Thursday, August 31, 2006

Bookfield, Betrayal - Part 5

“How would you like to go for a swim in the Oconee?” Evan asked.

“I don’t have my suit with me.” I remarked without thinking.

“We can go skinny dipping here. I do it all the time; I never wear a suit at night.”

“Oh. Okay!" I had warmed up to the idea. A swim would be very nice.

“You do swim well, don’t you? There is a slow current, and the river is over my head in the middle.”

“Yes. I was captain of my synchronized swim team in high school. You look like you’ve done a lot of swimming.”

“Yeah. I was on my high school swim team and worked for several years as a life guard. I swim in the river all the time for exercise.” He grabbed some towels and we went out the door naked to go swimming.

I followed him closely on a narrow path between the trees and down to the river. Brandy followed us. She seemed ready for a swim too. The clearing around the river allowed enough moonlight for us to see the water pretty well. There was a shallow pool on the river’s edge that had no current. Brandy jumped right in and started to swim up river. She obviously knew the routine. I was glad she went in first because I could see where the river began to get deeper. Evan and I held hands as he led me into the water.

The river bottom was rocky firm but not too uneven. Evan followed the dog swimming upstream in the crawl stroke and I swam behind him more slowly in a synchronized crawl. The water was refreshing without being too cold and the current did not make it too tough to make progress upstream. We swam a few hundred yards or so up the river. At one point the dog swam back downstream as if to check on me. She swam right along side and brushed her coat on my shoulder under the water. Seeing that I was doing okay she swam ahead easily again.

Every now and then Evan lifted his head from swimming to check on me. One of these times, he treaded water to talk. He came up to me and said, “Okay if we swim back now? It’s much easier going down stream. We could even just float down river.” I agreed. I floated on my front, sculling just enough to keep my head up over the water, and Evan floated on his back. The lazy flow of the warm river swept all of us down it and back to Evan’s place. We got out of the water and I got cold even in the warm night air. Evan handed me a towel, and we ran back to the house to get warm together.

The evening had been idyllic. Looking at the clock in his bedroom brought me back to reality. It was eleven o’clock. “I guess I’d better go home now.” I said reluctantly. I really did not want to go back.

“You’re more than welcome to stay the night if you’d like.”

“How bad do you think it would be if I called my roommate Mary and told her I wasn’t coming home?”

“Well, it’s kind of late to be out on the road and traveling through those neighborhoods anyhow. Besides, if you stay here you will be half an hour closer to where you were selling today.”

He was right about that and it’s not like he could give me and my bicycle a ride home on his motorcycle. He handed me the phone and I dialed it. Mary answered.

“Hello Mary, it’s me. We were having such a good time and it got late so fast, I thought I would stay here for the night.” It struck me as weird to have to call for her approval, but I thought that it was important to stay on good terms.

“It’s probably best at this point. Are you sure you can’t come home?”

Obviously it had upset her a little that I had not come home. But her feelings were not enough to stop me from doing what I felt was best, and wanted to do most.

“Yeah I think its best that I stay here. Okay?”

“Yeah, so I’ll see you tomorrow night?”

“Absolutely.” I had promised. I wasn’t even thinking that far ahead to be honest. I hung up the phone.

“Is she upset that you’re staying here?” Evan asked.

“Yeah, it seems so. I’ll talk to her about it tomorrow when I see her.” Evan nodded and we turned out the light and slept.

I was in the middle of a deep sleep when I awoke suddenly to Evan’s voice. He was sitting up in bed screaming.

“Stay awake! Got to stay awake! Stop...”

“Evan, Evan.” I called soothingly. “Wake up, it was just a dream.”

He stopped talking and looked at me. I could see him come to consciousness as I watched.

“Oh my God, I’m sorry I woke you. What happened?”

“You were saying something about staying awake and stopping in your sleep.”

“I’m so sorry. I used to have a ‘76 Datsun pick up truck and last week I fell asleep at the wheel and had a wreck. I wrapped it around a telephone pole. It’s totaled, but luckily I was okay. That’s why I only have the bike now. That is, until my insurance comes through on the truck.”

“How terrible! I guess you’re having nightmares about it.”

“Guess so.”

We held each other for a while and drifted back to sleep.

The next morning I awoke at Evan’s to the smell of freshly brewed coffee. Evan was already up. I pulled on my jeans and tee shirt and went down for coffee. When I got to the bottom of the stairs Evan met me and gave me a warm hug. We sat down at his kitchen table in front of our coffees.

“Do you want me to fix you some eggs before you go out?” asked Evan.

“No thanks. I can get something on my way out to my territory.” Getting food from Mrs. Jones while selling was especially easy at meal times, easier than selling books.

We went upstairs to shower together for the first time. Showers with Evan turned out to be a sensual delight. I soaped him up, playing with the soap on his chest and pubic hair. I soaped the thickness of his groin, while he soaped me. We began kissing again. He was too thick to have sex with in the shower easily, so I soaped him until he came. We cleaned off again and he produced two clean towels.

“When can I see you again?” said Evan while we dressed.

“Well, I’d better spend tonight smoothing over Mary so that she doesn’t feel that I’ve abandoned her. Sometime later in the week would be nice.”

“I just want you to assure me that this wasn’t a one night stand.”

“It wasn’t. I can’t wait until I can see you again, but the company can fire me if I don’t play by the rules that they define.”

“You’re kidding! I would think that what you do in your personal time is your business.”

“I agree. But that’s the way it is. We’ll get together again as soon as we can. Trust me I’m really looking forward to seeing you again. I’ve got your number.”

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

For What It's Worth - Buffalo Springfield

There's something happening here

What it is ain't exactly clear

There's a man with a gun over there

Telling me I got to beware.


I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound

Everybody look what's going down.


There's battle lines being drawn

Nobody's right if everybody's wrong

Young people speaking their minds

Getting so much resistance from behind.


I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound

Everybody look what's going down.


What a field-day for the heat

A thousand people in the street

Singing songs and carrying signs

Mostly say, hooray for our side.


It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound

Everybody look what's going down.


Paranoia strikes deep

Into your life it will creep

It starts when you're always afraid

You step out of line, the man come and take you away.


We better stop, hey, what's that sound

Everybody look what's going down.

Stephen Stills wrote this song about a series of riots protesting the draft in late 1966 in Southern California's Sunset Strip. Although there is no draft today, the song is still quite relevant as an anti war classic. You can listen to it here.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Jason Robards Helps Me Smuggle - Italy IV

The next morning after my shower, I put on my long madras shorts and sleeveless blouse. I brought along a shirt with long sleeves so that I could get into the Vatican later in the day. I went across the street for the best cappuccino in the world and then was on my way to get those earrings.

Unfortunately, he was not for sale. Or was he?

The jewelry shop was near by and was open! Hurrah! So I went in and the lady proprietor was quite pleased to see me. She immediately fetched the earrings from the back and they were just as entrancing as I remembered them. But, I told her, “My big problem is that I can’t get these for myself and bring nothing home for my twin sister. I have already searched your entire store and have not seen any earrings my sister would like.”

She said, “No problem Signora. Uno momento, per favore. ” She went to the front of the store and locked the glass doors. Then she went to the back of the store and unlocked the wall safe. Once the big safe door was open she began removing the black velvet lined drawers. Each drawer was about 2 square feet (0.6 meters) and she took out three of them. Each was piled with glittering gold earrings. It was a veritable pirates’ treasure of jewelry and my dream come true! I had to paw through it all to find ones that my sister would like. Once my heart rate slowed to normal and I could take regular breaths again, I began to look seriously and methodically. I found them pretty quickly. What a disappointment; I was having so much fun. So, I bought both pairs to the delight of the lady proprietor. Then I wondered about getting them through US Customs. So I asked the lady if she knew what the duty would be. I mean, she must know, all she does all day is sell jewelry to foreigners.

She said, “Ah Signora, no problem. Just wear them home and tell the Customs agent that they are yours and you brought them with you on your trip to Rome.”

Oh yeah, I thought, they will believe that. Right. These are the biggest, most opulent earrings I own to date. They just scream, “Look at me; I was bought in Italy!!!” I am fair complexioned and petite and really have to dress up big time to carry these babies off. I don’t think so. So, I thanked her profusely, she put away the drawers, locked the safe and unlocked the door and I was on my way.

Some sights of Rome that I passed on my way to the Vatican

My next stop was the Vatican to get the Saint Theresa medal for my friend Terry. I decided to walk since it was sunny but it was also getting very hot. I crossed Saint Peter’s Square and was about to climb the steps, when two Vatican Guards blocked my path. I had donned my shirt, so I couldn’t understand what the problem was. They seemed to be trying to be somber and quiet, but I was confused and wondering what was wrong with my attire. After some gesturing, it seems that my madras shorts did not cover my knees enough.

You may be cute, but you ain't getting into St. Pete's dressed like that.

Fuck! I was so frustrated. I hunted through the souvenir shops for a flag or scarf to cover my knees, but there was none. I was not going all the way back to my hotel; too far to walk, too expensive to cab. So, I looked in the shops just outside Saint Peter’s Square. I found one right across the street from the entrance to the square that sold religious articles. I went in. The medallions there were nicer than in the Vatican, but were not blessed by the Pope. I felt that I had failed because I could not get one from the Vatican. But, I got a really nice silver Saint Theresa medallion for Terry. [She was very pleased with it and I admitted the whole shorts incident.] So, just remember if you go to the Vatican, that God does not want to see your arms or knees. He used to not want to see the top of a woman’s head either, but he’s over that now. See, how over the centuries God matures?

On my way home, I wandered into the Villa Borghese to see the views of Rome from the hill top. Of course the Vatican Dome is visible from every where in Rome.

From there I could also see the Piazza del Popolo, which I don’t recall visiting on my last trip, so went down to see it more closely. That is the thing with Rome. Everywhere you turn there is ancient history. I was fascinated by the Egyptian elements of the Piazza as described in Wikipedia:

“An Egyptian obelisk of Rameses II from Heliopolis stands in the centre of the Piazza. The obelisk, known as the obelisco Flaminio, is the second oldest and one of the tallest in Rome (some 24 m high, or 36 m including its plinth). The obelisk was brought to Rome in 10 BC by order of Augustus and originally set up in the Circus Maximus. It was re-erected here in the Piazza by the architect-engineer Domenico Fontana in 1589 as part of the urban plan of Sixtus V. The Piazza also formerly contained a central fountain, which was moved to the Piazza Nicosia in 1818, when fountains in the form of Egyptian-style lions were added around the base of the obelisk.”

I was in love with the Egyptian lions and wanted to take one home.

The heat was overwhelming me then. So I walked back to the hotel, window shopping all the way. Once I arrived, I took a very refreshing shower and nap. The whole week hit my like a train. The schedule itself, Dr. D and I had done so much work, touring, shopping, and socializing. I was truly overwhelmed. I just wanted to stay in and rest. So I ordered room service dinner; some pasta and proscuitto I think and it was fabulous. I watched Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman in Italian and was able to understand it. Not a Saintly miracle dear readers, just a simplistic script and plot.

Then I began to pack my one carry on bag for my flight home tomorrow at noon. I decided that I would smuggle the gold earrings into the US to avoid paying duty. I was almost broke just from buying them in the first place and I had saved for just such an expenditure. I wrapped the bow earrings in tissue and stuffed them into a metal band aid box, and put my sister’s earrings into an overly large plastic floss box (the floss was almost all gone anyhow) and left a string of floss trailing out of the top of the box as if the spool was still in there. If the earrings were found there would be no doubt that I was smuggling them since attempts were made to hide them. Having never smuggled anything before in my life I was really nervous, but I decided that that was tomorrow’s problem. So I slept soundly that night.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Small Town News - Walgreens Pharmacy - Public Hearing Part 2

The continuation of the public hearing was called to order at 7:12 pm by the P&Z Chair. The applicant, Turnpike Properties, presented some changes made in response to last week’s comments. These included removing parking from the town hall lawn, removing the four street parking spaces, widening the entrance from 15 feet to 25 feet to allow easier truck egress, and addition of handicap ramps.

Ten letters opposing the application for various reasons were read into the record. One of them was from the Town’s Merchants Association opposing the application.

Public Comments:

A professor from the University of Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis who had provided data for two major state projects made the following points:

1. A letter from the Merchants Association indicates that everything Walgreens will offer is already available in town except for prescription drugs. The new Walgreens will compete directly for sales with other stores in town, as well as with other towns. People often make a decision based of distance of travel.

2. Net impact needs to be calculated when bringing in new development. The need for government services, such as fire equipment will increase. If traffic on Elm Street is increased, it will reduce the property values of the residences there.

3. A decision would have long term implications if successful at the proposed scale. A 10,000 square foot building is a substantial size store. A pharmacy could be 7,000 square feet. The size would have a significant demand to the core area. Traffic controls may be increased. He noted that it was important for towns to have an updated plan of development.

A P&Z commissioner asked the professor if he was a resident of the town, if he was an expert, and if he was being paid and if so by whom. He responded that he was a resident of another town in the state; he was present as an expert witness on a pro bono basis by the request of one of the members of the citizens’ group.

The adjacent property owner on Elm Street mentioned some concerns along with saying that he thought that approval was in the best interest of the town. Specifically, his concern was for HVAC equipment noise and protection of property values.

Another town resident was in favor of a drug store, but did not feel that the design of the store as presented was a fit with our town or town hall.

One of the selectmen, and a former CVS pharmacist for 18 years, spoke in favor of the pharmacy and noted that it would be most profitable.

Another citizen spoke in favor of the pharmacy, but was concerned for the competition for the other mom and pop stores in town as well as the large parking lot.

Sean read a letter into the record and asked that the application be denied with prejudice.

One resident stood and commented that the streetscape as presented by the applicant did not represent the parking and was not to scale.

Another resident noted that he is in favor of the pharmacy, but questioned the legality of the land swap. The parking lot will be owned by the town and used by the pharmacy. A leasehold agreement should be in place for liability and taxes.

Bobby, a citizens’group member, stated that he is opposed to the plan presented. He read a letter to the commission asking that the application be denied and then submitted a Notice of Intervention (more on this in next week’s post) in connection with the application.

A resident who lives behind the grocery store plaza across from where the pharmacy is to built requested that the P&Z to require a sign regarding truck idling and also no dumpster pickup before 5 AM. He also asked that the P&Z reference state statute with regard to HVAC noise standards.

The architect member of the citizens’ group referenced his letter already read into the record and asked that the roof be lowered. [BTW – his letter was eloquent again, "dummy portals", gotta love it.]

Another selectman, who is a member of the merchants association, said that he did not know about the letter opposing the permit and does not agree with the letter.

Another resident noted that he opposes the big box store/chain harming the flavor of the downtown. The local stores would be impacted negatively such as the hardware store and card shops.

One of the members of the citizens’ group presented slides showing various Walgreens Pharmacies throughout the state illustrating the variations of quality in each town. The point was that our town could get better quality design and building if we bargained for it. Sean showed a photoshopped image of the streetscape as it would look with the Walgreens next to town hall.

The P&Z asked the applicant if two drive thrus were needed.

The attorney for the applicant responded that that was what was specified by the client. He also noted that the HVAC design be reviewed by the Commission engineer to reduce noise and the applicant would agree to meet state noise standards. He noted that the application is a plus for the town and would provide parking at no cost to the town.

The meeting was adjourned at 10:41 pm.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sunday Comics - More Oliver Frey

Here are three more images from Oliver Frey (none of which are clean enough to show entirely on this blog). They are: Rome, Prey, and Roma, 126 AD. Thanks to Pete of Finland. You can click to enlarge images on Pete's site. Please be an adult and enjoy.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Friday Fantasy - Got Me My Piece of Ash

"Okay, Boy. This is the way it is going to be. You will be untied when you get it straight. Now, repeat after me, Demi Moore is a skank. You just want to be with Fair View Sue. Got it?"

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bookfield, Betrayal - Part 4

Finally it came time to go to Evan’s house. Even though I had been distracted by the events of the day, the day went by slowly and I thought more and more about my date as it came towards evening. I knocked off selling around seven-thirty. There was still light left in the day as I rode to Evan’s street. It was not a very developed area. There were lots of leafy green trees on either side of the dirt lane he lived on the end of. It was a shaded and bumpy dirt and I had to pay attention to avoid big holes as I rode it on my bike. At the end of the lane was a cul-de-sac with two houses and two more drives continuing on from it. I could hear the river flowing, and peered down one of the drives to see it. The Oconee was red with silt, but looked as though it would be a very pleasant lazy river to canoe on. Evan’s house was the one on the left, right off of the cul-de-sac. It was a small ‘A’ frame house surrounded by woods and painted brick red with white trim that had two stories. There was a detached one car garage, and I supposed his bike was in there because I couldn’t see it in the driveway. I wondered if he had roommates to help pay for the house. I hoped not though, because there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be alone with Evan. There was a routered wooden sign with his last name on it in front of the house. It said, The James’, as if a family lived there. Leastways, he must have been living here a while to have put up that sign. Tall oaks grew up all around, giving the property a rustic, yet still suburban look.

Evan came out the front door with his dog to welcome me. He still looked great in his tee shirt, shorts and bare feet. “Hi, Sue! Glad you could make it.” He gave me a little hug and proceeded to properly introduce to the dog. “This is Brandy. She is an Irish Water Spaniel. Sit Brandy. Shake.” I shook the dog’s paw and she whined a hello and tried to lick me. I had never seen anything like her. She was the color, body size and style of an Irish Setter, but had soft curly hair like a poodle. There was no hair on her pink belly. I gave her a pat on the top of her pillowy head and she licked my hand.

“I love your dog! I’ve never seen this breed before, but she really is a beautiful animal.”

“Yeah, the sad thing is that she has some hip dysplasia, so she has a little bit of a hard time getting around some days.”

We went into the house together. The interior of the house did not look like a student was living there. He had every kitchen utensil a house wife could dream of and the place seemed completely furnished with new looking stuff. None of it looked cheap, either. I kind of wondered about this, but then I noticed a wedding picture on a shelf in the hallway.

“Who’s this?” I asked.

Evan walked over to the picture and brought it to me. “That’s me with my first wife. We divorced two years ago. I was too young when I married and made a mistake. I married her because she was very nice and really pretty, and I thought it didn’t matter that she wasn’t very smart. But it did matter. Fortunately, we didn’t have any children.”

I looked at them in the picture. He was wearing black tuxedo and was removing the garter from her thigh. She looked like an American beauty queen in her lacy wedding gown. Her long golden, brown hair was swept back from her high forehead by the band of her wedding veil. Her white teeth shined from a perfectly lipstick shaped mouth. Her eyes were green, like mine. She seemed to have a short, yet Barbie doll like figure. They were the perfect couple. I handed him back the picture and he placed it back on the shelf. Now it made sense to me that the house was completely outfitted. The sign out front made sense now too.

Evan went to the refrigerator and pulled out a Styrofoam package with two thick T-bone steaks. We took them outside, where the grill was already lit. A brand new looking set of grilling implements hung from the front of the grill. Evan put the steaks on and we went back inside. We opened a couple of cokes and sat on the couch in the living room drinking them. I felt sparks flying between us, and we hadn’t even kissed yet. It was all in the way that we looked at each other, and how great he smelled. I wanted to be close to him and I had already decided that I wanted to sleep with him. “Would you like to see the rest of the house?” he said politely. He showed me the downstairs and then said, “All that is upstairs is the bedroom.”

“I’d love to see your bedroom.” I said without feeling that I was taking a chance. He understood what I meant immediately and we raced each other up the flight of stairs. I got there first and took flying leap onto the bed, he did a horizontal spin. Evan held me close.

Before he did anything he said, “You must promise me that if at any time I do something you don’t like, or don’t want to do, that you’ll let me know right away, and I’ll stop.” I was wowed by his maturity and concern and his saying this made me feel very secure, especially after what I had been through this summer.

That being said, we began unclothing each other. He was maybe 5 feet 8 inches tall, and his body was beautiful. His skin was tanned golden brown, slender but with well developed muscles underneath. His erection was quite short, but really wide, massively so, the widest I had ever seen. He said that his nickname in high school was stumpy. I asked if he had any condoms, and he replied that he did not use them, but only spermicidal foam, before and after. He quickly produced the proper equipment from a bedside drawer. We began with kissing, and then he moved over me into a sixty-nine position and began kissing me between my legs. I told him that I was not into this position. What I did not say is that I did not know how one is supposed to concentrate on giving pleasure when one is getting so much oneself. I have always had that problem. Without hesitation, he quickly changed back so that he was facing me. His mouth had the musky scent of me and I eagerly licked it off of his lips and tongue. After some more caressing, he tried to enter me and he was more than a really tight fit. I wasn’t sure that it was even going to work. It was kind of like being slammed by a velvet brick. It was a bit painful, but I was finding out that that was not all that bad. The pain just made me hotter and I moaned with anticipation. What pleasure there was in the trying! When he finally entered me I came immediately and he just kept on, bringing me at least twice more as he pounded his muscular body into mine. Good god he was a tight fit! I had never felt anything quite like it and cried out in pleasure each and every time I came. He came twice, all told. Evan was a sensitive and responsive lover. He was always making sure that I was getting pleasure from him.

About an hour later, the sun had set completely and we were nude and sweaty. He sat up and exclaimed, “Oh my God, the steaks!”

We raced downstairs naked and outside to the grill. Oh boy, were they done. Evan laughed as he pulled the little charred remains off the grill. “Don’t worry. I have some hamburgers in the fridge. Sorry about the steaks.” He noticed me standing there nude and came over to hold me again. It was remote and dark enough out there that we could not be seen. His body was warm and smooth against me.

Some time later, we had the hamburgers.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

"Ohio" by Neil Young

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We're finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.
Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?
Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?
Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We're finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.
Four dead in Ohio.
Four dead in

On May 4, 1970, four students were shot dead and nine were injured by the National Guard during a demonstration at Kent State University in Ohio. One of them, Jeffrey Miller, was the closest to the guard at almost a football field away. He had also just graduated from one of the two high schools in my school district. I remember sitting in my Jr. high class when his shooting was announced and my first thought was, "There is no reason that couldn't be me in a few years when I go to college."

All the students looked at eachother with pain in their eyes and we all stood and left the class room. All of the schools in our district were closed because of teacher/student walkouts. I quickly found my twin in the hall, and we proceeded to walk the four miles to Jeffrey's high school with most of the other students. A demonstration was in full gear there. Black arm bands were handed to us. The press was there. It was all very upsetting and a bit scary.

College students were getting tear gassed just for protesting an immoral war in which our boys were being sacrificed to a stupid domino theory that had just spread to Cambodia. Now students were getting killed. It had just gone too far.

This song by Neil Young gelled the whole deal for me. I hope you like it. Listen to it here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Jason Robards Helps Me Smuggle - Italy III

As the cab raced across Rome to get to company headquarters, it passed various tourist sights:

The coliseum

The forum

The war memorial.

We also saw an atractive young couple on a bright red vespa, who when they had to stop at a red light, began to make out as if it were their last day on earth. Rome, a city of passion and romance!

Finally we arrived at headquarters and met our colleagues, Alfonso and Valeria. Alfonso was Valeria’s manager, but Valeria was most important to us, because she was going to show us where to shop monitor the study. We did manage to find some time for her to look at our maps and show us where we could find bed and table linens, men’s ties, women’s bags and jewelry, etc. She was very sweet and beautiful.

Alfonso called a cab to take us to lunch across the street from the American Embassy.

What is it with Italian men? He was a flirtatious bastard and married to boot. Not bad looking though. After lunch, we went to the hospital and met with the potential investigator and sealed the deal. Alfonso dropped Dr. D and me back at our hotel and we arranged to meet him for dinner later that evening. Dr. D wanted to make the most of the afternoon of shopping, since he was leaving first thing in the morning on Saturday. So we hurried to our respective rooms to freshen up, changed into our shopping togs and met up in the lobby with wallets at the ready.

Off we went. Just a half a block from our hotel, I saw them. They called to me, “Sue, Sue. Come buy us. You know you must have us on your ears…”

Dr. D spotted them too. In the window of the jewelry store there was a pair of exquisite 18 k gold chalcedony drop earrings. They were topped by a bow, then a link of a heavy chain, and finally a drop of a spiral fluted ball of carved chalcedony for a bottom. The full length was a wee bit over 2 inches (5.1 cm), the diameter of the ball is half an inch (1.3 cm), and entire piece was very heavy; thank goodness they had a clip post. They were very opulent and feminine. Of course we went in. Dr. D and I were both in love with them, but I had seen them first and had dibs. His wife never really wore gold that much; she was more into modern jewelry anyhow. But he really liked them. In any event, we had only just begun to shop and were just out of the gate, so to speak, so I had the nice lady set them aside for us and told her that I would be back tomorrow.

We charged ahead for the Via Condotti and made it to the Spanish Steps. They were closed for repairs. Bummer! We couldn’t even go on them.

We then went into shoppaholic overdrive. We bought ties at Missoni. I bought two for Sean, and Dr. D bought one for himself.

Dr. D bought an embroidered table linen for his dining room.

Dr. D and I bought three wallets, one for me, one for his wife, and one for our assistant at work.

I bought a Piero Guidi handbag.

Then we found earrings for Dr. D’s wife. They were more of a modern affair, but still very Roman and opulent. There was a large amethyst at the post and a huge drop oval mabe pearl on its side at the bottom. They were 18 k gold. He needed lots of encouragement to buy it. But, what are colleagues for?

We then found ourselves at the Piazza Novona, quite worn out. We took a quick breather and a couple of photos sitting on the side of the fountain and it was back to our hotel to get ready for dinner with Alfonso.

We met him at an out door fancy schmancy place surrounded by hedges. He was there with his tall and shockingly beautiful wife. She was wearing a gorgeous sleeveless shift dress with long pendent amber earrings. Simple and elegant. I should say something here about Roman women’s style. They wear lots of heavy gold jewelry with everything. Even with jeans and a tee shirt. You will see a woman wearing a heavy gold chain necklace, or ring you could choke on, or earrings big enough that if you fell into the water they would carry you straight to the bottom. Yet, no one looks overdone. They all have the dark and exotic looks to carry it off. I found myself eyeing all of the women’s jewelry all over town. You just know it is all real. It was embarrassing. Anyway, back to dinner.

We started off with a cold baby squid salad which was delicious. Then we had some angel hair pasta with shrimp and I was quite full. Then we ordered the meat. MEAT! I deferred, but Alfonso would not allow it. He worried that I would waste away to nothing. So I had some filet minion. They all ordered heavy desserts, but I ordered the three flavors of gelato: coconut, melon, and kiwi. They were so refreshing.

By the time Dr. D and I got back to the Grand Hotel, we were thoroughly exhausted. He was flying back in the morning, and I had the day to myself to wander Rome and pick up those earrings I had seen the day before.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sunday Comics - Champ's Party

Today's Sunday Comic is Oliver Frey's Champ's Party, which can be found on Pete's site here and then continuing in the month of March. Please be an adult and enjoy!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Friday Fantasy - New Sensei

Click on image to enlarge

In my attempt to better myself, I have found a Sensei to teach me Kung Fu and self defense. Isn't he to die for? First he will teach me to fall safely and then he will grapple with me and toss me about the mat as we spar. For the life of me I can't think of anyone else I would rather do that with, can you? Oh and by the way, he only works in the ____ (rhymes with 'dude'). Picture it: him holding me down firmly, muscles taut, breathing on my hair, asking me with a look if I have had enough. But there is never enough, as he lowers his face to mine...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bookfield, Betrayal - Part 3

The morning dawned, and before I could open my eyes, my first thought was, “Shit, another day knocking on doors”. But then I remembered Evan. It all seemed like a dream, but I knew it wasn’t. I went through my morning routine. I showered, and dressed, pulling on my same old jeans and the New York Harbor Independence Day Bicentennial Tall Ships tee shirt, my Mom had sent to me. I put on my scratched and dirty white leather sneakers. I put my Yankee cap in my sales case. It would stay there until my hair dried in the breeze.

I hadn’t sold in the area where Evan lived yet. For some inexplicable reason, I hadn’t even been to that part of town. It seemed convenient that I could sell there all day and not use much travel time getting to his house when I was done. I checked the map I had for his neighborhood. I located the dot that represented Evan’s house from his directions. It seemed that his house was part of a smallish subdivision right on the Oconee River. According to the map there were enough houses in the general area to keep me busy for three or four days. But, being slightly paranoid, I decided to approach the area from the south that morning, instead of heading directly west as instructed by Evan. That way I would not reach his exact neighborhood at all that day. I didn’t want him to think I was hovering around the area just waiting for our date, or worse yet to be seen by him in some chance encounter. How would I explain that?

This was what I was thinking as I rode my bicycle southwest. The morning selling was uneventful. It was mid afternoon when I came upon a junk yard with a shop and house on the premises.

I was pleasantly surprised that no dogs ran out to ‘greet’ me. I walked down the dirt driveway past heaps of rusting car parts, old appliances like refrigerators, and washing machines, and just plain junk. Most of the stuff looked completely worthless as it lay helter-skelter with weeds growing tall in between the piles. The shop and house were even less impressive. The structures had clapboards that were peeling and needed painting badly. The roofs were tin. Across the front of the shop, a sign hung at an angle proclaiming, ‘Big Jim’s Used Car Parts’, in flaky red letters. No customers or Big Jim were around in the shop. I despaired that these folks would have any money for books. But, I went up to the front door of the residence anyhow. An old tired hound lay in the cool dirt under the porch. He barely lifted his head when I walked up the steps and turned his cloudy eyes towards me. “Hey ol’ boy, staying cool?” I called out in friendly greeting to the dog. His tail wagged almost imperceptibly and he returned his graying head to its dirt pillow. Only the screen door was closed and I could hear people talking inside.

I knocked on the door and stood back a pace. A frumpy woman in a worn and faded pink house dress with curlers in her hair came to the door. You could have stored nuts for the winter in the bags under her eyes. She said, “Come in.”, before I could even start my approach. So I did. The wooden floor had no shine on it whatsoever and it felt gritty under foot. Guess it had been a while since it had been swept.

“Who is it Mother?” came a voice from the brown vinyl couch that looked and smelled like it came from a gas station.

“It’s some girl selling something.”

I came to the center of the living room slowly, following ‘Mother’. I supposed it was ‘Father’, otherwise known as big Jim, on the couch across from the television set. He was very heavy and looked like he had become one with the couch. He wore a blue work shirt and brown work pants in a size that I sure couldn’t have guessed. He had a tired, lazy look around his eyes, like one I’ve seen on Zero Mostel, though I can’t say in which movie. The reason became apparent when I looked on the coffee table. Two six packs of beer were on the table next to the Family Bible. ‘Father’ was drinking his six without even removing the cans from the plastic rings holding them together. Until then, I had never believed that anybody really drank beer that way. The corner of a case of beer could be seen under the table. Mother sat down in her chair, a weathered thing with the fabric peeling off of its foam backing. She had poured her beer in a glass. I was hard pressed to compliment anything in that house.

“Some weather we’re having, isn’t it?” That was the best I could do.

“Yeah.” burped Father. “You’re not selling magazines are you, ‘cause if you are you can get right out of this house.”

“No sir. I’ve got Bible books.” I patted my case to make the point.

“Bible books, well hell’s bells, Mother, call the children in.” He was obviously drunk and feeling fine.

“Kids! Get in here!” she yelled apathetically from where she sat. Four kids, who looked young for the age I thought their parents were scrambled as if from nowhere into the living room. The eldest was maybe twelve and they looked better kept than their surroundings would have indicated. They sat quietly on the floor around me. I sat on a chair across from Father. I decided to show the Family Bible Library set, although I didn’t think they could afford it. The kids paid attention to the demonstration and sat straight up so that they could see the pictures I was pointing to. When I was almost finished with the demonstration, Father interrupted me.

“You kids want them books?” They all nodded their little heads in unison. “Okay, girlie, how much are those books? I’ll take a set.” I was just beginning to wonder how I would get a deposit when Father pulled a wad of cash from his pocket to emphasize that he was serious. This was the biggest wad of cash I had ever seen. It was as big around as the beer cans in front of him and the outside bill was a twenty. This probably represented all the money he had. He repeated, “Just how much are they, I’ll pay it all in cash right now.”

Before I could think, my mouth was saying, “Those books are two-hundred dollars, sir.” I had opted to double the price as advised at the last sales meeting. It seemed so unnatural, and I feared that Jim would guess that I was making up the price. But he took the rubber band off of his roll of money and started counting out the twenties. He stopped at ten and handed me the cash. “Great, I’ll deliver your books during the last week of August.”

He seemed a little disappointed that I didn’t have any books with me to give them, but after another sip of beer he seemed okay with it. I couldn’t wait to get out of that house. “Well thank you very much, I look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks. Take care!” With that I was out the door with their two-hundred dollars. I could just pocket the hundred extra I charged Jim. It was my cash now, and I didn’t even need to report it to Parchment. I grabbed my bike and rode hastily off their property. For all the world I felt like a thief. What I had done was perfectly legal, but I felt like a criminal. I rode on to the next houses, pushing my doubts to the side. I could be hard enough to take those people’s money. It was just business. That money would go for buying my college books, instead of his beer. In the back of my mind I wondered if they knew anybody else I had sold that set to this summer. If they spoke to anyone else between now and the end of the summer, they could find out that I had charged them twice as much. I might have to face that when I delivered their books.

There was a tiny subdivision of brand new houses that came up next on the road. I walked up the stoop of the first house and noticed that my legs were shaking. I couldn’t stop them from shaking. I forced myself to pay attention to the business at hand and deny my feelings. I knocked on the door and stood back a couple of paces. The woman of the house came and opened the door. I began my approach.

“Hi there Mrs. Jones. My name is Sue Fairview and I’ve been calling on all the church folks in the neighborhood...” During this I continued to shake and now I was also starting to sweat. “May I come in?”

“Did you know that you are shaking and white as a sheet?” There was a look of concern in Mrs. Jones’ eyes. “You better come in, sit down, have a glass of water, and tell me about it.” I followed her into her nice neat and brightly lit little house. She put me in a kitchen chair at a cleanly scrubbed Formica table and brought me a tall glass of ice water. I drank the whole glass. As I looked at her round cheeks and perky brown eyes under arched eye brows I noticed that I had been holding my breath, and I took some deep breaths before I began to speak.

“I made a big sale at the last house. You know, Jim’s junk yard.” She nodded that she knew it. “He asked me how much the books were and pulled out a wad of cash big enough to choke a horse. When I saw that wad of money, I doubled the price, and he gave it all to me in cash. I stole from them.” Tears rolled down my cheeks as I confessed all to this total stranger. I had no way of even knowing that she wouldn’t force me to go back there and return the money, or worse yet, call the police on me.

“Honey, it’s all right. What you did is okay. You are out here selling books, and in this land you can charge whatever you want, and whatever big Jim is stupid enough to pay. Let the buyer beware.”

“But it’s more than I charged everybody else this summer.” I sobbed.

“So, just don’t do it again if you don’t feel right about it that’s all. Chalk this one up to experience. You’ve learned something about yourself; you are an honest, caring person.”

She was so kind and supportive. She was also right. I could live with it if I decided that I wouldn’t do it again. I made a silent vow that I would buy the family a Bible Dictionary out of the extra money I charged them, and just tell them that they won it as my one-hundredth sale. That made me feel a little better about it too. As I looked at Mrs. Jones across the table, I found myself feeling that trying to sell her a book would be too great an imposition after what she had done for me. She would have indicated by now if she was interested. I collected myself after a while of listening to her reassurance.

“I feel that there is no way of thanking you enough for being there when I was in need, Mrs. Jones.”

“That’s alright Honey. It was my pleasure.”

When I was ready, she showed me to the door. The sun was still high in the sky, even though it was past mid afternoon. The sun still warmed my shoulders, and made the black seat of my bike hot. I was alright to continue selling that day, and I no longer felt tortured by what I had done. How had this woman absolved me? I looked back up at her house, but the door was already shut. I finished covering that little subdivision that afternoon, although I did not make any more sales.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

"War" by Edwin Starr

War! - huh- yeah-
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing

War! – huh – yeah-
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Say it again y’all

War! – huh – good God
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me…

Ohhh… War! I despise
Because it means destruction’
Of innocent lives

War means tears
to thousands of mothers eyes
When their sons go to fight
and lose their lives

I said - War! Huh – Good God y’all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Say it again

War! Whoa, Lord
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me…

War! It ain’t nothing but a heartbreaker
War! Friend only to the undertaker
War! It’s an enemy to all mankind
The thought of war blows my mind

War has caused unrest in the younger generation
Induction then destruction-
Who wants to die?

Ohhh… War – Good God Y’all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Say it, Say it, Say it

War! Uh-huh – Yeah - Huh!
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me…

War! It ain’t nothing but a heartbreaker
War! It’s got one friend, that’s the undertaker
War has shattered many a young mans dreams
Made him disabled bitter and mean
Life is much to precious to spend fighting wars these days
War can’t give life, it can only take it away

War! Huh – Good God y’all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Say it again

War! Whoa, Lord
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me…

War! It ain’t nothing but a heartbreaker
War! Friend only to the undertaker
Peace Love and Understanding;
tell me, is there no place for them today?
They say we must fight to keep our freedom
But Lord knows there’s got to be a better way

War! Huh – Good God y’all
What is it good for?
You tell me
Say it, Say it, Say it

War! Huh – Good God y’all
What is it good for?
Stand up and shout it.

This song was number 1 on the pop charts in 1970. Download it free here. If you’ve never heard it, you absolutely must. It is a classic.

The Vietnam War was the first televised war. Every night, there it was in your living room (in living color). Dan Rather, or whatever anchor for whatever station you watched, was in the jungle reporting on today’s skirmishes and the US and native casualties along with the gruesome images, some of which have become historic and haunting. I am amazed at how different the war in Iraq is as far as television coverage. Perhaps that is why no one is motivated to protest the carnage on both sides as happened across our nation during the Vietnam War.

Edwin Starr 1942 – 2003 R.I.P.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Jason Robards Helps Me Smuggle - Italy II

Click on any image in this post to see an enlargement.

Early the next morning, Dr. D and I met in the lobby and decided to cross the street to the local coffee bar for some cappuccino and fresh baked biscotti.

We ordered, “Due cappuccinos Signore.”

They repeated, “Due cappuccinos!” They bustled about getting our coffees ready. First they made the espressos and then they swirled the foam on top while we paid. They were presented without flourish.

“Grazie!” we declared in our nonexistent Italian.

Standing there in a coffee bar in Rome, it was the absolute best cappuccino I have ever had in my life. I wanted to savor the moment, but we had to hurry to make all of our commitments today. We rushed outside to grab a cab to the Sistine Chapel.

When we got there at 7:45, there was a line just forming for the 8:00 opening. What a pristine and beautiful morning it was. It promised to be a hot and sunny day. Then the line began to move.

First we entered the Map Room. We were told that no photos were allowed in the Sistine Chapel or museum. So what does Dr. D do? He whips out the camera and starts to take a picture! I couldn’t believe his chutzpah! At least he only snuck in the one. No one noticed. Anyway, here is one from google that looks very similar to the one he took. I did not remember the Map Room from my first trip so I enjoyed it.

Then it was on into the chapel itself. This I had seen before. I remembered it as a graying series of ceiling paintings. But now, holy cow! The difference was as if lightning had struck. The images were so bright and new looking as if they were completed yesterday. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. I stood stunned gazing upwards at Michelangelo’s devastating work. The scope of it was awe inspiring. I just wanted to lie flat on my back and study it all day. The crowd was silent as we all looked: stunned and amazed.

Next we went to the gift shop. There were many Saint Medallions and rosaries blessed by the Pope. I was supposed to buy a Saint Teresa for my friend Terry back home, but somehow I wasn’t in the mood to spend money after seeing the Sistine Chapel and I knew I would have other opportunities. Plus, I didn’t see anything I liked and it was crowded. We wandered out onto the roof of the chapel where there were views of the Pope’s residence. I was very thirsty and drank from a fountain, worrying that I would get sick, but I never did. It was pretty up there and we took pictures of each other.

Then we came out and walked to Saint Peter’s Square. The scale and hugeness of this space is impossible to imagine. It was every bit as big as I remembered it as a little girl. There are a few places on earth where a design has power you can feel. This is one of them. The power is crushing like a hand of the size and importance of this space. The 85 feet tall center Egyptian obelisk was first constructed in 13 BC and brought to Rome in 32 AD. It was moved to its current site in 1586. The obelisk is the foci of the oval which is outlined by four rows of Doric colonnades, each 60 feet tall. It was designed to accommodate 300,000 people to receive blessings from the Pope. The oval is 650 feet across the long axis and the area enclosed is about 12 football fields. The plaza was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, completed in 1656, and can be seen below as it looked in 1909.

Next, we walked up the steps to enter the church (um, you know, Saint Peter’s Basilica). Even though it was hot, I put my jacket on to cover my shoulders as required by the quiet and solemn Vatican Guards. We had to be really quick to make our appointment with our Roman colleague. Only a quick glimpse and we were out of there. We literally ran up, respectfully of course, to look down on Saint Peter’s tomb beneath the spectacular black marble spiral columns of the altar (also designed by Bernini) and we had to take off.

We had no time to admire the many other great works of art within the Basilica. Each nook and cranny, or in this case, nave and apse, is literally crammed with masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s Pieta. I knew, because I had seen them the last time I was there. It was a sin to leave so soon. Sigh.

We got outside the Vatican and Saint Peter’s Square and hailed a cab. Off we went at a run. I really must say, that guerilla tactics are not the way to tour a city in Europe. Stay tuned…

Monday, August 14, 2006

Small Town News - Walgreens Pharmacy - Public Hearing Part 1

Per the local news paper, about 90 residents were still in attendance as the Planning and Zoning meeting continued from the application to the public hearing after a break at 8:40 PM. Correspondence was read into the record. The local architect who is a member of our citizens’ group wrote a letter which reminded the P&Z that as guardians of our town’s future they should set their sights a bit higher. It further described the building as dwarfing those nearby with oversized 34 foot tall corner towers, undersized portals, cheap looking materials and skimpy details. This design is fit for a Route 1 commercial strip next to a gas station, not small scale Main Street of down town adjacent to town hall. Also, it breaks the zoning requirement for no greater than 30 foot length of façade next to town hall. The letter then eloquently ripped the design to shreds architecturally for its crass insensitivity to the times, as the designer slumped in his chair as if having just committed hari-kari. The letter also said that if we go at this negotiation with an, “uh oh, if we ask for that they may cut and run” attitude, we will never find out what they are willing to do for us. We need to find a strategy to preserve our small town character and charm.

Another citizen noted that he wondered how many parking spaces were needed. Would there be a second story addition to town hall. The shopping center and pharmacy across the street line up and will there be the need for another traffic light? What will happen if the shopping center expands and needs more parking? Will the pharmacy portico be used as outdoor retail space as it is across the street? The rental property next to the pharmacy, will it become a bank? Will Turnpike Properties landscape town hall?

Yet another citizen noted that the land swap is very restrictive to town hall expansion and the land should be retained.

Another citizen noted that he has no problem traveling to out of town pharmacies. If parking in town is such a problem, then pave the town’s lot; no swap or building is needed.

A member of the local citizens group stood and made a motion that all citizens be heard and have their questions answered since they were not at the Cumberland Farms hearing. Applause sounded from wall to wall. The chair mentioned that two hearing dates had been set for just this purpose.

He also said that he is 100% opposed to approval. He agreed that we do not need a pharmacy in town. He also thought that only 2 handicapped parking spaces were not adequate. He also wanted to know who would be liable for accidents on the shared property of the parking lot and why the Cumberland Farms traffic was not taken into account in the traffic study. He also wanted access to the land swap documents and he wanted to know where parking for town hall would be in 20 years.

Another citizen shared that we are losing green space in the town center and increasing traffic and cars and emissions. Would an environmental impact study be conducted?

One of the town’s selectmen indicated as a citizen that he thought the town needs a pharmacy.

An elderly female citizen said that some folks need a pharmacy in town for their emergent health conditions when they don’t have a spouse to go for them.

The lawyer from the citizens’ group said that he was hoping that there could be mediation with Walgreens, as they have worked with other towns, to get it right.

Sean read his letter into the record which was signed by three other citizens including myself. The points made in the letter include:

  1. A completed and approved Comprehensive Plan for Development for the Town Center must be present. It was begun in 1999 and worked on until 2004, but never finished. It was initially designed to preserve the historical nature of the town.
  2. The town’s Plan of Conservation and Development is out of date (required by law to be updated every 10 years).
  3. A new vote is needed on the Land Swap. Many things have changed since the original vote in 2004. Details are not currently available to citizens of the town as I found when I went to town hall recently. (Will be covered in a separate post.)
  4. Please use the full 60 days allotted to approve this permit and allow the public to respond. A single night disenfranchises the public.

An elderly resident said that the shopping center across the street was using two handicap parking spaces to sell plants (the whole front of the store’s parking is filled with plants this time of year) and that just should not be allowed. There was a round of applause for that sentiment. He mentioned that Veterans’ Memorial Way should be preserved to honor the veterans (the alley next to town hall). He went on to say that our town hall was one of only 6 flatiron town halls in the country, and the only one with an upstairs auditorium. Thus, we should not ruin it by expanding the original design. We should buy the Swan's funeral home for sale down on Main Street and create the offices there. Applause sounded loudly for that.

A former resident of a nearby town, who had just moved to our town, said that there was a similar pharmacy in her old town (see photo below) and come to see it because it is an eyesore and does not fit in with anything else in town. She opposed the building, not the pharmacy and felt that we were owed a better plan.

Another resident, who had just moved in, was worried because she saw so many boarded up windows in town of failed businesses. She worried about her property values and was thinking of moving out. “If we scare away Turnpike Properties, will anybody come?”

Another elderly resident, who is a member of our citizens’ group stood and said that he thinks we need a pharmacy. He would like to know the details of the land swap before we agree and that traffic needs further study as regards Cumberland Farms.

Yet another elderly resident, who is a member of our citizens’ group, stood and said that he established the Brooklyn Heights Historic District and that then the money poured in. The P&Z has the power to decide the fate of downtown going forward into the future and he hoped that they understood the gravity of this task as they considered each decision. He mentioned each project for perspective: Cumberland Farms, Walgreens (He said, “Walgreens store, and I call it that because it is 90% store and not pharmacy.”), and Swans funeral home. “Consideration should be given to preservation of design. It would be a win-win for the town. The project outlined today would result in a net loss for the town. The town’s greatest assets are older buildings and houses and tree lined streets.”

Another resident who is a member of our citizens’ group indicated that a town is people and land. She is not against a pharmacy, but against a big box store across from Cumberland Farms which will increase lights, traffic and noise.

An elderly citizen who is also a veteran really lit up the room when he said that what was on the town’s property used to be a saloon with a whore house upstairs. An elderly woman in the audience screamed, “No it wasn’t!” But the rest of us wondered how he knew it was. [Hmmmm.] Anyhow, he continued to say that historically our town had many pharmacies, stores, movie theaters, until 1968 when the local highway was completed and was nowthe town is at its smallest ever. Development was needed in the center of town to generate business.

A citizen who is a member of our citizens’ group spoke against the proposal calling the new pharmacy a “big box” store at 10,000 square feet of retail space. the P&Z took issue with calling the design a big box store.

Another resident spoke of her concern for children walking in town to and from school through traffic from the new pharmacy’s drive through adjacent to the town hall.

The first selectman spoke as a citizen in favor of the proposal and submitted a petition in favor of the pharmacy project with 200 signatures.

A final citizen spoke about why Cumberland Farms was ignored in the traffic study as well as lack of attention paid to stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks, even when a constable is present.

The chair then noted the late hour and the meeting was adjourned at 11:15 PM. The P&Z instructed that the second day of hearing would not allow a rehash of ideas expressed at this hearing. Stay tuned...