T’ain’t Funny, McGee

I’ve been sick. It’s not flu, it’s just a very, very bad cold. No vomiting, just coughing. And coughing, and coughing. Aches and tiredness, too. I’m getting better, but slowly. Ellen has it worse than I do, but she’s improving, too. The coughing is less scary, and we no longer speak in deep voices, sounding like strangers. I’m feeling well enough to tackle the Christmas tree, which stands in tired glory. There’s something depressing about a Christmas tree after Epiphany, even an artificial one, so it’s got to come down today.

And I think I need to watch something funny. A funny movie. Or listen to an old, funny radio show – Fibber McGee and Molly, maybe. Or, if I can distance myself from his shocking downfall, Bill Cosby. His riff on a visit to his dentist is a riot. Poor old man – maybe not Bill Cosby. He makes me angry that his humor is ruined. It wasn’t angry or cruel, like so many comics’ humor is. Sometimes I feel like writing him a furious letter, because I loved him, or the person I thought he was. I saw him in person, back in the early sixties, at the Hungry i in San Francisco, and became an instant fan. I had all his records, and watched his television show faithfully. And then . . . dammit. Dammit to hell.  So maybe not Bill Cosby.  As Molly says to Fibber at least once in every show, “T’ain’t funny, McGee.”  Not anymore, anyhow.

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Health, Wealth, Love – and Time

Happy New Year! There’s a Spanish toast I really like: Health, Wealth, Love – and Time to enjoy them. Lovely.

We held our annual penny-ante poker game last night, which is why I’m late at getting this blog entry out. It was a smaller-than-average group, but a selection of my favorite people present at the table: Don, Elizabeth, Ann, Henry. Susan and Ellen retired to her office to watch collections of scenes from old movies and some anime. My Gabapentin was working full time: I haven’t laughed that much in a long time.  That side effect of that medicine has become my favorite. Elizabeth was new to poker and in teaching her the rudiments I was reminded that while it’s not a complicated game to describe, it’s complicated to play. Lots of little rules, such as you don’t fold until it’s your turn, and more complex ones, such as the higher the rank of your hand, the more cards it takes to form it. A pair is just two cards, while a flush or a straight takes all five. I’ve been playing for so long, it just didn’t occur to me that four diamonds or a run of six, seven, eight and nine are no good at all.

The temperature dropped quickly and far down last night. I’d put the soft drinks and bubbly out on the balcony to keep them cold, but around eleven I got a complaint that someone’s ginger ale had turned to slush, so we hustled them indoors.

We took a break from the cards to play a simplified version of a new game I’d bought: Name 5. It comes with a little hour glass, which measures three minutes. So around the table, and quickly now: Name five states that start with M. After a minute we all join in. Name five heroes in horror movies. Or five orange foods. Or five television dads. It’s funny how a person can come up with three or four quickly, but that fifth one is elusive. But it’s a fun game.

Read an interesting article about weight loss. Exercise makes you healthier, but doesn’t help significantly to lose pounds. Only eating fewer calories does. Apparently your metabolism adjusts to your activity level. It’s like a miser: once it gets hold of a pound of fat, by gum, it’s a prisoner.

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Merry Christmas, everyone

We are expecting a dozen at our Christmas feast table in a few hours, so I’d better get at it. I had to order some more Claxton fruit cake, I gave some of my first order away, served some to guests, and ate a whole one over three days all by myself. But I’m putting out one of the new ones on the hors d’ouvres table, and will serve some of the Thai fortune cookies dipped in chocolate beside it, and the usual relish tray of pickles and two kinds of olives. And some spreadable Laughing Cow cheeses with crackers. That should hold them till dinner – if they don’t sicken themselves by trying all the variety of treats.

I’ve been worried about my failures to remember, and by my new, distressing, habit of driving somewhere and suddenly not being able to remember how to get there. Thank God for GPS! So I was offered a long cognition test by my doctor and it so stirred up my mind that the next day I felt quite competent. I should find some of those exercises Online and take them once or twice a week. A hard one was a sheet of paper with three or four columns of words of color: green, red, blue, orange. Only the words were printed with colors other than the names, red in blue, green in red, an endless mix. And I had to read them out loud – the words, not the color. Surprisingly difficult, and I got the giggles halfway down the first column. I think I did pretty well on the test, though I could not for the life of me remember who wrote Alice in Wonderland – though I knew Mark Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn. I also knew what year this was and who was President of the United States. The young man who gave me the test said he’d given it to a fellow who called him hours later to shout, “Lewis Carroll!” He predicted I would do that, too; but I actually had to ask a friend the next morning the name of the author – sometimes when I lose a bit of information, it’s really gone and I have to ask someone or look it up.

I had to serve at the altar for the Christmas Eve service at four yesterday evening and so had to drive by myself to Nephew Will and family’s house out in the country for a gift-exchange. I’ve never been there and when I tried to enter his address on my GPS, it informed that it had no maps. Ellen had taken it to update the system and something gang agley. But I had written instructions and so started off confidently. But their area has a combination of road signs that light up in headlights and ordinary street-corner signs and in the dark, I could not read them. Remembering stories of seniors who got lost and wandered for days in the wilderness, I went back and stopped at a gas station to call and got their answering machine and said, so sorry I’m going home. And I had to borrow the phone of the man behind the counter because, as usual, my cell phone’s battery was flat. It would make a bittersweet Christmas story, me alone in the apartment with Java the cat, watching Barney Miller and WKRP’s Christmas episodes, and going to bed early. But there are so many far worse off than that; I was warm and fed and had good company – Java loves to snuggle – and I said a prayer for them, and decided I was amused to be in an aggravating dilemma in this day of complex electronic helpers, all of which failed me. So the bag of gifts I have in the car will have to wait a couple of days. I’m all right, and I hope you all are all right, too.

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Cheery Hello

Seven days without Metformin and eating normally, my blood sugar this morning was 120 – well within normal range. And my A1C is 5.8, within normal range. Hallelujah! I no longer have Diabetes II. Anyone want a finger pricking device, a results reader, and an almost-full container of test strips?   I am somehow reminded of an anti-war folk song from the 70s whose last line was, “. . . And guns and swords and uniforms were scattered on the ground.”

It’s coming closer and closer to Christmas and we haven’t sent our cards yet. I am dithering because I can’t decide whether or not to write a Christmas Letter. We don’t have a lot of news, nothing either to brag about or moan about. We didn’t take a major trip, I don’t have a new book to brag about, Ellen’s knee replacement isn’t until next year, we’re otherwise healthy (even the cat) so what’s to talk about?

We had fog Thursday night so Friday morning the trees and bushes and stems of dead grass and weeds were coated with hoarfrost, very beautiful. And because it stayed cold and dead calm, the beauty lasted all day, most unusual.

I am taking a new-to-me medication for neuropathy which seems to be working, and which has the happy side effect of making me feel friendly. That seems odd, but it’s real. I hadn’t realized what an edge I’d developed until I lost it. So as the English say, “Cheery-bye.”

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Good news from my doctor: I don’t have diabetes anymore. Blood tests prove it, she declared. I’m delighted – but wary. I’ve been taking Metformin for years, and have credited it for my low blood sugar levels. So I’m laying off the Metformin for a week, then testing my blood to see if it’s still within safe levels. Meanwhile, tentatively, hurrah!

I’ve been buying t-shirts with snarky or funny or witty things printed on them for Christmas gifts. I like: If All Is Not Lost – Where Is It? And: If We Get Caught, You’re Deaf And I Can’t Speak English. And: I Can Explain It To You, But I Can’t Understand It For You. I’m buying each one based on the personality of the person, and it’s great fun to find one that fits exactly. I just found a new one: What Part of MEOW Don’t You Understand?

I’ve been writing less and less about composition.  Perhaps I should withdraw from this blog?

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Once Upon A Crime Needs Support

When my first novel, Murder at the War, came out in 1987, a local independent bookstore, Once Upon A Crime, held the pub party. Mary Cannon, who also wrote book reviews for Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, owned OUAC. She and the various owners down the years were very generous to local writers and the underground store was often raucous with parties. Mystery authors from around the country – the world – stopped by to autograph their books and the store became legendary. They held – I can’t believe this number – thirty for me as my name changed from Mary Monica Pulver to Margaret Frazer to the current Monica Ferris. Now, as has been the case before, the store is struggling. But apparently the struggle has become really desperate and they have started a Go Fund Me account. I have donated, and I hope you will, too. It would be a shame if this landmark shop closed for good.

We had an excellent Thanksgiving and with the onset of the Christmas season I am discovering the joys and aggravations of online shopping. Amazon, for example, managed to hang onto our old address from years back and sent two items there. When they were late and I ran their tracing route back, I discovered their error. We went to our old address and the current owner claimed not to know anything about two boxes in succession left on her doorstep, even though we had a photograph of one of them leaning against her front door. Grrrr . . . I could write a book. Couldn’t I? Hmmm . . . Maybe a short story, make it with a sweet touch, someone sad because she had no money to buy gifts, then they start arriving. Gifts of the Magi – no, Amazon.  (So some portion of my muse is alive and well, it seems.)

Here’s the link: Keep Once Upon A Crime Books open! https://www.gofundme.com/keep-once-upon-a-crime-books-open?pc=tw_dn_cpgntopnavlarge_r&rcid=r01-154333366087-b92278712ae04b71

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I’ll Fly Away

Sunday we had a speaker between the two services at St. George’s. She’s my good friend Elizabeth Keith, PhD, a sociologist, a college professor, a healer, a Cherokee, and she spoke on how to respond to the dying as friend, family, or medical professional. Set off an interesting series of questions and anecdotes. Some of the dying speak in side references, she said, such as getting on a train or ship, crossing a river or the ocean. Some see deceased relatives or even Jesus in the room with them.  A little boy spoke of how he was going to on an elevator with Jesus in such explicit terms her mother became frightened of taking an elevator.  The instructions to witnesses are: reassure. For example one man was sure he was going to catch a train, but fretted that he didn’t have his ticket. Elizabeth reassured him by saying his ticket would be at the window at the station. Another woman knew she had a new dress to wear but was frantic about having no shoes. Elizabeth actually went to a store and bought a fancy pair which she showed to the dying woman, who then passed on content. Some people want their family around them, but others seek solitude and they take an opportunity when no one is around to quietly sneak out of life. It was a very interesting session.

On my way home, I was listening, as I often do Sunday mornings, to a country radio station that plays old-time country hymns and I was singing along to one (“I’ll fly away, O glory, I’ll fly away. When I die hallelujah bye and bye, I’ll fly away”). You might find this odd for a high-church Episcopalian, but I find this old music comforting. I saw a big bird circling in the sky down Minnetonka Avenue – and then when it turned and the sun hit its back, I saw the tail was white – it was a bald eagle.  I’ve seen him before, but a just that moment it was . . . interesting.  An omen? I don’t know, but it wasn’t a scary one. But it gave me to think, truly.

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A Penny for the Guy?

Monday: I’m not going to be an election judge after all. I woke up sick this morning, coughing and wheezing and blowing. I hope it isn’t flu. I had my super-strength flu shot, so this is probably just a bad cold. A really bad cold.  Right? I was looking forward to being a part of this historic election, but I don’t think I should reward Seventh Precinct voters with a cold or worse just for doing their patriotic duty. So I’ll stay home, drinking herbal tea, snuggling with our cat and watching the returns between naps.

Today is Guy Fawkes Day, celebrated in England. Guy Fawkes was a lead actor in a group of Roman Catholic collaborators who allegedly, in 1605, packed the basement of Parliament in London with barrels of gunpowder with the intent of slaughtering King James I and many elected representatives. But the plot was thwarted literally as the match was about to be lit. After undergoing severe torture to make him confess, Guy and three others and others were hanged, drawn and quartered – well, Guy fell or jumped off the high scaffold and broke his neck before the worst could happen to him. Ever since the urchins of England make a rough effigy of “the guy” and drag him around in a wagon in the weeks before the day, reciting a rhyme and begging for pennies to buy fireworks. “Remember, remember the Fifth of November/ Gunpowder, treason and plot./ I see no reason why gunpowder treason/ Ever should be forgot.” They build a bonfire for The Guy on that historic evening and set off fireworks while he burns.

However, when I was over there in the late sixties I read an article in a Sunday supplement which threw some cold water on the historic account, saying it wasn’t an anti royal plot, but an anti-Catholic plot. The most telling element in the article noted that there was allegedly an enormous amount of gunpowder in that undercroft, barrels of it. Since the explosion never happened, where did the gunpowder go? There is no record in the Tower of London (the official government storage place for gunpowder) of a sudden increase in inventory. There are a number of places where Guy and his friends might have gotten gunpowder; for example, Spain. But of greater interest, where did it go? Hmmmm . . .

Tuesday morning: Took all kinds of over-the-counter remedies yesterday evening, slept for eleven hours last night and I’m sitting up at my keyboard this am. Feeling a little ragged around the edges, coughing messily, and thinking a cup of hot tea might help.  But better than yesterday.

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I sold a short story!  It’s in a newly published anthology: Cooked to Death, volume III, Hell for the Holidays. My story is titled, “Death Rejoices.” The book, signed by each author, is currently available from Once Upon A Crime Mystery Bookstore in Minneapolis, and is published by small press Obscura Productions. I was approached to write an entry for the book so long ago that I had just about forgotten writing it, so going to the bookstore for a signing this past Saturday was a special pleasure. Here’s the cover:

Entirely without meaning to, I have broken my sister’s dog’s heart. It happened when we visited my sister in Terre Haute, Indiana, last week. Hannah, a beautiful dandy dinmont, was standoffish, of course, when we arrived at her house, but I tried hard to win her over and on the last two days of our visit with her, succeeded. The dog would bring me one of her stuffed toys and growl softly at me until I picked it up and threw it, or played tug of war with her. It was fun to make friends and she seemed pleased to have won my heart. But then we had to pack to go home. I was putting things into my suitcase when Hannah came into the bedroom to sit down in front of me and look up with enormous brown eyes. There was gentle rebuke and sorrow on her face. Dolores said, “She knows what a suitcase means.” Awwww, and I’m not likely to go back for a long time. Now I’m sorry I made friends with her!

A good friend in Canada surprised me with a little framed piece of original blackwork (a kind of needlework) of a rhinoceros. She designed the piece – she’s very talented as well as kind and thoughtful. It’s sitting on my desk right now, trying hard to stir my muse back to life. I think it might be working.  Maybe it’s been working for a while and I just wasn’t aware.

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On The Road Again

We’re going out of town later this week, heading for Terre Haute, Indiana, to visit my sister and celebrate my birthday. Ordinarily we’d be looking to make a similar drive the end of October, to Indianapolis, to enjoy Magna cum Murder, a terrific mystery convention. But we’re not going this year. I don’t have a new novel to push, my muse is semi-comatose, and I don’t think I could enjoy the ambience.

But I’ll take the same pleasure in the drive. By the end of October, autumn is well-advanced in Minnesota (there’s been snow twice up near the border already), and as we head south, autumn retreats until by Indianapolis, everything is still pretty green. Then on the drive home, it comes on again. It’s like time travel. Mid-October in Terre Haute, my sister tells me, it’s still summer. So the effect will be nearly the same this year.

There’s a mystery short story in there somewhere. Maybe a kidnap victim can notice her surroundings and it’s a clue.

Somewhere inside me, there’s still a writer. I wish I could coax her out.

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