Friday, May 26, 2017

Seeing Stars

I don't know of a serious baseball player in my family. I loved the sport and had fun playing it in junior high school. My career ended after ninth grade as I wasn't serious enough to practice and I developed other interests. The point being, I have no photos in my collection to match the prompt.

One baseball memory that persists in my aging brain is when at eight or nine years, I got whacked in the head by a batter, during his wind-up. I can remember falling down and seeing stars but that's where the memory stops. I've read that one sees stars after a whack like mine because the occipital lobe, which processes sight, bangs up against the skull. You can replicate the same effect when you press your eyeballs hard.

What did catch my eye in the prompt was the base the batter is standing at. It looks like a piece of newspaper, hardly similar to the home base we know today which may help to date the photo. I read on the website that prior to 1899, the rules regarding home plate were extremely loose. Any object round in nature could serve as home base. At times, even a dish served as home base, which some think may have led to the alternate name–home plate.

The base in front of our batter isn't even round which leads one to think that the person in the photo wasn't a ball player at all . . . but dressed up only for the photo.

More from

"The irregular pentagon shape of home base that we know and love today was developed by Robert Keating and introduced as a viable option for the 1900/1901 baseball season. Robert Keating was an amateur pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles. His less than stellar performance in the single game he pitched for the Orioles did nothing for his baseball career, especially since an arm injury ended his days as a pitcher- but not the impact he had on the game. Off the field, Keating became an inventor. Best known for his shaving devices, bicycle wheels, and motorcycles, Keating also, as mentioned, developed the irregular pentagon-shaped home base. Despite this, in Keating’s January 21, 1922 New York Times obituary, his contributions to baseball, both on and off the field, were not mentioned.

The rear corners, which extend to a point, are made to be perpendicular to the first and third base lines. The biggest advantage of the new shape was that it made the edges of the strike zone more visible to pitchers and umpires and, therefore, improved the consistency of calling strikes.

Beyond the shape, although rubber had been occasionally used prior to this, the new design specifically required home plate be made of rubber. Keating’s reasons for picking rubber here were that the springy nature of a rubber base would give base runners a bounce to their step when they took off for first base; it would not harshly vibrate the batter’s hands when he struck the base with the end of his bat; and it would prevent severe injuries from occurring when base runners base slid into home.

So, in the end, home base is primarily shaped differently than the other bases because its purpose is different. Whereas other bases are used primarily for base runners, home plate has an added use in being essential in determining the strike zone."

Hit a nice long drive over to Sepia Saturday to read about other Sepians baseball memories.

Scar: Written for Thursday Writing Group

I began this tale yesterday when my husband bought Gorilla Superglue to repair his shoe, which was separating from the sole. After I wrote for a while and the story seemed dull, I was ready to quit but then stuck with it.

It all began when I was cleaning the house. As I dragged the vacuum from floor to floor, my acrylic fingernail popped off. I had Superglue on hand for just such small nail repairs.

Do you remember the TV ads for Superglue where they showed a ship hung off a lift bonded by only two drops of the stuff? Back then, the formula was powerful and it would stick objects together instantly. We loved the glue for household repairs and it was excellent for fingernails.

But my eyesight wasn’t great and when I worked close-up. I’d have to get within inches of my target. That day I crouched over my nail and squeezed the Superglue onto it. Zap! The side of the tube ruptured and a glob shot straight into my right eye—the one that does most of the seeing. The pain was horrible. I sat stunned for a few seconds. The acute, piercing pain persisted as if I had needles in the eye. I felt my way to the medicine cabinet, got the eye drops and squirted them in. Nothing relieved the searing pain.

My husband was away; I was alone, and I didn’t dare try driving myself. Using my unglued eye, I called a cab to take me to the ER. When I checked in holding a towel over my watering, burning eye, the first thing they did was drip an anaesthetic into it. Instantly, it was like going from hell to heaven. Even though this event occurred over thirty years ago, I still recall the whoosh of relief. Soon, a doctor entered the room and after a few jokes, presaging what was to come, he removed the congealed glue glob with tiny tweezers. All was well, but the damaged cornea required rest. They sent me home wearing an eye patch like Moshe Dayan*, with instructions to keep it on for ten days.

Walk around with an eye patch for a while and see how many people ask you what happened. Over and over, I repeated my story until I had it reduced to three words: Superglue, fingernail, eye. Almost everybody had their own Superglue story to tell me and I couldn’t ignore them. I realized the fifty-page book of cautions and “do nots” inserted in the glue package was essential. People will try to glue anything onto everything, given the opportunity.

I heard funny stories and sad stories. One unforgettable tale which I heard from a nurse friend, was both. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

She worked in an ER where they admitted a man with his penis Superglued to his abdomen. A crude note by his wife, glued into the mess, revealed the gist of his problem. It seems he was a serial cheater and his wife was sick of his behavior. That night when he came home in the wee hours and fell asleep drunk on the sofa, she woke up and wrought her fury upon him. Carefully she lifted his over-used pecker and stretching it to full capacity, Superglued it to his abdomen. When he woke up and realized what had happened he headed to the hospital. The ER people got him unstuck and send him home, embarrassed and chastened. I wonder what they recommended for his at-home care? My advice to him would be to drive to a hotel and never go back. I’m betting there was a divorce and I wonder who would was the “injured party” in the farcical scenario?  (I googled this story and found similar things reported in the news over the years.)

As for me, I learned my lesson. I never cleaned a house again.

“I have only one eye. Do you want me to look at the road or the at the speedometer.” Moshe Dayan

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Sepia Saturday 368: Ssssnakes

I have a few snake photos. Where we live in Southern California, they're abundant. We see them frequently. But the fifteen-year-old photo of the snake around my neck was taken in Bali at a touristy view stop. The man was offering snake "feels" for money. I have to say I'm rather ashamed of participating in this, looking back.

My cat Pink plays with the small snakes that slither onto the patio. We discourage this but still, cats are cats and we catch him at it occasionally.

My friend Diep posed with this snake in the Mekong Delta...I can't remember exactly why. I think it
may have been another paid photo-op tourist thing. I was on a food tour with a great bunch of Canadians I bumped into on-line. I had been all set to go on a Vietnam tour with food people from Orange County. Then 9-11 happened and everything was canceled except this Canadian tour in November 2011. I met people in the group who have become friends for life. Diep was so young....since then, she built a tour company, married and divorced a Canadian, established herself in the Montreal food world and is building a village north of Vietnam (this is a long and complex story I can't do justice here).  She is the hardest working person I know.
Once my eye got past the snake in the prompt photo I began to appreciate the beauty of the patterns and looked for similar images. I think it goes well on stockings.

Finally I remembered my husband's cousin's husband who is almost completely tattooed from neck to toe. His back is currently in progress and the image incorporates a couple of snakes. It's a work of art.

Slither over to Sepia Saturday  to read sssssstories by others.

Saturday, May 13, 2017


Still photo from "Bob's Love Affair" (Cinema 1915) New York Public Library. 
As I looked at the photo prompt this week, I thought about re-cycling the photo of my rich uncle, James Armstrong, because of his hair. 

But then I began imagining the organist playing as the silent movie "Bob's Love Affair" flitted across the screen. One thing led to another and I stumbled on the Fotoplayer. 

The Fotoplayer was used in theaters in Canada and U.S. It was advertised as “The Ninth Wonder of the World, The Musical Masterpiece that Expresses the Griefs, Joys, and Triumphs of the Artists; that Supplies the Unspoken Words in the Pictures—Magnificent Orchestral and Organ Tones."

I guess this clever invention put a few organ players out of work, or they learned to operate the device. If you listen to the Youtube performance below you'll realize it's unlikely that these particular zany sound effects would be appropriate for "Bob's Love Affair," although looking at Bob and his small crowd of accusers? admirers? maybe it would work. 

The Fotoplayer was produced between 1912 and 1925 and then it was all over when "talkies" began. In today's parlance, we'd say the industry was disrupted big-time. According to Wikipedia, between 8000 and 12000 were made during that time period. Only twelve were still playable as of 2012. I found one that was sold by Sotheby's in 2012 for $360,000.00.

You can read more about the Fotoplayer here if you're interested. If you'd rather read interesting stories inspired by today's prompt, get on over to Sepia Saturday.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

My Bad Habit

The candies rattled as I eased a box off the pantry shelf. “Into the pinknwhites again?” my husband asked from another room. Damn it. I was usually good at slipping a box out of hiding without making a peep. My stash of candies lived in the darkest reaches of the pantry behind the rarely-used Cuisinart, the eight-gallon soup pot and a stack of twenty non-stick muffin tins. Nobody ventured into that section of the closet except Pink the cat, looking for something alive he could kill and eat.

I wasn't that far gone...killing for my candies. At least not then. From what I knew of addiction, denial loomed large in the diagnosis and treatment. Could I be sure I wasn’t dangerous?

Admittedly the substance I abused had a deceptively benign name...Good and Plenty! While it sounded much more positive than heroin or cocaine - too much of anything is too much. I realized my “GP” problem had exceeded bad habit status and drifted into addiction when we were traveling in Asia, my supply was running out and I had to mete out chips and morsels into small doses in order to make it through the trip. A half-lozenge a day is how I survived the last week. I’d hit bottom.

My Good and Plenty problem began years prior with the 16 grays of radiation I absorbed for tumor eradication. The offending benign growth in my brain was neatly zapped but there was corollary damage to my perception of taste. My tongue, formerly bathed in a pleasant neutral bath of saliva, gradually began perceiving phantom tastes...a gush of acidity, a dash of bitterness. The very organ I used to earn a living turned against me! There were other symptoms from the tumor - my right foot was permanently itchy, my left ear screeched, whistled and hummed non-stop, cognitive problems waxed and waned. Each of these perception problems bothered me intensely for a while but then, the brain as it does, adjusted and the itchy foot for example, was incorporated into my new normal. Taste perception problems would also have faded out of my daily consciousness had I not spent years training myself to be acutely aware of taste. How ironic.

The first time I tasted a Good and Plenty, post-treatment, I felt a rush of relief almost like euphoria. I consumed a box at one sitting and bought another. My husband, seeing my improved mood, bought me more. Why not..what the hell. It was a simple solution to a complex neurological problem. We made regular runs to the dollar store buying twenty boxes at a time. I ate nineteen and a half boxes of each purchase. My husband, feigning enthusiasm, ate one-half box for show. I caught him with a raised eyebrow watching me sucking and slurping candy after candy.

After a couple of months, I gained a few pounds and became aware of a sugar rush that now accompanied the taste relief. I began falling asleep, almost passing out, after an evening of munching. I resolved to quit, but couldn’t make it through an evening without a fix. I’d get up in the middle of the night rooting around in the closet looking for an overlooked box. My husband found me unconscious on the couch, pinkish drool staining my pyjamas, Pink, the cat looking on with feline disgust. My husband began to worry. I started sneaking around.

After the Asia trip and my realization that I was an addict, I resolved again to quit. And I did, cold turkey. A support group would have made the journey easier, but there wasn’t one for Good and Plenty abusers. In today’s interconnected world I could likely get a group together via the Friends of Fallbrook facebook pages! I’m keeping the option in mind because I can feel myself slipping out of control again. Let’s see...we can call the group AAA - Altoid Abusers Anonymous.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Sepia Saturday #366: Menu Memories

You wonder about the "sardine on plate". How else would it be the can?

Having worked in the food business for forty plus years I have no shortage of menu memories. Perhaps because I'm sweltering in Bali, reminiscing about frozen foods appeals to me this week.

When I first began consulting, eons ago, I worked for Wolfgang Puck, of Spago fame, who was just beginning his frozen food company. The first product was to be a line of frozen desserts popular in the restaurant: Marjolaine, Apple tart with caramel sauce, Pecan tart.

I spent several days in the kitchen at Spago observing the creation of the desserts to begin planning how we would produce them commercially. I watched for a while and then began making then myself, the only way I learn anything. I tried to intrude as little as possible in the restaurant operation. At that time Spago was the hottest spot in town and attracted a high expectation crowd who wouldn't stand for even a hiccup in the place. They painted the interior once a month to keep the place looking fresh and sparkling.
The pristine Villeroy and Boch china was kept under lock and key.

I carefully cleaned as I went about my business and gathered my waste products in a designated plastic garbage bag in the kitchen. When I emerged for the first time to deposit my bag in the dumpster, out of the shadows popped a dozen photographers with flash bulbs popping. "What's happened?" I wondered looking around the trash enclosure. Later I found out the papparazzi took photos of everyone coming and going just in case a person might become famous one day. They wasted film and flash bulbs on me.

I wonder if some Sepian years from now (an Alan type) will find the negatives from those shots of me, wide-eyed like a deer caught in headlights, clutching my bag, skulking through the shadows and wonder about what was happening.

A few months later I was a customer in the place when I heard a clatter behind me as John Travolta and a date climbed over the back wall. They would have passed through the garbage enclosure to get there. Those paparazzi knew what they were doing!

Halfway through the work on the desserts, the marketing people decided to change direction, and sell WP frozen pizza instead. I was out - as there were specific pizza consultants better suited for the job. I had never been fired before nor was this, technically speaking, a firing. Consultants come and go on jobs I would realize as I continued in the business. I'd been working in the basement of a hotel in downtown LA in a bad neighbourhood . . . I should have been happy to get out of there, but I'd started out in two empty rooms and established a prototype plant. Something from nothing. Perhaps it sounds crazy but I had an acquaintance with the homeless people who lived around the area from constantly coming and going by their squats. It was wrenching to leave the little community. Life went on.

Today Puck has a large successful international business, his brand is on kitchenware, television shows, cooking schools, cookbooks galore and many food products. It's been fun to watch his success.

Grab your appetite and head over to to read more menu memories.