Alf and I got tired of the lunar look of our backyard, with its deep ruts and crevices and dead everything. We used to have steady visitors of cats and squirrels and noisy ravens, but lately even the butterflies do fly-overs instead of landing. So with the help of a longtime neighbor, who builds commercial nurseries for plants, we are working on a new garden together.
I quickly sketched my idea of an English garden with pathways and gravel and flowering plants. Something that Alice in Wonderland would choose as she read and conversed with the Cheshire Cat.
I didn’t want a lawn. I was convinced of the versatility and beauty of drought-tolerant plants. I’m a survivor of too many droughts and didn’t want the demands of water guzzling green things anymore. They remind me of crying infants when they’re hungry. I don’t have time to invest in pruning, trimming and talking to them either. I hardly have time to do this with Alf.
I’ve been learning a few things about myself through this. I’m impatient. I thought the re-design would take a month. In my mind it was a simple idea without a lot of fuss. Dig up the dead lawn, and then stick some Woolly Bluecurls, Tree Anemones, and Sticky Monkey-flowers in there, and let them duke it out. I was wrong. I have no understanding of soil, bricks and greenery and what it takes to put all three together in an artful way. It’s taken all summer.
Another problem arose. My neighbor’s taste and mine are not in sync. It’s an act of high level diplomacy every time we disagree. We compromise. We change things. We discard stuff. Always smiling. It’s like a marriage. I’m sure he goes home muttering under his breath. But through it all, a glorious garden is coming into view, and the best part is we haven’t filed divorce papers. That’s the important thing. It may not be ready for the fall, and by winter it will be too cold for tea parties, but then there’s next year. The plants will be settled and feeling good about their new home. And maybe the squirrels and ravens will return chattering and cawing their approval.
When the project is complete, I expect my neighbor to be over many times, showcasing me as his still-friend and my garden to future drought-tolerant fans.
Calvin says, “I’m not so stinking happy. You took away my favorite pee spots.”
“I met this girl online. A Millennial. From India. Everything looked perfect on paper,” he said to his blonde lunch date. I sat at the counter of the Greek restaurant listening to this. The lunch date had her back to me and sat face-on to this fellow. He was good looking. Chiseled features, straight nose, good teeth. “I knew this was too good to be true. And I was right. She was looking for someone to give her a leg-up in her career. I didn’t want to date a business deal. What are you having for lunch? To drink? The lamb salad is good.” He continued talking. She never uttered a word. The food arrived. She got the chicken salad. She skewered it with a fork.
Calvin says, “I hope she stuck him with the bill, too.”
Yesterday evening I took a walk around the neighborhood to see the Christmas lights on houses, Santas in front yards, and wreaths on front doors. Except there weren’t any. I asked myself if I had the right month. I checked my phone. Yep, I did. What happened to my neighbors? Then it hit me. Most of the neighbors that traditionally went wild with their lights and front lawn decorations have fled the area for warmer pastures. I miss them. They had a spirit of Christmas I didn’t so I lived on their enthusiasm. They brightened up the neighborhood and made us smile. We were proud people who basked in their twinkling lights. We could count on them every year. Now they were gone and took the spirit of Christmas with them. Santa’s sleigh and reindeer are now flying high over sand dunes. And no, I’m not going to take over the tradition. You’re lucky if I have a bow on my front door. Inside the house is another matter. I enjoy displaying several trees in the living room, lights over the mantelpiece, and Christmas cards on a table.
So I gave up on Christmas decorations, and settled for the natural growth around the neighborhood. Here are some pictures.
Calvin says, “Yeah, I miss those midnight walks. I tingled with excitement.”
With all these sexual harassment allegations popping up all over the place, it’s a wonder we can live normal lives these days.
Every day there’s a new one.
The truth is if every industry, especially the media and government, were to come clean, there wouldn’t be anyone left to make movies or run the country.
We’re all a bunch of scoundrels. It’s in our DNA.
Sexual harassment is as old as the bible itself. Just read Genesis where it all began.
What floors me is how women expect to gain respect dressing the way they do with cleavages to their belly buttons, skirts wrapped around their waists and backsides like plastic wrap leaving nothing to the imagination, and stilettos like walking stilts.
If fashion returned to modesty, if women wore clothing that was attractive and decent, then men might behave themselves. Maybe. There’s no guarantee. For complete assurance of respectful behavior between the sexes everyone would require heart purification surgery.
Calvin says, “Dogs don’t have these issues. We are what we wear. We wear what we are. Simple.”
Every morning a black and white cat appears at the window of the apartment across from my office. A long stretch. A pink yawn. It pokes at the sill with its front paw testing to see if the window is open. It’s not. It sits up and leans against the glass absorbing the sun with its eyes closed. It curls its black tail and stays as still as a Latin American question mark at the beginning of a sentence.
Lately it hasn’t been at its post when I arrive, which worries me. I immediately think it finally walked out on the ledge, slipped and fell to its death, except cats don’t typically die this way because they’re acrobats and reverse themselves in mid-fall and land on all four legs.
So what happened? I walk out of the building and there it is in the middle of a stacks of bricks, not-so thriving plants, and a rusting car. The lot next door is a dumping ground for all things discarded.
It’s black and white markings peak through the dying plants. It looks at me. It seems quite happy tip-toeing among the ruins. The sun is on its back. It’s free. I’m relieved and come back indoors.
The next day I come into my office, it’s back at the window looking down. I guess this is the arrangement with its owner, like a wayward son, sometimes coming home, but mostly on the prowl.
Calvin says, “A vagabond with a pied
In a conversation I had with a friend about being raised with money.
“In my mother’s day, the maids who cleaned our houses in the neighborhood arrived in a Cadillac they had bought together,” she said.
Intrigued, I asked, “Did they also dress the part?”
“Yes. They wore wonderful hats, dresses and high heels,” she said. “They changed clothes inside the house, did their work, then changed back out of their uniforms and into their street clothes, got into their Cadillac and drove home.”
A class act, I thought.
“But my mother never left her maid out of her sight. In fact she followed her everywhere pointing out areas that needed attention.”
I wondered how she must have felt about that. Someone who owned a Cadillac must have known how to clean well, I thought.
“That was my mother, never trusting anyone to do the job right. Cadillac or no Cadillac.”
Calvin says, “Mistrust goes deep. Like my breeder who never left me out of her sight in case I barfed on her new carpet.”
On the subway going home this week, there was a man seated on the row ahead of me. He was dressed in a black tux, bowler hat, pink silk tie with a pink corsage of roses and baby breath. Every hair on his face and head was perfectly styled. What was missing from the ensemble was an ivory cane. A freshly minted husband-to-be if there ever was one. I knew it because he got off at the courthouse station, with his face like flint, facing his execution. I could only imagine what his bride would look like. Was she just as resigned? What a pitiful way to start a married life, gritting your teeth and hoping for the best, even though in your heart you know it will only go downhill from here.
We all know marriage has fallen on hard times, and yet everybody wants to get married. Go figure. Last time I looked the divorce rate was on par with the marriage rate, maybe even surpassed it. Nobody can get along anymore. Expectations are too high, thanks Hollywood and social media, and nobody wants to work that much in a relationship. And yet these same people are willing to put themselves through endless hours of agony learning a sport, or getting an MBA, or changing careers in mid-stream. Somehow working at being a better husband or wife seems mundane. I think the real reason it’s because it’s really impossible. Becoming a doctor is easier. We want results. Now. But end up disappointed and convinced it’s not worth the investment.
I like the attitude about marriage that a few of the greats had.
Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave. – Martin Luther
When a man opens a car door for his wife, it’s either a new car or a new wife. – Prince Philip
They say marriages are made in heaven. But so is thunder and lightning. – Clint Eastwood
Calvin says, “Thank goodness beagles don’t marry. They just frolic and mate at will.”