Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tip O' The Day

When you wake up in the morning with a to-do list a mile long and realize that you have forgotten to do laundry all week, and then you look in the closet and the only thing you can find to wear is your khaki pants (a size too small after the Thanksgiving Day feast) and your red polo shirt, so you quickly shower and throw that on and run out the door to buy the things you need for your daughter's costume for the parade tonight....

... steer clear of Target, or you may find yourself being berated by the manager for failing to tuck in your shirt and wear your name tag.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Just Call Me The Dishwasher

Something about the huge mound of dishes that resulted from yesterday's eat-and-drink-o-rama otherwise known as Thanksgiving dinner reminded me of the following true event.

My third year in college, a couple of friends and I got together and rented an ancient wreck of a house just off of campus. The house had a lot of "problems" -- no air conditioning, a hole in the kitchen floor in front of the sink, the upstairs shower didn't work, the roof leaked by the front door when it rained, and so forth. But the rent was cheaper than the dorms, and you could actually have parties with alcohol at your own house (unlike in the dorms). But fourth year, one of the roomies moved out, and we needed to fill her spot.

An acquaintance of mine (a fellow Italian Club officer -- the treasurer, to be exact -- who later absconded with the Italian Club's money) recommended that we have her friend (let's call her "Nicole," since that was her name) move in. She said that Nicole was overseas in France at the time, would be returning from her "semester abroad" in June, and would need a house to live in the following year. Nicole agreed to move into the house, sight unseen. We agreed to live with this woman, sight unseen and without even speaking with her on the telephone. If this all sounds like a terribly bad idea well, you're right, it was.

Upon returning from France, Nicole came straight to the house -- without even calling to warn us first. No big deal, I guess. I mean, we had agreed to rent her the room, we had sent her the key, and the room was empty and waiting for her. Still, a phone call would have been nice... something like, "I'll be there tomorrow at 3 p.m., can't wait to meet you all in person" or something similarly civilized.

But no, Nicole simply showed up with all her stuff in the truck, walked in, and announced: "I'm here!" I was at work at the time; my housemates were watching something or other on tv. Porn, probably. Or maybe a Grateful Dead movie. Whatever it was, they were so engrossed in it that, after saying "hi" to Nicole and introducing themselves, they went right back to their tv show. They later reported that Nicole stood there for a couple of minutes, then said, with her hands on her hips, "Well, aren't you guys going to help me carry in my stuff?!?"

They reluctantly did so. Despite their best efforts to work slowly and their continual stopping to watch whatever was on tv, they still found that each of them seemed to carry in at least 2 boxes for every 1 that Nicole carried in. Yowza.

I guess I have good timing. I arrived home from work right after the housemates had finished piling all of Nicole's junk in her room.

At that point, Nicole asked me for the "tour." Mind you, there wasn't much to see. She had seen most of it just by walking through the living room and up the stairs to her bedroom. But I am an accommodating sort, so I helpfully gave her the "grand tour."

"Well, we're standing in the living room. The fireplace works. The roof leaks above the front door, so watch your step when you come in if it's raining. There's the dining room. The washer and dryer are in there, too (I know, it's odd to have the washer/dryer in the dining room, but it was the only room with the right kind of outlet). The kitchen is right through here...."

As she looked around the kitchen, Nicole asked, "Where's the dishwasher?"

I said, "Oh, we don't have one."

She then asked, in a surprised and innocent voice, "Well then, how do you get the dishes clean?"

(Whaa...? You've got to be kidding me!)

So, being the accommodating sort that I am, I introduced her to many difficult concepts such as hot soapy water in the sink, sponges, dish towels, and drying racks.

Apparently none of it sunk in. She did not wash a single dish all year long, even when she would invite her boyfriend over for dinner and they would cook and use many pots, pans, utensils, plates and glasses. (It looked a lot like my kitchen after Thanksgiving dinner last night.) Afterwards, they would go out to a movie, leaving the kitchen a wreck, then back to his place for two or three days of "nookie," by which time she could be sure that the rest of us would have broken down and washed the dishes, if only so that we could use them.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Aaaaw, Shucks...

Many thanks to Ms. Florida Transplant for tagging me with this (literally) fabulous award! For those of you who have not checked out her blog, you should. It is interesting and at least as Fabulous as mine. (After all, she won the award, too!).

It's my first blog "award," and I feel so very honored.

Not only that, but it is timely, coming right before Thanksgiving and all, so I can blog about 5 fabulous things I am thankful for, and it just ties right in with the week's theme. Wow. I am truly blessed.

So, in compliance with the requirements for accepting this fabulous blog fodder award, I hereby post my list of "Five Fabulous Fings" (as my 5 year old would say):

1. Well, I'd be a schmuck if I didn't list my family. But truly, they are awesome. From my kids to my husband to my parents, step-sibs, & in-laws, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and on and on -- I love them all. Not only because they are genuinely good people with good hearts, but also because with their infinite capacity for random nuttiness, they will provide me with endless blog fodder for the foreseeable future. What's not to love?

2. The "C-foods" (as in, I am on a "C-food" diet) -- that's chocolate, cheese, and coffee with cream, and I try to make sure I get all three every day. Helps keep me thin and healthy, you know. Other fine C-foods include chicken, carrots, chimichangas, and champagne. Not necessarily to be eaten together, you understand.

3. My dog. He is a bassett hound and he has endless patience with my kids. Over my continuing protests, they hug him tight like a stuffed animal and kiss him on the nose, hook him up to their little plastic wagons so he can pull their toys around, and put funny hats and reindeer ears on him -- and he just sits there looking patient and bored. I have literally seen my son (accidentally) step on my dog's "wee-wee" and all he (the dog) did was give a little yelp and walk away. There was no biting, no barking, no growling -- just an apparent recognition that "the little boy did not intend to hurt me but, ow, I'd best get out of the way." When the kids are home, he is always with the kids. When they are not home, he sleeps happily by my feet while I work on my computer all day (or goof off by writing silly blog posts, one of those). What a great dog. What a great friend.

4. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Really, our founding fathers did a good job of designing a system of government by taking the best of what was there at the time and improving upon it, and also allowing enough flexibility that we can continue to improve upon it.

5. Beaches. The warm sand, the cool salty ocean water, the ever-present soft breeze, the beautiful seashells, the cheerful sunshine... oh, what would life be without beaches?

Now, I am supposed to pass this on to five other bloggers who I think are Fabulous (and, presumably, who have not already received this award). I have no idea whether the following bloggers will want to participate in this meme / award thing, but even if they don't, their blogs are fabulous and you should check them out. They, in turn, are supposed to list 5 things they think are fabulous. They don't have to write a book or even a paragraph about each one like I did. In fact, if they can keep it short, they will prove they are even more fabulous than me.

Here goes:

1. That Damn Expat tells some good tales, about everything from politicians who pee in their pants to her experience as a cheerleader for a day. Check it out. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be back for more, I promise.

2. Wide Lawns and Narrow Minds. Another blogger that will make you laugh, cry, question human nature, and come back time and again looking for more stories.

3. Whiskeymarie. Always witty, with lots of photos and a great list of other great time-wasters... um, I mean blogs.... in her sidebar. Plus, she's got a great meme ceremony that I am sure will be even more lovely when it is performed in the winter with snow on the ground -- assuming she will consider this award to be in the "meme" category.

4. Here Comes Johnny Yen Again. Not sure he really wants to be called "fabulous," and also not sure he participates in meme-type awards, but I do enjoy his thoughtful and entertaining posts. You will, too.

5. Fancy Schmancy. From thought-provoking and sentimental to funny as h---.... she's got it all and then some. Check her out if you haven't already.

To my other favorite bloggers (you know who you are) that I didn't tag with this fabulous award, you know I love you anyway. Keep writing. Maybe next time you'll make the cut.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Even if I didn't tag you for the award, do take some time to remember all the fabulous people and things in your life.


Monday, November 24, 2008

As God Is My Witness....

In honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, here is a YouTube clip of the best-ever episode of "WKRP in Cincinnati" (one of my favorite shows at the time, and still one of the funniest sit-coms ever made). But first, just a little background:

In this show the Station Manager, Mr. Carlson, decided it would be a great Thanksgiving promotion to give away hundreds of free turkeys at the local mall. Here is how the great promo event played out:

Afterwards, back at the station, Carlson and the gang were agonizing over the completely disastrous event (lawsuits are threatened, the whole city is angry -- it's just **bad**) and Mr. Carlson moaned: "As God is my Witness, I thought turkeys could fly..." (Sadly, I can't share that portion of the show with you, as I couldn't find it on YouTube).

I am laughing out loud with tears rolling down my face just remembering this line. Truly, I will never know how the actor who played Mr. Carlson managed to utter that line without cracking up. They should show this episode on tv every Thanksgiving so we can all laugh at least once that day.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Recent Arizona Governors' Hall of Fame and/or Shame

I promised you all some entertaining stories about Arizona politicians, so here is the "Recent Arizona Governors' Hall of Fame and / or Shame":

First up, we have former Governor Evan Mecham. Elected in 1986, he began his term as Governor in 1987. (Should I still use the title "Honorable" for a fellow who was impeached and resigned in disgrace? Just curious). While serving as Governor of our great state, he cancelled Martin Luther King Day, and also used (and defended the use of) the word "pickaninny" and made other racist remarks, provoking a "boycott" of the State by people in other states, which eventually cost the state an opportunity to host the Superbowl. In 1988, after serving only one year of his term, he was impeached for fundraising improprieties that had occurred during his campaign, and was removed from office in April 1988 before he could cause any more damage to the State's image and financial well-being.

The Honorable Rose Mofford, who was at the time of Mr. Mecham's impeachment the Secretary of State, by statute took office upon Mr. Mecham's removal from office. She was a very cool lady and was the first woman Governor of the State of Arizona. She restored Arizona’s image as a decent State, and governed with grace and good humor. She wore a "beehive" type hairdo and heavy fake eyelashes, and in 1988 she commissioned and sent out holiday cards with a caricature drawing of her as a toga-wearing "Goddess of Liberty" atop the state capitol – and showing lots of leg.... a real jaw-dropper! Sadly, she declined to run for another term after completing her "fill-in" term for Mr. Mecham.

For more on Ms. Mofford, including a photo of her famous hair, see this article at

For an even better photo, see her biography cover photo at You should probably buy the book. I'd be willing to bet it is fascinating!

Sorry, I couldn’t find a color photo (or even a very good quality photo) of the famous holiday card (maybe there is one in the book?); I did find a rather grainy black & white photo in the Tucson Observer archives, which I have reproduced here:

(You can follow this link if you want to go to the original source).

The card received national press coverage, as well – it was written up in Time magazine, although apparently with no photo. At the time, there was lots of talk about how "inappropriate" this card was and how awfully wrong Governor Mofford was to have commissioned it. If that was the worst they could say about her, well, compared to her predecessor and her successor, I'd say she did a mighty fine job as Governor. Also, I subsequently learned that these caricature cards are a holiday tradition for Ms. Mofford -- see this example on flickr.

Fife Symington was the successor to Governor Mofford. His campaign claimed that Mr. Symington was a successful businessman, and he promised to run the State like a successful business and solve the State’s financial problems. Sounds good, right? Well, his business ventures were so "successful" that he ended up filing bankruptcy in 1995, and (apparently based on statements made during the course of his bankruptcy case) he was later indicted and prosecuted in federal court for extortion, making false financial statements, and bank fraud. After his conviction in 1997, he was forced to resign. His conviction was overturned on appeal due to issues with a juror at trial; before he could be retried, he was pardoned by President Clinton in 2001.

After his pardon, Mr. Symington attended culinary school. More recently, Mr. Symington has appeared discussing UFOs on Larry King Live, and has claimed that he saw a UFO in March of 1997. Follow this link for more information.

With male governors like these "bad boys" with their impeachments and criminal charges as "bookends" to an uneventful yet amusing female Governor, is it any wonder that Arizonans subsequently have elected (so far) only women Governors after Symington? Jane Hull (Republican) followed Symington, and Janet Napolitano (Democrat) followed Jane Hull.

Welcome to Arizona politics. Now, aren't you sorry we didn't elect Senator McCain as our new President? Surely it would have been a more entertaining and eventful 4 years than Mr. Obama is likely to provide...


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Arizona Secession Talk (otherwise known as "Monumental Stupidity, Part II")

Yesterday, I blathered at length about some racists in the South who are talking foolishly and (as Fancy Schmancy pointed out in the comments, treasonously) about secession merely because a multiracial person has been elected president. And although I think this “secession” talk is based on both morally repugnant principles and ignorance, it is, at least in some twisted way, based on principle.

What I mean is, I suppose I might be tempted to talk of secession or at least leaving this country if, say, a Nazi who campaigned on a platform of racial separatism and eugenics were elected president. And, by analogy, a multiracial candidate who campaigned based on “including all voices” and “change” might well be a pretty scary thought for a white racist. In that sense, the fact that these racists might want to politically separate themselves from the rest of us because we will have a multiracial president, while ignorant and repugnant to most of our sensibilities as well as pretty monumentally stupid, is not quite as monumentally stupid as what (I heard) actually happened here in Arizona back in the early 1990's.

Here is the tale, true to the best of my knowledge and belief:

A friend of mine worked as an intern at the State Legislature in the earlyl 1990s. At the time, a federal highway funding law had required states to enact certain laws (regarding speed limits and such) in order to obtain federal highway funding.

My friend reported that a certain state legislator (who shall remain unnamed here because I don't want to be sued later for libel or defamation or whatever) was appalled and outraged at the federal government's attempt to control us, to bind our hands, to prevent us from making our own laws and rules.... "We should be allowed to set whatever speed limit we want, here in Arizona! We shouldn't have to comply with federal directives about that! That's just wrong!!" he shouted. (This is a paraphrase, obviously, since I wasn't there.) Okay, I can understand the sentiment, but...

What was his proposed solution? "Arizona should secede from the Union!!"

Yes, folks, you heard that right. He proposed secession as a solution to the perceived problem of the federal government using its purse strings to encourage Arizona to enact particular laws, apparently not even thinking about the fact that it was treasonous to propose secession, or even considering the two most obvious implications of his proposal:

(1) If the entire South in the 1860s (at the time, half the states) couldn't muster enough armed forces to successfully secede from the Union, what made him think that Arizona, one of the least populous states, could manage it alone in the 1990s? (Or perhaps he thought the federal government would just let us go without a fight, since it's mostly just desert out here anyway? Yeah, ok, that'll happen.)

(2) Why bother to secede? If you don't want to be controlled by the federal government on these issues, just set the speed limits any old way you want them and forget about the funds -- after all, if Arizona did manage to secede from the Union, the United States government surely would not provide Arizona with any federal highway funds... (Or perhaps he thought we'd make up for it with the money we'd save by not having to pay federal taxes? Ah, yes, but then our State taxes would go way up, leading to hugely unpopular state representatives, and we'd still not have enough money to build all those miles of highways in this huge state).

Yes, folks, this is the caliber of elected official we were blessed with in our great state in the early 1990's. (Not sure it has improved much since then, actually).

Next time, I’ll tell you about a few other notable Arizona politicians in recent memory.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Southern Secession Talk (otherwise known as "Monumental Stupidity, Part I")

I read an article* today which stated that there is a "white backlash" because of Mr. Obama's election, that the election "has triggered more than 200 hate-related incidents" so far, and that this watershed event will be a "potent recruiting tool" for white hate groups.

That is seriously depressing. But I can't say it is entirely unexpected. People in this country -- heck, in many, perhaps even most countries -- have serious issues with race and ethnicity. Witness the genocide (to name just a few examples) in Darfur, in Bosnia, in Cambodia, in Nazi Germany ... the list goes on and on, back to the dawn of time.

Most of us have difficulty understanding how anyone in this country that is made up of immigrants from all over the world and with our Statue of Liberty proclaiming that we welcome the "teeming masses" -- refugees from foreign lands -- can hate a person based merely on their race or ethnicity. But there is, and long has been, in this country a substantial minority of persons who believe that folks who are "other" (i.e., "other than white and male") are somehow "lesser" and should therefore be hated (or at least "kept down").

I have Republican friends who feel angry, sad, scared, and a host of other negative emotions because of Mr. Obama's win, because they believe that with the Democrats in power they will lose money, the economy will get worse, and the country will veer toward socialism. Think what you want about whether these fears are rational and whether having Democrats in political power will be good or bad for the country, but whatever your beliefs about that, at least these reactions are based on someone's theory of economics and/or politics (things the election was supposed to be about), not based on the fact that Mr. Obama has dark skin and a mixed heritage.

The fact that some people feel angry, sad, scared, and a host of other negative emotions solely because our newly elected President is not a white male (and apparently without regard to whether they agree with his economic or political views) makes me feel angry, sad, scared, and a host of other negative emotions.

But here is the show-stopper: Apparently, according to the article, there is "talk of secession" in "some parts of the South."


I will concede that the fact that there is a "backlash" and that the election is serving as a "recruiting tool for hate groups" makes some sort of twisted sense. After all, people are often moved to act when something happens that they don't like. For example, the re-election of Bush 4 years ago was a "potent recruiting tool" for the Democratic party and many of Bush's policies may have unintentionally provoked a "Democratic backlash."

So if you are a close-minded bigot who believes in white supremacy but haven't been active in a supremacy group, then the election of a multiracial individual might spur you to join one. It's sad, but at least is logically consistent with the bigoted viewpoint.

But secession? Really?!? Didn't the South learn anything last time? Well, in case you've forgotten, or never studied it in your American History class, it was a complete disaster. Huge death toll. Houses, farms, towns, even whole cities (e.g., Atlanta) ruined. People left destitute. Brothers fighting brothers, sons fighting fathers, sisters being raped and killed.... And in the end the North won, and despite (some say because of) the "reconstruction" efforts, the South was in economic ruin for years. Why would anyone think it is a good idea to try that again?

I recognize that the number of persons proposing secession likely is not large, and I am guessing no State will actually try to secede from the Union because most people in the South (I know this because I was born and raised there) are not actually close-minded radical bigots. And I also concede that the article says they aren't talking about "1860's style secession," more of a political autonomy concept. But still...

Even to talk about secession merely based on who is President seems to me to demonstrate monumental stupidity. After all, our system is set up to encourage change and experimentation. Presidents serve only a 4 year term, and if they do a bad job they can be voted out at that time. If they are horribly corrupt, they can be impeached and tossed out even before then (e.g., Nixon). If they refrain from obvious corruption and either do a good job or smear their opponent enough during the subsequent election, they can be elected for another 4 year term, but then, no matter what -- good, bad, honest, crooked, worthy, unworthy -- they are gone. Why would anyone want to risk political upheaval, and the potential for civil war and economic disaster, over a mere 4 to 8 years of a President they don't like?

Truly, from a logical viewpoint, the slavery question and the Emancipation Proclamation provided a much better justification for secession. After all, whether you approved of the institution of slavery or not, the fact is that it was a way of life in the South and was even enshrined in our Constitution, and many landowners had lots of money invested in slaves and in the plantations on which they worked. Freeing the slaves was certain to cause economic upheaval and to change an entire way of life, and the change was going to last far longer than the 4 to 8 years that any given president would serve. While I think slavery was morally repugnant, I can understand how someone might feel compelled to fight for their way of life and their economic well-being when threatened with permanent change.

But I don't understand how someone would feel moved to secede from the Union and potentially trigger a civil war merely because someone they don't like has been elected President.

He'll be gone in 8 years, tops. Live with it, people!

Tomorrow, I'll share a stupid and humorous story right out of Arizona political history, which may make some of you even happier that Mr. McCain (an Arizona politician) was not elected.

(I must say, however, that I do not mean to imply, nor do I think, that Mr. McCain even begins to approach the level of stupidity, irrationality, and ignorance to be illustrated tomorrow. In fact, I think he is reasonably bright and is a decent and honorable person and a good family man (to paraphrase his description of Mr. Obama), with whom I happen to disagree on some issues.)


* (The article is here, at, but I don't know whether it will be there for long so if you are reading this months later, the link may no longer work.)


Friday, November 14, 2008

My 'Stang, 1982-1998, RIP

I bought my very first car in the late fall of 1982. I bought it from my step-mom's brother-in-law, who had a business restoring and selling Ford Mustangs. It was a 1965 Mustang 2-door sedan, royal blue with a white vinyl top and a black interior, and a completely rebuilt, good-as-new, shiny blue and black 289 V-8 engine.

It was fun to drive. Great pick up and power, and it had those awesome "butterfly windows" -- the little triangle ones in the front corner of the door that you could angle in so the wind blew right on your face while you drove... sheer bliss! It had no power steering, so parking in tight quarters could sometimes be tough -- a fact that merely increased my "street cred" with anyone who ever drove my car. Truth be told, that car had much more engine power than any teenage driver should have -- I drove it too fast too much of the time, and ended up with too many speeding tickets and lost my car insurance, which (happily) didn't prevent me from being hired for the best job ever: driving buses at the University (see this post).

I proudly drove my car to school. I happily drove it to the grocery to do the family shopping. I volunteered to drive anytime my step-siblings or friends or acquaintances needed a ride anywhere at all. I drove it to my second job (my first job, with which I earned most of the money to purchase the car, was delivering newspapers on foot in my neighborhood), and I got my first speeding ticket on the way home the day I got fired from that job (another story, another day...). I drove it off to college -- second semester, anyway, when we were finally allowed to bring our cars to school -- and got another speeding ticket along the way. I drove it to my first Grateful Dead show (and thereafter covered it with Grateful Dead window stickers). I drove it back and forth to Alabama to visit my mom, windows open, singing loudly with the music blaring on the cheap aftermarket stereo I kept in the glove box (the car came standard with only an AM radio, can you imagine?), and nearly got a speeding ticket but slipped across the state line before the officer even got his car turned around, and he gave up (or gave me a gift by letting me go, one of those).

In short, I drove that car anywhere and everywhere, even when it would have been faster to walk or ride a bike, because I loved to drive that car. (Of course, that was back when they still sold gas with lead in it for less than $1 per gallon -- I remember being outraged in college when gas jumped up to the $1.20s). I guess it is politically incorrect to reminisce about such a polluting waste of gasoline these days, but wow it felt good at the time.

Sadly, just before I moved out west, I was in a wreck. No one was injured, and the accident was ruled "no fault" so my insurance rates did not increase, but the front of my beloved 'Stang was smashed, the hood would not close, and it needed substantial body work which would not be completed in time for the move, so I could not drive it out west. I was crushed. Thankfully, my good friend (a fellow student bus driver and car enthusiast who owned a 1950's Studebaker -- awesome car) volunteered to supervise the body-shop work, pick it up and inspect it when it was finished, keep the car for me until Christmas break, and drive it across the country for me. Good friends like that are hard to come by. If you have one, you should keep him around.

My car and I were reunited a few months later, in December 1988. My friend had brought other friends with him on the cross-country drive, and the three of them complained that it had been cold, the heat didn't work well, the seats were splitting at the seams, the car had no seatbelts in the back and only lap belts in the front, and they couldn't believe I didn't just dump it and buy a new one in Arizona. But a few tequila shots later, my friend was trying to buy the car from me so he could drive it home again, since that would be so much more fun than flying. "Ha!" I said, "the truth comes out! You love the car, too, don't you? Too bad it's not for sale."

I got a good deal on that car. It was fun to drive and fun to own and it ran, reliably, for many years. Well, it ran hot in the summer sometimes, and one time the radiator literally exploded on the way to a Grateful Dead show (bummer!), and of course I had my share of dead batteries, broken engine belts and hoses, tire replacements, and so forth, but for almost 15 years, I never had to invest in a major engine repair. Or a car payment, for that matter!

I was faithful about engine maintenance -- oil changes and such -- but I have to confess that, as time passed, the car did not look like the polished gems at the auto shows. Not even close. I was a not-wealthy high school student, then a starving college student, and then a moderately poor law student, so I did not have a lot of money to put into cosmetic issues on the car, and time took its toll. The car had been around since 1965, after all, and so by 1985 it was starting to look a little, well, worn. Even more so by 1995.

But even after the car started showing signs of wear -- faded paint, rust on the fenders, vinyl top peeling, Grateful Dead stickers torn and scratched -- it still would get envious looks from real car enthusiasts. In fact, I learned to tell the real car enthusiasts from the fakers by the comments they would make as I was filling up the tank. "Nice car!" said with a genuine smile meant the person could see beyond the cosmetics and appreciate the fine engine and "inner beauty" of my car. The exact same words said with a sneer (usually by someone driving the equivalent of a shiny new Yugo) meant the person had no clue.... Regardless, I always simply smiled and said, "Thanks. I like it too."

After almost 15 years (the car was 32 at the time), my 'Stang developed major engine trouble -- it needed transmission work and most days the fly wheel would not even align so that you could start it. That, coupled with the body work it needed, meant that it would take at least $4000 (perhaps as much as $10,000) to restore it to its former glory, and at least $1500 just to make it functional. And although I was now a lawyer, I was also paying off school loans and planning a (rather too expensive) wedding. Later, I was busy (and broke) starting a family and buying (rather too expensive) nursery furniture and baby equipment.

I had also purchased a second car when I started working as a lawyer, because the 'Stang lacked air conditioning -- a necessity if one is to wear a suit to work in the summer in Arizona. So I was no longer driving my 'Stang on a daily basis and did not really need to repair it. Other items always seemed to take priority and, even though I missed being able to drive my 'Stang, I could never seem to find the time or the cash to fix it up again.

So the car sat, unused, in my driveway, until the City began to hassle me for not having a registration sticker on the car. To get a registration sticker, one had to have insurance for the car. I couldn't justify spending money to insure a car that I couldn't drive and didn't plan to drive soon. But the City threatened fines and continuing hassles if I kept the vehicle in my driveway without registering it. So I had to let go of my beloved 'Stang and embrace my status as just another Honda owner. Oy, that hurt. (Not that I didn't love my Prelude, too, but that's a different story).

I still miss that car. If I am ever rich, I'll buy another one -- although maybe this time I'll get the convertible. But for now, the memory of driving that awesome machine on the open road, windows down and wind blowing through my hair, stereo blaring and singing at full volume, will have to be enough.

I'd love to hear your stories about your first car. Did you love it, or was it merely an old heap of a car that got you where you needed to go? If you had it to do over again, would you buy the same car, or a different one?


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Practical Jokes and Other Pranks

I'm working on a book review and I have several other great ideas for posts, just waiting for me to have time to write them.

But today I have lots of work to do, so I'm going to take the easy route and just respond to Dr. Zibbs' request for stories involving practical jokes. I've already written about the best one I was ever a part of, and you can read about it here. Today's post involves ancient history from when I was a kid growing up in Florida -- just so you know I have some good memories of my childhood as well as that horrible spelling bee fiasco that I already told you about.

When I was a kid in Florida, my parents and/or my friends' parents would often leave us at home for a few hours in the evening while they went shopping or out for dinner. In those days parents often left their kids unattended for hours at a time, and were not considered to be "bad parents" or neglectful in any way. (My how times have changed). My friends and I loved this freedom. We could pop up some Jiffy Pop popcorn (this was before microwave popcorn was invented) and watch whatever we wanted on one of the 4 channels the black and white television could receive, or we could play cards or Monopoly for hours, or we could play hide and seek outside after dark, with no one to tell us to come inside.

But most often, we would spend those hours making prank telephone calls. (And here I should state that I am assuming prank telephone calls count as "practical jokes" in Dr. Zibbs' definition, since Dr. Zibbs' own example involved a telephone call).

Life was so much simpler then. There was no "caller ID" and answering machines were rare, so there was no good way for people to screen or block their phone calls and no effective way to trace a short telephone call; most people had listed telephone numbers so it was easy to call just about anyone; and we were naive enough to think no one had heard our stupid jokes before.

Of course, in some ways life was harder, too. For example, we had a rotary dial telephone, so if you were dialing a number like 899-0900, it could take you a couple of minutes. And there was no "redial" option, so if you were going to call someone more than once, you had to write down or remember the telephone number.

I know most of you remember the old standbys:

Caller: Hi, I'm from the Sears appliance department. Is your refrigerator running?

Annoyed Person on the Telephone ("APOTT"): Yes, but...

Caller: Well, you'd better go catch it quick! (hang up).

Or this gut-buster (in your best "little kid voice"):

Caller: Hi, is this directory assistance?

APOTT: No, it's not.

Caller: Well, can you help me anyway? 'Cause I'm really scared (sobb, sniff). Do you know the number for 911?

APOTT: ..... uh, you just call 9-1-1.

Caller: But... what's their number?!? (sobb, sniff)

APOTT: Look kid, you just dial the number 9, then 1, then 1

Caller: Why, is there an emergency? (heeeheee... click).

Or, this gem (best if there were 2 to 4 friends available to make the telephone calls, or at least one friend who was capable of different voice effects):

Caller 1: Hello, this is Marie, is Dr. Zibbs there?

APOTT: (Kind, patient voice) No, I'm sorry, there's no one here by that name.

Caller 1: Oh, ok, well thanks. (hangs up)

... 10 minutes later ....

Caller 2: Hello, this is Angie, is Dr. Zibbs available?

APOTT: (Confused voice) No, there is no one here by that name.

Caller 2: OK, thank you (hangs up)

... 10 minutes later ...

Caller 3: Hello, this is Elizabeth, is Dr. Zibbs available?

APOTT: (Somewhat annoyed voice) No, Dr. Zibbs does not live here!

Caller 3: Oh, ok, sorry to bother you (hangs up)

... 10 minutes later ...

Caller 4: Hello, this is Dr. Zibbs, have there been any calls for me?

APOTT: Now listen here you kids, stop bothering me!!!

Caller 4: (giggle, giggle, snarrrff.... hangs up).

I probably deserve to burn in hell for all the poor innocent people I bothered the crap out of when I was 8.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Spelling Bee - Part II

(Click here for Part I of this fascinating drama).

So there I was at the regional spelling bee. It was held in a local high school's auditorium. The thirty or so participants were up on the wooden stage, seated in a semi-circle facing the audience, the moderator was seated on a podium at stage left, and the hard wooden chairs in the gallery were nearly half-filled with the proud parents, bored and restless siblings, and busily annoyed teachers of all the contestants. Plus my friends' mom and my friend.

The earlier disgusting roach incident aside (and I confess to nervously scanning the area around me to make sure there weren’t any of the despicable beasts in the area), this day was the highlight of my year so far! I was mildly embarrassed by my swollen and ugly eye, but it didn’t hurt any more, and I was certain I was going to win. I was just sure of it. After all, I had never encountered a word I couldn’t spell, including the popular "show-off" spelling words of the era, "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" and "antidisestablishmentarianism."

The bee began. When it was your turn, you got up and walked to the microphone at the center of the stage, waited for your word to be pronounced by the moderator, then stated the word, spelled the word, stated the word again, and waited for the judges' verdict: "That is correct" or "That is INcorrect."

If correct, you sat down again in your seat on the stage. If incorrect, you took the equivalent of the "Fear Factor Walk of Shame" -- exiting stage right with all eyes upon you, trying not to trip down the stairs that you couldn't see because you were crying, and sitting (sad and humiliated) in the audience with your disappointed teachers and parents and bored siblings. Of course, they didn't call it the Walk of Shame since Fear Factor hadn't been invented yet, but that's what it was like.

I thought they must be starting with the easy words and then working their way up to the hard words, because all the words seemed easy to me. But in an amazing display of ineptitude, several kids were eliminated in the first round -- and on easy-peasy words like "often," "callow," and "arrogant." I'm not proud of this, but I have to admit that I smiled inwardly each time someone else took the "Walk of Shame" -- one less person coming between me and that trophy!

After several rounds, the number of contestants was dwindling. I was one of about 6 kids left on the stage. I had not yet heard a word that I didn’t know how to spell. I was absolutely certain I was going to win! It was all so very exciting!!

And then ... the moderator asked me to spell ... what? ... Oh no! Confounded by that Southern accent! Was she asking me to spell the word "train"? ... or did she say "terrain"? It was hard to tell. I stood for a moment, looking (and feeling) confused.

I asked her to repeat the word. She did, slowly and carefully: "tuh-rain." That slow pronunciation didn't really help. It just solidified my confusion. Was she pronouncing the "t" so clearly because she thought I didn't know whether to spell "train" or "rain," or did she really mean "terrain"?

So, I asked for a definition of the word. Not that I needed a definition of either word, I just couldn't tell whether I was supposed to spell a word that meant "locomotive" or one that meant "land."

Of course, asking to repeat and to define words is a time-honored spelling-bee method of stalling for time when you aren't sure how to spell the word, and I'm sure that's what the judges thought I was doing when I asked for a repeat and then a definition.

The moderator defined the word: "a tract of land, especially as considered with reference to its natural features, military advantages, and so forth."**

I breathed a sigh of relief. Now I knew what to spell!

But I soon discovered that the moderator's Southern accent was not my only problem. You see, I had a Southern accent, too. And if you are using a proper Southern accent, vowels are dipthongs and most every syllable is pronounced as two syllables. So, for example, a long "a" has two syllables (and is pronounced first with the long a sound then the long e sound following it, and all sort of elided together, something like this: aay-yee). Also, the letter "I" is pronounced softly, almost like "ah" or "uh," but with two syllables to it and just the barest hint of an "i" sound.

So I proudly stated and then spelled the word, in my best southern accent:

"Tuh-ray-eene. Te-eee ... ee-eee ... ah-ur ... ah-ur ... aay-yee ...
aaa-aa(i) ... ee-yen. Tuh-ray-eene."

Near as I can figure, the judges thought I said "aaah," or "aa-uh" (a verbal filler used to stall for time) rather than "aaa-aa(i)" (the correct southern pronunciation of the vowel "i") when I stated that second-to-last letter. That is the only reason I can think of that they would have ruled that I spelled the word wrong. Which they did, immediately. Without even discussing it among themselves:

"INcorrect," came the verdict.

I was stunned. Flabbergasted. "Well then, how *is* the word spelled?!?" I asked. No answer, just an instruction to please sit down with the audience. This was not a Florida-Florida State football game. There was no video or tape recording, no "instant replay" or other challenge to the judges’ decision allowed or considered. I was out, a loser, a Walk-of-Shamer, and that was that. But I was certain I had spelled the word correctly! How could this beeeeee?!?

"How DO you spell tuh-ray-ene?" I asked my friend's mom, after I sat down and choked back my sobs enough to whisper the question.

Well, it’s spelled "T-E-R-R-A-I-N," said my friend's mom.

"But that’s what I said!" said I.

"No, you said 'T-E-R-R-A-N,'" said she.

"Noooooooo... I didn't...."

It was all too much to bear. Twice in one morning, my friend's mom was telling me I was wrong, when I was clearly right, and I had lost the spelling bee besides. I dissolved into a puddle of tears, complete with sniffles and sobs and my friend's mom whispering loudly at me to "stop that, you're being disruptive....." As you can see by the fact that I still recall this event vividly over 30 years later, it scarred me for life.


** The definition here is a paraphrase of what she said. This particular definition is courtesy of which of course didn't exist in the mid-'70s because Al Gore hadn't invented the internet yet.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Late Breaking News - Kid's Art - "The Assassination of Lincoln"

We interrupt the fascinating saga of the Spelling Bee, to bring you this photo of LegalMist's Kid's ("LMK") famous painting, "The Assassination of Lincoln," as described in this prior post.

You can see the bad guy in the back, on the right, holding his gun. The large rectangular-ish thing between the bad guy and President Lincoln is the bullet. You can see that President Lincoln, in his top hat, looks very unhappy, perhaps because of his impending death, or perhaps he just was not enjoying the show at the theatre that evening.

This painting was done via a unique method of putting colors on the page, then painting the entire thing in black paint, then scratching off the top layer of black paint (a form of "etching") to create the masterpiece. Quite a complicated process when you're five years old.

At the end of his art class (yesterday was the last day), his teachers thanked me for allowing LMK to participate in the class. Apparently he gave them quite a few memories to last a lifetime....

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Spelling Bee - Part I

As promised in a prior post, here is the story of how I almost won the regional spelling bee. It is, I promise, a story filled with not only glory and honor, but also shock and horror. Read on for thrills aplenty!

When I was in 5th grade in 1970-something in Florida, I was an awesome speller. I was so good that my small private school decided to have a spelling bee for the first time ever, and to enter the regional spelling bee. As predicted, I won the school spelling bee and represented my school in the regional spelling bee. What an honor! What a thrill!

For some reason, however, my Mom and Dad were unavailable to take me to the spelling bee, so my Mom arranged for me to spend the night at a friend’s house, and her mom would take me to the spelling bee in the morning. That's when the trouble began.

First, you must know that Florida is literally crawling with giant cockroaches, which the natives euphemistically call "Palmetto Bugs," as if that nice-sounding name makes these monstrously awful insects any less disgusting. And they are truly awful. They are two inches long, they run fast (often toward you), they can crawl on any surface including ceilings and glass, and they are even capable of flying -- usually straight toward your head. They are also not like most species of roaches: they do not "scatter" when you turn on the light. They just sit there, staring at you. If you step on them, it makes a "crunch" sound. And if you don’t mush them enough, they will still crawl away afterwards. For years after we moved from Florida, I had a horrible phobia of roaches and would literally get chills and goosebumps just seeing one.

My friend's house, like most others, was known to have a few of these horrible critters from time to time. But, oh, what happened that day....

I awoke in the morning and opened my eyes to see a giant brownish black bug -- it looked to me like one of those awful "Palmetto Bugs" -- on the bed next to me. "Eeeeewww!" I screamed, then "Aaaaaagh!" as I felt something hit my eye and a terrible burning sensation began. Then the crying and uncontrollable sobbing started. My friend’s mom came running, but the horrible bug was long gone by the time she got there. My eye was swelling up, and was quite red. I couldn’t see very well. She asked what happened, and after about ten minutes I calmed down enough to talk and told her a giant roach had sprayed something in my eye and it hurt and burned.

But my friend’s mom said it was impossible for a Palmetto Bug to spray anything into a person’s eye. And she refused to believe that one of those awful bugs had been on the bed, or even in her house, since they had just had the place sprayed last week. She thought I had merely scratched my eye with my own fingernail while sleeping, despite the fact that my eye swelled up and was bright red, which I don’t think has ever happened in the history of the world from a mere fingernail scratch while sleeping. Regardless, nothing could convince her that I was right.

Later – much later, after the internet was invented (but not by Al Gore) – I looked it up on the internet. It turns out there is a species of roach in Florida called a "skunk roach" which does indeed spray a foul smelling substance out of its butt when it feels threatened. That must have been what got me. They look remarkably similar to a Palmetto Bug, probably especially to a 10 year old who has just been awakened by said bug spraying gunk into her eye and who, for that reason, cannot see particularly well.

It would not be the first time that day that I was told I was wrong, when in fact I was right.

In any event, I rinsed my eye, got dressed, and went to the spelling bee. My eye hurt a lot and remained swollen most of the day. But that didn’t stop me from being an awesome speller. In fact, I correctly spelled every word I was given that day.

And still, nearly inexplicably, I lost the match.

My friend's mom thought I lost because I was still upset by my "nightmare" about the roach and didn't concentrate properly. But I didn’t lose the spelling bee because of the despicable bug; I lost because I lived in Florida at the time, where most everyone has a southern accent. It is the only reason I can think of. I’ll explain next time, in Part II. Right now I have to take my kids to art class.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Pulitzer Project

I ran across this site while surfing the other day, and decided to take the "Pulitzer Project" challenge.

Basically, the participants read every Pulitzer Prize winning novel ever written, and write a review of it on their own blog and/or on the Pulitzer Project blog. There is no time limit for completion. I love to read, I love a good challenge, and it sounds like fun so I'm going to try it, with one caveat: I refuse to waste perfectly good time and energy reading books that I consider to be boring or crummy. So if I read part of one of these "winners" and I hate it, I'm going to cut the reading short and write my review based on the part I read that made me think it's awful.

I've already read a few of these novels. Some I liked, one not so much. I'll start by writing reviews of the books I've already read (after refreshing my memory by re-reading them quickly, of course). Then I'll move on to reading and writing about others.

Since I rarely have time to read whole novels (I spend way too much time reading news and blogs on the internet), you can expect about one book review every three months or so. At about 4 books a year, and with currently more than 80 prize winners and a new one being awarded each year, it will take me 25 years or so to complete this project (assuming I live that long).

I doubt all of you will still be reading this blog by then (heck, I doubt I'll still be writing it by then), so if you want to know whether to read one of these prize-winning books or whether they're any good, you probably would do better to look at them yourself or read reviews by professional reviewers. But if you want to read along with me, or comment on the wonderful insights or crappy analysis you find in my reviews, or if you want to read along and maybe even write your own reviews (either on your own blog or at the Pulitzer Project blog site), I encourage that.

If you want to participate, check out the Pulitzer Project web site. The book list is here if you just want to see what I'll be reading and writing about occasionally.

I may also attempt the "Newbery Project," which is the same concept, but with children's books that have won the Newbery Medal. Or maybe I can talk my daughter into writing those reviews .... (hmmm.... that may take some legal mumbo jumbo and/or Jedi mind tricks, but it might be possible.)

If you don't enjoy these "elitist" type books or book reviews, you can just skip my "Pulitzer Project" (and/or "Newbery Project") blog posts.

If you do like this sort of thing, well then, Happy reading!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Six Random Facts About Me

Here is the second "meme" that Fancy Schmancy tagged me with last week. Happy reading!

MEME 2 -- Six Random or Weird Things About Me

The assignment:

Share 6/7 random/weird things about yourself. Tag 6/7 other bloggers, link to them, put a comment on their blog letting them know they've been tagged.

As with yesterday's meme, I'm not tagging anyone, but if I have any readers who haven't done this meme and would like to participate, please feel welcome to participate and to comment and let me know you've done so.

The disclaimer:

The assignment didn't say they had to be interesting. Just random or weird.

The answer:

1. When I was in college, I worked at the CIA for two summers, through their summer intern program (available to persons who have a parent who works there). It required filling out a huge application form, including lots of personal questions, so that I could obtain a "Secret" level government clearance. Then they actually conducted face to face interviews with people who knew me – including my college roommate and others who lived in my college dorm. I didn’t know these interviews were going to be part of the process, so I hadn’t warned anyone that the CIA might contact them. Imagine my roommate’s surprise when, on the weekend I had gone "home" to visit my family, a CIA Agent knocked at our dorm room door and asked her lots of questions about me. I was hired either in spite of, or perhaps because of, whatever my roommate said about me.... She never would tell me what they asked or what she said.

2. When I was a kid, my friends all loved the "Road Runner" and laughed uproariously whenever he foiled the Coyote yet again. I always felt sorry for the Coyote, who was constantly spending all that money on expensive and shabby contraptions from that worthless "Acme" company and was always unable to catch that annoying-as-hell Road Runner ("Beep! Beep!"). Do you think I lacked a sense of humor, or did anyone else feel that way, too?

3. When I was in the 5th grade, I won the school spelling bee and represented my school in the regional spelling bee. I’ll post about that experience some other time. For now, I'll just say that I should have won the regional spelling bee (but didn’t) and I am still an awesome speller. (humble, too... but not bitter about it... oh no, not bitter at all....)

4. Instead of a "best man" at our wedding, we had a "best woman." She was (and is) a very good friend of my husband’s. He has known her since he was in high school. Her husband and both of their kids were also in the wedding party.

5. I used to run the office football pool (for 9 years). These days, I couldn’t tell you who’s in first place or last place in the NFL.

6. I had about 2 seconds of fame when I was one of many "Deadheads" featured in a made-for-television Grateful Dead documentary sometime in the early 1990's, answering the question "what is your favorite line from a Dead song?" (Answer, "Nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile"). I can't even remember what station or company made the documentary (Discovery Channel, maybe?) but my former college roommate (the one who answered questions for the CIA) sent me a videotape of it. No, not a DVD, a videotape. You know, the kind we played on a VHS machine back in the last century? Someday I'll dig it out of the closet and see if I can figure out a way to post a clip from it on YouTube and/or share it here with you all.

Thanks for reading and, if you like, consider yourself "tagged."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My Very First Meme

Last week, Fancy Schmancy tagged me for my first-ever meme! I was oh-so-excited, and felt as though I had "arrived" in the blog world for real. But then my kids got sick and work got hectic and I still haven't done this meme. And now the meme "assignment" is just hanging over my head like a little black cloud. Sort of like my car, but that's a different story altogether.

So today I'm going for it. Kid is still sick, but I've got him parked in front of the tv sipping juice for a while, so here goes.

Oh, and I'm not going to tag anyone else for the memes (sorry, Fancy). I am, instead, adopting -- plagiarizing, even -- Whiskeymarie's approach to memes. I hope she doesn't sue me or anything. The basic idea is that memes are welcome to come here and I will answer their insistent questions, but then afterwards they will be put quietly to rest in the back yard. But without Whiskeymarie's little ceremony. I'm not as "sentimental" as she is, apparently.

Of course, if anyone wants to participate in this meme thing, you are welcome to do so. Just consider yourself tagged merely by having read this here, link away, answer the questions on your blog, and comment here to let me know you've done so. Simple as that!

Fancy's meme was apparently actually two-memes-in-one. I can't resist a bargain, so I said I'd do it. But I'm breaking it back into two memes, to shorten things up (the houses meme will take you a while to read, especially if you click all the links) and also to get two posts for the price of one. (Another bargain!) Today, we'll do meme one - houses. Tomorrow, meme two - random facts about me.


The assignment:

Where would you have your 8 homes, if you were as insanely rich as the McCains? List them.

You don’t have to list your reasons, but if you do at least for a few of them, it would be more fun. And remember that the only rule is: the homes must be within the borders of the United States of America or else, within the borders of the country you live in, so as to utterly emulate the McCains.

When you’re done, tag 8 people, so that they may join in the self-indulgence, forgetting about the crappy property market and the equivalent of The End of Pompeii on Wall-Street. You could spend your time hammering your doors and windows shut in preparation for the apocalypse instead, but it would be much less fun.

The disclaimer (because I wouldn't be a very good attorney if I didn't throw in a disclaimer here and there, now would I?):

Even if I were as insanely rich as the McCains, I don't think I would buy 8 houses. I can think of better things to do with money than buy expensive houses all across the United States. Then again, perhaps it would help the real estate market and the economy, so it might be a good use of the funds after all...

The answer -- if I had to buy 8 houses, all in the United States, they would be in the following places:

1. Coronado, California (actually, one of McCain's houses is here, too).

Although dubbed "Coronado Island," it's not actually an island, but a peninsula. Regardless, it has some of the most beautiful homes on earth, and the beach near the Hotel Del Coronado is one of the hugest white-sand beaches I've ever seen. Simply awesome. You can see photos of it here. There are also several beautiful, large parks for the kids (and adult kids-at-heart) to play in. It is a short drive over the bridge, or a short ferry ride across the water (bikes welcome on board), to downtown San Diego, easily one of the top 8 most awesome cities in the world.

I don't seem to have any digital photos of Coronado; they must be on my husband's computer. But here is a link to Coronado's official website; they have lots of photos there if you are interested.

One of my fondest memories of Coronado was a trip my husband and I took there shortly after the tsunami hit Indonesia in 2004. We were dining at a restaurant. The waiter had just dropped off the wine and appetizers, and the following conversation occurred:

Waiter: Um, I just thought you might like to know, there's a tsunami warning for the area.

LegalMist: Oh wow. Does that mean they are actually expecting one or they are just watching and will let us know if something develops?

Waiter: I don't really know.

LegalMist: What is the plan if there is one, I mean, should we get in our car and drive to San Diego, or do we go stand on the roof, or what?

Waiter: (Look of concern and worry) Hmm.... I don't really know. (Big Smile) Oh well, enjoy your meal!

And off he went, smiling and humming to himself.

It is exactly that carefree attitude that I love about Coronado. It is as if the people know they are living in heaven on earth, so who cares if there is no tomorrow? Just enjoy today!

2. San Francisco, California.

Mark Twain has been quoted as saying that the coldest winter he ever endured was the summer he spent in San Francisco (or words to that effect). Nevertheless, I find San Francisco to be easily one of the most charming big cities ever, and the weather is just part of its charm. Quaint townhouses, awesome skyscrapers, bustling Chinatown, pretty parks, excellent transit system (including the historic and wonderfully fun cable cars), beautiful bay and bridges, endless museums and other amusements, home of the Grateful Dead.... the list goes on. I could happily live and die there, if only I could afford the real estate.

Okay, I know it seems unfair to put two of my houses in the same state, but they are two of my favorite U.S. cities.

In fact, I almost completely copped out and made city number three San Clemente, CA, which also ranks near the top of my "all time favorite places to be" list. But then I decided that if the "big one" ever hits California, I'd hate to lose 3 of my 8 houses, and also for investment purposes it would be better to diversify.

3. Flagstaff, Arizona.

A quaint town in the mountains of Arizona, with a fun revitalized downtown area near the university (Northern Arizona University), beautiful and historical old homes (a rarity in Arizona, where most everything is new new new), pretty tree-lined streets, and a sense of history. Flagstaff is half an hour from Sedona, Arizona, which is easily the most beautiful place on earth, but rather too hot in the summer so Flagstaff would be a better place to live.

4. Pensacola, Florida.

I know this isn't most folks' ideal city, what with the hurricanes, crime issues, and so forth, but my grandparents lived there when I was a kid, and they had the most fabulous house ever, which is the specific house I would buy there if I could. It was a two story brick house with a basement where they kept the bumper pool table. I still remember the exact address, and I have found it on Google Maps, so I know it is still there even today. Here is a picture of the exact house I would buy:

Not the best image, I know. It was originally taken with a polaroid camera (anyone remember those? They were the pre-digital-age "have to see my photo now" camera), and the photo has become yellowed with age, then was copied on my low-end color copier, and scanned into my "blogging" computer so I could post it here for all three of you to enjoy. I hope it was worth it.

That's me, standing in front of the house with my bike, circa 1971. I think I was a little old for training wheels, don't you? I loved that bike, though, with the fashionable red "banana seat" and the groovy red fringe hanging from the handle bars. Later that summer, my grandparents bought me one of those red flags on a very tall skinny plastic stick that you attach to the back of kids' bikes so people in cars can see them and won't run over them, and then I really thought I was hot stuff. Dig the pants, too. So very.... seventies.

I remember the house as being huge (although I was probably about 10 when they sold it, so probably it would seem smaller now), with very high ceilings (probably cost a fortune to heat and cool), a huge kitchen, formal dining room, sunken living room, marble-tiled entry way, home office with a separate entrance for my grandpa's insurance business, awesome (and fun) giant formal staircase with a big landing that we kids loved to play on, a huge master bedroom suite and two other large bedrooms upstairs, an attic, and a separate garage with a huge "rec room" (including ping pong table) above it.

My mom used to ship me off to stay with my grandparents in Pensacola for at least a couple of weeks every summer, and I had absolutely the best time there with my cousins and uncles and grandparents. My grandmother had a flair for decorating, so the house was beautiful and always looked "grand." I thought my grandparents were the richest people ever (until I met my friend Jennifer Goldstein, but that's another story entirely). Best of all, the house was a short drive away (half an hour, maybe?) from an awesome beach, with white sand, an excellent assortment of sea shells, and great big (to my 5 to 10 year old self) waves. I still have not forgiven my grandparents for selling that house and moving to a smallish condo in a highrise in Atlanta, GA.

If I am ever "Cindy McCain rich," I will own that house.

5. New York, NY

I've never even been there and I have no photos to share with you for this one. I drove through it once, on the way to visit a friend in Boston, but I have never stayed there. But I can't imagine owning 8 houses across the U.S. and not having one of them be in New York City.

6. Charlottesville, VA

This is another awesome university town. It is near the blue ridge mountains (great hiking, beautiful scenery) and just over a two hour drive to our nation's Capital, or (slightly different direction) to the beach in the Norfolk / Hampton area. Thomas Jefferson lived near here, at Monticello, and our fifth president, James Monroe's Ash Lawn estate is here, too. If I could afford to buy an estate like these, I would.

7. Columbia, SC

Another adorably quaint town with awesome houses with hardwood floors, fireplaces, arched doorways and ancient plumbing, curvy-hilly-tree-lined streets, a sense of history, decent weather, and enough fun stuff to do that I wouldn't be bored out of my skull. And although South Carolina has sort of a racist reputation (some of which may be deserved), my best friend who I have known since I was about 3 years old lives in this town. We have kept in touch even through all of our families' various moves which started when we were both about 8 years old. When we get together it is like we still live just down the street from each other and we just pick up where we left off yesterday. So yeah, I'd buy a house there just down the street from her so I could visit her at least once a year and stay a while.

Here is a photo I found on flickr of an old historical house in Columbia SC. The house I'd buy there, however, would be brick, on a larger lot, and surrounded by huge trees.

8. I feel like quite the copy-cat, here, even though I am modifying Fancy's idea a bit. Instead of a houseboat, I'd buy an RV, perhaps something like this one, by Fleetwood. That way, I could explore America's vast interior, visit all the states I've never visited before, and re-live my bus-driving glory days all at once. Nothing like sitting up high in a huge vehicle with ten plus tons of "right of way," cruising the open highway on a beautiful sunny day..... aaahhh, the good old days.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Overheard at My Kid's Art Class This Morning

Art Teacher ("AT"): So, Michael, what did you draw today?*

Michael: It's me on my bike and I'm riding to school.

AT: Nice drawing! Stephanie, what did you draw?

Stephanie: I drew my dog.

AT: Are those butterflies, too?

Stephanie: Uh-huh.

AT: Awesome job! LegalMist's Kid ("LMK") (age 5), what did you draw?

LMK: (Showing a stick figure drawing) It's the President, and this is a gun and a bullet and a bad guy and he's getting shot.

AT: ... Uh... really.... uh, which President is that?

LMK: Mr. Lincoln.

AT: Oh... wow... you certainly are up on your history, aren't you? ... Michelle, what did you draw?


Good thing LMK didn't say "Mr. Bush," or I might have come home to find the FBI at my door...

* All names are fictional.