Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Petty is as petty does

We take the paper here at work.

The newspaper delivery man used to bring it straight up to the office and place it on the counter, barking out, "NoozePAYpuh!" before he walked back out.

His name was Joe. I liked him. He was out for several days one time and I worried so much that I called down to the loading docks at the paper and asked where he was. When I found out he was off for a few days because his mama died, I sent flowers.

I've never laid eyes on the new paper person and thus have no such attachment to him or her. All I know is that that person brings our paper and leaves it on the security desk downstairs.

Before I go any further with this, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am quite fond of the daytime security man here. However, he does not inspire in me any great feelings of security, being as how he's not armed and he'll let anybody in the building who wants to come in.

He will also let just anybody thumb through our paper before we pick it up.

Friends, I don't like a pre-read paper. Because I don't like a pre-read paper, if I buy a Sunday paper, if I happen to have guests in my home, I buy them one, too, just so we can all have a fresh newspaper to read.

The other day I came in and had to wait for my paper, of all things, because a gentleman was standing there reading it. I was very nice about it and all, but seriously? Who makes the person whose name is on the label wait for her own paper?

This morning I came in and slowed down at the desk to pick up the paper and the security man said, "Oh, let me just finish reading this and I'll put it back together."

Fortunately I had giant sunglasses on so he couldn't see my eyebrows ascend into my hairline. I might should just start wearing them all the time.

Friday, March 25, 2011

What Happened to Henry Granju?

Henry Granju, if you don't know, was the beloved son of Katie Granju, who I do not know (personally), but who is a close friend of a friend of mine.

Henry was just 18, and was, by all accounts, a wonderful young man, kind and loving and smart and funny. I have seen photos of him, and he was handsome. He had a twinkle in his eye, and in nearly all of his photos, there was a smile playing about his mouth.

I have read words that he wrote, and he was a good writer - whimsical and clever and creative, and he had good grammar and a broad vocabulary.

He was a musician, with a guitar in his hand or strapped 'cross his back nearly all the time.

Henry was also a drug addict.

Last April 27, his mother received a phone call that changed her world and that of those she loves. Henry had been brought by ambulance to the hospital and was near death, having suffered an overdose of methadone and been, apparently, beaten.

I say "apparently" because the Knoxville County Sheriff's Office doesn't seem to think that matters. Because Henry was a drug addict.

I don't know all the facts, because I wasn't there. But I know what I've read over the nearly year since it's happened, and I have come to believe some things based on the time line that Katie has constructed from the copious information that she herself has had to root around and find.

Katie, you understand, is not an investigator or a detective or a police officer. Katie is a mother and a writer.

Katie has spent nearly the last year investigating the case because Henry was "an unattractive victim."

On April 25th, Henry was involved in a drug deal gone bad and was beaten up. He didn't get the living shit beat out of him that day, though, and he wasn't dying of an overdose then.

That didn't happen until the next day when two older "friends" came to the "rescue" with an enormous dose of methadone that they got from God only knows where and gave it to him.

Then they came back and picked him up in a van and took him to their trailer. At that time he showed no signs of physical injury.

By the next morning, his "friends" were freaking out because Henry was blue and vomiting and unresponsive and they didn't want to call for help. They only did so under threat of a friend of Henry's calling the police.

From what I have read (and my reading comprehension is well above average), I believe that if Henry Granju had not entered his "friends'" van, Henry Granju would be alive today. 

When Henry arrived at the hospital, he had clearly been badly beaten and was bleeding from his ears. He continued to bleed for weeks.

Henry told his mother that his "friends" had promised him some things and compelled him do some rather unsavory things with gentlemen for money and drugs. 

Katie Granju reported this information about her son, hard as it was to do, to the Knox County Sheriff's Office, and offered two phones containing hundreds of corroborating text messages to them, and they declined to take the phones or interview Henry while he was still able to communicate.

Because Henry was an unattractive victim.

I call bullshit.

Henry Granju was a son, a brother, a friend, a grandson, a nephew, a beloved child, all before he was ever an addict.

I believe that had Henry Granju not entered that van, he would be alive today.

I do not believe in conspiracy theories, but I think someone at KCSO or the Knox County DA's office is dirty and is being protected. Otherwise, I simply cannot understand why when a young man is given a lethal overdose and is beaten to death, no matter who he is, it's not investigated.

Katie Granju is seeking justice for her son. But that's not all she's seeking. Knoxville is a hotbed of drug activity, and apparently child prostitution. Katie Granju is seeking to keep them from "hurting other kids," one of the last things her dying son asked her for.

It will soon be a year since Katie got that awful phone call. I hope to see significant progress in this case before then.

Henry's story is long and painful, but please take time to read it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sandwich Generation

We read about it all the time, the sandwich generation.

I'm part of it, the sandwich generation, the generation that has to take care of its children and its aging parents simultaneously.

Only I don't have any children, so I'm relieved of that duty, and one day I'm going to be on the short end of the stick, because I'm going to be aged and alone, that old lady making her way through the grocery store because there'll be no one to do it for her.

My mother, and I'm liable to get in trouble for posting this, is slipping. Rather, she has slid.

And I am scared to death.

She is not the woman she was a year ago. She's not even the woman she was six months ago.

Early this year, she had a horrible episode in which she became so dehydrated that she went into acute renal failure, which cause encephalopathy (swelling of the brain) and was in the hospital nearly two weeks.

She was so out of her mind that she didn't know where she was and even now she has to be reminded what happened. When she's reminded, she says, "Oh. Yes, the doctor told me I could have died."

She's mainly excited that she lost 14 pounds during the whole mess.

Last night she called me to ask me to ask me how to get back on the Internet, and I told her to unplug her Airport and modem for a minute and restart her computer, and she swore she had neither - had never had them, in fact.

Of course she has them, or she never would have been on the Internet to start with, and besides, she's done all that before without me telling her to.

And just like that, I was antagonizing her by telling her to do something with materials she didn't have.

I know she snapped because she was frustrated. And I know she is in there, somewhere near the surface, and I cannot pull her back out.

I knew that one day it would come. I did not expect it to come all at once, jelly side down.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Maiden Voyage

It turns out that riding a bike is not just like riding a bike.

I took my orange beauty out for her first ride yesterday and it all went quickly haywire.

At first it was glorious.

I was wearing my padded skins underneath my shorts, so as not to get seat fatigue on my, er, seat, and I had a water bottle. The weather was glorious.

I had forgotten the heady delight of careening down a hill full-tilt-boogie, like a dog with its head out the window. I was going so fast, I had to slow myself down with my hand brakes, even.

There were people out working in their yards who looked up at me and grinned at my obvious delight, waving with their gloved hands as I flew past in my purple shorts and Converse sneakers, giddy and giggling.

Then I went around the curve. You never think your neighborhood is hilly until you ride your bike around it. I'm really out of shape.

And then my chain came off. I couldn't stop. Fortunately I'm still agile enough (barely) to jump the curb and bail off in the grass without hurting myself.

I've had this happen, of course, years ago. But never with so many gears to contend with. I was trying to put it back on, but no cigar. I flipped the bike over and was mechanicing when my phone rang. It was important, so I answered it.

I would have thought that my answer to "what are you doing?" would have prompted the caller to say, "Oh, I'll talk to you later," but no, the conversation was longish. Finally AT&T saved me by dropping the call.

I turned the bike back over and still couldn't get the chain back on. I was a good mile from home, but I was resigned to pushing it home, so I shoved off. Shortly I ran across a young man outside with his dog and asked if he could put it back for me. He said sure, could I hold his Pit?

So I held his dog and he fixed my bike.

I gave him my five dollar bill and went on home, where I had to lie on the sofa and catch my breath.

I'm not as young as I used to be.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


At home we grew sugarcane.

We grew other things, too, but nothing with the immediate gratification of sugarcane, tall stalks waving in the hot, flat breeze, a perfect place to go on adventures in our minds.

When it was time to cut the stalks, my cousins and I always rode on the sides of Harold's pickup truck, cheering on the cutters. They'd cut off a few knuckles and hand them up to us and we'd turn into truck-riding gargoyles, gnawing and sucking on the stringy thick stalks.

While we all knew that the Dixie Crystals sugar in the cabinets back at the house was cane sugar, I don't think we understood the immediacy of it all. To us, cane stalks went to the place with the mules, just this side of the Oconee River bridge where the elderly mule with the sunhat spent her days walking around in a circle, grinding the cane down so it could go on to wherever it went after that.

I'm not real clear on the parts I couldn't see happening.

What I knew was that when that cane left that mule, it went to the little shack about twenty yards away and was boiled down in big black caldrons that I thought were used at night to boil down bad city children.

The next time I saw the cane, it was in the form of cane syrup, either in the square bottles labeled Pinetucky Cane Syrup, or in a glass Dr. Pepper or Coca-Cola bottle with a cork in the top. We usually got a boxful of those bottles, labeled with masking tape and magic marker.

We didn't think it was odd to get a whole box of syrup, any more than we thought it was odd to eat everything in the freezer under the carport before our cow and hog, all but the moo and the squeal, came back to us, neatly wrapped in white freezer paper and identified by strange markings scrawled in china pencil.

But anyway. I never had syrup that came from a tree until I was 16 and my enrichment class went to the World's Fair in Knoxville. There was also cream of wheat, which I thought was a bowlful of wallpaper paste. I remember vividly putting the first bite of waffle (!) in my mouth and panicking, then grabbing my napkin and scrambling under the table to spit it out before it killed me.

It's hard to find good cane syrup anymore, I guess because it's strong, and the flavor isn't for the weak-willed. Anytime I'm driving through a rural area and I see a place selling boil'd p-nuts, I stop and see if they have any cane syrup, and if they do, I buy as much as I have singles for, then I ship some to my friend Beaufort, up in Michigan, where the infidels are.

I hadn't been able to find any lately, but one night I ventured over to My Dekalb Farmers Market and spied one dusty can of Steen's, forgotten at the back of one the deep shelves. I snatched it up and brought it home and have been using up my high-dollar-fancypants olive oil from Spain as fast as I could so I'd have a suitable bottle to pour it in. I finally got to the end of the olive oil about a week ago and washed out the bottle several times and let it air dry real good.

This morning I got out the funnel and poured it over from the can into the bottle.

I put my finger in the thin coat remaining in the can and licked it.

I'm pretty sure I saw the face of God. He grinned at me.

(note: this is a repost from my other blog. I thought it worth sharing)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Your Daily God

Do people really ever look up at the sky at night and see the stars, so many light years away, burning so bright, and say to somebody, "Our God is an awesome God"?

I'm not saying he (or she) isn't an awesome God, I'm just wondering if people say those kinds of things in passing conversation, as opposed to, say, "Miracles happen everyday!" after the birth of a child, or when a patient wakes up from a coma.

I have often been awed - am fortunate to still be awed that birds can get off the ground, even - but I don't know that I have ever voiced to anyone that particular exclamation of my awe, in those exact words, nor heard anyone else do so, aside from in song.

Questions of this nature come up this time of year (for me) because it is the beginning of the Lenten season - the holiest season in Christianity - and though I am Protestant, I attend an Ash Wednesday service and give up something for Lent.

Not only am I Protestant, I am Baptist, but of the backslidden variety, as I have not attended the church I am a member of for a few years now. I justify it by saying that they have nothing for me, really - I am a single woman in my mid-40s. I don't belong in any of the Sunday school groups. I don't fit. I've spoken with the pastors there, they agree I don't fit; they don't feel moved to be more inclusive, they just...agree.

This year Ash Wednesday holds even deeper meaning for me, though, because I am taking my small godson with me to the service.

While it is true that Baptists don't baptize infants, and we don't have godparents and godchildren as a general rule, somehow I was chosen as the very fortunate champion for this amazing child, and just like a good Episcopalian, I stood up in front of God and a whole church full of people and forswore all evil and promised to guide him.

As it turns out, he guides me, too.

Monday, March 7, 2011


I hate them.

When I was little, I liked to play Meeting, because my daddy went to them, and I thought it was terribly grown up to Go To Meetings.

Now I'm grown up and I know from years of going to them that they're pure damn evil.

When I worked at the paper, meetings would drone on and on and on, and they were usually about how the assistants (me and my little underling friends) could be replaced by any idiot off the street. When I became an underling of a higher caliber, the meetings became about how Deadlines! Must! Be! Met! and Approval! Tickets! Must! Be! Kept! To! A! Minimum!

I became so jaded by meetings that I started sitting near the door so I could get up and walk out, turning around at the door and saying, "Send me a memo, would you? I got deadlines."

We don't have many meetings around here, but when we do, they strike fear in my heart. Today we had one and my innards are still roiling.

The economy is bad, friends. We produce an expensive product, and people are hanging on to their money in ways that are harshing our groove.

So we have to expand our way of thinking, come out of our shells about how we're going to reach more people, get the ones who don't know we're here, and we've got what they need.

The good news is, we do have what they need. We're literally at the top of our industry, because we've outlasted the competition. We do good work here, work that I'm proud of, work that I personally stand behind.

We have laid out a course of action, and we will follow it until we need to change it, and it will be okay, because we work hard here.

And I will be okay, because I always have been before. There just aren't any other options.

Friday, March 4, 2011


My head hurts.

But I just ran into my friend Andrew at the grocery store during lunch, and that makes anything that's wrong just a little better.

I've known him since he was a baby, just about 24 hours old, and I have loved him since that very minute.

He had bright orange hair and bright blue eyes, and he grew into a laughing freckled little boy, and now he has bright orange hair and bright blue eyes and he is a laughing freckled young man, about to go off to college.

It seems like just five minutes since he nearly grew out of his baptismal gown before he could be baptized, but really it's been almost 18 years.

I used to babysit him, and when I'd get to the house, he'd be sitting on the front steps, wearing his firefighter pajamas and firehat, and his mother's snowboots and sunglasses, dressed as a firefighter, waiting for me to arrive.

He was, hands-down, the sweetest kid I've ever known.

When I saw him in the grocery today, he had come for "this cheese dip I like" and some flank steak to make beef jerky.

I asked him if he'd ever made beef jerky, or if he had a recipe. He said no, but he likes beef jerky, and he figures he'd like it more if it were flavored like he wants it, and it can't be that hard.

He's also whimsical.

So we set off for the meat department and looked through the meat, and ended up asking one of the meat men, who it turns out makes beef jerky all the time, and he gave us an earful. The meat man told him which piece of meat would be best, and told the butcher how to cut it for him, and Andrew was off. We looked at the seasonings, and discussed what to look for for recipes, and I got my cereal and we went our separate ways.

I remembered when I was nearly back to the office to call him and tell him to put the meat in the freezer for a little bit to make it easier to cut in strips, and to cut it with a scissors, and he took the advice easily, because he always wants to know a better way to do things.

Tomorrow night we're going out to dinner, because Andrew loves to go to dinner, so long ago I started taking him out for Christmas and birthday, and afterwards, I'll take him to Star Provisions, because he'll like that - he'll like the variety of salts and peppers and seasonings, and he'll like the cuts of meats hanging in the freezer locker, and he'll like the smelly cheeses.

I'm going to miss that kid when he goes away to college next year.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Writing is easy.

You just stare at a piece of paper until blood comes out of your pores.