The Sewing Circle

Every day, I get to learn more about my neighbors than is normal, or sometimes, comfortable. I hear about whose car is dead, whose child is having trouble at school, and why someone I know isn’t speaking to someone else I know and how someone else’s vacation went. All this information comes to me daily and none of it is solicited for. Well, almost none of it.

How many of you have struck up conversations with the person in the seat next to you on a flight to somewhere? Perhaps you’ve made a connection with a total stranger on a long bus ride and said things that really out to be reserved for loved ones, the confines of your own head or a therapists couch. Oddly, it seems to be a fairly universal occurrence. A strange phenomenon happens to people when you throw them together on some form of transportation. We seem to open up and talk with people whom we would normally pass right by with nary a nod or a smile.

Over the years, I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of this experience. The nice girl I met as I flew home to the States from Brussels. She had just finished visiting friends in Europe and was returning home to find a new job. She would be living with her mother for a while until she got her feet under her. Or the young man that my father got to meet on a flight to Hawaii. He was nervous because he would be meeting his fiancé’s parents for the first time. He was Caucasian, she was Japanese and the prospective in-laws were very traditional and old fashioned. It could be any one you meet. All you need to do is add forced confinement with moving in some form of public transport. Amazingly, it almost always seems to lead to loosened tongues and open conversations in my experience, any way.


I have even had a brush with celebrity… sort of. He is famous, at any rate. I recall vividly the two hours I spent chatting happily about nothing in particular with a bearded, old man at a gate in Newark airport. He was animated, extremely interesting to listen to and a great listener in return. He told me about growing up in New York City when he was a little boy. About the day his mother, who was sweeping the front steps of their town house called to him excitedly to run to the front door. When he emerged and looked up, he was just in time to see the Hindenburg pass quietly overhead, heading for Lakehurst. Two hours later, it would be a smoldering wreck. We talked about this and that: kids, parents, friends and history. In the end, we boarded our flight and he wished me well on my trip. It was a pleasure to meet the distinguished Dr. C. Everett Coop, past Surgeon General of the United States. Of all the random chats with strangers I’ve had, his name alone do I remember.

Most folks, I suppose, would attribute this strange opening up of personal space to the rational that we will son be leaving our new found confidants in the next seat and can walk away with no worry of seeing them or any one they might know, ever again. Well, it aint true. It’s got to be something else. I don’t know what, but I know it’s not that. Here’s how I know.

I live on an island and every day, I take a ferry ride to the mainland. The ferry is the great equalizer for the folks who live on the rock we call home. People from big houses and people from small houses alike must ride the boat. It doesn’t matter if you own, rent or are staying with a friend. If you want to get to town, we all ride together. The ride is not a terribly long one. Adding the time you spend sitting in your seat and waiting for the boat to depart on schedule, you’re looking at anywhere from twenty to twenty five minutes. In that short time though, we all get to reacquaint our selves with what’s going on with who.

Conversations are struck up with people whom you only ever talk to on the boat. You might never get together over a cup of coffee and a danish out on the island, but you could easily wind up chatting with this person every day for the length of the boat ride. Even if you don’t participate in the great chatterbox that is the ferry, you still get the benefit, if you can call it that. Though topics of conversation might be a little more restrained than if you knew you had anonymity, you do still hear the details of your fellow islander’s lives as the chatter floats among the seats of the cabin.

A woman down the street from me is going to a conference for a couple of days. She’ll be talking a cab to the bus station and then will be heading for Boston. She’ll get to the station early since she anticipates it being crowded. Her husband is worried about the roof on the building next to his new office. Snow is coming and it looks like it needs work. I find out about a private marriage ceremony on a boat in the marina; the parents, uninvited and the bride, many months pregnant. The public works guys a few rows back are explaining to a fellow islander how the budget for their department works versus the fire and police, and just what they think of that. A young couple I know will be going on a camping trip to Hawaii soon. They don’t know where they will be camping, but they are excited since neither one of them has ever been there before. One of the local fishermen experienced a hernia while he was out working. He made himself a girdle out of duck tape to hold things together until he could steam back to shore and get to the hospital.

None of this information was part of a conversation that I was active in. It simply came to me like radio waves, broadcast across the aether. There is a simple truth to living where I do. There are no secrets. People talk about six degrees of separation, but here, it’s more like two. Though I am continuously amazed at islanders I know doing foolish things such as having affairs, I conclude that they are either just that naive or simply don’t care that they will be inevitably found out. We all know each other’s business and if we don’t, we will soon.

And the truth of the matter is, that’s okay with us. The vast majority of islanders simply don’t mind. Who cares? In many ways, it’s defiantly helpful. There’s less to hide about your life, mostly because there is no point in expending the effort to hid it. We all know each other far better than we should. It also means that we tend to take care of each other pretty well. We know who’s sick and we bring them soup. We know who needs a ride to work and we offer it to them. We know who’s having a party and we show up with clam dip. It’s not quite communal living, but it is community living, to be sure. News travels fast here, good or bad and I rather enjoy that. Why invest in a telescope and a wiretap when all you really need to do is make sure that you’re on the five o’clock boat heading home.

“She’s been seeing HIM? No way!”

Wordsmith in Training

My son, Short Stack is at the full fledged “tape recorder” stage of his life. Anything said or any sound made with in his earshot is more than likely to come flying back to you, but in a higher and squeakier register. Often, letters will be substituted here and there as he makes his first attempt, but more then not, he gets it right on the first try.

Fairly early on, I realized that a lot of the words that we teach kids work against them in the long run. Why would you teach them “horsie” when it’s a horse? Why get them to say “din-din”, when it’s actually dinner? “yummies” instead of snacks, “duckies” rather than ducks, “Nukular” instead of nuclear. Mr. Presidentman can’t even get that one right.

Not to say that there aren’t some words that he slaughters on his own. “Banana” becomes “banna” when left to Short Stack’s interpretation. The same with a crane being pronounced “train”, which can add a certain level of confusion to conversations with him. But, here’s the thing; Action Girl and I correct him with his pronunciation when he gets it wrong.

It’s really hard to do sometimes. Some of the things that come a-tumbling out of his mouth are somewhere just beyond amazingly, heartstoppingly adorable and you feel kind of like a monster telling him that it’s not an “ExcaBAtor”, but an excaVAtor. If you ask him what the excavator does, he’ll tell you that it “doops”. We love hearing these kid-isims but helping out with saying things correctly has, I believe, helped him expand his vocabulary very rapidly. Words don’t scare him.

A few weeks ago, Short Stack, his Grandfather and I were at a new playground. It was mostly set up for bigger kids so it was a bit tricky finding stuff that he could play on. Naturally, he was drawn directly to the stuff that made my heart stop. One such piece looked for all the world like the reclining, undulating spine and ribcage of a Playgroundosaurus. It was set up close to the ground and was intended to be walked along. Understand, I’m not one of those “tear out the teeter totters and merry go rounds” type of parents. This bit however, was made of welded pipe and obviously intended for children with a higher level of dexterity than your average two year old was likely to muster.

“I don’t know about this part, Buddy. It looks pretty lethal.”

Naturally, and much to the entertainment of the other moms there, Short Stack spent much of the his remaining playground time pointing out the offending play equipment to other folks and exclaiming, “I don’t know… Dat’s pretty lethal!”

I’m still working on “that” rather than “dat”.

This interesting little experiment that I’m running with my obliging child is a reflection of my own experiences when I was a knee biter. My parents taught me proper, common and sometimes, not so common words. As a result, I could carry on a conversation with an adult when I was fairly young. It had serious benefits.

Having the ability to speak well and articulately is a wonderful way to get what you want. You can make a logical case for it and preset your side of the argument in a thoughtful and organized manner. It helps avoid confusion and frustrations and, hey, it helped get me a ten speed bike when I was in fifth grade!

It’s also fun at parties… “I think Dad is full of Hooey” coming out of a two year old, is rather bemusing.

The best part, from my perspective is the surprised reaction from other adults and the obvious pleasure that Short Stack derives from knowing that a word he used gets a positive and unexpected reaction.

His current list of “My God! He knows what that is?” words are…

Wheel, (…versus the tire. The wheel is the metal hub)
Bachelor Buttons,
Neon Tetra (in the fish tank)
Portcullis, (he has a toy castle with one that you can drop on unsuspecting finger puppets)
Stabilizers, (on the sides of his toy backhoe)
Front-end loader.
and most importantly to me, “May I please have a ____”

That last one makes me beam every time.

So, Senior Statesman-to-be or seriously articulate lobsterman; I don’t really care what career he chooses. Just so long as he can say NU-CLE-ER.

That’s all I ask.

Snarky Post Script-
I refer you here to Merriam-Webster.

Apologies to those offended. 😉

And so we start…

Well, into the annals of not much, I go. Blogging feels a bit like pontificating into the wind from a mountain peak, but hey, What the hell, right? I’ll make an effort to keep this friendly, entertaining and not a long list of “pissandmoan”.

The name of the Blog? Kinda odd, no? Sounds almost like a children’s book title that would involve gnomes or something. Well, I’ll knock that one right out immediatly, though the visual does rather appeal to me as an illustrator. No, Fox stands for Fox Sterlingworth; makers of fine shotguns from some time ago. I have one that was a gift to my Grandfather on his 18th birthday form his Father. It’s a 16 gauge and it’s beautiful. I love it. Maus stands for Mauser; fine makers of firearms to the Prussian and German nation (and many others) for over 100 years. My first Mauser was from the same Grandfather that he received as a gift from his brother, who had picked it up while “touring” Europe via a package put together by the Allied forces in 1944. My Grandfather is a vet as are both of his brothers. How he wound up with the Mauser is a bit of a story that I’ll get into later. I’ll just leave it there for now.

So, now you know why it’s Fox and Maus. Guns will no doubt creep into the blog fairly often since I love them like a moth loves a lightbulb and I’ll continue to throw my self against it with a resounding “TINK!”. That won’t likely be what the blog is ALL about though. I do other stuff too.

More likely than not, it will include the antics of Action Girl, my wife, Short Stack, my son, and Lulu Belle, my daughter (soon to be entering the scene, but not quite out of the green room yet). So family, firearms, social commentary and general oddness should make up much of this site. But I do loves the boomsticks!

Well… as this is the first entry and it deserves something to get your brain tweaked, I’ll leave you with this. I can’t lay claim to it, but it’s something that comes up in conversation from time to time and has brought many a conversation to a crashing halt. Feel free to use it over the dinner table tonight or at your next performance review.

Why is it a “pair” of panties but only one bra? You work it out.

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