Thursday, March 22, 2007


The business district of Delphi is basically a plus sign, a few blocks in each direction from the point where two main streets intersect. The only stoplights in town are at this intersection.

The road that cuts through Delphi going East to West used to be an old wagon road that took pioneers westward into Ohio and the Great Frontier. The perpendicular North-South road is the one that comes up from the river. It used to lead to and from the ferry crossing, but now it takes you to and from the bridge.

The main intersection in Delphi has always been the heart of the business district. Old photos reveal a line of dry goods, hardware, and grocery stores, apothecaries, and liveries. You know, real businesses that met the basic needs of citizens and those traveling through on their way West.

Delphi does not meet many basic needs anymore. Other than perhaps the “need” to shop or get a massage or an over-priced cup of coffee. Well, that’s not true, exactly. You can still go to the post office and a slurry of banks and dry cleaners and florist shops, not to mention the public library. You can also get your prescriptions filled at the local drugstore, which happens to be part of a chain. And you can buy liquor at the state-owned and operated “Wine and Spirit Shoppe,” which is reputed to be the most profitable branch in the entire state.

I have to say that the streets of Delphi keep pretty busy. Parking is often at a premium, and traffic at the main intersection light can get pretty backed up towards mid-afternoon as SUVs, Mercedes, Audis, Porsches, Hummers, and school buses vie for space. And forget trying to find a parking place on a Saturday morning! One reason I am glad I live within walking distance of the “village,” which is the cute aphorism Delphites have for their downtown. I take great pleasure in the fact that I can walk to get most of my errands done.

While the premium retail real estate is on the main cross, some sporadic establishments spur off on side streets. One such is Petals, which is located in a renovated Victorian house about a half block from the main drag. It is here that Kaitlin spends most of her weekdays, placing orders, running the cash register, and humoring demanding customers. Truthfully, not much of her job is spent in the actual arranging of flowers, as her bosses tend to monopolize that aspect of the business. Occasionally, when they are out of town or out to lunch, she gets to try her hand at floral artistry, and it is these rare occurrences which provide job satisfaction and a much-needed boost to her spirits.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Sometimes people slip.

Slip off.

Slip off track.

Slip off the wagon.

Slip off the face of the earth.

I am not sure what two twelve year olds would be doing, at night, running around the streets of Delphi, but my senses tell me they were not where they were supposed to be. That they were up to no good.

I’m not saying they were doing drugs or drinking or doing anything illegal.

I just know they weren’t… right somehow.

As if I am one to talk.

But whatever.

I’m not sure if I should mention this to Kaitlin. She’s been so stressed out lately. About money and Rad and her ex and just about everything in her life. This would probably just set her over the edge.

Maybe I should just keep an eye out for Rad and Boo. I mean, it just gets so confusing. When we were their age, we had complete run of the town. We could leave home at dawn and not come home til supper time and our parents were fine with that. In fact, I am sure they liked it that way.

Yeah, we did some shit we probably wouldn’t want our parents to know about. And I think that if I were a mom now I wouldn’t want my kids doing those things. But, hey, how are you going to learn and grow and mature if you don’t experiment and try shit?

Don’t get me wrong! I would never want anything bad to happen to either Rad or Boo. They are cool kids. I mean, as far as kids go.

At the same time, I don’t want to be the one ratting them out.

I don’t think, really, they would do anything really bad. Or dangerous. Or illegal.

I mean, not like their parents and I did! Of course, we were probably a little bit older, too.

I’m just not sure. I don’t want something bad to happen and then it end up being my fault. If only I had spoken up, talked to Kaitlin, let her know what I had seen the boys doing.

But what did I see them doing?

Running through an alley at ten o’clock at night? Woohoo. Now that is pretty damned bad.

Maybe it’s just that I have been in a funk lately. Out of sorts. Upset. Unhappy.

I shouldn’t take that out on two little kids.

I think I will give them the benefit of the doubt. This time around, anyway.

I just hope I’m right.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


“Conrad Belknap!”

Oh, shit.

I turned around.

There was only one person – well, no, two – who would yell out “Conrad Belknap” into the dark of night.

One would be, yeah, my mom.

The other would be… Sibyl.

I stopped.

Boo sensed I was stopping, and he stopped and turned around, too. “Rad?”

“Shhh!” I whispered to him before turning to face Sibyl.

“Is that you, Rad?” Sibyl was looking down at me. I knew she knew it was me. Hadn’t she stopped me dead in my tracks?

“Sibyl. Hi. How are you?” I shoved my hands into my jeans pockets.

“Rad! What in the hell are you doing? It’s like midnight or something. And you are running down an alley in Delphi.” Sibyl sounded like a grown up who had no responsibility for anyone else but who thought she should sound responsible, because she was an adult.

“Oh, Sibyl.” I looked down at my watch. “It’s actually only about ten.”

“Whatever!” Sibyl waved her arms wildly. “But what are you doing running through the streets of Delphi at ten o’clock at night?”

Actually, we were darting down the alley behind Sibyl’s mom’s art gallery. We weren’t “running through the streets of Delphi.” I mean, normally no one would know what Boo and I were doing. No one would have even seen us.

Figures Sibyl would be out prowling late at night.

“Does your mother know where you are?” Sibyl asked suddenly. Out of character.

“Uhhh… well, she knows I’m not home,” I said. “She doesn’t know I’m right here, in this… alley.” I looked around.

“Uhuh.” Sibyl crossed her arms. “And where does she think you are?”

“At the library!” Boo offered.

I glared at him.

“The library?” Sibyl was caught off guard.

“Yeah, “ I said. “Boo and I were doing homework.”

“Really?” Sibyl looked genuinely amused. Like it was beyond her comprehension that we might have been at the library. Doing homework.

I know, I know.

It sounded lame.

But, actually… it wasn’t all that far from the truth. I mean, yeah, I had told my mom I was going to the library to do math homework with Boo. And, yeah, we did meet there. We didn’t actually do our math homework together. I had actually done my math homework before. But it was kind of like, you know, our cover. For MATH.

Boo and I had gone over to the Borough Building. We were snooping around, trying to figure out how we could get up on the roof and investigate the horn. Without anyone noticing, of course. I mean, it was dark already; we didn’t think anyone would see us. But then this old policeman dude came out of the Borough Building. And he saw us and yelled at us. I am not sure why – we weren’t doing anything wrong. But it startled Boo and me. And we just started running.

Away. As fast as we could.

We darted down this side alley. And it just happened to be where Sibyl’s mom’s store was, and Sibyl just happened to be coming outside then. Not sure why. ‘Cuz it was rather late at night and all.

I think we scared her about as much as she scared us.

“What are you doing out this late, Rad?” she asked accusingly.

“Nothing.” I shrugged. Boo nodded in agreement.

“Uhuh.” She kept looking from me to Boo and back again. “And I should believe you because…?” She gave me that evil eye kind of thing that grown ups do.

“Oh, c’mon, Sibyl. You know me!” I nudged Boo, trying to tell him not to open his big fat mouth and to let me handle things.

“Yeah.” Sibyl’s eyes narrowed. “I do know you. And I know you’re not supposed to be out this late.”

“We’re on our way home!” I offered.

Sibyl looked at me, and then she looked at Boo. I knew she thought we were like totally up to no good.

“Hmmm. Are you on your way home right now?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“Yeah!” Boo said. “Cross my heart, hope to die. Stick a needle in my eye!”

I glared at Boo like he was the moron he is.

“Well,” Sibyl smiled weakly. “Okayyy…”

“Thanks, Sibyl!” I gave her a great big hug. And that seemed to shock her even more.

“Yeah! See ya, Sibyl!” Boo yelled.

Sibyl laughed. “You guys are going straight home now, right?”

“Yes!” Boo and I shouted in unison.

“O.K. Then scram!” Sibyl shooed us away. “Before I have to go and call your mom and tell her how you two are up to no good!”

“Right!” I yelled.

“Thanks!” Boo yelled.

And we were gone.

But I knew Sibyl knew we were not where we were supposed to be and that we were up to no good, as they say in those police detective stories on PBS.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Sibyl was an amazingly sad woman.

Most people did not know that about her. Did not suspect it even. Because she was a supreme actress. She lived and breathed the anthem of the melancholy Jacques.

Sibyl was an artist. She had always been an artist. Of whatever medium seemed appropriate at the time. Painting. Fabric design. Sculpture. Performance art. Pottery.

Now she was the diva of decorative tiles.

Sibyl had found her niche. Quite by accident. But all the same. She had a studio behind her house up on the hill overlooking Delphi. She had her own kiln. Where she fired up the tiles she designed to meet the needs of her many customers. And many customers she had!

Sibyl was normally booked solid six to nine months ahead of time. She made kitchen, bathroom, pretty much any room tiles to the specifications of her myriad customers. She had done vineyards, bucolic scenes, flowers, still lives, motorcycles, Disney tableaus, you name it. There was really nothing Sibyl could not, or would not, do in tile. Except the same exact job over again. She had her own website and was well-renowned in the interior decorating and tile world. As Trey would phrase it, Sibyl was on top of her game.

She was also incredibly sad.

Her partner Esther had died five years before from breast cancer. Esther had been a poet, a well-known and respected poet, many said next in line for Poet Laureate of the United States. She and Sibyl had met in Provincetown one summer about fifteen years ago. Esther had been a good deal older than Sibyl. But it hadn’t mattered. They had been made for each other.

Even Sibyl’s mother, the late Vera Noddington Taylor, a straight-laced Delphi society marm, had admitted as much one day to her blue blood bridge partners at the country club. Sibyl, much to her chagrin, might “be that way,” but there was no doubt that Sibyl and Esther were soul mates. Not that Vera really believed in soul mates, mind you, but if there were ever two people destined to be together it was Sibyl and Esther.

So spoke Vera.

Sibyl had been quite lost since the death of Esther. She tried to conceal it.

She did pretty well.

Most of the time.

No one knew of the nights where she lay, curled up in a ball on the cool tiles of her kitchen floor, devastated, hysterical, immobile.

No one knew of the emptiness. The loneliness. The despair.

Those words might seem extreme, hyperbolic even. But to Sybil they were everyday reality, the norm.

She liked staying busy.

She liked the constant demands for tile.

She liked how she could plot out large images onto smaller squares and then create tiles one by one. Paint them. Fire them. Assemble them. Mail them off.

And make someone else’s day.

So what if it wasn’t her own?

She was doing something worthwhile, something that mattered. Something that Esther would have loved.

To Sibyl, her tiles formed intricate poems. Stories. Memories. Hopes and dreams.

At the same time, she often thought that making them was the only thing that kept her going.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Rad seems to be having a LOT of math homework this year. I mean, noticeably more so than before.

This alarmed me at first, because I am SO not a math person. I was afraid he was going to need my help, and I wouldn’t be able to give it.

Plus, they do such strange math these days. I mean, they don’t ever seem to learn “the real way” to do anything. They are so busy learning all of these newfangled, bizarre methods, which leave me completely confused, and they never seem to learn the method I learned – or was supposed to learn – umpteen forty years ago. Really, even if they used the “real method,” I am not so sure I would be of any help.

Rad doesn’t seem the least bit phased by it all, though. He never complains about all the math homework he has. He even seems downright cheerful about it at times, which I find INCREDIBLY strange. Yeah, it’s true, Rad always liked math. In fact, it’s probably his favorite class. After gym and lunch, of course. But he has never been big on homework.

I will ask him, on occasion, to show me his completed homework. Which he does with no problem. I’ll even have him explain a problem or two to me, and he always seems to know what he is talking about. I can’t really tell if he is right or not, but he always sounds pretty confident. I figure, if he can explain what he has done to me, he must know what he is doing.

At least, I hope so.

He’s doing fine in math, at any rate. I mean, not spectacular, but certainly very well. WAY better than I ever did! That’s for sure.

At parent/teacher conferences, I mentioned to Mrs. Gentilucci, Rad’s algebra teacher, how it seemed like Rad had an awful lot of math homework this year. I mean, I was just trying to make conversation.

The woman stared at me for a moment, like she had no freaking clue what I was talking about, and then she smiled. Mrs. Gentilucci actually has a very nice smile.

“I thought you were making fun of me,” she said finally.

“No, of course not!” I said. “I would never do that.”

She smiled again. “I know, I know. It’s just that so many parents here in Delphi are always telling me how I don’t give ENOUGH homework. Can’t their kids work ahead further?”

“Oh.” I felt all color drain out of my face. “I would never do that.”

Mrs. Gentilucci patted my knee. “Oh, hon’, I know you wouldn’t. You’re just not that… sort.”

I nodded.

“People in Delphi tend to be hyperactive overachievers,” I confided, before I realized what was coming out of my mouth.

Mrs. Gentilucci chuckled. “Ohhh,… if only I had a few more parents like you, Mrs. Belknap.”

I sat up, suddenly, not wanting to get too chummy with a teacher of a subject I knew virtually nothing about. “Well, Rad’s doing OK, isn’t he?”

“Oh, yes. He’s a solid B+, B, C+, A- student. Always turns in his homework on time, though.”

“Well, I certainly hope so!” I hadn’t really considered that Rad might do all that homework and then not turn it in. That wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense.

“You would be surprised, Mrs. Belknap. Middle School students, especially boys, are notorious for doing homework and not turning it in. Conrad is very good at turning in his assignments, though. And on time, too. Unlike some young men I can think of….”

Mrs. Gentilucci didn’t come out and say it, but I was sure she meant someone like Boover Hoover.

I asked Trey how Boo was doing in math not long after that, and he sighed.



“Not very well,” he said. “Unfortunately, that may be because ‘the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.’”


“Meaning, I SUCKED at math!”

“Oh.” I am sure I blushed. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, I was never all that great at math, either.”

“No, but your ex is a banker computer whiz millionaire. Rad probably inherited his math smarts from his dad. I was a dolt in math, and Boo’s mother was a stripper.”

“I thought she was an exotic dancer.”

Trey blinked. “She didn’t take a lot of advanced level math, OK?”

I nodded.

“But, ya know… now that I think about it, Boo has had an awful lot of math homework lately. WAY more than before….”

“Yes!” I shouted. “That is exactly what I told Rad’s math teacher, and she thought I was a nutso. She said, Delphi parents usually complain that their kids don’t get enough math homework. I feel like every time I turn around, Rad is telling me he has to go do math homework.”

Trey’s eyes widened. “Me, too! Well, except it’s with Boo.”

I felt like I was suddenly seeing things more clearly. These kids really were getting a lot more math homework than they used to, but no one seemed to want to admit it. I wasn’t sure why. Maybe it had to do with No Child Left Behind and all of those standardized tests they were always taking. The teachers probably were feeling a lot of pressure to teach them how to take the tests. The Delphi School District probably had to score in a certain percentile. Or else.

Trey grunted. “Ya know, Boover doesn’t even like math, but it seems like he always has math homework. Even on weekends. And I guess he does it. But, I have to tell ya, it doesn’t seem to be helping his grade all that much….”

“Hmmm.” I nodded sympathetically towards Trey and took solace in the thought that Rad was probably helping Boo with his math, since the two of them seemed to study together so much.

Maybe Rad was turning out to be a much kinder, gentler young man than I had ever imagined.

Monday, March 05, 2007


Boo said it was really important for us to come up with a really good name for our underground subversion group. He said all subversive groups had cool nicknames.

“It needs to be an anacronym. You know… just letters.”

“You mean, an acronym?”

“Yeah, whatever. Like NATO or AIDS. Or NBC.”

“O.K. Any ideas?”

“I dunno. Something like MOB. Y’know, ‘Moms Opposed to Bush.’ My mom was in that – I think she only did it because she knew it would piss off my dad. Which it did. He just about had cardiac arrest. He said it was a disgrace, that all Hoovers vote for Republicans. No matter what. He said he was going to start up his own group – FAKE.”

“FAKE? What’s that stand for?”

“Fathers Against Kerry Edwards.” Boo snorted. “I thought that was pretty freakin’ funny!”

“Well, did he start it?”

Boo gave me this look like I was a moron. “Noooo. It was like a joke. Hello!”

I ignored him. “So, what are we going to call ourselves… Moms Against the Horn? Hey, what is that… MATH? I kinda like that.”

“Don’t be a dork!” Boo said. “We’re not moms.

“OK. Kids Against the Horn?”

“What? KATH? Christ, that’s a fucking girl’s name! Just be a dweeb dork, why don’t ya?”

“Boys Against the Horn?”

“BATH? Are you nutso? I hate taking a bath.”

“All right, Mr. Axe.” (Axe is this body spray for men. It comes in different scents, like Typhoon and Phoenix. My mom thinks it stinks. I told her, all the guys I know use it. Hell, the entire Middle School hallway smells like Axe. She said it was just a way for teen boys to cover up their obnoxious B.O. without ever having to take a shower. I told her that the ladies really liked it. She looked at me for like a really long time with that whole weird stewing parental stare thing and said, “Well, then it must have pheromones in it.” I’m not sure exactly what pheromones are, but I think it has something to do with sex.)

“I know, I know! We can still be MATH. But it will be… MEN Against the Horn.”

“Men Against the Horn. Yeah, I like that. MATH.”

“Me, too. It’s very… manly.”

“And it can be our cover,” I said.


“Don’t you get it? MATH? Math? Whenever we have a meeting for MATH, we can just say we have to go do our… ‘math homework.’ Get it? MATH homework?”

“And when we’re planning something big, it will be a ‘math test.’ Yeah, I like it. You’re pretty smart for a numbnuts.”

“And when we pull down the horn, it will be our… ‘math final.’ Final. The end. Kaput. Get it? Math final?”

“Yeah, I get it.”

“Men Against the Horn, unite!” I cried, and Boo and I gave each other a high five.

Yeah, man. Definitely.

MATH rules!

Sunday, March 04, 2007


Delphi is the kind of place where the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I grew up in Delphi, and I have witnessed a tremendous amount of change. Yet, really, it seems more accurate to say that the town has gone through a… distillation, if you will.

Over the years, almost everything practical has been siphoned off, so that all we are left with is quaint, charming, trendy, and impractical. (Although my definition of “impractical” might be different than that of the town’s ardent, upscale shoppers.)

I am an aging woman who remembers multiple hardware, grocery, drug, and clothing stores dotting the basically two block business district of Delphi. These core establishments have all pretty much gone by the wayside, only to be superseded by a series of more upscale, trendy, and impractical enterprises which seem to come and go at a fairly high speed.

If I want to buy a hammer or some nails, I cannot do so in Delphi.

If I want to buy some new underpants or plain cotton socks, I cannot do so in Delphi.

If I want to buy a pair of tennis shoes, I cannot do so in Delphi.

But if I want some beaded jewelry made by Peruvian orphans, an all body massage, or a Land Rover, I am in luck.

While I might be hard-pressed when it comes to finding a newspaper or gassing up my vehicle, I can at least stoke up on espressos, lattes, baguettes, and gourmet chocolates; get my poodle groomed and pedicured; and my own hair streaked and coiffed at a mind-boggling array of specialty cafes, shops, bistros, and salons.

These days it is so simple to order things online, or trek over to a nearby mall, strip mall, Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, or Costco and load up my SUV with all the practical crap I might desire.

And I would be saving so much money in doing so!

Delphi is where I do my “special” shopping.

Where I hang out for hours on end at Starbucks or the new French bakery, “Petit4.”

You will notice almost immediately that there are a plethora of establishments with French-sounding names in Delphi, because, as we all know, French is just so… sophisticated and progressive.

I can get the latest little trendy outfit at “Hot Couture,” a massage or session in the tanning bed at “C’est la Vie,” and yummy treats for Fido and Fifi at “Bone Apetit!”

Don’t be fooled! Delphi is a real family affair. My preschooler can take gourmet cooking classes at “Madeleine’s,” while I accessorize for the next big charity do down the street at “Bling!” My teenaged daughter can get her one-of-a-kind prom dress custom made at “The Fashion Plate,” while my son (or husband) can find the latest high end sports cards at “Box Seats.” Gourmet, trendy, trés chic! Delphi does it all.

Want a gallon of milk, though, and you will have to trek down the road a good mile and a half to the local Giant Eagle.

Delphi is a village.

Delphi is sophisticated.

Delphi is upscale.

Delphi is home, sweet, home.

And then there is always that blasted horn atop the borough building ready to blare out: “Emergency!” “Fire!” “911!” It is loud. It is abrasive. It is jarring and out-of-place. It is also one of the few remaining traditions, aside from the Memorial Day Parade and “Light Up Delphi Night” that I can remember from time immemorial. That horn is an oddity, an anachronism, a pain in the ass, if you ask me. But don’t ever say anything negative about the Horn of Delphi! Oh, no!

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.