Friday, August 31, 2007

Doctor Phobia

I have doctor phobia. Whenever I feel ill, my first thought is I hope I don't have to see a doctor. I've waited until I could barely breathe before seeking a diagnosis, and I've never bothered to X-ray various body parts when I've fallen despite the insistent pains. I think this Plume poem, "Plume Had a Sore Finger," by Henri Michaux explains my phobia perfectly. It opens like this . . .

Plume's finger felt a bit sore.
"Maybe you should see a doctor," said his wife. Often it's just a matter of lotion . . . "
Plume took her advice.
"Take off one finger," said the doctor, "and everything's perfect. With anesthesia, the whole thing takes six minutes at most. And since you're a rich man, you really don't need so many fingers. I'll be delighted to do the operation right away, and then I'll show you several sorts of artificial fingers, some of them truly exquisite . . . "

Translated by Richard Howard
From Someone Wants to Steal My Name, CSU Press, 888-278-6473

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Don't Leave Me!

Every time I think of going anywhere, I miss my pups. (And Jim too.) Of course this is an old photo. Froda, 4 months old or so. Sigh.


I'm going to be teaching a poetry class or two to kids when I go to El Salvador in November. I've just started to think about this. Suzanne tells me that no one reads books for fun there. No novels, no magazines, no newspapers. Of course she lives way up in the hills.

In the city people read. They talk politics behind closed doors. When I was talking to one woman there, a friend of S's (in the city of San Vincente) about the U.S., I said George Bush is stupido. She stared at me. You're allowed to say that?

Jim told me stupido is a bigger insult in Spanish. I should be careful. But the woman said no, no and then repeated, Bush es stupido. Bush es muy, muy stupido. And then she burst into laughter.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Questions about Dick

I am in such a bad mood today. I feel like the whole world is just bumming me out.
Maybe it's just the change of seasons. Maybe it's the wasps that keep stinging my dogs who are allergic. (God I hate wasps.) Maybe it's just the way it is, or this book I'm not having fun writing right now . . . But I keep imagining not writing it but instead composing some of those annoying questions that appear at the end of books for "discussion." Here are few I thought of for Dick and Jane ages ago.

1. Is this a book about a particular Dick or a Universal Dick?
2. Is Dick really Dick, or is he merely a symbol of Dick?
3. What might Dick be a symbol of?

from Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Strange Medical Facts

I received an ad in the mail yesterday: Discover a surprising four-a-day habit that will destroy brain-draining parasites lurking in your body right now.

A couple of years ago I became suddenly ill. I lost 15 pounds in 2 weeks and kept losing. After a month, I weighed only 100 lbs. I went to doctor after doctor. Most of them told them to eat more fiber and exercise more. One suspected there were parasites that no one could recognize.

My son went to have his blood drawn 2 weeks ago. The nurse stuck the needle in and waited. Then she told him she was sorry. He didn't have any blood.

Monday, August 27, 2007

I took this photo of my friends at my 8th grade graduation. It was a sad day . . .

Random Last Lines

1. In this way, by a trick of the sea, the morning has returned to me my white key, my sand-covered hat, my head--the head of a shipwrecked sailor."

Pablo Neruda, translated by Dennis Maloney and Clark M. Zlotchew

2. And anyway, Honey, you look kinda peekid and droopy, like you could use a little dialysis yourself.

Marily Krysl from "Single Head of Household"

3. Oh, no, dear son, for that would break all the toilets in the world, and there wouldn't be enough toilet paper to wipe away the shame.

Rusell Edson from "The Dear Son"

4. "I beg your pardon," Plume said, "I haven't been paying attention . . . " and he went back to sleep."

Henre Michaux from "A Manageable Man," translated by Richard Howard.

Last Lines taken from The Prose Poem, An International Journal, Volume 7 and from Someone Wants to Steal My Name and Other Poems by Henri Michaux.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Happy Birthday Suzanne!

Suzanne is 24 today. She's been in the Peace Corps in El Salvador for almost a year now. In this pic, she's breakdancing, which is just one of her many talents. She spent last on the beach, watching for sea turtles that come up to lay their eggs.

People ask me often what she is doing. Here are some random sentences from her recent emails to give a general idea.

"We gave away the papaya trees about a month ago and I bought seeds to start a demo organic garden--planting cucumbers, tomatoes, radish and hot chiles, with the 5th and 6th graders next week. We bagged most of the organic compost and one of the local tiendas is donating tomato crates for the seed beds."

"Starting the next school recycling campaign next week as well, . . ."

"Helped out with a sanitation--abatization campaign with the two 5th grade classes yesterday. We hiked house to house through the community dropping off little bags of abate to kill mosquito and zancudo larvae in family washbasins and barrels, . . ."

"I applied to take Inez and Mehtabel to an HIV-AIDS conference at the beginning of September and I have also started scheming of ways to find funding--both women have years of nutrition and reproductive health training and offer invaluable services and education at no cost to women in children in my community, who cannot afford to pay. "

"I've been teaching English, but it's not my favorite thing. The kids are quick, but the school teachers are lazy."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Beauty Contestants

I stole this from Suzanne's blog, Mi Vida El Salvador. Somehow it makes me feel sad looking at the little beauty contestants.


I especially love this poem. Of course a Frenchman (okay, Belgian) would think to carry a bed where-ever he goes just in case he sees a beautiful woman, oui?

Simplicity by Henri Michaux

What has been missing in my life until now is simplicity. I am beginning to change, little by little.
For example, now I always go out with my bed, and when a woman pleases me, I take her to bed immediately.
If her ears are ugly or large, or her nose, I take them off with her clothes, and put them under the bed. I keep only what I like.
If her underthings could use a change, I change them right away. That is my gift. If, on the other hand, I see a more beautiful woman passing by, I excuse myself to the first and make her disappear at once.
Some who know me suggest I am incapable of doing just what I said, that I haven’t the temperament. I once believed so myself, but that was because I wasn’t doing everything exactly as I pleased.
Now all my afternoons are good. (Mornings, I work.)

Translated by Nin Andrews from Someone Wants to Steal My Name, CSU Press, 888-278-6473

Friday, August 24, 2007


O Lord, help me to be pure, but not yet.

-St. Augustine

How to hug a man?

Okay, I have this problem. I have certain men friends who shake my hand warmly, others who hug me, others who kiss just one cheek, others who kiss both cheeks, and a few who land a quick smack on the lips. These acts are all performed as a way of saying hello or goodbye.

My problem is that I never know which to anticipate. Without fair warning, I have smashed a few noses, been kissed on the hair instead of the cheek, and otherwise embarrassed myself while attempting to master the art of the polite embrace.

In France, of course, a kiss is a simple thing. To kiss. Baiser. Little buzzies. Always both cheeks, always quickly. Such kisses barely touch the skin before they are over and done with. Phew.

My son sent me this little video, but alas, it only applies to men. To men who are hugging men. But it does offer a few directional tips that cross the gender lines. I found it quite enlightening. But I still need help.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A few things I learned on my recent airplane trip

1. I should like George Bush because he listens to God.
2. Airplane salad turns brown if it's not hosed down with sulfites.
3. Brad loves Angie just the way she is.
4. There are magazines called Cement and Asphalt.
5. I look like a liberal.
6. "If it weren't for those environmentalists, Wal Mart and Lowes would be doing a lot better."
7. There's a Steven Hayward who isn't Steven Hayward, the cool Canadian novelist, and who is an anti-environmentalist and a hero for the readers of Cement.
8. Airplane rides can give you deep vein thrombosis. That happens when cement enters your veins.
9. Soon your head will turn to cement too.
10. You can hear people talking even with noise-cancelling headphones on.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

This Gives Us Paws from Grist

I thought all my cat-loving friends should read this. Go to the Grist link below if you want more sources and info.

Thyroid disease in house cats may be linked to common flame retardants called PBDEs, according to U.S. EPA researchers. In a small study of 23 cats, all the felines had blood concentrations of the chemical 20 to 100 times higher than average U.S. adults -- who, it oughta be noted, carry the highest human PBDE load in the world. PBDEs first began to be used about three decades ago; at that time, feline hyperthyroidism was rare, but has now become one of the most common diseases in older cats. The fireproofing chemical is used in TVs, carpet padding, furniture, and mattresses; kitties easily take the substance in by grooming themselves after lounging about. (Food for thought: pound for pound, a 2-year-old child ingests about as much dust as a feline.) While the link between PBDEs and kitty sickness is still a hypothesis, researchers urged further analysis. PBDEs already have a bad rep when it comes to health, and two of the three main types of the chemical have already been banned in the U.S.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Things I Hate

Okay, it’s been raining for three days, so now I’ve had it. I’m just in one of those moods where I hate everything, esp . . .

1. People who live in California. They always brag about the weather.
2. Family values.
3. Learning in the first five minutes of a conversation that someone went to Harvard.
4. Best selling authors who ask: why do you write poetry?
5. Pinchy bras. I vote with Kelly for the uni-boob style.
6. Dentist drills. Why can’t they invent one that sounds like Mozart? Or Bob Dylan?
7. Anyone who wants to save me. Especially when they’re at my door, dinging and dinging, and I answer, hoping it’s the UPS man.
8. Football coaches. They remind me of George Bush.
9. Victoria’s Secret, nylons, thongs and anything that clings to the crevices.
10. Insomnia. Or worse, those dreams when I dream I can't wake up.
11. The feeling, right before I give blood or a poetry reading.
12. Christmas, sermons, and organ music.
13. Saying goodbye.
14. Ice cold salad. Like the pre-made ones in restaurants. Or Salad Under the Sea: green jello, things within.
15. Four o'clock in the afternoon. Too early for dinner, too late for inspiration and a cappuccino.
16. Shaving heifer necks.
17. Talking on airplanes. Or during sex. (I like to enjoy my flights, thank you very much.)
18. Three days of rain. And the aftermath: the song of a bazillion and one mosquitoes.

Monday, August 20, 2007

It's pouring out there, and I am not going out to pee. Nope, I'm sitting right here by the table by the door. I'm sure you understand.

Teflon and Dead Canaries

My sister asked me about Teflon and nonstick pans. Are they safe? Well, I dunno.

Teflon fumes kill birds. Every so often there's another article about someone's parrot falling off his perch. Or his canary. About twenty birdies died in the San Antonio Zoo a while back after they'd cozied up to the light bulbs to get warm. The bulbs, it turned out, were coated with Teflon. And if birds are our canaries in the mine, well, as I said, I don't know.

Teflon,or rather the chemical in Teflon, has a lot of trade names. And it's on all kinds of things. It's depressing to think about, so I won't list them. But here's a link in case you have a bird. Or think you might be sprouting wings.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

This is an old photo of my life-long friend, Anne Marie, and my first dog, Luger. Anne Marie just wrote an awesome book, The Idea That Is America. It's one of those books that might give you some hope while looking honestly at the dung heap we've gotten ourselves into.

I don't know how anyone can write books like that. I just say the words, liberty or freedom, and I want to bark or bite someone. Which is what Luger, true to his name, was good at. He liked Anne Marie and me. The rest of the world he wanted to sink his teeth into. He used to look up at me with this mournful look, as if to ask. . . Oh please may I bite that guy? He was good company.

Black Butterflies

There was a bat in our room last night. I caught it in a laundry basket, mid-swoop, and took it outside. Now I'm thinking it will come right back in. They must hang out in the attic. They've never come visiting before. Now I'll have to find someone to help me get them out of there.

My father-in-law was terrified of bats. Once I told him there was a black butterfly in the kids' room in Maine. I didn't want to alarm him. He came rushing up the steps to see it. Where's the black butterfly?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I was telling a friend the other day that I really understand the fear of success. It's okay to try. But it isn't okay to fly. He couldn't understand. I mean, if you have wings, he said. Don't you want to use them?

Wings. Yeah, right. Made me think of this Jimmy pic. He's leaving for Berkeley in the morning. He already has been asked onto a research project. I'm worried. I think that's what parents do best. I'm going to miss him lots.

Family photo op. Okay, extended family photo op . . . And to think we could fill this whole stair case and then some. It's kinda scary being related to so many people, directly or indirectly. Makes me realize how much of who I think I am is just some genotype . . . All programmed in before I ever arrived.

I'd never write a word if I had to look at all these relatives every day of my life. Nope. I need to at least imagine I'm unique, alone, and there's nobody out there, watching or listening . . .

Not a soul. Like today. It's just me and the words.

At least it was, before I looked at these pics. Say, do you think we look alike?

Friday, August 17, 2007


One of her more popular planned events was a breakdancing workshop.

Happy News from Suzanne in the Peace Corps

Buenas tardes amigos!

How are you? How is vacation, grad school, working a real job, summer training and getting ready for pre-season? What else are you up to?

Most recently (5 minutes ago)..Sitting in frigid computer center in downtown Zacate I checked the Peace Corps website and discovered that my recently posted computer lab parternship project proposal had dissappeared completely. Every other pending project was still there. Mine? Missing. My first reaction was panic. Did I screw up the budget? The community contribution was left at 00.0 --a definite mistake.. I called the Peace Corps office . . . It turns out that one of their biggest donors came in yesterday, picked it off the list and wrote the check. Crazy. So pretty soon we should have a fully functioning school computer lab in Carrizal...

Project description:®ion=latinamerica

Letter to Suzanne

This morning I was trying to write a letter to my daughter in El Salvador. I couldn't think with the blank page staring back at me.

I remembered how my dad used to write letters every Sunday morning, telling each one of his children what he ate for breakfast (a fried egg, bacon, one glass of juice, black coffee) and whether or not it had rained recently.

Dear Suzanne,
I began. It's been a dry summer. So dry the deer flies in the woods haven't chased me once. I saw a heron this morning, way up in a sycamore tree. It looked like a tall skinny lady on tippy toes before it flew off.

Is that all I had to say? I thought of adding the oatmeal I ate, the dog asleep on my lap . . . Then I tossed the letter in the trash. Suddenly I felt old.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

My Mother's Marathon

My mother climbed mountains until she was 87. At 90 she hates being sedentary. One afternoon she decided to walk the meadow path from the dock to the house. It took her 3 hours. She took many breaks, resting in a chair, talking to her fan club.

I feel all distorted and sad after vacations, sort of like this man Jimmy drew. I don't quite remember who I am or how to write or think. Everything looks weird. Tastes weird. Smells weird. And the grassphoppers just keep singing louder and louder. Their song makes my heart hurt.

Mom on the boat

My mom is 90 years old. It's amazing. I can't get used to that fact. She said she was too old to take a spin in a motor boat. Then she asked when we were going.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Seeing Elvis

Everyone has seen him. My sister says that’s because the dead always come back. How? I ask. She says they come back refreshed, that’s how. All dressed for dinner dates. She’s right of course. When I saw Elvis, I was at my self-improvement seminar especially designed from women who pick bad men. The instructor said to close your eyes and picture what you want with your third eye, and when I looked, Elvis winked at me. Yes he did, too. Course, he could have passed for a used car salesman. But I’m not complaining. Not yet I'm not.

Quantum Leap

Or maybe it's just a little intestinal relief.
In any case, this is one of Jimmy's pieces, which I love.

Union of Concerned Scientists Petition

Tyson Foods recently announced it will produce all of its fresh chicken without antibiotics—selling it in grocery stores under a "Raised Without Antibiotics" label. As the nation’s largest producer of chicken, Tyson is setting an important precedent for protecting public health.

The time has never been better to urge U.S. fast-food companies to follow Tyson's lead and establish strict antibiotic use policies with their meat suppliers.

Currently, an estimated 70 percent of antibiotics and related drugs in the United States are used in the feed and water of healthy animals—a practice with serious consequences for human health. Bacteria that are constantly exposed to antibiotics develop resistance to these drugs. When humans get sick from resistant bacteria, the antibiotics prescribed will no longer work.

Sign our petition to the nation's top fast-food companies urging them to help end this dangerous practice.

Friday, August 10, 2007


Do you hate the news? Reading it, hearing it, thinking about it? I do. But there is one news organization I adore. Grist. Sometimes a single sentence from Grist can make my heart sing. They are wild things, those Grist writers. No two ways about it. If you haven't read Grist, read it. It's the best and funniest source of on-line environmental news out there.

The King and I

Thursday, August 9, 2007

You Liars

"Most surveys about sex find impossibly that men have had far more partners than women, typically two to four times as many.
Either there are a bunch of phantom females out there, or somebody is lying.
Or perhaps people just have lousy memories about these things."

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Auto Response

I will be out of the office until Monday, August 20. If you need immediate help, please contact Lori . . .

Thank you,


Dear Chip,

We all need immediate help.

Who is Lori?

Dear Lori,

Are you there? Lori? Lori?

Dishwasher Safe?

Oh Ann, did you have to tell me that? That hard plastics, like Tupperware, can heat up in the dishwasher and leach nasty chemicals all over everything?

So far, I haven't found an article that says not to dishwash hard plastics. I'm still looking. There are so many articles about plastics. Plastics, plastics, and plastics. How many kinds of plastics are there? I mean jeepers. Why don't we just wrap ourselves in the stuff and forget about life. Place over the nose and mouth and breathe normally. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight.

As I was saying. Plastics. Maybe I don't want to think about it today. I want to be happy and not think at all.

But if you want to think, and want to know everything you don't want to know, check out this site:
And then read about all the nasty connections between chemical companies and the reviewers of safety standards for BPA Grist, August 8th issue.

And then, if you need to feel a tiny bit better, read this list from the site, Ideal Bite. But have a glass of wine first. Drink it fast. And don't read number 8.

8 Ways to Avoid Harmful Chemicals in Plastics and


We went out to dinner tonight, and the waiter called me Sweetie.

May I take your order, Sweetie?
How would you like that, Sweetie?
Would you like me to take it back, Sweetie?
May I bring you something else, Sweetie?
Do you take cream, Sweetie?
You come back and see us again now, Sweetie.

Beach Reading for and by men only

Submit to: Esquire. David Granger, Editor. 300 W. 57th Street, New York, NY 10019
Theme: Beach Reading. ONLY male writers. Type: Short stories, essays, and articles (5,000 words MAX).

She wondered what that could be: beach reading for and by men only, and if Esquire would be able to tell if she sent them a story, (she pretending to be a he, a Bob perhaps) and if so, how? What phrase would give her away? What would she say that he would never even think, and esp. not write?

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Girls

The Plight of the Honeybee

One of my earliest memories of my father was seeing him covered with bees. He was moving the nests. I was terrified.

Back then, he raised bees. He loved to talk about them. Honeybees, he said, will travel to the same kind of flowers, harvesting the nectar. They will go back again and again to the same field of clover. They tell each other where the flowers are by dancing. Next to humans, he believed, bees have the most sophisticated language.

I used to ask if the bees slept, and if they slept, did they dream. I liked orange blossom honey best. There were bees in our house, climbing the screens. Wasps too. My father caught them in his handkerchief and shook them loose outside. Whenever I tried, I squeezed too tightly and broke off wings and legs. He always said I was too full of fear and grab.

Now the honey bees are dying off. No one knows why for sure. There's a great article in The August 6th issue of The New Yorker on the plight of the honeybees.

Some of the possible reasons for the die-offs:

1. The practice of moving the bees all over the country (and even the globe) spreads disease.
2. Pesticides. Especially a new class of them, neonecotinoids, which are preferred by farmers because even though they are neurotoxins, they are considered dangerous only to instects.
3. The bees are infected not with one pathogen but with so many, they are like people with AIDS. Their entire immune system has been compromised.
4. A new pathogen, yet to be diagnosed, is causing an epidemic.


Mom was a firm believer in ZPG, or Zero Population Growth. She lectured everyone she met on overpopulation, which probably is the single greatest threat to our planet (though it's the least popular environmental issue out there). All anyone had to do was look at her station wagon to believe her. Her tan, dirt-coated wagon with a ZPG sticker on the back smelled of manure and sour milk from her dairy farm (she always carted a thermos of fresh milk around), and it was always packed tight with screaming kids (only 6 of them were hers), dogs, knapsacks, sandwich crusts, sticky wrappers, and a large red bucket in case anyone got car sick. Once, when she took her car to the dealership, the service manager suggested she might want to have her car sanitized. She said it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. In a week her car would be the same as it always was. That's just what happens when you pack too many people in a tight space.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

A few of my relatives

Below are just a few of my relatives, all of them believers in ZPG.
I will be in Maine with many of them in a few days, enjoying a quiet vacation . . .
Jim, Suzanne, Jimmy, and I are all in this photo . . .

Why People Have Sex: 20 Reasons

Why do people have sex anyhow? I mean, really!

According to a recent news article: "The researchers first sampled 203 men and 241 women, ranging in age from 17 to 52. They asked them to list all the reasons why they ever had sex.

They received answers from 'The person smelled nice' to 'I wanted to burn calories' to 'I wanted to get out of doing something.'"

Surely there are a few more reasons they had sex . . . How about:

1. There was no chocolate in the house.
2. It wasn't sex. It was an Anasazi rain dance.
3. I just wanted to do what I just wanted to do.
4. I hate thinking.
5. I can no longer vacillate.
6. It always makes the corn grow faster.
7. I had eaten my dinner, down to the last crumb, and was beginning to lick my fingers.
8. We were cultivating one another.
9. I thought you'd never ask. Besides, I'm no good at light-hearted banter.
10. I hate it when you start talking in bed.
11. I practice my kegels during intercourse. That way I never lose bladder control.
12. I was a geisha in a past life.
13. Do you think I don't know I'm the only real human on earth, that this is how you aliens perform experiments?
14. Whenever I close my eyes and kiss you, I see Elvis.
15. I had unharnessed my desires.
16. I live in fear of the day I will wake up and know: I will never have sex again.
17. Is there a better choice?
18. I fear dormancy.
19. It was my last resort.
20. It was research for my novel, The Reluctant Seductress.

Global Warming and Faustian Deals

There's a good article in the news today about those who work hard (and for a lot of money to deny there is any global warming. Seems there are a lot Fausts out there who will sell their souls, and yours too, for a large sum of money.

Here are a few quotes from the article:

"A conservative think tank long funded by ExxonMobil . . . offered scientists $10,000 to write articles undercutting the report and the computer-based climate models it is based on.

"If you think those who have long challenged the mainstream scientific findings about global warming recognize that the game is over, think again."

"Since the late 1980s, this well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks and industry has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change. . . "

"They patterned what they did after the tobacco industry," says former senator Tim Wirth, who spearheaded environmental issues as an under secretary of State in the Clinton administration. "Both figured, sow enough doubt, call the science uncertain and in dispute. That's had a huge impact on both the public and Congress."

Saturday, August 4, 2007

BPA: I wouldn't feed it to pets

Is it just plastic containers and bottles that are sometimes bad for you? Suzanne asked me when we were shopping to repace her favorite Nalgene bottle. No. Cans too. As in Coke cans and most cans sold in grocery stores. Anything that contains Bisphenol A, or BPA, a hormone disruptor.

"Used to make hard plastic, BPA can seep from beverage containers and other materials. It is used in all polycarbonate plastic baby bottles, as well as other rigid plastic items, including large water cooler containers, sports bottles and microwave oven dishes, along with canned food liners and some dental sealants for children.",0,234908.story?coll=la-home-center

BPA has been in the news many times, and it is in the news again today. Usually folks don't read about it. Dunno why not. Today's article states: "Americans are exposed to far more of a controversial chemical than previously thought — levels that likely surpass the government's current safety standard and which have been shown to cause harm in animals, according to a joint statement issued Thursday by 38 leading scientists."

I never feed my dogs canned food because of BPA. After all, the alarming research is done on animals. "Scientists agreed that even very low doses cause profound effects on laboratory animals . . ."

Every day I feel more and more like a laboratory animal myself. (Maybe I shouldn't admit this.) I have a recurring fear I am the unwitting victim of a scientific experiment. Sometimes I just want to howl at the moon.

Friday, August 3, 2007


Suzanne is flying back to El Salvador today. And so is a piece of my soul. It's hard, no two ways about it. But she's well-loved there.

When I visited her there last spring, the women in her village told me nobody could love her as much as the people there. They were hoping she'd meet a nice young man and settle down. After all, at 23 she is getting old to be single . . .

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Nature Camp and Skinning Dead Animals

I went to pick up Suzanne at the airport today. She was late, so I watched streams of people coming out of the secured zones, first on the left side, then on the right. The Pittsburgh airport is so irritating that way. You never know which train your kid is coming off of . . .

But there was one tribe of kids coming back with some kind of nature camp. They looked pretty scruffy, as if they might not have bathed for a week or two. One of them had something that looked like a birds nest in her hair, or Smores with feathers in it. Another was carrying a bow and arrow he'd made out of twigs, bragging how he got it past security. A freckled boy was blowing one of those bird whistles that makes all the crows in the neighborhood come swarming around. They all looked pretty happy to be back, and so were their folks.

I was glad they were back too, even if they weren't my kids. I never was a fan of nature camp. My mom was always trying to ship me off to one or another of them. She'd have shipped me to anything with "nature" in the title, no matter where it was. But I wasn't interested.

She sent my sister, Julie, to a nature camp one year. When Julie returned, she liked dead things and snakes. Her favorite classes at Nature Camp were taxidermy and snake-handling. Julie spent our family vacation in Maine that summer looking for road kill. One day she brought home a carcass that wasn’t too stiff. This raccoon hasn’t been dead that long, she assured me before dumping it on the kitchen counter. Then she showed me how to skin it. Slicing it open and sliding off its skin, she explained that skinning an animal is as simple as taking off a jacket. That is, if an animal had a jacket.

Air Conditioning and Nylons

Celeste asked me a question I've been asked now by several people. Is it better for the environment to turn the AC up when you're at work, and then to turn it down again when you come back home? Or is it best to leave it running all day. Like her I've had lot of people tell me that it's more efficient to leave an AC running all day. The same folks say that it's better to leave the heat running at a comfortable temperature when you're away.

The first time I heard this theory was from my real estate agent in Cleveland. She was a woman who ran hot, as she put it, which meant she was always toasty. I blamed it on her nylons. Anyone who wears nylons is bound to have troubles. I learned that fact from grade school sex ed. teacher who informed the class that nylons don't let your crotch breathe and are best avoided unless absolutely necessary. I'd never heard about crotch breath before. Ever since then nylons have made me nervous.

But I digress . . .

That summer I let my real estate agent convince me to turn the AC down to the mid- 70s. A chilled house sells better, she said. It was so hot that summer, our house felt like an ice cube in hell. Every time I entered it, I got an ice cream headache. It was a good thing the house sold because it wasn't cheap to be running the AC like that . . .

The fact is there's no way it's environmentally or economically better to run the AC all day at your ideal temperature. I wish it were. I think of it as a popular urban myth, one we'd all like to believe, so our homes will never feel too cold or too hot . . .

But remember, air conditioning makes you fat. So it's best not to run it at all!