You Have a Face for Radio

Being a writer has taken me into some interesting situations.  Last February, poet Dick Bakken and I were invited to be interviewed on Bisbee radio station KBRP (impossible not to think of it as K-Burp).

Dick was to be the poetry presenter at the Cochise Community Creative Writing Celebration about six weeks later. I had opened my big mouth and told Leslie Clark, who was on the Celebration committee, that the one thing lacking was an open-mic reading. She instantly volunteered me to set up a couple of them to promote the event.

The military folks among our readers will recognize my tactical blunder. Isn’t “never volunteer” a military mantra?

I hadn’t been on radio before and felt nervous when we went on the air live. Dick had been on lots of times, though, and our DJ hostess, Chris Dowling, had everything under control. Between them, I started to feel at ease and have some fun.

Too much fun, apparently. Chris had asked us to bring our own poems to read. I had practiced mine at home with a micro-cassette recorder, working on just the right inflections. Never did I dream that there were still words you weren’t supposed to say on the air. It was 2011, after all.

By the time I caught sight of Dick’s and Chris’s faces, it was too late. That four-letter gaffe had already gone out my mouth, through the microphone, and over the airwaves.

Afterwards, I apologized profusely and said that if the FCC gave them grief about it, they were to call me, and I’d take the blame. It was my fault, after all. What about re-broadcasts? Chris’s engineer was able to suck that word right out of the digital recording. To people who heard only the replay, that verbal no-no never happened.

As Dick and I left the studio, I caught sight of a poster: You have a face for radio. I thought it was delightful, accepting. I don’t have a face for television or movies, never mind the figure, but here I had found someplace where I fit, just the way I was.

Except for my mouth. I was glad, at that moment, that relatively few people recognized my face.

Writing, with Parrots – Part 2

Four little free-flying parrots violate the first

imperative of writing: create a situation quiet,

calm, and insulated. The youngest thumps

onto my desk like a feathered rock, rips up

an eraser, fat-foots the computer keys

until the monitor spasms and seizes up. While I

huff and run a finger down the manual’s index

toward Troubleshooting, she wriggles

down my blouse, punctuates my concentration

like a possessive apostrophe.

This, as the unattached male squabbles

like a fishwife with the pair over leftover brunch.

He lights on the back of my chair, drops a sticky

tidbit of waffle onto my white shirt, scrambles

after it. The other two land in my lap and wipe

their egg-smeared beaks on my clean jeans.

A sharp-shinned hawk cruises the wild-bird feeders

at the fence line, and the parrots scream, launch,

orbit like comets trailing colorful tails. Down the hall

they wing to who knows what mischief, perhaps

a tasty snack of closet molding, curtain cord, or,

in a moment of better taste, the delicate,

Bible-like pages of Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems

and a Song of Despair.

Writing, with Parrots

I was surprised at our last meeting when Terry said she had a computer question for me. Ross, after all, is our Computer Guru, our King of Ones and Zeros (binary code).

Terry asked what to do when your parrot (in her case, an adorable cockatiel whose ancestors hail from Australia) pries the keys off your keyboard.

The question garnered more laughs than any answers we could come up with.

Nevertheless, this is what I’ve done over the many years I’ve shared my life and computers with parrots:

  •  Tried to grab the key back, only to have the parrot either drop it and bite my fingers or fly away with it and let it fall behind the desk, dresser, or washing machine.
  • Replaced the missing key with one from the number keypad. I learned to type on a typewriter and use the number keys at the top of the keyboard, so it works to have a keypad 5 become an S. I touch type, so it doesn’t matter what the key says.
  • Purchased a defunct laptop and taken all the keys off the keyboard, put them in a plastic bag, and stored them safely away in a desk drawer as spares.

Peaches, Maggie, Willie, and Sunny have taken turns played hob with my computers over the years, marching across the keyboard to type what may be psittacine wisdom but looks more confusing than Greek to me. Usually in the middle of an important document. (Do I ever type documents that are unimportant, at least to me?)

When I was living in Los Alamos and freelancing out of my home as Business Mom, things like this would appear on the monitor: Third quarter earnings /l;koj787645–thanks to Maggie, whom I had touched on the shoulders with my favorite ballpoint pen and dubbed my administrative assistant. I’m sure he put that job experience on his ré sumé when he applied for the position of Willie’s mate.

As I mentioned at the meeting, the wildest thing the birds have ever done to my computer involved Sunny’s Charleston on the keys. I have no idea what combination she fat-footed, but the results were unforgettable. The screen went blank, and when it came back on, the document had turned ninety degrees. I got a kink in my neck, trying to read it.

I tried everything I knew to get the screen back to normal, then called a computer-savvy friend in New Mexico, then called Lawanna at Two Flags Computers in Douglas. No luck.

Fortunately, a customer who happened to be in her office knew what to do: Right click anywhere on the desktop, click on Graphics Options, then Rotate, then Normal. His fortuitous presence was the only thing that kept me from having to figure out how to prop my monitor up on its side.

Writing, with parrots certainly keeps my life interesting.

Circles

I live at the connection point of three circles of friends. That doesn’t quite work in the Venn Diagram sense, because none of the circles overlap. Maybe I should say I live at the apex (apexes? apices?) of three triangles that share no sides. Whatever.

Anyway, the point is, not only do these three circles/triangles/whatevers share no members, they consist of three distinctly different groups of people, particularly when it comes to their political persuasions. My writer-friends circle has a definitely liberal cast, as the writing world, especially the fiction writing world, does generally. The non-liberal fiction writer is a rare thing, indeed. My Air Force Association/veterans circle has a definitively conservative bent, although veterans, as a group, cover the entire political waterfront. And my BMW club circle is, well, pretty much all over the place.

Which makes life interesting. Among liberals, I’m a conservative. Among conservatives, I’m a liberal. Guess that puts me right about where I want to be: in the middle.

And it gives me lots–I mean, LOTS–of material to draw from when I write a story that has political overtones or undertones. Or undertows. Or UnderAlls(R). Or something.

Earlier this week, Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson wrote an interesting piece on our current political, um, situation called “Radicals, reactionaries, and an unhappy Fourth.” It’s not as depressing as the title might suggest and you’ll likely be surprised by whom he labels “radicals” and who “reactionaries.”

How to Become Dehydrated on 96 Ounces of Water a Day

First of all, I’m all right. 

Secondly, you guys lucked out and didn’t have to deal with this. 

At four o’clock the morning after we had our meeting and our dinner at the Olive Garden, I woke up with a severe leg cramp and the worst set of physical sensations I’ve ever experienced in my life.  The objective symptoms were dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, a drenching cold sweat, and an intense need to void.  The internal sensation is much harder to put into words.  My best descriptions so far are “something is terribly wrong in my body” and “I’m going to die, sitting right here on the edge of the bed.”

We dialed 911 and said I was having a possible heart attack.  Why?  Because woman (and men less frequently) have asymptomatic heart attacks with no pain.  My mother had one.  Heart attack was the only thing I could think of that suggested the severity of my symptoms.  I knew it would get the paramedics rolling.

The meeting we arranged with the ambulance on Davis Road between McNeal and our home went off without a hitch.  As Dan hustled us toward the hospital in Douglas, Martin (accent on the last syllable–don’t know how to do that yet) did the usual hooking up of blood pressure, cardio, and oxygen saturation instruments.  Everything looked fine, though I still felt awful.

Martin did me an enormous favor.  Based on what I told him about the amount of water I was drinking as part of my kidney treatment, he suggested that I was DEHYDRATED.  Right away, the stuff I read about this twenty or thirty years ago kicked in, and I knew he was right.  All that water without added electrolytes had flushed the potassium and other salts out of my body.  I had already suspected dehydration because of the muscle cramp and intense thirst I had after the worst of the attack passed.  Our sensation of thirst is triggered by a drop in blood pressure from not having enough fluids in the bloodstream.

At the emergency room, they ran some tests that confirmed Martin’s suggestion.  The rest of my results were well within the normal range.  They gave me some potassium and a list of things to do to get my electrolytes up and sent me home. 

Ross later mentioned that this is why runners drink electrolyte drinks like Gatorade.

So . . . 

Ninety-six ounces of FLUIDS a day may be fine, but NOT ALL STRAIGHT WATER.  I’ve started with diluted fruit juices, especially those with plenty of potassium like bananas.  Dennis is on his way to the vitamin supplement store in Douglas for a couple of things, too.

The moral of this post is DON’T BE STUPID, AS I WAS!  I’d forgotten part of the picture about how the body works.  Fortunately, I lived to learn.  And to come to another Cochise Writers meeting!