Urban

Walking up the hill this morning to the office, I was forced to walk around a mattress and box spring, a couch, a chair, snow boots, and a lamp. Somebody threw them out from the building they once lived in.

My office is surrounded by apartment buildings, so on one level I suppose it makes sense.

On another, it’s a mystery.  cropped-image002.png

It screams “single life”, “moving on”, “take my trash and shove it.”

What’s even more of a mystery is the disappearance of all those things within hours.

I left the office later this morning and most of the stuff was gone.

Where does it go?

Who picks it up?

I never see anyone doing this.

Do gremlins emerge from the gutters like a line of ants?

Do the homeless pick it up? Except today it was raining, but things still disappeared.

The oddest thing I’ve ever seen on the street was a wig and women’s clothing.

I don’t want to guess what that meant.

Calvin says, “It meant one discarded multiple personality.” 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

A Little of Nothing

On our walkabouts, we see things that capture our attention. Here are a few you might enjoy:

 

bed

Ash8Charliesun


The bed lives at the entrance to a B&B in Half Moon Bay. It’s covered in pink flowers and crawling vines. It’s not a sample of what you’ll find in their rooms. In them it’s down quilts and naked geese quacking their complaints.

The nymph statue is perched on top of water fountain in Lithia Park in Ashland, Oregon. It’s an escapee from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Puck harassed it so much, it fled.

The sun hugs a fence to somebody’s garden in Half Moon Bay. It’s Picasso-like expression was the reason it was rejected during auditions as an understudy for the real thing.

Charlie spends his time walking the streets in Niles reminiscing about his earlier movie making days. He’s the silent type. You won’t get a word out of him, but he’s hoping to be spotted by a talent agent who is out antique shopping.

photo (42)

I think the price of a therapy session has gone up since then, but Lucy is one of best. She’s irritating, impatient, and you’ll get what you pay for.  If you’re desperate she keeps office hours at the Schultz Museum in Santa Rosa.

Calvin says, “That nymph’s spray rivals anything I can produce.” beagle

 

A Drip in the Night

We’ve had plumbing problems at home this week.

It’s been disorienting to stumble into the bathroom at 5 a.m. to brush my teeth and to be shocked by running water splashing around my ankles.

This puts Alf into a panic. Computers are his field, not pipes.

Our solution: buy another vanity. photo(116)

We went to Lowe’s armed with tape measures. We looked professional. We measured the vanities on display. We chose a very circumspect one, cherry brown with a white marble top. We hunted down a live sales person. He checked the inventory on the computer. It said they had two in the store. He began to look. Up and down the aisles he went. Nothing. Finally I asked him what the product number was, and now there were two of us, and then three with Alf. We stretched our necks searching for box # 400897 at a height of an eagle in a tree. Several strained necks later we returned to the computer to discover it had lied to us. There were two vanities, but one was a return because it was damaged, and the other was the display we had measured. How many others had measured it, kicked it, and shimmied it? We were not going to buy that one, but I was tempted to ask if we could get a discount on it. Nope, I didn’t do it. Our salesman was not to be daunted, so he called another store, and found a new one. So we put it on hold, dashed over there, confirmed they had told the truth, and paid for it.

This took the better part of the morning.

Our wonderful neighbor, a whiz at fixing all things broken and a truck owner, picked up the vanity with Alf and dragged it into the house. Like a moth to a flame, Ed’s attention was immediately drawn to the problem with the old vanity. After examining it he declared he could fix it. Why spend $400 on a new vanity when he could fix the old one for $32. So off he went to the hardware store, chose new parts, came back and got to work. What should have been a few hours turned into two days, with several additional trips to the store, but when he finished I had brand new, shinny silver pipes guaranteed never to leak a drop of water on me again no matter what time of day or night. Then Ed and Alf schlepped the new Lowe’s wonder back to the store to be returned to its black hole in the sky.

Calvin says, “You guys are ridiculous. What’s wrong with the hose out in back and one of the trees to pee on?”  beagle

 

 

 

 

Plush or Not

I’m old enough to remember my grandparents’ sleeping arrangements.

They each had separate bedrooms. It worked well for them. Neither one asked the other for a divorce.

I’m convinced it was because they got a good night’s sleep.

Life goes better with 8-9 hours a night.  photo (21)

Every morning they were happy to see each other at the breakfast table.

My parents followed suit, but not entirely. They slept in twin beds, but in the same bedroom.

They too didn’t get a divorce.

I’m beginning to wonder if it’s sleeping in the same bed that is the cause of so many busted marriages these days.

When was the last time you saw an ad for twin beds on TV?

And have you noticed the changes in mattresses lately?

Manufacturers have shaved off the width on the queen size and re-packaged it.

You can no longer flip the mattress to evenly distribute your weight on the bed.

Everything now has pillow-top-softness, but the mattress is still guaranteed to break down in 5-7 years no matter what the warranty says.

And the prices! Some kings are the price of a trip to Europe.

When did a mattress become a luxury item?

When Hollywood started featuring sexy scenes with the stars in the same bed together.

I remember Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn in separate beds and they were still funny.

Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore slept in twin beds and we still laughed.

Today everybody’s in a king-size bed and grumpy.

Calvin says, “If everyone slept in a lambskin pet bed like me they’d be delirious.” beagle