A perfect sea urchin

My Evil Thoughts

Welcome to where I air my evil views, proud, uncowed, unbowed, and absolutely evil, superficial, and ignorant. Get used to it. To return to the main blog page, just click here.

Heir to the Legacy

It would not be fair to let this day go by unmarked. Sixteen years ago in the afternoon, I learned my close online friend, Gerald M. Phillips, had died. We had spirit contact afterwards. I know way more than what I will ever write. At one point I wanted to tell the whole story. Sometimes I tell pieces of it on this blog, though not recently. We still have some contact. You'd be pleased I went to the theater on Sunday. You believed I could move to Atlanta when I had given up on ever seeing the magic city as more than a day tripper brought down on the Greyhound or Columbus Shuttle. Well, it happened.

I remember you asking me to put either a quarter in a bowl every time I drowned my sorrows in graphics. I soon had a very full bowl. I now have tons of handouts and displays illustrated with computer graphics. Money in the bank can be a metaphor.

I miss you as a flesh and blood person though we probably wouldn't have known or liked each other that much, though I think you liked me. That was an honor. You were hard to reach. I loved challenges. I'd be more wary today. I still miss you.

Eileen H. Kramer -- April 26, 2011

Ten Weeks is No Time

I had lost my favorite cat sitter's number. This happens. I don't need a cat sitter that often, but I am going to a conference in May and....I looked up her friend whom I knew lived with her. I think he was her romantic partner as well. It's not my business, but some of it was fairly obvious, and he was entitled. She got there first. She put up with more of him than I could have ever stood. She may have enabled him too, but it doesn't matter now.

Her friend's name was Charles Dillingham. He had his issues. He also pulled a very bad card from the deck of life in the fall of 2008 and got pancreatitis. He ended up in intensive care. He had fallen off the wagon, but most folks who do what he did don't end up in Grady in Medical Intensive Care. I used to joke that Hell had its own MARTA stop. It wasn't really a joke. ID stickers from the intensive care ward, lined my dresser top like grim souvenirs. I christened the nearby lounge the Deathwatch Room, and refused to go in there except to use the toilet. I was very superstitious. My friend recovered.

Mary Helen, my favorite cat sitter, kept him on the wagon. He traveled to Holland and applied to grad school, and even won a fellowship or a teaching grant. He talked about teaching high school. He played the guitar. Are you waiting for the other shoe to drop?

This is the second time in my life that I have found out that a friend of mine has died using Google. The last time it was Larry Bartlow, via a dedication in a PDF on something having to do with libraries. It was a report he helped prepare and never lived to see. With Charles it was just a two line obituary by a company hoping to sell online memorials. Charles M. Dillingham died February 15, 2011, age fifty-six. Such dreck rises to the top of Google's heep.

If you want details I don't have them. I'm not a big believer in closure but I dread something unameable. I hope Charles died at home, even if Mary Helen had to find him. Having been on a death watch for my cat, Georgia, I think it would be weird to have someone die in your arms, and I don't think a dying person would want to be held, but at least she could have been at or near his bed side. That is scarey, but not so bad. It is better than being in a hospital.

Did my friend die in the chaos of the emergency room at Grady or DeKalb General? How did Mary Helen hold up? Did they have to wait a long time to see anybody. Did they have to wait too long? Would it have mattered? Was there a wild ride in an ambulance? Did she bring Charles in her own car, insisting that he had to see a doctor NOW!

Did my friend take his own life? It wasn't really his own life. It was mine. It was Mary Helen's. It was his blues playing friend from just outside the Atlanta metro area. It was four dogs whom he sometimes kicked. It was the writing on the wall that he should find a job and make something of himself that Mary Helen wrote in the hallway outside their broken down bedroom door. Now, Mary Helen has to look at that writing, unless she scrubbed it clean so she couldn't bear the pain. Charles' car still sits in the driveway. It ought to be junked and sold for scrap. Mary Helen could use the money. There is nothing sentimental about that rusting heap if you ask me.

And Charles if you had been mine, I would have periodically swept you off the porch. I would have kicked your butt in anger. I would have railed in your self pity. I would have fattened you up and made you take exercise. I would have turned from girlfriend to mother from Hell, so you were a hundred times better off with Mary Helen, and she was there first, and I was not going to encroach. At least I don't have that on my conscience. Right now, I wonder why I bothered to save your life if you were going to die so soon. You didn't die young because none of us are young any more, but we're not old enough to die if you know what I mean. I can't picture you smiling anywhere, or wreacking holy vengence. VENGANCE is my specialty anyway.

I wield swords, carry grudges, and imagine horrible things for my enemies. I also appreciate a good morning that is warm and when the sun is shining and the air smells thick with honey suckle, the way it does this time of year. I can walk miles in anger and grief. I've nearly walked most of it out because I ended up walking all the way home from work yesterday. I went to see Mary Helen, but she was not home. She is not answering the phone. I will have to find another cat sitter.

I am thinking about your unfinished novel, the crazy one about Stonehenge, terrorists, and the poor girl who gets gilted in the bar, except she's not one of your main characters. She's one of mine, but we never thought alike. So much for the old saying about great minds. I miss you Charles. I thought we had more time. I hate the way our last meeting ended, though I think I was right. I need to know Mary Helen is OK even though I know she is not. I'd still like her to babysit for my cats. I don't need to know the details. I just wish you were still here.

Eileen H. Kramer -- April 26, 2011

Next Year in Norway

Sometimes I just come up with original blog titles. I went to the theater yesterday and saw Ibsen's Ghosts. The costumes and scenery were fantastic. I liked the way that the actors looked really old if they played older people, and you couldn't find the person under all those gowns. As for the play itself, they just had subtle ways of saying things in the Nineteenth Century that took the punch out of the punch lines. Also, the play sometimes dragged. I think this was just the material with which the poor actors were stuck. Some things don't translate well into the twenty-first century. Besides, I need more movement and maybe some dancing or a set change or too. A play that is just a talking play is really not my kind of play.

I bought some very sour mangoes at farmer's market and did not know until I cut them up that they were sour. I am dreading putting the kitchen back in regular mode. It feels as if the Christmas tree has come down too soon. Before I became really observant, I used to have a Christmas tree, so setting up for Passover reminds me very much of putting up a Christmas tree.

I thought I would be jonesing for chametz now, but that hasn't happened. The only chametz that I miss is my morning mocha. Djareeling tea is not the same. It just isn't. Even the apple with it is not the same or as good as that sweet, thick, chocolatey drink with just a bite of coffee. I don't miss beans which I usually do. Beans are kitnyot but also forbidden. I don't miss corn bread. I don't even long for the spectacular macaroni, green pea, and lima bean salad I made right before Passover. "Jewish Mardi Gras" is another planet and a dead season left far behind.

Also my full dance card for Passover no longer matters. I was glad to be back in my own kitchen. I was glad to be able to visit homes of friends, but it's past history. I know the religion declares a period of mourning in the late spring. That makes me sad because I still utterly fail to understand it. I know what it commemorates, but that is not the same as understanding. Maybe the rabbis set this up to keep us all from getting spring fever.

Well I have it anyway. I semll clover, honeysuckle, and I even smelled roses yesterday afternoon. The flowers are always with me when I walk. Thankfully, I do not suffer from hay fever. Pollen is perfume to me. I've been watching the parade of plant life for weeks. Here in Atlanta we are closer to summer than spring all ready. The trees are in leaf, and it is hard to remember when they were bare and you needed a winter coat in the mornings. It is also light when I go to work. I wish I were not as busy as I am. I have a conference scheduled for early May and another shorter one for mid-May. Somewhere in the middle of that comes graduation. I'm not sure what I would do with a huge, open block of time. It's just the idea of not wanting everything to rush by so fast.

Eileen H. Kramer -- April 25, 2011

Passover is...

Passover is the shadows that fill an nearly empty but very clean fridge, it's light taped shut so as not to desecrate the Shabbos or yom tov. Refridgerators do not need mental health breaks.

Passover is the ache in the backs of my legs that will not leave, the sore feet, and the fatigue that steals hours mercilessly. My kitchen is clean. The seders are four miles away. I can take a missed bus in stride. Walking in the moonlight is beautiful. I tell myself all of this, and yet the pain and exhaustion are there.

Passover is...making due without my favorite spices.

Passover is pretending you are camping out under the stars in a wonderful desert. Not far away, is the Big Rock Candy Mountain which you will reach in a matter of days, but for tonight,you can sit at the edge of your tent, beside a camp fire eating matzoh and cheese and telling stories of the future.

Passover is pretending you don't know how a certain story ends, or that your leader grew up in Pharaoh's palace. He is no stranger to the ways of power. You can read Leviticus and Numbers to learn the rest of the story. The Haggadah fades to grey and so do you, at least for now.

Passover means no more trips to Toco Hills to buy provisions. It means eating on my good, red, German boneware. Our recent ancestors in Europe might have eaten their Passover on just such dishes, considering themselves modern, lucky, and proper.

Passover is discovering fresh fruits and vegetables you have taken for granted. Passover is seeing a live opposum cross the road at three in the morning and watching the moon play tag with the clouds. Passover is good friends and random home hospitality. Passover is gratitude that you are not a bad imitation of a drowned rat in the rain, that there is plenty of food in the half empty and very clean kitchen, that the cats did not rip into their dry food when you skipped one of their feedings being late at night and that they were excited to see you anyway. You feed them double to make up for the mistake, and they don't eat it all in one gulp and make themselves sick. You are grateful that cats retain their good sense.

Passover is dreading that it will be over in a week. You have come this far that you really want it to go on forever, but if it went on forever it would not be Passover. A week is a long time to celebrate. Maybe a week can be forever for a short while.

Eileen H. Kramer -- April 22, 2011

Full Dance Card

OK, that is thing one to celebrate. It took work, more work than what I am used to doing. I am too proud to beg. I've been socialized not to beg. I talked to Rabbi Broyde, and then swallowed my pride, and filled in the last spot.

Contrary to those who want to make drama and throw pity parties, there is nothing morally wrong with people forgetting me. People have families. I don't live in the neighborhood. People are busy cleaning for Passover and part of their cleaning rituals doesn't include a kind of Jewish Mardi-Gras where they invite a stranger to help kill the chametz. Instead they use sealed cupboards and other methods to squirrel it away instead of divesting themselves of it. The food bank barrel and Open Door come in very handy at this time of year. The less to box up, the easier cleanup is, and you're really supposed to get rid of the stuff.

Put another way, I'm not entitled to a free lunch so for the last couple of weeks, I've gone home for lunch on Saturday. Then no invite for the first night of Passover materialized. I got an invite for the Shabbos that falls in the middle of the holiday, and I got an invite for the second night from a good friend, but nothing appeared for the first night. Whoops! I knew I could not host my own seder, even though I have done so in the past and am actually pretty good at it. My apartment is too far for most souls to walk to and back even though I would accompany them quite willingly.

I have even eaten solo seders. I have haggadot in the apartment. I could always just read one while I ate supper. That would be pretty inauthentic, though I have done that in the past. Anyway, I talked over the oversight with Rabbi Broyde. He told me whom to ask and when I did not hear from him in five days, I called him back and repeated the email. Something got moving within twenty-four hours, and I am eating my first Passover seder with a family I have never met before. Laugh if you want to. I ought to wrap up some swag since you can carry on a holiday.

I probably will wrap it up. This should be fun. Right now though I'm feeling a bit sour though due to something that has nothing to do with Judaism, Passover, or food. The sour feeling should pass soon, but it has sapped the sense of accomplishment that usually goes with getting the chametz out of the kitchen, cleaning the kitchen until it gives me the third degree, and then putting in the Passover dishes and provision. I should be patting myself on the back as to how smoothly all this has gone.

At least the sour experience, which I will not discuss on this blog, is not the work it took to get a full dance card. That is what happens sometimes. It is not my fault. It is not any one else' fault. The begging part bothered me, but the advice I received about begging was good.

On another front, I managed to secure kosher meals for my stay at a conference in Fort Worth, Texas. I used to joke about what a twenty-five dollar dinner would taste like. I actually asked my mother about it since I had lived most of my adult life in smaller, less expensive cities. She said it did not taste that remarkable. Boy was she right. I'm still astounded that I agreed to pay twenty-five dollars a piece for several box lunches that may not even come with a drink, and one of which will sit in the refridgerator for two days. I agreed to do this of my own free will too.

Talk about frum tax. Part of me is vowing that this is the last time I'll do something like this. A lunch lf this type sells for six dollars in a nonKosher restaurant. I hope the conclusion I am drawing is self-explanatory. I agreed to pay, so I am a fool. They could charge it and someone would buy it. That someone is me. I will not mention their names, but it does not take much to figure out who they are. Their prices are common knowledge. I could have after all said no.

This is classic Econ 102. A monopoly can behave in the way described above and get away with it. Subway (or Blimpie's or Jersey Mike's or Giant Sub. Take your pick.) on the other hand, knows that if it charges too much or is not utterly attentive to the consumer, loses a consumer. He or she votes with his or her feet and wallet. At subway, they not only give you a large menu and the menu on the wall is the menu you get, they ask you what you want on your sandwich to the minutest detail and what kind of chips you want, and they give you a cup for the soda fountain where you have your choice of five or six sodas in unlimited quantity. Competition in any economy is a beautiful thing. It is really frightening what happens when it is missing.

And no I haven't eaten what I purchased yet, so the quality is unknown. I don't have an email receipt which I can print off. I can check to see if my debit card has been charged. I am just astounded at what I agreed to pay and why. I still tell myself never again.

Eileen H. Kramer -- April 17, 2011

Vanishing Point

I'm not sure how it happened. I got tired of sitting on my haunches or sitting on the ground or sitting on a bnech at one MARTA station or another and reading. I went back to pacing the platform. The ends of the platforms are seductive, space heading off into nowhere. At Decatur it is a labyrinth of tunnels, gold sodium lights, blue train lights, cement walls. There are mice and rats in the tunnels. I think it's mostly mice. I'm not sure how they avoid the third rail.

The other stations are better. Kensington and Candler Park are both above ground. There's grass, cement, tracks converging into traffice of cars. The police watch but they don't intervene when you put your arms on the rail. After a time, you get good at watching the traffic beyond the vanishing points. Sometimes you see a train come, or a train go on the opposite tracks. Sometimes it's just good to have a place in the distance, in which to look. It brings a soothing sort of melancholy satisfaction that is best at night and on grey days.

The weird thing about the end of the platform, and this is either end, is that about half the time, someone has found my choice spot. It can be a lady speaking on a cell phone, a pair of people having a semi-private talk, or one time it was a MARTA employee who wore a jumpsuit and carried a bag of janitorial supplies. He did not talk to me. The woman with the cell phone left me alone. The conversationalists ignored me.

I think I understand why the MARTA police left us alone. We are a fairly common occurance. Some people just gravitate to the ends of the platform to see what if anything lies beyond the vanishing point or feel a bit of freedom even though there's a gate and signs forbidding us to go further, and a third rail that could fry us. It's the illusion that counts.

Part of me wonders when I will get bored with the vanishing point. I tell myself I am playing &qut;caged beast," an old and familiar game. The game has revived itself somehow and I have yet to get tired of it. When I do, I will have to come up with something else.

Eileen H. Kramer -- April 7, 2011