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Column: Tick-tick-tick is the sound of a focused mind

When I opened the holiday gift from my sister, it really brought home the fact we haven't lived in the same household since the Eisenhower administration.

It's a bright yellow kitchen timer, the tick-tick-tick twisty kind we used when we stood on Mom's kitchen stools to make Toll House cookies in our youth.

Sister's gone on to create legendary gumbos and courtbouillions in her Abbeville, La., kitchen, but I haven't cooked anything that doesn't time itself (microwave anyone?) since Jimmy Carter was president.

I called to thank her and to timidly ask, "What the heck possessed you to send me a kitchen timer when you know the original labels are still on half the pots and pans I got for my wedding back in the 1960s?"

She laughed.

"It's not necessarily for the kitchen," she said. "It's for all kinds of things."

Indeed, it has a long black lanyard attached so it can be worn around the neck, which indicates it doesn't have to sit on a kitchen counter.

I slipped it on.

"I look just like Flava Flav," I said, referring to the rapper who wears a big yellow clock around his neck.

Sister said she wears hers when she has something in the oven and goes outdoors to do a little gardening or chat with a neighbor.

"It keeps me from burning down the house," she said.

Still too kitchen-related for me, but I was having another idea.

Instead of using the timer for something I love, how about using it for something I detest: housework.

I could set the timer for, say, 30 minutes, during which I could tackle a chore with no end — like cleaning off my desk or reorganizing a closet — and when the buzzer buzzed, I could stop and do something pleasant, like read a book or go for a walk.

My usual method is to start an endless chore, get distracted and never make a dent.

Take organizing my desk. I pick up a paper that needs to be filed, take it to the file drawer near the kitchen, spot a pile of oranges on the kitchen counter top and spend 20 minutes squeezing a glass of orange juice.

Or I might take a few off-season garments to the storage closet near the guest bedroom and spy a rumpled bed and decide to change the sheets, which leads to the laundry room, where the dryer vent needs to be cleaned out, which leads to the garage where the dryer brush hangs, where I see a car that needs to be washed, which takes me to the garage storage closet for washing liquid, where I spy an artificial log that I could put in the fireplace in case it turns cold tonight, where I see that the ashes from the last fire are still mounded, which takes me back to the garage to get the cleaning brush and pan, where I see the brush to clean the fountain in the front yard, where I notice piles of leaves that need to be raked and some overflowing roof gutters …

With the new method, that Flava Flav clock is hanging around my neck, tick-TICK -TICKING, which reminds me to hang the off-season clothes and go back for another armload until the chore it done.

Or at least 30 minutes worth of the chore is done.

Belated congrats

The final count is in, and it's official: Richey Suncoast Theatre's Christmas show sold a total of 2,100 tickets, near sell-outs for all six shows.

For a decade, Richey Suncoast's own Charlie Skelton has used his summer vacation to write the holiday show. It's about as offbeat as a show can get, but people who get it, love it, and those who don't get it — well, we can only pity them.

Skelton's shows have the sweet stuff we expect from holiday fare — adorable kids, Christmas carols, sometimes a Santa Claus — but over the years, he's included deliciously vinegary snippets of topical humor and politics that make those shows special.

My favorite has been the CAVE series, where the Citizens Against Virtually Everything (a thinly-disguised homeowners association) do everything they can to thwart the Christmas spirit.

The harridan Mrs. Arteluke, who ran the association with an iron hand, became something of a local icon and a metaphor for over-zealous HOA board members.

Tell a Richey Suncoast patron that someone is "a regular Mrs. Arteluke," and you don't have to say anything more.

This year's show featured a substitute high school principal who inexplicably hated all kids named Chad and did all she could to kill off the drama kids' holiday show.

Fortunately, the parent of one kid is in real estate and lets the aspiring thespians rehearse in a foreclosed house in Trinity.

At the end, we discover that the reason the substitute principal hates kids named Chad is that she's not really a principal; she's a former Supervisor of Elections from South Florida, and the word "chad" drives her batty.

As the kids sing the Lee Greenwood anthem, God Bless the U.S.A., the phony substitute is wheeled off the stage on a shipping dolly.

See, I told you it was different.

Column: Tick-tick-tick is the sound of a focused mind 01/02/09 [Last modified: Sunday, January 4, 2009 10:43am]
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