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Angry People

The book for April book club is Outliers, The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.

Mr. Gladwell says that success is not a fluke in most cases. Some of the things that have contributed to the success of Bill Gates, The Beatles, a bunch of New York law firms, and professional hockey players are practicing for 10,000 hours, being the grandson of a Jewish immigrant who worked in the garment district of New York, and being born in January.

Now, I've never wanted to do anything enough to practice it for 10,000 hours, I'm not Jewish or from New York, I wasn't born in January. And even though I'm smarter than the average bear, I was not taught that I was entitled to a good education or anything at all actually.
So after discovering that I am apparently resigned to a life of mediocrity, I found the book kind of depressing, albeit in an interesting way, until I got the Chapter on the Culture of Honor.

Ah, my people.

You can listen to the entire chapter here:
Outliers - Culture of Honor by Malcolm Gladwell - Why I Hate The Joneses Audio track

Skip to 10:00 or even 15:00 to hear the [to me] interesting bits.

I'll sum up: Basically Southerners are angry sums a' bitches.
Most of the people who settled in the South came from clannish areas such as Scotland, Ireland, the midlands of England, and Wales. Life was hard, people tried to steal your sheep, and your clan had your back. Because the part of the country we settled in was a lot like where we left, we kept our clannish ways and still act this way even now - though many of us haven't seen the "home country" in two-three hundred years.

These are people who can recite their genealogy back generations (it's part of knowing your clan) and even suggesting there's a y*ankee, (as CP says), or an Englishman in the woodpile is fightin' words.
Remember, we're angry people, so watch your mouth. Plus for some reason, we tend to have a long ass memory, not necessarily a good thing. Elephants got nothin' on us, baby.

Most crimes in the South are personal in nature - in a culture of honor, we don't want your stuff - we're settling a score. The Hatfields and McCoys are a classic example. Mr. Gladwell calls it a "cultural legacy".

I'll add my own theory here - as to the pissed off bit.
Here were these crazy warrior folk - all mixed up with Vikings, Picts, and other blood curdling berserker types, but then something happened (what? religion?) and most of those countries or sections of those countries were kept oppressed, poor and exploited. The Irish were beat down for centuries by the English. Not a couple of years or decades - centuries.They were not allowed to practice moneymaking professions, their religion, own property, speak their language, or be educated. The Welsh and the Scots also suffered under the rule of the English.

Then over to America we trot, bringing our centuries of oppressed anger with us (Southerners are masters of the passive-aggressive. I think we invented it.). Yeah, we're still pissed. So what?

Anyhoo, that chapter was extra interesting and made me proud. I'm sure I was meant to take it another way, but cultural legacy won out.

As an aside: the Angles and the Saxons had themselves some cajones and managed to do what the Romans did not, which is a little bit amazing.
The Italians didn't conquer the Picts in Caledonia so much as corral them with their nice wall. Keep those woad covered barbarian bastards on the other side, thank you.
They didn't mess with Ireland at all


If You're Not Reading This Blog

You're missing out. And I don't mean my blog because really, you ain't missing nothing here (and...cue father + rolling + grave over usage of "ain't". Hey, at least I didn't say fixin'.).

But I digress.

The blog you might be missing is my friend CP's blog - Land of Cotton, (see "My Blog List" on left).
You need to bookmark it right now. I mean it.

Here, let me help:


I Am Easily Amused

What could be funnier than a tailless cat inside a sparkling water box?


The Doors

When I was in Northern Ireland oh so many years ago, I took many pictures of doors. Here's a couple of them.

Do you notice anything different about this door? I'll wait...

That's right, there's no doorknob. That small plate you see on the right of the door is the lock, it has a space at the bottom of the plate just big enough for your index finger to slide into. And that's how you open and close the door. Minimalist to be sure.

Gardening is an art form over there and just about every entry had either hanging flower baskets or flower pots on the doorstep.

Both of these were taken in Portadown, County Armagh. The Orange Gates were up in force in the Protestant part of town
when we were there. It was kinda creepy. There's a "peace line", as there is in Belfast, separating the Catholic section from Protestant, but we did not see it.
This is the church of St. Marks in downtown Portadown.

We stopped in Portadown on our way to Armagh as we had to change buses there. We went a couple of times.

A building right across from the bus stop had been blown up the year before, I believe by the IRA.

The Redbuds Are Coming!

It is prime redbud season around here right now. From pink to almost maroon, they make me smile with their loveliness.

I love Dogwoods too. They start out as lemony-lime colored buds and then become the ethereal white flower. (pink is good too) They seem like they might have come from Lothl√≥rien, the way the flowers appear to be suspended in the air by some magical elven power.


Spring Has Sprung

Yesterday was about as near a perfect day as there is to be had in these parts. 76, sunny, with a slight breeze.

Anon CP and I walked the Occoneechee Speedway, one of the last original NASCAR dirt tracks, then had some $6 margarita pie at Gulf Rim. That pie is expensive. I could get a whole key lime pie for about that price at Whole Foods!

I'm gonna stop getting it. Remind me next time.

These tulips were outside A Southern Season. Wish someone would come do this at my house!



This was the removal of the cancerous cells from Mom's nose day.
I was a few minutes late leaving work and then - Murphy's Law - hit every red light. She was glad to see me, then got weepy.
We walked to the car doing our very best Tim Conway little old man impression. Three minutes later she was laughing - "because that's what we do".
"Big woman, I had some on the inside.", she told me as we rounded the on ramp for 15/501.
Okay then now.

I drove like a bat out of hell to make up for my lateness on the front end. As we sat at our next to last light, I was fuming at myself (as if that would undo my prior miscalculation) and Mom said,
"It's not your fault and just lalalalalalala." (Anon CP - I think she was channeling you.)
Good advice Mom.

We got there past noon - two minutes late but it was okay. We waited about five minutes during which we read a Nat Geo and started on a People.
"Did I tell you about your aids? Well I meant to."
Then  we were summoned and shuffled off to the back offices (where they can't hear you scream...)
She wanted some gum (very impressed with my bubble blowing ability). I thought she was going to get down off the table to come get it, so I told her to wait I would bring it to her.
"Well I'm not going to fly over there."

Dr. B. came in and introduced himself. Too soft of a handshake for my liking, but I guess a light touch is best when someone is scooping flesh from your face.
He explained the procedure to Mom and asked if she had any questions. She strung together some words that had nothing to do with...well, anything. He looked surprised.
"I know but you have to." Coherency struggles through.

Hello, have you met my mother? She's four, but a damned good sport.

He got her to lie back ("You're trying to get me away from here!") and numbed her nose.

How is squamous cell carcinoma treated?
Techniques for treating squamous cell carcinoma are similar to those for basal cell carcinoma (for detailed descriptions, see above under treatment of basal cell carcinoma):
  • Curettage and desiccation: Dermatologists often prefer this method, which consists of scooping out the basal cell carcinoma by using a spoon like instrument called a curette. Desiccation is the additional application of an electric current to control bleeding and kill the remaining cancer cells. The skin heals without stitching. This technique is best suited for small cancers in non-crucial areas such as the trunk and extremities.

Once again, Mom was a total trooper. Other than a couple of "icky"'s she didn't say a word. Good as gold.
We finished up and she wanted to get going somewhere (it was a gorgeous spring day today), but alas I had to go back to work. 
We headed to Burger King for a quick burger to go. I got rid of my gum in a tissue and asked if she had swallowed hers. 
"No!...[slight pause] Wait. No, someone else did inside."
Oh, so someone climbed inside your mouth and swallowed your gum.
In the BK parking lot as I was unwrapping Mom's burger, I remembered I needed to go to the bank (right next door to the dermatologist that we were no longer next door to). I swore a little. I hate being inefficient. 
"Steadaling," Mom said.
Another Dr. Seuss word. 
A few minutes later, over some other imagined catastrophe, I blurted "F%$& me!"
Mom said, "I don't want to."
Omygah, I roared with laughter. 

When I left her at CB, she was dissecting her BK Whopper Junior.



This quote by Somerset Maugham has been flitting around in my brain all day:
(I have never read any of his books, but this quote spoke to me loud and clear, so much so that I laminated it and it lives in my address book, which seems fitting.)
"I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place. Accident has cast them amid certain surroundings, but they have always a nostalgia for a home they know not. They are strangers in their birthplace, and the leafy lanes they have known from childhood or the populous streets in which they have played, remain but a place of passage. They may spend their whole lives aliens among their kindred and remain aloof among the only scenes they have ever known. Perhaps it is this sense of strangeness that sends men far and wide in the search for something permanent, to which they may attach themselves. Perhaps some deep-rooted atavism urges the wanderer back to lands which his ancestors left in the dim beginnings of history. Sometimes a man hits upon a place to wchich he mysteriously feels that he belongs. Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never seen before, among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth. Here at last he finds rest." 
 The Moon and Sixpence

I am out of sorts. 
Restless, pissy, quick to offend, and take offense. 
Is it spring (= change, rebirth, molting), summer's a'coming sadness, the time change, the fact that I'm reading Still Alice (about a woman with early onset Alzheimer's)? 
I don't know.
Time to rearrange the furniture. 


This About Sums It Up

Great article in Slate regarding hugging. Yes!

This woman and I were separated at birth.

The C Word

So, Mom's biopsy came back as cancerous.

The woman that called from the doctor's office said squamous cell carcinoma, I think. I didn't write it down. She did not say basil cell - I am clear about that. (Now there's a fun job, huh? Calling people to tell them they have cancer - awesome.)

Anyway, it's not melanoma and they can do the surgery at the office.

Involves scrapping. Yikes.

Can we just bypass all the little crappy bad things happening to her? Isn't losing her mind enough?


Dream State

A shameless plug for Diane Roberts, my umpteenth double cousin who wrote the book below a few years back. 
I don't know her, she don't know me, but by god, we southern girls stick together - blood or no blood.

Dream State: Eight Generations of Swamp Lawyers, Conquistadors, Confederate Daughters, Banana Republicans, and Other Florida Wildlife.

It didn't get very many (or very good) reviews on Amazon - but I thought it was funny. Maybe because it is about my maligned home state and we're related. 


Daisy Chain

A month or so back, a friend posted the following on FB: 
I promise to (sometime in 2011) send something handmade, by me, to the first 5 people who leave a comment to this update. 
But, if you comment, you in turn must promise to post this same message, and send something handmade by your first 5 posters. 
I was poster #5 and received this:
 My favorite colors - purple and green! Trees are already starting to flower here (so very wrong), so I will have to wait until next winter to enjoy it more.
As promised, I then posted the above on MY FB status and got my five recipients (well, actually four, since one of them was not serious).
Several of my peeps (who shall remain anonymous :) misunderstood the instructions and thought they were supposed to give me something handmade back in return. 
Because of the misinterpretation, lucky me received this charming walnut wood bowl. Perfect for paperclips, rubber bands, change, or candy, (my preference), which was included! (The Boy made the green pottery vase behind the bowl.)
Last night three of us went to the Boxcarr Farms First Friday small plates at 3Cups. Saw one person we met last month and met a new person. We swapped great restaurants and menus from the area. 
Here was the menu from last night:
  • yellow tomato soup with bacon, grilled sandwich w/ smoked mozzarella
  • sweet potato cake with kale, poached egg, hollandaise
  • porter-braised oxtail with rapini, gnocchi
  • arugula and bresaola (air-dried beef) salad with shaved radish, egg, asiago, herb dressing
  • grapefruit upside down cake with lemon cream, apricot/brandy gastrique

I had the sweet potato cake (my favorite), the salad, and the dessert (the cake was a bit dry).
 Today was nice. A walk, complete with surprise visit from A., home from college for the weekend, and then the movie "Rango". I totally recommend it. 
Then I drove into Carrboro to Vepertine's new second shop (Yay Ginna!) and bought another bar of my favorite goat's milk soap from Anole Nook Farm. After that, a quick dash into A Southern Season for some noshy things for tomorrow's book club and then home - where my leaves had been done, thanks to W. Whew, safe from the HOA overlords for another day!
Listened to some Brian Eno as I wrote this. "Small Craft on a Milk Sea" and "The Pearl". Lovely. 
And for something completely different, I also downloaded my favorite XTC album "Black Sea" (1980 - yikes!), "Towers of London" - yes, yes, yes. Still holds up today, IMHO.
A roast beef and horseradish cheese sandwich, chips, and an apple for dinner, now I'm off to watch some "United States of Tara".




Mom had a dermatologist appointment today for a spot on her nose. The spot was frozen back in August and seemed to be fine until now.
She was excited to be going and jumped up (okay, not literally) from the couch, raring to go.
"Okay, let's get 'um!"
When I told her we were going to the doctor, she looked a little Georgia mule-ish and said she didn't like him. I reminded her that this was a woman and she perked right back up.

As we rounded the corner, she pointed out the office and knew that she had been there before. So weird. 
We picked up a National Geographic to peruse whilst we waited.
"I used to have one of those." She pointed to the human skull on the cover.
I hope you still do.

Oh, yes. I am hilarious.
She thinks so.

A photo of a peacock was pronounced pretty and an advertisement with a couple kissing was worthy of a second and third look. She made a remark that was equal to "oh la la" in dementiaville. (like Margarettaville, but sub anti-psychotics for the tequila).
Then she got caught up in counting the stones on a necklace in another ad.

We had to help her up on to the chair, the paper made it slippery.
There were actual tiny scissors involved and needles for numbing and stuff. She was quite brave and really didn't make a peep except to say "icky" several times.  They're sending it off for a biopsy; we should know next week. When I told her she was brave she said, "I know. I'm like that."

We drove next door to the bank to make her VA deposit (hopefully next month the direct deposit will be set up.), Maybe there was something in that shot they gave her, she had several spells.
"Dilly dilly ding dong."
Whew, not sure what that was about, but she cracked herself up when she said that.

The bandage bugged her, but she had no recollection that she had just had a piece of flesh removed from her face.
I said we have to pray that it's not cancer.
That was THE MOST fantastically funny thing ever said - by anyone - in the history of the world.

No really, we don't want that.
"Well, it could be okay."
Um, no. Guaranteed, cancer is never ever a good time.
"Oh c'mon!"
What, is it be nice to cancer day?!

She laughed so hard she almost choked.
I can't do the Heimlich when I'm driving.