Saturday, June 28, 2008

Watermelon Bust!

I'm in my "simplifying" mode again, so I'm trying to get rid of things I haven't worn in a while, many of which are tee-shirts.

I love tee-shirts. Especially used ones, washed so many times that they are almost threadbare. That's when they are soft, comfortable. And cool.

I have all sizes; the smaller ones are worn when I run errands, grocery shop, visit family. The larger ones are worn at home, writing, doing housework. And the super-size ones are designated as sleepwear.
Some I buy new; some were given to me. Suzanne frequently picks up one for me when she takes a trip, or gives me a stack when she cleans out her closets. And sometimes Pitty Pat gives me a few. (I particularly like her husband's cast-offs; they are very big, especially the UK tee-shirts.)
Others I buy at good will stores. Much to Bill's chagrin.
"Why don't you buy new ones?" he says, "You don't have to buy someone else's discarded stuff."
"Used ones are comfortable and soft. And when I get tired of them I can just donate them to the Salvation Army."
"Uh-huh," he said, "And buy more used ones."
Some are plain; others have lettering on them. I particularly like the ones emblazoned with the name of a city or state, or college tee-shirts, like the Oklahoma State University tee-shirt nephew Chad gave me. And the Lowertown Festival tee shirts.
I must admit, though, I have learned to look at what is on a particular tee-shirt before I wear it. Especially if someone is lurking around with a video camera.
A dozen or so years ago, I went to my sister Eva's law school graduation. Since a party would follow at Eva's house, we all took our casual clothes along.
I was in a hurry that day, as usual, so on my way out the door to go to the graduation, I grabbed a pair of jeans and the first tee-shirt I saw.
After we got to Eva's, we changed into our casual wear, and the party began.
Later in the evening, as three of my sisters and I were jabbering away, my brother appeared with his video camera. "Would y'all like to say something to your little sister on her big day?"
Ted focused the camera on each of us as we congratulated her, told her how proud we were, how much we loved her.
I thought no more about it, and the party continued.
The following Thanksgiving the family got together, and Ted had his camera with him. "Come on, folks," he said, "Let's look at the graduation video."
We all gathered around Ted.
First, there was Pitty Pat, wearing a neat Kentucky tee-shirt with a Cardinal on it; there was Mary Ellen, wearing a nice blue one, emblazoned with Made in the USA. Gina's was a lovely red, with no lettering on it.
Then there was me, in my aqua tee-shirt. And splayed across my bust, in huge letters, was WATERMELON BUST!
Needless to say, that one is no longer in my collection.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Doomsday Clock

I must have been living under a rock, because I just recently learned about the Doomsday Clock.

The Doomsday Clock's time perpetually lingers just shy of midnight, which metaphorically represents full nuclear war bringing an end to all citilization. It is meant to be a gauge to indicate humankind's proximity to this catastrophic event.

The clock is at the University of Chicago, and members of the Board of Directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists are the custodians. When it was introduced in 1947, it was set for seven minutes to midnight. Since that time, the closest it has been is two minutes to midnight, in 1953; the farthest it has been is 17 minutes to midnight. In 1991.

When I learned about the clock, I thought, Wonder what time is it now? So I e-mailed one of the board members and put the question to him. He told me it was advanced by two minutes on January 17, 2007. So that means it is now five minutes to midnight on the Doomsday Clock.

Just thought you would want to know.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Shortly after we moved to Chicago in 1960, Carroll's cousin, Maurice, stopped by in his shiny blue '57 Chevrolet and introduced us to his girlfriend.

Glenda was sixteen and very shy; during their first visit, she sat close to Maurice, face tucked behind his shoulder, saying nary a word. I was shy back then, too, so we sat quietly as our husbands discussed cars: the installation of fuel pumps, the rebuilding of engines, tune-ups.

Although they were married by then, their next couple of visits were much the same.  That is, until an emergency occurred.  The engine of Maurice's Chevrolet had developed a strange "knocking" sound, and needed to be dealt with. Immediately

After they loped down the stairs and slammed the door behind them, I jumped up. "I'm sick to death of cars!" I said.

"And silly knocking sounds!" said Glenda.

We couldn't stop laughing.

After that, we were off and running. Glenda was spontaneous, bright, fun-loving, with a sense of humor just about as quirky as mine. We were always joking, making puns, and laughing, always laughing. We found humor in just about everything; the more absurd, the funnier it was to us.

The four of us spent many Saturday nights in our little two-room attic apartment in Brookfield, Carroll and Maurice sprawled on our sagging pinstripe sofa, watching wrestling on TV, Glenda and I in the kitchen, singing along with the radio, jitterbugging, doing the twist and stirring up good things to eat, the wrestlers' voices drifting from the living room:

"I'm the best!" yells Gorgeous George.

"No, I'M the best!" yells Haystacks Calhoun.

We went to the movies, followed by burgers at Frisch's Big Boy or pizza at Home Run Inn. We joined other friends at Riverview Amusement Park, where we rode the Fireball roller coaster and the Pair-O-Chutes, spent hours at the science and history museums in downtown Chicago, and ate dust at Santa Fe Speedway in Willow Springs as the boys cheered and stomped the bleachers for their favorite stock-car drivers.

Other times, we visited Glenda's brother and sister-in-law, Don and Joyce, and one Sunday, we drove all the way to Starved Rock State Park, where we picnicked and hiked, Glenda and I serenading the group all day long with a silly little song that was popular at the time: Alley Oop.

"I'm sick of that song," says Maurice, "Can't you two sing anything else?"

"Hey! I've got an idea," Glenda says, "Let's sing Alley Oop!"

We often traveled together to visit the boys’ families in Southern Illinois, they up front, we in back, eating popcorn, swigging RC's, singing, joking. And irritating our husbands each time we requested another rest-room stop.

Everything was not fun and games, though. One foggy Sunday night, on our way back to Chicago, we came upon a semi turning left from the right-hand lane. The fog was so thick we couldn't see it, so we plowed under the semi, totaling Maurice's Chevrolet. He, Carroll and I came out of the wreck with only bruises, but Glenda sustained an eye injury. Thankfully, she recovered, but it affected her sight and she had to wear glasses after that.

On the last trip we made together, Glenda and I sat in the back seat, having a good time, as usual. But we fell asleep early on.

Late that night, I was pulled from sleep by Del Shannon's Runaway on the radio. It was our favorite, and we always sang along. But Glenda was still asleep, so I dropped my head back on the seat, acutely aware of everything around me: Runaway playing softly on the radio; the mumble of Carroll's and Maurice's voices up front, the humming of the tires as we whizzed down the dark, silent highway.

As I lay suspended in that surreal cocoon of half-sleep, half-awake, I suddenly realized this would be the last trip we would make together. Carroll and I would soon be relocating with our company to Bloomington, Illinois; Maurice had been drafted and was leaving for basic training. And Glenda would be moving to Southern Illinois to live with his parents while he was away.

I drifted back to sleep knowing I would remember that moment always.  And I have.  To this day, when I hear Runaway, I am back in that time and place.

Shortly thereafter, Carroll and I moved to Bloomington, and a couple of years later built a home in LeRoy. Later that year, Suzanne was born. Maurice was discharged from the army, and he and Glenda bought a farm in Southern Illinois and had two children, Beverly and Dale. We still got together from time to time, but our lives went in different directions, visits further and further apart.

By the late seventies, Maurice and Glenda had parted ways, as had Carroll and I.

I never saw her again.

I have thought of Glenda through the years, wondering what she is doing now, where she lives. I checked with Carroll and other friends, and no one seems to know.  But wherever she might be, I hope she is well and happy and entertaining friends and family with her fun-loving ways, her quirky sense of humor. And laughing. Always laughing.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dudley in Dreamland

My little dog...a heartbeat at my feet.
~Edith Wharton~

Monday, June 9, 2008

Canon in D: True Art

I love being up late at night. I'm usually busy writing and sometimes reading. But some nights I take time off, relax, and listen to music.

This is one such night.

A soft rain is falling just outside my window, and that makes it even better. I love a spring or summer rain, and when it is accompanied by my favorite music, it puts me about as close to heaven as one can get.

I have heard other favorites tonight, such as Moonlight Sonata and Fur Elise, and now I am listening to Canon in D Major, my all-time favorite.

Canon in D seems to fit every mood. If you're happy, you become euphoric; if you're stressed out, it relaxes you. And if you're sad, although it might bring you to tears in the beginning, it soothes your soul in the end.

The version below is a particularly lovely arrangement. And as I listen to it tonight, I am thinking of Johann Pachelbel, the German composer who created this work of art, imagining how proud he would be to know his music is still being enjoyed over 300 year later.

Now, that is true art. And no one appreciates it more than I tonight.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


I grew up in a small, close-knit community, surrounded by the lilt of warm southern voices. Everyone was friendly and considerate, polite and respectful. Sometimes they joked and kidded around.
But they were always kind.

So when I entered the working world in Chicago, at the tender age of 19, I was totally unprepared for what awaited me.

My supervisor was kind, helpful, and very patient. The girls on the 11th floor welcomed me into the fold, included me in luncheon plans, coffee breaks, and gossip sessions. All employees, from the mail room in the basement to the presidential suite on the 12th floor, treated me well.
With one exception.
The guys next door in the Publicity Department were all in their twenties. They spent their days behind big walnut desks, sprawled in executive chairs, laughing and joking and shooting paper wads at each other. Or playing games. Occasionally, they wrote press releases or penned an article for the company magazine.
When I was introduced to the four young men, they were cordial. “Welcome aboard,” said Bryce. “Kentucky is a beautiful state,” said Ken.

But that was before I opened my mouth.

A few days later, Therese asked me if I planned to go to lunch with them. I responded with, “Where are y’all going?”

Bellowing laughter drifted down the hall, and the Publicity guys descended. “Where're yawwwl goin’ for lunch?” Bryce said, “To git some cornbread and grits?”

Therese gave them a dirty look as they sauntered past us, chortling. I was speechless, but I got the message: He thought Kentuckians were hicks!

Thereafter, each time the Publicity guys saw me—in the hall, snack shop, or even sitting at my desk—Bryce proclaimed, "Well, howdy, yawwwl!"
The rest of the guys laughingly gazed around the office, making sure everyone was looking at them.
My co-workers rolled their eyes, ignoring them, and I wanted to do the same. However, being a well-brought-up southern girl, I smiled and said hello.

But I was seething inside.

They kept it up, day after day, taking it one step further a few weeks later.

“Hey, Brenda,” Bryce said, “Is one of your legs shorter than the other?”

I stopped, “What?”

“Well, you know,” he said, “From walking on the side of them mountains down thar in Kaintuck!”
The rest of the guys began tittering.
“Have a good day, yawwwl,” he said, as they laughed all the way back to their offices.

I continued down the hall, head held high. Still seething inside.

I began trying to avoid the group (they went everywhere in a group). If I saw them coming, I ducked into the nearest office, stairwell, or even the restroom. If an elevator arrived and they were inside, I waited for the next one. Or took the stairs.
And then one day, as my co-workers and I were having coffee in Ted’s Snack Shop, they walked in. The snack shop was overflowing; the only vacant table was next to us. So they sat down. They didn't seem to notice me, and I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking I was home-free.

I was wrong.

Suddenly, Bryce turned to me. “Well, hello, yawwwwl,” he said, “How yawwwwl doing?”

The girls at my table gave them dirty looks. “Leave her alone, Bryce,” Donna said.

Although I appreciated Donna’s defense of me, I felt like a child, being protected by my mother. But I didn’t know what to say, and I didn’t know what to do.

Bryce quieted down, but when they got up to leave, he sidled over to me. “Hey, Brenda, I heard yawwwl dearly luv your moonshine down thar in Kaintuck.”
White-hot anger zipped from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. Now he was calling Kentuckians drunken hicks! I had heard of moonshine, but no one I knew drank it.
Suddenly, I was on my feet, face to face with Bryce, "Well, you heard right,” I said, “We sure do!”

Everyone in the place stopped talking.

“I dearly love the stuff; wish I had some now.” I said, “Yawwwl don’t know what yawwwl are missing, if you’ve never tasted mooonshine!”

I could feel all eyes on me, but I was unable to stop. “Think you could handle it, Brycie-Boy? Want me to bring you some next time I go back to Kaintuck?”

You could have heard a pin drop. The silence was broken when someone yelled, "Guess you got that, Brycie-Boy!"

Everyone laughed uproariously as the group slunk out the door.

After that, Bryce was known as "Brycie-Boy" throughout the company. When he entered our office, my co-workers greeted him with, "Hello there, Brycie-Boy!" When Ted took his order at the snack shop, he said, "What can I get for you today, Brycie-Boy?" Even the company president. "What do you think about Ernie Banks' Golden Glove, Brycie-Boy?" he said one morning in the elevator.
I was beginning to feel sorry for him.
As time went by, Bryce became more subdued. As I walked past the Publicity Department one day, I saw him alone in his office, gazing out the window, looking wistful. And a few months later, when our company relocated to Bloomington, he stayed behind. I suppose he went on to bigger and better things in the Windy City.
I hope so. After airing my feelings that day, I harbored no ill will for Brycie-Boy.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Interesting Facts About Kentucky

A friend e-mailed me these facts about my favorite state. I found them very interesting, and thought you might as well:

The bloodiest Civil War battle was fought in Perryville, Kentucky.

1792 – Kentucky was the first state on the western frontier to join the Union.

1816 – Mammoth Cave, with 336+ miles of mapped passages, is the world’s longest cave. It is 379 feet deep and contains at least five levels of passages. It is second only to Niagara Falls as the most popular tourist attraction in the United States. It became a national park on July 1, 1941.

1856 – The first enamel bathtub was made in Louisville.

1883 – The first electric light bulb was shown in Louisville. Thomas Edison introduced his invention at the Southern Exposition.

1887 – Mother’s Day was first observed in Henderson, Kentucky by teacher Mary S. Wilson. It became a national holiday in 1916.

1893 – “Happy Birthday to You,” probably the most sung song in the world, was written by two Louisville sisters, Mildred and Patricia Hill.

In the late 19th century, Bibb lettuce was first cultivated by Jack Bibb in Frankfort, Kentucky.

1896 – The first known set of all-male quintuplets was born in Paducah.

1934 – Cheeseburgers were first tasted at Kaelin’s Restaurant in Louisville.

The world’s largest baseball bat, a full 120 feet tall and weighing 68,000 pounds, can be seen at the Louisville Slugger Museum in Louisville.

Chevrolet Corvettes are manufactured only in Bowling Green.

Covington (St. Mary’s Cathedral-Basilica of the Assumption) is home to the world’s largest hand-blown stained glass window in existence. It measures an astounding 24 feet by 67 feet, and contains 117 different figures.

The world’s largest crucifix, standing nearly 60 feet tall, is in Bardstown (Nelson County).

Ft. Knox holds more than six billion dollars worth of gold, the largest amount stored anywhere in the world.

The Jif plant in Lexington is the largest peanut butter production facility in the world.

Kentucky has more resort parks than any other state in the nation.

Middlesboro is the only United States city built inside a meteor crater.

Newport is home to the World Peace Bell, the world’s largest free-swinging bell.

Pike County is the world’s largest producer of coal.

Post-It Notes are made exclusively in Cynthiana, Kentucky.

Shaker Village (Pleasant Hill) is the largest historic community of its kind in the United States.

Christian County is “wet,” while Bourbon County is “dry.” (“Wet” sells liquor; “dry” does not.)

Barren County has the most fertile land in the state.

Lake Cumberland has more miles of shoreline than the state of Florida.

Kentucky is best known for its beautiful blue grass.

And let us not forget about the basketball and race horses!

All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley