Tea Room Memories

Like Polaroid snapshots dropped one by one on a table, new memories replace the former. The static, scratchy broadcast of a cheap FM radio which sits high on a shelf behind the ice cream counter adds to the evening din; made worse by the surrounding mountain peaks that bounce the signal. The weak antenna draws intermittent snips, broken pieces of Bennie and the Jets and Love me Like a Rock, but even then, only if the weather is clear and still.

The slam of a screen door and footfalls on the wooden floor in the stagnant summer air evoke visions of a Tea Room where no one drinks tea. A single oscillating fan aided by two ineffective paddle fans force air movement. Vacationers gather to eat sundaes, play checkers or assemble puzzles together.

The adults tap bragging rights, sharing the year’s accomplishments of their children. “Bradley got straight A’s again this year. He won the spelling bee, he’s captain of the championship baseball team, still sings in the choir at church, and since he’s going into sixth grade this year, he’s a shoo-in for the lead in the winter play.  How’s Gregory doing?”

In hushed tones they share gossip. “Did you hear about how that Nick got Susan Wilson—preg.”

“Shush. His mother is coming in just now.”

Occasional titters punctuated with sudden blasts of uncontrolled laughter suggest shared off-color jokes. “Maybe you kids ought to go play shuffleboard for a while.”

The children finish their sundaes and rush outside to the shed beside the courts to turn on the lights and reach through cobwebs for poles and discs, vying for red sticking the opponent with dull black. The buzzing white lights draw swarms of gnats that dip and sway occasionally bombarding eyes of the competitors.

Later, gentle commands float on the humidity from the edges of the yard beside the Tea Room. “Fifteen more minutes. Last game! Remember to put the poles and discs back in the shed.”

Then, “Turn off the lights now. Grab your flashlights. Let’s go.”

Together they plod along the path that leads into the mountain dark back to the cabin.

 

Stick Chick was right about the Monday thing and the Brainiacs

It’s the season once again when Loverboy finds himself incensed and dismayed, the result of the neighboring property owner’s choice to rely upon a questionable landscaping company hired to maintain the adjacent greenery.

As you may recall, Stick Chick has observed that Loverboy has a thing (read: “twisted thing”) about the lawn. The day after so much as a drop of rain falls, a neurosis compels him to get out there and mow the grass before it becomes uncontrollable (read: “visible.”) But, that’s okay. Most years nature strikes a balance between days of rain and sun, so their lawn tends toward the enviable.

In seasons past, at 7:00 AM each Monday morning, the lawn maintenance team (whom we’ll hereinafter refer to as ACME Contracting) would show up with their staff of three, a zero turn mower and two weed whackers to commence blasting across the 1,600 SF of macadam parking lot/dumpster station, shaded picnic nook (read: “place where kids hide from their parents to smoke”), dog business spot and lawn. Apparently on a strict schedule, if they missed the usual Monday, well, bummer (read: “foiled again.”)

During the winter, to his credit, the neighbor erected stylized apartments to replace the former historic (read: leaning, crumbing and long-neglected) buildings that once claimed the space. These featured early 1900s era outbuildings including a commercial storage barn, sheds and a farmhouse that had, probably in the 1950s, been converted into apartments and rented garages. Until their demolition, no visible updates appeared save for a celebratory piece of oriented strand board nailed haphazardly covering a hole in the sagging roof (read: or to protect against probable Y2K fallout) —she was never sure which.

The new construction included hand placed sod lawn surrounding the buildings and parking lot, and a modest attempt at shrubbery and mulch along the street facing façade. Sadly, it appeared that lawn maintenance for the summer season would be postponed likely a result of pinching of construction pennies in the final days. But the balance of scorching sunny days and trickles of rain interspersed one another with just enough nourishment to keep the dying sod alive.

Stick Chick Lawnmower

This year when spring arrived, Loverboy and Stick Chick (lacking the talent of a drummer playing Wipeout) waited with hopeful anticipation for the neighboring lawn maintenance team to arrive. Despite evidence to the contrary, Stick Chick said, “I’m sure they’ll do a better job this year,” when Loverboy gruxed about the inconsiderate and shoddy nature of the neighbor’s attempt at upkeep.

This Monday morning, on schedule at 7:00 AM in the pouring rain, Stick Chick stifled both a laugh and gasp of amazement to see that the Brainiacs had indeed sent a replacement “crew” of one with an aging push mower that sent clumps of sod flying through blades set a full two inches higher than Loverboy’s preferred blade height setting. Stick Chick recommends that the new landscape company (read: “sod butcher”) consider a name that seems par for the course: Take It Off my Rent Thanks.

Good help is hard to find.

 

Nothing Good Happens at the Edge of Town

Inspired by Edge of Town,

a show by portrait artist Warren Keyser,

coupled with my own reflections about the effects of

heroin addiction on people who have loved and lost an addict,

I wrote

this piece.

Mind Reader

Prompt: If you had the power to read minds for one day before you went crazy from all the chatter, how would you use your mind-reading powers for good?

Days pass when the chatter of people carrying on inane conversations make me want to flip the off switch.

The 24/7 technological connectedness amplifies this condition and I imagine that reading minds would be yet a further amplification.  Except that while so-called “good” thoughts would be added to the mix, so too would the lies, the untruths and harsh realities.

I admit this would require growing an extra layer (or layers) of my already thick skin as a buffer against vitriol. However, I prefer to think I’d  take the high road as a clairvoyant and offer advice to those with negative proclivities.

photo courtesy: Huffington Post
photo courtesy: Huffington Post

People, in my experience, can often be their own worst critics. I imagine someone with plenty of talent but low on self-esteem pondering thoughts like: “I’ll never be good enough to make a living as an artist (or baker, or chauffeur, or deputy sheriff…)”

I’d inquire first as to the source of this belief. I have found that with reasonably regular frequency, when questioned on nearly any topic about why they believe what they believe, people come to realize that their basis is neither logical nor sound.  It’s as if they formed an opinion early in the thought process either because someone  told them things are a certain way, or they alone came to a quick conclusion without doing real research.

Can I be an artist? Who am I comparing myself to? Why am I comparing myself to them? Do I need formalized education to achieve my goal? What skills do I possess that can help me? What or who stands in my way? How do I want to live? Am I high maintenance? Do I live in an area where I can be successful? Does geography matter? Am I a night owl or an early bird? How does that affect my ability to become who I want to be? Who can help me?

Reading another’s mind, catching and pointing out the negative and analyzing those thoughts by asking a myriad of questions can easily clear a path to the positive.  If I could read people’s minds and help them improve upon themselves, I’d consider that as “using my powers for good.”

I know what you’re thinking…