"It is the poet's job to remember"
Gerald Stern

Sunday, February 2, 2014

MOVING FORWARD

It is fitting that I should write this post on the evening we turn the clocks ahead. I don't profess to understand the relevant logic in this age to Daylight Savings, but it always seems to be such an ambitious ritual...lets jump ahead an hour in an attempt to get to the good stuff a little bit sooner, and the trade off is that lost hour of sleep.

It was certainly an ambitious ritual in my mother's house. She, a collector of old clocks, had many hour hands to turn ahead on this night. Tall clocks, short clocks, wall clocks, mantle clocks, china clocks, wooden clocks...many years ago we lost count...but I grew up in a house that ticked and chimed.

My mother tended them carefully, like inanimate housings with rythmic ticking heartbeats. I can still hear her often repeated instructions when I was old enough to be allowed the privilege of helping; "Don't force the winding, turn the key in half-turns, stop when it starts to feel tight and don't over wind....keep them level or the pendulums will slow and stop...never move them with the heavy pendulum attached....don't leave them unwound and idle because eventually their gears will cease to turn."

On the nights we changed the clocks, she would go through every room in the house, opening the glass over each familiar face, and moving the hour hand... which always had to be done clockwise forward. "NEVER move backwards!" In October, each clock would chime twelve times (or twenty four for those that also struck on the half hour) before the proper time was set.

My mother passed away last month. Many of her clocks will come to live in my house, ticking and chiming and as comforting as this motherless child can hope.

It is a good night to begin to go forward again. I'll try to remember not to force things, to stay level, to keep the load light. I'll watch my gears carefully...and do my best not to be left unwound.

(Linda Radice, March 2009)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Help Me Out Here Helen...

I used to read Cosmopolitan magazine. I even had a subscription for a few years, and had that perfume scented, glossy paged, advertisement filled thing delivered right to my door. Since my memory is not what it used to be, I can't seem to quite pinpoint exactly when it was that I stopped reading it, but I know now that it must have been many years ago.
Last week I tossed a copy onto the belt at the check out counter. Maybe it was for old time's sake. Well, or maybe it was because the cover screamed "TOTAL BODY SEX (these bed-shaking techniques will have any man quivering with pleasure from head to toe)" on one side, and "YOUR ORGASM FACE (and what he's thinking when he sees it)" on the other. It also touted something called "The Trick that attracts Hot Guys like Crazy" and "The Naked Quiz." Whew.
First of all I'm not looking to attract hot guys like crazy, thank you very much. Secondly, the first few flips of the pages revealed that its been a hell of a lot longer than I thought since I had that old subscription. The hot guys they're referring to are 23 years old. I know this because they've given their ages along with a little caption. "Tyler, age 22, is a marketing analyst who enjoys salsa dancing, wind surfing, and ornithology." Uh huh. And yes, I read the article just for informational purposes. Mrs. Robinson has long since retired.
The "Naked Quiz" is a riot. After all sorts of questions about lighting and stages of undress, etc., etc., my favorite is this one..."A friend takes you to a party that's straight out of The Hills - everyone looks like a supermodel. What do you do?" Good lord, what a dumb question. I check out the house and everyone in it, drink the expensive champagne and devour the gourmet food. Okay...so I'll lick my fingers. I seem to remember reading somewhere that men find that sexy. Who makes up these quizzes?
As for "Total Body Sex?" C'mon folks...there ain't nothin' new there. Ho hum, been there, done that, know that. Tell this not-quite- over-the-hill-lady something not already on my dance card. And the "Orgasm Face" article? All I can say is that Cosmopolitan's readers are just thinking too damn much...or the writers of these articles believe everyone should be ruminating all sorts of things around in their brains at all times. "Lets see...is this right? wrong? unappealing?" Even youthful enthusiasm's quest for enlightenment needs to skip this one.
Like I said, its been a long time. Some of the fashion spreads could pass for pages from the early days of Playboy when it was mostly enticing suggestion. "Hot" "Smokey" and "Sizzling" are the buzz words everywhere. In a truly interactive world, the whole publication might be on the verge of flaming up and turning to ash in your hands.
My old Cosmo, with its truly interesting articles and feminist beginnings has morphed unrecognizably. Apparently somewhere along the way, Helen Gurley Brown met Hugh Hefner.
What sealed my opinion that I will probably not invest the somewhat strange newsstand sum of $4.29 to peruse Cosmo again was when I found an article titled "TV's Most Bedable Dads." What a shock to realize that, not only did I have no clue who they were...but that I have a mortgage, a daughter, and a couple of sweaters older than all of them.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Here come the leaves...oh my


         We are in the middle of what I call the Bazooka Leaf Blower Wars. Since the invention of those dreadful mechanically propelled gale force wind machines, autumn has never been the same. Oh, people have been obsessive about leaves on their lawns since the late 70's when one person decided no leaf shall toucheth thy blades of grass...and he told two people...and they told two people...and suddenly all the suburbs were knee deep in raking. Over the last decades, it has escalated into a full force frenzy, sounding like a war zone on your own street, with distant artillery thundering in the bordering neighborhoods.


          Homeowners blow "their" leaves out of their zone into the street and into someone else's zone. Arguments have erupted over whose leaves are whose at the curb when they don't get picked up fast enough by whatever authority is supposed to do so, and drift back onto a oh-my-goodness-don't-let-a-leaf-mar-my-lawn-crabass' property. Along with the enemy leaves, those industrial strength blowers send dirt and stones...hey, look how neat and clean our sidewalks can be...into the storm drains, onto the windshields of parked cars, and into the eyes of anyone within 25 yards.


        Raking leaves used to be a out-doorsy relaxing thing to do in crispy fall weather. The only sound was the rasp of the rake (metal or bamboo) being pulled over the grass and the crinkly dry leaves falling on each other as you moved them along. Until it was outlawed, we burned leaves. Okay, a little dangerous and not good for the environment, but the unique smell of burning leaves meant Halloween and Christmas around the corner to generations of kids.  People would take a break, lean on their rakes and talk to each other. There was no need to wildly signal slashing your throat to get the guy next door to cut off the power on his backpack so you can tell him the noise just sent his cat up a tree and the UPS man is on his porch trying to get his attention.


        I don't think my children ever raked up huge piles of leaves and then jumped in them just for the heck of it. Poor things. The kids in my neighborhood could spend a whole afternoon going from one yard to the next, raking and jumping into mounds of red and gold and orange until there was nothing left but pulverized bits that were dragged to the curb on old blankets and plastic shower curtains to be burned by our respective parents. Sometimes, if the leaves were dry enough, there would be nothing but dust at the end of the day.


         Apparently those repeated, cushioned, heavy landings by multiple children did not kill the lawn as often as the much dreaded fallen leaves are believed to do now. Maybe the grass was hardier then. Maybe we weren't as neat and liked our neighbors too much to care if nature sent some fleeting drops of color our way. Maybe we really did have peace and forgot to notice.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Grown Daughter's First Thanksgiving

(In loving memory of all the Moms and holiday cooks whose chairs are empty at our tables)


For many years my mother and aunts hosted all the holiday dinners. We gathered on a more or less rotating basis at the table of whoever was cooking, my young cousins and I never giving it much thought except to agree that the day was always delicious.


Somewhere along a not very clearly drawn line, the torch was passed and my generation became the dinner doers. The graying and slightly fragile women took a well deserved backseat to the hubbub, appearing with a baked offering and memories to be shared from a comfortable seat out of the kitchen. I accepted my torch willingly and held the holiday Olympics at my table for 20 years or so.


Last year, my daughter married and moved into her new home. She reminded my mother that she had long ago promised her Great Grandma’s dining room furniture. Moving day found it in her dining room with my daughter excitedly promising that the next holiday, Thanksgiving, would be at her house. I held my breath a little. Could the next relay of the torch be commencing?


In early November, the discussions began. “Mom, you are going to bring the stuffed mushrooms?” my daughter asked. “You know they’re my favorite and nobody makes them like you do.”


“Of course,” I told her. How easy, I thought. Just make the mushrooms. I’ll finally get to watch the parade on Thanksgiving morning. I could see myself lounging on the sofa, sipping coffee and watching the balloons float past Macys.

“How about making the stuffing?” My daughter asked a few days later. “You make the best stuffing, “ she went on, “It’s the only kind we like.” Well okay, mushrooms and stuffing. Still pretty easy. I can do it the night before and still relax all morning. “No problem,” I agreed.


Then the matter of the old oven in her new house and its unreliability surfaced. They were going to try to replace it after the holiday, my daughter explained. It wasn’t working quite right. I envisioned a half-cooked turkey or dinner eaten at midnight after waiting hours for the bird to brown. “Since I’m already making the stuffing, why don’t I just cook the turkey at my house and bring it over?” I said. “Fine, “ she said. “Oh, and could you make the gravy? Mine never tastes as good as yours.”


“Well, I guess I’ll make it at your house while you’re getting everything else together,” I told her, making a mental note to add the necessary ingredients to my shopping list.


My son asked if I would please make the candied yams. “I don’t think Lorraine know how to make them,” he said, frowning at the thought of his favorite part of the meal tasting any different. “And you’re making the pumpkin pie, right? Yours is the best.” I nodded and added it all to the list.


I bought the ingredients and located the baking dish for the green bean casserole before I was asked.


Wednesday afternoon the aromas in my house teased of the next day’s feast. All requests were finally completed and stowed in the refrigerator sometime after midnight. I roused myself at 3 a.m. to get the 20 pound turkey stuffed and in the oven, having calculated extra cooling, wrapping and transporting time into the usual minutes per pound rule. This of course was after my earlier nightgown clad run to the backyard trash can to retrieve the turkey wrapper that stated exactly how Tom weighed in.


Later that morning I packed up the hot turkey and it’s trimmings. On the fifth or sixth trip to the car I caught a glimpse of the Macy’s Parade Santa as the credits rolled, continuing my personal 20 year tradition. Heaven knows that I’d hardly recognize him without the words scrolling over his beard and button nose.


My daughter was setting the table and opening cans of olives when we arrived. Hunks of cheese and marinated mushrooms straight from the jar gave off a lovely aroma from the wedding gift serving dishes being used for the first time. “I made a chocolate pie,” she told me. “You know, instant pudding in a graham cracker crust.” “Uh huh,” I said as I handed her two pumpkin pies and the apple pie I knew my brother liked.


I heated and stirred and concocted the gravy from my arsenal of mobile ingredients. She boiled potatoes so I could mash them but I was relieved of that task when she accidentally dumped them down the drain.


We finally gathered around Great Grandma’s table sparkling with the new china and crystal on it’s maiden voyage. Satisfied looks and groans assured that dinner was just as expected. As always, food and conversation were savored far into the evening.


Much later when the dishes were done and the leftover packed up for journey home with their perspective takers, I eased myself into the corner of the sofa and relaxed. My middle-aged muscles ached and I gave into the overwhelming urge to close my eyes. I was just drifting off comfortably when my daughter plopped down beside me. Leaning against me she exhaled a long sigh.


“I’m exhausted,” she exclaimed. “This sure was a lot of work.” She paused and I felt her nodding her head with conviction. “I think we should have Thanksgiving at your house next year,” she said firmly.


I pretended to be asleep.



Linda Radice 2003

(Note: This article was previously published in the Westfield Leader Newspaper, November 17,2003.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Episode 3, 1-800-ITS-HELL

Amazing as it sounds, Dell has one telephone number that works.  No employee knows any other number.  Last night I asked, very calmly, just where the main office, where Mother Dell makes the rules, is located.  Nobody knows. I had done a little research earlier on the net and found a number of locations in the US, all with telephone numbers.  I tried all of them.  The ones that were not a constant busy signal (really) instructed me to put in an extension number with the caveat that if I did not have one I would be disconnected.  I was. 


I don't know if Dell started out that way or if it was only after Dell Hell was created, but the big cats and the main Kahuna are  obviously avoiding everyone except their investment advisers.   According to my nightly phone friends, they have no idea whose in charge or where they are. 


It occurred to me that I could take a little leap in an attempt to sound like I knew what I was talking about.  Hey they've been doing  that to me for a week. I figured now it was my turn.  I told the first representative I was passed to that since I was doing business with Dell and purchasing a product from them,  I was entitled know what state they were incorporated in  so that I can check to see whether or not they are a business in good standing.  Suddenly I was passed onto another guy who quickly supplied  an address which actually turned out to be  just a mail stop mailing address.  I think I made him a little nervous though,  because he kept telling me that was all he was "allowed" to give out.   He also reaffirmed that there is only one phone number in the entire universe for Dell.


I suppose in our age of cell phone communications,  the families of Dell employees don't have to be supplied with an office telephone number. Maybe they do get one but must memorize it and are not allowed to write it down anywhere.   Then again, it could work like the CIA and no one will disclose that  a family member is employed there.   Come to think of it, I've never known anyone who worked for Dell.  My salesman's name was John Brown.  I'd spoken to representatives, natives of a country halfway around the world, that gave their names as  Bill Clark, Pat Jones and Bob Lane.  The devil takes many disguises...

But again I was calm and kept myself busy with other things while they "checked the details"  and "were very sorry for your problem."  I threw a bag of popcorn into the microwave and flipped through a couple of magazines while I waited to be connected, re-connected, and in between repeating my tale of woe. I calculate that even with their cheapo 800 number deal, I must be costing them something with my nightly calls.  I've  spent more than  15 hours on the phone on their bill, and every person I spoke to has logged the call into the system.  Sooner or later someone might figure out that eventually I'll cost them more in phone calls than the price of the monitor they can't seem to find.   If not, at the very least my nightly calls have forced me to relax, re-direct my thoughts, ponder some the great questions of the universe. Why is it that there are always a few infernal kernels of corn that just won't pop?

And on it goes...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Missing Monitor, Episode 2

(The saga continues.)


It is possible that the devil might be a little overburdened lately.  What with Bin Laden still missing and, uh, so many Republicans,  he apparently had no choice but to cut back and outsource an entire division of Hell. 


I must have done something heinous in a past life, because Dell Hell has a spot with my name on it. It is  somewhere between the automated phone system and the last person I spoke to at the end of a three hour telephone marathon with no finish line in sight.   Of the  fourteen people I conversed with in an attempt to locate the missing monitor,  " we are very sorry for your problem"  was the one thing spoken clearly and emphatically by each one.  Other than that, nobody has a solution or any information.    


 In the course of three hours, I was disconnected four times and had to begin the entire process again.  Automated menu, order number, choose a dept, get an alleged "customer care representative," and begin the tale, complete with reading off order numbers again and verifying my identity. Half say the monitor was never shipped.  The other half thinks the monitor may have been shipped but they can't track it because there is no tracking number.  I admit I never took Shipping 101, nor do I have an MSS (Master of Shipping Shit) degree, but I would think that if there is no freaking tracking number folks, you damn well never put it in a box with my name on it and sent it out the door.  


I called them first on Monday to say that the monitor had not been received.  They told me I had to call back in 24 hours in order to allow enough time to "track it."  I gave them 72 hours before calling back.  Now they tell me to call back in another 24 to 48 hours because their "tracking records" have not been updated. Obviously, a sub-section of  Dell  Hell is Tracking Hell. 


Today I called the salesman I bought the damn thing with.  He had given me his phone number and direct extension which he has no idea how he will live to regret.  He graciously offered to help after listening to my story...and promptly connected me back to the same "customer care" (and to the wrong department) which was only ascertained after I went through my entire routine.  I was then transferred to another "I'm very sorry for your problem" woman. I finally told her  that I was sending everything back because the ordeal was making me sick and I just figured out that the antidote will be a MacIntosh.   "Oh you shouldn't do that," she said, "because you won't get properly credited."   This they understand how to do. So now they'll hold me hostage with my credit card whether I have the all the pieces or not.


The interesting part is that I noticed on my shipping bill that although I was having the thing shipped to my office, they had the billing address (my home address)  incorrect and called  to tell them so.  They "customer-cared" me immediately.  One phone call. One person. Two minutes.   


When last seen,  Miss Missing Monitor was tied to the railroad tracks with a steam engine bearing down upon her...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Little Bit Longer...

(This is the first installment of the saga written a couple of years ago when I replaced my computer. It was cathartic in the writing as, in such situations, I have to laugh. Enjoy and stay tuned.)

I keep praying that my computer is not going to crash before I receive all the parts to put together the new one.  My old friend is short of breath and often cannot flex its tired electronic muscles from one task to the next.  I'm nursing it gently and not asking too much of it at one time. It blinks back at me like an elderly person with a confused smile as it struggles to remember the answer to my mouse-clicking questions.   Each time I have to re-boot in the middle of a function, I feel like the administrator of an electro shock therapy jolt to its befuddled brain.  And then I hope that I've zapped the right spot and not caused an internal sizzle that puts an end to it all.  So far my buddy keeps coming back to me each time I have to click again to restore its settings and cancel some odd pop up boxes that I don't recognize and scream "Warning" in red letters.   I keep mumbling, "Come on honey just hold on a little while longer," every time I sit down and turn it on. This is partly because I am sentimental, but also because I am pathetically disorganized and hereby confess to never having backed up much of anything it has stored for me.


Not to mention any names...but DELL...has not completed its piecemeal delivery of the new kid.  First they sent the printer.  That came two weeks ago.  Then a day or two later they sent the surge protector all by itself in a huge box. I got a big cushioned envelope with the data transfer thing-y in it a couple of days after that.  A week or so went by and I received the new design hybrid little red computer tower itself and a couple of assorted cables and discs.   They had said it would take a week to "build" so I figured that  was pretty well right on target.   The only thing I didn't get is the monitor, and as of now I am well past my "outside ship date."   


Two phone calls later to the outsourced location, which may be great for technical support but the stuff is being shipped from the U.S. for pity sake, and they keep telling me that they cannot trace the status  BUT the monitor hasn't been shipped yet anyway. They know it hasn't been shipped but they don't know why, and they can't trace it because they have no idea what location it’s being shipped from. 


 Perhaps I'm walking on the organizational practical side...an uncommon little trip for me...but I would have thought that the monitor would have been one of those simple early parts to ship.   I'll try calling them again today.  My friend on the other continent told me I have to wait  24 hours to try for information on alleged missing parts. Like reporting an adult missing person who might just have run away and doesn't want to be found.  I think maybe they are hoping it will call and let them know what bus station it’s holed up in.    

Meanwhile, my computer is hanging in there, an ongoing time capsule with mostly everything I've ever written stored inside.  I'm hoping it shares the rapport I feel for it and will keep it all safe just a little bit longer.   Stay tuned and keep your fingers crossed.