The Weekly Essay

It’s Another Story.

I Want Candy.

The following candies will be rebranded as “sexy” this Halloween:

Kit Kats

Mounds

Almond Joy

Blow Pops

Milk Duds

Lemonheads

Licorice whips

Jawbreakers

Malted milk balls

Twizzlers

Gummy worms

Caramel apples

M&Ms (all flavors)

Snickers

Goo Goo Cluster

Reese’s peanut butter cups

Reese’s pieces

Hershey’s kisses

Butterfinger

Anything “fun size”

Mary Janes

Jolly Ranchers

Watchamacalit

Nerds

Skittles

Candy corn

Starburst

Granola bars

Bon Bons

Pop rocks

Swedish fish

After dinner mints

Wax Lips

Raisins

UNICEF money

Passing The Test.

To: All Employees, Braeburn Building

From: Building Management

Subject: Emergency Drill.

Hello Everyone,

First of all we’d like to thank you for your understanding while participating in the emergency drill earlier this week. This is our first test of the emergency notification system or ENS, which is required annually, since we began managing the building seventeen months ago. We know there were some mistakes made and we’d like to address some of those now. We’d also like to offer assurance that we are reviewing the procedures and will be making adjustments based on both our own conclusions and feedback from you. We’ve already received a great deal of constructive feedback from you as well as from the police and fire departments and we really appreciate it.

First of all we’d like to defend the decision not to inform building employees that we would be conducting a test of the building’s ENS. We felt that it would be a more effective test if people were not given advance warning. This decision is currently under review. Going forward, however, it will always be our policy to notify the police and fire departments in advance that we’ll be conducting a test. On the bright side we found that if there had been a real emergency we can count on first responders to get here within minutes.

We also made several changes to our plans before conducting the test. For example it was suggested that someone from building management run down the hallway of each floor screaming unintelligibly just before or during the activation of the emergency notification system. We didn’t want to cause too much alarm by having the person scream something specific and we can all agree that this was the right decision. Abandoning this plan before we conducted the test, we can all agree, was also the right decision.

We apologize to employees who work on the 9th Floor that Kevin was not informed that we decided not to implement this part of the test.

Second, it is standard procedure for the elevators to shut down automatically when the ENS is activated. We apologize to those who were in the elevators at the time and will be making adjustments to make sure the elevators don’t stop between floors, and that the doors open.

Third, and speaking of doors, we are very glad to see that almost everyone used the stairwells and proceeded to the emergency exits at the ground floor, as instructed. We apologize for the fact that the emergency exits were locked. In our defense the building goes on automatic lockdown between 7:00PM and 7:00AM for security reasons.

The ENS was activated at 8:30AM, but after careful review we realized Kevin had failed to adjust the building clocks correctly, due to confusion over time zones and Daylight Savings Time. Since we’d received several complaints about the building not being open or going into lockdown at odd hours we should have noticed this sooner. We promise this will be fixed immediately even if we have to work overtime.

You can take some comfort in knowing that in the future all tests of the ENS will be conducted between 7:00AM and 7:00PM, so if the alarm goes off outside of those hours it’s probably a real emergency. Ha ha.

Finally there’s been a lot of confusion and misinformation about the wasps. We’d like to make it absolutely clearly that we were testing the ENS and that there was no emergency prior to that. The accidental release of the wasps at the same time was purely coincidental. Fun fact: the wasps are not native to this area but in Japan are known as “the yak-killer wasp”. We’ve consulted local naturalists who assure us the wasps will “probably” not survive the winter and are not an environmental threat unless a queen was also released. We’re checking on that, how they were brought into the country, and why Kevin had them at work.

As an added act of good faith and retribution on our parts we’ll be giving each floor a tin of butter, cheese, and caramel flavored popcorn, as well as sending around a collection of get well cards for those employees who sustained injuries during the test of the ENS but which, for legal reasons, we can’t currently acknowledge had anything to do with the test.

Please feel free to sign the cards and enjoy the popcorn which will be delivered to you by Kevin.

Thank you again for your understanding and acting appropriately during the test of the ENS.

-Braeburn Building Management

Going Number Two.

Stickers have been going up on signs on bus stops around the city. Apparently the Number 2 route isn’t the only one going down, and that’s a sad thing. Since riding the bus for me is a convenience it’s easy for me to complain, but what about the people who depend on the bus to get around? Whenever I see a route being eliminated I remember the Number 13 route that I once accidentally got on, back when the buses didn’t have signs with their route number and bus drivers sometimes forgot what route they were on. The Number 13 went down Murphy Road, an side street that curves around through the Sylvan Park neighborhood. Along it you’ll find a vegan bakery, a bagel place, an organic grocery, and the McCabe golf course where, in high school, I made a dismal attempt at joining the golf team, but that’s another story.
I still wonder who rode the Number 13–that one day I accidentally got on the bus was packed–and how they had to change their schedules. Parts of the Number 13 overlap with another route, and getting from that other route to Murphy Road is walkable, for those who can walk a mile or more.
The Number 2 partly overlaps with the Number 7, which I rode as part of my plan to ride every one of Nashville’s bus routes–so far I’ve fallen short, and yet it still bothers me that there’s now at least one less route to ride. The Number 7 goes through the heart of Hillsboro Village, an area that gets so much traffic it could use more buses, not less. The Number 2 goes around a side street, past the entrance to the area’s YMCA. Hey, don’t people who ride the bus also go to the gym? If you look at the schedule you’ll see it’s kind of an odd route that starts running at 5:34 in the morning then stops at 9:28, and only starts up again at 2:15 in the afternoon and stops at 6:49, so it’s mainly aimed at people who work the day shift.
I hope the people who used to ride it can walk.

Dear Emily.

Source: Emily Dickinson Museum

Dear Emily,

I went out with someone and we had a great time. I thought we had a great time, anyway: we had a nice dinner, we laughed a lot. We played miniature golf. I haven’t done that since I was a kid. I didn’t even know there were still courses around but he suggested it and I was enthusiastic. He seemed a little competitive about it but I was okay with that. Mostly we just had a lot of fun. The evening ended nicely, and I was certain we’d see each other again. Now, though, he won’t return my calls, texts, or emails. None of my friends can find any hint that I might have done anything wrong. If I did something wrong how am I supposed to know if he won’t answer?

-Ghosted In Gainesville

Dear Ghosted,

A narrow Fellow in the Grass

Occasionally rides –

You may have met him? Did you not

His notice instant is –

 

The Grass divides as with a Comb,

A spotted Shaft is seen,

And then it closes at your Feet

And opens further on –

 

He likes a Boggy Acre –

A Floor too cool for Corn –

But when a Boy and Barefoot

I more than once at Noon

 

Have passed I thought a Whip Lash

Unbraiding in the Sun

When stooping to secure it

It wrinkled And was gone –

 

Several of Nature’s People

I know, and they know me

I feel for them a transport

Of Cordiality

 

But never met this Fellow

Attended or alone

Without a tighter Breathing

And Zero at the Bone.

 

Dear Emily,

I have a coworker who’s needlessly critical. It’s nothing to do with work that she’s critical of. She criticizes my hair, the outfits I choose to wear to work. I brought in a jar I made in a pottery class and put it on the main table for pencils and pens. She didn’t know it was mine but loudly said it didn’t fit with the office “look” and put it on a shelf in the storage room. She does this to other people too. It’s not something the managers or HR can or should respond to but is there a way to deal with this?

-Fed Up In Phoenix

Dear Phoenix,

A Man may make a Remark –

In itself – a quiet thing

That may furnish the Fuse unto a Spark

In dormant nature – lain –

 

Let us divide – with skill –

Let us discourse – with care –

Powder exists in Charcoal –

Before it exists in Fire –

 

Dear Emily,

Our child’s teacher is terrible. He assigns much more homework than I think is appropriate (our child is in third grade), and one afternoon when I took my child back after school to pick up a book I found the previous day’s homework in the trashcan unmarked, like he didn’t even look at it. From what our child has said he’s also unnecessarily harsh and leaves them in the classroom unsupervised a lot. We’re going to move our child to another class but would it be overreaching to report some of this to the school board too?

-Educating In Edmonton

Dear Educating,

There’s a certain Slant of light,

Winter Afternoons –

That oppresses, like the Heft

Of Cathedral Tunes –

 

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –

We can find no scar,

But internal difference –

Where the Meanings, are –

 

None may teach it – Any –

‘Tis the seal Despair –

An imperial affliction

Sent us of the Air –

 

When it comes, the Landscape listens –

Shadows – hold their breath –

When it goes, ’tis like the Distance

On the look of Death –

Dear Emily,

I’ve been struggling for several years as a writer. I’ve had some encouraging results, but mostly I just seem to be hitting a wall. It also occurs to me that I’m never going to be able to make a living at writing; at best it’ll be a major hobby. That leaves me feeling frustrated and sad. Should I just quit trying and move on with my life, to see if focusing on my day job really makes me happier?

-Pondering In Poughkeepsie

Dear Pondering,

Because I could not stop for Death –

He kindly stopped for me –

And who am I kidding? If you like it keep doing it. Writing isn’t a bad hobby and it’s cheaper than tropical fish and safer than skydiving. Who knows? You might get lucky and someday smartass high schoolers will go around singing your poems to the tune of “The Yellow Rose Of Texas”.

 

Piece Of Pie.

Even though summer’s almost over there are still some warm days left and a chance to revisit one of childhood’s simple pleasures: making a mud pie. The following is excerpted from the recipe book Get Baked: The High Art Of All Forms Of Pastry by Eunice Phelan.

How To: Make A Mud Pie.

Locally sourced mud pies are best but this may not be possible if you live in a coastal area or in parts of the American southwest where the soil is too sandy to adhere properly, creating more of a sludge than bona fide mud. In these areas, or if you live in a city and don’t have easy access to topsoil, try commercial potting soil. Its dark color and perlite can give your mud pie a nice chocolate cookie quality similar to Oreo or Hydrox. Commercial potting soil tends toward dryness, though, so check on local water restrictions.

For added appeal you can blend commercial potting soil with lighter brown soil, if you can find it. This blending is a very advanced technique that requires more patience, skill, and practice than most mud pie makers are going to have, but the results are worth it.

In much of the southeast you’ll find a dense clay-rich soil that’s a perfect mud pie base. Add enough water to give it a consistency that’s easy to shape but not too soft. You can always add more water but it can take hours or even days for any excess water to evaporate. Mud pies always benefit from being served right away and can be spoiled if it rains or if you just forget about them.

Once you have the right consistency place your mud base in a pan. I find a round 9-inch metal baking pan works best. Metal is prone to rust, especially if left outside, but holds its shape better than plastic. I find mud pies in metal pans also dry faster.

Once your pan is filled add finishing touches like a crimped edge and vertical cuts in the center. Garnish with leaves for color.

Serves 6-8.

 

Punctuate The Positive.

Review Of Punctuation Marks

.

Period -This simple dot was the first punctuation mark invented. It was created accidentally by medieval monks who tapped their pens on the parchment when afflicted with writer’s block, then eventually gave up. In British grammar this punctuation mark is known as the “full stop” because the British still communicate by telegram.

,

Comma-A dot with a tail dangling below the line of text the comma is used to divide sentence clauses, items in lists, and occasionally exhausted boxers.

:

Colon-Two vertical dots. The colon is the punctuation mark commonly used to both divide and indicate connections between two items or clauses, as in the case of analogies, and is also the punctuation mark most likely to invade an undeveloped territory and claim its resources.

;

Semicolon-A dot placed vertically over a comma. The semicolon is frequently used to divide sentences of clauses of the same or similar value. Although serving a slightly lesser function than the colon the semicolon prefers fair trade practices, and both punctuation marks should be checked regularly in texts aged fifty years and older.

?

Question mark-A curved line with a straight section pointing downward over a period the question mark indicates an interrogative even in the absence of words such as “Why?” or “Where?” An upside down and backward-facing question mark is placed at the beginning of interrogatives in Spanish because it’s a polite language that doesn’t want to spring a question on you when you’re not expecting it.

!

Exclamation point-This straight line over a period is used to indicate excitement, surprise, or emphasis. In British grammar this punctuation mark is known as “the boingy dance stick”.

or

Quotation marks-Essentially commas, but placed at the top of the text line, quotation marks may be either straight or inverted to indicate speech or conversation within a text. In British grammar only one quotation mark is used at the beginning and end of a statement, but in American grammar two quotation marks placed together are used, because Americans are twice as loud.

( )

Parentheses-Curved lines used to close off a section of text. The beginning of the parenthetical is indicated by a line curving outward to the left while the closure is indicated by a line curving outward to the right. Text within parentheses should be treated carefully and may be poisonous.

[ ]

Square brackets-parenthesis made of straight lines, also known as hard brackets or crotchets, square brackets are used in mathematical equations and parentheticals inserted by a computer.

{ }

Curly brackets-also known as moustache brackets these are for parentheticals written in cursive.

#

Pound sign-While traceable back to Roman times for a measure of weight this became a popular symbol for the British pound in the 19th century, although some computer keyboards recognized Shift-3 as £. Now popularly known as a “hashtag” it’s served with eggs and bacon.

&

Ampersand-This punctuation mark is used as a substitute by people who are too lazy to write out the word “and” but still have the energy to say “ampersand”.

*

Asterisk-This star-shaped punctuation mark is commonly used to draw attention to a footnote.

Dagger-This punctuation mark is for secondary footnotes and used to stab people who don’t read the first footnote.

Ü

Umlaut-Two dots placed vertically over a letter, the letter U in this example. The umlaut is the only punctuation mark that does not have a grammatical or phonic use; its sole function is to indicate Scandinavian death metal.

 

 

It’s Hard Out There.

It started a few years ago when breweries in the United States began to offer “hard cider” or, as it’s known in the rest of the world, “cider”. It caught on. People liked having an alcoholic fruit beverage made with a fruit other than grapes, and the convenience of having alcohol in their apple juice without having to go to prison or add their own alcohol since the combination of apple juice and vodka has the taste, smell, and many other attributes of butane. Soon pear cider followed, and although cider from other pomaceous fruits hasn’t caught on yet someone out there is cultivating medlars right now.

What did follow was “hard” versions of other beverages. “Hard lemonade” was soon offered, and then “hard orange soda”, quickly followed by “hard grape soda”, which caused red wine producers around the world to say, “Why didn’t we think of that?” until they tried it and realized they hadn’t tried it because it was terrible. There was “hard ginger ale”, and “hard iced tea” for people who wanted all the Southern charm of a mint julep without the mint or the julep or anything else except the alcohol. There was “hard cream soda” and “hard fruit punch” for people who wanted to combine all the joys of childhood nostalgia with a DUI. At some point someone started making “hard root beer”, or, as it’s known in the rest of the world, “what is wrong with you?”

Source: gifimage

Maybe it started earlier than that. The flavors of amaretto and Irish cream had been added to coffee for decades by people who wanted to combine the taste of liqueurs with being able to stay jittery all night. In the early ‘90’s a brewery west of the Rockies started making a beverage called “Zima”. It was very popular with a previously untapped demographic, guys who wore turtlenecks all the time, even though it was really just a combination of Sprite and vodka and had all the taste, smell, and many other attributes of sparkling butane. In chain restaurants glazes and barbecue sauces infused with bourbon and other whiskies became a staple and were slathered on steak, chicken, fish, and pork, which meant some nine-year olds who ordered the all-you-can-eat rib platter were able to combine all the joys of childhood with a DUI without the nostalgia.

As history has shown there is no idea so terrible that it can’t be made worse by marketing. Not content with “hard” sodas, teas, juices, sparkling waters, and milk, as well as milk substitutes made from soy, almonds, oats, rice, and eggplant, the industry started offering “hard” versions of other items. Salad dressings, pretzels, breads, peanut butter, mashed potatoes, garden gnomes, and pies had new labels indicating proof. “Hard cheese” took on a whole new meaning. Candy bars couldn’t be purchased without ID. Editorials suggested the Eighteenth Amendment hadn’t been such a bad idea after all.

Still the trend continued. It wasn’t until one morning in the shower when we opened a bottle of shampoo and were hit by the fragrance of aquavit that we looked at our shelves and admitted we had a problem.

 

When Life Gives You Lemonade.

Although summer’s heat isn’t diminished in the dog days the season is definitely winding down. The mornings are darker, and the sunsets sooner, which reminds me of when I was a kid. My room was at the back of the house and our house sat on the edge of a hill so that looking out was like looking down into a bowl. And some evenings or late afternoons throughout the year I’d watch the sunset, and watch how the sun moved to the south—meaning it didn’t really always set in the west, and I realized adults lied to me, but that’s another story.

Something else that took me back to childhood is the other day my wife and I were on our way home and passed a couple of kids with a lemonade stand in their front yard. We didn’t stop—I don’t think either of us had change and I’m not sure the kids could take a credit card unless we bought a lot of lemonade—but there were some people there so I hoped the young entrepreneurs were doing well. At the very least they were smart enough to stake out a corner lot, although they were probably lucky that it was just where they happen to live. It would be really embarrassing for a new startup to be shut down early by a guy yelling at the owners to get out of his yard, which I understand has happened to a lot of juice companies. In fact when I was four some older kids on the next street set up a stand selling Kool-Aid for a dollar a cup, which meant they only had to sell one to repay all their investors, but the operation was shut down because of lousy marketing. If they’d promoted it as an artisanal flavored water made in small batches by a fair-trade company, well, they still would have failed because this was the seventies, but at least they could have said they were decades ahead of their time.

What I also remembered was a few years later when my friend Troy and I decided to set up a lemonade stand in my front yard. I’m not sure why we thought this was a good idea, and the only reason we even got the idea was probably because the front yard lemonade stand is a classic piece of Americana even though lemons are native to southeast Asia and lemonade originated in India—although that could just as easily be part of its Americanness, a country that’s one big melting pitcher.

It was probably boredom more than anything else that inspired Troy and me. We weren’t all that interested in sales or even crafting our product, which I’m pretty sure was made from a powdered mix that had never been near a lemon. I’m not even sure we got the right mix, just that we got some powder that smelled lemony and mixed it with water, and it’s probably just as well we didn’t sell any because we didn’t have the insurance to cover the possibility of someone drinking laundry detergent. Our stand consisted of a dilapidated card table that I’m surprised could hold up the plastic cups, let alone the pitcher of lemonade, and a few years later it did collapse under the weight of a game of gin rummy.

We stood next to our stand in the front yard for hours, or maybe half hours, or maybe half an hour, before realizing that running a lemonade stand was even more boring than just sitting around being bored so we used the lemonade to water the maple tree in the front yard, and it only occurs to me now, writing this, that putting our stand in my yard was a lousy idea because I lived on a cul-de-sac and Troy lived on a corner.

At this point I feel there should be some wrap-up, some lesson learned, or mission accomplished, or deed done—something other than poisoning a maple tree which was hardy enough that it not only survived but turned the laundry detergent into a pest repellent. There’s really nothing to be said about our ersatz Norman Rockwell moment, though;  it was just something that we came up with on our own and did to spend a little time before we moved onto something else, which is what summer is for.

 

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