Apropos of Apps

Have you noticed the plethora of apps out there? I have. Some are crazy funny. For instance I noticed one that will reserve a parking space for you in San Francisco. Everybody knows it’s impossible to park in the city, so this is helpful. But I wonder how they do it. Have they contracted people all over the city to call in spaces they see in their areas? Like the new florists in town who have a staff of bicyclists delivering burlap-wrapped bouquets all over the city, the parking space locators are lurking in every neighborhood during commute hours.  cropped-peacock.jpg

I write haiku and sure enough there’s an app out there. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/thf-haiku/id453464896?mt=8 It’s full of the best haiku by poets from different countries. This is an inspiring app to have on my phone. It gives me a moment of creativity every day.

There’s the app for dog lovers. You can choose dogs barking, a dog simulator (no poop to pick up), a breed guide, dogs playing poker, pet care, grooming and training, and super hero pups.

I won’t go into the cat apps because they’re so many I wouldn’t have room to name them all, but one caught my attention – My Talking Tom.

And for the bird lover, there’s the Audubon Bird Guide that’s free. This comes in handy when you’re walking to work and notice a dead bird splayed at the entrance of your office building.

Calvin says, “Is there a beagle app wafting the right scents we love?” beagle

 

 

 

Tea for Two

The kitchen is complete. It’s so different Alf and I feel we’re in an alternative universe. We’re having to get used to it like a new house.

Unlike us, it’s bright, open and sleek.  What was once a traditional kitchen of the 60’s is now a bold space with stainless steel, grey cabinets, black and white granite counters, and a brown hardwood floor. teapot

Our son, the artist, immediately spotted all the flaws. “I would have laid the hardwood floor in the opposite direction,” he said.  A floor is a floor. Vertical or horizontal, once you throw rugs over it, who’s to notice? He did.

Our daughter was thrilled with the upgrade. “Wow. Makes the house look glamorous. I’ll be coming over more often.” Who knew modernizing the house is the secret to bringing the family together.

Right now I’m purging food items, pots and pans, and small appliances before we fill up cabinet space. I discovered I’ve been hording bags of spices, too many spatulas, dish towels and oven mittens, and an extra set of dishes meant for a banquet of 24. Time to toss.

Calvin says, “I have to establish new scent trails to my food dish.” beagle

 

 

Shoving Out Art Again

It’s spring and the city is sprouting condos.

Every blighted corner has sprouted a fresh building like a flower in the desert.

The next casualty is my favorite art store.

It’s slated to be demolished this year.

For 37 years it has supplied artists of all genres the materials for their craft. Some people like clothes, I love art stores and this was one of the best.

It made me smile the moment I walked in. cropped-photo-59.jpg

I bought my canvases and paintbrushes there. My paints, pens and pencils, and papers for collages. And many gifts for my friends.

The store is moving to the farthest end of the city, practically under the Golden Gate Bridge where the birds are. I’ll need to rent a segway to get there.

Meanwhile a cold, impersonal building is going up in its place. I saw the renderings today. Looks like every other building built in the last nano second. These architects lack creativity and guts. The investment groups just want to make a buck, I get it, and capitalize on the hordes of young tech workers moving in to make their mark in the city. Except their living spaces look like their work spaces. It’s a crime.

It’s a shame they didn’t think of a way to build on top of my art store and weave the smells and colors into the steel and cement. That way the newbies in town could take painting classes on the roof like the little children they are.

Calvin says, “Money sucks the fun out of things. Look at dog houses these days. They’re revolting.” beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

So It’s Raining

Finally.

It’s been raining cats and dogs.

Mostly cats.

They’ve been under my window at night hissing and booing.

Every day there’s a parade of them sniffing my bushes around the house. Black, white, grey and the occasional tortoise. They prance along with tails high. They learn who’s been there. Then they leave the next memoir installment detailing the gossip of their sordid little lives for the others to stay current.

To my knowledge there’s hasn’t been a runaway best seller yet.

They’re not too happy this week.

The daily Feline Gazette has been watered down from hard core news to sound bites that are water logged and hold no new mews. The social media section has mud caked on its whiskers. The local news, well there isn’t much due to the storms, which has led everybody indoors to lick their paws.

The few still out there got to witness drama in their own backyard last night.cats and dogs

A train derailed through the canyon. A mudslide washed over a portion of the tracks. One of the cars fell over on its side and slid down the embankment and was baptized in the creek. Fortunately no one lost life or limb, a few ended in the hospital but were later released, and most commuters got home without a scratch.

Those intrepid felines who gathered in the trees got to witness the first responders take charge and do their jobs. It was exhilarating. They’ll have an article in the next edition of the Gazette with their by-line.

If it stops raining.

Calvin says, “Cats are stupid. Why go out in the rain when you can burrow under a down comforter and eat bonbons?” 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Give Me Space

Alf and I made plans to spend the day in Carmel the weekend after Christmas.

Instead of taking the sane way, we chose the back roads that took us through the center of Gilroy and up and around and down the mountains that paralleled highway 101. That turned out to be a 30-minute detour that left Alf fuming and me hyperventilating. The day was already ruined.

What were we thinking? We envisioned a casual stroll down cobbled stone streets, lazily peering into store windows for the Christmas decor, enjoying a leisurely lunch at a French restaurant expertly prepared by the chef of many years with a fine reputation.

Instead we jostled our way down the streets side-stepping the tourists with their pedigree dogs, which didn’t want strangers petting them with gooey fingers from their over-priced pastries. Why don’t people leave their dogs at home? When did it turn trendy to wear them shopping? I can sort of understand a purse dog, if you can call that thing a dog, but a Burmese Mountain dog? There’s no avoiding him, he’s a defense tackler blocking the street.

I saw more dogs than children. Probably the kids stayed home with the grandparents and the dogs went to town. There’s something wrong here. IMG_9666

Lines were out the door at every decent restaurant. Casual wear in the stores was priced at $300 and up. And that was the sale price. Really? I can get that same sweatshirt online for $15.95.

It was cold gorgeous – sharp blue skies, piercing sunlight – boot and jacket weather. Boots were popular. Everybody was wearing them, except me. I checked the price of an elegant leather pair that caught my eye – $475. With a few more dollars, I’ll go to Europe.

The art galleries disappointed me. Mostly touristy seascapes in glaring colors, the kind you see in every beach town from Maui to La Jolla to Acapulco. I think the same painters make a circuit. Jose takes Acapulco, Sven’s is Carmel, Max paints in a bar in Maui, and Teresa is the barracuda in La Jolla. They’re all related. These were Teresa’s last three husbands.

Calvin says, “Next time leave Alf home and take me. My nose needs an outing and I love gooey.” beagle

The Cost of Mastery

Malcom Gladwell in his book, Outliers, wrote that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.

Gladwell used well-known figures as his examples like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, the Beatles and J. Robert Oppenheimer, to name a few. However, most of us are not the Gates and popular musicians of the world.

We’re ordinary.

Which got me thinking. suffering

I wonder if 10,000 hours is true for airline pilots, surgeons, and clergy.

After all, these types are responsible for people’s lives, much more so than the examples in Gladwell’s book.

I wonder if pilots, surgeons and clergy realize how serious their jobs are.

Probably not, especially if they’re young.

Years ago I needed a surgeon and the man was pompous and verbose. He knew he was good. He was a young guru with magical hands.

Then I needed him again ten years later. I barely recognized him. He was overweight, still talkative, but this time he was humble. He told me he had slaved at the altar of success only to bring his marriage to the brink of divorce, that he had lost more patients than saved them, and that there was more to life than the surgery room.

I wonder if that’s true for pilots. After all, a jet is a jet, the controls are the same, and the view out the cockpit window at 30,000 feet pretty much looks the same everywhere. A flight attendant friend tells me that pilots are usually found at the hotel bar at the end of a shift. Most are divorced or living with unhappy wives. That’s scary.

And clergy? Just think of the problems they hear – the agonies, the failures, and the disappointments of their parishioners. The lapses in church attendance. The struggles with their own marriages and children. The need to preach relevant messages every week to congregations that don’t listen anyway.

Ten thousand hours for mastery? Is that all? I say you need a lifetime to be an expert in being human.

Calvin says, “Well, I’ve mastered being a beagle except you haven’t noticed lately.” beagle

 

 

Singing in the Rain

I survived the big storm today. Barely.

Our subway system is not prepared for anything but normal. A few drops of rain and all the trains run late.

With today’s downpour that came down in sheets, the rails were slick and the trip into the city was a jerky experience.

Our conductor looked worried. He ran up and down the cars unlocking and then locking us inside in case we fell out. Did he know something we didn’t? How could we fall out? We spent a good deal of time paralyzed on the tracks.

We finally made it into the city. Then came the adventure of walking to the office. Or should I say crossing the Jordan to the office. Except the waters didn’t dry up for me. I waded my way there, getting progressively more drenched as I neared my destination. By the time I arrived, my freshly washed hair looked like a mop, and I was soaked through from the waist down. Never mind that I wore rain boots, a raincoat and held an umbrella. There was no hope of staying dry.

It’s a good thing I love the rain.  rainy-evening

I don’t care how it comes down.

Rain is moody weather. With it comes gray skies, glistening sidewalks, and splashing water from automobile tires. If you’re in the country, then it’s broody skies with different shades of gray, crackling lightning, and drumming thunder. It’s God’s theatrical show free of charge.

I grew up with thunderstorms that stopped your heart they were so powerful. I also grew up with earthquakes. My relationship with God started when I was a child. I wasn’t going to fool around with someone who could produce such power on demand.

I still laugh every time the weatherman makes a prediction.

Like today. Okay it’s wet, but nothing close to the fear instilled in us by the media to stay home and keep dry.

Where is everyone’s sense of awe?

Calvin says, “Awe? I’m awed that you love the scent of wet fur!” beagle

 

 

 

 

A New Friend

I met a woman I instantly fell in love with. Her name is Cordelia Spencer and she’s a retired family therapist of 30 years who now wants to spend her time writing mysteries.

She’s moved out of the Bay Area for Southern Oregon where she’s among her kind – writers, actors and impersonators.

“Having spent so many years listening to patients I feel I can become them,” she says with a chuckle.  “Oh the stories I can tell.”ashland trees

Her one companion who is allowed to distract her is Maurice, a 2-year old Cardigan Corgi who was bequeathed to her by a patient who died.  You will find Maurice with a wary eye constantly by her side. “At first I was angry at having to take him, but he’s become my best friend. I suspect he plotted his way into my heart.”

Cordelia and Maurice live in a condo overlooking a beautiful park filled with trees and a roaring creek. They have no furniture in the apartment except for a bed and a computer table for Cordelia’s laptop. Cordelia prefers it that way. She spent 30 years in a home with a husband and two children surrounded by clutter. Now she has the space she craves and likes it that way. Maurice, on the other hand is not so sure because he spent the first two years of his life on silk sheets and enjoyed a pampered life. Since being adopted he’s had to learn to be a dog.

So far Cordelia has been unable to write a word. Every time she opens her laptop her children call or a friend drops by. And they usually need help. And Cordelia can’t say no.

Calvin says,”I have to meet this Maurice character. Silk sheets? Are you kidding me?” beagle