Swinging Singers

“O.K.  I’ll go first!” My friend Barbara pumped hard backward and then extended her long, lean legs to the front as she slidoff the canvas seat.

“Sunday, Monday, Happy Days,” she sang in mid-air.  She landed gracefully in the sand and immediately struck a singers pose with an invisible microphone in hand.  On cue, Lisa launched and chimed, “Tuesday, Wednesday, Happy Days.”  Her long, dark hair rippling behind her.

I pushed the iron chains behind me as my swing reached its zenith. “Thursday, Friday, Happy Days,” I landed with a thump, but quickly recovered in the rock star position.

Barb nodded hard and we all blasted, “Saturday, what a day, dancin’ all week with you.”

We were ten year old products of mid-seventies television.  The sitcom Happy Days was in its first run and looking back now, the jumping off the swings on each phrase was brilliant choreography on Barb’s part.

After we had exhausted our act, Lisa decided we should sing “Half-breed” a song made popular by Cher. We had probably seen her perform this sultry tune on a recent Sonny and Cher variety hour. Cher was undoubtedly swaying in an impossibly low-cut fringed, buckskin outfit balancing an enormous feather headdress.

After a brief discussion, we figured it probably wouldn’t work well as a swing song, so we began marching shoulder to shoulder around the perimeter of the playground, belting the lyrics.

“My father married a pure Cherokee; my mother’s people were ashamed of me.  Indian’s said I was white by law white men always called me “Indian Squaw.” Half-breed! That’s all I ever heard, half breed how I learned to hate that word.  Half breed, she’s no good they warned, both sides were against me from the day I was born!”

Lisa, with her long black hair, shook her head like the Cher and even licked her lips between lyrics.  We attracted other kids to our throng as we crooned by clusters of kickballers, hopscotchers and see-sawers.   We sang more and more passionately and linked arms, seven mostly-soprano-singers wide.

We were deep in the second verse and starting another chorus when the recess monitor blew the first warning whistle to stop and “freeze.”  The second whistle would release us and we would head back to our respective class lines and file back into the school.  Well, we were so enraptured by our singing that we didn’t hear the first whistle and started on the third verse of Half Breed.

Full of giddiness and grandeur, I shouted in Barb’s ear.  “Everyone stopped playing and is watching us!” to us.”  Barb stopped in her tracks and our chain of kids buckled.  In unison, we looked back at her.  “It’s the recess-is-over whistle!” she whispered frantically.

We froze and waited to for the second whistle to release us.  The trill signaled a massive sprint to our class lines where we waited in silence and then filed in.  Later, during art class, Mr. Scarpa, our super-cool art teacher who wore blue jeans made of denim squares and had shoulder length, wavy Bee Gees hair and mustache said, “You girls were pretty good singing out there today!  I heard you from the teacher’s lounge!”


She waits until he is just below and calls down seductively, “Well, hello there. Why don’t you come up and see me sometime?” She grins at that old Mae West line she’d heard on the TCM channel from youth. Even then, she knew she had to bust out. She’d be claustrophobic and besides, the hosts were immaculate housekeepers. She would have starved if she had stayed.

The real reason she ventured out is that she craves action. There is plenty of it if you knew where to spin. Here is some right at her feet. Literally. “Come on up,” she beacons with one of her siren-like spokes. “Have a drink with me.”

There is mead thanks to the large number of honey bees that had flown into her web the last few days. With meticulous wrapping, she’d left their feet sticking out so she could suck off the golden residue and spit it into the tiny sac she had spun. The liquid should be fermented by now. If it wasn’t, she could tell by the look on this horny bug that it wouldn’t take much to make him lose control.

She sees the beetle consider her offer. The spider had tea with his wife and she knows that he is probably tired of playing second fiddle as the wife tends to their new brood. The spider is not surprised that the beetle’s testosterone wins over, and thinks this is almost too easy. His shell seems rather enlarged now. His wings barely conceal his enthusiasm.

“Come up, I will make you feel like a man,” she says, deep in her throat.

The beguiled beetle’s bug-eyes never leave her lascivious limbs as he climbs the tight-rope to her lair. When he meets her in the middle, she hands him the pouch. “Let’s get to know each other over a cocktail,” she whispers hotly. As he takes a long swig from the honey sack, she teasingly touches one of her tentacles to his triangle. He almost chokes, but recovers and hands her the nectar.

After a moment the web starts to sway. Is it a breeze, or is it the mead? In a haze of pent up lust and inebriation, the two roll across the web in a fit of passion. The spider keeps the beetle cradled in her many arms so his back does not stick to the silk…not yet.

Suddenly, she free falls into the sweet-aching abyss. Yet, she denies herself stay in this rapturous state and forces herself back to self-control. She sees the beetle is on the precipice of release, a Nano-second from launch.

Now, she slides her many arms free. The confused, pained look of the bug on the brink pleases her. She spews yards of cord from her mead-tinged mouth and coils him tightly.

Bearded Lady

Generations and generations of we Uski women have suffered with an over-active hormonal condition. My grandmothers before me had to shave each morning with the blade and strop, some standing beside her husband at the basin and mirror.  You might think a man would shrink from a woman whose five o’clock shadow rivals his own, but Mother Nature compensates with other pleasing attributes for a couple.  My feminine ancestors were blessed with such lovely figures and could bring a man to his knees begging for bedroom favors, that many a husband or lover gladly overlooked the stubble on the countenance of his woman by dawn’s early light.

My grandmothers and mother would live in ordinary bliss with the rest of the villagers, raising families, cooking meals, and satisfying their husbands. As for me, I did not wish to be confined to one man, one house, or one village.  I wanted to venture out and see the world.  Joining the circus was a natural choice for me.  I decided to grow my girl-beard and let it be my magic carpet. In my 16th year, I threw aside my blade and let it grow to a substantial length. I was careful to keep in tucked in my bosom and then wore a loose-fitting scarf when I went into town.  I did not want to over expose my amber and beaded oddity, but would unveil it the day the circus.

My parents approved of my plans.  My mother was a bit envious; after many years she had grown wary of my father’s constant randy-ness. The day the circus rolled into town, I kissed mother and father good-bye and made my way to the village square.

The shrewd ringmaster called me into his personal trailer and asked me to remove my shawl and my scarf. He was impressed at my beard’s length and spun-gold texture. Unbraided, unfurled, it reached down the front of my young breasts and curled under my arms. After I signed a contract, two gruff looking men dragged my modest foot locker down a row of dorm tents and let it dropped it with a bang outside a faded white and red striped canvas shelter.

“Who is it?” a gruff woman demanded from within.  I took a breath and ventured forth. My eyes adjusted to the dimness. Finally, I made out a figure of a woman sitting a cot. What looked like green-brown rope was wound her arms and wove behind her neck.
“Who are you?” The woman hissed.
“I am Kari,” I couldn’t keep my eyes off the cords pulsating on her thick arms. I jumped when the small diamond shaped head appeared from under her arm pit.

“I, I am to share living quarters,” I said, still watching the snake.

“Oh? I’m Shivrah.  This is Baby,” she crooned and lifted the massive coils from her arm. Shivrah grinned at me, offering her snake.

“Uh, I think I’ll unpack first,” I said, mustering my courage. I popped back out into the sunshine and dragged my trunk inside.

“What’s your shtick?” Shivrah asked. “You got a lizard or something in that trunk? You tell fortunes?”

“Oh, No.” I said, quickly removing my scarf.  “Here,” I pulled out my own coils I had repositioned down the front of my blouse.  Still warm, I held tendril to Shivrah keeping my distance from Baby’s flashing tongue.

“Wow! It’s really attached?” Shivrah gave a quick, hard yank.

“Of course it is!” I jumped back and rubbed my chin.  I swallowed hard.

“I’m goin’ out for a smoke. Maybe a snort. You wanna come?”

Eager to explore, I pushed my trunk under my cot and followed Shivrah out through the flaps.

The Great Flying Swings by Tanja Buzzi,1975

Tanja at ten. My fifth grade teacher, Lance Hall encouraged our class to write stories. He would then read them to the class. Though my home life was very stressful at this time, school was a haven to me. Before puberty and peer pressure set in, I was creative and comfortable with myself—and recognized as a writer!

One fine Saturday, I went down to the carnival.  I bought two rolls of tickets.  First I decided to go on the Ferris Wheel. It was high up, but I didn’t care.  I saw the whole carnival.  Then I went over the concession stand to get some cotton candy and a soda.  After that I went on the Round Up but that was pretty short.  Then I went on the Moon walk and stayed on two tickets long.  Then I was tired.

So I hopped on the Scrambler.  Then I noticed the Flying Swings.  I got off and went on one of the outside swings.  The motor started and I was going around and around.  For some reason, I felt the bottom of the swing, something that felt like a knob.  I pushed it. All of a sudden the chain unhooked and I started to go up, just as if I was a balloon and someone let go of my string.  Well any way, I went up about 10 feet.  Everyone stared at me even the guys that ran the rides were looking up at me. I went up a little higher so I was even with the Ferris Wheel.  I said, “Stop!” and the swing stopped.

I heard a fat lady say, “What shall we do, should we call the telephone company?” That really helps matters, doesn’t it?  Everyone was worried all except me.  I was having a ball!  I could see almost all of Higganum! The people of the Middletown Press and the Hartford Courant came to take pictures and to write articles on me.

The Eye Witness news team came down and did a report on me.  Then a special telegram went to the President of the United StatesMr. Ford came by helicopter.  He landed on the Higganum Green.  Then he saw me and said to me, “How on earth did you get up there?”  I started to explain but everybody started shaking hands and asking him for autographs.

So I pushed the bottom and said, “Take me back home.”  So I went back home.  “Don’t believe me then.”  That’s what I said when I told my family.  Then my sister said, “What do you have to prove it?”  Then I went to my room and got the swing then told it to glide down the stairs and go straight to the family room.  It did.  My family was astonished.  “It was all run by a machine, see the knob and wires?” I said.  I looked around at the swing’s bottom seat.  On it was a mark that said, “Hollywood California, filming.”  It must have been in a place where they had made movies. I wrote to The Middletown Press and to the Courant to get things cleared up.    The end.

Do you remember when you were ten? What were you like? What did you do for fun?  Write yourself a letter from your ten year old self to your present day self.  What would he or she say to you? Advise you to do?

Motorcycle Accident 6/10/12 God Sent Help!

As I go through life and grow and sometimes wrestle with my faith, I can’t help but give God the nod in a great many circumstances where divine providence has injected at clutch points in my life.  My two memoirs Raising Dad and my Desert Storm story (need a working title) give God the glory because the things that have happened to my husband, children and me are just too numerous to be attributed to freak chance.

Sean and I are sharing another very recent experience of how God provided for us, especially in a time of a life and death crisis.  Many of you know that about fourteen weeks ago, Sean and I were in a horrific motorcycle accident.  I basically walked away with a badly sprained knee (still a little purple), but Sean was severely injured.

You be the judge. Was it divine providence or just a coincidence?

It was an otherwise perfect Sunday June 10th as we made our first trip as a couple on our second, new-to-us motorcycle.  Biking was a rather new hobby of ours.  Sean had wanted a motorcycle for years but I’ve always countered, “Isn’t being a cop dangerous enough?”  Now that kids were older and we were working on doing things as a couple, not to mention he had completed the motorcycle riders’ course, I took a deep breath, said many a prayer, and learned how to be his biker babe.  It was a good exercise in letting go and trusting. I prayed every time we ventured out, though.

To be honest, I enjoyed the open air, the smells of cut grass, backyard barbecues, and fragrant flowers as we wound our way through bucolic byways of our state.  I’d squeeze Sean, give thanks for our time together, and think this is wild! This is so cool!

After a successful year and a half of riding on our small but dependable Honda Sabre–always wearing helmets, bike jackets and boots, never drinking, never driving stupidly–we talked about taking it up a notch and finding a bigger bike with saddle bags so we could ride off on romantic weekend trips.

Lo and behold, we spotted a 1200 cc Kawasaki Voyager motorcycle (resembling a Honda Goldwing) for sale on the lawn of a really nice guy in Essex.  After doing the research and test driving, we decided to buy it.  It was Day Four of ownership when I got on the back of the big bike for our first day trip together, June 10th.  What a great, smooth ride and comfortable, taller passenger seat than on our former Honda!  I could see over Sean and had more room for my legs.  This bike seemed so much more secure because of its size, I thought.

Earlier that day we had visited friends in Killingworth, and then caught the Chester ferry east of the river to say hello to friends on the Colchester green.  Our friend Melissa Schlag who was collecting signatures for her state senate campaign at the town’s fair-like gathering.  Sean and I had Philly cheese steak sandwiches there, decided we’d ride off for ice cream in East Haddam.

As we approached an intersection we debated whether to go the river route or the country route to Hillside Sweet Shop.  I didn’t care.  Sean at the last second decided we should go the country route and took a quick left turn.  Because the bike was a few hundred pounds heavier and lower to the ground than our old Honda, Sean wasn’t used to its less responsive handling.  One of the pegs scraped the tar.   I was unfazed as this had happened to us once before on the old bike and Sean straightened it out without issue.

Sean knew we were in trouble, but I didn’t see it coming. The bike was cruising out of his control.  Trying to avoid a metal road sign on the median between Routes 149 and 151, Sean drove into the curb.  I have no recollection of this, but we were both bucked off up and over the handle bars. I flew to the left and Sean to the right. The bike went down the middle.

Catapulted 15 feet through the air with arms with my arms stretched forward as if I was sliding into second base, I felt a thump.  Yellow, bristly, dried-up grass flew into my helmet shield as I skidded to a stop.  My left knee caught on a rock in the median that I found out later was the size of a small potato.

Stunned, I sat up with my legs stretched out in front of me. The left leg of my jeans was torn at the knee and I noticed a little blood.  I surveyed the rest of my body.  I was shaking, but otherwise seemed intact.  I turned to my left and saw Sean lying still on his back about 20 feet away.

In all of the 28 years I’ve known my tough guy, of all the years he’s been a police officer, I’ve never seen Sean flat out unable to move, hurt or in big trouble.  A bolt of terror ripped through me and I began to pray.

Oh, God, please let him be alright.  Let me stay calm. Let me stay calm.

“Seanie are you OK?” I called out shakily. “Sean?”

I heard him moan. “My shoulder, my shoulder.  F*&k! I dislocated my shoulder!”

“We’re going to be OK, Seanie. We’re OK.” God, please let us be OK.

I turned slightly to my right and behind me and saw the motorcycle on its side with wires spewing out. A man with a long red pony tail was standing next to it, his cellphone in hand, “I just called 911,” he said.

For a moment I had a crazy thought. Why? We’re going to be OK.  We just dumped the bike. We’ll be getting up in a minute and be on our way.

Maybe Sean felt that too because when I glanced over to him, he was suddenly up on his feet and had taking his helmet off!   He swore, and then walked toward the bike, in his usual take charge demeanor.  “I’ve got to pick it up,” he said to this dark haired man who suddenly appeared.

The man held up his hand to Sean. “I’m a former EMT. You need to lie down.” He was calm but firm.  He had witnessed the accident and the awful cloud of dust our bodies made when we landed. “I will hold your head and move with you anyway you need to move.”

For some reason, Sean obeyed the man. He knelt and held Sean’s head in his hands as Sean started thrashing and screaming as I had never seen him do in all of our time together. “My shoulder, my ribs, I know I broke my ribs!”  Thankfully, he stayed down.

“You’re going to be OK, Seanie.” I said. Oh, God please let us be OK.  Please keep me calm.

Sean looked up and he realized he knew the man who was holding his head in place.  It was Patrick Murray, an administrator at the security department at Middlesex Hospital. Sean actually meets with him and his staff once a month as a police department liaison. What are the chances that this man would be two cars behind our motorcycle and come to the scene to help?

I don’t know how long it took for the ambulances to arrive—we were out in the middle of Moodus—, but I just kept praying.  The late afternoon sun was a bright yellow-gold around us.  I know I was in shock, but I also felt a steady calm.  My knee barely hurt me.

Sean and I were initially taken to Middlesex Hospital.  As soon as Sean had a CT scan he was whisked Hartford Hospital because he broken his neck in five places!  Four in his C-1cervical vertebrae and one in his C-2.  More than one medical professional has told Sean how lucky he is.  Breaking the C-1 is one of the most life threatening breaks you can get.  One wrong move and your spinal cord could be severed resulting in instant death or paralysis. Sean had broken his in four places! He got up on his feet!  He took off his helmet!  He was walking over to the downed bike ready to lift it up when Patrick Murray came on the scene and told him stop!

Sean spent two days in intensive care and six more days after a precarious surgery to repair his “smashed” scapula (his surgeon’s words). Those five breaks were patched together by three stainless steel plates and nine screws.  He also had four broken ribs.

I escaped with a badly bruised/sprained knee and two little scrapes on my left knuckle.

Where are we now? We are alive and grateful!    Sean still has to wear his neck brace because one of the breaks in his C-1 is slow to fill in with new bone.  My knee is still bruised and not quite right, but we are both back to work. We believe God sent help.  We wonder what He has in mind for us after sparing us from paralysis or even death?

For more intriguing thought on this subject, I encourage you to read To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again  Mary C. Neal .

Click here “A Man’s Craving For Beer Saved My Husband’s Life” for an update on this story.

Tann-ya! Tahn-ya! Banana! Bah-nah-nah!

Welcome to my website!  I am  Tanja, pronounced “Tann-ya.”  (Nevermind the “J”, it’s silent. Think Scandinavian, like “Yumpin’ Yiminy” for “Jumpin’ Jiminy”.)   It’s  “Tann-ya”, like “Can ya?” not “Tahn -ya”,  that rhymes with lasagna. Think Sun-Tan, or tan as in beige.

This is all a bit laborious to explain every time I hear my name read from an attendance sheet, a roll call, or resume.  I wince when nine of ten times it’s, “Tahn-ya” I hear, and not my given pronounciation, “Tann-ya.”

Most of the times I just deal with it—like the momentary scratch of nails on a chalkboard.  It’s easier to take it if I know that I’ll probably never have to deal with the person again, say at the DMV when my renewed, still warm driver’s license is ready, “Tahn-ya, your license is ready,” or I am alerted from a librarian that a book I am picking through library loan is in. “Tahn-ya, your book is in.”

But what really peeves me is when I just introduced myself to someone who I will likely see frequently, socially, or professionally who seems to completely disregard the proper pronounciation of my name. I start out with high hopes, extending my hand first. “Hi, I am Tann- ya,” I say with firm emphasis on the “ann” part. “Oh, hi, Tahhhhhhhn-ya, I’m so and so.”  Wince, wince.  I am so distracted by the mispronunciation of my name and secretly cursing the person, that I have to really work to remember his or her name.

Conversely,  if a person says my name correctly on first meeting, I am instantly delighted and already like them.  Many times though in subsequent meetings or  if they immediately introduce me to someone else, they fall from grace because they identify me as, “Tahhn-ya.”  Ugh!

Why can’t a person take an extra half brain cell in the audio department of his or her head to recall the correct sound of “Tann-ya”, instead of falling back on the stock, generic “Tahn-ya”?

What’s fun too,  is that people say more times than you’d think, “Oh, you’re Tann-ya! My friend has a dog named Tahhn-ya. Great! It’s usually some shih tzu or stuck up poodle.  Figures.

One of my college professors, a communications department head no less, actually admonished me once at the beginning of a semester.   He called my name the wrong way in class and I shyly corrected him,  “Please call me Tann-ya.”

“Tann-ya? Why Tann-ya?” he sneered the short ” a”  through his nasal cavity. “Tahn-ya is so much more sophisticated!”

“You’re an ahhhs-hole,” I thought to myself, too self-conscious back then to say it.  “My mother named me Tann-ya. I am not a Tahhn-ya.”

On occasion I bump into a woman who is wearing “Tanya” on a name badge, or some variation of our troublesome name.  I almost always ask, “Do you pronounce it Tahn-ya or Tann-ya?”  Inveribly she says she’s a “Tahn-ya.”    I say, “I’m Tann-ya.  Do you ever get called Tann-ya?”  There’s a pause and I recognize the kindred sparkle in her eyes. “I get called “Tann-ya” all the time!”