“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

Who’s Your Grandma? Part I


hen I was a little girl, I thought my grandmothers looked like real grandmothers. My maternal grandmother, Lillie Belle Smith Coine, wore these black leather shoes that looked like high-button shoes with the high part cut off, leaving the laces/buttons part on the top of your feet. She wore these kinds of shoes until the marketplace just threw them all in garbage cans all over the U.S.

My paternal grandmother, Mary Aileen Davis Cravey, wore these house dresses that were belted at the waist with thin belts covered in the same material as the dress. She had fine blonde/gray hair that she twisted, wound around some kind of way, and pinned on her head with bobby pins and hair combs. She powdered her face with ghost-colored loose powder.

When I grew up, I still thought they looked like grandmothers ought to look.

Today’s grandmothers, of which I am one, just don’t seem to look like grandmothers. Admittedly, my perception comes from being on the inside looking out.

It can’t just be life expectancy. My grandmothers lived to be 87 and 94, way more than today’s life expectancy for an American Caucasian woman. No way can I beat that: I wore spiked heels as a young adult, I smoked, I’ve been putting stuff on my hair, probably toxic stuff, for about 50 years. Further, I don’t make homemade biscuits, and I suffer from Road Rage and cussing.

We look different, I think, from traditional grandmothers. Botox, cosmetic surgeries, and Photoshop come to mind here.

But a little girl at my granddaughter Joanna Leigh’s school wanted me to pick her up the other day. She ran up to me with her hands up and said, “Mama!” Then she corrected herself and said, “Grandmama?” She was confused.

Maybe we do look like grandmothers. Suddenly I’m just not sure.

The Aging Czar

Those of us born in 1943 are likely grandmothers, and we’ve been riding point for the Baby Boomers all our lives. The birth rate spiked in ‘43, dropped just a bit in ‘44, and began the unrelenting upward rise that went from ‘46 to ‘64.

Next year, the moment of truth begins: True Boomers start turning 65, so they’re hot on our heels, aiming to devour our Social Security, Medicare, and whatever else they can gobble up. We’ll be looking over our shoulders at them for years. In front of us stand Sarah Palin’s Death Panels.

My grandmothers were born in the 1890s and lived into the 1980s; they saw an awful lot in their lives.

But, you know, we’ve seen a lot too. We began with staring at upright boxes that held tiny black and white television sets with rabbit ears, through birth control pills, to microchips; now we’re staring at our Blackberries and iPhones, trying to text with arthritic thumbs.

The Gray Spotlight

The new hot topic is the elderly. Everyone is studying us. There must be an Aging Czar who oversees those Death Panels.

Recently the U.S. Census Bureau came out with a study.

In a nutshell, here’s what it reported: “The average age of the world’s population is increasing at an unprecedented rate. The number of people worldwide 65 and older is estimated at 506 million as of midyear 2008; by 2040, that number will hit 1.3 billion. Thus, in just over 30 years, the proportion of older people will double from 7 percent to 14 percent of the total world population, according to a new report, An Aging World: 2008 [PDF].”

In just over 30 years? Hell, I’ll be 95+. Or not.

The Expectation and Reality Gap

The Pew Research Center has done studies. In one, they polled young and old Americans to find out what Growing Old in America is all about. Guess what: They found out it’s both not bad AND it’s not what it’s cracked up to be. Guess what else: There’s a generation gap – not a GAP store -- in the beliefs of the younger respondents versus the older respondents. Duuuuhhh.

Pollers looked at negative aging benchmarks like illness, memory loss, having your car keys taken away, sex drying up, being lonely and depressed, and poverty. The young respondents said, “yeh, it’s got to be that bad.” The elderly said, “nah, it’s just not as bad as all that.”

Then who are the Viagra ads aimed at? Just who is falling and can’t get up? Whose Medicare is paying for the “scooter” to be used around the house?

Then pollers looked at positive aging benefits like spending more time with family, traveling more for pleasure, having more time for hobbies, doing volunteer work or starting a second career.

Last I heard, families cause stress, no one I know goes anywhere, you can’t bend over in the garden anymore, and babysitting is not a career.

Respondents 18 to 24 years of age thought old age begins at 60; middle aged people thought more like 70; and old people thought 74 and beyond. Most people I hang out with think it begins at 85 or so. Maybe 90.

Sixty percent of those 65 and older think that they feel younger than their age. Mostly, they are living in the past.

Right now 13 percent of Americans are 65 and older, says Pew. That number will become one in five by 2050. I’ll be about 114. Or not.

One major thing is missing from the lives of those 65 and older, but even that is changing: Twitter, Facebook, eBay, and Amazon! Only four in ten are into newfangled technology. I guess that means that HD television isn’t newfangled anymore, because I see a lot of old geezers watching golf and football, reality shows and soap operas.

I’ve decided to do a poll. Here are the questions:

1. Have your rotten kids taken your keys away yet?

2. Have you been dumped into a 1950s-like nursing home or Cuckoo’s nest mental institution?

3. Can your kids tell the difference between you drunk and you on your prescription medicines?

4. Do you remember what sex is?

5. Is babysitting your second career?

6. Have you fallen and couldn’t get up yet?

7. When does old age begin?

8. Have you laughed so hard you wet your pants?

9. Have you been to your 50th elementary school reunion?

10. What the hell does and 18- to 24-year-old know?????

And finally. . .

11. Do you REALLY think you can dance? If so WHAT are you thinking???

Sqeamishtic: Clam Digging in Alaska

Put a worm on a hook? No way. Clean a fish? Absolutely not. Pick a splinter out of a finger? Not easily. Deep cuts? Unh unh. Boils, gooshing and oozing? Are you out of your mind?

Clam digging in Ninilchick, a tiny Russian community down the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage, Alaska, made me face the truth: I’m not squeamish. I am just easily grossed out.

I don’t feel like I’m going to throw up, which is what being squeamish does; I feel like my throat’s closing in a gag reflex. I gag.

Signs of the early Russian Orthodox settlers are still visible in Ninilchick.

The community is built around its small, picturesque onion-domed church, which sits up on the bluff looking out to Cook Inlet and across to. . .


. . .Mts. Ilyamna and Redoubt in the Aleutian Range.

Majestic and gorgeous, Ilyamna is dangerous; it had claimed many an aircraft, small plane, crew, and passengers through the years. Redoubt was and is still tantalizing. It has been threatening to blow its volcanic top all summer. They are snow-capped all year, matching the summertime white clouds against the blue sky -- when it’s not raining.

It’s so insanely gorgeous up there, looking across the inlet, that you think you’re crazy. That’s what Alaska’s beauty does; it makes you feel crazy.

At age 15, I thought we were all crazy to be in Ninilchick, camping, about to go clam digging. I had never done any of this kind of stuff. I did cheerleading. But I thought it was crazy to follow dad’s military orders in the first place, sending us to Alaska the summer before.

Summer of ’59 was our first for camping in Alaska. Come to think of it, it was our first for any kind of camping anywhere. You do things you’ve never done before in Alaska. Our Siamese cat Charlie started going camping with us to every site, sleeping down deep in the sleeping bag with one of us. Charlie became our group’s camping mascot for the next three years.

In addition to learning to dig for clams, I also learned to smoke in Ninilchick campground. Smoking helped ward off the huge and gross Alaskan summertime mosquitoes. They looked more like the Alien in the movie with Sigourney Weaver, all drooling and aggressive, than any insect species I can think of. Blowing smoke on them helps keep them away from your flesh. Isn’t that what Sigourney did to the Alien, smoked it with fire?

That morning we all suited up to dig for clams. The tide was way out, maybe a mile out. You really couldn’t see the water. Alaska has one of the largest differences in high and low tides in the world, and it can be treacherous.

It was cold that morning. I had on a couple of sweat shirts, a knit hat, and rubber boots up above my knees. But nothing on my hands. If you wore gloves, you couldn’t feel the clam.

Here’s how you do it: walk head down, looking for a bubble-like place in the sand; fall to your knees and start digging, way down, feeling around for the clam shell; pull it up through the sand that had caved in around your hand and arm; throw it in the bucket and keep going – walking, walking, digging, digging, digging. Then suddenly you realize that you’re wearing a hole in the knees of your jeans and your hands and arms are nearly bleeding from the abrasive sand filing the skin off your arm. Gross.

Missing Fabulous Chowder

Finally, the bucket if full and you have to slog back to the trailer and camp fire. The rubber waders feel like cement shoes.

“Would you all look at this!” some of the grown-ups, who weren’t doing the clamming, would say. “We’re going to have clam chowder tonight.”

Then there’s the part about cleaning the clams. No one mentioned that.

“What you do,” said some grown-up, “is cut that foot thing off, slide the knife into the shell, force it open, and scoop the clam into this bowl.”

“Oh, is that right?” I thought.

But I got started. The problem began immediately. I cut the “foot thing” off the first clam. My gawd if the thing didn’t keep jumping around. Cut off and still moving. It was the grossest thing I’d seen. I don’t remember if I got someone else to that part or just finished that part without looking. In any case, everyone raved about the clam chowder that night around the camp fire.

I wouldn’t know. I couldn’t eat it then and could never since then. It’s just too gross.

So, instead of a clam chowder recipe, I’ll offer a grits recipe that appeared in the New Orleans Times Picayune, which a friend sent to me; she had eaten at a Huntsville, Alabama, restaurant where they served this dish.

Grits with corn and Vidalia onion

Posted by The Times-Picayune June 11, 2008 2:43PM

In this recipe from “Bon Appetit, Y'all,” author and trained French chef Virginia Willis (http://www.virginiawillis.com/)  writes that a chef friend introduced her to the technique of grating onion on a box grater, instead of chopping. The grated onion almost melts into the grits, adding a little additional moisture as well as a layer of flavor.


Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 onion, preferably Vidalia, grated

Scraped kernels from 2 ears fresh sweet corn (about 1 cups)

2 cups whole milk

2 cups water

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup stone-ground or coarse-ground grits

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 3 ounces)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until transparent, about 2 minutes. Add the corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kernels become soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the milk, water, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Whisk in the grits, decrease the heat to low, and simmer, whisking occasionally, until the grits are creamy and thick, 45 to 50 minutes. Stir in the butter, cheese, parsley and chives. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

Special Note: Patty Cake at Home

emarkably, Patty Cake came home yesterday afternoon from her nearly two-week stay at the vet after her vicious attack (see August 16 post).
I thought I could describe the wound. I can, but I won’t. Suffice it to say it is horrible and will take months to heal. She is eating and drinking, which are absolutely necessary for her to be able to heal. Mostly she is sleeping. I gave her ice cream.
The truth: caring for this wound is hard for me; I am squeamish about bad scrapes, cuts, abrasions, sores, etc. Patty’s is way out of my league. Yikes.
I am grateful to have been able to vent about this ordeal. Venting emotions helps. I am also aware that taking the measures we’ve taken to save Patty may seem excessive to some people. I don’t really know how to explain pets. They just are. There are many tales of how sweet animals have helped sick or aging people. This is no mystery to me; they just do.
Our lab Maggie was very glad to see Patty, and Patty her. Their noses met, Maggie’s tail wagged, and Patty tried to rub up against her.
Patty then jumped up on our granddaughter Joanna Leigh’s bed and curled up among the stuffed animals. We’ll be washing everything in Clorox bleach for some time.

My special thanks to Dr. Russell and the staff at Tidmore Vet in Northport.

In Remembrance of Camille

Tonight as the remnants of tropical storm Claudette track through Alabama and Tuscaloosa, I’m remembering. I couldn’t be at Woodstock in 1969. I was in New Orleans and Hattiesburg, Mississippi, facing Hurricane Camille that weekend. That is all in long-term memory and even 40 years later, the fear is memorable.

My close friend Shirley drove down from near Huntsville, Alabama, to pick me up in Tuscaloosa, and her dad was mad. She may remember different details or remember the experience differently. This is the way I remember it.

I had just finished taking Master’s comps. I was stressed and tired, hadn’t been watching any television, and didn’t really know what Mr. Dowling was mad about. Besides, why did he even know we were headed on a road trip to New Orleans?

We were to stop at Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg where Shirley’s husband Mac and my soon-to-be husband Joe Lee were suffering through Army summer camp. We’d be late getting to the Monteleone Hotel on Rue Royale in the New Orleans French Quarter, maybe midnight or so, and the partying would start in earnest. I don’t really remember.

“Daddy is mad because there’s a hurricane headed for the coast. He thinks we’re being irresponsible or something,” Shirley said.

“Hurricanes are a dime a dozen. What’s the big deal?”

“I don’t know,” answered Shirley.

That was as much attention as we’d give that subject. Until Sunday.

Dancing Weathermen

Imagine Dave Letterman as the weatherman. In fact, he was one in 1969, and his antics typified TV weathermen back then. They were either a joke or joke-tellers. They were mostly silly, standing at a map of the U.S. that had a plastic sheet covering it. They drew on it. They pulled out umbrellas. They danced around. They mostly knew as much about weather as Dave Letterman did. Or as I did. Shirley’s dad probably knew more weather than they ever knew, as he was a peanut famer (and a banker).

Satellites existed, but just barely. They made maybe a pass or two across the U.S. daily. There is a satellite view of Hurricane Camille still in the Gulf, and she is huge. But I don’t remember any reference to or display of it on TV.  (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBsHreetAe4).

Meanwhile, at the Monteleone, all bets were on the elevators. Mac and Joe Lee would, and still will, bet on anything. I don’t remember if anyone else stood at the elevator to watch this fiasco. Next stop would be the revolving bar, then the streets.

The details are fuzzy, but we had a great time. Sunday came soon. As I remember, we stopped at Brennan’s for breakfast before crossing Lake Ponchartrain and picking up I-59. I remember that someone was nailing boards to the windows, but that’s always been common practice in warding off hurricane damage.

It was raining when we got on the interstate, and we realized that there was a long line of traffic going our way; the highway patrol was closing the southbound lanes into Louisiana. Did we start taking things a bit more seriously? Did we listen to radio reports?

We must have, because it was Sunday and we were supposed to drive all the way back. I was to start teaching freshman composition courses Monday.

Between New Orleans and Hattiesburg we decided that Shirley and I should stay in a motel and not drive back. We pulled off the interstate when we saw a sign for the Hattiesburg Holiday Inn. Why it wasn’t already full still amazes me. We got a room. I guess we used the room telephone to call whoever to let them know where we were. Cell phones were still in someone’s imagination where scientific means of reporting the weather also lived. As I remember, Shirley got the nerve to call her mother and father in Dothan. I don’t think I ever told my parents in Montgomery that I was going to New Orleans, let alone tell them where I was that Sunday, August 17, 1969.

The Party’s Over

Joe Lee and Mac had to check back in to Camp Shelby. We dropped them off and went back to the Holiday Inn. I parked on the west side of the building. Our room faced south. I looked out the curtains through the big plate glass window and noticed there were dog houses in the back, then a woodsy area. Mac and Joe Lee sneaked back toward the end of the afternoon. The rain was heavy and winds were picking up speed by then. We sat on the bed and played Hearts. We also had the television on. They said they had to be back on base by 11 p.m.

Something about the weatherman must have caught our attention. We started really paying attention, letting go the immediacy of the Hearts game.

“The viewers must pay close attention to what we are saying about this hurricane Camille. We are dead serious. This is a huge and dangerous hurricane, regardless of other hurricanes you have been in. We’ve not seen anything like this in our lifetimes,” the weatherman said in an urgent tone not familiar to weathermen. We had certainly never heard a weather report like this one before.

Maybe they showed a satellite image from the first pass that day, which showed the storm out in the middle of the Gulf. It had to be a lot closer to landfall by the time we decided to get serious. It made landfall at Pass Christian and Gulfport about midnight, I think.

(See NOAA's Web site at: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/history.shtml#camille)

By 9 p.m. the weathermen sounded completely frantic. We were feeling frantic as well. Shirley and I would be alone after about 10:30 p.m. After they left, Shirley and I were left to just looking at each other -- until the power went out, leaving us in pitch black dark. The party was really over.

By this time the wind was howling. I had never heard weather sound like this before. The rain was coming down sideways. I remember saying that we’d have to keep the curtains closed over the window in case it was blown out.

We decided that we should try to get some sleep. About then, the power went out.

I lay there, staring into nothing and listening to the fierce winds; it felt like hours passed. I know I was getting scared. I looked in the direction of the window, thinking that thing could come crashing in at any moment. I covered my head.

Suddenly, from Shirley’s bed came a wee, small voice. “Joanna?”

I jumped up with the pillow and blanket. We probably realized at the same moment we needed to get into the bathroom. We must have used cigarette lighters to get in there. It was hot, stuffy, and suffocating.

A Night in the Tub

We felt around for the bathtub, got in, and pulled blankets and pillows around us.

That was about 1 a.m. Camille must have been directly overhead. It didn’t sound like a train. It sounded like all the trains in the train yard colliding over and over and over.

The Rockers rolled around in mud at Woodstock. We spent Camille in the tub until dawn. The winds had subsided enough for us to feel some relief. I remember thinking I’d better find shoes before venturing to the curtains to look out, as glass was probably everywhere.

I crept to the window. Slowly I parted the curtains, waiting for all the glass to fall toward me.

The glass was intact. It was amazing. No glass. No hole in the wall. I peered out. We then decided to open the door. It was raining and the wind was blowing. I would guess tonight that it must have been blowing between 30- and 50-mph. Every dog house was gone. The fence was crushed from trees and debris. I looked at the lot full of cars. Not one was spared. Every one has windows blown out. Tonight I think that my mouth must have fallen open. We later learned that the wind blew 125 mph as Hurricane Camille passed through Hattiesburg.

“How are we going to get home, Shirley?”

“I don’t know.”

We decided to get clothes on, go look at the damage to the car in the west parking lot, and make our way to the front entrance lobby.

I gasped. “The windows are still in the car,” I said. We had windows. But I had rolled the driver side window down about an inch, and the floor of the car was filled with water and the seats were saturated. There was a gash taken out of the front windshield, but it didn’t break the window. We could drive.

We got to the lobby. It was filled with people who had found shelter and were sitting and sleeping on all the chairs, floor space, and up the halls. Miraculously, a waitress was getting everyone coffee that they must have percolated on gas stoves. I don’t think I could forget what she looked like – long blonde hair, about 35 or 40, and weary.

We got our stuff, put it all in the wet car, and drove down the exit ramp to the interstate. We had no idea if we’d be able to make it. The interstate looked like the proverbial war zone. Entire trees blocked two lanes, forcing us into the median ditches. We limped along at 20 or 30 mph. As I recall, it took nine or ten hours to get to Tuscaloosa. But we made it and were grateful. I don’t really remember getting out of the car and into my apartment. I do remember going to teach class the next morning.

Hurricane Camille still holds the record for the lowest barometric pressure, even lower that Katrina. Camille wiped Pass Christian and Gulfport off the earth. They lie in the Gulf of Mexico somewhere. Nearly 300 people were killed.

When I think that two category 5 hurricanes hit the Gulf coast within about 100 miles of each other in my lifetime, I shake my head. When I think how many deaths were the result Hurricane Camille and how lucky we were to have had a bathtub and blankets to protect us, I shake my head again.

We were all novices in 1969, including the weathermen. Experts knew what was coming with Katrina and couldn’t get the attention of the people who could have prevented the aftermath of death, disease, and tragedy. If any American were to let that happen again, having the technology we have to know what’s coming, they should be deported immediately to whatever country would have them.

Special Note: My Patty Cake is hanging on to life by a thread. (See the previous post for an account of what happened to her.) If she doesn't make it, it will be because of the massive infection. I took a towel with Maggie's scent all over it to the vet to be put in her cage with her. I want to think it will help.

Your Brain on Hurt: Patty Cake’s Ordeal

I looked at the clock. It was 2:30 a.m., not too unusual. I walked around, went to the bathroom, drank water, the usual. I was back in bed and drifting off, when I heard horrible sounds from outside: “Dogs fighting in the back yard!” I thought. Snarling, growling, howling, the sounds of biting.
“I don’t hear cat screeches, thank goodness,” I thought, as Maggie and I went screaming out onto the patio, shouting, beating on the iron furniture. By the time Maggie got to the sounds, the animals were gone. I was frightened for Patty Cake, even though I hadn’t heard her.
Maggie and I went down in the back, whispering “Patty, Patty.” It was now 3 a.m. and pitch black; I couldn’t see up in the trees, but I expected her to meow if she were there. We walked around for a few minutes, and I felt relieved not to find her hurt.
The next morning I opened the back door, expecting to see her. I was horrified. She was bleeding profusely and limping. She came into the house and I shouted for my husband. I ran out to the utility room to grab the cat carrier. Joe Lee got a towel and put her into the carrier. I must have been at the vet in 5 or 10 minutes, it seemed, all the way across river into Northport. I ran in with her, and they got her into a room.
The vet came in, picked her up, looked at what he could see of the wound, and gave her a tranquilizer shot.
All this happened last Sunday night and Monday morning. A week has gone by. I still can’t get the hideous sounds out of my head.
On Tuesday, I saw the horrible damage that had been done. The sutures went from under her belly on her right side, around near the tail, and up nearly to the middle of her back to the right of her spine. The animals nearly tore her hind quarter off. On Wednesday I went back.  Dr. Russell at Tidmore Vet had a grim look. Patty was completely listless, with no “attitude,” as Dr. Russell described it. She had a drain inserted.
“We don’t yet know if her bowel or urethra were damaged. We can only tell from symptoms, and infection at the wound is very bad. She hasn’t eaten or drank. We need to keep her.”
It was not until Friday that he seemed willing to give her any chance of surviving this horrendous attack. “I think you must have gotten out there just in time,” he said. “But we need to keep her over the weekend.”
She lost teeth and claws fighting for her life. She has advancing necrosis of her flesh near the wound. Dr. Russell said that will get much more horrible before it gets better. The dead flesh will get grainy and crumble; then other flesh will begin to contract to replace it.
On Saturday she began eating just a little.

Emotions in Living Color
The sounds keep replaying in my head. When I wake in the middle of the night, the sounds and images created from fear haunt me.
Maybe it’s the consciousness working through the garbage the unconsciousness dumps into our minds. The most atavistic fears, those universal nightmares, like being ripped apart by a shark, or eaten slowly by a grizzly bear, or surrounded by wolves, or chased down by a lion, or crushed by an elephant, or even simply bitten by a snake, those images, Carl Jung said, are part of the collective unconscious, shared by humans since the dawn of time. Sharing the worst in the collective unconscious, as he explains in “The Effects of the Unconscious upon Consciousness” brings “the individual into absolute, binding, and indissoluble communion with the world at large.”
My immediate impulse is/was to shoot the animals. Kill them, for hurting my kitty and causing me such pain. Instead, I’ll keep processing and neutralizing.
This human impulse is, in my opinion, completely different from the one that makes people go on safari and shoot down magnificent animals with the help of attendants who will make sure Bwana doesn’t get killed if he misses the shot; or empty creeps getting into a helicopter to shoot down packs of wolves; or catching sharks to cut off their fins while they are still alive, then throwing them back into the water to drown – just to have a bowl of shark fin soup; or slaughtering whales in unimagined numbers to light your way or wash your hair; or to kill elephants to near extinction for a necklace. This unspeakable behavior comes from humanity’s deadest soul, its darkest, meanest, most corrupt, most repulsive nature. Decent people have a responsibility to fight this human streak.
One of the most breathtaking advances in human knowledge is neuroscientists’ ability to see, in pictures, the emotions like fear and anger, as well as to NOT see the empty soul that feels no emotions, inside the brain. My fear when I heard or now when I imagine the dogs or dog and coyote fighting or attacking would now be visible. In a PET scan, CAT scan, MRI, for fMRI, my brain would light up like a Christmas tree. The neuroscientist could tell me if I am experiencing fear, or anger, or disgust, or pleasure. Amazing.
The pleasure and laughing in watching a homemade DVD movie I made out of video taken of Patty and Maggie tussling and playing is visible. The sadness I will feel if Patty doesn’t make it is visible.
Imagining what could have happened to Patty being torn apart feels like my brain is reacting physically, like how a bruise feels when you touch it. Yes, neurons are firing, but we can’t really feel it. We react emotionally, and our brains register the emotions and send messages to our body to respond. All this understanding will not stop tears or quell laughter or make you act reasonably. You just keep processing.
If Patty survives, she will have a long, long, long physical recovery; I don’t know how the trauma will affect her. It takes a lot of trust for a cat to lie on its back with its underside exposed to the world. I wonder if she will ever be able to lie in her most favorite, but unladylike, position. I really doubt it.
I will likely know much more tomorrow.
For more information about the brain, The Dana Foundation has an interesting and bountiful Web site. A piece on How We Know is: http://www.dana.org/news/brainhealth/detail.aspx?id=10062.

Techs, Computers, and Rock ‘n Roll

This moment may be my last chance to tell you about my call to Apple. It turned into great fun, despite the oxymoronic nature of “talking tech” and “great fun.”

Knocking on wood as I type and thinking this round of computer headaches is nearing its end, I know fortune can change in a mouse click. Now I have to get familiar with, ugh, Vista and where all my files are located on the hard drive. This process will take a bit of time. But I had to call Apple.


Above: The Cleveland, OH, Rock and Roll HofF – one of America’ great places!

Oh, I dreaded it. I’m always afraid someone will say, “Look, lady, we have a FAQ on our Web site. Why can’t you manage just to go there and figure it out!? I cower.

I had some time to compound the dread while I was on hold, waiting for this mean human to answer.

“Hi, my name is Desmond. How can I help you?”

“Whaaaat? This is some kind of trick,” I thought.

I said, “Well, you see, I’ve got this new computer, and some of the stuff on the old one not even the magic Easy Transfer Cable can migrate to the new one, which includes some of the Apple iPhone stuff like MobileMe, Safari, and some programs. My iTunes stuff doesn’t seem to be doing right, and. . . .” The whaaa whaaa trailed off. “Oh, gawd, here it comes,” I thought.

“No problem, Mrs. Hutt,” Desmond, the faceless Apple techie agent said. “We’ll have that fixed soon. Here’s what I need you to do now, and we’ll stay on the phone for as long as it takes.”

The steps continued. There were lapses in the action while files were converted, realigned, chose sides, stepped up to the plate, got base hits, etc., etc., etc. During one of those times, he asked if I had yet put music on the iPhone. I said, “Not really. Except for one – my ringtone; it’s “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” by Aretha.”

I just knew he would think that was cool. He said, “Who?” I was flabbergasted.

This man, this Rock ‘n Roll infant, needed instruction. As Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock” was converting, I asked him if he knew that one. “No,” he said. “I’m kind of young.”

For the next 30 or 45 minutes, in between the files doing their thang, I gave him the short version of the History of Rock and Roll. It went something like this:

The Real New Music

Well, at first there was this really silly black and white television show, Your Hit Parade. Maybe Snooky Lanson and Giselle McKenzie had decent voices, but if so, they were lost in the social mores of the mid-1950s that made this show utterly silly. For sure, Rosemary Clooney could sing, but even her songs sounded stupid on that show. “Did you know she’s George Clooney’s aunt?” I asked.

Watch the silly version below!


Meanwhile, there was an underground music movement afoot in Chicago. The really great blues singers and guitarists were black; they left the South for opportunity, and many got hooked up with an outfit called Chess Records.

Now, compare this Etta James version of "Roll With Me Henry" to Your Hit Parade's version:

“Hey,” Desmond said, “I saw Cadillac Records.”


“Yes, that movie documented the time and place and people of the Chess label singers. Remember Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Etta James, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry in the movie?”


“Yeh, I remember. Their music was great, but I didn’t really know anything about them,” said Desmond.

“Hear what I’m telling you. They were the pioneers. Here’s what you can do. Go to on-line music sellers, for example Amazon, and search for the 50th anniversary CDs of those Chess label singers. At some of the sites you can listen to a song.” The “new music” was coming off the gold and black Chess label, the red and black Atlantic Records label, the black and yellow Sun label out of Memphis, and a little bit on RCA (Elvis) and Decca (Bill Haley and the Comets).

I could almost hear Desmond thinking, “Yes, m’am, whatever you say lady.” But he kept asking questions. “Did it really happen kind of like Cadillac Records laid it out?”


The Blues Baby

During 1955-59, my friends and I huddled together around an AM transistor radio, often under a blanket, sneaking to listen to this “new music,” which couldn’t even be listed on mainstream Billboard. We heard it late at night on WLS out of Chicago.

Parents , preachers, do-gooders, the media were all horrified. This stuff was subversive and threatened the Fifties values and way of life.

Here’s what happened: All those different strains of music – blues, country, pop, even jazz and gospel – all entwined and metamorphized into Rock ‘n Roll. Here’s how Muddy Waters put it: “The blues had a baby and named it Rock ‘n Roll.”

Disc Jockey Alan Freed was the first to put it all together in a 1952 Rock ‘n Roll show, The Moondog Coronation Ball, in the Cleveland Arena; the teenagers went nuts – dancing, screaming, grabbing, crying. There were more such events to come. The rest is Rock ‘n Roll History.

Wanna hear some good stuff? Go here for a year-by-year juke box.



“Desmond, it’s working. You did it! And it was fun,” I said.

“It looks like it. Is there anything else? If you need us, just call. And thanks for the history lesson. I’m checking out Chess right now.”

“Bye, Desmond. Thanks again.”

Godzilla Raccoon and the Stolen Food


Special Note: Since my last post moaning about my computer problems, my new computer system has arrived. While this seems like a PRESTO solution, things are always more complicated under the surface. I’m still limping and asking for your patience. Slowly, very slowly, I’m getting files and settings on the new computer. Gazing still at my Y2K snowglobe, I see a trip to the computer tech guys in my near future.

Meanwhile here’s a true story about Godzilla Raccoon.

Raccoons love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I found this out years ago, when we first moved into this house. The raccoons in our woods were cute and friendly, so I fed them. Through the years, raccoon generations have come and gone. The last group somehow disconnected the wires to the fans on top of the roof and got into the attic to live. You could hear them roaming around, scratching, waking up for their nightly foray around the back yard looking for food, especially the dog food.

The dead give-away was the rising temperature in our upstairs – in lock-sync with the rising temperature in the attic where the hot air built up every day; how the raccoons lived in that heat is a mystery.

We managed to trap that group in our Have-a-Heart cage by luring them in with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They now live down in the country in those woods.

So, who is this NEW masked stranger, able to screw off the lids to the plastic garbage cans in our garage that hold the dog food and the birdseed, who’s roamings caused our Lab, Maggie, to wake at all hours of the night, run down the stairs, barking until we wake to let her bound out into the dark? It must be Godzilla Raccoon. He must have filled the void in the territory of our back yard.

All these goings on went on for several months. Night after night. Grrrrr.

Now, our white cat, Patty Cake, is a fat cat. Unladylike-3She lies around a lot in a most undignified position -- on her back, feet spread, tail flat on the floor. I figured that is why she seemed to always be whining for more food every morning. Or was Maggie sneaking downstairs to eat her cat food and lick the bowl every night? In any case, I filled it up a lot.

Recently I woke up in the middle of the night. I was on my way downstairs for a glass of milk. Just as I got to the bottom and rounded the corner to the kitchen, Maggie came out of nowhere, bounding down the stairs, barking at the top of her lungs. Then I saw it:

A very bushy tail was diving out the cat door. Godzilla Raccoon.

The next morning I spotted the evidence and got a picture of it. Everything I know about forensics I got from CSI. HA! The culprit’s footprints.







My turn to set a trap. I don’t know what I thought I would do if it worked, but I sneaked out in the middle of the night when Maggie was deep in sleep, camera in hand. Then it happened!

Here Godzilla comes. 




Very close!

Oh, my gawd, it’s Rocky Raccoon’s little brother! A baby. I’m not thinking of trapping him/her. At least not for now.

But we did have to board up the cat door.


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