Breakfast Special, #47, “Flipping Switches”

Flipping Switches

“Oh it got something to do with them and Lily all right.” Anton took a few steps backwards to get out of Sarge’s immediate reach in case he pushed the wrong buttons and riled him up while trying to discuss an issue that needed to be addressed immediately in light of what he and Esther had just witnessed. “Now we go back to what we set on the side. You dancing the way you did with Lily was like turning on a whole lot of light switches at the same time like we did today to check the rewiring at Percy Two’s place. Only it turned on a bunch of women instead of light bulbs. Probably more than a few men in that bunch too, truth be told. You read that action?”

Sarge frowned at Anton and shook his head. “No way. I have never had anything like that happen before. Never after dancing with a woman in public. Not once. Not ever.” He pushed away from the wall and stood up straight, facing off with a clearly disbelieving Anton. “I am not bullshitting you, Anton. That sort of thing has never happened to me any other time.”

Anton read the other man’s body language as an effort to assert his honesty rather than an attempt to physically intimidate him into backing down. Considering this and recalling their private conversation on the roof, he took his time deciding what might be the most effective route of communication. “When was the last time you danced in public with a woman, Sarge? Huh? How long it been?”

Sarge shrugged and took his time answering. “I don’t know exactly. Sometime in the spring. I met up with a group of people from Max’s store going out for a night together. I had a good time with a couple of the ladies who were willing to step out on the floor. It didn’t score me any action. But I wasn’t looking to score any action anyway, so it was all good. I certainly didn’t get any other women coming onto me afterwards.” He looked down the hall to where Lily and Esther remained talking close together. “Christ, I hope it doesn’t piss Lily off.”

“Fact you did not leave her hanging in the wind back there, Anton don’t think Lily get bent out of shape with you. After she get a full list of who and who from Esther, well, Anton not putting any money in the betting bank on who she do get bent with first.”

“Ahh I don’t want her getting into it with anybody on my account.” Sarge started moving towards Lily until Anton lightly put a hand on his shoulder.

“Lesson regarding Esther and Lily, let them talk it out. Otherwise you get them both coming at you at the same time. That a definite no win scenario, Sarge. Hang back. Don’t worry, Esther keep Lily from acting out if need be. How about we talk some more?”

Sarge hesitated, watched the two women for a few moments than stepped back to stand next to Anton. “I don’t want her thinking I was feeding her a line of bs last night when I came clean about all the women in that damn book.”

“How’d you pump up to do that?”

“I didn’t. It just seemed logical and right considering she decided to give me a chance. I didn’t want her getting blindsided at some point and giving me the boot for not being up front from the get go.”

“We working together all afternoon and evening and you neglected to mention that tiny piece of significant intel, Sarge. Is that any way to build up trust?”

“No offence intended, Anton. I’m still getting used to the whole idea myself. Besides, with Little George in the dark mood he was in the whole time, it didn’t quite feel right to bring it up. But I told you now. It’s barely been a full twenty-four hours since she decided.”

“Ah ha. No harm done. No foul.” Anton held his tongue regarding what Lily had told him about her giving Sarge a chance all along. He glanced at the other man alongside him in the dimly lit hallway. “How all that talk about those women go down with Lily?”

“Not quite like I expected. But that was okay. She asked a lot of questions. Most of which I could answer and a few I couldn’t. Even though I was worn out by the time we finished, I felt good about talking it out with her. She didn’t, or hasn’t changed her mind yet, since I laid it out for her, so all in all I’m still feeling good.” He grimaced. “Except for what happened a little while ago. I mean, hell, it wasn’t like we were getting it on out there. If we had, that would make some sense, but you know damn well we weren’t.”

“Ah huh, if you say so.”

“Your tone implies a certain element of disbelief, my friend. Why is that?”

“You ever get it on with woman on a dance floor like you say, Sarge?”

Sarge began pushing his hair away from his face with his left hand. “It’s been a long time since I did that, but, yeah. It was not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. Not by a long shot. But yes I have.”

“Did the audience express their appreciation accordingly?”

Sarge crossed his arms and shrugged. “Depends on what you mean by accordingly, Anton. If one hell of a wild brawl counts as the audience expressing their appreciation of that dance, then yes they certainly did.”

“A brawl? Where that dance be? In a bar? You get it on with some pole dancing queen?”

“No.” Sarge gave him an indignant look that said he couldn’t believe Anton would even suggest such him doing such a thing.

“No?” Anton waited for more information. When it was clear that it was not forthcoming, he said, “You gonna make me pull that tale out of you, Sarge?”

“No.” Sarge adjusted his stance and bent downwards. After some further hesitation and a long look at Lily and Esther, he spoke quietly so his words wouldn’t carry towards the kitchen. “You know Reginald’s in M-?”

“Hmm. Way too proud of itself without just cause high dollar dinner and dance joint uptown is where Anton thinking.”

“Sounds about right. My brother Francis set me up with this really smart, gorgeous woman for a night out to celebrate his first wedding anniversary at Reginald’s. Only problem was she wouldn’t dance with me. I couldn’t get her out on the floor no way. No one else would get out there with me either. Not even Francis’ wife, Irene, who at that time was usually good for at least two dances, sometimes three depending on the music. That night the live band was hot and tight so I was going crazy with no dance partner. I said to hell with their drinking party and I grabbed a seat at the bar to scope out the place for a likely candidate. In almost no time I get a fix on a woman wearing down the guy she’s with on the floor. When he’s had enough, he leaves her stranded out there. I did not waste any time with formal introductions. I went out there and we faced off and went to town for about five numbers in a row. It was all good until tune number six when we both decide we like each other’s moves enough to turn up the heat for fun. It got hot and real fast. Her guy and his friends didn’t appreciate the show. Francis and Irene did not appreciate our behavior anymore than my dance partner’s guy. They all decided about the same time that they didn’t like me very much. Things got very out of hand. The damage tab was quite impressive. I couldn’t get back inside the place for six months. That really pissed me off because she, the woman I’d picked up for dancing, and her guy could. Considering it was him who blew his cork first and came at me, I didn’t think that was fair play at the time. It didn’t help my attitude that I really wanted to dance with her again and couldn’t.”

Anton considered this intel, glanced at Lily and Esther then shot a wary look at the kitchen entrance. “Ah ha. What about your date for the party? She shut you out too?”

Sarge shook his head. “Strange as it sounds, she did not. Right about the time things started winding down fight-wise, she makes a run right into the middle of the action and surprises the hell out of me by getting a grip on my belt. As I’ve had enough of the action at hand, I see no point in resisting, so I let her haul me out the back door and straight into a waiting cab.”

“No f’n way.”

“Yes way. Stranger yet, when we get to her place, she cranks the stereo and we dance until she decides it’s a good idea to alternate dancing with other things. She was a damn good dancer. I never understood why she wouldn’t dance with me in the first place at Reginald’s. We could have had a great time right from the start if she had.”

“Her name in that book?”

“Of course.”

“Maybe that had something to do with her not dancing with you in public.”

“Who knows.” They stood side by side. Sarge was appreciating the cold coming from the porch which Anton was simply ignoring. “Why would anyone, even a pimp, care about a woman dancing with me? That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Who says pimps make sense? If that pimp be your father, then no point even looking for any sense nowhere, Sarge.” Anton rubbed his jaw. “You like dancing with Lily, don’t you?”

Sarge surprised Anton with a big bright grin. “Like? Are you kidding, Anton? I love dancing with Lily. She swing dances like none other. She’s got all the oldies down pat thanks to Priest. She has no hesitation for trying everything else too. We have a damn lot of fun with that old record player and the radio. Hell, I would not think twice about getting out on the floor with her for that swing dance fest contest at U of M- they have every fall. Damn, I wonder if she’d do it?”

Anton stared at Sarge and shook his head. “Ah ha, so much for dancing just being dancing with some people.”

Catching Anton’s serious tone, Sarge stopped thinking about how to broach the idea of the swing fest with Lily and punched Anton lightly in the shoulder. “Hey, I wanted a chance with Lily even before we ever started dancing. Even if she couldn’t dance like she does with me, I’d still want a chance with her. Fact that she does dance, is well, well it’s sort of like having the very best fresh homemade cherry pie for dessert after a great main entrée. Makes a great meal even better.”

“Hmm. Anton thinking Sarge got dancing as the wrong part of that meal, but no matter right now. Heads up, here they come.”

“I’m thinking we should call it a night, Anton. Early as it is, at least I should. I’m in no mood for a round two of any sort or I might do a little acting out of my own. I do not want to put you to the trouble of keeping me in line. I’ll keep myself in line by making tracks back to Lily’s place. If Lily wants to stay on her own, I’m okay with that as long as she doesn’t walk home by herself.”

“That is almost funny, Sarge. Almost. Like Lily going to let you wander off all by yourself to her pad after that dance and whiplash action? Anton don’t think so. Anton think it a damn good idea both you and Lily call it a night so those all those turned on light bulbs don’t blow the whole damn fuse-box. Anton think damn best you two go home together and dance up as much cherry pie as you please. Alone. As in: no one watching the dance show. You read that music?”

“You don’t really expect me to argue with that thinking, do you, Anton? Hmm?”

Anton’s eyes narrowed as he took note of Sarge’s grin. “Sarge using Anton to get right where he want to be with no debate from the women-folk.” Anton shook a finger at him. “Ah huh. You smarter than you look, Big Man. Anton on to you now.”

@eva2014

Breakfast Special, #46, “Pinballing”

Pinballing

Upon reaching the main hallway Sarge kept on moving until they’d moved past the kitchen and stood at the cold back end of the house on the inner side of the rear porch. Seeing his stressed expression, noting the strength of his continued grip on her and how he put his back up against the wall and took on a defensive stance, Lily  glanced back down the hall they’d come through. Seeing none of the b-brigade had followed, she turned back to find Sarge pulling on the string around his neck to which one of her sachets was attached. She helped by releasing the string when it caught on a shirt button. Trying to regain her composure, she said nothing.  Sarge inhaled deeply  the scent of the small bag then managed a smile for her. “Have you done that pinball action before, Lily? Was that beginner’s luck or are you a ringer? Come on, fess up, Missy.”

“That’s what that move is called, pinball? Ah ha.” Lily clicked her tongue and shook her head. “Purely beginner’s luck, Funny Man.” She laughed softly. “We’re going to have to practice that in reverse.”

“Reverse? As in you putting me into motion?”

“Yeah. Why not?”

Sarge cocked his head to the left and looked her over. “Sure, why not. With the right leverage and some serious spin you could get my weight flying. Maybe.”

“What? You think I can’t throw your hide?”

“Throw me, sure, no problem. Pinballing me through a crowd, that’s another story. But it’s a possibility under the right conditions.”

“Under the right conditions, huh.” Lily smirked then glanced again down the hallway.

“Are you okay after those body slams?”

“Yeah, I’m good. My shoulders did most of the work. But you look really hot.” Without thinking how he might react, she reached out and put her hands lightly against his fully flushed cheeks. “Are you sick?”

“No. Just way too many people in one place.”  He searched her expression for some sign of being angry with him. Finding none, he sighed with relief. Unsure of how to begin processing what had just happened with the women in the crowded main room, he waited  for some clue from Lily on the subject. “Is everyone in the Flats trying to pack themselves into that one room tonight or what?”

Lily refrained from bringing up what had happened with her and the b-brigade and the young man and his friends. “There are a lot more people than usual showing up tonight that’s for sure. The kitchen is full of food waiting for space on the tables. There’s hardly any room to move around in there either. I don’t understand why people aren’t spreading out into the other open rooms.”

“Maybe there’s an effort underway to set a record for most people in a certain amount of square footage?”

Unaware they were being watched by several very interested parties from the kitchen, Lily felt his forehead for sign of a fever as Sarge closed his eyes and leaned his head into her palm. “If that’s the case, why don’t they just pack themselves into where the middle of the street ought to be? Put their body heat to use melting some snow.”

Sarge laughed a little then opened his eyes and tensed.

“Everything level here?” Anton’s voice and presence startled them. He’d caught them unawares without realizing he’d done so. Having made no effort to hide his approach, he backed away a few steps with his hands held palm open and up in front of him at the fierce look in Sarge’s eyes and an equally harsh glare from Lily. “Easy, Anton comes in peace.” He inclined his head towards the hall he’d just walked down as he tried to get a reading on Lily regarding her reaction to what had transpired with the b-brigade and other women. “Figured I’d run some interference in case anyone still does not have a full grasp of no.”

Relaxing noticeably as Anton kept his distance and his calm tone while apparently taking no offence at the threatening look he’d initially sent his way, Sarge responded with an apologetic shrug. “No problem, Anton. I just didn’t realize you were here until you spoke. You do a fine impression of a ghost. You’ve got some damn quiet feet. A little chain rattling wouldn’t hurt. ”

Anton took his house keys from his pocket and shook them. “How that work?” His own red alert signal eased up when Sarge laughed and waved a dismissive hand at his joke. He shook the keys again while meeting Lily’s  puzzled stare. “That working for you, Lily?” Unlike Sarge, she didn’t laugh or relax. “O give Anton a little joy for effort.” He jerked his thumb in the direction behind him. “Esther holding the front line. She’ll make noise if some company you don’t want makes tracks this way.”

Lily moved to look past him to where Esther was standing further down the hall watching the entrance to the front room. She looked at Anton. “What’s going on? If the b-brigade is on the warpath, I’m more than happy to deal with them on my own. Esther doesn’t need to burn any of her bridges on my account.”

“You best inform her of that fact. You know she not going to budge on my say so.”

Fully aware of Anton’s intention to send her Esther’s way and guessing they both knew something she didn’t but should, she decided to cooperate. “I will. Keep an eye on Sarge. He’s not feeling well, even though he says otherwise.”

“Don’t concern yourself, Anton. I’m good.” Sarge shrugged when Lily gave him a look that said she didn’t believe his self assessment before walking in Esther’s direction.

Satisfied that he’d pushed the correct communication button, Anton  cautiously edged closer to Sarge and lowered his voice for privacy. “Sorry, Sarge, Lily say otherwise and Anton’s bones say otherwise too.”

“Who am I to argue with your bones? That crowd got to me. But I’m okay now. I’m not sick as in, toss my dinner sick.” Knowing that Anton wanted to talk with him, Sarge joined him in keeping an eye on Lily as she made her way to Esther. “What’s a b-brigade?”

“B-brigade no problem at the moment. Anton define them later.” He moved to stand facing the hallway so he could watch it and talk quietly with Sarge at the same time. He looked Sarge over. “You definitely not up to par, Sarge. Lily correct in saying you not well. If you gonna hurl or do a face flop, please inform Anton directly so I can evade the splatter.”

Sarge shook his head. “I’m not going to do either one. Quit already.” A moment later he said, “Do I really look like I might?”

“Either, both, or something else.” Anton watched Lily and Esther conversing down the hall. He stepped sideways a little closer to Sarge and glanced cautiously at the kitchen doorway before speaking. “What in hell possessed you to turn up the heat dancing with Lily in a crowd full of stir crazy women?”

Not liking the implication that he’d deliberately brought the unwanted sexual advances upon himself, Sarge said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, Anton. I didn’t dance any differently with Lily than we do when we’re by ourselves.”

Anton gave up watching his wife and Lily and turned his full attention to the man still getting his bearings after politely bulldozing his way through a dozen bold women with no claims to self-restraint or tact a few minutes earlier. “Hold on. You been dancing like that with Lily all along?”

Sarge’s confusion and incomprehension was plain. “Like what? We dance, that’s all. She’s a great dance partner, even when her right foot acts up. We read each other and the music really well together.”

Tuning into his bones and his intellect full throttle, Anton stared intently at the younger man, himself on the alert for duplicity or any form of  deception. “That what you call it? Reading the music together?”

“Yeah, what else? What do you call it?”

“We put that defintion on the side for now. Don’t you dare tell me you don’t know what just went down while making an exit from that room. You got to be clued into that action or you be brain-dead and don’t know it yet.”

Sarge pushed his hair away from his face. “Of course I know. How could I not? I dealt with them without making a bad scene, didn’t I? What the hell that was about is beyond me though. I never saw most of those women before tonight.” He leaned against the wall  in an effort to relieve the tension the conversation was creating. “The ones I have met never acted like that before. You know it because you’ve been with me at every one of their homes when we did some repairs. You also know that none of them ever pulled that kind of shit on me before tonight.” When Anton didn’t respond with more than a nod, he continued with, “Does it have something to do with Lily?”

 

 

Breakfast Special, #45, “No You Don’t”

No You Don’t

Lily’s public statement of ownership had not gone unnoticed by the group of women she’d intended to warn off. The b-brigade held its ground against the east wall watching closely as other women, none of whom made any bones about wanting a taste of what Sarge had unwittingly put on display while dancing with Lily, launched single and combined efforts to get him either back towards the clear area near the musicians or off in other much less public directions. From the perspective of the b-brigade, all of these actions were doomed because they failed to address the necessity of separating the man from the woman directly behind his broad back as they moved single file through the crowded room.

Sarge’s polite smile never wavered, his voice never rose in irritation, his free right hand never resorted to applying serious force as he extracted himself from grasping, clutching and caressing hands of women he had never met and a few he had while making repairs in the Flats. Yet he effectively managed to decline each demand and offer without letting go of Lily’s hand or directing her attention to what he was encountering head on while wading through the sea of people. Confused and at a loss for the reason for this unexpected onslaught of feminine attention, but having dealt with far larger and more forceful acts of aggression than a steady stream of uninhibited women blocking his path, Sarge pushed onward thinking the strange scenario would come to an end as soon as they were out of the now jam-packed room.

Within ten steps of extracting them both from the pressing mass of people Sarge suddenly found himself contending with what he immediately recognized as a coordinated group effort involving Lily. His first sense that something new was going on came from activity behind him instead of face to face as previously. A sudden hard yanking of his left hand holding Lily’s caused him to stop moving and look over his shoulder to where she now stood the length of both their arms away from him. Instead of close up behind him as she’d been until a few moments ago, she was facing off with two irate young women while a silent third was leaning against her arm now stretched out full length between her and Sarge. Realizing the intention of the third woman was to get Lily to release her hand hold on his, Sarge turned around and began moving to close the distance between them. As soon as he did this, another woman stepped directly into his way. Laughing and grinning at him, she half fell against his chest in an effort to push him off-balance and backwards. Instinctively adjusting his stance to maintain balance, Sarge became aware of another woman closing in from the left with the same movements.

“No you don’t.” He comprehended the scope of this coordinated action and began dealing with it even as someone else bumped into him from behind then proceeded to get very comfortable and cozy with his backside and belt. He looked away from the women shoving against him to where Lily stood facing the opposite direction as she contended with the two women working themselves up into a fine lather arguing with her without raising their voices to attract unwelcome attention. He saw their silent partner quickly move to where his and Lily’s hands were still holding onto each other.

A hot hand covered his and nimble fingers began trying to pry one of his fingers loose from his grip on Lily’s hand. Thinking she was about to succeed with this action, which by most rights ought to have given her painful physical leverage to force him into letting go of Lily, she turned and sent him a big happy smile over her shoulder. As far as Sarge was concerned her smile confirmed that none of this activity was accidental and that its intent was to separate him and Lily in order to put another part of a group plan into action.

For the amount of time it took him to think how very ironic it was that his life in a world so very different from that of the Flats had more than adequately prepared him for this type of situation, Sarge allowed the young woman smiling at him to continue working at pushing his index finger against the back of his hand. When she knew she had his finger bent far enough back to the point where the pain ought to have already accomplished her goal yet had not, she glared at him then yanked it farther. Sarge grinned back at her and tightened his grip on Lily’s hand hard enough to get her to look his way in surprise. Knowing he had her attention, he suddenly pulled her towards him with enough force to yank her off her feet and send her body slamming directly into the woman at the point of breaking his finger out of frustration. The two women collided and yet Lily kept moving as Sarge twisted hard to his left to keep her body in motion as if she were a fish at the end of a line being hauled out of water. The force with which he put her into motion caused her shoulder to hit the finger-pryer’s chest hard enough to send the woman falling and stumbling into other people. The momentum brought Lily twisting like a top knocking into the two women trying to move him backwards. Finding and keeping on her feet, Lily pushed and shoved against the women to keep her balance.

When her body had nearly cleared them, Sarge pivoted again so that he was now facing the hallway. The woman who’d been yanking on his belt to get him moving backwards now found herself facing him and took a step backwards to steady herself. Sarge pulled again on Lily’s hand causing her to spin a little more before she collided with his side. Immediately his right hand went around her waist pulling her up flush against him.  Having accomplished his immediate goal, he smiled down at her red streaked cheeks and startled eyes. “There you are, Lily. I wondered where’d you’d gotten to back there in the crowd.” He nodded at the frustrated woman glaring at them as she stepped away. “Sorry if I stepped on your toes. It’s getting really tight in here. There’ll be a little more room when I’m out of the way.” Keeping a tight grip on Lily, he pushed only slightly less politely than before onward through the curious onlookers.

~~

As always, I’m open to more music suggestions.

 

Breakfast Special, #44, “Heat Waves”

~Heat Waves

Lily felt deep red heat rising, streaking her cheeks as they danced. Sarge’s hand holding her’s as he led her in the small floor space wasn’t any different from all the other times they’d danced, yet it felt like the most intimate touch ever in the midst of so many people. She’d intended to send a message to the b-brigade and the other women, but she hadn’t given any thought about how anyone else might react to her actions. Sarge had grinned happily, exactly as she’d counted on him doing, when she’d asked if he felt like dancing even though no one else was. Little George had given her a quick thumbs up when she’d handed him her plate of food with encouragement to eat the remaining contents.. As she’d reached to take Sarge’s willing hand, Anton had caught her eye and nodded approvingly as had Percy Two and the other men in the group. It was clear they wanted her to finally show Sarge some preferential treatment in the midst of a very successful public gathering. There were no razing or off-color comments, just quiet approving encouragement as they moved away to make their way to the area next to the musicians.

But now whenever she caught someone’s expression as they made the most of the little floor there was for their dancing, she realized they’d attracted the attention of a lot more people than just the women she’d wanted to dissuade from even thinking of making any moves in Sarge’s direction. At the same time she was enjoying having his hand in hers and his other lightly resting on her waist as they moved. She could tell that even in this crowd of neighborhood people Sarge felt comfortable dancing and safe touching her and that felt good.

The song ended and they stood patiently waiting  without talking for another to begin while the group decided what to play next. In keeping with their own agenda to mellow out the atmosphere, the musicians put another easy-going tune into motion and Sarge responding accordingly by gathering Lily in closer for moving with the soft textured music. His hands didn’t roam, he uttered no sweet nothings into her ear, he didn’t press suggestively against her as their feet kept moving, there was plenty of polite space between them and yet Lily as if felt he was making love to her as they danced. Fixing her attention on a small section of his borrowed too large flannel shirt where green and blue lines of the pattern intersected, she noted that her vibes were happily humming with the song and let herself simply fall into sync with him via the dance. For the length of the song they moved in a sphere of their own making oblivious to everything except the music and each other.

When the music stopped Lily glanced at the quiet, intent expression on Sarge’s flushed face then she lowered her head enough to let her hair fall forward in an effort to hide her own blush. The guitar players murmured to each other, then decided to take a break in order to enjoy the bottles of beer someone had brought them. She sensed an  unfamiliar tension in the room as Sarge began leading her through the crowd towards the open space in the house’s main hall. Her hand firmly holding his, she followed closely in his wake. As they moved through the densely packed mass of humanity towards the comparatively empty and much cooler hall, Sarge’s grip on her hand tightened and tensed.

Lily’s eyes focused on the heels of Sarge’s boots as he’d set their course. In her quest for a little personal privacy while she inwardly basked in the afterglow of dancing, she kept her head down while walking close enough to his backside that if he made one step backward he’d be standing on her toes. Preoccupied with her own deep internal workings, feeling secure in the close proximity of his large form and linked by their hands, she let him lead her along through the people continuing to enter the large main room. Hence, she missed the initial bold face to face approaches by several women making aggressive efforts to get Sarge’s attention and directly draw him away from Lily. Her first clue that her effort to make a public social statement had gone awry came in the form of a young man she was barely acquainted with attempting to wedge himself between her and Sarge. Realizing that his action had nothing to do with the crowded room when he slipped an arm around her waist in an effort to pull her in the opposite direction, Lily pushed him away with a  single hard hand upward shove to his chin. The entertained and intrigued tone of his laughter and that of his friends as he retreated effectively alerted her to the highly charged, unpredictable nature of the room’s current atmosphere.

~

From the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown. Joan Osborne preforms Heatwave

 

 

 

Breakfast Special, #43, “Owning the Man”

Owning the Man

Lily set down the glass punch bowl filled with canned fruit cocktail and stirred it while wishing for fresh grapes with skins that cracked when you bit into them. No one knew who’d brought the very large restaurant sized can to the kitchen and left it for the potluck. She looked around the room full of people and hoped whoever had shared the generous treat of fruit, even if it wasn’t the fresh variety, would notice that it had been gratefully honored with both the pretty punch serving bowl and placement near the plates so that everyone was aware of its presence as soon as they came to get something to eat. As she scanned the room for anyone taking any notice of the efforts of herself and the other people setting out the array of hot and cold dishes she caught Sarge looking back at her.

Lily set the punch bowl ladle handle in its grove by touch and returned Sarge’s ‘Hey, I see you over there’ look from the side of the room where he was keeping company with the men who’d helped with the rewiring project at Percy Two’s home building today. Esther came to her side, picked up a plate and hip-checked Lily.  “You going to eat something tonight or stand here trading stares with that man? Hmm? You’re attracting attention.”

“Oh? Who’s attention? Yours? Hand me a plate, please, Esther.” Feeling Esther oblige her by slapping a plate against her open palm, Lily looked away from Sarge to her friend.

Esther settled some fruit cocktail on her plate then surveyed the packed room. “The b-brigade been on point all night long. Check out the east wall. They’re all lined up like they’re posing for mug-hots.” She made her way down the length of the buffet table starting and stopping suddenly several times causing Lily and herself to bump into each other. “They ready to run and jump like they waiting for a gun to go off for a race.” Esther deliberated, stopped and leaned backwards so that Lily would bang into her again. “You have any intel on what’s got into them?”

Lily glanced at the group of young women standing along the east wall, plates in hand, eating and talking amongst themselves and to the men walking past who caught their attention. “They seem to be their usual selves as far as I can see.” She looked back at Sarge who’d lowered his eyes while listening to something someone in the group was saying. Instead of trading eye action she got a good look at his dusty mop of unruly waves and curls. She shot a fast look at the young women along the east wall and caught two of them obviously looking him over and snickering between themselves.

Lily elbowed Esther who responded with a soft, “Uh huh?”

“Esther, dare me.”

“Dare you what?” Esther dropped a spoonful of macaroni and cheese onto her plate then slid her eyes towards Lily.

“Just dare me. Say, ‘I dare you, Lily.’”

Esther refrained from spearing a piece of thinly sliced brisket with her fork and turned her full attention to the woman next to her. “What am I daring you to do?” She followed Lily’s glaze to the women of the b-brigade. “Don’t be thinking of stirring that horde for some fun, Lily. It’s been a long day and Esther has zero fuel left for peace-keeping. They’re just looking. They ain’t touching.” She looked in Sarge’s direction. “He ain’t even looking their way. No reason to strike any matches, girlfriend.”

“I won’t say anything to them, Esther. I promise.” Lily held her plate with both hands and looked around the room as several newcomers approached the food tables. “Give me a little verbal push. That’s all I’m asking.”

Esther raised one eyebrow and looked from Lily to Sarge. “Ah ha. A little verbal push? Hmm. First swear that you’re not going over there to b-slap the b-brigade for be-ing themselves.”

“I swear.” She faced Esther and nodded. “I swear I won’t slap anyone.” She pointed at Esther’s plate. “You’re going to go eat with Louisa and Martina?”

“That’s my short-term plan. Nothing stopping you from joining us. Except whatever, ‘I dare you’ action is on your mind. What’s on your plate besides a lot of canned fruit, Lily? Hmm?”

“Dare me and you’ll find out.” Lily grinned. “Come on, Esther. I promise to keep the peace. Though I do admit that the b-brigade is getting on my nerves tonight.”

Esther stepped away from the table and Lily followed in order to let the newcomers have access to the brisket. “Oh they are, are they? Why is that, Lily?”

“Do they change as they get older, Esther? I mean the b-brigade type of women. Will they ever stop being the b-brigade?”

“Sorry, Lily, but as far as Esther’s intel goes, once a member of the b-brigade, always a member. It’s like they’ve been imprinted for life unless they literally get struck by lightning and their wires get rerouted.” She frowned. “That didn’t come out quite like I was thinking, but you get my drift.”

“I do.” Lily popped a grape from the fruit cocktail mix into her mouth. “Not bad for a canned grape.” She handed Esther her plate and removed the hair tie from the end of her braid.

Esther held both plates while Lily quickly undid her braid. “What’s with this hair action, Lily?”

Lily shook her head sending her hair rippling down the lenght of her back then took her plate back from Esther. “How do I look?”

“How?” Esther glanced at the b-brigade then looked at Lily. “Like you got a long, long ways to go before you ever even close to b-brigade membership. Infiltration is not an option. They spot your intent zero second flat.”

“Oh yeah? You think they’re that sharp, Esther? I mean, do you think they’re smart enough to catch and comprehend my unspoken intentions?”

“They’re bitch-es, not dumb-shits.”

“I’m counting on that distinction, Esther. I’ll catch up with you later. Okay, I guess I’ll dare myself.” Lily squared her shoulders, shook her hair again and smiled at Esther. “I dare you, Lily.” She turned on her toes and walked around the table to the other side. Pausing for moment, she looked over her shoulder and winked at Esther.

“Hmm, yes you did. Now what are you up to, girlfriend?” Curious, Esther hung back, ate some macaroni and watched Lily making her way through the people eating and talking in various social groups. When Lily made a point of walking past the women designated as the b-brigade, Esther held her breath waiting for her to suddenly break her stride and engage in some caustic verbal warfare as often happened when she and the group got a little too close to each other for their mutual comfort. Instead of slowing down or stopping to engage in a sarcastic exchange, as had been her want ever since Lily had gotten clued into what John had called his meaningless side-bar dalliances with several of the young women, Lily kept on moving. Her proximity and silence had definitely caught the attention of the women who waited for her to do an about-face and come straight back at them for a little dishing.

Oblivious to the other people moving past her near the buffet table, Esther spoke out loud quietly to herself. “You got their attention now what do you plan to do with it, Lily? Hmm? Where the hell are you going in this can of jam-packed human sardines? Wait. Brake time. Lily, are you? You’re not, are you? Are you going where I think you’re going?” Esther took an inventory of the b-brigade and noted that every one of them was watching Lily’s progress through the crowd. She looked to where Sarge stood with Anton, Little George, Percy Two and several other men. “I dare you, Lily. I dare you to finally outright own that man right here in front of everyone.” When Lily stopped near the front windows to talk with the musicians taking time out from playing for their meal, Esther sighed with disappointment. “Oh come on, Lily. Don’t stop working your mojo now. Go on, at least slide by and give him a little body slam or something. You don’t have to stick around, just make contact. Come on, girl. Do it for Esther. Please. I know you want to. You know you want to.”

When several people blocked her view of the room, Esther moved to her left and stood waiting for Lily to leave the music making trio. When she did, Esther took a deep breath and rolled her own shoulders. “That’s it, yes, Lily. Alright feeding him fruit cocktail grapes would not be Esther’s first choice of action, but it’s something.” She looked again at the women watching intently. “It’s making a point of some sort.” First the guitar player and then the others began playing one of their new songs. She took a bite of brisket and a moment later stopped chewing in surprise when Lily handed her plate to Little George then took Sarge by the hand and lead him to the small open space near the little band.

In spite of the crowd Lily and Sarge easily settled into a slow dance together in the tiny available floor space. As they danced, little by little more floor appeared as people moved aside to give them what little room there was left in order to dance properly. Esther scanned the room quickly noting who was paying attention to the only couple in the room dancing. The b-brigade was looking deadly serious. Several men were watching with dark diamond hard eyes as Lily’s stream of loose black hair swayed and shimmered as she moved in accord with Sarge.  “Mmm. There be plenty enough eyes catch that dance action to send the point to all parts known. Yes, indeed.” Esther looked at her husband and the other men in his group also taking note of the public statement Lily was making by getting Sarge to dance with her in a room  so crowded no one else was even trying to do so. “Big Man going right along with that dancing. Mmm. That’s it, Sarge, you keep on giving me reasons to like you.”

Esther was satisfied that now the attention of most curious parties would shift to other more available persons of interest and some tensions would ease up now that speculation had been put to rest with this social statement. But when they continued dancing  for another song and then a third, she wasn’t quite sure what to think about anyone’s reactions. Dance number three did more to arouse interest in the couple than it did to dispel it. Esther quickly pointed this out to Anton when he came to the food table to satisfy his sweet tooth. “Anton, there be dancing and there be dancing, you read me?”

Anton nodded. “Oh Anton reading Esther straight up.” He selected a brownie then looked across the room to where Sarge and Lily were dancing considerably closer than when they’d first claimed the small space for themselves. “Lily doin’ a good job of owning Big Man out in the open. ‘Bout time too. What got your back up about that, hmm, Fine Woman of Mine?”

“My back is not up about Lily owning the man.” Esther moved closer against his side and whispered. “But what is with all these other folks? There be more than a little sweet touch in that dance, but that’s nothing these people haven’t seen and done themselves plenty of before and then some.”

“True that. Maybe all their eyeballing cuz they ain’t sure what they seeing. Are they just dancing or are they Dancing? They sure not crossing any lines out there to decide that question. Yet.”

Esther swayed a little with the music. “Maybe they should.” She surveyed the large room again. “Or maybe not. Anton, what are your bones saying?”

“My bones? What about?”

Esther pointed with her fork towards Lily and Sarge then she quickly waved it  over the people crowding into the room for sharing food and socializing. “About whatever is trying real hard to tie a knot in my stomach.”

~~~~~~@eva2014

Any suggestions for the music they’re dancing to would be most welcome. Don’t be shy, please share your ideas.

 

 

 

City Music

City Music ~~

There are all kinds of tunes about urban landscapes.  A multitude of activities takes place within city landscapes. Everything is reflected in music in all genres.  

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Redlight King ~ City Life

RedlightKingVEVO

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Where would we be without some serious city angst?

Raining in Baltimore ~ The Counting Crows, August and Everything After  <<– A most excellent album with nary a ‘miss’ among any of its songs. Well worth listening to en toto.

 

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Anyone in the market for some higher education history? Universities and colleges are small cities within cities and towns. Hence, the inclusion of Ohio.

In Kent, Ohio, Non-violent students encountered the National Guard’s fully loaded guns.

Ohio [Kent, Ohio location of Kent State University] ~ written by Neil Young, performed Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

Mark Daniels

Kent State Shootings historical information including list of the dead and wounded:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kent_State_shootings

The shootings led to protests on college campuses throughout the United States, and a student strike, causing more than 450 campuses across the country to close with both violent and non-violent demonstrations.[9] A common sentiment was expressed by students at New York University with a banner hung out of a window which read, “They Can’t Kill Us All.”[37] On May 8, eleven people were bayonetted at the University of New Mexico by the New Mexico National Guard in a confrontation with student protesters.[38] Also on May 8, an antiwar protest at New York’s Federal Hall held at least partly in reaction to the Kent State killings was met with a counter-rally of pro-Nixon construction workers (organized by Peter J. Brennan, later appointed U.S. Labor Secretary by President Nixon), resulting in the “Hard Hat Riot“.

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Samba de Janeiro ~ Bellini —-Dancing in the streets aka it’s time for a flash mobbing to work out some stress. Yes, you too can dance at your pc. How can you resist?

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Warsaw Concerto by Richard Addinsell ~ Dangerous Moonlight.  Ah, a little history, a little romance, a little movie making….

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A lot of people in cities dream of being elsewhere. Sometimes survival forces people to strange places.

City of Chicago ~ Christy Moore

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It’s about time for some cello joy. Right? Definitely.

Berlin, Germany ~ Original song for 12 cellos and a kick drum  by The Piano Guys.

If you click-through to listen at YouTube you’ll find a great deal of  information about the creation of the song and the locations in the video.

“Berlin” written by Al van der Beek & Steven Sharp Nelson (A PianoGuys Original Composition)

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For some reason this song wandered into my brain-maze and loitered long enough to act as a prompt for this musical ‘theme’ round.

Red Hot Chili Peppers ~ Under the Bridge ~City of Angels

beatvega3

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Okay, I confess, the video images convinced me to include this made for a film song by The Boss.

Bruce Springsteen ~ The Streets of Philadelphia

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In the mood for romance in Paris? Or just ready to rest your feet?

Paris Nocturne ~ Dan Fogelberg & Tim Wiseberg

MsMaria6363

from their 1978 collaboration album
“Twin Sons of Different Mothers”

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The lyrics, the images and the tone just wouldn’t go away, so this tune is here.

Mattafix ~ Big City Life

truescool

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You’re invited to share your city songs at will.

~

I wonder what cities Bear has been exploring : Careful, it’s intense, http://bearspawprint.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/koyaanisqatsi/#comment-13603

 

Breakfast Special, #42, Father Timothy He Got Game

Father Timothy He Got Game

Dylan O’Mara dipped his fingertips into the holy water, knelt down at the end of the aisle, made the sign of the cross, stood up and looked around the interior of St. Teresa’s church. The old stone building settled like a brick in the middle of a snow mound was showing its age yet appeared well maintained and clean inside and out. He noticed that in place of real flowers there were elaborately folded paper ones in the nearby vases. Hearing an unseen door open at the other end of the church, he waited patiently in hopes of encountering someone who could direct him to the priest he’d cautiously driven the main road that had been plowed just that very morning through Falls to find. A few moments later a slim man wearing an old-fashioned priest hassock made his way down the east wall aisle with a group of small children following in his wake. Seeing Dylan, the priest raised a hand in greeting and nodded as he continued leading the children to the main front entrance where an elderly Mexican woman sat waiting at the end of the very last pew near the windows. After a brief exchange, the children and woman exited together through the doors behind Dylan. Hands deep in his coat pockets, Dylan walked to meet the priest halfway. “Father Timothy?”

“YYes.  Hhello.”

“Good day, Father. I’m Dylan O’Mara. I just need a minute of your time, then I’ll be on my way.”

“Nice tto mmeet you, Mmister Ooo’Mara. How cccan I hhelp you?”

Dylan looked the young-looking priest in the eye for a moment trying to get a sense of the man. It was clear that he had Father Timothy’s full attention but beyond that, Dylan couldn’t be certain of anything including his age. ”I’ll keep it short and to the point. I’m looking for my son. He’s been out of touch since this snow hit. His mother is worried sick. My boy, he’s not the most regular church going Catholic, but he minds his ps and qs. I’m making the rounds because my wife has this notion that maybe he got snowed in with some friends and might have caught a mass someplace other than the usual. He’d be about my height. Half my weight. Fit, but not muscle-bound. Mid twenties with longish brown hair that’s kind of wild-looking.  Have you seen anyone like that at mass recently?”

Father Timothy took a few steps backward then carefully looked Dylan up and down. He shook his head slowly. “I’m sorrry. Haven’t ssseen anyone your height who looks like yyou.”

“Oh no, Father, he doesn’t look like me except for the height. Sarge is big, but not like me. Leaner, longer build. Has a kind of hard boned look to him. Got a pretty boy face with hazel eyes. Not brown eyes like mine.”

Father Timothy shook his head again. “No. I wwould rrremember vvery tttall and wwhite. I can kkeep an eye out ffor him. I’ll ccall if you give mme your number.”

Dylan nodded as he pulled a business card out of his wallet. “Thank you, Father. I appreciate your help. So does my wife. Thank you so much for your time.” He handed his card to the priest. ”Well behaved kids you brought out earlier. Quiet, polite like.”

Father Timothy’s face light up with a bright smile. “Oh ttthey’re aaa joy. LLotts of ppparents work. Wwe ttry to help out as much as pppossible. Lots of older people hhelp wwith aan hour or two. They’re like ffoster grandparents. They make warm meals for the ccchildren when their parents work late shifts. And we ttry to mmake sure every ccchild gets sssomething ggood to eat from us aaafter school.  It all adds up.” It wasn’t lost on Father Timothy that Dylan O’Mara was studying him intently while giving the appearance of only partially paying attention to him.

“Yeah. A little here, a little there. It adds up. Thank you.” Dylan turned to go after shaking the priest’s hand and then he turned back with an expression that said he’d forgotten something. “Before I go, one more thing, Father. You wouldn’t happen to know a young lady who goes by the name of Lily, would you? Any chance of that?”

Father Timothy put his hands behind his back and nodded. “ I do kknow someone named  LLLily. Do you have a last nnname for your Lily?”

“No. I don’t. Sorry. Does the Lily you know attend Mass here at St.Teresa’s?”

Father Timothy shook his head. “Not usually. Ssshe follows aaanother path. It’s all ggood in the eyes of our Lord. I seem ttto be eempty handed for you. I will wwatch out for your son.”

Feeling slightly unsettled by the unexpected certainty that Father Timothy would indeed keep an eye out for Sarge, Dylan nodded his thanks.  He made a slow exit out onto the steps of the church where he stood with his coat collar turned up, hands back in his pockets, and his eyes taking in everyone and everything in the area. She follows another path. What the hell does that mean? That does not help me, good Father. It does not help me at all. More to you than meets the eye, Father Timothy. Hell yeah. You’re a cagey one with that ‘your’ Lily, ‘my’ Lily number. Not willing to give up a last name either. Working it so that if I ask more, you’re gonna shut me down in case I’m some sort of pervert.

Dylan turned towards the sound of children laughing. Two older teen-aged Asian girls were leading another group of children, each carrying a little brown lunch bag same as the first group, down the church steps towards a waiting van. Like you said, a little here, a little there and it all adds up. I owe you for that, Father. I don’t know why, but I have the feeling you’re the type who just might call me if you see Sarge. But for some reason that does not rest well with me.

Suddenly Dylan pulled out his wallet, took two crisp hundred-dollar bills from it, walked back inside the church to the donation box and slipped them inside. Then catching sight of a vase of small paper roses by a statue of the Virgin Mary, he put another hundred-dollar bill into the box. He turned hard on his heel, not wanting to be seen again by the priest or anyone else and quickly left.

Carefully making his way across the recently shoveled and sanded sidewalk to his car, he spoke aloud to himself, “What kind of priest puts out paper flowers for the Holy Mother Mary? I know what you are, Father Timothy. Oh yeah. You’re a subversive. A genuine commie lefty wearing a priest’s collar for a disguise while you rock the status quo boat. Sack lunches, warm meals, foster grandparents. It all adds up. I hope to hell my Sarge does not get a whiff of you.  Goddamn it all. Last thing I need is my eldest son getting some idea about joining the priesthood in order to do good works. No way! No f’n way! Not after all the damn pussy I’ve thrown at him to keep that from ever happening.”

~~

Breakfast Special #1 https://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/breakfast-special/

Breakfast Special, #41, Beez-wax

“Beez-wax”

Lily dropped spoonfuls of pork filling onto the masa while Rosa folded corn husks around the mixture.  She caught Rosa looking at her intently. “What is it, Rosa?”

“None of my beez-wax.” Rosa shrugged her delicate shoulders. “Priest’s old record player break? You and Sarge tired of dancing?”

Warning alarms went off in Lily’s intellect while her home people vibes perked up from their nap. “The record player is working fine.” Lily thought of the little “Do Not Disturb” sign in Anton’s distinct handwriting she’d found taped to the outside of her apartment door when she’d left to come upstairs to make tamales with Rosa. “We danced yesterday, just not as much as usual. Sarge’s feet needed a rest after all the time he spent in Mrs. Ling’s cold basement that’s all.”

“Hmm, his feet, si.” Rosa adjusted her arrangement of tamales in the steamer. “You weren’t in Ling basement. Why Lily look like she need a rest big time? Some other dance start-up?”

Lily scraped the last of the pork filling from the bowl for the last two tamales. After depositing the pork, she set the large spoon in the bowl and closed her eyes. “Why is everyone so interested  in if we’re having sex or not?”

Rosa gave a little laugh. “Oh funny one, Lily. You know why. Everyone wants know when you break cold shoulder streak. Hombres wait and see if Sarge stay or go. Mujeres wait and see if Sarge stay or go. Men watching Lily. Women watching Sarge.  They play wait and see game. Maybe they get some chicken soup and some bread. That simple. No sex means odds better chance for them.”  Rosa put the cover on the steam pot of tamales then turned to where Lily was still standing with her eyes closed. She put the empty bowl in the sink then pushed a chair against the back of Lily’s knees as an invitation to sit down. Taking another chair for herself, she glanced at the children in the other room before giving Lily her full attention. “Rosa got one tough question. No more for Lily today. Okay?”

Lily nodded and opened her eyes. “Just one. Promise.”

“Deal. Here we go. Lily holding back with Big Man because of what John do?”

Taken off guard by Rosa’s unexpected reference to John, Lily turned to face her. “Fuck John’s shit.”

Rosa’s eyebrows shot up with the force of Lily’s quiet reply. “Bueno John plan. Why Lily hold back?”

“That makes two questions.”

Not to be put off by what she considered a language technicality, Rosa held her ground. “No. Same question. You know what I mean.”

Lily sat listening to her home people vibes for several moments. “I’m not holding back. Not like your question means. I’m waiting. That’s different.”

Tapping her fingers lightly on the table, Rosa watched the children in the other room while she considered Lily’s response. “What for? Never know how much time we have with people, Lily. Don’t waste too much waiting.  Maybe Sarge right for Lily, maybe not. One way find out. Make a leap.”

Lily rubbed her eyes then scratched her scalp. “It’s not me who needs to make a leap, Rosa. It’s him. He’s a little stuck.”

“Oh? How about a push? Little push for little stuck. Like record player sometimes need to get to the next song. Nothing hard.  Tiny tap.” Rosa illustrated her notion with a very small movement of her fingers.

Lily looked away from her widowed friend and started thinking about last night’s hours’ long conversation with Sarge.  Closing her eyes again she focused inward on her now wide awake home people vibes.  She could feel Rosa watching her with concern. “Nope. No little tapping. No little pushing.”

“How about a big shove? Hm?” Again Rosa illustrated with her hands.

Lily shook her head. “No shoving. Sarge has been pushed and shoved a lot regarding his personal life, Rosa. That’s why he’s stuck right now. He wants to get unstuck.”

Rosa gave a two thumbs up sign. “Bueno. Let’s unstuck him. What need for that? Hmm? What the recipe?”

“Recipe?” Lily cocked her head to one side and stared at Rosa. “Recipe, hhhm, good idea, Rosa, let’s stir something up.” Lily drummed on the table with the heels of her palms. “Where’s the photo-copy you made of that little grey book?”

“What Lily thinking?” Rosa pulled her chair over to the cabinets.  Standing on it she took  the stack of photocopies from the top shelf. She climbed down as Lily brought the yellow and white pages to the table. “What we doing, Lily?”

Lily put a hand on the telephone books. “You ready to do some serious shoving and pushing, Rosa? You ready to play what Anton calls ‘mind fuck hard ball’?”

Rosa glanced at the photocopied book pages in her hands then at the telephone books. She held up the stack of photocopied pages. “Why? Lily got clue why Sarge got pimp book?”

“Ha.” Lily pointed at the pages in Rosa’s hands. “That book is the glue that’s got Sarge stuck. I’m damn sure it’s messing with his mind, Rosa. I think that’s exactly what it’s supposed to do. Lily thinks it’s about time that shit went right back to where it came from, his family.”

Rosa set the stack of photocopies on the table and stood thinking. She looked at the telephone books then at Lily and nodded. “Si, Rosa play ‘mind fuck hard ball’.” She smiled. “Like old times with Juan.” Her hips swayed as she did a little two step dance. She picked up the yellow pages and turned to the construction advertisements. Finding the pages Lily and Esther had shown her after she’d made the photocopy of the pimp book, Rosa laid it open on the table. “Rosa got ideas.” She and Lily looked at each other. “Lily got ideas.” Rosa flipped a corner edge of the stack of photocopies. “Mrs. Ling got lot mind game ideas. Let’s play.”

“Mrs. Ling? Really?”

Rosa laughed. “Mrs. Ling’s funny bones very wicked. Mind mess game her kind of game.” She went to her large oversized recipe book and turned to the inside back cover. She showed Lily the cartoon taped there. Lily whistled and her eyes opened wide with comprehension of the meanings of the images and the words.

~~~

One way to make tamales –> http://whatscookingamerica.net/CynthiaPineda/Tamales.htm

Another way to make tamales 🙂

Making Tamales In Oaxaca Mexico

paradox398

In a Mexican village located on the coast of Oaxaca local women traditionally prepare tamales for a birthday celebration
The woman whose birthday it is works with her daughter in law and her sister in law. In the background you can hear the radio intermixed with “sounds of the campo” including children doing their English class homework.
When new banana leaf is needed, one woman steps from the shelter to harvest some leaves from a banana tree.
The chickens to be future tamales scurry the ground.
As the birthday woman continues to assemble what will be 500 tamales, her grandson plays mañanitas, the traditional Mexican birthday song on the instrument he is learning in school.

The Promise of Amazing~ Robin Constantine’s Glimpse Into the Young Adult World of Today

Ah spring is pushing up jonquils and young love is in the air. If images of fresh face youths courting fair-haired maids with handfuls of flowers comes to mind when you think of young love, well, Constantine’s young adult novel, The Promise of Amazing, will disabuse you of such daydreams. Contemporary teenage romance has little to do with June and Ward Cleaver scenarios despite some sharing of milk and Oreo cookies. Welcome to the world of boy and girl prep schools for the children of lawyers, catering business owners and real estate agents. These people don’t worry about having enough food or clothing for their families. Their concerns are with social status and money-making in the realm of suits and ties. Their teenage children are highly aware of clothing labels, drinking, drugs, and sex. This is the world of who might become who — or not. Enter quiet good girl Wren Caswell whose relationship self-confidence quotient has had a hard  knock from what she refers to as a “hump and dump” with a young lad with no interest in anything more than sex before he heads off to college campus and the rest of his life–without looking backwards. It doesn’t help her college dreams any when the guidance counselor unwittingly makes callous remarks about who is and isn’t Harvard material.  From stage left-wing comes talented bad boy Grayson Barrett who has been forced to face the music of academic misconduct for selling papers to other students–oddly enough none of the buyers seem to have suffered any consequences for creating a demand for Grayson’s product. These boys are working out their future manners of behavior for being successful in a corrupt mainstream world which rewards doing whatever you do to be successful as long as you don’t get caught. The lads of St. Gabe’s have more than plagiarism on their questionable efforts plates. Meanwhile, Sacred Heart’s lasses are mistresses of manipulation and serious verbal aggression. Some of their hearts and minds are very short on sugar and very high on arsenic.  Wren and Grayson are not exactly Juliet and Romeo material—or are they? There is serious potential for tragedy if some life lines don’t get straightened out with some positive choices. In today’s American mainstream culture they’re the kids with all kinds of opportunities — yet, they’ve got some very steep learning curves regarding relationships, peer pressure, family issues, values and sexuality which all children, and adults, encounter.

Robin Constantine delivers a touching young love story set in what is now the normal context, with variations on degrees depending on location, that teenagers move through today. It’s a landscape rift with absent parents, underage drinking, rebellion, drug use, and sexual explorations often without any emotional attachments. Emotions are problematic for teenagers and the young people in The Promise of Amazing have emotional issues in spades.  There are a lot dysfunctional families across the spectrum of social economic class lines. Yes, there is a very serious class structure in America based on economics–the idea of a society where everyone is equal is an ideal, not a reality. This isn’t a The Catcher in the Rye world–this is post Salinger–the phoniness of the deluded game playing adult world is almost a cliché today.  The children mimic it to no small end.  With friends like his, it’s a wonder Grayson and his social peers are all not headed straight to jail before graduating from high school.  Yet, Constantine manages to avoid falling into a cynical narrative of all things troubling teens.  Wren’s practical step right up and deal with the problem nature sets things in motion when she meets Grayson by saving him from choking to death while everyone else stands around watching the show at her family’s catering hall– called Camelot. Of course, one thing leads to another as Constantine develops the plot via chapters alternating Wren’s and Grayson’s perspective. This is one of the things I enjoyed most about this young adult novel–the effort to present the perspectives of both sexes to tell their story. What goes through the minds of teenage boys and girls isn’t exactly the same–but they’ve got a lot more common ground regarding issues than they often realize when they’re struggling to communicate with each other even though texting seems to make it all so simple.

    I watched her disappear up the block, her plaid skirt swaying. When she was out of sight, I landed with a thud and walked back to the reality of the ER. I pulled Wren’s scarf up to my nose, inhaling her scent and getting dizzy all over again. I was happy to have my face covered–no one walks into the hospital with a grin that wide unless he’s heading to the psych ward. But I couldn’t help it.

She kissed me.

The Promise of Amazing is a an easy read writing-wise, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s about easy things. It’s not.  It offers a certain very dark slant on contemporary teenage world. This novel portrays a young couple’s efforts at dealing with family, friends and love relationships without any magic or supernatural elements to distract from real life issues. Constantine manages to make us care what happens to Grayson and Wren as individuals and as a couple with some definite potential for being a lot more than a “hump and dump” round. They both need and want more than that even though their hormones are certainly giving them a workout–complete with condoms. It’s the promise of sharing a genuinely caring relationship that gets these two together. What’s unsettling is just how hard that is to find despite all the musical hype about it. In a world of broken homes, second and third families, amoral role models and shallow values, experiencing and sharing some real love is no easy deal.

What’s the teen in your world reading?

~

Robin Constantine’s site –>>  http://robinconstantine.com/          http://robinconstantine.com/books.html

Breakfast Special, #40, “All That Funky”

 

 

All That Funky

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Ahmed Essa

*

Little George nudged Anton with his elbow to alert him to Sarge’s appearance in the hallway leading to the building’s utility room. “Well, well, well, if it ain’t Mr. Tardy Hardy himself.” Little George teased Sarge as he came to a halt in the doorway and stood looking around the room.

“How are you, Little George? Anton, sorry to hold up the wiring show today.” Sarge entered the room and went to where he’d found the jerry-rigged wiring mess on a previous visit.

Anton smirked as he replaced the water hose for the washing machine. “No problem, Sarge. No lack here for crew work. You get that chill out of your bones from playing in the Ling’s basement lake yesterday?”

Sarge pulled out the section of plywood serving as a temporary covering for the wiring, set it aside and turned to Anton and Little George. “My feet are a damn sight happier than they were yesterday. Lily gave me something she calls ‘bear grease’ to put on them. She said it’ll help keep the damp cold from setting in. I don’t know what it really is, but it’s definitely agreeing with my feet. Oh hey, I brought some cookies.” Sarge took a brown paper lunch bag out of his coat pocket and handed it to Little George.

“Lily has bear grease?” Little George opened the bag and took out a coconut cookie and offered the bag to Anton who did not hesitate to help himself.

Sarge shrugged. “That’s what she called this stuff. You want some for your feet, Little George?”

Little George took a bite of his cookie and shook his head. “Not right now. Thanks Sarge. Good cookies. If I didn’t know better I’d say they came direct from Mrs. Ling.”

“In a way they did, seeing as Lily and I made them from Mrs. Ling’s recipe. Go ahead, eat those. We can make all we want now.” Sarge grinned and went to another part of the electricity repair project down the hall leaving Anton and Little George standing with the bag of cookies between them.

Little George moved to look down the hallway as Sarge went up the stairs to the room on the floor above them. He looked at Anton. “How did he get that recipe from Mrs. Ling?”

“How you think? He fixed that water mess in her basement. How else?” said Anton.

Little George shook his head. “We all fixed some mess in that basement at some point in the last year. Mrs. Ling didn’t turn over no coconut cookies to any of us. You don’t think he . . ..” Little George shrugged suggestively instead of speaking.

Anton stared at Little George unnerved by the fact that he was even going so far as to suggest what he was. “No. You lost your mind or what, Little George? How you even get that idea in your head-gear?”

Little George held up a cookie. “This recipe intel is not something a woman gives up for nothing, Anton.”

“Sarge working a blown fuse-box plus a flood by himself is not nothing. And you know it. Loretta been giving you some strange ideas again, Little George?”

Little George carefully set the bag of cookies out of harm’s way on top of the washing machine and resumed his caulking task. “Anton, you have no idea what it’s like living with Loretta.  It’s a package deal with her sisters. They are always together at one of their places or another. You know, you’ve seen them all at my place.”

“Uh ha. What’s that got to do with your weird Mrs. Ling and Sarge cookie action idea?”

Little George laughed. “Anton, you do understand that if Sarge took it into his head to start giving the time of day to women besides Lily, there’d be a whole lot more crazy shit going on with the women and men folk in the neighborhood, don’t you? You got to know that, DeWitt, considering all the work you been doing during this snow-in trying to keep people leveled out.”

“Sarge got no such agenda, Little George.” Anton considered the truth of Little  George’s notion and silently thanked Sarge for not being inclined to play the lady field as he easily could.

“Not saying he does, Anton. Big Man ain’t the problem. It’s the women who are the problem. You got it nice and quiet all settled with Esther who is about as sane a woman as they come. She don’t go in for the sort of talk I hear coming from Loretta and her sisters. Last night something set them off but good. It got so I couldn’t stand to hear no more.  I went over to Stinky Pete’s for a couple hours to get relief.”

“I read that. You got a point, Little George. You went to Pete’s for relief? Anton don’t think he wants to hear what sent you there.”

“You don’t. I don’t want to repeat any of it. I don’t want Lily getting wind of any of it either. She gets enough grief for her learning curves already. She doesn’t need any more from my women folk. I don’t know exactly what it is about Sarge that gets them all worked up, but they do get worked up. We all know he don’t do nothing to get them going. They get going all on their own. Maybe it’s one of those fairmoan things. I don’t know for sure. But I do know being around that sort of woman talk about men gets under your skin. You know what I mean. That’s where that Ling and cookie and action idea come from. I know that’s a dumbass thing to think. Sarge ain’t ever been anything but genuine nice and polite to women folk, and us too for that matter.  It’s just . . well, I got two ears full of Loretta and sisters company man-talk that put a bunch of us working our jaws about a Playboy centerfold to shame.  If you don’t believe it, come on over for a chat sometime when Loretta holding court at our place.” Little George looked over the handsome man working with him. “Now that I mention it, that sounds like a damn good idea. Yes it does. You being right there in the flesh get their minds off Sarge and on you instead.”

“What? Like you goin’ to enjoy that somehow?” Anton stopped working and stared at the big man beside him. “That about as bad as what started this conversation track.”

“Look at you.” Little George grinned. “All puffed up and in-dig-nant about being a diversionary tactic. DeWitt, I’ve been giving you some shit for fun. Chill out.”

“You been messing with me this whole time?”

“Only since the part about you coming over while Loretta having the after supper chat-fest. We both know no way Esther allow that game plan see any action.” He laughed loudly at the bewildered disbelief on Anton’s face. “What’s wrong? You don’t care for that little payback prank?” Whistling happily, Little George ignored the other man and focused on his task. Without looking at Anton he said, “This suggestion box is willing to entertain other candidates worthy of ar-dent feminine attention.”

“Are you crazy? Everyone knows how funky things are with you and Loretta. No man want that action with her sisters. No way.”

Little George kept his eyes on his work. “Funky it may be. But all that funky has an upside. You don’t think I put up with all that nonsense for nothing, do you, Anton? Hmm?” He took a cookie from the bag, put the whole thing in his mouth and made a face.

 

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