Thursday, November 15, 2012

Restoring the Future

I could not blog before- but now everything is fine!
The Monday before last, election eve, Dr. Motes and I went and "got out the vote." Dr. Motes  because he is civic-minded and for me, as my daughter observed, "because you like to meet people." We were assigned to what we call the rest of the year a "rough neighborhood:"i.e African American.  
Dr. Motes was all for the afternoon, but people won't be home, said I. Not a place to be after dark, said D. Motes, old Miami hand. Then I remembered: the clocks had just been turned back- It would be dark by six! 
 Ahem- We are liberals but we are also older, not so nimble and definitely white.(Theyll think we're Republicans!) -Well, we are certainly THINKING Republican.)
We compromised, driving up at four with our clipboards and lists, and there we were in our "rough neighborhood;" small houses, teenage boys hanging out under the one big tree, a group of mostly toddlers and teenage girls on chairs near a mail box, imposing black Mum in the middle.

Dr. Motes took the even numbers. He had the imposing Mum but I had to leave my odd numbers and ask her, please, right off the bat "Could I please use the bathroom?"(Hey- That's how you meet people.)
As we plowed through more toddlers and teenagers to the bathroom, she agreed that getting older took its toll: "Me, I'm fifty-three!" No way!  Is that another reason people can get angry with African Americans - so many of them look so young, for ever.

My odd numbers turned up Lee, young Mum ready for Tuesday with two sons, " and aunts, Grandmothers!" A  young gay man: yes, his grandmother had already voted: older man, two sons, (gently pointing out "that's 'Senior'", by his name.)  There were some chained front gates and some No Answers, one with the TV full on. But there was only one sharp: "Who's that?" A man who said he couldn't vote: "Just out of prison."
 "And THAT'S why we need Obama back!" I cry through his wrought iron door.
.The boys under the tree were friendly in that quizzical, indulgent teenage way. One asked what sounded like "You voting Romney?" with a grin.

Back in '08, getting out the vote often meant first, trying to convince many African Americans that a black man had any chance of winning. Vote for Hillary! Don't throw your vote away! As one old lady said, "We don't want to get our hopes up." Well, they did and it worked and last Tuesday it worked again and that bizarre Republican slogan really applies to us on the other side: last Tuesday week we Restored the Future.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

America the Beautiful

No blog?
Well, who cares?
Nothing seemed funny.
New puppy.
And Dr. Motes off in South Africa: featured speaker at the South African National Orchid Conference close to the platinum mines. Dr. Motes, right by the platinum mines and brings home two boxes of tea, two hotel shampoos and a piece of slate with a Vanda painted on it. (Award for best Vanda in show.)

Off to Salt Lake City (Utah Orchid Society) with Dr. Motes: Bright Future for Vanda Breeding. (Will puppy be OK?)
Drive from Salt Lake to Denver (Denver Orchid Society.) High country. High Country! Berkshire girl who grew up on cowboy films, here, in the high country: small ranches, sage brush, October, no one looking except us, a little snow on distant slopes. Too dry this year, everyone says. Lower down, Romney /Ryan signs.
Land so vast, so immense- too incredible for cameras, for adjectives. Mountain passes, Grand Canyon rocks and boulders, all forms, all colors. Cottonwood trees turning golden yellow below, along the river banks. Black cows in golden stubble. Aspens golden too, among the pines.  That's why Aspen CO is called Aspen CO.  

Circle of old men, boots and camouflage, in Net's cafe, hunting season starts on Saturday, they say. Can't see Obama here; be like Blazing Saddles- It is Blazing Saddles- black sheriff in town!  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Just Orchids - Who's your Daddy?

This time this blog is not Not Just Orchids it's Just Orchids, (Motes Orchids) and we have to throw in the Singapore Botanical Gardens too. As many of you will know, when you come to Motes Orchids, as customers, maybe sidestepping a wheel barrow or a large dog, or waiting patiently while we scramble to find a pen- I will often remind you that, Ahem, for example, the world-renowned Singapore Botanical Gardens is also a customer. They love our orchids. Or, as Dr. Motes would say, "Are very interested in our breeding program."

Fast forward to now. We were watching the BBC news and there was the lighthearted bit at the end, Prince William and Catherine at the Singapore Botanical Gardens first admiring the white orchid named for Princess  Diana and then being presented with the new orchid named for them both: Vanda William Catherine.

 And we both declared: We know Who's your Daddy and Who's your Momma, too! The Singapore Botanical Gardens took one of our Vandas, First and Last and crossed it with Motes Toledo Blue and now it's William Catherine.

And here's the link, if you've got the space:  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Romney Put to Good Use

Remember they said only President Nixon (growly Republican) could make nice with China (teeth-baring Communists) without giving away the store? Wobbly peacenik-pinko-Dems wouldn't stand a chance. A chance, anyway,if not with the Chinese, then definitely not with public opinion, American voters.

Now, in the same way, Romney, if, God forbid, he wins (sorry, Republicans) could do one thing for us: address the fact that there are more young black men in prison than in college. That statistic may not be strictly true. But it's close and it's campaign season so I refuse to be cowed by narrow-minded, sour fact-checkers.
Anyway, it's something ludicrous like that. And ludicrous because of the often minimal, drug- related crimes they've been put away for. So bad in fact, it's been said; What is the American prison system? Cheap housing for blacks.
Now you may say why hasn't our First Black President addressed this burning issue?
Ha. The problem is our First Black President is black. Well, he's seldom called black. He's a Liberal, European Socialist, Community-organizing Moslem terrorist, Kenya Welfare King, Islamic militant. With the Kansas Granny. (Diabolical!)

This is where Romney comes in. If Obama is seldom called black, Romney is almost never called Mormon. So being another Other doesn't seem to weigh him down much. With his smooth white brow, chiseled chin and clear American gaze, he  is so far on the white side of the spectrum he almost falls off. His tall white sons stand stalwartly round him- no sniffling mushy liberal he, needing to be a Dad to errant inner city strays.
But Obama? Obama speaking up for incarcerated, young black brothers? Oh my. Just channel your inner Fox News and I hope you can sleep tonight.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Notes on Hurricane Andrew

Hearty sun tans. No trees, no leaves, no shade. For those with no roofs anymore, you could get a sun tan just standing inside.

Rite Aid. Just the front of the store selling aspirin, sunbloc (see above) the rest dark, plastic sheeting, and a big broken off branch keeping the door open.

"It was like a war zone." Actually, Yes. No Homestead police station left, no town hall. Curfew, no liquor sold in Homestead (till the following Christmas.) We had the 84th Airborne division camped round the corner at the Redland schools. They and their trucks were all in sandy camouflage- right from Desert Storm. Hurricane Andrew led to the biggest deployment since the first Gulf war. Our daughter came home holding MRE's, just like an Iraqi child.

"Something banging." I heard this clanging all night of the storm, making a mental note "Must fix that in the morning." In fact it was all the orchid houses, the metal posts, falling one by one.

September,-or was it even October? On the exact date of Andrew, a late afternoon, I suddenly saw the ceiling fans start to turn slowly. Power was back. From then on, once again, my modern world would spring to attention at the touch of a switch, ready to serve. And I felt a pang: n 24 hours I knew I would have settled right back into that pre-Andrew, soft, undemanding, indulgent life.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Rule Britannia!

Before the games, like most Brits, my Olympic sport was eye-rolling. All the hype, all the tatty Heritage stuff. Old men in old white stockings and gold braid. But then they had me with that first strike of Big Ben at 8:12 in the morning and the TV announcer proclaiming that throughout the land in every church and every hill and dale..the bells would ring...And we were off.

And into no bland international airport kind of opening ceremony but real nurses pushing beds! And dancing with real doctors! Up the National Health! And continuing the poke-a-Republican  theme, there was that black swarm of top-hatted capitalists, (in fact brilliant Brits apparently, building railways and bridges)  but there they were, creeping up on England's Green and Pleasant Land.

Everyone's been commentating on how helpful and friendly the volunteer Brits are everywhere.  Brits do citizenship better than familyship. You seldom see a big Cuban-type family group with serene or grumpy old Gran happily in the middle but all you have to do with most po-faced Brits is to ask the way, or the time and you'll get a smile and the tilt of the head as they consider the question.

Third time a charm- first 1908 in London and then 1948. I remember the Olympics in 1948 - hand me my cane! They were grey and grainy though mostly we listened on the radio. Back then it was when you went to the cinema that you saw the newsreels. I remember the marathon: Emile Zatopek, the grim Cold War name, the exhausted survivors hobbling into the stadium with that strange wobbling on hot coals walk they all have. Gaunt and grey. Still rationing, still bomb damage and many years to go.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Product Placement

July fourth has always meant Wimbledon and if Novak Djokovic is on court (up Serbia!) or Serena or Venus is playing (Up dynamic, powerful young women especially if they're black!) I'm there on the couch. Well, this year Novak was out but there was Serena in the final and her young Polish challenger (Up ex-oppressed peoples of Eastern Europe! But I'm still for Serena.)

Being Wimbledon, you start with solemn words about tradition etc. and then the long walk of the two to center court through endless Wimbledonian corridors. But instead of bursting out into the sunlight in a cloud of smoke like the Hurricanes, the two paused to be given big beautiful bouquets and there they were- bouquets of vandas.

There, against the Wimbledon white, was the deep purple-blue of our Motes Indigoes, the two-tone tawny pink of  the big Sanderiana- and some background blooms that were a deep pink like our Motes Hot Petunia and the same color as Serena's head band and her knickers!

The camera zoomed in, the two stood there, bouquets tilted towards the viewer ( a thousand and one! A thousand and two!...)- Then out onto the court and the orchids again front and center being exchanged for tennis rackets.

Oh yes, said Dr. Motes, vandas are all the rage in Europe now.

Is it global warming- climate change? The last time we were at the London Orchid Show in a nasty cold March, most of the orchid- buying Brits just backed away from us. The phrase "warm-loving vandas" will do that.

If it is climate change, the greenhouse effect (Ha!) then I have to say I'd trade the spread of our "warm-loving vandas" if it meant keeping polar bears.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Minnesota and mosquitoes

Back from Minnesota. Minneapolis Orchid Society Saturday afternoon (buying our new vanda seedlings, never mentioning cold winters! Lining up to get Orchid Territory! God bless them!) then roaming the Minnesota countryside till Wednesday.

And in spite of Thanksgiving-size plates and a "Butter Burgers and Frozen Custard" sign there ARE thin people in Minnesota and grumpy people too and even bad drivers.

Most striking of all, (maybe American school children learn this) the lively young river that our road and the railway line kept company with, muddy from heavy rains, was the Mississippi complete with mosquitoes and Minnesotans grumbling about them and the humidity. And everywhere was South Florida-flat, the prairie under cloudscapes right out of Weather Channel tornado warnings. Clouds hanging low, in scallops of light and dark grey from one end of the screen to the other.

We popped over the border to see if Wisconsin was any different, (ha ha.) Sign outside a feed store: "The best place to pick up chicks." And on a Minnesotan feed store: "J.C.Penney: Pick up and returns."

Garden centers everywhere: "We love our flowers." Sophisticated color combinations in hanging baskets and tubs- not just geraniums and lobelias (i.e red and blue. )

Had dinner in a packed Ojibwe casino Sunday evening (only place for wine and beer!) Just like South Florida again: like our wily Seminoles and Miccosukee hauling in hard cash, trading mere dreams of wealth, not even actual beads and mirrors, from the innocent natives. Where is the great American novel about that?

"Grain Exchange" and "Lumber Exchange" carved in stone on serious walls, and endless freight trains chugging across roads -iron ore! Mostly Scandinavian names in the grassy graveyards beside the roads. And on one gate: "No artificial flowers." Motes Orchids says Amen! Definitely a general Save-your-cans- and- bottles- feel, but church parking lots full on Sunday. Must these people be Republicans?

Note:On the other hand Minnesotan Atheists have adopted a stretch of highway outside Royalston on the way to St. Cloud.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hitler Has A Lot To Answer For

Google tells me I'm "one percent full," having used only 127MB of my 10,246 MB. Well, that's a relief. I'm always worried about not having enough saved up. Until fairly recently I had a hard job using  new stuff right away or, if it looked good, even anything second-hand. If a blouse at the swap meet cost only 50 cents, but looked really nice, then I'd "keep it for best," just like the old days. Christmas was the big time for "best." But then of course you were peeling the potatoes and making the gravy and were told to take off whatever was new and find something that didn't matter.

That's one reason I remember so vividly my very first morning ever in Belgrade. It was not the culture shock of being in a Communist country, in the center of old Belgrade, the bullet pocked walls, the grind of metal cart wheels over cobbles, the shouts from the market and the hard July sun, but the moment when I gave Duska one of my gifts from England, a blouse from Marks and Spencer. (They all liked the way we said "Going to Marx|") With a cry of delight and satisfaction, Duska pulled it on over her sun dress right away and pushed up the sleeves with a flourish. At home you were told: "Leave them alone! You'll ruin the shape!") 

We were all 1937 babies so had all grown up in war: Duska and Mirka in Belgrade, me in the Thames Valley. In spite of the occasional daylight bomb tipped out by a German pilot on his way home from London, my most vivid memory was watching my mother carefully slicing open an empty tea packet to harvest a few more leaves caught in the creases. Same with the sugar. Duska and Mirka on the other hand had seen local citizens  hanging from the lamp-posts up the road in Republic square and spent days in the cellar while the Partisans and Russians fought the Germans out of Belgrade and the allies helpfully dropped bombs.

So Mirka married a hard drinking ex-Partisan at 19 and Duska pushed up the sleeves of her brand new blouse, declaring, "Idemo!" (Let's go!") and when I die there will be a whole lot of  T shirts from the Clearance rail in the drawers still with the tags on them.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Who are you?

Dr. Motes and I were frowning at this piece of furniture in the Florida room. For a long minute neither of us could remember the word "futon." Well, we decided, it's a  rather foreign word, anyway but it cast a shadow for  a moment or two. (I did think "couch" and "sofa" and even "bench" but that's not the point.)

We all seem more worried about losing our wits nowadays than losing bits of ourselves to cancer. Cancer by all accounts ennobles. You never hear of someone with cancer getting mean and nasty or stupid. They are always courageous, valiant, strong. They fight. Sickness it seems brings out the inner hero but Alzheimers? Apparently it usually brings out not just the inner child but the least attractive inner child - dim, petulant, often angry, willfully getting lost, and doing dangerous things with electrical outlets and gas stoves.

I've always maintained that I wouldn't mind being nuts if I didn't realize it. Sitting on the futon nodding happily  at the world as Queen Mary the First, Second or even the Fifteenth, that would be fine but if I accosted every one with a worried "Am I really Queen?" "You know I can't remember if I'm REALLY Queen..." "Where's my crown? Dammit where's MY CROWN? Why are those people staring at me?" Then that's no fun.

If I could be perky Alzheimers wouldn't be so bad. We like to remember the story of a friend, visiting his mother. "Who are you?" she asked as he came into her room.
"I'm your son."
"Well then, give me a kiss!"
Now that's the way to go.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday singalong

It's been Easter week and if it werent for the pastel eggs and bunnies in Publix, al pale pinks blues and yellows like a baby shower, I still wouldn't know. (We haven't colored Easter eggs for many years- see previous blog: Mother of the Groom.)

Here we are in "The most religious of all advanced industrial societies" as commentators call the US when trying to explain Republicans, and there's basically not an official, religious squeak. Whereas in the UK where it's generally agreed one of the most godless packs of citizenry resides, because we have "C of E," Church of England- a state religion - we have a daily dose. BBC had Matins on Sunday, Hymns of Praise, and from Monday to Friday in school we chanted the Lord's Prayer and belted out hymns every morning. This week in school we used to warble:
There is a green hill far away without a city wall,/ Where our dear Lord was crucified, he died to save us all./He died that we might be forgiven...."etc etc.

Of course, I haven't been in UK for Easter for many years. Apparently it's all "tambourines up the aisles" now and "multicultural." OMG! I have turned into one of those wizened old exiles who cry in their soup over the Old Country. Well, I've always been a non-believer but I did like the hymns, the one time when Anglo-Saxons would belt out music together. There and in the pubs. And football matches. So, OK that's all right then.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Mother of the Groom

Apparently being Mother of the Groom kills the blogger in me. The wedding was in February and I haven't blogged since. (The date at the top marks the moment I gave up.) We've all seen enough movies to know that a wedding is either ripe for comic relief ( yes!) or soggy with tears and we all know Brits hate being caught soggy and sentimental.

Re comic relief: my main concern was that I might well be it. So I did put out an advisory early on that if a family member caught sight of me at the reception twirling gently in a corner by myself, glass in hand or not, they should tow me quietly back to my seat.
But I did do some dancing with friends while Dr. Motes closed his eyes. (It had been a long day.) I knew all the stuff the DJ played because I listen to MIA, etc. down in the orchid house when I get tired of NPR and Deficit Spending and a Sensible Exit From Afghanistan.

Re soggy with tears: There was no reason to cry. In this vast country the happy couple are going to be living not on the other side of purple majesty and a thousand miles of golden grain, but in Coral Gables, just down the road.
Note: Have lived long enough in US to call forty minutes of hard driving "just down the road."(In UK that would be "We'll never see them" sniff -"they're halfway to Manchester!")

Second Note: Just after the wedding I was watching the Academy Awards as always, and was at one with every star on the red carpet. I too had squeezed into something long and shiny. (Ah! Hello Spanx!) - I too had my hair and face 'done' so that, like Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, I could hardly recognize myself.

Oh, the wedding? Wonderful. Beautiful. Perfect. (Sniff) -Stiff upper lip! It was definitely a jolly good show.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Airmails versus emails

Mirka called from Belgrade just before New Year:"Hey you! Are you alive?"
"How much is this costing? Let me call you back!"
"Ha! Don't wo-r-r-y! Now! You don't answer my email, for your birthday, you don't answer for Christmas!"
Mirka goes on to remind me we are at that certain age, we could both be dead. Slumped over our fancy machines.

Mirka had written me a long email for my birthday back in September. And I should have pounded out that moment- "Hey! Great to hear from you! Glad all OK in BG!"
But this was from Belgrade. It demanded more, a sense of occasion. And somehow, time went on and each time I remembered, the idea of answering became longer and more detailed to make up for the time that was elapsing even as I thought about it.

Mirka's birthday wishes used to come in a flimsy envelope with PAR AVION on the front and a stamp with a profile of President Tito next to a stamp with a plane on it, and I would send an airmail back with a row of stamps with the queen's profile on them. Luckily back then there weren't stamps with pretty pictures because as I was to discover later when working in Yugoslavia, Yugoslav postal workers are avid stamp collectors. In fact, I think that's why they join the post office. Anyway, it was always about two letters a year, one for birthdays and one for Christmas or New Year and sometimes a flurry of brief ones back in the old days when I was going for the summer and needed a letter of invitation or Mirka would write "Please bring aspirin!" Though she usually asked for Vogue too.

Actually, this time I did have an excuse. The big old desk computer where I can pound away like it's my old Smith Corona, (that's a typewriter, my children) developed problems and as the rest of the family was OK with their laptops it stayed problematic for quite a while. And so no blogs either. But no-one has emailed me to ask if I were still alive. Hey guys! Wouldn't cost you! Not like it's from Belgrade or anything! Maybe everyone's like me-They really are waiting to do a really good job. Add how they miss my pungent wit and sharp analysis, lend that email a little sense of occasion.