HaCkeD by MuhmadEmad
KurDish HaCk3rS WaS Here
FUCK ISIS !
Cooler weather, so
pie shop thoughts turn to squash
from all eleven dimensions
coexisting on the same
plane of faceted pyrex.
Will one fork ever be enough?
Will a fork be needed at all?
Spaghetti squash seems the
best choice for a filling that
never ends, especially if
you try to eat it
one yellow strand
at a time.
I’m coming up for air after a long grueling project that has kept me away from all of you for far too long, and how I have missed you, each and every one.
Already this morning, I’ve been walking around my beloved turquoise conch cottage, admiring the treasures I’ve acquired from all you all over the years: Sue Ten’s shadow-boxed pop-up postcard of the Coney Island Cyclone; my growing collection of pink ball caps; the pillow shams the Yoga Guy brought back from India; my sister Mel’s over-decorated plush moose that traveled with the twins and me when we packed up our Ford Escort and found our way out of the Great State of Maine.
My real treasure, though, is seeing you, sipping your plain ol’ cups of coffee and finishing off each other’s crossword puzzles left on the counter until they are done. I’m happy to be home, damn near ecstatic to be back in the pie shop, catching up with all that’s gone on while I’ve been just plain gone.
What I missed the most, I’ll say, has been breathing. One of my favorite lines from John Lennon is this: “As breathing is my life, to stop I dare not dare.” I’ve often felt that my life at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range has been an ongoing series of breathing lessons; but still, when I’m away, I tend to forget how to do it right. I find myself gasping for air, both physically and metaphorically.
Sitting here now with you, watching your hands flutter as you fill me in on your second cousin Darnell’s latest romance – and I do wish you had left out the part that involved my car – I am pleasantly aware of the effortless flow of pie-scented air through my nostrils and lungs. I am breathing again, fully, passionately, and smooth as a slice of French silk pie.
Breathing well and often is perhaps one of those taken-for-granted actions that we don’t fully miss until it’s been lost and restored. Certainly, I never stopped taking in air while I was gone, but it didn’t taste like you. It wasn’t the flavor of the driving range after a lightning strike, or the aroma of popcorn on movie night at the Swing Barn. It didn’t restore me like the deep grab of breath when I am swimming one more lap, or occupy my lizard brain like the Yoga Guy’s deliberate instructions.
No, my breathing while away was laced with stress and chemicals and even sorrow. Too much of the world, it seems, has too many distractions and roadblocks between the air and the breath. With pie and golf, though, there’s always a fairly good chance that we will actually achieve perfection, even if it’s only for one dead-on hit out of 100 balls, or a micro-second of seeing the known universe between the layers of an exquisitely layered crust.
Some day, perhaps, I’ll learn how to breathe well and easily when I’m outside this diving bell that we call home. If you know how to do it, come on by and tell me how. I’m willing to learn. I certainly am. Just not right now while I can hear the Morning Guy restocking the soda machine and shooing away the Chocoloskee chickens. Right now, I want to do nothing more than to breathe in early morning at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range. Hope to see you soon.
My birthday is about to roll around again, and that means it’s been a full year since Little Peach and I made our memorable trip to the island south of Key West. This year, she will be my birthday chaperone once again, for the third year in a row actually, and I’m sure it will be just as memorable, although the memories will be of a different kind.
I can thank my ex-husband Pretty Boy Boyd, for my friendship with Little Peach, at least in part. If my life with Pretty Boy hadn’t been so, well, toxic, I might not have felt the need to flee my home on the edge of the ‘glades and drive five hours straight north to feel safe and nurtured. Fortunately, thanks to all you all, I now feel safe and nurtured almost all the time. (Let’s face it. There are some poisons that even you cannot prevent.)
I’m looking forward to Peach’s visit. I always feel that she brings out the best of the poetry in me. I’m a little late in sharing this with you, but August was Postcard Poetry month, and I decided to dedicate my efforts to Peach and her family. I may have mentioned this before: They are all train buffs, and size doesn’t matter. From tiny model trains to the biggest engine we can find, they are all over it. So, when I came across a stash of railroad postcards, I knew my poetry for August would have a theme.
Now I want to share them with you, too.
AUGUST POSTCARD POEMS ABOUT TRAINS
my sister grabbed her guitar,
tossed her hair, and outside
the station, melted into
of marching band students
their talents encased in
boxes all sizes, not a simple
shape among them.
She hauled her fading
marriage onboard, and
set out, her face reflecting
the same determination as that
of the boy, loading up
an obvious tuba.
One Halloween in Miami Beach
we sat on a bench and watched
the costumed world ride by
on city buses and in cabs.
Another year, I rode the train
to Kansas City, my hair slicked
back, my clothes a boy’s,
a wonderful joke.
I arrived at the station.
You were not there.
Listen to a far away sound
the meditation begins
Listen to the silence behind
We sit on folding metal chairs
on the second floor of the AA club,
the energy of addiction muffles
If we’re lucky, a train will roar by
rattle the building
shake our bones
and take us with it,
leaving only a departing light
in our eyes.
You may not know this, but
if your car is stalled on
the track, do not run
away from approaching
disaster. No, get your
feet down on the ground
to the side of the rails
and run forward
as far from the point
of impact as you can possibly be.
Good advice in all sorts of situations,
My heart poured out, I paused,
tasting metallic emotion,
wanting some tea leaves to
spell out a better story,
wanting the story to
divine a better me.
“I see,” said my therapist,
“love for you is a train wreck.”
My breath flew south,
down the tracks of my life.
For some event in junior high, my
high strung teacher had us all perform
a poem for voices, names of trains,
Erie, Lackawana, Susquehannah,
Ohio, and Santa Fe.
Twenty-five sweating pre-teens
and all we had to do was say a word
or phrase in the proper sequence and
oh my god it sounded like a train.
All we had to do was get it right.
If only Steve had not played hookie.
It might have been great.
Pick-up truck speeding through
cornfields too late at night
for the driver to care
about anything much as he
tosses out another empty
though the fragrant window
almost to the track
he does not stop but
hits the gas
and we cross over with
seconds to spare.
Even now, I wake up some nights
and see the light of that train
full bright in my face.
I can’t remember: It goes like
this: “Something something something,
Cry like a train.”
Howl like a river,
Cry like a train?
Laugh like a joker,
Cry like a train?
Scream like a banshee,
Cry like a train?
Tell me you love me,
Cry like a train?
Florida East Coast F – E – C
a few block to the west
rumbles as freight trains do.
rocks me to sleep.
stabs the night.
Sleepless, I step outside.
Another train calls from the east –
bouncing off the
flat canals of my mind
The Box Car Children
Sitting in my third-grade class,
desks still with inkwells then,
I read of runaway industrious
children living in a boxcar,
abandoned, like them,
“That’s where I want to be,”
I want to live there.”
But now I need motion.
Now I need flow.
I’d live on a boat.
For Robertson Davies
Somewhere in Alberta,
Via Rail paused in its
pursuit of glaciers and hair-pin
curves, gliding to a full stop
by a picture postcard railway station.
In minutes, my feet found
their way to the door
of a tiny bookshop,
full of Canada.
First you need to know we
had never been friends, just sisters,
thrown together by biology. Not
much in common except family
history, something from which I’d fled.
But on that weekend, we found
something else, a ghost in a barroom,
a poem on a napkin, the sound of
of giggles in the alley, our heels on the
pavement at two a.m. Drunkenly
silly, she lay down on the tracks,
and I rescued her from absolutely
nothing as no train went by.
That’s all it took.
High chaparral, high desert,
a land not known to many,
the Phelps Dodge train laden
with ingots would chug down
from the smelter, beside that
patina green river,
echoing endlessly between
the canyon walls, as bits of copper
broke free and left a trail
for children to find
along the track.
It’s boring, she said, that
trip to Chicago. I had to
disagree, but maybe she
did not take the train on a day
when a deep, dark purple storm
covered the plains and cast
the landscape into a scene
from a 1950s science fiction
novel. We spent the whole trip
looking for spaceships
and little green men.
Fingers of weeds between the rails
where once there was speed.
Metal stripes glinting
through summer asphalt
where once there were rails.
Grandfather’s stories of
bitter cold chores
before catching the train
to sit in a classroom
learning Latin and Greek.
A birthday trip from Maine to Boston,
my wish to go by train,
and so we are in Sunday best,
our matching outfits nicely
pointing out our differences in
ages, size, and shape.
I’m lost in daydreams while she
runs the aisles. Exuberant,
offends the crisp conductor with
these simple words,
“We’re coming back on the bus!”
Too much snow inside and out.
Too many people, yet never enough.
Box cars and desolation
keep the passion moving from
Moscow to Siberia
and back again,
Pasternak stoking the fire
with scarred hearts, fatal choices,
love, anger, and desire.
We take the three kids to ride
on small trains, perfectly scaled to
work for us giants, perching
gingerly to sit on boxcars
each child embraced in a
seat belt of grown-up arms.
Sammy squirms as I hold
her, blond hair tickling my
chin, we ride together in hot
pursuit of grandparents
and other locomotives of memories.
Somewhere near Banff, we climb
the stairs to the scenic vista
car to watch both fore and aft
as our Via Rail cars wrap
snug to the mountain
twist impossibly to
the edge of the
cliff and noisily vanish
into the blackness of
the tunnel ahead
Rock Island Line
Shut down by greed
more than anything,
the line lives on in
abandonment and cobwebbed
stations, crumbling in small
towns that once knew the
sound of commerce as a
piecing whistle and a
plume of steam.
Seattle to Mount Vernon,
an easy ride.
I snap photos from
the window and shoot
them out through the
but gray, nothing but
gray. Everyone knows
where I am. No
Arizona dust brightened
the sky and dimmed
the silver train from L.A.
running late toward
the Superstition Mountains.
She smiled stepping down
to the platform, gray green
knapsack and khaki slacks.
“The babies cried in Spanish,”
she said. “Aye eee aye eee aye eee.”
Daylight Savings Time
Rushing south in my little tan
truck, you remember the one?
Whenever we went through
a water-filled dip in the road,
the stick-shift became a fountain?
Arrived, we thought, in time for the
Tucson train, with plenty of time
to spare, Arizona time,
but Lordsburg, New Mexico, had
sprung forward, clock hands
waving good-bye down the tracks.
Henry Flagler’s Railway Car
Having spent some time in a cow pasture,
they said, the private car
with its yacht-like interior
at last was recognized,
identified, and restored to its previous
state of robber-baron grandeur. I’ve toured
it twice, but what I still want to know
is how did it get to the pasture
in the first place? And I like to think of
the cows having tea from the silver
service on the mahogany buffet.
One of the tricks, he said, in writing
about travel is to be not too well known,
not too easily recognized, and yet
accessible, so people will talk
and share their stories
as they share the compartment
especially on incredibly
from Boston to Tiera del Fuego,
along the rails of the Orient Express.
I want his job.
I love this story.
Do you think it’s true?
Apparently, they say, Tolstoi
once said he was as surprised as anyone
when Anna Karenina threw herself
under the wheels
of that train.
Working through a stack of
dear Macy’s books,
I’m taken aback
to find the words on
bright cardboard pages
bringing music to my mind:
“Mary Mack, dressed in black,
silver buttons up and down her back.”
I close the book and start to sing.
“No, Grandma” she says.
“There is no midnight special here.”
For the third time in as many days, I’ve awakened too early, vibrating with exhaustion. I thought when I exorcised my ex-husband Pretty Boy Boyd from my life, I would be facing a stress-free future, but nature hates a void, and the stress has rolled back in.
In this case, the stress is the result of that peculiar promise, “No good deed goes unpunished,” and my punishment seems far more severe than my good deeds. Ah, well.
In many ways the stress has been almost nostalgic, familiar. In other ways, it has been the enemy, sneaking in through the back screen door, having taken special care to oil the hinges and drug the cat.
So, this morning, as I walked up the lane from my turquoise conch cottage to hit golf balls at 3:00 a.m., I was glad to hear Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young drifting down from the jukebox. Since The Morning Guy was playing CSN&Y, I knew he must be in a good mood, the soda machine must be fully restocked, and Prentice the Pie Apprentice must have done well on her algebra exam.
I saw them both, sitting at opposite ends of the counter, bathed in the yellow glow of our faux gaslights, and I immediately relaxed, thinking some honeydew-yogurt dream pie would taste good, wishing I still drank coffee, and kissing stress good-bye at the door.
Friends, that is the magic of the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, and how I’ve missed spending more time with you there. That, my dears, is the greatest antidote to stress that I know.
I was not the only one with her hair blown back by the winds of insomnia this morning either. Nurse Crotchett was already on the putting green, working her way out to longer and longer putts. Soon she’ll be at three feet, and then who knows what new challenges she will attempt.
I would love to have more customers like Crotchett. She pays her $10 for all the balls she can hit, but makes each effort such a study in preparation, she sometimes does not hit more than 10 in the same time that it takes me to hit 90. She certainly saves us a lot of wear and tear on the balls.
The sun is up now, and soon it will be time to read the headlines to your second-cousin Darnell. No, he’s not illiterate, but he did take the “What kind of learner are you?” quiz on Facebook, and now refuses to read since he’s audio-oriented and reading would be a waste of his precious time. (I, on the other hand, just refuse to take quizzes on Facebook.)
Perhaps tonight I will sleep. Perhaps I’ll dream of you and see your wonderful smile. For now though, I’ll just enjoy the pale light brightening around me, here at the little pie shop on the edge of the ’glades.
When Sue Ten told me she was going to show Hubble on the side of the Swing Barn this week, I thought she meant Robert Redford in The Way We Were. [Cue music.] I was wrong. It turns out she’s gotten access to some images from the Hubble telescope, and not just any images. Now, she’s showing the Hubble Ultra Deep Field in 3D images, and I am delighted on at least two separate planes of reality.
I love to look up at a starry sky, even with my soft vision, the kind that comes with a few extra streaks and blurs. If the night is dark enough, I know the stars will be there to greet me. I also know, as Annie Dillard points out, “You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require nor demand it.”
I guess I should really not complain about the lack of darkness here outside the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range. After all, I’ll the one who had the lights installed so I would hit golf balls all night long. Still, there are times when I wish it were darker here, just as it is after a hurricane knocks all the power out in the whole state, hospitals and jails excluded. Then we got some sky!
I remember attending a public art symposium some time ago, and I thought the best possible artwork we could create for SoFLA would be a way to really see the stars. Well, hot damn, I think Sue Ten has done it, and I just can’t wait to get settled in my lawn chair with a bag of popcorn to while the night away.
Then again, this new info from The Hubble does bring Olber’s Paradox to mind, so I’ve posted the Ferlinghetti version below the video. Take it all in, and let me know what you think.
I’ve missed you so much!
And I heard the learned astronomer
whose name was Heinrich Olbers
speaking to us across the centuries
about how he observed with naked eye
how in the sky there were
some few stars close up
and the further away he looked
the more of them there were
with infinite numbers of clusters of stars
in myriad Milky Ways & myriad nebulae
So that from this we can deduce
that in the infinite distances
there must be a place
there must be a place
where all is light
and that the light from that high place
Where all is light
simply hasn’t got here yet
which is why we still have night
But when at last that light arrives
when at last it does get here
the part of day we now call Night
will have a white sky
little black dots in it
little black holes
where once were stars
And then in that symbolic
so poetic place
which will be ours
we’ll be our own true shadows
and our own illumination
on a sunset earth
I just had an excellent night out on the range with Nurse Crotchett. She’s made an outstanding discovery that we both play so much better than normal if we use orange tees. Apparently, it also helps if we wear similar, although not matching, outfits. Pink and white, preferably.
“Golf is so complicated!” she says. “No wonder more people don’t play it.” Crotchett is learning to play primarily through observation, especially when we have a certain species of athletic male on site. I’ve known her to pull up a chair under the awning and spend several hours just soaking up skill sets as she sips onn her iced coffee and slowly, deliberately finishes off another slice of mango crumb pie.
For myself, I’ve discovered that I can do my morning walk/run better if I sing Benny & the Jets – at least the small bit that I know – during the running part. I tend to go non-verbal during the walking part. Yes, we are all about accommodations here, learning what we can do to become more physically fit without letting our brains know what we are plotting.
While some people may preach a mind/body wholeness integrated spirituality and physical health system, we go more for a one-thing-a-time program. That’s why Su Ten never, ever has a buffet at The Swing Barn. She just doesn’t like the looks of all that slippage on a dinner plate.
There are, of course, limits. For example, apple pie and cheese is fine. Maybe even apple pie, cheese, and vanilla ice cream. But something goes awry with a fourth incredient, and the whole thing needs to be marked FAIL with a fifth.
I’ll agree that pizza, soups, and stews work out all right with multiple ingredients, but so many other dishes do not, and my question for you today is “Why?”
Yes, I know, that is usually my question. Perhaps I am a newly verbal toddler at heart. So let’s make it a bit more refined. Where’s the line?
If Crotchett and I look great in our coordinated outfits, and play better golf, wouldn’t we play even more expertly if we looked completely alike, similar perhaps to thee fembots who visited us last Halloween? Apparently not. We’ve tried it.
At what point does pie go from perfect to fail?
When does too much of a good thing go from being just right to not enough?
Where’s the line?
Some people, like the Morning Guy, seem to have excellent radar for The Line, no matter what they are doing in life. I usually don’t know it’s there until I’ve tripped over it. And your second-cousin Darnell is pretty much always on the other side of it completely.
I guess I will just add “line vision” to the list of super powers I wish I had. First, if you recall, I wish I had the power to always ask the right question. Let’s face it. Usually I don’t ask any questions, I just plunge into the depths and deal with regrets later on.
Today, though, I want to be able to see The Line. What willl that do for me? I don’t know. Still, if I ever ask you, “Do you see that, too?” I hope you’ll know what I mean.
After all, if Neal Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Cmdr Collins had not made that initial trip 40 years ago, our favorite astronaut Alan Shepard might never have been the first man to play golf on the lunar surface.
For our Moon Landing celebration, we had plenty of Alan Shepard Pie, we listened to NASA’s re-broadcast of the whole event, and we held a contest to solve the content-relevant puzzles in the New York times.
We had a lot of moon songs on the juke box – Blue Moon, Moon Dance, and Moon Shadow, to name a few – and Sue Ten showed Moonstruck on the side of the Swing Barn our usual lawn chair and popcorn crowd. Our newest regular, Loretta Beauregard, the salsa-dance therapist, was on hand to give us all some lessons and some listening, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
I read recently that the computers used by mission control and on Apollo were perhaps as powerful as our cell phones, probably not as powerful as your own GPS golf-tracking systems, certainly not as sophisticated at the system that Sue Ten has set up at the Swing Barn to mash-up Karaoke renditions with key variables such as harmonic success, type of liquor sold during each song, and amount of money in her tip jar.
I’ve just got to wonder, though, if computers have become so much more clever, why isn’t the space program growing at a faster rate. Where’s my hover car? Shouldn’t we all have a space-station vacation home by now? Shouldn’t I be eating pie in zero-G and working on my short game on the lunar surface. I must say, I’m a tad disapointed.
Your second-cousin Darnell blames the robots, although he was a bit more colorful in his description of exactly what he calls a robot. He seems to think that the robots took all the good jobs, and let him with few options beyond becoming a greeter at Wal-Mart or a bag-boy at Publix.
I’m not so sure. I don’t know that I have ever actually met a robot, but I would like to. I do know that a lot of great technology – and I’m not just talking about Tang here – has come from the space program. Think of the medical advances alone. So, as we sat around with our slices of Alan Shepard pie and our glasses of Tang (I had some stored in the fall-out shelter), we talked about how we might personally benefit from more spin offs.
As you know by now, I plan to live to 120 for starters, so I want to believe that technology will help me out. I have no problem at all with cybernetic knees. I’m sure they are a good thing. Elbows, too. Maybe hips. Maybe more. And, in another 60 years, I might need even more parts. What about you? Where’s the line for your own descent into robotology? I’d really like to know.
Then again, there is always a concern that one might go too far, and end up and unfeeling brain in a metal container. No, I don’t think that’s likely, but it could be worse. I keep asking the Pie Shoppers if they remember this video, but apparently it was not as popular with them as it was with me and the twins, and as always, I’m happy to share.
When Sue Ten asked if I wanted to spend a couple of days with her in the city, naturally I assumed she meant Miami and said “Sure!” As it turns out, she meant New York City, a place I had not visited, nor missed, for 30 years.
I have never made any secret of my bumpkinism. In Missouri, when I’d walk down the sidewalks of Kansas City with my ex-husband Pretty Boy Boyd, he would consistently and persistently tell me to stop smiling at people, saying “You’re in the city now.”
But, really, I couldn’t help it, and for the most part, I never really believed that the city was much more than an illusion. Surely the buildings and traffic were just a temporary aberration, a mirage perhaps, and none of the trappings were meant to be a “lifestyle.”
I simply couldn’t recognize it as anything real, any more than the Arawak indians could see the boats of Columbus. They knew there was something wrong with the water, of course, but caravels with sails? Not possible. (Then again, Columbus had his own vision problem and could not see the Arawak as human beings, either.)
To Sue Ten, though, the city is home, and it calls to her every bit as loudly as the bull gators call to me, out here on the edge of the ’glades. No matter. I love to travel, and this city of hers turned out to be every bit as fascinatingly foreign to me as San Jose in Costa Rica or Hong Kong. The sounds alone were a treat: We heard languages galore, and I made a recording of the subway so I can compare that sound file to the one I made of the BART in San Francisco.
We visited museums, met goddesses, saw the Gay Pride parade, toured historic landmarks, walked for miles, crossed bridges, listened to opera singers, paid $10 for four tiny meatballs, cheered on circus performers, declined to pay $10 for cotton candy, had a slice and a grape at Coney Island, viewed Frank Lloyd Wright’s un-constructed masterpieces, and waited in line at the drug store, right behind a bearded lady.
My favorite part was sitting in green plastic lawn chairs in Times Square. The chairs were remarkably similar to the ones we set out for movie night at the Swing Barn, although I swear ours are in better condition, the plastic not yet fully shredded. The Morning Guy would never put up for that, not while there is still duct tape to be had somewhere on the planet.
Not unlike The Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, Times Square – at least at ground level – is now an oasis, surrounded by traffic and humanity. I’m pretty sure you can get pie there some where, but golf is pr
obably frowned upon. I do think they could put in a putting green, though. Of course, the traffic and humanity surrounding The Slice of Heaven has the good sense to keep a respectful distance.
I’m looking forward to going back to the city in another 30 years. By then, perhaps, Times Square will be a garden spot with fabulous water features and gigantic blossoming trees. As usual, I can’t wait to see what will happen next.
Pretty Boy, by the way, is summering in the land of his own native asphalt, which gives all of the regulars at the Swing Barn a little chance to carry on their own conversations without having him skillfully change all their stories into less interesting ones about him. Just before he left, our new neighbor and local salsa-dance therapist, Loretta Beauregard, analyzed Boy’s salsa moves as ones that are only possible (or conceivable) for a full-blown narcissist.
Sue Ten told her that diagnosis didn’t even require a degree from a school that advertises on match book covers.
“What else do you call a man who likes to sit next to the Wurlitzer, not for the music but for the reflection?” she asked. “You ought to try analyzing someone a bit less obvious, like my husband Logan or my Internet boyfriend Hector.”
I’m never sure how much what’s-left-of-Logan can hear from the back room, lit by the glow of CNN, so I changed the subject and asked Loretta how her salsa-therapy classes at Pancho Villas Over-55 Retirement Community and Golf Club was going.
“So far, it’s just as you predicted,” she said. “No one remembers anything from one week to the next, so we’ll be on Lesson One for a long, long time.”
“Perfect,” I said. “Life is just as easy as you let it be.”
I’ve been doing a little time traveling lately, and I am reporting back to say the trip was highly successful. I visited the Southwestern part of the great U.S. of A., circa 1976, and was surprised to discover that my high school sweetheart was living but a few miles away from me. Of course, in real time, I had no way of knowing that since I had not seen or heard from him since the Summer of 1965.
“Why time travel?” you might well ask. “Don’t you have enough to do at the Pie Shop and Driving Range without gallivanting around the time-space continuum? Aren’t you worried that you might accidentally change history and miss out on all the friends and loved ones you have now?”
Well, no. I don’t worry about that much at all. For one thing, I suspect that you are not that easy to lose. For another, I enjoy the fantasy that we are happily coexisting in different configurations in alternate realities all the time anyway. I’m just especially attached to this particular reality where there are so many lessons yet for me to learn.
But back to the Southwest in the late 1970s: One of my favorite places there was the great dry lake, or playa, near Willcox, Arizona. If you walk out on the cracked and dry land toward the center of the lake, you will at some point realize that you are surrounded by a 360-degree mirage. There, you can convince some fairly gullible people that you are now invisible and can do whatever you like. Warning: You might want to try a few gullibility tests outside the mirage before attempting anything too elaborate.
I loved the idea of living inside a mirage, a conceit which is itself a mirage, and so I wrote this poem, way back then:
Notes on living inside a mirage . . . .
They’ll have to admit
I’ve gotten harder to find.
The illusion I’m here is proof enough.
I no longer need guards posted outside
to gain belief in my frail disguise.
(A mad dog or two is enough.)
I hold my mirage skin before me
like a face held up only by bones.
And those who love me,
those I must trust
prevent the world from consuming my life
by keeping in touch with my wavering light.
Passing by, they falter and halt,
taking the chance of talking to air.
They shout at the blur to reach me,
but I’m wrapped like an island
in that watery haze
that cushions the landfall
from the storm dreaming sea.
I gauge their uncertain eyes,
their every response
whenever they think they’ve found my soul.
And just as they leave me,
they’ll tell me one more time
if this shimmering skin
is just around me,
or if it’s wrapped around everything else.
That was the desert. Now back-flip me to Maine and my life at 16. It’s a place and time I rarely visit, but now that I have made contact with my former true love, I’ve feel safe to unfurl those memories which I’ve left rolled up so tightly like scrolls for years. Or maybe more like one of those noise makers that you have to blow into to give dimension and sound.
I’ve enjoyed seeing myself as a optimistic girl again, and learning that she was intelligent, artsy, and quirky, all in a good way, mohair sweaters, white lipstick, and all. I’m still flicking the dust off some of those souvenir boxes, marveling always about how much was packed into such a small space of time.
Now, it seems, weeks go by with hardly a single significant event, and I remain the same. I grow a little more skilled at golf and pie-baking. I love you more all the time. I learn a new song for Karaoke night. I am happy, and yet dissatisfied.
I’ve returned from time-traveling thinking I’m on the brink of something new, and maybe I am. Or maybe I just need to spend more time exploring mirages.
As the pie shop takes on an increasingly Victorian ambiance, perhaps we’ll draw in a few steampunk deep-thinkers who will take multi-dimensional travel seriously, as they sit around and sip tea from bone china cups and savor my lemon mirage pie.
Who knows? Maybe they’ll be able to convince me that the road not taken does, in fact, go somewhere else. So far, I’m not so sure. After all, what road did you take to bring you here? Not the one that I took, but I’m always happy to see you walk in the door, still in your safari togs.
Yes, I’ve lived in the desert. I know what it’s like to see it dry out until it cracks. I’ve lived in the mirage and dreamt of water night after night. We have no mirages in the swamp, but we do have golf and pie, and maybe that’s enough.
Looking at these pictures, I want to apologize for every time I have called any one of you a space monkey. I understand now that I was really insulting the monkeys.
SPACE MONKEY PICTURES:
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.
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?
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.
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.
The other night, driving home from The Village and listening to NPR, I heard a wonderful interview with Ethan Coen, closed out by William Macy reading one of the poems. You can read it, too, by clicking here.
“The drunken driver has the right of way,” is the title of the poem, and toward the end of it, Coen notes, “When facing an oncoming fool / The practiced and sagacious say / Watch out / one side / look sharp / gang way.”
That line stopped me short with its uncanny familiarity. After all, I’ve seen an oncoming fool or two in my time, and I’m sad to say it never dawned on me to step aside. For all of my study of the Worst Case Scenario Handbook, I still can’t say that I have the sense to roll off a speeding sled before it hits a tree, a wall, a door.
Faced with an oncoming fool, I’m still likely to stand there like your typical deer in the headlights. After all, what is more likely to shake up my life than pure foolishness? I know I have welcomed foolishness more often than not with open arms, leaving no one to blame but myself when the smoke finally clears and suddenly it is time to sift through the saw dust on the floor to identify the bullet casings.
In many ways, Coen’s poem reminds me of both of my ex-husbands, Patrick the Liar and Pretty Boy Boyd. They were and are still, I’m sure, masters at getting their way, often by creating a massive presence so wildly unstable that sharper souls than I can easily recognize its foolishness by the undulations alone, and stand clear.
Til now, at least, I’ve lacked the energy to remain vigilant, especially when I was never really sure whether that careening vehicle headed down my lane was evidence of an alert driver dodging raccoons — or a drunk driver navigating entirely by the sound of the gravel road against his tires.
I get tired just thinking about those days, yet think about them I do, preferably from the haven of the front porch of my turquoise conch cottage here on the edge of the ‘glades, just out of sight of the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range. Sue Ten and my other friends here are great anti-fool detectors, and I know I am safe with them nearby.
Even now, I can hear “Walk Like an Egyptian” playing on the distant jukebox, so I know The Morning Guy has flung open the pie-shop windows, and soon he’ll be punching in the numbers to play some Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.
Prentiss, my pie apprentice, has already served up her latest confection and gotten rave reviews. Joe Sparkle Junior is fussing around the new putting green, replacing the divots that the Clown and her pals kicked up during the night. It’s an excellent day, just getting started with no drunken drivers in sight.
Untensed, I return to Coen’s poem, and my reverie, thinking how some time ago, I read an English-to-Chinese-to-English translation of a quotation attributed to Mother Theresa. It was finally rendered as “The opposite of love is not hate. It is carelessness.”
I’ve thought about that for a long time, and have never been able to shake the odd truth of it. Perhaps “apathy” was the word that the writer — or translator — sought, but “carelessness” makes more sense to me. The drunken driver is careless, from the moment he or she says, “Set ’em up, Joe.” I prefer a life that is careful, or at least full of caring.
Let us not be careless, my dear friends. And now, I must warn you, I feel a country song coming on, a song about being careless. I don’t know the tune, but here are the words:
You threw the white silk nightie of my love
into soapy hot water
with your red-flannel heart
and ruined them both.
You took my long-playing records
and left them to melt
on the radiator of your disregard.
You said you had no secrets
and left a trail of credit-card carbons
all the way to the motel door.
You left me waiting at the butcher shop
while you had bratwust at the bar.
You were careless with my car
and careless with my love
but there’s no no-fault insurance
for what you have done.
Obviously this song still needs a little work, so perhaps I’ll get back to that and polish it up before Sue Ten says it’s time for another meeting of the Tone Deaf Choir next door at the Swing Barn. I think she’ll like it when I am done, and maybe you will, too. Drop by soon. We’ve missed you.
I am excited beyond belief to be accepted as a judge at the National Pie Championships this month, even though it does mean leaving my beloved SoFLA once again for the Northern Realm somewhere near Orland. (Golf friends, please take note that this event is the equivalent of The Masters, or The U.S. Open. Yes, it’s The Big Time.)
I’m hoping that Nurse Crotchett, Little Peach, or one of the other regulars can join me for the event, but I’m sure I’ll be fine on my own, happy in my work and fully enjoying the Never Ending Pie Buffet.
When I told Little Peach that I was going to be a judge at the National Pie Chamionships, she laughed for a very long time, and then she said, “Have you told the kids?” I said I had emailed them, and she said, “They are probably laughing too hard to reply.”
Now why would she react that way?
I certainly would be happy for her if she had been selected to judge an Orchid Championship or a Model Train Championship. Sometimes I think she does not fully appreciate my dedication to pastry, or my dedication to golf for that matter.
A couple of days later, though, she called and left a fairly lengthy message on my answering machine. Here is a reasonably accurate transcription of what she had to say, having had some time to reflect upon the fullness of my accomplishment:
“Okay,” she said, “I’m thinking I’m on this long drive back from Dade City, and I’m thinking to myself okay you have to be judging pie, hopefully key lime pie, and my big question is: What does one wear as a judge in a pie-judging contest? Do you have to have a special apron? Do they give you a wooden spoon? Do you do have to wear something with Betty Crocker written across it? I mean, did you have to whip up a little something up? I dont know. I was kinda wondering. Is there a special judge bow that you have to wear? I dont know. What does one wear to judge pies? So anyway, then I thought, “Heels!” What about your gold heels? Those would be perfect, with a nice little apron and a fresh green wooden spoon, with a green gingham bow tied on the end of the spoon? What do you think? I’m getting a picture here. Oh! What about a tiara? Something with BC for Betty Crocker or J for Judge. Maybe you could push a button and it could light up? I dont know, but now I’ve got all these visuals. Talk to you later. Bye.”
Just right off hand, she might be right about my gold heels, but I still don’t think she is taking this very seriously.
I am, though, and I’ve got just a few days to do my homework and really learn the criterialof pie judging. Just as a tease, though, I’ll tell you two traits that I will be reviewing: One is “mouthfeel” and the other is “memorableness.”
Oh, yes. It’s the Big Time for me, now.
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.
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?