Dear Neighbors

Where I’m from, on that winding stretch of Old Highway 421 between Boone and Mountain City, we lift a finger. Or rather, lift a fanger.

I don’t mean we help other people, thought we do that too. I’m referring to the gesture we make in our car as another car passes in the opposite direction. We lift a fanger. That is, we pick one or two fingers up off the steering wheel in a modified wave, to greet the other driver.

Old habits die hard. I would lift a fanger at the folks traveling down my country road when I lived in Hillsborough. Often, they would wave back.

Now I live in your neighborhood in downtown Durham, and as I walk the dogs, my impulse is still to wave. But it’s hard. Wrangling 140 pounds of pit bull, and simultaneously acknowledging my neighbors’ existence is hard.

I say all this because I want you to know that if it looks like I’m hoisting a bag of dog poop and slinging it in your direction, that’s just my attempt to be friendly. Sorry if there’s been any confusion.

Your neighbor,


Chimney Sweep, Crocodile Wranger, Rodeo Clown

After a two-week break, the re-entry into the classroom was turbulent. I had had a fantasy that my fourth graders would spend their vacation days thinking about how their behavior affected others, what they could do to make the classroom more positive, and in what ways they might be more respectful to me.


By lunchtime, I was asking Facebook for career suggestions.

My sister offered astronaut. I’m getting kinda squirrelly about flying in my old age, and that’s just between RDU and Laguardia. A trip to the International Space Station might make me a little wheezy.

Some friends wondered about my being a professional dog rescuer or dog-sitter. Those I could go for…Do they come with health insurance?

Suzanne mentioned pole dancer. Well…I mean, that requires a lot of upper-body strength, doesn’t it? Also, I forget, how do strip joints feel about hip-to-knee cellulite?

Are they pro- or anti-?

Anti-, right?

Moving on.

Though I really like Steve’s recommendation that I become a guru-on-a-mountaintop, that sounds like I’d have to be, you know, wise or something, so I think my sister-in-law had the best idea: bajillionaire.

Now all I need is one bajillion dollars. Pony up, folks.

Happy Coming Out Day, People

Have you heard about New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino’s precious little speech? What a mensch—he just doesn’t want anyone “to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally successful or valid option” as heterosexuality.


And apparently, his prepared text had a line which he omitted when he delivered it: “There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual.”

That’s true! There IS nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual.

But I know a hell of a lot of functional homosexuals, and I love ’em! I’m proud of ’em! They’re just wonderful!

Do Not Read This Book

My book club just read “Her Fearful Symmetry” by Audrey Niffenegger.

I hated it and will, forthwith, enumerate the reasons why.

Number one: Third person omniscient point-of-view sucks anyway, and Niffeneggar executed it particularly badly in this novel, sometimes writing from different characters’ perspectives in the same paragraph.

Number two: Only one of the characters was remotely likable and had a compelling arc. That was Martin, the upstairs neighbor who suffered from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. As you might have guessed, the upstairs neighbor was not one of the main characters. All the main characters were needy, whiny, pathetic, and/or generally uninteresting.

Number three: The author put all the characters’ thoughts in italics…and there were a lot of them. Here’s a sample: “Martin stood holding the letter. The worst thing has happened. He could not take it in.  She’s gone. She would not come back.”

Take out italics; a little shift in tense…Presto change-o! Tell me it’s not better thus: “Martin stood holding the letter. The worst thing had happened. He could not take it in. She was gone. She would not come back.”

Number four: The “twist” was predictable. It had been done better and, more importantly, twenty-five years ago in a Young Adult novel I read called Stranger with My Face by Lois Duncan.

Number five: The denouement was wholly unsatisfying. I’m thinking she was under deadline and wrote the last 30 pages in 30 minutes. “OK, this one has a baby, the guy leaves her, so-and-so gets a boyfriend, and what’s-her-name finds a crow to fly away on. Done! Whew!”

I could give you more reasons why I hated this book, but I hope that gives you enough to go on.

Thanks for asking.