Heavy Petting


Henry hangs out

Here’s a first: Henry was more interested in being petted than eating this morning. He came running to greet me as usual, with his gruff yet muted meows, but after I put the food in his dish, he followed me when I went to put the measuring cup back into the food container. I petted him, and he pushed his head against my hand, and when I went to leave, he followed me again. I petted him more, and led him back to his dish, where I petted him until he started eating. I have to say it made me really happy, even though the girls were glaring furiously from the porch at this disgusting PDA.

In other news, it appears that the Mexicans have moved out, taking their incessantly yappy dogs with them. A moving truck appeared on Saturday, and yesterday, they seemed to be packing up the last of their things, including the aforementioned yappers. They actually swept up the poo from the ce-ment back yard, so it must be official. And the quiet was blissful! I hadn’t realized how hard the constant barking was on my nerves until it was gone.

It’s strange having the house next door dark and empty. It reminds me of the eerie stillness following a power outage, the background hum of appliances suddenly extinguished.

They cut every single flower from their garden before they left.

Survival Modish

Whew. That’s over, at least for now. I was thrilled to wake this morning to the welcome sight of the fabulous fog wrapping the palm trees in glamorous glory. The girls are no less delighted than I am, and are racing around the house instead of wilting furrily by the door, gasping for any errant wisp of air. If panting wasn’t so undignified, they would have been doing it right along with me.

When you have a few days of intense heat in a row, it seems to accumulate like compound interest. By yesterday afternoon, it was suffocating in my house. I literally felt like I couldn’t breathe, like I was drowning in hot air. It’s a horrible feeling. Fortunately, by late evening, the sea breeze started up, and overnight the fog fairy granted my wish.

My cheapness won out over my love of luxury, and I didn’t flee to a motel after all. Instead, I watched How to Marry a Millionaire, especially enjoying Betty Grable’s befurred insouciance as she visits a snowy Maine lodge with a grumpy older man, under the misapprehension that the lodge in question will be full of Elks rather than surrounded by, well, elks. Fortunately for Betty, the lodge is accessorized with a handsome forest ranger*. Meanwhile, back in New York, Marilyn Monroe is a sight for sore eyes while trying to hide her near-sightedness in the belief that “men aren’t attentive to girls who wear glasses”. Honey, believe me: you could be wearing Coke bottle specs and they’d all still be at your feet. Especially in that red number.

I was amused to note that Lauren Bacall’s character is named Schatzi! I’ve seen the film many times, but never made the connection between the Park Avenue princess and the canine one. I wonder why that is?

My favorite scene is still the fashion show, where all three girls model clothes for Schatzi’s would-be beau, who Schatzi is convinced is poor, while in fact he is a billionaire. It was a great way to take a girl’s mind off current circumstances: beautiful cast, gorgeous costumes, and New York, New York!

*I love that old TV show, The Forest Rangers. It’s so charming.

Suzy O’Hara

Well, that was quite the little diatribe, wasn’t it? It might have partly arisen from my heat-induced crabbiness. You all know I’m a summerphobe (well, a heatphobe), and the last few days have not been kind. It was a record-breaking 95 degrees in Oakhampton yesterday, and that’s not the kind of record I personally enjoy breaking. The most shoes? Sure. The most outstanding handbag collection? Absolutely. Richest woman in the world? Mos def. But not the hottest. At least, not in that way.

It was still 81 in my house at 2 am, when I finally sweated my way to bed last night/this morning. I knew I was doomed to another day of hell, because, let’s face it, if it’s still that hot in the middle of the night, it’s going to be really hot by noon. It’s only 10 am and it’s already 80 out there. I have all the fans going, to little or no avail. I’m seriously thinking of packing up the girls and going to an air-conditioned motel. I’m fantasizing about lounging in air conditioned bliss, ordering room service, and finally triumphing over the sun (nyah, nyah, you can’t get me!). At least for a little while.

That is one of the big pluses about moving. It never gets as hot up there as it does here, and the houses are shaded by redwoods, so they stay cool inside. If it does get hot, the ocean is just five miles away, an easy drive. And it always cools down a lot at night. I actually needed a sweater – and blankets! Oh, the bliss of blankets! – when I was there last.

If I move, as God is my witness, I’ll never be overheated again!

No Tech

People often ask me why I’m not on Twitter. You will be amazed to hear that it’s basically my slothfulness rearing its pretty head. The truth is, it takes all of my muselette’s limited creative powers to write this blog. I also try to write a hundred words a day. And I can barely come up with anything interesting for my Facebook status a few times a week. My life isn’t that all that interesting, so it’s unlikely that I could could come up with pithy or poetic bon mots for the Tweeters out there. I may be one of Oakland’s few ennui-related deaths one of these days.

Also, I dislike the high school popularity contest aura of following or being followed on Twitter. I’ve been writing this blog for eight and a half years, and although I don’t currently have a site meter (the Doc is working on that), I have the feeling that my readers are a select and exclusive club, like all the best ones. I’m not interested in trolling for followers or comments, and that seems to be a big part of the Twitter experience.

Twitter posts, emails, and comments from viewers on news sites, such as CNN, appearing on the “crawl” at the bottom of the TV screen instead of the day’s headlines is an appalling development. That’s not news. It’s bad enough that newspapers are vanishing and we’re forced to read them on line, with a plethora of ads ever-increasing in size and number (and difficulty getting them off your screen and sending them back to hell, whence they came), without television news being full of people’s opinions instead of actual news. I’m interested in Anderson Cooper’s views, or Keith Olbermann’s opinions, but not in the opinions of some unknown schmo who probably knows nothing about the issue s/he is commenting about. Leave that to your personal blog or Twitter account and delight your many followers with it. Just keep it off the news.

I seem to be falling behind on technology, despite being a pretty early blogger. I have no interest in iPhones, and marveled at the folks who waited in line overnight to get one of the first ones (and then whined when the price went down the next year). I don’t want to play games on it or watch movies on a teeny screen. I can barely stand having a cell phone, and I use it primarily, almost exclusively, for work. You will not find me walking down the street and blathering to someone about what I had for lunch or what a hideous top Madison was wearing today. It’s a necessary evil which is useful if your car breaks down or you can’t find the person you’re meeting at the movies, and that’s it.

I never text unless someone sends me one. It makes sense to me that my boss will send me one when he’s in a meeting, needs some info, and doesn’t want to talk on his phone or have its ringing interrupt the meeting. But it doesn’t make sense to me to sit there pressing tiny buttons 5,000 times instead of just picking up the phone and calling the person. Or sending a quick email. Either one would be more efficient than texting.

When I take BART to the city, I’m amazed by how nearly everyone is plugged into their iPods, texting away, or on their cell phones. No-one is engaged with their surroundings or even taking the time to enjoy the sunshine and blue skies for the above-ground part of the journey. It kind of makes me sad, like the cars that have DVD players you can plug your kids into on a long car trip. God forbid they should enjoy the scenery, or talk to their parents, or play “I Spy” or try and collect license plates from different states. We used to drive from New York state to Maine (a 12 hour drive if you didn’t stop) and back every summer, and we got along fine without movies in the car. We didn’t have a TV or phone when we got to Maine, either, and we didn’t miss it, even into our teens.

With all these technological advances, though, can someone explain to me why no-one has figured out a way to send your home phone straight to voicemail, instead of having to let it ring? Now, that would be an improvement.

Tea for Me


My new teapot

They were playing “Boys Don’t Cry” at the Safeway today. It was kind of unnerving to hear The Cure while you’re in the produce aisle. It just seemed wrong, like the first time I heard a Talking Heads song Muzak-ized in an elevator. Maybe you know you’re getting old when the bands of your youth are played in supermarkets and elevators. Imagine how weird it will be to hear a Muzak version of “My Name Is” or “Single Ladies”.

I’m pleased to announce that I finally have a new teapot, to replace the one the kitties broke* two months ago. It was remarkably difficult to do this. I went to Emeryville, which is basically a big mall, and looked in five different stores. Williams-Sonoma only had tiny, expensive ones. Pottery Barn only had tiny, hideous ones (which were also expensive). EQ3 was sold out, and the West Elm employee looked at me as if I asked for a flying saucer or a hoop skirt when I asked her for a teapot. I even went into the Starbucks section of Barnes & Noble, and found nothing but long lines and commuter cups.

I gave up and went home, where I found my teapot on line. It matches the microwave and coffeemaker, and, as it happens, the kitchen cupboards in my possible house-to-be. I might have news on that as soon as tomorrow.

*On the other hand, Audrey smashed the lid of my garlic house today. I’d had it for many years. Is a house any good without a roof? And is the rate of breakage an increasing trend?

Location, Location, Location


Gratuitous Schatzi picture, which has nothing to do with this post, except she’d be my neighbor if I move. And she looks so pretty!

Really, this alone should be enough to make me move, if the puppies weren’t. I found it fascinating, yet scary, and spent way too much time playing with it instead of working today. I was interested to note that my area seems to specialize in car thefts and burglaries, which makes me feel especially lucky that my neighbor B keeps an eye on my place on the rare occasions I’m away. She brought over my mail on Saturday (which included the September Issue of Vogue – yay!) and mentioned that I had left my car window open.

I need a nanny.

If I do move, the house I’ll live in has no locks at all. No worry about forgetting house keys! And most people up there leave their car keys in the ignition. So they know where they are.

I was going to take pictures for you, but the house wasn’t looking its best. The owners have removed the old balcony railings in order to replace them, so there’s a pile of old wood in front. Inside, the owners are still in the process of dealing with their late mother’s things, so it was a little on the disordered side, and it seemed disrespectful somehow to take pictures. It was so poignant to see Rose’s mail still on the coffee table, as if she’d be back anytime.

The room downstairs has a living space and a kitchen area. You can tell a guy built the house, since there are no closets and the kitchen* is almost an afterthought. I’ll have to be ruthless in getting rid of furniture and kitchen accessories. But the counter space isn’t much worse than my current kitchen, and there’s enough room for a table and chairs.

The stairs have a wonderful railing made from a single sinuous tree branch, and lead to the sleeping loft, which has a skylight and a door to the balcony. Outside, I discovered that the balcony wraps around to the side of the house. It’s big enough for a party up there.

There’s also an attached garage with sliding glass doors which Rose used as a pottery studio, and has plenty of room for storage. There’s also a washer and dryer, which is good, since the nearest laundromat is a half hour drive away.

Rose had the bathroom built on, so it’s new and nice. Also much better than dealing with an outhouse and an outdoor shower, which was the original arrangement. Again with the guy house, n’est-ce pas?

The house is heated with propane, so I won’t have to buy wood and chop it, which is great. All in all, I really like it, and all that really remains now is to negotiate the rent, since no-one has ever rented it before. Rose’s kids are having a memorial for her in a couple of weeks, so I’ll probably go up for that. Especially since they’re getting a mariachi band to perform. Now, that’s a funeral!

*I have to admit that I love watching those HGTV shows where people buy fabulous houses or renovate them. I’m always amazed by how, well, spoiled the people are. They always think kitchens that look perfectly fine to me need updating or aren’t big enough. Their heads would fall OFF if they saw Rose’s kitchen or my sister’s. Also, I can’t understand the obsession with stainless steel appliances, which show every single fingerprint, and granite countertops, which I find ugly. Also the need for two sinks in a bathroom. I don’t want anyone else in there while I’m getting ready, so why do you need two sinks?

Happiness Is a Warm Puppy – Or Eight


“My” puppy and her mother

Luckily for me, Friday was the day Megan works with the pit bulls at her local shelter. Not only did I get to hug Davis and Tulley again (I’m pleased to report that Echo, Tulley’s puppy, has been adopted!), but I got to spend some time with a pit bull mama and her eight puppies.

Armed with my nearly-decade old digital camera, I went into the big enclosure with my sister and her dear friend Lu, who also works with the PBs every Friday. I soon appreciated the expertise of certain photographers in taking photos of wiggly, busy dogs. These pups would not hold still for their close-ups, so you’ll have to forgive the quality of the photos and focus on the incredible cuteness of these little guys.

The mother had been very abused, so we were careful in approaching her and her babies. Having said that, she was so affectionate and leaned against me, looking up at me with her big, beautiful eyes. How anyone could hurt such a lovely trusting creature is completely beyond me. I’m glad she has a chance to find a loving home and is safe now.

There are eight puppies. They came out of their little igloo and started staggering around like drunken sailors. Some of them still had blue eyes, and I think they’re around three or four weeks old. When they wagged their tiny tails, they fell over!


Beautiful Lu with mama and puppies

We were there to socialize the puppies, since they were very fearful of people at first. They have made a lot of progress since they’ve been at the shelter (the mother chose to give birth at a neighbor’s, knowing her own home wasn’t safe, and the neighbor brought them all to the shelter, probably saving the lives of all involved), and when I picked them up, they cuddled into my neck and made me giggle with their tickly puppy snuffling.

It was pretty much heaven, to tell you the truth.

My favorite was this little girl:

I love her worried little face (I’m a worrier, too), and her French manicure. When we left, she followed me to the gate and poked her little nose through, watching me as I left. I may be in trouble if I move up there. Megan says she’s going to name the puppy after me. How cool is that? I have had a goat named after me, but never a puppy.

Coming and Going

Hi! I missed you, too!

I’m not sure if it’s because the girls missed me so much, or because their naughtiness streak has expanded to take over most of their furry little bodies, but they really outdid themselves during my most recent absence. When I came into the house and dropped my bags on the couch, I immediately noticed a little cat figurine on the floor. It’s one of the few ornaments not Museum Waxed to the mantel, and it’s the only cat one, so maybe it was practice prey for the Terrible Twosome.

In the kitchen, I was shocked by a) the mess; and 2) the fact that the kittens had eaten all the food I left, which I had foolishly thought was enough for three or four days (I left on Thursday morning and came back on Saturday afternoon). The litter box was a mute, yet pungent witness to the immoderate feasting.

When the food was exhausted, they apparently went foraging in the cupboards. Their food is safely ensconced in plastic containers for this very reason, but they had managed to knock open boxes of pasta, crackers, etc., onto the floor.

Welcome home.

Henry, too, had eaten all his food, and his water was mysteriously full of dirt. As I cleaned up his dishes and set out fresh food and water, he happily got in the way and pushed his head into my hand. He doesn’t seem to get grumpy when I go away now.

The trip started off as inauspiciously as it ended. I missed the exit for the Richmond-San Rafael bridge. I got off the freeway at the next exit and turned around to go back, only to find that traffic was horrendously slow in that direction. All in all, it took me a good half hour to make up for that mistake. Sigh.

I stopped off to see Erica and Jessica, and my traffic-induced crankiness vanished as Jessica ran toward me yelling my name and jumped into my arms. I swear she’s even taller than she was when I saw her last month. She was happy to see that I was wearing “her” necklace, and as I put it on her, I told her that I’d worn it just for her, which delighted her.

I asked about her trip to San Francisco, whether she liked the hotel and the dinner with her mother and her Mom’s friends. She said “The hotel was the nicest one I’ve stayed at in a long time” and confided that “The lamb was a little disappointing. And by the way, it was too salty.”

The six year old epicure.

Later, I was eating some delicious raspberry sorbet and asked Jessica if she’d like some. She said she would, but she’d have to ask her mother. She waited until her mother finished serving a customer, then asked. When she got permission, she bounced over and had a bite. I have to admit that I would have just taken the bite without asking when I was six.

Up next: puppies!!

Plan B (i)?

Wow, guys. Thanks for all the supportive emails and comments. No wonder I love you all!

Dad used to refer to the collection of little houses where my brother and sister live as “The Compound” (on the 40th anniversary of the Manson murders, it sounds a little ominous, doesn’t it?). Before I give you the latest on the potential Green Acres Experiment, I’ll just fill you in on The Compound’s configuration.

You follow the rough, curving two-lane road from the store and post office for about five miles. You turn onto an even rougher dirt road, with obstacles such as pipes sticking out of the ground, holes, extremely forward rhododendrons, and the occasional deer. The road is pretty narrow, and just forget about your car’s paint job.

On your left is the front house, the biggest house and also where I slept with Tubby a couple of Thanksgivings ago. Keep going, and when you see a water tower, that’s where my sister’s house is, although it’s hidden from view at this point. Continuing down the dusty (or muddy) road, you’ll come across a biggish house with a balcony. This belonged to the landlord, neighbor, friend, and builder of all the houses, James, and his wonderful, artistic, warm-hearted long-time girlfriend, Rose. Both Rose and James passed away recently, and are much missed by all.

Keep going, and you’ll pass the house where Rose’s daughter and her family live. Further on, right at the very end of the road, is my brother’s house, which is more or less vacant now that he’s living on the land just down the road.

The latest idea is that I could move into James and Rose’s place. It’s empty now, and it’s bigger than the house I live in now. It has propane heat, so I wouldn’t have to chop wood in the winter, which is a definite plus. The balcony I mentioned earlier is off the bedroom, or sleeping loft, which I remember as being bigger than my current bedroom/office. I haven’t seen the house since Rose built a new bathroom, but I hear it’s really nice. There might actually be enough room to get all my things out of The Boxes! And what there isn’t room for can go into my brother’s huge storage container. The thought of having more room and no boxes makes me positively giddy.

Of course, the rent will be higher than it is for my sister’s little house, but it would still be around half of what I pay now. Rose’s daughter is happy with the idea of someone who knew and cares about her mother living in the house, so I think it could be good all the way around.

I’m off tomorrow to have a look at it. I’ll be back on Saturday with a full report.

What Would Dad Do?


Dad and his faithful friend Jesse* on Wimbledon Common.

I think of my Dad pretty much every day, but today, the anniversary of his death, I think of him a little more than usual, and maybe a little differently.

Now with the Green Acres Experiment greenlit, I’m second-guessing myself and wondering if I’ve made the right decision. When Dad was alive, I’d ask him for advice, and he was always right. Always. Whether it was a personal matter or a professional one, he knew what to do. Whereas I am the world’s oldest teenager and never know what to do.

Maybe I should be like George in that “Seinfeld” episode where he does the opposite of his instincts and everything starts going great for him.

The thing is, moving to the country is doing the opposite for me. I’ve always been a city girl, despite the fact that my sibs and I grew up on five bucolic acres and our nearest neighbors were farmers. Being somewhere without a Sephora or taxis kind of fills me with horror. But it makes financial sense, and I’ll have family and friends to support me in my new, muddy life.

The way things have been falling into place kind of makes me think that it’s meant to be. Dad didn’t believe in an afterlife, but maybe he was wrong for once and this is his way of telling me I’ve finally made a good decision on my own.

*In death, they were not divided: both Jesse’s and Dad’s ashes were scattered under a certain tree very near where this picture was taken. I said a final good-bye there after I cleared Dad’s things out of the house he and Margaret had shared during their happy years together.

Surprise!

Yesterday afternoon, I was eating hummus and watching a re-run of Monk when my landlords appeared at the front door. Since the doorbell doesn’t work, they actually said, “Knock, knock”, though I failed to ask who was there, being fully occupied by being totally surprised.

They had come to operate on the poor, sickly lawn. They brought a sprinkler with a timer and a bunch of seed, so I guess the already insane water bill will go up. Hopefully the transfusion will help the grass regain its youth and vigor. Plastic surgery is never cheap.

I was completely taken aback by their sudden appearance. I also had to admit to them that I had inadvertently killed the hose for the front lawn by mowing it, but they didn’t seem to mind and just used the hose from the back yard instead. I imagine Henry fled the scene of such unaccustomed industriousness, especially in the afternoon heat. The girls were fascinated, running to the back porch to see what they were doing in the back yard, then racing to the front door to try and see what they were up to there. Guard cats!

It just figures that they decided to fix the lawn now, when I’m probably moving. I felt weird talking to them, like I was cheating on them or something, and guilty for not watering the lawn more or enough or whatever.

The Conversation

I’ve been psyching myself up for weeks to talk to my boss about moving.

For the past couple of weekends, he’s been saying he’ll drop by – I had some articles for him about Goldman Sachs and the Madoff scandal, but he hasn’t shown up, or called. If I were dating him, I’d be devastated, but as it is, I know he just got busy doing other things. And after all, he does have a wife and children.

Finally, he stopped by a couple of days ago. We talked about a few work issues, and I was about to broach the subject when my phone rang. It was our tech/finance person with my paycheck (for some reason, she refuses to mail it, so I end up waiting around for her, or she shows up unexpectedly, like this). I went out to her car to get it, and when I came back in the house, Boss was on his cell phone, talking with a client. He covered the phone and told me he’d see me later. Waving from the car, he took off, and I just stood there for a minute. It all happened so fast.

I guess I’m going to have to talk to him on the phone instead of in person. It doesn’t seem right, but time is running out. I’m really nervous about it, even though I don’t really think he’ll say no or get mad at me or fire me or anything. Still.

Welcome Home

Found this tucked into my screen door when I came home from seeing Safeway Ray today. On closer inspection, it turned out to be a tract from the religious rovers who patrol my neighborhood. Someone should call an exterminator.

Exchange Rate

Yesterday, I went to the city to pick up the check for my late lamented ring. It was fabulous to get a break, however brief, from the hellacious East Bay heat. As I drove across the Bay Bridge, passing the “City and County of San Francisco” sign, the air was delicately silvered with fog and deliciously cool. The city never looked lovelier.

I even found a parking space right in front of the jeweler’s. In the window, there was an eight carat diamond ring. Yours for a mere $195,000!

I deposited the check, and spent the first of the proceeds on a pizza from Victor’s and a doughnut from Bob’s before heading back into exile.

I thought I’d feel relieved as I deposited the check, but I didn’t. A third of it was slated for overdue bills, exchanging beauty for necessity yet again. It made me almost as sad as parting with the ring in the first place.

After paying the overdue bills, I planned to buy a couple of books which I wanted to read and the library didn’t have. But when it came to checking out on Amazon, I was so horrified by the shipping costs that I returned them to their virtual shelves. I’ve been so broke and so desperate for so long that even the thought of spending that money was unthinkable to me. I had thought I’d enjoy the novel sensation of purchasing a novel, but even that has been beaten out of me. I hope it’s not forever.

I’m going to see my sibs for a couple of days next week to see if a more reasonably priced life could be feasible for me. Maybe it will restore my joie de vivre – or joie de shopping, anyway.

Bill-ious

Remember the Franz Kafka Utility Company? Also known as East Bay MUD (appropriately enough, since their name is definitely mud, at least in my house). You know, the company that charges you 90% fees, 10% actual water consumption? What possible motivation does a person have, other than her own conscience, for lowering her water usage? I got a whopping credit of $1.26 for low water usage this time, and $9 was my actual water usage. The other $90? Fees and service charges.

Well, they’re in bad company. A couple of months ago, I got an email from PG&E telling me that I saved 20% on my gas and electric over the winter (miserliness has its privileges), so I’d receive a 20% discount on my bill. I didn’t see the discount on my next bill, so I called and asked about it. Oh, they said, it can take a month or two to show up on your bill. Check next month.

So I checked this month, and it still wasn’t there. I called again, and this time, I was told that the credit had been applied to the March bill. I asked why I had received an email in June saying I’d get a credit. Exasperated, the phone peon said I had received the credit in March, but was notified of it in June.

Here’s a hint: tell people when it happens. And instead of saying “You’re going to receive a credit”, say “You HAVE received a credit”, and state the amount.

Also: maybe give all the phone peons the same story? Just a suggestion.

I love it when I pay a bill on line*, and get an email saying, “Your payment request has been received.” Please, please! Take my money, I’m begging you! Don’t reject my check – I’ll be crushed!

The next worst thing is when you pay it on line, and immediately get another bill for the next month. Within minutes. Or possibly seconds. You never get to enjoy the feeling of being paid up. You always have one more bill waiting for you, hanging over your head like a virtual sword of Damocles.

Today, I paid a bill on line, and two hours later got an automated call reminding me to pay the bill I had just paid. They couldn’t even be bothered to harass me in person. That’s even worse than immediately getting another bill.

Meh.

*If you pay EBMUD on line, they charge you several dollars as a “convenience fee”. Convenient for whom, exactly? See a theme here?

The Mystery of Audrey


Sleepy Audrey (June in the background)

June has an uncanny ability to know that it’s near feeding time, both morning and evening. She never minds bringing it to my attention, either. She knows how busy I can get and how easily things can slip what passes for my mind. It’s a courtesy, really.

Audrey, on the other hand, is pretty much oblivious. She’ll join in the getting in the way fest that precedes my getting the food out of the cupboard and then its container and then into the dishes – sometimes. Often, I have to carry her squirming into the kitchen and put her in front of her bowl, where she looks up at me quizzically. I explain to her that it’s time to eat and eventually she figures it out.

You can see why I’m a little concerned about her wilderness survival skills.

She usually abandons her food half-way through, which may account for her svelteness, which is much like her namesake’s. If I’m not the food police, June will scarf up Audrey’s leftovers and then return to her own bowl as if nothing had happened, which may account for her being more on the voluptuous side, like her namesake, June Blair.

The other day, I was cleaning up the water which June had hockey pucked all over the kitchen floor, and moved Audrey’s half-full (or half-empty, to the pessimists among us) dish to the living room, to get it out of the way during Operation Clean Up.

To my surprise, Audrey immediately started eating the leftovers while I mopped. As an experiment (this is as far as I go in inheriting my Dad’s science gene), I put Audrey’s bowl other places after she abandoned it, like the porch, with the same result. I can’t explain it, though. Maybe I can get a government grant to help me figure it out. In the meantime, it remains a mystery.
Nancy Drew, where are you when I need you?

Summer Affective Disorder

When people talk about Seasonal Affective Disorder, they always mean winter, the season of snow, hot chocolate, Christmas presents, the Rockettes, and New Year’s Eve cocktails. Sure, it gets dark early, but that just means you can curl up by the fire and enjoy being inside with your cats and a good book or two.

The main problem with winter is the cold. But here’s the thing: it can be fixed easily with a sweater. Or a duvet. Or someone to cuddle. Easy even for someone as languid as Self.

I think winter is the pit bull of seasons: misunderstood and actually easily handled.

Summer, on the other hand…

Everyone loves it, including, oddly, east coast dwellers who know perfectly well that their heat always comes with a heaping side order of humidity. When I tell people that I hate summer, and start dreading its arrival along about February, they look at me as if I’m completely insane. They back away slowly, smiling brightly, and start looking through the Yellow Pages for asylums.

But the fact is that when you’re too hot, you can be completely naked and still be overheated, as well as aesthetically unpleasing in most cases (why is it always the beauty-challenged who feel compelled to public nudity?). See what I mean? Just a sweater will make you more comfortable if you’re cold, but if you’re hot, you’re doomed.

Sure, some genius invented the air conditioner, and should be high in the pantheon of the inventing gods, along with whoever invented the remote control and taxis. But girls of my lack of means can’t afford the electricity bills induced by using an air conditioner. I do have window fans in the kitchen and bedroom, and floor fans in the living room and bedroom, too, but I can tell you that it’s not even noon and I’m already wretched.

There’s hours of horror ahead, too, since my house retains heat like I retain water, and it will still be sweat-inducing at 9:00 pm, long after it’s cooled off outside. So here I am in the hot, depressing gloom, with all the blinds closed against the evil enemy. My cold shower wore off by the time I got dressed. Sigh.

Is it fall yet?

The Cat*, the Dog Days, and the Car

I think TCM has been reading my blog. Clearly they were inspired by my Riviera reminiscences, because today they decided to show To Catch a Thief. Set on the gorgeous French Riviera and starring the equally gorgeous Grace Kelly and Cary Grant, it’s one of my favorite Hitchcock movies. Beautiful leads, breathtaking scenery, fabulous gowns by the fabulous Edith Head, and all that jewelry. What’s not to love?

It was a scorching day, and my house was doing its very convincing imitation of a convection oven, so it was about all I could do to lounge on the (unfortunately black leather) couch with a glass of frozen italian soda (lemon) and watch the movie as my brain and cheapo granita slowly melted. Not for the first time, I wondered why California architects have either never heard of insulation, or decided it was wholly unnecessary. Same goes for window screens.

It seems the dog days of summer are here with a vengeance, more frightening than any real dog. So I think I’ll pack up my SNEAKERS and the one pair of socks that don’t have holes in them and head up to see my sibs later this week. I’ll escape the mind-numbing heat, and we can talk more about the potential move and maybe come up with a decision on the Green Acres Experiment.

Oh, and my brother sold my old Mustang! It’s been sitting sadly in his driveway for the past few years, undriven but still beautiful. I brought it up there when I could no longer afford to park it in San Francisco, and it’s been there ever since. The guy who bought it knows that it hasn’t been driven in a few years, but my brother still got him to pay $500 over the asking price. Nice, n’est-ce pas?

I superstitiously immediately thought that it would pay for the move. Hmmm.

*The Cat is Cary Grant’s alias in the movie. In case you thought I meant one of my cats.

The Addiction

This is my current favorite coffee cup. Isn’t it adorable? It’s less than three inches tall, and is even older than I am, and you know how I love that. Also, it’s exotic, made in Sweden. Like Ann-Margret and Pippi Longstocking.

Don’t tell the Swedish lovely, but my favorite coffee cups tend to die young and beautiful. I still miss my daisy mug from Stonehouse Pottery.

Although I am pretty much non compos mentis until I have my first few sips of coffee, lately I’ve noticed that I can’t drink much more than a thimbleful and a dash. If I do, I feel all nervous in my body but sleepy in my head, which is a truly unenjoyable sensation. I wonder if this is one of the many joys of getting older.

This summer marks the 30th anniversary of my coffee addiction. You remember Olivier and Thierry? Well, the year after I successfully brat-bashed them in Maine, their beleaguered parents paid my way to the Riviera for a repeat performance as a sort of reverse au pair (I believe that in the au pair business, it’s usually Americans importing girls from other countries instead of Americans being imported, but it was just fine with me).

I had a sitting room and bedroom in a tower in their lovely house overlooking Nice. I would have had the loan of their little white MG convertible if I’d been able to drive then, but perhaps it’s just as well. I got into enough trouble on public transit.

Every morning, the kids would jump into my bed (which had three little wooden steps to get into it and was my first encounter with a featherbed), yelling “Time to get ready! Yes, please!” We’d head down to the kitchen, where the coffee would be ready and seem like a complete necessity. I always drank it black and still do. Nothing gets between me and my caffeine.

So that’s how I started drinking coffee. And even though I can only drink it in moderation, I can’t get thinking or moving without it, so I have to admit that I am in fact an addict. I can’t imagine getting dressed and groomed and going somewhere else before having my daily dose. I’ll never understand those outside coffee drinkers.

And from the Kitty Desk…

I often wonder what June and Audrey do when I’m away. I imagine that as soon as the door closes behind me, they start jumping on the counters and other forbidden places, chewing on CD cases (June) and clawing at the washer (Audrey). If they were human, I know it would take them about .0003 seconds before the house was full of their friends and unsuitable boyfriends, blasting the stereo and dipping into the bar. They’d be shooing them out the back door and shoveling garbage into bags as I drove into the driveway.

They never cease to come up with new and exciting ways to make trouble. I used to thaw food on top of the refrigerator, until I caught Audrey up there. She had merrily chewed through the Ziploc bag and was working on a chicken breast. When I yelled at her, she jumped down onto the adjacent stove and ran away, adding a layer of horror to the outrage – what if the stove had been on?

During the last heat wave, I put a bowl of water on the back porch, where the girls were spending most of their time. June wasted no time in playing with it, knocking it around from paw to paw and moving it across the porch like a hockey puck, spilling water everywhere. After a few more episodes like that, I gave up on it, but it’s not unusual to find a mini-lake in the kitchen from the regular water dish receiving the same treatment.

The Boxes, all 30 of them, are currently stacked in front of the fireplace. One of these days I’ll transport them to my brother’s storage container, but in the meantime, they’re the focal point of the living room. Both Audrey and June enjoy lounging on top the boxes and swatting at me as I pass by. Audrey, however, managed to wiggle her way down the cliff of boxes and into the fireplace, where she presumably managed to climb up the flue partway and hang out (the flue is blocked with old pillows to discourage me from using the fireplace). When she was bored, she found she was unable to climb back up, and started mewing pitifully and clawing at the boxes. I moved enough of them to let her out, and she leapt past me and ran off, looking for more mischief.

I feel confident she’ll find it.