Train Tales

People entertain me.

This morning a young woman with green hair and brown roots got on the train. Her head looked like a tree was growing out of it, except the green was more the color of fizzy pop rock candy. She sat where everybody could see her. For the rest of the ride she kept her head bent down so her hair covered most of her face like a veil while she stared at her smart phone.  Jade

The person who sat next to me was someone I couldn’t quite identify at first. Man or woman? Hard to tell. He/she wore black pants, black shirt, black shoes and carried a black backpack. Her hair was blonde and cut close like a man’s. She wore no jewelry or make-up. She yanked out a book, the hardcover kind with rustling pages, and stuck her face in it all the way to the city. At the first stop she got up and bolted out the door. At least she reads.

Two women, who boarded with me, spent the entire trip talking about the dogs they owned. Then they went on to the different breeders they’d known, the different size dogs, and the weaknesses and strengths of the breeds. It was a steady commentary of opinions and judgments until they arrived at their stop. That’s when one said to the other, “Well, it was nice meeting you.”

There’s a man on my car who sits next to the train operator’s booth and welcomes everyone on board from his seat. He’s friends with every operator on that shift and knows them by name. He knows many of the passengers, too, and says good morning to each. He irritates me. I don’t know why, but he does. Maybe because I can’t be cheery that early, or make small talk with a stranger who wants to draw me into his routine, which would obligate me to acknowledge him every morning. I think it’s presumptuous of him to think I’d capitulate to his charms.

Calvin says, “It’s not him, it’s you. You’d like the whole car to yourself.”beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foreign Policy

While the Warriors played their championship win this week, I noticed an interesting cultural phenomena on my street Tuesday night.

My Indian neighbors – those who have come to the US for the tech jobs – were hooting and hollering like the best of us over the game.

Their voices flowed out of their open windows and crossed the street to my house.

The American assimilation had begun.

One family has two children, a white Lab, and a Volvo. They’ve already been seduced.  white lab

Another family has a daughter in the elementary school around the corner. I often hear her arguing with her mother in perfect kid-lingo, sounding like a typical spoiled American child, while her mother answers her in her language.

I grew up in foreign countries.

I know what it’s like to be on foreign soil, eating different food, hearing another language all day long.

It’s exhausting.

So a basketball game makes a lot of sense.

There’s no need for subtitles.

A basket is a basket.

A foul is a foul.

And a shouting coach needs no interpretation in any language.

I remember going to bullfights.

I would always cheer for the bull.

Calvin says, “You would. You prefer animals to people anyway.” beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mozart Tickles the Brain

Move over Beethoven. Mozart has claimed the number one spot for memory boost.

According to an article in the Daily Mail, listening to Mozart “showed an increase in brain wave activity linked to memory, understanding and problem-solving, researchers found.”
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3112339/How-listening-Mozart-boost-memory-Classical-composer-s-music-linked-increase-brain-wave-activity-beats-Beethoven.html#ixzz3cD9MqqY6
If that’s true, I’m listening to Mozart in every room in the house because I can’t find my glasses.

It will be especially advantageous in the kitchen when I try to remember if it’s one teaspoon of cayenne pepper in the chili or one tablespoon.

Apparently there’s something special in Mozart’s music that stimulates brain wave activity directly related to memory.

Sure beats working on those crossword puzzles. Mozart2

We should pipe in Mozart in every retirement home and senior center around the country.

When my uncle retired, he moved to a senior living community in Las Vegas and joined a local theater group. Then he dropped dead. I suspect he would have had many more years of acting if he had been listening to Mr. M at mealtime.

Researchers used the ‘L’allegro con spirito’ from the Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major by Mozart as their test music piece. This means they’ll be a rash of downloads to people’s smart phones and tablets if they can remember how to do that. The volume of sales will clog up the system and we’ll be forced to buy entire Mozart collections in order to isolate that one piece.

Oh well.

We needed some musical education.
Calvin says, “Download Elvis singing Hound Dog and play it by my food dish.” beagle

 

 

 

 

Boot

I know several people who are interviewing for jobs these days.

They have superb resumes and are qualified to do the work.

They got called in and aced their preliminary interviews and they got the call back.

They went back in, got grilled by a panel and did well there as well.brain

They were told they’d hear in a couple of days to a week.

Three weeks have gone by and zilch. No call, no email, no text.

Apparently that’s how it’s done.

In other words, be prepared for a workout worse than any gym, but don’t expect any courtesy back.

Manners are a thing of the past.

Rudeness is the new currency in the workplace.

I think a lot has to do with the tech culture. They don’t care about manners. Just open your head and dump your brain on the table for analysis. They don’t care if you are a living, breathing human being with feelings. In fact that’s a liability.

It seems the M.O. has leaked into most industries now.

Calvin says, “Brains are over-rated. It’s the nose factor that should reign supreme.”  beagle

Something Different

IMG_1017On my way to get coffee this morning, I ran into Leo.

He’s an American short hair cat who owns Hugo’s garage on Linden Street in San Francisco. Hugo, the car mechanic, believes he’s the owner, but he’s mistaken. Leo got there first when he moved in as a kitten. He’s now 7-years old, ancient in cat years, but he knows his rights.

At night Leo slips in through a loose brick in the wall and curls up on the hood of whatever car Hugo is fixing. He’s not picky. He doesn’t care if it’s European or American. Sometimes he gets lucky and the hood is warm from Hugo running the engine during the day. Most times though it’s cold, but at least he has a peaceful place to sleep that’s high off the ground.

As far as he knows Hugo has never connected the paw prints to him, which is a good thing because he certainly leaves  a lot of them, especially if the car is dusty.

One night he woke up with a start. His fur stood straight up, his face blushed red, and his heart thumped inside his bony chest. What was that? He heard a rattling. Then a loud crash. Leo darted from the hood and fled under the car and crashed into a wall of softness.

“Ouch!” a voice said.

Leo growled.

“What happened to your whiskers warning of objects in the way?” said the very erudite English voice.

Leo blinked a few times.

“Forgive me for startling you. I needed a place to land for the night and I missed by a few feet.”

“Who are you?” Leo said when his heart finally settled back down.

“I’m Geraldine. I’m from two stories up,” she said.

Leo noticed an outline of this creature. She didn’t look like a cat or a dog. She didn’t smell like one either.

Geraldine stood up and shook.

Oh my. Geraldine was a parrot. An African Grey with red tail feathers.  African Grey

“From two stories up? What does that mean?” Leo asked.

“I’ve escaped my confinement. It was ruining me,” she said stretching a wing that brushed Leo’s whiskers and tickled his face.

“They’ll look for you in the morning,” he said.

“I’ll be long gone, off to a Pacific island. I’ve been plotting this for years,” she said.

“That’s a long flight. Have you calculated the miles?”

“Of course. Every detail. It’s what’s kept me alive all these years.”

“How did you escape?” Leo was now interested in the story.

Calvin says, “Oh no! Not another attempt at a children’s story. Your inner child left when you got me.” beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over Here

Last week I read the simplest formula for how to tell a good story.

It goes like this:

A character has a problem.

He meets a mentor who (1) helps him with a plan and (2) inspires him to act.

The resulting actions turn into a comedy or a tragedy.

The end. Edward Hopper

I like that.

It’s simple and straight to the point.

If you think about it, most movies and novels are written that way.

Hollywood demands a problem within the first 10 minutes of the movie or TV show. Books are now doing the same.

Then the main character spends the rest of his time acting on a plan somebody he trusts has given him. That’s his first mistake.

Of course he spends more time failing than succeeding because he has to keep you in your seat eating popcorn. That’s what he gets paid the big bucks for.

Eventually she solves her problem and everything gets resolved. Or maybe not. If you’re building suspense for the next sequel she’s hanging from a zip-line that’s stuck over a whitewater river in a forest populated with cannibals.

I’ve always wanted to write a novel with a fellow writer. I believe two heads are more creative than one. Plus I always get stuck in the middle of a story when everything is coming undone and I need help figuring a way out.

Like life.

Calvin says, “That’s what you have me for except you’re a terrible follower.” beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Good Friday

I love when police officers ride the subway in the mornings.

Immediately everyone calms down and there’s peace in the car.

These officers usually travel in pairs and stand close to one another by the door as they chat.

But you know they’re not really chatting. They’re checking everyone out.

This morning another pair showed up.

This time it was a tall officer with his Westminster-Dog-Show K-9 companion.

Nobody looked at the officer.

We took a collective breath of admiration for the dog.

He was simply gorgeous. And friendly. But that was camouflage.

I wouldn’t want to smell like a bad guy because that friendliness would turn into a growling mass of teeth.

So I got up from my seat one stop early and walked over.

I had to.

“How old is he?” I asked.  IMG_0970

“He’s seven,” the officer said. The dog looked up at me and then lay down. Phew. I passed the bad guy test.

“Was he brought over from Germany?”

The officer shot me a look that said, How did you know that? “As a matter of fact, yes.”

“Do you speak to him in German?” I asked.

“No, he speaks English,” the officer said.

Of course.

The dog continued lying down and looking very relaxed, to keep everyone on board oohing and aahing over him.

I said thank you while I kept my hands in my pockets to keep from reaching down and scratching him behind the ears. Sweet and lovely as he was, I also know he’s trained like a ninja and I didn’t want to see that side of him.

But he did make my morning commute oh so sweet.

Calvin says, “Somebody has to play bad cop. Glad it’s not me. I’d just sniff out everybody’s lunch.” beagle