Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue

Generation Gaps

You are who they say you are

By Deborah Salomon

Napoleon Bonaparte is credited, perhaps apocryphally, with calling England “a nation of shopkeepers.” One thing is certain: Whoever said it first did not intend it as a compliment. The USA might answer to a nation of classifiers: We lump entire populations/decades under letters of the alphabet (Gen Z) or cryptic headings like “The Lost Generation,” then memorialize them in novels like The Sun Also Rises or The Great Gatsby.

Some categories lump generations together. Does the women’s liberation movement mean suffragettes marching down Main Street or female corporate vice presidents banging their heads on the glass ceiling?

Why do we need these groupings, anyway? The Roaring Twenties and Fabulous Fifties sound good enough. For answers I trolled, what else, the internet.

Ernest Hemingway attributed the term “Lost Generation” to Gertrude Stein in an epigraph to his novel The Sun Also Rises. Tom Brokaw lauded “The Greatest Generation” in his 1998 classic book.

Generational groupings are listed by the Pew Research Center, a non-partisan, self-described “fact” tank that informs the public about “trends shaping the world.”

Golly. Quite the responsibility.

They publish a list which places me, by birth, in the Silent Generation, 1928-1945, then integrates me with the baby boomers, whom I babysat through high school. The boomers, of course, acquired their title after GIs returning from WWII caused the birthrate to explode. Boys will be boys.

Reading on, I learned that Gen X was the first to grow up with widespread cable TV which, I gather, made a difference in their consumption of news, entertainment and prescription drugs.

According to Pew, Gen Z, immersed in social media since toddlerhood, seems nervous when forced to spend time away from their electronic devices. What is lost? Conversation. Books with pages that turn. Department stores. Daydreaming. Doodling. Moving around. Helping out. Folding a map. Playing a board game . . . on a board. 

True, we borderline Silent Generationists are known for glorifying the recent past while bellyaching about electronics. We love residential AC and microwave ovens but won’t buy the idea that just because you can do something, you should. That applies to omnipresent, omnipotent cellphones. Which means I’m wary of hand-held electrocardiogram widgets and self-propelling vehicles. I think all drivers should master a stick shift, just in case. Vinyl records are back, so you never know.

And what is air-fried chicken besides an oxymoron?

Too bad advances in AI aren’t enough for Gen Now astrophysicists who float the idea that readying another planet for colonization makes more sense than fixing what’s happening to this one.

There. This Borderline Boomer has had her say. Beam me up, Scotty.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a contributing writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She can be reached at debsalomon@nc.rr.com.

Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue

In My Time Capsule

What would Indiana Jones say?

By Deborah Salomon

Old folks are guardians of the past . . . now, especially, when life moves at the speed of Google. I don’t mean important things like electric cars and ticket stubs from a Taylor Swift concert. Rather, everyday stuff that after surviving tag sales emerges valuable. Just read about a first edition Corning casserole with cornflower design bringing $1,000 at auction. Not all icons are tangible, however. Some are behaviors, norms, happenings that unless relegated to the cloud, risk extinction.

When archeologists/social historians sifted through Pompeian ruins they weren’t looking for fine art. Rather a pot, a chair, coins. Just as valuable, however, are ancient clay scrolls containing lists, recipes and correspondence. Yale University’s Sterling Memorial Library keeps a collection.

Clay is more durable than thumb drives. The human brain is a likely repository but with an expiration date. Mine, approaching that date, has lately dredged up stuff from a life lived half “up North,” as New York and New England were once called, the rest in North Carolina.

Surely, if the Smithsonian Institution enshrines a Swanson turkey TV dinner I can have a go at . . .

  • “Y’all want coffee?” Only in the mid-20th century South would a waitress holding a coffee pot descend upon a just-seated table at breakfast, lunch, dinner and in-betweens. I can’t remember if it was free. Probably, since coffee was all one flavor and cost about 25 cents. Folks with “Mr. Coffee Nerves” ordered Sanka or Postum, not “decaf.”
  • Comic strips: Bankers, senators and surgeons read them, sans ridicule. Whether Blondie or the more cerebral Doonesbury, which still runs in The Washington Post, nobody chided followers. Then, on Sunday, New York newspapers put the funnies section on the outside, so readers could pre-empt the bad news with Penny and The Katzenjammer Kids. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia read the K-Kids on the radio to children during a 1945 newspaper delivery strike. Why else would the Big Apple name an airport after him? Oh, Charlie Brown, we need your wisdom.
  • Cafeterias, another Southern delight pre-fast food drive-thrus, are now fewer, fancier, much more expensive. S&W, K&W, J&S once dominated the state. Some are making a comeback with seniors and lonelyhearts with their still-satisfying experience, especially the mashed potatoes, country-fried steak, biscuits, cornbread and pie. Get on it, Smithsonian.
  • Green Stamps have become collectors’ items: We got them at the supermarket check-out, then pasted them in books to be exchanged for housewares (like that thousand-dollar Corning dish) at Green Stamp redemption stores.
  • What could be more worth remembering than gas at 25 cents a gallon with a complimentary windshield wipe?
  • How I long for Saturday curb markets held in dusty vacant lots, where sun-wizened farmers in overalls sold produce from pickup trucks. The non-organic tomatoes! The corn! The runner beans! These days, too many farmers markets resemble foodie boutiques displaying herbs, baby zucchini, purple lettuce, white eggplant to fill shoppers’ French string shopping bags. Anybody for a grilled goat cheese sandwich?
  • I can no longer reconcile “personal” seedless watermelon, too often pale and flavorless. Mother Nature intended watermelon to be sized for a crowd, with sweet, deep red flesh and slippery black seeds. Nothing tops off a fried chicken picnic better.
  • Cash: Greenbacks. Two bits. Folding money. A fin. Modern shoppers can go weeks, maybe months, without “breaking” a crisp $20. Just swipe a card, read a chip.
  • We pride ourselves on time-saving inventions that make life “easier.” Long live the ones that cure disease, feed the hungry. As for the rest, thanks for the memories.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a contributing writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She can be reached at debsalomon@nc.rr.com.

Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue

Climate Confusion

It’s beginning to look a lot like spring, summer, fall

By Deborah Salomon

Climate change is a phrase fraught with enigma. Is the change beneficial? Difficult? Misinterpreted? Catastrophic? Earth Day, another relatively recent concept celebrates . . . what? Is it the “good earth” or an Earth dying under the blistering sun, washed away by powerful floodwaters?

The seasons have jumbled, with buds appearing during a January warm spell, then blown off the branches by an “unseasonable” winter hurricane.

Scary.

What’s also unsettling is that the last two generations — be they called X, Y or Z — have mixed memories of anticipating, or dreading, seasonal benchmarks.

Spring makes me want to remember, before the icons become a mirage.

Spring brings joy for itself, also for winter’s end. I grew up in damp, cold New York City, where children wore scratchy woolen leggings or cumbersome snowsuits because we walked to the park, or at least the subway station. No dashing from the front door to a waiting SUV that had been pre-warmed remotely. Hats with earflaps were de rigueur, as were short-sleeved cotton undershirts. I begged and pleaded to ditch them the first warmish weekend. Nothing doing. Did I want to “catch my death of a cold”? No, but I tingle at the memory of standing close to the fire my Tar Heel granddaddy built in the grate, which toasted my front while my back froze. Gas fireplaces offer no such sensation.

Spring was “just around the corner” when the local bakery filled its counters with shamrock-shaped cookies iced in green. My mother was strict about sweets; I was allowed only one. I can still feel its buttery richness crumbling in my mouth.

After St. Paddy came, in immutable order, crocuses, daffodils, tulips and irises.

Years later, as an adult living in New England, I foraged for fiddlehead ferns, which grew by the swollen streams. You had to catch them just before they unfurled, usually late March. Sautéed in browned butter . . . quintessential spring freshness. I even put them on pizza.

Longer days meant spring asparagus, which I hated as a child, adored as an adult.

Finally, I was allowed to shed the undershirt, run outside to welcome the Good Humor ice cream truck, which commenced its rounds when school ended. No oratorio, no symphony rivaled its bells as the truck turned the corner, bringing raspberry popsicles called I-Sticks and bittersweet chocolate sundaes. June meant big, dark purple Bing cherries from Washington State. Chilean cherries, now “in season” in November, disrupt, as do seedless green grapes, my circadian-like rhythm of produce.

Catching lightnin’ bugs in Mason jars and spitting watermelon seeds represented the best of summer. The worst was staying home to avoid polio. Thanks, Dr. Salk, for giving summer back to children.

Daffodils may be my favorite flower but autumn, not spring, is my favorite season. Toast it with apple cider, fresh from a cider mill that emits a fragrance unrivaled by French perfume. Not even Dom Perignon goes down easier. No technology rivals a yellow oak or crimson maple. Maybe the azure Caribbean, but that’s far from the front yard. Please, Mother Nature, don’t take autumn. Bad enough that Sept. 11, 2001, is also remembered for perfect weather — cool, crisp, dry, blinding sunshine. Please leave us the chilly starry nights and chrysanthemums. And football.

Football isn’t my favorite sport but for two glorious autumns my son was the star running back on his high school team. He is gone, but the crystal-clear air and bright leaves remind me. Through the sadness, I smile.

Polar bears don’t burn fossil fuel. The blame for climate change rests with humans. Its acceleration is truly frightening. I’m worried that when billions of cicadas emerge from the ground in a few weeks they will look around and burrow back down, like animals running for higher ground after sensing an approaching tsunami. 

Just don’t whine we weren’t warned. Instead, bid farewell to fiddleheads, maple syrup, clover honey, daffodils, dogwood, strawberries, dandelions, hummingbirds, snowflakes, ducklings, apple cider and a thousand other simple pleasures brought forth from and supported by the good earth. Because like the woolly mammoth, once gone, never will they return.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a contributing writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She can be reached at debsalomon@nc.rr.com.

Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue

The Cat Who Came to Dinner

A welcome guest makes herself at home

By Deborah Salomon

In the past year both Lucky and Missy, my precious companion kitties, entered a pain-free eternal sleep. I estimated their ages at 15-16; I adopted them from the street 12 years ago. Coal-black Lucky had golden eyes and more dignity/intelligence than some politicians. Missy, my devoted dingbat, was happiest anchoring my lap.

I’m an animal person, a lifelong rescuer, whether a skittish retired racing greyhound or a starving mama trying to feed her kittens.

Finally, I was finished. Friends urged me to adopt again. But a young cat would outlive me — never a happy situation — and an older cat might incur massive health care bills.

“No,” I joked. “The only way I’ll adopt is if a homeless kitty knocks on my door one freezing night.”

The thermometer read 28 degrees that night in January. Crouched against the front door as though to draw warmth was the most beautiful cat I’ve ever seen: long, thick white fur, blue eyes, pink nose and mouth. I had noticed her outside several times but didn’t worry because she was wearing a collar. But I offered food anyway, which she gobbled.

And now, in dire straits, she turned to me. How could I refuse?

I opened the door. She scampered in, checked out the apartment and sat down where Lucky and Missy’s bowls had been. Poor baby wolfed down a whole can of cat food. While I prepared the litter box she curled up on the couch, exhausted, and fell asleep.

I named her Snowball, after my grandfather’s Samoyed.

I asked around. Several neighbors had seen her; nobody knew where she belonged.

Tests, inoculations and $200 later the vet certified her a healthy female, 2-3 years old, not microchipped.

I could feel her rib bones.

Cats have personalities as distinct as humans. I’m used to plain-Jane short-haired tabbies. This Princess Diana is a feisty little madam. Her primary activity is eating, which includes her mealtimes and mine. If food appears, she’s on it.

Mmmm, scrambled eggs. Grilled cheese. Tilapia. Tiny bits of baked potato with butter. She jumped on the counter and, with a delicate Barbie-pink tongue, pre-washed the vanilla ice cream dish.

At bedtime, she leans on my legs but, so far, doesn’t paw me awake, for which I am thankful. But you can’t jump on the computer, honey. That usually ends in disaster.

So far, Snowball shows no interest in going outside. Bad memories, I guess. No fear of strangers, either. My previous two dived under the bed when the doorbell rang.

Then, the litter box, a Charlie Chaplin tragicomedy. She’s not satisfied with fulfilling its purpose. Afterwards she performs an Irish Riverdance routine, which sends litter flying every which way. But so far scratch damage appears only on an old wicker chair.

Finally, after three weeks, Snowball has started to play with Missy’s ball-on-a-string, which makes me sad. Missy loved that toy. I will tuck it away and buy a new one.

Snowball is my first talking kitty. She talks almost constantly, with appropriate inflections, usually plaintive, as she follows me room to room. I thought food was her objective but maybe she is lonely, like I was before she leaned on the front door. But nothing — and I mean nothing — would tempt me to provide a playmate.

Lucky and Missy had a loving if subservient relationship. He was the boss, she the handmaiden. I can’t see Snowball bowing to any tomcat or sharing her new turf with another female.

So for now, the lady rules. She has found a “nest” in a closet corner where an old sweater fell. She takes long naps, enabling me to work. She chatters at the birds pecking the cornbread I throw on the grass under the window. I presume she means no harm when swiping me with those super-sharp little claws.

Maybe this mysterious princess is just what I needed.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a contributing writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She can be reached at debsalomon@nc.rr.com.

Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue

Holiday Mother Lode

With an extra day to celebrate

By Deborah Salomon

Every so often I, as the saying goes, “wax philosophical.” The most likely result is a criticism of some innovation that captures the minds of techies. You know, the ones who stand in line all night to purchase the latest iPhone that promises everything south of open-heart surgery. This time, the trigger was February, which owns far and away more holidays than any other month.

Americans start by hounding a groundhog, continue to boozy Mardi Gras, somber Ash Wednesday, Chinese New Year, Super Bowl Sunday, Valentine’s Day, Presidents Day (formerly Lincoln and Washington’s birthdays). February has been designated American Heart Month as well as Black History Month, although Martin Luther King Day is Jan. 15, his birthday. Each observance has a story which, in days gone by, grade-schoolers would research in an encyclopedia, perhaps for a “project.”

Now they push a few buttons, skim the results, copy, paste and move on to something else.

I doubt cherry pie or the Gettysburg Address would be part of a combined Presidents Day experience. More likely a long ski weekend which, I’ve heard, suggested its creation. I’m thinking Washington and Lincoln deserve their own days, as might FDR, JFK. Otherwise, the new holiday on the third Monday of the month includes all presidents, some less than celebratory.

Obviously, holidays are promoted for commercial gain. In cities with significant Chinese populations, an eight-course New Year’s Chinese restaurant extravaganza makes our Thanksgiving repast look like Pop-Tarts. The candy/greeting card/floral industries thrive on Valentine’s Day, despite the untimely death by decapitation of its patron saint.

I understand how Heart Month plays off Valentine’s Day symbols. However, a typical Valentine’s dinner will include a well-marbled steak, potatoes dripping butter and, for dessert, a hardly healthy heart-shaped cheesecake.

At best, holidays give texture to a society while preserving its heritage. To my knowledge, neither AI nor a 3-D printer has replicated any of the above.

Commercial or not, holidays serve a greater purpose. At best, they bring people together, even blot out horrors. Somewhere in Ukraine, world-famous hand-painted Easter eggs will surface in March.

For 21 years I lived in Vermont, where Blacks make up about 1 percent of the population. Every February the university hosted a soul food dinner, its menu prepared by volunteers. Tickets sold out in a day. Participants, Black and white, came from all over the state to eat chitlins, fried chicken, greens, macaroni and cheese, cornbread, “shiny” beans and peach cobbler. I attended to write a story but had a fantastic time remembering Southern preparations with 20 inches of snow on the ground and temps in the single digits.

February even has a quirky conclusion. Because 2024 is a leap year, this shortest month at 28 days will boast 29, enabling people born that day to have a once-in-four-years celebration.

Because the way things are going, who knows where the world will be next time leap year rolls around? PS

Deborah Salomon is a contributing writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She can be reached at debsalomon@nc.rr.com.

Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue

Makin’ a List

And what it says about you

By Deborah Salomon

We are a nation of lists. January is the logical time to make them: new year, fresh resolve, second chances. Remember, this is the month when Medicare supplement ads give way to weight-loss schemes.

Lists, sometimes in the form of resolutions, reveal much about their authors. Long ago and far away I wrote a column after finding a list scribbled on an envelope crumpled in a shopping cart. The list was long, barely legible, full of abbreviations. Yet from it I reconstructed the life of the writer: She had young children (silly cereals, milk by the gallon, Popsicles), attempted health-consciousness (both mushy white bread and 100 percent whole wheat), braved unpopular veggies (frozen Brussels sprouts), and had at least one cat — a finicky eater, to boot. Her husband, I surmised, worked in an office (pick up shirts at dry cleaner). She paid a premium for real Coke and Peter Pan Peanut Butter — not store brands. Wine wasn’t her forte. I was disappointed to learn she succumbed to frozen pizza.

Certain items were coded “c.” A coupon, I guessed.

Remember coupons?

And on and on. By the time my analysis was done I could have picked her out of a lineup.

Something else besides coupons has changed. Today, the wrinkled envelope has been replaced by a cell phone. Not me, not a chance. I can’t afford to donate one hand to holding the slippery thing. Then, suppose I accidentally leave it at home and forget the peanut butter?

Serious lists deserve more than the back of an envelope, maybe a printout to dignify the effort.

Here goes . . .

Clean up my desk. I am neither overly organized nor a neat freak. My desk, flanked with baskets, wooden boxes et al. is, uh, unruly. However, every January I undertake a purge.

On second thought, ditch this list, since I might be held accountable. Safer to compose lists for others.

Taylor Swift needs a new boyfriend. She’s not helping the ballclub. Find yourself a shy accountant, honey.

Joe Biden needs a different barber, to eradicate that rear-view mullet.

The Donald needs a legal secretary.

Mick Jagger needs a rocking chair for his 16-gig tour, sponsored by AARP. Really.

Elon Musk needs to buy a vowel, not an X.

Harry and Meghan need a new publicist. Where have all the tabloids gone?

Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Franklin all need a smile — a rare event in portraiture before orthodontics, implants and crowns.

Yes, we are a nation of lists. An entire book series is devoted to the genre. Just don’t leave yours in a shopping cart.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a contributing writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She can be reached at debsalomon@nc.rr.com.

Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue

Identity Crisis

Losing at the name game

By Deborah Salomon

What’s in a name?

The answer, Shakespeare opines, is not much, since “that which we call a rose would by any other name smell as sweet.”

Sorry, Will, but I beg to differ.

My mother decided to name her only child Deborah, after her motherʼs Aunt Deborah, a farmer’s wife famous for her pound cake. She insisted on pronouncing all three syllables. No multi-spelling diminutives allowed, at least in her presence, not Deb or Debi or Debbie or Debby. Especially not Debra or Debora. Despite being instructed on its Biblical provenance — Deborah was a judge and prophetess in Israel — from an early age I was unwilling to assume the mantle.

In the ’40s and early ’50s, my classmates answered to Sally, Susan, Martha, Carolyn, Dorothy, Mary and Jane. I remember one Sharon. In high school there was a fittingly exotic Rachel.

How I longed to be an Ann. Three letters, no possibilities except Annie, which I would have embraced.

That’s not the worst. I also inherited Great-Aunt Deborah’s last name: Boyles, which until I got married made me Deborah Boyles Berney. Before bullying was outlawed, once this trio appeared on a school document the boys (all named Bobby, Bill, Jim, John, Charlie and Mike) taunted me with “Deborah boils before she burns!” That wasn’t half bad compared to a classmate named Emma, who they called Enema.

Somehow I survived. Once at college, out of my mother’s earshot, I became Deb or Debbie. Whew!

But I will say one thing for the original version, which means “bee” in some ancient tongue. All Deborahs were preordained “busy bees.” Right on.

Naturally, I was determined to choose simple, non-negotiable names for my children: Jill (Dianne) and Wendy (Sue) for the girls; Daniel for the boy — an especially good choice, since little Danny morphed into grown-up Dan.

The stonecutter suggested Daniel for his headstone, Danny for the footstone. And so he shall be remembered by his sons, Foster and Cooper.

Funny how names reflect the times. Emma came back strong. The female characters in HBO’s The Gilded Age are Bertha, Gladys, Agnes and Ada, still trailing cobwebs but not for long, I predict. The same producers chose Edith and Sybil for Downton Abbey. We’ll see.

Generations of Southern gentlemen bore mother’s maiden name as their given name: Wylie, Harrison, Tyler, Reynolds, Hunter, Gibson, Sloan. I suspect an inheritance issue. Also interesting, how show biz has come to value real names, no matter how unglamorous. Roy Harold Sherer became Rock Hudson; and Norma Jean Mortensen, Marilyn Monroe. Reportedly, Donald Trump’s ancestors changed theirs from the unpronounceable Drumpf. Yet Meryl Streep’s actor/daughters remain Mamie Gummer and Louisa Jacobson.

Sometimes, a name is played just for laughs: from the Tonys, Silvios, Vitos and Salvatores populating The Sopranos emerges daughter Meadow, a nod to the Earth-child monikers (River, Sky, Forrest, Willow) of the 1990s.

Unisex (aka gender-neutral or non-binary) names continue to puzzle. They are more popular for females, and include Riley, Casey, Avery, Logan, Cameron and Hunter. The very thought would make my grandmotherʼs Aunt Deborah turn over in her Guilford County grave.

But the ultimate philosophical commentary comes from Johnny Cash, in “A Boy Named Sue,” which relates the violent consequences of a name bestowed to toughen up a fatherless kid.

I never thought about changing my name. It sounds OK, even a bit retro-fashionable on a roll call where every third female is Catelyn/Kaitlin/Catelynne. But I did adjust my signature which, except on documents is, in the mode of e e cummings, simply . . . deb.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a contributing writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She can be reached at debsalomon@nc.rr.com.

Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue

The American Holiday

Giving thanks, both great and small

By Deborah Salomon

Just about the whole month of November will be influenced by Thanksgiving, a truly American holiday not co-opted by other countries. Yes, Canada has Thanksgiving, but it’s in October and minor, with no school closings or family gatherings. Or Black Fridays.

Columnists regularly compile “thankful” lists centering on family and friends — also football, turkey and pumpkin spice lattes — ignoring the agonies of delayed flights, resurging COVID and the price of that Butterball bearing no resemblance to the flat-chested, gamey-flavored bird the Pilgrims supposedly spit-roasted over an open fire and consumed al fresco. If they were even able to shoot one.

I’ve attended a re-enactment and, believe me, it’s no picnic.

This November initiates another ominous happening: the 12-month election countdown, promising an extra helping of vitriol, animosity, rants and ravings.

Fear not. I won’t go there. You can be thankful for that.

Instead, I am grateful for the Sandhills winter, a reward for surviving hot, humid summers, which can last six months. I recall only one uncomfortably cold day last winter: Christmas, which required my Vermont goose down parka at the Santa Project bike giveaway. Otherwise, classify local winters as “brisk,” nothing more.

I am thankful for animal lovers, who care for homeless, hungry dogs and kitties. Moore County is fortunate to have several rescue organizations, but there are never enough. I am a lifelong caregiver but won’t divulge the details. I feed the birds, too. Watching them and their humanesque behaviors (including a pair of crows raising their young ’uns every spring) is more relaxing than anything Big Pharma prescribes.

I am extremely thankful for our medical community. When I tell people who live elsewhere about the gorgeous hospital, the separate cancer and cardiac facilities, the free parking/shuttle bus, the walk-in locations, concierge service to free clinics, the Clara McLean Hospitality House for patient families, the nurse navigator service, Hospice House on a pond beside a chapel, they dismiss it as exaggeration. But I know, from writing about them, as well as needing them.

I am thankful for farmers markets and farmstands. We need one in West Southern Pines. How about an old-fashioned curb market, where farmers sell directly from their trucks?

I am thankful for my grandsons who, in a world consumed with problems impacting young adults, turned out so well. They grew up without a father, my son, who died when they were 6 and 7. Yet at 25 and 26 both are happy, healthy, outgoing, and self-supporting in careers they chose when they were still little boys: one a successful attorney, the other a certified mechanic at a fancy car dealership. Best of all, they love their Nanny and are generous with hugs.

After 15 years, I am super-thankful for my job. The Pilot and PineStraw have become beacons in an industry whose lights are fading. I’m in touch with colleagues working for faltering news organizations, while ours keeps expanding — new products, fresh young staffers, an updated workspace suitable for a thriving journalistic mini-empire.

Lastly, I’m thankful for the millions of turkeys who sacrificed their lives so we could gather around a table laden with goodies. I don’t eat meat except on holidays and in the line of duty as a food writer. But on Thanksgiving I enjoy a well-done turkey thigh beside a mound of homemade cornbread stuffing, which means roasted inside, not outside, the bird, all doused with cranberry chutney.

So, bad as things may seem — war, famine, pandemics, earthquakes, fires, hurricanes — I hope everybody succeeds in putting some practical, meaningful thanks into their own Thanksgiving.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a contributing writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She can be reached at debsalomon@nc.rr.com.

Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue

Fall Faves

The crown of the calendar

By Deborah Salomon

The primordial connection between humans and the seasons has survived for millennia. Spring invigorates. Winter draws us to the fireside. Autumn, ah autumn, is a mixed blessing: relief from summer’s searing heat, harbinger of winter’s cruel chill.

These days, climate change is messing with both extremes, confusing plants and wildlife.

I’m an autumn gal, not a fan of summer vacations. My favorite autumn sub-season is called Back to School. Its talismans (talismen? taliswomen?) still evoke a pang rooted in a variety of experiences, good and not-so, beginning with . . .

Plaid cotton dresses: Through fifth grade I attended a progressive all-girls private school that required uniforms — navy jumpers, white blouses, knee socks and lace-up shoes. Then we moved to a different planet where I was plunged into public school, where girls wore plaid cotton dresses. My mother didn’t approve. Sensible skirts and blouses for me. Penny loafers? Not a chance.

The resulting quest for autumn plaid survives in long-sleeved shirts that look old-fashioned but complement jeans weathered by wearing, not a chemical bath.

Absolutely necessary for b-to-s: ring binders covered in a medium-blue fabric, with metal rings that snapped hard, sometimes on fingers. The fabric surfaces welcomed ball-point graffiti, including names of boyfriends, or school teams, cartoons or pop singers. Designs were psychedelic before psychedelia had been invented. My binder suffered from lack of artistry.

Then, as autumn progressed, brown and navy corduroy replaced those lightweight plaids. Whatever happened to real corduroy, just cozy enough for late October? All I could find was a jacket at Walmart, with the texture of mashed potatoes.

Long before the overuse of “pumpkin spice” in every conceivable food, the first fall McIntosh apples released their cider — with its incredible aroma — at New England cider mills, also the source for cider doughnuts, which added a new dimension to coffee breaks. Starbucks and Dunkin’ . . . don’t bother trying. Even three dollars and a fancy name can’t buy that smell.

As the leaves fell and days shortened generations “laid in” for winter, a necessary evil, beginning with gray, damp November — on nobody’s Best Month list. February turns the corner, with spring only a whiff away, signaled by early March fiddleheads, the tightly coiled fern leaves growing by streams and rivers, exquisite sautéed in garlic butter. Forage them quickly, before they unfurl to a bitter leaf.

During times of shock and uncertainty, with hurricanes flooding the West Coast and pandemics decimating populations, mortgage rates escalating and wildfires destroying forests, affirming our connections to weather, crops, seasons offers some comfort. Bears still hibernate, birds fly south and return to nest in the same tree. Thanksgiving happens no matter how expensive the turkey. Snowmen justify the blizzard. Spring flowers predict hay fever until the cows come home to be relieved of milk that reappears as lick-quick July ice cream cones.

But as long as leaves flame red and orange, October crowns the calendar. Breathe it in, before November shows up in a wooly turtleneck.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a contributing writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She can be reached at debsalomon@nc.rr.com.

Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue

A Royal Pain

All the fashion and feuds fit to print

By Deborah Salomon

Enough already!

In the late 18th century, Colonists waged an eight-year war to gain independence from an English king and his government. Now we seem to be creeping back into the fold. The Sussexes get more internet ink than the Trumps and the Bidens combined. Most reports are no more than yesterday’s news rehashed, sporting a sexy headline suggesting scandal, bankruptcy, feuds and divorce, dressed up in designer outfits with ridiculous hats.

No report is too old or too petty. In late July, this headline surfaced: “Biden Snubs the Sussexes.” Seems Meghan and Harry asked Joe for a ride back home on Air Force One after the queen’s funeral, which took place last September. Joe declined, fearing the wrath of King Charles III.

What nerve! Obviously, Markle’s mark is all over a move that would have cemented her status stateside. Instead, the same week, reports of a teary duchess accompanied the headline “Meghan Struggling in Hollywood.”

In desperation for something more au courant, the scandalmongers have dug up dirt on Prince Edward-the-Meek, the one who as a young man shunned princehood for the entertainment industry. Eventually, Mummy lured him back, married him off to a respectable woman and dispatched him to open hospitals.

Currently, dominating daily briefings are Princess Kate’s fashion choices and the neo-normalcy enjoyed by her children, as though every 10-year-old wearing a tailored-to-measure blazer sits in the royal box at Wimbledon.

But I guess that makes better reading than Charles evicting his naughty brother Andrew from a royal residence because bro’s BFF was the late Jeffrey Epstein. Do I remember reading that pre-scandal, Andrew was known to be Mummy’s favorite?

Well, Charles settled that score.

What really sticks in my craw is King Charles’ oft-reported desire to scale down the monarchy, maybe save a few hundred thousand pounds by deflating the pomp. He might start with the royal wardrobes, where designers are named for every thread worn by Camilla/Meghan/Kate. Then he could fire the scribe who keeps tabs on what was worn where, by each, since when appearing together royal wives must be color-and-style coordinated. Should they clash, heads roll. When in Scotland, tartans and cashmere required. Cleavage must be kept under wraps. Nobody leaves the castle bare-legged. I can’t imagine the adorable children in mismatched shorts and Popsicle-stained Ts, let alone scuffed sneakers (which Brits call plimsolls).

Ah, yes . . . the Brits have a zippy word for everything. This ancient Duke University English major is certain Will Shakespeare would have dubbed Meghan a vixen. Her motives were visible out of the gate: Not on the Hollywood A-list, she parlayed a confused, saddened, rebellious prince into a ticket to ride . . . on the royal train, private jets and a gold-encrusted carriage. She parlayed well. Remember, she’s an actress, unafraid to flout the queen’s rule governing public displays of affection by constantly gripping Harry’s hand. She squirreled away every actual and perceived slight to be regurgitated for Oprah. Then, tearfully, she convinced Harry to leave the only life he’s known for her turf, along with their two adorable red-haired babies.

Harry, in her thrall, wrote a book that inflamed the family he purports to “love.” And now this antithesis of a Montecito surfin’ dude claims to be “happy.” I watched Harry: The Interview with British journalist Tom Bradby. Harry did not look happy. He looked angry, defensive, cornered. Their moneymaking schemes are crumbling. She wants a bigger, “safer” house. Bigger, that is, than their current nine-bedroom, 16-bathroom, $14 million pad. He just wants a boys’ night out with Daddy and Will.

The tabloid press whispers splitsville.

I miss the queen. She was a class act.

I can’t believe I’ve fallen into the trap. I devour daily bulletins on royal rumblings, gloat over the ones that prove my conclusions. At least the Sussexes deflect attention from all that ails the world.

Yada yada yada, as Seinfeld would say. This soap opera is far from curtains.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a contributing writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She can be reached at debsalomon@nc.rr.com.