Bucket-Listing Jamaica…

I can’t fit it all in.

Flashes. Snapshots. Moments swish past:

The chatty family at breakfast–who shares an understanding of the role of stress in caregiving those with special needs. How did Alicia do on her conference call, I wonder?

 

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One intrepid couple dared to bring their bikes into The Grand Hotel. Said vehicles were immediately booted and left as a warning to other would-be brash parties.

Biking hither and yon, a velocipede pedestrian torquing her camera like an unwieldy bolo tie at every scenic vista. I’m kind of suprised I didn’t garrote myself with my Canon by accident.

What I have learned thus far:

  • Strangely, the police station is not open for tourism. They were polite, but firm. I’ll just have to count the windows and make my best guess.*
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Is it me, or does the police station look more like a church or school house?
  • Ditto for the hospital.  Though, a very nice nurse did mention that patients could be airlifted via helicopter, saying, “When in doubt, we ship them out!” She was also very pleased to tell me that the medical center was one of the few “free standing emergency rooms” in the state. Now, to Google exactly what the significance of that is so I will be duly impressed…
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The modernity of the lone island medical facility is no doubt highly reassuring to its patients.
  • The airport is a parking lot for planes…planes with highly trusting owners. Apparently a 12-and-a-half-million dollar jet called a Citation Sovereign + landed there just a few weeks ago. I speculated that the ‘plus’ stood for that extra half million. I wonder if they left the keys above the visor?
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Planes could literally drive up to the Airport Office to check in.

People on vacation are willing to talk to strangers–probably in greater detail than they would anywhere else. Especially the newly weds.

Congrats once again to the couple from Holland who showed me their wedding photos and chatted in the shade by the Arch Rock waiting area. I’ll make sure to check out Kollen Park the next time I’m visiting Holland. May you live a long and happy life together, may all your worries be in your past.

Arch Rock.jpg
One is not allowed to leave Mackinac Island without proof of visiting Arch Rock. It is just not done!

Seriously, for such a small island, there is an inordinate number of hills. And rocks. And horse hockey.

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It is hard to take a bad photo of The Grand Hotel. It is possible, however, to nearly be run down by a horse and carriage while doing so. So, be warned!

I managed the tour of the Grand Hotel, getting some good photos and ideas for the finale–yet to be written–but what I really gained was an appreciation for the staff. The many kind people who work there–as well as a mother who took time to chat with me while her son ‘shadowed’ an employee in the program in hopes he might work there himself when he graduates from high school.

This mom had worked there in the summers of her youth–right around the time the hotel was last renovated. She confirmed that the wallpaper was original, they have no ‘servant stairwell’ (cross that one off the list), and that the wait staff, musicians, and bartenders were housed in buildings down from the hotel, back in the day. The building women stayed in was the John Jacob Astor house which is now called The Grand Cottage. The men were housed elsewhere–possibly in a building called “The Twilight” which is a forest green house down the hill, take a left, and the first on the right. (You can’t miss it.)**

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A small portion of the infamously long grand porch.

Slipping in and around busy bartenders, waiters, flower vendors, and the myriad other people working the hotel, I was routinely helped, with courteous, generous insistence.

My favorite stop had to be the Tea Shop. The Jamaican clerks were all natural charm and chatted about tea choices and even laughed when I read off a menu item identifying the contents of a $130 cocktail available in the nearby bar.***

125th-anniversary-cocktail
Image of the 125th Anniversary Cocktail stolen from TripAdvisor–I couldn’t afford to order the drink myself!

I finally asked how I could say ‘Hello’ in the patois of Jamaica. A painstaking effort was made to help me try and say it right: ‘Wha Gwahn’, is what it sounded like. Which could almost be a contraction of ‘What’s going on!” I also practiced the appropriate reply: “Arri, mon!” (Perhaps, ‘All right, man?”) Strangely, the language seems even harder to speak when stone cold sober. Go figure.

I ordered my tea and wandered off to drink it, forgetting entirely to pay. The assistant apologetically brought this to my attention–as if they were at fault for wanting payment!

Tea with Me
The author – who gussies up for the occasional selfie!

The young lady and I chatted for a bit. I told her about my son and asked her about autism awareness in her native land. She told me that everyone knows about autism because a great lady wrote a book about her son and it became very well known. I only wish I had taken down the name of the book! Antonette concluded by saying, “Don’t be afraid to bring your boy. Jamaica will be a great place for him. It’s all love!”

How can you turn down an invitation like that?

Her manager called her back to duty, I hope she wasn’t in trouble for taking so much time with me. If he only knew the kindness of such a gift. The thought that somewhere, out there, is a world full of people who would welcome my son with open arms.

It’s all love indeed.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*As dedicated a writer as I am, I wasn’t willing to get arrested to achieve my goals.

**Maybe you can’t miss it, but I certainly did. It is only gravity that keeps me from wandering off this planet by mistake.

***Maybe you’d prefer to save money and make the 125th Anniversary Cocktail at home? A quick search online reveals a bottle of the 100-year Grand Marnier Centenaire costs only $116.00, the 150 Anniversaire Grand Marnier comes in at $219.99 a bottle (Kaching!, and edible gold leaf–strangely enough–is the least expensive ingredient. It’s available, of all places, at Walmart for $76.45 for a pack of 25 squares. Don’t believe me? Check it out here:  Gold Leaf at Wally World.

_________________

And bonus points go out to anyone who noticed what is particularly strange about the bicycle depicted in the close-up of the wallpaper. I didn’t see it the first dozen or so times I tried to upload the pic from a location Where the Wifi was Iffy. (Which once I wrote that down, looked like a book title for a modern day sequel to Where the Wild Things Are.)

Drunk Biking on Mackinac Island*

 

I hit the island like a tropical storm…wearing makeup and shorts and a sweater and a rain coat. (I’m prepared for anything.)

The confusion at the docks means either I gave my luggage to a porter…or someone just made off with my computer.**

Once I’m checked into the B&B where I’m staying, I dive for a bike to start my two-wheeled therapy.

#I’M FREE!#

In a giddy rush, I tackle the 8-mile circumference with stop-and-go glee.

Stop-and-go because everything is a picture.

And I mean, E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.!!!

I’m stopping at every cove, each turn reveals a new sparkling shore.

I even photograph the rocks!

Hand to Rock
“To skip, or not to skip?”

 

(I chuck it at the rolling surf, continuing my life-long experiment in how much I suck at skipping stones.)

Bike - Wood Mansion
This is new…which is unusual for a national park which limits development severely.

 

 

 

There are oddly shaped trees and new construction–I wonder what the islanders have to say about the double-decker mansion going up on the east side??

BIke - Tree
Make your own caption!

 

I meander my way past a makeshift driftwood chair and table hosting a solitary cairn.

I stop to chat about this and that before, I’m off again, weaving my way until I am fish-hooked by a marker signifying the filming of ‘Somewhere in Time.’ A rock with a plaque reads “At this site on June 27, 1912 Richard Collier found Elise McKenna” making fact of fiction.

Bike - Is It You
Even on the farthest shore, you cannot escape this movie.

 

Does stopping to take a picture mean I’m perpetuating the lie?

The omnipresent seagulls make me a little paranoid…I mean, they are following me everywhere.

I stop to write bad poetry about seagulls pinned to the sky by the wind.

BIke - Seagull4
Whenever I see a solitary seagull, I think, “Jonathan Livingston, I presume?”

 

I circle back to the noisy, tourist-engorged center of town…

Bike - Town
Taken without permission…but they did just stand there blocking my shot, so…

 

I clickety-click my way to “The Dock Shack” to ask a few questions about the island’s private harbor to make sure a scene in my book will actually work. I’m assured that the larger boats could dock at the privately owned pier at the far end where my heroine meets a watery fate. (Though, not fatal, as she’s only twelve.)

Narrow Escape Route
I took the weirdest tourist photos. I’m lucky I wasn’t reported for crawling around the library trying to get pictures of the interior of a locked building.

 

I have qualms about whether a golf cart could get through this narrow passage way…but then decide that fiction makes all things possible. (No matter how improbable.)

And then, thirsty, but elated, I belly up to the best scenery you can find–overlooking a miniature golf course. I dine with a view of happy families as far as the eye can see.

Water melon Elderflower Cooler
My innocent-looking Drinky-Winky.

 

I sip my watermelon/elderflower cocktail–fluffing my violet so it doesn’t get sucked up the straw.

And I listen…

To the “Good Game” family as they cheer each other on:

“Go, Team Justin!”

(If he’s no taller than his putter, that makes him four, right?)

“Go, Team Evan!”

(Stoically, Evan waits his turn as Justin putt-putts the ball to the cup in what had to be eleventy-hundred strokes.)

Everybody is a winner!

“Crack!” this is the sound their sister’s swing makes as she whacks the ball–hard–and it hits the flag sinking into the cup in a single move. I doubt professional golfers could duplicate her efforts.

She’s all poise and nonchalance as she retrieves her ball.

Everyone high-fives each other and they totter off the 18th hole.

As they leave, I can still hear their echoing ‘Good Games’ wafting behind them.

Then there was the artist earlier in the day. I’m perusing her exhibit and overhearing a NSFW conversation about a date that went nowhere.

“And then, I ask him…’Are you a good kisser?’ And he says, ‘I don’t know. You be the judge.'”

The conversation goes in and out like a static-y station on the radio as I move from room to room. I hear the last bit as I bring my purchase up.

“And then he offers me the couch…’Or,’ he says, ‘you can sleep with me, if you want,’…but that was too weird, so I didn’t go to bed with him.”

To me she says, ‘That’ll be six dollars.”

The waiters behind me are bantering, bringing me back to the here and now. Despite the chill of dusk, there is something warm in their words. They speak in drawling tones–a language born under a hot sun, where humidity slows the syllables and hard consonants are too much work.

Is it…French…? Or…Spanish? I can’t quite tell.

When the waiter returns, I start to ask…and then notice under his name, the tag actually says, “I am from Jamaica.”

We chat for a bit and he tells me he’s been coming here for five seasons now. Flying in from Detroit or Chicago and driving up together.

It’s then that I notice his name, and I’m startled into asking:

“Fitz? Isn’t that a German name?”

He looks at me with his soulful dark eyes–a rich brown to match his skin–apparently unperturbed by my rudeness. “Oh yes, there are lots of Germans and Irish in Jamaica.”

I don’t question it at the time…but now I am wondering if he was pulling my inebriated leg?

I borrow a menu from my neighbors–a father and daughter who’ve been sharing the view of the perfectly manicured lawns.

We exchange “Where are you froms?”

Turns out–we live about ten miles away from each other.

I learn that I’ve been sitting next to a member of the cast of Annie–a production run by Hope College.  Ellie tells me that she’s playing “Molly” and that she has a few lines of dialogue as well as singing. She speaks like she’s been in theater for years. She’s ten!

I ask in a conspiratorial whisper, “Do you have a real red head to play the lead?”

She shakes her head. “No, they dyed her hair!”

“Would you have dyed your hair for the part?” I ask.

She considers this. “Well, if it was for a big theater. Yes. Not for just a local production.”

My head is spinning, and not just at the savoir faire of the pint-sized talent beside me.

I eyeball my drinky-winky…

Hey, where’d it go?

I pay my bill, trying not to wince at the total.***

“How much alcohol was in that drink?” I ask Fitz.

“Only a shot and a half of vodka, plus the elderflower liquor.” He seems surprised by my lack of backbone…or knees. “Should I call you a ride?”

I hold up my helmet. “No…’v got my bike. The B&B ‘s not far.”

I pour myself out of the restaurant, slurring my way back to the bike rack. I miss every single horse plop on the way back to the B&B.

Surrounded by families biking, building cairns, playing golf, and being chauffeured by a proud parent from stage to island and back again…I’m tipsy enough to be missing my son.  And hoping he’s having as much fun as I am.

There is no high like the freedom from parenting…but a little elderflower liquor certainly doesn’t hurt.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Also drunk blogging…

**Hint…I’m typing on it right now.

***Welcome to the island, all major credit cards can be maxed out here.

The Haggard Henchman and a Recipe to Die For

[While Kirizar is gallivanting in the back of beyond reveling in freedom…enjoy this rare glimpse of short fiction written for a contest that never wrote back to offer praise or accolades. The bastards.]

*

 

I was supposed to write it down. She told me to write it down…

“I’ve got it,” I protest. “Eggs, half and half and ham. I can remember three items.”

“There are four items! You forgot the shredded cheese. Cheddar…not American. So write it down or you’ll forget.”

She repeats the list while I scribble on the back of the junk mail I’d grabbed. I have half an eye on the Greenbay game while she’s nattering about the block association meeting.

“I’ve promised to bring quiche tomorrow. We have got to do something about the insect infestation…and who knows what kind of toxic spill cause the red fungus…”

Suddenly, she’s snapping her fingers in front of my eyes.

“Hurry, Fritz, or I won’t have time to make them tonight. Go!”

And then she’s shoving me out the door.

I’m halfway to my car when I glance down and see what I added beneath the word ‘Ham’:

‘Be Warned. It is coming. Prepare for midnight.’  Cats Paw

The foreteller signed it with a cat’s paw. I don’t know why. Maybe the cats dictate to her? Why she can’t be bothered to get a cell phone like normal people…

But then, she isn’t normal people.

These thoughts chase me all the way to her bungalow on the fringe of a suburb suffering urban blight.

I climb out of my Ford Fiesta, which looks like a drunken frat party held a kegger in it, and march up the steps to the door with a gargoyle knocker. I nearly trip on the ubiquitous cats; the striped tom stares at me out of his one good eye and growls a warning. I repress the urge to snarl back.

The door opens.

“Hurry.”

I don’t even have a chance to speak before my mistress yanks me in. I have just enough time to scoot through before she slams the door shut in the tom cat’s face. And then she’s barking instructions while I’m still scrambling for a quill and parchment.

“Get the moss from a dead oak and circle the graveyard twice before returning.” She shakes a finger at me. “And don’t forget the toadstools. The prophylactic potion of the apocalypse is quite specific. You don’t want the world to end because you forgot!”

Prophylactic…what?”

“Just go!”

I am half-bit by bugs when I finally leave the swamp. The graveyard is not far from the Stop-n-Go. The augured apocalypse isn’t for three more hours; I can spare fifteen minutes to run in. No problem!

After delivering the spell supplies, I race home to watch the post-game highlights. I’m just getting comfortable when I hear the shriek from the kitchen and a loud thump.

What now? I know I got everything on the list!

It’s only when I find my wife collapsed beside a pile of entrails that I realize my mistake.

Oh well…maybe there’s such a thing as a quiche of the apocalypse?

 

 

Say Cheese!

Some days, you just gotta get your funk on!  So, of course, you go to your local specialty cheese store. If you are feeling blue, have they got the cheese for you!

 

Cheese 3
Located south on Fuller Avenue not too far past the intersection of Michigan and Fuller, in Grand Rapids, MI. Drive too fast and you’ll miss the recessed lot–twice if you are absentminded!

 

I recently explored the highly-select, curdled delicacies of The Cheese Lady. This particular gouda merchant has been in business for over five years within walking distance of where I work. I have never been to such a specialized store since I visited the short-lived “Get Oiled” lubricant emporium at a nearby mall.* That establishment overestimated a beer-drinking town’s appetites for strictly olive-oil based tastes. Fortunately, cheese goes magnificently with beer. So, against the economic odds, The Cheese Lady is thriving.

 

Cheese 2
If only this were a scratch-n-sniff website. Mourn that it is not!

 

You wouldn’t think you’d find someone willing to pay $28.00 per pound for a cheese.** But, if you casually drop into the conversation that you are a blogger, apparently they are willing to break out the 15-year-old, Pleasant Ridge Reserve, to dazzle your senses.

 

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Much more pleasant than it looks! But highly reserved! Do not try to chat up this cheese. It doesn’t do casual conversation!

 

I was given several different samples to try–like many addictive substances, the first taste is free. My personal favorite was a strong cheddar with a soft name: Prairie Breeze Cheddar.  If you go to their site, you can read the details–or misread them as I did–and learn that this cheese is made by milking the Mennonite Amish in Iowa. I hope it isn’t a painful process, but even if it is, it is certainly worth the price for the pleasure. (I’m sure there is a bondage joke somewhere straining to break free in that sentence.)

Prairie Breeze has the bite of a 10-year aging process and the crystallization that makes each nibble a squeaky pleasure against the back of the teeth and palate. It is also made of vegetarian rennet – in case you are squeamish about abusing animals for your taste buds but not enough to eschew cheese consumption entirely.

I’m a bit of a foodie, I know a hard Italian can be found beyond the covers of a romance novel.*** But this place had names for cheese I’ve never heard of. I’m scanning the wall of exotica and I point to one that just screams to be tasted, which is how I ended up the victim of what has to be a practical joke cheese.

 

Cheese 5
Just in case you doubted it…squint and look at the bottom of the fourth column. You’ll spot the witch in question!

 

If you have a penchant for the pungent, you may want to give it a try. (Or, if you are a wicked prankster and have a cheese-loving victim in mind…) Sample the Red Witch.  She’s to die for. Be warned, I had to spit the offending Wiccan out of my mouth because it went past my ‘blue cheese’ tolerance levels into a zone I gaspingly describe as “People Actually Eat This?” It is definitely an acquired taste. It was also created for a specific event so it’s a limited ‘pleasure’ to be had before it’s gone, gone, gone.****

 

Cheese 4
Hand-rolled by virginal Swiss maids sporting obligatory blond braids and wearing traditional costumes. Feel free to yodel while unrolling them.

 

You don’t need a special occasion to stop by. However, it’s a great location to throw together a one-of-a-kind gift. The store sells decorative baskets so you can pull together your sundry delights. There are cheeses galore and more–gourmet items you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else. There were some gorgeous, if pricey, clay sculptures, cheese boards and other sundry specialties to round out your gift giving. Crackers, jams, and dried fruit combos abound. It is definitely a store for the upper market, but, even an everyday person like me can drop a few dollars or sample for free the forbidden fruits of years of cheese making tradition. I missed out on the dessert cheeses this time around. I plan next to hit the blueberry stilton and tantalizing-sounding cranberry wensleydale–in honor of my favorite British duo: Wallace and Gromit.

a-wallacegromit

I may even beg a little mango ginger or lemon stilton while I’m at it. I am not above groveling. For cheese is a pleasure one should not deny oneself. It is a gift from the moldy gods! And there’s nothing funky about that!

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*Not the real name of the establishment, I’m saving their dignity. I entered “Get Oiled” in wonder a few years ago honestly expecting someone to jump out and yell, “Surprise!” revealing it to be a giant hoax. The next time I visited the mall, it was no longer there. Perhaps it was a Potemkin Olive Oil Village?

**You’d be wrong. *nibbles 1-ounce purchase*

***I’m looking at you, Fabio!

****While eating the Red Witch, I highly recommend you gasp, “I’m melting, I’m melting,” before sinking to the floor in a collapse, just to add authenticity to the experience.

Down For The Count

Life is funny. And tragic. Sometimes it’s both. But mostly, it’s a fight to the finish.

*

Bathos Theater in Conjunction with the Below-the-Belt Boxing Federation Presents:

“A Low Blow”

 

Announcer: “In this corner, weighing it at 8000 pounds pressure per square inch, the reigning champion: LIFE!*

[LIFE bounces around in the corner wearing hardened leather gloves. Shiny, red satin shorts jiggle as the mammoth boxer warms up.]

Announcer: And in this corner, weighing it at… (looks down at card)… None-Of-Your-G.D.-Business, and facing the wrong way: The Czarrrrina of Pain!*

[Czarina looks down at pink Hello Kitty boxing gloves with perplexed bewilderment.]

Kiri-Czar: “Hey… there’s been some kind of mistake here.”

[Announcer walks to center ring, dragging reluctant Czarina along with him and holding a hand up to stop LIFE from plowing right over her before the bell rings.]

Announcer: (grabs dangling mic) “This fight will go ten rounds until one of the fighters is knocked out or their manager throws in a towel.”

Kiri-Czar: (looks frantically around) “Where’s a towel? Wait…where’s my manager? Somebody get me a manager…or a towel!”

Announcer: “Are you ready to RumbbbbbbbbBBBBBLLLLlleee?”

Kiri-Czar: “NO!”

LIFE: (snorts like bull, nostrils flare) “AaaROOOOOoooooOOOOOO!”

[Bell Rings *DING*]

Kiri-Czar: (holds up Hello Kitty clad hands) “Wait! You wouldn’t hit a girl with glasses, would you?”

LIFE: (swings) “Snarl!”

Kiri-Czar: (ducks frantically) “I guess you would.”

[The next five minutes are a slap-stick routine where the Czarina runs around the ring trying to hide behind an annoyed announcer while LIFE tries to pin her to the ropes. Brace yourself, sports analogies are not her forte.]

LIFE: (growls, dances back and forth) “Stop running away!”

Kiri-Czar: “Stop chasing me!”

[The Czarina grabs an oar from an audience member and WHACKS! LIFE over the head with it! LIFE shakes head as tiny yellow birds tweet in a circle around LIFE’s head.**]

Canoe 1
One hour into a 4 1/2 hour Canoe Trip. Still had energy to lift cell phone to take a picture.

 

LIFE: “Oh, so that’s how you wanna play it?” (grabs tweety bird, throws it at Czarina) “I whip the bird at you then!”

Kiri-Czar: (ducks bird) “That’s not how you whip someone the bird…” (tries to whip bird…stares at boxing glove) “Oh…right.”

[The Czarina raises the oar once again as LIFE stomps toward her. She swings. Misses. LIFE snatches oar with dismissive snort.]

LIFE: (breaks oar over knee) “You can run…but you can’t hide!”

Kiri-Czar: (slips behind Announcer) “Oh yeah!? Watch me!”

LIFE: “I’ll find you in the end. You should just give up now.”

Kiri-Czar: “Screw that.”

LIFE: “Oh, I plan to!”

[LIFE doubles back, pushing the announcer aside, and advances on the Czarina. Czarina grabs a tent and camp stove—holding them in front of her.]

Camping Tent
Before The End Came

 

LIFE: “Where do you think you’re going?”

Kiri-Czar: “Camping. What does it look like?”

LIFE: (rears, one arm back) “Hah. I don’t think so…”

[SWOOSH. SMACK. THUD.]

Announcer: (Counting) “One Mississippi…”

[Czarina lies on floor, dazed, babbling about recent events.]

Kiri-Czar: “All I wanted to do was take him camping… he likes camping… ”

Announcer: (Counting) “Two Mississippi…”

Kiri-Czar: “Two nights, we made it two nights…and then…BAM! We are off to the emergency room at midnight.”

Pooped at the Hospital
Turns out he was just badly…uh…compacted. Took 3 hours and x-rays to confirm the problem. Sigh.

 

Announcer: (Counting) “Two-and-a-half Mississippi…”

Kiri-Czar (eyes announcer): “What happened to Three Mississippi?”

Announcer: “If I don’t count…LIFE gets to come over and stomp you until you get up again…”

Kiri-Czar: “What kind of crooked game is this?”

Announcer: “It’s the game of LIFE. Two-and-three-quarters Mississippi.”

Kiri-Czar: (scrambles upright) “Does that mean LIFE always wins?”

Announcer: “It means, no matter how you play, sometimes, you gotta lose.”

Kiri-Czar: “Well that’s just great.”

LIFE: (charges) “ROAAAARRRRRR!”

[Czarina drops to her knees and crawls through LIFE’s legs.]

LIFE: “Get back here punny human!”

Kiri-Czar: (stops to correct LIFE’s spelling): “I think you mean ‘Puny!’ ‘Punny’ would be like if I said I would called you a banana…except you have no appeal!”

Boxing Bananas
Found in Google search of ‘boxing puns’. Stolen from long-ass webpage link.

 

LIFE: “PUN THIS!”

[LIFE lands a sharp jab—a sweet kiss to the Czarina’s glass jaw.]

Kiri-Czar: (staggers back, one drunken blue bird whizzing before her eyes) “Now, that’s a bird of a different color!”***

LIFE: (Feints left, crosses right) “That was a play on words. Not a pun!”

[SMACK, SMACK, KA-POW! THUD.]

[Announcer looms over Czarina, counting while LIFE gloats.]

LIFE: “Just for that, your son gets chronic constipation and an addiction to popcorn.”

Kiri-Czar: (aghast) “Noooooo!”

LIFE: “Plus you have to give him this medicine for three days until he goes ‘Pop!’”

Kiri-Czar: “Don’t you mean poop?”

LIFE: (*evil smile*): “You’ll see.”

Announcer: (wheezing) “Two and ninety-nine-one hundredths Mississippi…”

Kiri-Czar: (staggers to feet) “That’s it. Go ahead. Pick on the little guy!”

[Wildly swinging, the Czarina advances throwing haymakers as she goes. She lands a glancing blow to LIFE’s bread basket.]

Kiri-Czar: “How do you like that, you…you big bazooka?”

LIFE: “Do you mean ‘Palooka?’”

[Czarina continues to piffle away at LIFE throwing more dope than rope. LIFE holds her off with one leather glove pushing against her sweaty forehead.]

Kiri-Czar: (winds up and swings): “Whatever! I’ve had it. I go canoeing. I go camping. And wherever I go, I get no peace. There is always this counter attack waiting to knock me down, every damned time I step in the ring. I’m beginning to feel like a punching bag. When am I gonna get a break?”

LIFE: “You want a break?”

Kiri-Czar: (Hello Kitty balled fists on hips) “Yes. Yes I do!”

LIFE: (shrugs) “Okay. If you say so.”

Announcer: (bellows into mic) “LIFE feints left and then crosses with a right hook to the head. Czarina’s glasses go flying. She’s blind now, ducking a barrage of punches. Hello Kitty gloves are no defense against LIFE. LIFE isn’t pulling it’s punches anymore. LIFE delivers a damaging blow to the kidneys. The injustice! There’s no Marquess of Queensberry here, folks! Next, the Czarina dodges a jab only to walk straight into an uppercut. Oooh, the Czarina’s on the ropes. The blows are pounding her like hail on a Kansas wheat field. LIFE is raining down. Rain is raining down. LIFE switches to KickBoxing and the Czarina takes a roundhouse to the noggin. The Czarina’s on the ground. She’s taken a beating, ladies and gentlemen. I don’t think she’ll be back up again for quite some time. I’m calling this fight. The Winner by KO and Ultimate Fight Champion of the World is…LIFE.”

[LIFE dances around the ring, both arms raised, pumping the air in victory. Stops to stand over the inert form of the Czarina sprawled on the floor. In the distance, the final bell *DINGS*.]

LIFE: (shouts) “Get the cutman…we’ve got a bleeder!”

[The crowd departs, LIFE raised on its shoulders. The loser is left in a pile on the floor, the white towel of surrender shrouding her face.]

 

*time passes*

Cutman: “C’mon, let’s get you patched up.”

Kiri-Czar: (wakes confused) “What…what happened?”

Cutman: “It’s 3:00 A.M. LIFE dropped a tree on your house and took out your electricity. Your kid is on the power laxatives for two more days. You get to stay home and wait for the shit to stop pouring in.”

Tree on Roof
My poor house and formerly new roof.

 

Kiri-Czar: (jaw drops) “WHAAAAAT? You’ve gotta be kidding me!”

Cutman: “You asked for a break from the routine chaos, right? You were tired of everything you’ve been dealing with, yeah?”

Kiri-Czar: “Uh…yeah. But, I didn’t ask for…” (looks around, gestures to the dark and utter chaos)… “THIS!”

Cutman: “LIFE’s tricky that way. You asked for a ‘break’…it gives you a ‘break.’” (points to tree on roof, shakes head) “You just gotta be grateful it wasn’t your leg! Or worse.”

Kiri-Czar: (holds ice to black eye) “Right…just, ask LIFE…no more breaks for me for a while, okay? Please?”

Cutman: (packing up gauze, tosses loose pinecone to the Czarina) “I can’t make any promises. But let’s agree…we won’t be complaining about ordinary LIFE so much after this, right? That’s what LIFE gives you…perspective. It can always be worse.”

Pinecone FInger
Yep. That pretty much sums it up.

 

Kiri-Czar: (raises pinecone in disbelief) “If life gives you lemons…you make lemonade. What’re you supposed to make with pinecones?”

Cutman: (looks around and the devastation/deforestation) “I don’t know…Pińa Coladas, maybe?”

Kiri-Czar: (wincing) “Ugh…what a terrible pun.”

[With a flourish, the Cutman whips off the surgical mask revealing the grinning face of LIFE.]

LIFE: (taps Czarina gently on the chin] “Nuh Uh! It’s a play on words, not a pun! I think someone’s had just enough PUN-ishment for one day.”

Kiri-Czar: “Ugh.”

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Or, as my friend put it when she heard the news: “You’re some kind of shit magnet, you know that?”

**LIFE looks a bit like the HULK and MR. CLEAN had an angry, bilious baby.

***Look, coming up with sports-related puns was definitely not in my wheelhouse. And, even if it were, someone would probably drop a tree on it.


You’ve read the whole thing bonus:

I will be selling Roof Killer Pinecones at a reasonable price of $25.00. Drop me a line if you too want to plant this decimating conifer in your backyard.

And if anyone wants me, I’ll be at a cabin this weekend watching the campfire with a disturbing amount of pleasure as I watch the kindling burn.  Burn baby, burn!

Brain on Standby…Hold, Please

I keep trying to pin down a thought.

T

H

  O

       u

 G

                                                   T

Crap…there goes another one.

Distracted by minutiae*

Unable to FOCUS!

*slaps face*

Need sleep, breath…peace.

I have a moth for a brain and the light bulb burns like an acetylene torch.**

The afterimage from staring into the glow is cutting holes in my cerebellum.

Burning+Moth
Image stolen from eyeheartcreative.ca

 

 

I write, but it’s nothing to write home about.

Have posts unpublished and no time for review, reflection, or renewal.

Stop the world spinning so fast…I might be sick.

And so it goes, and so it goes, and so it goes…

 

I am Fine
In searching for an image for ‘Thoughts’ this is what I found. Seems about right.

 

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*One of which is the correct spelling of the plural of minutia.

**Googled the spelling of that one too.

Holy Crepe!

Sometimes, life just hands you a plate of crepes!

*

I’m taking my post-luncheon peramble to the Fulton Street Farmers Market Wednesday when I stumble on a gloriously sweet find. The Crepes By the Lakes mini kitchen was hopping with customers despite the small crowds.

I had already had my lunch for the day, so it was a total indulgence to get in line for a warm, made-to-order crepe. There was so many choices, despite the petite dimensions of the mobile kitchen.

Crepes Menu
Apparently, hanging your menu at toddler-accessible heights has its drawbacks.

Owners and entrepreneurs, Stephanie Lenhart and Courtney Verhage, were dicing tomatoes and spinning crepes while chatting with customers. It was a busy scene, but they willingly stopped for a photo when the powdered sugar dust settled.

Crepe Makers - Stephanie and Courtney
Stephanie (left) and Jen (right). Courtney ducked in and out and missed the key photo shoot.

 

Crepe on Straightish
Not just a runny pancake! A runny pancake with style.

 

Because of customers, there was only time for a few quick questions–besides the one the cook shot me: “Would you like strawberries with that?”*

The dynamic duo were somewhat challenged by windy attempts to blow their sign off the cart and plates and napkins flapping like signal flags at the start of a race. But they had happy smiles as they described their products.

Courtney pointed to the Cubano–the first item on the menu–letting me know that this would be their entry in the annual Grand Rapids “Grandwich” competition. Voting begins July 5th and you just have to check the Crepes by the Lakes Facebook page to find a location where you can hunt down this origami-folded entrant:

Crepe - Cubano Ingredients

Sadly, I did not get a picture of a cubano, however, there is video available on the Facebook page that’s downright sizzling:

Cubano-Food Porn

My personal choice looks pretty sedate by comparison, but don’t let looks fool you!

Crepe
Cinnamini-Goodness!

 

After a healthy toss of powdered sugar**, I ducked into a nearby farmers market stall to taste test my prize. The warm, buttery slip had been folded into a fan shape. You couldn’t see the precious berries until you sank your teeth into a crispy edge and they popped up with an ooze of butter and cinnamon/sugar liquid.*** It was sweet and yet savory. Each mouthful served up a rich texture of the best a thin pancake can offer, down to the very last, sinful mouthful.

If you go…make sure you are willing to leave, fingers dripping in butter, with a guilty trace of indulgence on your lips.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Strawberry-Bedecked Answer: Yes. Yes I would.

**Warning, powdered sugar will blow up in your face if you let it. It’s the sugary shrapnel of pastry-artillery fire.

***Author stops typing momentarily…*Drool*…to wipe keyboard.

 

The Smallest Cuts…

GlassesWe had another…incident. That’s how it feels, reporting these moments of autism-inspired flare-ups—like filing a police report. You can almost see the mirrored sunglasses glinting as the fictional officer approaches…

IO (imaginary officer): “What seems to be the trouble here?”

ME (me): “I…I…He…and then…”

IO: “Slow down, ma’am. Is anybody hurt?”

ME: (snuffles) “No. Well, just a little.” (rubs hand) “It’s nothing. I’m just crying.”

IO: (looks around) “By the side of the road?”

ME: (wails open-mouthed) “Yessss.”

IO: “Tell me what happened, ma’am.”

ME: (wipes snot) “I tried to take my son to the restaurant.”

IO: (gestures) “This one?”

ME: “Yes.”

IO: “And then what happened.”

ME: “Little Man refused to go in…but I made him. And then…” (tears well up again.)

IO: “Yes?”

ME: “He lost it. He started screaming and biting himself and fighting me. I tried to stop him. A woman helped me get him to a table and I tried to give him his emergency medicine. While I was getting the pills, he sank his teeth in and I dropped them all over the floor. I was wrestling him, trying to get him calm and he finally started to settle down when…” (starts crying again)

IO: “Go on.”

ME: “…the manager asked us to leave.”

IO: “I see.” (clicks pen, scribbles a few notes) “Was anyone else hurt?”

ME: “No…just my hand. I’m gonna be fine. Just need a Bandaid.”

IO: “Are you going to be okay to drive?”

ME: “In a minute. I’m just waiting until I’m sure Little Man is okay.”

IO: “Sounds like a plan. Take all the time you need.”

ME: (sniffs) “Thanks.”

IO: “Don’t mention it, ma’am. Just get home safe…and take care of that bite.”

With the click of a pen, the imaginary officer walks back to the car and calls it in, then fades away and is gone. I’m left, wondering why days like these are happening more and more often? After forty minutes, we move back onto the highway and get stuck in molasses for what seems like hours in the Memorial Day weekend traffic. My hand stings the whole drive home.

I was tempted to post a video to Facebook. You know the kind. Angry, outraged mother, slams establishment that doesn’t understand her child.* Everyone shares and declares the company the Spawn of Satan. But really, I didn’t blame the management of the restaurant, which I won’t name, but will say, what hurt the most today was not the bite. It was being asked to leave.

In the softest voice imaginable, a young man approached our table where I was standing holding my son in a head lock/hug, and said, “I don’t want to have to ask…you know that.”

He didn’t say the words. He didn’t have to. My son was being more than disruptive, he was having a stellar autism meltdown of galactic proportions. I was just trying to get him calm enough to take him out without an incident and, in a whisper, I told him that.

“How can I help?” He said.

Getting my son to the car was a small trial, but after a Vesuvius explosion of vented rage and frustration, we sat in the car. He fumed. I wept.

People came. People went.

As the meds I’d managed to stuff into my child finally worked, I contrasted this afternoon with the successful-ish visit to school earlier in the day. It was field day and all four of the students in my son’s class participated, or not, as they could. No game went as it was intended—though, the rolling tires up an incline only to chase them back down causing everyone to scatter like ten pins came pretty close. It was a physical metaphor of the emotional rollercoaster of autism parenting. What goes up will definitely come down. Probably with teeth marks embedded in it.

IMG_5010
It’s all fun and games until someone let’s go of the wheel.
 

This is the refrain of my life. For every good moment where I manage a picnic lunch in the grass with my son and pictures are captured as proof, there is a corresponding, undocumented, black-hearted despair waiting in the wings to walk to center stage and take a giant, steamy dump.** Guess which memories last the longest?

I have reserved a small, smug nugget in my heart for the moms who struggle with their broad spectrum children. My son has had his moments, but I’ve been able to take him places and do things other families just didn’t. This makes you cocky. You want to think that you have the secret! You know something those other families don’t!

“Just push your child. Find his boundaries and respect them, but keep trying to push them.” I would think to myself.

The boundaries are now pushing back. And, at thirteen, they have the weight of an almost adult behind them. A proto-man who has his own mind and directions and preferences that I am now required to respect. Either that, or be prepared to count my fingers and come up with an odd number.***

I didn’t videotape the experience. I didn’t post it to Facebook. But for a bitter, self-indulgent, desperately tired moment I wanted to. I wanted the pity of nations and the poor-me sympathy of automatic outrage served up on a platter for autism families everywhere. It would feel so good, so soothing to be told I was right. That they were wrong. That people should be more understanding.

!!!VINDICATION IS MINE!!!

But knowing I was the one who pushed my child through the doors when he’d already said, “No!” I knew who to blame.

And yet…

Being told to leave hurts. Every time. It hurts so very deep, in a place you can’t see and don’t want anyone to know is there. And every injury scars deeper than the last. Keloid patches leather your soul, making the effort to try again that much harder. It’s the smallest cuts that hurt the most; and a life with autism is death by a thousand cuts. With lemon juice squirted in for good measure. And a dash of salt.

So, while the rest of the world expands its horizons this weekend, I am weathering the storm at home, licking my wounds and trying not to be pitiful. Much.

Hopefully by next Friday, I’ll be ready to meet my childhood alter ego on the silver screen. I’ll have my silver arm bands ready and my lasso of truth set for introspection and self-revelation. And forgiveness. And I’ll be Wonder Woman once more.

Wonder Woman
What I always wondered, as a child, was how she kept her top up!?
 

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*Internet Rage Fest–It’s the modern-day equivalent of Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame except that it lasts forever and is shared until it reaches obscure corners of Outer Mongolia and beyond.

**Go ahead, try and scrapbook that image!

***Which my son would no doubt find oddly pleasing. He prefers odd numbers to even. He thinks numbers divisible by two are the devil.

All Who Wander…

Visiting Nowhere May Just Be The Best Thing Ever

 

Buddys Beach
Jordan Lake Beach in Lake Odessa, Michigan
 

Does anybody remember the classic American small town? Anybody?  I grew up in such a place–so small, the population numbered under a thousand and there was only one traffic light (and it was the flashing, blinky-red kind) as you drove through.

This weekend, my son picked Exit 59 off Highway 96 heading eastbound, toward Lansing, Michigan, as his road trip du jour. We’d taken this route a few times before, but never got past a quick, farm-glutted glance at Clarksville and a Where-The-Hell-Are-We-Now? tour of Saranac, Michigan.*

This time would be different!

“Okay honey. We’re at Exit 59. Which way now?” I call from the front seat.

My child, who has been grinning the entire way, begins barking commands:

“Right.”

“Straight.”

“Left”

Eventually we ended up at a most-delightful destination: Lake Jordan in Odessa, Michigan.

Odessa MICH

We dined at the under-construction, but-still-popular Buddy’s on the Beach. Even with half the building covered with rough-edged plywood, the place was hopping. I only saw two servers working the floor and they never stopped moving.

Buddys 1
Buddy’s on the Beach – Getting a Facelift!
 

Tequila–I’m not making this up–was our waitress and, even though the meal took a while to arrive, due to the popularity of the joint, she stopped frequently to check to make sure we were okay. She recognized Little Man’s quirky behavior right away and gently made sure he was doing okay, even though she had to be off-her-feet, worn-out catering to so many.

The food definitely falls into the standard diner fare–burger, fries, pizza–category. Hearty and hot and big enough for leftovers to go home. I would say, the pizza definitely looks like the star of the establishment. They were flinging pies and burgers left and right. I had ordered a wet burrito and it was huge. I had to double-check to make sure I hadn’t inadvertently ordered the ‘Grande’ size which claimed to be a pound and a half.

“Nope, ” says Tequila, “If no one asks, we always serve the smaller size. The Grande is huge.”

She holds her hands out like she’s carrying a football…or a ten-pound baby.

Baby Burrito - Not Actual Baby Size
Baby Burrito – Not Actual Size of a Baby.
 

Little Man, of course, went with his favorite: Bacon and Pepperoni Pizza.

Pizza - Bacon and Pepperoni
I had to get a picture quick before it was all eaten!
 

The food was good, solid fare. I suspect ordering a burrito at a place that specializes in hamburgers and pizza was probably an oversight on my part. But it was good-n-plenty enough. The French fries that floated past me looked to die for.

The place is family friendly, even with a smallish bar on site.

Bar
Just turn left at the side entrance, you can’t miss it.
 

I suspect the beer-on-tap is intended for the thirsty ten-pin aficionados in the adjoining bowling alley.

 

Bowling
Well not THESE aficionados…unless it’s rootbeer on tap.
 

If you travel with a special needs child, this might be a chancy place. It was a little dark, and crammed with families and the neighboring bowling alley added a certain level of excitement. That said, the wait staff was superlative. The management even schlepped orders when necessary.

The outside park with a clean, if unsupervised, swimming area, was inviting and the small-town atmosphere couldn’t be matched by any five-star establishment, no matter how nice the décor.

You could tell Buddy’s has higher aspirations by the in-laid flooring and outer-space, motion-sensor sink and hand dryer in the women’s restroom:

Flooring not pictured because guests were using the facilities, but trust me, Buddy’s is going places. Although…for the men…the trip requires a detour:

Port-a-John Option

We dined and dashed, but I was able to see that a special event was taking place in the bowling area. Tables had been set up and crafts like crocheted blankets and other miscellany were on display. A quick inquiry turned up that it was a local fundraiser for the “Richards Family.” I was assured it was referenced on Facebook, but a later search turned up unsuccessful.

I kick myself now for not being more diligent. This is the kind of effort that deserves recognition. It is representative of the kindness of small towns that doesn’t tend to hit the big-time news.

Calling Buddy’s the next day didn’t clear things up. The manager I spoke with hadn’t been there Saturday. He thought it might be a softball fundraiser for the local Lakewood Girls’ Fastpitch Softball team and recommended I check out the school’s website. I uncovered zilch! Another no-go for my investigative reporting.

I can recommend the Annual Lakewood Area Lion’s Club Chicken Bar-B-Q, however. It smelled fantastic as they were setting up. And if my kid would have hung around for its start time four hours later, I’d be reporting the quality as well. A picture will have to suffice:

Lake Odessa BBQ
They take their rotisserie chicken Bar-B-Q seriously in these parts!
 

Sadly, the event happens only once a year. So, set your calendars for a nice weekend in May 2018 and check back. I certainly plan to.

From the winding, lonesome roads of Michigan. Peace out!

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Not to diss Saranac but even the people who are born there probably wonder how the hell that happened! According to Wikipedia, the claim to fame of the 1.15 square mile village is the ‘world-renowned’ geologist J. Harlen Bretz.

Farce

angrysocialmediamob
“Borrowed” from digidickinson.net – It suited the sentiment too well not to appropriate the image.

Rarely am I inspired by a one-word prompt. Then again, rarely does one word so aptly describe how life feels lately.

FARCE

What I have to say matters.

(Lie)

Politicians feign concern during election years and then they strip health care exposing the bones of their conscience.

Diseased carcasses wearing red, white, and blue lies.

If I could, I would curse them:

May syphilitic crabs feast on your crotch rot!

May you feel karma’s sweet kiss leaving you unprotected from your policies.

May you be forced to live the life of your poorest constituent.

May the bullet of public opinion find its target and kill your self-serving aspirations.

May curses come true.

FARCE*

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Handy-dandy link to New York Times article which includes a list of the congressmen and women who voted for the recent ‘health care act’ to repeal and roll-back Medicaid expansion.

 

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Farce