One Caveman Defending Another

Who DO they think they’re fooling? 

"The Patriarch" called?

I know exactly who called in a feeble attempt to defend my Caveman of a husband and if you stop to think
about it, you do too.  I’m not naming names, but trust me, if you read this blog, you do.

I’m crushed. 

There is no Defending the Caveman in this instance.  My clumsy Caveman knows his "slip" was anything but "iddy biddy".  It was an "Uh-Oh" moment and he knows it! 

So now I’m dealing with two cavemen.  Thank goodness they are miles apart at the moment (thank goodness we’re ALL miles apart!) otherwise they’d be pounding their chests, hoisting their spears, giving each other the old "high five" with one hand while crushing beer cans with the other in some macho display of perceived dominance.

Clearly this "Patriarch" doesn’t recall our conversation a few years ago in which he called me a saint.  When I asked why he said, and I quote, "my wife wouldn’t let me leave for a week at a time, let alone two months!" Caveman_2

Oh how quickly these mighty hunters band together the moment they sense danger lurking in the form of
"women beating up" on them on their blogs.

~ Connie

(Image above is that of a caveman, a cartoon character sitting on the ground in front of his laptop.  He’s scratching his head with his right hand, as if to say "Duh" while poking at the keyboard with one finger of his left hand.)

An Actual Phone Call, Unsolicited

The phone rang just the other day and I was surprised.  No one ever calls the lake house.  I figured it was someone looking for a donation to the Patrolmen’s Benevolence Fund which got me to thinking about that phrase, I mean, I know the PBF is supposed to assist the widows and children of wounded or dead policemen, but the title also suggests that if you give to the fund the police will be benevolent to you, and of course you get a little sticker you can put on your windshield and this implies that the police are perfectly aware of the general drift of symbolic language, which in turn got me to wondering if someone far back in time was reading the philosophical work of Ernst Cassirer at the police station, and I was in danger then of not making it to the phone in time to answer it.

The voice that came out of the phone was absolutely stunning.  It was deep, masculine, the kind of voice one associates with the great Russian "basso profundo" Chaliapin.  It was antediluvian.  It was the voice of Moses.  Maybe this was the Policemen’s Benevolence Fund?

"Stephen Kuusisto?"

Yes?"  I said.  "If this isn’t Chaliapin it must be Charlton Heston,"  I thought.

"Stephen Kuusisto.  This is The Patriarchy!"

"Wow!  Really?   You mean like the big "Patriarchy?"  I said.

"Yes, Stephen.   We are the line of great men who go back through the ages.   We’re calling to tell you that we stand behind you, one hundred per cent!"

"Wow!" I said.   You have to understand that I didn’t know who this was on the line–and what else do you say to the unsolicited benevolence of the Patriarchy?   I was a little bit scared.

"Yes, Stephen.   We of the Patriarchy have observed that women are beating up on you on your blog.   We Men don’t think you did anything wrong when you said in your post that you "have the privilege" of going to your lake house to write without anyone but your dog for company.   These women seem to think that men should spend all their time extolling the extraordinary joys of marriage.   But mark our words: when men hang around and extol the joys of marriage, women go nuts.   And furthermore, Stephen, these women are being disingenuous.   Every one of them would be delirious with joy if they could get away from their husbands and go alone to the lake house."

Mr. Patriarchy had to hang up just then because he said he had to skip down to the local seven-eleven for some marshmallow Fluff.

I’m not really sure who that was on the other end of the line.   But he sure sounded authoritative.

I knew I should have gotten an unlisted number…

Oh, and lest you wonder about the veracity of this post, I really did receive this call.   I swear with my right hand on "The Book of Common Prayer" and all I can add is that I can’t help it if the Patriarchy has a phone book…

On Being Married to Big Foot

Alright.  I admit it.  I married my wife because she has big feet.

Now before you get the wrong idea (Fetishism? Instep Envy?) allow me to add the following facts about Connie to the minimalist memoir she has so graciously provided below.

She was a guide dog trainer in the New York metro area for years.  The Bronx. The subway system.  Helping dogs and blind people.  Connie you see can fill a pair of big shoes.

She is the one who on vacation in foreign countries goes parasailing.  I just keep track of the beach chairs.  Know what I mean?

She’s the one who cheerfully talks to poets, whether they’re sober or not, even though she grew up smart and yes, understood early that High School English is the tar pit of mentation.    

She can clean dog hair off the kitchen floor in less than two minutes with her feet.  This is a kind of domestic dancing that even the ancient and labyrinthine Gods and Goddesses of Knossos would take their hats off to, but of course they didn’t have hats, which is probably why they died out if you stop and think about it.

She can put up with my facial ticks.  Briefly: I have this unfortunate tendency to pull in my lips so that they seem to disappear.  I do this unconsciously.  Unfortunately the habit makes me look like a very old
man who has swallowed his false teeth.  If you can see, and if you live with someone who does this all the time, well, you must have solar patience.  Imagine living with the old farmer from the famous Grant Wood painting.  Of course I like to think that my jokes and extemporaneous songs are better than those offered up by Grant Wood’s farmer.  Just look at Mrs. Farmer.  And although Connie will pretend otherwise, I can actually make her laugh.  Why just last night, oh, never mind…

Connie can drive a barge.  Yep.  She once drove a fully loaded barge across Lake Winnipesaukee on the 4th of July when the famous lake was awash with amateur drunks and weekend sailors.  She is a tiny woman.  She looked a little like Olive Oyl at the helm of Merrill Fay’s borrowed industrial barge.  And that’s another story: Merrill is the owner and proprietor of Fay’s Boat Yard in Gilford, New Hampshire and he’s a real Yankee, and trust me, he doesn’t let just anybody borrow his barge.  Trust me.   

I think this is number 8: she can ring handbells in churches and make real music. Even Olive Oyl can’t do that.



Blue Girl has thrown me a curve ball. 

She KNOWS my husband is the writer in the family.  She KNOWS he’s the clever, witty one.  The one with the extensive vocabulary. The one who can talk a blue streak about anything, anywhere, anytime.  The one who can make people laugh and cry at the same time while speaking at his own father’s memorial service.  The one who can make a large conference room full of people join him in singing "Oh I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Weiner". 

So what does Blue Girl do?  She gooses me.  Not Steve.  ME.  So now I’m supposed to write 8 facts about myself and I’m supposed to do it after she has already written hers.  Talk about a hard act to follow.  Steve could do this in twenty minutes.  Me?  Who knows how long this will take.

Well now, so there you have it.  My first fact about myself…

NUMBER 1:  I’m intimidated by Blue Girl’s writing.  She’s clever.  She’s witty.  She has an extensive vocabulary.  Boy can she make me laugh.  Oh, and yesterday I learned she sings.  At weddings.  Yet another reason to be intimidated.  Now you know why I’m dreading this exercise.  But I’ll do it anyway BG – for you.

Let’s see now.  There’s so much I could tell you but if I did it all at once you wouldn’t bother to revisit this blog.  We like visitors. 

OK.  I confess:

NUMBER 2:  I lied to my mother.  My brother, my sister, and I were a captive audience in the back seat of the car.  She wanted to know:

a) how did the Hustler magazine make its way into the house?    and

b) what happened to it? 

We all knew my brother brought it into the house.  Duhhh.  He and his cronies – all boy scouts supposed to be setting a good example by the way.  Impostors.  I stumbled on this magazine completely by accident.  I was young.  I was naive.  I was NOT going to get caught blushing over the images on those pages.  I stole the magazine from my brother’s room so as to gawk behind my own locked door.  I’m telling you – at the age I was at, there was just too much *information* on those pages if you know what I mean.  After denying I knew anything about this magazine to my mother, repeatedly,  I snuck it back in to my brother’s room.  Who did I think I was fooling?

NUMBER 3:  Asparagus makes my urine smell shall we say, um, unusual.  In high school I had a crush on my AP Biology teacher.  We were studying genetics and fruit flies and somehow he brought up the fact there is a recessive gene that makes some people’s urine "smell funny" after eating asparagus.  So THAT explained it!  Mr. U  went on to explain that he had heard of this but knew of no one…does anyone here…?  I never would have raised my hand except for the fact I adored the man.  The next thing I knew I had agreed to pee into a bottle for him.  I agreed to this in front of the entire class, dedicated scientist I thought I would one day be.  The peeing I would do In the privacy of my own home of course.  My mother cooked asparagus for dinner.  I peed.  I stored the sample in the fridge that night.  Apparently that was a mistake.  Mr. U did the sniff test the next day and was unable to detect anything unusual.  Oh how humiliating.  I thought I had lost all credibility.  I did get an A+ on my final that year however.

Three down, five more to go…

NUMBER 4:  Now let me tell you about my AP English class.  I hated it.  And I didn’t like Ms. V much either.  So when it came time to study for my senior finals, I made the conscious decision to focus on the biology, and eliminate the English altogether.  I hate to say this,  I am married to an English professor after all, but Shakespeare does nothing for meI can’t help it – I do not care who said what in which scene, in which act, in which play Shakespeare wrote.  I just don’t.  (Lance, you won’t think less of me now will you?)  So, I did the math and I knew that my grades in the class were high enough that I could afford to fail the final.  And fail it I did.  I didn’t know for sure until Ms. V informed me of that fact – at a graduation party in the President’s house on the Vassar College campus.  (The president’s daughter was in my class.)  I just smiled.  I still had a low 80 something as a final grade in the class and I knew it.

NUMBER 5:  My daughter had me beheaded in a past life.  If you believe Marsha, Tara’s preschool teacher that is.  One day we were standing in the parking lot talking about Tara’s defiant, independent streak when Marsha, who is a firm believer in reincarnation said: "I think Tara must have had you beheaded in a past life.  I think she was a princess and you were her servant.  A teacher actually.  You must have pissed her off royally, ha-ha and as a consequence she arranged to have your head lopped off.  Now, in this life, she’s paying for it.  It’s karma.  In THIS life you’re the one in charge; she doesn’t like it one bit and she’s letting you know it."

I was genuinely amused.  But gosh darn it – it’s the best explanation I can come up with for my daughter’s very strong-willed tendencies.  (For the record, Tara is about to turn 21 and she’s a lovely, Phi Beta Kappa student at the U of S Carolina.  I’m very proud of her.)

NUMBER 6:  Oprah didn’t impress me much.  Steve was one of several guests on the Oprah Winfrey Show back in ’98 when his book Planet of the Blind came out.  It was clear by her trivial questions she hadn’t read his book.  How disappointing.  She could have made us millions had she read and recommended the book!  I sat in the audience with Steve’s parents.  I kid you not – every time she spoke and new she was on camera she looked interested and engaged.  When she knew the camera was on the guest, as he or she answered her questions, she busied herself by looking around at members of the audience.  I remember there was a lady with a big floppy hat that frequently managed to catch her attention.  During "commercial break" she had almost nothing to say to her guests.  I thought she was dare I say it (?) – rude.  Oprah, you do good work what with your Angel Network and all your charities I’ll grant you that.  But geez.  Treat your guests with a little more respect won’t you?   Look at them when they are talking to you whether they can see you do so or not.

NUMBER 7:  I have big feet.  I’m 5’2" tall and wear a size 8 shoe.  My father has told me more than once that when I was born the doctor held me up and said "wow, she has big feet!"  Don’t tell anyone please.

NUMBER 8:  Fleas find me particularly delicious.  Years ago I went to visit a friend in Virginia Beach.  She was single and lived in a little apartment just several blocks from the beach.  My son Ross was just a few months old.  I was sitting on her sofa breastfeeding my baby when I noticed fleas, many fleas, jumping all over my lap, my abdomen and yes, my boobs.  My friend was mortified as was I (and as she would be reading this post)!  "Oh my gosh.  I’m so sorry.  I didn’t even know I had fleas in the apartment…I’ve never been bitten…"  I assured her it was "OK".  At least they didn’t appear to be in the bed I had slept in the night before.  Well that night they found me.  I had flea bites up and down my back and all over my legs by the next morning.  My friend had not a one.  I’m tellin’ ya.  I am mmmm, mmmm goooood! 

NUMBER 9:  I love my husband.  Why the other day….oh wait.  I’m finished!  I only needed to share 8 things about myself with you.  So there is no need to tell you this!  I’m off the hook!  Whew.

Now what?  Now I have to "goose" 8 more people?  OK.  But I have to get ready for company now.  I’ll revisit this and post again later, otherwise I’ll never get Blue Girl off my back I’m sure. 

As my son would say:


~ Connie

Laughing Burglars

There’s a great short essay by Mark Twain in which he recounts how he made the mistake of putting an electric burglar alarm in his house outside Hartford, Connecticut.  At first he was satisfied that he was up to date and completely in the vanguard of contemporary technology.  Twain loved gadgets.  He was one of the first American writers to use a typewriter and he absolutely adored the telephone.

Accordingly, when the alarm salesmen descended upon him,Twain was easily convinced that he should spend profligately to protect his house from burglars.

I won’t spoil the essay by disclosing what happens for if you haven’t read it you are in for a treat.  But I will say that at a certain point in the essay even the burglars laugh at Twain.

And that, it seems to me, is one of the salient features of true comedy.  In fact, this might be a motto of sorts: "Are the burglars laughing?"

Twain is at his best when he pokes fun at human vanity.  He can have a good laugh at himself just as he can go after the corrupt senators in Washington or the sleazy confidence men who ride up and down the Mississippi.

Now I happen to think it’s funny when I walk into the wrong classroom and start teaching a class.  And I think it’s even funnier when the real professor shows up and I have the raw temerity to tell him he’s late.

My general view is that we are losing the principle of the laughing burglars in America right now.  We have far too many talking heads and politicians running around without the ability to laugh at themselves.

Ann Coulter needs a sense of humor.  God knows Paris Hilton does.  The Vice President?  Well, maybe it’s too late for Dick Cheney.  But I like to think of the Veep having a good laugh at himself.  I have a hard time imagining what might occasion a bit of rueful self-mirth from Dick Cheney.  Maybe he would laugh if he discovered a long train of toilet tissue was stuck to his shoe and following him.  And he would quip: "Look, I really do have a paper trail!  Call the National Archives! Thank the Lord!”

I think it was Camus who said that both death and colors are impossible to describe.  I’ll add Ann Coulter’s sense of humor to that list.

In the meantime, in case you thought I’d forgotten the subject: the advent of the "iPhone" is good news for burglars.  By this I mean street burglars, "pick-pockets" for there’s nothing better than a vast population of pedestrians walking and browsing the internet while simultaneously ignoring their wallets.  As Twain has already pointed out, there’s nothing like a new technology to make a burglar laugh.



I feel like changing the subject here this morning.  My dear husband bought for me over a year ago a gift certificate for two for a horseback trail ride in the Hocking Hills of Ohio and two days ago my dear friend Sharon and I finally went on our ride.  What can I say?  It was a picture perfect day.  We enjoyed our chatty guide, the scenery, and especially our mounts.  It’s been a long time since I’ve gone horseback riding.  I almost forgot how much I REALLY enjoy it.

I used to take lessons, first as a teenager then as an adult, but then life got in the way and well, need I say more?  I took dressage lessons.  Learned a few (very few) moves.  Learned to jump a few fences.  Learned what it feels like to fall off.  I was never really any good.  There is only so much you can accomplish on horseback with a once a week hour long lesson.  But I certainly learned to appreciate the sport. 

If you’ve never taken lessons and you’ve never tried to ask such a large animal to do something akin to "horse ballet" it might be hard to truly appreciate the following video clip.  But even if you haven’t, this clip is worth seeing.  Suffice it to say that this rider is working very hard to get his horse to do this using his hands, fingers, legs and pelvis.  But you’d never know it by looking at him.  Both rider and mount make it look so darn easy.  Watch this mare dance to music while her rider helps her to keep tempo.  Keep watching.  It only gets better!  To me this is pure majesty…  WOW.

Thanks for sharing the clip Sharon.

~ Connie

The Lance Mannion way

I have it on good authority that Lance Mannion writes his blog posts directly into his blogging software’s composition window as opposed to say, writing with WordPad or Word or Oingo Boingo or some other word processing program.  Lance you see is a white hot explosion of dendrites and dander; a viscous Vicount of Vituperation; a Free Falling Festschrifter…He’s a REAL blogger, not one of these amateur drive your grandma around the block in order to prove that you’ve passed your driving test kind of bloggers.  Nope.  Lance is big as Mt. Rushmore; big as all the dental floss in Montana.

Meanwhile I’m a little guy in "the blogosphere" and there’s no help for it.  I don’t think this comparative teensy-weensy-ness in the cyber Babylon has to do with the fact that I write about disability but rather that I am essentially a really small person.  I am officially five feet seven inches tall, but I’m really really small.  I’m smaller than P.T. Barnum’s Tom Thumb.  I’m smaller than Dick Cheney’s heart.  I’m smaller than Barry Bonds’ conscience; smaller than the book of rules for "scissors, rock, paper"…

I didn’t start out small.  I used to have an immense corpus both "in" and "outside" my essential postural entity.  But I shrank.  I spent too many years listening to American television and I got to the point where I actually believed that it was okay to show lurid tabloid stories over and over in lieu of real news. This insidious tabloidization of my psyche made me small.

I am prepared to say that after a decade of watching Law and Order and the local news I’m smaller than a hermit thrush. I am sadly not as musical as the hermit thrush but that’s another story.

I think Lance Mannion can both watch tv and remain "big".  He’s amazing.  But I’m "outing" myself.  I’m unable to maintain anything like a human scale largely because of the effects of everything from the Gong Show to the Star Trek re-runs that I find whenever I can’t sleep.

Okay.  Getting small while watching tv isn’t new.  But Lance, he actually gets bigger while watching the tube.  And there’s no "double entendre" here.  I don’t mean to suggest that he watches one of those nudist specialty channels like they have in New York, you know, where old celebrities sit around naked and talk about Italian football.

No, I mean Lance watches genuine big time tv and he’s still smart.

I once read Yeats’s book "A Vision" which is about spiritual forces in the evolving universe and I thought for a moment that I understood it.  But tv?  Look what it’s done to me!  I’m smaller than a raisin in Lapland.  Maybe after some good corrective post-television "time out" I will be large enough to explain why Neil Postman was not exactly right when he wrote Amusing Ourselves to Death and suggested that tv represents the end of critical thinking in America.  Look at Lance!  Look to Norway!  He’s big!  I wish I could multi-task like Lance!  But you know, when I watch tv I forget to chew.  I forget the name of the town I’m visiting.  I get so small while watching tv that I can sleep in one of my own shoes.  My shoe, by the way, smells like my freshman college dorm room.  More on that later.


Morning Glories

Last night I had the good fortune to be part of a big theater crowd in Columbus that heard Maya Angelou talk about everything from lost children to peaceful co-existence.  She spoke as she always does with poetry and compassion.  She is also funny: a thing not lost on her huge audience.  Speaking of people who are assertively religious Dr. Angelou remarked: "when I meet someone who says he’s a Christian, I say to myself, “Already?  When did you finish?"  And in turn she talked about her own daily struggle to be tolerant and good as a "practicing" Christian.  You could feel everyone in the theater just opening up as if we were all part of one immense trellis of morning glories.

Thank you, Connie, for taking me on a date and for the chance to hear a living legend!