Detour Productions


weblog by Jacquée T.

Off with TV

April 7, 2010. My hairdresser told me that it’s been a long time since he sat down and got lost in a book. He ensued with an apology for not being a reader, knowing he was speaking to a writer.

I understand, I said. It’s so easy to turn on the TV and sink in.

“Yes,” he said, “I watch too much TV.”

Now, I wasn’t one for watching TV. Yet I truly understood because at one extra stressful stretch, I myself preferred to turn on the television. It started with half hour shows just for a little break, and digressed to seeking hour-long shows, and then trying to find movies.

O the shows and movies were there, yet I had to sift through shoddy programming in seeking substance. Don’t get me wrong, there are good shows out there among the bunk. Some shows are even top quality. Yet staring habitually into the blue light of a TV screen makes a lousy addiction.

I know, because I got sucked in, one stressful stint. I elected to turn on the TV rather than refer to my usual crosswords or books.

One night, when I settled for some ver-ly mediocre programming because it was the least shallow of the present selections — just so I didn’t have to turn off the TV — I realized I’d gone too far, and it was time to cross back.

I returned to my habit of reading, and returned to craving books (and crossword puzzles). I turned on music, instead of the TV, when doing household and office tasks, and thought how radio days were better days. One could get things done, while listening to the radio. They could even read.

“You should try finding a book you’d like,” I said to my hairdresser, “It’s better for the brain.”

“You’re right,” he agreed.  And we moved on to another subject.

My football emotions

February 7, 2010. I understand the emotionality of football to avid fans.  When a season begins it’s happiness and hopefulness, elbowing and razzing fans of opposing teams. What joy!

As a Vikings fan, I used to dive right in, yet lately — say the last decade or so — I’ve approached each new season with caution. The Vikings have a history, and art, of bringing their fans’ hopes up –in some seasons higher than in others — that the team will prevail to the season’s end. Then they drop those hopes, like a rock. O, the pain!

Take this season. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to stand tall to fans of opposing teams and say, “This year we’ll make the Super Bowl!”

A couple weeks ago I could say that, with a secret pang in my throat. My pal Jack, a staunch Bears fan who enjoys razzing me about the Vikings (and vice versa), took sides with me when the Vikings played the Saints. We met at The Kerryman bar to watch it.

I knew that by the end of the game I’d be soaring high with a wide smile and grand hope that we’d win the Super Bowl, or I’d be crushed.

Well, I was crushed. Ah, pain! And worse pain than most seasons because we were so, so close.

Tonight’s the Super Bowl. I’d decided, a week and a half ago, not to watch it. Because the Vikings were so close, and yet absent from it. I would, in spirit, root for the Colts — more specifically, against the Saints.  Yet I refused to watch the game.

There’s something about the Super Bowl to a football fan. Whether or not you’re watching it, whatever you’re doing, you’re aware it’s going on. So I checked the score before I started writing this. Colts:10 / Saints: 6.  Yahoo! Maybe I could have joy after all in the Saints’ defeat.

TV off. I cautioned myself not to be susceptible to another emotional roller coaster.

And now I flicked the TV on, to check the score quick before shutting it off — like covering my face, then peeking during scary scenes of a scary movie. Colts: 17 / Saints: 16.

Trepidation. Do I spend my time watching the teams battle this out, personally feeling the blows-by- blow? Or do I go about my tasks, get things done, and check the final score later?

Such a decision for how I’ll put the season to rest. And be at peace till next year, when I’ll root for the Vikings again, watch how their season unfolds, with visions of Super Bowl in my head.

The ‘Holiday Special’

December 9th, 2009.  Within all the holiday sales this season, I’d decided that instead of offering a discount on my poetry book, I’d offer that “percentage special” to a select charity.
         Now through December 31st 2009, 10% of all online book sales will benefit the Animal Wellness Institute. I am pleased that Detour Productions, on behalf of its customers, may gift this fine charity.
         My tradition of collectively giving to charities goes way back. Over my years of hosting Christmas parties, my invitations stated that I’ld have a box by the door for nonperishable foods to be donated  to a local shelter. I figured, while we’re celebrating, we may remember there are those who are less fortunate.
         When I wrote my column “Letter from Chicago” under SNG Newspapers, I put together elaborate packages that included tickets to Chicago venues plus an exclusive pamphlet featuring articles about these venues — and donated them for annual Alliance for the Great Lakes benefits. After I started Detour, I added a separate, regional package. I also made Alliance for the Great Lakes the benefitting charity for my Detour Productions launching party.
         Detour Productions also raised money for the Tree House Humane Society through the poetry book launching party.
         Throughout the years I also offered private donations to select charities. Yet I learned that I can give more, and bring people into the giving spirit, through celebrations. The aspect of donating to a charity adds to the all around good feeling. It’s bully for everyone.

Perfect mashed potatoes

Thanksgiving, 2009. My immediate family’s back in Minnesota and I have in recent years found this holiday a perfect time to stay home and write.

Tonight I made a Thanksgiving meal for myself including roast, squash, asparagus, and mashed potatoes. If anything of this traditional meal required a recipe, that would be the mashed potatoes, yet I wrote down naught. I’ve redeemed, per years of being thrown in charge of mashed potatoes when I did celebrate with the large family, that adding too much milk or cream pended more disappointment than adding too much butter. And, after years, I also learned patience; I could always add more milk or cream, if need be, while whipping the potatoes with the electric mixer.

Over my years away from the family, I learned that potatoes  needn’t be peeled before mashing, just cleaned well. And I learned you could add garlic.

The latter I’d learned via an over-garlic episode. I’d accepted an invitation to a Thanksgiving dinner for those disconnected from their immediate families. The couple who hosted it were wonderful, and artsy. We guests brought the side dishes; they provided the turkey plus they opted to serve garlic mashed potatoes. I was there when they kept adding garlic under the electric mixer.

And their potatoes tasted yummy, to me a garlic-lover, that night. Crazily, over the next several days I kept tasting the garlic, and each time I remembered the couple and their mixer. I asked a friend who had also attended the party, and yes he tasted garlic, for several days.

So by trial and by the errors of me and others, I learned how to craft the perfect mashed potatoes.
A) Fill a mixing bowl with boiled, unpeeled potatoes;
B) add a hearty chunk of butter, and a splash of milk or cream
C) add a  small clove of garlic, a large clove for an extra large mixing bowl.

Instructions: Apply the electric mixer and gauge the texture as the potatoes are mashed. Opt for a consistency that forms sturdy hills above the churning. Need a little more airiness? Add a little more milk, yet no more garlic.

When the texture seems just right, add nothing else but continue to whip those babies like exuberant music, to decimate any possible lumps. Then voila! Serve a scoop and they should hit the plate like a heavy, rising dollop. Behold, the perfect mashed potatoes.

Recent ‘printing’ inspirations

November 7, 2009. I have of recent, been polishing a novel, that I was to print and send. Anticipating the project, I faced two options that I’d considered choosing the lesser of two evils: print it on my office printer, or put it in the hands of Kinko’s to print 400+ pages that were so carefully synchronized to manuscript form.

When push came to shove, the novel was primed for print, I realized it was not the “lesser of two evils” at-all. The choice was obvioius. I just had to cozy up to it.

Here’s why I’d originally considered them both “evils:” Every major job I’d turned over to Kinko’s, they flubbed. Almost artfully, because whether I’d sent an assistant to a location plus established a Kinko’s contact via phone and e-mail, to described — and followed up on – intricate details such as the separation of paper types at certain “title” pages, or when to stop printing double-sided … Whether I’d arrived in person and explained — they always made mistakes that cost me specialized paper, plus trying to fix what they flubbed. No matter how hard I strived, they cost me more time and strife. How could I figure on it being different this time?

Now my office printer, had in recent months, digressed to being able to print one page at a time. Even after cleaning it, changing cartridges, and testing a mere “two pages” for it to take, it jammed the two pages together. So the “printer” alternative was to print my novel’s hundreds of pages, one by one, while standing over the machine.

‘Twas not an option to replace the printer. It still printed fine (and faxed, copied and scanned documents). I would not be wasteful; I would not toss it until it had exhausted its capabilities. At that time, I’d toss it in an environmentally safe manner.

Well, I resolved to printing the novel per the office printer. I was squeamish at first, about hovering over it as it plucked out page by page. Yet, in printing the first three chapters, the printer did swell job. Page by page, it slid the chapters out.

Suddenly, it made perfect sense. I poured myself pink champagne, and set a chair by the printer. I had a stack of fresh paper on my lap, to feed one by one, and to take one by one and stack once printed. I had pink champagne at my fingertips, and everything was fine.

While doing so, I pondered “Time:” the more we try to rush it, it seems, the more we lose it. I recalled those long summers during grade school days; I had taken each day in stride, and each day was rewarding and long.

Perhaps being a friend of Time, instead of trying to beat it, made it most rewarding. It sure was tonight, once I adjusted to the “slower” route.

‘pink champagne’ night

October 27, 2009.  Last Saturday night I wore my spaghetti-strap, knee-length, pink dress with wide pleats, that poofed a little when fellas twirled me on the dance floor. And many a fella did. ‘Twas part of the “‘Jacqutoberfest’ (birthday-month) Swing & ‘Pink Champagne’” celebration.

And I, and my friends, and everyone in The Drake Hotel ‘Palm Court’ lounge enjoyed specials on ‘pink Champagne,’ actually sparking Rosé.

The Flat Cats swing band, who perform there every Saturday night, honored my birthday month by performing  ”Champagne” songs, and by inviting me to the microphone to speak about the “romantic life” concept.

This night was an example, I emphasized, of  romance at your fingertips. The reason I chose this venue was because it fit, like a glove, the concept behind my company, Detour, that “romance is accessible.”

The Flat Cats performed classic swing music, including “Pink Champagne.” Gents asked ladies to dance, just like it should ever be. The fellas asked gals like me, who readily cut a rug, and they asked gals like my pal Dee, who were paranoid about any partner-dancing. I leapt to the dance floor, per each extended hand. Dee was persuaded there after giving much resistance.

Both Dee and I, and I can aver that we represented every gal in the crowd, returned to our table after each dance, with a smile and flushed cheeks. And we toasted with ’pink champagne.’

And it will happen again. It will happen again, a night like this.  I’m invited again to join The Flat Cats and The Drake Palm Court. And, o, many nights before and after that, it will happen again. With or without ‘pink champagne’ there will be blush.

“Harvest Moon” tonight

October 4, 2009.  I was watching PBS Channel 20 in the wee hours of this morning, and learned that the Harvest Moon is seen October 3rd-5th this year. Folks need watch for it rising shortly after sunset.

The Harvest Moon is the first full moon nearest the autumnal equinox. ‘Tis ”featured” three days because of this particular time of year and the earth’s position with the moon. Normally, the moonrise is about 50 minutes apart from the night before. However, during Harvest Moon, the moonrises are about 27 minutes apart.

Now, this time of year has been for centuries, the harvest season for North America and Europe. Back before electric light and tractors with lights, the harvest moon was especially significant. Farmers knew they had three nights with extra time to work by, provided by skylight after the sunset.

For us in modern day, we may pause to enjoy the moonrise in a particular autumn beauty. Because of the moon’s position with earth this time of year, we view the moonrise close to the horizon – through the earth’s atmosphere, that is thicker than the atmosphere overhead. It is because of this point of view that we see the moon in a yellow, orange or reddish hue.

I grew up along the southern Minnesota countryside, on a homestead surrounded by farmers’ fields. I watched combine tractors plowing by headlights. Farmers didn’t have to hope for clear Harvest Moon nights, so no one ever told me what was behind the Harvest Moon.

Tonight, in my mind I turn out the lights of those tractors, and the yard lights around them. The Harvest Moon is magnificent. I am home at the kitchen table, wondering if my dad and other farmers are able to harvest enough of the ready crops before it becomes too dark. Perhaps they call me out to help reap the most we can by the Harvest Moonlight.

***Tonight in Chicago, the sunset is to be at 6:26 p.m. To find out the time in your area, visit one of your favorite weather forecast sites.***

On “Jacqutoberfest” eve

September 30, 2009. My birthday’s in October and I celebrate all month. With friends, but of course, yet I also have a personal celebration by assessing and tending to my goals. A few years back, a friend had deemed the month-long celebration, “Jacqutoberfest.”

And here I was, the day before in my home office, trying to tie loose ends in business, trying to decide when the “birthday month” celebrations with friends would be, and what projects I must finish beforehand. Jacqutoberfest is a very busy time for me. I start preparing for it in September, yet it always comes fast.

And things always take longer than you intend. This afternoon, for example, was filled with sending correspondence e-mails and organizing, and the clock ticked, ticked, ticked without my getitng out for errands. Meanwhile I listened to AccuRadio. Music can take you back in time. Dancing to it can remind you of where you were then as opposed to now.

The good news is, I had to dance to Rock Lobster, without exception and as vigorously as I ever had. It’s a lively, and a long song, so that says a lot.

The not-good news: after the “Down … down!” lyrics and submerging tune – and my of course shimmying down to the floor for this part – I failed to leap up as easily as before. Now, part of Jacqutoberfest tasks — re-mastering the “one leap” back up to songs like that.

See, Jacqutoberfest is intricate and detailed, hopeful and fun. I add extra coal to the fire of my career, and I can’t wait to raise glasses and toast with dear friends. I recommend everyone celebrate their birthday all birthday-month long.

A brief passing-by

September 22, 2009.  A brief passing-by is all it need take, for something like a song to resonate in your mind.

The other night I walked along Wells Street, beneath the yellowness of streetlights, and by occasional young trees and shrubs, when  a group of three gals came from the other way.

They were in their top teens or so. One carried a box of belongings, another a lamp, and the third, I’m not sure. I was deep in thought and didn’t notice them until they started singing. “Don’t stop, believin’ ….!”

Oh no! I thought while we passed each other by. I, like most folks who listened to rock radio in recent decades, knew this Journey song. Now it would be stuck in my mind.

Nothin’ against the song, only that I knew limited words – “Don’t stop, believin’, Hold onto that feelin’-e-en!  …. (lah-da, da-dada, da-dahhh!)” And I knew it would repeat in my brain for the rest of my walk home.

Nothin’ against those gals. I rather liked them, and their passion to break into such a song together. I knew they had good reason.

Yet here I was, blocks away, and sure enough the Journey song persisted. Give me something else! I silently implored the cars at the Chicago Avenue intersection. Someone have an open window and a different song on the radio!

No such luck. “Don’t stop, believin’ ….” kept on. It was the broken record effect I dreaded, the fact that the limited words I knew were all that could repeat in my mind.

Some songs do that when you do know most the words, I said to myself, like “Video killed the radio star ….”

Oh no! What have I done?

Sure enough, the song took over. By majority, the chorus “Video killed the radio star ….” repeated in the high-pitched, robot-like song. It was quintessential ’80s (though I learned later, ’twas released in ’79), and made me feel like wearing sunglasses as I sang along.

Yet I knew naught beyond the chorus besides, “…. In my mind and in my car, la la la, la-la la-la ….”

I walked along Chicago Avenue now, more yellow streetlights, more people, more cars, more concrete. “Video killed the radio star …”

Oh, get me home! I thought, so I could turn on the radio, or plug in a CD, to release me from this.

“Video killed the radio star ….” The tune made me walk faster.  It made me a robot, who thought she wore sunglasses.

That’s the last I remember of that particular walk. Somehow I turned off Chicago Avenue and made it home. When I did, both imposing songs were gone.

I turned on lamps that shed golden light in my living room, and loved the early autumn night outside. I loved it from tree-level up, where open air met the stars.

I was happy for those gals, no longer hearing the lyrics they sang, but seeing why they sang them. I was there once, and at times again – having similar friends with me as we broke into song with each other and to the sky.

A fish story

September 16, 2009. A few weeks ago I volunteered to feed fish for a friend of a friend.  And the fish-owner and I both ended up startled.

See, my friend told me that Tricia was going out of town for a few days and was seeking someone to feed her fish, could I help? As a fellow pet lover I gave a resounding yes. I knew how stressful ’twas to leave town and worry about your pets’ care. Plus, the place was only two neighborhoods away and a welcome, hearty walk.

This was arranged last minute. I didn’t meet Tricia. We exchanged voice mails shortly after she left town. In her message she said she’d left an apartment key at her building’s doorman station, in an envelope marked “fish feeder.”

Fine enough. I arrived  twice a day for two days, and fed the fish in two tanks. A small pinch for the small tank; a big pinch for the big tank. It was fun to watch the fishies rise from their hiding places among the ornamental logs and rocks, to swim and catch food flakes. And yes, I talked to them.  Nothing serious or revealing, just warm chatter to assure them I’d take care of them till their mom returned.

The fish that rose for their meals were small, skinny, the height of horizontal pencils, and the length of paper clips. They were dark colored and silver-rainbow, and they didn’t look as happy to see me gaping as I was to see them.

I considered it a nice experience, helping a pet-owner and learning to appreciate pet fish. Tricia left a thank-you voice mail after she’d arrived home.

A few days later she called again; for the first time we talked voice to voice.  In the initial hello she sounded disconcerted. She proceeded to politely ask if I’d seen a white fish in the large tank when I was there.

“… No ….” I said. I described the fish that I did see, in both tanks, and asked her to describe the white fish. Well, she said, it was bigger, and white.

I hadn’t seen it, I said, in all the times I’d been there. She hung on the line, trying to get answers. I hung on the line, trying to give them. I’d been there twice a day each day, I said, and the fish I saw were small and skinny. Each time I returned the key to the front desk. “That’s all I know,” I said.

I wasn’t accusing the door staff. I was merely an interogatee surrendering any fact she knew regarding the case at hand. When I got off the phone I thought, “That woman thinks I took her fish.”

The poor dear wondered what kind of crazy stranger she’d allowed into her home. And poor me had no grounds to prove my innocence.

A couple days later Tricia called again. Voice to voice she informed me that she found the missing fishy. “For some reason I decided to clean the tank,” she said, and she then discovered the white fish trapped in the filter.

I gasped. Was he alive?

Yes, she said. She’d thought surely he was dead, but he started wiggling. Once released he seemed dazed, yet he’s back to normal now.

I asked her, what was his name? “Cutie,” she said. The same name given the danios and rainbows I’d seen. This distinguished white “Cutie” was an albino bristlenose pleco.

I’ll see him next time I feed Tricia’s fish, she and I agreed.  He’ll be new to my gaping, as will the cherry barbs and phantom tetras she’d gotten since. All named “Cutie.”

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