Saturday, July 6, 2019

The Jefferson City Tornado

Hi, folks, an overdue post about the tornado that struck Jefferson City at about 11:30 p.m. on May 22. I wrote the following the day after the event, while I was still in a daze. It’s based on something I shared with my peeps on Facebook, but mainly, I think it served as a way to kind of deal with what I’d witnessed.

Merely witnessed; I had no direct damage, thank goodness, but it’s still a shock. We humans kinda base our everyday lives on certain things being solid, unchangeable. Like stone or brick buildings you see every day, and large trees. In about five or ten minutes, those were drastically changed.

It was especially—ironic? I’m scared to use that term anymore—because the afternoon of the tornado, just hours before it happened, Sue and I had met a friend at Sapphire’s restaurant, at the top of the Doubletree hotel (a place I rarely go). Unless you score a trip to the top of the Capitol, Sapphire’s is probably the best view you can get of downtown Jeff City. And so we had taken a few moments to walk from window to window, admiring the view, commenting on how Jeff has become more beautified in the past fifteen or twenty years. Yes, ironic is the term.

One more note: My photos are from May 26, when Sue and I finally drive around to gawk at the devastation. We waited until the streets were cleared of debris and officially open. By that time, most homes with major damage had had their windows boarded up and roofs covered with tarps—looking over the city, a patchwork of plastic blue tarps and twisted, shredded tree trunks dominated the stricken parts of the town.

At the end, I share a link to a news helicopter video that shows lots of the devastation. It starts with images of the Capitol covered with plastic—the plastic has been there for months, as they’re doing major renovation to the dome. The helicopter news team was from St. Louis, so they obviously didn't know the Capitol was find. So it doesn’t represent tornado damage, FYI. Thankfully, the Capitol escaped the tornado.

May 23, 2019

Thanks, everyone, for checking in with me. It’s just more than 12 hours after the tornado as I write this. I haven't spent much time on social media today. Whenever I look at Facebook, I’m overwhelmed by the photos and videos of destruction. And each time I go out in our yard, I see bits of soggy fiberglass insulation, crumpled siding, and other detritus that got sucked up from the areas that got blasted and then rained down on our street.

But Sue and I, and most of our immediate neighborhood, have come through the tornado just fine.

Oddly, last night we were mostly concerned about an apparent tornado that was moving across northern Boone County, and we were concerned for my parents.

When the sirens sounded, we headed downstairs out of a sense of duty. There, we watched TV weather coverage on my laptop. Oddly, as the big line of storms swept from west to east across the weather radar, we were mostly concerned about an apparent tornado that was moving across northern Boone County, and we were concerned for my parents, who live in northeast Columbia. But once that had passed well north of them, it seemed the worst was over. The “blobs” heading toward us, from the west and south, seemed not very intense, plus, they ALWAYS divide in two before they reach us: one blob always veers north, the other south. So we headed back upstairs. I actually got into bed. Then the sirens sounded again—this time, it was headed at us.

This time, we put Patches and Lois in their kitty carriers and took them into the basement, and we got Mac to follow us down there, too. We grabbed flashlights and set up chairs between the furnaces and the workbench. Again, we watched the local TV coverage, with increasing anxiety as we heard things like “Confirmed tornado at Brazito, heading toward the south side of Jefferson City along Highway 54”—Well, we live in the “Southside,” and Highway 54 was basically straight in our direction—indeed, straight at the heart of town, including the state capitol building.

The storm got gradually worse; we heard that the tornado was verified by sight by a trained spotter on the ground. The tornado was at 54 and 179. We looked out our basement door: it was pretty windy, but I’ve seen it worse (indeed, I think it was worse on Tuesday, when it blew one of our storm windows into a room and shattered it on the floor). But, you know . . . sheets of rain, strong winds, the crisp tinkling sound of small hail. (I think.) Then the lights went out at the height of the storm. And so our Internet went out, too.

From our perspective, it never seemed more than any other big storm, with strong winds and drenching sheets of rain. We sat there, between the furnaces and the workbench, listening to the kitties paw at their carriers, trying not to think how bad it could be—and then it was over. It seemed to stop rather abruptly, and we were left there with our flashlights on, thinking, "well—was that it?" How do you know when it’s over?

We learned, bit by bit, that the tornado had gone through the city south and east of us, missing the very center of town, with us included. We were very lucky. We crept back upstairs to free our kitties and try to sleep. It was clear that something had happened. Our electricity was out all night, but cars and emergency vehicles kept going by.

Sleep was next to impossible; we heard sirens pretty much all night on the 50/63 Expressway (which passes one block north of our house), and there were lots of cars and trucks zooming up and down Broadway. The air in the house was heavy and warm, but we didn't want to open the windows with the sporadic rain. With our electricity out, we didn't know the extent of the destruction elsewhere in the city. A friend texted me with some initial news about destruction. Simonson school "destroyed," Reilly Chevrolet "destroyed," police station, hospital without power. It was starting to feel Dada. I managed to get some sleep, probably starting around 2 a.m.

At around 4:45 a.m., the electricity came back on: Yay! I got up and turned off a bunch of lights that had been on when the power went off. Then, as I stepped back into the bedroom, the power went out again. It was confusing: wait, did the power just go off again? Really? . . . Or did I just dream it had come back on? What?

The power came back on for good at about 5:30, and starting about then, it was nonstop texts and phone calls from family and friends, and with the electricity back on, I could see the press announcements and the videos . . . and there seemed to be helicopters everywhere.

So it’s been a Dada day. Didn't get much sleep, so I feel achy and crusty, and it's mostly been overcast, so it could be 7 a.m. now or it could be noon or even 7 p.m. Considering our immediate area is pretty okay (look at it this way: we have some potted plants in our yard that ALWAYS fall over in ANY wind, and last night they never fell over)—still, this morning I noticed random soggy fragments of fiberglass insulation here and there on the ground, and shiny crumpled-up pieces of siding; I wondered, "Is that part of what used to be Riley Chevrolet? Or maybe it's part of Community Christian Church, or the Sonic, or Braun’s storage units, or maybe it came clear from Brazito . . ."

And life goes on, in its weird way. I went for coffee at Three Story on Dunklin and there were people there, texting like crazy and dazed but talking agitatedly about the mayhem on Jackson Street. Dunklin, just past the next intersection, was blocked off, with law enforcement officials there telling people not to go through.

And this morning the air conditioning guy came over for routine maintenance (because why not), and then suddenly our water stopped, and soon the water company was on the corner fooling with the hydrant, so now that's working again.

I kind of know how this goes—I was in Columbia for the 1998 Southridge tornado, and my workplace was on LeMone Boulevard, which was hit hard, and I had to go there and remove anything that I might possibly need for, like, who knows how long, since I’d have to work at home. I remember the blobs of soggy fiberglass on the sidewalk—they give me flashbacks—and the flapping roof and siding that had been peeled off the building like the lid of a sardine can, the quiet, disheveled dead sparrows in the parking lot, the fallen florescent light fixtures sagging into the hallway, dangling by their electrical conduits. I remember carrying my office plants into my car, thinking it weird how some stuff survives perfectly fine, and other stuff is utterly blasted away. It’s a damn convincing argument for Dumb Luck.

I'm feeling pretty sick for my friends and everyone else on Capitol Avenue and all the other places in town that have suffered staggering destruction. Those people have spent decades repairing and shining and polishing those fabulous, famous, beautiful homes, fighting tooth and nail to pull the rest of their avenue upward with them—and they formed a True Community in the process. All their heart and hard work . . . blasted. Someone wrote that Capital Avenue is Jefferson City's “front porch.” They are the heart and soul of our city’s movers and shakers. Many core people in the local historic preservation community have properties there. For the sake of our town, I hope they can repair those gems, because our CITY will be greatly diminished without them.

I also feel very sorry for the many, many people displaced from the modest and run-down homes—the homes they won't show on the news—many of them renters, without savings, whose entire fortune (such as it is) amounts to the possessions in their homes. Many of these people must certainly lack insurance and the savvy to figure out how to cope financially with what's happened to them, and their much simpler problem will be: Here we go again, back to square one, where we've basically always been.

And I feel sorry for everyone in between—aching arms, shoulders, backs, and hearts, tossing things into boxes, hoping some of it can be cleaned up and saved. People suddenly unable to get around town, now that their car is, like, totaled, or upside down. People tramping back and forth through carpet soggy with a friend's blood, moving their valuables to safety. You never think it's REALLY going to happen to your town . . .

Monday, May 27, 2019

Memorial Day 2019

. . . And decorating the graves. How many people still do this, nationally? It seems that a requirement be that someone’s still living someplace near the cemeteries. Someone who didn’t move to another state. Also, someone who—if they did move out of state—didn’t stay away so long as to have the tradition of decorating the graves leave their consciousness. Basically, someone like me—this is becoming my job.

Pretty much all my relatives are buried in Jefferson City cemeteries, and there’s been an unbroken tradition of decorating graves since each was filled. Christmas, and Memorial Day.

In Buddy’s Stories, Dad shared his memories of the whole family piling into his Aunt Minnie’s Lincoln Zephyr to decorate the graves, with water buckets on the floor between their feet filled with peonies, weigela, mock orange, and whatever else was blooming in the backyard. (You all have his latest book, right?)

Each year as the peonies, roses, and mock orange starts to bloom in our yard, I think, “Well, it’s getting close to Memorial Day, isn’t it.” I don’t really need a calendar for it, and I don’t need to see “Memorial Day Sale!” yelling at me in newspaper ads. These are the exacting same peonies, roses, and mock orange plants that once supplied Grandma with flowers for graves.

Dad and Mom, and Uncle Richard and Aunt Carole, have done these acts of devotion and memorial since Grandma and Aunt Minnie were no longer able to do so. Aunt Minnie died in 1980, and between her and Grandma, she was the one with the car, so Dad and Richard had been driving Grandma to decorate graves since at least that time. Until 2000, when Grandma took her place in the earth beside her husband.

Dad’s and Uncle Richard’s continuing attention to these rituals has always impressed me with its tenderness, its attention to detail, its steadfastness. Its obstinate refusal to go full-on plastic. And its privacy: because unless it’s part of a public ceremony involving the graves of military veterans, the decoration of graves is always a private ritual.

And it is a ritual. Setting the date for when we’re meeting out at Riverview. Driving slowly to the well-known locations that anyone else would have to hunt for, parking, opening the trunk or back door of the vehicle to create a little work station for fiddling with the flowers, ribbons, stakes, wire, wire cutters, and whatever else.

Often, the different tasks wind up certain people there. At Christmas, Uncle Richard will drive in the wooden stakes, while I cut the lengths of wire, while Dad arranges the greenery and ribbons. Or maybe I’ll do the arranging while Dad cuts the wire. I’ve taken to bringing a whisk broom with me to clean grass clippings off the stonework. We usually pick up any trash we see, too, wherever we see it.

After making the rounds of Riverview (rounds are literal, since the cemetery drives make big loops around the sections)—decorating the graves of Mom’s Aunt Lyddie and her family, Dad’s Aunt Minnie and her family, and, often, Marie Korsemeyer, who was basically an aunt to Dad, and one of Dad’s dear friends, and one of my dear friends.

Then, we drive on to Hawthorne and decorate the graves of my maternal grandparents. Then, often, we go to the old Lutheran cemetery overlooking Highway 54, and to Woodland to decorate Mom’s great-grandparents and grandparents.

For Memorial Day, Mom and Dad picked out a variety of imitation flowers (as you can see from my photos)—bright colors, natural-looking varieties that we connect with the ones whose graves we decorate. (Grandma Schroeder was in love with sunflowers, for example.)

At Christmas, we use cedar boughs that my cousin Phil gleans from his property northeast of Centertown; Uncle Richard and Aunt Carole bring them, while Dad brings the big, flocked, bright red ribbons. (And I keep forgetting to bring gloves!)

After the decorating is done at a site, or while one of us is putting the finishing touches on an arrangement, we often stand around and chat a little bit about the ones lying below us. It’s not maudlin talk. With Aunt Minnie, we often say, “Oh, she would like this arrangement—it’s so pretty!”

And Dad points to the stones nearby, naming the names, and talks about how a lot of Aunt Minnie’s best friends were buried in the same area.

For me, and I suppose overall for my family, Memorial Day is primarily a day for remembering those who now lie under the earth. It’s always kind of confused me that the rest of our nation seems to see it as a day for remembering only deceased military people—for waving flags and such. Because didn’t all our forbears struggle, deal with privation, make sacrifices, live their lives so that we may live? I don’t want to diminish the sacrifice made by people fighting wars, but by the same token, let’s not diminish the losses suffered—and the lives lived—by the ones who didn’t march off to war.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Marideth Sisco: She Seems Like an Old Friend

Sometimes you find someone—a writer, or a musician, say—whose voice resonates in your spirit like a perfectly tuned guitar. I’ve gradually been realizing that 2018 needs to go down in my personal history as the year I made the acquaintance of such a person. Y’all, I’d like to introduce you to Marideth Sisco (in case you haven’t heard of her yet).

She’s built an admirable career for herself, one that I’m frankly jealous of. She’s a celebrated folk musician (who, good grief, has gained international fame for her contribution to the soundtrack to the critically acclaimed, award-winning film Winter’s Bone). She’s an accomplished journalist, writing the kind of pieces we all wish we could write—they’re like letters from a home you didn’t realize you’d wandered away from. She used to write a regular column in the West Plains Daily Quill on Ozark gardening (now collected into a book). Now, she’s been doing monthly radio essays in a series called “These Ozarks Hills” on Springfield, Missouri’s NPR station KSMU.

There are five books she’s written, and I counted six music CDs and two spoken-word CDs available on her website’s shopping page. (Look, I’m betting she’s been involved in a lot more recordings than what’s available through her website.) Her band is called Blackberry Winter, named for that occasional rude April or May cold snap that nips away the blossoms of blackberry canes (it’s springtime’s analogue to the better-known Indian summer of autumn).

Yep, and she’s also a blogger.

Where has she been all my life? And how did I finally learn about her? Funny you should ask, because now I have to make a plug for something else: the Big Muddy Folk Festival, which occurs each April in Boonville. We’ve been attending for several years, now, and enjoying the hell out of it each time. Every year, perched in my lovely balcony seat, soaking up beautiful live music, I think of all the friends and family I wish could be with me to enjoy it, too. You simply must check it out. Or, think about it this way: I’m personally not an avid folk music fan, but this is great, live entertainment, by accomplished musicians from all over the world.

Then, at the end of July, I got to drive an hour to Sedalia and hear her and Linda Stoffel perform at the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art. I had to go alone, because Sue had broken her ankle the week before and didn’t feel like doing any excursions at that point. (But after twenty-five years together, Sue really does “get” me, and she encouraged me to go.) This was my second exposure to what is, for me, basically an addictive substance.

But I first saw Marideth Sisco and her “Accomplices” playing at the Big Muddy in April 2018, and I was immediately intrigued. Here was this rather unassuming, slightly older woman, nothing flashy about her at all, calmly reading her prose, poems, and song lyrics off a digital tablet, surrounded by the members of her equally laid-back, extremely talented band, singing songs that were deceptively simple (you know the kind: when you breathe deeply and really listen, you discover the depth of emotion hiding in places like the held notes, and in the negative spaces between words and phrases).

I bought some of her CDs the next day, and I’ve been listening to them ever since. One of them, in particular, is like nectar to my soul. It’s almost uncanny, how much I love it. I’ve had a hard time figuring out why I’m drawn to it, but I think, after about a bazillion listens, I’ve finally figured it out.

The CD I’m talking about is her four-disc set of “These Ozarks Hills” readings. They’re little essays on her reflections of life in the Ozarks, and each CD focuses on a different season. Recurring themes include gardening, weather, nature, folklore, personal history, personal insights, her family and childhood memories, enduring values, and—only sometimes—politics, the economy, and current events, and those usually on the way to making a point about enduring Ozark values of tolerance, compassion, charity, thrift, and self-reliance.

These essays, like her musical delivery, are deceptively homespun. She speaks in her authentic Ozark dialect (some people have called this accent a “drawl”), after a little acoustic-guitar intro based on “Ozark Mountains,” a song on the Blackberry Winter CD Still Standing.

But boy, oh boy, her prose is tight. She’s a master writer, and she knows exactly what she’s doing. She has impeccable taste when it comes to her flights of fancy—she never gets full of herself; she “murders her darlings”—and she maintains a good sense of humor. She takes herself lightly. She stays on topic (I can never do that), and she crafts arresting beginnings and satisfying conclusions. (I’m an editor, and I really, I mean really, appreciate and admire such things.)

She’d probably read this and think, “Well, of course! I practice my art, and I’ve had plenty of time to get good at it. No big deal.”

Maybe this is part of why I’ve been enjoying her work: her voice is so natural, it almost seems like an extension of my own brain. And that’s the job of a writer, isn’t it: to speak inside your head in a voice authentic and natural enough that it almost sounds like your own self talking. And it expands who you are.

And here’s another confession: I’ve been listening to her spoken essays at night, when I have trouble falling asleep. This is not to say that I find them boring—far from it. My attention remains rapt, like a little kid listening to a favorite bedtime story. Sleep overtakes me because I’m simply exhausted and finally relaxed.

I find her voice soothing, familiar. It’s something about her accent, I think, that activates memories buried deep inside me, of the way a lot of people used to talk in central Missouri when I was a kid. Indeed, the region where you’re likely to hear an authentic Ozark accent seems to be contracting . . . and I hadn’t even realized it—until now.

As I write this, it occurs to me that my readers might not care about the different forms of southern or midwestern dialects, or where the two intersect, and all that. But to me, it’s of vital interest, and I realize I cherish this link to a part of my history, my heritage. I cling to it like a security blanket.

For the past few months, I’ve had the “Autumn” CD in my bedside player, and one of my favorites of her essays is on it. And there’s an aspect that makes it especially personal for me.

For a decade, now, I’ve been the behind-the-scenes compiler, editor, and poster of MDC’s annual Fall Color Reports. It’s a fun gig, a celebration of my favorite season. It also has given me an intimate knowledge of the patterns and nuances of autumn’s progress across Missouri, plus I’ve gotten to know several top-notch foresters from around the state. But . . . I’m actually losing that part of my job after this year, so this year’s surprising flash of amazingly bright fall color has been excruciatingly bittersweet. It’s gorgeous, but it fills me with grief.

But Marideth Sisco’s description of our glorious Ozark woods thrills me with its artistry. I share a bit of it with you here, but I encourage you to check out the whole thing, on her blog, or better yet, on the CD four-pack.

Sometimes I think autumn in the Missouri Ozarks is one of the most well-kept secrets left, and certainly the most little known anywhere. Granted, the scenery will not glow so incandescently as the blazing fire from acres of sugar maples, the major draw of New England autumns. Here, the colors of the Ozarks hills blend into more of a wonderfully colored tweed, with highlights that include the burnt orange of the Sassafras, the vermillion of the gum tree, the bright gold of the hickory, the butter yellow of Catalpa and the blood red of the sumac, all on a field of the caramel and cafe au lait of the oak forest. And underneath, the feathery goldenrod, the bittersweet berries and little clumps of fringed lavender where the fall asters grow.

I think the version on the CD is even better honed, but you get the idea. You can pretty much taste the fall color here.

And that’s the final “ping” that makes me enthusiastic about finding Marideth Sisco: It turns out that, although I never set out to become one, I’m a writer, too. (Hey, everyone, look at me! I have a blog!) Marideth Sisco’s kind of like the Opulent Opossum . . . only she’s waaaaaay better. Simply put, she’s what I aspire to be.

She’s doing it folks; she’s the real thing, and this here dilettante is simply awestruck. It’s worth doing: Celebrate Missouri’s glories; savor our Ozarks.

Check out Marideth Sisco.

Photos in this post were taken by me at various times and places in central Missouri this fall.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Capitol City Cork and Provisions

UPDATE: Capitol City Cork, and its owner, Jami Wade, celebrated Cork's last nights in business on Friday and Saturday, June 28 and 29, 2019. As of early July 2019, the business is for sale. Jami was ready to move on to something else; said the business had never taken a loss. Anyone want to take the reins of one of JC's premier hospitality businesses?


This post is soooooo long overdue. Capitol City Cork has been in Jeff City for years, now, and it’s become an institution. And it’s a lot of things to a lot of people. In my opinion, it’s an oasis.

Located at 124 E. High Street, it’s almost exactly in the center of town, just a brief walk from the State Capitol, the Cole County Courthouse, and gaggles of law offices, lobbying groups, PR firms, and state office buildings. Being uptown, having an elegant ambiance, and serving beautiful food and beverages, it receives plenty of uptown customers. And you never know who you might see in there.

Disclaimer: As you might have gathered, my “restaurant reviews” are no longer critiques—instead they are cheerleading sessions about places I genuinely like, meditations on places that are great on levels deeper than the superficial. Places whose presence make our community better. Thus I describe my beloved Cork.

When I started this blog and named it the Opulent Opossum, I had in mind the juxtaposition of having big city tastes while living in a small town. How does one lead an opulent life in a place where the majority are thrilled with fast food and interstate chain restaurants and are suspicious of cuisines and foods none of us grew up with?

And how does one embrace the benefits of a small town—its neighborliness and warmth, its charm, its unabashed community spirit—without also caving in to the provincialism, self-satisfaction, and fear of change that’s the flip side of small communities?

How can we live in Jefferson City as Opulent Opossums?

Well, Cork exemplifies the best solution to this question: it strives for the best and highest tastes while being completely grounded in the warm and friendly neighborly hospitality people in big cities have nearly forgotten about. It’s elegant, but it’s a laid-back kind of elegant. A place to relax and celebrate this precise moment, in this exact place.

So, if you’re reading this, and if you’re wondering what kind of place Cork is, then let me describe it to you. In a word, it’s a bistro. It’s a long narrow room with a small bar in the back and a hallway beyond that leading to the back door. They make the most of what is actually a rather small space.

There are a variety of tables and seating options, including tables by the front window, so you and your friends can check out all the action on High Street (yes, that’s a small-town joke) . . . but there are more secluded tables farther in. (Think: date night.)

. . . Or you can sit at the bar, and no doubt make a new friend . . .

. . . Or you can enjoy the café tables out on the sidewalk.

You even have options getting in. In addition to the High Street entrance, there’s another entrance in the rear, along with opportunities for nearby parking in the lot behind the row of buildings. So you can usually park pretty close. (Big-city people, be jealous.)

The emphasis, as the name implies, is on wine. The list includes an array of tasty special offerings, but then the house wines are much better than average. The glasses are enormous, allowing you to properly swirl, sniff, and savor your beverage. (Some people have actually complained that their glasses aren’t filled enough—but they don’t take into account the large size of the glasses!)

And if you’re not into wine, there are good beers and other beverages as well. There’s a reason they call it Cork and Provisions!

And here’s a nice touch: They keep glass bottles of water chilling in the fridge and bring these to the tables, so guests can refill their own water glasses.

Their chow is called “new American,” but I think “fresh bistro fare” is a better label. If you find menus for Cork online, be skeptical—the menu has had several changes over the years, and it can change seasonally. Websites can’t keep up. Cork doesn’t use a food service, and sometimes something just looks really great at the farmer’s market, and suddenly that’s the day’s special.

So the menu can change, and that’s a good thing, my friends! Fairly recently, they’ve added burgers to the menu. Juicy, handmade burgers! And they do this thing with a bleu cheese cream sauce as a topping, and, well . . . you just have to try it. I did, and got perfectly prepared Brussels sprouts as a side.

When people criticize Cork, what do they say? The biggest complaint, I think, is about the hours, which would be easier to understand if they were more traditional or conventional. According to Cork’s Facebook page, they’re open Tuesday through Friday, 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., and closed Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays. So: no lunches; no weekends at all; and no Mondays. Meanwhile, they may be closed (or open) certain nights for special events. And special events are pretty common, both at the restaurant and catering offsite. If you’re in doubt, call them (573) 632-2675 or message them (as on the Facebook page).

You’ve probably heard the old saw about “Do you want it fast, cheap, or good? Because you can’t have all three.” At Cork, the primary emphasis is on the last: quality and freshness is the priority. As international travelers know, not everyone in the world agrees that food should appear instantaneously, or that all diners are understood to be in a hurry. Cork has the sensibility of a café in, say, Paris, where dining is valued as a social occasion, for conversation, tasting, lingering, enjoying. Here in Jefferson City, this is high praise indeed.

One more thing about Cork: It is connected, philosophically, stylistically, and (by means of a small hallway in back) literally, to Capitol City Cinema, Jefferson City’s community-supported arthouse theater. This nonprofit single-screen cinema shows independent, foreign, and documentary films, and it partners with other nonprofit groups to improve the community. It, too, is an elegant space, with chandeliers and comfortable seating, and you can purchase gourmet appetizers, beer, and wine at next-door Cork to enjoy before and during the movie.

The two entities benefit one another: What could be more perfect than dinner and a movie? —Oh yeah! A lovely dinner and an awesome movie! It’s a brilliant strategy for helping the restaurant business, while also contributing to the cultural scene in this small town. Maybe you won’t want to see all the movies, but I’m sure there are some you’ll love.

And so here’s my call to action: Check out Cork and the cinema. Become a “regular”! “Like” ’em on social media so you know about upcoming movies and events at the cinema and can stay up-to-date on Cork’s specials and special events. The people who run these conjoined institutions are your neighbors, who love Jefferson City and are contributing to it, via their daily work, every single day. As with all locally owned businesses, you can “vote” for their continued presence with your meal and entertainment dollars. You won’t be let down.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Remember, You’re a Patron

Recently, it’s come to my attention that despite the economic recovery we’re all supposedly experiencing (*snort!*), several of our local businesses—restaurants, notably—are struggling.

Partly, it’s that it’s summer, no doubt. And there's been plenty of construction work uptown. There have also been several new restaurants opening—chain restaurants. Like that new Kenf*cky Tried Chicken on the Boulevard. Seriously, y’all? It’s a big multinational corporation with a huuge marketing budget, including a corporate-HQ marketing and PR department—the whole shebang. And do multinational fast-food joints really give back to our community, interact with our community, apart from offering, to little-skilled workers, entry-level positions that everyone considers among the first examples of poorly paid, inglorious work?

No. Think of all the wonderful, interesting foods that you’ve never tried, and realize that you’ve had enough of the Colonel’s secret-recipe fried chicken, or Big Macs, or whatever ____ [insert trademark symbol here] to last you the rest of your life.

You vote with your dollars. Or, as a New Agey friend would put it, money is energy.

Which businesses deserve those little boosts of energy, in the form of your purchases, your patronage, your goodwill, and your word-of-mouth?

Our small local independent businesses often have tight budgets. Their success may vary month to month. But often they sponsor our local festivals and fundraisers (look for their names on the backs of tee-shirts, for instance). Often they partner with local nonprofits to host fundraising and visibility events. Often, they are fun and relatively interesting places to have a job.

Often, the owners and employees are our neighbors. . . . And often, they’re trying to figure stuff out using their own resources. They generally don’t have big PR or advertising budgets, much less a human resources department to help the owners negotiate a sea of benefit red tape and other rules and regulations. And when an appliance quits working, they’re on their own to get it fixed before they lose business.

So remember that every time you make a purchase—anywhere, really—you’re basically saying, “I really like your business, and I hope you prosper and can stay here in this town.”

Some of my future posts will be celebrations of some local places I hope you’ll patronize. Spend some shekels there. And spread the word, too. Tell your friends about these and other local businesses and why you like them.

Exercise your power as a patron!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Belated Birthday to the Op Op

Oh. My. God. Can you believe the Opulent Opossum is nine years old already? My first two posts were on March 3, 2009, and here it is May of 2018. And look how far we’ve come! Obviously, since my blogging is diminished so much, there must not be much more to say. About anything!

I’ve covered it all!

. . . Not! I’m starting the tenth year of blogging, and the only problem now is, how do I find time to write about all the ideas in my head?

I’ve been busy doing things instead of writing and reflecting—and I suppose that’s a very good thing. Naturally, all the usual stuff continues. The house, the yard, the kitties. The elephant ears and the storm windows. You deserve an update!

Well, yes, there was the springtime landscape work.

AND we adopted a new kitty at the end of March! He’s from the Wild Thing people. He was trapped along with a clan of other cats in on a road in the south part of town called Hiview. They neutered him and ear-tipped him, thinking he’d be released with the rest of the feral/semi-ferals . . . but as he recovered, they realized he wasn’t like the others. He was nice. He liked people. He wanted attention. Somewhere in the process, the veterinarian who did his neutering surgery also fixed his cleft palate. (Didja know kitties can have cleft palates? Sure enough!)

The surgery didn’t quite “take.” It kept getting infected; stitches came out. Well, they tried—but he basically went back to the default condition. Here's a picture taken of him after his surgery. Try to imagine if this had healed:

The foster family called him “Macaroni,” I guess because he’s orange. We, of course, call him all sorts of variations of the name: Mac. Mr. Mac. Mackie. Mr. Mackie (“mmmm-kay?”) Mackadoodle. Mackie Doodle Dandy. Mack the Knife. Macaroon. . . . You get the idea!

One reason I was interested in adopting him was that Lois needed a friend with her on the first floor (elderly and deaf Patches lives on the second floor with us, and she really doesn’t deserve an immature little “friend” to surprise her as she walks blearily around the house). Another reason we wanted to adopt him was indeed his peculiarity: His cleft palate, combined with his grown-up status, meant that he wouldn’t be as readily “adoptable” as other kitties, especially during kitten season. And more—I remembered Miss Rhue, who used to rent the first floor from Grandma. She had had a cleft palate, and I liked the idea of her somewhere, somehow, maybe smiling down on a sweet kitty with the same congenital weirdness.

So . . . in addition to the extra care and attention called for in the process of adopting a new kitty into the household, I’ve been busy with some other doings, too. This year I’m the secretary of the Old Munichburg Association and have volunteered to be the “vendors coordinator” of this year’s Oktoberfest celebration (September 29 is coming up really fast!)

Also, I’ve been involved with a brilliant new arts organization here in Central Missouri, the Southside Philharmonic Orchestra. I was even persuaded to be the president of the board! I’m pretty sure that means that the SPO is a priority for me, so I’ve been trying to behave appropriately.

Meanwhile, Sue’s mom had some pretty gnarly surgery in early March, so we were in northern Ohio for a week.

The surgery was a success, but the recovery was lengthy (and continues). In fact, Sue returned to Ohio in mid-April in order to help her sister, who was simultaneously dealing with medical issues with her father-in-law (who recently passed away). Sue’s still in Ohio!

I’ve been batchin’ it. Goin’ through all the church nonsense, dealing with a health problem with Patches (yes, she has that old-cat kidney disease, it’s official), moving all the big potted plants outside, putting the elephant ears into the ground, helping put on an SPO concert, and a lot more stuff I won’t bore you with but which ate up entire weekends.

Amid all this, I took Mackie to the veterinarian that had seen him previously—who attempted to repair his cleft palate, etc. Even though she was not our usual veterinarian, I thought it was only fair for her to see him again for booster shots and whatever. And she surprised me by saying that Mackie is FIV+. What? What-the-what?? What does this mean?

Looking back, I realize I had only inquired whether or not he was feline leukemia positive, and didn’t ask about feline immunodeficiency status. Fortunately, FIV isn’t as communicable as feline leukemia, but still . . . Lois had been living with him almost a long as he’d been with us. They got along within only a few days of his arrival.

And the Wild Thing liaison had been under the impression that he wasn’t “strongly” FIV+; and if it was only a “weak” positive, it probably meant he’d only been exposed to the virus and didn’t carry it. But I did have him tested with my own vet, and sure enough—it’s a “strong” positive. He has the virus; they say his life will almost certainly be shortened to 3–5 years and end with an infection some sort, or, more likely, with cancer.

Anyway, at first, it seemed like it was no big deal. It seemed really unlikely he could transmit the virus to Lois. FIV is a lot like HIV—the virus is relatively fragile outside the body, and it pretty much needs to be injected into a recipient. Since Mackie was neutered and Lois spayed, he wasn’t going to try to inseminate Lois. We changed the water regularly, so it was very, very unlikely he’d pass it on through sharing a food or water bowl. He’d have to seriously bite her in order to give her the virus.

But within a week of learning this fact about Mack, I started noticing that he is . . . nippy. I think he just does it because he’s worked up, and he’s craving attention. But he does occasionally “strike” at my ankles as I walk around, as he weaves among my feet. And I knew that he and Lois played rather hard together—chasing, playing “gatekeeper,” and so on. Had he bitten her? Could he?

As far as I know, he hasn’t bitten her hard enough to break the skin. She’s fast! And she’s amply covered with fluff. But as he has gotten more comfortable with me, he has gotten more comfortable biting at my ankles and calves. Hard enough for me to actually say, “Ouch!”

So, as of May 21, Lois has moved up to the second floor. Sixty days after her last possible exposure to the virus, I can get her tested to see if she’s acquired it. So now Mackie’s alone on the first floor, and Patches lives in one of the second-floor bedrooms (I’m currently trying to get her and Lois to make some kind of peace). Three litter boxes to clean!

Lois’s move to the second floor meant that I had to take measures to Lois-proof our general living area. Hide/secure all the electrical cords; relocate anything she’s likely to destroy (feathers, vases); clean up and throw away the antique vase she did break . . . repair the speaker wire she did manage to sever, even though the wire was hidden under the stereo cabinet, I thought . . .

And this, my dear friends, has been my spring. Have I not been posting regularly? Well, this is why: A constant mayhem, one thing after another. And there you go.