Dawn’s Early Light

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Long ago and once in Greensboro, I had a friend who had been trying desperately to quit smoking cigarettes. Dawn had tried everything! She tried yoga, hypnosis, various medications, and “low involvement” support groups.

What she wasn’t able to do, and this had always been her downfall, was muster even an iota of willpower or determination.

And then one evening, after a rather robust and fulfilling carnal romp with her husband, she lit a mighty Salem. She puffed away in a rather seductive manner as befitting the mood, focusing on lip expressions and smoke formations. Mind you, I wasn’t present and she confessed all to me the following day!

What she didn’t notice was that a cinder had strayed, landed on her sheet, and sparked a small fire. Before Dawn was aware of this errant ignition, the smolder had penetrated the sheet, the mattress cover, and finally the mattress itself.

Unfortunately, Miss Dawn and her dutiful hubby slept on a waterbed.

The burn ate through the synthetic casing just enough to weaken its fiber and, naturally, force a leak. A mighty geyser sprung forth … at that very moment. Dawn, in her rather dim yet charming manner, was rather relieved that the water extinguished any potential of further fire.

Of course, that was until she realized that the ashes had probably washed into the hallway. The weight of two bodies was further forcing water out with such pressure that, within moments, almost half of the mattress’ filler had been “evacuated”.

Dawn and her husband were on a king-sized island … about twenty feet from dry land.

That, my friends, was the day that Dawn knew she finally had to kick the nasty habit and quit smoking once and for all.

Mind you, Dawn’s sense of reason was not necessarily well-developed. After much forethought, she devised what seemed like the ideal solution … for her. She would simply smoke a joint whenever she craved a cigarette.

Of course, she wouldn’t sublimate ALL of her nicotine urges in this manner, just the excruciating ones that made her restless and perhaps a little bitchy.

Within a few days, she was smoking nine or ten such hand-rolled delights a day, including one in the morning as she enjoyed coffee and Jane Pauley’s banter. And yet another on the way to work, I am certain!

No one was actually the wiser, except for a few confidants who were privy to her new regimen. Dawn, remember, was already a kooky, rather pixilated woman with a very slow, very Southern drawl. What did change were some of her habits:

She once took rubber bands to her pant cuffs and made harem pants. Sadly, she wore these to her office and was thus admonished.

She lost her car in a shopping center parking lot, took a cab home, and ultimately infuriated her husband. Again, she was thus admonished.

And she started going to lunch at 9:30 each day. She likewise was taking her afternoon break by noon. She not only had gained fifteen pounds within a month, but she had created an endless cycle in which afternoons at work were simply Hell. And it was those times at which she really craved a cigarette.

Poor Dawn! Within a few months, she realized the folly of her strategy to quit smoking. She resumed that awful habit, normal lunch hours, and her previous lifestyle. She was quickly smoking over a pack a day again, having the last one right before going to sleep at night.

But when Dawn and her husband turned off the lights, they would cuddle in their new sleigh bed. Dawn found it finely fitted with a more traditional mattress system, a Serta pillow-top!

Dawn confided in me once that they actually slept more soundly, but that their carnal romps were much less robust than those atop the waterbed.

But she never feared such a flooding again!

And yes, Dawn did finally quit smoking … about a year later when she found that she was pregnant. She never again resumed the habit, at least according to local gossip and reports of the local fire volunteers.

That child is now in graduate school. And dear Dawn is president of a thriving software company.

She is also now fully aware that rubberbands are not appropriate accessories, and that harem pants are best worn behind closed and well-secured doors.

(Image: “Santa Maria” by Ray Caesar, 2007.)

A New Season’s Hark to Last Season’s Heart

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This calm and still Wednesday morning has become quite the glorious herald to the new spring, hidden from view just around the corner. Like my recent nausea, the clouds have reluctantly dissipated, as relief peaks through a nebular porthole as if to softly whisper “I’m here!” The most critical of change is often slow to root and even slower, to soothe.

I know better than to foolishly tempt or tease fate, or (more importantly these days) allow it a loop in which to slip one of its “holy” bad or cruel jokes. To welcome blind change, without direction or guidance, is often destructive, self-defeating, and certainly foolish.

For that reason, today I celebrate patience and compassion, and the intertwine of the two. It saddens me that so many Americans have given up on the “honorable” and decent path. They prefer a quick fix. They want answers. And, most of all, they want to bolster their assets and checking account now.

To many of those, any change is indeed a better alternative. But is it? It frustrates me that, yet again, this nation is on the verge of yet another potentially foolhardy “throw the bums out” tirade, antsily stomping its feet. May I remind you it was one such repercussional tantrum in 1972 that first plucked Jesse Helms from obscurity as he appealed to voters’ sense of xenophobia and bigotry.

Not to fear, my friends, I will stifle my partisan leanings and neatly tuck my soap box away,for now. We all will be bombarded with such messages and images over the coming weeks. But I am scared. There are simply too many loose cannons and over-armed gamesmen out there.

Today, I shall celebrate what is good in the world, as I mourn what we have killed. I will definitely smile with relief as my mind’s eye catches Jon fumbling in the kitchen and reclaiming control over his own health.

But I will cry at the thought of the children that were callously thrown away by society. I will cry for their tormentors who were taught by their parents to hate. I will cry for my peers who say “oh, how awful!” and immediately turn the television to “Dancing With the Stars” to learn of Marla’s fate.

Today, I shall celebrate the still and bright skies, as I mourn those who wade through flooded streets. Or those who wonder why there are no birds circling the feeders, while air raids circle above.

Today, I celebrate Jon and the Twelve Noble and Apostolic Pusses of Marklewood, as I mourn those who are alone or isolated. I shall cry for children whose fear and isolation is so profound that they jump to “safety” from a bridge. I shall cry for those many, many individuals who go for days without human contact, and suffer the worst of society’s disconnects.

Trust me, I am neither a naive, cock-eyed, or a short-sighted “pollyanna”! I am broke and unemployed; follow politics far too closely; and have recently succumbed to these damned maladies of mortality. But I am a happy person.

I am comfortable with myself. I attempt to almost always do the right thing. And I have a partner, family, and friends who are nurturing, compassionate, and like-minded. “Like-minded”, by the way, has little to do with religion or politics, as it is more clearly defined by both reveal of our souls and our over-simplified levels of compassion.

So as I shall soon flip my desk calendar, I take a deep breath. I’ll look ahead in grand manner. October is always a grand month, illustrated by cascading leaves and previews of the season’s “sweater wars”. It is a handy month for both catching up and getting an ample head-start.

First things first. Let’s get through spring and the ever tardy April showers. Autumn’s harvest will gladly make a housecall in its own sweet and due time. By then, surely it will be the appropriate time to trade in “last year’s heart”.

And I love Thursdays! And I love the rain! And I love the Universe’s snappy unfold of the passing seasons!

It’s all good, Lillian.

May all of us have a lot to smile about this evening and tomorrow. Proceed with kindness and grace. And remember: being happy and content never means that you must forget how to cry. It is often tears that cleanse a nation’s spirit.

(Image: “Marinero” by Femke Hiemstra, 2012.)

De-Coding “Code Blue” Blues

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I used to feel persistent pangs of guileless guilt if I allowed myself a smile at the wrong time, wrong moment, or in plain view of the worst of witnesses. True, such dark humor might even evoke a hearty, albeit inappropriate howl. But propriety and sensitivity hold all the trump cards in polite company, whether strangers or intimates.

That credo certainly is true in several hospital situations. Now that I am an insider with 57 days accrued on this tour alone, i can reveal in confidence and without corroboration:

Mere mention of Code Blues is usually discouraged. One doesn’t ask details about this morning’s PA cries of “Code Blue, Outpatient MRI Imaging” or this afternoon’s drama-ridden curiosity, “Code Blue, Dental Clinic”!

I was just dying to ask, but I didn’t. In a dentist’s chair? While getting a semi-annual cleaning? A blog post was circling my iPad, unsure if it was perhaps too soon to land.

Dammit. It’s a tragic waste of good material. Of course, it’s even sicker when one’s writer’s block hovers far from therapeutic on a lonely third floor Cell block.

The Big Warden keeps throwing me bones, apparently those rife with Arthritic Osteoporosis and beyond examination.

Oy.

And then there was Tuesday, March 15 at approximately 2:13pm. I was listening to my Hospital A-Go-Go playlist. Between tracks 3 and 4, doctors and nurses and bears (“Oh, my!”) starting rushing the Bastille that is my room.

Dazed, a young resident (from a different unit) asked one of those verboten questions. “You’re okay, aren’t you?” He turn to tell the others in relief: “He’s not coding!”

At that point, I heard it. “Code Blue, Anderson 37##. All available personnel, Code Blue, Anderson 37##.”

Holy Heparin! That was my room. If I was indeed “coding”, it was news to me.
The same announcement was repeated twice before it was corrected, but not before the news had traveled across my unit and back.

At that point I had been an impatient patient for over six weeks, and 84 shift changes. The nurses on this floor, for the most part, all know me now by name, med-chart trivia, and specific peccadilloes.

“Mr Sieber! That’s Mr Sieber’s room!” They were caught off guard and startled.

I, of course, was dying to ask.

Perhaps, there’s a better, more genteel phrase that I could use.

I didn’t find one. I never asked about details. At least not until the following day.

Yet another code, but of the mannerly ilk, suggests that I first ascertain the other patient’s condition, assuming his/her survival.

Wednesday afternoon, I could no longer suppress a smile.

The little smile became a guffaw, and at no one’s expense … not even Medicare’s.

Thank God.

I was simply too weak to genuflect.

(Image: “Tunnel of Love” by Henry Koerner, 1947.)

A Fine Day for a Good Friday

imageWere tomorrow Friday, my thoughts might be somewhat more relevant and my posting, timely. I apologize for my internal clock which has newly changed batteries and yet seems to be skipping beats to make a point.

The best of Friday felicitations from the sandbox, my friends. For some of you, tomorrow is a reflective holy day, a solemn step toward pending joy.

For others, the day becomes a euphemism as the start of a process, an ultimate new beginning, a resurrection if you will. For most of us, it will be a Good Friday indeed … regardless of its definition or intent.

And for an unlucky few, the day becomes unfortunate and simply a day of thus-pegged and rather pixilated irony.

However you may interpret, plan, or simply allow your day to unfold, may it be what you want it to be. And, more importantly, what ever you NEED it to be.

One lone Friday is but one day. 
I will spend my day in my own manner. I shall pay silent homage to Easters past and those folk who anxiously laid my foundation, and its many subsequent refurbishes.

Henry and I will revel in the brilliant relationships that grace my life today.
 It is those connections that fuel my soul, give me hope, and define my humanity. They also keep me stocked in sweet iced tea, okra pickles, and fresh pineapple.

My soul, my hope, and my humanity (as I humbly understand them) are going to make the most of the day and I shall call it a good Friday.

There is no such measure of time that is “JUST” a day. All days have measure and worth. Believe that!

What ya think, Lillian? Dark chocolate “peanut butter” truffles? Fruit-shaped marzipan? Jelly Bellies?

Doctor’s orders!

(Image: “The Last Supper” by Adam Lister, 2014.)

Personified Personas

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Historically, my alter-egos have always teetered on a mucky brink. That 60’s “Sybil” of 70’s Sally fame had no idea just how simple her life was. True, her ratings were always better.

Add to the mix a few moody ids and restless egos.
Hmmm. That sounds like a psychiatric country tune, eh Lillian?

Not to fear, these potential, but perhaps dismissed profile pictures all result from too vivid episodes of wishful thinking and subconscious projection.

Okay. Okay. I’ll admit it now. While in Sr Edward Patricia’s class at St Thomas More Elementary School in Chapel Hill (1964-65, “She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah”), my self image was derived from Saturday morning images of Mighty Mouse, Johnny Quest, and Natasha Fatale (Boris Badenov’s paramour).

That was countered with an equal part 2nd grade dysfunction in Mrs Greene’s decidedly UN-Catholic class at Glenwood Elementary. When asked to raise our hands if any characteristics or circumstances apply to “us”, I once too often scanned the room to find I was the only 7-year old with a raised hand. (“Who here isn’t Protestant?” “Who has heard Foreign languages at home?” ETC. ETC. ETC.)

Hal and Margy found no resistance when they presented me with the notion of transferring. They surely underestimated my relief.

Neighborhood buddies (Damian, Mark, Carol) helped assuage my blossoming neuroses and need for control.

I also met who would become my first girlfriend while seated in the third row. For two years she encouraged my primary school bravado. We alternated spending weekday afternoons at each other’s house. She complimented my first pair of glasses, round tortoise shell.

And I learned firsthand the joys of distraction that schoolyard drama can have.

I cried when we moved away during the summer before fifth grade. My pen is raised to “J”, whom I never saw again until a chance moment in an elevator in DC fifteen years later. We recognized each other immediately.

(Image: “Caricature No. 61, Albert Clev” by Benjamin Roubaud, Panthéon Charivarique.)

Long Ago and Beyond the Blarney Stone


Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations have never come without mixed feelings or odd associations.

That was true when I was wrestling with my staunch German heritage as I grew up in the Post-Camelot sixties. Holiday celebrations involved very little that was either festive or libationary.

That was true when I questioned my maternal grandmother Dorothy about her supposed Irish ancestry. Even in grade school, I was certain that one doesn’t inherit one’s spouse’s nationality, even with Rights of Survivorship benefits.

She was born in Michigan in 1904 to a couple who was decidedly Anglican. By the fifties, however, she had taken Cavanaugh as both her maiden and married names … at least by my deduction.

That was of course true during my years spent with the anti-Christ who was indeed unabashedly Irish. One year, we spent the evening of the 17th enjoying the West End production of “Chess”. Afterwards, we embarked on a tour of good ole “Ugly American” bar-hopping.

As we later rounded the corner to our hotel, we were drawn into and argued at what turned out to be a drag bar. I should’ve never commented that extra dry Martinis didn’t seem particularly appropriate.

I best forego the seedier details that followed. Leave it with this veiled note: I was awake and stirring by 7am while the A.C. slept into noon and then dressed a little too leisurely and haphazardly.

Lastly, there was the benchmark trip to Ireland that followed five years later. George (Ooops. I broke confidentiality.) and I had bid on a two week all-inclusive holiday at a charity event. We scheduled it for mid-March not knowing that, as of the week before we’d be uncoupling.

He ended up spending the trip with an until-then neutral third party. I immersed myself in the NCAA tourney from home. I was guilt-free when I charged his credit card with a lavish dinner for six to L’Auberge Chez Francois. The night of his return, we each confessed disdain for the other.

I immediately planned my move back to Greensboro via an extended and healing vacation to Fort Lauderdale. (My employer had dissolved my division. At age 37, I was left with a severance package and a meager retirement match.)

And now we come to today. Although awake by six, the realization that it was St Patrick’s Day wasn’t fully realized until after lunch.

Since then, I have pondered: Spatzele, that oh-so green Windy City river, the anti-Christ’s damned Green Book obsession, my grandmother’s unanswered sighs, and all things “Magically Delicious!”

Erin Go Bra-less!

Yes, Sr Edward Patricia, I said it. Just please don’t tell Sr Mary Fitzpatrick.

(These are a few of my miscellaneous “green man” images from my iPod archives.)

Notes From 3702: A Problematic Paradox to Feeling Better

In two days, My current hospital stay will pass the six weeks mark. The day will go unnoticed except for the Cardiology panel’s likely reassessment of my options. There are always at least two schools of thought and a rogue opinion that weigh in.

While I appreciate the time and consideration of so many dedicated professionals, I am nonetheless a tad hesitant and uncomfortable that many pertinent decisions are reached by contentious consensus. Mortality is never an easy issue.

That all dressed up and now said, I am more energetic, stable, alert, and (Hark, I sense that wretched snare-drum roll, Lillian!) nauseous. That suggests an oft overlooked perk to deliria, fever, and being just South of “out of it”. One is too groggy to either care or remember.

Spank me silly, Mr DeeJay. If I take an Adavan, put on my earphones, and listen to Mott the Hoople or Sir Bolan, will I …?

Will I stop analyzing, start distracting those inner voices, and simply embrace a transcendental approach to time management?

Oy ve. There is so much to forget, especially with one less hour in my late night.

“One less egg to fry!” Methinks this new approach is working, MAYBE.

Check back in one more month.

(Images: “Suite Basque” by Ignacio Goitia, 2016.)

The Enclosed Card

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Henry. Henry. Henry.

That silly puss! I awakened from my early afternoon nap and, in a jolt of jubilation, discovered that a virtual bouquet was resting on my hospital table.

Today is a gusty and balmy 78 °F. Yet my skepticism, if not reason, sought proof that Spring was indeed in the Green Room waiting for its fifteen minutes.
Our host suggested otherwise but it was alas time for good tidings of gardens.

Tightly bound buds. Easing effulgent blooms. Proud firm stems. Oh. Those floral town criers!

Henry sent me flowers. I can now see for myself.

You, gentle reader and Ye of Green Thumbs, may scoff at a puss’s folly of such a curated image.

But Henry curls up in a cock of feline righteousness. Whiskers permitting, he’d surely feign a grin.

Correspondence and greetings of all types are now all but fully replaced by the phenomenon that offers E-cards.

I’d share other tidbits of this new web-world, but I am late and need to redirect.

Forgive me. It’s time for Henry and me to Skype. He’ll soon settle in for another viewing of Sunday’s Downton Abbey.

Courtesies of the Ladies Crawley, Doodle is now painfully aware of etiquette.

(Images: “Lilies” by Irma Stern, 1944.)

Up, Up, and Away: The Menu’s Small Print

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It’s 6:45 am. I’m running on empty, yet raring to go.

The nurses are no longer urging me to at least try to get some sleep. Perhaps later.

Right now I might just indulge myself and order a mid-century, farmer’s breakfast: two fried eggs, sausage, grits, rye toast with cream cheese, and an iced coffee. Yes, the hospital permits such decadent items, on the rare “pre-transplant” occasion.

Then, for the rest of the day, I’ll just feel as though I’m living within the context of a Fifth Dimension songbook.

Of course, I may struggle to stay awake for tonight’s Downton Abbey finale.

Hospital Hopping and Pondering Lent’s Bent

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Thank you, everyone, for your kind prayers, generosity of spirit, encouragement, and altogether inclusive and heart-felt nurturing. They have all helped bolster my faith for those intense and scary days ahead.

Your wonderful cards, messages, and Facebook greetings have provided such a positive distraction at a time when I face certain fears and thoughts of mortality. I am humbled. I cherish greatly those moments in which I can “ditch that nagging little voice within” and simply frolic and make merry.

Oh yes. Let’s not forget the upbeat and zany responses on that other social network by Claire, Deb, Andrew, Elena, Suzanne, Twilla, Mitch, and Heidi. Forgive me for singling just a few folks. I just wanted you to know that I do indeed read all of the comments, emails, and private messages. It just tires me to write.

And then there’s that erstwhile Siri. My voice recognition cannot understand my squeaks and empty syllables. I constantly remind Siri to at least enroll in night classes at Miller-Motte or ECPI.

Shalom, friends, on this wintry and Carolina Blue Monday from 3702. Give my best to Lillian should she be at Bea’s Booking Bee.

(Image: “Tale à la Hoffmann” by Paul Klee, 1921.)

The Night Before the Morning After

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A half century of habit is never easily booted. Friday nights still prompt me to emote with both internal squeals and sighs. And on Sunday nights, I still get that awful tightness in my stomach.

You probably know what I mean. You almost certainly experienced the same undeniable feelings. Sunday night always preceded Monday’s return to school. And I was always the odd sort who even loved school.

Saturdays just ended far too quickly.

Of course, I am on the short side of 60 and have been out of high school since Mr Ford was President. And I finished college before Mr Reagan ever moved East.

Like most adults, that anxiety continued into my working years, even when I worked on weekends.

It magnified once my schedule allowed me to maintain a more conventional schedule. Moments later, or so it seemed, I was on permanent disability. I no longer need experience any Sunday sinking feelings.

It has been five years and I still get that feeling. I still remind myself of my silliness and smile politely to my Id. The games we sometimes play are governed by odd rules, at least in the humble opinion of this odd sort.

Yes, tonight was no exception. I did, however, go into Downton Abbey knowing that I could dance until dawn. That is, that might be true if I were neither without inclination nor energy.

Ah, I allowed this post to spill into February, thus tainting the celebration of Black History Month and the birthdays of Mr Lincoln and Mr Washington.

I best dock my pay right now, Lillian.

(This 1962 painting, “Lincoln for the Defense” by Norman Rockwell, made me smile earlier. Initially, the oh-so-subtle colors aroused me in less than subtle ways. However, on second thought, it might’ve been the suspenders.)

Wee Hour Ramblings

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It’s just shy of 4am and here I ponder. I obsess. And I explore the metaphysical haze that rises from the February dew and the balmy breezes that stage my fictional village settings.

My beloved and I usually watch television at night. Downton Abbey, Call the Mid-wife, Doc Martin, Sherlock Holmes, Elementary, Mr Robot and an increasing roster of guilty pleasures. I enjoy crime shows (Criminal Minds, Law & Order: SVU). Jon enjoys science fiction dramas (The 100, Expanse, Extant) that follow absurd storylines and Telenovela-like spaceship shows.

Oy. We both mumble a bit and slip into a hoarse Sotte Voce derision of each other’s choices. Why don’t murder victims stay dead? Half the time we are told ludicrous backstories.

It must be hard out there for an assassin. It happens so often that one of us always predicts: Oh, he’ll be back. Years ago, on One Life to Live, there was once a long-lost brother to a Llanview Grande Dame.

Half a year into his storyline, he was killed off. He drove his sport scar into a the side of a big “Big Rig”. His fate? He was decapitated, reminiscent of Jayne Mansfield’s end. A few years later, that very character just rolled into town to liven up those lost scenes.

Yes, I must be strong. I best avoid CNN. Those 10pm shows of yesterday still prompt my viewing:

Monday was Medical Center Night. Tuesday brought Marcus Welby MD. Oh, how I am indeed becoming my parents with their Hal/Margy peccadillos. Sure, I claim all the differences, improvements, and more recent popular trends. But Polly and I are so much like our parents … except for social skills and temperment.

So, in closing, I confess my more casual trespasses. But I’ve already deeply-analyzed my issues. And that’s when I fall into the Persian Blue abyss that holds my dreams.

I may study the sky … imagining a kingdom of clouds. I seed turrets, fountains, and windows. I find myself trying to peek in. And therein my blog post begins to take form.

And as I stand up erratically, I see faces in the turret.

(Image: by Alan McDonald.)

Is Manderley Still a Polling Place?

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I dreamt last night that the November ballot for President had Democrat Martin O’Malley facing Republican John Kasich.

As I rolled over and returned to a deep sleep, my dream at once continued, without so much as a pause or a recount. Rahm Emanuel, Sarah Palin, and all of the obvious suspects had all been slapped with a lifetime ban on holding elected office. Further, they were no longer permitted to appear on any television program.

However, if they were clever enough to design their own jewelry, they could apply for a limited waiver to appear on QVC.

Although my dream offered no specifics as to potential VP candidates and so on, I could hear the Democrats theme song in the background: a tune penned and performed by Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, and Shamir.

In contrast, the Republicans had soundtracked their campaign with an Engelbert Humperdinck duet with Anne Murray. (Hey, I’m only the messenger here.)

Well, it all could happen. Couldn’t it, Mr De Winter?

(“Spread your tiny wings and fly away!”)

With the Turn of an ‘E’?

e16bae2c796d3e522c6091412ca44281_fullI obsess about something different almost every afternoon. Today was no different.

Images from TV’s Wheel of Fortune flew past my mind’s eye with puzzles in foreign language. Some were academically terrifying. Others were humorous.

Then there was the endangered Hawaiian, Ōlelo Hawaiʻi, with its repetitive use of both vowels and only eight consonants. I have an admiration for those who are fluent.

And then, for some reason I thought of Wales and Welsh and Torchwood. I remembered those twenty character words with only one or two vowels, and one of them a ‘Y’! Egads and Golly Gadzooks! I just can’t imagine … but I did.

God bless contestants on my imaginary Welsh Wheel of Fortune. And God bless my “make believe” Vanna.

(Image: “Alphabet, I” by Jean-Pierre Alaux.)