Night Crooner

Around midnight there’s a bird in the tree by my bedroom window that starts singing. His timing is intriguing. I thought birds went to bed with sundown and stayed quiet until sunrise. Not this one. He has a repertoire that is impressive. He must be an opera singer preparing for his role. He keeps me awake. I listen to his notes, and not one is the same as the other. He varies his tone and his melody. You’d think others were answering him, but it’s all coming from him.

I did an Internet search for night crooners and found him. He’s the Northern Mockingbird. He can mimic other birds as well as invent his own songs. His is a playlist that lasts well into the night.

Lately he’s taken the night off. I miss him.

“Thank heavens he’s stopped,” Alf said.

“Why? I quite liked him,” I said.

“You’ve always needed a lullaby,” Alf says.

“I know you can’t sleep with noise, but this is music, not noise.”

“I bury my head under the pillows,” Alf said.

“But it’s soothing. You’re missing out.”

“He sounds like a hand bell choir, wind chimes, and a tin drum all rolled into one,” Alf said.

“That isn’t noise,” I said.

“That’s because you’re tone deaf.”

Calvin says, “There needs to be a bay in there somewhere, then it would be complete.”

 

Cutting Up a Little

“You don’t suppose I put the knife someplace I typically don’t?” Alf said.

“What knife?” I said.

“You know, the knife,” Alf said.

“You have so many.”

“No I don’t.”

“You have the one for scaling fish, the one for carving wood, the one for cutting down outgrowth on the bushes, and the one you use for cutting grilled steak,” I said.

“That’s not the knife I mean.”

“Then I can’t help you,” I said.

“Clearly,” Alf said.

“Have you tried looking where you keep the dog’s things?” I said.

“Why would it be there?”

“You take it with you on your walks with him.”

“Why would I do that?”

“You said you never know when you have to defend yourself from rattlesnakes, runaway horses, and lost turtles,” I said.

“I said that?”

“No, I made it up. But it sounded good, didn’t it?”

Calvin says, “And slobbering dogs looking for attention.”

 

 

A Stranger on the Call

I couldn’t understand the man on the phone.

“What did you say? There’s too much noise in the background,” I said.

“Is this better?” he asked.

“No, now I hear a screaming child. Are you on the street?”

“In the market, on aisle 7.”

“What’s aisle 7?”

“Bed pans, medicine, and cotton balls,” he said.

“In a market?”

“They cater to all needs,” he said.

“Well, in that case I need something for my lower back, my toes, and my right arm. It all hurts,” I said. Then I realized I wasn’t sure who I was talking to.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Alf, your husband. Remember me? You sent me to the store.”

“You’re in the wrong store, I need you in a pharmacy,” I said.

“This is the pharmacy. Do you think I would find spinach and papaya here?”

“Yes, in aisle 8,” I said.

Cavin says, “And in aisle 1 you’ll find the doggie treats. Right as you step into the store. They know how to position the important stuff.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Chameleon Life

I grew up in three cultures – British, Mexican and Lebanese. Some days I don’t know who I am, which I’m told is normal for someone whose roots go all over the map. The customs and foods and quirks unique to each one requires a passport. Later in life I discovered I was also Jewish, so I added that to my identity profile. Being Jewish explained a lot. It informed my searching for home. My nomad existence. Never feeling I’ve settled down with any one particular place or group of people. It explained my love of Jewish music, especially the minor key.

Over the years, I’ve learned to live with the tension of identity. I’m able to live in a Latin culture as well as a British one. I put them on like a coat. I equally relish a plate of tacos as lamb kebab with hummus. There are days I need a steaming cup of yerba mate tea for comfort, but there are other times when only a mug of cinnamon coffee will do.

I’ve spent more time in the United States than anywhere else now. I understand the language, the people, and the traditions, but there are days when my heart longs to hear Spanish, my native tongue, to feel the slower pace of life, and enjoy the connections to family that go back centuries to when they too came from other parts of the world.

Calvin says, “I’m glad my roots only go back to Napa, the beagle-wine producing region of the world.”

Survival Plans

I dug it up. It had been struggling to survive for years. I re-planted it in a pot that was hanging from the apricot tree, except there is no apricot tree, just the trunk, which now holds several potted plants. Alf and I killed the apricot tree by pruning it too much. What did we know? We’re not farmers. The transplanted plant should be worried. We don’t know what we’re doing.

Our garden plants grit their teeth behind our backs. They hold whispered meetings at midnight, while we sleep, planning how to survive in spite of what we do to them.

The oleanders are the senior members, well established after many battles, and are now too big to die. They’ve gone through the worst of it, from neglect to over-watering. They now give advice to the youngest inhabitants. “Keep your water reserves if you want to live,” they say.

The roses are faring a bit better because they’re pretty. Beauty wins out every time. It’s what saves them from death. Nobody likes to see a withered bush, it speaks ill of the owners.

The lavender and rosemary have the best chance of survival. They’ve been bred to withstand heat and drought.

The jade, the newcomers, beat their chests. “We’ll outlive you all,” they say with a laugh.

The citrus trees roll their eyes. “We’ve been here 80 years, and we’ve seen it all. If it wasn’t for the rainy season we’d be gone, and so will you, so don’t be cocky because that will be your demise,” they say.

Calvin says, “You’ve murdered a nursery-full since I’ve been here. I’d have a warrant for your arrest.”

 

Life on Wheels

During my escape from the house last weekend, I noticed what looked like a cooler on six wheels driving on the sidewalk in the center of town I was in. It was white and carried a golf-like flag to let people know it was coming toward them or behind them. It chirped and beeped. Clearly someone, hiding behind a tree, was navigating this contraption.

It turned out it came from the local market and it was their delivery system. Inside the cooler I’m sure there were cut-up veggies, a cluster of red grapes, gorgonzola cheese, sesame seed, gluten-free crackers, and of course lots of Chardonnay on ice. This made perfect sense in the middle of Silicon Valley. Where else would you find a robot delivering your dinner? Now if it cooks, serves and cleans-up, then I’m in.

Alf says, “It should also sort through old tech books and re-arrange the garage.”

I see the many uses it could have like getting the dog to the groomers, picking up the dry cleaning, going to the mall for that cute outfit that was on sale, walking your children home, mowing the lawn, and keeping you company if you’re desperate. I don’t know how many languages it speaks, but that could be an added feature. It should also play jazz and be able to read Shakespeare and Hebrew.

Calvin says, “No way you’d shove me into that thing. I’d look ridiculous with my ears flapping.”

 

Hair Day

On Saturday I went to see my hairdresser. It was a clandestine trip. We parked two blocks away, put on our masks, I looked like a pirate in my red bandana, hair blowing in the wind, and walked to the salon. It was in darkness. My hairdresser had shut the blinds so nobody could see in, he also had the lights turned off. He gave us the secret knock – three and a half raps on the door, like in the movies. He opened up, and we squeezed in. He was wearing a mask and looked thinner than before the quarantine.

“An operation like this requires a drink and a piano,” Alf said.

“And your wife is Ingrid Bergman,” my hairdresser said.

“Of all the salons around here, we walk into yours,” Alf said.

“Play it again, Sam.” My hairdresser turned up the music on his computer.

“We’ll always have Carmel,” I said.

“Here’s looking at you, kid. What do you want done to your hair?” he said.

“Whatever you want, since this is what every hairdresser wants to hear,” I said.

“Ingrid, this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship,” he said.

“And when you’re done, work on my head, we must look good for our transit back home,” Alf said.

Calvin says, “I’ll round up the usual suspects and walk off into the sunset.”¬†

 

 

A Pitiful Reality

Coming back from my two-mile walk in my backyard, not that my backyard is two miles long, it’s not, but I walk back and forth for two miles, I realized what a pitiful sight I am. If anyone were to see me in my sweatpants, T-shirt, no make-up – what for the birds? – they’d say I needed a respite in the local psyche ward. I have forgotten to dress normally, bathe daily, and wear something colorful. Is this what retirement looks like? No, this is what being cooped up at home without the possibility of parole looks like during the pandemic. When restrictions get lifted I will need training in how to be a human being again and a functioning member of society. I will have to wear a bra again! That thought revolts me. I will need to be pleasing, kind and thoughtful to others. I’ve had a vacation from that. And eight hours in an office again when I’ve enjoyed squirrels, birds and flowers as my office, I can’t bear the thought.

Not everything about the lockdown has been nasty as the media wants you to believe. It’s been peaceful. The air has never been fresher. The quiet of the streets allows me to hear the honking of overhead geese, the barking of dogs on a walk, the clamoring of the garbage truck on its pickup runs. We’re making more garbage than ever before. We’re buying and cooking and eating and throwing away. Just today I saw my neighbor throw out his prized flamingo.

Calvin says, “You’re nuts alright. Flamingo? That was a pink elephant.”

 

 

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.”

 

 

A Hornet With My Toast

The amount of people promoting their expertise online is staggering. From writing books, creating paintings, selling on social media, doing better business, to cooking shows now that everyone is home and needing to eat. I’m tempted to say yes to everything. But then I’d be up most nights watching their videos. I’d be making bagels at 2 am, pizza at 3, and marmalade at 4 am. So I decided to chuck it, and go to bed. I’ve lived with less than stellar meals for years. Beans and rice is a favorite dish of mine. Half the world lives on it, why not me? I’m a tea drinker and I discovered¬† several boxes of English tea in my pantry I forgot I had. I’m good for a few months. Fresh veggies and fruit are quarantined in my fridge. I’m well stocked.

I did try making lemon marmalade and it turned out better than my orange marmalade. It’s tart and sweet, a combination hard to beat. Of course I need lots of buttered toast for that, and my cup of English tea, and then I’ll eat and sip in my rose garden, dreaming of Scotland.

“Watch out for the hornets,” Alf said.

“They don’t like lemon marmalade,” I said.

“Yes, and much more. They’ll take a bite out of you if you’re sweet enough.”

“Should I put on my bee outfit?”

“Might be smart.”

“But then I can’t eat my toast or drink my tea,” I said.

“I can cut a window straight to your mouth,” Alf said.

“Don’t bother. I’ll just sit here admiring my roses and watch the ravens nose dive the squirrels.”

Calvin says, “No hornet will come near me, I smell, I haven’t had a bath in months.”