It’s coming to that time of the year where I peer into lobbies and storefronts for Christmas decorations on my walk to the office. These are the companies with money and they spare no expense with the decor. What makes it so striking is inside you’re in fairyland, or more precisely, Santa’s attic with his elves, gawking at 10-foot trees dripping in gold and sparkles, with beautifully wrapped red and gold presents amidst the poinsettias, and soft holiday music in the background. I know because I go in and take pictures. But outside on the dirty sidewalk you’re stepping over sleeping bodies of the homeless. The contrast takes my breath away. I wonder how many see it as they rush to their buildings clutching their peppermint mochas and early morning podcasts stuck to their ears.
I’ve noticed a woman who scoops up one of these homeless men. He sits on the street with a teddy bear. He has long grey, bushy hair and is usually reading a book. She takes him to the corner store and lets him pull down whatever he wants from the shelves. It’s usually chips, candies, coffee. I don’t know how often she does it, but she’s my hero. I know this because I’m in the same store. May her tribe increase.
I’m thinking of ways to help these people too, especially when the temperatures drop and the streets thin out because people are on vacation for the holidays.
Calvin says, “I have an idea. Send out a brigade of volunteers with their therapy dogs to give hugs and kisses. That would be a gift.”
There are three Indian families that live across the street from us. They have elementary school age children. At night they come out of their houses and talk with loud voices. It sounds like a party with everyone speaking at once. A friend of mine who visited India for the first time said, “It’s so noisy here, day and night, I can’t think.” The funny thing is they don’t talk to each other. It’s as if invisible walls were wrapped around each house with a no trespass sign. I don’t know why because they don’t talk to me either. It’s a shame because one of them has a prolific tangerine tree in their backyard and I’d like some.
On the other hand, my neighbors to the right have been friends for years. They have fig trees. Anybody with a fig tree is my best friend for life. As a child, my grandparent’s fig trees were my daily treat. At nap time, I’d climb out the bedroom window with a chair and gobble figs until I couldn’t breathe. My neighbors give me their crop in exchange for my lemons and oranges. To the left of me, there’s not even a hello from the front door. It’s just as well. She has no fruit trees. Two doors down a Portuguese family lives with Sunshine, the American short-hair cat, Nigel, the chihuahua, nameless chickens, and a persimmon tree that is so beautiful it takes my breath away. Every year we receive a box full of those beauties at our doorstep. Across the street from them is a family with teenagers and their revved-up cars that go zoom at midnight, sending me to the ceiling and back. In the front of their house they have an avocado tree. I’ve been tempted to snag a few as a consolation prize for putting up with their noise.
Calvin says, “Lucky you. Sunshine and Nigel bring me nothing but turds.”
Thursday night is when all the things that go boo in the night come out. In my neighborhood, that means lots of kids in intergalactic costumes with their parents peering out from our bushes so as not to look like hovering parents, which they are of course, which is a good thing these days, and especially on Halloween night.
I lock Calvin up in his crate and away from the front door, otherwise he’d swoosh out and sniff the kids to death. He doesn’t like it one bit. He feels it’s his night too. But I can’t trust him to behave himself like a decent beagle that he sometimes can be, but not on this night.
Of all the things that spook me on this night are:
- why this country has embraced this “holiday” that isn’t a holiday
- resorting to this in order to get free candy
- skeletons sitting in the passenger areas at the airport
- substituting harvest festivals for Halloween in religious settings – what’s the difference? The candy is the same
- Alf retrieving his favorite candy and hiding it in a pumpkin jar
- Calvin howling his head off and making the kids think we’re killing him
Calvin says, “You are killing me with this lock-down, and you don’t even toss me a Snickers bar, my favorite.”
They say it’s global warming. That’s why today’s temperatures are almost to 100. And this is Northern California. It’s not supposed to feel this way. We’re not Arizona. We’re in the Bay Area where the fog rolls in at night and cools everything down. Except there’s no fog. It’s crept on its silent little feet to another state where it is being warmly welcomed.
We don’t have air conditioning in the house. Alf and I have never needed it, until now. But I know how this works. The minute we invest in AC in all the rooms, we’ll have global freezing and we’ll be stoking pot belly stoves in every nook of the house.
So you really can’t win. Best to wait it out, plug in some fans, drink lots of sweetened iced tea like they do in the South, and sit in the shade. It’s a good opportunity to chat with the neighbors who are outside like you.
Like Reynash across the street. He says this is cool weather for him coming from India. Or Angela next door who is soaking up the sun because her doctor says she’s low in vitamin D. She’s from Brazil. And good old Simon, the accountant, who lives indoors with a scarf wrapped around his neck and hasn’t noticed the climbing temperatures in months. Meanwhile his cat is sprawled out and panting on the back of the living room couch.
I suppose weather changes affect different people in different ways. For me, I can’t make enough ice, I feel lethargic, and I’m certainly not walking the dog. I’ve given him a fan of his own until the temperatures drop to a normal cool.
Calvin says, “I like the fan breezing over my tummy. But I am putting on pounds, you know.”
Walking to work today I saw a man running across the street before the light changed. He was sporting a long red beard and a beanie and what looked like a black scarf in motion around his shoulders. But that was no scarf. It was a jet black cat with a diamond collar gripping his jacket to stay on for the ride. I tried to catch up to find out more, but they moved at a clip and disappeared around a corner. I’ve seen parrots on people’s shoulders, but not a cat like this.
I’ve had my fair share of cats over the years. One, a Russian Blue, walked out on us one day and disappeared. She didn’t even leave a note. Weeks later our neighbors two doors away, we lived in an apartment complex at the time, knocked on our door one night and said, “Did you own a Russian Blue?” I noticed right away the past tense of that question. Immediately I thought of bad news like they ran over her. “She moved into our home, we just came to tell you.”
On another occasion, another cat, this one a Siamese with an attitude, packed her bags and left the house when we adopted a second cat. She wasn’t going to have any part of it, so she walked across the street to our neighbor’s house, climbed a tree and hopped onto their roof. And there she stayed for weeks. She’d come home for food and then leave again. Fortunately for her it was summer with warm nights. As soon as the weather cooled down, we found her in our house again, curled up in front of the fireplace, without giving an explanation.
There’s something about cats that I respect. They’re really in charge even if you think you are.
Calvin says, “A bunch of rot. Cats are vermin. Good for sniffing into oblivion.”
Easter bounced in and out last Sunday.
I didn’t see many rabbits on the street. Only one.
He was dressed as a squirrel and scampered into the backyard.
He flicked his tail and chirped madly to himself
when he discovered the eggs wrapped in pastel foil
hidden in the flower beds.
I was worried. The foil could kill him.
The chocolate, too if he reacted like a dog.
Dogs can die if they eat chocolate. Maybe squirrels, too.
I felt a few seconds of remorse, then
I got a gleam in my eye,
from the light bouncing off an egg.
Calvin says, “Your nasty is showing.”
Alf and I had two major leaks today. One from a toilet, the other from the washer in the garage. I’m grateful they didn’t happen on Christmas day. It would have meant our guests using our neighbor’s bathroom. And they weren’t home.
It could be an omen for 2019.
Leaks. What do they represent? Not being in control, for one thing. All you can do is scream, grab towels and mop-up.
Then go to the store and buy a new toilet.
Another, the mechanism in the tank needs replacing. Could that mean we’ll need colonoscopies to check our plumbing?
A diversionary tactic is to buy a new toilet.
A third possibility, someone is leaking secret information about me and Calvin on our walks. Who would do such a thing? Those times are sacred.
Definitely buy a new toilet, preferably the kind that flushes itself.
So we went to the store. Who knew there were so many toilets to choose from? The selection was tush-numbing. We had to think about height, bowl shape, color, style, and flushing and water-saving technology. Really?
I have only one specification. I need a comfort-high toilet. I’m tired of sitting cross-legged at floor level.
Calvin says, “You need to practice using bushes outside the house. They like the extra watering, they don’t leak, and the leaves tickle your tush.”