I slouch around in loose dock pants, a slouchy beret, or a leather seaman’s cap. No one goes to a museum store to buy replicas of my gear! So you wonder why my usual demur, sometimes inscrutable style of writing has become agitated? It’s the bloody New York Times.
The Times had an article on people buying replicas of famous artists’ gear. Want to look like Warhol – there’s a platinum wig. You can get Picasso’s shirt if it’s your particular kink. Klimt’s painting smock is also available. They suggest that it’s no longer enough to buy notecards with art reproductions or wear T-shirts with artists peering out at the world. Now you can dress just like the artist. You can be an avatar of Pablo or Gustav.
They have all the panache but none of the angst of trying to create, no sitting there looking for motivation, struggling with technique, and worried about if it will sell.
It’s the ultimate in an already fake society. You can’t or won’t try to create, but you’ll fake it till you make it.
I don’t care what my sister said. I was not being an impulsive brat! I was merely going out for a bit of exercise. No reason for mother to shriek at me! That hound, he dropped the dime on me, ratted me out to father. Howling at the door until they came running. Of course, it was pleasant to watch as they ran to and fro, trying to find out how I had gotten out without their noticing. That will remain my little secret. It’s so endearing seeing them flummoxed. I’ll have to get on father to do more shoveling. That icky white stuff is soooo messy. I know my cousins in Florida don’t have to put up with the nasty stuff!
In the meantime, I’ll warm up on the heated blanket and ponder how I can precipitate more mayhem. It’s so much fun being an evil genius,
Humans have a prodigious ability to create and destroy. The very concept of culture ( big C or little c) is something that we are continuously developing and eliminating. So traditions exist as a process; we continually reshape them even as we celebrate them. I’ll have to beg the reader’s forgiveness; although I no longer work as an anthropologist, I’ll never shake the orientation. Family traditions offer a look into the processes of development and loss. In October of 2023, I’ll initiate the 50th anniversary of the Carreras family fruitcakes. Were fruitcakes a Carreras family tradition before then? Nope. And I honestly do not remember why I settled on making fruitcakes that fall fifty years ago. But every fall since I start on the family fruitcakes – which after baking, settle in for a long rum-soaked gestation before being shipped off for family eating during Christmas.
I was looking for something to replace my grandmother’s Poppyseed bread. Grandma had died years before without leaving a recipe and without taking apprentices. So her tradition, dating back generations in her family, effectively died with her. Replace a traditional Hungarian treat with fruitcake? As a family, we tried to duplicate her recipe without luck. She had always been elusive on her secrets, a sort of “pinch of this, a pinch of that” description of the process that guaranteed it could not be duplicated. So as a family, we eventually threw in the towel on reproducing it. A family tradition lost.
That was where we were the year I first made my rum-soaked fruitcakes. The first year I only made two; one for myself and my wife and one for my parents. Things evolved. Over the years, the recipe evolved; ingredients were added, quantities changed, and the rum-soaking technique matured. Eventually, I reached about twenty cakes and distributed fruit cakes in early December to any family member who appreciated them. There is a bit of drudgery involved in making that many. but commitment is part of tradition.
At fifty years, I can look back and see how the tradition started, developed, and is being passed on. A few years ago, my oldest son apprenticed, transcribed the recipe, and can now make the cakes. I fully expect that, over time, his cakes will vary from the ones I made. That’s part of what makes traditions alive; they change and develop while staying steady parts of our expectations in life.
About seven years ago, I was able to replicate grandma’s Poppyseed bread. I now bake this for the family at Christmas time and tell the story about how she rewarded and punished family members by giving them loaves with more or less filling. After all, it’s not only the food that makes the tradition; it’s the telling of the stories surrounding it.
Families are microcosms of culture, and family traditions connect members across generations leading back to the past and forward to the future.
OK, take a look at these optics; the Peaceable Kingdom. Kitty and doggie share a minute of peace over a shared family meal. Who’d guess that most of the last nine months have been spent growling, hissing, and swatting at each other? Perhaps the tedium of enduring dispute became too much to bear? Nope, a need to get lazy humans to get their dinner to them by the contractually dictated five PM.
You see, pets in our house have a union. The union has a contract, and woe is to a mere human to violate the agreement. A contract magnifies the God-given rights of Cats, Dogs, and other creatures as defined in the contract.
However, unity is essential. It took some months for Xenia, the Local’s combined Shop Steward and Business Agent, to get the new talent to start paying dues.
So this is how it goes down around quarter to five in the afternoon. The cat strolls into the kitchen. Obstructs traffic, begins to look first at the clock on the wall, and glares at whatever human is in the kitchen. A few minutes later, the dog wanders in, sits in front of the fridge, and starts looking at the clock and then at the humans. Eventually, the thickheaded people get the idea before the grievances are filed, the wildcat strike is called, and the International Teamsters are notified. This flurry of activity typically ends before five, as soon as they are fed. After this, they saunter off to warm themselves before the woodstove, another victory by organized labor over management. I swear I can see the copy of the “CONTRACT” sticking out of the cat’s rear pocket.
It’s important to note that no human in our house speaks cat or dog language. We’d love to. It might explain how two enemies communicated and came to coordinate against management. One can only imagine the closed-door sessions in the kitchen when the house was asleep.
I sent off the first seed orders. Finally, the ideal time in January arrived, and I sat down with the pile of catalogs for a winter afternoon of dreaming of the tropical wonderland the garden could be. OK, maybe not so tropical for Central Massachusetts in the middle of New England. But one can have dreams. Even if the results will not be so high and mighty comes August.
I’ve also researched elevated garden beds. For durability, you are ideally looking for a cedar or cypress construction. But the ever-deceptive ads on a major online site call anything cedar, even when it’s the soft rot-prone Chinese fir. One critic warned that it seems as though the manufacturers were using the word “cedar” as a reference to the wood color rather than the species. So rather than trust the onsite evaluations, I went through a number of the “Best of” sites for contrasting assessments. Unsurprisingly, 99 percent of the products were made in China. Buyer beware. A hint concerning reviews; most are done after assembly, not after a bit or a season of use.
Sol is steadily climbing in the sky. Every day just a bit further higher in the sky. While garden planning in January does not seem very topical for this time of year, I expect seedlings will be sprouting in the middle of February.
We all tell ourselves little lies to get by. Blunt honesty sometimes doesn’t do it, and we resort to those little white lies that help us justify a gamut of conditions from I’m too lazy, to I hate it. ” I’ll do it as soon as I get home this afternoon,” for taking out the trash. In the back of your mind, you are thinking, ” maybe my son will take it out!” Other times we need to sweep something we don’t want to face under the proverbial carpet, “Let’s not worry too much about that extra poundage. It’s just from the extra salt, and I’ll flush it out over the next two days.”
Yes, I know you are out there having a chuckle over these. But, of course, you never manufacture such finicky tissue-thin little vanities. So, no, if you are like me, you need the paintbrush and a can of paint to create the necessary procrastination to get through the day this time of year. Around here, we are getting a two-day snowstorm. I am waiting to see if work-related activities will be canceled and searching for excuses that will allow me to go back to bed.
It’s tough when you are the boss and have no one to call when you’d like to call out sick with a stomach virus.”Hello, Lou. Look, I have this stomach bug that just won’t stop…yeah I’d like to stay home. Yeah, I know I’m in charge, but… OK, I’ll make it in somehow.” Damn! Now I’ll have to get out and clear off the car. But wait, they canceled schools, and there is a traffic advisory. The governor has asked all non-essential vehicles to stay off the road. Am I non-essential? You bet! OK, technically, it is not a lie I’m telling myself. Instead, it’s an exaggeration of the truth! See! work hard enough, and you don’t have to lie…just mislead.
Some of the questions you get on the Word Press platform read as though a personality profile company generated them. Word Press, are you profiling us? Scraping personal data, or just loitering around until we reveal the toxicity lurking below our poses as authors?
One of today’s prompts on Word Press was, “what was your dream job as a child?” Wow! That is just a temptation for me to be absurd. I mean, please define a child. My wife thinks I am a child because I’m not particularly eager to vacuum. On the other hand, I sometimes think of myself as a child because of my seasonal fascination each January with running away from New England and becoming a beachcomber in Hawaii.
OK, I am being circumspect here. The inner child wants to go out and party hearty, get down…and it doesn’t get any better after that. Happy now, Word Press!
Online communications? Wrong topic to get me going off about. First, people tend to lose any filters they might have in regular face-to-face communication, and because email is so rapidly composed and sent, little reconsideration is placed on what gets said. But you’ve heard all this a thousand times by now. My real gripe with online communication is emojis. The design team that invented them deserves to be throttled with garrottes decorated with little crying-faced emojis. By turns, emojis are fizzy, meddlesome, creepy, and insulting. Have I made myself clear enough, or should I find an emoji with smoke curling out of its ears?
Emojis have proliferated so much that it is easy to insult or miscommunicate using them. Pass beyond the simple smiley face or tear-filled emoji, and you’ll soon find yourself in a world fraught with special meanings and innuendo. I imagine there is a dictionary of emojis or a Dummies book on their use somewhere.
Optimism about emojis is not easy for me to find. I forecast that we’ll soon see night classes at community colleges on “emojis as a second language.”
January doesn’t last forever; it sometimes just feels that way. But, just so you know, the “normal” New England January is like its comrade in arms, February, a severe period of cold, storm, and darkness. Except, as we all know, that seems to be changing. The end of December was warm, and instead of having a day or two of an affable January thaw, we seem to be having an extended Winter thaw.
If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’ll know that January is not my favorite month. So you might think this extended period of above-freezing weather would make me rejoice. Nope.
I’ve lived in New England for most of my adult life, and if it’s one thing I’ve learned, trusting our climate is an invitation to be sucker punched. It’s not like I’m lacking gratitude for the warmth, so much that I worry that this climatic shilly-shally will result in huge snow drifts in late February, March, and April.
Looking at the seven-day forecast on January fourteenth was like looking at the perfect weather for tapping my maple trees for sap, which made me pause. The season has been erratic for several years, and I’ve tapped as early as January twenty-seventh. But I wonder if the premature tapping of the trees hurt them.
A slow, cold, rotten January is not a nice thing. But it’s what we are used to having. I hate to say it about January, but am I beginning to miss how it used to be?
We were good over Christmas. As a family, we kept the vow to reduce wrapping paper, buy less, and consume less. As a result, trash day at our home had the average volume, or maybe less—no highest volume of the year due to cardboard, plastic, and wrapping paper. As we all know corporations are involved in diabolical plots to choke the planet with clamshell plastic packaging.
My wife, however, insisted that I did not have enough tools in the eight-by-ten greenhouse/shop, which has been past its limit on devices for a few years. I noted that most of the stuff from Lee-Valley seemed to come in cardboard that went right into the recycle. Somebody in Ottawa must be listening to our requests for recyclable packaging.
January is a time for tool companies to send flyers, catalogs, and junk emails. Having behaved for the holidays, they now seek a reversal of my vows to be good and get me to spend on more tools and clamshell packaging. I have a strategy to fight this; all tool company catalogs and flyers are automatically put into recycling. I don’t even look at the covers. Likewise, all emails from tool vendors have been flagged as junk and consigned to the trash bin automatically.
There is a certain amount of warmth of feeling, and yes, I feel vindicated and superior about this. I have behaved in the face of great temptation.
But the seed catalogs are arriving, and I feel my seed lust growing. Will there be room in the garden for the new varieties of tomatoes I want to grow?