Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Many of us who live in the United States today are unaware of the phenomenon known as "orphan trains." From 1854 to 1929, children's aid societies sent more than two hundred thousand children from New York to less populated parts of the country, most often the Midwest. Some of the children truly had been orphaned. Others were abandoned or homeless.

Chaperones accompanied the children on the trains, which stopped at towns where a farmer might want to take in a boy to help with the heavy workload, or a couple might want a girl to help with their younger children. Some children were adopted and became true family members. Many were nothing more than indentured servants.

The children were known as "train riders." When they left the train to be considered by the townsfolk, a child might find his teeth checked by a dirty farmer's hand. Babies and older boys who appeared strong were usually the first to be adopted. Some children might get off the train at one stop after another, only to return––unwanted–– to an orphanage with the chaperones. A number of children also landed in multiple "homes" before they found a place where they were wanted and loved.

I haven't discovered any train riders still living, but it's believed they left behind as many as two million descendants.

In Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline pieces together the intricate fictional story of a 1929 train rider with that of a Penobscot Indian girl in 2011 who is about to age out of the foster care system. Together they create the quilt of an elderly woman who wants her attic cleaned out. Or does she?

Nine-year-old Niamh Power and her family leave Ireland in search of a better life in New York City, but Niamh is alone after a devastating fire in their apartment.

There is no adult on this side of the Atlantic who has reason to take any interest in me, no one to guide me onto a boat or pay for my passage. I am a burden to society, and nobody's responsibility.

Niamh becomes a train rider in search of a home. During her journey, she befriends a young man named Hans, known as "Dutchy." Niamh and Dutchy vow to find each other someday.

Molly Ayer is an unwanted seventeen year old who lives in a foster home.

Through her bedroom wall Molly can hear her foster parents talking about her in the living room, just beyond her door. "This is not what we signed up for," Dina is saying. "If I'd known she had this many problems, I never would've agreed to it." 

Molly attempted to steal a library book and has been sentenced to fifty community service hours. Her boyfriend, Jack, asks his mother if Molly can fulfill the service requirement by helping the wealthy lady for whom she keeps house clean out her attic––a large task that Jack's mother doesn't want to undertake.

Parallel lives intertwine when Molly meets Vivian Daly.

I believe in ghosts. They're the ones who haunt us, the ones who have left us behind. Many times in my life I have felt them around me, observing, witnessing, when no one in the living world knew or cared what happened.

I am ninety-one years old, and almost everyone who was once in my life is now a ghost. 

Orphan Train touches on the theme of writing the story of one's own life, but delves mostly deeply into the theme of loss––including the loss of family, but moreover, the loss of ancestry, the loss of a culture. The coming together and separation of people who long to see each other again, but might not ever do so.  I tend to dwell on the many losses in my life, but then a book such as Orphan Train reminds me that loss is offset by gains, perhaps more gains than the losses we experience.

As a book I could hardly bear to put down, Orphan Train earns The Janie Junebug Seal of Very Highest and Greatest Approval For Beautiful Writing and Enchanting Characters.

Happy reading!

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

You can learn more about the orphan trains at The National Orphan Train Complex Web site:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

What's the deal with "myself"? I hear it all the time:

Myself and Bocephus went to the bar for a snootful. 

Here I sit, judging myself.

The problem with "myself" in the snootful sentence is that it should be a reflexive pronoun. Reflexive pronouns end in -self and refer back to the subject of the sentence or clause.

Maybe this explanation is simpler: Myself is a pronoun. Pronouns take the place of a noun. Example: Henry's dead, and he don't look so good.

"Henry" is the noun. "He" is the pronoun.

As a pronoun, "myself" needs to take the place of a noun. Example: Ah'm fixin' to fix myself some popcorn to eat while I watch the best movie ever, Walkin' Tall. 

"Ah'm" (a.k.a. I'm) is the noun. Thus, "myself" is the reflexive pronoun that refers to I.

No more using myself all by itself because its feelings are hurt when it's alone and lonely. It has to be paired with a noun.

Would anyone like to have some fun writing a sentence with the correct or incorrect use of "myself"? Be as creative as you like.

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Thanks, fishducky!

Monday, August 22, 2016



You've heard people say their lives changed overnight, right? They woke up and heard the lottery numbers and knew they were millionaires. They fell in love at first sight. 

More often, the change is bad because one day everything is fine, and the next? 

It is all fucked up. 

I read once that Marie Antoinette's hair turned white overnight in jail while she awaited the loss of her head. 

What people don't think about is that the overnight device is a saying. Nothing but a cliché. It hardly ever takes that long: eight hours, twelve hours, or however you define overnight, for a life to be transformed. Most of the time, it happens in one or two seconds.

I bet Marie's hair betrayed her during a few seconds of a nightmare when she saw the guillotine's blade slice through her own milky neck.

How many seconds does it take to purchase that lottery ticket or to decide to stop someplace for ice cream? These decisions may be part of a change that's a long time in the making, but when the hair whitening attacks, it happens in a flash. 

And the flash of the blade in the sunlight can be so bright it nearly blinds you. 

Chapter One


The yellow piece of paper on the windshield of Aggie's black minivan stood out like a beacon in the dusky evening light as she left the urgent care center. She waddled along with a purse and diaper bag slung behind her right shoulder, Ruth Ann perched on her right hip, and a still sobbing Elliot hanging on for dear life to her left hand.

She shook free of El's sweaty grasp so she could pull the paper out from under the wiper and unfold it. "ASSHOLE" it said, printed neatly in red letters on a scrap torn from a legal pad.

"Mom!" Elliot pawed at her, as Ruth Ann's head drooped onto Aggie's shoulder. Aggie stood rooted to the asphalt next to the car so she could check out the area. What had she done this time?

White painted lines of parking spaces, empty now, spread out across the parking lot like whitecaps on the ocean. White, white, white, except around her car, where she now saw yellow lines. Two yellow lines on each side of the van and an arrow underneath it that marked the route to exit the lot. The only route between the parking spaces.

Drivers must have woven around her van for hours before the lot cleared out. Tire tracks in the mud provided evidence that they ran her blockade by driving off the asphalt and into the landscaped border along the sidewalk. Flowers and juvenile trees had been flattened.

Sunday, August 21, 2016


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

You turned out in droves to vote in the August 15 Battle of the Bands. The song was House at Pooh Corner, written by Kenny Loggins as he faced the prospect of his high school graduation and leaving behind all that was familiar to him.

It might seem to be a children's song, but it if you listen carefully, it has more of a loss of innocence vibe, as does the last chapter of The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne when Christopher Robin's carefree days of childhood end.

Christopher Robin was going away. Nobody knew why he was going; nobody knew where he was going; indeed, nobody even knew why he knew that Christopher Robin was going away. But somehow or other everybody in the Forest felt that it was happening at last.

Of course, Christopher Robin will go away to school, and he tells Pooh, "I'm not going to do Nothing any more." But we're left with the knowledge that "in that enchanted place on top of the Forest, a little boy and his bear will always be playing."

Personally, I'm not ever going to reach that silly point of not going to do Nothing. I shall always do Nothing in my enchanted place.

I have promised Penelope and Franklin.

Now for the winners of the Battle of the Bands:

Loggins and Messina           23

The Nitty Gritty Dirty Band  6

I didn't vote because it's quite a decisive victory.

Loggins and Messina were a successful pop/rock duo from 1970 to 1976. After they split up, Jim Messina pretty much disappeared, while Kenny Loggins became a huge draw during the '80s. Didn't we all cut Footloose?

Thank you to Mr. McCarthy for hosting our Battle of the Bands. I enjoyed all the other battles. 

I'll be back on September 1 with another battle, but I hope to see you before then so we can learn new grammatical skills together. And perhaps we'll get in a book and a movie review here, there, and everywhere.

Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina, will you please sing us out with something cheerful?

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug, who remains in her Enchanted Palace, guarded by Franklin and looked askance at by Penelope

Monday, August 15, 2016


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

It's time for the August 15, 2016, Battle of the Bands.

Our host, Mr. Stephen T. McCarthy, provides us with this information about the bloghop:

The whole thing is really quite simple: You select two different versions of the same song (versions  you feel might give each other some competition in the voting) and you post them on the 1st and the 15th of each month. On the 7th and 21st of each month, you add your own personal vote to the mix, total up all the votes and announce the winner on your blog.

Beyond that, just try to have fun with it and let your readers/voters have fun with it.

All righty, then. Let's have fun!

Our song today is House at Pooh Corner, one of the first songs Kenny Loggins wrote while he was in high school.

 "(I was) going on graduation in high school, and for some reason, I was thinking about that last chapter in The House at Pooh Corner," Loggins explained to The Tennessean. "It was the first book I ever read."

"The last chapter is where Christopher Robin is leaving the Hundred Acre Wood, and he's telling everybody goodbye," he continued. "I felt like that was akin to what I was going through in high school. Some part of me knew that I was leaving my childhood behind. I didn't really think it through like that. It just sort of came through."

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band heard the song, loved it, and recorded it in 1970 for their album Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy (an album that continues to reside in my record cabinet). That's when I heard the song for the first time and fell in love with it.

The next year, Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina, who joined in a brief partnership, recorded House at Pooh Corner for their album Sittin' In. According to Wikipedia, "It has since become one of Loggins' most popular and beloved compositions, and it remains a staple of his live performances."

Our first contender is The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, because they recorded the song first:

And now, Loggins & Messina:

I chose this song because it's been wild times at my house lately. I want a song that's sweet and soothing––a song in which the biggest problem is a honey jar stuck on the nose of a bear.

Please vote for your preferred version of House at Pooh Corner in your comment, and if you can, tell us your reason for your decision. I'll return on August 21 to count the votes and declare a winner. I hope you'll visit Stephen T. McCarthy to vote in his battle and to find the list of other participants so you can visit them. We welcome you to join us.

Mr. McCarthy, this Battle of the Bands is dedicated to you.

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Saturday, August 13, 2016


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

My most recent MOVIE WEEKEND DVD review was of The Lady In The Van. Because the lady was a real person and the man whose driveway she inhabited is a real person and a writer, I want to give you some background on Miss Shepherd.

If you haven't yet seen the movie and don't want to encounter possible spoilers, then please don't read this post.

The Lady In The Van began as a 1999 play by Alan Bennett. Maggie Smith played Mary Shepherd--as she does in the film--who parked her van in Bennett's driveway and ended up staying for fifteen years. Bennett, played by Alex Jennings in the movie, adapted his play for the 2015 film.

Bennett gradually learns that Miss Mary Shepherd is actually Margaret Fairchild, who had been a gifted concert pianist. She tried to become a nun but her confessor told her she was not allowed to play the piano. She had a breakdown, was committed to an institution by her brother, escaped in her van, which was hit by a motorcycle, but she thought the accident was her fault and she fled. From then on, Fairchild believes she's hiding from the police, and she's regularly fleeced by a retired police officer played by Jim Broadbent.

In reality, it was only after "Miss Shepherd's" death in 1989 that Bennett learned from her brother who she was. He allowed her to move her van from the street into his driveway because she was often terrorized by passersby, though he admits that the move was because of his own selfishness; that is, the bother to Miss Shepherd interrupted his work. After her van was in the drive for a time, she took up squatters' rights and would not and could not be moved.

Bennett first wrote her story as a long article, then a novella, and then the successful play. Behind the relationship between the comical timidness of the Alan Bennett character in the movie and the often hilarious pushiness of the Miss Shepherd character lies an indictment of Great Britain's failure to care for the homeless and the mentally ill.

As quoted on the Internet Movie Database, "At the Hay Festival on 27 May 2015, screenwriter Alan Bennett said 'The story told by this film took place 40 and more years ago and Miss Shepherd is long since dead. She was difficult and eccentric but above all she was poor. And these days particularly the poor don't get much of a look in. Poverty is a moral failing today as it was under the Tudors. If the film has a point, it's about fairness and tolerance and however grudgingly helping the less fortunate, who are not well thought of these days. And now likely to be even less so.'"

The film was shot in and around Bennett's former home. The one character in the film that Bennett acknowledges to be fiction is Underwood, the former police officer who threatens to reveal Miss Shepherd's whereabouts and thus demands bribes from her so she loses the bit of money she has.

Bennett also admits to inventing Miss Shepherd's inner life of the mind.

I like the movie very much, although it has some strange moments that, of course, did not occur. For example, when Miss Shepherd dies, she is resurrected for her ascension to Heaven. I haven't seen that happen to anyone in quite some time.

Perhaps I'll be next. Prepare for liftoff.

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Maggie Smith with the real Alan Bennett

Friday, August 12, 2016


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

The roofers did not show when expected. They delayed.

They have been here since early this morning. It is now 7:07 p.m. The pounding on the roof stopped a few minutes ago. The pounding in my head continues.

Franklin and Penelope have been calm all day, except when one of the workmen sang in Spanish. They barked and howled. I thought I would have to open the door and say in Spanish, No more songs. The dogs think they're bad.

But the man stopped singing before I had the great good pleasure of telling him in my lovely Spanish that the dogs didn't like it.

As I feared and predicted, I did not write a post on the backstory of The Lady In The Van (reviewed for MOVIE WEEKEND here). I shall try to provide backstory soon, whether you want it or not.

Let me check my email for a funny from fishducky of fishducky, finally! to make up for the lack of the post.

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Thanks, fishducky!