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Louise

Last night in Vienna, we met our BYU students at a restaurant called The Gulasch Museum, which as far as I could tell had nothing to do with a museum; although, the menu was a work of art.  It was a large faux leather book with photographs of the fifteen gulasch dishes offered, each page protected in a museum-quality, acid free, plastic binding.

The offerings were labeled not only in German but English, French, Italian, Spanish, Urdu, Pig-Latin and Swahili.

Enter in, foreign suckers.

Rick Steves recommends The Gulasch Museum, but he recommends it in a poor German accent.

I ordered the Kalbsgulasch mit Spinatknoedlen, because just to say it aloud is to clear all the germs from your mouth onto the waitress’s apron.  Veal.  It’s veal.  Some of the female students squealed, “You’re eating veal?”

“Yes, I am.  I’m eating little baby cows with large, dark emotionally thrilling eyes.  I’ve asked to have it butchered right at the table.”

Give me a break.

As it turned out, the entire group ate carnivorously and the gulasch was delicious.  Hats off to the bouncy Rick Steves.

I sat at a table with 8 young women and one young man, Chip.   One of them suggested that we go around the table and tell the others about our relationships with the opposite sex.

Chip rolled his eyes.

So around we went.  One has a missionary in Brazil.  Several had broken up with old high school boyfriends.  A couple had never been in a serious relationship and had never kissed anyone.  Virgin Lips.

When it was Chip’s turn, he said, “No way.”  Chip is cute and all the girls say they’re having a relationship with him, but only one could get him on Facebook.  They’ve also all had their pictures taken with him individually, so they can show people at home how they had a romance during the summer.

“Come on, Chip, tell us about your real girlfriend,”

“It’s me, isn’t it?” One of them blinks her winky winks at him.

Chip blushes,which makes him all the more appealing.  He isn’t going to tell them anything.  Then he says, “Louise knows.”

All the females turn to me.  “How do YOU know?”

“We had Sunday dinner together the first week.  I grilled him on his love life.”

“So what is it?”

“I can’t tell.”

Hyperbolic groans all around.

So we move around to the next young woman and she has the story of the evening.  She broke up with her boyfriend when he was in the hospital having chemotherapy for testicular cancer.

I am wowed.  You can’t make this kind of stuff up.  I want to ask a question.  I really want to ask a question.  So I ask the question:  “Does he still have his testicles?”

She raised one index finger.

Ouch.

So what’s the worst break-up you’ve ever had?

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Louise

It’s the first full, dislocated day in Vienna.  I am standing in front of our apartment on Spittelauerplatz across from a small park with huge sycamore trees.  The building is vintage, a bit shabby, with a caged elevator to take us to number 8, an oversized apartment with high ceilings and large windows, loaded with Ikea furnishings.

It’s raining.

My laptop was stolen.

I’m cold.

I teach my first class tomorrow at ten a.m.  Did I tell you my laptop was stolen?  My laptop with my life on it.  I had it in my carry-on luggage.  It made its way across the country but in Dulles Airport, the Austrian Air ticket agent told me my bag was too large and she would have to check it into baggage.  Some time after that, it was stolen.  My laptop that is.

Also one black dress shoe is missing and one textbook.

The printer doesn’t work.

The tram no longer runs around The Ring.  We got lost.

People smoke in restaurants.  There is more graffiti.

On the other hand, I walked past the statue of Goethe, the opera, the Parliament, a dozen flower vendors, the Votiv Kirche and my favorite British interior design shop.  I ate  Semmeln for breakfast and Wienerschnitzel for dinner.  In Karlsplatz, you can go to a bathroom that plays waltzes all day long.  And, of course, I saw Mozart dressalikes selling concert tickets.

I’m in Vienna.

Now if I could only find someone with an iMac wearing one dress shoe.

Dear Apron Stagers,

Tom and I are exhausted with cleaning our house and packing for Vienna. We’re in the thick of it, as they say. We leave on Monday. Alice, our dog, will be taken care of by my sister (for a month) and by a couple who is living in our house for two months. You see the problem. You don’t have to clean nearly so efficiently if you just close up your house, but when other people live in your house–well, there we are again–cleaning out of shame.

You could drink out of three of my four toilets today.

You could eat off the bathroom floors.

Tom and I take breaks by playing Ms. Pacman. I have been to the Pear board! Eating ice cream is also a nifty diversion.

I wear a back brace when I clean, because of weak, old back. Also I found my vintage fox fur and wore that as well. I think cleaning is more fun when you have little fox eyes looking up at you.

Took a whole lot of bedding to the D.I. I don’t even a own a full or queen-sized bed.

Closets are neater than they’ve ever been.

Which is to say, there is no substantial blog. But next week, I write from Vienna! Auf Wiedersehen, darlings.

Louise

I have been lying flat on my back for two days with back pain taking lortabs and muscle relaxants.  Tomorrow I will get up and do something, wearing a back brace.  Back pain is new in my life—only began two years ago—but it keeps returning.  I think what I’m supposed to learn is not to carry, push, pull or lift heavy items.

I have to remind myself, “You’re a wimp now and cannot push your furniture around without serious consequences.  Hey Wimpy, let the kid lower the china plates from the cupboard.  Do NOT lift that TV!  Oh dear old thing, you thought you could carry a tv!  Don’t you know you’re old and weak?”

I still do other things like  singing St. Louis woman with your diamond rings—Or I’m too sexy for my hat, too sexy for my shoes—I’m just too sexy to sit around hurting.

Big Tancook Island is a 45 minute ferry ride into the harbor of  Chester, Nova Scotia.  There isn’t a real grocery story on the island. You have take the ferry over and back to get your groceries.  Does that sound like an adventure or a pain in the neck? Should I choose to move to Nova Scotia and live in the middle of Mahone Bay or stay here in Daybreak, Utah. Vote yes or no.

Louise

Is there anything more thrilling than ordering stuff on the Internet?  First, there’s the e-mail acknowledging your recent purchase, and then there’s the email informing you the item has been processed and sent out. It will arrive at your house in five to seven business days.

Like most of life, it’s the anticipation that is so rousing.  And you can track your purchase!

Actually, I do not track; Tom tracks.  Tom also orders, because I don’t have the number to our credit card memorized, and I’m usually in my beddy when I want to order something, and my wallet is downstairs somewhere.

“Will you order this for me?” I ask, handing him my laptop, lazy wuss that I am.  He obliges me more often than not, because we have this fused, neurotic thing going that is older than most of you, dear readers.   Oh, and he’s a naturally kind person.  Oh, and he thinks I’m wildly entertaining and worth the complex requirements of my narcissistic psyche.

I digress.

Another reason ordering from the internet is so energizing is that there is the increasing  likelihood that some hack will discover your debit card, empty your bank account, steal your identity and bingo—you’re one of those people who lives in the public library.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

This afternoon, I asked Tom to track something he’d ordered for me and–Holy Moly, Rocky—today was the projected arrival date.

“Will you go check the mail?” I ask.  I am not dressed to walk to the mailbox.  I am not dressed at all.  For all the reasons listed in paragraph 4 above, he goes out to the mailbox for me.

Not one, but two packages have arrived for me!  It’s Christmas in April!  The first one is a vintage Simplicity decorator pattern #5552, a slipcover for twin bed “with round or wedge style bolster.”  I don’t know how to use my sewing machine, but I am planning to cover the trundle bed and use it for the one hundred square foot apartment at Lincoln Center that is certainly in our future.  Or I may cover the trundle bed in the family room in the basement.  I mean, the media room.  (There are no windows).

The second item is the Amazon Kindle, which I said I would never buy, because I’m so devoted to paper, print and broken book spines.

I’m a liar, so kill me.

I learned to use it in three minutes without Tom’s tutelage and ordered THE THREE WEISSMANNS OF WESTPORT, which I’ve wanted to buy since I read the review in the NY Times.  It downloaded in minutes and I sat back and read the first five delicious chapters in an enlarged font.

As in a dream, I heard a distant voice:  “Hey, hey, HEY!  You’re not paying any attention to me!”  I looked up to see a frantically waving, naked Tom.  I heard the shower running.  I’ve seen a gajillion naked Toms. I returned to the book—I mean, Kindle.

“I can see I’ve lost you forever,” a faraway voice said.

Not forever, just a few hundred pages.

I bought the Kindle because I’m spending the next three months in Vienna and can load it instead of my suitcase with books.  Glorious books. More books than I can read in three months.

I see the future and it is now.  Forgive me, dear readers, but I LOVE this little plastic thingamajig.

Louise

This has been a happy week.  No birds pooped on me.   I realized what a blessing this is this past weekend when I was walking through some OPEN HOUSES with my youngest son Sam, and his wife Sarah.  While we were outside, between houses, a hoard of seagulls appeared overhead, making a racket.

“Oh I don’t want to get pooped on,” Sarah cried.

“Do birds poop on you?” I asked.  “I mean, have you been pooped on a lot?”

“No, never, but I don’t want to be either.”

“I’m sixty-seven,” I said, “And I’ve been pooped on once.  I was about ten years old, standing on Eighth South in front of the Garrett’s house and PLOP right on my head.  I reached up and touched it.  Really disgusting.”

Sarah made a choking sound.  “Maybe you should wear a hat,” I suggested.

I didn’t tell her about my sister Janie’s friend who wouldn’t walk early mornings with her, because birds pooped on her EVERYTIME SHE WENT FOR A WALK.  It’s like she had a target painted on the top of her head.  Janie persisted and finally her friend got up and went power walking with her, and guess what?  A bird pooped on her head.

How do birds know that she is the one?  Does she exude some kind of anti-bird odor or attitude?  Some kind of negative pheromone?

I didn’t tell Sarah about my poor judgment either. When Charles was about five, I urged him to go play in the backyard.  I stood at the kitchen window and watched while he stood in the middle of the yard deciding what to do when he fell into spasms of pain and wailing.

He ran into the house.  It was a bee sting.  Yes, they hurt.  I had a bee sting once when I was twelve.  It was at the Utah State Fair and I sat on the grass and unknowingly pressed my hand onto a bee.  It hurt a lot.

Charles would not leave the house for a week after that bee sting.  A five-year old kid can’t spend all summer in the house.  It’s not healthy.  “Look,” I said, “You’ve had your one bee sting and that’s it for the rest of your life.”  I promised him that like me, he would never get stung again.

So with frail courage, he returned to the great outdoors. I stood at the window and watched.  Two seconds later, he was stung again.

He was stung a half dozen times that summer. They weren’t bees.  They were wasps.  We had a nest of them in the storage shed.

The lesson here is never trust your mother.

The lesson is wear a hat or stay indoors.

Do you attract birds and bees and all their untidiness?  Or vermin or stray dogs?  What is it about you that makes you so attractive to unwanted attention?

Big dogs bite me. One bit me on the street in Cambridge, Mass. and it was on a leash and her owner yelled at me as if I started it. One dog bit me seven times and I went to the hospital to make sure I wasn’t rabid, although the owner assured me that her 175 lb dog had had its shots.  She gave me a loaf of banana nut bread to assuage my pain.

Lovely woman.

Horses hate me.  I rode a horse that tried to reach back and bite me.  I whined until it stopped.  “Don’t show fear!” that’s everyone’s advice.  But dogs and horses bite me; that’s why I’m afraid.

Hope your week is free of poop and bites.  So far, so good for me.

Louise

The photo shows my sisters Judy and Toni (from left to right) on Easter Sunday, 1958.  We always received new Sunday clothes and shoes and, if old enough, a patent leather purse for Easter.

Do we even use the word “purse” anymore?

Somewhere, there’s a picture of me on that same day at age 14, posturing like a model in my “sheath” dress and my new oval shaped patent leather purse, but it’s in my Book of Remembrance, which is presently in storage.  Just as well.  I was such a poser, a drama queen.

Mother made my dress, but she didn’t make these two. They were more than likely bought at JC Penny’s in downtown Salt Lake on Main Street and 2nd South. She didn’t drive, so if you got a “store bought” dress, she’d take you on the number one bus on 9th South and 10th East, which let you off smack in front of Penny’s.

Immediately inside the front doors was the candy and nut counter.  We’d pass this by, take the escalator to the second floor, try on two or three dresses, decide on one, and make our way back down the escalator carrying the sack with the precious new dress and feeling like a princess.

This time we stopped at the candy counter.  When I was with Mother, she always bought a small bag of cashews to eat on the way home.  Toni said that when she went with Mother, they bought chocolate covered raisins.  Mother was a frugal woman, and buying something as frivolous as candy or cashews to eat on the bus ride home was one of the luxuries of my childhood.  It was intimate be able to shop with Mother, without any of the rest of the eight brothers and sister around.

Like I said, she was frugal.  There was no way on God’s little green earth she would ever cough up an Easter hat.  I asked her for one more than once, and her reply was to pucker her lips and blow out “puh,” dismissively.  Mother did not suffer romantic notions lightly.

When I went downtown by myself, I always tried on ladies’ hats at Auerbach’s while nervous saleswomen hovered nearby.  I especially liked hats with veils.  I looked so sophisticated with a veil over my eyes.  Think Audrey Hepburn in CHARADE.  Or did she wear a mask?  And I loved spring hats covered in silk flowers.

Yes, I called my mother, “Mother.”  I called my father, “Daddy.”  Go figure.

A few years ago when I was in the Relief Society presidency in the 27th Ward, we suggested to the sisters that we all wear Easter hats.  I went shopping for one, looked at the price tags and thought, “puh.”  I couldn’t bring myself to buy one, and I’m sure I would have felt silly wearing one.  But it was great fun to see the other sisters in Easter hats.

What about you?  Did you get new Easter clothes?  Were you lucky enough to wear an Easter hat as well?  Wow, you lucky dog, if you did.  Wow.

Okay, I can see why the fingers need to be separated, but both Tom and I agreed that we could never have those toes removed. To the six-year old boy with a fringe of toes:

This little piggy went to market

This little piggy stayed home

This little piggy had roast beef

This little piggy had none

This little piggy joined the circus

This little piggy blinked his eyes

This little piggy cried “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!”

This little piggy said Whee, whee, whee, until he was grown.

_____________

Little boy

With a binge of

Fringe ofToes

Make a joyous rhyme celebrating eight toes per foot, a refutation on a gene mutation.

Louise

I am fast becoming the queen of Scrabble. Tonight I beat Tom and Charles. It bothered Charles to lose. Oh, he was smiling and gracious, but he was taking a half an hour for each turn. In fact, he came in last because he took a shot in the dark with “da” running one way, “divvy” the other. I challenged him. “Da? Excuse me?”

“I’ll bet anything there’s a “da” in Webster’s,” he says. He gets up to get the dictionary. There is no “da” and he has to skip his turn; otherwise, he would have come in second.

Tom had nothing but vowels.

In fact, I have had a seven-day winning streak playing Scrabble with Tom. These are the “Q” words that do not require a “U”: qintar, qiyas, qaid, qat, qibla. My computer doesn’t recognize any of them, but they are all in Webster’s Dictionary and are Arabic in origin.

Charles was unable to play his “q,” and that’s a minus 10 points. Obviously, he knew not “qat.”

I like word games. I bought Bookworm and have had games that went beyond a million points.

Boggle, however, confounds me.. We played with friends who said, “Let’s not count words with less than 5 letters. I couldn’t see any 5 letter words. I couldn’t see any 3 letter words! Playing Boggle is like spelling: You either know how or you don’t.

There are games I won’t play anymore. I’m never playing Monopoly again, because there is always one lucky person, in my family it’s my sister, Janie, who always wins. There doesn’t seem to be any chance in the game. She’s the banker too. She buys everything and then she always has a lump of $500 bills in her lap. My brother-in-law, Bob, always wins at Monopoly. I’d like to see Janie and Bob play Monopoly together. I’d pay real money to watch that game.

I despise war strategy games like Diplomacy, where you go off with someone to a corner and negotiate power and then they boycott you or disappoint you in other ways. And there’s no time to talk about Tom Cruise’s tightening hold Of Katie Holmes and that he’s forcing her to have another baby.

You should be able to talk to each other while playing a game. I still like “Sorry” and “Parcheesi” where you can count and block your opponents and still mention that you just finished reading “The Brothers Karamazov,” and are thinking of framing a picture of Dostoevsky and hanging it above your desk.

Nor will I ever play checkers or chess again. Never win at those games. Never.

I still like Hearts and Golf (a card game) and Donkey after a big family dinner. You know, with the spoons on the table? Do you know how to play Donkey?

My favorite new game is Chronology where you have to place historical dates in the right sequence. Do you play games? Alone or on the computer? Or together with friends and family? If you were recommending one game to buy this year, what would it be?

It was a gorgeous day here today. I bought African violets, purple and light blue. They make me so happy.

Louise

Wednesday I had lunch with the high school gang at Marie’s house and celebrated the three March birthdays with cake and presents and laughter.  One of us has gone off to Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee in Israel for a couple of years and so we did the contemporary thing and skyped her.  The seven of us stood uncomfortably around the computer in Marie’s study, asking questions and watching our friend’s face digitally freeze up every few minutes.

In our own family, we have i-chatted with distant family members a couple of times, and I have to say that I find this form of communication awkward, and yea, verily, downright boring.  It feels contrived to be staring at each other on a computer screen.

We don’t even look at each other in real life. In real life, we sit in a large room and text each other.

I-chat feels a little like an-in-your-face pop-quiz, but not only do you have to answer inane questions, but you feel responsible to ask inane questions as well.  How are ya?  Whatcha doing?  Your hair looks nice.  Mom, you’re supposed to look at the camera.

All of this with a pleasant look on your face.

What’s more is that televised visits are impossible to end.  It feels rude to break away from a human face even when there’s absolutely nothing left to say.  Have you ever skyped anyone where it took less than forty minutes?

It’s worse than driving with all your loved ones in a station wagon to Yellow Knife.  (Maybe that’s where the Smylies will end up).

Okay, here’s the real deal:  I’m missing letter-writing.  I’ve been going through old letters, carefully written, with drawings in the margins or pressed flowers folded between the pages, letters with cartoons attached or scripture references.  Letters.  You could carry them around with you and read them again.  You could leave the imprint of your lips on the seal.  You could save the stamps from exotic locations.  You could read them aloud to friends, or not. Tactile, scented, papery letters.

I grow old.  I grow old.  I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Louise Plummer

Sarah L Olson

Rebecca Smylie

Lisa Piorczynski

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