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Words Awake!
A Celebration of Wake Forest Writers and Writing!

March 23-25 on the campus of Wake Forest University

I’ll be part of a panel “Writing Poetry” at 9:00-9:50 am March 24

(Eric Ekstrand ‘07, Helen Losse MALS ’00, Robert West ’91) (409 Benson)


part of a reading Writers Reading IV:  The Poets:  at 3:15 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. March 24

Eric Ekstrand ’07, Helen Losse MALS ’00, John York ’77 (401B Benson)

signing Better With Friends and Seriously Dangerous at the Wake Forest University Book Store table

and selling Mansion of Memory at the table for the Winston-Salem Writers

Join us.  It’s free! See entire schedule.

Thanks to Jessie Carty for videotaping this event

Or, about the first ever reading for The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and then some

We (that’s Bill and I) left home about seven on Saturday morning to head to Little Washington for the Dead Mule Reading. Realizing we’d left a bit early, we stopped in Rocky Mount and ran by the depot, where it’s now “a bad thing” to photograph trains.  (Go figure.)  Being the seasoned rail fans that we are, we headed for neutral ground across the street, and what came by but an ugly Amtrak—not even the North Carolina engines.  Ah, well.  Bill took pictures anyway.  We did a quick drive by of spots that were accessible in the past but not so much now, and, after a quick lunch, left town and drove on to Washington.

Arriving in Washington too early to check in to the motel, we ran by the RiverWalk Gallery where Carolyn Sleeper and her husband were on duty.  We’d just missed Val, but noted that things were in order for the night’s reading.  We grabbed a burger and went on to Val and Rob’s house, where the men (both computer “geeks”) started up a lively discussion.  Leaving there, we checked into our motel.  The motel will get its own paragraph a bit later on, but for now let’s just say, “no stars for the Days Inn in Washington” and no link included.   I changed clothes and we headed to the gallery.

At the gallery, we met and heard wonderful readings.  Val read first and introduced the next reader.  Well, she tried to introduce her.    It soon became evident that Carter Monroe was “in change,” which was fine with Val.  Most of the readers— Robin Dare, Marty Silverthorne, Joseph Lisowski, and me—were not only Mules but Rank Strangers, too.  Carter had published books by us at some point or other.  And it turns out that Joe and his wife Lynda have a son who’s a talented poem, too.  The Dead Mule hopes to publish the younger Joseph soon, as well as anyone at the reading who hasn’t been in the Mule.  We then walked down the street to a “On Main Street” where the conversation was lively and witty.

A few of us gathered at Valerie and Rob MacEwan’s for dessert (cake, ice cream and sugared local blueberries) and more conversation and to light the ceremonial candle in honor of Pris Campbell’s birthday.  I read Pris’s poem “Colorless Rooms” (nominated for a Prize December 2008), and Carter chose not to lead the singing of “Happy Birthday.”  Imagine that.  LOL   Pris wanted to be with us and sent the message, “The MULE is my heart.” That made Val and I feel good.  As Val told me later, so many writers have had their first publication in the Mule.  Everyone knows that, all good time must come to an end, so we left and went back to the motel.

About the Motel:  Toilet=two flushes per offering.  Internet=ain’t working.  Trash=on the carpeted outdoor walkway to the room.  Staff= you don’t want to know.  Rating=No stars.  And we ain’t comin’ back.  LOL It’s the little things that helped us decide to pay for two nights (a “done deal”) and stay one. The television worked, we watched the race, Kyle won, which pleased me but not Bill.  We slept late and headed to Val’s house, stopping by the waterfront for a few photos.

Change of plans.  Val wasn’t going with us to the beach, because she wasn’t picking up Phoebe Kate Foster, whose husband had taken ill.   It was a bummer not meeting Phoebe Kate.  But it will happen.  Phoebe Kate is a Mule editor I want to meet.  We’ve alreadyconnected on blogs and e-mail; I already love Phoebe.  There are rumore about Raleigh some time in the future.  Even thought Val wasn’t going, she was kind enough to write out some directions so we could proceed.  Then, beachward we go.

In New Bern, we saw the rusty tracks where trains once did lots of street running, but not often now, if at all.  (We had an internet photo from 2006, so we’re not talking ancient history here.)  And in Morehead City we located the short line railroad that serves the port .  Then on to Atlantic Beach and Fort Macon State Park where we ran in to Vicki Temple, a former student of mine at Carolina Christian Day School (back in the day) and who now live just outside Atlanta, and her family.  Can’t get away with anything these days.  LOL

The beach.  Oh, the beach.

My toes were so happy to meet salt water.  Bill and I walked on the sand and let the waves kiss our feet, as we collected sea shells.  Nothing spectacular, but this was fun at God’s creative best.  Nothing says, “you are a speck” like an ocean.  The ebb washes arrogance away.  We spend about two hours watching boats and loving the Atlantic.  Then onward toward home.  We made only two stops, on for dinner and one for Frosties, before we pulled into “home, sweet home” just before midnight.  Rosie was so glad to see us and got her nightly “meow” just a bit late.  (Rosie’s “meow” is a treat.  We call it her “meow” because she calls it her “meow.”  Cats are like that.)  We are glad to be home.

Now on to the Dead Mule Reading in Hickory. Tuesday, August 4, 2009 – 6 pm – Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse Hickory, NC

Trisha Hart, Jessie Carty, Terri Kirby Erickson, Felicia Mitchell, Scott Owens, Tim Peeler, and me.  More to come

Each spring I gather a few of tiny violets from the place in our yard in which they voluntarily grow.  I float their tiny heads on a bowl of water in a small pink depression ware bowl to honor a grandmother I never knew. The few pieces of depression ware that I have belonged to her. Today I looked for these volunteer flowers that now sit to my left.

My grandmother, Ellen Ora (also called Elnora, Nora, or Norie) Tingle Jones died prior to WWII, prior to my birth. She and my grandfather, Lee B. Jones (Paw to us kids) had five children, now all deceased. There was Fern, the only girl, who married William O. Carpenter and had a son, also William; Lloyd who married Daisy and had a daughter Merle and a son Lee; Earl Ray (Daddy) who married Elsie Rosa Jefferies Jones in England during WWII and had me, Pam and Michael; Walter, who died in the Pacific during WWII; and Robert Chester, who never married. At some point Nora and Lee were divorced, but details concerning that were never clear. Only that Daddy waited until she had died to join the army—the same army that had rejected him earlier.

My grandmother lived in East Joplin at 321 High Street, where my grandfather lived until his death. This was the home in which my father and his siblings grew up—half a block from Junge Stadium where my Dad once gave Babe Ruth a shoulder massage. Sweet Peas grew on the fence that separated Paw’s house from his neighbor. As a child, I loved them.

But today isn’t about Paw or the sweet peas. It’s about the grandmother I never knew. It’s about the women who came before me—women who had to be strong. Women like Nora. Women without whom I wouldn’t exist. Seems like floating violets is the least I can do.

Today’s the day the tree comes down. And the other decorations. Well, most of them. Some I leave up year round, like the nativities. I have a lovely pewter one my sister gave me that sits on top of my computer. I have several in the bedroom, mostly small ones, including the one, also pewter, that Grace Nolting gave me after I gasped when I saw it by a lamp in her living room on one of our visits to Joplin. I have one in the hall bathroom that’s displayed with shells and angels. Mummy bought it for me when we visited the churches with the frescoes. Oh, the angels stay out, too. Why pack away the angels? I decided a few years ago to start leaving these things out. It seems silly to have so many lovely, inspiring decorations packed in plastic tubs in the attic.

But the un-decorating has begun. Before I came downstairs, I removed Santa and the seven dwarfs from the shelf in our bathroom. “Why seven dwarfs?” you may ask. “Why not,” I reply. I found them for a dime each at the Sears Surplus Store years ago when we lived in Charlotte. I also bought Dallas Cowboys Raincoats there. We wore out the coats but still have the dwarfs. You see, it’s about the memories.

Memories are the stuff of life. They are what doesn’t move when you are six and Pam Tatum’s family moves. Pam didn’t say goodbye, and I never heard from her again. Same with Mike Pullium, only I was older. Mike was like our “other brother.” And then he was gone. But you can never loose your memories. No one can take them away. No one can steal them. No one. You can pack away into tubs those things that trigger memories and shove those tubs into the attic. This action is sad.

For me, Christmas is the time when those memories come down to dwell among us. Each ornament has its history and that history is my life. I love Christmas. Actually, I love my life (as in; I’m glad I’m the person I am). I can’t wait to decorate. Christmas is about the most important Birthday of them all: the birth of Jesus Who is the Savior and the Lord. When Emmanuel (God with Us) is honored each year at his birth, all my memories are alive and present. Some say we are all children at Christmas. True, and also we are ageless. Even those who have gone on to Glory are there. Who in his or her right mind would miss Christmas?

Christmas is not as commercial as the silly ones argue. It’s not about who celebrates how or if we say, “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” or “Happy Holidays.” It’s not about who goes to what (or any) church. No, Christmas is too important to limit. It’s a birthday not a funeral. It’s party time complete with presents. It’s about eternal hope. That’s why my mother-in-law’s angel will remain on the record changer. That’s why I don’t fret if stores display Christmas trees at Halloween. Just the opposite: I love it. That’s why I’m leaving the kicking soldiers in the window sill of the window we never open.

Today I am un-decorating, packing away each memory with care as I wait for its joyous annual return, but I will leave the green doilies Mummy knitted on the speaker tops. How can Christmas come too early? I don’t have room to leave the nativity with the stable Daddy built on my dresser all year long. But watch this blog: Christmas is always coming. And if you don’t believe it – Bah Humbug! – why did you buy that wreath at 75% off?

EDIT: But the worse thing about un-decorating is all the dirt and dust you discover you have. Guess what I’ll be doing tomorrow? 🙂

Chapter 4 Tomorrow Is Now Today, or And Then—Brad

It was 8:20, and Troy had just pulled the chicken breasts off the grill.

Okay, so we’ve done all we can for today, or so I thought. But as I was taking the recycle bin to the curb, Brad drives up. He was there from Time Warner to fix the problem, only he didn’t know what the problem was.

 

We had not eaten, but I filled Brad in, since he could contact anyone on his cell phone, by reading chapters 1-3 aloud.

 

“Is there a shorter version,” he asked.

 

I said, “No,” and kept on reading.

 

Brad did a few tests on my computer and informed us that a new modem—one taken out of the box—doesn’t exist at Time Warner. He’s worked for Time Warner Cable for a year and a half and has never seen one. Okay. He had Bill remove the router and connect the modem directly to my computer. And lo and behold, I had the bandwidth I was supposed to have. So now the problem’s on our end. Bill will figure it out after supper.

 

Then Brad (employee 3609), who said he’s “the best in this area made a couple of phone calls. According to the amplified voice of someone back at the office, our contract calls for a two-hour response 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So as the why our request sat 12 hours the day before remains a mystery—one that I aim to see doesn’t happen again.

 

Brad left. And guess what? When Bill re-connected the router, it worked. We are online. Hallelujah!

 

That salad with grilled chicken tasted good at almost nine yesterday evening. The Cowboys were on television, a hopeful sign that fall will come. It will not be this hot forever.  And today we are up and running.

 

But Time Warner, you are not off the hook. I will call you at the drop of a hat. I will use magic words, if necessary. 24/7 is not a secret code; it means 24/7.

 

(I hope there is no chapter 5. Oh, and all revisions of this story will done later or never.)

Chapter 2 The Repair (Wo)man

 

It’s 98 degrees here in Winston-Salem, NC, which doesn’t make waiting any easier. And you will remember the repair man is scheduled to come between 1 and 5. How could you forget?

 

Did I mention that Time Warner Business Class guarantees a four hour response time. But that’s when your internet is down, which ours isn’t at this instant. I do know that intermittent problems are very difficult to solve. So I wonder, “Is Time Warner sending it’s best repair man?”

 

So many thoughts—and the longer I wait the cheekier I become. But we writer-types are easily amused. “May the ilk of human kindness drip from my hot lips,” I silently pray.

 

At 3:44 we get the call: The repair man is on his way.

 

Just before 3:50 Darlene shows up. Ah, a repair (wo)man. I tell her the problem’s intermittent and that it’ll take the best to fix it. When I ask if she’s the best, she doesn’t answer.

 

Darlene was very nice and seemed to know what she was doing. She took readings inside then changed the exterior hardware—at the house and on the pole—including connectors. She explained that they appeared to have moisture in them, which could have responsible for our loosing connectivity.

 

When she came back inside, she said the reading went from 0 to 9. I don’t know what units she was measuring, but she said ours was now at the maximum, where it should be.

 

Then we asked about bandwidth.

 

Now Darlene is a patient woman. She has to be. She was on the phone on various calls for over an hour. And Time Warner Cable is rude to its repair technicians. They cannot get a direct connection to any person at the “office.” No, they, too, must listen to “Hello, please listen carefully because our options have changed.” She pushes one: Technical support. Then another voice says, “please listen carefully because our options have changed.” This time the right answer is four. She pushes four and listens to music. It may or may not be the kind of music she likes. She doesn’t say.

 

Darlene is polite but she thrums her foot. She stayed past quitting time without any ugliness. She asked questions—lots and lots of questions. But we do not have the bandwidth we are paying for.

 

Darlene left at 5:10 pm. And if we loose our connection at any time this evening, we will start over at chapter one.

 


 

 

Chapter 3 The Phone Call To Dick, What We’re Paying For, and Perhaps, The Modem Has Problem

 

Bill calls Sales in Greensboro, hoping to find out what Darlene can’t—what’s clearly stated in an e-mail dated September 26, 2006.

 

The woman who wrote the e-mail, and who solved a similar problem just less than a year ago, no longer works for Time Warner—imagine that!—but Dick, to whom Bill’s spoken before, does. And Dick has access to records that Darlene doesn’t. Seems they keep records in two places, and if you don’t have “the need to know,” you never will. Or maybe, even if do need to know, you won’t.

 

Seems also that the contract that we had ran out in July—that the bandwidth we’d been getting no longer exists. Ah, but we are grandfathered in—to something. We are somehow special. And for a $10.00 a month increase, we can be have more bandwidth than we did before. We agree, and Dick performs his magic. We are happy.

 

Only the magic doesn’t take. We have less bandwidth than the former, now non-existent class into which we now cannot be. (Yes, that’s passive voice. In times like these, a bit of passivity, is a good thing. So is a bit of humor.) Bill calls Dick again, checks a web site, then calls Dick again.

 

Dick says, “Maybe the modem’s bad. Did they change the modem?”

 

“No, “ says Bill.

 

So it’s chapter one again, only this time Bill does the calling. Bill talks to Annie. Annie is nice. Dick has revealed to Bill the words that inspire Tech Support to action, and Bill uses those very words.

Oh, I forgot to tell you about the recordings and Bill pushing one and then four, but you will remember that quite easily. (But did I tell you, just as an aside, that Sales has ads rather than music, when they put you on hold?)

 

A technician will come sometime between 8 am and noon tomorrow.

to be continued in the morning . . .

 

Chapter 1 Waiting

 

We are waiting now—for a repair man from Time Warner to come and find out why we have persistent problems with our internet connection staying connected. The problem’s been with us for a while. But last night about 10 pm, I finally called.

 

“Why didn’t you call before,” you may ask. That’s a logical question. Well, here’s a part of the on-going story. Keep your cool; I’m remembering this bit by bit. It’s hard to write a story while you’re living it.

 

Just after ten, I talked to Rob in Tech Support, who was a nice enough guy—polite and unhurried—but he could only do so much. My problem was given a reference number and sent to the Network Department, who was busy and would “have to call me back.” I agreed that someone would be here until 3 am and again at 9 am. We were.

 

“Did I get a call?” you may ask. Seems like a fair question to me.

 

At ten this morning I called Time Warner Tech Support back and got Randy to whom I must have seemed like a pain in the butt. At least that’s how Randy acted, talking loud and acting curt. Why no one from the Network Department had called remains unclear but Randy knew no one had. I did have a reference number, so the ball got rolling. A repair man will be here some time between 1 and 5 to check the modem and wiring.

 

Let me explain that this is our second Time Warner modem. This one is marginally better than the first. And at $79.95 a month, it seems reasonable to Time Warner, although not to us, that used equipment is swapped out, when a piece of hardware fails. In other words, we keep calling and swapping modems—modems that, perhaps, other users have called about and swapped because they don’t work. What we would like is NEW modem—one that is removed from a box and connected to our router. You can’t fool me either; I can smell new.

 

What we would also like is for our Business level high sped internet to work fast and consistently whenever the required electricity is on.

 

“Ah, but we must wait, for this is planet earth,” you tell me.

 

We do wait. And often we wait in silence, because, as my husband says, “sometimes Time Warner messes up more than it fixes.” But in this case waiting still cost us $79.95 a month. Sure we could prorate for time the connection is down. But that means calling Time Warner each time.

 

(I must as an aside reveal that Time Warner Cable provides our television coverage, too. That side is down less often. They call from time to time also trying to sell us on digital phone service. Only here I have the questions they can’t handle. “If the power goes off, and I need power for my phone, how do I call 1-800-POWERON to get the power on?” One woman actually said, “Use your cell.” LOL If I had a cell, why would I need a digital phone?)

 

But back to Road Runner. “Hello, please listen carefully because our options have changed,” says the voice. I push one: Technical support. Then another voice says, “please listen carefully because our options have changed.” This time the right answer is four. And then I get a Rob or a Randy (or maybe next time a Jane), who cannot fix the problem but will send someone with a used modem that may or may not be installed.

 

Meanwhile, we get flyers in the mail, “Road Runner from Time Warner is faster than all others.” Why it runs like a faucet turned on full blast, compared to the others’ drips.

 

“Okay. But what about staying connected?”

 

Well, ours doesn’t.

 

But what about proof? What about data?”

 

I gave Rob the estimate that we loose our internet connection about 25 times a day. That’s because sometimes—hard as it is to admit—it actually stays on for hours.

But yesterday (August 8, 2007) it went off three times between 7:40 and 8:48 pm. And this morning (August 9) it was off for three minutes between 11:30 and 11:33, then on again until 11:41, when it went off for eight more minutes.

 

This is Business Class Road Runner, we are talking about.

 

Well, I’m here to say: At my house it’s a daily battle just to stay connected to the internet. When in doubt, recycle the modem. Okay. But do I really need to play solitaire three times an hour—waiting, waiting?

 

(As a second aside, I will say that our son, who has $39.95 kind of Road Runner, had not had to reboot his modem for fourteen days.)

 

What gives?

 

“Could it be we need a NEW modem?” I ask. Just a suggestion. And to all the Mr. Times and Mr. Warners and Robs and Randys (and maybe Marys) and member of the Network Department who don’t call back: “Time Warner needs to stop advertising and preying on undeserving folk, who don’t need this kind of intermittent high speed internet non-connectivity, and service the customers you already have. Concerning bandwidth—so glad you asked. Let’s just say, that, too, varies. And please, please, record what I am saying for quality assurance: Your quality is lacking.”

 


 

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