Wednesday, April 29, 2009

It’s All in the Name

My friend has always remarked that his name sounded Chinese. I disagree, but it certainly must be a popular one. I googled “Sam Hall,” and 20,100,000 citations were listed. Most references, I think, are Nigerian, Russian, or Peruvian, well, maybe they’re English, Irish, or Scottish, not Chinese.

Many years ago, Sam was drafted and had to join the army. Though he’d already graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in music, he followed his country’s orders and traveled to Fort Ord, California, via Ontario.

Ontario, California, that is.

Wanting to be the best, most obedient soldier he was capable of being, given his deviant tendencies, Sam modeled exemplary behavior. A week into his duties and in his first formation, Sam joined other platoon members in the marching routine. Keeping rhythm, his posture was as straight as a pianists and he carried his rifle as carefully as he would his prized girlfriend.

During the march he heard someone shout, “Sam Hall!” Startled, he quickly stepped out of formation, not knowing what else to do, and kept walking alongside his platoon. “Yes, sir!” he said.

Discreetly, he glanced around for the lieutenant who would give Sam his next command. But when no instruction followed, he shook his head, presuming he’d heard incorrectly, and glided back into formation.

A couple minutes later, he again heard his name. “Sam Hall!” Thinking, it’s a good thing I’m on the outside of this block of men, or I’d disrupt the rest of the platoon, he jumped out of line, wondering if this time he’d hear the next order. When none came, he strode back into formation.

By the third “Sam Hall” and successive exit from his position, the soldier behind him incredulously asked, “What the hell are you doing?”

Exasperated, Sam said, “Someone keeps calling my name—Sam Hall.”

The guy shot back, “He’s not calling your name, you moron! He’s saying, ‘Stand tall.’”

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009


My dad’s mom was a fiery little Englishwoman. Standing four feet tall and spanning four feet from hip to hip, Grandma could barely fit on the piano bench with her dog, Buster.

Through an odd twist of fate, her immense bottom was complemented with an itty-bitty turned-up nose that fit her humpty-dumpty face like a raisin in the center of a crop circle. She was blessed with bright blue eyes, a milky white complexion, and grandmotherly pearly white hair.

Grandma was peculiar. To compensate for weightiness, or perhaps a lack of sense, she developed quirky behavior to match her quirky features.

The minute we’d come to visit, she would whine a hypocritical story: Jesus saved this and Jesus did that and those rotten neighbors should be…(you can imagine). Then she’d run into the living room of her ancient little farmhouse with high ceilings and start playing “Bringing in the Sheaves,” Buster at her side, howling while she sang.

Even in her later years, Grandma and Buster would entertain elders at the nursing home where she eventually lived, acting like the only child among those her own age. People loved it. She was funny, perpetually grinning, and lively, moving her shoulders left to right as she performed.

She lived a few miles from town where the nursing home and her church were. The Assembly of God was Grandma’s second home, so she could almost do the drive in her sleep. She’d open the car door, jump up on her pillow in the driver’s seat so she could see out the windshield, and go “lickety-split,” as she’d say, into town and back.

Yep lickety-split was the way she did a lot of things. She was a quick one. And dramatic.

On her way home from church one Wednesday night, she jumped up on her pillow and headed for home. Halfway there, she looked into her rearview mirror and saw a car tailing hers. Scared, she sped up.

The more she stepped on the gas, the faster her pursuer drove. It almost looked as if the car had red flashing lights on it, which made her panic. She probably thought Satan had sent one of his angels to thank her for saying bad things about the neighbors. She kicked it up another notch. Lickety-split, she drove like greased lightning.

Finally, she swerved into her driveway, stopped the car, and was ready to run into her house and lock the door, when a policeman walked beside her car.

“Officer!” cried Grandma. “Someone was chasing me, so I drove home as fast as I could!”

“Mm-hmm.” As the policeman wrote out her speeding ticket, Grandma acted as if she were having a heart attack. He politely walked her into her house—and handed her the lickety-ticket, quick.

(Puzzle piece number 38 of 38.)

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

You’re It!

My former roommate used to sell insurance and wanted to make a presentation to her friend Steve.

Both leading active lives, they played telephone tag for a week, leaving messages on each other’s answering machines—Steve less frequently than Joanne. These were the days before mobile phones overcame the world, where there are few places to play hide and don’t find me.

After a week of missing each other, Joanne called Steve’s number and again heard “Hello, Steve isn’t home right now, so Mira is protecting the house. If you’d like to leave a message, however, start speaking after the beep.”

Being an occasional hiking companion of Mira, Steve’s golden retriever, Joanne creatively responded, “This message is for Mira. This is your friend Joanne. Your master has been a bad boy, and I’m very upset with him. I keep calling him, but he doesn’t call me back, so I want you to bite him!”

The next day, the following message was on Joanne’s answering machine: “Grr-ruff, ruff, ruff. Ouch! Grr-ruff, ruff. Ouch!

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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At a local softball game, my friend David and I sat behind the outfielders while Katie, his energetic golden retriever, gamboled about, greeting other spectators.

Two guys offered Katie pieces of hamburger, which she eagerly accepted. One man looked over at David and asked, “Is she registered?”

Without missing a beat, David replied, “No, she doesn’t vote.”

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Skinny Jeans

My friend and I had gotten together for our weekly lunch and were running through the usual topics—work, men, weight.

I was feeling exceptionally thin, having taken off a few pounds, so I said, “It’s great! Every time I put my skinny jeans on, they fit more loosely.”

“Did you ever think of washing them?” she replied.

(Puzzle piece number 37 of 38.)

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Grenade Prank-Stopper

As a freshman at the University of Arizona in Tucson years ago, my dad was constantly aggravated with pranks played on him by Tim, an upperclassman.

After a couple months of Tim’s shenanigans, my dad had his fill. He went to the experimental lab, from which he took a grenade loaded with gunpowder and a smoke-causing substance—nothing lethal, but certainly explosive enough to grab someone’s attention.

Dad then walked to Tim’s dorm, opened his door, and as he threw the grenade into Tim’s room, he calmly said, “Good-bye, Tim.”

Tim never pulled a stunt on Dad again.

(Puzzle piece number 36 of 38.)

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Lost Car, Lost Mind

My aunt, my grandma, and I had been shopping all day in a huge Phoenix mall. When we stepped outside into the dry heat, my aunt said, “You know, I’ve forgotten where I parked the car.”

My grandma simply, but quite seriously replied, “Ask someone!”

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Frustration and the Denim Bag

Do you ever do something you know will frustrate you? You know, maybe things are going a little bit too well and you need a little tragedy in your life, so you drag out a can of paint—and open it. Or worse, you browse The Cheyenne Edition.*

I do it all the time—frustrate myself. Recently I thought, I have so many denim scraps and old jeans, I’ll make a straitjacket to severely restrict my ex-boyfriend from giving my phone number to all his creditors.

Upon reconsideration I decided to simply sew a tote bag. And that I did. I headed downstairs, dragged out the sewing machine, set it on the ping-pong table, and began sewing pieces of old jeans and a sofa arm cover together.

As usual, I had to rip out almost as many seams as I made. I thought I had put both right sides together before stitching, but I hadn’t. Frustration numbers one and two. But I was in a good mood that day, so irritation didn’t find its way into my life easily and I kept at it.

Within an hour, I had a really cool-looking bag! So the cat jumped in.

But it needed a handle (actually two, I later figured out, which resulted in ripping out several more streets of stitches). To make a handle, I took an old director’s chair back, cut a portion of it lengthwise, and sewed the long edges together.

Attaching the handle to the bag led to a deeper type of frustration (guys, think no love in 18 months). Trying to stitch through 12 layers of canvas and denim was like using a finishing nail on concrete—I kept breaking needles and my top thread kept breaking. Ahhhh! I moaned and groaned and wailed and wished for someone to rescue me.

And when I came back to reality and realized that most people want me to rescue them, I finished my bag!
It’s for sale: $40. The cat’s free.

* The Cheyenne Edition is a little local rag with more errors than a government bailout. This pseudojournalism has been riddled with more mistakes in the 25 years I’ve lived here than kindergartners trying to recite Shakespeare with an accent. But don’t try to help them: their cup is full.

If someone publishes anything, it should be printed using correct and accurately spelled words, verified facts, proper grammar, and perfectly placed punctuation. Continuity in style would also be a sweet feature. This goes for the ArtsFocus too.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009


Shiloh the ferocious dog barked throughout last night. Ever since his major mishap (see, he barks continually. Maybe anesthesia heightens hearing.

So today I’m somnambulant. While preparing for this morning’s feeding frenzy, I tried to fit the milk jug in the microwave and cracked an egg in the fishbowl. The fish is still wondering how she could have spawned something so grand, especially since she’s single.

I’ve been somnambulistic since I was three, but I had a catalyst: Joan the Clean Freak. Mom didn’t want any bedwetting in her house, no siree, so she’d awaken my comatose three-year-old body at midnight to empty my little bladder. Mind you, I said awaken my body, not my mind. Makes you think of all the somnambulant drivers out there.

My feet would hit the blue shag carpet, and I would wander off while Joan the Chambermaid would straighten out my bed after she scattered the simians. Seems that a barrel of monkeys was released each night in my bedroom, and they loved to frolic in my bed. It occurs to me now how otherworldly my dreams were.

I must have been a funambulist, in the second sense of the word, because with my mental agility I knew why I’d been so rudely awakened. I sleepy-strolled toward the bathroom and apparently thought the walk too long. So I shortened my trip, opened the clothes chute door, and, when Mom found me in the darkness, I was trying to hoist my little fanny up the wall toward the opening.

My direction quickly changed.

Another midnight rendezvous with Joan the Insomniac brings values into the picture. While Mom frantically chased out the chimps and baboons, this time I chose the road on the right.

Now I must preface this episode with my mother’s likeness to Imelda Marcos, the former globally powerful Filipino who turns 80 in July and owns more than 1000 pairs of shoes. She’s Mom’s rival. Mom still has shoes and clothes in every closet. The more closet space, the more stuff she buys. It’s incredible.

The road on the right leads to my closet, which means Joan of Arch’s closet. It was filled with three shoe racks that each held nine pairs of shoes—those spiky, high-heeled, pointy pumps. Still sleeping, I gently opened the closet door, pulled down my jammy bottoms, and squatted over Mom’s pointy-toed shoes, just to show her how I felt about all that waste. She gasped, ran to me, and redirected my path.

The moral of the story is: Let cavorting monkeys frolic, and don’t tidy up at midnight with a somnambulist on the loose.

(Puzzle piece number 35 of 38.)

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hearing, Etiquette, and the Single Man

I’ve determined that I attract hearing-impaired men. The problem isn’t necessarily physical; it’s psychological, and sometimes, a matter of etiquette. Some teenagers have the same malady.

“Honey, don’t forget to make your bed and bring your water mug into the kitchen by 6:20,” that’s a.m., I’ve reminded my daughter for nine years during the school year. She has yet to remember these things.

But if I say, “Honey, grab your eyeliner and let’s go out for a bite to eat,” the pencil’s in hand and she’s in the car. Hearing depends on content and underlying desire. Let me pose some scenarios.

For five years a friend has driven by my house two or three times weekly. Why? “Just to see if you’re okay.” He rarely stops and knocks to see if I’m okay—or even alive, for that matter, which is fine because I don’t like to be disturbed during my workday.

During this period we’ve had our home broken into, I’ve had a procedure for precancerous-cell removal, and numerous other ripe cowpies have fallen from the sky—none of which this person learned via drive-bys.

After telling this friend over the phone several times to stop driving by because it’s weird (think stalker), he continues to do it. So I keep my blinds closed. What would you do?

On a few occasions Mr. Drive-by has knocked on my door. “Gee, I hope I didn’t bother you.” Not at all. Just trying to work. “I was wondering if you could take a look at this and tell me what you think. It should only take a half hour.” Etiquette. Maybe I need to be more complete when I say things—not that they’d be heard.

I write, edit, research, and design from home and need to focus. Some think that because I work from home, I have more discretionary time. Not true.

It’s true that I spend much less time in my car (3,559 miles in 2008), less time shopping (’cause I don’t like to shop and have no money), and less time conversing with others during the workday than most. But I also do my own home repair, have too many animals to clean up after, and have to look for missing mugs.

Being hearing impaired could be a benefit. Often I don’t answer the phone or door, because they might interrupt my little train of thought. And once my engine veers off the track, it’s difficult to get the little choo-choo chuggin’ again.

Now what was I saying?

I’ve also made it known to my friends that I go to bed early because I get up early. Where etiquette states not to call after 9:00 p.m., I tell friends I’m a little old lady who goes to bed at 8:30. I jump on my warm heating pad and read.

But there’s a person who not only used to call every day, every day, but calls after 9:15 p.m., not because he’s in jail and needs to be bailed out, or he’s drunk and needs a ride home, or even that he’s depressed and feels like going back to his wife. He just wants to hear my voice.

But after my saying “hello,” he begins an incessant oratory. I hear about how he’s still in love with the wife he’s divorcing, his actions on lawsuits, his financial dealings. This man doesn’t care about me and knows very little about me. That would take his questioning me and my being permitted to answer. If he were to ask me a question, I’d think I’d have lost my hearing and be speechless.

Dad once said, “You can tell a gentleman by asking him questions. Then, if he turns to you, asks you questions, and appears genuinely interested, you might have a gentleman before you.”

Say what?

(Puzzle pieces 33 and 34 of 38.)

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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