Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Love Guns and Donut Runs

Its a beautiful day in the neighborhood....I left at 6am for an early appointment down toward Scranton.

I don't know what's wrong with me lately; either menopause is firing a warning shot across my forgetful bow, or its the medication. All I know is, I have to take great pains to remember things anymore. I made dinner plans with a friend a few weeks ago and completely forgot until the day after. Not only did I stand her up; I ended up forgoing a fabulous meal in exchange for a grilled cheese sandwich I made on bread heels and flipped with a spoon because all the spatulas were dirty. Then I went to bed at 10, counting the greatest pleasure of my evening as the moment when I got to take my contacts out and my bra off. Last week I agreed to meet someone to lend them something and forgot almost as soon as I said it; when the day came I took a nap instead and didn't show up.

I've fallen back in love with my Palm pilot; when I have to bug out early like I did today I set an alarm with a reminder that pops up on the screen to make sure I have everything I need when I go. This morning's list:

  1. Sandals
  2. Ambulance shirt
  3. Pager
  4. "Triumph of Caesar"
  5. Phone

My phone was charging quietly in the corner of my bedroom; in terrible danger of being left behind. The shirt and pager are for later when I'm on duty, the sandals are my house shoes and I needed them because I was doing a survey in a Japanese home. I had a tantalizingly small number of pages left to read in 'Triumph of Caesar" and its on interlibrary loan with NO RENEWAL so I needed to knock it out. I managed to remember all of those things and actually put them in a bag rather than running out the door with them crammed in a messy armload like an inefficient burglar. I even made myself a cup of coffee to take.

Route 6 East seems to be a never ending source of amusement. Very near the spot where Cow Pie Bingo was advertised a few weeks ago, a gaily painted yellow sign announced upcoming Lawnmower Races. (Someone needs to build these people a YMCA.) I got as far as Tunkhannock and decided two things: one, that it was time to return my coffee, and two, the weird waking dreams and vague delusions I was having while driving meant I needed a 10 minute power nap. I turned toward the Dunkin Donuts/Minimart/gas station combo and waited for oncoming traffic to clear so I could scope out a nap-worthy parking spot in the back. Pulling out of the DD lot was a local policeman. I looked at the four cars in front of me and made a bet with myself; that not one of them would pause and wave him out. None of them did. Passive aggressive much? I stopped, gave him the 'invitation hand', and he pulled out with a thank-you wave and was on his way. My little contribution to police karma in exchange for mercy shown me by the City of Corning. (From 54 in a 30 to 'Failure to Obey a Traffic Signal'. Thank YOU, Lt. Allard. I'd be happy to plead guilty and I may bake you cookies at Christmas.)

My customers were very pleasant and I was shortly on my way to enjoy the drive back. Some random observations/things that made me wish I had my camera:

  • In front of a cute little cottage: a mailbox painted Williamsburg blue with a pistol neatly stenciled on the side. Coming out of the stenciled pistol: little stenciled hearts.
  • I'm not up on current hitchhiking etiquette, but I'm pretty sure that guy on 6 East would fare better if he was actually wearing a shirt. Godspeed, tanned guy with a duffel bag.
  • Why do companies around here seem to send the dimmest employees outside with the box of letters? The Wysox Comfort Inn offers 'Long Term Houseing'....the sad part is, it used to be spelled correctly, and someone un-corrected it. My beloved vet's office has Frontline and Advantage 'no perscription necessary'.
  • Not misspelled, but bewildering, in front of our local florist shop: 'Educate Your Children With Flowers'.

Now the befrigged bullet point thing is giving me fits. I think I need more coffee.

Please go vote for me on Humor Blogs before you forget.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Why I Love My Husband

Me: I met this really cool nun once, on a train.

Himself: Did you exchange murders?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

County Fair

I know I usually keep to a certain chronological order in my Dispatches, but last week was such a rollover with entrapment that things got all jumbled up as I ran from event to event with clothes to change into shoved in my eco-friendly grocery bag with a paperback and some sunscreen.

So I'm a little mixed up.

Last week was the Tioga County Fair. Having learned my lesson last year, I steadfastly refused to sign up for ambulance standby for the rodeo, since one year of diving sideways to keep bull poop out of your french fries and arguing with a 90 pound cowboy who got stomped on by 1,800 pounds of angry beef that he should really go to the hospital, but he ain't, 'cause he has to be in South Carolina in the morning and he ain't got no insurance anyhow and you can't make him and then spending an hour cleaning the mud that the driving rain brought into the ambulance while you stood there getting soaked for no good reason as all his buddies tried valiantly to explain 'Hey-ow we AY-re and it ain't personal' is really one year more than anyone needs in a lifetime.

So naturally, I signed up for the monster truck show and the truck demolition derby and the figure 8 race. Because the potential for messy and potentially dangerous situations was a lot smaller there.

More to the point, no poop.

Before I get to all that though, I need to talk about the guy above. I want to talk about him first because much of this post will engage in gentle mockery of humans I'd lovingly classify as 'yokeltards' and I in no way wish to imply that Big Tiny is mockery material. Because Big Tiny is awesome.

He's been at our county fair for all of the three years I've been here, and he can play any song you can name. He's a great singer, his repertoire is vast, and he has a bitchin' synthesizer. I stumped him, though, by requesting this song.

He could play it, make no mistake, he just couldn't remember the words. So like any self-respecting fan with this song on my iPod, I got it out of my purse, popped in my headphones, sat down on the steps of the ambulance, flipped over a Patient Refusal of Treatment form, and wrote out the lyrics for him. By hand. I didn't get to hear him sing it, but I have to believe that I added a bit of additional musical enjoyment to the Big Tiny Young Show for the countless other Statler Brothers fans that will cross his path. Godspeed, Tiny.

At one point during the fair I started to worry that I would forget some of the things I witnessed. So I got out a pen and a little notebook and started to write things down. Some highlights:

Man on cellphone in the 4H tent: "Yes, yes! I see them! I'm standing in front of them right now! What? Well, yeah. Yours are bigger but hers are yellower. Like how much? I don't know. Yellow, like, 20% yellower. Well, just come down here and see them your damnself then. I don't know what to tell you." (Apparently the squash competition is ruthless.)

Woman in giant black pants with chains all over them, with dyed black hair, a trucker hat, and a black t-shirt and a lip full of metal, who was explaining loudly to a friend that she was going to kick someone's ass because they were staring at her.

Young woman in yellow dress, black fishnet stockings, and yellow shoes who was not part of any organized dance troupe or other street performance that I could see.

Large woman in an ill-fitting brown and white t-shirt that declared her a 'World Class Farter'.

Lots of boys with faux-hawks. Same boys trailing a vapor cloud of Axe which almost but not quite covered the faint odor of animal dung, various on their shoes. I suspect these boys were allowed to come to the fair "if and when" they got their chores done, and said chores were accomplished in record time and they moussed and sprayed themselves and headed out.

The elusive HFG, or Hot Farmer Guy. I caught a glimpse of exactly two. Tan, tiny waist, huge shoulders from lifting hay bales or whatever HFG's do all day, hat that isn't an ironic fashion statement because they gave it to him with his keys when he bought the tractor. Sunglasses. Boots. The other one, later in the evening, was wearing immaculate jeans and cowboy boots and a black cowboy hat and he was ROCKING the outfit. Bless your hearts, gentlemen. Please keep all your teeth.

Walking around, I had two epiphanies.

Revelation one: I really don't want to be that intimately acquainted with my milk. I LOVE milk. I love cheese, I love sour cream, I love all things with either the words cream or cheese in the name (except cottage cheese, which reminds me of baby sick) BUT I don't need to sit at a picnic table eating onion rings and watch the milk COME OUT OF THE TEATS into the hose that goes to the milkhouse, with the veins and the noise and the whatnot. I like my fish in sticks, my lobster bisqued, and I just want to scoop up that white plastic container that costs about the same as a gallon of gas, put it in my cart, and not think about it.

Revelation two: I'm afraid of large farm animals. Yes, afraid. Every year I force myself to walk through the beef barn at the fair, forcing myself to deal with the anxious breathing thousands of pounds of insensate potential crushing death placed shoulder to shoulder with strangers and small children prone to making sharp loud noises milling around behind them causes me. What keeps them in that little aisle? What keeps them from killing us all? Worse yet, I strolled through there with the taste of a recently enjoyed roast beef sandwich still in my mouth. It was the most intense whore in church feeling I've ever experienced.

The evening passed uneventfully, with the obligatory allergic reaction (kudos to the wise parents who allowed a kid who was allergic to horses PET THE HORSES, the gene pool clearly has a rip in the liner) and no serious injuries, though I had to throw my funnel cake on the dashboard of the ambulance and run across the dirt track to see to the monster truck that rolled over. Nothing ever happens on the track close to where we are parked, ever, and it was a delightful flashback to gym class to haul my considerable mass over a deeply rutted and potentially ankle-rolling expanse of mud in front of a grandstand crowd only to have the guy self-extricate and give everyone the Nixon-fingers to clapping and cheers. The only truly hair-raising moment was using the port-a-potty at the edge of the track while the demo derby was going on. As I hastily concluded negotiations inside I scanned the walls for something I could hang onto in the unlikely event that my comfort station might be rolling down the hill behind an '89 Astro with no brakes and 'BOB'S AUTO PARTS' spraypainted on the side.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Aw yeah. I was there.

A family contacted us because they decided to escape the rigors of city life and flee for the hills, much like we did. They are voluntarily moving to a small down near here that would ordinarily figure in a hilarious story told by flatlanders that included the phrases "and then we got LOST" and "I never thought we'd get home again". Since I'm the token flatlander here, and could spend the weekend visiting my homiez (Holla back, Chester County!) I went down.

I drive a lot. I can pretty much drive anywhere without flinching. But I was kind of nervous about the parking. I'm no world champion of parallel parking and a 1999 Dodge Caravan is not exactly a 'pop it in the spot' kind of vehicle.

First, I left sevenish and headed down to the Wilkes Barre area to drop off a couple of boxes to a customer. A last minute bid to avoid route 81 in all its hellish orange coney-ness was a good call and I found my destination with no problems. I reset my GPS for Philadelphia and headed on down.

I merge neatly onto 76 from the Northeast Extension and actually pump my fist and say aloud, "Schuylkill Expressway, y'all!" Which just goes to show you what a loser I am. Then I hang my arm out the window and drive all casual like, as if I do this all the time and really, it's no big whoop. I go through the city. The Walt Whitman bridge looms in the distance. I am almost there. I get off 76 and the fun starts.

Apparently, the time between the light turning green and someone honking at you on Oregon Avenue is .00002 seconds. I get honked at. I'm all like, "Whatever!" but notice I am hunched over the steering wheel. I straighten up and try to breathe normally. I turn onto 7th street and realize that my mental image of how narrow the streets are didn't take into consideration that I might have a guy on a bike riding no handed toward me on a one way street with cars parked on both sides talking on a cellphone. He taps my sideview mirror with his hand as he passes and never touches his handlebars.

I straighten up and try to breathe normally.

One more turn and and I'm at an intersection of, oh, six streets, I think. I expect to look between two buildings and see Diagon Alley. The GPS tells me to 'bear right' authoritatively and I wonder if she means 'bear right into the rear end of this van with a handwritten license plate' or 'bear right into the front window of this Vietnamese grocery'.

I straighten up and try to breathe normally.

Two more blocks and I see the house I am shooting for. Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, there are THREE PARKING SPOTS directly in front of the house. I do a ridiculously selfish park job that guarantees I'll be able to pull right out. Yeah, I know. I won't be there long anyway.

Work done, its time to flee. I Tom Tom my way back to I-95, salute the Wachovia Center or whatever its called now, and reflect on what a driving rock star I am as I fly past the shipyard, the airport, and through Chester.

Shore traffic diverts me to the north but eventually, after seething through a construction zone or three, I arrive here. The jewel of the Diamond State.

Ah, Wilmington. From your glistening industrial parks to your shimmering port you inspire me. Go Blue Rocks! Alas, I never got to visit the screen door factory. I just stopped off in Greenville to grab a whiff of old money and baseless entitlement. And coffee.

After a visit with my sister and nephew I headed down to my old hometown. I couldn't find any pictures to do it justice, you'll have to settle for a snap of D-town's badass rescue truck.

I had a great time visiting my friends, most of whom I met here. I reflected on how many more of my stories involve monster trucks and funnel cake these days, and how that is okay with me, though I still miss them an awful lot. I never got a cheesesteak but I got two things I can't get here: decent Mexican food and an all you can eat Japanese buffet.

The drive home was uneventful, though I saw tons of people on the side of the road in lawn chairs on Route 15. Apparently it is customary to sit outside and wait for your favorite NASCAR driver to happen by on the way down from Watkins Glen. Mind you, Kasey Kahne isn't going to be wandering into the Sheetz in Shamokin Dam for a LifeWater and a package of Oreos. But if you sit there long enough, you may catch a glimpse of the truck with his car in it. Which is apparently enough of a thrill for the hundred or so people out there in lawn chairs with handmade signs. Bewlidering, though, were the large groups of Amish kids. Not sure where they are getting their Talladega.

I know this is all out of order and whatnot, but I'll have to tell you about the county fair last week. It was a veritable feast of hilariously judgemental peoplewatching.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Country Piccata

I had originally titled this post "In which I am beset by grubby mongrel children" but it just seemed mean.

I only had one appointment today, this morning. I went, I followed the directions. I hit my trip odometer so I'd know when to start looking for the house, because they had one of those funky RR Box whatever addresses and up in the yonders no one bothers to put their address on their mailbox. I guess if someone in your family is ill you either throw them in the back of the honey wagon and take them to town or shoot them and toss them on top of the silage with the tires since an ambulance finding you is right out.

Look, I live in the country. I'm all down with that. I know there is no mall, and no traffic lights, and I have to pass farm machinery, and people have cows and whatnot. Three years of this I've had. I get it. This was a whole 'nother level.

First, the town. I couldn't find it on account of it used to be on the main drag and since they dragged the main drag over half a mile, the town now sits below the level of the road, a Valley That Time Forgot. I had to turn around once but got on the right track, found the landmarks, turned onto the dirt road 'between the two churches'.

A more accurate landmark would have been "Drive toward the smell."

There are five houses on this road. Five houses and ten veal barns. I'll spare you the PETA line, you can Google 'how veal is raised' all on your own and be grossed out on your own time. Suffice it to say it was a latrine on the nature trail to hell times a thousand. Nestled right up alongside one of these delightful barns was the house I was looking for. I drove past it twice, noting the two tons of random crap levered against the front porch hoping it was not the house I was looking for. The same group of people who gave me the stinkeye on the way past the first two times SET A DOG LOOSE the third time when I finally pulled in. It was a lab, a rather determined looking one, and I carefully observed its body language to determine whether I needed to reach down and pet it or put its head into its neck with my foot. There was wagging. The dog didn't, contrary to my original assumption, want to sink its teeth into my face.

A woman squatting on a plastic lawn chair that was on its way to the density of a dwarf star under her considerable bulk waved and yelled sort of half-heartedly and called off the dog. I waded into a sea of children, cats, other dogs, plastic yard toys, and more cats. One or two of the older kids helpfully hammerlocked the smaller ones to keep them from following me inside.

I wouldn't say this house was dirty. That wasn't the problem, though I'd say its been a good 12 years since some of the windows have been open and the 'remodel' of the farmhouse the woman mentioned wanting to do would involve the rental of no less than five twenty- foot rolloff containers and a team of five in each room working all day for two weeks solid just to strip it to God-knows-what. Imagine, if you will, going to about 100 estate sales and buying every single nick-nack, teapot, piece of china, and age-darkened print of a woodland scene or cavorting angels in a gaudy frame and shoving all of that stuff into one house. China figurines stood shoulder to shoulder on the buffet. Rugs that began to surrender their original color midway through the Nixon administration adorned every room. And every open space that didn't have angels clustered together like they were waiting for an airport shuttle was occupied by a sleeping cat. I looked in all the rooms, and it took some clever interview skills to discern what was and was not going and even now I'm not completely sure. On the way out I got to see the dog that 'greeted' me nursing a litter of a dozen puppies. I managed to have my sneezing fit after I rounded the corner on my way back to the highway.

And this week has only begun to yield its treasures. We take to the road for an adventure in Philadelphia on Friday, where your faithful Dispatcher finds out if she still remembers how to drive with extreme hostility and malice aforethought. Or how to parallel park.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Some Pretty for your Day

I just had the most blissed out lunch, peoples.

It had nothing to do with my two cheese dogs made with leftover hot dogs and leftover picnic cheese on two whole wheat bread heels. Nor the fact that I took a break from the pile of invoices and spreadsheets or whatever in tarnation it is I'm supposed to be doing today.

Its because I sat under a large tree by a pond watching dragonflies buzz the surface of the water and bees gently touching flower after flower, listening to this.

Just had to share. I'll post a picture of my happy place, which is onsite where I work, as soon as I get my camera back from Himself, who used it this weekend to take incriminating photos in his parents house.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Cat Who Broke Jesus

I was getting ready for work this morning when I heard 'gink-gonk'.

I looked around: I was nowhere near the bathroom scale, and Himself was asleep.

Gink-gonk is the noise my scale makes when you 'wake it up' have to gink-gonk it, wait for 000.0 to come up, then step on up and decide whether you will drive to work humming songs from Disney movies, or clutching the steering wheel trying to figure out how to do 45 minutes of exercise in 30 minutes every morning before work and still knock together some carrot stick and bean sprout sandwiches that you'll enjoy while walking uphill doing kegels and listening to Dr. Andrew Weil banging on about 'Conscious Eating' on your iPod.

I looked down, and the cat was sitting on the scale, looking at me. I moved his tail to try and see what he weighed, and realized it was pointless because his front legs were on the floor and he was cheating. (He didn't learn that from me, I swear. ) So I started to wonder. What does he weigh, anyway?

Last weekend, after all, he broke Jesus.

We live in the mountains, and sometimes radio reception is sketchy. Yes, we have XM. But sometimes we listen to free radio because that's where Car Talk is. Himself will maximize our Click and Clack by draping the long, flexible antenna across the kitchen door, securing it to what's handy. In this case, the fancy sick-call crucifix we got as a wedding gift. (Its sort of an Inspector-Gadget crucifix that opens up and has candles and whatnot inside it so you can rig up a bedside altar if you are, you know, dying at home. Cause nothing says 'congratulations on your special day' quite like a reminder that every day you are shuffling ever nearer to the gaping maw of death.)

Seamus has spent several months (since Palm Sunday, to be exact) trying to pull the dessicated palm fronds off the crucifix. He'll jump against the wall over and over like a brain damaged kangaroo despite the fact that they are simply too high for him to reach. On Saturday, I heard the ka-thunk ka-thunk ka-thunk of his jumping and opened the bathroom door to see what he was up to. He was trying to grab the bottom of the antenna, which was draped around Jesus' shoulders and hung just low enough. This is what happened. (I borrowed this photo from Himself, who used it in a different context.)

Yep, he pulled it down and Jesus came off. So I have to find some hardware in my toolbox that will fit the holes in his hands and nail him back on there, because it seems really wrong to hotglue Jesus to the cross.

Where was I going with this? Oh. So I wondered....what DOES Seamus weigh? I gink-gonked the scale, got on it myself (no Disney, but no regrets either), then picked him up and got on it again.

He weighs almost EIGHTEEN POUNDS. I guess its time to cut back on the kitty crack.

Here's where all the fat cats meet, daddy-o.