Friday, August 28, 2009

Jane Fonda

I've always admired Jane Fonda. Her book, My Life So Far, is a great read. It is honest and compelling (especially her account of ex-husband Ted Turner's philandering!).

Like many of us, 71-year-old Jane has been bitten by the blogging bug. Her blog allows readers a peek into her day-to-day life, complete with photos of family and friends.
Jane has come a long way since her Barbarella days!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Very Good Week

Writing and reading are my true passions, so I've had a very good week.

A few days ago, I was notified by Colin Galbraith, editor of The Ranfurly Review, that my fiction piece, Line Dancing, has been accepted for publication. The Ranfurly Review is an online literary journal based in Scotland. Line Dancing will be in their September issue.

And I will be reviewing southern books for Kentucky Monthly. Stephen Vest, editor & publisher, says my first book is on the way.

Have a great weekend, dear readers!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Celebrity Gossip

Last week, Mother gave me a big stack of National Enquirers. I've only had time to read one, but I've learned some interesting celebrity gossip.
O. J. Simpson is having problems. His cellmate at Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada is scaring the daylights out of him.
"He's nuts!" O. J. squalled to a close friend, "He's a killer and a rapist, and he told me he hates my guts because I got away with murdering my ex-wife!" He went on to say his cellmate glares at him all the time, and now he's afraid to go to bed. "He told me he's going to strangle me in my sleep the first chance he gets!"
What a pity.
Remember Shelley Duvall, Jack Nicholson's reed-thin wife in The Shining? She lives in Blanco, Texas, and wanders around town by herself, looking disheveled and strange. She has gained 75 pounds, and dresses in odd, mismatched, hippie-ish clothing, her wild gray hair knotted in tie-dyed scrunchies. And she says she communicates with aliens.
Poor Shelley.
Larry King's wife, Shawn, has had divorce papers drawn up, and she says one false move from Larry and that will be it.
One false move from Larry? Seems to me she has been making the false moves. Larry caught her cheating with their sons' baseball coach. But she denies it, saying Larry is the one who has been cheating.
I'll bet Larry's suspenders are in a wad.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Give 'em hell, Harry!

Although I was a small child when Harry S. Truman was president, I do have hazy memories of Mother and Daddy talking about a newspaper headline stating that Dewey had defeated Truman.
"I kind of feel sorry for Dewey," says Mother, "Don't you?"
"No, I don't," laughs Daddy, "I'm just glad Truman got back in!"
I remember the adults quoting him: "The buck stops here," "If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen," and the hoopla caused when a man yelled, "Give 'em hell, Harry!"
I remember seeing him in the newsreels at Milwain's; in one, he was walking at a fast clip around the White House grounds, Secret Service and newsmen trying to keep up. And I remember everyone talking about the atomic bomb. And Hiroshima.
A few days ago, a friend shared some little-known facts about our thirty-third president, and I found it most interesting.
Many U. S. scholars today rank Harry S. Truman among the top ten presidents. He probably made as many important decisions regarding our nation's history as any of the other forty-two presidents.
Truman paid for his own travel expenses and food when he was president. And when President Eisenhower was inaugurated, Truman and wife Bess drove home to Missouri by themselves. There were no Secret Service following him. (I can just picture the Trumans, giddy with relief, speeding toward Missouri, the weight of the world off their shoulders!)
The only asset he had when he died was the house in which he lived. His wife had inherited the house in Independence, Missouri from her mother, and other than their years in the White House, the Trumans lived their entire lives there.
When he retired from office in 1952, his income was a U.S. Army pension reported to have been $13,507.72 a year. After Congress discovered he was paying for his own stamps and personally licking them, he was granted an 'allowance.' Later, he received a retroactive pension of $25,000 per year.
When offered corporate positions at large salaries, he declined. "You don't want me," he said, "You want the office of the President, and that doesn't belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it's not for sale."
Even later, on May 6, 1971, when Congress was preparing to award him the Medal of Honor on his 87th birthday, he refused to accept it, writing, "I don't consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise."
Today, politicians have found a new level of success in cashing in on the Presidency, resulting in untold wealth. Many in Congress also have found a way to become wealthy while enjoying the fruits of their offices.
"My choices in life were either to be a piano player in a whore house or a politician," Harry Truman once said, "And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference!"
I agree. Today's politicians have proven that.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Candle

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Friday, August 14, 2009

Outside the Golden Door

For as long as Wal-Mart has been in existence, there have been benches just outside of each entrance of every store where I have shopped. I never paid much attention to them; I never sat on one. But I did notice people sitting there, waiting for busses, chatting, some smoking.

There were sometimes a few who were disabled--leg problems, back problems--and some were elderly people, unable to walk all the way to the car. But they had a place to sit as they waited for busses or relatives to collect them.

Bill sometimes joins the group when he accompanies me to Wal-Mart. He loves being outside, enjoying the sunshine, watching the people, chatting with fellow bench jockeys.

And then, about two weeks ago, an odd thing happened.  When we pulled up, several elderly people were standing in front of the store. At both entrances.

"What are they doing there?" I said as we got out of the car.

"They don't have a place to sit," said Bill, "The benches are gone."  He stopped a Wal-Mart employee who was walking by.  "Where are the benches?"

"I know they're gone," he said, "But why?"

"Because I got tired of cleaning around them!"

When we got home that day, I called Wal-Mart and spoke with a manager (who had an attitude like the hotel boss's nephew in Dirty Dancing). He said he knew nothing about the benches being gone. When pressed, he said he would check with the other managers and call me back.

The call never came.

A few days later, when I went back to Wal-Mart to pick up a few things, there were two people standing in front of the store. One young man, obviously in pain, was leaning on crutches. "There used to be a bench we could sit on when we were waiting for the bus," I heard him tell an elderly woman on a walker.

"It makes me mad as a hornet to see those poor people standing when they could be sitting," I said, "There's no reason on this earth why they should have taken those benches away!"

I called the Wal-Mart corporate office.

The customer complaint representative in Arkansas was very friendly and thanked me for calling. He said he would submit my complaint and I would be hearing from this area's customer representative in three to five business days.

A week passed. And no call came.

By then, it was time to grocery shop again.

When I pulled into the parking lot, there were three people standing at the entrance: a couple of elderly people waiting to be picked up (one with a cane, legs trembling), and a girl in the last stages of pregnancy, legs swollen, another child on her hip. She was waiting for the bus. (How did I know? I asked.)

When I got home, I called Wal-Mart corporate. And told them the whole story again.

That afternoon, the customer service representative called. "Mz. Wooley," she said, "Ah'm the customer service representative of the Wahl-Mart you cawled about. And I understand you're havin' a problem."

"I'm not having a problem, but some people are," I said, "Why have the benches in front of the entrances been removed?"

"Well, Mz. Wooley," she said, "We decided to move them inside so it would be more comfortable for are customers to have a nice, air-conditioned place to wait in during these hot summah days."
"There were already several benches inside."

"I know, Mz Wooley, but we thought it would be more comfortable for are customers to have a nice air-conditioned place to wait in."

"There are elderly people who are unable to stand very long," I said, "They need a place to sit while they wait for a family member to drive up to the entrance. And people waiting for busses need a place to sit, too."

"They can sit inside, Mz. Wooley, in air-conditioned comfort."

"But they need to sit outside, particularly people waiting for a bus."

"Mz. Wooley," she said, "We would be happy to have a Wahl-Mart employee to come and assist them out of the store."

"The people are able to get in and out of the store on their own. But they're worn out from shopping. They just need a place to sit while they are waiting to be picked up."

"Well....we try to do our best to help our customers, Mz. Wooley."

"So you are not bringing the benches back out. Right?"

"Well, we decided to move them inside, Mz. Wooley, so it would be more comfortable for are customers to have..."

"I know, I know, 'a nice air-conditioned place to wait in,'" I said, "So you're leaving the outside benches inside, even though there are already plenty of benches inside. Is that what you're saying?"

"Well...yes, Mz. Wooley."

I called Wal-Mart corporate again.

"I thought Wal-Mart cared about their customers!" I shrieked at Michael, the nice customer complaint representative who took my call, "Sam Walton would be appalled by treatment of the elderly and handicapped at this store. But I guess you don't care at all! What in the name of heaven is wrong with leaving a couple of benches outside your store where elderly and disabled people can sit?"

Yesterday, I received a call from the customer service representative.
The benches are back.
* * *

Give me your tired, your huddled masses with no place to sit,
The wretched refuse of your teeming store.
Send these, the seat-less, tempest-tossed to me,
I give them a seat outside the golden door.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Grand Rivers, Kentucky, 1956

I’ve been diligently working on a short story for days, so I decided to take a break and clean out my desk. My old diary was in the first drawer I opened, so I thumbed through the faded pages to see what I was doing on this date all those years ago.

I was in Grand Rivers, Kentucky.

It was August, 1956, and my cousin, Patsy Elsey, and I were both fifteen. When she and her family came from Indianapolis to Kentucky for their annual visit, they invited me to accompany them on a fishing trip to Kentucky Lake.

I was excited beyond words. Among the things I packed was my new outfit:  a white sleeveless blouse and a pair of bright red shorts. And my diary. I recorded everything back then, and I rarely spent a night away from home without it.
We stayed in Grand Rivers, a sleepy little town on Kentucky Lake.  Not much was there other than a grocery store, a rundown diner, an old brick schoolhouse and a small concrete motel, where we stayed for a week.

Patsy Elsey and I hurriedly unpacked and rushed outside where the only moving object was an elderly woman sweeping the porch of the grocery store across the street.
“There is nothing going on in this one-horse town!” I said.
“No boys anywhere!” said Patsy Elsey.
We could not have been more wrong.
The next morning, Uncle Terrell and Aunt Eva and the boys rose at the crack of dawn and headed for the lake with their fishing gear. Much later, when Patsy Elsey and I got up, we plopped down in folding chairs on the motel lawn, sipping our coffee and mourning our fate.

“What are we going to DO all week in this hick town?” said Patsy Elsey.
It was then that we spotted two teenage boys sauntering down the road directly in front of us. Across the street, three boys were exiting the grocery store. Several more were milling around in front of the diner.
All were staring at us.
After that, boys were everywhere. When we walked out the door each morning, two or three were perched on the steps of the grocery, others ambling up and down the road. When we took long walks each day, several tagged along. When we went swimming, they were there. Always at a distance.

We often strolled down to the diner where we sat on saggy stools at the counter sipping Cherry Cokes, munching on potato chips and chatting with Joyce, the waitress. It seemed Don’t Be Cruel or Blueberry Hill was always playing on the jukebox.

It wasn’t long before one boy after another began sidling in. Some sat at tables pretending not to notice us; others played the pinball machine, sneaking looks every now and then.
Joyce popped her gum and winked at us: “Looks like y'all got a followin.’”
One day, two more boys appeared. And they weren't too shy to talk to us. They just walked right up and introduced themselves.

Bud was a handsome, muscular boy with a deep tan; Richie was thin and pale, with freckles and the brightest red hair I had ever seen.
We were both interested in Bud, of course.

“He’s a dreamboat,” whispered Patsy Elsey.

I thought so, too. But she had the upper hand. She knew how to flirt.

“You chicks wanna go out sometime?” said Bud.

Patsy Elsey batted her eyes and gave him a coquettish smile. “Depends on what you’ve got in mind.”
As luck would have it, little red-headed Richie liked me. And every time I turned around, he was at my elbow.
“My dad’s got a boat, Brenda. Want to go for a ride?”
“No, thank you, I get real bad sunburns.”
They were not deterred.

They showed up as we were having our coffee each morning and accompanied us on our daily walks, Patsy Elsey and Bud flirting endlessly; Richie and me laughing and kidding around. He was from Michigan, he said, and had been vacationing on Kentucky Lake with his family since he was a tot. He planned to be a chemist, and he didn't laugh when I said I wanted to be an actress.
Soon the four of us were zooming across the lake at breakneck speed in the big blue-and-white boat, Richie at the wheel. We all went swimming together. He bought my Cokes and chips at the diner and sat gazing into my eyes, fascinated by anything I had to say. And he kept me laughing all the time.
On our last night in Grand Rivers, Bud invited us to a dinner at the schoolhouse, just across the street from our motel. Uncle Terrell forbade us to go, but relented after a little coaxing from Aunt Eva: "Oh, come on, Doc! It's just across the street!"
It looked as if the whole town of Grand Rivers had turned out; the place was packed. And when we arrived, men were bidding on box lunches the women had prepared. Just like in the olden days.

Richie bid on one and shared it with us. Afterwards, there was a beauty contest.

“Come on, all you guys,” yelled the master of ceremonies, “Bid on your favorite ladies, just a nickel a vote!”

Suddenly, Richie jumped up and waved a ten-dollar bill in the air. He pointed to me. "All the votes this can buy for that girl there!"
As everyone looked at me, I scrunched down in my seat. “Richie! Don't do that!”
“Why not? You're the prettiest girl in the place!”
My heart did a flip-flop.
As it turned out, a six-year-old girl beat me out. But Bud and Richie walked us across the street to the motel that night; Bud's arm around Patsy Elsey; Richie and I walking along side-by-side. (I was a prude…wouldn’t even let him hold my hand!)

“See y’all tomorrow,” Bud called as they took off into the starlit night.

Richie turned and waved. “We’ll take another speedboat ride!”
By the time the sun rose the next morning, we were headed home.

I couldn’t get Richie off my mind, sorry I didn’t let him put his arm around me. Or tell him goodbye. I looked over at Patsy Elsey, wondering if she was thinking about Bud.  She was fast asleep, head back, mouth open. 

About half way home, we pulled into a gas station.  A tall, thin teenage boy, ducktail hair greasy with Brill Cream, loped out to fill the tank.

Patsy Elsey, suddenly awake, jabbed me with her elbow.  “Well, hubba, hubba!" she said, "Where has HE been all my life?”

I didn't reply. I was busy writing in my diary.
August 12, 1956:
We left Grand Rivers today…we had a GREAT time! It was WONDERFUL there! We met all the boys in town and went to a box supper! Richie put my name in a beauty contest and paid $10.00! Me! In a beauty contest! Fun, fun, fun!!!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Performance of the Night

Kevin Skinner performed "To Make You Feel My Love" on Tuesday night's episode of NBC's America's Got Talent, and touched me again. His heartfelt singing always brings me to tears.
Judge Sharon Osbourne said she was impressed with his performance and his new look, and Piers Morgan told Kevin his singing was the performance of the night.
"You are what this contest is about: pure unadulterated talent," said David Hasselhoff, "You deserve to be here. You're going all the way."
Truer words were never spoken.
Now on to the semi-finals, which I predict he will win.
Congratulations, Kevin! Western Kentucky and people all over the world are behind you. Every step of the way.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Dudley's New Bed

Until one has loved an animal,
a part of one's soul remains unawakened.
~Anatole France~
All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley