#Me, too

I was almost raped by a young man I knew, an acquaintance of mine at Rice University, in the fall of 1979. He was a friend of a friend. 

There had been a recent assault and killing of a young woman near the edge of campus my freshman year, probably not related to anyone at Rice, and the students decided to create this group of volunteers, all males, who would walk the females around campus, after dark, an escort service ha-ha to escort you to your destination. It was common to go to the library after dinner to study, or to the rehearsal rooms if you were a music major, there were plays and movies and other events on campus, people played racketball, foosball or pool, etc in the student rec center, and two different pubs on campus. The common night time destinations each had a desk w a group of guys studying, who would walk you back to your dorm or wherever, if you asked them to. The idea was that these were guys you knew, men you could trust to get you there safely.

I was leaving Weiss, a residential college on campus, where I’d eaten dinner one night w friends, and headed over to the library. Two guys - one of whom was dating my roommate, and the other, his good buddy/ roommate, offered to escort me there. We had no sooner crossed the street from the Weiss college dining hall, where there was a thick strand of trees, when it happened. The one who was the buddy of the one dating my roommate suddenly pushed me down to the ground, hard, knocking the wind out me, and crawled on top of me, pinning me down. He restrained my arms w one hand and used the other to try to take off my clothes. He began roughly trying to unzip my jeans, pulled my shirt buttons off as he ripped open my shirt. I called out for help but his friend, the one dating my roommate, just hung out a few feet from us and looked away. Clearly, they had planned this.....as the guy unzipped my jeans, tried to stick his dick in me, I kept twisting and turning, averting my hips side to side so he couldn’t hit his target. I struggled, worked one hand free and tried to push him off, and kept hollering for help. He put his hand over my mouth, roughly, bruised my lip. He was an athlete and much stronger than I. He started to hurt me. I remember weird things crystal clear : how quiet it was, how absolutely no one was around. It was dusk, not completely dark, 20 ft across the street from where I’d just had dinner with these people. I could see the sun going down over the football stadium in the distance. Blackbirds were gathering, squawking in the trees like they do in the winter dusk. The man on top of me was getting angrier and rougher with me as I struggled against him. Suddenly a group of people I knew walked by. I called out to them, which startled the person on top of me, and he paused for a just a moment. I rolled out from under him, jumped up, and ran over to the group walking by while frantically trying to button up my shirt and zip up my jeans. They just looked at me weirdly. I said nothing. 

I was young when this happened to me - 18. I had never before known guys who were violent, abusers, rapists, or assholes. I was naive and way too trusting. I didn’t know what to be suspicious of, wasn’t educated about the topic, thought it could never happen to me. I thought I’d been careful...I thought I knew these young men, that being acquaintances somehow vetted them. None of us were drunk, it was a weeknight, I was sober and planning to study that night. I hadn’t flirted with this guy, or led him on, spoken to or even interacted with him much at all, previously. The fact that he’d sat there, at a large dinner table, a few spots down from me and acted normally before he did this made it all seem surreal. I felt stupid, like this was all my fault, like maybe I had somehow done something to provoke the attack, like I should have known better or something. I felt relief that luck was on my side and people had walked by just in the nick of time. I didn’t tell anyone, it had been a near miss, what was I going to tell the police? I didn’t want a lecture. I didn’t want to get embroiled in a “he said, she said”. I did not feel I would be believed; hell, I almost didn’t believe it myself. I was ashamed, embarrassed, and felt weird. I also really needed to study for a test that night, didn’t have time to waste. Just dealt with it, all these years. I guess since it was a near miss, I’m not as fucked up about it as if the guy had finished his plan. My attempted rapists name was Karl Hack. His roommate, the enabler, was Steve Connelly. I wonder how many other girls they worked their little routine on?  I never took a campus escort again - figured I was safer walking myself home, alone in the dark. 


What did you want as a child (that you never got)?

I know there are many children around the globe who lack for basic necessities - clean water, food, medical care, housing. There are kids who'd give everything for an education or love. Safety. It seems ridiculous, as a middle class American, to even ponder this question. But having spent many years in therapy, as well as contemplating Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs", has made me realize the truth of Tolstoy's famous dictum:"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Sometimes it's not the thing itself, but what that thing represents.

                                        Ever notice how this pyramid lines up with the chakras ?

When I was in elementary school, one of my best girlfriends had a mother who worked (rare in the 1960's) and a nanny/cook at home who packed her lunches. She had what seemed to me at the time the most incredible lunchbox meals, such as a thermos of tomato soup, a ham and cheese sandwich, a piece of fruit, a small carton of milk, and goldfish crackers. My other best girlfriend's mom was a stay at home mom who gave her a dollar a day to buy her lunch, and back then, the food at our school cafeteria was like eating at Luby's. We had Meatloaf  Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Chicken Fried Steak Wednesdays, Fried Chicken or Corndog Thursdays, and Fish Stick Fridays. Each meal came with 2 kinds of veggies, plus mashed potatoes and gravy, and a fresh baked roll. You could get a small carton of milk or an iced tea and an ice cream with this meal and still have some of that dollar left over. Oh how I wanted to eat either of those lunches! I can still remember the smell of my grade school cafeteria. The lunchroom ladies baked those fresh rolls every morning, and the smell of them baking wafted through the entire school, making everyone hungry.

What did I get for lunch? My father was an attorney, my mom was a stay at home mom and we lived in a custom built home in an upscale neighborhood. Had three cars and an RV. Both of my parents were mentally ill, however, and they had their good days and their bad days. In the early years, they packed my lunch for me; later, I packed my own, but I was hampered by what my mom bought and stocked the pantry with. Sometimes I got a bologna sandwich or a peanut butter sandwich. Sometimes not. Sometimes it was a piece of bread spread with butter and sugar. No matter what, though, I got a full-sized candy bar. Always either a Baby Ruth or a Butter-finger. My mom kept cases of those things in the pantry at home at all times, along with dozens of large returnable glass bottles of coca-cola, and very little else. Sometimes I got a candy bar for lunch and nothing else. Now you'd think most little kids would be pretty excited about this, but I was a growing child, physically active, and hungry all the time. The candy bars just weren't filling me up. Also, after several years of this - I spent a lot of time trading these candy bars for lunch items other kids had but didn't want - an apple, celery sticks and peanut butter, cheese and crackers, nuts, a banana- really, it was a great way to try new stuff I'd never had before - the other kids got tired of just these two candy bar flavors and stopped trading. I was stuck.

This situation was symptomatic of an over-arching issue of my childhood - I was hungry all the time. My mom didn't like to shop, cook, or even leave the house. She started sending me to the grocery store when I was 5 or 6 - I rode my bike a few blocks, clutching rumpled dollar bills in my hand - bought what she told me to buy, and brought it home in my bicycle basket. Most of the time, I was instructed to buy cut up chicken parts, coca-cola, and candy bars. Once in a awhile it was a can of coffee, a loaf of bread, or a carton of half and half. The list varied little in all the early years of my life. When my parents divorced ( I was 19 years old and in college) one of the barbs my dad slung at my mother was that he "was tired of eating nothing but chicken every d@mn single day".

Throughout my childhood, I was small and thin, at the bottom of the growth curves. Tiny for my age - always on the front row of school pictures (they lined us up by size). I often fell asleep at school in the afternoons (probably bc the sugar rush had faded by then) which my mom said was the reason she held me back in kindergarten for a year, because I was so small and still needed a nap every day. It never occurred to her that eating a diet of sugar toast for breakfast, and a candy bar for lunch might be part of the problem. Teachers chided me routinely for the sleeping, even though I made good grades. I was the kid who hung around after school, playing at everyone else's home at mealtime, hoping to be invited to stay for dinner, and scrounge off other family's meals. I loved eating things at other peoples homes : spaghetti, salad, garlic bread, pork chops, mac n cheese, hamburger helper, corn, hotdogs, baked potatoes, pepper steak, la choi chinese food from a can, fried chicken, hamburgers, tuna casserole. 1960's kid food. As soon as I turned 16, I went out and got myself a job (my parents had gotten me my drivers' license early, so I could drive my little sister around - again, bc my mom didn't want to leave the house), and I started eating out every single day. I lied about my work hours, left 30 min early, and grabbed a meal at some place en route.

A childhood spent hungry leaves you hungry for the rest of your life. Whether the hunger is for food, or attention, or love, it can never be fully abated. Naturally, I struggle with weight issues today because I can never feel not hungry.


I was called to the principals office

This week’s adventures in teaching:

1.)    I asked an administrator at my school for help patrolling the hall my classroom is located on, because we’ve had a real problem with vandalism, fights, students eating lunch in the stairwell and being disruptive with noise and trash. All the teachers on my hallway are little old ladies, and it is clear we just aren’t fierce enough to scare the teenage students any more- when we try to direct, manage, or reprimand them, they just run away, only to return 5 minutes later. The situation escalated to a near riot one day awhile back, and that was when I asked the principals (we have 6) for help. The first principal who came to talk to me, following my request, reprimanded me for taking photos of repeat offenders and sending the photos to the principals, asking for help identifying the offenders. Apparently, I am not allowed to do that. (We have cameras in the halls, but they are broken.) The second principal who came and spoke to me, when I related how we had students having sex and dealing drugs in the stairwell, informed me that this “wasn’t true”, as if I were a bad kid who needed a stern talking to. Why would I make this up? The next principal who came to speak to me patrolled the hall for about 5 minutes a day for two whole days, and then the situation was dropped. Now we are back to the vandalism, fights, students eating lunch in the stairwell, students having sex and dealing drugs. Graffiti covers the bathroom doors and the walls of the hallway……but it’s “not true.” Now guess who will be blamed when something truly awful happens, and someone gets hurt? Why weren’t those teachers doing their job?

2.)    I had yet another angry parent meeting….I typically have about 2-3 per school year. Each and every time, the parent is certain I’ve done something horrible to their specific child (keep in mind, I teach 17 and 18-year olds, not 4 year olds) as part of my personal vendetta against them. Previous parent meetings have involved scenarios such as : their child didn’t turn in their assignment on time to be graded (this was, of course,  all my fault, and I had to listen to a 30 minute rant about how evil and hateful I am, and when I tried to explain what happened, I was told sharply not “ talk down to them”); a parent didn’t agree with the grade the student earned on an assignment (bc the student didn’t follow the instructions) – we went back and forth for a good 15-20 minutes on how disrespectful I am, then when I asked the student to produce the assignment so we could all look at it together, it turned out he had torn it up. Another parent didn’t like a grade their student had earned, and demanded that the grade be not counted, or excused, from the gradebook. My principal forced me to do it.  I had a big kerfuffle last spring, with three girls who plagiarized each other on an essay. That meeting – 3 parents, 3 teenage girls, 3 administrators – lasted for hours late one day, and continued for hours the next day. During this meeting, I was told that I “was just jealous of these girls because they were popular”, that I had “told the girls it was ok to cheat”, and other bizarre things. At times, I had trouble keeping a straight face, it was all so ridiculous. They actually forced me to sit there, 3 essays laid out side by side, and hi-light the plagiarized / copied passages in front of them, while they all looked on, critically. I did. (Because, you know, I might have been making this all up.) Why would I ever create that much stress for myself? They also demanded I have someone else grade the essays, because I was clearly, in their minds, incompetent. I did. The other AP English teacher, without knowing the situation, assigned even lower grades to the essays, than I had.

The parent meeting this week was over a student who was offended when I asked her to please sit in her assigned seat, so that I could take roll. Mom and dad rolled in during the middle of one of my classes, early for their appointment by 30 minutes, angry at having to wait while school was still going. When the bell rang and the class was dismissed, they continued with their belligerent manner, refusing to even sit down at a table with me and discuss the matter. The dad sat a few feet away, and started the meeting demanding that the student not be present for it. As the student is a member of a course that is actually a university class, taught as part of a dual credit (students earn college credit while still in high school ) program, certified by a local college, the Ferpa laws are pretty strict. Also, I have found over the years that we can cut out a lot of the “he said / she said” triangulation if we can have all parties present to discuss the situation, so I asked that the student be present. The dad began the meeting while hollering out “this is a PARENT conference not a parent and child conference” as his almost 18 year old daughter sat next to him, crying. The issue, as the parents saw it, is that I was unnecessarily picking on their daughter. I called her name too many times in class. I was constantly on her for talking. I singled her out and humiliated her. The parents were certain that no other student was given assigned seating, or ever called by name in class for any reason. The father quickly set up a dynamic where he would ask me a question, then when I attempted to answer it, he cut me off mid-sentence, loudly spoke over me, and told me that I was cutting him off and not letting him speak, then launched into a 5 minute tirade about what was wrong with me. It seems that I did not know how to teach, and I was not “nice.” The angry father repeated this maneuver over and over…. talk about your micro-aggressions….this was a macro-aggression. He’d then look at the administrator present, male, and say, “You she what she did?” He wouldn’t let me speak when I agreed with him on a point, either. After the 3rd or so time of him yelling at me to stop talking (which I only attempted when he had asked me a question), I stopped talking, emoting, interacting altogether and just let him rant. My principal, sitting in on the meeting, repeatedly asked the father what he wanted from the situation, and the father never gave him an answer (but never told him to shut up, either). In the end, after about 30 minutes of this, the dad, mom and daughter got up and left. Nothing had been resolved or even in reality, discussed. It was just a misogynistic controlling rant on the part of the father. I actually felt sorry for the student after witnessing this scenario – for I have found, once a bully, always a bully.

3.)    One day, (in terms of linear time after incident #1 but before #2), my head principal called me down to his office. He didn’t tell me why. I walked into his office and watched him look up from his work, where he was writing something, and he put his “angry, mean” face on. I actually watched the transformation. I scanned my brain trying to think what I might have done. His opening line was, “I’m so disappointed in you.” He pulled out a folder with my name written on it in large, angry (wobbly) black marker letters. Inside was one page, a copy of one of my facebook posts from months previous. In the post – a general comment about the stressors teachers face, the extra non-paid/after hours work we are often required to perform, strange things we are asked to do, and some of the ridiculous demands of our profession – I did not mention any people, places, schools, towns, or specific identifying incidents. It was a general comment based on my 30 years (6 schools in 3 states) as an educator. I am not a person who posts political topics to facebook, in general- I view it as my “brand”, an extension of my public/ career/community self. So I don’t have posts about this or that president, political party, or which politician/ pop star/ famous person did or said this or that, but I might have posts about laws under consideration that negatively affect education. The particular post my principal had was part of a back and forth conversation between several old college friends, formerly teachers, who have since left the profession, springing off a scholarly article about why teachers are leaving the profession. My principal continued: “This post is offensive to members of our community…..I received numerous complaints…….you are a long time teacher, you should know better…….” I pointed out that it was a very general comment, taken out of context, and that nowhere on my facebook page does it identify where I live or where I work. “It doesn’t matter”, he said, ”People know who you are.” It was a scary conversation, as the tone of it made me feel like I was about to be fired, even though I wasn’t sure what law I had broken.

After a long back and forth conversation – I confess I babbled about random stuff for awhile, trying to think and figure out the real meaning of the situation....so I’m not allowed to speak publicly about my own experiences? My own life?  – I said I would take the post down. I did. But I am hideously, hellishly angry. Combined with the demented parent meeting that came a few days later, I feel that everyone in my community is allowed to speak up about what they find offensive, except for teachers. I feel under attack on multiple fronts, just for doing my job.

Let it be noted: I am nice to students. The number of kids signing up for my classes - they have a choice and they do shop teachers - has increased 300% in recent years. Everywhere I go in this town, I run into former students, who are friendly and kind to me, as I am with them.

I feel like teachers on the front line of education these days are trying to start a conversation about teaching - the good and the bad -  but no one wants to hear the truth. The unchecked crimes committed in the school hallway outside my door. The student with the abusive parent who cries when asked to follow a simple rule, like sit in her assigned seat. (Afraid to receive a small verbal reminder not to break rules- what happens to her at home when she does?) Public censorship of an academic generalized conversation about teaching. I’m not trying to be a trouble maker or a whistle blower, but I am trying to open a dialog about the issues we face. 


Things Southerners Can't Live Without

Iced tea
Forget those lists the glossy lifestyle magazines dish out – cocktails, a string of pearls, a hand-crafted hunting rifle – this is a list based on reality, not fantasy. Two things to keep in mind if you are not an American Southerner: the region extends from Virginia to Texas, which is 1962.5 miles from Washington DC to El Paso, Texas. The Upper South has the same climate as Pennsylvania and other Mid-Atlantic states. The Deep South and Florida have tropical, humid climates. Texas in the eastern half is similar to Louisiana, and in the western half to New Mexico- that is, arid desert. It is generally hot for 6-10 months of the year, especially in the Deep South. Once predominantly rural, our “sunbelt” cities are automobile-centric and now it would be difficult to figure out how to go back and add trains and subways (not always supported by the soil). I have a close childhood friend, himself a native Texan but moved to NYC long ago, who has forgotten what life is like here although he visits frequently. He is perpetually “surprised” by our clothes, our lifestyle, and our habits, but just like those of people who live in Helsinki or Tangiers, they have evolved from our climate.


Sure, we drink cocktails – gin and tonics, Sazeracs, margaritas, locally produced and imported beer and wine, just like anyone else. But even more important to our survival is non-alcoholic hydration. We must drink cold beverages with ice, all year long, just to survive. It is no coincidence that both Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper soft drinks originated in the south. We drink iced tea, “sweet” (with sugar) or “unsweet” (no sugar), all day long by the gallon. Just as with any of the ancient beverages of the world (Read The History of the World in Six Glasses, by Stoddard) tea evolved to deal with the uncertainty of clean water. We kept what had been introduced by our founding British colonists, but changed it to iced tea bc who wants to quaff a boiling cup of liquid when it’s 108F outside? Iced tea is even more refreshing than water on a hot day bc the tea acts as a mild diuretic, helping you sweat and your kidneys to function better.


Even though no one lives in the American south without electrical “air conditioning” (nothing at all like what they call “air conditioning” in Italy), sometimes even that powerful blast of frigid air is not enough. Our offices, shopping malls, hospitals and other public buildings will frequently be refrigerated to the point that you need a sweater to tolerate the temperatures. Our homes, however, aren’t run quite as cold bc it is too expensive. (I hope that someday cheap readily available solar power will eliminate this struggle.) So we add to the air conditioning of our homes with ceiling fans. My granny had ceiling fans in every room of her house, before air conditioning was invented. I have ceiling fans in every room of my house and some of the hallways. They run just about year-round bc for 10 months of the year I need them and for the other 2, even in the winter, I like to move the air around and keep it from getting stuffy and too hot in pockets. Additionally, I have small portable a/c units in the bedrooms upstairs bc my central a/c unit just can’t pump out enough cold. The reason the American “sunbelt” wasn’t settled until after WWII is bc no one had invented air conditioning yet.


I grew up learning to use hairspray as a very little girl, and it wasn’t to keep my giant bubble-head bouffant hairstyle in place all day. Most places in the American south have high humidity year- round, and our mamas teach us to control our errant strands, so we can be “lady-like” at all times, with the lacquer that comes from these cans. Note: Expensive, designer, salon or other high-end hairsprays never work very well. IDK why, they just don’t. Perhaps the level of control wanted by the designer’s clients in NYC and LA isn’t what we need here in the south. Generally speaking, the cheaper the hairspray, the better. You want it to glue your hair in place like invisible cement. Sure, it is painful to comb it out- you have to wash your hair every day. We do that anyway, bc it is so hot and humid we sweat in our scalps all the time.


Right along up there with hairspray is deodorant. Americans are notorious for being offended by their own bodily smells, and living in a climate where we sweat all the time, even in the winter, our smells are even worse. We all know that fresh sweat- like when you just finished exercising- isn’t all that bad for a few minutes. But when you dwell in a hot humid place all the time, that sweat quickly grows bacteria and results in a stale funkiness no one wants to experience. Even living and working in air-conditioned spaces, I work up a sweat just walking to my car in the parking lot, and can smell awful by the end of the day. The sort of human sweat stink you smell on the subway on a hot day where you feel like you are about to choke from all the human fumes is truly overwhelming. So yes, we bathe nearly every day. And we use a lot of deodorant. Be thankful we do.


One is found in nature, the other is man-made. They both serve the same purpose. We frequently get streaks of 100+F degree days in the summer, sometimes 40 or more days in a row with no rain. Just about the only thing that keeps us from killing each other is the ability to cool off and relax. You have seen old newspaper photos of cities such as Detroit or Chicago opening the fire hydrants and letting city kids run around in the streams of water produced. The only difference is, their hot streaks last a few days, and our last a few months. You have to have a plan to survive it. Every single year.

                                                              Gulf Shores, Alabama

                                                       The Outerbanks, North Carolina
                                                                Padre Island, Texas


We are fortunate in the American South that the ocean is never too far away. Beaches are everywhere. Thank god.

 Top: gumbo, a thick stew made with okra, chicken or seafood, spices, and served over rice
                                                     Bottom: chicken frying in a pan

People make fun of southerners for eating too much fried food, as if we do it bc we are ignorant and lazy. The real reason we eat fried food, as well as gumbo, potato or macaroni salad, and anything that can be cooked in a pot or skillet on top of the stove, is bc it is too hot to heat up the oven. A hot oven heats up the house, even with a/c. Think about that for a moment. I had a college roommate whose mom would mail her a big package of home-baked treats- cookies and stuff – as soon as the weather cooled down enough to bake, some time in the fall. My own mother loved to bake, and her cakes and pies and cinnamon rolls, all from scratch, were legendary. She only made these things for 4 or 5 months of the year. Never in the summer.

Top: This is a smoker. It is used to slow cook, via low heat and smoking, generally thick cuts of tough meat for 20+ hours. The fire is in the separate, smaller container.
Below: This is a grill : It is used to quick cook thin cuts of meat and vegetables, in 5-10 minutes. The fire is under the food.


We cook outdoors, too, for the same reason- we don’t want to heat up the kitchen (even with air conditioning). Grilling, or BBQing are our general terms for meat or anything else that is cooked outdoors on an open fire brazier or grill. In the Upper South, people will refer to BBQ as chicken, pork, hotdogs, burgers, corn or whatever, slow-cooked, quick-cooked, anything cooked outside. Some even use the term as an all-purpose word that means “picnic” or outdoor party. In Texas, BBQ always means one thing: smoked beef (brisket, ribs, or links) that has been slow-cooked, often 20+ hours or more, over low heat and smoke, in a special kind of grill, called a smoker. At my house, we grill almost year-round. We go out to eat BBQ at a restaurant, due to the time commitment involved. There was a rumor in the 1980’s that grilled meat caused cancer, but my only thought in response was, “humans have been cooking meat over fire since the dawn of time- why stop now?” Plus, I like the taste.

                                                                 Outdoor kitchens


Southerners like to cook outdoors so much, there’s been a hot new building trend the past 5-10 years: outdoors kitchens. Outdoor kitchens can be large or small, plain or fancy. This is in addition to having an indoor kitchen, and often the one built outside in the back yard will be far more luxurious and certainly larger, than the original indoor kitchen. Remember when having two bathrooms was a status symbol? Now it’s two kitchens. People like to have them near their swimming pools.


I was trolling through a catalog the other day, looking for some end-of-the-season sale items, and I noticed a bunch of tencel sheets. I thought to myself, “Who the hell sleeps on tencel sheets?” Why did they ever think that was a good idea? I can’t even imagine sleeping on such a thing up in yankeeville…. apparently no one else did, either, bc this catalog was full of them.  No one bought them. Tencel is what? Modal? Another word for rayon? Wood/bamboo pulp bathed in chemicals? Do you know how rayon is made? “The cellulose xanthate is bathed in caustic soda, resulting in a viscose solution…. rayon is a manufactured fiber composed of regenerated cellulose.”  Thank god we have cotton (and linen, too). Thank you, ancient Egyptians/Indians/Persians or whoever figured out how to harvest and use these natural fabrics. My NYC friend (the one who grew up in Texas, and ought to know better) is constantly amazed that we wear sheer cotton and linen clothing, in light colors, in our hot climate. People around the globe who live in hot climates do , too, so I am not sure why he is perpetually surprised, but he is. My new luxury item is linen sheets- they wick away the sweat on a hot summer night.


It’s not just a fashion statement- it’s a necessity. My poor hubster is as bald as a billiard cue and never leaves the house without a hat. Even I, with a thick head of hair, wear a hat in the summers bc my dark head absorbs more heat from the sun.

                                                           Man sandals = mandals

Most folks wear these at least 9-10 months of the year. I once knew someone who wore them year round, but she was from Colorado and thought our winters were a joke.


Which brings us to pedicures, bc if you are going to wear sandals, you had better not have nasty rough feet with chipped polish or – heaven forbid! No polish at all. I have continuously worn nail polish on my toes since I was 12 years old. I don’t even paint my finger nails as often as I do my toes (weekly).


100 years ago, homes in the south had covered porches, often with ceiling fans. My grandmother’s house had porches that wrapped around nearly the entire house. Increasingly today, we want to be able to relax and entertain in the privacy of our back yards, and we leave the front porch, as a “public” space, alone. We might decorate it seasonally, but we don’t hang out there anymore. We hang out in the back of our homes. Even urban apartment dwellers will have a small back porch or balcony for plants and a grill.  Whether fancy or bare bones, creating a bit of shade is a must – especially if you live in one of those newer neighborhoods that have no trees (bc, you know, the developers mowed the trees down to build the houses….then planted new ones.)


Sure, NYC and Boston may have a few trees scattered here and there. LA will have palm trees. But in the south, we need trees, and we need nature. Even Dallas, a city dominated by freeway culture, built a double-deck freeway and used 80% of the top layer as a park, with trees. It changed the entire character of downtown…..people love it.

My Cousin Rachel

I recently watched the Burton/deHavilland as well as the 2017 film versions of the story, and give them both 4 stars (-1 for changes from the text). The recent release, starring Rachel Weisz, after a whopping 2 days in our local theaters, is finally on cable PPV. Gripping. There's a subtext in the story that's not quite so misogynistic : think of England, wild nature uncontrolled (Devonshire moors), Ambrose and Phillip, as "masculine" forces in society, and think of Italy, nature somewhat tamed (the courtyard), or certainly ancient and primal (herbalism, often associated w the female spiritual force), Rachel, and her BGF Rinaldi, as "feminine". Imagine yourself as a 19th century woman w no right to vote, own property, control your own financial destiny or even your own body. Then ask yourself : What do I do to survive? How do I do it? (Rachel is just an earlier more subtle version of Scarlett O'Hara.) The novel brings this idea clearly into focus at the end -Rachel is attempting to build an Italian style garden in the English landscape, which ultimately destroys her. Western capitalism dominates romanticized tropical culture. Male power wins over female.