Archive for May, 2007

May 28 2007

In Memoriam

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My brother and his Jed, Christmas Eve, 1993

Fourteen years ago, my brother fell in love.

Like many great loves, his was both unexpected and head over heels. He took one look and never looked back.

It was Christmas Eve. Our father and stepmother were visiting from England (their custom was to celebrate Christmas in England one year and in California the next) and had rented a house in Mendocino big enough for the whole passel of us. Dad and I were making dinner, and Jonathan went to town to pick up a few last-minute items. When he came back, he came into the kitchen and said, “Guess what I did?’

Dad and I said, “You wrecked the rental car.” This made no sense, since Jonathan is a speedy, yet excellent driver. In answer to our unjustified accusation, he reached under his sweater and brought out the cutest puppy I had ever seen. For once, I was actually deprived of speech, as I gasped and grabbed for the little bundle of black-spotted, white fur. Dad got there first, though. Dinner was forgotten as we welcomed Jed to the family.

She was the best Christmas gift ever.

It turned out that while Jonathan was running errands, he stopped by what he calls “the pity pit”, which is the local Humane Society displaying pets up for adoption near the main street of the town. He took one look at Jed, and their lives changed forever.

My brother trained Jed carefully and thoroughly. His belief is that a well-behaved dog, like a well-behaved child, can be taken anywhere, but it takes consistent discipline to achieve that goal. People used to tell him he was too hard on Jed, but he wasn’t. He made it possible to take her with him anywhere he went. When he was still a carpenter, she’d go with him to the construction site, and never got in the way. (Once he left his lunch in the truck with her and she didn’t eat it.) My brother is a volunteer fireman, and Jed went with him on every call. He also teaches science, and Jed goes with him to school. It’s hard to know who the kids love more: Jed or Jonathan.

The training was part of it, but there was also her Jedness that made her so special. She grew up to be beautiful, a queenly, fun-loving tomboy. She always jumped on me with joy when I came to visit – the one “bad” habit my brother couldn’t break her of – and one of the great pleasures of visiting was sleeping with Jed the first night I got there. She’d cuddle up to me and I’d have the best sleep with her, loving and reassuring, beside me.

Awake, she’d chase the ball until your arm was about ready to fall off. When my brother moved from his former house to his current one, Jed went into the woods and retrieved her tennis balls, piling them up by his truck as if to say, “If you’re bringing your stuff, I’m bringing mine.” He took her camping, winter and summer, Jed proudly carrying her little backpack full of her own food – that dog pulled her own weight. She loved to swim, and we’d take her to the river, throw the ball, and she’d bring it back. Even in old age, she could out-swim much younger dogs, and she had fun every day of her life.

That happy life ended yesterday. Jed was surrounded by her loved ones and left us peacefully. We were lucky to have known her, from her puppyhood to her adulthood. She is always loved, always remembered, a once in a lifetime friend and companion.

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May 22 2007

Guess What?

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My Dad has his very own Wikipedia page!

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May 19 2007


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Is it just me, or does Charles II look a lot like Walter Matthau? My friend Charlie just came back from a trip to England and was showing me some pictures he took at the National Gallery (one of my favorite places in the world), including Charles II doing his Walter Matthau impersonation (or maybe it was the other way around). He also brought me a giant box of Maltesers, which doubles as an adorable piece of art.

The main purpose of the visit wasn’t the National Gallery or buying me presents (though that, of course, should be the main purpose of any trip, especially since it’s my birthday in a couple of weeks). He went to attend his cousin’s wedding and got some family dish: his great-grandfather was knighted! There were four generations of accountants (he bucked the trend finally by not being one)! At the reception, Charlie’s 94 year old grandfather, who had just lost his wife last year, took Charlie’s hands in his and said very seriously, “I hope you find your bride.”

I do, too.

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May 13 2007

Mothers & Mothers

Published by under Cooking,Dogs,Rita,Special Occasions

Yes, Virginia, there really is a hell. And it’s right upstairs!

The thing about my upstairs neighbors is that they are just so generous. Even if it’s 9:00 on a Sunday morning – and a Sunday dedicated to God and Moms (does it get any more sacred than that?) – they are delighted to share their egregious taste in music with anyone within earshot (and your ears will be shot, believe me). Given their propensity for equal volume and bass overdrive, those of you in Indonesia and Outer Mongolia are probably having your ears assaulted right now. If there’s a huge avalanche on Mt Everest or somewhere on either Pole, you’ll know who to blame.

Rita & I eventually tired of being univited guests at Hell’s Disco, and decided to get out for a breath of quiet air. While ambling away from Racketville, we discovered the above item in the Upstairs Disco’s recycling.

Suddenly, it was all so clear.

Changing the subject from those mothers, today I hosted a couple of motherless friends for brunch. Makes the day easier for those of us who are Mom-less, and instead of braving the restaurants with their happy, Mom-celebrating parties, I made Eggs Florentine. I used a mixture of baby arugula and baby spinach, and successfully made my own hollandaise sauce. The addition of the arugula really helped to cut the richness of the hollandaise and brought it all into balance. I am pleased to report that it was enjoyed by all, though conversation was difficult since we were temporarily located inside a giant speaker, but I took the pleased expressions and empty plates as a compliment.

To those of you who have mothers or are mothers, hope you had a fabulous Mother’s Day! And wishing everyone peace and quiet. Send some my way if you got it.

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May 09 2007

Web of Coincidence

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A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle listed some of their columnists’ favorite YouTube videos.

Chosen by Neva Chonin, who writes Live! Rude! Girl!, was the following:

“Spiders on Drugs,” 1:49: Some of you might remember that, back in the ’60s, when authorities blamed drugs for everything ailing modern youths (this was before video games), a certain Dr. Peter Witt conducted an enlightening experiment. After dosing hapless spiders with a variety of hallucinogens, he documented the impact of arachnid freak-outs on web building. The original results were entertaining enough in their own right, but now an entity calling itself the First Church of Christ, Filmmaker has updated Witt’s efforts. A seamless replication, this video looks and sounds like vintage reel-to-reel propaganda … and then … things begin getting strange. Is that a handgun by your eighth leg, Mr. Crack Spider, or are you just happy to see us?

Both Dr. Witt and the spider experiments are well known to me, because my father conducted them with Dr. Witt, who was a colleague and dear friend. The experiments were later gathered into a book co-written with a third scientist, Dr. Reed, called A Spider’s Web. The book is on my shelf, along with the rest of the Dad Collection, but I hadn’t thought about it in years. It was nice to be reminded, and nice to know that his work lives on. I know he would have loved that article!

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May 06 2007

Decisions, Decisions

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I’m not usually a big fan of call waiting. Either it means you have yet one more person to deal with, in addition to the one you’re already talking to, or it means a contest: who’s more important, you or the other guy. In my experience, the other guy almost always wins out, so if I’m talking to someone and I hear the fatal beep or click, I know my time is running out, and fast.

Really, what’s wrong with getting a busy signal and calling back? First come, first served. So much more democratic, and less bruising for the ego.

However, yesterday I was glad I had it, because it allowed a wonderful coincidence: I was talking to one sister, when the other one called! Two sisters, two countries, what’s a girl to do? The decision was taken out of my hands by my older sis, who said she’d call me back in half an hour or so, when I would have finished talking with my younger sis.

Sometimes it’s good to be in the middle. And it’s always good to have sisters.

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May 03 2007


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My father and stepmother

My beautiful stepmother turns 80 today. I wish I could be there to celebrate the great day with her. Eight decades of beauty, style, grace, courage, and generosity. That’s a lot to celebrate. She is an inspiration.

Wishing you many happy and healthy returns of this special day, dear friend. I love you.

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