01 June 2008

Parasailing (California, Horizontal, Soaring, Submarine, Whirlpool)

I was sitting in the coffee shop the other day eating a 12” submarine sandwich when Jimmy, an old friend from my California days walked in. After many hugs and exclamations of joy at seeing one another after so many years, I invited him to sit and have lunch with me. It seems he was in town for a big parasailing event. Now, our small town had never been much of a place for parasailing, but some young, foolish men had discovered that it could be done on some high bluffs over the river. Now they were trying to make our little town the “Parasailing Capitol of the South.” Can you imagine! All the farmers were against it because it kept scaring the cows and they were running off their weight trying to get away from those big colorful predators flying around up in the air.

It turned out that Jimmy now sells parasails and all the vast array of paraphernalia that goes with it. He offered to take me up for a ride in a tandem/teaching parasail. Well, my daddy didn’t raise no idiot so I kindly thanked him for his offer and told him I would be glad to come and watch him go flying through the air. Well, then he called me a chicken and started dancing around the coffee shop making chicken sounds – “buk, buk buk, buk buk buk, till he finally made me mad and so I told him to come on, if he was waiting on me he was backing up! Well, off we traipsed to the bluffs. On the outside I was cool, calm, and collected, but on the inside I was quaking in my sandals, thinking of all the horrible things that could happen way up there in the air. What if we get caught in a whirlpool of wind and dash onto the ground? What if the parasail rips and we plummet into the river or worse yet, into that copse of thorny trees by the river?? Yikes! You would think that by my age I would have learned that pride cometh before the fall – this time I was hoping that it would not be a literal translation.

So after he strapped and gusseted me into this seemingly flimsy contraption with these tiny thin little metal bars, Jimmy commands me to start running toward the edge of the bluff. I start off at a hesitant little trot and he is yelling, “Faster, faster!” so off I go running and praying and feeling like my heart is going to literally explode in my chest. We get to the end and all of a sudden I am running in thin air. Here I am, dangling, not quite vertical, or horizontal holding on to this bar with a grip that is about to bust my knuckles. And then I open my eyes – and after the initial bout of nausea, I begin to really get the hang of this parasailing – I find myself waving to people on the ground that I know – they look like little miniature toy people down there. I laugh at the cows running until I see my Uncle Jake shaking his fist at us. We had a marvelous time just soaring around in the thermals; I could have stayed up there all day. Then, just as we were landing, I saw my dad standing over at the side shaking his head. I know this was just one more incident in a line of many others that have convinced him that he might have, after all, raised an idiot.

I have never actually parasailed, but my dad has wondered many times at other crazy things his middle daughter has done! You can see a picture of my dad on my blog: crockchronicles.blogspot.com

Submarine (California, Horizontal, Soaring, Submarine, Whirlpool)

I’ve never been to California and I’ve never seen the Rocky Mountains or the Pacific Ocean. But I don’t think I’m up to it. You see, I’m an East coast girl - a flatlander, really. Just being in the mountains makes me queasy. While gazing out over a lookout point in the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains not too long ago, I felt like I was hanging in outer space, soaring above terra firma, ready to begin free fall at any moment. My head started spinning as a sucking spiraling whirlpool formed somewhere behind my eyes. I had to dive for cover in the car like a submerging submarine plummeting to safety. I spent the trip home lying perfectly horizontal in the backseat, swallowing down the nausea and counting the minutes until we reached the lovely level land of home.

~Belinda is an avid writer. You can view her blog at Upsidedown Bee.

19 May 2008

Untitled (Broom, Congas, Carriage, Sunrise, Tenuous)

-Alright, fellas, the writing's on the wall. We've played sixteen basketball games this year and lost them all. And here we are, halftime of another game, playing against a team that is actually legally blind and we're down by sixty. We are on tenuous grounds, men. I'm likely to get fired after this game if we don't pull out a win.

-But coach, they're really fast.

-They're blind, Jenkins!

-Blind people can be fast, coach.

-Fine, touche, Mortinson. But you're just letting them run circles around you.

-I am an artist, coach! I am not a basketball player.

-Then why are you on this college basketball team?

-I need the tuition.

-Get out of my locker room!

-Fine, but first, I'd like to read one of my poems.


-"The sunrise looks like a man dying, today..."

-That's terrible, Mortinson.

-"A single eagle flies, and I cry, into several buckets..."

-Stop it, Mortinson!


-What is it, janitor?

-Can I play?

-No! You're a janitor.

-I'll give you my broom if you let me play.

-That is not an equal trade, look--

-"Trees fall under my skin and the wind blows me a new heart..."

-Mortinson, I'm going to throw a javelin through your heart.

-Do it, Coach!

-Be quiet, Jenkins! All of you, be quiet. Now look, we should be pounding these kids heads in like congas--

-That's offensive, Coach. I have a brother who is blind. And also has a drum for a head.

-Well, I'm sorry to hear that--

-He also plays for the time we're playing against right now.

-Ok, fine. That's fine. Look, men--

-I can't do this coach. Not to my brother. Here, take my jersey.

-I don't want it.

-What if I give you my broom AND my mop bucket.

-No, I don't need those things.

-AND my jumper?

-No. TEAM.

-Coach, the buzzer is going off.

-I can hear it. Look, pick and roll and--IT doesn't even matter. Just play really quiet so they don't hear you.

-"I will break away and become a spider-person but I am no spider-man..."

-Mortinson, your poems are terrible.

-Your LIFE is terrible, coach.

-Coach, is your team going to come out and play this second half or what?

-Yes, I'm just trying to finish my speech, Referee.

-Coach, your team is losing by sixty points to blind people.

-I'm well aware.

-Maybe you aren't a good coach.

-Maybe you're a jerk.

-Oh, is the wittle baby coach offended now.


-Oh, is the wittle coach gonna cry and pout.

-Shut up, referee.

-Want your bottle? Maybe your wittle baby carriage? Want me to push you around the court while you suck your thumb?

-No, I do not.

-Come on, little baby coach. I want to put you in a crib.

-Team! Where are you guys going?

-Some guy just came in and made Mortinson the Poet Laureate, so we're gonna go to his induction ceremony.

-This is stupid.

-Awww, is the little baby coach cry-crying because he didn't win the Poet of the Year award?

-He didn't win poet of the year. He's the Poet Laureate. It's two different things.

-Awww, is the little baby coach getting wrapped up in semantics.

-Why are you still here, Ref?

-Because I'm homeless. My wife divorced me. Let me live with you.


-Please? I know how to make homemade relish.

-I...fine. Whatever.

-Hooray! I'm going to jump on your back now.


-Here I go!

-OW! I think you broke my entire spine.

-Haha! Roommate, you are so funny.

~Jake Goldman is a writer living in New York City. some of his work can be found here: 23/6 (http://www.236.com/contributors/jake_goldman/)

11 May 2008

Ping Pong Balls (Grand Slam, Ping Pong, Projector, Montreal, Ice Cream Sundae)

Rob and I sat on lawn chairs rolling ping pong balls one by one to the edge of the fire, waiting as they melted and then burst into flames. We had found a box of fluorescent orange balls tucked away on a shelf in the garage behind an old projector Mom had used when she taught middle school. It was enough for probably a good hour of entertainment. We had to laugh as we remembered the night Dad had demonstrated this trick for us. It seemed like a long time ago for both of us.

Rob had married his high school sweetheart, Mona, moved to upstate New York after medical school. He had built a successful private practice, counseling housewives, as he said, while either they or their husbands stumbled through the standard mid-life crisis. He seemed bored, I thought, and maybe going through a mid-life crisis of his own. His only child, Julie, had just left for college.

As for me, I had settled in Montreal, after marrying a gorgeous Canadian who taught in the Food Science department at NYU and who was also my instructor for Food History and Techniques of Regional Cuisines. After I graduated 2000, Pat left the university and we opened a restaurant in the shadow of Olympic Stadium, then the home of the Montreal Expos, called The Grand Slam. It was Pat’s dream and so it became mine. We served the standard baseball fare: hotdogs, burgers, milkshakes, and ice cream sundaes. In 2004, the Expos relocated to Washington and a year later Pat and I had to close shop. The end of Pat’s dream was also the end of our marriage. The divorce was final two months ago.

Rob rolled the last ball to the edge of our dying fire.

“Dad would have hated the funeral, wouldn’t he?”

“Yes.” I looked back to the house and saw the kitchen curtains move slightly. “Mom’s watching us. We better go in. She won’t sleep until we do.”

~Belinda is the star writer of this blog, at this point. Read the rest of her work at Upside Down Bee.

04 May 2008

So's your mother-in-law! (Solar, The Fourth Wall, Communism, Disneyland, Declined)

I belittle people. It’s my job.

As a stand-up comic, I’m happy to just do my job and entertain…but sometimes people can’t keep their mouth shut. When this happens, I get involved.

Every time the audience gets involved the Fourth Wall becomes a poorly-kept demilitarized zone. And I usually walk away unscathed.

Last Thursday, for example…this lame-o with big ears in the front row made a comment during my “Bring back Communism” routine, something like he’d rather stand in bread line than listen to my act. I told everyone I was sorry I didn’t notice that we had Dumbo the Elephant in the house, and asked him when he was due back at Disneyland.

Laughs all around. For me.

I have a pretty good routine about Solar energy and I was halfway into it when I got the usual “bag of hot air” comment from the obese guy in the fifth row.

I told the guy I was sorry his credit card was declined on his liposuction, although I was happy he was able to afford the breast implants. Zing!

My advice for would-be-hecklers is don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.

~dt (although not a comedian - can't you tell?) dares you to heckle him…but asks that you respectfully avoid talking about his big nose or his alcoholic third cousin.

An Audience of One (Solar, The Fourth Wall, Communism, Disneyland, Declined)

The Fourth Wall is an interesting new term I’ve just learned thanks to GM at Five Word Monologues. Picture a stage as a box with one side cut out so we can peer inside. This “missing” side, The Fourth Wall, is an invisible partition that actors are supposed to ignore as they perform. Sometimes, though, an actor will speak directly to the audience. This is called “Breaking the Fourth Wall.”

The idea of The Fourth Wall brought something else to my mind. There is a thought in Christianity that says when we worship, whether it’s formal worship in a church, private worship at home, or just living out our daily lives in a worshipful manner, we are playing to ‘an Audience of One.’ All that we do, we are doing for God, to please Him alone. I think the thought is disturbing to some who envision an ogre staring at them in their most private moments – judging, poking, and prodding. Or others feel that they must live perfectly, putting on a Disneyland veneer, so that to all outside appearances life is beautiful, while underneath there is a lot of scurrying around to deal with all the trash. I can relate to both.

Mostly, though, God for me is a Presence who teaches, guides, and directs my steps in this journey He’s set me upon. He writes my storylines, coaches me in how best to be true to the script, and then sits back to enjoy what I offer up to Him. He cheers, claps, and laughs at my antics. He sometimes cries, too. I find Him most pleased with me when I remember to occasionally “Break the Fourth Wall” and talk directly to Him.

I like to think sometimes of all the things God has watched us humans do on this little planet zooming through the solar system. This weekend I visited Nags Head and saw the monument to the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk. Their first flight was in 1903. In just 63 short years, we took the seeds Orville and Wilbur planted and grew them into a rocket that flew men to the moon! I wonder if our Audience was amazed at such spectacular ingenuity. Did He applaud? What about all of our attempts through the ages to create Utopia, a Heaven here on earth? Did He moan over the ideology of communism, seeing down the road to the devastation it would cause? Did He cry and cover his face at the horrors of the Holocaust? I imagine He just plain declined to attend the debut performance of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.

And we know His heart broke as He watched the ultimate climax of our story, the death of His Son, Jesus.

~Belinda tries to write for an Audience of One at her blog Upside Down Bee.

20 April 2008

Squash Blossoms (Squash, Raffle, Quesadilla, One-Man-Band, Heinous)

It’s that time again…I’m planning my backyard garden. This year I’m going for simplicity: two tomato plants (Better Boys and Early Girls – I try for sexual equality in my gardening!), two squash plants, one cucumber plant, and one pepper bush. It’s a one-man band, though, as my husband has sworn off gardening following last season’s debacle. I wanted to try container gardening and after about $300 and many hours of labor, our garden yielded about five tomatoes. He pointed out that put our tomatoes at $60 each. He says he's satisfied just sticking with store-bought tomatoes, no matter the exorbitantly heinous prices and bland taste. I just can’t give up so easily. I still dream of juicy tomato and mayo sandwiches on fresh white bread. But I am trying hard to keep the dollar investment to a minimum this go-around. So far I’m up to $35.76 for plants, mulch, a new shovel, and a raffle ticket for an electric tiller.

I’ve found some interesting recipes using squash blossoms that I can't wait to try: squash blossom quesadillas, batter fried squash blossoms, and cheese-stuffed blossoms. Squash blossoms are not something that you can usually find in the produce department at your local grocery stores because they are extremely perishable. At best, they will last only two days in your refrigerator’s crisper and that's if you wash and store them perfectly. I’m hoping to pluck these little delicacies right off my plants, rinse them off, and cook them up. Wish me luck!

~Belinda definitely does not have a green thumb, but tries to give gardening a go every now and then. See her blog at Upside Down Bee for links to these yummy squash blossom recipes!