Flat Rock Creek Notebook

Memoirs of the Here and Now

Puppy Love August 15, 2013

Filed under: 1. Flat Rock Creek — eveningstar1 @ 4:01 pm
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Sure, you can take my pic.

Sure, you can take my pic.

Wonder what’s been keeping me away from blogging and up at night? Introducing…Phoebe, Brittany Spaniel extraordinaire. She is as cute as a bug’s ear and sharp as a tack. After our beloved Duncan passed away last year, I said that I had one more puppy in me but we needed to wait til the warm summer months. That was a genius move on my part given that we had 3 blizzards this winter, each delivering over a foot of snow.

Now, the warm summer months are currently unseasonably cool, for which I am eternally grateful since I spend A LOT of time outside. However, as it turns out, I didn’t have one more puppy in me.  Um, I grossly miscalculated my actual-energy -to-expended-effort ratio. Oops. I discovered that when we got Duncan as a pup 9 years ago I was apparently 20 years younger than I am now. You do the math. Fortunately, I have two amazing kids who have taken on the task of raising her. Whew!

I apologize in advance if this space turns into a dog blog. She’s pretty charismatic already at the tender age of 8 weeks. We are all completely and utterly under her spell.

Seriously, just try not to wither under the spell of my puppy-dog eyes.

Seriously, just try not to wither under the spell of my puppy-dog eyes.


Happy 4th of July-Have a Blast! (repost) July 4, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — eveningstar1 @ 7:19 am
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Forgive my recent posting hiatus and enjoy this repost of a signature piece. ; )


The 4th of July is a favorite holiday of mine, perhaps because it was always such delicious fun when I was a kid.   We’d spend the afternoon swimming at the Jewish Community Center with all of the other Irish Catholics (See the previous post A Catholic Childhood at the Jewish Community Center) and then bound for home to ride bikes and play until the giant picnic dinner was served.

Grilled hamburgers and hot dogs were standard fare at these gatherings with watermelon the sweet treat for dessert.  My mom whipped up her famous potato salad, which my friends have always begged her to make and which I didn’t have the good sense to cultivate an appetite for until I was an adult.  Brownies topped with powdered sugar, cole slaw, deviled eggs, popsicles, and all the soda pop you could drink rounded out the special day’s unusually kid-friendly menu.

Fireworks were illegal in the city where I grew up, but that didn’t stop my dad and his best friend from putting on a small but glorious display for their young families at the moment dusk turned to dark.  We would line up our chairs along the railing of the marble patio my father had built and well away from the action at the back end of the yard.

My dad was an explosives expert by trade, so, of course, he delighted in entertaining us with his own little show of Roman candles.   We wrote our names in the night air with  sparklers under the close supervision of the dads.  We lit tiny black squares that ballooned into “snakes”  on the driveway where they’d leave unsightly smudges for months once their remnant ashes blew away.  No one got burned or poked their eyes out.

When we moved into our house in Edgevale, I was 4 years of age; my parents stayed in this home for 30 years, long enough to see their four children grow up and move into lives of their own.  As they aged, they enjoyed another round of life in this hood with the set of neighbors who moved in after my siblings and I had left.

The revels of this group included an annual day-long 4th of July block party which actually was set in motion by the original set of long-time neighbors when I was in junior high.  After I married, my husband and I would attend as would many other families who had once lived on the block.  This block had a healthy alumni contingent who often found their way back for the Halloween and Christmas parties as well as the all-day 4th of July celebration.

We have a photo of my son as a one-month-old tucked in the lap of an older child in the annual group shot of the kids and another snapshot from when he was 3 or 4, sporting blue twill Osh Kosh overall shorts and a red, white, and blue striped T-shirt as he took a break from running with the pack of older kids long enough to munch a hot dog.

Other photos show tables packed with dishes of food, grills in the street billowing smoke, adults and kids laughingly engaged in silly contests, kids riding decorated bikes and running through sprinklers, and smiling adults with a plate in one hand and a malt beverage in the other. A firetruck would invariably swing by early on before its riders were pressed into service on their busiest night of they year.

The summer after my daughter was born, we took her over to acquaint her with the homeland, but decided that our  son was a bit too intrigued by the bottle rocket war the adult males waged in one yard.  Good fences may make good neighbors, but bad handling of explosive devices does not.

My husband’s recollection of the end of that era of our 4th of July celebrations?  “Duck and cover.”   Funny how your perspective on revelry shifts just a bit when you become a parent.  The next year we decided to stick closer to our home and cultivate some traditions of our own.

So what have these traditions been?  Well, of course, they evolved over the years as the children grew, but one constant for us is the tiny parade sponsored by our small city.  With the holiday falling on a Sunday and the economy still precarious, some festivities have been moved or altered or canceled.

The parade lives on, though it was held yesterday instead of today to avoid conflicting with church services.  We met up with some good friends and enjoyed the coolish breeze and sunshine as we were pelted with candy and political pamphlets in this an election year.

Here’s an excerpt from a previous post,  part of the Pool Chronicles series (The Pool Chronicles: Past as Prologue-Culture), which recounts the parade in detail and how we have typically celebrated the Fourth here at Flat Rock Creek:

Citizens turn out in droves for the small but satisfying Fourth of July parade every year and the attendant events throughout that week: an early morning run, a midnight bike race, a street dance, and, until it was eliminated last year due to economic woes, a mammoth fireworks display in the huge county park it shares with another mid-sized city.

The parade is held in Old Town, right next to the railroad tracks which bustle 24/7 with freight trains transporting coal and sundry other cargo. Patience is a virtue cultivated early in one’s residency here as motorists’ routes are regularly interrupted by the passing of trains whose horns punctuate the day, synchronizing the city’s businesses and piercing the still of night like a coyote howl.

We’ve watched the parade from the back of our minivan to keep from getting soaked by a thunder storm and watched it from lawn chairs we drug across the railroad tracks in the oppressive humidity that defines mid-summer here. A local group of Shriners, a mainstay of the parade, charms the children by racing tiny go-carts in circle 8s and tooting horns on their miniature Model Ts. Some of them prance good naturedly in goofy costumes to entertain the crowd accompanied by tunes produced by their kazoo-playing comrades.

Other music is provided by a horn band comprised of random area high school students trumpeting their only tune,  “Louie, Louie,” throughout the parade route.

The city’s swim team is heralded like local heroes. Cub Scouts packs and Girl Scout troops pedal their meticulously decorated bikes as their leaders walk along and toss candy to kids. City officials wave to the crowd from the back of slow-moving convertibles.

Young girls from dance academies turn flips down the asphalt and the costumed players from a local Renaissance Festival engage spectators with their theatrical antics and hardy shouts of “Huzzah!” Local businesses advertise services through festive floats. Even a pristine garbage truck is part of the route, a nod to a local waste management company.

The only unpleasantness is the periodic invasion every couple of years of politicians seeking to solicit votes and shore up name recognition. But even that annoyance is so quintessentially American that it’s hard to be offended. Residents come from all over the city to watch and everyone gets a good seat curbside. After the parade ends, people head to their respective neighborhood pools to spend the day swimming and splashing and sunning.

We’ve been watching the city’s Fourth of July fireworks show since it was held on the easement along the railroad tracks in the 1980s. In the first years we lived in our house, we could actually view it from our driveway. But once it shifted to the large county park and shared costs with a neighboring city, my husband initiated a new family tradition.

We’d venture out in a canoe to the middle of the lake in the big county park at dusk and watch the brilliant display of fireworks ignite the sky, casting its massive reflection on the black still canvas of water. The lake effect, in this case, was the illusion that the trailing embers falling from the spray of fireworks were showering the water as each resonant boom echoed off the bluff on the other side of the lake. Two shows for the price of one and both free.

In recent years, I noticed an uptick of families celebrating with picnics at the shelters surrounding the lake. Typically, we’ve gotten together with family friends for grilled hamburgers and hotdogs at someone’s home to celebrate after relaxing at the pool all afternoon. It has never occurred to me to go to a park on that day except to see fireworks. But it has occurred to a fair number of recent immigrants to the United States.

So I’ve been privy to a most remarkable scene: the gathering of immigrants and native-born Americans—who would know which was which on the edge of the lake as they cluster around the dock and boat easement to get a good view of the night sky?

Right here, smack in the middle of the heartland, this: people of all ages and origins, Asian, Indian, Hispanic, Slavic, African American, European, and those of other ethnic backgrounds, all gathered in one place to celebrate the birth of these United States, a wondrous cacophony conjured by the sounds of different languages and dialects rising into the evening air as people descend the hill to reach the dock at dusk to watch fireworks.

Here’s hoping you find your way to a delightful and safe Fourth of July this year!


Blizzard of Oz-Round Deux February 25, 2013

Filed under: 1. Flat Rock Creek — eveningstar1 @ 6:30 pm
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Heavy, wet snow clings to trees, causing power outages all around. Not a fun way to spend a blizzard,

UPDATE: Heavy, wet snow clings to trees, causing power outages all around. Not a fun way to spend a blizzard,

You know, you really haven’t lived until you have been witness to the pre-blizzard shopping habits of Midwesterners. Since this current blizzard gave even more advance notice than the one last week, people had all weekend to contemplate the couple of days they are going to spend sheltering in place when it drops another foot or so of snow down on the bone-dry streets.

Another foot of snow beginning to fall. Note the bird in the dogwood tree. Bird block party going on at the feeders all week. Downy woodpeckers, cardinals, black cat chickadees, tufted tit mice, phoebes, bluejays, flickers, robins, mourning doves...you name it, it was chowing down on suet and seed.

Another foot of snow begins to fall. Note bird in dogwood tree. Bird block party going on at the feeders all week: downy woodpeckers, cardinals, black cat chickadees, tufted tit mice, phoebes, bluejays, flickers, robins, mourning doves…you name it, it was chowing down on suet & seed.

I ventured out to Costco late yesterday morning, a Sunday, only to find it a veritable mob scene. Normally, it’s pretty quiet at that moment during the weekend since most people would be at church, possibly praying for an alternate weather pattern.

On this day, however, the parking lot was packed with more than a few cars parked cattywampus–yeah, you heard me right—abutting giant snow mountains deposited by snowplows about its perimeter.

The critical driving issue in most lots is the blindspot created by these snowpiles, which conceal the frantic shoppers lurching from behind them and make competition-level space-spotting in the narrow plowed paths fairly treacherous.

So, when I surveyed the Costco lot, I knew the local media had whipped everyone into a frenzy with their European Computer Models and snowfall calculations in the double digits and shrieks of keywords, like “Bread!”, “Milk!”, “Eggs!”.  Then when the national press descended to scoop existing snow with their mittened hands on camera before the first new flake had fallen, well, that’s never a good sign.

Throughout the rest of that day and into today, stores were packed with panicked shoppers and carts careening down aisles at Daytona speeds. Predictably, shelves were bereft of bread and freezers devoid of milk and eggs.  Hardware stores reported near rumble conditions among the men circling the few remaining snowblowers.

We’ve taken all precautions: snow implements are cleaned and at the ready for use during the post-blizzard dig-out. Vast quantities of bread, milk, and eggs are stored and the pantry is bulging with all manner of food for any potential blizzard condition with or without power.

I’m guessing no one will need to grocery shop again for at least another month.

Snow falling again after we just moved 1 foot of it off the upper deck!

Snow falling again after we just moved 1 foot of it off the upper deck: argh.

Shoveling ahead...when the snow stops. We'll clear this first, then rake snow from the roof. That will dump a couple of feet here and then we'll shovel it off the deck again.

Shoveling ahead…when the snow stops. We’ll clear this first, then rake snow from the roof. That will dump several feet and then we’ll shovel it off the deck again.


Blizzard of Oz Redux February 21, 2013

Filed under: 1. Flat Rock Creek — eveningstar1 @ 11:50 am
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Flat Rock Creek snowfall

Today brings a well-publicized winter storm, already living up to its hype. This serene view from Flat Rock Creek belies the vehicular chaos reigning on area highways, many of which are now closed down and littered with abandoned cars. Schools, malls, bus routes, and even the airports have closed as the snowfall per hour ramps up.

This has been named Winter Storm “Q” by the Weather Channel because they couldn’t think of an actual name beginning with the letter “Q.” I suggest they root around the archives of early Sesame Street episodes during the next break between storms.

I guess I’m OK with a storm that sounds like the name of a James Bond villain. I am not so enamored of one inspired by the name of the transit line a national weather celebrity back east took to get to work.

Thanks anyway, Weather Channel. I am going to stick with a moniker that resonates in these parts and recycle the one we used two years ago, the last time this kind of storm dropped more than a foot of snow and brought the entire region to a halt: Blizzard of Oz.

It fits and offers just a bit more metaphoric bang for the buck.

Stay safe and warm throughout this storm, my fellow Midwesterners!

(See my daughter wield a mean snow rake below. Oh, yes, there are such things and they really work by pulling snow off your roof to prevent dreaded ice dams.)

Snow Rake 2013


Fast Forward January 17, 2013

Filed under: 1. Flat Rock Creek — eveningstar1 @ 10:32 pm
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By all means, let me cut to the chase. This is my new phone case:

New Image

It would suggest a target demographic to which I do not belong and likely have not been a member of for the past 40 years. It is lively in its cheap, plasticky design, and, importantly, it fits my seemingly archaic phone, which now clocks in at slightly over one year old. This—by industry standards—is prehistoric.

When I sought help loading my contacts and pics onto the new phone, the Sprint store associate could hardly mask his scorn when I asked about a new case. He took one look and held the phone up to the light, transfixed by its apparent ancientness. He shook his head and with thinly veiled snarkiness assured me they hadn’t had a case for this phone in the store for the past 6 months because that’s when they had CLEARANCED them out. In fact, he was pretty sure they hadn’t sold that phone IN ALMOST A YEAR.

So this little number just arrived from Amazon where I paid a whopping $1.26 after enlisting my teenage daughter to help me locate one for my newly replaced phone which I purchased—with insurance, mind you—for $100.00. Trust me, I am a far more savvy consumer than I appear.

But I was talking to my sister about our parents on my cell while grocery shopping, which means I attempted to cradle the phone in my neck while examining a pack of stupefyingly-out-of-season-strawberries. Said attempt resulted in what my kids would deem an “epic fail” when the phone sailed from my shoulder squeeze and went airborne, soaring in a perfect arc toward the case of organic vegetables where it turned and spiraled downward, landing at my feet in a thunderous splat. When I turned it over, I could still hear my sister talking, blah blah blah, but immediately noted the black screen of death behind the spider web of shattered glass.


“Not here, not now, I don’t have time for this,” I sputtered into the phone. I knew all too well from a mere 2 months prior what the cost, both financial and convenience-wise, was going to be. Because my teenage daughter had accidentally/carelessly? let her cellphone slip from her fingers and launch from an even greater height: the loft hallway where it wafted onto a carpeted family room floor but only after its glass face nicked the wood cabinet on which sits a flat screen TV, which was mercifully spared in the phone’s unceremonious descent.

Honestly, each event lasted nanoseconds and could easily have been a featured problem in a high school physics textbook: if a dense object launches from a height of x and flies through the air to crash land at point y, what is the projected trajectory of flight?

And let this be a lesson to you, adults: you actually need 2 hands to grocery shop!!! Get off the damn phone. Words once spewed at me by impatient siblings years ago when I had nightly talkathons with my best friend Kate despite spending every waking moment with her all day every day at high school, I now utter as a mantra whenever I enter Hen House or Target. This is not, after all, some harvest gold receiver with a 10-foot coil that will snake across the kitchen floor at high velocity and snap into a wall when dropped.

But this is:

pink retro reciever 2nd view

Yes, a thoughtful and useful Christmas gift from my sister, which my daughter found hilarious. She gave one in black to our older brother who planned to use it on his 12-hour drive back to Michigan. We estimated that if he got pulled over in states where talking on the phone is illegal, the ticket would probably cost $5.00 instead of $500.00.

From what we heard, he chatted up old college buddies and long-lost friends for hours to keep himself awake during the onerous drive, incurring nary a wince from passing motorists and no retro tickets.

Stay tuned for the next post, in which I blurt my philosophy of technology to my teenage daughter whose attention, surprisingly, was less than rapt.

Do tell, what was your most heart-breaking, phone-break mishap requiring replacement and just how dearly did you have to pay for it?


Here’s Looking at You, Kid October 1, 2012

Filed under: 1. Flat Rock Creek — eveningstar1 @ 6:46 am
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MU vs Texas dustup: Sept. 29, 1979

On the day we met, my husband took this picture of my younger brother and me at Faurot Field the morning before a football game, remembered more for its record-breaking crowd than for the sports event that occurred therein.

Look closely: I’m inside the stadium, about 20 people in on the top right side of the photo, and my brother is also in the stands but nearer to the field.  My husband is hanging out of the door of a Highway Patrol helicopter.

He said:

Mizzou–Texas, Sept. 29, 1979. First game working for the University of Missouri PD. Maj. Mick Deaver arranged for me to ride in the MO Hwy Patrol helicopter to photograph the maximum capacity crowd (surpassed only by Penn State the following year) and surrounding area (to assess parking lot capacities and firelanes). My pics were used for years by the athletic department in Mizzou promotional media.

Met Phil Bradley (the ORIGINAL dual-sport athlete before Neon Deion and Bo Jackson) after he retired from baseball and, while he was signing an autograph for me, he recognized that pic as they same one hanging on his office wall.

Oh yeah….and on that day 33 years ago I met my bride to be.

She said:

For purposes of full disclosure, I will confess that my husband and I met at an MU-Texas gridiron dust-up 32 years ago, when the two colleges were tossed together as a non-conference event back when Mizzou was a member of the collection of Midwestern colleges known as the Big Eight.  I don’t even remember who won because, well, I might have had my mind on something other than the game.  Like, I don’t know, a handsome, dark-haired, newly-minted Missouri grad who was working at the game.  I do know, however, the Tigers vs. Longhorns game on September 29, 1979, drew the biggest crowd ever recorded at Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri.

And it was definitely recorded—by my future husband, who, as a University employee and rookie in its police academy, hung out of the open door of a Missouri Highway Patrol helicopter as it circled on its side around the stadium, shooting photos of that packed venue that were used by the university in postcards and posters for the next 15-20 years.  Be still, my heart.

As for my brother’s account, well…let’s just say it’s best told in person—our family has a tremendous story-telling capacity that way—with all parties present to ensure sufficient embellishment.

The illustrious day ended with a tiki-torch party at the house where I lived. As it happened, my husband and his best friend, later the best man at our wedding, stopped by upon my loose invitation, which was issued after my brother struck up a casual conversation with him at my behest while we waited on the field for the crowd to exit the stadium: “My roommates are having a party tonight.  You can come if you want.”


I suppose I should let you know that my narrative theory leanings are perhaps best captured in the preface to a final exam question I wrote for a Sam Shepard play I was teaching in Intro to Drama about 25 years ago:

“The stories we tell about ourselves and the stories others tell about us are almost never wholly true…”


Hole in My Heart August 28, 2012

Filed under: 1. Flat Rock Creek — eveningstar1 @ 9:37 am
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This dog was all about power naps.

Words fail at the sudden and quite unexpected loss of our beloved 8-year-old Brittany Spaniel yesterday due to a ruptured abdominal tumor. So I give you the eloquence of my teenage daughter instead:

Got into the trash almost everyday? Check. Constantly taking shoes? Check. Jumped the fence? Check. Barked at everyone who walked by? Check. Ate my favorite necklace? Check. The list could go on. Sound familiar? He was a Marley and Me kind of dog…but better. Because he was my dog. He was meant for my family. Love you, high maintenance dog. You will be missed.

Yeah, he was all that and much, much more. Here’s how I know he made it to dog heaven despite his earthly shenanigans: On the way to share the sad news with our college son in another town, I stopped by a Starbucks there to mitigate a crying-induced migraine with caffeine.

Head down, I went to pay and looked up through my tearful stupor only to see the barista’s white plastic nametag emblazoned with black capital letters in bolded block print.

Her name was a British name, that of a Shakespearean heroine, and the very one we had carefully chosen for our female dog who passed away shortly before we got this guy.

Of all the gin joints…



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