Random Thursday: Smiles for Miz Phyllis

One of my favorite readers from my library’s short story group died this past Saturday, at the age of 87.  Today is her funeral.

I thought about cancelling Random Thursday—which was only half done, anyway—but among the reasons this lady became a favorite was her irascibility, her love of clashing colors, her diabolical sense of humor, and her absolute refusal to miss a thing.

When she became too ill to come to our group, she had Dorothy—her best friend of half a century and official Partner in Crime—bring her a copy of the next story up for discussion.  Her son read it to her and she dictated her reactions, which he gave to Dorothy, who would bring them to me before our meeting, so I could give the Monthly Phyllis Report.

If I’d told her I was skipping a blog post for her out of respect, she would have rolled her eyes at me and said, “Well, that’s dumb.  I like to see people smile.”

So this is for Miz Phyllis, who appreciated randomness in all forms, thought Hemingway was overrated, and tolerated my coffee with a grimace and liberal doses of French Vanilla creamer.

We’ll take care of Dorothy for you, ma’am.  Promise.


Painting Brazil

Soccer + Brazil = All The Colors.  Everywhere.

Brazil World Cup

Since 1986, World Cup fans in Brazilian cities and towns have painted their streets in support of their team.

This year, Google maps put the images up in an interactive gallery.

Go look.

It’s awesome.


Baby. Goats. Running.

(Thanks, Watson—I needed that)


Happy Turtle

Because anthropomorphizing animals
based on random physical attributes
that mimic human reactions
and have nothing to do with their actual emotional state
makes me feel good.


Happy Turtle(Click the image, or here, for more happy animals—and I don’t want to hear it)


Just a Norman Episode

Phyllis liked to tell stories about her cat,
usually ending with a declaration of gratitude that she owned her house and therefore didn’t have to worry about losing a security deposit.

His name was Norman—“As in Bates,” she’d say—and she spoke of him with such exasperated affection, it was three or four months before I realized he was a cat, and not her husband.

Phyllis’s son took Norman in around March, when her health worsened.

When her best friend Dorothy came to visit a week or two later, her son was there, saying that Norman had pulled an Xbox apart with his bare, declawed* paws and chewed up the insides of it.

According to Dorothy, Phyllis had smiled and said, “Oh, good. I was worried he wouldn’t feel at home.”


* Miz Phyllis told me once that she was against declawing cats, but Norman had come that way from that shelter—and she’d come to be grateful that he had.



Goodbye, Mr. Sendak


Before I fled to graduate school, I worked in a chain bookstore where the customer was always right, especially when they weren’t.

Near Christmas, a lady came up to the counter and asked me to find a children’s picture book by a man named Coldsmith.  “It’s Where the Wild Things Are,” she said.

“You mean Maurice Sendak?” I asked.

“No,” she said, frowning at me.  “Coldsmith. C-O-L-D-S-M-I-T-H.  The picture book, with the boy in the wolf suit.  I’m surprised you don’t know about it.”

I asked her to wait a moment, went back in the children’s area, found the book, and brought it back.  “This one?”

“Oh,” she said, her nose slightly lower than it had been a moment ago.  “I suppose Coldsmith did the drawings, then.”

“Oh, no.  Maurice Sendak  illustrates his own books.”  I did not tell her I was surprised she didn’t know that, but only because my manager was right behind me.

But I was surprised.

Didn’t everyone grow up in the Night Kitchen?  Doesn’t everyone recite a certain verse when they see Chicken Soup with Rice on the menu?

Doesn’t everyone enjoy a wild rumpus?  Or long to have a hot dinner waiting for them in a place where they are loved best of all?

Goodbye, Mr. Sendak, and thank you for the Higglety, the Pigglety and the Pop, the Bumble-Ardy, and all of those marvelous alligators.    Thank you for lending your unmistakable talents to Little Bear and so many other stories, including Brundibar, which forced open a crack in my heart I didn’t know was there.

And thank you for allowing children be real children—mischievous, adventurous, selfish, loving, stubborn, brave, wonderful creatures who dance and sing and dream and don’t care until they do.

We will remember you and we will miss you.

…Until Justice Rolls Down

If [we] fail to act . . . history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people. Our generation will have to repent not only for the acts and words of the children of darkness but also for the fears and apathy of the children of light.

—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963


pax vobiscum, et in Terra pax

Friede — Pace — Nanomonsetôtse — 平和, Heiwa — शान्तिः, śāntiḥ — Paci — Béke  — Paz   — Vrede — Páqja — Fréda  — Salam — Khaghaghoutyoun  — Sülh — Hèrè — Bakea — Мiр  — Shanti  — Makonakon — Mir — Peoc’h — мир  — Nyein chan yay — Pau  — Mashar — 和平, HePing — Papayatik — Fred — Musango — Peace — Paco — Rahu — Friður — Rauha — Paix —  Frede — Pac — Paz — Mshvidoba — ειρήνη — irini — Lapè — Shalom — Shanti — Friður — Damai — Perdamaian — Ketentraman — Síocháin — Pace — Lahna — Sok sbei — Amahoro — Asti — Santiphap — Ráfi — Miers — Pâxe — Kimia — Taika —  fridden —
Fandriampahalemana — Damai — സമാധാനം — Sliem  — Rangimaarie  — Rongo —  Энх тайван — Fred — Patz — Bangan — дуне — сабырдзинад — Pas — Solh — Pokój — Patcha — Paghe  — Paxi  — Réite — runyararo — Shanty — Saameya  — Mier — Salama — Kapayapaan — Hau — Samaadaanam  — Amaïdi — สันติภาพ — Barış — Tupasa ulon —  Salaam — N’sike  — Påye  — Tangnefedd — La pé — Diam — Shalom