A newsy letter

Brewsky and a plushy Ollie (click to better see how beautiful Ollie is)
Instead of taking on a topic, I thought I would try posting a newsy letter of the type that I might send a friend. I have no idea why anyone would care to read it unless they just happen to like me, but my assumption is that most of my readers do like me...

Peggy took Brewsky to the vet this morning for a urinary infection/blockage and discovered when she got home that she was wearing two pair of panties, this being what happens when one goes to bed two hours late and gets up four hours early. We normally take our pets to the vet together (we also accompany one another on doctor visits), but Peggy planned to stay for the duration, which could have been hours given that they were having to work Brewsky in, and I wasn’t up for that. As it turned out, she ended up going back for Brewsky anyway because he wasn’t ready until 5:30, and she had to go alone that time too because I was baking crackers (I bake crackers, biscuits, cornbreads, and yeast breads, and Peggy does pies and cookies).

I’ve only seen Brewsky in a truly foul mood three times in his entire 5 1/2 years, and today was one of them. He had spent ten hours in a scary place having unpleasant things done to him by strangers, and he hadn’t eaten in 18-hours. Ollie missed him so much that he ran up to his kennel as soon as Peggy set it on the floor, but was stopped short by loud hissing that went on and on and on. It’s funny to see Brewsky in a bad mood because his bad moods are SO bad that he does nothing but stalk around and curse in cat language for a very long time and in a manner reminiscent of my father, the difference being that my father sometimes threw such fits almost hourly and didn’t use cat language. The vet said that Brewsky barely missed bladder surgery followed by a week’s recovery in the hospital. Now he’s on antibiotics and will have to eat $6.00 a pound cat food for the rest of his life.

I’m still augmenting my Margaret Deland collection, and just today negotiated to buy a second letter by her to go with my half dozen signed books, my fifty or more other books, my six period postcards, and my two period photographs. You might well ask how I know the signatures are authentic. (1) There isn’t enough money in her signature to make it worthwhile to fake it (it costs from $15 to $750, but I’ve never paid over $60, and that was for a complete letter); (2) I know her signature well, and I have an unimpeachable source for comparison; (3) I examine paper and ink closely; (4) I know the characteristics of her letters, such as the fact that she typically failed to put the year on them, a practice that a forger would be unlikely to know; (5) I know the events of her life and the names of the people in her life, which is also something that a forger would be unlikely to know; (6) I get written authentication when possible.

I’m at a bit of loss about my collection because, aside from three books, the only place left to go is to buy more letters and/or upgrade the books I already own. Unlike Peggy, I’m so ambivalent about collecting that I have gotten rid of most of what I ever owned or, at the very least, stopped augmenting my various collections (rocks, potted plants, Indian artifacts, and postcards). Deland’s works are really the only collecting that I’ve ever spent much money on, but I can’t tell you how much because I don’t know. I’ve come to admire her ever more as my knowledge grows, and I’m also pleased to report that, through her, I’ve learned a great deal about her era and a little about the other literary notables of her day. Yet, the fact remains that she is dead (1857-1945), and this is ever a great sadness to me partly because it keeps me in closer touch than usual with my own mortality, death already being something about which I’m obsessed.

Until yesterday when I contributed to socialist Bernie Sanders’ campaign, I had never given a penny to any political candidate. I chose Sanders not because I’m a socialist but because he’s the only person whose integrity I trust, and the reason I gave to him yesterday wasn’t Bernie but Hillary. Her insistence that she’s her “own person” despite her and Bill taking $25-million in 16-months from Big Business for making speeches(!) struck me as laughable in the manner of a person who imagines herself to be the only one on earth with a brain. However, the final straw was the hypocritical, sexist, and condescending remarks of Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem, remarks that were directed at under-thirty women, a group that favors Bernie over Hillary by a six-to-one margin. While Hillary didn’t make these remarks, she approved of Madeleine’s, and she didn’t refute Gloria’s. (http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2016/02/09/hillary-clinton-gloria-steinem-madeleine-albright-sad-sound-feminist-desperation.html). For those who don’t want to go to the link, here is the barest text of the remarks:

Madeleine Albright (America’s first female secretary of state) on why young women should vote for Hillary: “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”

Gloria Steinem (founder of Ms Magazine) on why young women favor Bernie over Hillary: “When you’re young you’re thinking, where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.”

The aged should be role models for the young, but what young woman will take either of these people seriously after such sexist hypocrisy and condescension, especially given that Albright’s excuse was that Hillary had said the same thing, while Steinem insisted she had been misinterpreted, an explanation so at variance with the clarity with her original statement as to further suggest that she considers young women unwilling to think for themselves.

Ollie is in my lap watching the words I type move across the monitor. He’s a prince among cats and more beautiful to me than any woman—except for Peggy, of course! I rejoice at finally reaching a place where a woman’s looks mean almost nothing to me.

My outward life is too boring to write about, which is why I tend to share thoughts rather than events. One of the advantages of a boring life is the leisure to have thoughts that are worth sharing. Peggy and I are opposites in that she reaches her beliefs at a gut level and then digs a moat around them. She and I still agree about most things, but she gets there by an easier process. I enjoy the process, and I want to be sure that I’m not overlooking something, whereas she hates the process and is so confident in her positions that it doesn’t occur to her that she might be overlooking something. I find her self-confidence disconcerting.

I probably haven’t brought it up for years, so most of you might not know that Peggy is an ardent collector of clothing buttons. She has been president of her local club and of the Oregon state club, and is currently the “Chair of Judges and Classification,” which is the most technically demanding job in the state club. She spends at least eight hours a week arranging her buttons on trays—according to designs that she creates on the computer—that she then slides into display cases. We got a router to make these cases because the better bought ones are expensive, and ours are superior to them anyway. She started her collection in 1988, and I was pleased that she had chosen an inexpensive hobby that wouldn’t take much space. Now, the buttons she buys are often expensive, and pretty much any cabinet in the house that will hold buttons is stuffed with buttons, including five legal-size file cabinets. Then there is the expense of her travel to national conventions, state conventions, and state committee meetings. The cost of the buttons themselves comes out of “her” money, but the travel doesn’t, so when I started collecting Deland, she said I could pay for my purchases out of common funds, and I accepted her offer because I have no travel expenses.

Since she retired two years ago, Peggy has become quite social, there being days that I hardly see her, and times when she’s out of town for up to a week. Yesterday, for example, she was at a button-related meeting for five hours; then she took an uphill walk that I couldn’t go on because of my knees; and then she went to her weekly pinochle group. While she was doing all this, I was catching up on housework and paperwork, baking crackers, and making both buckwheat and lemon pancakes for the freezer. Much of the housework falls to me simply because she’s not here. This is fine, but sometimes I wish I had someplace to go too, although I don’t wish it hard enough to actually do it. We know another couple with whom we get together for dinner occasionally, but aside from that, my “social life” consists of the Internet, exchanging a few words with Peggy’s friend, Ilse, when Ilse picks her up to go somewhere, and chatting with neighbors and other acquaintances who I happen to see.

I got a phone call yesterday from a blog-buddy (Dana) in Florida. It was the first time I’ve actually talked to someone whom I met through blogging, and neither of us sounded like the other expected. She had retired to Florida from Ohio, so I thought she would have an Ohio accent, but she sounded as Southern as it gets, and her voice was much gentler than I expected given that she’s a bit of a firebrand on the Internet. She said she had expected me to sound weak—due to living with physical pain—and was surprised that my voice was strong and masculine. It was quite a thrill to us both, I think, to talk to one another, and we were both comfortable doing it. I’m no fan of the telephone, but when that and the Internet are all you’ve got, it’s all you’ve got, so you have to use it well, and we did.

I baked my first crackers back in the ’70s from a recipe given to me by an Episcopal priest who was looking for someone to bake whole-grain communion wafers. He chose me because he knew I liked to bake, and I readily assented because I found the idea of making crackers much more appealing than yeast breads. Now, I’m down to three different kinds out of the many I’ve tried: Parmesan, mixed grain, and my own version of the recipe the priest gave me. People don’t tend to like my crackers—which are more like hardtack than like the crackers you buy in the store—but I love them, and Peggy is a big fan of the Parmesan ones, at least, which I roll out thin just for her. I’m proud to say that I never use timers for baking because I consider them jarring and offensive. Besides, timers are worthless with crackers because they aren’t all ready at the same time. (In case you’re wondering, I have never once burned anything.)

One of the joys of baking is that I can watch DVDs. I’ve seen every episode of Banacek (a campy George Peppard who-done-it from the ’70s) at least twenty times, but right now, I’m captivated by Perry Mason. As with Banacek, I watch the same episodes again and again. I find this meditative in the same way that listening to the same beloved music repeatedly is meditative. The more I watch, the deeper I sink into the ambiance of the program, and the more the world around me disappears—except for the crackers, of course. 

I’ve memorized a lot of poems over the years, and I occasionally have to freshen up on them, so now that I've quit Ambien cold turkey, I lie awake saying poems. The longest one I know is The Raven, with the next longest being Mr. Floods Party. I know more than one poem each by Robert Frost, Edwin Arlington Robinson, and Edna St. Vincent Millay, but my favorite poem might be Wordsworths I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud. I have no interest in non-rhyming poetry because it isn’t fun to say.