The Price of Today’s Medicine Bag

I wasted my time reading about bags this morning, because I get the Review-a-Day from and today’s review was fashion writer Lynn Yaeger, of the Village Voice, on three different books on handbag style.

She writes:

Forty years ago — even 30 — there was no such thing as a “hot” bag. You had something square and black, or brown and squashy, that you carried in the daytime; something smaller and shinier for evening; and maybe something made of velvet or straw if you were a hippie. Now an impressively large number of women, in addition to worrying about how thin they are and whether they can walk a block in the shoes they’re wearing, also feel compelled to spend in the neighborhood of $2,000 on a purse. And it isn’t only wealthy women who are shelling out; middle-class women, working women, even schoolgirls are also deeply conscious of what they are carrying. If a serious bag once signified that you were a grown-up, now the brand name on your bag signifies what kind of grown-up you are.

The article finishes with her account of buying a replica Louis Vuitton bag when the one she had on order didn’t show up, then shoving it to the back of the closet because of her reluctance to carry a second-hand-status bag despite the number of compliments she’d gotten on it.

She’s a little wrong on her history. When I was a kid and moved down South in 1967, I arrived in a place where status was absolutely bespoken by some mahogany brown and tweed style of handbag which was all to do with its NAME which I don’t recollect but it was relatively expensive for the time–and this was in the fifth grade in public school.

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That sound you hear is millions and millions of cribs rolling over pearl-encrusted streets toward heaven

Well, aren’t we all going to rest easier about all those little babies, stretching back to the dawn of humankind, which died before benefit of sprinkled baptism? Rome has decided that they all aren’t gurgling in Limbo cribs, eyes attempting to focus on the restrained delights of a distant heaven dangling from a mobile just beyond reach.

When I was eight years of age I asked my CCD nun, what about my sibling twins, who had died soon after birth? I knew she’d say, “Limbo!” I told myself, “What’s the use in asking when you know what she’s going to say?” But I had to ask anyway. Some times you just have to hear the cruel rejoinder rather than assuming it.

“Limbo,” she sternly replied.

Which wasn’t cruel to me personally as I wasn’t a believer in the benefits of baptism. I’d been baptized, by then, at least twice. My first baptism had been at about four or five years of age into some Protestant church. At the age of eight, the Catholic church saying the Protestant first baptism didn’t take, I was sprinkled into the Catholic Church, and though I was only eight I sniffed politics and used to joke about how Really Clean and Heaven Ready I was.

The reason I asked the nun my question is because I wanted to hear straight from her mouth her cruelty. It didn’t hurt me, but I wanted to hear it straight from her mouth, how she would respond to an eight-year-old who had lost siblings, wanted to hear from her mouth how her vision of her church would respond. I suspected how she would respond, but I wanted to give her an opportunity to pause, to say she wasn’t sure, to incline to comfort rather than condemnation. As I anticipated, she didn’t pause, she didn’t hesitate.

“Limbo,” she said.

When my mother picked me up, I told her what the nun had said.

My mother cried. “Why are you hurting me like this?” she asked.

I hadn’t intended to hurt her. I had just wanted her to know the kind of people I was hanging around at CCD.

She later wised up.

* * * * * * *

Credit: REUTERS/Osservatore Romano (VATICAN)

Not to bash anyone having a good time on their birthday, but we see above Pope Benedict XVI with his birthday cake this past week, and I think to myself, y’know, that seems an awful waste of money for a purportedly charitable organization. You and I both know that’s one damn expensive cake. And it’s very easy to get around that kind of ostentatious display by announcing beforehand, “No gifts for me, please! Instead give to the charity of your choice.”

Though insanely expensive, everyone in the above pic can rest easy that it doesn’t come close to being one of the most expensive cakes of all time…like the 1.65 million dollar diamond fruit cake of 2005, or the 2.16 million dollar cake of 2006 celebrating Mozart’s birthday, or the 20 million dollar diamond wedding cake of October 2006 at the Luxury Brands Bridal Show on Rodeo Drive.

While we’re at it, click here to give a cup of rice to some hungry people.

(Yes, in other words, those cakes are lots and lots of cups of rice.)

OK. Enough of that.

* * * * * * * *

What else was I going to write about? I was going to write about something and it wasn’t going to be a boring rant about this HELL of a cold (well, not hell) that just won’t stop. I keep thinking it’s “finally clearing out” but today I’m taking some OTC cold medicine to help with the congestion and cough (no, not a chest cough) and general unpleasantness. I hate cold medicine because it makes me feel so weird. Even weirder that Benadryl.

One of those colds that compels you to not do anything that you don’t absolutely have to do.

I’m looking right now at a picture of a very dead, upside down swordfish trapped in a tuna net, on the cover of this month’s National Geographic. The title is “Saving the Sea’s Bounty”. It’s not making me feel any better. It’s not supposed to make me feel better, I know…but today of all days I don’t need a dead swordfish poking around my brain.

* * * * * * * *

Now what?

I dunno.

The cold medicine has completely stopped the cough and blowing of nose, it seems, but I now have a searing headache (that dead swordfish, I told you I didn’t need it) and have to keep picking my head up off my right shoulder to which it keeps gravitating.

H.o.p. is calling me to watch “Redwall” with him. I have no use for that cartoon. He loves it. The sacrifices we make. I will now go in and watch “Redwall”…sideways…my head sitting on my right shoulder like it is.



Climbing trees

One of H.o.p.’s cousins has a tree house, as does PBS’ Arthur, and H.o.p. has decided he wants one. He has just done a sketch of a tree house, “It has an art gallery, there, and a play room.” At first I thought it was only intended to be an imaginary tree house but no, he then went on talking about how he was going to do the designs for it and our landlord could build it.

There are a couple of trees out back of the apartment building but the out back of the apartment building is inhospitable. I’m not telling H.o.p. there’s no chance of a tree house though. I get the feeling that this is one of those things to let him keep as a fantasy possible.

He has not liked the idea of climbing trees.

“Are you saying you’d like to try to climb a tree?”

“Never ever!”

“But you wouldn’t mind climbing a ladder to a tree house.”


He nods as he continues experimenting with making spit bubbles, seeing how big he can make them before they pop.

Now, I loved climbing trees when I was young. I was small and agile and had no fear of it.

We were ten. There was one other girl, also small for age, who said no she was the best at climbing trees and her friends said the same. So we went with our friends to the highest tree we knew to climb. Parked our bikes at the base and she and I started climbing, the rest of our friends standing below.

I could tell after a point she started becoming afraid. Then she was not just afraid but upset. She couldn’t go higher. I’d had a branch break out from under me once and had the breath knocked out of me hard, but a couple summers before, when we hadn’t known each other, she had fallen while climbing and broken an arm. When we first met she was still in a cast and had been introduced to me as the best tree climber there was. I’d thought, “Yeah, well, maybe for the neighborhood.”

She went back down. She stood at the base while I continued climbing, going as high as I could go, and they called, “Don’t! Come down! Come down! You’ve proved you can go higher, you’ve proved it!” Which surprised me. Surprised me when one of the girls started crying and got on her bike and rode away, afraid of what was going to happen. They were upset but I was proving something to myself. And I didn’t understand why they were afraid and kept calling for me to come down, not to go higher, when I knew what branches would support and which wouldn’t. I saw no reason to stop until it was impossible for me to go higher. And when it was impossible for me to go higher, I stopped and went back down. All but two had already left, gone home on their bikes, afraid, they didn’t want to be there if I fell. I couldn’t understand why they were all furious with me. After the other girl had gone back down then it had become a competition with the tree–and in a way had been only for me a competition with the tree. There was a sense of triumph of self, I’d done it, gone higher than I ever had before. But that was all and would have to be all. It was the last tree I climbed as a child. I didn’t climb any more with my friends as they said they would never climb trees with me again and because of it I didn’t feel like climbing for a while. Then at summer’s end we moved to a place where there weren’t any good climbing trees. Because there was nothing better than climbing a tree and then sitting in it, this felt like a cutting away of a part of me. But that was that.

Of course, probably just a few blocks over, unknown to us, was someone else who could have climbed as high or higher. In another tree. Not that one. The branches wouldn’t have sustained weight higher up.

The others had every right to be furious at me. We were children and they were frightened. Had something gone wrong, the memory of it would have stayed with them for the remainder of their lives. I’d broken a childhood trust, trespassed a kind of taboo. I didn’t know I had, because I’d felt so confident. When I touched ground again, one of the older girls who’d remained ripped into me good, yelling at me, enraged. And I realized what trust had been broken. It is something like gymnastics where you don’t do certain stunts if you don’t have someone there to spot you.

I’ve told H.o.p. I was good at climbing trees. I had thought it might encourage him, that his mom could climb trees, so he might climb and enjoy sitting with his cousin in the tree that his cousin likes to climb. But the only impression it made was that his mom could climb trees as a child. It didn’t make him want to climb trees. “My mom used to be able to climb trees. She was great at it,” I heard him tell one of his cousins. No inspiration for H.o.p. to even try it, he’s not a joiner in that way. If you can do something well then good for you but that doesn’t mean he has to do it. Which I figure is how it should be. If H.o.p. doesn’t want to climb trees there’s no reason for H.o.p. to climb trees. But if he will climb the ladder then good for him and great that he wants a treehouse with an art gallery.

H.o.p. is drawing a friendly cartoon monster, using this time some instruction rather than drawing by eye.

“Look, this is a hard one!” he says.

“I remember your doing this one before,” I tell him.

“Yes, it was hard at first but I got used to it,” he says.

Pot pies, Patriot Act, and the myth of TV dinners

See the above pic? It’s from some Raleigh North Carolina exhibit, dated 1952 and it is testament to two things. First, it testifies to the fact that people were already eating TV dinners before they came in foil trays. Second, collapsible TV trays existed before foil-packed TV dinners.

Had the picture been taken a year later then the family would have been eating out of foil tins at the table, For it was in 1953 that the TV dinner was invented, and Skookum sends notice that the inventor of the TV dinner has passed on at the age of 83, of cancer, which we can’t blame on the TV dinners because it turns out he was a gourmet cook and never ate them.

If I gave half a damn I’d go out and buy a TV dinner in memoriam of Gerry Thomas,who figured out what to do with 520,000 pounds of unsold Swanson Thanksgiving turkeys that, as there wasn’t room in the Swanson storehouses for them, were stranded in an American twilight zone of refrigerated railroad cars, going from west to east coast and back again.

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No other purpose but for the memory book

Ok. No one is going to be interested in this post except for a very small group of people who attended Jason Lee school in Richland, Washington in 4th grade in 1966-1967. And chances are perhaps not even they would be interested.

And chances are zero that any of that small group of people who might be interested in this picture would come upon this blog . For which reason, made aware–from when I did my Growing up in the shadow of Mt. Fuji post–that a website was seeking class pics from Jason Lee, I touched it up and sent it along to the website that was doing the seeking. Someone from the class may go there one day looking for the photo and there it will be. The photo was in bad shape with cracks and torn places that had destroyed several of the faces. Counting on symmetry I was able to do a tolerable job of reconstructing but I didn’t spend a lot of time on it, an evening, so it’s not the best work.

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For Tri-City, Washington State People – Pancake House 1967

Everyone else can say, “What do I care about an old pancake house!” and move along. This is the pancake house on George Washington Highway, 1967, in Richland, Washington. I loved that pancake house. We took a picture of it when we were leaving Richland because it was one of the favored places where the family went out to eat (which is going to happen when there are four children). We usually sat at a large circular table to the far middle left of the restaurant (as you’re facing the picture) and I’d take my school books with me and while waiting read stories on things like the fjords of Norway. The brothers and sister were usually totally obnoxious with someone whining and fighting. As the eldest, I was above that.

But from what I hear, no one was worse in a restaurant than my husband’s middle brother.

One of the reasons the quality of the pic is so poor is that at the time ColorCraft (where’d they go) was having this special deal where you’d get not only your picture but a teensy-tiny little bonus wallet copy attached at the side. About one and a quarter by two inches. This is from that bonus pic.

There is no other picture online of the pancake house on George Washington Highway, 1967, Richland, Washington.

Growing up in the shadow of Mt. Fuji

The UN nuclear arms conference began on Monday. The countdown to midnight has been moved forward again to 7 minutes to midnight, the same setting as when the clock debuted 55 years ago.

Picture on right: Hanford B reactor, source of the plutonium for Fatman. Source:

In 1960 I was three years old and we lived on a street called Blue in a government housing development that was a different kind of government housing development than what will immediately spring to most people’s minds. It was in the middle of an American desert that at that time not many Americans knew existed. The town we lived in was called Richland, located on the Columbia river in southeast Washington state.

As far as I knew, Richland was nestled in a state called paradise.


The Japanese transistor-culture had moved in and along with the portable pocket radios came western lamps and furnishings with pseudo-Japanese aesthetic. On the living room wall above the black and white tweed sofa was a print of a painting of Mt. Fuji framed in ebony and gold, gray volcano rising out of a wash of pink cloud and mist, a scene which to me complemented the lampshades of the slim black lamps on the paired white and ebony sofa endtables. The lampshades were double-tier and gave the appearance of parchment decorated with hills of seeming spare black and white brushstrokes converging and were probably not intended to be evocative of Asian art, but when I looked at them I saw Japan.

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I was back at the bottom of the hill, it was night, and I had started my walk up it

Wednesday a.m. I was still stressing over CSS when from the other room came ooo, nice tingly tinkly xylophone on PBS Kids. Early millennium gateway to jazz of yesteryear. For the second time in two days I felt briefly upbeat. And then PBS took my new happy theme music away and returned to the Arthur show. I’d labored on CSS all night, a constant stream of water dripping sounds accompanying, courtesy of H.o.p.’s computer and a browser window he’d left open on Brainpop world. Altering my reality would have been as simple as me putting one foot on the floor, leaning over and turning down the speakers on his computer. But I’m so used to H.o.p. using these sound clips as background atmosphere, even when he’s asleep I don’t think to turn them off. That lethargy may change now. I’ve got new speakers on my computer, my others having died, and they are some good sounding speakers with bass end. Some of the music on websites H.o.p. likes to visit sounds considerable-different. His eyes go wide. Wow. has a lot of samples available which is what I’m going through now, a couple of days later, Arthur again on because H.o.p. is crazy about cartoons. He likes the xylophone too. “Where’s that music coming from?” he asks. I show him. “Can I keep that song?” Sure thing.

Yesterday I posted the ramble on Loon via Coulter, which I’d written Sunday but quite often it takes me several days to decide, yeah, maybe I’ll go ahead and post. So last night I dreamt about my junior high…

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