Catocala and Luna -Flash Fiction for 5/25/12

Photo courtesy Madison Woods

Catocala and Luna met secretly by evening at McDonald’s.

“Come away with me, my love.” said Catocala.

“You know I cannot.”

“Let us fly into the night and find love.”

“Would that I could,” answered Luna. “My family would never permit it. You they would kill. We are different species. Our love is forbidden.”

“Our love is bigger than the boundaries of entomologists. Let us fly away.”

“Oh, Catocala, you must accept– we have no future.”

“Then let us fly madly with the cloud of June bugs around yon streetlight, and then batter ourselves to death on the golden arches.”

The Autonomous Auto

This specially equipped Toyota Prius can drive itself.

I believe the first prototypes that will change the way we travel by car are running around the roads of Nevada right now. In March 2011, Nevada gave approval for the operation of self-driving or autonomous cars. The first car to be granted a license was a Toyota Prius equipped by Google with equipment to navigate anywhere you’d like to go, and the car can do all the driving without any help.

The autonomous car uses radar, lasers, lidar, GPS and computer vision to make driving decisions. The computer operated car is projected to be safer and more accident free than human drivers. Several major auto manufacturers such as BMW, Volvo, GM, and Ford all are researching the autonomous car.

The autonomous cars in Nevada have now racked up more than 200,000 accident-free miles. One of the cars is used by a legally blind driver. These cars could be of great benefit to the handicapped, the old, the young, because you don’t need a driver’s license or driving skills to use the car.

If autonomous cars become available, it will change travel by car in one big way. No longer will you need to attend to driving. Instead, you could be sleeping, watching TV, surfing the web, or whatever.

Under current Nevada regulations, there has to be a person in the car, but that could change if the self-driving cars prove reliable. In the near future, you might be able to send your car to do your grocery shopping. Just email your shopping list to the store and the car would be loaded up by store personnel and sent back home. The car could do all kinds of boring errands, runs for fast food, take the kids to school, getting home from the bar (no DWI if the car is driving), pizza, you name it, the car can fetch it.

And it’s just a matter of time until autonomous taxis and buses take to the street, as technology eliminates the need for drivers. With fewer accidents, the cost of insurance could be reduced as well as the cost of police.

Future generations may not know how to drive a car any more than the current generation knows how to hitch up a team of horses to a wagon. Getting behind the wheel and operating a car may be an unnecessary skill in the not too distant future.

The Covenant – Flash Fiction for 5/18/12

Photo courtesy Madison Woods

Sunday mornings Reverend Brown preached fire and brimstone. Sunday afternoons he liked to take his shotgun into the rich green fields and blow tiny birds to pieces. They didn’t have souls. One afternoon he got soaked in a rainstorm, but it passed, the sun came out and a spectacular double rainbow appeared. The Rev smiled, knowing that the rainbow was God’s promise never to destroy the earth again by water. He was striding home when he felt the ground tremble, and a deafening rumble came from the sky. He looked up to see the giant fireball coming right at him.

The Lost Art of Visiting

When I was a child, one of our main family activities was going to visit friends and relatives and having them visit us. The adults would sit and talk and drink coffee in the winter and lemonade or iced tea in the summer. The children would play, outside if possible. Most often, we visited and were visited by aunts and uncles and cousins. Mom and Dad both came from large families, so the extended family net was wide. Sometimes it was friends or neighbors.

I don’t know exactly when visiting starting to decline, but I know it’s not practiced in our culture anymore the way it was then. Today, visiting has mostly been replaced with television, digital games, recorded music, movies, the net, all kinds of wonderful media.

I’m not saying we don’t have face-to-face visiting anymore. It hasn’t died out. It’s just not our main form of entertainment and support these days.

I’ve been reading a book titled Vinegar Pie and Chicken Bread about a woman who lived in the Arkansas delta and for two years, 1890-91, she kept a diary. The diary gives a real glimpse into the daily life of isolated rural Arkansas farmers.

Nothing of much importance happens in the diary. She records the weather, daily chores, work being done on the farm, and quarrels with her husband. But what is really striking is the sense of sharing and community. Much of every day’s entry is about who visited whom and, no matter the weather, hardly a day went by without either hosting visitors or making visits or both.

And visitors often brought food. Instead of making a pie, you made two, one to give to someone you were visiting. It might be a washtub of turnips, some onions, a couple of pieces of cornbread, some fish, or fresh meat. Basically, people shared what they had with others around them.

They took care of each other. If you were ill, they would come and sit up all night, keeping a vigil in shifts. If a person was dying, they stayed with them until they passed and then saw to the burial. If you came for a visit and someone was doing a chore, you pitched in and helped. The women sewed outfits for each other, even made doll clothes for the children.

Here is a typical entry from the diary for January 2, 1891:

“Clear & cold and windy, we got up late this morning and I got breakfast in time for Miss Carrie & the children to get off to school, Caroline Coalman came & helped me get dinner & washed the babies things for me & Fannie & I went to see Mrs. Caulk & tell her good-bye for she leaves tomorrow on the boat she was at Mrs. Giffords and we went there, Lizzie went up to spend the night with Katie McNiel after supper Mr. Jackson and I took the baby & went to Mrs. Giffords & stayed 2 hours and Sue washed the supper dishes & Brother Dick stayed with her, after she got done she wrote to Eddie Mann, & Brother Dick wrote to Ella Chandler, Dr. Chandler went home to day, Eddie Peoples came after Miss Carrie & she went to Mrs. Peoples to stay until sunday evening all well to night, no mail today, Mr. Jackson and Brother Dick picked cotton today & Will Emmet too, John Hornbuckle was here awhile this morning.”

This is a typical day in the 1890s, with a whirl of social activity, people coming and going, people helping each other with work and chores. You were part of a circle, a community, and you were in daily touch with each other.

By the time I was growing up in the 1950s, visiting had already started to be a diminished part of daily life. We didn’t have the bustle of activity described in the diary. We went visiting and/or had visitors maybe once or twice a week.

We lost a lot when we stopped spending most of our time with the other people in our community. But now maybe a new way of “visiting” will revive and increase our contact with others. For example, I have friends who I regularly keep in touch with on the internet on four continents and all over the United States. Unfortunately, I can’t hand them a slice of cake when we get together or help them wash the car, but the most important part of the equation, the social part, is still there.

And there are advantages. When we used to go visiting during my childhood, we were limited to those who lived nearby. With the internet, the world is your backyard in which to play and make friends.

So I feel like we’ve come full circle. What used to be a face to face encounter has been replaced by the tools of technology. But even if we are connecting with other humans over long distances, across national and cultural lines, across oceans and continents, the connection can still be real, and satisfying;

Recipe for Vinegar Pie

In the old days, fresh lemons were not always available to farm families. Vinegar pie was developed as a substitute.

 

Ingredients

1 (9 inch) pie crust, baked

1/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour

1 cup white sugar

1 cup water

3 egg yolks

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon lemon extract

3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

3 egg whites

6 tablespoons white sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

Mix the flour with 1/2 cup of sugar. Add the water gradually and cook on top of a double boiler for 15 minutes, stirring constantly, or until thickened.

Combine the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar with the yolks and salt and mix well with a whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Add the hot flour mixture to the yolk mixture gradually, mixing all the time. Return to the double boiler and cook for about 3 minutes more or until the mixture is thick and smooth.

Add the butter, extract, and vinegar. Mix well and remove from heat. Place a piece of plastic on top of this custard.

Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until foamy and gradually add the 6 tablespoons sugar. Beat until a stiff, glossy peak is achieved.

Pour the custard filling into the prebaked shell ( the custard should still be hot, if not, heat up a again before adding to shell). Top with the meringue. Spread the meringue all over the top of the pie, sealing to the edges of the crust. Place into the oven and bake until the meringue is a nice nut brown, about 15 minutes. Traditionally, this pie is served hot.

Chicken Bread

Chicken Bread was cornbread made with just water and corn meal and it was called that because it was usually used to feed to chickens, but when pioneers ran out of the other ingredients needed to make cornbread, they had to eat chicken bread.

 

 

Howling At The Moon – Flash Fiction for 5/11/12

Photo courtesy Madison Woods

When you live in Arkansas, you can’t buy beer on Sunday. When you don’t stock up on beer, you run out on the weekend. When you can’t get beer on Sunday, you do illegal drugs. When you do illegal drugs, you wander around aimlessly in the woods all night. When the moon is full and you wander in the woods all night, you get bitten by a werewolf. When you’re bitten by a werewolf, you howl at the moon and attack and kill innocent inbred hillbillies. Don’t howl at the moon. Stock up on beer.

Michael Burks dead at 54

Michael Burks, one of my favorite guitarists, died Sunday. He was only 54. An extraordinary blues guitar player, Burks played with a burning passion, and listening to him perform was like watching fireworks light up the night sky.

Before he moved to the upper strata of bluesmen, maybe about ten years ago, he lived here in The Ville (Fayetteville, AR) and graced our local music scene for a few years. I first saw him down on Dickson Street, not at one of the bars, but out in the street at a Springfest celebration.

Fayetteville’s venerable George’s Majestic Lounge was where I mostly saw him play. One thing I quickly noted about him was that “The Ironman” as he was called always seemed to be on. By that, I mean his performances always had intensity and his wailing, lyrical, high voltage blues riffs just seemed to flow from his hands effortlessly. That he was a gifted vocalist and songwriter raised his talent to yet another level.

One of the memorable performances for me was at The Bayou, in Rogers, Arkansas. A friend was having a birthday and a group of us went to hear him. The Bayou is a very basic type bar, a section of a strip mall. The owner is a big fan and he made barbeque sandwiches and served them free that night. And the music made that strip mall into a concert hall.

The last time I saw Michael Burks was December 30. I had actually gone to George’s to see another of my favorite bands, and unfortunately, they had given a sub-par performance that night. Then I walked up to the front room where Michael Burks was playing and he was knocking the paint off the wall with his guitar.

I’m so glad I had my Flip Video with me that night. I went down and stood right by the stage and Michael Burks was about two feet away as I could have reached out and touched him.

It’s hard to accept that he’s gone. It was too soon for the music to end.

Here’s a link to my recording of Michael Burks performing All Your Affection Is Gone.

Time Capsule

Photo courtesy Mary Shipman

The house was still there, but time and vandals had taken their toll. The windows were gone. Bullet holes pierced the front door. The rooms seemed smaller, shrunken, familiar yet surreal. Broken shards of our story littered the kitchen linoleum, crayoned drawings untouched in the hall, one rotting house shoe that had once warmed her foot in the bedroom closet.

The old fireplace was cluttered with broken glass. I knelt and reached up into the chimney as far as my arm would go and my hand found the loose stone. The sooty, rusted tin box creaked when I opened it.