Monthly Archives: August 2010

The Way it is Supposed to Be, According to Sally and Me

I have been thinking lately about why I expect certain things to be different than they are. I’ve been wondering how to explain my impulses of outrage about those things. I am especially puzzled when those things don’t seem to be important to everyone else. In fact, they are not especially important, period.

(Example: When did summer become so BUSY? I thought summer was about relaxing!)

Sometimes I think that Stress, Guilt, and Disappointment — the Holy Trinity of sleepless nights — ignites these impulses.

(Another example: Since when did it become OK to have a TV IN EVERY ROOM OF THE HOUSE? Can’t people actually live with a little quiet now and then?)

Then I got another season of “Mad Men” in the mail, thank you very much Netflix. I always stare at this show in a funny way, and it’s because I’m looking for little clues. It’s like when paintings had symbols and metaphors built into them so that there was a layer of meaning under the obvious part. That’s how I watch this TV series. I am, basically, Sally. I figure the fictional Sally was born within a few years of the nonfictional me. And since I did not know then that I’d grow up to experience Stress, Guilt and Disappointment, I use this show as a time capsule that gives me the power to re-experience and dissect the past in a way not normally available to humans.

(Why, why, why have department stores decided that women no longer need pantyhose?)

Disclaimer: My Mom and Dad did not have the fancy lifestyle Betty and Dan have, both of them were warm human beings (and still are), and I never took ballet lessons. That little experiment apparently ended when my older sister threw up on her expensive ballet slippers. So right off the bat I figure I’ll turn out better than Sally. Phew! However, my mom married an older World War II vet, suburban dads put on hats and took the train to the city, and I did watch an awful lot of TV,  so ….

(Oh, and do strollers REALLY have to be that big?)

Where am I going with all this? Here:

What fascinates me (and most people, I think) about “Mad Men” is the way it embodies a cultural hanging chad. One of those punch holes in time, if you’ll forgive the expression, that sucked the world from one set of perceived truths into another, but the hole wasn’t clear yet and the two were still trying to reconcile themselves to each other. I see the Betty and Dan era as a time when hats and gloves were in our closets and dressers, but being used less. When it was common for kids to ride their bicycles around the neighborhood freely, but they were awfully tempted to stay inside and watch “The Three Stooges” on TV. When the average person could never imagine calculators, cordless phones, smoke-free restaurants, widely available latte, 24/7 information streams. When suburban, middle-class families like mine were unprepared for student protests, the women’s movement, the civil rights movement.

(I just can’t accept the fact that I actually have to a PAY for decent television programs. I mean, what happened to free TV?)

And Sally and me, we observed the tension between the two. We observed the school moms go from hats to bouffants, and then get jobs, and some of them decided not to stay married, and we observed as the adults in our world started adapting to these developments and what once seemed so wrong became OK, and there was a time when we couldn’t go to our favorite shopping district because of the riots.

It’s wrong to romanticize that time. But it’s intriguing to think about being born into one set of expectations about the world and adjusting to such a dramatic shift. Perhaps we are in another one of those eras right now. I don’t know. I just think, sometimes, that it’s the confused Sally in me coming out when I get so annoyed about people who insist on chatting away on their cell phones in the middle of a restaurant.



Filed under Musings

My dream job

I want to work for The Daily Grommet and be the office supply specialist. How do I get an interview? Are there benefits?

(I also want to buy these products.)

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Filed under Obsessions, Office Supplies

A 5,500-plant update

See those gnarly roots? They are, as I learned over dinner last night, the reason why my dear friends Dennis and Deborah almost lost it this summer. Lost their minds, gave up their farm, ditched their marriage.

About two months ago, I helped Dennis, Deborah, and about 20 other hearty volunteers plant 5,500 seedlings (see my earlier posting and video.) Dennis and Deborah had been trying to restore a stretch of their small farm in Door County to prairie, or something at least closely approximating it. I have been visiting their property for a good six years now and observing the ups and downs of this effort. Burning, poisoning, seeding — nothing really worked. The indomitable non-native weeds kept asserting themselves, and re-asserting. They had put down roots long ago — literally — and would not leave easily.

The plan this time was to skip the seeds and go straight to the ‘lings. Hand-planting 5,500 of the suckers — little blue stem, false indigo, echinacea, Canada rye, and about 5 other species — was ambitious, but the volunteers were up to the task. It actually went amazingly well.

I returned from Operation: Prairie Restoration sore and somewhat anxious. Those little blue stems seemed so small and fragile, almost disappearing into their holes. Their beautifully veined root systems were delicate and determined, but how could they compete with roots like the ones above? We had left untold legions of those old roots in the fields, waiting to pounce.

I hadn’t seen Dennis and Deborah again until last night, when John and I joined them for dinner at Tutto. Based on a few e-mails since the planting, I knew that weeds had been an issue, but I didn’t know how much of an issue. It seems my friends were unknowingly using the wrong weed suppressant for a while and cultivating sawgrass (a weed) instead of Canada rye (a grass seedling). That was part of it. But I sat in horror as they described the worst of it. Picture, said Dennis, walking through weeds a foot high in search of seedlings inches high. Picture working two straight, hot, 8-hour days of weeding one weekend, and coming back the next weekend and seeing that all your work had made no difference. Picture day laborers dispatched over those 3 acres after being shown photographs of the things that were not weeds. And let’s not talk about the expense.

I don’t know at what point Deborah insisted they sell the whole darned place and let someone else deal with it, and what volume the discord reached. But I saw the look they exchanged with each other as they told the story, and decided not to ask.

But the ending is happy. The Great Oak Street Prairie Battle of 2010 seems to have been a win for the seedlings and for at least one marriage. The prairie is looking terrific now, they told us. They can’t wait for us to see it. Their relationship seems good as ever. And I can tell you firsthand that they can laugh about it now — maybe sardonically, but that qualifies.


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The pot is on the stove

The corn I plan to eat tonight, as soon as the water comes to a boil, came from this place this morning. It was 35 cents per ear. Also for sale: laying hens $8, eggs $2, cukes 25 cents each, green and yellow beans $1.95 per lb., tomatoes $1.25 per small box. I bought four ears plus tomatoes.

Total bill: $2.65.

I threw $3 in the yellow cash box. I’ll bet they figure all the tourists round up like that.

We were on our way back from Waupaca. More about that trip later. I’ll also report in about the corn.

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Filed under Appetite, Going Driftless, Images