Freehand Meanderings of a Broken Mind

I have been off for a while now.*

NaNoWriMo had me in its greedy grip. I barely won the 50,000 word marathon which took two intense days of non-stop writing (no bathing or socializing) to catch up the nearly 15,000 word deficit as I fell behind.

I struggled daily to write anything coherent because…

mY SoN HaS sTOpPED SlEePInG

This doesn’t sound like the terrible thing that it truly is. It sounds innocuous and a charming reminder of the sleepless days when we first brought baby from the hospital without a clue as to the insomnia bomb we’d actually welcomed into our home…willingly.**

I’ve been planning on writing about stealing…no, liberating… uh…adopting, yeah, adopting a pet rock. I even have pictures of the day we unearthed it from a public park and lugged it home.

Too tired to share.

The visit to a restaurant in the middle of nowhere that just has to be experienced to be believed.

Can’t find the energy (or typing skills) to write that one either.

Then there was the whole time I nearly chopped my finger off. (Always with the exaggerations is this one…oh, my, that sure is a lot of BLOOD!)

So, instead, I will stumble like a drunk back onto the blogging stage and beg your forgiveness.

Until the doctor figures out the right tranquilizers***, I will be the babbling mess you are enjoying right now. Unfiltered and unedited and mostly unhinged.

You’re welcome.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*I’m tempted to leave my post at that comment and call it good. But, I am just not that succinct.

**Now, whenever someone tells me they are having a baby, I have to muffle my snickering when I wish them well.

***Go to Amazon and search ‘Elephant Tranquilizers.’ It’s amazing what they offer as an option. Or go to the following link for one of the recommendations they gave me:

Elephant Tranquilizer Image

https://www.amazon.com/Bedtime-Originals-Express-Plush-Elephant/dp/B00GHAGGOG/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_3_a_it?s=grocery&ie=UTF8&qid=1512688534&sr=8-3-fkmr1&keywords=Elephant+tranquilizers

Advertisements

Fr-A-c-TuR-E-D…

My soul is tHe sound of brEakIng glaSs.

When MY son goes mad.

The sight of a bread macHinE thrown to the floor is Almost funny when it bounces.

Pounding fists, biting, scReaming.

HysTeria is catching.

ScreaMing is too.

9.1.1.

“What is your emergencY?”

The police are not the ones who can HElp…but they stAnd by, as helpless as I

HeaRTbeat crashIng, craShing, crashing.

Panic.

“Take this pill. Now this. And this.”

The doctor is a distant voice: “…he needs an inpatient mental health admission”

A long time coming

Following the amBulance thRough the rain…

Or maybe they are tEArs?

Hours waiting.

Nothing…nothing…nothing…

Questions without answers

“He’s just too strong for me now.”

Five people hold down my son for blood tests that reveal nothing wrong.

Vecta trance descends as digital projections swirl and spool

“We have no place for your son. He doesn’t fit the requirement of need.”

Home again, drugged complacence.

What will we do tomorrow…and the next tomorrow…and the next?

Every day is an undetonated hand grenade

You never Know when It will go off

You are grateful wheN it doesn’t.

Until it does.

I scrub blood from my sleeve and watch it swirl down the drain…

Along with the happiness the rest of the day promised.

The clock reads midniGht

It is a new day.

________________________________________________

The author is recovering. So her is son. Please be kind. I may not have the strength to answer any questions. Read between the lines above. It says it all.

For now, my son is home and doing as best as can be expected. He suffered no major physical injury. Nor did I. But I need time to recover anyway.

November is National Novel Writers Month. I typically participate and am trying to find the enthusiasm to do so. I may not have energy to respond, but that does not mean I do not appreciate encouragement and understanding.

I will bounce back from this…I am like my bread machine that way.

But not yet.

 

Traipsing the Grand Ledge…Hideout for Slithering Beasts and Carolina Reapers

If my child remembers me for anything, let him remember me for this…

*

Ledges 1

Friday is a dream day-come-true for my ‘little’ man. A half-day of school as a start to the mini-fall break weekend. Road trip, here we come!

We discovered “The Ledges” by joyous accident on a past excursion when we wandered east of our standard Exit 59 pitstop.

This time, we travel to Grand Ledge on purpose, hauling my Canon EOS Rebel XS with the intention of cataloging the experience.*

 

You can find a description of Fitzgerald Park at the park’s website.  But understand, no words can convey the simple pleasure in tramping leaf-strewn, mud tracks that wend along a slow-moving river. This will not stop me from trying, however.

Ledges - Leaves

Posting this humble shot to Facebook, a friend introduced me to  the true art of nature to be found in the ephemeral sculptures of Andy Goldsworthy.

 

The sluggish current is dotted with geese and ducks, fattening on late blooming bugs confused by the unseasonable warmth. Ignoring the catastrophic implications of global climate change, my son and I tramp the trail fantastic in search of adventure. Who knew it would end in the best darned French fries this side of Mackinac Island’s truffle fry extravaganza?

Ledges - Boy Under the Ledge
Between a rock…and a hard place…you will find a reluctantly posed teenager.

Walking leaf-scattered paths on a sundrenched day doesn’t present many dangers. One thing you can count on when charting a wooded trail is that generally nice people abound.

Everyone we meet is friendly, and after a moment, recognize my son’s quirky tendency to plop down in the middle of the trail to jot numbers as just another sight along the way.

 

Ledges - Tree Eating Rocks
Tree Swallows Rock – looking like the strangling coils of a wooden snake

 

Leaves crunch underfoot. My cane helps me balance across the footpaths where humus formed of decomposing plants and steep inclines make traversing the narrow passage challenging.

Ledges 2
The slope gets gradually steeper until you begin to have sympathy with yaks in the Himalayas.

 

I am calm in my repose, whistling to my son periodically when his goat-like surefootedness keeps him yards ahead. He disappears around a bend and I hail him to halt.  He waits impatiently for me to catch up. Aside from being short winded, I have nothing to fear. Or so I think!

There is no warning. No scary music. Though I sing a half-choked ululation when I am startled by the sudden appearance of a garter snake—or is it a ribbon snake?—dashing frantically away from clumsy feet stomping through its territory. I squawk like a demented chicken, hopping to avoid the tiny red, yellow, and green striped reptilian flag  whipping past. Its curving body signals a fervent desire to have nothing to do with me.

Garter Snake
I swear it looked like this–Northern Ribbon Snake by Nick Scobel. thank you for the loan. I was too busy shrieking to snap a pic.

 

A later search on the internet at The Michigan DNR website assures me that I was in no danger—but they fail to take into consideration the effect a small snake has on an unsuspecting woman, on a hill, with slippery, squishy, rotten leaves and rocks and roots to upset an already precarious balance. I’m lucky I didn’t fall into the river, is all I’m saying.

 

It was a truly idyllic while. We passed the trestle bridge (pictured above, on separate days) where we’d experienced the sound and fury of locomotion just weeks before. It is a quiet sentinel as we pass.

Ledges - And More Ledges
I see profiles in the cliff–faces carved by erosion. What do you see?

 

The famed ledges are rocky outcroppings where lichen and verdigris—the coppery extrusion that rusts to a gorgeous blue-green powder adorning many a Catholic cathedral—turn the mundane slabs of sedimentary strata into a magical realm.

Fairies and sprites no doubt whisper from moss-coated crevasses. And red and gold leaves mark a journey through streams of light, chariots with invisible riders steering the autumnal march.**

Ledges - Golden Fall with Beach Boys
Voices carry across the water, but we can only hear what the wind wants us to.

 

The trail ends for us at the juncture of West River and Harrison Streets in Grand Ledge and we face the choice of turning left, crossing the walking bridge to Island Park, or going right heading into town. I lure my son away from a moored pleasure boat with the promise of lemonade and a snack toward the option that would let me sit down for a while.

This is how we stumble onto the best d*mned French fries for a hundred miles, if not more.

Beer-Battered French Fries
Just try not to drool!

 

The Crossroads Barbeque is a most serendipitous discovery. The unassuming block-front, dark glass exterior doesn’t inform the prospective customer what delights are in store. You have to be on the lookout for such a dining experience—it is not to be missed.

BaCoN - Crossroads BBQ
The sign on the wall says it all: Ba Co N!

 

I am more thirsty than hungry, but travelling with a teenager means we stop for food on an almost hourly basis. I am so glad we did. And not just because we get to meet the nicest guys behind the glory: Lee Burmeister, co-owner, and Cam, “You can call me Hershel Frobisher,”*** who describes his managerial style as “Giving everyone a hard time.”

Inside Crossroads BBQ, a giant rectangle of space is marked along one side with tables and seating and an open, wood floor that almost has room for a small band and dancing. After meeting Lee Burmeister, co-owner, or as he referred to himself, “Pit Master” of the joint, I could imagine an after-hours crowd breaking out into impromptu two-stepping, or perhaps heavy metal thrash jams, filling the space with sound.

Menu 1

The walls are covered in my kind of kitsch, fire engine red walls interspersed with giant chalk boards scribbled with bright, handwritten menus make the space warm—no doubt an interior design nod to the spicy cuisine offered up.

A cast iron pig ‘oinks’ the daily special—which is what leads me to add an order of fried chicken to my son’s enormous French fry basket. I am not sorry.

Fried Chicken Friday

My son graciously lets me try a wing as he inhales the rest of the golden-crispy half of chicken that comes out. We’d already been bestowed a platter from heaven—a wholly satisfying mound of fries that suggests the magic of the Ledges walk leads to this particular pot of gold.

I did not come to Grand Ledge to write a blog post, travelling with autism has its limits. But sometimes, the discovery of delicious splendor demands a little improvisational review. I beg a scrap of paper—and am given a hunk of butcher block from a roll—to make my notes. I pepper the crew with questions, while my son explores and attempts to move a piano to find the secret behind a blockaded door. The proprietor is an understanding guy—letting me know he has a nephew on the spectrum. He is un-phased by my questions or questionable parenting.

The secret to the fries is easy—a beer batter coating and a bath in scalding soy oil—they are presented towering high in a thick pile. If you don’t think too hard about it, you can tell yourself these are a healthy treat. The chicken is about as moist as a bird can get without feathers. The secret, I’m told, is “high humidity.” I immediately picture the chickens sitting in a sauna before heading to the fryer.

chicken-sauna
I love the internet in its infinite weirdness. I feel almost normal.

 

The fries edge out the chicken by a crispy, salty bite. Then again, I tasted them first. I think I’ll have to go back again and try them in the reverse order. It may take a few taste tests to narrow down a winner.

Knock Your Boots Off - 2017

Lee is affable and proud to show off the winning trophies from regional and statewide chili championships—the latest being a sharp, neon glass sculpture—depicting a 2nd place victory at the BWL Chili Cook-Off in Lansing in September. It’s no surprise that they came a close runner up to “Hottest Chili” considering their claim-to-flame ingredient.

The secret to the hottest chili? The pepper of course. Feast your gaze upon this innocuous looking baby:

Carolina Reaper
Much like bikini swimsuits – the smaller the size, the greater the danger.

The Carolina Reaper  no doubt lives up to its name. A customer, curious about our conversation about the heat index of a chili so hot it comes with a disclaimer warning that the pregnant, nursing, or elderly might want to give it a pass.

Reaper Brisket Chili - Disclaimer

The cook serves up a portion of the diluted sauce and the man eagerly accepts the viscous, volcano-red serving—but one taste and he passes on the offer to try the unadulterated chili by itself.

You could not pay me to try one though. No amount of money is worth taste bud annihilation.

Mid-conversation, my teenager loams large dragging me toward the exit, but I managed one last question. “Do you need to wear protective gear—like an industrial painter’s mask—when preparing the pepper?”

Both Lee and Cam, hold up black, rubber-coated digits.

“Rubber gloves are all we need.” Lee eyes his thick latex mitts for a second, and adds, “But a mask wouldn’t hurt.”

One quick group photo and we’re gone. With only a wafting odor of fries to remind us that Shangri La exists.

Masonic Pasty
If you know how to correctly pronounce “Pasty,” you might be from the U.P.! [Hint: don’t be hasty, think nasty!]

We scarper past the Masonic Lodge where a sandwich board outside informs us that pasties are the fundraiser of the day. It’s a shame we are too stuffed to take advantage.

Ledges - Grand Princess
We missed the color tour by one week. Try to explain this to a determined child!

 

For another hour, we cross the bridge we abjured earlier. We interrupt squirrels and Canadian geese, disturb a young lady fishing, and then my son tries–again–to break into the Grand Princess hitched alongside Island Park. It is time to leave.

We start the walk back and I am serenaded by demands for our next outing:

“Boat ride, boat ride, boat ride…”

All…the…way…home.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Intentions aside, I sadly neglected to recharge my batteries from the day before— where I photographed my son’s school field trip to Post Family Farm. Who would’ve thunk taking 205 pictures of pumpkins would drain a camera battery dead?

**You’d have to be soul dead not to find poetry in these woods.

***I’m not explaining this joke. I find it much funnier this way.

Storm Warning: Falling Hammers Predicted

My son is going through puberty, either that, or its some kind of neuro-toxic brain frenzy that can only be communicated via decimating household fixtures. He is a raging tempest of mass destruction. Not to mock anyone in Texas or Puerto Rico going through their own recovery efforts, but, I swear my son is a force 5 hurricane leaving ruin in his wake. I am suffering my own tropical depression as a result.

In the past few weeks, my son ripped the hand towel loop from the wall, broke the stairwell banister rail by kicking it senseless and lastly, this weekend, tore the shower curtain rod from the bathroom.

My hulking teen has declared war and there is no Geneva Convention to protect me from his intermittent rages. The house is the ultimate casualty. Due to financial constraints, I can no longer throw good money away hiring someone to undo the damage on the home front. So, instead, I try to tackle repairs myself.

Cue Maniacal Laughter…

As a result, I swear, my house is laughing at me. It’s a soundtrack that erupts in evil snickering whenever I hunt for elusive tools.*

I managed to get through reinstalling the towel rack—placing it just far enough away from the patch to expose my inept sanding job—I have blindingly bright towels to keep people from noticing.**

Well-Hung Towel
It is hoped that the next homeowner will never look under the bracket cap to discover the third hole…

The bannister was actually the easiest fix of all. Though, dragging a reluctant teenager on a Dora Explorer hunt for the replacement part wasn’t fun. We wandered the lonely, orange-bedecked Home Depot aisles hunting the rare and mysterious hook thingy that connects the bannister to the wall. I really wished a talking map would pop out of nowhere to sing me some directions.

 

Handrail Bracket and Flanges
This is called a handrail bracket, in case you ever need to find one. I’d advise you hire an experienced sherpa to guide you.

 

Wisely, I took the broken parts with me when I went to replace it. My ability to identify obscure fixtures by name is not a key skill set. Hell, I can’t even remember most people’s names, none less the crazy vernacular home repair people give to their doohickies and whatnots!

Me at a hardware store: “I need a thingamajiggy for the whosie-whatsit that holds the toilet floaty ball rooster in place!”

After tackling these minor household projects, I had unrealistic expectations that I could fix whatever came next.

Hanging Brackets - Take Two
Note: these can be installed in several directions…but only one of them is correct!

 

When the shower curtain came crashing down, leaving the bent remains of the bracket drunkenly stuck to the side of the wall, I was given an opportunity—to fail. It was a most ego-mashing, hubris-drenched experience. I would like to point out, my ultimate goal in this project was to do the replacement as easily as possible—to reduce my stress.

If you would like to take a moment and let that sink in…my goal was “Easy” and “No Stress.”

Okay, you may continue reading…

The War of the Shower Curtain Reenacted In Agonizing Detail.

I highly recommend you turn this into a drinking game and do shots whenever I do something boneheaded or death-defying that makes you laugh snot bubbles.

Dear Diary: It’s been five days I haven’t had a shower; things are beginning to smell.

I have purchased no less than four…COUNT THEM…FOUR shower curtain rods—two on the same day. Goldilocks wasn’t this frickin indecisive.

First Curtain Rod--Some Assembling Incomprehensible
Warning: Comes With Steep Learning Curve.

 

The first one had the wrong holes—they wouldn’t line up with the ones originally drilled into the wall. The second one (see above) had the right holes…but to hang it, they had to be drilled vertically, not horizontally. Did not figure this out until I got it home though. Back to the store I went.

On my third trip to Home Depot, I found the exact same pole as the original one my son wrecked. Brace yourself for the victory song of the misguided:

“Ah ha.” I said to myself, “This will be easy. This will take seconds and it costs next to nothing compared to the more elaborate options. Bingo, Bango, Bongo. Kiri for the Win!”

Then I got it home and this happened:

Third Curtain Rod
No, this is not a tension rod. I’m a moron, not an idiot.

I could have tackled this using my hack saw. I could have measured and asked the store to cut it down. I could have listened to several wise friends who point-blank told me, “Get a tension sprung rod and stop b*tching about this.”

I could have saved myself…but I didn’t.

Faced with the unconquered space of drilling and hanging something that absolutely required precise measurement—on opposite walls, no less—with an uncertain hand-and-myopic-eye coordination, I feared installing a curtain rod the way some untrained people might have qualms about performing open-heart surgery or tackling Mount Everest in a blizzard.

But I was on a suicide mission and no amount of reason or serendipity was going to save me. I was going to tackle this monster project if it killed me. It almost did.

I gave myself a home improvement pep talk:

“You are a curtain coward. You have hated that poorly hung rod for over a year. That awkward draping fabric that clings, molding to your naked torso in a taunting embrace, whenever you shower. F*ck that clammy liner sideways! You can drill that bastard a new one! You will level that line. Your plumbs will hang straight down!”

[I have mentioned I don’t have a clue what I am doing in this arena, right?]

So, unwarranted optimism in tow, I purchase a fourth curtain rod in three days and drag it home, like a dead, brushed-nickel deer, an impending trophy to be hung.

FOUR HOURS LATER…

Of my talents as a home project installer, the less said, probably the better. However, I shall impart some things I learned from my major effort of that fateful Tuesday:

    1. Before leaving the parking lot, check to make sure you already own all the tools you will need to install said product. When in doubt, buy that 3/16th drill bit just in case.
    2. After a second run to Home Depot to buy the missing bit, you will then discover that the reason your previous curtain rod hung funny is because it was installed crookedly. One of your shower walls is ½ an inch shallower than the other. It will take you 2 hours of repeat measuring to figure this out however.
    3. No online video will warn you of the ‘exceptions’ to installation. I at least did not attempt to videotape myself while drilling the walls. I’m not a complete moron. (I.E.–There is no proof that can be held against me in a lawsuit—or to undermine one if I decided to seek damages.)
    4. However, I was dumb enough to balance a hammer on a towel rack, set a tape measure, dry erase marker, and several other miscellaneous items on various soap-covered surfaces in the tub while I danced drunkenly along the ceramic balance beam twirling this way and that trying to find the center point where I would start drilling. I’m lucky I didn’t break my neck. No, I am not exaggerating
    5. If you get the bright idea to:

a.) use left-over window cling film to try and create a drilling template, be warned that,

b.) the blue hairspray you were saving for your Halloween Costume will bleed through said holes, leaving an indistinct mess on the film, and it will strip the color from the hardware that it touches, so, please, for the love of all that is holy. DON’T!

c.) don’t try this because it will turn out that, while ‘fake frosted window film’ does cling to surfaces, no amount of static electricity will keep that rubber disk from spinning out of alignment when the drill bit whirrs to life. (I am totally not making this up. This was my genius solution to the problems of installing level holes.)

6. If you leave the extension cord draped from the wall socket over to the bathtub and back, you will trip over the orange rip cord and bring the drill crashing down perilously close to impaling your foot and/or knocking a chunk of ceramic out of said tub. Flailing to avoid said impalement, you will knock the hammer off the precarious perch as homage to your Rube Goldberg reasoning skills.

7. If, against all odds, you do manage to get the mother-fracking $&@*! holes drilled correctly, you will discover upon mashing the screw anchors, and taking yet another trip to Home Depot, that they don’t sell the exact same size, frickin, anchors.

 

8. Once the entire ensemble is installed, and you are crowing that you managed to defy expectations and get it done right, you will find the last step—the simplest step–of snapping the mount cover in place does this instead:

 

I wonder what the recycling guy will make of the empty vodka and wine bottles in the trash?

Oh well…I can always buy more wine when I take the THRESHOLD 2-WAY MOUNT CURVED SHOWER ROD BRUSHED NICKEL FINISH back to the bedamned store where I bought it.***

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*Let the Great Phillips Head Snipe Hunt commence! Is there some rule of home repair that says whatever drill bit you need, that’s the one that is missing? ‘Cause sure as shinola stinks, even if you do own one, it won’t be in your tool box when you need it.

**Leading people to say, “That is one well-hung towel!”

***I’m thinking the ‘Bull’s Eye’ logo on the building is a clue that someone is about to get hurt shopping there.

It Is With Sadness…

 

What would you do if you had one week left…?

*

It is done. My time is up and I’m moving on…but to what? That is the bajillion dollar question.

If you are like me, you crave continuity, reliability, and a steady, if somewhat monotonous, source of income. I like knowing there is going to be a paycheck at the end of two weeks.*

Those days are over.

This summer, before a tree derailed my free time, my only daycare option—aka Grandma—indicated she’d actually like to enjoy retirement before my son drove her to drink or broke her into kindling. (Or words to that effect.) The countdown ticking off the hours I could still work outside the home finally clanged its leaden clapper.

“Ask not for whom the bell tolls…”

So, I did what any sane individual would do. I panicked.

I spent a few hours…well, days really…maybe weeks…okay, I spent a lot of time devolving into a gibbering hot mess of indecision and fatal thinking:

How will I make rent?

How will I feed the mammoth I gave birth to?

How will I give up diet cherry Coke?**

This is what I do before I am capable of rational thought and planning. I engage all my worst coping mechanisms: I late night binge-watch television; I avoid responsibility; and, above all, I deny that anything is wrong.

I apparently can’t skip this step, as much as I want to, or as healthy as making sane, grown-up decisions would be, I need to stew.

But the time has come to pull on my big girl britches.*** It is time to get serious.

But first…

It occurred to me that I could have a little fun before I left my job. What were they going to do? Fire me?

MondayI declared it official Scarf Day.

Scarf Day
Alternate Title: Bad Hair Day Monday

 

Tuesday was my Fifties Throwback Tuesday

Kiri at Conference
I’m a throw-back rebel–I didn’t put it on a Thursday.

 

Wednesday was a hastily pulled together Patriotic Send-Off because I couldn’t find the costume I wanted to wear.

Patriotic Kiri
This is my go-to Fourth of July outfit–which I misplaced this year. There is a sense of closure from this OCD moment.

 

Thursday was my pride and joy—I wore my Harry Potter-Themed costume.

Kiri as Witch
Bring on the sock fetishists!

 

 

Do you know who I am? Bonus points if you get the in-joke with the locket. Hint: my last name is a clue.

And finally,

Fridaywords do not do this justice, I think…

Blue Kiri 3
I’m feeling a little blue today…

 

It is With Sadness that I depart my place of work. May I be remembered kindly…if a bit weirdly…by those I leave behind. And hopefully the blue hair spray will eventually come out.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*I’m funny that way.

**The original title of this blog was going to beSupport My Coke Habit–GoFundMebut I decided this might not translate well if people didn’t read past the introduction.

***Big girls do not wear panties—it cramps their crack style.

Booger 101 – A Letter to my Autistic Child’s Teacher

After sending my son’s teacher an email warning detailing his behaviors, I re-read it and realized I made my son sound like a monster. I am now taking bets to see if/when she resigns. I give her two weeks.

Here’s a snippet of what I sent—only slightly exaggerated. Enjoy


Continue reading Booger 101 – A Letter to my Autistic Child’s Teacher

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?

 

IMG_5262.JPG
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.*
IMG_5136
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…
IMG_5152
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?
IMG_5356.JPG
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.

IMG_5159.JPG
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.)**

IMG_5204.JPG
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.

 

Pleasant-Ridge-Reserve-160x126
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.