24 June 2013

a 7-minute poem

A 7-minute Poem

Because that is all the time I have:
7 minutes left in this afternoon break, having spent most of it eating pizza,
a late second lunch.

My first lunch, healthy and rich with southern French flavors
{it was ratatouille, after all}
did not, I'm sorry to report, satisfy,
which makes it distinctly un-French to me.

Isn't everything French—from the fashion to the
little shots of espresso served in perfect white cups—
supposed to be more satisfying?

More chic, more cultured, more historic, more beautiful: that is,
I thought, why we all secretly envy the French.

But just 2 hours after that ratatouille and hungry again,
I bought a slice of cheese pizza
that had been sitting too long under a heat lamp in the cafeteria,
but I gulped it down anyway:
large, hot, greasy, the cheese a little burnt.

Its flavors bold and borrowed from other lands, it was America on a plate.

20 June 2013

on lemonade stands

It was hot and muggy on that run. I recently switched to being a workout-after-work-person, and my body, it is not happy with me.

It wants to run at 5am, not 5pm—and it certainly wants to run when it's 52 out, not when it's 82 out 12 hours later—the sun roasting and broiling and boiling and other hot cooking terms through the day, heating up the ground until I swear I can feel the heat through my Mizuno running shoes.

What I keep saying is, "I just need to get my body used to this; I'm sure it won't take long."

But what I'm thinking is: Oh my stars, how am I ever going to make it through JULY?!?! We're not even to official summer yet. We're nowhere near the humidity that August will bring, and I'm already plodding along on a what-I-think-is-muggy Tuesday afternoon?

I never would make it as a Southerner, as an aside.

It was hot and muggy, and two little girls had set up a lemonade stand at the end of their driveway.

As I got closer, I saw it was actually a Lemonade and Mints stand: they were selling Starlight Mints for 25-cents each, which seems like a rip-off since I can get a whole bag of my own for 99-cents at Aldi and let's face it, those little girls might've found those mints in the back of their mother's pantry {or heaven forbid, in bowls at restaurants around town—not that I'm in the habit of assuming little girls are mint thieves}.

Every summer, I vow to buy lemonade from every little kid that I pass, but how was I to know that I would pass a stand on this out-of-the-way cul-de-sac on my run? {The girls obviously weren't thinking of their business plan very carefully; they were not in a high traffic area. Gosh, I have so many suggestions for those kids.}

Of course I didn't have money with me, and I slowed down a bit {something I was thankful to do; did I mention the humidity and my sweating yet?}, planning to tell the girls that I'd be back after my run for some lemonade.

How refreshing it would be, and it'd be well worth the—$2?!? These girls were charging $2 for lemonade?

Inflation is rough all around, it seems.

But still, what's $2 to me? I was just about to open my mouth, when I saw that the girls hadn't even looked up yet: They had an iPad set up on the table, behind the lemonade pitcher, and they were watching, I assume, a movie or TV show.

They both stared, mouths open a little bit to breathe more easily on the hot day, at the screen in front of them, oblivious of me, oblivious of their stand, oblivious of their outrageous prices.

{Perhaps they were saving up to buy another iPad so they wouldn't have to share while they were at "work."}

I picked up my pace as my head filled with the kinds of things that should be said by a crotchety old woman who hasn't been happy since Shirley Temple grew up and stopped making musicals.

Kids these days. Don't even see what's going on around them. Here it is, a beautiful day out, and they might as well be inside with their TV. Why, when I was little, we were happy to have a lemonade stand. Happy to have a chance to talk to the neighbors and give them a little refreshment. Life was better back then, and kids these days, they think they have it so good.

I couldn't believe how quickly I'd aged, just because of an iPad on a hot day. I shook my head {sweat flying out} and looked for the best in the situation {Anne of Green Gables shining through}: Maybe the girls had been out all day enjoying the weather and not staring at a screen. Maybe they had just that moment picked up the iPad. Maybe they were watching an educational video, or Anne of Green Gables. Maybe they were waiting for the dad to come home from a business trip, and he was running late, so they were using the iPad to distract themselves.

Maybe their just typical kids of their generation, staring down at their screen {like so many of us do these days—a chronic position we're in that will, I think, lead to chronic cricks in the neck as we grow older}.

I did not, I must report, go back for lemonade but it was not because of their iPad. By the time I finished my run, the only drink that sounded good was a cassis a l'eau—water with a splash of creme de cassis in it.

I felt so French as I poured myself a glass, and I felt so old-school as I brought the paper—the real, tangible, flip-the-pages paper—out to the balcony to read.

{But you know what was next to me? My smartphone. Of course it was. I believe this is a pithy place to say: Judge not, lest ye be judged.}

14 June 2013

do you know what kinds of bugs these are? {a short summer story}

"Oh, honey, have you ever seen bugs like this before?" An older woman, shorter than I am, stood next to the curb, peering down.

I was on an evening walk with Little Pug, and we were just setting out, making our way across the condo development's parking lot and towards greener pastures, or at the very least, a sidewalk.

Miss Daisy was zipping back and forth wildly, testing the limits of her leash, but I like to think she was also expressing, in squat pug form, what I was feeling: IT'S SPRING! AND I'M OUTSIDE! AND THERE'S SUN! I HAVE NOTHING TO DO TONIGHT BUT BASK IN THAT SPRING SUN@

Pugs always think in all caps, by the way. They are an excitable, happy little bunch, despite how sad their faces look all the time.

We were just walking past the retention pond when the older woman stopped me and pointed down at the ground. "Oh, honey," she said, concern trickling through in her voice, "have you ever seen bugs like this before?"

I looked down at the ground, which was, in fact, moving. Hopping from hundreds of points—almost like popcorn seeds right before they pop. They jump around the pan a bit and then explode.

At least nothing was exploding, I told myself.

The ground may be carried away by theses bugs—or maybe they would become the ground. Maybe it was the beginning of a plague, a la Moses and the "let my people go, you mean old Egyptians" portion of the Bible—but at least nothing was exploding. That should be a reassuring fact, I told myself.

I leaned closer to the asphalt. Looking at the moving ground of bugs was a lot like looking at your TV screen when it's all staticky: Your eyes start to blur and even what's solid&Miss Daisy, for instance—starts to look jumpy.

But then it all came into focus, and I realized that those were most definitely not bugs: They were baby frogs, leaving their retention pond home for the first time to make their way in the big wide suburban world.

And I really mean baby: We're talking the size of your pinkie fingernail, assuming you're a petite girl like me. If you're not, I guess go with half the size of your pinkie fingernail and then imagine seeing an entire parking lot hopping with half-pinkie-nail-sized things.

Cute, yes.

Amazing how creation can be so perfect on the small scale, yes.

But a little creepy, too, and let's face it: my thoughts about the ten plagues sent to the Egyptians were rather prescient.

"Um, I don't think those are bugs, ma'am," I told the older woman. "They're frogs—that's why they're hopping."

"They're bugs that look like frogs?"

"No, just frogs. Not bugs at all."

"Do you think these are bugs that frogs will eat?"

Perhaps I wasn't being clear. I contemplated speaking louder, but that's what people in movies do when they want to be understood, and its only effect is comic.

"No, that would be cannibalism. These things that you think are bugs are actually frogs. If you lean closer, you can see that."

She looked at me as if I had asked her to do a backbend. "I'll just stay up here. I don't need to be that close to bugs."

I saw my helpful explanations weren't getting us anywhere, and I wasn't sure miming would help. But she was looking at me so earnestly, wanting to know if I was just as amazed as she was about these hopping bugs.

I gave in. "They certainly are something else. I've never seen anything like them, that's for sure."

"Ooh, your little dog just ate one! Do you think that's okay for her?"

I looked down at Miss Daisy, who was scootching her snub face closer and closer to her next froggy victim. My mind was suddenly filled with visions of frogs hopping around her GI tract, eventually bursting through her stomach. I did not like that vision at all.

"Um, sure she can eat bugs. She does it all the time, but still I think we should be on our way," I told the older woman as I scooped up Miss Daisy and carried her away from the frogs, away from the plague, and away from the confusion of a never steady ground.


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