The Round-Up

Now that the trip’s over and my (im)patience is no longer being tested by the languor of dial-up, here’s what happened:

Trader Joe’s turned out to be a great store with lots of fab food. I bought lots of frozen delicacies (mandarin ginger chicken or flatbread with gorgonzola, ham, and caramelized onions, anyone?), and the check-out guy suggested I get a cooler and ice in which to house them, since it was about 90 degrees at that point with two or three hours to drive.

Of course I got lost looking for the K-Mart. I finally located the K-Mart and the styrofoam coolers hidden in its vast, warehouse-like expanse and took them triumphantly to the cash. Only two were open, and had equally long lines. I spent more time in line than I had finding the place. People ahead of me in line changed their minds, ran to add extra items, wrote checks for $5, forgot their PINS, and other assorted annoyances.

When it was my turn, the cashier asked me brightly if I was going on a picnic, since I was buying three coolers and nothing else. I smiled equally brightly and told her I was transporting body parts across state lines. Her smile froze, but her K-Mart training kicked in and she handed me my change saying, “You have a good day now. Next!”

For the record, three coolers and two bags of ice was exactly right, and all the Trader Joe’s delights arrived still frozen. Oh, and the Two Buck Chuck was the best $2 wine I ever tasted.


I had a wonderful time with my sister and brothers. Their 30 acres is right down the road from where they currently live. It’s 5 miles from the ocean, so it doesn’t get fogged in very often. They bought the land with another couple, who owns the other 30 acres of the parcel, and more importantly, own horses, which we can ride whenever we like. Talk about idyllic: redwood forest, sunny meadows, peace, serenity, and horses. It was an incredibly moving moment to stand there on that ground and know it’s theirs.

Dad would have been so happy.


My self-diagnosis, as so often happens, was completely wrong. It turns out that the Awful Allergy Attack was in fact a Cruel Crushing Cold, so I apologize to everything in Nature in general and to my sister’s wrongly accused garden in particular. The CC Cold’s appearance was particularly unwelcome since both my sister and brother had just recovered from CC Colds of their own, and there I was, spraying cooties everywhere.

The cooties scouted around inside my head, a fearful place at the best of times, even venturing as low as the throat, before deciding to set up camp in my sinuses. They made their presence known by searing headaches and strange clickings in my ears when I swallowed (and at this point, swallowing Two Buck Chuck seemed like a very good idea, given the fact that it’s cheaper than cold medicine, tastes better, and, taken in sufficient quantities, makes you care a lot less that you’re sick. And everyone knows that alcohol kills germs).

The Cruel Crushing Cold really came into its own when flying*. Take-off and landing (two of them) were rendered even more horrifying by the agonizing sinus and ear pain. By the time I got to Detroit, I couldn’t hear out of my right ear. Fortunately, the deafness was temporary, and it made half-listening to money managers blathering about their kids so much easier.

The CCC also made it impossible for me to have dinner with my dear Kathleen. After a full 9 hour day of meetings and schmoozings and clandestine nose-blowing, all I wanted to do was crawl into my hotel bed and order room service. I also didn’t want to give Kathleen the unwanted gift of a cold. Poisoning my family was more than enough for this girl’s guilty conscience.

However, I am supposed to be back in Detroit two or three times in November, and there’s no way I’m going without seeing Motown’s most valuable asset. Hey girl, any chance of TJ’s and a Red Wings game?

*Confidential to the Annoying Security Guy at SFO: Endlessly repeating jokes that died at birth like “You can leave your heart in San Francisco, but not your belongings” and “Turn off all electronic devices. I don’t care if it’s a strawberry, BlackBerry, or blueberry, turn it off” is a) not funny; 2) does not improve the hellish situation of being in a line reaching to Seattle while waiting to go through one of the two (out of 6) metal detectors in use. Sooner or later, someone will rebel. If you’re really unlucky, it will be Me.

The Clown Car


The Clown Car, at the World Famous Hamburger Ranch and Pasta Farm

For some reason, the past two cars I have rented have been very odd, bright blue Chevrolets*. First, there was the embarrassing weird Malibu hatchback thing I had to drive all over Motown last month. This time, it was the Clown Car. It looked like something the Blue Meanies would drive.

It was all they had at the rental place when I showed up (and for the record, it was early, and not late, for a change). I got in and discovered that the seat was really high (I felt like a trucker up there) and the windshield low and slanted. Couldn’t figure out how to move seat. Looked for owner’s manual, which was conspicuous by its absence. Finally figured out that the buttons on the side of the seat would make it ooze slowly down and forward, if you were patient enough. Once the seat was low enough, though, it was hard to see the dials showing minor details like speed and how much gas there was.

To put on the seatbelt, you had to be a contortionist or lift up the armrest, fasten belt, and put armrest down again. On driving it out of the garage, learned that it had a huge blind spot, just what you want for highway driving. I was beginning to suspect that it had been designed by someone who had never actually driven it. Later discoveries included the odd fact that all the back windows were tinted, as if I were chauffering the famous, and that while you could lock and unlock the back doors from the back seats, you couldn’t put the windows down or up. It doesn’t seem like the best safety feature to allow your kids to open the doors and jump out while preventing them from sticking their hands out the window. Oh, and there were no speakers in the back.

This is why they invented the test drive.

*I am always reminded of Ramona the Pest, the heroine of a series of children’s books, who named her doll Chevrolet after her aunt’s car, because she thought it was the most beautiful name she had ever heard. The first Ramona book was published in 1955, and remarkably, Beverly Cleary, its author, is still alive. If only she’d write another Ramona story!

Signs of the Times


On a pick-up truck outside the Albion Grocery Store. When I was taking the picture, the guy who owned the truck came up and said, “My brother went to Texas” and sighed. For the record, I think Texas could do worse than the Kinkster – and they have.


On my sister’s front door.

There is no side door.


The Unusual Suspects

I’m in the country, and being plagued by attractiveness-reducing allergies. A girl does not look her best with a red, running nose, sneezing in public and getting those Typhoid Mary looks, and clutching Kleenex as if her life depended on it. You know how much I love Nature.

The culprits can be found in my sister’s garden:

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You know how the prettiest things can be the most dangerous and/or treacherous!

Notes from the Road

Well, the detox is officially over. I now have a whole new respect for Pete Doherty, who spends half his life in detox. Fourteen days of it was plenty for me. How do people do it for 28 days? They must be twice as tough, twice as determined, or twice as medicated.

Can I have a martini now?


It certainly was strange getting all dressed up for the conference. My diamonds were happy to see the light of day again, and grumbled something about how they might as well have stayed in the ground for all the sunlight they see. Well, they don’t have the horror of nylons and heels. I’m pretty sure the dream shoes would not have been surprisingly comfortable (or comfortable at all).

The whole time I was there, I was convinced they were going to figure out that I was an imposter and send me back to high school where I belong. I kept looking at all the serious guys in suits and wondered if they felt the same way, and if I would ever feel like a grown-up.

I seriously doubt it.


Last night, my sis called me from the Emergency Room with an emergency of her own: a list of items for me to pick up at Trader Joe’s* on my way to her place. As I wrote down the ever-lengthening list, someone came into the ER to report a puppy frolicking in the parking lot.

*Home of Two Buck Chuck! Good thing the detox is over!

Travels with Suzy

Having to fly again (for work, but deciding to add on a few days for fun, about which more later), I tried to minimize the horrors I expected to encounter at the airport and in the airplane itself. Those of you familiar with what happens to Suzy at airports will not be surprised by the following:

What I expected:

The airline sent me a lovely email, confirming my upgrade with all those certificates that have been piling up in my account. I figured I’d be kickin’ back in first class with a mimosa before takeoff, being fussed over and catching up on reading important literary materials such as InStyle. I’d put my bag in the overhead bin, enjoy the free drinks, and before I knew it, the whole thing would be over.

What actually happened:

Turns out a confirmation only means something in a church. The harried check-in person at the airport told me that the plane type had been changed at the last minute (not even she knew why), so now it was a teeny plane with only four first class seats, none of which were mine.

I got the dreaded middle seat. I got to sit there for 45 minutes while they loaded up on standbys. The flight attendants then started yelling at everyone to sit down so they could do a seat count. “There are crew who would love to get on this flight!” I thought, Well, screaming at paying customers to sit down and shut up so others could fly for free is not your best diplomatic move, especially with the lack of ventilation and general crowd hostility at this point. Just say you want to accomodate as many people as possible and leave it at that. What we don’t know won’t hurt you.

Once we finally were airborne, the guy next to me on the aisle side treated me to his vivid impersonation of Mr. Pussy from Sex and the City. He removed piece after piece of exotic fruit from his otherwise seemingly innocent briefcase (entering the security to code to unlock it each time – I’m not kidding) and slurped it in a loud and obscene manner. If I were younger and prettier, I’d take it personally. As it was, everyone kept looking around to find the source of the slurping. Once they located it, they stared in horror as if at a car wreck. It’s so gross, but I can’t look away!!

Since the flight was full*, they forced me to check my bag. It was lost. On arrival, they informed me they’d get it to me in four to six hours. When the six hours was up, I called them and was informed it would arrive around 1 am. Stayed up. No bag. Called again. Now they didn’t know how long it would take. Dozed weirdly, clutching cellphone just in case. They showed up at 7 am.

*They always say “very full”. Either it’s full, or it’s not.

Travels with Dad: August, 1991 (Part 3)

Mostly about shopping and boozing it up. Those were the days!

Tuesday, August 20, 1991

Invaded by hordes of wasps at 3 am! Killed the first few, but when there were about a dozen of them to one of me, decided that discretion was the better part of valor and repaired to the back bedroom clutching my ruffled peach satin duvet. I shut the door of my room and the spare room to keep the wasps out.

The next morning, I joined Dad and Margaret for coffee, peaches, kiwi and melon while listening to the BBC World Service. Still no news of poor Mr. Gorbachev. I wonder if he is still alive.

Margaret and I went to London to shop, while Dad volunteered to deal with the wasp situation. [He’d probably prefer being stung by the wasps to shopping.] It was a beautiful day and we drove with the sunroof open, zipping down little side streets and through Sloane Square and Knightsbridge before parking. Mindful of the cars which were clamped and had ominous signs saying “DO NOT TRY TO MOVE THIS”, we paid & displayed.

Firs stop, Rigby & Peller, Corseti?res to the Queen. Margaret fell in love with a gorgeous primrose neglig?e and peignoir set in the window which was ?500, but she bravely resisted the temptation.

Inside, it is all hushed and refined, with only a few things on display. Instead, one is attended by a splendid Lady who can (and did!) tell the size, make, and model of your brassi?re through your clothes. You then repair to an elegant dressing room with a little satin couch and the Ladies bring you selections and assist you in putting them on the proper way, all with running commentary. Margaret bought two – it was way beyond my means – and as we left, a distinguished older gentleman was buying the gorgeous neglig?e in the window for his wife, who was in the hospital following a stroke. So touching!

On to Harrods, where I was dizzied and delighted. The ?3,900 “n?cessaire” and vintage Dior jewelry in the Egyptian Room! The lovely Italian perfume bottles! The silver! Oh, the clothes! The justly famous Food Hall has beautiful ornate tiles in every color, ornate plaster ceilings, and still lifes with food that had to be seen to be believed. For instance, there was one of fresh fish which seemed to be struggling up a real waterfall, garnished with plants, lemons, and seaweed. I kept looking at the displays like I was from a Third World country. Amazing.

Margaret is a tireless shopper [at the time, she was 64 and I was 29. I bet she can still shop me into the ground], and we didn’t get home until 6. We found Dad with the wasp man – apparently, there was a nest right outside my window, which I had foolishly left open. I asked the wasp man what he used to kill them, and he said it was a chemical and we wouldn’t understand. Dad asked him to tell us what it was, just for fun, and when he heard what it was, drew its diagram on the back of an envelope. The wasp man was astonished and couldn’t stop laughing. He said that was a first for him.

Dinner was a shrimp and tomato appetizer, followed by chicken and rice with runner beans (Margaret has an antique gadget whose sole purpose is to cut runner beans). Wolf Blass chardonnay with dinner. After dinner, Dad suggested a walk on Wimbledon Common. It was a beautiful pink and purple sunset. The yellow moon was deeper and bigger than yesterday. We passed some romantic cottages with award-winning gardens, smelling of roses and lavender.

Ended the walk at the Fox & Grapes pub. It was full and cheery (some patrons bring their dogs; Dad is looking forward to bringing Jesse there when he’s out of quarantine), but the same instincts that led Margaret to a parking spot in the middle of London led her to a comfortable corner table. Sitting over a bottle of crisp white wine, I felt so glad to be there. Later, when I brought the cushions in from the patio chairs, I kept looking at the clear indigo sky. I want to remember how I felt forever.

One More for the Road

Before I head off to the conference and the family reunion, here’s an update. Wish me luck with the flying portion of the adventure: Now With Even More Annoyances!


You’ve probably guessed by now that the guy who brought me the previously-enjoyed dryer wasn’t an axe murderer, or if he was, he was an inefficient one, since here I am, blogging away. He turned out to be a genial retired engineer who now amuses himself by being a handyman. He took away the dead dryer and installed the live one, which is approximately three times more efficient than the old one. To be fair, the former dryer was Harvest Gold, so you know it was at least as old as it looked and acted (unlike Me). When he asked for a sock or something to put over one of the mysterious dryer parts, he was taken aback to be given a silk stocking. He took it from my hand like it was atomic. It only had a run in it.

The coffeemaker has added an annoying variation to its peeing all over the counter. Now it keeps about half of the water poured into it in the little basket with the coffee, so it looks like a miniature La Brea Tar Pit in there. Amazingly, I can’t figure out what’s wrong with it, so it may join the Harvest Gold* dryer if it doesn’t straighten up and brew right. Of course, I could just give up coffee, but no. Which brings us to…


Yesterday, my trainer told me I had a “glow” about me. I’m thinking it was the new lipgloss and dyed eyelashes, but of course I thanked him modestly. Later I wondered if it was “glow” as in my grandmother’s euphemism for sweat, or a sneaky way of keeping me motivated about the detox. Suspicious Minds, indeed.

Cautiously, I will admit that I do feel better. I still have trouble getting to sleep and wake up feeling drugged (not in a good way), but the withdrawal seems to have withdrawn. However, all this may be undone by the dehydrating effects of air travel and wine (upon arrival, if not en route). If I can be 80% good while I’m away, I’ll be glad. I’d hate to go through all this for nothing, and the thought of starting all over again fills me with horror.

Antidepressant-wise, I’m down to one big one (75 mg) and one little one (35 mg) a day. I’m hoping to be off them by Thanksgiving. That will give me something to be truly thankful for. Also, there’s no way I’m going on them again, so let’s hope the gym regime is enough to shore up my tenuous mental health.

I think the people on that website got better and/or additional drugs, ’cause I ain’t never been that happy unassisted.

I’ve shelved the weekend film fests for now, because, really, what’s fun about a Good Girl Good Movie festival?


I don’t know why I call her that, but I do. Must be ’cause she’s so purty. Actually, she’s slightly less lovely than she was last week. On Friday, I noticed a hot spot on her shapely butt. Not the useful kind, or the fun kind, but the oogy kind. Called the vet in a panic and brought her in the next day. Poor Rita had her behind shaved around the spot, and poor Suzy had to buy special stuff to put on it twice a day, plus more ear stuff (also twice a day). What with blood test re-takes and other miscellany, guess how much it cost?

I’m beginning to think the vet is buying a small Caribbean island at my expense.

While I’m away, Charlie, the giver of fabulous gifts whenever he goes away, has agreed to take care of La Rita, so I wanted to make sure she was in excellent shape before handing her over. He’s been single since the Bush Senior administration, so maybe he’ll meet the girl of his dreams while walking Rita at the park. I should probably get him a present either way.

*Harvest Gold and Avocado Green were the favored colors of the 1970s, as I recall, but wasn’t there a sort of brick-red or brown one, too?

Here’s Looking At You, Kid


As Mr. Bogart would say.

Rita thought it was my turn for a close-up. My primping has known no bounds lately. Today I had my eyebrows re-glamorized, and my eyelashes tinted. I may also have finally found the perfect nude lipgloss. It looks scary in the tube, but fabbo on. I’ll let you know if it’s just a flirtation or true love in a few days (it doesn’t take girls long to make up their minds).

I do have a reason for all this glamorizing (as if a girl needs one; also, I can justify almost anything I really want). I have a conference on Monday and Tuesday, at which I have to masquerade as a convincing grown-up, business cards** and all. Eeek! After the rigors of faux adulthood, I’m rewarding myself with a few days with the family, and I want to look as good as I can after not seeing them for a year.

*A friend of mine read an article where the writer was described as “Italian writer and patriot.” We couldn’t decide how to describe ourselves at the time, but the clarity of detox suggests this for me: “Recovering hedonist and seeker of the perfect nude gloss”. May have to be revised after the new lipgloss tryout, though.

**Do you think it will hurt my credibility that my business card case looks like this?

It Was Such a Beautiful Day

I thought I’d take a couple of pictures while waiting for Rita-Belle to stop sniffing the finish off the concrete.

Here’s the funky old former coffin factory, where I live, along with dozens of artists. Though no-one lives here, of course. We’re all just imagining it.

View from the side, showing the old (a disused chimney) and the new (satellite dish). Signs of their particular times.

The cat got trapped (and rescued) recently. Update: I saw her owner last night, and she said that the cat may have gotten pregnant while she was out that night. She asked brightly, “Do you want a kitten?”


The slightly creepy passageway leading to the courtyard. The building with the air conditioner* is now our castle (Queen Rita and her Lady-In-Waiting – I know my place). It used to be the woodworking shop of the coffin factory.

If you want some real eye candy after that industrial little appetizer, check out these talented guys:

Daddy-O, where Mike shares his gift for observation and eye for the beautiful and poetic, sometimes in the most unexpected places. If you don’t smile or laugh at least once when you read him, you better send out a search party for your missing soul.

Scotty, whose photos are breathtaking and inspiring, and whose brief accompanying prose is evocative and powerful. Look through the previous entries – you’ll be glad you did.

Joey, who describes himself as “just some guy”, but he couldn’t be more wrong. His clean, stylish photos make everything from county fairs to vacant buildings works of art.

Whoever invented the air conditioner and the mute button are my total heroes.

Travels with Dad: August, 1991 (Part 2)


Dad and his beloved dog, Jesse, in quarantine

Monday, August 19, 1992

Slept dreamlessly until 9 am. Over coffee, Margaret told me that Mikhail Gorbachev had been overthrown and was under house arrest in his summer home in the Crimea. Naturally, one wonders if that’s a euphemism for something worse.

After breakfast, we set off for Hever Castle. I hadn’t been there for 15 years, so I was unprepared for the refreshment tents, children’s playgrounds, and the crowds. We had to line up for a long time – long enough to admire all the carving and wondows in the courtyard and the huge carp in the moat. The crowds continued inside, making it difficult to appreciate the beautiful tapestries, furniture, and history of the place. I was touched by Anne Boleyn’s childhood room, with part of her original bed and the lovely illustrated Book of Hours she carried with her to the scaffold. She had inscribed the book:

Remember me when you do pray
That hope doth lead from day to day.

A pretty drive then to visit Jesse [Dad’s 9 year old dog, who was enduring the required 6 months’ quarantine. He was finally released on Halloween that year. It took about 20 minutes to get his collar on, he was so excited!] , whose jail is quite close to Hever. How well I remember the narrow twisting roads and the high hedges! The gardens are ablaze with morning glories, hollyhocks, and roses of every color, as well as blue and pink hydrangeas. The fields are starred with Queen Anne’s Lace.

Jesse’s kennel, Haxted Kennels, is really in the country. He can see flowers, fields, and trees from his run. The run is partly covered by a roof, so he can sit outside in the rain without getting wet. He has water bowls inside and out, and a raised bed with a soft cover as well as Dad’s sweater [Dad thought it would comfort Jesse and remind him that Dad hadn’t forgotten him.] It is really a maximum security prison; we had three doors to go through that were locked behind us, and we were locked in with Jesse.

Jesse looks wonderful – soft fur and bright eyes [he looks like he’s laughing in the above photo]. He jumped all over us and did his excited yelps. We gave him a bone to soften our departure. He was so pleased he scarcely noticed that we left! Sandra, his caretaker, is very kind and seems truly fond of her charges. All in all, it doesn’t seem so bad, but he’ll be glad to get out at the end of October. I think Margaret genuinely loves Jesse, and he her, fortunately for Dad.

Fresh fish for dinner, with runner beans (only in England!) and salad, accompanied by Jamiesons Run Australian chardonnay, and followed by 1976 Fonseca port and Cheshire cheese. We had dinner on the patio, the cool evening air scented with flowers and lit by a waxing, bright moon.

The Highlights Reel


The (temporary) cure for the (hopefully temporary) detox blues was as simple as getting my hair highlighted! I’m all shiny and pretty, and now with fewer toxins!

At the salon, there was some TV person having her hair done. I didn’t recognize her, and I kept hoping the stylist would say her name after overhearing intriguing snippets like:

“Who does your hair on the show? It looks great!”

“I hate my hair on the show!”

Later she complained about not being able to get into any of her three favorite restaurants in New York, so she can’t be that famous.

One of the stylists was chatting with another one about a party they’d been to last night:

One: “I never thought a woman that small could be so loud. And she never shut up. Was she drunk or something?”

Two (very seriously): No. It’s all natural.”

When I left, I was treated to the sight of a slim-challenged and hygiene-challenged guy displaying a horrifying amount of butt cleavage and wearing a t-shirt with the slogan “The Erotic Chef will eat you now.” Something’s always happening in that ‘hood. Took my mind right off the detox, it did.

I may be gay now.

Still Crabby After All These Days

Actual Owner did return Rita, like the cup of sugar she’s not, yet the weather at Chez Girls remains cloudy and overcast, with sudden bursts of thunder tantrums, the occasional squall and tropical depression.

Yes, the Particularly Punishing Period has finally made its exit, leaving destruction in its wake (unflattering zits and an unpleasant bruised feeling about the lower body), but I am in the throes of withdrawal, without methadone or other delightful substances to take the edge off.

In a moment of weakness, I allowed my Perennially Positive Trainer to convince me to give up all sugar and starch (including artichokes, corn, and other seemingly innocent veggies) and bread and booze for fourteen, count ’em, 14 days. I drew the line at caffeine, though I wondered about making this my one vice when faced with vomitous glop like cottage cheese or yogurt for breakfast. Being in a fully alert state for this is not the best idea I ever had.

Tried to convince PPT that wine was in fact fruit. He pointed out that it was fermented. I pointed out that yogurt was fermented. He told me to do more lunges.

My Queendom for a martini. The dirtier the better.

So far, I’m at day four. I have: a constant, low-grade headache; vague stomachache; incessant peeing; inability to get to sleep; extreme state of boredom; horror that I’m not even half-way. The tedium stretches before me in a seemingless endless vista of ennui, and you know how boredom is my biggest fear. The only Nirvana I have achieved is the entire oeuvre of the late great Kurt Cobain, and it’s looking like it’ll stay that way (especially since there’s no more Kurt to be had).

Ever notice how “detox” and “toxic” are just so unpleasant compared to the delights of “intoxicating” and “botox”? No-one ever says, “I was detoxed by her stunning beauty.”

Now I know why.

I’d throw in the tofu and go back to my normal, Sinatra-style self except for my native stubbornness, which makes even an above-average mule look like a slacker. I’ve endured four days of this hell, so I’m not giving in now. If I get to the fifteenth day still feeling like hell, I will have the pleasure of saying “I told you so.”

Something to look forward to.

Note to sibs: Guess who ain’t gonna be eating, drinking and making merry in a couple of weeks? Better some cheese to go with my whine. And lots of it!


And not this cute one, either*.

Crosspatch caused by the following:

  1. Our heroine is experiencing a Particularly Punishing Period, which seems to get more crampalicious with each passing day, instead of diminishing in its agony. Reached a crescendo this afternoon, when I lay on the couch with a heating pad pressed to my stomach and groaned theatrically (though with no audience).
  2. Upstairs neighbors were blasting music at window-shattering levels until after 3 am. When I finally got to sleep, I had a nightmare about Mom. She was yelling at me about washing my grandmother’s silver in the dishwasher (even though the silver belonged to Dad’s mother, not Mom’s). I kept telling her that I didn’t, because I wasn’t used to having one (I have never had a dishwasher in my life, other than John), and she screamed at me to get out and never come back.
  3. Awakened from hideous dream by Upstairs Neighbors doing a repeat performance at 9 am. Clearly, they don’t need their 8 hours of beauty sleep like some of us.
  4. Had icky nightmare hangover all day, not improved by the weather, which is cold, rainy, and miserable. I’ve had the lights on all day. I hate that. It feels so sordid. Grey days make me feel like I’m trapped in one of those depressing Scandinavian movies where everyone talks about how meaningless everything is and how horrible their relationships are.
  5. Rita’s Actual Owner came and “borrowed her for a couple of days.” She may be like a box of cigars, but she isn’t like a cup of sugar. In my weakened condition, I gave in, though he promised to pay me back the money for the vet bill and hugged me for taking such good care of her. I keep thinking I’ll tell him off, but I never do.
  6. There was a stupid, stupid air show today, so the night-long window-shattering Upstairs Neighbor Noise was simply replaced by a day-long window-shattering, nerve-shattering display of military machismo.

    The icing on my little cake of crap.

    *This was another childhood favorite. I still have it!

Tell Me A Story

I was in the cute store buying a birthday card for a friend when a calendar featuring The Poky LIttle Puppy caught my eye.

It was my favorite book at one point in my childhood. Dad read it to me so often that he used to hold the book with the pictures facing me, and recite the story by heart, turning the pages at the correct time. I hadn’t thought of it in years, and I snapped up the calendar and its happy memories, smiling all the way home.

It’s not just me, either. According to Wikipedia, it’s the best-selling hard-cover children’s book of all time, at 15 million and counting. But I bet I was the only one with a Dad like mine.

Oh, and I couldn’t resist this little cuteness* for Self:


In other puppy-related news, I will soon be a published author! I wrote a book review for Dogs in Canada magazine, and they were nice enough not only to publish it (I think in October), but have already paid me for it. It’s just so shocking to do work and then get paid for it right away. Is it supposed to work like that? Really? I think my boss missed the memo. I’ll pass it on and see what he says.

Rita is unimpressed by my literary status, even though I spent much of the check on dog-related necessities. Every time I feed her, she looks at me like, “You expect me to eat this crap? Where’s the steak I ordered?”

*It says “hmm…what I can buy today?” but is a little hard of reading.

Travels with Dad: August, 1991

The next entry in the saga is an appropriate way to send off the Month of Death. I delayed in posting it because I was totally taken aback to discover that it was written on August 18, 1991 – 10 years to the day before Dad died. And I couldn’t bring myself to post it on the scheduled date of Friday, August 18, 2006. Five years passing doesn’t make his passing any easier.

Wimbledon, England, August 18, 1991

Flight arrived and left on time. Cleared Customs in minutes, and having no checked baggage [those were the days!] I was in no time among the hordes of people waiting to greet the arrivals. The two faces I was anxiously seeking were nowhere to be seen. It was so unlike Dad and Margaret to be late that I wondered if I had given them the correct date and time of my arrival. While I was wondering, a policeman and policewoman ran by, chasing a young man who they subsequently caught. By that time, I had found Dad and Margaret among the crowds trying to get into Gatwick, trying to park at Gatwick, and trying to meet people at Gatwick.

Dad had the tail end of a cold/flu and looked a little pale. He seemed to perk up during the day and was almost well by the end of the day. We were so happy to see each other that I can’t help thinking it was part of the cure!

It was a beautiful, sunny day, warm but not hot, with a fresh, light breeze. The house at Wimbledon is already like a second home to me. I was delighted to see how Dad’s study had changed since my last visit and the arrival of his things. I renewed my acquaintance with old friends I hadn’t seen in years – carved elephants from Africa, a train model in cast iron from Dad’s childhood, a lovely vase that had belonged to Grammie [Dad’s mother] – all these things reappeared. It is now the perfect place for Dad to work. [Though technically retired, he edited an international journal, Ecotoxicology, until his death, and also participated in and/or chaired international meetings held by bodies such as the World Health Organization. He was scheduled to chair a meeting in Germany three weeks after his death in 2001.]

The grandfather clock is in the living room. The Wedgwood salad servers and dish were out in the kitchen, having been used for a recent dinner party. [I inherited all of them, along with Grammie’s ivory-handled silverware and fish set.]

After unpacking and cleaning up, we had lunch on the stone-flagged patio outside the living room and then drove to a beautiful old house [!] with Adam interiors called Syon Park. It has a long history, including being the place where Catherine Howard was imprisoned and Jane Grey agreed to become Queen.

It is a remarkably lovely house and beautifully designed, but the rooms are at once ornate and chilly. The only room I can imagine actually living in is the delightful Long Gallery, which was designed for the ladies to repair to after dinner, while the men smoked cigars and drank port and told naughty stories. A door, cleverly concealed as a trompe i’oeil bookcase, leads to the garden, and another concealed door leads to a small private room for intimate conversations.

Syon House also has a grandfather clock which is the carefully restored twin of our own. Unfortunately, the gentleman who repaired it works exclusively for the Duke of Northumberland [Syon’s owner]. I believe that the Duke and his family still live there, as the upstairs is closed to the public.

We finished our visit to Syon with a visit to the Garden Center. Grammie’s gardening blood has come out in Dad with a vengeance; it seems he’s always there fussing or pruning or planning. [Just days after his funeral, the plants he had ordered for the autumn arrived.] He’s so happy, and that makes me happy, too.