Thursday, June 23, 2011

Burglars and smoke

Ever come home from the grocery store mid-morning, say, 11AM or so, and surprise a burglar? We did, Tuesday.

Three guesses as to his mode of transportation.

I'd play hard to get with the answer but those who read my blog regularly have probably already guessed.

He came on a bike, with a basket to hold one pack while he carried another slung over his shoulder. Apparently planning to quik-pik his way up the neighborhood.

He parked his bike in the driveway, in a position that made a good compromise between hiding it from immediate view, behind shrubbery, and keeping it enough in the open for handy retreat access.

An amateur would have wheeled it around back where he entered, but he'd have had to ride it back out through mushy grass or garden, on a narrow path that could get him trapped and necessitate taking off on foot and abandoning it. Parking it in front looks so "I'm just a thirsty cyclist on a hot day, I have nothing to hide," if it gets seen by neighbors or even caught by the homeowner. He knew what he was doing. We certainly took him by surprise because he was around back of the house, and had quickly exited the garage when he heard the car pull in. He left the garage door pushed open, and we later found drawers pulled open, way off in the foyer.

We have not been locking the garage's patio door because the garage does not allow access to the house, and because the masses of paperbacks and grubby Cabbage Patch dolls, and other unsold goods in there are about all it contains. If the guy had taken the moldy Alf lunchbox, I'd thank him.

And we keep the door cracked because Scooter the cat needs to get his stubborn butt in to cool off, eat and drink. Yes, before you say it, it's time for a locked door with a cat door cut in it. Since the door is steel, and since it's not our house, that's not been a top priority project.

When I spread the word in the neighborhood, I got confirmation of a homeless camp in those State Park woods right across the creek. Always thought it was the ideal spot so that was no surprise.

The woods across the creek, and this neighborhood have obviously always been this near one another, but when park visitors had to walk down a dangerous highway shoulder -- Highway 17 splits right there and cars are whippin' along at the Bypass 17 speed as they enter Business 17, which I neglected to label in the map -- not much crossing back and forth went on. Now the bike bridge makes it safe, easy, and fast.

Larry confronted him in the back yard. The guy seemed to be high but not too high to plan and execute the attempted theft, and to play it nicely to avoid personal harm. He wandered away from the back door with a dumb grin. He said he was just looking for water. Larry pointed out the hose at his feet, one of two he'd walked past. He drank a few sips, asked to shake Larry's hand, walked back to the front with Larry following. Larry said, "Is there any reason we should look in your bag?" The guy grinned dopily, said "eh eh....Nah....Have a good day." He rode slowly off. We checked and can't see any particular thing missing, though it's a chaotic heap in there. I expect he was caught too fast, or found little worth picking, probably both. We did not call authorities. Several people have told us we should have. We'd already decided to lower the hammer in any future incidents.

And then the smoke started. Late yesterday it was so thick that I thought surely the dreaded wildfires are coming our way. This photo lacks the drama it should have, but you should know I took it directly facing the western sun, and the smoke was dimming everything like a blanket.

The pack-and-run anxiety began to build. Then, amazingly, it turns out to be coming from Florida and Georgia.

In the map below, you see Garden City at the top, and that's where we live. At this projection, the map doesn't label Murrells Inlet which is right next to GC, just a little set back, down the inlet. Source of the smoke is a bunch of fires at the bottom of the map. Not good.

The wind conditions have improved the air today. You can still smell the smoke, but it doesn't make me wheeze. This is shaping up to be an interesting summer. I've had interesting summers and I'm really not wanting one.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

It's a heartache

Still photographing and scanning, enough to force me to pay for "pro" status on flickr!

Meet Georgia, and doesn't she look like a pistol!

This is my Great Great Grandmother (1846-1925), date of this photo unknown. I titled it "1890s" but she could be anywhere from her 50's to her 70's here. I'm thinking 60+, making the photo from 1910 or so. There's no telling.

She's my ancestress straight down the female line, my mother's mother's mother's mother.
You can see her three daughters here.
My grandmother (the short story writer) used to tell an anecdote about her own birth. Apparently, Georgia took one look at her newborn granddaughter and said, "Well. She's all Burroughs." Gran did look very like her father, not so much like her mother, who was Georgia's middle daughter, Iola.

It seems that there was more to it. In my journey through old photos, I found a photo of a younger Georgia,

marked on the back with Gran's handwriting:

"She did not like me."

How anybody, much less her own grandmother, could dislike my grandmother at all, much less on newborn sight, is disturbing.

Gran had loving parents and doting aunts and uncles, and an essentially happy life, so it didn't wreck her or anything. She rarely talked about this lady, and the inscription on the picture was my first encounter with the fact that this wasn't just a snitty first reaction, but persisted.

The inscription was written fairly late in Gran's life - that's her handwriting from when she was at least 40+ and looks more like the age 50's and 60's writing I always knew. The fact that she identified her grandmother this way makes me pretty sure that it still stung. She had plenty of love and support, but it's hard not to want people who should love you to love you, or at least for their opinion of you to make sense.

I'll never know what that was about, other than resemblance to the "wrong" side of the family, and maybe Georgia disliked her son-in-law for, again, unknown reasons. My first reaction to the top photo was that this was one tough but witty lady, and maybe that's still true. I'm not sure whether I'd have liked her or not, but I'm pretty sure crossing her wasn't a very good idea!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Candy-coated goodness!

Over on facebook people are posting pictures of their dads for Father's Day weekend, and it was a good reason to fire up the PC (urgh!), which is the only computer my scanner will negotiate with, and scan this one in.

I love this photo. Dad is the little one, here with his big brother in their back yard. The photographer (my grandfather?) appears to have his camera on a tripod and to be standing to one side, probably snapping the photo with an extender cord hooked to the shutter, whatever those cord things are called.

I rarely boot up the PC. I wrote in 2009 about what a mess it was, and how I'd be doing a "system restore" on it when I no longer need the 9-year-old (now 11-year-old) word processor to work. That time ought to have long-since arrived but the typos and little errors in my novel ... that's a whole other story. Short version - it's only typos now, and I keep thinking I'm just hours away from publishing, but more errors show up.

Anyway, I resist using the PC, so when I do decide to scan something, I make a project of it and do a bunch of stuff that's been accumulating.

All of these should come up large if you click them individually.

I spotted this ad for the genuine original Downyflake baked goods, so I wanted to show yall where our sweet free-floating-anxiety-ridden golden cat gets his name.

That led me to all kinds of great ads in the rest of the magazine, which is the June 1954 issue of Woman's Day and a super time capsule!

This one, I thought of for my occasional posting of comic strip ads. Oddly, just a couple days ago we were in the pet store and I overheard the owner talking with another customer who makes his own dog food. She was saying that too many people who make homemade dog food use only muscle meats, but dogs need organ meats too. So this really is a poor little rich dog :
And oh, the good ole days of guilt-free sugary cereal! Hey, it may be candy-coated, but it's wholesome :

I copied the ad below, thinking, "Wow, lookit those toxic chemicals we used to use..."

Guess what. That stuff is relatively non-toxic (I always think, "relatively") and still used in foggers. It is worth posting just because I had no idea insecticide home-foggers were around that long ago. I sort of recall them from the '70's and used them in the 1980's, in my all-out war on roaches in an apartment complex, but they were available the year I was born.

Not all ads of the era were mockery material. Modess sanitary napkins had beautiful and classy ads, and are famous for not showing the product or using text that explained what it was. If you didn't know, you didn't need them anyway!

Last but far from least -- Mrs. Filbert was an actual person! I never knew that.

Oh all right. The guys wanna see some cheesecake. Fine. Here:

Monday, June 13, 2011


Heat, lots of heat, and no rain. Scooter could be in his air-conditioned foyer, but insists on being out in this miserable weather and I wish he wouldn't. He's not young. But he refuses to leave his territory unsupervised, so he moves from shade spot to shade spot. The shade isn't that much better than the sun, especially when you're encased in (rapidly shedding) fur. Stubborn little cuss.

Here's what's going on around here : fire prevention. Maybe "fire defense" is a better term.

Our house sits between two wooded lots. The lot on our west side is right up against the road, and the bike path.

As a treehugger type, I never thought I could dislike a bicycle path, and to do so is selfish of me, but being next to it sux.

What used to be a quiet village road's end, past any village destination points, has become just the most sought-after parking spot ever. People haul their bicycles to our neighborhood by car, park the car, get on the bikes and cycle across the creek bridge to the state park.

That is not a diagram of a tooth. It's meant to represent our house, yard, and driveway. It's not a reliable map. Scale and relative placement are very very ...very... approximate.

There's often a whole row of cars on the shoulder next to the wooded lot -- where I've marked it as a parking area -- as though we were havin' a big ole party at our house.

They are in fact crashers into our personal space.

For one thing, problems with our service have made us pretty sure some are/were wi-fi thieves. Across the 2-lane paved street is an abandoned development project where cyclists and others also park, and it's closer to our house than my map makes it look. They could catch the signal with a booster, and maybe even without one. Sometimes there's a car or SUV sitting right ON the bike path, as though it were a pull-over spot, and that's so near our house they could get an even stronger signal. Yes, we have tightened security and are now thwarting them.

Many of the real cyclists treat this dirt road like it must be Nowheresville, and leave their cars halfway out into the road blocking a lane. They dump trash out of their car doors. They pee.

I do not love nature lovers. They don't seem to love nature much themselves.

The food wrappers and empty cans are bad enough, but a cigarette butt is something to fear. The drought is becoming a real problem, and those woods are full of dead branches and underbrush. All it would take is one jerk to flick his butt on the roadside. That could start a fire that would take the house we live in.

There's not a lot we can do except to trim trees and brush back and make it a little harder for a fire in those woods to jump our driveway, over to the house. So that's what we're doing, and it's hot, tiring work. Such projects are for cooler weather but now's when we need to do it.

It takes this lovely new lethal weapon, an extension limb saw with a nice pruning shear attached. Larry used the saw on a couple limbs, but the pruning shears are so sharp that they take fair-sized limbs down, so we mostly used those. A professional with a truck is going to haul all this material off for us.

Along with the heat and the exertion, we're also doing this job during (augh!) mosquito season, but let me recommend these nice plants:

As patio plants they do a pretty good job of discouraging the little bastards, and even make a nice natural repellent to rub on yourself -- though if we each took a leaf every day, the plants would be denuded fast, so I'm still using the nasty chemical repellent, and showering it off right away.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Literary Wow on a personal level

I'll be writing about this novel over on the book blog, and may even cannibalize a few paragraphs from this entry, but the personal side of my reaction to it goes here.

If you've ever felt that the segregationist South of the 1950's was a place beyond your comprehension, you might find yourself feeling a little less so after reading this novel. It takes you there. Then again, you have every reason not to want to go there. It is not a nice place.

The title, as much as the cover, attracted me in the bookstore and I discovered right away that it took place within walking distance of the house in which I grew up, and only a handful of years earlier. The family in the book lives a few streets away from the street I lived on. The daughter bikes to Freedom Park, which I did too. It's like, the stage sets of my life: the towering shade trees of the avenues, Ivey's and Montaldo's stores, the Manor Theater. Having a house next to Sugar Creek, and knowing that the springtime creek rising will soak the back of your lot. My (later) high school's marching band plays at local events.

The author is a decade+ older than I am and knew a more rigid version of the segregated world, but not by a huge degree. And only in its laws, not in its social divisions, which had changed very little by my childhood of the 1960s.

Jim Crow laws were banished by the time I had a semi-thoughtful awareness, but, predictably, attitudes changed a LOT more slowly, which kept racial divisions alive and well for years and years. The same old system dies hard and isn't gone yet. Separate neighborhoods, little shared experience that wasn't engineered by school desegregation laws, a distinct us-and-them feeling.

By my era, school integration was beginning, and it was perfectly legal for all races to sit down in any restaurant, or go to any movie theater. We knew the old laws, but we were so young that anything a few years back was "the olden days." Often, a few African Americans were at another table at the restaurant, or at the drug or department store, and we found it normal. They were such a small minority of our daily experience that it reinforced our feeling that they had their own world.

In fact, the author has her teenage character go to a movie at the Manor Theater and walk home, and doesn't mention the unspoken rule there, even in my time - blacks sit in the balcony, whites sit downstairs. That gradually deteriorated and by my teen years, I could sit there, which I'd always craved doing. The theater still operates -- along with the neighborhood, it kind of morphed into an indie film place, now a Regal cinema but still given to "films" more than to movies. The balcony doors are locked, or were every time I visited in the 1990s or early 2000s.

At about age 10 -- and I have no idea what the occasion was -- I was dumbfounded to see a pleasant middle class black neighborhood in Charlotte. It might have been on a multi-den Girl Scout activity of some sort (?), held in various Scout meeting places around town. I have no memory of the occasion other than the discovery that there were African American neighborhoods that looked basically like our white neighborhoods. Someone's pretty, classily dressed mother, obviously on car-pool duty, was ushering her little girl charges into her station wagon, and it was all I could do not to stare.

I knew some desperately poor whites, especially in the farm country my grandparents lived in. I honestly thought that "we," the whites, lived a spectrum of poor-to-rich, based not on race but on various unrelated factors. And that "they," the blacks, were uniformly poor and did low-pay domestic work or manual labor.

That's the society I grew up in, one in which black professionals and middle-class families had an entire other universe that ours rarely saw. It was no leap at all to the realization that this part of town not only existed, but that it must have been existing all along. Well, duh. But it shows you how completely dis-integrated, in every way, southern society was then.

The Dry Grass of August takes a white girl of 13 who lives in a nice house in the Myers Park section of Charlotte, through the racially violent and ugly South of late summer 1954. The racism is a spectrum of its own, semi-literate, violent and deadly in the deep south towns the family drives through on a road trip, but neat and cordial and evil in a different way, in the "decent folks" society of the 50's suburbs.

(Publisher's promo video):

When I write a book-blog entry about it, I think (!) I can be objective about its literary merits, but it's entirely possible that what would have seemed like just a really good book to me otherwise, will take on superpowers of literary importance to me because of the sheer "me me me!" thing that's going on. Not the plot, in which 13-year-old Jubie encountered horrors I never knew existed till I was much older, and not the family dynamics, which have no resemblance to mine, but the outside world that Jubie is reaching into and absorbing. This is where I'm from.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Drought? What drought?

Story after story comes through the news of storms and floods, not that we want tornadoes or flooding, but they aren't happening here. We're bone dry. It goes on for weeks, then we get a brief spell of rain but it changes nothing. More dry weeks come. The water table is down, the plants dry up, the animals suffer.

On the rail you see a Lean Cuisine [TM] container with water in it, which I put out for a poor black and lethargic chameleon who hangs around the front porch. He drank deep and greened up in a few hours, and I've left it there as a chameleon-spa. With the container plants we've put out, it's a popular reptile resort now. A light color container would be better, and I may rummage around for something, but I grabbed what I had, since the poor little guy looked like he was hurting.

The cactus photo is kind of a cheat though. Yeah, that cactus is thriving here, next door in my dad's vegetable garden, but not really because of the drought. Coastal SC actually is cactus country, sort of. 4 years ago, that one appeared after a high tide, washed out of somebody's garden, or...something! He planted it right there, for fun, and 4 years of winters and rains and an occasional snow haven't bothered it.

Then last summer, during THAT drought (!) we saw this cactus, which appeared at the end of our driveway by the utility pole, source unknown. It's still there, but we want to transplant it. We just don't yet know where.

I know many of my readers are sick of wet weather, not to mention violent storms. We'll take the rain off your hands. If necessary, we'll take a nasty storm, though that's possibly a "Be careful what you wish for" declaration. Our one tornado scare a few weeks ago had me filling bottles with water and putting family photos in a zip-lock, then stashing it all to take to the basement and hunker down. And it's staying handy.

But I've stayed here through a Category One hurricane and that was no big deal, so a couple tropical storms sound really really good to me right now.