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More weird deaths…

Following my last post of quirky death possibilities, here are a few I’ve known about myself.

ISADORA DUNCAN, MOTHER OF MODERN DANCE

American dancer Isadora Duncan, (1927-1977) known as the mother of modern dance, was strangled by her own long scarf which got tangled in the rear hubcaps of her open car while driving in France. (She was right to avoid ballet. Feet are destroyed by dancing on your toes.) Duncan had, herself suffered a terrible loss. Both her children and their nanny drowned when their car rolled into the Seine.

I paid my respects at her grave while visiting the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

THE FAMOUS HOLLYWOOD SIGN
ACTRESS PEG ENTERWHISTLE

I lived for awhile in the Hollywood Hills of L.A and passed the famous sign every night driving home from work. I couldn’t help but think of actress Peg Entwistle, who leapt to her death from that high sign. Peg (1908-1932) was only 24. In her suicide note, she started by saying ‘I am afraid, I am a coward, I am sorry for everything… Peg was distressed because roles didn’t come her way. I believe I once read an offer of a role reached her father a few days after her death.

I once had a neighbour who was a compulsive hoarder. We worried about fire from all the papers and magazines. We also worried about the woman having to manoeuvre around and over all the stacked stuff. Her bed was piled high and couldn’t be slept in. (She apparently slept with her sister nearby.) We were required to clear out her apartment.

MY BROTHER’S KEEPER, BY MARCIA DAVENPORT

THE COLLYER BROTHERS, COMPULSIVE HOARDERS

Our manager suggested I read ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ by Marcia Davenport. I did — and will never forget it. It is a true story about Langley and Homer Collyer, who lived in a 5th Avenue Manhattan Mansion they inherited from their mother. They never married. They never worked. Money was not a problem. They also never threw anything out. At their deaths in 1947, they’d accumulated more than 140 tons of dilapidated stuff.

HOMER’S CHAIR

The brothers feared intruders and set up traps. Langley, himself, was caught in one and crushed to death by trash falling from above. He was on his way to bring brother Homer some food. Homer, who was paralyzed and confined to an old, rotting chair, died about 12 days later from starvation.

ABOUT 140 TONS OF HOARDED STUFF WAS REMOVED AFTER THEIR DEATHS

Interesting book. Read it if you can. It IS fascinating.

Life: a risky business

PHOTO BY CHANDRA

Have you ever thought about how risky life is and what a miracle it is so many of us manage to make it into adulthood? I’m not paranoid, but dangers do lurk at every turn.

I’M NOT PARANOID


What with nature’s furies — hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, fires, floods, lightening and storms; the billions of microscopic bacilli and viruses around, on and in us; man made hazards like guns, explosives and weapons of war, it’s amazing I’m still here!


I can’t help but think of accidents with cars, trains and planes. I step onto my balcony and imagine it falling down to the cement patio three floors down — with me on it. gosh! Well, it could happen.


Normal people just live their lives, but I think of these things. Your chances of dying in an earthquake are one in 11 million. Not much. But what’s if I’m the designated driver?

EVIL PEOPLE?


They say one in 20 million die after being bitten by a dog. I constantly meet dogs on my daily walks. Does a snarl mean I should say goodbye right now? Then there are also evil people who may attack me even if a dog doesn’t. Oh, my….

WHY DO NEIGHBOURS TAKE THE STAIRS?


Apparently the risk of being injured in an elevator is one in six million. My building has one. I use it every day. Some neighbours always take the stairs. Do they know something I don’t? And, why aren’t they telling me?

A CELESTIAL BODY??


I’m not a scared person, but what I’m really terrified of is being hit directly by a celestial body. I have a one in a 150 trillion chance of this happening, but what’s if I’m the person standing right where the darn thing comes down if it does, when it does? Yikes!


There are a lot of other reasons why life is a risky business, but I won’t go there. You’d have to be a little nutty to worry about everything.

Dybbuks of Russia…

ME, AGE 4.

If you think I was an easy kid, you are sadly mistaken. The words most often out of my big mouth were: ‘Why?’ ‘How come?’ That my mom continued to love me and survived my childhood is an absolute miracle. If I’d been my kid, I’d have thrown me off the 3rd floor balcony to shut me up.

A DYBBUK


I was the youngest of five and my poor mom was stuck with me after the rest of the kids attended school. She knew she could keep me quiet and hold me spellbound with her stories of Dybbuks in her native Russia. According to her, she not only knew about them, but had seen them in action herself! Imagine.


Dybbuks, mom said, could do anything. They were evil spirits or dislocated souls of the dead — truly malicious and troublesome creatures who would enter the body of another person or animal and create havoc during a temporary transmutation. The tales she could dream up to keep her pesky Muriel quiet were unlimited and each was different.

WELL-BEHAVED HORSES SUDDENLY OVERTURNED CARTS


I loved those stories about Russia, where well-behaved horses suddenly overturned carts or fled in terror when inhabited by the mischievous Dybbuks, or ordinarily placid cows suddenly kicked whoever tried to milk them, and loving dogs bit their masters or behaved strangely. How could I resist?

ONCE PLACID COWS KICKED THE ONE DOING THE MILKING


I’d sit like a good girl and listen avidly while she ironed. (People did a lot of ironing then.) When I’d get a little uncomfortable or carried away with a story, I’d declare — somewhat hopefully, that they couldn’t be real.


‘Oh, but they are,’ my mother always assured me.

THEY’RE ONLY IN RUSSIA


‘Well, HOW COME we don’t have Dybbuks here?’


‘They’re only in Russia.’


WHY?’


‘Because they’re afraid of the water and they’d have to swim to get here.’


Well, that explained it, right? How could anyone or anything swim across the ocean.

You have to admit it was a creative response. Could you have come up with that?

My mom had an answer for everything.


Goodbye 2021, don’t come back…

READY TO SWEEP 2021 OUT THE DOOR

To each and every one who reads my posts, I send wishes for a Healthy and Happy New Year.

GOODBYE FOREVER COVID:19

I am more than ready to sweep 2021 out the door and kick it down the street. Goodbye with pleasure.

I want to say goodbye forever to COVID:19.

During the past year, I hope I managed to make you laugh now and then, captured your interest sometimes — and got you to disagree with me once in a while. I hope you enjoy reading my blog as much as I enjoy writing it. Each of your comments make my day.

HOPE I MANAGED TO MAKE YOU LAUGH — OH, OH, I’M CRYING (Daughter Susan with me.)

All the best to you and your loved ones in 2022. May it be better for us all.

Is honesty the best policy?

PHOTO BY CHANDRA

That’s an interesting question. It is a complicated issue. William Blake (1757-1827), the multi-talented English poet and artist, wrote ‘A truth that’s told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent.’ I agree with that.

WILLIAM BLAKE (1757-1827


Our society frowns on chronic liars and rightly so. Yet, the naked truth can be so hurtful, in some people’s hands it becomes a knife which can pierce the heart.

Perhaps we need another word for avoiding ugly truths which hurt others, most of which they know about anyway. So, if a friend asks you to point out his/her failings, don’t — unless you’re ready to give up the relationship. They are probably just hoping for some kind words.

ARTHUR GOLDEN, BORN 1956

In the novel ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ by Arthur Golden, the protagonist says ‘There are good facts and bad facts, the bad facts are best avoided.’ I think she has a good point.

HENRY THOREAU (1817-1862

Thoreau, the American writer and libertarian famously said ‘Rather than love, than money, than fame — give me truth’, but he was talking about another issue altogether.

Then there is Oscar Wilde, who gave me so many hours of fascinating reading, who didn’t believe in telling the truth at all and said ‘The telling of beautiful untrue things is the proper aim of Art.’ and ‘He would be the best of fellows if he did not always speak the truth.’


I warned you. Honesty IS a complex subject. Think about it during the holiday and give me your thoughts afterwards.

OSCAR WILDE (1854-1900)

Above all, do have a happy holiday and a healthy New Year.

Computer spell checks?

PHOTO BY CHANDRA

Christmas is in the air and before you know it the New Year will be here. I wish everyone a happy holiday season and a year free of unpleasantness.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!


I haven’t made New Year resolutions for years — I rarely managed to keep them anyway. This year nonetheless, as a kindness to my children, I intend to continue culling the papers I’ve accumulated through many years of writing.


Here’s a poem a friend sent me in 1991, which I’d included in an article about our complicated English language. Spell checkers have improved since then, but beware. They can still goof.

COMPUTER SPELL CHECKS???

Eye have a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

CAN THEY BE TRUSTED?.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it
Eye am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.

Author unknown

Unrest at the North Pole…

For years I worked for newspapers and dreamed of getting a real scoop. I’d kick my desk in frustration when another colleague got one. Why couldn’t it be me??? Finally it happened! SO REMEMBER YOU READ IT HERE FIRST!!

A confidential source advised me of a crisis at the North Pole this season. I couldn’t help it, I had to go.


Things were so bad the dogsled RCMP could hardly believe it. Santa’s elves, instead of making toys, were noisily demonstrating against his huge conglomerate, St. NIck’s Toy Manufacturers Inc. As CEO, Santa holds all world’s rights to the distribution of toys for children at Christmas.

NEWLY ELECTED ELF SHOP STEWARD


‘We’ve not been paid overtime for over a century’ the newly elected Elf shop steward told me, pointing to his placard which read ‘Unfair labour practices’. ‘We want a union, and we want it NOW.’


Close by, there was another demonstration. I cautiously approached and realized these were all elves as well, but female. ‘Discrimination against women.’ their leader shouted as she noisily chewed her gum. ‘It’s impossible to live on one salary these days. We demand equal opportunities. While you’re having your holiday dinner, our elflins are walking barefoot in the snow.’ (Oh, my. I never thought of that.) ‘Down with sexism.’

WHO EVER HEARD OF REINDEER FLYING?


I was scared, but I’d do anything for a story. I sneaked off to the other side of the factory and saw more signs. ‘Santa unfair to reindeer’ ‘Animal rights violations’ What??? Santa’s reindeer? What was their problem? I recognized Prancer and singled him out for a statement.


‘Look, when I applied for this job,’ he explained, ‘Nobody said anything about flying. What a ridiculous requirement! Who ever heard of reindeer flying? If that’s what Santa wanted, he should have advertised for Storks!’

THAT WHIPPERSNAPPER HAS A SHINY NOSE.


‘Then, there’s his little favourite Rudolf. Big deal. So that whippersnapper has a shiny nose. We managed well enough without him for over a hundred years.’

SANTA HAD HIS HANDS FULL AND DID THE BEST HE COULD


Oh my, were those tears I saw in Prancer’s eyes? I had no time to lose.

Fortunately, I’d packed my arbitrator’s hat, put it on and started negotiating immediately. I think I did a pretty good job, but if Santa misses your house this year, please understand the man had his hands full and did the best he could under the circumstances.

WHO’S ASKING WHO?

I’d laugh until my sides hurt.

Hans was undoubtedly the smartest person I ever knew. He was also so funny, he’d have me laughing out loud until my sides hurt.


In going through my papers and throwing out thousands (honestly) I came across this poem of his and couldn’t resist sharing it with you.


Hans came from Vienna as a young adult, where he spoke German and another local dialect. He said other languages were easy because he’d studied Latin at school and Latin is the root of so many languages. But I think it was much more than that. I hope you enjoy this playful poem he wrote about English.

WHO’S ASKING WHO?

by Hans Muller

Hans could and did read several languages

All of us languish
with speech induced anguish
and parsing our sentences
gives rise to repentences.
Hence using the vernacular
looms as positively Dracular.

Much joy to many gives
The usage of genitives
and even a native
can have fun with a dative.
Then why do brains turn into sieves
when confronted with accusatives?

Hans on one of our ‘motor’ trips which we thoroughly enjoyed

Is it HE or HIM, is it ME or I,
WE or US, SHE or HER — and why?
Is REGARDLESS wrong, IRREGARDLESS right
or are they the same — no, not quite.
When I go to bed, do I LAY or LIE?
Did they LEARN me wrong
or should it be TEACH?
I’ve got doctorates in English and Speech.

Aren’t the schools rich
in certified rules which
prescribe things grammatical?
Do I seem fanatical
if I declare that I’m aghast
finding ignorance so deep, so vast.

English???

If the abusive
of mother-tongue usage
prevails incontestably
and quite indigestibly.
I’m asking with unceasing awe:
Ain’t lingocide against the law?

I get jittery and tlnglish
speaking so-called good English,
The King’s, the Queen’s or the Bard’s
For me that is not in the cards.
What the heck — WHOM or WHO,
why don’t I just do
what Tom and Dick and Harry can,
talking simple North American.

The Farming of Bones

I haven’t been to a city library since the pandemic started. For a long time, they were closed. However I’ve done very well sharing books with reading neighbours by using a little free street library a mere block away. I’ve learned they read some worthy books around here.


Stuff happens to me that never happens to other people. By sheer coincidence, after just finishing ‘The Feast of the Goat’ by Mario Vargas Llosa, a novel based on the Dominican Republic during dictator Trujillo’s era, what do you think falls into my hands?


A harrowing but fantastic can’t-put-down read by Edwidge Danticat called ‘The Farming of Bones’ about the destitute Haitians who crossed the border from Haiti into The Dominican Republic during Trujillo’s rule. Those who did struggled for survival doing the dirty and dangerous jobs no one else wanted, meanwhile suffering outright racism.


Danticat’s book didn’t end the way I wanted it to. A love story, the lovers don’t get to walk off into the sunset, get married and live happily after. If that’s what you want, it isn’t the book for you. It isn’t a pleasant story, but it reads true…

A Man and his Tear

Life isn’t fair: It isn’t fair that my children are funnier than I am. It isn’t fair that they’re cleverer than I am and it sure isn’t fair that they write so much better than I do — and they started doing so early.

I already shared an (ahem) unforgettable saga daughter Susan wrote when she was about six, ‘A Romance’ about the Pickle and the Stick. (See https://viewfromoverthehill.wordpress.com/?s=A+Love+Story…or just click on Oct/2021 on the right of the cover page.)

Rafi wrote one at about the same age, but if Susan’s was a saga, his called ‘How did she die?’ was a tome, much too long for this post. If you want to read it you will have to wait until it is published. (Chuckle.)

Instead I’ve chosen to share the following poem written during his early university years — in about 1991.

A MAN AND HIS TEAR

A YOUNGER RAFI

By Rafi Kauffmann

Looking into a sullen eye
A moment of realism slips through
A moment of evil and self-destruction
Yet of kindness and redemption,
A tear

Sold is the innocence of youth
For a rough tempered style,
Tattered is the skin
Worn beyond its years
But still, a tear

TATTERED IS THE SKIN

Glistening with emotion
It swells but won’t fall
The impression on others holds it back

A positive sign this tear
A breakthrough well needed
An escape well deserved

Honestly it sings of experience
A living history contained within its walls
What it knows he knows
What it is, he is

WHAT IT IS, HE IS