Ode to High School Teachers

In high school I loved two teachers. One taught Algebra, the other Literature. I had flunked Algebra and I would need to take it again. The teacher knew she had me as a second attempt student. Perhaps there were more of us in the class than I knew, but we never divulged our dull brains to each other. She was young, thin, with dark, short, curly hair. She deconstructed the concepts and made them easy. And for some reason, this time around my brain opened up like a Monet’s lily and I mastered the class. You’d think for such a milestone as this I would have remembered her name, sent her on a world cruise, given her a parade, blessed her continuously, and still kept in touch with her, but I didn’t do any such thing. I was just relieved to be finished with Algebra for the rest of my life and I could graduate. Life is filled with people along the way that help you master certain skills, even some you will never use like Algebra. They impart their gift for a moment and then vanish like shooting stars.

Image result for tony statueMy English teacher introduced me to plays, novels and poetry. She was fond of having me read out loud in literature class. That led to auditioning for the school play and getting the lead role. On opening night, after the performance, the mother of stage actor Richard Kiley, who was playing the role of Don Quixote in The Man from La Mancha in SF, urged me to study acting in college and go into the theater. But I had no self confidence. My mother had died two years before and I couldn’t picture myself doing it. And there went an opportunity I regret to this day. Could have I made it as an actor? Would I have become a Vanessa Redgrave or a Meryl Streep? I’ll never know.

Calvin says, “You’re actor enough for me. Especially when you’re yelling my name when you think I’m lost.”

Garden Invasion

The re-design of my garden in finally complete. I wanted an English garden. What I got was a Japanese version with some Mexican thrown in. It all works.

I have a lot of lavender and rosemary plants paying homage to Jerusalem where the highways and byways are flanked by these bushes.

I have a purple butterfly bush for the Monarchs that come to visit except so far only white butterflies got the memo. I’m hoping the Monarchs are still in Mexico catching their breath.

Oleanders in pink and white are bursting with flowers right now.

I have the citrus trees – lemon, grapefruit and orange – continuing to dominate the landscape with their fruit. Yesterday I picked fifteen lemons off the ground. I found them everywhere, under the maple tree, in the lavender, and on the gravel pathway. It was like finding Easter eggs.

Everything is unmanicured, and nothing needs mowing, which makes me deliriously happy. I’m at that stage in life where I don’t want to take care of anything anymore, least of all plants.

Several times now when I’m in my chair surveying my garden hummingbirds come whirring around me, staring me down, as if to say, “Who are you?” They behave as if they own the place and I’m the intruder.

The other day I caught one bathing in the sprinklers and then drying off in the orange tree. Then it flew straight for me and checked me out front and back. If they weren’t such adorable midgets of the air I’d say they’re invaders. This is my space, I designed it, and I’m staying.

Calvin says, “Oh oh. Does this mean I have to fend for myself from now on? That I’m not a cute little midget, but a hot, fat, lovable bundle of fur with slurpy kisses and a nose for trouble? Hey, I add stimulation to your life.” 

 

A Little Rain Will Do It

Have you noticed how quickly airports shut down at the first sign of rain that splashes the tarmac? Twice now I’ve been left waiting at the gate for hours for the weather to clear up. Another time the arrival airport had too many planes in the air and couldn’t handle all that traffic at the same time. All because it was raining. Really? Where have all the cowboys gone who could ride the storm like a bronco? I guess they’re afraid of a lawsuit if they skid off the runway.

Just recently I was scheduled into O’Hare from San Francisco. As soon as we reached Chicago airspace we began to do the loopy loops. I knew instantly we weren’t going to land. This went on for an hour. O’Hare had shut down because of stormy weather. And then we got re-routed to Grand Rapids. We landed and parked on the tarmac. For four hours. Other planes began to arrive. Pretty soon the small airport looked like a boneyard. It reminded me of the musical, Come From Away where 38 planes and 6,700 passengers were redirected to Gander, Newfoundland during 9/11. Except we didn’t have any catchy tunes to accompany us or trays of sandwiches and hot coffee greeting us. Eventually the airport gave us a gate, we disembarked, raced to the bathroom, bought some snacks, re-fueled and then boarded again. We finally got permission to fly into O’Hare. By then my connecting flight to Warsaw was long gone, and I was left to navigate the airport maze in search of another flight.

I’ve been flying all my life. I’m used to flying in all kinds of weather. Once, I was on board a plane in Argentina in torrential rain. I mean sheets. With lightning and thunder for special effects. We shoved off from the gate and headed toward the runway. The plane in front of us got clearance to leave. It tore through the rain like a torpedo, leaving a wake of water behind, climbed into the storm clouds and vanished. Our captain, watching this no doubt from the cockpit, had second thoughts because he turned and inched our plane to a parking spot. “My wife told me not to play the hero, so we’re waiting for this storm to move on,” he told us. I immediately liked his wife. I liked him even more for heeding her advice. On the other hand, I’ve been on planes when an engine blew out just before landing in Mexico City. On another one, the turbulence was so frightening I wanted to die. My seat-mate, a pilot said, “Don’t be afraid. Planes are built for this.” That didn’t help my stomach flipping over, making me grab the vomit bag.

Calvin says,”That’s why my preferred way to travel is four paws on the ground and my GPS nose.” 

What’s in a Name?

There was construction going on in a building on my walk to work this morning. The scaffolding was full of workers on several levels, wearing tool belts, yellow fluorescent vests and white hard hats. Two guys were leaning against a parked car, smoking, and watching the work being done. Obviously the crew foremen.

“Hey, Jesus, what country are you from?” one of them said.

Jesus turned around to face them. “What country? From the United States,” he said in perfect English.

I laughed out loud. 

The guy who asked the question clearly expected Jesus to say, “Mexico.” But he didn’t.  That showed him.

Stereotypes don’t work anymore.

For example, when I see a doctor. They’re from all over the world. Their last names are Carlson or Rodriguez or Ngo, but they’re Americans now. In fact, Carlson might be the real foreigner in the group.

The truth is most of us are immigrants. Scratch the family history and you’ll uncover Aunt Sophie came from Bavaria, Germany by way of her mother’s womb, and Uncle Basil skied into Austria from Budapest when the communists took over, and then boarded a ship to Ellis Island where they changed his name to Bertie.

If we want genuine, 100 percent American heritage, we’ll have to look at England first, or the American Indians.

Calvin says, “It’s true in the dog world, too. You can’t trust a beagle with the name of Waffles.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resistance Is Welcome

Alf has surprised me with daffodils and purple flowers popping up this summer. My garden has never looked so colorful even though we have the worst soil on the planet. The Sahara has more chances of sprouting flowers than my front and backyards. It’s hard clay, that when broken up with toil and sweat, smiles at you for a moment, and then calls out to the clods and they come scampering back to form an impenetrable layer of steel that refuses all welcome to things green. 

Sort of like the attitude people have when confronted with the truth. It can be about anything. Health, food, books, religion, even where to take a vacation. Nobody likes to be told about something they haven’t thought of themselves. There’s an immediate revulsion. Never mind that what you’re suggesting is really good stuff, and will help them. That doesn’t seem to be the point. It’s being told something they have to do that makes them bristle. So I ask why the TED Talks are so popular, or the online seminars for turning you into a celebrity for 10 minutes garner thousands of likes on social media? Maybe the clue lies in this: if you appeal to a person’s ego instead of his well-being you stand a better chance of being heard.

There’s a word for that – pride.

Calvin says, “Hey, I run away when I hear the word bath.” 

Gone

Our mattress had become lumpy and bumpy over the years, much like us, so Alf and I bought a new one. I refused to empty our savings for the thing so we settled on the best at the lowest price possible. Even then it was outrageous. Some countries’ GNP is lower than what we paid for it.

After two weeks in it was clear it wasn’t working. Our bones were hurting and we felt we had aged ten years. So off to store we went and bought a better and more expensive mattress to our chagrin and to the salesgirl’s delight. We arranged to have the “old” one picked up the same day.  fullsizerender-10

The truck rolled up that evening, two burly men climbed out and in a blink, the mattress and foundation had disappeared from the bedroom, leaving just the metal frame on the floor as evidence.

Next thing I hear was, “Thank you, ‘bye,” from one of the guys.

“Hey, wait a minute, where’s the new mattress?” I said waving him down from the truck.

The two men jumped down and fished through their paperwork with a flashlight.

“No new mattress on this order,” one of them said.

“You mean you’re driving off leaving us with no bed?” I said with hands on my hips.

“Do you have a place to sleep?” the talkative one said.

“Yes, but that’s not the point,” I said. My irritation was spilling out of my vocal cords by the second.

The man called the warehouse, got someone on a swing shift, mumbled something  into the phone and said, “Your delivery is scheduled for Tuesday.” This was Sunday night.

“I can’t believe this!” I said.

I peered into the back of the truck. Nothing in there that resembled our new mattress.

“Off with you, then,” I said.

The next day I called the store and discovered the salesgirl had messed up, that everything should have been delivered on the same day, but did she take any responsibility? Nope.

Where have all the manners gone?

Calvin says, “They left at the turn of the century, along with all the rich foods.”  beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somebody Has To Do It

It’s been a while since I posted an article. Since the last one we’ve had a new president take the oath of office, women in pink caps raising a ruckus all over the world, rains with accompanying floods – I wonder if California will proclaim the end of the drought and reduce their water rates now – I doubt it.

It’s been a weird beginning of 2017. fullsizerender-23

Most people are scared of the new president and his policies. I don’t understand why. We were getting close to living in a socialist country, maybe had already begun to do so, so to take back the country sounded like a good idea to me. All you have to do is look into world history and see that socialism and communism don’t work and yet we were captivated as a nation into thinking they did. I recommend every liberal American go live in a country under a controlling regime and see what it feels like. I will be waiting at the airport when you get back home before your sabbatical is up. Or better yet, ask your local immigrant who risked his life to get into the U.S. in order to have a life.

You have to be of a certain age to have a long view of history. This new generation won’t have it until they reach their 50’s, so in the meantime somebody has to mind the store.

Calvin says, “My long view of history takes me back to England where beagles went on fox hunts.  Me? I don’t even know what a fox smells like.”  beagle