In the Heat

Word has spread and Monarchs are coming to enjoy my butterfly bush. It’s a joy to see these orange nymphs flitting about in the garden. They tend to appear in the afternoon, when the day is the hottest. They’re joined by the hummers, the chattering squirrels and the bees. It’s really quite noisy in the stillness of the warmth.

I’m contemplating installing a gurgling fountain where the birds can bathe, the cats lap up water and the squirrels can have a splash party. I’d put out my favorite rocking chair and be entertained for hours. A friend of mine loves to sit out in her garden, among the flowers, reading her books, with one eye to the wildlife around her. She’s done that in every place she lived, including Beijing. Now she’s in a retirement community and only has a balcony, but that hasn’t stopped her. Her little spot is overflowing with potted flowers and greens, and she’s out there every day with her coffee and books. I’m learning to follow in her footsteps.

“Your footsteps keep you indoors,” Alf said.

“I’m working, that’s why,” I said.

“You’ve heard the word laptop?”

“Of course, silly.”

“That’s what it’s for, your lap, anywhere,” he said.

“My lap gets too hot, then I run out of battery, and I lose focus because the entertainment around me pulls me away,” I said.

“Excuses. Make it work, find the right spot, under the lemon tree, by the garden angel, next to the maple,” he said.

“What if a lemon lands on my keyboard?”

“Make a lemon tart,” Alf said.

Calvin says, “You forgot to include my panting in the heat as part of the entertainment.”

 

 

 

I’ve Had It

I’ve had enough of staying home. It’s been two months now and I’m feeling it.

The days are bleeding into each other. Last week I lost one whole day. I don’t know where it went. It didn’t tell me.

The nights are quiet – no overhead planes – not even a dog barking anymore or the roar of my neighbor’s motorcycle at midnight. Gone too is the noise from our neighbors who love to take their parties to the street.

I want to rush to my second-hand bookstore except they’re closed. I’m raiding my own bookshelf for titles to read. At the moment I’m reading how to do electrical wiring in the kitchen. I need a few more lights and wall sockets for my high-speed blender. I want to make smoothies with all the broccoli Alf keeps buying.

I’d like a walk by the beach, but I’m sure I’d be stopped, handcuffed and dragged away to the nearest police station.

I’m cutting my own hair and that’s not a pretty sight. The right side is shorter than the left so I’m walking lopsided to compensate.

“Do you think I’d look good in a pony tail?” Alf said.

“Better than me,” I said.

“Okay. Don’t be upset if I look furry.”

“You already look furry.”

“I do?”

“Your hair is migrating around your neck.”

“The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde look.”

“More like Herry Monster from Sesame Street,” I said.

“That was before my time,” Alf said.

Calvin says, “Aren’t you glad I don’t need grooming? I’m hunky gorgeous all year round.”

 

 

The Big Goodbye

The hoopla is over. The 49ers lost. Kansas City Chiefs won. Let’s move on.

The Iowa caucus is in chaos and nobody emerged as a winner. Yet. They’ll figure it out.

Today is the State of the Union address. Tomorrow is the end of the impeachment proceedings. Let’s move on.

I wonder what the media will do now that all the drama is gone. They live and breathe crises and fear and a heightened anxiety. They’re the reason people are on drugs for depression and high blood pressure. Big pharma is thrilled.

I say we unplug our electronic devises, the television, and anything else that has us tethered to the media. We aren’t getting the news anyway. It’s all entertainment.

Instead, let’s read a book for pleasure. Do we remember how?

Let’s learn how to make chocolate filled croissants.

How about a hike in the woods? Do we even remember what a tree looks like?

It’s time to return to the simple, sane things that give us peace. Now there’s a word that’s out of tune with today.

Calvin says, “When do we go on this hike of yours? My nose is ready. Also for the croissant.”

Another Year Done

I’m eating leftover deviled eggs and freezing. There’s a cold wind whipping the dead leaves into swirls today. The kind of weather that belongs on the east coast, not here. What’s happening to this side of the country? This is California, not Connecticut.

The deviled eggs, well I made too many this week and my guests didn’t eat them all. They left them for me to do that. Calvin, of course, is too eager to oblige, but I know better. He’ll rip one or two or three throughout the day that make me want to fumigate the house. He gets a bone instead. IMG_8942

Alf is buried in blankets, Calvin is under the bed comforter with only his tail showing, and I’m at the computer dashing this off. A rather inauspicious end of the year, I admit, but I’ve never been one for noisy cocktail parties with fireworks in the background. That’s better left for Hollywood, or New York City, or maybe Paris. And since I’m not there, I’m happy to huddle by the fire, even if it’s a spare-the-day day, reading my book, and saying cheers to all of you. Thank you for visiting my blog this year and being a gracious readership. Happy New Year to you!

Calvin says, “I read your blog, too. It’s time to give me a starring role. I want more lines. I need a make-up artist. My own chair with my name on it. And I certainly need better food. Including eggs.”  beagle

 

 

How To Enjoy Failing

There’s a saying on my wall that goes like this:

INEPTITUDE

If you can’t learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly.

I love it.

If I’m honest with myself, I do everything poorly.

For most of my life, I wouldn’t go near things that interested me because I was sure I wouldn’t do them well.

I was a perfectionist.

But over the years I learned that perfectionism paralyzed me.

I had no fun.

I was a grouch.

So I took the plunge.

For example, cooking. I didn’t know how to boil water. That kept me away from a lot of recipes I wanted to make.

Now I boil water like a pro. Big bubbles, medium bubbles, and small bubbles.

The rest of the recipe, ask me another time.

Take painting. All my life I was told that to be a good painter, you had to learn to draw.

Drawing bores me. Too much attention spent on details. I don’t have the patience.

So I mess with watercolors on the best paper I can afford to buy. The paper produces some really good stuff, and I take the credit.

Writing. The ability to write a novel alludes me. I’ve tried so many times, only to get stuck in the middle with no way out of the maze I’ve created.

But I’m terrific at beginnings. Great characters. Lots of action. Compelling hook.

Anybody out there need an epic first chapter? Talk to me.

The truth is, I live with failure every day, but I don’t let it stop me anymore.

It scares me. I’ll admit that, but I’ve gotten used to being frightened.

I tell myself somewhere in all this mess, there’s a gem in there.

Most likely it will take somebody else to spot it.

Calvin says, “I see it. It’s the bone I buried under the chaos in your study.”

What A Golden Chair Says About Reading

Everyday on my way home I walk past a cafe that has one gold chair in it. You can’t miss it. It’s one-of-a-kind shiny gold snakeskin faux leather.  It’s by the bookshelf spilling with pre-owned books that nobody reads. The other tables and chairs are functional and boring, and usually filled with customers. The gold chair stays empty.

“I find it odd that nobody sits in it,” I said to Jasmine, my friend at work.

“Oh, it’s because nobody reads anymore,” Jasmine said.

“Like nobody sits down anymore either?” I said.

“Not in that chair, they don’t. They’d be self-conscious.”

“You mean, reading is now a self-conscious behavior?”

“If you’re not reading on a tablet, or your smart phone, you’re dated,” Jasmine said. “Nobody wants to stand out like that.”

I love to read. Real books. The kind with lots of pages crammed with words.

The next day on my way home, I made a detour and went into the cafe. I ordered an espresso at the counter, paid for it, and walked over to the gold chair. I sat down. I looked around. The other customers were engrossed in their conversations. Nobody noticed me sitting there. While I sipped my espresso, I turned my attention to the book titles. One of them caught my attention.

The book was: Historical Rumps on the Gold Chair by Sir Robert Bottoms-Up.

I laughed out loud.

A few people stopped talking to look at me.

Then the chair began to vibrate. At first I thought it was an earthquake. Nobody else seemed alarmed. The vibrations got stronger to the tickling point. I laughed louder. This time more customers stared at me. I looked around me. I was the only one experiencing this. I had a choice. To enjoy the massage or bolt.

What would you do?

Calvin says, “Do you get a free goodie if you pass the 3-minute mark?”

Pre-Viously Loved Books

Since Borders has closed most of its stores in the Bay Area, that leaves those of us, who still appreciate the feel of a real book in our hands, with the option of the second-hand bookshop. There’s two worthy of note: Bibliohead in San Francisco (http://www.bibliohead.com/) and Half-Price Books in Berkeley and Fremont (http://www.hpb.com/).

Melissa, the owner of Bibliohead, is an avid reader and knows her books. I’ve asked her on several occasions to recommend a book in a genre I like and she hasn’t disappointed me yet. I came home this week with two stories: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery and Fatal Remedies by Donna Leon.

Biliohead is small, intimate and crammed with good titles for the buyer looking for literature, mysteries, poetry, and music and dance, it’s specialty. Half-Price is larger in space with books that include science, computers, and religion besides literature and mysteries. You’re more on your own there, but you’ll find what you like.

If you’re the adventurous type, and you don’t mind chaos, visit Serendipity Books in Berkeley (http://www.serendipitybooks.com/). It specializes in poetry, first editions and wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling books. As soon as you’re in the front door, watch your step because books are everywhere. And then you’ll meet Peter, the owner, sitting in a grand chair surveying his kingdom of titles.

“I’m looking for poetry by Billy Collins, first editions,” I say.

“Go straight past Literature on your right, then take another right past Drama, then up a flight of stairs, make a left, through the doorway, watch your head there, and go straight through past the kitchen, and in the back, you’ll find Poetry.”

Good luck.

Calvins says, “Looking for a good book is like digging up an old bone. It’s worth kicking up some dirt.”

What Are You Looking For?

Last night I browsed in an independent bookshop. I think it’s the last one left in San Francisco (http://www.bookshopwestportal.com). You know the kind. Hardwood floors. Well lit. Wood tables stacked high with literature. Yes, literature. Not the latest mass produced drivel. Titles that beckon your attention. Books with a distinct voice. Intelligent writing. Compelling stories. Just breathing the air made you smarter.

“What are you looking for?” asked the saleswoman. She was a woman in her fifties with short, dark hair, and a few wrinkles around her eyes.

“I’m looking for something well written, with charm, wit, and a story worthy of my time and money,” I said waiting to see a blank stare cross her face.

“Come with me,” she said. “Do you like mysteries?”

“Yes. British. Women protagonists,” I said.

Before I knew it I had a book in my hand, by an author who was new to me, that bore the marks of a decent read. “She’s smart and her stories have depth,” the saleswoman said. Clearly she was a reader.

She rang me up. I thanked her for the personal attention. And I’d be back to let her know how I liked the book.

I made my way to the front door. The blue computer screen on the counter stared at me unblinkingly.

Calvin says, “I love the personal touch. It’s like getting scratched behind your ears.”

Center Stage

People don’t want to be fixed. They want to be loved. They want somebody to listen to them. They long for the spotlight. To be the center of the universe, even if the universe is a family, a club, or an office. There are some who demand a larger stage. They become actors and politicians. Where do these people go when time catches up to them? They write memoirs, of course. They believe their audience still cares. Like Tony Blair. I bought the book. I read four chapters. Yawn. It proves once again that nothing interests people so much as themselves.

Calvin says, “That’s why a dog is still a man’s best friend. We keep the illusion going.”