Button Sunday

I’m a somewhat lackluster Pink Floyd listener. It’s not them; it’s me. Still, there are some songs I like a lot, and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” is one of them. There are specific people the song makes me think of (though the band wrote it as an homage to their bandmate, the late Syd Barrett, as all good songs should, it taps into its listeners’ own feelings, in this case of loss and regret).

Though the following three people are not part of my Crazy Diamond Crew, certainly they were all jewels to me and the people who love them. I honor their memory and am grateful to have known them.

It was my good fortune that the best friend I made at twelve, Lynne, had a whole family of sisters, a brother, aunts, uncles, and cousins who took me in as one of their own. Lynne’s mother Elnora mothered me and I loved her. Elnora had two sisters: Audrey, who fed me, tolerated me, and taught me progressive rummy; and Lil, pictured above trying to hold onto Jess, who was the aunt who got right down amongst us.

Lil was a friend, an accomplice in our shenanigans, and she made the best chocolate pound cake and fried potatoes (we call them “Lil Fries”) ever. Her home was always open, her heart was always giving, and she had the best laugh. Many qualities of these ladies were borrowed for Phillip’s aunts in Three Fortunes in One Cookie. Lil was the last of them. Though she lived far away, her son kept up our tradition of sharing Christmas cards to keep me updated on her declining health. The sisters are all reunited now, and I’m going to imagine them enjoying fish fries with catfish, corn, Lil fries, and Audrey’s divine hushpuppies, long-running card games, and snappy conversations like the ones in my memory.

We knew him online as “Rob,” “Really Rob,” “Cody Frizbee Jr.,” and “Smiling Bagel.” His friends and family knew him as Bob and Uncle Bob. I dubbed him St. Louis’s Ambassador because his posts and photos about his home city made me want to visit there so much. He loved opera, books, and art. He had a talent for growing things and liked to cook and bake. During the time that I knew him, he loved his dog Nickie DaDoggĂ© and his cat Oskar LaChat. When they were gone, he adopted his fabulous dog Mlle. Renee in 2009. I absolutely loved his stories about and pictures of Renee. In addition to being online friends, we exchanged many letters, cards, and gifts through the years. Though I never was able to meet him in person, I’m grateful he became part of our online group of friends and my life. I’m not sure who has Renee now, but I know Rob, Nickie, and Oskar will be her family again one day at the Rainbow Bridge. Thank you, Rob, for your many kindnesses, your friendship, and your loyalty as a reader.

Some people coast through your life for a brief time and change it forever. I was a bit player in this story, and it’s not mine to tell. But this gentleman had such a profound effect on our lives that I borrowed part of his name for one of my characters. The character, though unpublished, is still with me always and is one of my muses. The person whose name he took has been gone from our lives for a long time; he actually died a couple of years ago, but we only just found out. It’s not really a goodbye when you remain so alive in my memory and my work, but I do mourn on behalf of all those who lost you as a daily presence in their lives.

Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun. Shine on you crazy diamond.

Transport Thursday!

Meet Forry! He was one of a family of four gorgeous German shepherds who were dumped near the airport and recovered by BARC. Two were adopted at BARC, and RPM took the other two. Forry is the first to travel. I named him for a kind donor to my fundraising team for the 2017 Saving Pets Challenge. (There’s still time to donate! Any amount is appreciated, and please opt out of the fee. Your entire donation will go to RPM.)

Thank you, Timmy, and happy life, Forry! I’m so glad I was able to meet you.

Three Angels

Three angels up above the street
Each one playing a horn
Dressed in green robes with wings that stick out
They’ve been there since Christmas morn
The wildest cat from Montana passes by in a flash
Then a lady in a bright orange dress
One U-Haul trailer, a truck with no wheels
The Tenth Avenue bus going west
The dogs and pigeons fly up and they flutter around
A man with a badge skips by
Three fellas crawling on their way back to work
Nobody stops to ask why
The bakery truck stops outside of that fence
Where the angels stand high on their poles
The driver peeks out, trying to find one face
In this concrete world full of souls
The angels play on their horns all day
The whole earth in progression seems to pass by
But does anyone hear the music they play
Does anyone even try?

Bob Dylan, Three Angels

I found these in the bin of Jeff’s stuff. My best guess: I colored them for him, and he returned them to me. They’ve now joined the Band of Angels in the Angel tin and will be displayed at Christmas with the rest of them.

A day can be a lot of things

May 4 is Star Wars Day. Silly!

It’s also The Rhonda’s birthday (to be celebrated at a later date with cake). Fun!

In the neither silly nor fun category, it’s also the day our friend Jeff died in 1995. With resolution, I actually brought the Jeff bin in from the carport to begin purging it. And I did get a full trash bag of stuff to throw away. But I’m nowhere near done and my resolution is fading.

through the years

In the years after Steve died in 1992, I always took a cake to work on his birthday. Sometimes Lynne made the cake, sometimes I did. After I didn’t work there anymore, I still made him a birthday cake, and there have been many different friends who’ve shared his birthday with us, first at The Compound and now at Houndstooth Hall. This year Steve’s birthday fell on Friday–usually Craft Night–but The Brides are in Austin for softball, and Tim is housesitting. So it was only Tom, Debby, Lynne, and me, a nice gathering to celebrate Steve’s life. As happened long ago, Lynne was nice enough to decorate the cake I’d baked. Steve and I met through the bookstore where we were both managers, so I used the book cake pan and the usual Winnie the Pooh characters with a bookish theme. Lynne did a great job–and we all did a stellar job of eating it!

Later, it was a breezy night so we lit tiki torches with some mosquito repellant and enjoyed conversation on the patio. Tim’s dogs stayed inside to keep company with his little foster dog Leo, who’s still recovering from pneumonia. The rest of the pack, along with Lynne’s, wore themselves out playing in the yard. We like to pretend we moved here for the dogs to enjoy a big yard. But honestly…

Meanwhile, back at the farm…

The last of the little things I found in the bag of Mother’s stuff. First, two little bunnies.

I’m not sure why she held on to these. Did she think they were sweet? I keep so much stuff of my own for purely sentimental reasons. My intuition tells me someone gave these to her.

She also had these. Did she paint them? Buy them? Receive them?

All bunnies and chickens have joined the space in my curio cabinet set aside for the barnyard. Thus they are with these two.

My late friend Jeff liked chickens, and I painted these for him during what I call the Ceramic Years (they fell between the Painted T-Shirt Years and the Resurgence of Mattel: 1990s Version). Shortly before he died, when I was fired as his friend, he returned almost everything I’d given to him. Time heals–it did long ago–and these little reminders of the vagaries of friendship only make me smile now.

Another reminder: The bin of Jeff stuff has been set aside as the next to be purged. I suspect I’ll get a blog post or two out of that.

Yes to this

I don’t think I’ve mentioned on the blog what a pleasure this book is. First, Michael Thomas Ford never disappoints me, whether he’s writing fiction or non-fiction, and in whatever genre. I was one of the people who contributed to the Indiegogo campaign in 2012 to help him finance his writing of this book. The original plan was that only contributors would receive a copy upon its publication.

Fortunately for the reading public, editor Steve Berman was persuasive in getting MTF’s approval for Lethe Press to publish Lily, meaning more of artist Staven Andersen’s illustrations could be included and also ensuring the novel’s wider circulation.

It is a fairy tale and while that might not be the first thing I’d pull off a shelf in the bookstore, as I said, MTF’s writing never disappoints, so I was glad to go on this journey with him (as a writer) and Lily (as a character). The book Lily is beautiful and sad and creepy and funny. The character Lily, who has an ability that makes her “different,” has a foot in two worlds–both of them magic, but only one that will embrace and not exploit who she is. There’s a lot of sadness here for me as a reader at the cruelties creatures both human and supernatural are capable of. But there are also moments of unexpected kindness that help Lily move toward a better destiny than the one she thinks she deserves.

Michael Thomas Ford’s touch is as magical as Lily’s, and so is this book.