Saturday, March 29, 2014

Goodbye to the Daughters of Charity

I used to read "The Tennessean",Nashville's only daily newspaper. I read it on-line until they barricaded it behind a paywall. Now if I want to know how many shootings this city has had overnight I go to the TV station websites. But the story about the Daughters of Charity, who once ran Nashville's only Catholic Hospital, was one I missed.

I called a friend, who had worked at that hospital a few years longer than I had(I was there for 27 years)to ask her if she had heard that the Daughters were pulling out of Nashville. She had not heard, and when I wondered why we had never heard any mention of this, she pulled out Occam's Razor.

"I don't think anyone cares", she said.

When I started working at the nuns' hospital I was 31, and it was 1981. I worked in their ICU, and on Sunday mornings we had to set up a towel and a cup on the over bed table of any Catholic patient who was alert enough to want Communion. The nuns were ever present. One was head nurse on one of the floors. The head administrator was a Sister. They lived in a little house outside the hospital. It had a privacy fence with climbing roses.

But soon that house was gone, turned into that most sacred of structures, the Parking Garage.

And one by one the nuns disappeared. The Head sister was replaced by a series of corporate secular gunslinger CEOs, hired to do ruthless things. There was still a nun Mission Director, kept I suppose for cosmetic reasons. There will not be one now, nor will there be Daughters of Charity in eight other US cities, including Austin, Texas and Waterbury, Connecticut.

The order says it is pulling out to redistribute the Sisters to more needy areas. I, who grew up not far from Waterbury, do not believe this for a moment. When hospitals talk about Charity now their smile is fake, their face turns red, and disgusted spittle flies everywhere.

Not that the Sister were averse to making money- There always seemed to be plenty, and their for profit competitors hated them for it, since the nuns' profits were tax free. It was an eighties Nashville joke to refer to the Daughters of Charity as the "Daughters of the Dollar."

None the less, this is a sad story, and I am sorry to hear of their leaving.

And where did I hear this news?

On the Internet, of course, while doing some research. The story was dated last October.

Friday, March 28, 2014

What To Do After Church On Wednesday Night-

Last October I wrote about the opening of the "Pleasures Romance Boutique" adult toy store on White Bridge Road, which is catty corner across the street from St Mary Villa and its Child Development Center. I believe I reported that the boutique's neighbors had qualms, and that the city councilmen had promised to keep an eye on the shop to make sure vulgarity and tastelessness did not get out of hand.

I can report that the shop is still there and open, and that it has a new marketing ploy.
I drove by it a week ago as I went out to work the overnight in the clinic at the Little Big House.

Now to those of you who live outside the South, I can assure you that Nashville is not Amsterdam. We take sin seriously here, and in the Protestant South Wednesday night is church night.

Well, it appears that the owners of the Pleasures Romance Boutique now feel confident that not only can they compete with Church, they can also lure in Church goers, who might be looking for something to do after the service Wednesday evening.

There it was, announced in big letters on their white road sign that has the flaming Tiki torches on either side.

"Free Condoms Every Wednesday Night".

Perhaps this is because people who work for Hobby Lobby are thinking that Justices Roberts and Scalia are going to end their insurance coverage for birth control, and the Boutique knows opportunity when it sees it.

Or maybe there is something about Wednesday night services at the Church of Christ that puts people in the mood-

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Laugh of the Day

I am going to embarrass myself by admitting that prior to yesterday I had never read anything by David Foster Wallace. I had heard of him in passing, and had read of his sad end.

I read an essay by him last evening that I found in the forgettable and pointless book "MFA vs NYC". His essay was a garnet glowing on a slag heap.

Today I found his Harper's piece about his week spent on a luxury cruise ship. It is "Shipping Out" and can be easily found on a number of Internet sites. It is not short, and may prove to be too much for those who find Twitter too long winded and taxing, but I thought it the funniest thing I have read since Mark Twain wrote about Emmeline Grangerford.

Here is an excerpt in which Wallace describes his fellow passengers-

" I have heard upscale adult US citizens ask the ship's Guest Relations Desk whether snorkeling involves getting wet, whether the trap shooting will be held outside, whether the crew sleeps on board, and what time the Midnight Buffet is."

The rest of the essay is just as funny.

I hope to read his novel "Infinite Jest " sometime soon. If his fiction is as good as his essays it will be good indeed.

*There are some fascinating videos of Wallace's talks and interviews on Youtube. I am working my way through them now.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Poor Man's Fertilizer

In New Hampshire, where I grew up, country people called late season snows "Poor Man's Fertilizer".

Late March in Nashville should bring blooming redbuds and all manner of flowering trees. Instead we have this, for all morning snow has been falling on and off-

But there are other things happening in this city besides lousy weather, and some might be of interest to tourists and people thinking of visiting Music City.

Firstly-to all out of towners- a word of advice. Never cross a Nashville street. If there is something on the other side you want, forget it. Every week now and sometimes twice drivers who are never charged are mowing down pedestrians with impunity. Today someone knocked down a lady jogger in Green Hills. She lived, but not everyone else recently run over was as lucky.

The other unhappy trend is the number of shootings, sometimes two or three a day. You would think this was Memphis. Or Chicago. If you think I am exaggerating check out the website, and you can keep a tally.

And this morning, not a quarter mile from where I am typing, a man robbed the Bellevue Shell station on Highway 70 at 2:30 am.

In stodgy, somnolent Bellevue, where till now one was more likely to be mugged by a skunk.

Nashville is turning into Dodge City-

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Barn Swallow Watch

Barn Swallows, those beloved birds, have come back to Tennessee. Surfbirds is reporting that they have been seen in Robertson County, just north of Nashville, and two days ago they were in the Chattanooga area.

I remember that last year they arrived in mid-March. All day the sky was empty, but at four o'clock I walked out onto my porch and heard them chittering.

They nest in our parking sheds here, and they use the same nests, but this year they must build new ones. When the work crews painted the sheds last October they knocked the old nests down and pressure washed the shed.

What a joyful day it is when they return!

Thursday, March 20, 2014


I bought seeds from two well known seed houses today. Four packages of seeds from Burpee cost $26.75 with $6.95 of that shipping and handling. I bought eight packages of seed from Park. $26.60 with $6.95 of that shipping and handling.

Have you ever picked up a seed packet? It is featherweight. And if I had bought just one packet of seeds would it still have cost $6.95?

I have heard the big nursery/seed companies are in trouble financially.

Now I see why-

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Freeloader at the Feeder

When I opened the blinds this morning this is who I saw chowing down on the sunflower seeds on my platform feeder. I bought this feeder two weeks ago when I relocated my other feeder off the porch to cut down on the mess the house finches made tossing seeds to and fro. I expected a squirrel or two,but I think the porch cats have deterred them.

Nothing deters opossums. They ignore cats. And they will eat almost anything.

Well- almost anything. I brought some mixed carrots and peas home from my night dinner tray at the prison clinic, and nothing would touch them.

Why I Still Use Cookbooks- A Leek Salad from Greece

This is but one of the several hundred books I keep in my cookbook reference library. It is Diane Kochilas's "The Country Cooking of Greece". Had I not been looking through it last week, I would never have thought of making a leek salad.

Leeks are a noble vegetable, and when they pair with potatoes they become close to divine. But I would never had guessed how good they would be blanched,chilled then dressed with olive oil,red wine vinegar, and chopped olives.

Kochilas collected this recipe first from a local cook on the island of Ikaria, but the version in her book is from Macedonia. Here is what I did with it.

Leeks- one per person. Cut them up like this-

Drop the sliced leeks into boiling ,salted water for 40 seconds to a minute, then drain them and chill them in ice water. Drain again, then put them in a bowl, add a tablespoon or two of olive oil, and 1/2 cup chopped Greek green olives. Drizzle on some red wine vinegar, toss again, then allow to sit at room temperature for an hour.

Delicious and unique!

*Diane Kochilas's recipe called for the white part of leeks only, but Greek leeks must be whiter than the ones I had. My salad turned out fine, even with greener leeks.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The New View From My Porch

Here is another photo of today's landscape improvement at these apartments. Note the lovely black corrugated drainage pipes. Now when I am out on my porch loafing and inviting my soul and thinking about how I am paying almost 1200 bucks a month for a one bedroom apartment, I can be thankful I live in such beautiful surroundings.

*Please see this afternoon's earlier post "Landscaping by Saruman and his Orcs" for more photos of today's landscape embellishments at these apartments.

Landscaping Courtesy of Saruman and his Orcs

Here is what passes for institutional landscaping in Nashville,Tennessee. Here is an example of how to prune foundation hollies-

And this is how we prune yew bushes.

I would weep except that I am sick from smelling the hydrocarbons and deaf from hearing the chainsaws.

And what are they going to do about these stumps? Is bushhogging next, or do they think the yews are coming back?

All this loveliness is just outside my apartment.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Bottled Sauces

At both neighborhood stores I shop at-Kroger and Publix-many aisles are reserved for sauces of all kinds. There is no end to them. From the tiny tins of salsa ranchera to the pasta and pizza sauces. From expensive little bottles of pesto to barbeque and dipping sauces.

All the world's a sauce!

Some, in my opinion are wastes of time, and any competent cook could make a better version. Diced tomatoes, garlic, sweetly softened onions sauteed in olive oil, a few tablespoons of Balsamic vinegar and a pound or so of browned Italian sausage turn into a pasta sauce that would make the angels sing. And adding a bit of cream in winter for heartiness will also keep the angels warm-

A plain, fresh salsa of tomatoes, chiles,garlic, and vinegar is not hard to make either, as long as one does not over spin it to pureed mush in the processor bowl.

And even I can make guacamole.

But there are other sauces more problematical. Sauces that require ingredients a million and a friendly relationship with a mortar and pestle. Curry sauces and creole sauces and Mexican sauces such as Mole and Salsa Pasilla. I suppose I could come up with a passable version, but why settle for passable. I would also worry that my cultural culinary taste would fail me, for my mother and grandmother did not raise me in the Hispanic or Indian traditions. (Neither raised me in any tradition, since both were awful cooks,but that is not the point here.)

I recently had Fed Ex bring me some Salsa Pasilla from Fischer and Weiser at I buy all kinds of sauces from their website, for they have mango curry sauces, and blueberry chile sauces, and sweet and savory onion glazes.

Nothing I could imitate at home.

Their pasilla chile salsa is especially interesting and delicious, for not only does it have a smoky, earthy taste, it has something rarer.

The taste of mystery and exotica. See it at work here on a simple fried tortilla topped with a black bean chili-

And it is wonderful mixed with scrambled eggs as well-

Saturday, March 8, 2014

What We Have Lost

Whenever I write a post about poetry, my blog readers-never numerous-disappear to the dark side of the moon. They do not want to hear about such a moribund art, and I would not want to hear it either if I did not love it so much. And since this is my blog, I will indulge myself.

Here are two examples of what we have lost.

The first are some lines by Shelley in "Adonais", his tribute to the dead John Keats:

"The One remains, the many change and pass:

Heaven's light forever shines,Earth's shadows fly:

Life, like a dome of many colored glass

Stains the white radiance of eternity".

And secondly, W.H. Auden, describing the peace of a summer evening:

"The lion griefs loped from the shade

And on our knees their muzzles laid,

And Death put down his book".

This, my friends, is Poetry-

And now to what we have found.

And I am not making this up.

I found this gem a few years back in a little magazine, and I was so taken by its

magnificent awfulness that I copied the whole thing.(I tried to read it to my mother

the other day, and she begged me to stop). I will not list the author, though I will

say she is still publishing, and has been praised by Ted Kooser and Billy Collins.

"In the scruffle tremble

world my heart is

cake batter. The world rattles

like a piggy bank".

A few stanzas later her heart is back again-

".....My heart

closes like an automatic garage door".

A bit later on she forgets her heart and the cake batter, and asks" Have you ever put

a butterfly in your mouth?"

All I can say about this is that she would not have to be eating butterflies if she

hadn't squashed the cake under the door. And I hope the butterfly was not a monarch-

This goes on for two and a half pages, and the mystery is why did she stop? Perhaps

with her eating habits her verbal diarrhea evolved to physical.

Example number two was a mini essay I read a few days back on the Poetry Magazine

website. Ruth Lilly, heir to the Prozac fortune,donated 200 million dollars to that

magazine, and I will let you decide if money can buy taste.

The young woman who wrote the essay decided to reveal the most wonderful first line

she could remember in a poem. The poem is about Hansel and Gretel, and here is its

dazzling first line-

" Shit! Are we lost?"

Comment would be superfluous. Goodnight, and good luck. And yes, we are lost.

* I do apologize for some of the line breaks. I did not see them till the end, and I am too tired to re-write.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Quoting Winston Churchill

Back when I worked in an Intensive care unit and had to make out the night nurse assignments on a board at the desk, I would occasionally write in my favorite Churchill quote on the sheet as inspiration to the tired staff.

" Most of the world's work is done by people who don't feel particularly well".

My other favorite quote of his:

"To jaw jaw is always better than war war".

That is wisdom that the warmongers calling out for fighting Syrians, and Afghans, and Ukrainians will ignore, for they will never hesitate to send another man's son to his death.

But now I have another great saying that I heard for the first time the other night as I was watching "Call the Midwife". One of the elderly nuns quoted Churchill's remark on pets and pigs. Since I have two house dogs and a cat coven living under my porch couch, I appreciated this immediately.

"I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals".

There will never be another Churchill!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Story

9 months ago my cable internet modem blew out in a thunderstorm. Repeated calls to the company for a new modem were ignored and I was without internet for five weeks until U-verse came in to the apartments I live in. I refused to pay the final bill after two cable trucks in the apartment parking lot refused to take back my cable box. For 9 months now I have been harassed by a collection agency and by the cable company. All I will say is that this is one of the most hated businesses in this country. And now we are in danger of a cable monopoly.

I am mad as hell, and I am not going to take it anymore!