in the ear holes. Gets your attention, I can tell you!
There are two very large vacant lots behind and to the side of our local VA Clinic. (The one to the side has a high-rise La Quinta Inn on the other side of it.) They are not only inside city limits and surrounded by houses, but along the frontage road for the SH-27/I-82 (four lane divided) highway where it grazes the eastern edge of the city. I mention them because both lots have been colonized by prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) . Because the parking lot at the VA Clinic tends to be jam-crammed on certain days, there is a sign which reads:
DO NOT PARK
ON THE GRASS
One of these days I am going to yield to the temptation to print out and tape up an amendment to the sign, to wit:
DO NOT PARK
ON THE GRASS
It pisses off
the prairie dogs.
Prairie dogs are fun to watch. I will often park and watch them after I’m done with my clinic visit. If I’m lucky a burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia) will be hanging out with them. In its original state, the Great Plains (we’re on the southern end of it here) was notably treeless. The owls adapted to nesting in holes in the ground, appropriating abandoned prairie dog burrows for same. (They are perfectly capable of digging their own holes, but why bother if they can get prairie dogs to do it for them?) They are the only owls without feathers on their legs, and they will chase smaller prey , such as beetles, grasshoppers, and cicadas, on foot. They are also active in the daytime.
Here’s the finished Christmas stockings or should I say, ‘stockinettes’ (that’s a knitting joke. . . .) with pieces of white ribbon to hang them by.
I’ve been knitting Julekuler at the computer (and watching YouTube videos) instead of in my knitting nook, which presents problems. I have trouble tracking across lines of a colorwork (or needlepoint) pattern. I tend to get off onto the wrong line, which is why I have a copy holder for typists in my knitting nook with a little guide ruler on. (If you do needlepoint, counted cross stitching, or lace knitting from charts, you might investigate getting one of these handy little stands.)
But I don’t have a line marker or anything like that on the computer. I went analog and stuck a sticky note on the screen.
Well, at lunch today, I got a rolling start on the pumpkin pie I got at the grocery store Tuesday. Dear friends S & JH have invited us over for dinner tomorrow, so Friday, I’ll be having store-bought “leftovers” courtesy of Prater’s and Market Street with some of Prater’s good ol’ cornbread dressing, sliced chicken breast (no Carving Board turkey to be had, alas) and jellied cranberry sauce, with punkin’ pie for afters.
I’m back making Julekuler again, The little booklet of 24 patterns is a free download from the Schachenmayr website. The pattern is from Arne & Carlos, and they have a tutorial. I’m doing 9 of them for the scholarship auction that Sekret Klub my mom belongs to has every year. The members are supposed to use their talents to come up with crafts or auctionable items with the proceeds going to their scholarship fund. My mom’s talent is getting me to do stuff for her. One year I made snowflakes, one year washcloths, one year neck warmers.
As I have said before, there’s nothing a knitter likes better than a worthy excuse to knit something. Like the wife of the assistant pastor of her church is expecting a baby in December . . . . There’s a hat that goes with the ensemble, but the photograph is on my phone and not on my ‘puter and I’m not in the mood to hassle with transferring it over. I’ve got one bootie to finish, the sweater to block and sew buttons on, and it’s done.
The stockings in the picture of the Julekuler I’m in the process of are hostess gifts for the friends who are having us to dinner tomorrow. I always like to do a little something for them. They have been such good friends to my mom, lo, these many years. She sings in the choir with my mom. (I have this homonym thing where I know the one I want, but I invariably type the wrong one. Like just now, I typed “quire” instead of “choir.” The worst one is typing “meat” when I mean “meet.” I try to tell myself it just seems to be happening more frequently because I’m so aware of it, but I dunno. . .)
This time around on the Julekuler, I’m finally internalizing a technique for catching my floats. For those nonknitters in the crowd to whom that last sentence made no sense, when you are working with two or more colors, you carry the color(s) you’re not using at the moment behind the work, which leaves a little loop of thread called a “float.” If you have to carry one color for more than three or four stitches, you need to secure – catch – the float by securing it to the back of your work to prevent having a big long loop of thread you could catch a finger in (mittens or sweater) and so it will look neat. There are several techniques for this.
Now that I’ve got the float thing down, I want to try again to make me a “death flake” hat. My first attempt ended up being too small partly because I didn’t catch my floats. The pattern is a “gothicized” version of the eight-petal rose pattern so popular in Norway and Sweden. I’ve already made me a hat with the traditional eight-petal rose pattern on, but I have a black cowl that is just begging to have a matching black hat. I have the yarn. After Xmas, I’ll have the time. The hats as well as the stockings and Julekuler are all made with Caron Simply Soft yarn, which I love (except that it splits badly). It’s an acrylic yarn, but it’s very soft and snuggly, perfect for hats and scarves and cowls.
Last month we had a medication crisis when the stupid VA website wouldn’t let me refill my clopidogrel prescription and I was fixing to go out of town. I spent about an hour on the phone and finally got them to refill it locally and I went and picked it up. This month when I went to the VA website and tried to refill the prescription, it wasn’t even on the list! I called and left a message, which apparently fell down a well, or something. Tuesday, I went down there in person to see what the heck was going on.
Turns out I’d used up all my refills and had to get a new prescription from my cardiologist. I found this out two days before a major holiday (with only enough doses to get me through Tuesday of next week) only because I went down in person and rattled some cages. They had a whole month to warn me my prescription was expiring so I could go to my cardiologist in a timely manner and get a new one, but did they? Nope.
So, I have to call the cardiologist and get them to fax over a new Rx, which they promptly did, because they are not a government agency. Then the VA calls me this morning to tell me they tried to call me Tuesday (while I was out doing the things I actually needed to do like renew my car tags and shop groceries) and that I can go pick up my December supply at the pharmacy. So I had to make a special trip today to get the stupid medication I could have picked up while I was at the VA yesterday, only nobody bothered to tell me it was there. And not to put too fine a point on the whole debacle, all my other prescriptions come in 90-day quantities except this one. I have to go through the refill rigamarole on the website every 30 days! I’ve asked and asked that it be changed to a 90-day supply just like all the rest of them, but to no avail.
Oh, and I did get the little sweater finished for the ball-jointed doll, plus a hat. I need to send it but I want to do another sweater before I do.
This is a boy-meets-girl story. It began seventy three years ago. America was a very different place then. The country had just gone through the grueling ordeal of a world war. Boys who should have been setting about the tasks of becoming men and building lives for themselves had instead been sent off to distant places to spend four long years amid the death and horror and wreckage of war. They saw first hand the terrible cost of it, not just to the people who had the misfortune to live where it was being fought, but to their brothers in arms, and to themselves.
But now it was 1946. The war was over. The boys had come home and wanted more than anything to put the nightmare of war behind them and get back to normal as quickly as possible. They wanted wives, jobs, families, homes of their own, all the things they’d fought to protect during those long, terrible years. They wanted the happily-ever-afters they’d paid such a high cost for.
This particular boy was the fourth of five children who wanted to finish high school so much that he was willing to work 40 hours a week in the evenings so his family could afford to keep him in school. Even so, he still managed to graduate half a year ahead of his classmates. But after Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Marines and went off to war in the Pacific, island hopping from Tarawa to Okinawa, and then, after the Japanese surrender, to mainland China in what was an (eventually futile) attempt to help Chiang Kai-shek. What had brought him home was not the end of the war, but the death of his father and a humanitarian reassignment to recruiting duty in his home state where he could be closer to his newly-widowed mother. He was on a weekend pass to see his family. His sister and her husband, and he and a girl he knew from high school were going to go out dancing, but he’d brought a friend along who was not from the area and didn’t know any girls there to ask out, so his sister fixed his friend up with this cute secretary who worked for another business in the same building as the dentist office where she worked.
The girl was the last of twelve children born on a farm to a mother who, as the saying goes, had had a tough row of her own to hoe, and who had taught her youngest child two of life’s most important lessons: that if something is worth having, it’s worth working for; and if you want something, don’t wait for somebody to get it for you, go get it for yourself. She wanted more for herself than to be a farmer’s wife and saw education as the way to get it. She worked hard in school and graduated at the top of her high school class. Then she went to business school to learn the skills she would need to get a job in the city, working in an office. It was her ticket to the world. She got a job, did well, got a better job. The money she made gave her the independence to buy for herself the things she wanted — her own space to live in, nice clothes, opportunities to travel and see other places. Then, one day, her friend who worked in the dentist’s office up the hall told her that her brother and his friend were in town. She and her husband wanted to go out dancing with them but the friend didn’t have a date. Would she like to go with them?
The boy had asked his high school friend to go dancing because she was somebody he knew well enough to ask out, but that friend of his sister’s was really something.
The girl didn’t much care for the brother’s friend, but the brother was not only good looking, but very nice — but wasn’t he dating that girl he was with? No, actually, he wasn’t.
Their happily ever after began on November 16, 1946, and lasted for 67 years, 10 months, and 6 days. On September 22, 2014, he quietly went on ahead, to be there to welcome her when she comes to join him.
One of the stock interview questions authors, actors, film makers, and artists of other ilk get asked when they are interviewed about their creations is: What were your early influences? What captured your imagination in your formative years? In a way, it’s like asking someone who’s made a particularly delectable item of food, “What ingredients did you use in this dish?” It’s one of the many variations on one of the most important of human questions, “How did you do that?”
I couldn’t tell you any more how I ended up thinking about influences just now, because I’ve breathed since then, but I can tell you that it set off one of those free association things in my head that can be such fun. One thought pinballing off into my head and I get to see what bumpers light up and go ding! (I’ve ended up in some pretty interesting headspaces (2) that way.)
Somewhat later, when I had more in the way of discretionary funds*, I ran across the Airplane’s first album “Surrealistic Pillow” with the iconic Grace Slick singing the iconic “White Rabbit” and had liked it. I didn’t get to Baxter’s until a year or two after it came out because before I could get to it, I was blindsided by Crosby, Stills and Nash‘s first album and its positively orgasmic vocal harmonies (Sorry. I don’t care what anybody says, Young was a mistake. His voice doesn’t work with the fitted-together-like-Inca-stonework triad of voices that was David Crosby, Steven Stills and Graham Nash in their prime. Not sorry.). If you want vocal harmony that is to die for, that album gets it in one. Ironically, my favorite song on the whole album, the horse dance song, would still be my favorite if you stripped out the vocal tracks. The guitar work on that song is just perfect. (It led me to a magical place where the horses dance and the blue fish sing. It was a peaceful, gentle place. I haven’t been there in quite a while. One day I might answer a Mag Challenge and take you there. . .) (One more time, three great voices so tight, so right. Sigh.)
But back to Baxter’s. It’s kind of one of those you had to have been there. There is a fair amount of acid-trippy signal noise on the album, — it came out of 1969 San Francisco, after all. But The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil with some of its lyrics borrowed from the poetry** of A. A. Milne (I was turned on to Winnie the Pooh, not by having it read to me or by Disney, but by Jefferson Airplane — try that one on your head.) and the gentle “Martha” stand out. But, again, because this album, and the band, came out of 1969 San Francisco, you’ve got Slick crooning quotes from James Joyce‘s Ulysses (ReJoyce), and the aural hash that is “A Small Package of Value Will Come to You Shortly” which ends with somebody yelling “No man is an island! No man is an island! He’s a peninsula.” and a giggle. (I must have listened to that giggle a bazillion times, and it still makes me smile. It’s a truly great giggle — right up there with Anderson Cooper’s.) And some of it is just plain weird. One of life’s many little opportunities to sift through the dross and discover the pearls.
There was a period in my life when I used to doodle (a lot) a tulip shaped bulb with convoluted roots and a daisy like flower blooming straight out of the bulb’s point, and on the bulb, in psychedelic lettering, was the phrase “Understanding is a virtue hard to come by.” Which is a lyric from “Last Wall of the Castle” from Baxter’s. If I had a dollar for every time I doodled that doodle, I could buy quite a nice armload of books . . .
Also out of that time came a song, “Wooden Ships” which was written aboard David Crosby’s schooner Maya by him, Stephen Stills and Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane. It was recorded by CSN on their first album (mentioned above) and by Jefferson Airplane. Somewhere between the poles of the two versions of this song was, once upon a time, a small, strange burrowing bird living in the flatlands, learning to fly. . .
*discretionary funds -- "extra" money, that can be spent on what I like to call "targets of opportunity."
**If you were a bird, and lived on high,
You'd lean on the wind when the wind came by,
You'd say to the wind when it took you away:
"That's where I wanted to go today!"
From "Spring Morning" in When We Were Very Youngby A. A. Milne.
***This picture has no relation to anything in the post. I just like looking at it.
Well, this morning, my mom took me to the dentist to have my other lower left molar permanently deleted, and a bone graft put in the socket. But through the grace of nitrous oxide and SomaFM’s Drone Zone (via internet radio app on my phone), I got through it OK. I kind of dropped the ball yesterday, though, by not making me some ice baggies — A sandwich baggie half full of water with as much air as possible removed before sealing it, then lying it on its side in the freezer. A viable alternative to those who don’t care for peas.
I had to make do with a baggie full of chunky cubes, which I put in the freezer after they melted and I had deaired the bag.
I had to take one antibiotic (amoxicillin) for five days prior to the extraction because mouth bacteria might enter the bloodstream during dental work and wreak havoc in my new knee or my new cardiac stent, or my old heart valves. Now I’ve got another antibiotic (cephalexin) to take to keep my mouth bacteria from infecting where the tooth was. (Apparently, the animal bite most likely to become infected is a human bite.)
To get the maximum benefit from antibiotics , you have to maintain a constant blood level. That means you’ve got to take them like you have OCD — obsessively take every dose compulsively on schedule. Both the antibiotics the dentist prescribed were “four times a day” which for me work out to 6 a.m., noon, 6 p.m. and midnight. Because I have a tendency to get wound up in what I’m doing and then realize I’ve missed a dose, or else think I’ve taken a dose when I haven’t, that means an alarm clock app on my phone and each day’s dosage in a snack baggie, so I can see at a glance how many I’ve taken that day (as a more viable alternative to dumping the bottle out and counting how many pills are left).
Oh, and my dentist doesn’t prescribe narcotics for pain because (demonstrably) 600 mg of ibuprofen and 325 mg of Tylenol (acetaminophen) taken four times a day for three days works like a charm. He was preaching to the choir in my case, because I did just fine after total knee replacement surgery on nothing but IV Tylenol.
I’m supposed to be on a very soft diet at least for today, so I’ve been taking my meds with a bottle of High Protein Ensure to maintain adequate nutrition and so I’ll have something on my stomach, but about noon I started jonesing for some of that frozen breaded shrimp that you bake in the oven. Seriously jonesing. Sigh.
I go back at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning for the dentist to check things out. I’m getting a dental implant, so it’ll take months for the main bone graft to take, and months for the regraft around the post to take, which means I’ll be chewing right-handed for the foreseeable future.