Why I Live at the Sand Trap

With apologies to Eudora Welty

You may call it a bunker.

I call it a beach.

An ironic oasis in a desert of green,

Its mission is clear,

its intent gives me pause:

a time for reflection,

a change of horizon.

My sand wedge in hand,

I fear not the descent.

I hit the sand,

propel the ball,

and I am out too soon

with hardly a chance

to fully imagine

a lifetime of sand

with striped umbrellas

and cool lemonade,

perhaps something stronger for you.

I wouldn’t mind

a whole game played

from bunker to bunker

from dune to dune

from beach to beach,

transistor radio crackling out

those songs of summers past.

I know there’s a river of cool

below the surface, and

I’m tempted to lurk

like the troll ‘neath that bridge

waiting to see who’ll pay for safe passage,

who’ll pay the toll:

beach blankets, umbrellas, toy trucks,

buckets, and scoops.

From sand box to sand trap,

it all feels like home.

Yes, I’ll move on for now,

but I’m sure I’ll be back.

In Hot Pursuit of Happiness

One of the many joys here at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range is the weekly meeting of Swamp Talk, a discussion group whose members for the most part have not fully adapted themselves to life behind the gate house at Pancho Villas, our nearby “Over 55” community. Every Friday morning, we push a few tables together, set out a couple of pots of coffee, and leave them pretty much alone.

I join them whenever I can, and I am really looking forward to this week’s topic: “How can we redesign the way we live?”

I’m curious to see what varieties of utopia arise from this discussion, and of course I am working on my own, reviewing some old ideas that I’ve stored somewhere in the cobwebby back room of my mind, remembering past workshops and novel-writing attempts.

For Swamp Talk, this topic arose from a discussion on energy sources, specifically natural gas. (Is it really clean? Or is it just another scam? I’m a little skeptical since most of the information I could find came from the natural gas companies and their thinly veiled lobbyists.) Now that I’ve had a little time to mull it over, though, I am looking at the challenge from another perspective.

What design for the way we live would generate the most happiness? Last year I read The Geography of Bliss, which was, simply put, great fun. Imagine a curmudgeon setting out to explore the countries said to be the tops in happiness. Take it from there.

My mother always told me, “Happiness isn’t everything,” and I have been pondering that for years. I think she meant to say “personal happiness” or “your own damn happiness” but she went for the full sweep. Maybe God felt that way, too, when he smote Sodom and Gomorrah. Were those people truly evil, or were they just having too much fun? The pictures in my Sunday School comics were difficult to interpret. If there were both evil-doers and victims, shouldn’t God have saved the victims?

Anyway, Sodom and Gomorrah are not my model for a perfect world since I don’t stay up late at night, and I don’t drink, except on vacation and during hurricanes.

My question for all you all today is: “What if we redesigned the way we live making our top criteria the highest possible happiness for the largest number of people?”

What would we get? Is that ever the top of the list for urban planners? I don’t know, but I suspect they go for more mundane goals such as ease of transportation, optimal land use, access to health care, lifelong education, and art in the parks.

I think I’ll have all that in my redesigned world, too, but as means to an end, and the end will be . . . happiness.

Already, I’m looking at you, my dear friends, here at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, and I’ve got to say, for the most part you seem to be a fairly happy crew, except of course for Pretty Boy Boyd, but he would not be happy anywhere except possibly floating face down in a vat of Guinness.

The question is, how do we export our level of satisfaction out to the rest of the world? What do we have right here that makes us happy?

My first observation is that we have community. The layout is a little quirky. We no central command center unless you count the bar over at the Swing Barn. We live in a variety of dwellings and situations, ranging from my modest turquoise conch cottage to Su Ten’s top-of-the-line double wide to the villas at Pancho Villas and, of course, the Clown Castle, and The Morning Guy’s current abode at Stepford South. I’m not really sure where your second-cousin Darnell is living these days, but I sure hope he’s moved out of my car. I may need to drive to the Village one day this week.

So, yes! Community. We have it. We care for each other, and we look out for each other. We think of ourselves as “us” and the rest of the world is “them.” We are right, and they are wrong. Yes! Say it out loud. It feels good, doesn’t it?

I’m not sure if that’s an essential part of happiness, but the sense of rightness does help.

What else do we have here?  Meaningful employment, whether it’s baking pies, restocking the soda machine, tracking the iguanas, being the first one to pick up the microphone on Karaoke night.

We have universal health care, at least for minor emergencies. Nurse Crotchett made sure we all had our flu shots, we get plenty of exercise hitting golf balls and walking over to the Swing Barn or out to the phone booth by the highway. If any one is feeling a little sluggish, Sue Ten will offer to give him or her a little power boost from a potato clock, just for fun.

We are in harmony with nature, and a maybe just a little bit scared of it when we hear the bull gators call out. We understand that the home we have chosen tends to descend into chaos during hurricane season, and we do what we can to discourage further development of the swamp. We especially enjoy it when visiting engineers and government consultants come by for some pie and coffee.

As much as we love our traditions, we also love to try out something new whenever possible. Even now, Joe Sparkle Junior is hatching a scheme for faster pie delivery to the Swing Barn. So far, it involves a lot of cable and pulleys, and I’m not sure he’s fully thought it out, but I admire his initiative.

We don’t worry too much about law-enforcement since we all keep a pretty good watch on each other. The Morning Guy has drawn up plans for some solar panels, mainly to keep the lights on so we can still use the driving range at night when the storms knock out the power lines. We don’t really need much in the way of transportation since there are so few places we’d rather be.

Maybe the key to Utopia isn’t designing to produce happiness after all. Maybe it’s designing to bring out the best in the people who already live there.

Let me know what you think. What would my world look like if YOU ruled it?

You Got to Have Friends

The other night, Sue Ten reached deep into her rusack of old movies and came out with Sheila Levine is Dead and Living in New York City to show on the side of The Swing Barn, while those of us who were so inclined relaxed in our portable lounge chairs, sipping our beverages of choice.  I brought over a cooler full of “Key Lime Pie on a Stick,” or at least full of Prentiss’s latest attempt to perfect that treat. She is getting close, but we see no need to tell her that.

The best thing about the movie Sheila Levine is the soundtrack, specifically Bette Midler singing “Friends.”  Even before movie night, I’ve had that song in my head, and you know how I love to share that sort of idiosincrasy with you.

That song came out when I was younger than my kids are now, so young that I didn’t even know I had insomnia because I was up all night anyway. It seems to me that friendship comes easier in youth than it does in those middle years when focus for so many of us, especially women, narrows down. Now though, I feel the scope widening again, and as I saw you chatting and enjoying the movie, I couldn’t help but count my blessings.

We try to make sure that the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range is a place where all you all can leave your troubles behind. By that, I don’t mean leave them here. We can’t use them. We are not saying “pack up your sorrows and give them all to me” because that’s just plain crazy. We’re saying this is a place where you should be able to walk in the door and instantly forget all about that horrible dream you had last night that erupted into as a full-body spasm.

We are not always successful at creating that level of therapeutic ambiance, but that’s our goal. While I’m happy to dispense hugs, both free ones and the premium two-dollar kind, to the ones I love, I’m also on the lookout for toxic people so I can ward them off.  Who knows? They may be the first wave of the coming zombie apocalypse, and we can’t encourage that. Zombies are messy golfers, and I am not ever going to put brain-pie on the menu. They simply don’t belong here. They are the ultimate in toxic people.

I recently read a nice test for judging toxicity in people. This is a tool that I am happy to pass on, although people less dysfunctional than I probably do this instinctively. This is from well-known graphic designer Milton Glaser: “There is a test to determine whether someone is toxic or nourishing in your relationship with them. Here is the test: You have spent some time with this person, either you have a drink or go for dinner or you go to a ball game. It doesn’t matter very much but at the end of that time you observe whether you are more energized or less energized. Whether you are tired or whether you are exhilarated. If you are more tired, then you have been poisoned. If you have more energy you have been nourished.”

So simple! Now imagine an afternoon with a zombie, or with my ex-husband Pretty Boy Boyd. Pretty exhausting, right? Especially the time with Boyd. I’ve also come across a quotation from Mark Twain which pretty much sums up Boyd’s half of any given conversation. Ready? “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”

Of course, there are also those people who give you a lot of energy, but it’s the kind of energy you get after eating more than your share of Sue Ten’s special double-fudge bourbon-pecan brownies with mocha frosting. In both cases, the ascent is rapid and thrilling, but some time long after the arc of the evening reaches its zenith, you’re likely to wake up alone in a ravine.

I’m not saying that we expect you to be all smiles when you are here. Lord, no. We have the Morning Guy’s Stepford Girlfriend here for that, and she has done a wonderful job of giving happiness a bad name. She’s in the next room now with her feather duster, singing the entire soundtrack from Mary Poppins. Personally, I find her a wee bit tiring, but she passes the not-toxic test for him, and that’s what matters. Maybe when his current bout of exhilaration wears off, I can get him to fix the screen door on my cottage.

If you have your own test for toxicity–or for true friendship–let me know.

Better yet, tell me how you deal with it. One of the regulars at the driving range always says her older sister’s name before she hits the ball. “Margaret! Margaret! Margaret!” If no one else is around, she’ll yell it right out loud. Perhaps at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, we should set aside an hour from time to time and encourage more yelling like that. I think it might be an important community service.

For dessert, I’ll serve some Anadama Pie, and I guarantee you’ll want to come back for more.

International Scurvy Awareness Day: May 2

No Scurvy

What with the Star Wars Prom and all that to attend to, we missed International Scurvy Awareness Day on May 2, but maybe next year you can make your cat wear a piece of citrus on its to help build awareness of this important cause.

Check out the beauties on http://www.limestrong.com/pets.htm.

(Why a cat, you say? Because cats are scurvy free. When’s the last time someone called you a scurvy cat? No, it’s always scurvy dog.)

Meanwhile, if you really care about preventing scurvy, and I know you do, you can do your part by coming on down to the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range to fill up on Key Lime Pie.

Nurse Crotchett and I had a wonderful time at the National Pie Festival, and I am a believer now in Key Lime Pie on a stick. Yes, I know, I usually want my K.L. to be pure, but on a hot day, there’s nothing quite as refreshing as Key Lime Pie, covered in chocolate, on a stick.

Once Prentiss my pie apprentice has recovered from The Prom, I’ll put her to work in developing our own recipe. The Morning Guy has already volunteered to do the blind taste test, and oh yes, I do love a man with a sense of adventure. Apparently he’s forgotten about our last taste test, but that’s another story.

Still thinking ahead to next year’s International Scurvy Awareness Day, maybe green golf balls will be in order, too.  Oh, so much to do in the next year. I can’t wait to get started.