Shopping on Mars

Dreams are strange things.

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Dreaming Light by RHADS

 

They can be exhilarating, romantic, horrifying, puzzling, and often, to me, inexplicable. Many people describe recurring dreams that they have when stressed or anxious. You know, showing up naked for an exam you aren’t prepared for, that kind of thing.

 

naked

 

My anxiety dreams often involve either driving or swimming. I avoided learning to drive and getting my driver’s license until I was in my 30s. I’ve never really learned to swim and am afraid of water. It’s not just the idea of drowning, but all of the things that might be lurking under the water. I don’t take long baths, and stick to quick showers, avoiding with all my might getting water in my eyes. Don’t worry, I do stay clean!

 

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dunn dunn

 

I don’t mean to single out sharks. I don’t fear them in particular. There are lots of tiny little toothy things in the water that can nibble on you, too.

 

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The other night, I was having a rather enjoyable dream that I was going on a shopping trip to Mars. The planet Mars. The Red Planet, named after the God of War. Not your usual shopping destination.

 

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Note that I am not one who likes to go out shopping. Online shopping has transformed my life. I rarely have to go into an actual brick and mortar store. I haven’t resorted to having my groceries delivered. Yet. But a trip to a mall is my idea of hell on the planet Earth. I do enjoy perusing small local shops when I travel, but that’s not nerve wracking and annoying like going to THE MALL.

 

mall
This is NOT my idea of a good time.

 

But in my dream I was very happy to be going to Mars for my shopping expedition. I was on a space shuttle-like transport that looked a lot like the Swedish subway system. It was clean and quiet and not very crowded. In fact, I was the only passenger. Perfect!

 

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Swedish subway system

 

I wasn’t wearing a space suit. I guess the whole gravity thing had been figured out. Hey, it’s my dream. I don’t have to wear a space suit and get helmet hair if I don’t want to!

 

helmet hair 2
Is it?

 

spacesuit
I’m all for equal opportunity and women as astronauts. Go for it! But can we get Project Runway involved in a more flattering space suit?

 

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I was happily anticipating my arrival on Mars. The shuttle was starting to vibrate as it approached the station. And just as we were about to dock I woke up (groggily) realizing that at 2:40 a.m. we were experiencing a real-life earthquake. It’s California. They happen. This one was 4.4 magnitude. We live on the Hayward fault. The epicenter of this quake was the nearby Claremont Hotel. As far as I am aware, there were no reported injuries or damages.

 

epicenter

Claremont

 

I pretty quickly went back to sleep after a brief wait for either a bigger jolt to come or aftershocks, but I never got to find out what my shopping experience on Mars would be. What would I be shopping for? I imagine if I were to be shopping on the moon, say, I might find a cheese store. A vegan cheese store at that, since there aren’t any dairies on the moon and I only eat vegan cheese anyway. I’d be like Wallace, when he goes to the moon on A Grand Day Out with Gromit and they picnic on moon cheese. Einstein can fill in for Gromit.

 

 

In my mind, I would enjoy my Mars shopping experience because it would be quiet, not crowded, and I wouldn’t have to drive anywhere. Except maybe to ride on a Rover. That might be fun.

 

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I found a company online that purports to sell land on Mars, but I don’t need to be a land owner. Mars isn’t anyone’s to sell that I know of!

 

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Another site tells me that 200,000 people have signed up with the company Mars One for a one-way mission to Mars. Should I say 200,000 gullible people?

 

dressed up

 

Back to my shopping trip. Who would set up shop on Mars? I don’t want it to be kitschy souvenir stars with key chains and mugs and pencil sharpeners or televisions shaped like space helmets.

 

JVC Videosphere

 

No advertising slogans like “Out  of this world deals!” It will all be understated and tasteful. Again, I think I have Mars confused with a Scandinavian country. Only brown and dry.

By Scandinavian, please don’t think IKEA! I mean the expensive, gorgeous housewares and furniture of my dreams. Not DIY particle board furniture and Swedish meatballs.

 

 

My Mars shopping experience must include: delicious vegan chocolate, coffee, books, gorgeous ceramics, amazingly comfortable yet flattering shoes, and a kitchen store beyond all kitchen stores. And perhaps a pet supply store. Otherwise it’s not worth the approximate 300 day trip. In my dream, I think it only took about 20 minutes, but still, for me to put on shoes, get to a shuttle, and go into stores, it’s gotta be good.

Chocolate. Luxury Martian chocolate. In the shape of planets and fun little Mars rocks. Dark chocolate. Mmmm.

 

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Amore di Mona luxury vegan chocolate. It’s a thing.

 

Coffee. Can’t travel without it. The shuttle to Mars will have a barista and coffee bar, naturally.

 

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Coffee bar design by Starbucks (!) for the Swiss Federal Railways. I’m not a big Starbucks fan, but I like the coffee bar.

 

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The coffee bar when you arrive on Mars. (Image: Mapo House.)

 

Books. If it takes 300 days to get to Mars, I assume it takes the same amount of time to return to Earth. (Maybe I’m wrong. I avoided any courses in physics throughout my academic path.) I am going to need a lot of books! As much as I love Powell’s City of Books (3 stories across an entire city block) in Portland, Oregon, I think my Mars bookstore should be a bit more, I don’t know, sleek? Celestial? Breathtaking? I’m voting for Prologue Bookstore in Singapore to take on the Mars venture.

 

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My favorite bookstore.
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Prologue, Singapore.

 

Ceramics. I am envisioning ceramics along the line of Heath Ceramics (based in Sausalito, California), only made of Mars dust.

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Shoes. Good shoes are so important to health and happiness. I wasn’t born with the shoe obsession my mother and a lot of other women seem to have, but shoes can make or break your day.

 

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Spotted in Oakland, California. Not my car.

 

I work at an animal shelter and am on my feet all day. My shoes have to be practical and comfortable. I am tired of shoes that make my feet look like clown feet.

 

 

If you are bopping around on Mars, you have to have good shoes. I want them to still be cute and petite looking, while not hurting my feet. Currently, I mostly wear Skechers or clogs, which are fine, but give a girl a break. I’m a girly girl at heart. And a vegan. Finding cute, practical, comfortable shoes that are vegan friendly ain’t that easy. Please don’t suggest Crocs.

 

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How many ways can I say NO to this look???

 

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White shoes, not going to work for me.

 

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Cute but not practical for the animal shelter.

 

I’m leaning right now toward the Mars store being an outlet of Insecta shoes from Brazil. Cute, ecologically minded, vegan. I haven’t tried them on yet to gauge the comfort level, but I am intrigued. They are made from recyled used clothing and plastic bottles.

 

 

The one kitschy souvenir idea I am behind–socks with images of Martians, space ships, etc. You have to have the sock wardrobe.

mars socks

 

Kitchen store. Kitchen gadgets, accessories, and cooking tools–yes! I adore a good kitchen store.

 

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Faraday’s Kitchen Store, Austin, Texas. 

 

Some people claim that the 190-year old store E. Dehillerin on Rue Coquillière in Paris is the best place on planet Earth for buying cookware. If it’s good enough for Julia Child…There’s also the highly rated Kitchen Bazaar on avenue de Maine in Paris. I’m thinking I should take a little research trip there soon.

 

E. Dehillerin

 

Pet supplies. Should I take any of the resident companion animals along on the shopping trip? Einstein gets motion sickness, so he might not appreciate the shuttle trip to Mars. Marble could maybe handle it if I took enough crunchy food along for him. Sara is too old; at 19 she’d rather stay home and get updates in the comfort of her warm bed. For some reason, I see Misty coming along for the trip.

cat in space

 

Once we get there, I’ve promised her a beautiful blue jeweled collar as a memento of the journey. So, we will need an awesome pet supply store on Mars, too.

 

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Misty looks like a high maintenance diva, but she’s a tough girl.
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Pet boutique.
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If I try to put this collar on Misty, I am going to need a Martian medic!

 

space medic
I hope there are medics in space.

 

I imagine this celestial shopping journey is going to cost a pretty penny or two, so I better get out there and start saving up! But a girl can dream. So I will.

space for girls

 

Things I’ve thought way too much about while home sick

I hate calling in sick to work. That’s a new thing for me, because for the first time in ages I love my job and miss it when I am not there. Mind you, a day off here and there is welcomed, but generally I’d rather not miss out on anything. Work doesn’t FEEL like work most of the time, and I enjoy all of the people and the animals I’m surrounded with on a daily basis.

Serious moments at work:

 

 

Contrast those moments with this:

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Me, at home sick. Not fun.

I used to look for any reason to stay home sick when I was in school. I was a good student, but I was painfully shy. Staying home was much better! Back in the day, when my single mom was at work, she felt it was safe enough that, when I was in about 3rd grade I think, she could leave me home alone. This was the 1960’s in a middle-class suburb on a street of mostly retired people. My older siblings would be home at various points in the day, and mom could check in at lunch. Nothing bad ever happened. The things is, Mom was almost too sympathetic to my dislike of being at school and often let me stay home when I clearly wasn’t sick. I never had to resort to any Ferris Bueller antics to convince her to let me stay home.

 

I graduated (with good grades), went on to college, and survived just fine. Then I ended up at some point in a job that I hated. I’ll never forget the morning I burst into tears, threw my hairbrush across the room, and wailed to my then-husband, “Don’t make me go!”  Was that the first time I called in sick to work when it was really just that I was sick of the job?

Things got better. I switched careers after an interlude of graduate school (I hated school through high school, but I loved college), and spent quite a few years only being sick when I was really sick. And then along came the University of California and 12 years of me wishing to be sick, of fantasizing about breaking my leg in the shower so I could go to the hospital instead of work, of reading hopefully about the sysmptoms of appendicitis. My work ethic had died a slow death. I wasn’t so obvious as to call in sick on a regular, clockwork basis, like a colleague in one past job who we all knew would call in sick the day after pay day. Nothing predictable. But maybe calling in sick when I felt a little under the weather but not really sick. I would even gladly go for jury calls and hope to get onto a jury so as to not go to work. I wasn’t precisely a bad employee, just a not very dedicated one. Note to any of my former UC colleagues: there were many times I was genuinely sick. Please don’t think I ever took advantage of you to get out of anything!

'I'm going to be sick on Monday.  I'm telling you now so I don't have to call in.'

That’s all changed now that I am working in animal rescue. Every day brings new rewards and happy endings. Sometimes there are sad endings, too, but I try to keep moving as cheerfully as possible and toast the successes.

I wish I could say I never get sick, but I have whatever this gross lung crud is that’s going around at the end of 2017. I’m coughing like crazy, no energy, sounding like a dog with kennel cough. This would be bad enough in any case, but in addition to animals, I also work with potential adopters, and how bad would it look if I started coughing and wheezing in their faces? That would not bring good customer service marks on a Yelp review. I went in last Sunday and it was not pretty. Nobody ran away screaming, but a lot of hand sanitizer was passed around. I’ve stayed home since then.

I’ve had a lot of time on my hands to think. Too much. Here are some of my reflections.

Cats are better nurses than dogs.  They are sensitive, and pick up on subtle things. Or they just really love blankets and warm bodies. But dogs have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), like “Aw, hey sick buddy, let me cuddle with you…SQUIRREL! Gotta go!”

 

 

Watching television during the day is no longer fun. When I was home sick as a kid, or even as a teenager, the majority of that time was spent in front of the television. I’d watch anything. Even though we only got 4 channels back in the dark ages, I’d find something. I watched cooking shows, exercise shows, reruns in syndication, old movies…Maybe watching Julia Child and Graham Kerr (The Galloping Gourmet) contributed to my love of food and cooking, but I also watched Jack Lalanne and have no love of exercise. Note that I watched Jack Lalanne, I didn’t ever get off the couch and do any of the stretches or exercises.  I adored Bewitched reruns. At a young age, I got hooked on soap operas, especially All My Children. My favorite movies were those with Ma and Pa Kettle or Henry Aldrich.

It’s a wonder I have any brain cells left!

jack-lalanne-allenamento

 

Now we have TiVo, Netflix streaming, binge watching, endless channels, and I can’t stand the idea of watching television during the day. I feel like I have succumbed to true hopelessness if I watch. Nighttime is another story altogether, though. Which leads to:

Folding TV trays are a great 20th century invention. They don’t have to be for eating meals in front of television, although we use the old set we bought for $25 at the flea market for that pretty much every night. They are great for holding all of your medications, tissues, water glass, etc. next to you while you are curled up in your favorite cozy spot. I also use them to hold stacks of books and papers when I am at my desk writing and I run out of desk space.

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I found the almot exact set we have online, although the colors were less faded, where they were advertised as “vintage Eames era”. If you aren’t familar with the Eames name, Charles and Ray Eames were the noted mid-century designers who, by using their names, you add a gazillion dollars to the price of something.

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I really don’t think Charles or Ray Eames had anything to do with these.
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Ray and Charles Eames at home, LIFE magazine, 1950.

 

Life is too short to stick with a book you aren’t enjoying. This is a recent revelation for me. I always doggedly stuck to books I wasn’t enjoying as if it was somehow a virtue. No more! So many books, so little time. I’m not wasting that time anymore. The only time I can remember abandoning a book previously was in 2001, with German writer W. G. Sebold’s Austerlitz. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award that year. Sebald, who died at age 57 that same year, was considered by many to be a great author and possible future winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature until his unexpected death in a car crash. The novel sounds like it ought to be great, but I found it inscrutable. I was about 5 pages in, and I think it was still the first sentence continuing from the first page, running on and making no sense to me. I threw in the towel, figuring I wasn’t smart enough for Sebald.

 

I was recently defeated again. Not because I wasn’t smart enough, I just didn’t care what happened to any of the characters. At all. Any of them. This time it was Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, winner of the Man Booker prize in 2013. Maybe I should avoid books that win critics awards? This huge tome (848 pages) was donated to the Little Free Library I steward. I was intrigued. It was free. I needed something to read that would occupy me through a flight to Iceland and back, as well as any down time in between. Never mind that I could barely lift it. We went to Iceland in the summer. It is now very close to January of the next year. I got about 200 pages in. I couldn’t keep track of who was who. I didn’t care.  Finally, common sense (well, actually it was Bob’s common sense) had me send the book back out into the Little Free Library this morning. I want to enjoy my reading time, and if one of the rare chances I get to lose myself in a book is when I am sick, it’s not going to be a book that is torture to read. I saw somewhere that The Luminaries was being made into a limited television series. Yippee.

Now I am free to read a book that sounds right up my alley: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. It sounds utterly charming, quirky, and very British. I’m in!

 

 

 

Color coordinated clothing and clothing that isn’t pajamas are over-rated. I’m wearing might-as-well-be-pajamas clothes right now. Leggings, old stretchy cardigan, pulled-out-of-shape knit skirt. I am neither color-coordinated nor fashionable at this moment either. Am I warm and comfortable? YES! I figure I’ve always been more of a “fashion don’t” than a “fashion do.” Whatever. My sisters both have amazing senses of style and fashion. My mother despaired of my disdain for matching handbags and shoes, for scarves, for all of the little details that pull an outfit together. One of the reasons I hated high school was the judgment being passed based on appearances and wardrobe. I was smart and cute enough. Why wasn’t that enough? Not having the right label of jeans or shoes seemed (still seems) such a stupid basis for popularity and friendship.

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What Not to Wear. Unless you’re me!

In a brief moment as I was putting this sick-day outfit on, I thought, “None of the blue tones go together.” And immediately after that I thought, “Tell that to Mother Nature when a field of wild flowers of all different colors and tones is in bloom.” Colors go together. Period. Somebody told me once that the outfit I was wearing looked like a fruit salad. Cool, that’s what I say.

 

Take care of yourself. Stay warm. Eat healthy, whole foods. Remember to splurge on a bit of dark chocolate and other things you enjoy now and then. If you do get sick, stay home.  It’s best for you, your co-workers, and anyone you might come into contact with. If you are lucky, like me, it will be that much better when you get back to the job you love. And please, consider getting a pet from your local shelter.

awesome

Be careful what you wish for (and have yourself a merry little Christmas)

(Sensitive readers beware: fear factor ahead!)

Christmas time is here…and I love the holidays. The carols, the decorations, the over-the-top store displays, the Hallmark Channel movies–I love all of it. As I’ve gotten older, I don’t do as much myself. Our Christmas tree is still outside in a bucket waiting for us to have time to bring it inside. I haven’t done any shopping. But I still love to soak it all in wherever I go. I have Pandora on the James Taylor Holiday Channel, from which I’ve realized I actually like singers Josh Groban and Michael Buble (yes, Cathy and Ellen, you told me so).

 

Like so much of what happens around me anymore, the atmosphere has launched a bit of nostalgia and longing for the Christmas of my childhood. So much excitement! Such specific rituals we followed, and the slow pace that kept an anxious kid like me all pent up, but in a good way. My mother always made us each a special outfit for Christmas day. I specifically remember a red velvet top with a lace collar and pants to match that I wish I still had (in my current size) and a pink velvet midi-dress festooned with pink satin ribbons. I did go through a serious pink phase. And apparently a velvet one, too.

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Little me with a not very merry or healthy looking Santa.

Oh, the wishes for such treasures as a Lite-Bright and an Easy-Bake Oven, which were never met.

1967 LITE BRITE Vintage 1960s Toy A
Vintage 1967 Lite-Brite.
Easy Bake
Vintage 1960 Easy-Bake Oven.

Or the ones I did get that I wanted so badly. Like the Beautiful Crissy Growing Hair Doll. I loved Crissy so. She had a push-button on her tummy that you could use to wind up her hair to be short or pull it out to be long. As my own hair is always transitioning from long to short or short to long, I was fascinated by this insto-chango approach to hair.

 

This is where things are going to take a weird turn. Around about 1970 or so, I really wanted a ventriloquist dummy for Christmas. I found one in the toy section of some department store catalog and made sure everyone knew that was what I wanted.

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The Danny O’Day model. I had to have it. Him. Whatever.

You know the 1966 book A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd, made into the popular 1983 film of the same name?

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All Ralphie Parker wants is a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. Set in 1940 in Indiana, the story of Ralphie and his friends Flick and Schwartz and his attempts to evade the bullies Scut Farkus and Grover Dill and Ralphie’s efforts to convince all of the adults in his life that an air rifle is a great idea and that he won’t shoot his eye out. At the end, Ralphie gets his Red Ryder, and remarks that it was the best Christmas ever.

Ralphie and his gun
Best Christmas ever.

Enter me as Ralphie and Danny O’Day as my Red Ryder. The fact that I even wanted a ventriloquist dummy is very strange. I am afraid of clowns and killer Chucky-style dolls. I watched way too much of The Twilight Zone when I was up past my bedtime. There are 2 episodes that feature evil ventriloquist dummies: The Dummy and Caesar and Me. Then there’s a movie I vaguely remember with a mentally disturbed girl and the dolls and stuffed animals in her room that talk to her. They don’t say happy things. Or maybe that was The Twilight Zone, too. No, wait, the Twilight Zone with the murderous doll is the called Living Doll, featuring Talky Tina. This is the stuff of my nightmares.

 

 

Again, what made me think I wanted Danny O’Day? Did I think I might have talent as a ventriloquist? Well, I got Danny O’Day, and it was NOT the best Christmas ever. I unwrapped the package, I opened the box, and I screamed. At least I think I did. I know I wanted to. But I dutifully spent the day pretending I loved Danny (who I renamed Charlie) and trying my best to follow the instructions on ventriloquism that came with him. I had no apparent talent for it. And then it was bedtime. I left Charlie in the living room, under the Christmas tree. And stayed awake all night positive that he was going to creep down the hall to my bedroom and kill me if I went to sleep.

He didn’t look that evil. If you start online searching for images of ventriloquist dummies, there are many much creepier examples.

Maybe it was his evil influence over me, but I surprisingly kept Charlie for years. We moved cross-country. We moved several more times. I went to college. I got married. And I still had Charlie. I kept him packed in a trunk (yes, that’s what the idiot humans in all the scary shows do, too, and it doesn’t work), sure he was going to get out eventually.

I had other scares, like the time I was home alone watching television and the trailer for the movie Magic (1978) came on. I turned my head and closed my eyes and tried to block it out. The mute button hadn’t been invented yet, and somehow it didn’t occur to me to immediately change the channel. Charlie-fear reared its evil, ugly head. The film is based on a book written by William Golding (author of Lord of the Flies; that doesn’t go too well for the characters either). Golding also wrote the screenplay. It starred Anthony Hopkins “as a ventriloquist at the mercy of his vicious dummy”.

magic

 

 

 

Yes, I was 17 and home alone for the night, except for Charlie in the trunk, watching television when this came on. Yippee. Needless to say, it was another long, sleepless night.

I did eventually manage to give Charlie away. I am not sure the child who was visiting us  and who thought Charlie was cool really wanted him, but I pretty much gave him no choice but to take Charlie with him. I’ve worried about that child, now a grown man, ever since. Charlie was moved to Turkey with his new person. You might imagine I felt safe. You would be discounting my overactive imagination. The film reel plays out in my mind of Charlie crawling out of his hole, finding his way onto an ocean liner, making his way eventually back to California, and appearing in my doorway, ready for revenge.

Of course I know this won’t happen. It would be silly for a 56-year old woman to hold a lingering childhood fear for a doll who, let’s face it, is a silly looking piece of plastic wearing bad clothes. Honestly, Beautiful Crissy could be said to be just as creepy as Danny O’Day. But still…

Summer before last I went to Maine to attend a week-long residency at the Institute for Humane Education. I was also taking a couple of humane education courses that summer, so I took one of the assigned readings with me to Maine. There I am in a cabin in the woods in the middle of nowhere, and I take out this book, Consuming Kids: Protecting Our Children from the Onslaught of Marketing and Advertising, by Susan Linn. Sounds innocent enough, and about a noteworthy topic. As I tend to do when I start a book, instead of jumping right in, I decided to read about the author. OMG, Susan Linn is a VENTRILOQUIST (an award-winning ventriloquist, no less) who uses puppets as therapeutic tools with childen. At first I laughed at the idea, then I got the creeps. I’m sorry, if I went to a therapist who turned out to be a ventriloquist, I would end up needing a lot (A LOT) more therapy! I couldn’t read the book. Again, I was in a cabin in the woods in Maine, scene of lots of teen slasher movies. I didn’t sleep all week. That might have been the massive amounts of caffeine and taking showers at 3 a.m. because there 14 of us sharing 1 bathroom, but Susan Linn, Ed.D., ventriloquist/child psychologist didn’t help me any. (Note: I don’t mean to belittle her work in children’s therapy, really.)

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Dr. Susan Linn

 

 

Now that I’ve turned Christmas into something totally macabre, let’s go back to happy thoughts. I did finally get that Easy-Bake Oven as a 50th birthday gift from Bob. Thank you!

my oven

Maybe some day I’ll get that Lite-Brite.

My wishes this year are simple yet complicated: happiness, joy, kindness, peace…beautiful words, easier said than done. Going back to another childhood Christmas memory, I like to remind myself of the message of A Charlie Brown Christmas, about the spirit of the holiday not being in all of the things and wrappings and show, but in the love, peace, and care we take in ourselves, our loved ones, and the world around us.

CharlieBrownChristmas1-541x346

 

I also reread the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol (1843) every year, following Ebenezer Scrooge as he opens his formerly greedy and cold heart to the world around him. If you don’t want to delve into Dickens, there’s always How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Same idea.

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Albert Finney as Scrooge, reformed, playing Father Christmas for Tiny Tim, in the 1970 film version.

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I’ve posted this video clip before, but it’s become a classic since it was first televised in 1977 and merits reposting. I remember watching it at the time (1977) on the yearly Bing Crosby Christmas special and finding it so beautiful. It still is. It’s not just in the voices, or the melding of two seemingly very different men, from different countries and different generations. It’s in the love and longing for peace.

 

You can’t go to the store and buy these things. You can’t wrap them up and put them under a tree. But we can give them to each other easily and freely, and we will all sleep better.

Peace, hugs, and have the happiest of holidays.

peace on earth

 

 

Sometimes unexpected friendships are the best

I’ve been thinking a lot about odd couples, or what looking at from the outside seem like odd friendships. These musings started, as many of my musings do, watching the animals awaiting adoption at the animal shelter where I work (Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation, or ARF). Often, an animal housed with another animal will do better at the shelter, and in the home as well. So our behavior and animal care teams try out pairing roommates, and sometimes they come up with what turn out to be surprisingly winning combinations. Our marketing department even recently developed a campaign for 2 cats using The Odd Couple theme as a hook.

Cash and Swift
The Odd Couple, Cash (black) and Swift (tabby).

In Neil Simon’s play (1965), later a movie (1968) and then a television series (1970-1975), the mismatched roomates are the persnickety neatnik Felix Ungar and cigar-chomping slob Oscar Madison. On Broadway in 1965, Oscar was played by Walter Matthau (he seems to have been born for the role), with Art Carney as Felix.

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Water Matthau and Art Carney, 1965 production of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple.
Neil Simon
The ever-funny Neil Simon, still smiling at age 90.

 

Felix and Oscar were perfectly portrayed in the 1968 film by Jack Lemmon as Felix and Walter Matthau again as Oscar. When adapted for television, Tony Randall was cast as Felix and Jack Klugman as Oscar.

 

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Tony Randall and Jack Klugman as Felix and Oscar, 1974.

 

But back to Cash and Swift. Cash arrived at ARF as a tiny kitten with his sister Mermaid. The shyer of the 2, Cash watched as his sister and then several kitten roommates were adopted. Unfortunately, black cats, including kittens, tend to stay longer at the shelter awaiting adoption, so Cash was growing up at the shelter. I love our shelter, but kittens should grow up in homes with loving families. Swift, a little zany guy with a serious play drive, was so active that he overwhelmed his siblings. He, too, was the last of his litter reamining at the shelter. Cash was between roommates, and Swift needed a buddy, so the team decided to give them a shot, and it worked! Cash, in the role of Felix Ungar, taught Swift, as a tiny Oscar Madison, some calmer manners, and nutty Swift brought Cash out of his shell and showed him how to have fun. The first time I saw the 2 curled up together on their cat bed, I knew in my heart that they had to stay together. Others at ARF felt the same way, so we made sure to make a point of sending them to an adoptive home together.

bonded pair

 

It’s not quite as odd a pairing, but it seems to work, for another cat set of roommates: Nathan and Wynn. Nathan is another shy black kitten growing up at the shelter. Wynn is a little older and also very shy. Nathan has done well with roommates, and Wynn originally came in with 3 other cats, more outgoing than he and quickly adopted. Wynn was really shut down at first, cowering in a corner behind his cat tree. But he and Nathan, in an example of mutual support, are both getting a bit bolder every day. It’s sort of more like 2 Felixes making each other feel better about life.

 

 

I suppose I’ve been a part of some odd couples. Not so much personality-wise, but more in the Mutt and Jeff way of me being not-tall and many of my friends being not-short.

mutt_and_jeff

 

In the classic odd couple pairing, I was the quiet, good girl who ran off with the loud, bad boy (or wannabe bad boy, anyway). It worked until it didn’t anymore. That’s all water under the bridge, as they say.

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I was looking for famous examples of odd couples, not necessarily of the Hollywood celebrity variety, and this one in particular struck me: comedian Groucho Marx (1890-1977) and renowned poet, essayist, and critic T. S. Eliot (1888-1965). They became pen pals in 1961 (coincidentally the year I was born) and maintained a correspondence, finally meeting in person in 1964.

 

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The friendship supposedly began when the author of such profound classics as The Wasteland and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, wrote to Marx, who dropped out of school in the 7th grade, asking for his autograph. Yes, Eliot asked for Groucho’s autograph. My favorite lines from Prufrock:

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A Groucho Marx line that always makes me laugh:

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But as Groucho pointed out, they both liked puns, cigars, and cats. Remember, T. S. Eliot did write Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, which Andrew Lloyd Webber adapted into the musical Cats in 1980.

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T. S. Eliot stops to say hello to a cat.
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Groucho Marx with one of his cats.

Of course, let’s not forget all of the cats who look like Groucho Marx.

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Another human odd couple that I am fascinated by: Pulitizer Prize winning playwright Arthur Miller (1915-2005) and actress Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962).

Miller And Monroe

They married in 1956 and divorced in 1961 (something about that year, 1961). Famous for such heavy-hitters as Death of a Salesman and The Crucible, Miller and sex symbol Monroe faced numerous hardships: investigations into Miller’s communist sympathies and Monroe’s depression, miscarriages, and drug use. Monroe died the year after their divorce, at age 36, of a barbiturate overdose. You know I had to look for a pet connection. Marilyn was an animal lover, saying, “If you talk to a dog or a cat, it doesn’t tell you to shut up.” That’s a really sad quote when you think about it.

 

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Monroe with one of the many animals she loved during her too-short life.

 

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Miller, Monroe, and dog Hugo.

 

On a lighter note, there are so many examples of unlikely animal friendships: the gorilla Koko and her love of kittens, Bubbles the elephant and Bella the dog, Mabel the chicken and her puppies, to name a few. There are even several books available about these friendships.

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While not quite as exotic as some of these, our late Golden Retriever/Cocker Spaniel mix Sadie was mother to abandoned kittens Ben and Sara, and she and Ben were close their entire lives.

 

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Ben and Sadie in their senior years.

 

More in alignment with the original Felix and Oscar theme, we also have Misty, our gorgeous but persnickety 6 year-old diva of the Greta Garbo “I want to be let alone” school, and goofball and wild child, 1 year-old Marble, who insists that they play together. And sometimes Misty will play. When we decided to keep Marble, I was afraid Misty might try to hurt him, but he is persistent and she can’t help but play chase and wrestle with him. He is a force of nature, an irresistible force to her immovable object.

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Misty, up top, with Marble, down below.

 

I was that unmovable object once, in the face of an irresistible force–a pit bull named Snuffalufagus. I never thought I’d feel so much affection for such a big dog. She changed my mind forever about pit bulls.

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She’s irresistible, and I turned out to be movable!

 

 

Don’t resist–make friends where you find them, even if they seem to be unlikely candidates. Greta Garbo didn’t say she wanted to be left alone, she said she wanted to be let alone, and there’s a big difference. Treasure your friends and family.

Peace and hugs.

So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright

I’m in a Frank Lloyd Wright state of mind at the moment. I go through passions, as any regular reader might have noticed, and right now I’m obsessed with all things FLW. I’m rereading the T. C. Boyle 2009 novel, The Women, about the, shall we say, turbulent relationships FLW (1867-1959) had with the various women in his life. He was not an easy man and his relationships were messy and complicated. In his era, he was in fact scandalous and reviled by some for his flauting of social mores, but today no one would really think it quite that outrageous that he left wives for mistresses. He also was perennially in debt (one of his nicknames was “Slow Pay Frank”), a surprise given his major success.

The Women

 

Boyle himself lives in a FLW designed  home in Montecito, California, which I am sure has a lot to do with his interest in FLW. As a design student at UC Davis back in the day, of course we studied FLW and his enormous impact, and I fnally saw some of his drawings, furniture, and glass designs in person when I made it to the Art Institute of Chicago a few years ago.

 

Author TC Boyle at his home in Montecito, CA.
Novelist T. C. Boyle in his FLW-designed home in Montecito, California.

But my fascination goes back to another of my childhood memories of music in our house, this time from the iconic album Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970) by Simon and Garfunkel.

 

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This album reeived some heavy rotation time on the turntable, along with Carole King’s Tapestry.

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There are, of course, many wonderful songs on Bridge Over Troubled Water beside the title track: The Boxer, Cecilia, Bye Bye Love, The Only Living Boy in New York, among others. But the song that always caught my attention when I was a 9-year old, was, oddly, So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright. I didn’t really have any idea who FLW was, but the song seemed so sad and made me want to know who this man was.

 

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The story goes that Simon and Garfunkel (or as I like to call them, Paul and Art) were renting a house in the Hollywood Hills in 1969 while working on the Bridge Over Troubled Water album. Art saw one of the FLW homes in the area and suggested to Paul that he write a song. What I didn’t know was that Art, smarter than I realized, majored in architecture at Columbia University just in case music didn’t work out for him. Not a bad Plan B. Theories suggest that it’s also Paul’s goodbye song to Art, as the duo broke up after Bridge Over Troubled Water was released. Note the line “all of the nights we’d harmonize till dawn”.

 

 

FLW was undoubtedly a genius, and his designs are amazing. He not only designed the buildings as an architect, he also worked on the details of interior design, including the furnishings, textiles, and art pieces, and even mailboxes. He was known to design the clothing for the women in his life. Was he controlling? I imagine so. And that spilled over into his personal life.

 

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The bit that’s sticking with me at the moment is a scene in the book The Women in which FLW declares himself a pacifist, a conscientious objector to war. That’s cool. I consider myself a pacifist as well. But I’m not a bully, and FLW seems to have been a big one. I’m not a genius either, so…

Much of the novel The Women takes place around Taliesin, FLW’s studio and farm built and rebuilt (plagued by fires and tragedy) in rural Wisconsin, now maintained by the Taliesen Preserve.

 

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FLW at Taliesin in 1911, when the house was first was completed.

Can one be a pacifist and a bully both? I suppose so. We are, if nothing, complex and contradictory creatures, we human beings. He had a vision for how he wanted things to be, and brooked no nonsense from those around him, but he wasn’t violent and held a deep appreciation for other cultures. Except when it came to food. He was very early 20th century mid-Western in his taste for basic meat, potatoes, and gravy. None of that fancy French stuff for him (one of the many bones of contention with his Southern belle and Francophile second wife Miriam Noel Wright). When he traveled in Japan while working on the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, he had a hard time with what I think of as an amazing cuisine.

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The Imperial opened in 1923 and was demolished in 1968. The entrance lobby was saved an reconstructed at the Meiji Mura architecture museum in Nagoya.

I also think of FLW as an artist, sensitive to atmosphere and color and harmony. We have a model of one of his early designs, the Romeo and Juliet windmill, built for his aunts in 1896 in the town of Wyoming, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the artist who made the model. When I bought it from him at an Oakland gallery, he was working in the exhibitions department at the Oakland Museum of California. I’ll post it when I recall it. He is a talented artist who deserves credit for his work.

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The Romeo and Juliet windmill.
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Our model of the windmill, photo by Robert Ward.

 

One of Wright’s most famous buildings is Falling Water in Pennsylvania, completed in 1935.

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Falling Water

 

The sesquicentennial of FLW’s birth was celebrated this year on June 8th. This feature by Jay Jones in the Los Angeles Times provides a nice overview of his work: From New York to California, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s birth. One of his more famous and first California homes is Hollyhock House in the East Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles. Built for oil heiress Aline Barnsdall in in 1919-1921, the house is now part of the Barnsdall Art Park.

 

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The living room at Hollyhock House. Wright was a pioneer of open living spaces, with the hearth at the center of the home.

Yes, I can see a man who has the kind of vision for open, warm, harmonious spaces and the surrounding of ourselves with beauty as being a man who wants peace and harmony for the world at large. The contradiction is in his very messy and unharmonious personal life. The saddest and most tragic episode was that of his mistress, Martha “Mamah” Borthwick Cheney. Mamah and her husband were clients and Oak Park, Illinois, neighbors of FLW and his first wife, Catherine “Kitty” Wright (1871-1959).

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The Wright Family in 1898, Frank on far right, Kitty in center with infant Lloyd.

FLW built Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin, for Mamah, a place where he and she could get away from the press and turmoil caused by his leaving his wife and 6 children and her leaving her husband and 2 children. A disgruntled workman at Taliesin murdered Mamah and 6 others (including her 2 children, on a summer visitation at the time) and set fire to Taliesin in 1914. Distraught, FLW was vulnerable and became entangled with the quite dramatic and mentally unstable opiate addict Miriam Noel, his 2nd wife after Kitty relented and granted a divorce.

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Mamah Cheney (1869-1914)
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Miriam Noel Wright (1869-1930)

His relationship with Miriam was the most turbulent and fractious, and their divorce battle was a media storm of accusations and paparrazi around FLW’s mistress and later 3rd (and final) wife Olgivanna Lloyd Wright (1898-1985).

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Olgivanna Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona in 1968.

 

FLW was quite proud of his Welsh heritage. The name of Taliesin, and the later Taliesin West, means “shining brow”, and comes from the name of the 6th century Welsh poet, who in Welsh legends is portrayed as a wizard, prophet, and companion to King Arthur.

 

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Seems fitting in that FLW can be said to have been a wizard in his own way in the arts, but not in his relationships, and defnitely not with money, except to make it disappear.

Whether Paul Simon was writing his song as a literal tribute to Frank Lloyd Wright or using the name Frank Lloyd Wright to refer to Art Garfunkel, it is a poignant song. And it led me on a journey of discover around FLW and his life. And since I am obsessed at the moment, next up in my book queue is the novel Loving Frank (2007) by Nancy Loran, the story of Mamah and FLW from Mamah’s perspective.

 

Loving Frank

 

Nancy Horan
Writer Nancy Horan

 

I have no plans to travel to New YTork any time soon, but when I do, I will make a pilgrimmage to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, itself a work of art and completed in 1959, the same year FLW died at age 89. True to form, the estate he left behind took years to settle.

 

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Love Frank, hate Frank, or puzzled by Frank and his life, you have to admit he led an interesting life.

 

Tom Wright and his wife, Etsuko Saito, live in a Bethesda home designed by his grandfather, Frank Lloyd Wright.
The signature red tile placed on the facades of Wright’s buildings.

 

 

 

If I could talk to the animals (oh wait, I do that)

Yes, I talk to animals. I can’t say that they listen to or understand me, and they don’t talk back to me in a language that is clear, like with Doctor John Dolittle in the children’s books from the 1920s by civil engineer Hugh Lofting (born in 1886 in Maidenhead, Berkshire, England).

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Hugh Lofting

Lofting died in 1947, so any Doctor Dolittle shenanigans after that point are not his fault. The original stories are set in Victorian England in the fictional village of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, a place I wanted desperately to live when I read my mother’s old copies of the books in the 1960s. To tell the truth, I still want to live there.

I’ve written about perfect moments.  In  my memories, reading Doctor Dolittle as a child, curled up in my pajamas in the comfy chair with the nubby green upholstery, the sun shining through a window of the den on a cold day and dust just visible floating in the stream of sunlight, smelling the old-paper smell of the books my mother had also read as a child–that’s a perfect moment.

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The movie version I am familiar with is the 1967 musical with Rex Harrison as the doctor, and also starring Samantha Eggar, Anthony Newley, and Richard Attenborough.

 

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It was, surprisingly in retrospect, nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture that year, and won the Oscars for Best Original Song (for Talk to the Animals) and Best Original Effects. Of course, I at age 6, loved the movie, but I don’t think it was actually very good. I mostly remember Anthony Newley singing (not necessarily in a good way) and the voyage in the Giant Pink Sea Snail.

 

 

It never occured to me as a child to ask why, if the Giant Pink Sea Snail is a living creature, it has no insides and the humans can live in its (his? her?) hollow shell without problems. When you are 6 you go with your imagination and don’t question these things.

 

I have never seen the Eddie Murphy version of Doctor Dolittle (1998) and have no intention of ever seeing it. Sorry, Mr. Murphy, but in my mind Doctor Dolittle will always be English, Victorian, and Rex Harrison-ish, although I applaud the concept of introducing said doctor to a new generation and a diverse audience. Plus, I don’t think fart jokes are all that funny and just have no place in my world of Doctor Dolittle and Puddleby-on-the Marsh. And neither does a PG rating.

drdolittle

 

But as usual I digress. I talk to the animals. Frequently. And I talk for them. I have voices I use for the animals who live with me, and they often are very sassy when speaking through me. We sing, too. Each animal has a story and a song, and there are songs that go with different ocassions, like meals and bedtime.

This version of Talk to the Animals by Sammy Davis Jr. makes me happy in some way I can’t explain. Sammy always reminds me of my mother’s second husband, Van, who was extremely thin and liked to dance and had a style a lot like Sammy’s when he was in happy drunk mode. That was less frequent than mean drunk mode, but we don’t need to go into that here.

 

And before you think you need to have me committed, let me tell you that I know I am not alone in the world. I know very rational people who sing and talk to animals, and have voices and special songs assigned to particular animals. Maybe it’s a little quirky, but it’s fun and harmless. I have no illusions that the animals are actually listening to, understanding, or responding to me. I think my marbles are all still with me.

 

 

Each of my resident companion animals has a special song. For Sara, it’s obviously Sara Smile (1976) by Hall and Oates. I’ve had Sara (brown tabby) since she was a newborn kitten, and I sang that to her when I bottle-fed her. She’s 19 years old now, and it’s still her song. Her brother Ben (orange tabby), who passed away at 15, was subjected to me singing the Michael Jackson song Ben from the horror movie Ben (1971), sequel to Willard. Yes, it’s about a rat, but it’s still a good song. I’ll spare you my singing and go right to the sources.

 

 

Misty, who I sometimes call Mystical, gets to hear me warble on with The Beatle’s song Magical Mystery Tour (1967) with the lyrics changed to “She’s the magical mystical cat, she’s going to eat your face…” She won’t really eat your face, but she on the moody side, shall we say.

Misty

Here is the song performed by Sir Paul McCartney:

 

Alternatively, Misty also gets Windy, the 1967 hit by The Association, alltered to “Everyone knows it’s Misty…And Misty has stormy eyes…”

 

Marble, lively young lad, I decided gets the the old Ballad of Davy Crockett (1955), with the line changed to “Marby, Marby Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier”. It suits him, can’t explain why. I won’t make you listen to it. You’re welcome.

 

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Einstein is the odd one out, the only dog. He feels misunderstood and put upon by all of the cat activity in the house. Middle child syndrome, in a way. I don’t know why I started singing Petula Clark’s Downtown (1964) to him. Maybe because it’s fun to say Einstein to the “downtown” spots, and I make the main line “Einstein, everyone’s waiting for Einstein…” And he does look a little like Petula Clark, now that I think about it.

Einstein

 

And then we have songs to mark times of day. From A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) comes Vince Guaraldi’s Christmas Time is Here, changed to “Breakfast time is here” or “Dinner time is here”, depending. Breakfast can also be signified by changing It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas (1951) to “It’s beginning to look a lot like breakfast”.

 

I won’t go into all of the songs I’ve sung to different foster kittens. But I could use suggestions for foster #56, Dapper. He’s a very affectionate 1-year old boy. I’ve been calling him Dapper Dan in honor of the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000) and George Clooney’s character Ulysses Everett McGill’s obssession with Dapper Dan hair pomade.

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I’ll have to listen to the movie soundtrack and pick out a song. They do sing You Are My Sunshine in the movie. Sounds like I’ve found a winner!

 

Peace and hugs, and keep singing! I’ll be out there looking for that magical place, Puddleby-on-the-Marsh. Maybe I’ll see you there.

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Seeing the beauty in a life well-lived

I was listening to the audiobook of the Louise Penny mystery The Brutal Telling in the car the other day and was struck by the lines spoken by Inspector Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec:

“The leaves had fallen from the trees and lay crisp and crackling beneath his feet. Picking one up he marveled, not for the first time, at the perfection of nature where leaves were most beautiful at the very end of their lives.”

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I also found out subsequently that in the Regina Spektor song Time is All Around, she also says “Leaves are most beautiful when they’re about to die.” Put that way, it sounds a little morbid, but I found the idea to be one of beauty.

 

 

Yes, in the literal sense the vibrant colors of autumns leaves can be breathtaking. But what the lines made me think about was the beauty of what I call lived-in human faces.

In the Penny novel, the inspector spends a deal of time looking at the life of Emily Carr (1871-1945). I had never heard of Emily Carr until we went to Vancouver last year and saw a show of her work. There is even an Emily Carr University of Art in Vancouver. She was a very important artist and writer in Canada, receiving much of her inspiration from the art of the Pacific Northwest indigenous people, particularly the Haida of the Haida Gwaii (at one time in history called the Queen Charlotte Islands) in British Columbia.

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She documented what was a disappearing way of life and landscapes that were being destroyed. Among her famous paintings are Raven, 1930:

 

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and Vanquished, also 1930:

Vanquished

 

Emily Carr was not a traditionally pretty woman, but when I look at photos of her I am struck by the beauty that emanates from her. She chose her own path, was often ridiculed, and wasn’t considered an important artist until later in her life. She spent much of her time alone, with her beloved animals, traveling in her caravan and painting, memorializing a culture threatened by Euro-centricism.

Emily 1

Emily 2

 

I’ll never forget the moment when I had an epiphany of sorts about the beauty of faces of those not young and smooth and still untried but of those who’ve been through troubles, taking life as it comes, and aging with grace and dignity. I was watching the movie Beyond Rangoon (1995), which takes place during the 1988 uprising in Burma, or Myanmar.

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What I took away from this movie was the image of the face of U Aung Ko, the guide who helps Arquette’s character escape to Thailand. He was the heart and soul of the movie. His face to me conveyed as much as his words or actions. He has a beautiful face.

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After that I started paying more attention to the faces around me of older people, not necessarily like the leaves in the quote about to die, but who having lived and learned and loved and sometimes suffered and hopefully found peace, giving them a beauty beyond pure looks. There are countless images I can add to prove my point but I don’t think it’s necessary.

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Baba Ji, photo by Laurent Auxietre, Nepal

 

In 2008, Jyll Johnstone released the documentary Hats Off, about then 93-year old actress Mimi Wedell, who passed away in 2009. She began her modeling and acting career when she was 65. The film’s tag line is “90 is the new 40”.

 

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Mimi Wedell

In terms of how I live my own life based on these reflections, I am proud of who I am becoming as I age. I like myself better now at 56 than I ever  have. I’ve never lied about my age, and I never will. Why? I’ve earned every laugh line and crow’s foot and the now emerging gray hairs. If I had the gorgeous snowy white hair my grandmother Cottraux (coincidentally we called her Mimi) had, even when she was a younger woman, I would show it off. I have no interest in cosmetic surgery. Yeah, I’d like to lose a few pounds, but apparently not enough to give up chocolate. Life is too short to give up chocolate.

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Don’t get me wrong. I care about how I look. I usually wear contact lenses, although more and more these days I wear my eyeglasses. Seeing is becoming pretty important too! I wear a little eye make up. I’m not saying we should let ourselves go, but that we take pride in what’s good about ourselves. I’ll never be drop dead gorgeous, but I like to think I have a kind face. That is my idea of being a beautiful person.

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On my 56th birthday, laugh lines and all.

In American popular culture, there is such a heavy emphasis on youth, on cookie-cutter beauty standards that are unrealistic and potentially harmful. The green leaves on the trees are of course beautiful. I love the green of spring and summer. But as the leaves continue their leafy journeys, they change into works of art, bursting with color and causing us to gaze with awe. We should celebrate ourselves as we enter into the metaphorical autumn and ultimately winter of our lives. All of the seasons of the year are to be enjoyed, as are all the seasons of our lives.

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Peace and hugs.

Sock it to me! (I’m eccentric but non-problematic)

My name is Genevieve and I am a sockaholic.

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Yes, I joke. I don’t take addiction lightly, believe me. I’ve witnessed many a struggle with substance abuse, saw my mother’s second husband die of cirrhosis after years of alcohol abuse, and experienced my own battle not so many years ago.

But I do have an issue with socks. Or chaussettes, in French. J’aime vraiment les chaussettes. Everything sounds better in French. Tout sonne mieux en français.

I’ve always had a thing for colorful legwear. As a youngster I loved colorful knee socks and tights, although the tights never lasted long as I also had a lot of skinned knees (still do; haven’t outgrown my clumsiness).

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Kindergarten, me on the right in the awesome red knee socks.

 

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Not just one skinned knee, but two! But rocking the ankle socks with my Easter dress.

 

My mother used to tell me that when I first got my own room, a tiny room but all mine (!), and I had my own dresser, I asked her for empty shoe boxes and put them in the drawers so I could organize my socks by color. This sounds completely like me, by the way, so I believe it’s true. In fact, I should start doing that again. I had an epic fail with the drawer dividers I bought. Although that’s because the drawer is so full it won’t shut anymore. I need a dedicated sock cabinet! Many women yearn for a shoe closet; I yearn for a sock cabinet.

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Epic organization fail.
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And this doesn’t include all the ones still in the laundry basket.
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Not going to fit in the bedroom…

 

There’s also my legging collection. Remember the words colorful legwear. That can cover a lot of ground.

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Yes, they take up a lot of space in my closet.

In one of my knitting phases, I decided knitting my own socks was the way to go, so I joined a “sock a month club” and started receiving sock-knitting kits. I realized quickly that I could never knit a pair of socks every month. Precisely because you have to knit two of them. The first one is fun and great and you take it off the needles feeling so proud, and then you realize, “Oh crap, I have to knit another one now.”

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I made it through two sock kits before canceling my membership.

 

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The unknitted socks I still have in my knitting stash.

I recently got the brilliant idea from my friend Debra of mixing up socks so I don’t have to worry about the concept of pairs. I wish I’d thought of that in my knitting frenzy. I could have kept going only knitting one sock of each pair and just mixed them up as the mood hit.

Reminds me of my favorite David Hockney photograph that I recently saw at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. It’s a subtle mismatching, but quite an elegant one. I never really liked David Hockney’s paintings that much, but I discovered his photography and now I am a fan.

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David Hockney, Self Portrait, Gerardmer, France, 1975 © David Hockney

Ironically, my photographic homage to Hockney is all images of my bare feet, not my socked feet, so maybe my obsession is with my feet and not socks per se?

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Genevieve Cottraux, Homage to David Hockney, 2017

 

Recently I discovered Blue Q socks, and that was the game changer that took me from a sock enthusiast to a sockaholic. I did already have a pair of Blue Q socks, a Christmas gift from Bob’s nephew Joe and his lovely wife Isabella.

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While not a Blue Q sock, the banned book socks I received from Joe’s parents another Christmas gave me the idea that one could speak their mind on the their socks, not just on t-shirts or bumper stickers.

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Banned book socks, not on my feet. My feets are smaller and cuter.

Then came the final piece of the puzzle–a trip to the wonderful store Nathan & Co. in Oakland. I’ve loved Nathan’s ever since Nathan himself adopted a dog from the East Bay SPCA when I was a volunteer there. The store is so cool; I can’t go in without buying something. There were the Blue Q socks, full of attitude and f-bombs. I don’t speak in f-bombs, but I love the idea of wearing them on my socks, hidden by my jeans, my little sassy secret.

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My first Blue Q purchases, from Nathan & Co.

A sock monster was born. In Iceland, I discovered a store in Reykjavik that was both a great coffee bar and a purveyor of all things Blue Q. Apparently, Icelanders share my  sense of humor.

And then there was the hosiery store that teased me with their window display of tights (hey, I said colorful legwear, not just socks) only to be closed. Foiled! I could have had puffin tights! Or Icelandic horses!

Iceland other shop 1

Iceland other shop 2

I came home with a renewed obsession with Blue Q socks. They are far too easy to order online. I began to get in trouble.

Blue Q assortmentBlue Q assortment 2

I was doing better after a spate of purchases, happily living with the sock collection I had accumulated, when along came the SockPop, a pop up sock shop in Berkeley in the Elmwood neighborhood, on College Avenue. I was at Timeless Coffee Roaster, an amazing vegan coffee place, to see a friend before going to work, and was heading back to my car figuring I’d just make it to work on time.

Timeless

And there it was. But my sock-clad feet (appropriately coffee-themed) walked right in.

coffee socks

I was in trouble. Socks everywhere. Cute animal socks. Snarky socks. Socks with cat ninjas!

sock pop assortment

I succumbed. I was 20 minutes late for work. Was my sock addiction becoming a problem? I posted for advice. My colleague and friend Stewart responded: “According to clinical guidelines, no intervention required until you get to the point where there are ‘repeated significant negative consequences (e.g, financial problems, neglecting other responsibilities, etc.)’ Not there yet? Then you’re still in the ‘eccentric but non-problematic’ category, so….enjoy it while you can. The dues aren’t high enough yet!”

Was being late for work because I was sock shopping considered neglecting my responsibilities? I focused on the word repeated. I’d been late to work before, of course, but only once for the crime of pop-up sock shopping. I decided to go with eccentric but non-problematic, a phrase I want on a pair of socks…

 

Peace and hugs. I could get that on a pair of socks too…

I’ll stick to the high road (call me a doormat if you want)

The other day, I was in one of my favorite local markets, Piedmont Grocery, paying way too much for groceries. I realize that in itself is a privilege, a luxury, a splurge, whatever you want to call it. I could have saved money at a big supermarket but I hate big supermarkets generally. Living in a city plagued by food deserts, I know what a privilege it is that I can choose where to shop. If you don’t know what a food desert is, you might not be paying attention to issues of social justice and access to basic resources.

 

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But that’s beside the point.

As the checker was scanning my items and politely not saying anything about the amount of chocolate in my cart, the courtesy clerk, aka bagger, was pondering how to get my purchases into my tote bags and back into the cart in the best way. He seemed to be putting an inordinate amount of thought into it, and asking me my opinion. As I’ve gotten older, I am much more prone to chatting with the people helping me in stores. I used to shy away from it, but I actually find those conversations easier sometimes than ones with family and friends.

bagger

Many of the stores in this area hire those with intellectual disabilities, which is pretty cool. When I was growing up, baggers were called bag boys and were usually teenage boys working for tips, and they always pushed your cart to your car and loaded them in the trunk. My mother had a terrible time when tips were no longer accepted for this job. For years she kept trying to tip the baggers, and when one finally politely told her he’d get fired if he took the tip, she finally got the point and quit trying to give them money.

Anyway, the gentleman bagging my purchases compared packing the bags to playing Tetris.

tetris

 

I used to play Tetris back in the day on my old black and white Mac, usually when I should have been writing my master’s thesis back in the early 1990s.

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You can buy one on eBay if you really want one!

 

I said something about me not being that good at Tetris, and that he was probably a lot better at it than me, when he said something to the effect that he could do Tetris with the groceries really well but if he took too long he’d have angry customers. To which I said, without thinking, “I don’t get angry.” He looked at me in astonishment and asked me if I really never get angry. In the moment and in that situation, I honestly replied that I don’t get angry.

Maybe because it was my day off, or maybe because I started the day having coffee with a dear friend, or maybe because I went to get my flu shot prepared to wait for hours and I only waited about 5 minutes, but waiting to have my groceries nicely packed seemed like a no stress situation in which I could wait a few seconds here and there so as not to the tomatoes smashed.

tomato-smashed

 

Yes, I get angry. Angry at the world situation, angry at particular people in power, angry at injustice, angry at animal cruelty. But angry in my day to day life? Not so much. That wasn’t always true. I’ve fumed and sworn at the silliest things.

fuming

I got it in my head at one point that I needed to learn to stand up for myself, which was true. But my first foray into that was to send my food back to the kitchen at a restaurant because my veggie enchiladas were in red sauce, and not the green sauce I ordered. I thought I would be being a doormat if I just accepted it and ate it. That’s what one of my companions did; he’d ordered the red sauce and gotten the green on his chicken enchiladas. A simple mistake in our orders. He took it in stride and graciously ate his enchiladas. I like red sauce. I had a hankering for green sauce that day, but I could have eaten the red. I’ve briefly (thank goodness, only briefly) worked in food service, and I know how hard it is, and how picky customers can ruin the day. I also hate to waste food. For about a minute I was proud of myself for sending the plate back, but ever since I’ve felt like a jerk.

 

So is accepting delays and small mistakes taking the high road or being a doormat? I’ve also fallen into the doormat category. Not as much anymore. In a weird way I’ve achieved a balance between accepting life as it comes and standing up for myself.

doormat

 

There are lots of refrigerator magnets and other stuff that reflect what I am trying to say. Numerous people have written self-help books that may or may not have helped anyone but probably made the author some money.

 

You want to pass me on the highway to get where you are going a few seconds ahead of me? Fine, go ahead. Training a new cashier at the coffee bar and it might take a little longer? Great, and congratulations and good luck with the new job. I’m not in such a hurry that I have to glare at you and mutter at you under my breath while you are trying to learn on the job. At the end of the day, I have to live with myself, and I don’t want to be the angry customer, the a–hole driver, the person who causes a scene or holds up everyone else while counting my change or arguing with courtesy clerks. And I do live a life of privilege, a fact that I try not to take for granted.

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I have more important things to worry about. Like saving the world. Or at least making my little part of it a better place.

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My doctoral dissertation, distilled to a memo pad.

Peace and hugs.