Book In Common: “Sleepy Hollow” starts out dreamy but quickly turns into a nightmare

I love to read, the more words the better. I like all kinds of authors, but now and then I like to read old-fashioned stuff, and there weren’t that many writers back in the old days that can appeal to the modern reader. The Victorian era was tough – very wordy, writers often went overboard with the words and made their stories unreadable, no matter how good the plot. For example – I love Robert Louis Stevenson, but “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is one of the worst books I’ve ever forced myself through. The plot line really piqued my interest, but the style in which he wrote it – stiff old fashioned verbose – was drier than dirt. And, the reader never “sees” the action directly – it’s all told, in the past tense, by some boring character that puts you to sleep. I wish Stevenson was still alive, I’d ask for a re-do. 

But read “Treasure Island,” you’ll read it again and again, it’s one of the best books ever written, in it’s original text, thrilling, one word drags you on helplessly to the next. You will be sad in the end. You won’t forget Long John Silver, in fact, you might even know him.

I also enjoy Charles Dickens, Herman Melville, and Arthur Conan Doyle, all British. Washington Irving is one of my favorite American authors of that period, he could tell a story that had you on the edge of your seat from the very beginning. Very quickly you know the Legend of Sleepy Hollow is going to be one hum-dinger of a ghost story.

“In the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan Zee, and where they always prudently shortened sail and implored the protection of St. Nicholas when they crossed, there lies a small market town or rural port, which by some is called Greensburgh, but which is more generally and properly known by the name of Tarry Town.”

In this first run-on sentence, we know everything we need to know about the town – including the fact that sailors needed to bless themselves when they approached the shore. 

Irving describes his first sight of Sleepy Hollow, where he seems to have wandered aimlessly as a child, gives it the ghostly feel – “all nature is peculiarly quiet…a drowsy, dreamy nature seems to hang over the land” giving the residents a mildly bewitched appearance – “the place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie. They are given to all kinds of marvellous beliefs, are subject to trances and visions, and frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in the air. The whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions; stars shoot and meteors glare oftener across the valley than in any other part of the country, and the nightmare, with her whole ninefold, seems to make it the favorite scene of her gambols.”

 Irving introduces us to the spirit horseman immediately   – commander-in-chief of all the powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on horseback, without a head.

I read in Wikipedia that parts of this story were inspired by true events – a family named Van Tassel, still very prominent in the Sleepy Hollow cemetery, had found a dead, headless “Hessian” (German) soldier on their property, and had paid the church for a proper cemetery burial. So, you gotta wonder. 

Click on the picture to find Nightskye with Lance Keimig

Book In Common: Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

I love Halloween because it’s time to share scary stories and movies. I try to read Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving every year.  You can find an unabridged version here:

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/41/41-h/41-h.htm

Washington Irving was a great storyteller, I don’t know how much of it actually came from his own imagination. His stories were influenced by old legends and tall tales he’d heard from early childhood as he traipsed the back woods of Upstate New York with his friends, hunting, fishing and swimming like the quintessential American boy. As an adult travelling in Europe he heard the older versions of these stories, passed along to America by migrants, made into American folktales as they were handed down from generation to generation.  

 In Germany, die Wilde Jagd, in England, the Wild Hunt, is a kind of ghost army, based on legends of old kings who led savage armies in attack of their enemies. Headless horsemen are common in European legends – there have been so many horrific wars there, thousands of years of guys getting their heads whacked off by swords or blown off by cannon balls, they got a headless horseman story in every town. 

A common link in these stories is that these ghosts are mostly seen by people who linger at the pub too late at night, or maybe aren’t the nicest people in town maybe. In Scotland  Tam o’Shanter is a man who keeps his wife worrying by lingering at the tavern too late, disgraces himself by drinking too much and flirting with the bar maids. Late one night he’s passing an abandoned church where he sees a bunch of local women dancing half-naked around an old man playing a bagpipe. Being a shameful skirt-chaser, he can’t help but stop and watch for a while, then finally gives himself away by taunting the women. When he jumps on his horse to get away, they come flying after him, tearing the tail off his old horse as he escapes across a river. Enchanted creatures, like witches and headless horsemen, are unable to cross the middle of a running creek or river.  But, his tail-less horse is Tam o’Shanter’s shame, a warning to all those men who disrespect their wives. Listen up Fellas! 

But of course, any girl who sneaks out to meet her boyfriend and share a smoke after dinner is also likely to run into the Wild Hunt, and get carted back to the den. Watch it Girls.

This was entertainment in the old days, Irving heard stories like this around the campfire, the kitchen table, and in Taverns and Inns all over New England and Europe. He traveled the countryside and knew the little towns of Upstate New York – there really were towns called Tarry Town and Sleepy Hollow, in fact, Irving’s grave is in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, not far from various members of the Van Tassel family.

This is a great story for popcorn and hot apple cider. And maybe a side of treacle sponge pudding (click on the picture for the recipe, a real olde tyme treat). 

 

 

 

Get up you sleepy head!

Today is the first day I have got up to my alarm and set it 30 minutes later so I could get back in my nice warm bed. That is exactly what I hate about Winter – it’s hard to get up in the morning.

Summer mornings are like sex, all  casual, wear what you want, take your time. Winter mornings are like a Chinese fire drill – where the hell are my pants!  As soon as the covers come off, I’m in a panic, that cold air goes right through my Summer jammies, and I start doing the hoochee coochee, throwing stuff around the bedroom in the dark, looking for that pair of sweat pants I thought I left on the hassock. I get up early, I don’t like to turn on the lights, so I just feel my way around, shivering, sometimes I start to put my sweat jacket sleeve over my foot.

Tomorrow is going to be different – I’m going to lay my pants and jacket over that chair at the foot of my bed, and I’m going to have my new house slippers right there, fully loaded with a pair of socks. Man, I hate being cold.

Arthur hates it even more, he’s such a whiner. When I tried to throw the covers off this morning, he held on pretty tight – “why you have to be in such a hurry Girl!”  he rasped at me, “give me a minute to think about this,” he says.  That cost me another 20 in the sack, in those wunderbar flannel sheets I got at Walmart last year – SCRUNCHEE! But, I got to get a strategy. I may have to promise him a bowl of hot cereal, he’s a real sucker for that. 

I like oatmeal myself, but my real fave is Malt-o-Meal, with a tiny lump of butter and some brown sugar on top. That will put some gumption in your get-along, Babee. I ate a bowl of that yesterday and went off to rake some leaves – Leaf Management Season, are you ready? Cause they been coming down in buckets, or more specifically, in wheelbarrow loads. Every year at this time I wonder if people could find a way to make leaves into food, it just seems such a waste. Then I realize, here we make leaves into food – we compost them in a big mound behind the garden, and when we need dirt to fill out some of our beds, there  it is, under the leaf pile. It’s not as good as the Worm Farm, but it’s the same stuff they start with.  So when I’m toiling out there I try to think of it as money in the bank.

I’m not doing a Winter garden this year, probably not even garlic. I’m tired of working all the time, worrying about the garden when I go somewhere. My husband agreed, he would like to be a little more footloose. You know, it’s actually become so expensive to have a garden these days, with the cost of all the junk, and then the water, a dry Winter like this – it’s cheaper and oftentimes less frustrating to buy vegetables at the store, or on the road at the stands we pass every time we drive 5 miles out of town. 

Lately I been feeling the need for change, real change, change motivated from the bottom instead of the top. I’ve always “adapted” to the stimulation of the world around me, good or bad. Lately I’ve felt like I want to take the lead, make my decisions ahead of the crisis instead of waiting for the crisis and trying to cope, hanging on like a rat in a flood while the folks who caused the flood get to ride First Class. 

I’m a wheel, I’m a wheel, I can turn, I can feel – and you can’t stop me turning… you know I’m going to lose, and gambling’s for fools, but that’s the way I like it babee whattya wanna live forever? 

Nothing gets Arthur on a roll like a little metal on metal in the morning. 

 

 

 

Fire Scott Gruendl!

This is probably an illegal mailer, certainly a "hit piece," but I must say, I agree 100 percent with the message - VOTE GRUENDL OUT IN 2014!

This is probably an illegal mailer, certainly a “hit piece,” but I must say, I agree 100 percent with the message – VOTE GRUENDL OUT IN 2014!

I’ve been getting a trickle of campaign mail lately, my favorite so far being this hit mailer I got on Scott Gruendl.

It looks fishy - Butte County Awareness and Accountability Committee?  Of course a cursory Googling turns up nothing. PO Box looks phony, or at least incomplete.  But, unlike mailers sent out by Democratic Party member Michael Worley in past, it doesn’t make cheap shots at the candidate’s personal life, just criticizes the job he’s done as councilor and twice mayor, opining that it’s no coincidence he’s sat in that chair through one of the darkest periods in Chico history.

I can back up most of what this flyer says. I sat in meetings where Gruendl was told again and again, along with the rest  of council,  we were in deepening financial trouble. Former city manager Greg  Jones even wrote a four page newsletter and mailed it to the entire town.

Then-mayor Gruendl made some limp-wristed motions to calm the public. The city started giving the “Golden Handshake” to long-time staffers, which sounded good, until we realized, they were raising remaining salaries by 14, 19, 22 percent with that MOU that attached salaries to “revenue increases but not decreases…”  They cut some positions altogether, adding them to the city manager’s duties – along with salary increases like $36,000 for airport manager, etc. Now we’re finally finding out the consequences of letting go our full time airport manager – what idiot couldn’t have seen that coming?  Gruendl oversaw  all of that, approving every one of those MOU’s and contracts.  He drove us to our current financial situation at roughly 102 mph.

Yes, I agree, we must fire Scott Gruendl.

Yes, I agree, we must fire Scott Gruendl.

 

 

Wake up Chico, you are being had!

I got so mad at the CPUC hearing the other day, I said I was going to stop trying to conserve energy. Unfortunately, that was bluster – I was raised to be piously conservative, waste was a sin in our house. Wasting anything!  My grandmother was so compulsive, she would turn the heater down without looking, thinking we kids had turned it up. She’d turn off a light while you were sitting there reading – then apologize and turn it back on. She was just compulsive. 

 Meanwhile, my grandfather taught us to count out our sheets of toilet paper - three was enough, he said, unless you had the runs...  Not only did he have to buy toilet paper, it clogged up our septic tank. Every action has a consequence, that’s what we were taught – PAY ATTENTION! We can’t all be perfect every minute, but we can think before we act, and the world would be a better place for everybody.

I get sick of the naysayers. Chico ER editor Dave Little made fun of a friend of his who takes what I call “Navy showers” – he gets wet and turns the water off to soap up. I been doing that for years – hey, you waste less soap too, Idiot. I use nice soap, I like to lather up, have a little facial going on, get in a little shave, scrub the bottoms of my feet with a brush – with the water running all the while down the drain? Potable water? You Idiot Dave Little, you need to reconnect your brain to your keyboard.  I’m guessing he’s one of those morons who uses his shower as a hot tub and sauna. 

Sometimes I think waste is just part of the American culture, especially among the “haves”.  Here these people commit enormous waste – get a load of this article sent in by Mark Stemen – thanks so much Mark!  :

https://beta.cironline.org/reports/california-water-officials-arent-following-own-call-for-conservation/

Starts out with a member of the Riverside City Council who imposed tough water conservation rules in his town, but continued to severely over-water his over half acre lawn and non-native water-heavy trees. The article goes on to show the water usage of members of various water companies and other supervisory boards who have screwed their constituents with onerous water rules, including stiff fines,  but continue to guzzle literally millions of gallons of water on their own landscaping and other sundries like swimming pools and spas. Listen, in some towns, they aren’t letting residents fill their swimming pools, they’re restricting them to watering their landscape twice a week despite three-digit temperatures, and raising rates through the  roof. People are getting $100 bills for the three s’s – shit, shower and shave.

At the PG&E hearing, I realized this outrage – the judge kept telling us, PG&E will not be getting more in revenues. Several of us in the audience were flummoxed by this assertion – we’d done the homework, our bills were going to go up. Like Grace Marvin asked, “if PG&E will not be making more in revenues, what’s the reason for this [rate increase]?”  My husband explained, they’re meanwhile lowering the rich people’s bills. They’ve “changed” the way they collect revenues – now they will be robbing the poor to give the rich a super break. Is that clear enough for you?

This was all made possible by legislation passed behind our backs by our state legislature. Assembly Bill 327 - “Returns authority to CPUC to make reasonable change, including lifting the cap on lower-tier rates…”

Furthermore, it allows reductions to the CARE discount and “allows CPUC to implement time of use (TOU) rates, on a default basis, no earlier than January 2018, subject to certain restrictions…” The handout sheet I got at the hearing  tells us it “was enacted through the support of a broad coalition of consumer, senior, labor, utility, solar and community groups,” but don’t name any of them. 

They say they will also implement a fixed customer charge of $10, with annual inflation adjustment.  They claim this will “reduce charges collected through the tiered rates…”   In other words, we no longer just pay for what we use, they will collect an increasing amount of money off of us no matter what we do. 

Thank you legislators. This is why we need to watch the legislature – yeah, I know, I say that, and then go on about my regular life, minding my own business. Frankly, I tried to watch those bills that lowered the voting threshold for bonds and assessment – yeah, I watched them blow right  through and the worst one eventually got written into law, lowering the threshold to 53 percent.  That’s why we are now being hit with all these tax increase proposals. Under the old rule, it was 62 percent. The mosquito assessment that is appearing on your latest prop tax bill passed by 58 percent. 

Wake up!

Why lay here and take this screwing? I say, we hit Governor Moonbeam and all the papers with letters about this outrage. I’ll be working on that. 

 

 

 

 

Mystery meal – hey Ma, what’s under the tin foil?

I have had one of those long involved messy days, and boy I’m glad I made a big chicken and rice casserole last night. It’s sitting on the counter now waiting to get warmed up for dinner.

Ah, the thrilling mystery of tin foil over a casserole dish!

Ah, the thrilling mystery of tin foil over a casserole dish!

Everybody makes fun of leftovers, but heat them up and slap them on the table and watch them disappear. I had an old recipe – boneless chicken breast, instant rice, canned asparagus,  a can of “cream of” soup and the corresponding amount of milk – throw that all in a pan, cover with tin foil, put it in the oven! I used that one for every potluck party for years – “Chicken Divan”, how classy!  My friends would always say, “wow, you’re such  a great cook!” Yeah, me and my friend Laurie, with her container of sour cream, frozen spinach, and pack of onion soup mix – we were a couple of Martha Stewarts!  

But I have since learned to cook  brown rice ahead, brown the chicken breast in a pan to create a white sauce instead of canned soup, and parboil the asparagus to a tender wiggle before floating it in the gravy-like sauce. This turns out okay the first night, the second  night it’s even better. Sitting around in the fridge, it congeals into this solid loaf, just seems more mature.  I don’t know why, it sounds so gross, but it really sticks to your ribs, comfort food.

I went over to Safeway to pick up some groceries yesterday and found they have whole  chickens on sale for 99 cents a pound  – usually about $6 total. I got a huge bird for about $6.50, it’s going to be good for a few days between my husband and I, no kids anymore (sniffle, snort…). As usual I removed the giblets for dog food, washed our dinner guest and patted it dry with a paper towel,  rubbed it all  over, inside and out,  with plain salt, about a tablespoon. I keep thinking I should add garlic but never get around to it. Sometimes I like to put whole cloves of garlic under the skin. You can take these out later and spread them on toast – yum yum!

Once the bird has been salted, I put it in a zip  lock bag and set it in the fridge, where it can stay up to three days before you cook it. The experts say, turn it every day to keep it coated in it’s own brine. A few times we have cooked these whole, with a pan of water surrounded by charcoals in the bbq – the “indirect heat” method. But, for a quick dinner, we cut it in half and cook it directly over the coals. I think it takes the better part of an hour. The indirect method takes a little longer, but it’s OMG good. It takes us a couple of days but we strip the salty bird to the bone.

I like a dinner you can have for another dinner, it’s just so sustainable.

 

 

 

One more time – all together now – CPUC hearing on PG&E rate hike proposal, TODAY, Holiday Inn, 2 and 6:30 pm (pms? pmses?)

Well, the vacation’s been over for two days, reality is sinking in. Back to annoyances.

Like that supposed “hearing” the CPUC  is granting us today – oh, wise Solomon, you are one big naked bastard! 

Like Harvey Twoface, we are of two minds on this issue – half of me says, whattya gonna do, take this lying down?  And the other half says, “whattya YOU gonna do – the whole thing is stacked, you’ll be braying into the wind like an  old jackass…”

Oh well, jackass it is.

I’m not a social person, I don’t like to go out. A trip to the grocery store is fraught with peril – I had to do the club card by myself this morning! And yeah, I screwed it up, and the ever-patient Dave, with people in line, had to re-enter it! Life outside my house gets me all freaked out, I feel like a chicken in the road out there. 

I don’t think I can make both hearings – physically, it’s onerous, I just can’t divide myself up and have one of me here cooking some nutrients and the other of me out dragging in the laundry or helping my husband load a lawnmower in the back of  our F-150, then send the one of me with clean clothes on over to a hearing at the Holiday Inn.  Man, I need a computer app like that one in Star Wars, a 3-D imager – like Princess Leia – do they have that yet? 

But I do intend to make the 2 pm hearing. I looked at  the notice again, to make sure – 2 and 6:30 pm. I hope some of you can make it down there with your piss and vinegar in a bottle.