Cocking A Snook Too!

Independent, Irreverent Unschoolers – or at least one – Take On the Universe

Of (Puppy) Dogs and Marines May 26, 2007

There’s a little girl who lives next door to me, about 5, and fully capable of walking and talking and waving to me on occasion, which is always mind-blowing because I remember her family moving in prior to her existence.

The family is, I guess, a good one, at least in the traditional American sense. They have a yard with nice grass and a back deck, an easy southern drawl on the rare occasions I hear them speak. They play country music on the radio on the weekend, host some sort of church get-together on Wednesday nights. They possess a comfortable façade of Americana, which I’m sure I could peel back quite easily, revealing a healthy amount of sordidness, but I won’t.

They also have the meanest dog I’ve ever met.

He’s a Boston Terrier, a breed second only to the pug in its tenacious ugliness. He despises me even more than he despises the rest of the world; whenever we’re outside together, he runs to the edge of his yard and threatens me in every way he can. He once chased a garbage man up a brick mailbox.

But today, as I tried to relax in my backyard, swinging languidly in my Hammock of Death–long story–I became aware of the little girl next door.

“That’s MY soccer ball,” I heard her say to someone in an imperious voice that sounded suspiciously like my own. “That’s not YOUR soccer ball!”

I realized she was talking to the dog, and looked up just in time to see her pick him up, pull him to her, and lug him from one end of her yard to the other.

The weirdest thing was that the dog wasn’t angry, snarling, incensed as he is at the very sight of me. He was docile, even a little nonplussed — ho-hum, my girl is picking me up again, what a blessing I don’t have to walk.

And it got me thinking: What may be a hideously mean and ugly attack dog to one person may be somebody else’s puppy. Once this thought entered my head, of course, it rolled around and marinated itself, seemingly at random, with other thoughts from earlier in the week.

Wednesday, I made the mistake of watching the 10 o’clock news, and caught a sad local interest story. You know the one I mean, it runs on local stations everywhere now. A hometown boy who graduated from the same high school as your boss’ son, knows all the good places to eat, like you, not like the college students who aren’t from here and think they know everything even though they never leave downtown. He became a marine, and now he’s dead, mortar shell or something to the heart. And he was only 21 years old, and he left behind a wife and baby.

I’ve never really been anti-war, not that I’m intent on “staying the course” or anything either. I figure that I don’t know anything about fighting a war, or even the middle east, and I try, as a rule, not to wax rhapsodic on topics I can’t discuss with some degree of education. So I’m not going to really have an anti-war moment now.

I’m kind of with A.J. Soprano on this one — he’s been studying the middle east conflict this season. While not assigning blame, he’s wondering: How can you not be depressed? How can you wake up in the morning knowing that all this is going on in the world and keep going day after day?

What the hell is wrong with us (and here I mean ALL of us, the human race at large) that we can justify taking someone else’s life? Is oil a reason? Is the fact that we disagree on what (imaginary) sentient being controls the universe a reason? What kind of bullshit reasons are those? When you get right down to it, is anything an excuse? Is there ever a good enough reason to take a life for a principle, to look at a person in front of you, and forget that maybe he’s someone’s husband? Someone’s child? Someone’s father?

Hell. He could even be somebody’s puppy.


For life’s not a paragraph, and death, I think, is no parenthesis May 16, 2007

Filed under: Literary Stuff,Random Moments of Poignancy — Meredith @ 11:58 am

Taken with the title – from an e.e. cummings poem – another literary/music reference will make this post ridiculous. So I’ll roll with that.

It’s a song that’s clung to me since early childhood: Puff the Magic Dragon. My mom used to sing it on long car trips when we were all half aleep. Aside from Rush Limbaugh’s terrible, uncouth, offensive, and yet oddly hilarious parody, one line rings through my mind.

“Dragons live forever, but not so little boys.” In context, Puff, a larger than life, brilliantly beautiful mythological creature loses his best friend to old age. But in my reality, not even 6 months ago, we were all met with the harsh realization that dragons don’t live forever. Sometimes dragons get sick, and you never see them again.

We – and here I refer to my family, friends, and community – were faced with the loss of a brilliantly beautiful dance teacher, mentor, friend and performer who was adored by everyone he came into contact with.

I wrote about it, couldn’t stop writing about it. Even if his life and death had no real relevance over my current activity, it dictated my actions and reactions. I wrote about it for my final paper in a lit class, associating it with the feelings in Theodore Roethke’s Elegy for Jane (my student, thrown by a horse). My point, such as it was, was that the principle was the same: student or teacher, you almost feel guilty mourning someone over whom your claim is tenuous. I’m not ashamed to say that I almost sobbed at the last lines:

If only I could nudge you from this sleep,

My maimed darling, my skittery pigeon,

Over this damp grave I speak the words of my love:

I, with no rights in this matter,

Neither father nor lover.

I also wrote a long blog on the subject, but, until now, it hasn’t seen any sort of publication. It was too raw, too scattered, too full of feeling to be anything other than a dark footnote to my writing, to help me express, to work through. I teared up just now, typing Elegy for Jane, the words took me right back, and the sadness I felt wasn’t remotely comparable to the wave that consumed me originally.

But Monday was my teacher’s birthday, the first one he wasn’t here for. It would have been his 31st.

I was thinking about him a lot, both because of his birthday and our annual dance concert that preceded it, and I thought that maybe it was time to let people know how much I, at least, missed him. (more…)


Poetry Thursday

Filed under: Experimental,Literary Stuff,Poetry Thursday — Meredith @ 11:39 am

There is this incredibly cool outfit called Poetry Thursday, dedicated to helping bloggers share a love of reading and writing poetry with others. Every Friday, Poetry Thursday posts a reading or writing prompt, and, before noon on the following Thursday, participants post their poems on their blogs and put the links to the poems back at Poetry Thursday.

I’m still looking for a way to get involved, so y’all can look forward to many more mid-week poems, but for now, I was satisfied to browse through their “completely optional idea” archives. I was inspired to write two poems, one with the prompt of “food” and one with the prompt of “intense personal experience”. Enjoy.

A Love Letter to Chick-Fil-A Waffle Fries
Sometimes I don’t know which part is best
Or if it’s the harmonious whole that makes you irresistible.
There’s your salty golden brown crunchy-but-soft fried outside
The mashed potato that squeezes out of its confines into my mouth as I chew
The almost too sweet bite of the generic ketchup
The shape that allows me, with one unladylike stretch of my jaw,
To drape you across all my tastebuds at once.
I adore you, my salty darlings,
But my mom always makes me share.

I keep telling you, I only let you almost drown once.
I just had my head in the cabinet for five minutes, maybe less,
I thought you couldn’t get in trouble that fast, you could barely even walk.
I thought you were dead; you were doing the dead man’s float, surrounded by blue,
I couldn’t even see your blonde ringlets; you were soaked to the bone.
I remember mom jumping in after you, screaming at me to call 911,
I remember her appearing before me, like some terrifying statue to a God of destruction,
I remember the water beading off of her, puddling, you, quiet, horribly limp.
I heard later that you just stopped breathing, altogether,
I thought this sounded bad, but you didn’t inhale any water. Our grandma came that day,
I don’t remember that. She might as well not have been there,
I just remember getting shoved off on the neighbors while mom went in the ambulance,
I know that they made me grilled cheese, and cut it diagonally, which tastes better.
I don’t know what went on next, but you aren’t dead, and it wasn’t my fault, at least
I know that’s what dad kept telling me over and over on the way to the hospital. But
I keep telling you, it was just the one time.


A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day May 14, 2007

Filed under: Literary Stuff,Random Drivel — Meredith @ 10:48 pm

So there’s this children’s book by Judith Viorst.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I haven’t thought about it in years, but today I’m ready to match Alexander grievance for grievance.

I went to sleep with gum in my mouth, and now there’s gum in my hair. And when I got out of bed this morning, I tripped on the skateboard, and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running. And I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day………..I think I’ll move to Australia.

I woke up at about 10:30 this morning, all bright-eyed and bushy tailed. Today, I planned for Calvin to come over and go swimming with me and the little bro. In theory, we’d have lunch at the pool, he’d hang out into the evening. Calvin was planning to teach little bro how to play Magic, which he describes as “a game for literalists”. It was supposed to be a really good day, so I was more than a little pissed when it turned out to be the exact opposite. I got called into work at the last minute, and in the middle of the day. “This isn’t FAIR!” I wailed. My mom shrugged in a “life isn’t fair,” sort of way.

I could tell it was going to be a Terrible, Horrible, No good, Very bad day. At school Mrs. Dickens liked Paul’s picture of the sailboat better than my picture of the invisible castle. At singing time she said I sang too loud. At counting time she said I left out 16. Who needs 16?

I realized that we were out of hot glue sticks at work, and that hot glue sticks were vital to the last-minute absolutely could not wait until after vacation work I was doing (note the sarcasm dripping from my fingers). I called the Walgreen’s across the street from work. Apparently Walgreen’s doesn’t sell hot glue sticks. So I tried Target, who assured me that they had exactly what I was looking for in the Home Improvement section. Figuring we’d kill two birds with one stone, mom and I headed to Target (coincidentally in the opposite direction from work) planning to get some picture frames as well. Finding neither glue sticks nor helpful employees in the Home Improvement section, I stormed defeated into the Garden section, where I’d earlier seen a cluster of loitering, red-vested kids working summer jobs. I made eye contact with one, and, as evidence of both my rapidly advancing age and continuing monogamous relationship, instead of thinking, “Ooh, cute boy,” I thought,”Gee, what a nice young man.” The Nice Young Man directed me to the arts and crafts aisle. Unfortunately, the glue sticks there were miniature. I was forced to buy two packages and a miniature glue gun.

I could tell it was going to be a Terrible, Horrible, No good, Very bad day. There were two cupcakes in Phillip Parker’s lunch bag and Albert got a Hershey Bar with Almonds, and Paul’s mother gave him a piece of jelly roll that had little coconut sprinkles on the top. Guess whose mother forgot to put in dessert?

There were lots of rednecks and their screaming children in Target.

It was a Terrible, Horrible, No good, Very bad day. That’s what it was because after school my mom took us all to the dentist, and Dr. Fields found a cavity just in me. “Come back next week and I’ll fix it,” said Dr. Fields. “Next week,” I said, “I’m going to Australia.”

At work, I had to empty all the trashcans, even though I didn’t know where they all were. And my boss asked me to sweep the hallway. And then when I was finished she wanted to know if I’d swept the backroom. And when I was finished with that my boss wanted to know if I’d swept the office. And so it went with all the rooms in the building. You’d think at some point I would have wised up and just swept everything preemptively. You would be wrong. (more…)


Your Emo Neighborhood Spiderman May 5, 2007

Filed under: Criticism of the Stupid,Funnies,Movies + Life — Meredith @ 1:08 pm

Who feels like a movie review written ignoring conventional film-viewing techniques and concentrating on whatever I decide to nitpick at? Okay, let’s go! But be warned: There are probably some spoilers. Not plot spoilers so much as now you won’t be able to see it without snickering.

I went to see a movie, something I wish I could do more often. It was especially nice because I was treated to the company of my Dad, my younger brother, and my Calvin; who are fun to take to movies because they’re hypercritical about everything in them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been sitting enjoying Hollywood’s latest offering, only to feel Calvin’s breath hot on my ear, whispering “Yeah, sure. Apparently there are no laws of physics here.”

The movie we just saw was the new one about my friendly neighborhood Spiderman.

Oh, did I say ‘friendly’? I’m sorry, I meant ’emo and whiny.’

I think we’ve all seen the trailers – Spidey becomes evil when some black goo falls from space and attaches itself to him. But both Calvin and I had to admit, while Spiderman certainly becomes more aggressive and nasty, Peter Parker responds by becoming less evil than…….emo. (more…)


A Suggestion From the Liberal Lion May 3, 2007

I don’t try to be brilliant, it just comes to me.

So I wasn’t surprised when, without even trying, I came up with the most innovative sarcastic social experiment since Swift’s A Modest Proposal.

I’ve been thinking a lot about abortion and gay rights recently, as the Liberal Lion within me wakes up, indulges in a long, huge yawn, and takes stock of the current political climate. Though up and roaring through the Terri Schiavo debacle of 2005, he was soon lulled into a deceptively peaceful sleep by the conservative talk radio I’ve listened to of late.

But as I said, the Lion is now awake, and pontificating about politics in that annoying way Liberal Lions will.

“McCain is compromised by his base, not to be trusted.” He growls. “And you can’t trust a damn thing you see on television. Liberal media my tail, I’d like to see a one of them not in the administration’s pocket. Obama is the Manchurian Candidate, can’t be trusted either. Johnny Damon is the True Antichrist.” (the Lion is decisive in his thoughts, and liberal to an almost paranoid degree. Also a rabid Red Sox fan.)

The Liberal Lion was first prodded from his nap by Texas legislators and their ever-more-creative ideas to strip women of their rights to choose.

Frigging ultrasounds? DNA samples? Payoffs? Bastards!” he roared when he awoke (the Lion is sometimes rather coarse and profane, and for that I apologize).

The Lion was further stirred from his slumber by two classmates of mine, both of whom were gay and neither of whom was terribly pleased to have fewer rights than I.

The Lion was pleased to hear they’d emailed the president about his agenda as it related to them, but the Lion became quite upset when they received a form letter in response (although I don’t know what he was expecting).

“That basically says,” he intoned, “Thank you for writing. We are sorry you will spend eternity burning in hell.”

Then came the Idea.

“Hey,” the Lion posited, “what if we gave those conservative freaks” – I apologize again for the Lion, his perceptions of conservatives are both highly outspoken and highly uncomplimentary – “exactly what they wanted?”

“What?” I said. I admit, this was so uncharacteristic that I was brought up short. (more…)