Thursday, July 31, 2008

An English Lesson - Aint, Haint, Haunt & Aunt.

Ok here is a little lesson in English, as it is spoken (so I believe) in Eastern Kentucky, where I was born and raised for awhile. It's very similar here in North Carolina, but a bit different.

Anyway, the lesson today concerns 4 words used back home - 3 are very common, one seems to be less common than it used to. This lesson concerns their pronunciation and usage.

Aint

Aint is a great word, I don't know its history, but I know it's quite old. It will never go away, no matter how much teachers and people who make up grammar rules want it to. I suppose it's a contraction. Back home, it seems to be used interchangeably with "is not". It aint mine. It shore aint yores. Very, very common.

(Just as an aside, I lived many years in the Baltimore, MD area. I heard 'aint' used there, by the city dwellers, in a way someone in Eastern Kentucky would have never used it, to my knowledge. I head people say things like "I aint did that", or "I aint said that". So they've taken a word that most educated people think is grammatically incorrect, and made it more so. More power to them, English is a living language, let it live, I say).

Haint

I hear haint a lot back home, and from what I could tell, its interchangeable with "aint". It haint mine. It shore haint yores. I personally never used the word, so maybe I missed the finer nuances. (Another aside. Someone back home who says haint, is quite likely to say hit instead of it. So the sentence becomes, "Hit haint mine, hit shore haint yores"). The thing about 'hit' though, is it can have the standard meaning, to strike something, or any other standard meaning hit may have, as well as being a different way of pronouncing 'it'. So you have to pay attention, and know the context.

Haunt

Ok, first pronunciation: It sounds exactly like haint, which rhymes with aint. Second, usage. It's a noun, not a verb, and it means a ghost. To haunt, is something else entirely, but a haunt (remember to pronounce it haint) can scare the crap out of you. There's a line in an old song "aint no haunt gonna scare me off". Or is it haint no haunt?

Aunt

Last but not least, Aunt. This is the person married to your uncle. But, it is pronounced "aint". Sounds exactly like aint, not ant, or heaven help me, ahnt.

That's it. Just remember, all these words rhyme with can't (pronounced caint), and you may be able to understand things a little bit better in a place like Knott County, Kentucky.

Ok, lesson over.

But here's something interesting (to me). I was in the Army at one time, stationed in Germany. I managed to stay there 4 years, when when I got out, I took a European Out, and set out for England, Scotland and Ireland. I had never been there, thought it possible I many never be there again, and I was going to enjoy it and see what I could see. I pretty much stayed there till the money ran out (just over a month), then got my government paid ticket home changed to leave from London instead of Munich, and all was right with the world. Here was the neat thing - I was in a country that spoke English (instead of German), but much of the time I'd have a hard time following what was being said. Accent, Dialect, Regionalisms, non-standard usage, all combined against me. Frequently my brain would be a syllable or two behind and I'd get lost. On the flip side, very few people had any problem understanding me, maybe because I spoke a little slower on average than they did (its a south of the Ohio River thing). Anyway it was great fun, I loved it, but eventually had to come home and face realities.

Years and years later, I find myself in line at a Roy Roger's Restaurant at Baltimore/Washington International Airport, in Maryland. Roy Rogers, for those who don't know, is a fast food place selling chicken, biscuits, burgers etc. Just ahead of me is this older gentleman who is British, nicely dressed, and seemed to speak a standard form of English (i.e., I could understand him). His turn came to order, and he ordered the two piece meal. The response he got from the gal behind the counter was straight from the streets of Baltimore: "We outta biscuit". He had no clue what she said - seeing it written it's easy, but hearing it, the way it was said, words run together, non-essential words left out, no plural, must have sounded very strange to him. She repeated: "We outta biscuit". Now biscuit means different things in England & America, but that's neither here nor there. This man did not understand. She repeated it a third time, a little louder: "We outta biscuit". Finally she realized, and said it with perfect grammar, though she had to think about it: "We don't have any biscuits". The neat thing is, I don't even think something like "we outta biscuit" qualifies as a dialect. Dont know, that's a later thought. Anyways, I smiled. I knew what the pore ol' feller was going through.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fire in the sky keeps on burnin',

So...me, my wife, and the dog were sitting on the porch, watching a storm blow over. It was so humid, oppressively hot, even the pup was listless. We were passing the time watching the lightening and counting the seconds till we hear the thunder. I was looking at the field that is our front yard, which I had finished mowing this afternoon, still aggravated that a storm came up yesterday while I was mowing, raining just long enough and hard enough to keep me from finishing then. I wasn't exactly admiring the field, I was pretty much doing some forward procrastination, thinking ahead of time of excuses for putting off the next mowing. Proactive procrastination. Take that, Steven Covey! You can shift your paradigm where the sun don't shine.

Anyway, we're lulling away the time in that happy state, when two lightening bolts burst from the sky to the ground, just over the hill. The thunder that followed was very loud and immediate, increasing the nervousness of dog, wife and self. We decided to adjourn to the indoors, to withdraw ourselves from nature, to find joy and commune with the air-conditioning, since for some reason we still had power. The storm blew over, not a drop of rain.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Iwo Jima & a lazy afternoon

Today, on Route 70, somewhere between Valdese & Morganton, (North Carolina) I glanced to the left I saw a replica of the Iwo Jima memorial in Arlington, Virginia. There was the flag, and the marines (soldiers?), and it was on a lot of gravel. It was in front of a trailer - I'm not sure if it was a double-wide or not. I don't know what it was made out of, could have been plywood for all I know. Someone took some time with it. I was driving, and tho I did have time to do a double take, I didnt have time look closely. Its a concept, anyway. The Iwo Jima Memorial as yard art.

Next.

I don't know when I became the kind of person who liked to sit on the front porch, lean back, and listen to the birds. Pickles is usually pretty mellow on the front porch, so she just laid at my feet, keeping watch, in case something came around that she felt she needed to bark at. It was a little cooler than it has been recently, and the breeze felt nice, and I almost fell asleep. So what happened?

I'm not sure, but I think I'm 'retired'. Its nothing formal, I just quit the last job I was working at. My only income is from selling stuff online, and I have some small investments. Not near enough to live on in the long run, but I'm still hanging on. I'm no where near retirement age. If I listened to commercials I'd be scared to death. But, since I'm 'retired' in every possible measure, except getting things like pensions or social security or having any kind of real income, I can take the time to sit on the front porch and listen to birds. And note the coolness of a light breeze that just happens to wander by and how good it feels on a hot summer day. And drift off with a dog at my feet. I could never do that while I was working. I'd be too tired, or feel too much pressure, or have to many things I had to get done in what little free time I had just to sit and listen to the birds.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Useless Thought

I found a dime under my keyboard today. I didnt know it was there, I dont know how long it had been there. It was completely unaccounted for. It is now in my pocket, and may be spent someday, but how many other dimes are there that I dont know about? And quarters, nickles, pennies, even dollar bills? And its not jut me I'm sure - how many billions of dollars are under keyboards, chair cushions, on the ground, where ever, and not accounted for? No one knows about them. Say......what I could do with a piece of that, see. It's like this I tell ya........ (I've been watching too many old movies).

On to another useless thought. It would be neat if I could get everybody in America to send a dollar to my PayPal account. Heck, I'd settle for everyone in North Carolina. Shoot, everyone in Valdese would be a good start. Now, I do sell stuff online, and I do have repeat customers, so there is a small minority out there who are doing their part, doing more than their part, and for that I thank them. But how to get everyone else? A dollar per family unit would be fine. I reckon I just gotta do some figurin'. Just cipher on it awhile. Wake me up when the possum's cooked.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Dance Studio on Main Street

Looks like the Video store/tanning place/gym that is no longer in business is going to be replaced by a dance studio. That's cool, I hope it succeedes - it could bring people into the downtown Valdese area. Couldn't hurt.

Not missing a chance to pass on a rumor, I heard that Valdese Video/tanning place/gym left that location because the landlord raised the rent - and not by a little. Almost doubled it. So says the Valdese, NC rumor mill, the one mill in town that works full time.

The Valdese Video sign is still on the building. Its a nice sign, but I wonder who's gonna take it down.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Trip To The Dentist

Today was the day for my bi-annual (semi-annual? ok - twice yearly) teeth cleaning and lecture at the Dentist's office. Our dentist is in the thriving metropolis of Morganton, the county seat, about 6 miles west of Valdese. Its a pretty little town, just big enough to support two or three street people, but not so big that it has anything really convenient that you'd want to go to. The area around the old court house is really pretty, and our dentist's office is basically a block or two from that square.

I grew up fearing and (hate's too strong a word) loathing dentists. Not as people, tho I really didnt know any personally, but just in general. And it was because of this. When I was very young, I dont think there were any dentists anywhere near where I lived. I lived in Knott County, Kentucky, a small county in the hills of the southeastern part of the state. Its as Appalachian as anywhere in Appalachia. I did not have my first visit to a dentist until I was 10 years old - and then it wasn't in Kentucky - it was in Altus, Oklahoma, after my Dad had joined the Air Force. It was a terrible experience. And it kept getting worse. Not only was it painful and scary, but I would get lectured, and threatened. And I would walk out of the Dentist's office with self-esteem so low, it would have to look up to see the bottom of a mud puddle. This continued pretty much thru the time I was in the Army. There were times when I thought that Army dentists must have taken extra Army Dentist course on how to be complete jerks - (and yes I'm thinking of you, San Angelo AFB, TX Dentist in the Summer of 1978). Well he was an Air Force Dentist now that I think about it, maybe me being in the Army made it worse, I dont know. But I digress. Anyway, my personal treatment at dentist offices had the opposite of the desired effect. It did not encourage to me to improve my oral hygiene, it encouraged me to avoid going to the dentists office at all costs. Cause I knew they would make me feel like crap.

Well, I'm all grown up now, and a civilian to boot, so I have choices, so I guess they don't play that game with me as much anymore. Cause I can go elsewhere if I want, and pay someone else if I so desire.

As a result it wasn't so bad this time, I only got dinged on one small issue. So I'll endeavor to do better, and I'll wait with dread for my next appointment.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Breakfast At Deanna's

I used to like to write short stories. I wasnt very good at it, I just did it for fun. I created a couple of characters, Thad & Deanna, and put them in all kinds of situations - it was kind of like a game. Sometimes they knew each other, sometimes they dated, sometimes they were married, sometimes they were well off, sometimes not, sometimes they didn't know the other existed, sometimes it was a work relationship, sometimes they were old, sometimes young. I played around with it. What follows is the last short story I wrote using either character (Deanna is the main character, Thad is just refered to), and I believe the last short story I ever wrote. I wrote it back in July 2003, 5 years ago. Hard to believe. Believe me, it aint no great loss to the literary world. Anyway, here it is, Breakfast at Deanna's.

Breakfast at Deanna's


Deanna sat at the kitchen table, groggy. She hadn't slept well the night before, and the strong coffee she was drinking did not seem to be helping. Thad was out of town on business again, and Deanna had a love hate feeling about that. On the one hand she liked the freedom it gave her, she didn't have to worry about Thad, or what he thought, or how he felt, or put up with his moods, she and the kids could go pretty much where they wanted when they wanted, but on the other hand, she never slept well when he was gone, was ever on the alert for some kind of intruder, worried that some simple problem would come up that she would not know how to handle, and missed the heavy, rythmic breathing and physical warmth of his body when he laid in bed next to her. Thad and Deanna had been married for 12 years, and the seemingly infinite passion of Deanna's earlier years with Thad was gone, but it had been replaced with comfort and security. When Thad was gone, most of the comfort and security seemed to go with him. Deanna didn't realize this. She just knew she couldn't sleep well and had vague feelings that she never would have identified as fear when Thad was away.

Deanna looked up at the clock. She had a lot to do, but for now she had 30 minutes to herself. She was going to sit at the table, sip on her coffee, and wake up. In 30 minutes, she was going to shower, get herself dressed for work, wake up the kids, start them some breakfast, wake them up again, deal with any emergencies a 10 year old and a 7 year old may have, get them dressed and fed, finish getting herself ready, get them off to their daycare, and head to work to deal with whatever the business world threw at her.

Abbey, Deanna's golden Tabby rubbed against her ankle then pushed his head into Deanna's leg. Deanna reached down and gave him a scratch behind his ears. Abbey looked up and made a purring sound. Deanna leaned back, patted her leg a couple of times, and in an instant Abbey was in her lap.

"I fed you, Abbey Road," Deanna said, "you have plenty of fresh water, clean litter, now you just want to be petted, right? Well you are king of the house, and I live to please you."

Deanna scratched under Abbey's chin and he stretched out his neck and purred happily, then curled up in her lap for a snooze.

The other animal in the house was a small dog, a Yorkie named Bob who weighed less than Abbey, but who felt he could take on a German Shephard all the same. Deanna had never had a small dog before, she felt they were too yippy, but she had to admit that this dog had personality. And he was pretty too, and Deanna and Bob both enjoyed it when Deanna brushed his long hair. Bob had his toys, his own routine, and he and Abbey got along just fine.

Bob did tend to bark tho, and he was barking right now. Deanna propped her chin up with one hand and petted Abbey with the other. She had let Bob out this morning, what could be his problem? Bob continued barking.

"What's up boy? You trying to tell me something? Timmy's in trouble?", Deanna said loud enough for Bob to hear. Abbey looked up, affronted that his nap was disturbed. "Sorry Abbey, but apparently Timmy's in trouble."

Deanna moved slightly and Abbey jumped down on the floor, voiced his indignation and walked away to find something else soft and warm. Deanna stood up and walked into the living room. Bob was going crazy. He was barking so hard his front paws would lift up off the floor, then he'd run around in a circle, jump on something, then start barking again, his little Yorkie nose inches away from the bottom of the front door, his little Yorkie butt in the air, tail wagging furiously, ears straight up. Bob was excited.

"Hey Bob, is there a cat out there?", Deanna said to the dog. "I'll check it out and we'll get that mean ol' putty tat out of here. Who does he think he is walking around your house?"

Deanna picked Bob up, tossed him gently into the kitchen and told him to sit and stay. Which he did. That's the good thing about Bob, Deanna thought, you can pick him up, and he's very obedient. He's an anti-cat. She went to the living room door, and cautiously opened it. It might be a cat, but it could just as easily be a skunk, racoon, ground hog or axe murderer. Deanna stood in the doorway, leaned out a little and looked to both sides and out into the yard but did not see anything. She was about to close the door and go give Bob a hard time when she looked down -- a long black snake was stretched out on her porch, next to her door jam, less than an inch from her bare feet.

Deanna made a sound that was not quite a scream, a sound a person makes when there's no time to react to an impending disaster, the sound she might make when she looks up while driving and sees that she's going to rear end the car in front of her and there is nothing she can do about it. Deanna made the sound of pure panic. She jumped back and slammed the door, and instantly her heart was racing and she could feel the results of tons of adrenalin chemicals being released into her blood stream. She took some deep breaths trying to calm down. Bob came bounding in, as much as a little dog can bound, and began yapping at the door again. Deanna wanted to run up to the bedroom and tell Thad, but of course Thad was gone, sleeping in some snake free hotel, no doubt.

Deanna hated and feared snakes. She didn't see it as irrational, she had grown up in a place abundant with snakes, including rattle snakes, copperheads, and water moccasins, snakes which would put you in a hospital or worse if they bit you. She learned to give snakes a wide berth, she didn't want to be anywhere near them, and didn't want them anywhere near her or her house, Animal Planet notwithstanding. She realized this was a black snake, and was not dangerous to humans, but still. She had to do something, else he might bring his snake buddies to drink snake beers and eat mice and have snake sex in her living room, or worse yet, under her house or in her walls or in her attic. Deanna had a bad horror movie vision of a house overrun by little baby black snakes, coming through the light fixtures and dropping on top of her while she slept. She had to do something. She had to get rid of it. She had children to protect.

Deanna left Bob barking at the door jam, and walked through the family room and opened the door leading to the garage. She looked down before she stepped -- would she ever casually open a door again? She turned the light on, looked around some more and decided it was ok. She pressed the button to open the garage door, and walked out, grabbing a shovel as she went. She walked around to the front of the house and stood in front of the porch, looking around for more snakes, holding the shovel at a 45 degree angle across her body like she was ready to attack or defend, and realized that she probably should have put some shoes on. The snake had not moved an inch, and Deanna wondered why it was there. Was it for the warmth? Or did the snake enjoy the cool air conditioned air that was seeping under her door? What could possibly have motivated this snake to take up residence in front of her door? It didn't matter.

Deanna moved slowly up the three steps to her porch, holding her shovel out in front of her, her heart pounding, and ready to fly if the snake so much as moved. It didn't, it was a predator, and predators are very good at being still. Through the door came the sounds of an agitated dog. Deanna was on the edge of the porch now, a few feet away from the snake, as close as she dared to get, when she struck awkwardly with the shovel, hitting the snake right about in the shoulders, if a snake had shoulders. Deanna was surprised at how tough the snake was, she had hit it with all her might, with enough force, she thought, to cut through it, but not only was it not cut in half, there wasn't even any blood. The snake had obviously been caught by surprise, and it kind of jumped and slithered toward the steps, and Deanna gasped and jumped to her left, then realized the snake was between her and the steps, and her front door. She hit the snake again, a couple of feet lower. Still not even a drop of blood. The snake was on the edge of the porch now, near the steps making seemingly random movements. Deanna knew that this meant the snake was most likely mortally wounded, if not dead, but she couldn't be sure. She stood as far away from the snake as possible, and used the end of her shovel to flip it out into the yard. She watched it for a few seconds, it continued to move, but not with any intent, so she walked down the steps, and used the shovel to flip the snake further away. She continued this exercise until the snake was in a small ditch between the yard and the road. The snake was still moving, and Deanna wasn't sure if it was dead or not. And she didn't really like it there anyway.

Deanna walked back to her garage, leaned the shovel against the wall and began scrounging around all the portable grill paraphernalia. She finally found what she was looking for, lighter fluid, and the little wand like thing that Thad used to light the charcoal. She walked out of the garage, grabbing the shovel as she went. She walked up to the ditch, the snake was still there moving around. Deanna squirted some lighter fluid on to the snake, and the snake gave no reaction, other than to continue its random movements. Deanna squirted lighter fluid all over the snake and the grass around it, flipped the switch of her wand to cause a flame, and touched it to part of the snake furthest from its head, and instantly snake and grass were in flames. Deanna turned around and walked back to the garage. The grass was heavy with dew, the air heavy with humidity, the fire would burn itself out. She watched from her garage door until she saw no more flames and was finally satisfied that the snake was dead. She put everything back in their proper place, pushed the button to close the garage door, and went back into the house. When Thad got back she'd get him to get rid of any remains, until then she was just going to avoid it.

Deanna dumped the coffee out of her cup and poured herself another. She took a sip and looked up at the clock. She still had ten minutes to herself, before she had to shower and begin her day. She sighed, and was lost in thought.

Evening light on a workshed.


This is a picture of some evening light on a little workshed next to the house.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Day The Beagles Came

It was two days ago, or was it three. It was a day like any other summer day - hot, humid, sultry, the neighborhood seething with Hitchcocksian mystery, when suddenly, Pickles went ballistic. Barking at the front door, then running full steam into the office, slamming into the window, howling, running into the laundry room, then the back door, then the front door to perform the sequence again. Patti & I were doing what we normally do, struggling with humanity, trying to reach out thru the ether and grab someone and make them buy something from us. And pay for it too. I leaned back in my chair, turned ever so slightly and looked out the window, and that's when I saw it: There were BEAGLES in the yard.

Pickles was still going ballistic - she wanted to play. But the Beagles paid no attention. In a few minutes they loped over to the neighbors place, and that seemed to placate Pickles and after awhile she fell asleep, having expended a tremendous amount of barking energy.

There were 4 of them, and they didnt stay at the neighbors long. They came back, but Pickles snoozed on blissfully unaware. At the time I didnt think to give them names, but now I know who they were. They were John, Maureen, Penny & Will. John was the biggest of the bunch and seemed to be taking care of the others. Maureen was a recent mother, and Penny & Will were puppies - not young pups, somewhat older pups, but pups just the same. They were friendly, and pretty dogs, and they were Lost in Valdese.

They seemed ready to settle down in our yard. Its a safe place, we're back from the road, and we have a lot of trees and shade, which is nice on a hot day.

Patti took them out some water. I said, "Patti - haven't we learned anything from Pickles? We feed Pickles & give her water and now look - she won't leave! We're making the same mistake!" But she gave them some water anyway, and John came over and checked her out. They seemed to appreciate it.

I'm not exactly sure when, but a couple of hours later, the Beagle family Robinson went back over to the neighbors yard, and from there to points unknown. I hope they made it home ok.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Names for Pickles

We have several names for our blue tick/black lab mix (Blabador?). Her official name is Pickles, the name she came with, that someone else gave her. We call her lots of things. Pickles T. Dog (T = The), Pickles P. Dog (P = Puppy), P. Pickles Dog if we think she's puttin' on airs, Pickles Ann (my wife came up with that one), Picks, Pickers & variations thereof, Gnarls Barkley - 'cause she likes to chew & she sometimes makes little gnarly sounds while chewing on stuff, & she likes to bark at any creature great or small that dares invade her yard & besides that, its funny. She has other names, but I don't want to violate any policies here. She's still officially a pup, and she's really high energy. But around 8 PM every night she crashes. She dreams. She snores.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Postcard Entropy

I sell postcards online. I have to keep the inventory organized - I'm constantly adding new, removing old, changing prices etc. For the most part I sell standard sized USA views, and organize them by state. Here's the thing I've noticed - when a person buys a card, I can guess the general location of the card by the price I charged. I tend to lower prices of cards when they've been for sale for awhile, and if someone buys a card at a lower price, I know its going to be near the back of the group. When you have a couple of hundred Florida cards for sale, that information can save you a lot of time. Now, my question to myself is, why is that? Why do older cards gravitate to the back? Because I put newer cards in the front? Well that's the obvious answer, but things arent always as obvious as they appear, and it completely ignores physics. I think there's a higher law here. I know very little about physics, so I'm not sure how to articulate it. Of course Newton's laws & some of Einstein's theories are stated in remarkably simple language, its just the mathematics to prove it is mind blowing. Leo's law goes something like this: the longer a postcard stays in inventory, the greater the tendency for that postcard to move to the back of its group. Now is there anyway to make this statement more generic, to make it apply to nature as a whole. Does it work with electrons? Is it related to the general entropy that all things experience? Am I observing a force of nature? Does this have any larger relevance to science or economics? Heck, I'll never know. I never liked science or economics.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Rain in Valdese

Lord knows I know we need rain. And I know its egocentric and selfish of me to wish it wouldn't rain so that I wouldnt have to mow grass. But you see, I have a lot of grass to mow - a couple of acres. The field looks very nice after its mowed, standing off in the distance and surveying the scene as a whole. If it doesnt rain, it'll stay that way for quite awhile. But if we have a two hour soaker, like this afternoon, I just know it'll start growing again, and I'll have to mow. Now, I do live out in the country, at least by some people's definition, so its not like I feel any pressure to have an immaculate yard. I mean, really, just walk South Avenue or Orchard or Praley or any other street in this area, and you'll get the idea. A well manicured lawn is the exception - sticks out like a sore thumb in fact. A well manicured lawn does not get my respect nor does it make me envious, nor (& I realize I'm probably using nor incorrectly, cause the only place neither appears in this little narrative is 6 words ago) does it cause me to hold its owner in high regard. It causes a little twich in a synapse in my brain, a small involuntary electrical firing that I'm not even aware of, and that's about it. But....I do have my standards, and when the grass starts to look like a minature wheat field, I sigh and maybe cuss a little under my breath, and grudingly decide its time to mow. And a heavy rain like we had today means I'll have to mow a week sooner than I otherwise would have had to. So. Ratz.