Thursday, December 27

By Degrees

Last Sunday at church I over heard a beautiful young married telling another of equally enchanting status that returning to school and getting her degree would take so long she would be like, gosh - "in my 40's or something really old like that!" The added emphasis shot from her lips like semi-automatic bullets. I almost tripped into their laps. I think I sputtered "thank you" while both girls fretted about my reaction. "Oh, sorry! We know 40 isn't that old or anything..." yeah, just old enough.

Old enough to be what?
Dead? Stiff and calcified? Totally useless? Beating a hasty retreat, I was wondering what in the world she thought was going to take 18 years to earn a degree in ~

I admit I'm feeling slower in the morning because things ache, and I am super annoyed I can't see anything without stinkin' reading glasses, but I hardly feel like I am so old. I can remember being young and amazing like it was yesterday -

Case in point: leaving the Cameo Wedding Reception Hall on East McDowell 7 Nov. 1975: I'll have you know the geometric patterned polyester slacks and white patent leather shoes of this dashing groom were the height of male fashion. The corduroy jumper and RED wedge shoes of the bride were considered very flashy. You can't see it, but the pukka shell necklace was also "in". The vinyl purse was a cheap imitation for leather, but you couldn't tell right away. Too bad her hair is so curly, or you would agree it was the required waist-length to be truly sensational. Mostly I see in this yellowing Duke photograph a brilliant, double confidence that the world was about to be conquered.

I make no apologies to beautiful young things who see their life expanding in front of them forever and ever and ever. I did that, too. Now it doesn't seem like forever, but it feels a lot more "bite-size". I hope I have more control over my perceptions about what is obtainable, what is worthwhile, and most of all - what is required to get there. I got all A's the last 3 semesters at Phoenix College being the only granny in class for all but one. I loved every minute of it because it was so thrilling to learn.

I didn't conquer the world after all, but I'm not 40, either. I'm better than that. I hope I finally lose weight and buy some cute clothes this New Year. I hope I take my grandson Jack on many more stroller walks this year, that I will hear him call me "grandma", and that I will see all my children happy and approaching life's challenges with creative strategies. I hope I can plant things that don't die, learn how to make tamales and publish one or more of my projects that have sat burning a hole in the file cabinet for way too long. I hope I will always feel the rush of obliging control that ebbs from the tip of a brand new watercolor brush, the heart-racing from music or the magic of "beautiful language", and always feel gratitude for odd, funny little things that happen on a daily basis no matter what.

It is a very good plan to learn by experience as much as possible, and by observation when that option is preferable. Happy New Year to biting quickly into life a little at a time and taking longer tasting it.

Sunday, December 23

Scented Candles Can Save the World

Have you ever caught yourself smiling stupidly at a t.v. commercial for no reason? I just did and I had to leave the room immediately. I creeped myself out.

It was that Glade scented oil candle commercial with the sappy rendition of “Joy to the World” that would make Three Dog Night give up Rock for religion. Young, beautiful housewives lucky enough to light their very own Glade scented candle must then cavort and pirouette for “joy” amid floating fruits and flowers with all the inspiration of a bad high school girl’s beginning gym dance class. All that dancing explains the coincidentally convenient flowing skirts and dance shoes the candle celebrants are wearing for a very busy day at home ~ lighting candles and dancing.

Who does that?! In a day and age when more kids are raised by daycare, fast food is a mealtime staple, the family calendar is an impossible attempt to coordinate schedules and people can’t go anywhere without a Bluetooth stuck to their head; how do we get the insult and idiocy of a marketing campaign which reduces a modern woman’s day into the struggle to find the right scent? And then dance about it?

And another thing; why this song? Was everyone at the table for that particular Glade strategy meeting under 40? Gotta love Three Dog Night, but we thought it was stupid when it came out. It didn’t matter that it was number 1, it was dumb and meaningless and seemed highly appropriate for guys who probably wrote it on a tour bus powered by Mary Jane fumes. Really, who has a talking, wine-drinking frog for a friend? And that last verse – well, I don’t know for sure, but it doesn’t sound like anything to do with candles to me.

I should start my own marketing company. But first, I've got a lot of candle-lighting to do. After I find my dance shoes.

Joy To The World (As originally performed by Three Dog Night, a # 1 smash hit for 6 weeks in 1971)

Jeremiah was a bullfrog,

Was a good friend of mine,
I never understood a single word he said,
But I helped him a drink his wine.
And he always had some mighty fine wine.

Singin' joy to the world,
All the boys and girls now,
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea,
Joy to you and me.

If I were the king of the world,
I tell you what I'd do,
I'd throw away the cars and the bars and the wars,
And make sweet love to you.



You know I love the ladies,
Love to have my fun.
I'm a high night flyer in a rainbow rider.
A straight shootin' son of a gun.
I said a straight shootin' son of a gun

Monday, December 17

Christmas Break is off to a Thrilling Start

The heater is out, cold is in!
The Tanner girls take it on the chin.
They have new down comforters
to cocoon in at night -
But during the day, what a scary sight!

Never mind breakfast of coke and chips -
never mind the pall of bluing lips -
It's cold in our house, Mrs. Li please respond!
There's no telling how long this can go on
before my precious one (languishing so)
is frozen solid in her hoodie repose.

Saturday, December 8

Thinking of Africa

I never gave much thought to Africa until Bi ("bee" aka Robin) read "Cry, the Beloved Country" in high school. I devoured this beloved book. Next she handed me "Things Fall Apart". The first novel deftly unmasked post-colonial Apartheid in the 1940's, the second was brutally honest about ageless tribal conflicts that tore apart Africa's native sons and daughters setting the stage for sweeping European colonialism. We were prepared for Bi's announcement years later that she was undergoing an alarming array of gruesome immunizations and finally going to Africa.

Fulfilling a dream was bitter-sweet: the state language of Mozambique is Portuguese. Robin's mission to Brazil had prepared her to communicate on one level ~ she didn't anticipate how hearts would speak on another. When she came home after repairing water pumps, building shelters and serving in 3 or 4 different AIDS orphanages - if she could have she would have brought home Vincente (having inquired about the adoption process) - a little 2 year old who totally captured her heart and soul. I think she mourned him for a long time.

The corruption and degradation witnessed was mind-boggling. The population is so decimated by AIDS that many villages only have scant numbers of adults (or nearly adults) and all of them have hordes of orphaned, hungry children. A cultural adaptation to this phenomenon is illustrated by the children calling any female who is willing to help take care of them "tia", or "Auntie". Some of these care-giver angels are only teenagers themselves. Another evil reality looms darkly; eventually these same young women must venture out of the dubious safety of their village to supplement meager home gardens and milking goats by walking to the nearest town market. Scavenging for firewood closer to home can be equally hazardous; always the threat of violent rape upon any unaccompanied female is a cruel companion to the tragedy that is abject poverty and plague in a land that is literally the richest on earth. The generous cycle of fatherless AIDS babies is assured a place at the table of want.

Today on CNN I saw part of a documentary entitled, "Living With Corruption" about similar issues which oppress Kenya. The main corruption focused on by the report was bribery. For a little money, virtually anyone could present a false petition as a non-profit charity and receive their documents outside of the officially recognized 3 month process in only 3 days - no questions asked. They are then eligible for internationally sponsored relief monies ~ tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars ~ of which there is no accounting for.

Africa, however, is not the only continent beset by the stranglehold of corruption. As missionaries in foreign countries, three of our children have been tutored first hand in that nasty business. Bi was disgusted by arrogant, self-important public and ecclesiastical officials in both Mexico and Brazil who turned a blind eye to crime and injustice for a few pesos. James watched as people had to pay everyone from the Greek Orthodox priest to the man in a bread line that ran out of bread in Ukraine. Leiland saw the Mexican government brutishly betray her own citizens ravaged by a major, killing flood simply by officially declaring the disaster in ridiculously diminished terms to save herself the inconvenience of relief funds and re-building culpability.

When corruption pervades every single aspect of the social structure, there is no way to excise it for the cancer that it is. It is like an ill patient advancing to the fatal stage as multiple vital organs begin shutting-down. Where's the Doctor?

Now more than ever in the history of the world, good people everywhere feel compassion and charity and frequently respond to need around the globe. Some relief organizations are more successful than others in achieving a high level of efficiency; they have avoided CEO’s remodeling private mansions and can actually distribute the goods they deliver. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints works quickly and quietly within select international relief agencies – including a Muslim agency, to get food, blankets, medicine and equipment where it needs to go in a hostile environment.

There are also many brilliant acts of goodness and enormous bravery sparkling within the darkness of these sinking societies. Men and women who, like the widow of Zarephath, give and give again on faith to others when there is so desperately little to give – or who speak up for justice when doing so is a death-wish. There are impoverished men who never give up trying to provide for their wife and children, and who do not abandon them but find motivation each day to do the honorable thing – and mothers, who once abandoned or widowed, give their all to protecting and caring for their children in the midst of inhuman conditions. I think the prayers of these oppressed in whatever language and addressed to whatever deity in name pierce the Great Heart of Heaven.

It doesn’t sound intellectual, and sociologists would roll their eyes along with human rights advocates and political junkies...but isn’t God the great triage answer? And beyond stopping the bleeding – He alone can HEAL.

I don’t know how the suffering in the jewel that is Africa can finally stop; except as the hearts of men experience a real change. If they knew they were part of a divine heritage, if they understood their countrymen were also their brothers, if they weren’t “past feeling” so that chopping off hands and arms and rape and robbery and murder didn’t please them, if destroying others was abhorrent instead – there would be no support for the corruption cycle that currently enslaves. It would simply ‘fall apart’.

That day of justice for all the world will come. I know it will. As much as we feel helpless to really make a difference in the world condition and as much as we hope for success and happiness in our own families, we DO make a difference! There are little miracles all around us every day that point toward the culminating powers of good and evil facing off at long last – and there’s a clear winner in that story.

The Jehovah Witness lady that visits regularly is getting frustrated with me. She seems confused when I express hope. The Bible verse selected more often is to show me that God will have His vengeance on the wicked. She does not share my observations of the rising good in the world, but seems to be in a ‘lock and load’ mode of ‘us’ against ‘them’. In spite of my cheerful alliance with her about the goodness of our Lord, I think I am one of ‘them’. I wonder if she has ever thought about Africa.

Friday, December 7

Animated Association

How come ~

it always made Papa mad,

“Naah, I am not!” he said,

whenever we watched The Flintstones,

and told him he was just like Fred ~ ?

* “The Flintstones”, a prehistoric caveman spoof based on the successful 50’s show “The Honeymooners”, was one of the first prime time animated shows on television, premiering September 30, 1960 on ABC every Friday night at 8:30pm. Fred was the gruff and blustery working class every man whose booming voice and perpetual 5 o’clock shadow so perfectly personified our equally disposed dad no matter the volume of his protests. This truly was a family gathering time around the television for the fun of lovable, flustered Fred and his wife Wilma, their baby girl Pebble, the family pet Dino and their next door neighbors, the Rubbles. I didn’t realize until years later how ALL the personal and place names were variations on geological and Jurassic terminology.

As for our own family environs - it seemed nothing if not uncanny how much we had in common with the Hana Barbera characters. Our family room was called the 'den'; it was a brand new addition to the home completed in 1961. The walls were a deeply stained pine paneling up to a semi-vaulted ceiling and a massive exposed support beam that gave you the feeling of being in a cabin. The fire place was all natural stone, and the hearth (extending the full length of the room for extra seating) was comprised of small, smooth river rocks. The carpet mimicked traditional braided rug variety, except it was wall t0 wall. Pine bookcases, a desk and a matching gun case lined the opposite wall. Later, a beautiful Pronghorn Antelope bust and an 11 point Elk rack would grace the walls and freak out my sleep-over friends. In this room, it really felt like our big, loud dad had indeed crafted a comfortable lair for himself - into which we were invited. He was about as hairy as I imagined a caveman to be, and certainly strong enough to work at a rock quarry like Fred did. Our mom was a mild-tempered housewife who always wore a dress like Wilma. Not like Wilma; that was short and sexy and held up by only one shoulder strap. Kids notice things like this.

At the close of each episode, it was always the same. A crescent moon is in the sky. Fred opens the door and boots Dino out for the night. The mini-tornado resulting from the reptile’s happy rush to get back inside spins Fred around and slams the front door shut. Dazed and stranded, Fred blinks at the camera - and then pounds on the door with both meaty fists bellowing, “Wil-ma! Wil-ma!” I always, always wished I could run to the door and let him in.

The final episode aired on April 1, 1966.

Wednesday, December 5


There’s nothing quite like

the adrenaline rush

of going all-out, bare-foot

behind the ice cream truck.

* Sadly, the beloved ice cream truck seems to be strictly relegated now days only to depressed neighborhoods. That’s too bad. How do they rate, anyway? The only thing going up and down my street is the FedEx truck and the pampered house dog for his twice daily walk. What do those neighborhoods have that we don’t?

Dry, barren yards, driveways hosting old cars up on blocks and enough old furniture piled up in the sagging, paint-peeling carport to furnish an entire room, trash piled up against drooping chain link - and lots of little children. Happy little children who gleefully rush the LarĂ¡ Brother’s helados van with the same passion we did so long ago on Jellico Ave.

The music blaring from the van is no longer the universal “Little Red Wing” in bell tones from a loftily perched megaphone speaker, but is – well, anything! I’ve heard country, rap, pop, heavy metal rock, musak, campesino and sometimes even just the AM radio on really loud. Inventory has definitely changed. They sell baseball cards, candy, carnival toys, stick-on tattoos and bubble gum just for starters.

The prices are a lot different, too. A nickel used to get me a delicious banana double stick Popsicle or a delectably creamy 50/50 bar. A king’s ransom of a dime was needed for the prized favorite: the multi-flavored Bullet Popsicle. When my oldest daughter was little in the early ’80’s, Bullets were a quarter. Now, almost everything is a dollar.

That’s just wrong.

Monday, December 3



from your knees

upside-down in a walnut tree

sucking on a sour grass

viewing the world through an hourglass

that never

runs out of sand.

* There ought to be a law that grants every kid a really big yard to grow up in.

The 1 acre lot my mother grew up on and all 4 of us kids a generation later was its own eco-system. For a 7th grade graphing project we were asked to plot our homes on a map. The teacher had no idea that I was the one kid in class who had just been assigned War and Peace compared to everyone else who was tucked into a tiny little cracker box plot boardered by smooth, city sidewalks. On this one block stretch of old Jellico Avenue, we didn't need no stinkin' sidewalks! The old cobblestone-like street was laid some years after the founding of the neighborhood in 1929. It humped up along the middle of the street, encouraging water to run off to the scooped edges that met our property lines of deep, baseball-sucking ivy beds.

With a pad of paper and a pencil, I began pacing off our yard. I counted over 30 trees alone - plus many more shrubs, bushes and flower beds. I got extra credit for indicating on my map legend where the red ant beds and horney toad lairs were located, where the horse had rolled for her dirt bath, where the chicken coop sat protected by a gentle overhang from an enormous pomegranate tree, and where my grandfather’s iris and primrose bed was still blooming 18 years after his death, and the sacred ground where all of our many pets were buried under the apple tree. It was daunting, but I loved every minute of it. I knew my yard, and my yard knew me.

English walnut trees are about the most ideal climbing tree you could possibly wish for. The trunk is smooth with natural climbing knots jutting out most conveniently, and the first branches begin low enough for a simple hand-hold and one leg up. The vertical scale is easy and sustains a 75 – 90lb. kid well up into the uppermost branches – the height required to see over our house all the way to Butch’s house across the street. Getting high enough to identify property the farthest distance away was good; seeing a neighbor doing something in their yard who didn’t see you was even better.

There was an absurd sense of power and enlightenment about gaining a bird’s eye view of your neighborhood, and especially your own roof. It was always a thrill to spot the long-lost shoe or Frisbee that landed there last summer and was promptly forgotten.

Mostly it is the freedom of space and time that children appreciate (given the right amount of botanical matter and wildlife) - that combine to present the perfect environment for really deep thoughts.

Public Pool

Surf’s up, sprinklers rule ~

‘cause hardly anyone we know

owns a pool.

Hey . . .

We oughta go to Reseda Park!

Fly over the footbridge

pay our ten cents

stuff our zorries into green net bags

and our hair into bathing caps

then swim like maniacs

in a glorious, blue expanse.

* Summer in San Fernando Valley found most families still positioning ice trays in front of a fan placed in a deep window sill to keep cool at night. I knew less than one hand full of people who had central air - and you could only sit panting in front of the living room window air-conditioner for so long before your nose began to run. We had to utilize other ways to cool off.

A sprinkler on the front lawn was fine most of the time, and when 'Water Wiggle' came out after the 'Slip 'n Slide' (Wham-O Toys 1961-2), that was even better! Until mom complained about the mud bog we left in the yard. Banished from native turf, we would collect our gear and a dime each (the cost of admission) and head out for some real summer fun: the public pool.

We launched from Jellico Ave. on our bikes – picking up friends along the way; sort of a 2-wheeler convoy – full speed over to Reseda Park. An arching foot bridge was the last leg of the journey and we virtually sailed over with a holler of joy! The dumb boys were always ready so fast for that first victory leap into the water; they didn’t have to endure the getting ready ritual girls faced. Absolutely no female was allowed to swim without first volunteering to tear her own hair out by the roots in a bloody struggle to get the dreaded bathing cap on. We were told it was to protect the filter from our nasty long hair, but I'm so sure! Why didn't we form a swimmer's advocacy group or something? But - we were an orderly society; the rule was obeyed without so much as a hairy hint of revolt.

I think calling rubber flip-flop sandals ‘zorries’ must have been a uniquely Southern California thing. Considering a back yard pool a novelty in the Valley was definitely a 60’s thing. Thank goodness rubbery, pinching, mandatory swim caps is one painful, sexist tradition that has gone the way of anything costing only ten cents for the privilege.

~ excerpt from 'Station Wagon Wars', growing up in the 60's by CTanner

Saturday, December 1

3 Days of the Crow

What is the method? What is the cure?

We feel so sorry for his dismay ~

But it’s not our fault a stupid bird

Got stuck in the chimney today.

“Papa, oh can’t you get him out?” we cried.

He prodded, he poked, he climbed on the roof.

Nothing worked, no matter what he tried.

Our troubled friend beseeched from the flue.

As each day passed, his crow voice diminished

Cawing desperately, plaintively,

Then barely squawking ‘til it was finished.

By the fourth day something emitted faintly –

Then much stronger as the sun blazed away,

A new thing replacing that bird retired;

A stench, a gag – rot and decay!

We bowed our heads~while dad stoked the fire.

* The common American Crow is truly a regal looking jet-black bird, and with his larger close cousin the Raven is the most intelligent of all the bird species. Long considered an agricultural pest, there are more ways to bait, trap and kill this very successful creature than seem decent to innumerate.

The urban crows we grew up with were highly social with each other, as they are want to do – and it seemed, with us. I even had a pet crow I named “Orrin” for my dad’s middle name; a fact I thought was especially honorable but my father did not. He had a voracious appetite for anything we were eating, any time. Orrin lived indoors with me until he began to attempt flying. When I took him outside for practice runs, both of his parents swooped down very close to loudly encourage his efforts. I swear I saw love returned in his beady, clever little eye.

I have lived all of my adult life so far in a part of the Sonoran Desert that does not host crows or ravens of any variety. I miss their raucous laughter in the trees, and their wily, obnoxious and ever so endearing ways.


Oh, how I loved her,

I absolutely had to have her ~

the new Thumbelina doll on T.V.

that moved like a real baby

when you turned a dial on her back!

Imagine my chagrin, when

after Santa actually brought her, that

she was too ugly for words ~

and I would much rather climb trees,

catch horney toads

or suck sour-grass sap,

than have charming Thumbelina

writhe luridly in my lap.

* American marketing campaigns in the weeks and months before Christmas were like a direct television brain-wash. Those magnanimous giants Mattel and Ideal were committed to prevent the tragedy of a child waking up Christmas morning deprived of that one, crucial product that could have changed their entire life course!

My craving for this doll was all consuming. The only thing I ever wanted more than a Thumbelina doll was a horse. Who could have guessed that in the “getting”, her pink plastic and rubber features would be as profoundly repulsive as my former desire was acute?

Ideal Toys debuted the sleeping Thumbelina doll in 1964. I saw recently in a magazine that the Sears catalog offered her for $5.99 that debut year. In 2007 she is now a valued “vintage” toy going for as much as $519.99 on eBay. I guess I shouldn’t have dumped her ~ and guess what? She's still ugly.

~ excerpts from 'Station Wagon Wars', growing up in the 60's by CTanner

Wednesday, November 28

Station Wagon Wars

There it was, look at it! Larger than life - almost braggin’!

Oh, yeah, I sure need someone to explain something here ~

right smack on the back of her mom’s station wagon,

a “JOHNSON for PRESIDENT” bumper sticker!

“What’s wrong with you, gee - has your dad gone nuts?!”

Boiling hot and indignant with GOLDWATER fever,

a second-grade friendship teetered painfully balanced

on a sidewalk of the civil arena.

Wounded, my best friend’s tears spoke a transcendent truth;

in just so many words, (of which I quickly took note),

grown-ups have a right to their political views ~

and little kids ~ don’t vote.

* My girlfriend Aviva received the brunt of my critical out-burst while her mom waited for her in the offensively decorated family coach..I am really glad I felt the sting of self-reproach the instant I saw my friend’s eyes well up with hot, hurt tears. I never brought it up again. I already knew the Lees were good people. I had been at their house so many times I could have been Cindy Lee. Her mom's 'West Side Story' record album was like the holy grail to me; I was drawn to the cover to admire Natalie Wood perched on the fire escape. If we asked her to, Aviva's mom would play that for us and I thought she was the most cultured woman on the planet. Our brief confrontation was definitely an early lesson in allowing others their own self-expression.

This was the infamous Johnson / Goldwater presidential race of 1964. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas ran on the Democratic ticket, and Senator Barry M. Goldwater from Arizona was the Republican candidate.

No little kid could have been more supportive than I was, reverently watching my dad carefully peel the wax paper backing from his blue and gold “Goldwater for President” bumper sticker. As a dedicated contributor to the Goldwater campaign, Papa actually played a role as a Southern California campaign strategist that I would not be aware of until many years later. At the time, though, it seemed all that mattered in the world was that Papa said Mr. Goldwater was the best man for the job. It didn’t hurt that the bumper sticker was so beautiful, either. I thought it was a lovely compliment to the rear chrome bumper of his brand new Benton blue tailfin Cadillac.

~ this is the title poem from the 'Station Wagon Wars' collection

Friday, November 23

November 23, 1963

We were at the end of the drive
(at the Jellico house)

feeling strangely cold inside,

even though the sun was out.

Mindful of what had happened yesterday
in children’s language, this ~
wondering how the whole world had changed ...
and I was only six.

* Some events in life are so significant, you remember where you were with a bright intensity; who you were with, what day of the week it was, what it smelled like, every detail frozen in time forever. This was just such an event. “Where were you when you heard - ?” is all it takes, and the memory is an instant recall, full-color experience all over again.

On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States, was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

Even though I was so young(and in spite of the fact that my home was filled with Republican rhetoric), to know that someone - anyone, would want to hurt our President was terribly scary.

*from Station Wagon Wars by CTanner, excerpt

Thursday, November 15

James Bond

Oh! Can you dig it?
We just went to see “Goldfinger”
the new 007 movie,

Danny and I got extra-butter popcorn.
Eyes adjusted to the dark
swinging our legs in our seats,
when suddenly,
barely after the start ~

there’s this naked lady on the screen!
I mean, she was turned to solid gold
like Midas, everywhere -!
(Groovy scene!)
It made us STARE,

until Papa told us loudly, “OK, let’s go!”
and we all got up
and filed out, slow -
missing the movie of the century!

getting over it

* What was papa thinking ~ taking all of us little kids to see this movie? Naturally, we had to lie like dogs to our friends the next day at school about how “boss” the movie was so they wouldn’t know that we really didn’t get to see the whole show. It was humiliating. Our salvation clearly was the fact that we had gotten an eye-full of the naked gold lady prior to our being excused to higher moral ground.

A glorious accompaniment of the Cold War, secret agent themes provided a new definition of ‘action’ film. Notably different from traditional John Wayne war movies was the fact that secret agents had to lead a double-life; they were naturally more comfortable in glamorous society with beautiful girls draped over each arm. No jungle booby-trap or slimey fox-hole could begin to compete with those fabulous spy accessories - ! It was a celebration of gadgetry straight out of the comic books.

Goldfinger was the third James Bond film, starring Sean Connery. The movie opened in the U.S. Dec. 22, 1964. Spy-mania was “ in “! Every cool kid had to have a collection of swell secret agent specialties, just like Secret Agent 007.

*from "Station Wagon Wars" ~ growing up in the 60's by CTanner, excerpt

Wednesday, November 14

Culture Clash

Race relations are hardly an American issue, nor is it "news" as in something new and unexplored. However, for me, it has been a topic of serious reflection this week.

A total stranger blogged about our little family internet shop with a link to the same, mocking my 'racial ignorance' based entirely on a handmade whimsical design for a $15 craft can. The title of the blog: "i AM black".

My initial response was pretty much what a heart-attack must feel like. Not only was the accusation a dizzyingly cheap-shot, but it was also a total surprise! Up until the day I was invited by the author to view the blog, I had received nothing but generous e-mails exclaiming "I love it!" as more racial stereotypes were added to the design by request. We have since kissed and made up and the modified design featuring "afro puffs" and dreads is on its way to Atlanta via the U.S. postal system.

What's going on? I am not addressing the hip-hop culture of thug-celebrity, or ghetto stagnation where women and children are abandoned by Black men in a cycle of poverty from which there is rarely an escape. What about educated Blacks; buying condos, working in corporate America and shopping at Ikea ~ main-streaming with the rest of us who are enjoying self-expression on our P.C.'s in our spare time? Are they really still so angry? A revealing study on NPR yesterday basically agrees that "they" are: ...with a major difference~the relative satisfaction with life of Blacks polled is directly related to class distinction, not race.

Is it a regional thing? I'm sure that makes a significant difference. My new friend in Atlanta still encounters the Confederate flag on a regular basis. Plantation mansions are listed on the historic registry and many families are direct descendants of the civil war era who have remained in home territory for generations. But the accusing blogger was not an Atlanta native. The assumption I was racially ignorant or worse was based primarily on the fact I had not offered a totally Black representation in the design in the first place, since I knew my client was Black. But who would do that?! Is it only White-American culture that prohibits me from presuming ethnic stereotypes are appropriate for an ethnic client?

Two other scenarios weigh-in: a) the client is racist b) my ethnic artwork is lacking authenticity. Both have potential merit. As for drawing racial features, I have a letter from a children's curriculum editor in my portfolio praising my ability to depict a wide variety of races and cultures with sensitivity and realism. The generous apology I eventually received spoke for itself; the client admitted being racially motivated without substance to do so. I had over-reacted as well, and likewise apologized. The Race Card had been extremely hurtful to me - yet obviously something comfortable for the client to pull without warning. One of the weak justifications initially offered was that the blog meant to teach me how to appropriately interact with a Black person.

I still have a greeting card some Navajo friends sent us a few years ago. Two dumb-founded Indians were asking a wide-eyed pilgrim, "Why you use poison ivy for toilet paper?" Inside the card read, "Happy Thanksgiving".

I thought it was really funny.

Saturday, November 10

Everything is Better Nowdays

I remember my mom taking my little brothers to the barber for a haircut. That's what the intention was ~ it usually involved an exhausting struggle between man and beast that always left me admiring how someone wasn't minus an ear afterwards. I hope my mom tipped the poor barber, because he sure deserved a down-payment on a house or something. But that was then: stained white tunics, outdoor magazines, rows of long, sharp scissors and towering pump-action chairs with the elevator-booster seat and nothing to safely strap in the hapless little begger...nothing at all...Now take Jack-Jack, our grandbaby extraordinaire. This was a few months ago his mommy introduced him to his very first professional haircut. So far so good; the model is about right, the fit is a little tight, and the color ain't bad...Geeeze! This isn't bad at all! Mom and Dad were giving me vibes on the way over here like you wouldn't believe - and what's to worry about? I was made for a day like today, baby! O.K., so I hafta wear this goofy cape, so what? I kinda think it suits me. What do you think?
Wait a minute...wait - um, what's that buzzing noise? You're going to do what with that thing?
No! No! No! This isn't fun anymore - and just look at my hair!
E tu, Brutus? Mom! You don't know what you're doing! She's evil, I tell you!
So, this is good. A little fuzzy...Things are really shaping up around here. A little noisy, but tasty. Ew. And double ew.FINALLY home again! Welcome to my turf, homie. This is my stuff. Everything you see here belongs to me and I'm gonna push it real good when ever I feel like it, see? And no, I don't need pants - but thanks for noticing! Now get outta the way, will ya?
An' I don't need any cute comments about my hair, see? Got a problem w'that? Sheesh! What a day!

For the next Nobel Peace Prize I would like to nominate the genius who invented the carbarberchair and thought of combining cut hair fragments and suckers in the same breathing space. Thank you!

Thursday, November 8

Bobcat Heros

The Bobcat crew is the best thing since sliced bread! Here is the 'after' shot.

I can't believe I missed witnessing the expert speed-gobbling of my sweet pile. You can see the truck at the end of the street.

He saw me taking pictures of his work. Suddenly a full-blown garbage truck was speeding towards me faster than anything with that amount of bulk should.

"What's wrong?" he bellowed, jumping down from his massive terminator truck. His presence blocked the sun and seemed more than appropriate. I took a step back. Then he said, "Did you want me to rake these leaves?"

This was not the regular guy; there were no straw campesino hats or bandannas for him. He didn't listen to my explanation that I just wanted a picture for my blog. He was really busy.

Here is his buddy who came whipping Nascar style down the street to find out what happened to him. Look at my cute little Bobcat! Not him, the tractor. (Well, actually it's a Kubota. That fact is just as plain as day.) Maybe I should say, "Ah-so."

When I raised my camera, he squealed backwards in that thing to hide behind the truck, throwing his arm in front of his face. "I don't want no law-suit!" he cried. "It's O.K., I love you guys and what you do!" I said, offering the sacred coke tribute as you can also plainly see.

This proved a winning strategy. Now he's happy. Thanks, Bobcat crew! You may never know what you mean to America!

Monday, November 5

Porch Pest Fest

I am Ralph, the Roof Rat
I am beeautiful, I am furry.
With me tiny little paws
I can scamper in a hurry.
No need, though, for hasty habits
All I needs is more than handy-
The Tanner's place (lovely people),
is just loaded with top rate "rrrat candy".

Them citrus trees is packed
with sloppy fruit so delicious ~
you'd think those folks are never
even slight-e-ly suspicious,
That we play, we frolicks ~
We gnaw: we can't get us enough
of giant, tasty blocks
of that green or yellow stuff.

We invite our pals to try some,
we share and share alike.
We never knows what hits us,
when we feel that poison "spike"! * photos by Ray & DCT

Friday, November 2

Garbage, Home & The Unsinkable Mrs. Li

THIS is what I'm talkin' about: a truly respectable pile of garbage! (Can you see the little white, patent leather girl's shoe up on top of the block wall? That just appeared out of nowhere weeks ago on top of our mailbox). The Bobcat crew is in the neighborhood. They're early. They mean business. So do I. My junk hidden in the back yard was quickly transferred to accessorize the ju-jubee trimmings like so many cardboard, air-conditioner filter, roof rat doody greasy rag jewels. Not more than 32 minutes later, I hear the car pull up. Yes! A garbage-digger is pawing through our pile!

Check out the London Flog jacket, the nice car, the white older male; none of which support the garbage-digging profile. After a good 5 minutes of rearranging nasty things, he got away with 2 or 3 disposable cartons you use for left-overs in the fridge.

Since I am outside and armed with a camera, follow me. The Indian Corn on the door has been up there since last Halloween. Here is our very beautiful fake spider web. I took 3 pictures of a cute real spider waiting nearby, but none of them came out.

These are a few of the fake spiders.

This is only one example of the precious block wall we murder living plants to protect.

Here is the flowering shrub I told you about. Doesn't it look menacing?

And this is what the purple flower sort of looks like (sorry for the blur)on the luscious vine that USED to trail heavily over the ugly block wall in a generous cascade of these sweet flowers and large, classic leaves. You can see why this thing had to go. Seriously.

Conveniently enough, last night Ms. Li saw our door open as I was greeting our next-door neighbor Stella who stepped in to visit. She came scrambling over to interrupt and issue new orders: "You take out dead oleander in corner. Lady (the property behind us) say it fire hazard. She no want to see dead branches. O.K.?" I said, "As in...?" "You cut, you take down." (The pretty white lattice work is part of the neighbor's yard behind us). "Mrs. Li, that's your responsibility."

I reminded her that half our giant oleander hedge has been dead for almost a year from the blight, a bacteria. Like this section, for example:
I was acutely aware of the neighbor's little boy who speaks mostly Russian and Mrs. Li's grandson rushing Rachel's bedroom in tandem while we adults were distracted. I could hear the rustling sound of candy being pillaged. "I get so much trouble when I pay for help, you know? They always complaining, complaining I pay too less. But you cut please, O.K.? I get man come for rest when can do. You cut, O.K.?" I told her we'd "try".

She left with the rent money in its customary white envelope in hand. "MI-CHAEL!" she screamed while smiling and waving good-bye. Michael ran out with candy in his fists. He said, "HE gave it to me!" when his grandma asked where he got it. Oh! O.K. A few minutes later Stella left pushing her baby in the stroller, her little boy barely able to walk impeded by Rachel's Halloween candy crammed into his pockets. We didn't say anything.

I don't know if Ray felt generous, or if 2 little boys were simply unstoppable. Mrs. Li is unstoppable.

Tuesday, October 30

Capital Punishment

The landlady appeared today with 2 grandchildren and 2 Mexicans she hires to do her odd jobs. One speaks no English, the other does pretty well. Mrs. Li speaks Chineseglish, so it makes for an interesting effort. Their communication is very physical with A LOT of gesturing and repeated orders at high volume followed by "O.K.?" at least a million times.

The nasty Ju-jubee trees were finally feeling a machete and chainsaw trim. After knocking on my window 4 separate times (face pressed against the glass peering in calling "Scene-deee!" demanding my attention to one thing after another), her final announcement was that we must cut down all the young trees growing in the yard.

Each of them had spontaneously sprung up over the past 2 years, along with about 8 nice flowering shrubs that - after a snail-paced start, were finally big and blossoming. I told her they were going to be beautiful shade trees...she objected loudly with her hands fluttering in front of my face: "No good! No good! They grow big and ruin wall! Wall fall down!" Facing north, I'm looking at a two-tone, bare, ancient block wall that already has so many gutted and precariously leaning sections it could pass for a temple ruin on Mars hill. Mrs. Li was highly motivated by my unusual exhibition of non-compliance.

"All trees gone! All that by wall!" "But in front of the the little trees are flowering shrubs. Why wouldn't you want those? Besides, all the citrus is dying..." my voice rising above the chainsaw on the dead grapefruit tree stump, "don't you want some shade trees back here?" She agreed we could keep the one by the storage shed, but the ax must fall on everything else.

After they left, I inspected the crime scene along the West wall. Hacked to bits and dragged away was every last inch of each of my carefully protected young trees, a beautiful purple flowering vine and - 2 of my biggest flowered shrubs. They were about 10 feet or more AWAY from any block wall. I had dug little berms around them to water them extra and had mowed the lawn around them quite obviously nurturing their welcome existence. Now in the center of my planting bed is only the exposed trunk. For all she knew I could have planted those shrubs! She didn't even ask.

I felt far more defeated than a grown woman should.

Sunday, October 28

Stolen Victory

The bulk pick-up by the city is coming next week. I am jazzed. This service is probably THE most amazing civic opportunity next to the right to vote! When we moved from the Earll house to this one almost 4 years ago, we out-did ourselves by heaping up the mega pile of all junk piles. It was as long as our property and half as tall as the house. It was a work of art.

Somehow just knowing the little Bobcat tractor with her crew of 2 is coming makes me crazy to dump out drawers, organize closets and sift aggressively through dusty, disgusting stuff we have totally forgotten about in the "outter darkness" of our garage. I am brave - able to sweep roof rat doodies like a man. I am ruthless - tossing aside pitiful arm loads of stuff I was saving for no good reason, and giving the boot to things that are O.K. but never used. I am generous - cramming about a dozen bags and boxes with donations to Deseret Industries; yardage of cute fabric I never did anything with, a collection of perfectly good lace trim, lots of clothes, shoes and books that someone else might enjoy. I am fearless - stuffing the trunk and back seat of the car with linens and games and pillows for the African Immigrants who were burned out of their apartment after arriving in America only a few months ago. I picked some of the nicest quality twin sheet sets that still had their matching pillow cases. I am optimistic - STILL waiting for the "Welcome to America" truck to come and pick up our furniture donations that are waiting on the front porch.

I am in shock - someone in the night took the entire jumbo-sized box full of CRAP. The next night they took the decapitated office chair. Neither item enjoyed a full 24 hours on display at the street. My plans for creating a great pile of rubbish are foiled! How dare these night-grabbers rob me of my glorious pile? Now that I have a blog I was going to take a picture of it, once it had attained its full grandeur and I had pronounced the work "done".

I am strategical: I will horde my garbage in the back yard until the last possible moment, and then rush it out to the street on the day our area begins pick up. I am the Queen of all trash I survey. None shall deny me my pile.