1 month ago
Tuesday, January 15, 2019
It was a return trip, a bucket list type of thing. My memories had faded of this city, home of a favorite author, full of amazing architecture and wonderful food. A steamboat sung and paddled on the Mississippi, memories of the riverbank quickly replaced by many closed factories with bent piers devoid of ships. The open French market bustled with life, baskets and open-jawed baby alligator heads with glass eyes, petrified bird claws at voo-doo stands, the aroma of Beignets from Café DuMonde wafting through the air, cups of steaming café au lait in every hand, even my own.
In a sidewalk doorway, his face importune, I noticed dirt-smudged cheeks, a gaunt frame like rickety scaffolding. A small black dog and he huddled together, a worn blanket around them both, friends under a gray sky, as a chill day threatened rain. Anything will help, on a sign handwritten at his feet. I handed him my still-wrapped Muffuletta sandwich.
Walking on past loud clubs, Crazy Corner and House of Blues, past street musicians, raucous with rhythm and laughter, my thoughts were askew, in contrast to the homeless man and dog. What had I expected in this, the city of endless drinking and music? Not the abject poverty, not boarded up houses, long abandoned, several years after Katrina. As I moved slowly along streets full of still-ruined buildings and cars up on blocks, I saw children playing innocently alongside parents, faces deeply lined with despair.
One building, a massive wall crumbling to pale powder – chalky white, flakes of pink lay in slivers on the dark pavement. I look up at this old hulk, bricks a sun-faded russet, with loose fine dust barely holding between the courses, a mortarous barrage waiting to rain down;once standing steadfast against winter storms, now broken free under the hot sun, baking dry any last remnants of moisture. The wall appears to slough off in a shower of forgotten fragments, an exfoliation of time, exposing an under-layer anxious to be seen.
Finally, I saw a young man with a crudely drawn sign on cardboard, “Poetry on Demand”. He was poised on a stool; in front of him was a fruit crate on which balanced an old manual Smith-Corona typewriter. Being a poet myself, I was intrigued and allowed him to create in five minutes, a poem describing my visit to this famed city. On a scrap of paper, brilliant words shouted words of my life, a lone poet wandering streets filled with happy travelers, feeling somehow out of place, feeling more drawn to a homeless man and his dog and a student selling poems. I handed him some money, knowing I would return home with a souvenir much more me than a sequined tee shirt.
Julie A. Dickson
Posted by koon woon at 4:45 AM
Friday, October 20, 2017
I was sixteen wearing a Howard Johnson’s turquoise and white checked uniform. Reaching over into the freezers, making sundaes and serving fries resulted in my arms being painted in sticky splotches with ice cream and catsup. At work, we wiped down tables with rags and our hands smelled of old milk and bleach. As I drove myself home, yawning at 10 pm, I would find a spot I missed; like glue the chocolate and strawberry stuck on my elbow. My shoes felt tacky on floor of my car. My whole life felt sticky during those years waitressing.
Later, I traded in ice cream for gasoline. I stood outdoors in summer heat and bitter cold, gas pump in hand beside countless cars and trucks, gas burping like backwash onto my hands. Henry Cain drove a dark blue Porsche. The gas fill was on the top and I had to hold the nozzle carefully while he stood watching his precious car. I guessed it was paid for by Cain’s Mayonnaise since the factory was nearby. I wiped gas droplets from my hands and accepted the 35 cents per gallon that he handed to me with a smile. My hands smelled perpetually of gasoline, no matter how often I washed them, or covered them with gloves. At night, I used to stand under a hot shower to escape from the gas fumes that seemed to stay in my nose for hours.
In a home stocked with Miracle Whip, the word mayonnaise was a like profanity to my mother. Her jar of Miracle Whip stood proudly inside the refrigerator door and found itself in egg salad, tuna salad and on sandwiches. I didn’t taste mayonnaise until I had met Henry Cain and bought my own jar, placing it next to my mother’s Miracle Whip inside her refrigerator. Anyone listening would have thought I had committed a grievous offense; her remarks and chides echoed through the house. My father intervened and settled the mayonnaise issue – he saw no harm in it, but he did expect me to pay for it myself if I needed such a luxury.
I finally moved onto to another restaurant position before leaving home and there I served seafood with homemade tartar sauce made with Cain’s Mayonnaise and pickle relish. So many jars of mayonnaise and I never once bought Miracle Whip after I left home. The lingering odor that followed me home was fryolator grease but at least I had the taste of mayonnaise to savor and remember.
Julie A. Dickson
The House I once Lived In
The green house with white shutters still stands,
even though the apple tree is long gone from
the front yard, replaced by a disappointing
circle of dirt filled with geraniums – not what
my father had in mind when he planted the apple tree.
His first crop yielded a single yellow apple, which
my mother cut into quarters for us to share,
its crisp sweetness left us wishing for more.
The house looks smaller now, a ranch home
nestled in a neighborhood with one hundred
similar houses, lined up in identical blocks.
I look up at my former bedroom window,
underlined by a white flower box- empty now.
My mother would have mourned the absence
of the flowers, we always planted there.
I recall my brother and I hanging out our windows,
side by side, talking well after bedtime.
He kept a treasure box hidden in the flower box
and one spring we discovered it, rusted
and forgotten after being buried in snow.
Just now, the front door opens and from
my parked car, I see a woman peering out
at me, suspiciously. I wave, as if my friendly smile
will assuage her uncertainty. She waves back
as I leave my car and call out, “I used to live here”
trailing off, hoping she will excuse my intrusion.
Instead she beckons me closer and invites me inside.
Really? I am shocked that, as a stranger she allows
me entrance and I slowly step into the house
I once lived in.
The furniture is new and not at all like when
I was a child, the old brown davenport missing.
Gone was the dining room table where my mother
set out Sunday meals and birthday cakes.
Silently, the woman escorts me down the hall,
where, instead of the ballerina wallpaper I remember,
a brightly painted bedroom greets me. I smile.
Walking to the window, I see my car, the yard
empty of my father’s apple tree and finally,
I slowly lean forward to make sure that
my brother’s treasure box is really gone.
Posted by koon woon at 11:01 AM
Friday, August 18, 2017
A bouquet sat centered on the kitchen table, my eyes studying the lead crystal vase that had belonged to my mother. The etched wide square vase was so heavy, I dared not carry it with one hand. My mother’s voice [long gone] echoed in my head – two hands!
The vase had been a familiar sight, often filled and refilled with garden- cut flowers, roses from my father, even weeds lovingly picked by me and presented to my mother. Pussy willows, golden rod and wild daisies were equally displayed in her favorite vase, no preferential treatment for roses over weeds. We all knew she loved flowers, especially yellow and purple which are also my favorites. Ground violets, too small for the vase often floated in a low dish. She always loved fresh flowers of any variety.
Ironically, the only flowers I received as an adult were presented as a silent apology. Yes, he went too far at times. An acid remark caustically emitted, a hastily hurled comment in my direction as I cringed, closed my eyes or looked down. The words entered my ears, cutting through tissue and bone as though on a direct course to my heart, already scarred and scabbed over from frequent attacks.
Somewhere in the past, perhaps when I was a teen, I felt so utterly diminished and rejected that a trap door slammed shut. My heart was broken, carelessly cast aside and lay covered, protected as beneath a plywood floor, constructed from necessity. You cannot hurt me, my heart seemed to murmur so that only I heard, like a whispered voice in the wind-rustled grasses beneath my feet. It’s too late, the voice spoke – how can harsh words enter now, after that time when I was younger and after previous years of hearing the condescending tones of my father? The current spoken words of my husband were familiar; they spoke of my lack of value, my uselessness.
Instead of a beautiful lead crystal vase that my mother cherished, all I saw before me was a torturous vessel filled with silence. Six red carnations did not speak, but I heard the feeble excuses and promises they represented. They arrived wrapped in green tissue with a packet of nourishment, as if by dropping granules of white powder into water, all could be made right.
Wordlessly, a bunch of flat green ferns with red carnations were left on the table as he passed through the kitchen. I watched him recede into the living room. Unwrapping the flowers felt akin to removing a bandage from a not-yet-healed wound, the red carnations like blood-droplets. I smiled ironically that for over twenty years, he did not remember my favorite flowers – daffodils, yellow tulips and roses. [Carnations were his mother’s favorite flower] Instead, stood before me, blood-red flowers that seemed to call out in horror from the battlefield of my life. The wounded and bleeding hopes were set before me as a reminder.
Impulsively, I tore the carnations from the vase, dripping water across the kitchen floor. I threw them unceremoniously into the sink, stuffing them into the drain and turning on the disposal unit, grinding them into red mush. I stood leaning against the kitchen counter, feeling relief. With the blood washed away, the torturous vessel was restored to the lead crystal vase that my mother loved.
From the living room called a disembodied voice, “What’s for supper?”
Julie A. Dickson
In no way did my father think of himself of an inventor. The 50-pound sack of sunflower seeds in a covered metal trash can to protect them from pesky rodent invasions in our garage.
Moving from Western New York State suburbia- a heavily wooded area of New England was appealing to my parents. The bird feeder became of my father’s hobbies. Standing his post at the kitchen window, armed with Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North America, he identified nuthatches, woodpeckers and blue jays. Notes were kept, bookmarks saved pages of every newly discovered bird. An LP record of Audubon bird calls sat in the living room console stereo; family sat around the room identifying the songs of cardinals and sparrows with as much enthusiasm as we could muster.
The resident challenger of Ornithology was the common grey squirrel, long of tail and acrobatic in nature. Squirrels could jump through the air from the roof, grasping the feeder while waiting for the violent swaying to subside; and then contorted into impossible positions; they hung upside down to dump the contents to the ground. Flinging themselves below, the seed-fest would begin. All song birds within a mile radius were scared off, much to my father’s dismay.
Knocking on the kitchen window had no effect. Cracking seeds and stuffing them into already fat cheeks, Mr. Squirrel ignored my father. Running out the back door sent the squirrel lunging for the nearest tree until the intruding human disappeared into the house, when he would return to the seed pile persistently. A hanging feeder from tree branches, attached to a window ledge, or set atop a pole – the squirrels found them all.
Captured in a Havahart trap, transported 3 miles away, where my father sprayed a-bit of white paint on each squirrel’s tail-tip resulted only in the knowledge that squirrels traveled farther than 3 miles. My father stared incredulously out the kitchen window at the white-tipped scoundrel eating his bird seed!
The solution to his problem came in the form of a metal trash can lid. A round hole drilled in the center, the lid was affixed to the pole 12 inches below the bird feeder, pole set away from roof and branches. This design worked reasonably well, diverting even the cleverest squirrel from reaching the feed, except for morsels scattered by the messy blue jays. My father was the true- inventor of the squirrel arrestor; he just didn’t apply for a patent. Many years later he purchased a conical squirrel arrestor fashioned from sheet metal and the old trash lid was returned to its can, with duct tape covering the hole.
Julie A. Dickson
Posted by koon woon at 7:53 AM
Sunday, April 2, 2017
Julie A. Dickson
The entire doorway from the garage to our den seemed to fill with his presence. From where I sat across the room, no light was visible around the large form that was my father. Without a word, he swept the hat from his head in a familiar arc, to place it on its hook, his expression unreadable. My mother called her greeting from the kitchen; my younger brother bounced up from his chair. I was silent.
My brother could never stay quiet. Even when my mother warned, his mouth seemed to babble on like the engine of our car after the key was turned off. The hand darted forward and so quickly made contact with my brother’s face that his words became screams while I shrank back on the couch, making myself small. My mother put down her dish towel and closed her eyes.
I knew the power of my father’s hand, having seen it suddenly extend into the backseat of the car, often striking out at innocent chatter. I learned to sit behind my mother, shrinking back into the dark corner, hopefully out of reach and I knew silence was also my ally; not that any of these protected me completely, so quick was his temper to rise like a switched on light or a bedsheet snapped open.
His hands, encased in work-gloves, often carried armloads of firewood, bound for a basket beside the woodstove that now stood quietly cold beside him. At times, I saw his hands wrapped around the handle of a rake, moving methodically away and back towards him with rhythmic precision, until he paused to wipe sweat from his forehead before it reached his eyes. My father sought the outdoors, where in solitude with leaves and wood, he seemed to distance himself from the world.
This volatile man could hum and rake in the yard, could make leaf piles for me to leap into with the same hand provoked by my brother. Why then did he continually support my brother’s irresponsibility, that hand bearing money to feed his constant demands, while ignoring my quiet acquiescence, my complacency? I was confused at the violence of his hand, the dichotomy of perverse generosity. Did being a girl make me inconsequential like my mother, while the rebellious nature of my brother was simultaneously assaulted and rewarded so many times?
My father’s hand sometimes held both a glass of scotch and a lit cigarette as the ice rattled on the way to his lips. I would stare at that hand, studying his large meaty fingers, in contrast to the smooth, quiet hands of my mother that I could easily envision taking a roast from the oven or wiping dishes dry. His hand spoke an immense presence, like a barely held-back caged beast, biding time before lashing out.
I envisioned my father being held captive by his highly stressful job; his refuge was working outdoors, away from contract negotiations where those hands pounded typewriter keys and tightly grasped a telephone receiver. Those too-soft indoor hands had to be insulated by gloves- protected from the harsh outdoor environment that he loved. I learned from those gloves; the insulation I wore against my father’s harshness was my mother, shrinking in her shadow, watching for signs of danger and taking cues from her practiced eye.
Once my family attended a magic show. I watched carefully as the magician’s left hand rose, leading the audience’s eye away from his right hand, which covertly dropped a coin into his pocket. The two hands then quickly swiped across each other, and the coin was gone! Was I the only one who had seen, who had not been fooled by his sleight of hand?
As my father’s hand rose smoothly to place his hat carefully on a hook, my eyes trained to follow the movement like in the magic show, to be transfixed by the illusion, I wasn’t fooled. There was no magic, no sleight of hand, as I knew well the alter-ego of that other unpredictable hand.
Posted by koon woon at 2:56 AM
Thursday, June 2, 2016
Thursday, December 3, 2015
Washington Left in the Dust: Russia Flies Strategic Space Warfare Missile
22:15 02.12.2015(updated 23:37 02.12.2015)
Moscow carried out the first successful flight test of its new anti-satellite missile last month, becoming just the second nation to arm its military with space warfare weapons.
Russia's direct ascent anti-satellite missile, known as Nudol, was tested on November 18, according to defense officials familiar with reports of the test. It was the first successful test in three attempts, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
Russia now China as the only nations with strategic space warfare weapons. In October, China conducted a flight test of its anti-satellite missile, the Dong Neng-3 direct ascent missile.
Analysts say anti-satellite missiles could cripple US intelligence, , and communications capabilities that are critical for both military operations and civilian infrastructure.
The Russian test is a concern for Washington, Representative Mike Pompeo, a Kansas Republican, told the paper.
'As President Obama cuts our defense and seeks to ally with Putin, the Russians continue to develop their technological abilities to weaponize space and to take out our national technical means – kinetically and through cyber,' said Pompeo, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
'We can foolishly turn a blind eye to these developments, or acknowledge this threat and develop our own capabilities to ensure that our satellites – military and – are not susceptible to attack or blackmail.'
Former Pentagon official Mark Schneider said the Russian test highlights the failure of the States to prepare for space warfare.
'There is an enormous asymmetry in play regarding space weapons,' said Schneider, now with the National Institute for Public Policy.
'For decades the Congress has prevented the US from putting weapons in space and even developing a ground-based ASAT capability,' Schneider said. 'There is no such constraint upon the Russians and Russia violates arms control treaties when this is in their to do so and they find ample opportunity to do this.'
A February 2015 unclassified Defense Intelligence Agency report to the Congress stated that 'Chinese and Russian understand the unique information advantages afforded by space systems and are developing capabilities to deny US use of space in the event of a conflict,' Schneider added.
Posted by koon woon at 3:43 AM