Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Lemon Tree

 Ray and Stacy fell in love.

Stacy was 18 years old and had lived on the family’s farm all her life. She couldn’t wait to escape the early mornings helping her mother cook breakfast for her dad and brothers, the all day harvesting in the fall, and the cold and snow of winter.

Ray was 22 and was one of the hired hands who lived in a room just off the barn. He was a hard worker, but shared Stacy’s desire to flee the Midwest.

Ray heard about a job working on a dairy farm in Arizona; he asked Stacy’s family for her hand in marriage, and after a small wedding held by the small pond on the farm, they escaped to a warm land of opportunity.

Ray and Stacy rented a house near the dairy farm. There was a farm feeling in the neighborhood, but with cactus and rock instead of maple trees and meadows. In the backyard, they decided to plant a lemon tree for color and the optimistic vision of a happy life together. Holding hands, they restated their vows under the lemon tree.

The lemon tree did not bear fruit the first year, and neither did Stacy. She miscarried her baby during the unbearable heat of summer, and she sat and cried, under the barren lemon tree.

The second year of living in Arizona was kinder to the young couple. Stacy gave birth to their son in the spring while the wildflowers were blooming and the bouquet of citrus blossoms filled the air. The flowers on their tree were bursting with white purity, so she placed Jacob in his carrier to take his picture, under the lemon tree.

As time flew by and Jacob grew, Ray and Stacy were able to purchase their house. Jacob was an active boy and loved animals. Running around in the back yard was a dog and a cat; two hamsters and one parakeet occupied cages in the house. As the smaller critters died, the family held tearful services and buried them in shoeboxes, under the lemon tree.

The lemon tree flourished, spreading out its waxy green leaves. Ray and Stacy were successful also, and enjoyed picking the fruit, making pies and lemonade, and sharing with the neighbors.

Ray started drinking, lost his job, and argued more with Stacy. When Jacob was 16, Ray and Stacy decided to get a divorce. Ray moved out and Stacy stayed in the house until Jacob graduated from high school. During the monsoon season that same year, a harsh wind tore the lemon tree in two. Half was blown over the fence and down the street, the other half looked bare and lonely. Stacy and Jacob stood together and cried, under the lemon tree.

The house started to decay, and the weeds grew through the rock. Stacy moved back to Iowa to care for her ailing parents, and Jacob stayed in Arizona. He sold the old house and moved into the city. One of the first things he bought for his new home was a lemon tree, which he carefully planted in his backyard. When the first fruit ripened, he held it in the palm of his hand, and remembered the goods times growing up, under the lemon tree.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Once Upon Several Beers...

My son, being the fine Irish soul that he is, enjoys planning Pub Crawls so he and his friends can enjoy an afternoon and evening of sampling the many varieties of brews in the world. Sometimes he invites me and my beer-drinking friend along. Just after the Light Rail opened for passengers in Phoenix, Scott organized a “Light Rail Pub Crawl,” complete with times and scheduled stops at the bars along the route. My husband dropped Mary and me off where the rail begins, and we enjoyed some beers at Wineburger. After a few drafts under our belts, we hopped on the rail at the first station. I noticed Scott had Durant’s on his list. Durant’s is an upscale, old-fashioned lounge that caters to the steak and lobster crowd. The booths are black leather, the walls are papered with black and red velvet, and the lighting consists of a dim lantern on each table – just the sort of place where Don Vito Corleone would plan his next hit.

“They’re never going to let your crew in Durant’s, Scott.”

“Watch me,” he replied.

When my friend and I arrived, his gang was gathered around the bar laughing, patting each other on the back, and telling loud stories and lewd jokes. The bar maids were catering to every whim, while the dining patrons in their diamonds and pearls eyed the noisy bar hooligans with disgust.

“Give my mom a martini, Sue,” Scott said to the bartender. Sue complied immediately.

I think a very large tip was involved for Durant’s to put up with his sleazy crowd for an hour.

We hopped back on the rail and enjoyed several more pints along the route. When we approached Mill Avenue, Mary and I were ready to hop off.

“Oh no, we’re not getting off here,” my son informed us. “There’s another place in Mesa.”

The rail took us to the end of the line in East Mesa to a bar with a pool table, a Karaoke machine, and several sleazy characters hanging on the bar. I would have preferred the piano bar on Mill Avenue, but I discovered Scott wanted this to be our last stop because he could stumble to his friend’s house and crash in a drunken stupor on his couch.

I was just in the middle of harmonizing “Sweet Caroline” with my new slut friend, when someone asked about the last train back to Phoenix. “11:00,” was the reply. We all looked at our watches, “Oh my god, it’s 10:55.”

Mary grabbed my hand and we sprinted down the street in our sexy stacked-heeled boots and barely made it inside the train car’s closing doors. The Light Rail pauses for no one. If we had missed the last train, Mary’s husband would have had to drive 35 miles to pick us up – a divorce-paper-filing event for sure.

We made it, pretending to be sober, and starving.

Names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Beware the Ides of March

“Beware the Ides of March,”
For there is word of hope and change.
Beware the big man under the domed arch
For he spouts words that are very strange.

“Breaking his oath and resolution, like a twist of rotten silk,”
Blaming others for his inadequacies and blunders.
A free country is his plan is to bilk
Until freedom finally falls and flounders.

“Every citizen should be a soldier,” once quoted a wise man.
For “When the government fears the people, there is liberty.”
Which should be the country’s elected plan.
But, “When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”

“Beware the Ides of March” is upon us
Lest we forget Julius Caesar in Roman times.
For our freedom is not a game of chess
Where the king commits the ultimate crimes.

"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.” -Thomas Jefferson

"Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." -John F. Kennedy

Friday, March 7, 2014

My First NASCAR Race

March Madness Writing Party 2014

Today is the first day of March and it’s raining.  We have cousins visiting from Wisconsin for the NASCAR race at Phoenix International Raceway.  The cousins are escaping the cold and snow in the Midwest only to come to the cold and rain in the desert.

The cousins have a love affair with NASCAR.  They are loyal to their favorite drivers and buy the products that are advertised on their cars.  On the flip side of that, the cousins will shun the sponsors of the drivers they dislike.  Lowe’s, not Home Depot.  Crown Royal, not M &  M’s.  If their favorite driver changes teams, then it’s Home Depot, not Lowe’s, and they burn all their hats and shirts and buy new ones – loyalty to the end.

I went to my first NASCAR race 6 years ago.  We pulled into the parking lot at 9:00 am.  The race wasn’t scheduled to start until 1:30, but there was serious tailgating to be done.  We set up our day tent and flew our drivers’ flags, trying to outdo all the other flags flapping in the wind.  Then out came the Bloody Mary’s, pickled eggs, and hot sausages while hubby set up the grill for the burgers.  On my way to the J-John, I noticed some other tailgaters who had gotten a head start on us and were already in the alcohol awesome mode.  They were cooking brisket in a big black smoker – and when I commented how good it smelled, they invited me to eat with them – tempting.

It was finally time to parade, or stagger, depending on how well the tailgating went, into the gates to watch the race.  The cousins were equipped with all the proper paraphernalia that NASCAR groupies need to have.  Inside a clear backpack were headphones, a scanner to listen to the drivers talk to their crew, spare batteries, water, and peanuts.  I did not have the headphones, so I was totally bored after the first 148 laps.  I convinced my daughter that we needed to go shopping at any one of the 109 semi trailers selling merchandise for everyone’s favorite driver.  As we walked down the steps and stood by the railing by the track, 46 cars drove passed us going 190 miles an hour.  They looked as though they were one red/green/blue/yellow blur as we blinked and they were gone.  The roar of the engines rumbled the stadium, and our entire body.  I guess it was worth the climb to Row 45 where the rumble is lessoned somewhat.  I made a note to myself to be sure I had headphones at the next race because the little orange earplugs just didn’t cut it.

As we walked around, it was like being at a carnival, and we enjoyed people watching almost as much as buying a Number 99 t-shirt.  It’s hard to believe the cousins enjoy this redneck sport.  They are as white collar as they come and all in management.  Their persona just does not fit with the Harley Davidson crowd sporting tattoos, beards, and long grey ponytails.

The more I learned about NASCAR, the more I realized it was not just making 300 left-hand turns at nearly 200 miles an hour.  The cars are mechanical wonder machines that can house a driver safely for 4 brutal hours.  The pit crew can change 4 tires and fill the tank with fuel in less than 15 seconds.  The drivers can cruise at 180 miles per hour inches from the cars in front and to the sides of them.

The rain let up enough so the first race of the weekend was able to run 168 out of 200 laps today.  We sat in the 45th row and under a canopy, which was a blessing when the rest of the fans scrambled out of the rain.  One of the cousins let me use one of his headphones so we could listen to Trevor Bayne talk to his pit crew.  The race ended when the rain wouldn’t stop, so we went home to finish our tailgating.  I’m glad the cousins come to Phoenix for the NASCAR race so I can learn more about this fascinating sport.

Water Skiing - First Time

Writing Party on Facebook 2013 – Write about the topic “First Time”

The first time I went water skiing I was 16. I went with my first heart throb. I went camping with his parents and big sister to a lake in the high desert of New Mexico - how romantic.

It was back in the Annette Funicello day of big hair and Aqua Net hair spray. I didn't know how I was going to pull off being seen without makeup and teased hair - much less having to go pee behind a mesquite bush. And I've never really had the yellow-polka-dot bikini body type - so why on earth would I agree to go camping - at a lake - with a boy I wanted to impress. Love does strange things.

The first night was a little creepy, sitting around the fire with moms, pops, and big sis. I didn't really know what to talk about, so I politely sat on an uncomfortable rock, pretending to enjoy the smores that dripped chocolate all over my T-shirt. His big sister insisted on telling dirty jokes - which embarrassed me - but I had to put up and good front so I could impress the family, and I giddily chuckled at her every utterance. I must have sounded like one of Alvin's chipmunks.

The next morning we launched the boat for a day of water skiing. Boyfriend and sister both were accomplished skiers, but I was the newbie. After about the hundredth time of "hit it" - splash - "down" I finally was gliding on top of the water with this monster machine Chris Craft pulling me. It was so exhilarating - I finally found my sport: the spray of the water around my feet - the cool breeze whipping through my hair - the hot sun beating down on my back - the bugs in my teeth.

All of a sudden, everyone in the boat got up and all peered into the water over the left side of the boat, pointing and gasping. Then the driver made a 360 turn to the left. It was all I could do to hang on or be drug to a watery death. When the boat straightened out, everyone gathered on the right side of the boat and stared into the water again. Finally they gave me the sign to drop the rope and get in the boat. It was then that they told me there was a rattle snake floating in the water. Great! I would have thought they would have pulled me in the boat before they circled the snake. They then proceeded to run over the snake, killing it with the prop of the motor. Since it was my maiden skiing voyage, I was presented with the rattles - of which I still have to this day.

I ditched the boyfriend and his ugly sister, however.