Monthly Archives: June 2012

Promises, Promises

Seriously, where’s a robot maid when you need her?

As I sat in traffic today, it struck me that everything would be so much easier if I had a rocket car.  And according to most of the cartoons of my childhood, I should have one – or at least a jet pack – by now.  But here I sit with neither a rocket car nor even a robot maid to my name.

True, self-driving cars are on the horizon if Wired can be believed and the Roomba is sort of a robotic maid – one that only vacuums and poorly at that.  Successful quantum teleportation (of information, not matter) has been achieved and a synthetic genome created and embedded with a line of prose from James Joyce.  A physicist friend assures me that I’ll be syncing my iPhone (or a similar device) Borg-style in the near future and a game of Pong has been played using brain waves alone, but am I pleased?  No.

Can I teleport to work Star Trek-style or be zipped instantly to the mall in a tube?  I think not.  Does thought alone convey Jack Daniel’s and MAC cosmetics to my door?  (Probably best in that particular instance that the future isn’t here yet.) I’d willingly put up with some 1984 inconveniences for the sake of some time travel and a vacation on the moon.

We were promised trips to Mars (which would no doubt be filled with Vegas-style casinos and amusement parks) and rocket packs.  And even if today is a Brave New World compared to fifty years ago, it’s still not the “future” the Technicolor programs of my childhood guaranteed.  There’s something sad about that.

Were we too hopeful thirty years ago?  Who knows?  We’ve mapped the human gene, cloned sheep, discovered Earth-like (habitable) planets in the Milky Way, created nanogenerators and biometric sensors you can wear like a temp tat, and then there’s the Internet and all that has come along with it.  Still, I can’t help but think the world (and the future) was a little shinier back when Pluto was a planet.  Or maybe I’m just greedy.  Rocket cars, people.  I’m not giving up hope.

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On Weeds, Neighbors, & Common Sense

There’s a weed in my neighbor’s garden.  I don’t know why it bother’s me so much but it does.  It’s what my Grandmother would’ve called Meadow Bright, a hopped up kind of cockle burr that plagues hikers and farmers throughout the late summer.  I’ve spent hours combing burrs out of my cockerspaniel’s fur, despite having shaved her down to a Beagle’s coat.  And there’s nothing worse than getting a burr stuck between your sock and your boot.  You can never find the little devil until it ends up glued to your sock after a turn in the washer and dryer, and then it’s a mash of random quills that you can never completely remove.

The most annoying thing about The Weed is that it isn’t accidental.  My neighbor waters it and douses it with Miracle-Gro each day along with perfectly valid begonias and celosias.  It looks pretty enough, but in a month or two those bright yellow petals will give way to sappy stalks and prickly burrs.  There are some that say that a weed is just an unloved flower.  Given that rationale, The Weed must have attained flower status by now.  But any garden knows that a weed, no matter how useful is not a flower.  Weeds yield only one harvest – other weeds.

Dandelions may be edible (blanched and if you’re desperate enough) and goose grass has medicinal uses.  But they both die quick enough when doused with weed killer.  No one plants a garden full of thistles (beautiful and perilous) or witch grass.  Gardeners and weeds are natural enemies.   That’s not to say that weeds aren’t to be admired.  They’re hardy and can survive the worst drought and they get along well judging from the poison ivy, wild grapevine, and other assorted pest grasses that flourish in my yard despite the heat, humidity, and my gardening trowel.  There’s no denying that Sumacs have a feral beauty when they light up the autumn (and my allergies) with their colors, and trumpet vines and poke berries can’t be denied their graces.  Still, there’s something fundamentally wrong with a person who can’t tell a flower from a weed.

My garden has it’s fair share of weeds, and not by choice.  I spend a good deal of time with a trowel digging, twisting, and rooting up all sorts of pest grasses – some of which are pretty.  I have a cottage garden – at least that’s what I tell my Mother when she implies it needs “a good cutting back” – with a delicate ecosystem.  Tall natives shelter shade plants, garlic and roses grow side by side, and tomatoes with their toxic leaves keep poison ivy from creeping up in the side bed.  There are some unusual plant combinations in my garden, but there’s something unnatural and downright immoral about The Weed standing tall in a bed of gladiolas and lillies fattened with frequent waterings and fertilizer pellets.

I shouldn’t be surprised as this is the same neighbor who lets her hapless housedog and toddlers play in the street.  There’s something unsavory, not to mention unsanitary about a toddler sitting on hot asphalt while her mother walks up and down the road talking on her iPhone.  A few years back, the Wildlife Resources Agency issued a disclaimer on their website and my neighbor came to mind.  They were using sugar cubes to vaccinate wild life since ‘possums and raccoons seldom turn out for vaccination clinics.  Their FAQs assured residents that no harm would come to dogs, cats, or children who ate the cubes since the dosages were low – although I can’t image it’s very healthful for children to eat sugar out of ditches.  I have a feeling my neighbor’s children have already eaten a fair share of ditch sugar in their short lives, and they no doubt enjoy watering The Weed.

I eye The Weed daily, but have resisted (so far) the desire to pull it up and chuck it into the trash where it belongs.  It will be a few month’s before it starts spitting out burrs, and a few months is a long time in a plant’s life.  There are storms, droughts, humidity, and moles between now and August.  Until then, me and The Weed are reluctantly at truce.


In Praise of Southern Women

A lot has been said about the South and especially about its women, but it’s a universal truth that more arguments have been won over a good slice of pie than with a best thought-out defenses.  And the Southern woman is and always has been the master of diplomacy.  Whether treading her way (with grace in spike heels or a pair of hiking boots) through a maze of relations (up to thrice removed,) or through the endless everyday routine that requires her to be a hostess, craftsman, sinner, saint and inventor, no true Southern woman would be caught without her make-up or her hospitality. She’ll offer you pie, biscuits, sweet tea, or maybe a spare room.  She’s never met a stranger and passes out hugs and compliments on the basis that everyone could use a little pick-me-up.

You can’t help but have respect for the God-fearing, heel-wearing, sweet tea serving, uppity, yet relentlessly hospitable women with nerves of steel who navigate through a world of indoor dogs, five day revivals, unmentionable cousins (Bless their hearts!,) mosquitos, armadillos, and the expectation that a woman can and will manage anything.  A Southern woman can plan a cotillion and a tailgate party in the same day, string barbed wire, field dress a deer, build a school project, and make sure the witch grass and Kudzu don’t take over the lawn while managing to keep her lipstick fresh and her hair in an up-do.

Looking good in this humidity is an act of defiance and every Southern woman knows it.  Only Aqua Net and force of will can keep up curls in the summer, but keeping yourself together is a daily affirmation that no matter what the world (or weather) throws at a woman, it’s nothing that you can’t lick with a little perservence (and the right personal care products.)  That’s not to say that Southern women are always made-up, you’re as likely to find a Southern lady in shorts as a skirt and there’s certainly nothing wrong with wearing heels with jeans or cowboy boots with just about anything – regardless of what Tim Gunn may say.

If Southern woman ran the world, we’d all have Sunday dinner together, call our mommas twice a week, and keep our yards up.  There’s always be a spare room, something somebody’s outgrown that’s been put aside for future use, and a plate of biscuits you can take home (because no one could possibly eat all these, honey!)  Southern women are feeders.  It’s an impossibility that someone couldn’t eat just a tiny bit of cobbler or at least take a fried pie home for later.  She feeds stray cats, random visitors, and notions about the South. She never throws anything out whether it’s an old shirt (could be a quilt square or a cleaning rag) or an old friend that just can’t say anything nice.  Who knows what a week and some coffee may fix?  After all, you can’t be a real Southern woman without real friends and real enemies – even if they trade classifications from time to time.

In the end, every Southern woman knows that tomorrow is another day.  Some things are worth holding on to and others aren’t.  It’s best to discover which are which early on.  Every good cook or seamstress knows you can make something from practically nothing with enough ingenuity, but even the craftiest among us can’t whip up a faux cobbler without at least some cinnamon and a pack of Ritz crackers.

So the next time you meet a Southern woman, be sure to say hello; but don’t call her “ma’am” unless you have a hat to tip and just take the pie home.  You’ll thank her later.