Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Fairy "Chimneys" of Cappadocia


Audiobooks have improved my life immensely.  I do not mind doing my housewifely chores if I can do them while listening to an audiobook.  I cannot honestly say that I now look forward to matching clean socks, chopping onions, walking the dog, or weeding the patio, but the audiobooks definitely help.

I am an Audible subscriber, so I get a lot of helpful suggestions about what I might like to listen to next.  Frequently I use my credits to get some trending favorite that I probably otherwise wouldn’t listen to, sort of like a large, anonymous book club for my ears.

Yesterday I was doing laundry and listening to “Wishes and Wellingtons” by Julie Berry (narrated by Jayne Entwistle).  This book is marketed as a “middle school fantasy”, but it is trending among middle-aged housewives, so I downloaded it.

As the genie is ferrying the spunky orphan boy, the feisty girl who refuses to be defined by her gender, and the sweet sidekick boarding school roommate from London to Persia, the group passes over “the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia”.

Okay, this is why I love reading all sorts of books – there’s always something new to learn.  I’ve never heard of the fairy chimneys.  Thanks to the internet, in minutes I was viewing photos of them.

They are fantastical rock formations located in Turkey.  Of course, my first thought on viewing them was “fairy chimneys?  They look more like fairy phalluses”, but I can see why the term fairy chimneys was chosen instead.

May I suggest that you look up the fairy chimneys and spend a pointless hour or so reading about them, as I did?  It is truly a strange and wonderful world that we are lucky enough to live in.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

A Balm for Troubled Times


I’m not sure at what age I was first introduced to British mystery novels.  It feels like they’ve always been a part of my life.  I have read my way through series after series of them, and the protagonist detectives, amateur or professional, seem like old friends.

Whenever the unclean state of our oceans and air, or the hateful rise of white supremacy, or some new health scare (Benadryl = Alzheimers?? Alcohol is Bad for You???) begins to weigh on my psyche, I reach for a British mystery.

Wikipedia dubs the 1920’s and 30’s the Golden Era of Detective Fiction.  Many of the murder mystery novels that were written during this era are set in England, particularly in English Country Houses and the Clubs and Town Houses of London. 

Since I have read all of the novels by the queens of this era (Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey) I have a store of useless anachronistic knowledge about upper class life in Britain.

Boots? The generic name for the servant who cleaned footwear. 
Folly? The pointless structure in the back garden where you will find a vital clue, such as a cigarette butt.
Kippers?  Breakfast fish served in the morning room. 
The Interval?  Intermission at an opera, when the detective will spot a suspect doing something odd. 
Baize?  The felt-like material that covered the door to the servant’s wing of the house, always green.
Distributor?  A vital part of a 1920’s automobile that was forever getting wet or something and causing the detective to miss getting to the house before the second murder.

You get the idea.  It is a comforting world, and usually the person who gets bumped off is some wicked uncle no one liked anyway.

This blog post was inspired because I was just lounging on the sofa, drinking a can of La Croix Peach Pear, and avoiding thinking about what to make for dinner by re-reading “The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club” by Dorothy Sayers, when I saw this line:

“It was Salcombe Hardy, of the Daily Yell, large and untidy and slightly drunk as usual.”

Perfection.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Government Cheese


My friend Tonia and I volunteer at the Food Closet at an Episcopal Church in Palo Alto.  Tonia is a better person than me, so she goes every Friday.  I am on the substitute list so I only volunteer about once a month.

But that has been enough time for me to absorb the frozen-in-time quality of the neighborhood Food Closet.  It has been an institution for at least 35 years, and its rules and strictures are odd, unchanging, and completely accepted by both the volunteers and the clients.

The facility is a small room on the side of the church that is divided by a counter.  If you want a bag of food, you must follow these steps:

Step One:  Go to the back door and pick up a foam triangle with a Sharpie number written on it from a pronged dispenser.

Step Two:  Go to the front door and wait outside until your number is called, at which time you write your name in the sacred spiral notebook so that a volunteer can either look up or create an id for you in the ancient FilePro program on the ancient PC.

Step Three:  Approach the counter, where a volunteer waits to let you select one item from each shelf in the back.

The food available varies widely from day to day, as it is donated by a variety of corporations and individuals in the neighborhood.  There is usually a combination of canned goods, the previous day’s unsold prepared meals from the grocery store, day-old bread and cookies from the bakery, extra produce from neighbor’s gardens, and a random assortment of things people found in their pantries and decided to bring over.  And, of course, bricks of government cheese.

Step Three can take anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour, as the clients ruminate over their options, expostulate on conspiracy theories, share their dietary quirks, give you unsolicited advice, try to distract you into giving them two cans of Spam, or just sort of stare off vacantly into the middle distance.

Every day of the week there is a different set of volunteers.  I am a Friday volunteer, so I may not work Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday – ONLY FRIDAY.  So, for all I know, there is a completely different arbitrary procedure every other day of the week.  The two ladies who run the Friday volunteer crew are lovely and have been at this for 35 years.  There’s not much they haven’t seen.

Each client can come to the Food Closet twice a week, but there are a whole bunch of regular Friday clients, which gives the place the feel of an old-timey sitcom.  It is a wild and wacky place, and I love it.

Would you like a cling-wrapped chunk of government cheese?