Rug Burns From the Red Carpet

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Jon and I both watch entirely too much television these days and long nights into early mornings. For Jon, that dates back to September 2008 when he retired early rather than face another year of county bureaucracy. My bad viewing habits kicked into high gear once I finally retired on disability two years ago. High gear for me suggests a snail’s pace, since I can barely stay awake for more than two hours.

Of course, my beloved and I are on entirely different if not conflicting schedules. And we both have very specific preferences.

Jon is a self-labeled SciFi aficionado, a Star Trek “geek”, and an avid follower of all things “Vampirical”. I prefer dramas, whether courtroom or costume, and “Night of the Living Dead”, my guiltiest of guilty pleasures, and one that I don’t always readily admit. During precious daylight hours, I would offer the Apocalyptic and Allegorical Defense.

As it is just shy of darkness here, I must admit that I’m just simply fond of zombies, their habits, as well as their delightful and novel accoutrements and attachments. Busy. Busy. Busy. (Don’t mind me. I am definitely not inferring that there were any Zombies whatsoever in “The Whales of August” although such a film reference is a stretch at its most oblique.)

There is, however, a common thread these days of both major network demise and the phoenix-like bloom of cable TV. There are really only a handful of formats and venues these days: for dramas, comedies, and reality shows.

So in the interest of appealing to the broadest audiences, Jon and I might propose a few regular series — for Cable or otherwise.

“In Their Blood” might center on a pair of morgue enthusiasts who use their forensic skills and Vampire hobbies to solve crimes and judge Ink rallies. One of the leads is of the lipstick variety hinting ever so gently at lesbianism, the last of the U.S. Censorship Frontiers. If Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly are available this would be a perfect “Cagney und Lacey, the Final Years”.

If the network executives are amenable, the CSI and NCIS franchises could be combined for one mega-series, a task so mammoth that only a CBS or a Lifetime could make the concept an advertising and Nielson Ratings extravaganza.

The all news networks, scripted or not, have survived so many 21st century changes that we advocate simply setting into place both “Good News” or “Bad News” formats, the later one best described as Fox News but with better make-up. In contrast, the former might take the shell that is CNN’s greatest hits, but with competitive and “cutting edge” food trucks.

Reality shows, at the end of the broadcast day, are almost indistinguishable from each other, seemingly filmed in the same region of the U.S. Perhaps, the answer can be found in a Duck Dynasty Dance Moms or a Bridzilla Bounty Hunters or even a “Bachelorette: Love It or List It.” Jon and I are in total agreement, however, on one point: Honey Boo-Boo should be banned from ever gracing our friendly airwaves again. Even though most reality shows seem to celebrate humanity at its ugliest and most ignorant, there is a limit of “Expected Toleration” especially during Prime Time.

Finally, with the passing of the iconic Joan Rivers, what can we expect from the future of Red Carpet coverage? Is there a saturation level? Is this just another area that we can expect inevitable Osbourne domination?

And the window treatments, are they red also?

I am weary from weathering such a brainstorm, albeit one of category II status. I can see my teleprompter all aflutter as naptime at Marklewood nears.

(Image: “Between Two Worlds” by Gyurka Lohmuller, 2009.)

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Callas at La Scala: Revealing the Myth’s Voice

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From the countless quotation opportunities that Maria Callas (1923-1977) enjoyed, her hunger for an honest and provocative interpretation is quite evident if not “stuck” in some wallow of overly analytical and emotional deconstruction. It would seem, often, that Callas both invited and defied any exploration of either her style or intent. Her colleagues quickly agree:

John Ardoin:
“I don’t think she always understood what she did or why she did it. She usually had a tremendous affect on audiences and on people. But it was not something she could always live with gracefully or happily.
I once said to her “It must be a very enviable thing to be Maria Callas.” And she said, “No, it’s a very terrible thing to be Maria Callas, because it’s a question of trying to understand something you can never really understand.” She couldn’t really explain what she did. It was all done by instinct. It was something embedded deep within her.

Martina Arroya:
“I adored this lady, and I respected her work ethic. She always wanted to improve her understanding of a piece. ‘Casta Diva’, for instance, what interested me most was how she gave both the runs and the cadenzas words.”

Cecilia Bartoli:
“Maria Callas remains an icon with an instantly recognizable voice. But she was also the first opera singer to be equipped with the ingredients of international celebrity: charisma, glamour, wealth, she had it all, together with the touches of scandal and tragedy that made her story so compelling. Since her time, every female opera singer has been measured against this powerful role model.

“Callas modernized our metier. Her life was a tireless creative search. She was one of the first to recognize the importance of being an actress as well as a singer, and was uncompromising in her belief that, in order to achieve a complete dramatic performance, all aspects of the operatic genre require equal attention. She was a pioneer in restoring forgotten repertoire and in exploring new ways of musical interpretation. To this day, I find that many of her exemplary recordings are astounding.”

Leonard Bernstein:
“Callas? She was pure electricity.”

Carlo Berganzi:
“Callas studied the text, the meaning of the words, and as a result, she became a diva. She became the Great Callas. Because she studied the character, she entered the mind of the character, and she brought the character to life onstage.”

Leyla Gencer;
“Maria had in her blood, in her veins, in her subconscious all the tradition of the Greek Tragedy. She was born that way. In fact, she had her best time during 10 years. That was very short. But the “Myth of La Callas” will continue for ever, because she did so much! She was a magnetic force on stage, the others didn’t exist anymore. It’s a gift of Nature, a gift of God. It’s a talent, a great talent.”

Franco Zeffirelli:
“The magic of a Callas is a quality few artists have, something special, something different. There are many very good artists, but very few who have that sixth sense, the additional, the plus quality. It is something which lifts them from the ground: they become like semi-gods. She had it. Nureyev has it, [Laurence] Olivier.”

Naturally, Henry and I could volley and banter impressions of her style, intensity, and the academic follow-through of each role. But that would diminish her legacy a bit. As with a fine Montrachet, any attempt at appreciation need be a full grasp of the naturals well as the core of the music’s essence.

Henry’s words unfurl at the most thoughtful of paces. On the other hand, I tend to release any clutched response with hesitation and the steadiest of discern. And of course, I shall sit back, absorb, and then marvel at both Callas’ ease and strength. And at both her natural and effortless complexity.

Viva la Diva. Viva la Diva. It is indeed story time.

(Images: Renderings from Ms Callas’ rare and historic appearances in the mid-70’s: lavish costumes, for example.)

The English Recall of Spoken French

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Michael was kind, witty, gentle, and given to endless amusing quirks. He’d wear his tortoise-shell reading glasses at the very tip of his nose and, often, drive the long route home, simply because it was more scenic. And he’d often respond in, at most, casual French idioms or “buzz” phrases as he was neither a scholar, nor a Frenchman:
“Mais oui!” or “Zut alors!” or that American catch-all, “Mon Dieu!”

In the summer of 2001, he was quickly becoming increasingly symptomatic of the dreadful terminal illness, Progressive Multifocal Leuko-Encephalopathy. That mouthful of a term is usually shortened to the very kind and pragmatic initialism, PML. His disease had robbed him of any cognition, his ability to communicate, his motor skills, and an entire lifetime of joyous memories and dear friends.

Essentially, all he was indeed able to do was eat and walk, although both activities need qualification here. He no longer sensed any taste, only temperature, and he could no longer chew. Walking was strained because he was somewhat paralyzed on his left side, which meant that he dragged one leg while he held one arm. He had just turned 49, but didn’t really understand the concept of birthdays or their celebrations.

Usually, he was incredibly good-natured and resigned to what was happening, if he indeed had an inkling as to such. His frustrations were many but he was nevertheless easily distracted. You can only imagine, friends, what his days were like: empty and void of an ability to express. I would make him as comfortable as possible and just pray that any torment would stay dormant and that he not be in any pain.

However, one such late August day, Michael was restless. He painfully shuffled from room to room, knocking things over as he’d brush by. He found a tool box, mustered the strength to lift it, and hurled it against a window. Casualties included one window, a couple dozen terra cotta floor tiles, and both a scattering of nails and a smattering of gadgetry all over the kitchen floor. He knocked over lamps, books, mementos, anything within his strained reach. Whether from intention or accident, his anger was spiraling into fury.

I was finally able to calm him down a bit. I held him tightly so he could feel my heartbeat and hear the timber in my voice. I never really knew at what point his understanding of my words stopped, for his stares were sadly always empty. But talking at least gave me some hopeful comfort. I gave Michael his afternoon dose of thorazine and prayed that it would soon take effect and his rage, subside.

He followed me into the bedroom where I cajoled him into getting into bed, with my hope that he would soon be able to sleep. After ten minutes or so, he’d close his blue eyes and I would head back to the kitchen to start restoring order to the chaos.

No sooner was I uncomfortably stooped as I scooped nails, he walked back in, yet again. Trembling a bit. I took his hand, led him back to the bedroom, and again was able to get him ready to nap. Again, I waited a reasonable amount of time and then returned to the mounting “clean-up” tasks in the other rooms.

Perhaps, my optimism was unwarranted as we repeated those “steps one-through-three” at least a dozen times. At that point, I got in bed next to him, urging him to just stay still for fifteen minutes. That was all I asked. I felt certain that such would be all the time needed for the medicine to calm him enough to grow drowsy and, at last, sleep.

But, no! Fifteen minutes later, he stiffly sat up and started to head into the next room. I was beside myself. The day of frustration, bedlam, and such agony had awakened an anger in me. Before I knew it, I had forgotten my role as a dutiful, compassionate care-giver. I grabbed Michael by the shoulders and just yelled, as if in an unleashed last attempt:

“You need to get some rest, dammit. For goodness sakes! What, am I speaking French or something?”

Terrified at my outburst, he looked at me and simply said: “Oui!”

We looked at each other and I held him. I couldn’t cry for he’d have no comprehension of my “tears!”

I just held him, assuring him: “I love you, Michael!”

He quietly replied: “love”.

Somehow we both understood that moment: each with so much to feel, to express, yet couldn’t. Those were the only two words he spoke at all that day. On many a day that summer, he uttered none at all.

And with those two simple words (seven letters, total), he was able to finally sleep as I regained my focus and hope, at least enough to get me through that very long day.

“Oui.”

That, my friends, is the moment of joy or hope that I humbly offer you today. This anecdote was never intended to evoke melancholy or sorrow, but rather to emphasize the power of one singular instant in time. And this instant with Michael was both timely and wondrous as it gave us each a craved morsel of hope, dignity, and humor.

The Universe (whatever that may be), keeps a keen eye, takes care of us, and gives us the strength to always do what we must.

A Baker’s Dozen of years later, I can now share this particular memory, although my cerebral search engines are known to falter and sputter these days.

“Je peux enfin penser à l’été et sourire.”

(Image: “Skyscraper 5” by Julie Heffernan, 2012.)

Reconnecting with L: Recalling Her Exchange

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One evening, years ago in a previous life, as I opened Nigel’s door to head home, my cell-phone rang, displaying an unidentified number. I allowed the call to land into voice mail, only to realize that, yes, I did indeed know it. The exchange was one from my childhood neighborhood and the number, certainly familiar. I recalled the seven digits in the manner one might remember one’s address after a few too many martinis (so I hear). Instinctively.

I quickly returned the call, comfortable that it wasn’t some clever creditor or inane solicitor. When there was at last a voice to pair with the moment, I knew at once who it was: my friend Lorraine. We had not kept in touch since high school although she was always someone with whom I felt entirely comfortable to be myself.

The thirty-five years since had taken us both on quite different paths. She had married, had children, adopted, and raised step children while I was on an eccentric career track that led me to Chicago, New York, Boston, Charlotte, and Fort Lauderdale. The crazy thing was that for a good many years, in the broadest of Southernisms, we both lived in Washington, D.C., ultimately in adjacent suburbs, and all the while “unbeknownst”. God must relish such irony as it relieves stress from guiding the desperate and “talking” often with the maladjusted.

We caught up as best we could in a half hour. Her father had recently passed away from a debilitating cancer. My mother had died prematurely at age 59, over two decades ago. And my father succumbed last summer to a cruel mix of dementia, stroke, and (as they say these days) a “heart event”.

Lorraine’s parents had always been favorites of mine. Her father was witty, charming, and never unnerved by teenagers. Her mother was British, refined, and probably the loveliest person I had encountered (before I finally proclaimed myself an adult).

It warmed my cockles when she mentioned that her father always liked and respected me … in spite of my long hair and Bolshevik demeanor. Of course, he was always one of the most engaging and challenging adults: he relished both clever banter and testing limits (just shy of the bawdy). It indeed saddened me that he passed away in March and I, in my youthful folly, had allowed such nostalgia and connection to diminish.

Soon, I was again carefully maneuvering the potholes along the driveway into the humble Marklewood. Jon was waiting, after another long dreary day alone, so I needed to regain my focus and go inside. I quickly though told “L” (a nickname drawn from LaVerne’s bold embroidery) that she was one of the few people that completely put me to ease back then. She chuckled and said: “oh, that was your gift. You always made everyone feel special and important.”

I could say that her words put an easy smile on my face if, in fact, I weren’t already beaming. What a delightful and unexpected evening commute! As I locked Nigel and greeted the outdoor pusses, I suddenly remembered the “probably” thousand times I dialed 288-XXXX back in the early seventies.

As I hurried upstairs to Jon, I felt certain that such a reconnection would carry me through until bedtime. My worries could just wait until the following day. Neither they nor I were going anywhere. And yes! I have always named my automobiles. Nigel would honk, were he here.

A Poet’s Scowl: Sunday in the Park with Pound

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When I was a wee lad on the precocious side of three, I thought the world was warm and fuzzy, and confined to my family’s modest apartment on Capitol Hill. That was the Summer that I met the very man named Ezra Pound and realized that fuzzy also meant gruff and slightly dismissive.

The controversial and politically abhorrent poet joined my family for an afternoon picnic in Washington’s Rock Creek Park. Sadly, such recollections are yet fuzzy, faint, and somewhat lonely. I am the sole survivor of that turn-of-events that balmy June day.

My parents, Hal and Margy, were aged 28 and 27; while the ancient Mr. Pound was 73, if not a century. He was likely the oldest creature I had ever met up to that point. That would have been true if not for the National Zoo’s tortoises, which were surely better behaved and mannered.

The torment from his many years at St. Elizabeth’s still haunted Pound, monopolizing his conversation, and preoccupying the day. After a feast of homemade pimento cheese sandwiches, I frolicked at creek’s edge, while my seniors were lost in some transcendent and inspired deconstruction of the world’s ills. As I became bored and increasingly frustrated, my pre-school innocence gave way to my first chronicled incident of public misbehavior:

I walked up to the all too serious and cantankerous Pound and started tossing pebbles at him, disrupting the intense and profound conversation. Fortunately, no one was hurt, although the afternoon’s aura was thus broken. And fortunately, my mother had her Brownie camera and seized the photo opportunity, several if not many times.

As I grew older, I became increasingly mortified by my actions and their intent. My mother found the memory “more and more” ever-so precious. And my father included the anecdote in his private collection of Mark’s Most Embarrassing Moments. I presume Mr. Pound never gave me a second thought, at least not without an expletive and a gesture worthy of such a learned expatriate.

I am now 58. I haven’t ventured outside on a picnic since a grand family reunion in 2008. However, I still get aroused by the mere sight of homemade pimento cheese. I haven’t thrown too many stones, beyond the rhetorical, in decades. And I cherish still those yellowed and wrinkled photographs of that afternoon, now made fuzzy by both time’s scrub and life’s labors.

Lost and found, and forever seeking answers,
that pre-schooler trapped within!

Adelphia Defies Four Letter Words

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Poor Adelphia! Cast out in the third round of pageant elimination, she yet shrouds her disappointment with a poised preservation of grace. She tidily funnels her contested dreams into her ancient urn; smoothes the wrinkles that threaten her aubergine velvet gown; and gazes with a virgin’s sorrow at the fetching swimwear that hangs unworn on the couturier’s hanger.

Naturally she ponders the next-legged venue worthy of her sport and, although never so entitled, is hardly empty-handed. Her motives intact and unchallenged, she has her unrecognized geniality and her talent for such fancy well in hand.

Adelphia smiles a naughty and enticing smile for knowing her wry comedy was a last joke on those who spun their foul judgment into a skene of fear and rigging.

My friends, it is assuredly sewn neatly into the gown of such a glorious brocato:

“It seems that now a glimpse of nipple
Will lead to a Facebook ripple.
Now everyone knows:
How censorship grows.”

(To the tune of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes”)

Yes, the world’s gone mad today.

(Image: “The Rainbow Catcher” by David M Bowers.)

Ah, ‘Tis the Noblest of All Humps

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“Fish die belly upward, and rise to the surface. It is their way of falling.” (Andre Gide)

Hump Day. I hadn’t heard reference to that naughty, innuendo-laden term in many a year. That is, until I took residence at the rather social Media Mews located at Seven Facebook Park Plaza. Now, each Wednesday, I see myriad status updates make mention thus. Some are meant and met with regret; others with stress, relief, or reluctant exuberance. But, in any case, we are meant to smile.

Some folks who either work the “odd” week or seek any work at all, feel a sympathetic hump, experiencing similar Psycho-Social symptoms, akin to their fully engaged counterparts. Others diligently apparently use it as both goal and benchmark.

What of those worker bees who work a ten day stretch? Do they feel a mightier hump?
Similiarly, do those that work a “two days on, one day off” schedule, enjoy a rhythmic pattern of quick and intermittent drill-like humps? Does such a “hump” become standard and thus less enjoyable, perhaps with no longer a pumped hump, if you will. Does frequency indeed lend contempt? I want to swim away today’s precious hours until our gills have impacted our buoyant and elusive rate.

Do we vacation, break, and then retire from the hump altogether? Or are we destined to simply giggle each as we honor each humps of recollections of those of our shiny, happy and foremost innocent pubescence?

What of those jittery individuals who work part-time, unable to finish neither sentence3 nor gesture sentence, Do they experience “Humpus Interruptus”?

The “rhetorical” hump is the revived euphemism of yore that has resurfaced and continues to confound me. I wallow in such endless midweek queries.The only certainty is that of unknowing.

I best shun the familiar hump and set my sights on Thursday. Both Scarlet and the Cure would eye each other, size ’em up, and nod in agreement. These are simply days. Although we are unable to toast the “mid-week” in unison, we all collectively share in the experience that is “tomorrow”!

Instead, let us resolve the “humping” for the wondrous creatures of the planet’s noble Animal Kingdom. They know no divisions of time or week, but seem to nonetheless appreciate well the Art of the Hump but with far less hoopla and chaos! And, from what I’ve noticed in recent years, they seem to greatly enjoy such midweek pomp.

(Image: “Magica Lesson” by Michael Cheval, 2013)

A Raggedy Beekeeper’s Secret Nocturnal Admissions

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Huzzah, Huzzah! My season-long cluster headache has finally subsided. Perhaps I will sleep soundly tonight without even the slightest physician’s aid.

I might cruise the visions of townsfolk frolicking innocently in some ethereal and magical meadow. Or conjure cerebral polaroids of exotic places with swash-buckling fools of Quixotic intent. Or simply brainstorm the many ways in which I could spend a million Euros.

More likely, though, I will drift into some complex and layered personal passion play. My psyche is, alas, a skilled director in such a theatrical venture, having learned how to deftly manipulate that well-intended but naive and over-confident producer, my id. Nonetheless, the tattered curtains always open to reveal an audience of one. The scenario is not unlike that of a beekeeper with only a drone, horned or not.

Said psyche is, alas, a skilled director in such a theatrical venture, having learned how to deftly manipulate that well-intended but naive and over-confident producer, my also “carefully taught” id.

Stage right Chori of wronged parties, jilted friends, and forgotten lovers taunt my efforts to forget and suppress. They parade in their finery, remind me that (if I am fortunate and well-behaved) I might just sit in the orchestra, and smile at their revisions. After all, it is their turn to spin the script. These indigo days, however, usually find me squirming in the balcony. I struggle to get a squint’s view with some pearl-handled lorgnettes that were given me upon admission.

“Everything old is indeed new again” as I could swear that never happened quite that way. Or maybe it did. I marvel at the liberties that Morpheus takes with my life and dreams. He recasts, revises, modernizes. He throws in a few personal “Rosebuds” for good measure.

Dreams. The productions we sometimes love to hate and cannot wait to forget. Naturally, the Universe is our most clever and unyielding critic. And we can never really forget, can we? There’s always some tattered ticket stub or yellowed playbill hidden somewhere.

My psyche and id have no secrets. They tell each other everything. Eventually.

Admittedly, it is an on-going and learned collaboration that often abandons my Ego in my chilled and quite shaken neurological wastelands.

There, “chers lecteurs et pardoner”, one can always find the sting of Morpheus.

I best now ponder those previously mentioned sleeping aids and cling to my free pass.

(Image: “Trabajadores del Fuego, or Fire Workers” by Manuel Alvarez Bravo, 1935.)

Blame It On the Business Card, or the Bossa Nova

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I guess it is indeed all in both the marketing and the lure of the label.

This morning I saw a television advertisement for some new “foot” clinic, which by itself,of course, sounded bland and unglamorous. In an effort to spark a bit of interest and appeal, they continued but with their new tag line: “offering the latest in extremity maintenance”.

Moments later, there was yet another commercial, this time for some internet university offering, among other degrees, training in “aesthetic technology”. Initially, I assumed they were referring to cloning, but surmised that they meant hairstylist or manicurist. After all, it was indeed a spot during network “talk” TV.

But then as I went outside with my iced coffee to contemplate the state of the Universe yet again, my thoughts turned to my own humble situation. Perhaps, I should revise my business cards to read: “Spatial Engineer, Disengaged But Willing”.

Who knows? It’s still Tuesday. It’s still Raleigh. And I still roam the hinterlands for answers to my queries.

By the way, what the Hell exactly IS a “transvaginal mesh”, is it contagious, and should I seek an inoculation? If Miss Gorme were still among us, I am certain she’d not only share what these maladies are, but how they relate to the Misses Dahl, Carlisle, and Cass. These days, however, they more quickly respond to Mesdames Lamas and Hart, and Miss Gooch. Our dear Peggy must rue the day that her name was thus “Mamed”, although that Dennis memoir only brightened the Moon that is Gooch!

And what about those Dupuy, Stryker, and Zimmer metal hip replacement component recalls? That’s as questionable as the artificial heart pump that I needed to return to the UNC Cardiology Department this past June. I never really thought about the retail of body parts, synthetic or otherwise.

It’s a mad, mad world, we live in Master Jack.

(Image: from “Dumpling Dynasty” by Fiona Hewitt.)

A Mother’s Worst Nightmare

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Adults can certainly appreciate those teenage twists that accentuate puberty … even when two such “seniors” are an overly-driven mother and an uncle who is always at stand-by to offer a morsel from advice’s coffer.

Such was the case when one of my nieces returned from her first session of sleep-away camp some seven or eight years ago. For the sake of family unity and preservation of future holidays, I shall not mention which exact niece. Although I will admit she is married now and living blissfully in Boston.

The thirteen-year old had been gone for three weeks and, upon entering her familiar and familial domain, rushed to her room crying. Not just crying, mind you. She was sobbing uncontrollably. My sister (said girl’s mother) ran after her, intent on determining the issue, assessing the situation, and restoring order.

“Oh mother! It’s simply awful! I feel so guilty, but I have to … “ She stopped short in fear of shocking and offending her mother. “I can’t tell you. You’ll be so disappointed in me.” Even with her mother’s reassuring prod, the girl was unable to confess the reality of her troubles.

Later that morning, my niece emerged from her room, again sobbing but seemingly with more control. “Mother, I just have to tell you. If I don’t, it will haunt me forever.” Her eyes were puffy, her face flushed with anxiety and apprehension. “Oh, I can’t. It’s simply that horrible!” She ran back to her room and locked the door behind her. Her bold tears echoed throughout the house.

This scenario repeated four or five times over the next few hours. Certainly my sister’s fears were building to a crescendo. Had my niece consumed the forbidden alcohol? Had she partaken of a destructive cigarette? Or, worse yet, smoked the fabled marijuana? (Something neither her mother nor uncle would ever have done, despite their having come of age in the increasingly “un-groovy” 1970’s.)

Had she given in to carnal curiosity and teenage lust? Of course, my sister’s greatest fear was that whatever troubled my young niece involved perhaps a combination of all, creating a most regrettable trifecta.

My sister herself lit a calming smoke, poured a glass of wine, and began contemplating her next step. How could she at once reassure the girl, restore order, and re-ravel the teenage bliss of innocence (that surely had fallen awry)?

Just as my sister lifted her wine glass, my niece timidly peaked through the door. “Mother, I have to tell you. I just have to. That’s the only way the pain will go away!” My sister took a full and calculating breath as the girl continued, still trembling but numbed from all the crying.

“Mother, I shaved my legs and I am so sorry!”

Herself reassured, my sister hugged her daughter tight, relieved that the girl was yet a child of pubescent virtue. Saddened that she was absent at such a passage’s rite, she was nonetheless relieved that, once again, her worst parental fears had been averted.

“Honey, I have a terrific moisturizer. Let’s go upstairs.”

An hour or so later, my sister phoned me: “Mark, you won’t believe the afternoon I just had!” I could hear her exhale, could tell she was smoking, and
anticipated a “Life’s Semi-Precious Moments” tale.

Naturally with three teenage daughters, such afternoons of torment and anxiety were soon to become more frequent for her. With the angst-ridden whimpers of a teenage girl, “camp” thus became another four-letter word to be dreaded.

(Image: “Midnight! or The Fashionable Apartment”, Georges Barbier, 1920.)

The Boro’s Duchess

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That enterprising and clever Duchess of Alfie has devised yet another creative and multi-faceted foray. Don’t divulge this sweetest of confidences, but Her Most Serene and Benevolent Ladyship has unveiled floor plans for her Exceedingly Proper Yet Very Ironic Cat Snip and Day Spa.

Yes, it is indeed a mouthful, but so is her noble intent and that innate desire to pamper with pomp.

Where else could a world-weary Siamese have her claws buffed and yet manicured? Or a Maine coon with herbalescent fantasies get a stylish cut, tease, and upsweep? Or an ethereal, yet gentrified calico get a much needed post-natal massage and oil rub?

Milady’s facilities will surely have a tony milk bar as befitting any such Salon de Puss, so I rather expect absinthe, chartreuse, and port-ed alternatives. Mind, you such a woman of peerage is well aware that appreciation of all treats indulgent is at first a feline whimsy, not human as once thought.

Patrons will partake of choice salmon finger sandwiches, sushi, fried chicken, and premium dried foods (for the older, more restricted, and less daring appetites).

I suspect that Blenheim Palace will house such a venture splendidly, as each stone, plank, and ballast will be lovingly transported and re-assembled on sandbox acreage, just beyond Marklewood. Hermione and Claudia negotiated such a monumental deal as they wish to be clients and made clever use of their own inside connections.

Naturally, the now “former” and vast grounds of the Duchess’ Cotswold estate will be vacant and, according to my sly and eavesdropping pusses, is being graciously donated to Facebook for its new Facebook Center for Free Speech, Customer Service, and Propriety.

I suspect it will be the United Kingdom’s largest employer before long, and finally appreciative and respective of the “art” of the mighty nipple!

Some of you, my friends, may notice the unusual spelling of the Duchess’ title. She assuredly and most definitely gave the “ugh” away years ago in a moment’s revelation and enlightenment. Her own pusses know such evangelical awareness as they oft cite Rilke, Camus, and Proust … as best they can with their distinctive, yet conflicting vocabulary and speech patterns. Of course, it is the intent and satisfaction of such betterment that indeed matter, at the tail’s end.

And what of that naughty and outspoken Duchess of Malfi? She is a fictional character, I assure you, intent on purveying honorable intentions on the high seas. Further, she has never been an alter ego of our faithful sandbox cohort … although he might secretly be fond of such adornment and “status”.

Ahhh, Milady sighs. “Perhaps, I do like it more now that we’re a cheese and not just a shire!”

(Image: “Coming Undone” by Ray Caesar, 2007.)

Can’t Trust That Day (Nor those Pensées Sauvages)

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Yes it was after Dean’s warbled moment, “You’re always saying pansy things”, that Henry and I gave up and, thus, released any previous enjoyment of TNT’s “Supernatural”!

But we still have appreciate the fragile, seemingly youthful, and weather-sturdy flower. Besides: it reminds me of 60s childhood.

Monday mornings can often be dangerous (and usually indulgent).
Yet they still warrant a hopeful hum. “How could you leave and not take me?” Come on, Henry. Silly Mark! Silly Mark!

(Image: Illustration from Franz Pocci’s wonderful “Viola Tri-Color”, 1876.)

Greetings From My Pinched, Yet Well-Intended Nerve

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On some nights it is difficult and brain-stretching to recollect even having a bottle of aspirin in the medicine cabinet. Now, in their Sunday-dressed irony, there are twin, carefully organized pill stations: one downstairs for morning meds, and one upstairs for evening ones.

And then there’s that blasted 24 hr/day IV, all the beeping and buzzing.

But that’s life! Quite literally.

(Image: “20 Pills” by Damien Hirst, 2005.)

Groove is in the Heart

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¡Oh, qué día!
I had an appointment today with my primary cardiologist who,to my delight, occasionally sports both animal prints and blinged footwear. Her determination was filled with irony and grit: all of my internal organs are apparently healthy.

Yes, I am the embodiment of excellent health except for, of course, my “achy beaky” heart of glass. It’s functioning at some statistic close to ten percent of what it should be. Yet, I still “appear” very healthy, although I only function at a minimum, at least as interpreted by the Merry Muses of Medical Mystery.

And so I wait. For a heart. And for my life to return to at least an iota of normalcy.

I would like to some day go “out” to dinner, a movie, or even to Crabtree Valley Mall. Sadly, Madame Ouspenskaya, née Smoot, has predicted the dreaded mall laps in my future. I suppose I shall meet her there, and just hide my credit cards, if they survive … in the year 2014.

By 2:00PM this afternoon, Jon and I were both unraveling with droopy stamens and wilted blooms. We were both exhausted and spent the 45 minute drive in quietude and frustration. Yes, we were, on this very surprisingly temperate Septembral day, tired — from the drive, the bureaucracy, and the excruciating wait. So far, it had been fifteen months, with four months actually on the transplant list.

Jon and I finally returned to our isolated haven of tranquility and sobriety in the middle of ancient and suspicious Pines. Marklewood was serene. The pusses were sound asleep, even the little ones who appeared positioned perfectly in a military line formation, albeit in the sun. Basking.

By the time I made it upstairs, I collapsed on the sofa, intending to watch the news. That, my dears, was when the day’s pearl of joy presented itself:

One major network was reporting that our lovely and efficient Medicaid is caught up in their processing and were shockingly still in the black! I then turned to another network which had an entirely different perspective.

Granted, the second station endorsed an often controversial look into day’s world, the real world. This affiliate announced that Medicaid was near bankruptcy and, at the same time, three or four months in arrears with processing applications and claim`s.

My Medicard “ambassador”, a virtual Wake County supervises and does so at home, endorses both scenarios. “The Beat Goes On” here at Marklewood.

The remaining hours were spent napping, paying bills, and pursuing independent intermissions, the latter of which followed both the guidelines of impropriety and that of naughtiness.

I, privately, eased on to a delicious needle point rug that center in the kitchen, I only had two thoughts on my mind: a frothy, beautifully tasty New York RobRoy. The other?

“Calgon Take me Away”, God Dammit.

It is near bedtime. The very thought of tomorrow’s tennis match and my Russian Literature left me fidgety and squirmy as I swooned and ultimately gave in, in respect of, with a waiting anticipated and romantic blazing fire. We my do some crazy things bit we’re good folk here.

God bless the meek. It is they who shall inherit software, improve any artistic direction, and survive which,in many cases, seems a few millenniums late.

Vlad promises you more on a more cheerful tomorrow. You deserve it.

(Image: “Squalor Harbor” by Derek Nobbs, 1913.)