Linton and Swinton and Michigan

In just a few days, Sue Ten will be home from her tour of the unknown universe, so I am scrambling to remember whatever it was that I promised to do in her absence. I did check in on her semi-comatose husband Logan every day, making sure that he was receiving just enough electrical charge from the room full of potato-clock batteries to keep a heartbeat going, and a social security check coming. I upgraded a few of the spuds that seemed to be going a little black and shady. I wonder if yams would work as well, or if they would just turn his dreams to orange? I don’t know.

By the way, right before Sue left on her trip, she’d been cast in a leading role of our local Little Theatre’s production of “Linton and Swinton and Michigan” an inspiring story of taking a wilderness and somehow turning it into a Village by the Sea. I just can’t seem to get the soundtrack out of my mind, can you? Maybe the reason I can’t get it out of my mind is because the Little Theatre has been rehearsing almost non-stop over at The Swing Barn, and it’s been that kind of SoFLA perfect weather where we do actually throw open our windows and doors.

I love this story of the hearty pioneers from Michigan heading to the Atlantic coastline to tame the swamp and rusticate on the miles of beach.

Just to the north of us, Mr. Flagler led the way, and he set the bar high. I love going to Palm Beach and visiting the mansion he built for his third wife, soon after coming to the realization that Wife Number Two was doubtless insane and would be much better off in an asylum. Yes, he must have been a rare and compassionate man to understand mental health so well. Wife Number Two was spared the stress of her husband’s private-train-car lifestyle, and The Mistress got a nice promotion. Everyone won.

But back to our musical. Let me tell you, the stage decor is quite impressive, and I think Sue will be ready to step right into her role as Vivienne Venitianne, the pineapple heiress who wins the heart of the Villagers with her mighty wit and repartee. And they, in turn, are there for her after the pineapple blight and the vagaries of the market force her to give up the high life and find true contentment as a Red-Cross certified lifeguard.

Now you may wonder how a musical comedy can be in production without its star, but that’s not really so hard to understand. The character Vivienne suffers from a peculiar inability to sing. She just plain freezes up, but not until she gets in a truly painful line or two, much to the general merriment of all, advancing the plot scene by scene as she does.

Perhaps coincidence, but Sue Ten won’t have to act out that part. She’s long been active in her work to celebrate the tone-deaf and the non-musical, and those of us who sing for joy, not for pleasure, are ever grateful for her openness to our afflictions.  This could be why we never get much of a crowd at The Swing Barn on Karaoke night, but shouldn’t every one have a chance? I for one have also ascribed to the motif: “Introverts with Microphones (A Dangerous Combination)”. But that’s another story.

My big surprise for Sue Ten is this: While she has been away, I’ve arranged through Prentiss to hire a crew of budding young filmmakers to film a documentary about the making of “Linton and Swinton and Michigan.”  They will be at the Tri-Rail Station on Thursday night, waiting to greet her with kleig lights shining. Granted, she will have been traveling for about 27 hours non-stop by then, but we want her to know we are on the scene, and we want her to know we care.

I may even make a pie.

National Pie Championships

Road trip anyone? The National Pie Championships are just a month away. Might be fun to go check out the competition.

Actually, I think I’ll send in the application to be a judge. Who knows? This could be my dream come true, traveling the country with my crew of pie cronies, rambling from contest to contest, stopping here and there to chat with golfers, clowns, and people waiting at payphones.

It could be a fine life.

2009 APC Crisco®
National Pie Championships

Ramada Orlando Celebration Resort and Convention Center, Kissimmee, FL
April 24–26, 2009

Here’s one of last year’s winning recipes. Wish they had included a picture.

Key lime with raspberries? Not sure how I feel about that. What do you think?

Key Lime with Raspberries Pie

Key Lime with Raspberries Pie

Swing Thoughts Poem

I’ve been reading a lot lately about “swing thoughts” and how to get your mind right each time you lift a club to send a ball to a predetermined target.

Usually I just think about you.

Swing No Thought

So much advice, so little time.
“Keep your head down.”
“Straighten that elbow.”
“Open your hips, but not too early.”
“Let the club do the work.”
“Breathe!”
“Keep your eye on the ball.”
“Let your legs do the work.”
“Consider the target, not the ball.”

The list of thoughts
will wear you out. How
to stand
to swing
to breathe
to feel
to think
to move
to count
to watch
to see
to imagine
to play.

If only one thought could get you there
from tee to target,
how delicious that would be
like a slice of cold apple crisp
with your first cup of coffee,
like a sliver of pastry
promising more.

If only one thought could cover it all:
trajectory
velocity
momentum
distance
the past
the present
the future
the sound of the wind
the gossip
the grass.

Did you choose the right club?
Did you lock the car?
Was tonight someone’s birthday?
Did that guy flip me off?

If only one thought could open your mind
show you success,
just seconds away,
a beckoning future
in which you’ve controlled
trajectory
velocity
momentum
distance
the past
the present
the future
the sound of the wind
the gossip
the grass.

Unlikely, I think
so maybe instead
simply revel
in rhythm and tempo.

Maybe instead
marvel to see
the ball in fierce flight —
or skipping,
like a stone,
in search of a river.

Laugh.

Things happen for a reason.
Things happen for no reason at all.
Enjoy the possibilities.

Lift the club,
Breathe in and smile.
You’re good to go.
You’ll either be right or wrong.
In either case,
You’ll learn something new.

Don’t think of the outcome.
Don’t think at all.
And when you are done,
Let me know how that works.

Yes,
Quiet your mind.
Step up to the future, and
look for me there.

On the Other Side of the Edge of the ‘Glades

Sea Kayaking in the Mangroves

Sea Kayaking in the Mangroves

I’ve been back from my trip to the other side of the ‘glades for more than a month, and I’m still waking up wondering where everyone is. I’ve had some remarkable dreams since returning to my own king-sized pillow-top bed, too, dreams in which my team-mates and I were Navy seals, or old-time sailors, or just obsessed campers, traveling in our pod of sea kayaks through the tangled green mangrove islands in and out of sunsets and star-filled skies.

Even now, though, I am surprised by how tired I am. This goes beyond my normal insomniac want-to-take-a-nap mode. This is bone tired. I focused on this trip for months, using it as my reason for pushing up my exercise limits, not just at the driving range, but in yoga class and biking, and out and about with Sue Ten and our rag-tag walking group. I even made a point of getting to the pool in the village for swim training with a triathalon coach. Now all I can to do is sit quietly and read Wind in the Willows on my iPod Touch, which as you know I have ensconced in a hollowed-out purple-leatherbound book.

Driving back from the trip, I remember thinking how happy I was that I would be home by 2:00 or 3:00 with plenty of time to go to the pool for a swim. I was convinced that I could knock at least five stokes off my swim, I felt so buff; and, of course, I’d be able to add unknown yardage at the driving range.  Then I hit Alligator Alley heading east, and the warm sun began to lull me. It wasn’t long before I pulled into a rest area and closed my eyes, waking up 20 minutes later in a whole new frame of mind.

By the time I made it to my turquoise conch cottage, all I wanted to do was sleep. I nodded to Hercules, our resident feral green iguana who was busily eating the hibiscus bush near my porch, walked in the door, and that was that. I woke up again around 3:00 a.m. to the sound of golf balls out on the all-night range, and I smiled to be home again.

Flash of Green About to Happen

Flash of Green About to Happen

During the next day or two, I enjoyed sharing stories of the trip with some of the folks at the pie shop. I told them about scorpion-eating women, travelling by starlight, visiting graves of long-ago settlers, gliding through the water. I told them, too, that my favorite part was the “solo,” the day and night when I camped alone, as did the entire team.  I made a sundial out of stones and shells and wrote a poem for Little Peach. I counted my blessings, which was easy. I took a lot of photos. I ate an apple and an orange and some trail mix. And, I watch the sun go down and saw the flash of green, to my everlasting delight.

On solo, I fell asleep in my little shelter, made with a tarp and an old sheet that Little Peach left at my house for a drop cloth. It had always seemed too bad to get paint on the cute little koala bears all over it, so I’d stuffed it into the back of my closet, and pulled it out for the trip. I loved looking up at those little koalas; they made me feel connected to my “real” world, the one that seemed so distant from the mangroves and the sea kayaks.

I carried most of you with me during the trip, imagined you stirring up the pot of beans for supper, or plotting out our course. I thought about what you might have added to our conversations, and how sweet it would have been to have breakfast together on one of those isolated beaches. I discovered that my yoga practice really paid off when it came to getting dressed standing on one leg, outside in primitive conditions: Balance, my dear Grasshopper, balance.

The Gulf of Mexico

The Gulf of Mexico

Did I change? Did I grow? Did I discover any new zen thoughts? Did I improve my golf swing? Did I find any new recipes? Yes, absolutely. I came home in a state of harmony and oneness, content. I had accepted a challenge and felt that I met it. I felt strong and healthy and on course in my life, the life I share with all of you at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range.

I doubt that I could have made the trip, or enjoyed it, without you in my heart and mind. In the past year or so, since I got myself single, I’ve learned what it is to have friends like you in my life; people who do not hesitate to shake me up when I need it, or call my bluffs (of which there are many), or tell me when I am drifting dangerously near the plummeting falls. I loved seeing you in what my new team-mates saw in me.

And once again, I discovered that my life in SoFLA has been a series of breathing lessons. And, in the words of John Lennon, “As breathing is my life, to stop I dare not dare.”

Altered Books

Right now, I have more books in my little turquoise cottage than I have ever had before. I will be moving many of them to the Pie Shop book shelves soon, unless I find a way to send them to my doppelgänger Marilyn who is in China and has a severe book shortage, or at least a shortage of books in English.

I started holding on to books for her, but they are taking over my space. Plus, they interfere with my deep-seated belief that private ownerships of books is counter-revolutionary, and these tomes will need to be set free very soon.

Then again, I also like the idea of altering books and making them into something else entirely, and these altered books by Brian Dettmer have me captivated.

Called “book autopsies,” there’s a nice collection of them for your viewing pleasure below that I borrowed from:

http://centripetalnotion.com/2007/09/13/13:26:26/



Brian Dettmer carves into books revealing the artwork inside, creating complex layered three-dimensional sculptures.

Spring Training

Despite the absence of Sue Ten, I did manage to slip away on Saturday and go to a Red Sox spring training game, against the Baltimore Orioles.

My standing-room-only ticket provided me with a nice spot right at the fence, and I had the good fortune to have excellent fans on either side of me.  To my right, there was a seven-year-old girl, dressed all in pink, including pink Red Sox hat, the accessory of my dreams. I do wish I would just go buy one for myself, but then what would you get me for my birthday?  She also had a pink camera, and was busy snapping shots through the fence. Her dad told me they had been to Fenway last fall, and she got to run the bases. What a treat.

To my left, a couple from Miami stood enjoying their hot dogs. We soon got into a conversation about Cuba, and found out that all three of us had been there at different times.  By the end of the afternoon, we had bonded over tales of growing up in New England — the husband and I lived about 10 miles apart, but went to different schools in different states, and never knew each other despite graduating from high school the same year — and during the conversation, the question came up, “Were you always a baseball fan?”

For me, the answer was no. In my neighborhood, as I may have mentioned before, girls played outfield for both teams, way outfield, and I am talking about a real field. Some times we were so far out field we could not even see who was at bat.

My folks did not watch sports, not that I can remember, but my grandmother was an avid Red Sox fan, and we kids were not allowed to talk to her when a game was on.  She had some kind of jury-rigged gadget that would let her turn the sound off during commercials, so we could talk then. Commercial over, sound on, talk over.

Still, I did always like the idea of baseball, the mathematics of it mostly I think.  The sound, the look, the smell. I’m still not a huge fan of baseball on television, but I will be listening in on MLB radio once the real season progresses.

After I met Pretty Boy, baseball came back into my life. I had managed to ignore most sports during previous relationships, but the reality that I was dating a New York Yankees fan had an odd impact on me. Some sort of primordial energy bubbled up inside me, and I understood that I had to arm myself against the Spawn of Satan. My Red-Sox imprinted genetic code won out, and now I know what it means to take a stand.

Perhaps that is a small thing to you, but to a crowd-pleaser like me, that’s a major step in personal empowerment and self-definition. I discovered that I really enjoy the emotion of baseball. I get a huge kick out of tee-shirts that say, “I root for two teams: The Red Sox and whoever beats the Yankees.”

Had I but world enough and time, I’d go to a stadium ball game every day, just to revel in the pleasure of being there, worries set aside, high-fat food in hand, sun in my eyes, and lucky socks on my feet.  I rarely remember any of the plays or the players, except the same few that you already know, so the live games are also an “in the now” experience for me.

Spring training games are usually fairly free of broadcast press-box chatter, and I like that, too. There are always other fans to tell me what’s going on, and to share their stories. Sun Ten and I even went to see the Italian team play the Marlins. That game, in an almost empty stadium, was as much a thrill as any game I’ve ever attended. Sue cheered and chortled. We saw Elvis selling popcorn, and we saw a guy wearing a marlin hat. No, not a “Marlins” hat. A fish, on his head. Then we laughed all the way home.

I’m sure she doesn’t mind that I left the Pie Shop and the Swing Barn in the hands of the the Pie Apprentice, your second-cousin Darnell, and The Morning Guy, for the afternoon.  After all, it’s March in SoFLA, and what could be better than that?

By the way, if you’ve never been to Roger Dean Stadium, here’s a great panoramic shot from the New York Times.

Roger Dean Statium, Jupiter, Florida

Click on it anywhere, and try not to get too dizzy looking around. It’s an odd photo, I think.

The pitcher is winding up, but he must be throwing to a ghost. I see no batter, no catcher.

Perhaps they’ve stepped out for some of that good ballpark food?

An Urgency of Pay Phones

A few days ago, I was driving south on U.S. 1 in SoFLA when I spotted a run-down convenience store, windows obscured with hand-lettered signs in Spanish, and the sight triggered a memory of a day when I had stopped at that very place to call my ex-husband Pretty Boy Boyd to draw a bead on his level of sobriety before continuing home.

I don’t remember the conversation, but I’m pretty sure it was an emotional one, as so many of our pay-phone calls tended to be. In fact, I now believe that the correct term for a group of pay phones should be “urgency.” Yes, an urgency of pay phones. When dormant and unused, as they typically are today, they seem so benign, but did you ever really need to find one? Did you ever scramble for change on the floor of the pick-up truck and focus all your homing instincts on a pay phone?

The first one would be out of order, and the second one would be unavailable, its attention fully given over to that enormous woman you always saw at Wal-Mart, wearing a flower-strewn sundress on the first day of spring. Finally, you pull up to one, run to the phone with the truck engine still growling, and make the call. Yes, urgency.

At the same time, you might talk in a low voice, barely above a whisper, at least at an outside phone. Now, the cell-phone generation shares everything with the immediate neighborhood, but those conversations are simply not that interesting to me: “Guess where I am?” or “What kind of milk did you want?” or “What do you mean it’s my turn to drive the carpool?” Mundane, at best.

Overheard pay phone conversations tend to be better stories, and I love a good story. (Otherwise, I probably never would have gotten married, but I wanted to continue to follow the narrative thread.)

For example, early one morning, walking by the Walgreen’s in South Beach before dawn, I saw a tall, dark-haired, mini-skirted woman leaning desperately into the pay phone: “You don’t understand,” she was saying, “they made the buildings too tall in Miami. You really don’t understand. All the buildings are sinking! Listen to me!”

I’ve always wished I had loitered there longer to hear more, but I could feel the story calling to me. What if I had stayed and offered my help? Where would I be now?

Yes, an urgency, compounded by knowing that once she hung up, the contact would be lost. She had to know she had one chance to make her point. If she called again, the person on the other end might not answer, and there are no call-backs on pay phones today.

There was a time, though, when pay phones were more aggressive than they are now. They would ring out at random intervals, beckoning passers-by to answer. “Sylvia?” the voice would say. “Sylvia? Are you there?” She wasn’t. Or maybe you would be the one hunkered down nearby, waiting for the call, growling at anyone else, saying, “Hey! Don’t be long! I’m expecting a call.” Bloody fist fights have broken out over less.

Picture a cell phone on a table. Doesn’t do much for you emotionally, does it? Now picture a pay phone, the receiver dangling, a soft voice calling out, “Hello? Hello? Dave?” Imagine a reporter calling in a story on a cell phone. Nope. Doesn’t happen. Blog it in on the smart phone. Now drop back to the guy in the fedora sitting in the wood and glass booth: “Hello, city desk? Give me rewrite!” (I always wanted to do that.)

Where would Superman and Dr. Who be without phone booths?

Then again, from the other end of the line, snuggled up comfortably at home, you might have to struggle to make out the spoken words against the backdrop of jukebox and bar noise: “I need you to come get me right now” or “Don’t hold supper for me” or “Jimmy says ger flog and we mast up to la overture.” No, I don’t miss receiving those calls at all, but I will confess to having made maybe one or two. I probably still owe your second-cousin Darnell an apology for that night I called from a truck stop in Kansas and woke him up at 2:00 a.m. for reasons that now escape us both.

So why do I want a pay phone at the pie shop? Perhaps this is part of my move toward the steampunk lifestyle, or maybe I’m just nosey and want to overhear better stories.

I’m thinking maybe an old style black one, with a rotary dial, inside by the front door, within easy earshot of the cash register. I promise I’ll always give you change if you need it, and I’ll even keep a pencil on a string and a pad of paper near by. From time-to-time, I’ll leave a some dimes & nickels in the coin return for the kids to claim.

Out by the road, though, I want a real phone booth, under the solitary street lamp.

When we are basking in the warm glow of the pie-shop lights, inhaling the warm scent of apples and cinnamon, we can look out there and remember all the pay phone calls of our old solitary lives, and remind ourselves how lucky we are to have each other, face-to-face, right here, right now.

And maybe on the jukebox, we’ll listen to The Coast is Clear, or perhaps Joan Baez singing Diamonds and Rust: “Where are you calling from? A booth in the midwest.”

That line still tugs at my heart. What about you? What’s your pay-phone story? Have a seat at the counter, and tell me all about it.

Remember, at the Slice of Heaven Pie Shop and Driving Range, we’re here for you, 24 hours a day.

Happy Square Root Day

Hello my dears. I hope you had a wonderful Square Root Day. Remember, there won’t be another one until 4/4/16, but that will be here before you know it, at the rate things are going.

Last night at the Swing Barn, your second-cousin Darnell tried to act responsibly in Sue Ten’s absence and showed Murder by the Numbers as this week’s movie on the wall. He did better with the “root” part of the celebration, and made a really fantastic stew of potatoes, turnips, and parsnips, the sort of meal that only someone from a northern clime could really appreciate. Fortunately, a lot of our regulars are refugees from the land of ice and snow, so they dug right in.

At the pie shop, Prentiss and I were a bit more snobby. After all, anyone can figure out square roots. We deal with pi. Get it? Still, Prentiss ran a little high-stakes bingo game, allowing people to pay extra for cards with 1, 4, 9, 16, and 25 pre-stamped. Can’t wait to see what she will do for Pi Day.

I gave out free golf balls to anyone who agreed to play with only their 9 clubs. In other words, “Welcome to my world.” I know those other clubs are perfectly fine, but I only wax poetic about my nines, especialy my new nine wood which still gleams under the lights when my insomnia pushes me out the door to hit a few balls around 3:00 a.m.

I don’t really know why anyone would want to buy a whole set of clubs all at one time. For me, that would be sensory overload. One at a time, I say. Get to know the very tool that will later on break your heart. At least, the putter will. Then, after the break up, go though an appropriate period of mourning, and start again with a whole new relationship. Forget the past! It’s time to move on.

Yes, it’s true. I have once again fallen in love with a new golf club, and I’d like to say “It’s only a hobby,” but it isn’t. I think you know what I mean.

All in all, this latest Square Root Day was a good one. I don’t really remember too much of note for the one that fell on 2/2/4, do you?

Meanwhile, you might as well start getting ready for 4/4/16. Here’s some help from the www.mentalfloss.com website. See you then!

The holiday is the brainchild of Sequoia High (Redwood City, California) driver education teacher Ron Gordon, who enjoys calendar quirks. He’s tried to get schools to celebrate Square Root Day since 1981. Gordon also inspired a celebration of Odd Day on March 5, 2007 (3-5-7). He is giving away a prize of $339 to the person who has the best Square Root Day celebratory event. What can you do to celebrate Square Root Day? Math teachers expect students to calculate square roots. We should do something fun in addition.

445spongebobsquareroot.png

Robert X. Cringely at Infoworld has a plan for celebrating Square Root Day.

I don’t know about you, but I’m planning to celebrate by watching a “SpongeBob SquarePants” marathon while playing with my slide rule.

That’s only the beginning of the many ways you can celebrate Square Root Day. 445_potatoes1.jpg

The established custom is to cut root vegetables (carrots, turnips, radishes) into squares. Actually eating them may be asking too much. But potatoes are roots, aren’t they? Square (or cubic) potatoes can mean only one thing –home fries.

445_CarrotCake.jpg

For dessert you need to make a carrot cake. Square, of course. There are plenty of different recipes, all you have to do is find one that fits the ingredients you have. Enjoy it with some root beer. Oh yes, I’ll have a slice, thank you very much!

445puzzle.png

Buy yourself a square root puzzle. You won’t receive it in time to play today, but you’ll be ready for the next holiday in 2016.

444squarerootgame.png

You can play Square Root Clock online. There are plenty of online games that challenge your math skills using square roots, but this is the most photogenic.


445_Square_Dance_Group.jpg

After all the food and math, grab seven of your friends and have a square dance. Some basic instructions are at Square Dancing 101. Allemande left, 2 by 2! Image by Wikimedia user Deirdre.

445_squareroottree.jpg

If you are so inclined, you might go looking for a real square root in the world around you. They are kind of rare. Image by Flickr user arsheffield.

445_pi-pie.jpg

And if that’s not enough fun for you, we’re only a couple of weeks away from Pi Day! But celebrate Square Root Day wisely. The next such holiday will be on April 4, 2016.