Monday, June 24, 2013

Paula Deen and her Time Machine

I can't say I was surprised when news broke that in a legal deposition related to a harassment suit against her Savannah restaurant,  TV-"chef" Paula Deen* admitted to using the n-word. And it didn't surprise me when an overwhelming number of her minions (mostly, though not exclusively, white) expressed outrage when Food Network cancelled her contract as a result.

What surprises me is that, in this day and age, we are still giving blanket sanction for people of a certain age to use racial epithets at will.

Let's face it: Paula Deen has been a businesswoman for decades. She didn't just fall out of her backwoods cabin into the public eye. She's been an employer for over 30 years. She has traveled all over the world and logged in countless hours on television. She didn't just stumble into a time machine in 1961 and stumble out into 2013, with no cultural preparation.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, my father used to train young men to be salesmen. One of the challenges he faced, since we lived in a pretty ethnically diverse area, was how easily these guys fell into racial or ethnic language without even realizing it. It was how they grew up and the discourse they heard every day around their dinner tables. But it was also a dangerous habit for a salesman whose livelihood depends on sales to people other than their own race or ethnic extraction. You'd be surprised how quickly they managed to clean up their language with such motivation.

Of course, Paula had no financial motivation to edit of her arrogant and insulting vocabulary, but with all her cloying, over-the-top posturing of warmth and affability, you'd think just decency would prevent certainly the most egregious of offenses.

And you would think that when she developed that dramatic Southern Belle act (did you ever see old, old versions of her show? Her accent isn't as thick and those "y'alls" are eerily absent) she could have also developed tolerance, politeness and professionalism.

Not that it should matter, but this was not a simple slip of the tongue or thoughtless faux pas. This was a reflection of a particular mindset that needed an outside party to inform her how inappropriate is a "plantation theme" for a wedding featuring black men as servants.

It all just shows that, in spite of what many of Deen's defenders insist, race is still an issue in this country and sometimes it's just underneath the crust...the thick, butter-drenched, overly-rich crust.

*By way of disclosure, I have to admit I've never really liked Paula Deen's show or her recipes. Her accent is put on and sounds it and her food is just...too...much...everything. And this is a food addict speaking...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Thoughts on a totally non-momentous birthday

Today I am 56.

(I know for sure because now I have a birth certificate.)

No major revelations have popped up overnight. I didn't wake up noticeably wiser than when I went to bed. But I do feel I've finally caught up with myself.

I was never really an ingenue, though in my twenties I dearly wanted to be one. But I've always viewed the world with a jaundiced eye, though my disease to please always prevented me from expressing it. And by the time I was in my twenties I'd been running a household, refereed too many extended family brouhahas, logged too many hours in hospital waiting rooms and endured too many deaths and near-deaths of loved ones. So, hard as I tried, I could never manage that dewy-eyed open visage of hope and wonder required of a fresh-faced ingenue. I wanted to be Gigi; I was more like Ma Joad.


It was rather inappropriate to my twenties. I did spend a year being a reckless 20-something (well, as reckless as I get...). I forget the specific age, but it was the year of "Jeanne's one bad girl moment." It didn't last. You can't hold down a full time job, carry a full course load at college, and run a household while sporting a hangover. Plus, I never had that puzzling youthful attitude that I was going to live forever.

Oh, I've had my wacky moments over the years. It's just that none comes to mind right now; but I could have sworn I was wacky at some point. Well, at least I went through a Big Earring Phase in my late thirties..

For the most part, though, I've always preferred quiet, restful activities to the loud and exciting. The only part of Las Vegas I enjoyed was driving through the canyons outside the city. I go to sporting events and read or knit. At theme parks, I hold everyone's glasses and pocket change.

Up until a few years ago, this preference always made me look standoffish at best, downright anti-social at worst. But I wasn't really anti-social; I was just tired.

The good news is that I've finally grown into my Ma Joad-ness. At 56 it's totally acceptable to schlep around in comfy clothes and silly hats and drop the "g"s in all your gerunds and inflections.

Like Ma Joads everywhere,  I just "keep a' comin'; Can't wipe us out; can't lick us. We'll go on forever." the Energizer Bunny...

...or that creepy bear from the movie AI.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Why I Have a Sappy Smile on My Driver's License


If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all

Believe me, I get how the universe works. I know there is no such thing as everything going well at the same time. For instance, somewhere, at any given time, there is a Kardashian on TV.

So, common sense tells you the reverse must also be true, resulting in the phrase, "Well, it can't be all bad..." This is a phrase I've learned never, ever to utter. However, I think it is this rule that resulted in my finally...finally...after three attempts and after logging in over 1,000 miles, got my driver's license.

But what shall it profit a woman if she gains the privilege to drive and loses her place to live?

You see, I was actually looking forward to moving. I really liked the house -- a little period place, not too big, not too small; very cute. It was right in town, close to grocery stores and downtown where there seems to always be something going on. It had a shady backyard and a sunny front yard with a nice little porch. There was room in case one of the Heirs needed to move in.

So, for the past three weeks we've been filling out forms and trying to get a move-in date, but there was always something else the rental company needed. (Do you see the red flags? I saw the red flags, but was told that, because I expect red flags, I see red flags that aren't there.)

So prior to leaving to get my license, we receive a call from the rental company. They've moved another family into that house because a wall in the house the family was renting caved in. We could have the Consolation House (my term; you know, like the consolation prize they give to losers?). Well, I called it the Consolation House until I actually saw it; now I just call it The Dive.

Not only is there not enough room to swing the proverbial cat, but you know how cats will manage to fit themselves into the tiniest box, even though they're overflowing out of it? There's not even enough room for that. And there certainly isn't enough room for our bed.

And the space is its best feature.

It's just temporary, the rental company says. As soon as they get the insurance company appraisal and an engineer to go into the other house and find out why the wall collapsed and hire a contractor to fix the wall and they actually fix the wall, we can have the house we originally wanted. How long could that take, right?

And then, we get to move again!!!!! Because, you know, moving is fun!!!!!!! Just ask my family! They LOVE moving us!!!!! Especially twice in the same year!

Needless to say, having just gotten this news, when Dirtman and I drove up to the DMV, I had pretty much given up all hope of having anything positive happen. Ever. I would just spend the rest of my life, living in my car, driving from one bureaucratic office to another, filling out forms and showing people my birth certificate, which I now carry with me everywhere and show to everyone.

For the first twelve to fifteen times you visit the DMV you have to go to the Information Desk because this is where they tell you what item you need to do what you need to do. But they are only allowed to tell you one thing at a time so that you have to keep coming back. "I'll just go in first and make sure, okay? You wait here," Dirtman said warily.

"Okay, it looks like we've got everything this time," Dirtman assured me. But I wasn't fooled. This was another one of those cosmic carrots on a stick, designed to trigger my hope reflex. But, I figured, this is what I do -- I dutifully follow the carrot and then get whacked over the head with the stick. Sigh. Here we go again.

And so I galumph after Dirtman, the magic DMV voice calls my number and I go to meet my fate.

I don't know what I looked like, frankly. But the clerk looked a little nervous, so maybe I not so much look resigned; okay, maybe even a little psychotic...

I handed her my pile of documentation.

She stamped; she clicked on her computer; she checked off little boxes. She said, "Back up to the screen please. You can smile, but keep your mouth closed."


"For your picture. You need to back up to the screen."

"My picture?"

She looked at me, puzzled. "For your driver's license"


And that is why, for the next seven years, I will be carrying a driver's license on which I look like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sisiggy's Red Bank Massacree

After 15 months of struggle, I finally have the "holy grail" in my grasp -- a certified copy of my birth certificate.

No big deal, you say? Your birth certificate is ensconced in a fireproof box along with the car titles of every car you ever owned, tax returns dating back to the 70s and your kid's report cards in chronological order?

Oh, yeah? Well, bite me. That's right...I...Jean Patricia Eckerson Jackson, in front of my kids, friends and everyone on the planet who knows that there was a time I would have never stooped to this kind of reaction, said, "Bite me."

First, you need to know (and most of you do) that I've been a little stressed lately. Not to put too fine a point on it, I've been a "little" stressed for the Past. Five. Years.

Now, really, I was a good sport about it for the first four years -- I understand that, at some point in our lives, God will test us. Go ahead, read about my last five's pretty well documented here on Linguini. Between constant, impending unemployment and homelessness and losing a job I loved that I was in constant danger of losing because of my boss's malfeasance, I managed to maintain my composure and dignity. Wasn't I pithy and perky and the epitome of spunk and vinegar? Wasn't I patient and accepting? Seriously, WASN'T I A PARAGON OF FREAKIN' GRACE UNDER PRESSURE?

This last year, though, I have found myself down to that last nerve and right now the fact that I'm in the thralls of moving and job hunting again after spending a year at an exhausting, health-depleting job that was a Sisyphusean punishment has that particular nerve already stretched to its limit.

You need to know this, otherwise you will think me some kind of whiny, over-emotional menopausal crone who spins into a frenzy over the slightest obstacle and you might say something really stupid like, "Lady, I want your problems." I can't tell you how unwise that would be.

It all started back February of 2012 when I researched how to go about obtaining a West Virginia driver's license. My Virginia license wasn't set to expire until June, but I figured I'd get a jump on things.

Turns out that to get a WV license with my current address, I needed to present my birth certificate, marriage license and proof of residence, none of which I had (oh, give me a break -- I've moved three times in five years). New Jersey, where I was born, required me to present a driver's license with my current address.

Honestly, this conundrum only elicited a mild chortle at the time because, you know, I'm such a strong and patient person. I explained my dilemma to the lady in New Jersey and she told me that they needed the driver's license with a valid address so they know, when they mail the birth certificate, that the person who is on that certificate is the person receiving the mail. So, I figured, I'd wait, get my proof of residence and then sort this out. I mean, I was dealing with flesh and blood people who can reason and understand logic, right? I'm a decent, honest person and there is no reason this little snafu should be a problem.

And so the driver's license issue took a back burner to the 15-hour days, seven-day-a-week lifestyle common with running a family business and the whole foot pain thing and before you know it I'm checking out the cafe's order at Costco and they ask to see my driver's license...

...which had expired the previous week. That's right. I forgot. Excuuuuuuuuse me. I'd been a little...(See paragraph 6).

Meanwhile, Dirtman, who is a year older, has a valid Virginia driver's license that won't expire until sometime in the next millennium. He trots happily to Richmond and in ten minutes has a certified copy of both his birth certificate and our marriage license. They don't bother to look at the piles of documentation proving our address, because they're not mailing anything -- they're handing it to the flesh and blood person standing in front of them. This point will be important further in this story.

I have to admit, the whole issue was shelved because, frankly, I WAS A LITTLE BUSY. And I didn't drive since Dirtman and I were always, always...I can't tell you how very always...together.

I will say, though, not having a driver's license, having had one for 38 years, was uncomfortable. Between having neither a driver's license or birth certificate, it was as if I just wasn't there. Add that to the stress already whirling about me and it became one of those issues that strangle you at 3 o'clock in the morning and guarantee exhaustion the next day.

So now we're moving back to Virginia. I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to start from square one: take a written test, take an on-the-road test and a vision test. So we stop into DMV in Virginia to pick up a recent drivers' manual so I could study for the written exam. We tell the guy at the information desk (please note -- this is the name of the desk: INFORMATION. I don't think it's out of line to assume this person has the CORRECT information, do you? I think the adjective "correct" is a sort of given, right?) This is the information he is given: I have a Va. driver's license that expired almost a year ago and I need a license. We are moving back, but have not yet moved, to Virginia.

And he gives us --******GOOD NEWS!!!!!*******. If I came in to renew my license before my birthday (June 18 -- same day as Paul McCartney, but he didn't care about that), all I would need is two items showing our new address and my old Virginia license.

There was great rejoicing in Linguiniland! For a week I walked about thinking, "Finally! Finally the tide is turning! Things are going to be different and reign of bad juju is over! Over, do you hear me! OVER!!!! BWAHAHAHAHA!!!!" (That's right. I laugh maniacally in my head.)

We began gathering the proof of our new address: Opened a bank account, signed up for a library card. I practically skipped into the DMV on June 6, smiling as I presented my little packet to Mr. Information -- the same guy...did you catch that?..the same guy we'd spoken to the week before.

He looks over everything and chirps happily, "I'll need to see your birth certificate."

I sputter, "But...but..."

He interrupts, "Oh, don't worry! If you were born after 1965, I can call it up on the computer! Where in Virginia were you born?"

I'm so upset that it even escapes me that he thought I am eight years younger than I actually am. "I wasn't born in Virginia." I'm just. Starting. To. Lose. It.

Dirtman knows this; hears it in my voice. He explains about our previous visit and what he told us. Mr. Information taps into his computer, shakes his head and says, "She's no longer in the system."

Okay, I sort of blank out at this point. But by the time Dirtman installs me in the car and we are driving away, I'm screaming.

Now, read this carefully: I. Don't. Scream. EVER. I may internalize; I may get sarcastic; I may beat myself up; I may even weep; ultimately, I eat. But, I repeat, I never, EVER scream.

After all, I've driven in this state for thirty years, without incident, I might add. I'm an honest person who always behaves herself. And I'VE PAID TAXES IN THIS STATE FOR 30 YEARS. Did that little tidbit come up in his computer? If DMV doesn't acknowledge my existence, I can guarantee the treasury department can somehow manage to hold onto this data. Eleven months is nothing to the treasury department; they'll hold onto a nine-cent discrepancy from eight years ago and hound you with it from state to state, publishing it every year in the paper.

So I'm crying and screaming and having an over-all (yet cathartic) meltdown and Dirtman is frantically dialing John Boy and arranging a trip to New Jersey to obtain my birth certificate. Then he gave me ice cream.

Let me explain the preparation and reason for the New Jersey trip. If I want to renew my license without taking the written or on-the-road test, I need my birth certificate by June 17. So we couldn't do it by mail. Besides, we don't have a move in date yet, so I don't know where to tell them to mail it. Plus, all I have to prove I exist is my marriage license (which lists all the information that is on my birth certificate) and an expired Virginia driver's license. I figure, it's got my photo on it -- I'm obviously the person written on the thing. That is why I had to pick it up in person -- so the New Jersey person could see I am the person connected to that name on the driver's license and the marriage license.

Ah! But wait! I had more! I have an older brother -- John Boy -- who could attest to the fact that my parents are his parents and none of us has any intention of overthrowing the government. has a passport, which is even better than a birth certificate because you need a birth certificate to get a passport and the passport has a photo on it too!

So John Boy and I took off for New Jersey yesterday with an air of optimism -- even the unrelenting, driving rain did not dampen our spirits; the fact that I'd had to lose a day of packing to this stupid task did not dampen our spirits; the fact that John Boy, because I did not have a valid driver's license, had to drive the entire 11-hour round trip by himself did not dampen our spirits.

We figured 10 minutes at the Red Bank Office of Vital Statistics, lunch, visit our old stomping grounds for a bit of nostalgia and then home.

Sigh. You know where this is going.

[cue guitar background from Alice's Restaurant]

We walked in, sat down, the clerk came and looked at the Virginia marriage certificate with my maiden name, married name, place of birth and parents' names and the expired Virginia driver's license with my picture on it and a line where it says my name, looked at me and said, "I need a bank statement or utility bill proving your address," which I didn't have...

(and didn't figure I needed since they weren't mailing it -- I was standing right there)

[resume guitar background from Alice's Restaurant]

She asked who John Boy was and I said my older brother. And John Boy stood up with his passport which he obtained by presenting his birth certificate and that contained a picture of himself as he is now and she said:

"Do you have your birth certificate?"

[pause guitar background from Alice's Restaurant]

And we came to the realization that it was a typical case of American blind justice and there wasn't nothing we could do about it, and the clerk wasn't going to look at the Virginia marriage certificate with my maiden name, married name, place of birth and parents' names and the expired Virginia driver's license with my picture on it and a line where it says my name or John Boy's passport which he obtained by presenting his birth certificate and that contained a picture of himself as he is now.

[resume guitar background from Alice's Restaurant]

So we had to call Dirtman, who drove into town and faxed to the office of Vital Statistics a copy of a bank statement and a utility bill with the wrong address on it -- both of which he could have generated himself using any word processing program out there (but he didn't) and I got my birth certificate.

And THAT, dear readers (if you're still with me) is the point. (Okay, stop the Alice's Restaurant music.) The obvious, common sense proof of my existence was not enough to obtain my birth certificate. The ONE THING that was required was the one thing most easily faked by any 8-year-old with a laptop.

I know my quest is not yet over though. Tomorrow I go back to the DMV where, if you recall, I was told I could just renew my expired license with no more than a vision test as long as I had (remember? All together now!) my expired license, my birth certificate and proof of new address.

So, why am I posting this now, before the problem is resolved?

Obvious: I entertain the possibility that the problem will NOT be resolved. I entertain the possibility that I will present my hard-won documentation and be told that, before a driver's license can be issued, I have to come up with a rhyme for the word "orange," and that, when I do, I will have to have the answered certified by a two-headed Do-do bird hatched in captivity.

And that is when the brain cells containing all the aforementioned information will come seeping out of my ear and form a puddle on the desk of Mr. Correct Information.

So before that happens, here it is, for posterity. When you see Dirtman leading a drooling, catatonic old lady around Walmart, you'll know where her mind went and why.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

"We do but turn another page..."

If there is one way to put a strain on a relationship, it's asking someone to help you move. Do that more than once in a five-year period and you're lucky anyone answers your phone calls.

Luckily, we've produced a few of our own handy-dandy vessels of muscle and stamina and are related to more, all of whom are vulnerable to my guilt-inducing I've sworn an oath that I will never consider another move unless I can afford to hire professionals.

That's right - it made the cut AGAIN
Our biggest hurdle has actually been the remnants of the last move, made a little over a year ago and for which I was unavailable. At the time, I was putting in 15 hours a day, seven days a week at the cafe. The move was performed by Dirtman, John Boy and Heir 1 over the course of a week. Needless to say, organization took a back seat to speed.

Apparently, the method employed at the time was to walk through the house picking up random items and tossing them in a box, then pausing at the garbage can to scoop up a handful of trash and adding that to the box also. The result was 78 boxes containing a mixture of unrelated items and mostly garbage. And, because of the aforementioned hours at the cafe, those 78 boxes have languished for our entire time here.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm NOT COMPLAINING!

But I'm also not moving 78 boxes of unrelated items and garbage a second time. So we're basically repacking everything, minus the garbage and minus a whole lot of those unrelated items.

That's right. I think I can safely get rid of the breast pump and the size 9 shorts (I was a size 9 for exactly two days after my wedding. After two days on my honeymoon, they no longer fit. I should have taken a picture.)

This also means I have to screen any box Dirtman attempts to save because he is totally incapable of throwing anything out. Ski pants (he's never skied), zipper broken, two sizes too small -- keeper; dirty baseball, lining coming off and no memory attached -- keeper; empty box, 4 x 4 inches -- keeper ("Somewhere I think I have the transistor radio that came in it."). This is a man who needs supervision.

Not the Athena - give her a helmet
The good news is that I am finding things I thought were long gone. About 15 leashes have shown up. Knitting needles, grabbed from its mate for any number of purposes for which knitting needles are so convenient and never reunited. A small photo album I'd apparently assembled featuring the Heirs' homeschool projects; specifically, the model of the Parthenon featuring paper towel rolls stuck into styrofoam and a Sculpey Athena head that we subsequently used for all sorts of nefarious purposes after the Parthenon was disassembled. Sadly, the Athena head was nowhere to be found.

The temptation, of course, is to linger over these memories. But moving ahead is the order of the day. To infinity -- and Beyond! (or so said the remnant of the Buzz Lightyear voice box stuck in a Leggs egg in box of washed popsicle sticks and paper doilies).