Week 35

August 27, 2017 – SUNDAY  

Still no photos & computer just crashed while tying to post – Oh, I need a new computer

Photo of eggs & Delft egg

Singing:  Birds sing.  Eggs do not or at least do not sing accurately.  We enjoy soft-boiled eggs for breakfast, especially eaten on our new ‘egg cups.’  We bought a singing egg in Delft to time our eggs.  Unfortunately, it singing is a puzzle to us.  We do not know the Dutch tunes, nor understand what signal the songs are sending.  Is the first sound a 3-minute egg, the second sound a 4-minute egg and what sound is the sound of a perfect hardboiled egg?  No clue.  We wanted the egg to sing us through the various stages of egg “donery, but we don’t understand a single song, so must, as before, rely on old-fashioned egg / tea timers or on an electronic one.  Imperfect in song, we still like the concept of the singing egg.  The egg does not add precision, but it does add fun to the boiling of water.

August 28, 2017 – MONDAY

Photo of labels

Categorizing:  I categorize my papers and label my files.  I labeled files in the past, but topics have changed, as has my eyesight.  The labels I made in my youth, almost too small to read now.  When I drafted in an early architectural office, my bosses complained that my lettering was too small and too fine.  I wrote with hard lead and a very sharp pencil.  I did not understand my bosses complaint.  The lettering was clear to me.  As a biologist, when I drew and labeled, I lettered small with sharp 3H pencils.  I guess the tradition was developed from long hours looking through a scope at miniscule things, so reading small print became a tradition and of course hard lead did not smear.  But now I understand the complaint made of my early lettering, and now I write file labels LARGE.  Eyes read, but not easily now.  Once my mother heard me say I could not read something.  She corrected me, “You cannot see it, but you can read!”  In order to read, I must see.

August 29 2017 – TUESDAY

Photo of office supplies

Back to School:  It’s back to school for Michael and we buy office supplies for home, tape and glue and pens and paper and notebooks — things that he might need when away from his university office.  Pre-school buying a long tradition for both of us, and this is JM’s last year teaching.  This year, as last and the year before that, he comments on the notebooks of his youth, the shiny notebook bought in Fall that by the end of the school year was tattered.  I suppose I should order him a special one for this his last year at the U.

Before JM left for work he called up the stairs to me.  I looked down on him readying himself for the school day, and he said, “Among other things, you are a good homemaker.”  He appreciated his clean underwear, his ironed shirts and organized attire.  Much of what one does to make a home run well goes unnoticed.  Sometimes it is nice to be acknowledged for having done some ordinary thing to make another’s life pleasant.

Hurricane Harvey continues to ravish coastal Texas.  I do not like the state because of its bad politics, but still I feel sorry for the suffering of its people and for the widespread devastation.  A friend from childhood posted a warning about people driving through water on highways because it would endanger their lives and lives of individuals who tried to rescue them.  A good thing to remember.  My response: “Too much of a good thing (water) is a bad thing.  Too little of a good thing is a bad thing too.  Would we lived in a ‘Goldilocks’ world where we could get things just right.

August 30, 2017 – WEDNESDAY

Photo of herbs & spices

Hunting:  I finished a spice bottle and checked to replenish it from the back-up spice/herb stash.  I have a stash because the spice bottle size & my spice rack bottle size differ.   I’ve organized my spice stash alphabetically, but over time the spices / herbs get out of order, so today, I re-ordered the backup spices.  I try to buy small amounts of spices / herbs, but unfortunately not all are available in small amounts.  Years ago I went to a wedding shower where one game was to list all the spices / herbs we could think of.  I wrote a huge list when others playing the game only could list a few.  The game purveyor implied that I had cheated.  Who, I thought, carries a list of spices / herbs with them, except in their heads?  It is not as if one is called on ever to list them and that shower was the only place I’ve been requested to give the name of herbs / spices.  And today, as I was re-alphabetizing them I noted what I have:

  • A: Ajwain, Allspice, Anise Seeds, Annato, Asafoctida Powder;
  • B: Basil; Bay Leaves; Bay – California; Bouquet Garni (herb mix/blend);
  • C: Cardamom (whole & ground); Cardamom, black; Caraway Seeds; Celery Seeds; Celery Salt (like many, this is not a ‘purist flavoring); Chervil; Chili ground (Ancho, Basque, California, Cayenne, Chipotle, New Mexico, Red Flakes); Chives; Cinnamon (Saigon sticks & ground); Cloves (whole & ground); Coriander (seeds & ground); Cumin (seeds & ground); Curry (2 kinds);
  • D: Dill Seeds; Dill Weed;
  • E: Espazote;
  • F: Fajita blend; Fennel (seeds & powder); Fenugeek (seeds & ground); Five Spices;
  • G: Garam Masala; Ginger (ground powder and fresh in refigerator);
  • H: Herbs of Provence; Horseradish;
  • I:
  • J: Juniper Berries;
  • K: Kala Jeera;
  • L: Lime, Makrut Leaves / Kaffir Lime Leaves;
  • M: Mace; Mahlab; Marjoram; Mint (regular & Spearmint); Mustard, yellow (seeds  and powder;  Black (seeds);
  • N: Nigella; Nutmeg (whole & ground);
  • O: Onion Powder (not a real spice, but sometimes convenient); Oregano;
  • P: Paprika, mild (ground); Spanish Smoked paprika (ground); Parsley; Peppercorn (Tellicherry; green, white; Sawaar; black); Pickling Spice; Poppy Seeds; Poultry Seasoning;
  • Q:
  • R: Ras de Hanout; Rosemary leaves;
  • S: Sage; Safflower; Saffron; Sesame; Savory; Star Anise; Sumac (ground);
  • T: Tarragon; Thyme (leaves & ground); Turmeric (ground);
  • U:
  • V: Vanilla, various types – Madagascar, Mexican Tahitian (beans, extract & paste); and
  • W:
  • X:
  • Y:
  • Z:

A few alphabet letters do not have herbs or spices, but some have many.  AND then there are the various salts and thickeners (cornstarch, flour; tapioca; arrow root; Wondra Flour) and … Most of our spices / herbs I recognize by sight and/or smell, but some not.

August 31, 2017 – THURSDAY

Photo of planters @ garage

Warming up:  Houston has received in just a few days as much water as it usually receives in a year.  There is flooding all over southeast Texas, and they would build a wall to keep Mexicans out rather than build infrastructure that might help diminish flooding.  Our cities desperately need infrastructure, yet Trump would build a wall, a wall with NO purpose other than to feed his un-fillable ego.  In Oakland much of our infrastructure is a century old and in need, not just of repair, but of replacement.  Hurricane Henry dropped more water than any hurricane in recorded history.  JM said, “Just think what it might of done, if there were such a thing as  ‘global warming.’”

Today, in the SF Bay Area, is the start of a warming trend that will go on for several days. The paper said that tomorrow on the other side of the coastal hills temperatures are predicted to rise to 115 degrees Fahrenheit.  The weather will be more like Death Valley than Silicon Valley.  Oakland will be hot and so today I’ve watered plants at the side of our house and in the front yard.  While I was watering a man (Jerry J.) drove by the house, then backed up, stopped and rolled down his window.  He said he’s been watching what we’ve been doing for years and loves what we have done to our house and with our ‘Berkeley, California’ garden.  I guess he figures that only a daring academic type would dare to plant such an exuberant garden.  He stopped because he wanted to let me know how much he likes it.  ‘WOW!” I appreciated the praise.  We like our house and would like to do more.  Jerry said he especially liked our stainless steel clad window seat.  I forgot to tell him that the stainless tiles came from the same company that covered the top of New York’s Art Deco Chrysler Building.  We’d love to purchase a stainless-steel garage door, but the price is high (10K+) and we are waiting to complete the back retaining wall, the roof, the kitchen cabinets……  Our house is stucco with metal and wood and, as the man said, “unique.”   We have a lively house and yard, and I water so that the coming heat will not destroy the plants we and the birds so love.

September 1, 2017 – FRIDAY

Photo of fans

Nothing Last Forever:  Why was I surprised?  I should not have been. We’ve had our floor fan since about 1970.  We used it in Raleigh, North Carolina, to cool the living areas of the house because we only had an air conditioner in our bedroom.  We used it in Atlanta, Georgia, because we had air conditioning only in the front bedroom and needed something to stir the humid air.  We’ve used it here in Oakland, California, because we had NO air conditioning whatsoever.  In the SF Bay area we typically need cooling on only a few days of the year. However, these past few years we’ve needed it more often.  I turned on our faithful fan.  It made the fan turning sound, but the blades did not turn.  No moving air, when, without air conditioning, we need moving air to cool us, our cats and our house.  The hardware store had floor fans, so we bought one.  If this new fan lasts half as long as our old fan, it will outlast us.  I’ve been trying to talk JM into a bladeless Dyson fan, but he sees no need for the expense.  Maybe not, but it is a cool design!

September 2, 2017 – SATURDAY

Photo of plant books

Unbearable:  Nothing helps.  The heat is oppressive, and yesterday Oakland’s temperature was a 101 degrees F (SF 106) and record-breaking.  Unheard of.  I went to a lecture on plants at Annie’s Annuals with my friend Caroline.  The lecturing botanist was well informed and communicated his knowledge well.  BUT the heat made the hearing difficult.  By the end of the talk on native California garden plants, I had to get up and stand in the shade of a wall so as not to overheat and so I could listen.  I drank a quart of water during the talk, but nothing cooled me.  Yesterday was the hottest day of the year, and I’d bet that today beats yesterday.  It may not, but it was for me – sitting in the sun.

Caroline and I bought 2 of Bart O’Brien’s books on California native garden plants, which he signed.  Then afterwards we had lunch, with glasses of Sangria, at Connie’s Cantina.  At home in the evening, JM & I, trying to cool down, drank Gin & Tonics on the patio, mine made without gin, but the Fever Tree Elderflower Tonic Water enjoyable even by itself.  Our fan is running.  The windows are open wide, but the house is not cooling because the outside air is hot.  The outside air is actually hotter than the inside air.  Last night we cooled the house, then shut windows and shades during the heat of the day.  It’s hot everywhere now, and I recall the old saying, ‘Out of the frying pan and into the fire.’ The saying is a metaphor, but today it applies to the reality of the weather, inside and outside both hot – no escaping it.  Today I might say, “out of one oven and into another oven.”  We are more than half-baked.  After 2 days of intense heat we are fully baked.

 

Week 34

CAN’T download photos because – computer memory gone – senile computer

August 20, 2017 – SUNDAY

Photo of Charlie & Oskar in window of lower study

OUT:   Our cats would go out.  We did — for gin and tonic.  They would join us – if it were not for the cars that travel our streets and that have taken so many of our beloved felines from us.  We keep them in because we would keep them.

August 21, 2017 – MONDAY

Photo of chicken

Heaven:  Look to the heaven, but not today.  George knocked at the door to remind me of the eclipse.  Unfortunately, the fog had settled low and thick.  There would be no heaven gazing here today!

I spent the entire day in a memory exercise, in nostalgia.  I made my mother’s potato salad.  There is none better. I t turned out well.  I then tackled my Aunt Norma’s fried chicken.  The results can never be as good as hers.  She developed her expertise over a lifetime.

If there is perfection, she created it.  I have never eaten any fried chicken as good as hers, not nearly as good as hers.   Aunt Norma’s chicken was fried a perfect golden brown.  Its crust crunchy like toffee, with little mountains of crunch contrasting with the pale, succulent meat.  And the taste!  Those of us who ate her fried chicken understood that it was special.  I’ve never eaten anyone’s chicken and dumplings as good as hers either.  My aunt knew how to fix chicken as no one else.  Mother was a wonderful cook, but she repeatedly said, “No one can do chicken as well as Norma.  No ONE!”  Mother was right.  My aunt knew chicken and how to fix it, knew the entire process because she did it all.  But people ate what my aunt made, never understanding the work that went into it or the skill that produced the final result.

Albert, my cousin, Aunt Norma’s youngest son, told me in the years when so many were hungry, his mother fed her family and extended family (parents, brothers, brother’s wives and children, aunts…).  She typically cooked 35 chickens a week.  Back then fried chicken was the filet mignon of meats.

Aunt Norma did not buy the chicken prepared from the butcher shop as I do.  She raised, killed, dressed and cooked them.  She did it all.  I saw her kill chickens and saw them running around her yard with their heads cut off.  My mother on occasion helped her sister-in-law plunge chickens into boiling water, pluck off their feathers and dress and prepare the chickens for cooking.  How Aunt Norma managed to do so much I do not know.  And even as she prepared a chicken meal for dozens, on hot summer days she made ice cream too.  I helped my cousins churn the ice cream maker until we could crank no more, then wrapped it in blankets until it was ready to serve after eating one of her famous fried chicken dinners.

Aunt Norma raised chickens.  She had a flock of a couple of thousand during the depression and exchanged chickens for other meats, so she could provide variety for her family.  She milked her own cows, tended a huge vegetable garden (and a acre flower garden as well) and preserved much of what she grew for the winter months.  On each birthday my aunt delivered a popcorn cake to me and each of my sisters.  She made wonderful cakes (as did my Aunt Elizabeth who always gave us one of her wonderful chocolate cakes for our birthdays) that she beat by hand.  Her electric mixer went unused.  She was as good-natured a person as I have ever known.  She attended church on Sunday, but that was the only ‘break’ from cooking and farming or running this business or that for her husband that she ever took.  She did it all herself.  Her 5 sons and husband (and others) seemed unaware of what she did and what she did for each one of them in particular.  All her life she made meals for anyone who stopped by, but it was her chicken that no one could equal.  Had I not been told by her son of the extent of her cooking, I would not have understood why she was able to make chicken as no one else.  I believe her chicken to be the best ever, the best in the world.  Truly it was the BEST in the WORLD!  How many others in this world raised and cooked chickens as she did?  In a single year she cooked almost 2,000 chickens.  In a decade 18,200.  In two decades almost 40,000 and in a lifetime she cooked about 120,000 birds.  She perfected her fried chicken. I’ve tried to duplicate what she did. I understand the work it took to develop her recipe and her technique, not to mention the raising and butchering of the birds.  She used fresh ingredients and fresh oil for frying.  And before she fried her chicken, which she always fried in lard, she would fry a batch of French fries to make sure the oil temperature was perfect.  She fried chicken in two frying pans with oil at two different temperatures.  Mother said she poked the chicken with a sharp knife or fork the whole time the pieces were frying.  I suppose that is what created those little mountains of crust I loved.  Aunt Norma was always trying to give something special to those she cared for, and she gave to all who ate her chicken, a taste gift of the best.  She spent her life caring for and trying to please others, and she did it without complaint.  I know that there were many who took from her, never helped her and never gave a thing back and who likely never understood the what it cost her to give.  But that is family.

Mother, a hard worker herself, said of Norma that she “worked like a slave.”  Mother never understood why so many took what Norma made, and never bothered to help her, even when my aunt was ill. Aunt Norma was a giving person surrounded by those that expected it of her.  Norma worked when well and when sick.  All seemed to expect her to provide for them, but never seemed to see that Norma sometimes needed assistance. Because of that, on occasion, Mother would send me to my aunt’s house to help her for a day.  Even then she would work and was always too busy to just sit and talk and I wish I could have talked with her.

Because of Aunt Norma’s expertise, my chicken will never come close to hers.  But as I prepare the chicken and eat it, I remember my dear aunt and her giving to me something than no one else in this world could provide.  I tried to duplicate her chicken today.  I did not come close.  After working for hours to get it just right, I understand why so many people eat fried chicken out.  I brined the chicken with salt and lemon.  I dredged the chicken in a flour mixture and let it dry, then dredged it again and let it dry more.  I fried the chicken in oil at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, then fried it in another pan at 255 degrees Fahrenheit.  After frying, I let it crisp in a warm oven, then finally, after 8 p.m.  I served up the fried chicken, potato salad, steamed corn, home-grown tomatoes. I  spent the day in the kitchen making a simple meal. T he simple meal was not simple at all.  I thought on the division of labor and how one does not have time to do everything, so dividing up labor made sense and still does.  There was a reason why men specialized in some task and women in others.  In my aunt’s case, as in the case of the women in my mother’s farm family, the women did it all.  They farmed and cooked and cleaned and washed and ironed. (The division of labor was mostly on the side of the men.)  The women in my family have always worked, have always been career women, career farm women.  My mother hated the isolation of farm life and left for a professional career, but she knew farm work and cooking and how to create and maintain house and home.  I may not fry good chicken, but I understand the full complexity of homemaking.  I do not knit or embroider or crochet or quilt like my mother but I sew and mend and wash and iron and scrub and …. I do a lot, but, unlike the women before me, I have hired help, help that helps me clean and garden.  How did those before me do so much?  Why was what they did taken for granted?  Aunt Norman had to understand what she created was simply the BEST!   And did not those who ate Aunt Norma’s fried chicken ever understand how truly good it was?  And I wish I would have thanked Aunt Norma for what she did for me, thanked her for making the best fried chicken I would ever eat and for her kindness. What I write is a tribute to her, but it would have been better if I could have told her of my love, my admiration for her and for her perfect chicken, the likes of which I will never see again.

August 22, 2017 – TUESDAY

Photo of newspapers w/ eclipse we missed

Yesterday’s News is Old News:  I read of yesterday’s solar eclipse today. Yesterday NO hint of the eclipse.  Locally it was to be approximately 70%, but the entire area was under a blanket of fog.  During the summer between my sophomore and junior years in college, I worked at an Audubon camp in Massachusetts. The Canadians had a 100% eclipse, and the whole camp was bused nearer to the total Canadian eclipse.  We saw what was perhaps a 90% event at our vantage point, no day to night sort of thing, but exciting anyway.  JM and I have seen partial eclipses together, but nothing close to total.  Perhaps, if we are still alive and traveling at the time of the next US one, we’ll hit a 100% viewing location.  A friend called from Oregon.  She had traveled to the 100% path and said if I had not encouraged her to go for the100 percent, she would not have left home to encounter totality, to experience it.

This is not a good place for star-gazing or heaven-gazing because of our coastal fog.  We took my parents to see Jupiter and its rings at the Hamilton Observatory near San Jose. My father, who had been looking forward to it for his entire visit, was disappointed – there was not planet or star gazing the night we went —- coastal fog then, just as now, prevented a glimpse of the far heaven.

Yesterday, today and most days we live our usual lives unaware of the universe and its natural forces.  The thing, the event yesterday was there beyond the clouds.  We knew of it, but could not participate directly in it, but at least, for a moment, we were aware.

August 23, 2017 – WEDNESDAY

Photo of kitchen sketch

It’s Always Something:  The back hill needs a new reinforcing wall. I’ve not been able to locate the survey, the preliminary drawings.  They are here somewhere.  I need to finish the design and sent it to the engineer. Will do, as soon as I locate the file.  We need to do work in our kitchen, the place, next to my study, I spend most of my day.  Our cabinet maker is about to retire so I’ve started working on drawings for one side of our kitchen.  The sink end needs to be replaced immediately and the stove side — first things first.

August 24, 2017 – THURSDAY

Photo of grocery lists

Duly noted:  I’m a list maker, not always a list finisher.  On my list: finish cleaning my study; send notes & cards; make calls to friends & family; and the lists go on.  I find grocery lists easy to complete, but other lists – too many of them with too many things to do and too little time to do it.

JM does note cards and today is his 2nd class day, the end of his first week of his last year teaching at the university.  Dressed in his blue tweed jacket he is off for the day and will not be home until after 9 p.m.  It’s a good schedule because he does not have to fight traffic and of course, we can sleep in and stay up late watching politics and comedy.

August 25, 2017 – FRIDAY

Photo Bicycle coffee

It really was FREE:   JM and I stopped by a coffee establishment started by one of my husband’s ex-students and his brother.  The man behind the counter asked if we wanted free coffee because it was free coffee day.  We both thought it a joke, but no joke — they give free coffee to anyone who stops by.  You can get hot or cold joe.  We took hot and it was good.  JM wanted to see if the student he taught, since he and his brother have a stall/booth at our farmers market, wanted to have a voice in our effort to defend the market’s management, but the brother JM taught is ‘student teaching.’  What can I say?  Teaching is the hardest job I’ve ever done. I ’m glad to see young people going into the profession, but it is a hard way to earn a living.  I wish the ex-student well in teaching and both brothers well in their Bicycle Coffee business.

August 26, 2017 – SATURDAY

Photo of vernors

Something old, something new:  After the market today, we fixed ourselves Bacon – Tomato and Lettuce sandwiches with vegetables purchased at our farmers market.  Later in the warm afternoon (& the morning was cool & JM got wet and fog-cold playing golf in Golden Gate Park) JM made us Boston Coolers (something OLD, a drink from my native Detroit) with Vernors Ginger Ale and Vanilla Ice Cream.  We ran low on Vanilla Ice Cream, so I added Chocolate to mine (something NEW).  Like Detroit, it was fine, and I called the drink, not Boston Cooler, but a Detroit Cooler.  I thought the mix of ice creams made it better.

I sometimes wonder if people remember what they say and the stories they tell.

  • I talked to one vendor at the market who had told me a story.  I went with a friend to her stall today and repeated what she said and she said, without blinking an eye, she said she had never told me that.  When she told me a story, I immediately related it to Michael and wrote it down.  She also told that story to another in the market, so I’m not the only one who heard her tell the same story.
  • Last week, two women talked to JM and claimed I was telling people at the market that if our market manager is ousted, that the next market would not be as friendly. Where did that come from?   The only statement I made about ‘friendly’ was when I spoke with people who were attending the market with their children and said I found our market delightful because it was family friendly, perhaps the most family friendly place in the City on Saturday mornings.   To my knowledge, there is no other weekly event in our City where entire families go on a regular basis, but no comment was made about any potential future market manager.  What I said was twisted into my saying that if another manager ran the market, their market would not be as friendly.  What?  Maybe other market managers would create a less friendly market, but I did not think it, I did not say it and I did not imply it.  I only commented on the fact that our market was a wonderful family event.  And, then
  • I see Trump, twisting what other people have said and twisting what he said in front of cameras.  He is videoed saying a thing he later denies ever having said. That characteristic is more widespread than one likes to think.  That being true, one can see why court recorders write down all that is said during a trial and that is why there are written contracts.  One must write things down because people / contractors say things they deny saying, and if it is not in writing, claims are hard to prove.  A surveyor had told me (and wrote in e-mails), that he would take his survey back to a monument.  He did not.  At the conclusion of his work, he showed me a marker on the sidewalk and indicating that his new marker was just inches from the earlier marker. I  said, “I cannot believe I missed that marker.  I looked at the sidewalk very carefully.  I photographed it and still did not see it.”  “Well,’ he said, “I missed it too, but here it is.”  It was there.  I touched it.  I went back later.  It was not there.  It was only there when he was there.  He glued it down and took it with him.  Just as it was not there when I studied the edge of the lot-line, it is not there after he left.  He was pulling a fast one on me and basically saying he did not have to go back to a monument, because another surveyor determined the spot as the edge of the property.  One does not expect a surveyor to pull a trick like that, but he did. I had been puzzled because I could not believed that I had missed the marker and I went back to look at it again.  It was not there. It had never been there, except while the surveyor was lying to me!

Some people, I think mis-remember or mis-speak perhaps because of their nature, but some actively try to mislead.  In reality, it probably does not make a difference which kind of ‘mis-representation’ happens.  The results are often the same, and after living and seeing what I have, I should know ALWAYS to “Trust, but VERIFY!”  I carry ‘reporters notebooks’ with me almost constantly and write in them what people say, yet if I showed some what they had said, recorded in my notebook, they would likely deny that they spoke as they did and claim that what I recorded was inaccurate.  Perhaps I should video virtually every conversation.  But then Trump is videoed and he still denies saying what he says.  Reality is unreal.

Week 33

Still working w/ barely functioning computer —- photos pending

August 13, 2017 – SUNDAY

Photo of Charlie in harness & waiting plates

Walk, walked, walking:  Charlie got a walk.  Michael walked with him for an hour or so.  This time Charlie actually moved around the yard, down the sidewalk, down the hill and back up again.  In the past, he’s often selected a spot, eaten grass and not moved.  Today, he seemed part dog and he was not anxious to return home.

We are still cleaning up after the party and putting away serving dishes and sundries. Every party has 3 stages:  1) Planning / preparation;  2) the PARTY itself;  3) the aftermath / the clean-up.  The PARTY is the event, but 1 and 3 are time consuming and so one wants ‘the party’ to be worth it.  It was.

August 14, 2017 – MONDAY

Photo: Cool day seen out study window & chili

AUGUST:  Michael opened the patio door.  He stepped out, turned around and said as he came back in, “This is August.”  We are fogged in. It’s been cool all day.  There was no sun.  JM shut the lower study windows. We typically leave them constantly open, April through October, and for him to close them today shows how truly cold it is.

The weather called for comfort food.  I made chili, and we were glad for its spice and warmth.

August 15, 2017 – TUESDAY

Photo of great grandmother’s glass

Won’t care:  “No one will care.  It will mean nothing to them.”  I hold a glass I held as a child of 4 or 5 on my great grandmother’s lower farm. My great grandparents had two farms, the ‘upper farm’ and the ‘lower farm.’  (The only grandparents I met were my great grandmother and her less-than-kind daughter, my mother’s mother.)  I remember being in the kitchen of the lower farm and being given a drink of cold water in the glass.  The glass set was given to Mother by her grandmother. Mother did not use them.  She saved them.  I suppose Mother was saving memories.  Mother gave them to me.  Michael and I saved them too, packed them away for decades so they would not get broken. Recently Michael found them.  He liked them.  Unpacked them.  I did not think they should be used.  “Who are we saving them for?” he said.  I replied, “No one.”  And he said, “Then, let’s use them.”  We have and a couple have been broken, but when I see them I think of my mother and my sweet great-grandmother and try not to think of the mean woman who was my grandmother.  The glasses fit well in the hand, in the same kind of way the old glass coke bottle fits the hand.  The glass is ridged and curved, and I like the both the feel and the memory of the thing.  The first wrinkles I ever noticed were those on my great grandmother Mollie’s small hands.  I cannot touch her hand.  I recall her.  My hand touches the same glass she and my mother both held.  The glass is clear, as is my memory of them.

August 16, 2017 – WEDNESDAY

Photo of wedding photo & recently found marriage license check

In your dreams:  Michael and I both slept well last night, and we both dreamed.  Michael dreamt that we lived in some huge old house.  He had been out and when he returned to the house it was filled with contractors and neither I, nor our cats, could be found.  The floor of the living room was damaged, and one corner was flooded with water.  JM found 2 of our cats.  I returned home and a contractor presented me with a long, itemized bill to which I responded, “This is not good news.  I’m not going to pay that!”  And he woke up from his nightmare, still without Halima.  The big house construction project — I speculated, had to do with the White House’s renovation going on now.  Definitely JM would make a great president and certainly a better one than the fool who occupies that office and demeans the house in which he resides.  A dream theme is sometimes sparked by a recent event.

A few days ago JM asked me about the Boblo Boat, and last night, before we went to bed, we talked about how we as a couple had done things differently.   There had been no engagement and no family wedding.  We were married in Detroit City Hall by Judge David C. Volks.  There was no one in attendance, save ourselves, a clerk, a typist and the judge who performed the ceremony and documented / certified it.  We eloped, but last night I dreamed us and our wedding party, post wedding, on the Boblo Boat on the way to Boblo island.  JM in his tuxedo and me in a strapless white wedding gown (& I’ve never liked white or strapless), not in our svelte young bodies, but young in our current bodies. It was an odd dream.  I had always said if we were to formally wed, it would be at Mary-Martha chapel in Greenfield Village where we’d be taken to the church by horse-drawn carriage.  In that wedding, I was to wear some simple, unlaced, ivory gown, and the brides maids were to were emerald long, green, Empire-waisted gowns.  But in last night’s wedding, or wedding party after the ceremony, we were floating on a boat on the Detroit River, dressed to the teeth.  Where in my imagination the boat came from, I do not know.  We had no family wedding.  I did not shop for gowns or invitations or select gifts for a wish list, nor did we plan a wedding party or honeymoon.  I did none of that because I was not interested in a ‘regular’ wedding, nor in diamonds, nor in walking down the aisle.  Actually, I had wanted to ‘live in sin,’ like Simone Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre – later learned their relationship was not ideal — who loved, stayed committed, but not because of a certificate.  JM said he wanted marriage, wanted it because it showed commitment.   He wanted us married, but he did not care for a church wedding unless I desired it.  I actually dreaded being the public bride.  I’m a shy person and wanted our commitment to be a private thing, so elope we did.  Neither of us has regretted our decision.  Unlike royal weddings, the service is over in a short time and having been in a few weddings, I never understood the reason to spend so much time and money on such a short-lived ceremony.  And, besides, many of those I saw married in formal weddings had unions that dissolved in less time than it took to plan the event.

August 17, 2017 – THURSDAY

Photo of mini orchid

Almost unseen:   A flower seems a simple thing.  This flower’s simplicity is deceiving.  Magnifying glass in hand, I see its delicacy, its complexity and marvel.  We bought the tiny orchid over a decade ago at an orchid show.  It blooms once a year, and its blossoms are so small the flowering is sometimes not noticed until after the flowers are spent.  I noticed it this year in full, but tiny flower.  If I but had a tiny greenhouse to house plants, I’d have a collection of miniature plants.  I love plants and suppose that is why I studied so much botany, and I find tiny plants of particular interest.  Giant redwoods and sequoias are not to be missed, but much of life is not making a declarative statement by size.  It is here, but often hidden.  It is the hidden, the unseen, the frequently missed, that fascinates me.  I want a bioscope so that I might study plants up close and personal as I did in my college botany classes. A good bioscope is on my bucket list.  Perhaps I’ll own one before I die. Perhaps, on another day, I’ll be able to look at the flower, enlarged enough so that I’ll be able to see its intricacies.

August 18, 2017 – FRIDAY

Photos of mother OLD & young

going, Going, GONE:   The second law of thermodynamics – entropy –is basically that all systems run down.  My body is a system, subject to that law.  My skin sags and wrinkles.  My muscles lose tone.  My balance falters.  My body, once fit, is declining in fitness . My body was once well-formed, but is less so now.  We are all dying.  Some of us are closer to the end than others, and I know that I am closer to my death than I am to my birth.

I did not fear death in my youth, but now I understand what I have, want it to last long — on my terms.  I want a healthy body.  I want a sharp mind.  I want to die before I need to be cared for by another.  I do not want others to spend their own lives extending mine. My sister Esther spent years of her life extending our mother’s . I understand why our dear friend Pat took his own life a year or so ago.  He did not want to live at less than his prime.  I have learned much in this life, but as Mother often said, “I have forgotten more than I know!”  It is the mind’s going that I fear most, that Michael fears most and that Pat feared most.  JM and I have friends and family whose minds (& bodies) we saw failing. We do not want that to happen to us, but it is a possibility and we fear it.  We want to avoid it.  We would personally like to avoid the ‘bad stuff.’

We would live a perfect life from first breath to last. I would have loved better.  I would have accomplished more.   I would have …. but life cannot be relived, except on the psychiatrist’s couch, and so now I contemplate not just what my life has been, but where it is ultimately going.  It is the forgetting, the loss of my intellect that terrifies me.  My mother’s mind stayed sharp to the end, but her lungs were failing long before she took her last breath.  Still, even with her good mind, she could not have managed her complicated medical schedule or her breathing apparatus and had help managing her complicated medical conditions.  Even if Mother could have managed, she would not have liked the bother.   Always aware of nutrition, she had eaten well her entire life, but at the end, at the end her values changed.  She wanted to eat what she wanted and said, “At my age, I should be able to eat what I want!” And at 98 ½ she wanted only chocolates.

August 19, 2017 – SATURDAY

Photo of high heels

Wrong:  Freud got it wrong.  He speculated that women had penis envy. It appears that it is actually men that have uterine envy.  Men create their man caves to which they retreat — a wholly uterine experience. Many brag about the number of women (virginals) they have conquered.  Why the need to conquer the passage that they traveled down to be born?  Envy?

I never, in my conscious mind, had penis envy.  In fact, I had rather the opposite response to penises.  I felt sorry for men having their units out there and vulnerable.  I thought every man must fear damage to their ‘manliness’ so exposed it was.  In my youth, I had small breasts and was glad they were no bigger than they were.  Bigger breasts would have meant running and other physical activity might be a challenge.  My pert breasts bounced quite enough, and I did not want more.  Too much of what, at the time I was growing up, men wanted a lot of, I did not see as a good thing.  I wanted my breasts to develop, but I was glad that my genes did not produce the very ample breasts of my older sister.  I wanted my body to be compact with limited protrusions.  And it seems that many men want that too for about 3 times as many men as women opt for sexual reassignment surgery.  It seems that if there is genital envy, as Sigmund Freud speculated there was, it is the men that have more of it than women.  Perhaps fear of loss of units, a man might want to switch sides and so as not to have to worry again.  I am not making light of sexuality, but I am challenging the idea that the envy is of woman toward men.  Heaven knows human psychology is complex and much of who we are we would change.  What I would change about myself others would not, and what others would change about themselves, I would not.  We often want what we are not and regret what we are.  And that is true about organs as well as height and form and hair color and curl and ……  AND, if I could make my body taller and thinner I would.  However, I could be taller, but I am not willing to go to the inconvenience of wearing high heels.  They are uncomfortable.  They hurt. I’d rather deal with my shortness than suffer foot pain. Comfort outweighs stature.

 

 

Week 32

Computer problems —  soooo posting of photos in limbo

August 6, 2017 – SUNDAY

Photo of critique

A Stranger to Myself:  If it had not been in my college folder marked ‘PLAY,’ I would not have recognized it as something I had written, yet there it was, written by me, typed on my portable Smith-Corona typewriter, a carbon copy of the critique I wrote of an avant garde college play performance.  I recall the college assignment.  I recall that after the performance of two short Ionesco plays, as part of the class requirement, I stayed for a discussion of the plays and their production.  I remember making a single comment about ‘meaning,’ and I remember the audible gaps made in unison by the players and the audience.  “Why?“ -one said – had they not thought of it themselves? How could they have missed it?  (There was a 2nd time I recall making a comment that resulted in another gasps in unison.  Something sage I had said.  What the occasion, what the comment was, I now have no recollection of. If some lost folder is found containing some lost essay, perhaps I will recall it, but for now, I remember nothing of it, save, I was surprised to have a 2nd gasp and the 1st one too.)

An employer of mine had a communications expert give an in-house seminar for his management engineers and architects.  We spent a few days being coached on communication style and how to make an effective speech.  At the end of the workshop we each had to give a speech, which the consultant videoed and then critiqued.  Most did 5-minute speeches.  I did a shorter speech about a perfect place, Ocracoke Island, North Carolina.  The reaction was the opposite of what I hoped for. I had wanted to receive, like those before me, polite applause.  I finished. Then: Nada. NOTHING!!!!! The room was silent.  I stood there embarrassed.  Then the applause came, loud and long. What had happened? I did not know.

The consultant played back the video of my presentation.  He was supposed to analyze it in front of the class, but instead he said he could make no recommendation for improvement.  It had been perfect.  (The only perfect speech I’ve ever heard was that given by Michelle Obama at Hillary’s convention.)  It was, the consultant said, ‘crystalline.’  He had been transfixed during the speech.  They all had been spellbound. I had made them think. I  had made them feel.  The listeners had found themselves lost in time remembering their own perfect place.  In the video I saw myself, looking down through my half-eyes to my notes.  I wished I had had better eyes, a better memory and thought I should have made sustained eye contact with the audience and talked without having to refer to notes.  I disappointed myself.  After the workshop ended, the consultant took me aside and asked me where I learned to speak as I had.  Perhaps his seminar had taught me?  I did not mention I had studied theater or failing my own critique.  In hallways, days after the workshop, colleagues stopped me to say how much they liked what I had said.  “Thank you,” and I wondered if I had made the wrong career choice.  Perhaps, as Dr. Young had told me decades before, I did have, when I spoke, the ability to stir emotions.  I think of myself as not particularly good at communicating in social settings.  Others have a way of keeping another’s attention, something I lack, but then, perhaps on a stage, I can speak as I do not in life.

When I re-read the essay JM found (done by the 20-year-old me), I thought, “I was a better student that I gave myself credit for being.”  Perhaps I was a better actor too.

August 7, 2017 – MONDAY

Photo of coffee table w/ newspapers & JM’s drink

Pause, Reset:  Today, as yesterday I read my papers.  I have been so busy with trying to save our farmers market that I haven’t read my daily papers.  It is nice to read as I drink coffee (on weekends – coffee requires cream) or tea (on weekdays – tea requires lemon) and to learn of the world, of the issues at hand locally, nationally and internationally.

I woke early to call the plumbers.  They will not be able to come today.  Our kitchen plumbing is leaking, requiring me to catch wash water and / or to utilize our utility sink. I usually spend long hours in the kitchen cooking, canning or preparing meals.  Drainage of water is a necessity and although I have a basin in the sink, unlike an old-fashioned farm woman,  I’ll not be able to cook without a functioning drain.  Tonight, we will eat out.

August 8, 2017 – TUESDAY

Photo of Halima & charley

More than a Brain in a Jar:  Michael is brilliant. I  relish his expressing big ideas and delight in tidbits that he often drops.  But beyond that, I am glad he is a physical man, a man comfortable in his body.  We both have blue-collar roots.  My parents were from farm families and JM’s (even professionals and those in management) were railroad people. Blue-collar folks use their bodies, their minds too, but they work through their bodies.  I know some academics that seem to entirely lack a body, their bodies are superfluous:  the body is only as a container for mind.  Their own physical body is alien to them.

It is the hug, the pat, the nearness, the touching of another through which one communicates the essentially animal nature of our being.  Halima curls up with Charley and each takes physical pleasure (and I would argue psychological too) from the other.  I look at them sleeping together and think that I too, even as I sleep, draw comfort from that big warm body next to mine.  I might sleep well alone, but I think, sleeping next to warm flesh makes my sleeping all the more deep and infinitely more pleasurable.

August 9, 2017 – WEDNESDAY

Photo of bay

FOG-NADO:   Meteorologists have coined a new word for a rare condition (perhaps a new phenomenon) to describe a fog-like condition when fog is accompanied by hot air — fognado. When we first arrived in the San Francisco Bay area, I had difficulty distinguishing between fog, drizzle and rain. They frequently seemed one and the same to me: limited visibility with tiny water particles.  This is fog, fog not seen from a distance but surrounding all, enveloping everything and me.  Fog spits in my face, speckles my glasses.  And with the fog, wind: wind whipping up the bay, filling coats to billowing, no sail would be unfilled (no boat in view) and making it difficult for me to peddle.  My thighs and knees ache.  I fall way behind Michael and Peter and do not make it to the old Ford plant turnaround.  I meet the men as they return and fall behind again. As difficult as it was to ride, the most difficult I can recall, I am glad for the exercise.  I peddle hard and move slowly through a fennel-lined path and licorice -scented ai.  Breath is labored, as is progress.

August 10, 2017 – THURSDAY

Photo of study storage units w/ baking stuff

Failed again:  My computer crashed for the 2nd time this week, but this crash seemed to be more complete, if that is possible.  Again yesterday afternoon, JM and I spent time writing about our farmers market, countering specious claims made by a neighbor and his allies.  He wishes to run the market himself.  He says it a ‘cash cow.’  And then he said he never said that and then he says some other contradicting thing. I would rather work on something else, but we continue to try to save a thing that has been good for the neighborhood.  We helped create it.  We were proud of it.  We have seen what it has done for our neighborhood, our City and we fight to preserve it.

We are reading for Friday’s party, but our preparation has been delayed partially because we are putting so much effort into trying to preserve the glorious market.  I get our baking supplies out so that I might make breads and dessert.

August 11, 2017 – FRIDAY

Photo of poetry slips

And We Laughed:  They left shortly before midnight.  Scraps of paper scattered on floor, sofa, tables — scrawled with clever 2nd lines.   We will clean up some tonight; we don’t like leaving out food and unfinished drinks.  It was a lively party.

Anita won the trophy with the most points.  She fooled us all with her choice.  No one guessed the correct 2nd line.  The first line of the poem:

Wouldn’t it be funny if the FINGER had designed us?

2nd line – of each participant.  You guess the correct line from the following:

  • Wouldn’t it be funny if the finger picked our mates?
  • Yeah, funny like a nuclear bomb is funny.
  • Armless, blind but strong to guide.
  • And its toe would be pointed at you?
  • To shit just once a week.
  • Like a Buddha in meditation.
  • He now has his own label and when I wear it, body and garment are one.
  • To drive raging down Harrison Street in the rain.
  • As they say, reaching down through dense foliage and mild air, to find us, sleeping embryos, knees bent and innocent—
  • To wait until it is time for all hands on deck.

The poem (by Frank O’Hara, 1959), titled “Poem,” reads :

Wouldn’t it be funny

if The Finger had designed us

to shit just once a week?

all week long we’d get fatter

and fatter and then on Sunday morning

while everyone’s in church

ploop!

and I wonder if ‘The Finger’ reference was inspired by the Sistine Chapel’s and God creating man!

August 12, 2017 – SATURDAY

Photo of plates waiting to be put away

I wish we had a maid:  Exhausted today.  Sleepy.  We were up until 2 a.m. cleaning up after the party.  I made, as I usually do, too many dishes:  Nachos, Chinese / Thai Lettuce wraps; Gravlox and fresh-baked rye bread, a Pavlova with fennel pollen-flavored whipped cream and fresh fruit for dessert and….

JM and I went down to the farmers market late, just before it closed.  We gather a few signatures.  We saw the market manager and asked if she had read our rebuttal to the retired politician.  She had not and said she had not been able to even read the politician’s original writing because its ‘inaccuracies’ had upset her.   We had had a similar reaction. J M and I both started reading the politician’s epistle, but seeing it was inaccurate and that it was biased, we both put off reading it for a day.  The letter was filled with ‘mis-information.’  How much was intentional and how much was the result of being told the wrong thing, we do not know.  We tried in detail to answer counter the incorrect and raising questions.   JM posted it on line.  The retired councilperson had accused us of being too simple, so we tried to outline the issues in detail.  After we posted it, we were then criticized on line for having too much detail (— and I did not even bother to counter every wrong statement, because there were so many, I simply tired of it and left many wrong statements unchallenged.)  It’s damned if I do, damned if I don’t. In this Trump era, one wonders how many wrong statements are made intentionally and how many are made simply because that is what someone just does.  We do not know the whys.  We know they mis-represent, twist facts, re-construct history.  Perhaps their memories fail them or perhaps they do not recall what was said, or what they write.  And we suppose the reasons don’t matter, that it is simply something they do and to which we must react.  The market manager said it bothered her to see someone use their position of authority, their position of power, to spread ‘dis-information.’  Michael told the manager that I am a fierce opponent, but even more of a good and loyal friend.  It’s been fun for me to work on our ‘save the market’ project with JM.  We are a good team and it is nice to learn something new about one’s partner.

Tonight, A’s fireworks: Chinese fireworks led to gunpowder, guns and gun violence.  A thing of beauty turned ugly.

I try to get my mind around fireworks.  They are pure energy:  Rockets propelled by chemicals propel chemicals into the atmosphere, they ignite, a chemical reaction ensues, light energy is created.  ‘Particles’ of light or ‘waves’ of light briefly flare, then the mass / energy that created the light, the color is pulled from the sky to earth by gravity.  Glory brought low.  The beauty is not just the light, the explosion of light, but the color and the patterns.  And the smiley faces, this time seen with winking eyes, eyes that outlasted faces.  Humor and glorious beauty — art, a creation, like music, there for a moment, not something, like the Sistine chapel’s ceiling, that lasts for centuries, giving humans a chance to enjoy and analyze.  This art, seconds or milliseconds in duration took centuries of experimentation, nay millennia of experiments, to give us this night this beauty.

Week 31 (bad computer – still, photos to be posted later 😦 :()

July 30, 2017 – SUNDAY

Photo of basket of Cherries & recipe

Not predicted: It was to have been a warm day, but nature fooled us. We enjoyed the cool and did not make it outside.  I stayed in the house the entire day working for hours on my computer, then cooking with Caroline, a dear friend.  We prepared a shellfish paella: Clams, shrimp; scallops with Valencia rice, which we served with farmers market steamed corn on the cob.  Caroline brought rose wine.  We drank and ate slowly, enjoying company, food, and the table set with our new Portuguese silverware, appropriate for eating the famous Spanish dish. Wine made me tipsy and I forgot to photograph the meal, but I did remember to photograph the recipe.

 

July 31, 2017 – MONDAY

Photo of aprons

Never Enough:  Coveralls.  If I were a farmer, I’d almost certainly wear coveralls when I did my chores.  I wore a drafting jacket when I worked as a young architect so always pen, pencil, eraser, ruler were at hand (pre-computer drafting).  At Duke, when preparing solutions, I wore a lab coat.   I cook a lot and cover myself when at the stove, but not well enough.  Grease has a way of penetrating an apron or of going around it.  How many splattered tops have I taken to get cleaned?  How many sleeves have been stained?  I still wear the half-aprons my mother made for me, but I need more than something to cover a skirt – I need whole body protection and mostly wear bibbed aprons.  It seems I should phase out my aprons and buy chef’s jackets, but somehow I feel that a work jacket belongs in the lab or at a drafting table and not in the kitchen.  Aprons remind me of my mother, even those not made by her.  I need more cover, but an apron serves me relatively well and ties me to my mother.

 

August 1, 2017 – TUESDAY

Photo of our ants

Not AGAIN!!!!!: They are back, a stream of them.  Where there is one, there are many.  I wipe them up with a damp rag.  The cats left a single bite in a bowl, and the ants found it.  They ALL found it.  “Out, out damn ant,” I say.  But their kind, like cockroaches, was here long before my kind.  No matter what I do today, they will be back tomorrow.

We feed our cats in Pottery Barn olive oil bowls.  The cats need flat bowls so they do not suffer whisker fatigue.  Really.  Whisker fatigue is a real thing, and so the old olive oil bowls are the ideal bowls for our cats!  And, I might add, ants.

 

August 2, 2017 – WEDNESDAY

Photo of stack of a few of the petitions

So unlike a Trump Tweet:   I wonder if our council representatives have read it.  It is long, 13 pages long.  It is a series of thoughtful counters to most of the false claims made by a neighbor who is attempting to oust our ‘wildly successful’ Grand Lake Farmers Market manager so that he might oversee a market of his own or get someone to his liking to run it. Late yesterday afternoon Michael sent out our rebuttal to his attacks on the handout / flyer we created to inform farmers market attendees that our local Trump is trying to oust the manager who created our market.  ‘Mini Trump,’ as Michael calls him, has posted false assertions on his webpage newsletter.  One local woman said of that newsletter that it is nothing but propaganda & called it a “propaganda rag.”

Weeks ago I wrote rebuttals to each of ‘Mini’s’ numerous posted mis-statements, mis-statements he claimed were fact.  Michael edited what I wrote.  Then I edited his edit and then he edited mine and we went back and forth for weeks as we worked and re-worked what had been written and edited.  We wanted to make sure our facts were correct and that what we wrote, clearly stated. Just before we sent it out to council, Michael read our rebuttal to me aloud.  We changed this word or that and removed something here and added something there.  Nothing is perfect, but we did our best to create a factual document.  The ‘gut me’ wanted to emphatically say ‘Mini T’ has a habit of telling untruths.  The ‘gut me’ wanted me to share some damaging things I know to be true of ‘Mini T.’  ‘Mini T’ has a way of getting people to believe him, to support him.  In the past (and now) even while claiming he represents the community his positions were opposed by a large majority of the community.  We are gathering signatures.  He has a dozen or so who support him.  We have well over a thousand signatures, yet he says he represents the community.  So Michael and I fight to save our quality farmers market and send our Councilpersons a rebuttal of his mis-statements.  Will the will of the many, and not ‘Mini T’s’ desires, keep our farmers market?   In the past the numbers won out, but who knows?  This is a different era, and truth and facts may not win the day.  That has not stopped us from trying.

Yesterday we sent out an e-mail.  Today we will edit and re-edit another document we have been working on and then we will on another day work on yet another.  We write. We think.  We edit.  We rewrite.  We do it trying to be accurate, to be truthful, but will our award winning market, the market that has repeatedly been voted the ‘premier,’ the ‘best,’ be kept?

 

August 3, 2017 – THURSDAY

Photo of JM @ scrap box & naan

At Long Last: It has been on our “To Do” list since the awning showed up, but we made it a the lumber yard where we bought long screws and where JM rooted through the scrap wood for a suitable piece of wood from which he might create wedges for mounting his new awning.  He found a few potential pieces but might check out his own scraps here at home.  We BARTed to SF for an early meal at ROOH, an up-scale Indian Restaurant. It’s a chain with 14 in India.   The SF eatery is their first abroad and the first in the US is here in San Francisco.  We’ll return.  It’s the best Indian food we have eaten out.  Indian cuisine has, in my opinion, the most sophisticated blending of spices of any cuisine I’ve experienced.  The Italians do the best with fresh fruits, vegetables and fish.  Asians (not including India) do the best on-pot meals!  The French have the most artful presentations, but blending of spices definitely goes to the Indian subcontinent.  They ought to be good at it, they have been doing it for centuries, nay millennia.

I was planning to make naan Saturday for movie night with friends. After ROOH, in addition to the naan and cucumber and yoghurt (cucumber rita), copying ROOH, I’ll serve naan with avocado/yoghurt, peanut butter with chili and mango tomatillo chutney — or at least one of them.

The A’s versus Giants game was a disappointment.  We left late in the game when the score was A’s – 1 and Giant’s 11.  The outcome was not to our liking, but the cross-bay series split: 2: 2.  We were not prepared for the perfect weather in San Francisco.  It was short-sleeve or sleeveless weather, and we, knowing how San Francisco is always cold at night, dressed in heavy shirts (and carried several layers in our backpacks).  It was beyond balmy.  It was hot.  San Francisco Bay, seen from our high ballpark seats, was calm and smooth and the stadium’s flags barely moved.  If we had not know where were, we might have thought ourselves back in Georgia.  San Franciscans used to spend summers in Oakland to get some warmth and escape the cold fog.  Oakland never would have been a vacation destination if SF nights of past had been like this night.   We walked long blocks back to the BART station and overheated on the way.

 

August 4, 2017 – FRIDAY

Photo of hair done my Kelvin

The Unruly: Kelvin studied with Vidal Sassoon in London.  He does my hair now and gives a better cut than anyone else ever has.  I was a bride’s maid in my sister Esther’s wedding.  On the morning of the wedding, I went to a hair dresser friend of Esther’s to have my hair done in an elegant ‘French Twist’ for the evening ceremony.  The hairdresser could not get my hair into a twist, so lopped off what she was unable to incorporate into the twist.  At the conclusion of her work, she told me I had the worst hair she had ever worked on and she instructed me, “Do not come back! EVER!!!!”  Even if she had never told me not to return to her, I wouldn’t have used her again because when my hair came down, it was an uneven mess.   She had hacked my hair off into some unrecognizable shag.  Further, she made me feel bad about my fine, straight, unruly hair.  So when my friend Caroline recommended Kelvin Ching, I said I’d try him, but had no hope of a good cut.  Kelvin, who is ethnic Chinese, said of my hair that he liked my straight hair, that I had great hair and he found it wonderful to work with.  Could he be talking about my hair, my bad hair?  My hair, good or bad, Kelvin is able to work with it and I even get compliments on his cuts.  When he finishes a cut, I look in the mirror and often wonder out loud about it actually being my hair, so beautifully coiffed, is it.  It is my hair.  It is on my head, and I wonder why he is able to do what virtually no other hairdresser in my life has done.  He makes me look good, well, as good as I can look.  It still shocks me when he tells me that my hair is wonderful to work with.  How can that be?  Perhaps because he is not trying to force my hair into some curl or form that, being as stubborn as me, it refuses.  I do appreciate having someone fix my hair beautifully and not making me feel badly about what I was born with and have not been able to tame.  Some with curly hair cannot straighten it.  I have straight hair that I cannot curl.  He works with my hair, not against it, and that has made all the difference.

 

August 5, 2017 – SATURDAY

Photo of folder

The Play’s the Thing:  JM has been cleaning.  He found a folder marked “PLAY.”  Within it a few of my theater things from undergraduate years: a play critique (one like JM would like his students to write, that dealt with underlying themes and not merely naming who played what) and makeup booklets.  Dr. Young, my theater professor, told me that I would go to New York City and pursue an acting career.  I had made him laugh harder and cry from a deeper sadness in him as no one ever had. I had, he insisted, “the intelligence and talent of one in a million,” and I was not to waste it.  I am by nature not a gambler and I understood that New York was expensive and pursuing an acting career there was risky, a risk and from my religious background (my family did not attend movies, theater was OK, but not movies, although I saw little difference) something out of my comfort zone. I also understood that life was not fair and abundance of talent guaranteed nothing.   Even at that young age, I recognized the fact that many a brilliant, talented person struggled to survive while at the same time ignorant people with limited talent prospered.  My talent would have had little bearing on my getting auditions or a significant acting role, and after all roles for women were limited.

Dr. Young was upset when I got involved with Michael.  He was disappointed in me, my lack of courage, lack of following my innate talent.  I was not a child of wealth and read in the New Yorker Magazine (or was it the Atlantic???) at the end of my college years that the average annual salary for actors in NY City was $2,000.  I considered following Dr. Young’s advice, but I understood that it would be almost impossible for me to live on 2K in NYC or to make it.   Even back then I knew that much of what we call success is luck and what is not luck is often connections, so I took a teaching job in Michigan and earned almost 3 times what I would have earned as an actress, or rather as a waitress, for most worked waiting on tables.  Had I been born rich and had I not fallen in love with J. Michael, I might have chosen differently.  But in high school I made a similar choice.  My drama teacher wanted me to try out for the part of Anne Frank in a local production.  I was about to do so when I was offered a part time job at a department store where I had, during the holidays, been the highest selling part time salesperson employed by them.  I was asked to come back, and I did for a mere $.65 an hour (Boys were paid $1 / hour simply because they were male.) so that I could get a little pocket change or was it because I lacked confidence in my own talent?  In both cases I went for the secure and ignored the possible.  I am innately shy.  The stage that I loved also terrified me.  If I had been less shy, perhaps I would have been bolder.  Or maybe if I had had a desire to be in the public eye, I would have pursued acting, but a 2nd child, I preferred working with others, watching others, doing things from behind the scene to being the center of attention.

Week 30

still no new computer & unlikely to get one soon

July 23, 2017 – SUNDAY

Photo @ cal shakes

The Bard:  We ate lunch under giant Eucalyptus trees at California Shakespeare outdoor theater; listened to Philippa the wonderful dramaturg (Ph.D. in something Shakespearen), then to the open-air theater now partially covered by opaque fabric.  In the past, the fabric was net-like doing little to stop the frying hot sun.  Today, better shaded, I did not overheat, and sitting in the first row, without direct mike hearing assistance, I heard the dialog.  Tennessee Williams’ play “The Glass Menagerie,” acted with a mixed cast, black, white and a physically handicapped woman playing the role of Laura.  I thought Laura rather flat and unexpressive, but her performance grew on me as the play progressed, and well into the play I had a ‘duh’ moment — Laura was herself actually physically handicapped.  I had wondered why they had the actress have more than the usual limp before I realized it was not method acting; her handicap was what it was. The walking with double crutch-canes was not a prop choice, an interpretation choice.  It was real.  The choice of how her part was to be acted had been made when the actress was selected to play the part. I’m not sure I’ve seen the play before or not.  I’ve read it and seen theater performances of scenes from the play and seen movies of the play, but I’m not sure I actually saw a theatrical performance of the entire play.  I think I did and what I think I remember was Laura at the table with her glass menagerie.  That scene was there, but seemed skipped over in this production.

As with so many things, as we age, our perspective changes.  JM said when he was young he had sympathy with the young Tom, but now as an adult, he has more sympathy for the mother (and her part was the best acted).  In many ways the mother sees the reality of the world and the future it holds for her handicapped daughter.  In spite of her desire to be a Southern belle, she is more than that and likely always was.  The mother had been trapped with the bad hand she’d been dealt, a hand she had, in part, intentionally dealt herself.   With a better hand, she might have done well, but she survived the abandonment of her husband and she likely will survive her son following suit.  Tom, her son, escaped responsibility of caring for his family.  I did not entirely support my family as he did, but I did spent energy, untold hours of my life and income to help my family (and Michael’s).  My parents were frugal, but let themselves be exploited, knowingly exploited.  Oh, what we do in the name of love.  Others exploited them and in turn I was exploited by them.  I could say the same of JM’s family.

I saw the play and I remembered how I had wanted to walk away from responsibility, but I did not.  In fact, JM and I both took on the responsibility for ourselves, took on the responsibility of parents when they did not play fair, and we let them ‘neglect’ us, so that they might give to another, the “beloved child.”  Sometimes I wished I could have walked away.  Sometimes Michael wished the same.  Our giving cost us not just money, but it took away time and energy that we might have spent doing art or traveling or something other that taking on other’s abandoned responsibility.  I sometimes resent, deeply regret, the fact that I have given so much time and energy helping others.  It is likely that they would not sacrifice for me.  Why did I do it for them? — Don’t know.  Why did Michael? Still, like the Tom in the play, JM did not shirk his family obligations (nor did I).  He gave to his family, never asked of them and took care of his youthful self, too.  After a point, JM’s obligation was to us and giving to his parents / to them was denying us. The same for me.

I don’t mean to be greedy, but giving and exploitation can be intertwined.  Was Tom in the play exploited by family?  Both JM and I have been exploited by family, partially because we easily empathize and feel other’s pain and see their needs.  Some of those we empathized with did not see that we had any needs.  They were selfish, and all needs were theirs.  We were needed to give and not to need for ourselves.  Mostly we complied with the emotional plea to give.  Our empathy and giving came with a cost, an emotional and financial cost to us. JM says of his paying off his college debt, a debt he did not have to have, “It made me an adult.  I learned I could take care of myself.”  I wonder if he would have been any less of an adult if he had been allowed to enter post college life, adult life, debt-free?  Who knows?  Life is a process.  We learn.  We alter our behavior, or attempt to. I n response to living, but still, in spite of lost time and assets, I’d rather be a caring giving person than an exploitive, manipulative person.   JM chose me partially because I was so unlike his mother.  I did not feign helplessness to get someone to care for me. I could take care of myself.  I, in many ways, was like his grandmother.  So, not the helpless belle trying to exploit, but the, “I’ll survive on my own” woman he chose as wife.  We learn from those we first love not just what we want but what we don’t want in another, in a life.

A play usually makes me think more than a movie does.  And I would write a play.  It should already have been done, but I’ve spent much of my life on a rescue mission.  The world is a difficult place.  I understand that, and I’ve done my best to help those who struggle more than me in the larger world.  Can I write of it well?  I don’t know.  I’m an observer.  How do I learn to tell a story?

July 24, 2017 – MONDAY

Photo: Fence flower

Perfection: A perfect weather day here in Oakland — temperature perfect, clear blue sky, a gentle breeze — so perfect we had to, absolutely had to sit out on our patio in our ‘infinity room’ to enjoy the day.  As JM likes to say, “Life does not get better!”

We sit under our Valley Oak as the sun descends.  This Oak, dusty green, with its sparse twisty leaves has survived the drought. Our Coastal Live Oak in the front yard has too, but many of its branches are dead, its leaves withered, making us wonder if it will survive.  The drought killed or damaged millions of California trees.  We hope ours survive because they are loved by birds and squirrels.  Still if only one is to survive, I’d choose the front yard tree, but nature being nature, the choice is not mine to make.

I shopped today for spices and baking supplies and meat and vegetables and Fever Tree Elderflower tonic Water. Fever Tree Tonic Water makes possible our Gin and Tonic and its sipping.  So like our North Carolina neighbors years ago — AND SO LIKE our NC neighbors who, in the afternoon, sat on their deck drink in hand, enjoying the beauty of the day — we bask in the sun’s warm rays.   We are from teetotaling families, & JM said we need discipline to drink our daily drink.  One drink a day is good, more bad.  We wonder why no drink is bad, 1 drink is beneficial, but more than one, NOT good. There can be too much of a good thing and also too little.

July 25, 2017 – TUESDAY

Photo: new awning

SHADING NEEDED: For all our perfect weather – and we are spoiled, we don’t like it too hot or too cold – it is not perfect enough for dining in our ‘alfresco dining room’* for much of the day.  (*I described our outdoor dining area as that in a Sunset Magazine contest entry and saw my description used, perhaps developed by another, or perhaps copied from me in their latest magazine.)  The patio table is in the sun during the afternoon, and on most evenings, sea breezes make it a bit too cold for eating out.  If we buy an umbrella, it would take up ground space and spoil the view.  JM ordered a wall-mounted awning, so that we might eat on warm afternoons in our alfresco dining room and be shaded from the sun.  The huge, heavy awning arrived.  Its brackets and attachments are made for masonry walls, so he will need to improvise its attachment.  Then, there is the problem of angle.  The leading edge will drop down when the awning is open, and his head, topping his tall frame, might be inclined to forget to duck.  We want shade, not an obstacle course.

July 26, 2017 – WEDNESDAY

Photo of Peter & cane on back of bike on JM’s i-phone

Pedaling again:  Foot to the pedal and we were off. Peter mounted his bike, as I had been taught to do by my dad, throwing leg over seat. However, I learned somewhere to first put my left foot on the peddle, push off with my ground-based right, throw that leg over the seat and peddle off.  It was one smooth coordinated move.  Today Peter and I each throw our right leg over the seat, while the left leg is firmly on the ground.  No horse mount this day, or likely ever again.  I follow J. Michael and Peter on the Bay Trail.  It is wonderful after weeks of inactivity to be moving again.  We bike by bay-edge mud flats, since the tide is out, and pass through an alley of wild fennel, 8 -foot high plants lining both sides of the road.  I love the smell of cool sea air passing through its dill-leaved fronds scenting it licorice.  I inhale and inhale.  I love the tall plants with their yellow “Queen Anne Lace” flower heads. Peter once, after collecting their pollen, made a wonderful fennel pollen ice cream.  I found a recipe for the ice cream (who knows in what cookbook or magazine) but when will I ever collect the pollen? Perhaps tomorrow?

I look at the bay with its variation in color, the fog rolling down over the coastal hills, the fog meandering between San Francisco high rises, the fog crossing the Bay and veiling the Star Wars stork-legged tanks (actually container shipping cranes) and marvel that a place I love and have been to so often seems different on each visit.  As I ride, Oakland and San Francisco shift and what I think is San Francisco is Oakland and the other way around.  We ride over a stone compass cast into concrete.  Its North-South-East-West all misdirected, wondering if those who placed it were ignorant of geography or thought it only decoration.  But, often as I move along the curvy bay, direction is confused.  I do know that the sun at this time of the day in the South and that San Francisco lies to the West.  However, in this time of presidential disinformation, one might be convinced that East is West, that North is South or West is North.  Perhaps the next time we ride, I’ll remember to bring my own compass.

At the end of the ride I noticed a cane on the back of Peter’s bike.  He’s been suffering with sciatica for months.  Perhaps this afternoon he’ll convince his physician to give him an MRI.  Peter can barely walk, but still rides, cane-ready, just in case he needs to move independent of his bike.

July 27, 2017 – THURSDAY

Photo of ball plant

And why?:  What I like (or hate) often has no logical explanation. Overall I prefer wildflowers to domesticated flowers.  Seeing unexpected wild flowers leaves me thrilled.  As a young biology student hiking with my botany class, we came upon a shady spot in an Indiana wood.  There, it seemed, an acre of low dark green umbrella-leaved May Apples with their white flowers hidden beneath spreading leaves, a single flower on each plant.

Our garden, especially our shaded areas, has wild flowers, but the majority of plants are of the ‘domesticated’ variety.  This morning I noticed a plant I thought we no longer had. I had taken photos (many, many) of the plant, but they were only of its spherical seedpods, so fascinated was I with water on the globes.  But I had no image of flower nor leaf.  Hoping to get another plant like it, I had taken my photos to the nursery for identification.  No one there could identify it.   I needed a photo of its flower and of its leaf.  Today, I did photograph those with the hope I will be able to discover just what that wonderful plant is.  I want more because they last only a season or two.  I love that plant, with its bay-leafed base, from which rises a thin stalk scattered with tiny purple flowers, flowers that become the tiny b-b pods which gather the drops of water I so like.  The sparse flowers and pods are so delicate they might be a fairy’s flower.  As with so many things in my life, I see now and the past together.  And with the plant that surprised me this morning, when I look at its diminutive purple flowers and purple pods I recall it in rain and in fog coated in shimmering water, just as when I see a May Apple I remember the plants seen in youth.

July 28, 2017 – FRIDAY

Photo of pizza

On Edge:  We stayed up late last night to watch the U.S. Senate ‘ObamaCare’ vote.   We were surprised by John McCain, his brow still displaying stitches from brain surgery, give a simple thumb-down gesture effectively saving the health care of millions.  The bill, imperfect as it is, remains the law of the land and for now, many breath a sigh of relief.  McCain, staring death in the face, had no fear of Mitch McConnell’s cold hateful cold-eyed stare and pouty mouth nor of Mitch standing cross-armed just in front of him, trying, it seemed, to physically block his vote.

After the vote we listen to an unhappy McConnell make a partisan speech.  He made inaccurate statements, said one incorrect thing after another.  During Mitch’s speech, which was filled with wrong accusations, I’d say, “That is not correct. That is wrong. That is the opposite of what happened.”   I was appalled at his stream of inaccuracies and turned to Michael and said, “He knows better. Why is he stating as fact all those things he knows to be wrong?  How can he say that when he knows it did not happen?”  Michael replied, “Edith, it is called a lie.”  Mitch, knowing the truth, is able to lie and seems plausible because such a large percentage of Americans are unaware of what happened in the battle to preserve medical coverage for many. Individuals lacking information, not knowing the truth, believe Mitch’s lies.  Mitch stood on the Senate floor, in his fine respectable suit, lies dripping from his tongue. Certainly in church on Sunday, hypocrite that he is, he will pray to his god and probably think that his god did not notice one lie or, thinking his god is as ignorant as the American people, he will not have to ask for forgiveness.

JM and I want comfort.  We made pizza for dinner.  Pizza is now more American than apple pie and like most Americans, descended from immigrants.

July 29, 2017 – SATURDAY

Photo of A’s blanket @ game

Cool Night: We attended an A’s game tonight against the Minnesota Twins.  I thought we’d lose (it seemed inevitable) and I would say, as in a Trump tweet, “SAD!”  But our team won in a walk-off.  We bundled up to stave off the chill and happy for the win, found the fireworks even more thrilling.

Week 29

bad computer!  bad computer!  even hard writing – crashing, crashing, crashing & not the waves of the ocean 😦 😦

July 16, 2017 – SUNDAY

Photo of wine tasting

Into the furnace:  As if it were not hot enough for us, Michael and I headed to the other side of the coastal hills to visit one of my ex-bosses, an engineer, and her significant other – a cop turned wildlife photographer and baker – to sample some of the region’s fine beverages.  We drank away the afternoon at a small local winery owned by a friend of theirs.  Now neither boss nor subordinate, neither of us worried about imbibing one drink too many since neither she nor I had to drive.

I’ve had my share of bad bosses.  Who has not?  I’ve had excellent supervisors, but unfortunately I have not had a single managing architect that was a good boss.  I’ve worked in the academic world with some of the best minds in the US, and I am married to one, so I know intellect (applied & theoretical) and not a single architect I worked for had that same quality of mind, and what they lacked in intellect they did not make up for in personality.  They were egocentric and they were not interesting or clever or delightful or had a pleasant personality.  My onetime civil engineering professor at Georgia Tech tried to get me to attend graduate school in civil engineering and become a civil engineer.  He said I’d have a better career in engineering, would make more money, and he said of architects, “EVERY architect I’ve know was either crazy when they went into the profession or became crazy after they were in it for awhile.”  He was correct.  I’ve found that true of most.  They seem to be emotionally unstable and they were JEALOUS.  My psychological self was evaluated by psychiatrists at a major university (as part of a study & prior to my going into architecture).  They told me that I had an unusually ‘broad-based and stable personality.’  If that had not been the case, I would not have been able to deal with the numerous – I would say beyond crazy, insane – architects I have had as bosses.  I was told by many a technical-type boss that I was able to accomplish more in a few days than my associates did in a week, and they frequently thanked me for expertly completing projects in a timely manner.  Some architect bosses, when they learned I had been praised, became furious.  I wondered “What is their problem?,” because if I looked good, they looked good.  However, it seems they could not stand compliments being handed out to anyone but themselves. I did have one civil engineer, actually two, who behaved as an architect, but they were the exception and not the rule.

My last architectural supervisor told me that I was ‘lucky’ my husband had married me.  I thought, “What, kind of person would say that mean of a thing?”  It was mean.  She, of course, had no way of knowing that some of my husband’s friend thought he had ‘made a real catch.’ (Editors Note: he did.)  As it turns out, Michael and I both did.  What my architect supervisor said to me was ‘uncalled’ for because it was not just personal, it was unprofessional and it had nothing to do with my job performance.  That same manager had been a co-worker.  Before she was promoted — I did not apply for the job she was given & I mean given because she actually did not complete the application process, but got the job anyway — I heard her talk to her children on the phone.  I could not believe that a person would talk to anyone as hatefully as she talked, let alone talk like that to one’s children.  After she became my boss, I learned she was just as capable of being as hateful to others as she had been to her children.  On several occasions she talked to me as I have never talked to another.  She would yell at me in front of the whole office, wrongly accuse me of something, and even if I showed her documents proving her wrong, she would deny their accuracy.  I am not the only person who has been treated that way by a supervisor.  But that kind of behavior toward me, or towards anyone, makes for a bad workplace.  It has happened to others in my profession.  In one organization, I was cautioned by co-workers to be careful of all managers.  They told me to always take copies of important, dated documents home and store them in a safe place.  “You may need them,” I was told.  “Your good work will be claimed by others as their work, and their mistakes will be blamed on you.  You need to keep good records and keep them safe because you may need them to defend yourself and your office documents might mysteriously disappear.”  I expected some things from my last bad boss, but her personal, public attacks were beyond anything I had experienced, and they had little to do with my work.  Her attacks came out of the blue and were not related to anything I had actually done or not done.  Attacks were made simply because the person was / is a nasty person.  I got tired of it.  I retired.  I think part of her hostility was towards me, an ‘older’ female, was (as a coworker told me) because I knew more, much, much more, than she would ever know about architecture, engineering, design, energy…. My husband wanted me to quit.  He calculated my retirement income.  It would be, he said, more than what my boss’ boss was making working.  So why should I work for less than I could make in retirement?  Why put up with that impossible person who was my supervisor?  I left, and for a while I was sorry that I was not able to use the skills I had developed over a lifetime, but I’m doing things other than architecture now — and loving it.  I did things other than architecture before becoming an architect.  In other professions I was treated well and was complimented and often rewarded for my good work, something that was not common in architecture.  And what acknowledgement I received in architecture I received mostly from engineers.  It may be that certain professions draw certain personality types.  And in architecture the type is not good.  I do have some friends and associates that are architects, but not many.  I like people in most other professions better than those I’ve met in my own profession.  Sorry to say, but that is true.  Michael’s worked as an academic and as a journalist, and he has mostly enjoyed his journalist colleagues more than the academic ones because generally journalists’ interests are broader, and they are more fun.

I wish my husband’s first cousin Joan were still alive.  We talked of so many things and she always had sage advice.  In addition, she was like a sister.  JM and I miss her, even after 20 years.  A psychologist, Joan oversaw a staff of several hundred individuals.  Joan was a shrink and she ‘liked’ me. S he respected me.  She told me that I was emotionally tougher than she was. I  found her saying that surprising because I cry easily and she did not.  She thought me strong and genuine and kind and supportive and good for her dear cousin Michael.  She left all of her personal possessions to me.  She wanted me to have the ‘remains’ of her life.  I found that touching.  Joan herself had not just been a good boss, she had been a kind boss, a compassionate boss, an effective boss, and she had been supportive of her colleagues.  As she lay dying, many she had managed came to her bedside to sit with her and say sweet things to her.  Joan was supportive of co-workers, of family and of friends, and we loved and respected her.  She was not my boss, but she was my mentor.  I have had a few good bosses and for them I was grateful.  I have had a few good friends in my lifetime and for them I am grateful. I have a wonderful companion and daily I am grateful.

A bad boss is a pain in the ass, but one can rid one’s self of them by leaving — although a friend’s boss killed himself, feeling he could no longer deal with his bad boss.  He jumped off a bridge – that’s what we do in the Bay area – rather than quit and leave his wife without income.  He killed himself so that his wife might get his insurance money.  I’ve seen bad bosses do harm to people and organizations, but in spite of that keep their jobs for years.  It seems always the worker is to blame, and the bad boss stays — badly bossing.  (I fear our now president is an example of that!)  I did learn of one exceptionally bad boss finally get the boot from upper management.  That bad bad boss, after years of bad bossing, was fired directly by a city manager.  That bad boss, who had fired many — and who had forced numerous others to find employment elsewhere — was himself fired.  I was told of his firing, and it was said that after being told he was fired, he literally staggered out of his manager’s office, so dazed was he.  What he’d often done to others was done to him, and he could not believe it.  Others, I suppose he believed, deserved to be fired by him, but he did not deserve the same fate he had dished out often.  He should have been fired the day after he was hired for the position, so bad was he, but he stayed manager for years.  I never understood why, but I guess he convinced upper management he was good and others were bad.  He was The Horrible!  When the new department head — who replaced the fired manager— entered the big office on his first day, the entire office stood up and clapped for him.  That new manager had once too been badly treated by a bad manager, but had survived by stealthily getting assigned to another agency.  He had a reputation of being a thoughtful, considerate manager. Workers were glad, at long last, to have a decent person as their boss.  Workers often endure much at the hands of bad bosses.  One Afghani engineer said of that fired bad boss, “American could not have been managed by such bad bosses in the past. No country could have become as great as America has, if it America been run by bad managers.”  My mother was brilliant, competent, professional woman, and she had bad, horrible managers.  The really, really good managers Mother saw lose their jobs while the bad managers remained in their positions.  It seemed that good managers failed to convince the higher-ups that they were good, and the bad bosses had those same people thinking them quality.  The past, it seems, was then as it is now.   America became great in spite of bad bosses. I’ve heard some say they think the American workplace has become meaner. It may have. Whatever, I’m glad to be out of it.

I’m glad for the few good bosses I had.  I’m glad to have friendship with some of the good ones and I raise a glass of California wine to them:  “Here is to you and to the pleasure of working with you.”  And for the mostly bad ex-bosses, especially to the truly horrible ones, I say, “May you burn in hell and may hell start NOW!”

 

July 17, 2017 – MONDAY

Photo of corn

CORNY:  The best corn, I used to say, was Michigan corn.  My parents, who grew up on the farm, would buy corn from farmers.  We girls would walk with them between rows of corn, looking for perfect ears. My parents would select a corn stalk, stop, examine its ears, and if they appealed, they would snap an ear from the stock, one, then another and then on to another special stock, where the process was repeated.  I never quite knew what they were looking for, but they knew it when they saw it.  They would load our arms up with their selections, then we’d walk back down the long tall rows to the farmer, pay for what we had picked, then drive home where mother would husk, silk and steam the corn for supper.  The cobs were simply served with melted butter, salt and pepper.  There always were fresh tomatoes too. I remembered the corn and the tomatoes and little else of those meals.  What other food could compete?  No corn, no tomato ever equaled those of my childhood.  It was Michigan’s rich soil, summer rains and heat that created those glorious foods.

One Spring I helped a corn geneticist at Duke University plant his research crop and was rewarded at Summer’s end with tagged, numbered corn cobs I was to cook, taste and rate.  The professor had developed some well-known corn varieties.  Those were good, but he was always seeking to create better tasting corn.  Those cobs I tested were glorious.  I never knew if the corn I taste-tested (one bite of one cob, then a bite of the other — back and forth until a favorite was determined, their preferred characteristics noted and results returned to the professor) was developed into a commercial varietal. But it was good corn.  I did my bit for science and ate thoughtfully.  As I tasted the corn, I believed that same corn, if it had been grown in Michigan from the very same seed, would have been better simply because it had been grown there.  North Carolina had produced a superior ear, but so marked was I by my wonderful Michigan corn that I thought “this corn is really good, but if you want the best, you should have grown it in Michigan!”

The origins of plant from which our corn descends have been lost, its roots partially still clouded in mystery.  Corn may be a plant born of bastards, or its forbear may be a ‘legitimate,’ highly regarded grain.  Who cares?  I bite into an ear.  It is perfect.  It is sweet. I t is crunchy.  It is one of the many gifts our New World bestowed on the globe. Those who initially collected and bred that unknown plant thousands of generations ago did not know where their experiment would end (and it may not be ended yet).  The cob I eat produces an eating experience like no other:  the crunch delights; the taste delights; the odor delights — I still recall the smell of corn roasting over a Congo fire (haunting) and my squirrel teeth positively enjoy themselves running up and down rows removing kernels from cob.  A kernel of corn is tasty, but a tooth harvesting it makes it better.  Corn on the cob, a primitive delight, a sacrifice any good god would gladly accept.

 

July 18, 2017 – TUESDAY

Photo of cherry yellow tomatoes

Handful of Gold:  My palm is filled, only the palm.  It holds small yellow cherry tomatoes, volunteer tomatoes from our front garden.  We did not notice them until our gardener pointed out the golden globes.  We added then to our supper salad, good and grown on our own homestead, if grown anomalously, still grown.  Twenty some years ago we planted tomatoes out front and out back.  Those plants produced. They produced until our trees grew and the tomatoes refused to grow in shade.  Somehow a seed found a sunny spot, grew, survived and produced tomatoes, which it now shares with us.  We did not ask the plant.  We took.  They were there, in our yard, so we gathered and ate. It’s our yard, we reasoned.  They were ours, and no bird or rat or raccoon or possum was there before us, so we harvested and ate what was harvested.

 

July 19, 2017 – WEDNESDAY

Photo of Sylvia’s table

A Warm Welcome:   New digs for Sylvia: view – light – breeze – new kitchen – wood floors and near Piedmont Avenue, one of the most livable / walkable streets around.  Sylvia had us over for a delightful lunch and we saw her new place for the first time.  Sylvia left her wonderful house in Berkeley not by choice, but because after the death of her landlord, the property was sold to a real estate mogul who wanted her gone.  She has found a place she wanted, but it lacks the space of her long-time home.  She was forced to downsize.  That is something we need to do.  Our place was too small for us when we moved in and it is now smaller, because we added 25 years of stuff.  The space has not increased, but stuff has, making our house full and overflowing.  The garage, which once housed a car, is now filled with our bikes, cabinets, papers, files and our Saarinen table set and ….. Not everything we have has a place, although it is placed.  We cannot find some things, and if one cannot locate an item, it is as if one does not have it.  We talk of culling, but the culling is a long and difficult thing. Welcome to the neighborhood Sylvia.  You have done successfully what we are struggling to do.  We will try to follow your example.  The culling needs to be done; so today I go to my study and JM to his bookroom.  We sort though our own lives, recalling what we have done, who we have known and who we are.  I say, “If only had fewer interests.  If only if I had more space.  If only I had more time.  If only …” I have what I have and the space that I have.  Now to make the two jibe.

 

July 20, 2017 – THURSDAY

Photo of Shojis

Scardy Cat:  Halima is almost a perfect cat.  We take endless photos of her.  She remains good-natured in spite of the fact the boys dominate her and are sometimes grumpy with her.  She endures and forgives.  She does have one bad habit, a costly one.  When someone knocks on the door or rings the bell, she runs and hides.  At times she actually perceives a visitor is coming from some changed aspect of our routine, and knowing company is on the way, she seeks a hiding place before the knock.  When she hides, she sometimes is in a state of panic, meaning a safe hiding spot must be found instantly.  She likes my study closet.  It is one of her safe spaces.  However, shoji screen doors cover the closet’s opening.  They do not stop Halima form accessing her safe spot from time to time.  She leaped through the lower paper panel of each of the doors – perhaps each at a different time, or perhaps all at once – like a call-girl breaking through a cake at a bachelor’s party.  In the process of her seeking safety, Halima has destroyed the Japanese paper on the lower panel of each beautiful shoji door.  The doors must now be repaired; the paper replaced and new bottom rollers installed.  Halima did not jump through the shojis in the guest bedroom, but it was likely her that left a few small holes, created in pursued some errant bug.

Our big Shojis are in shop.  This afternoon our friend Seth delivered the doors to Tim, the once-apprentice of the man who made the original doors.  Tim knows what to do.  He has cats.  We are trying to prevent the paper on the doors from being destroyed again by a leaping Halima. T im will propose a solution.  We will think on it.  Halima is a jumper.  If Tim strengthens the lower paper panel, will that keep Halima from her designated place or will the blocked lower panel induce her to jump higher?  What to do and how far up the door should we go?  Nothing lasts forever, but we want the doors / new paper to last several years.  Paper doors are easily undone.  They let light through and our cat too!  No matter what we do to the doors, should we leave the doors a little ajar allowing Halima to find her safe spot whenever she desires one?  We are keeping Halima, and she is as she is.  She will not change, and if the doors are redone as they were, the lower panel will be jumped through by our dear baby.  How do we keep our beautiful girl from wrecking our beautiful doors?  Pets and children do damage, but even as it is done, they are forgiven for the doing.

 

July 21, 2017 – FRIDAY

Photo of Dorothea Lange & exhibits

Homeaholics:  Home.  If our emotions governed all, we would stay there and venture forth little.  Friends scheduled a museum trip for us to see a Dorothea Lange exhibit.  We met Don and Joyce there and were treated to a good lunch.  We would like to return to the museum for lunch and to take another look at Lange’s photographs.  Had our friends not scheduled the event it is likely that we would have missed the powerful exhibit entirely.

Dorothea Lange was quite a girl and what an eye!!!!  In her seeing, we see.  I wonder how she could have endured the seeing, the seeing she did of Depression America, America of the dust bowl.  Michael called the photos of dustbowl refugees “our internal migration.” Some of her photographs were shot well before that time, her career starting almost a century ago.  Her photos look out at us, and we look in on them in a moment, at her subjects, their plight captured.  They on the wall, as if in amber, frozen in a moment.  Their lives may have gotten better or worse.  The images there in front of us still speak of our common humanity.  None is a YouTube clip that briefly amazes and draws enormous viewers, but each person draws our scrutiny, our attention.  We want to know of them and of their entire history.  They and their history have become part of our collective past.  Lange’s pictures of the unnamed, unseen, are still seen. When seen they tell a story of people’s struggle to survive.

Lang was hired to photograph the internment, the relocation of Japanese citizens during World War II.  Those photographs were hidden away from view. ( We see them today.) She showed the dignity, the humanity of those good Americans, Americans stripped of homes, land, possessions and lives simply because of their Japanese heritage. T hey were forced out of their homes, herded into isolated camps, surrounded by barbed wire, guarded by loaded rifles 24/7 — all to protect the US from the foreign THEM.  Lange’s photos, without a word, captured the pathos of the people, a people who carried their dignity with them, even as our nation did what it could to strip it away.  The photos captured their quiet pain, their unjust imprisonment, and their undeniable humanity. Lange was fired from the job and her photographs hidden because the facts of the thing could not be hidden if one saw what Lange’s lens recorded, what she had seen.

Dorothea Lange was fired because the government did not want the truth to be told, to be shown.  Today, just as then, we would shunt away those we perceive to be different. We bar them from entering the country, and those that are here we would deport. During the war, we took our own patriotic citizens, took them out of their own country, put them in camps, surrounded them with barbed wire and looked down at them through rifle sights.  They must be kept apart so that we would not be frightened.  Lang’s photograph show that we, not they were the threat.  They were there not because of who they were, but because of who we were.  History repeats. Who has the camera to show it?

 

July 22, 2017 – SATURDAY

Photo of flowers

Have flower, will travel:  I’m off with camera in hand to learn to better photograph a flower.  Annie Annuals has a flower photographer teaching a class, and I, who loves a flower, am to learn to see (and photograph) a flower or flowers.  I’m taking a break from the farmers market because city council is on recess. I’m recessing too and what better way than to see a flower.

And I learned that each photo should tell a story. I’m not so much a story teller as a reporter of what I see, and what I see is not always a story.  It may be to others, but is not always to me.  I think myself rather an observer than a teller of stories.  I’ve seen too many teller of tales, make up the tales.  I see: Make of it what you will.

Week 28 

computer still not upgraded & still crashing, so not downloading photos

July 9, 2017 – SUNDAY

Photo of sleeping cat(s)

– Dream – Dreamed – Dreamt:  JM says he never dreams jokes. I do and I laugh at them in my dreams. Maybe it was a dream — the words of a joke typed in capital letters:

KNOCK, KNOCK

WHO’S THERE?

MRI

MRI WHO

MRI

And then there was nothing, the punch line was missing.  It, as it turned out, was no joke – only the format of a joke.  Was my mind telling me I had some dread disease and needed an MRI or was it the result of seeing Peter last night who needs an MRI to determine the cause of his back pains, but must wait until the ‘hoop jumping’ has been completed?  His previous bout with back problems were caused by a spinal cyst, but his doctor will not do an MRI until he’s done his physical therapy and …. MRI — is it Peter or me in need of one.  Agitated, I opened my eyes.  Next to me Oskar curled in the fetal position, embedded in the puffy blanket.  Cats make sleep seem such a luxury

July 10, 2017 – MONDAY

Photo of table setting

Ready, Set, Dinner:  The meal is prepared.  The table is set.  We wait for our guests.  My mother had wanted to travel and never stop and said of her plans for retirement, ‘I’ll start with a trip and continue until I die.” She had an ear for languages and spoke many (English, Spanish, German, French, Bungala, Pasandi), loved the world, studied geography and would have spent her life in a non-ending trek.  Unfortunately Father, not knowing he had diabetes but knowing he had untreated high blood pressure, spent a week by himself working on their isolated vacation home and while there had a major stroke.  He learned to walk again and write again and drive again, but he lost his powerful body and, although mobile, walking was something he willed.  He walked unsteady, but he walked.  The man who hiked and biked miles on end could walk but slowly.  He could walk for long hours but refused to use a cane.  If it was a long walk, he steadied himself on Mother’s arm so the walking tired them both.  They visited the Vancouver World’s Fair where they spent days, father walking slowly, refusing to use a ‘handicap’ scooter.  They saw the fair on foot.  Dad was stubborn and when he was told such a massive stroke (a stroke that went untreated for 3 days until workers installing phone lines came near and he was able to get their attention) would have killed virtually everyone else and was told would leave him homebound, he worked and defied statistics.  He walked, not well, but well enough, and they traveled via van back and forth, up and down the United States and some in Canada, but if there was a long walk, Mother walked alone while Dad waited in the van, worrying about Mom’s safety.  Traveling abroad and schlepping suitcases around on uneven streets was out of the question. They loved seeing the world.  They had traveled together to Congo and spent 8 years there.  They referred to their Congo years as “the happiest years of our lives.”  They would have traveled the world again, but in the end they were limited to parts of one continent.

Dinner guest Joyce spent some years in Africa in the Peace Corps.  We suppose Africa selects for the truly adventurous. She ventured up and down the continent alone.  When she would marry, she required a partner who would travel, one interested in seeing, during his life, as much of the world as possible.  She found her man, Don.  They, individually and together, have traveled, as my parents would have – if they could have. They travel where a typical tourist goes, but they especially love, like my parents, remote parts of the globe.  They are fearless and have seen the world and its peoples as few ever do.  We envy them.  We would be them, but alas, we are both ‘homeaholics’ – JM’s word for someone who is addicted to home, who loves home above almost all else – and venture out into the larger world, in comparison to them, infrequently.  They are on the road almost constantly.  They know how to travel and they do.  We are always curious about where Joyce and Don have last been (Cuba, or was that last year?) and where they plan to go next (Colombia) and how they do it.  Joyce and Don care little of photographing their experience, they want the experience.  Joyce says sometimes she Photoshops them into a stock photo of an iconic place.  Why photograph yourself somewhere when better photographers have photographed the place and all you have to do is add your face! — And so tonight a simple “American” meal on simple plates.  We’ll give them each a little Santa Fe, painted animal from our trip, and in turn they will bring some exotic object from some exotic spot. We live our life mostly in our home while they live theirs in the wide world and they are living my parent’s dream of unending travel. Would we were less timid.

July 11, 2017 – TUESDAY

Photo of cats on sofa & Oskar & Charley

Caution Cat:  Oskar is freaking out.  Last night he hissed and hit at little Halima, sending her into hiding. T his morning he hit at big Charley who seemed to take no notice whatsoever of his unprecedented behavior.  Oskar struck out at me last night and JM this morning. — hostility toward other living things in his home.  Why?  What upset him causing him to behave erratically?  Does he hurt?  Is he sick?   Was there a trigger?  We suspect a trigger.  We’ve been busy around the house and JM has not watched his evening television, so Oskar lost his time on Michael’s lap.   JM has ordered a 2nd pheromone plug-in to make the house smell like a giant cat mother.  The vet recommended we get the calming pheromone for Oskar because his records show him to be ‘a CAUTION cat.’  Unlike last night’s guests and more than us, Oskar likes his world, his place and his day ordered.  Today we will try to give Oskar extra attention, and although there will still be cleaning and sorting and the moving of things, we’ll give him his routine.  Oskar is curled up next to Charley, something he’s not done for ages.  He seems to need reassurance.  Halima has curled up near Charley.  There, on the sofa, 3 cats in a row, 3 peas in a pod. His calming may have started.

July 12, 2017 – WEDNESDAY

Photo of neighborhood Trump window

It’s real & there is proof, proof from the horses’ mouth: The fake news, as it turns out is real news. Surprise? When, since the presidential election, I read people criticizing Hillary’s campaign for failing, I’d say, “She could have run against Trump and won, but she could not run against Trump, our intelligence agencies and Russia all at once and win.”  Some still claim that Russia was not involved.  Oh, Trump said that at the conclusion of his meeting with Putin.  Putin assured him that Russia had not interfered in US elections and Putin is to be believed.  We should believe now too because Trump has met him personally and knows Putin to be telling the truth.  But with the release of Junior’s e-mails by Junior himself, who can deny that the Trump campaign was not colluding, or trying to do so with Russia?  Especially because in his released e-mails, Donald Trump, Jr. said he welcomed Russian help in winning the election for his father.  “I love it,” he said, and said more, like “especially later in the summer.”  And then, on the day Trump’s son, son-in-law and campaign manager met with the ‘Russian attorney’ close to the Kremlin, Trump announced he would soon give a speech on Hillary dirt.  Today the Trump establishment claims the president had not been told of the Russian / Hillary thing!!!!!  Give me a break!!!! Trump knew.  The campaign colluded with a foreign power to win the election.  Trump has announced that he could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and kill someone and his supporters would say loyal.  That is one of the few true things he has said.  Nothing matters to his base.  Those fundamental Christians laid hands on him today and prayed over him.  Jesus, it seems, approves of Trump, his lies, his cheating, his disparaging people, his adultery, his enticing people to gamble and profiting from it, his lack of morality, his love of Russia (which in my church they preached on Russia being the ‘Great Bear of the North’ in the Book of Revelations and related to the anti-Christ) — Jesus and the Christians love the Donald, because Trump, in their eyes, is God’s instrument.  Could it be that Trump is the Fundamentalist pope and must be followed?  Mostly, Trump is what they think a leader should be, white, male, a person who treads on anyone and everyone who gets in his way (all while living outside Jesus’ recommendations for a holy life).  T’is that CONCEPT that is their god (expressed in Trump); Jesus is little more than an excuse!

July 13, 2017 – THURSDAY

Photo of box from JM’s book room

All treasures:   JM and I are trying to cull, trying to do away with papers that tell of the lives we lived.  He brought in a box of my papers from his bookroom.  “All treasure.  I culled some papers for you and this box is filled with interesting things, things of yours even I could not throw out.”  In the box there are recipes (ones that JM would like me to try) and notes on trips we’ve taken or might take and articles on science and health and travel and cooking and architecture and…. When I saw what JM called ‘treasures,’ I had to agree.  And now what to do with the box containing things we have done and ideas for things not yet done? If I had but fewer interests, there would be fewer such boxes and little worry of what to do with kept things.

 

July 14, 2017 – FRIDAY

Photo of Wachtel’s & West Oakland

A life we might have lived:  We met friends and a god-child at a west Oakland café for lunch, then afterwards walked blocks to visit a warehouse our friend’s firm will renovate.  As we moved through the sometimes-ragged streets, many decorated with outsider art, JM said, “This makes me recall the appeal of living the life of an artist.  If one inherited money, living for art would be a pleasant way to spend one’s life.”  There were murals and great metal / stone sculptures, and a burning man bus and homeless and graffiti and a small park carved out of a parking lot and warehouses aplenty.  If we had had more financial security, we too might have played at ‘living on the edge’ trying to do what had not been done before.  The art created may not have been great, but the living of the artist life — as imagined, the ideal way to pass one’s time on earth.

 

July 15, 2017 – SATURDAY

Photo of baseball

SAVE OUR MARKET:  The morning spent with J. Michael and friend Caroline Soo Hoo gathering signatures to save our wonderful farmers market management team.  After that, to Connies’ Cantina, a few blocks from the market, for sangria and lunch.  A morning of purpose followed by an evening of pleasure.

JM and I spent another perfect afternoon watching A’s baseball: warm, but not too warm, followed by cool, but not too cool.  Two foul balls caught directly in front of us, but not by a young person and not by the same person.  The game ended in a surprise walk-off home run, always the most exciting ending of a game.  A win for the A’s and that is what we want.

Week 27

JULY 2, 2017 – SUNDAY


Photo of boy & catches (COMPUTER CRASHING & WAITING FOR NEW APPLE)

The catching: Baseball, extra innings, a loss but a fun game partially because of foul balls and laughter.  There were numerous foul balls hit in high arcs back over the net into the stands, both on the 1st base side and the 3rd base side.  We sat just to the left of home plate.  In front of us a man with 2 teen-age girls and in the row in front of him, his son, a thin, quiet boy of maybe 12 wearing an A’s cap and glove-ready.  A ball arched backwards, high in front of us.  The boy ran down his empty aisle and gracefully fished the ball out of the air.  Caught!  He smiled, as did his proud father.  An A’s employee brought him a form (likely a certification form).  Then, moments later, the scene repeated.  We’ve never seen two balls caught by anyone in a single game and certainly not right in front of us. The child, not hyper, but happy.  Happy and perhaps not even aware of how unusual, how special his feat. After the boy’s second catch, a young man from the 1st base side of the home plate introduced himself to the father and son.  They had their photos taken together.  Why?  As it turned out, he too had caught 2 fouls in the same game.  The young man returned to his seat just in time to catch another backward arching fly ball.  He in one game had snatched a stunning 3 foul balls. We had not noticed his first two.  Here in a single game 2 people and 5 balls, a record of sorts I would wager.

We often experience joy vicariously and especially that of a child.  The young adult may have out-caught the teenage boy, but I suspect the boy set an age record for stray baseball flies caught in a single game. The child took joy in what he did and we are glad for that and for the memory he will carry with him for a lifetime.

For JM and me, the game was a game of laughter, lots of laughter.  The Candid Camera captures images of attendees and highlights them on the big screens.  I mentioned to Michael that some people only seem to be happy when the camera is focused on them. When they are the center of attention and their image projected large, then they smile and gyrate but prior to that they sit iron-faced.  There was one group, likely a family, a woman, a man and a boy enjoying the game from the upper deck.  Each was positioned among empty seats, in separate rows.  They danced to the music as if they were comfortable on stage performing choreographed routines.  They were shown on the screens numerous times, and sometimes their dances seemed spontaneous.  When the between-innings music wheel landed on “air guitar,” they played rock n’ roll together and ended their performance with a simultaneous smashing of their instruments.  Their antics over-the-top they may have been, but we howled with laughter at their infectious exhibitionism.  AND 40,000 people at the game and the wave in the stands, because youth love it so.  Oh, to be young again and to appreciate it at the time.

July 3, 2017 – MONDAY

Photo baseball & socks

Fireworks:  4th of July fireworks on the 3rd.  It’s good by me.  Today, as yesterday, players wore a starred navy sock on the right leg, with a striped red & white sock on the left leg— flags on their calves.  The 7th inning stretch they sang “God Bless America.”  I find the song offensive. It is as if baseball is trying to force a belief system on me.  The American Way is freedom of religion, or as JM said, it is also “freedom FROM religion.”  We bought our baseball tickets and must listen to god being asked to bless America (a prayer), as if we by nature of geography are deserving of more than other humans.  Let all humans live well and prosper (or at least those that are not ‘evil’ and I’ve know some very evil Americans, and prosperous ones at that!).  Well, I’ll sit through religious songs if that is the cost of viewing fireworks.  “A thing of beauty is a joy forever!”

July 4, 2017 – TUESDAY

SF Photo @ Jon & MJ

Day of Independence – remembered:  The Fourth of July / Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays.  It brings with it memories of my childhood of Mother’s potato salad (best!), of Aunt Norma’s Fried Chicken (none better, or actually the best there ever was), of Aunt Elizabeth’s Chocolate Cake, of Homemade Lemonade, of Hand-churned Ice Cream and summer softball where my father out-hit anyone else. Today, celebrating with John and Mary Jane near the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco, was a day far from my childhood, not just in age or in distance, but in experience.  Michael and I dressed in sweaters, wrapped ourselves in blankets so that we might visit with Sunset District residents dressed and comfortable in their short-sleeves in our friends’ back yard.  Fog is wet and it is cold. T his time of the year, blankets should be for picnics on the beach, not to wear as garments.

July 5, 2017 – WEDNESDAY

Photo of Old Silver

Disappointment:  We did not bike today, because we were waiting for a DHL delivery.  It did not arrive as promised.  DHL call said our package was to arrive on Monday, but it did not and then, because of the holiday, today is the day it was to arrive.  Alas, nothing was delivered. Tomorrow, they promise it will come.  Michael said he was getting tired of our old Odin stainless steel silverware by Dansk.  He needed a change from 40 years of eating with the same fork, knife and spoon.  “I want something new,” he declared. But change did not come easily.  It took only a few years to locate new china we liked, but finding flatware that we liked took longer, years longer.  We liked some Alessi designs, but did not like the shine.  Picky, picky, picky.  We like matt silver and not shiny.  Why?  Don’t know, just do.  Finally, we decided to order a place-setting of Goa carried by Design Within Reach.  We liked the overall shape, but since we wanted something we could use every day and for entertaining, the silver and black pattern seemed a bit too casual for company.  (and the Raiders are to leave Oakland soon!)  And then, by chance, we saw a pattern made by Cutipol similar to Goa, all matte silver.  “Trial set, to see if we like it,” I said. JM said, “NO! I like it. We will have it.  A trial is not necessary.”  I hope he is right, because we have ordered a 12-place setting, 130-piece set, and it is about to be delivered.  We are anxious for the new and bored with the old.  Will the new delight or disappoint?

We’ve had only a few sets of flatware.  Mother gave me flatware from her mother’s restaurant.  Then when JM & I were first married, I ordered 8 place settings from Standard Oil for $25.  That set became our silverware until it was replaced in 1976 with Odin by Dansk.  We bought a few pieces of Odin at a time.  It took us 20 years to get a 12-piece set.  The problem: the shapes and sizes of the pieces changed dramatically and although all pieces were Odin, the “same” pieces differed.

July 6, 2017 – THURSDAY

Photo of Flatware old & new

Here at last!  It finally came!  It was worth the wait.  Michael signed for the shipment and opened the big package and then the big black box and then opened the small black boxes within the big black box and in each smaller black box, 12 of a single utensil type: fork, fork, fork; knife, knife, knife; spoon, spoon, spoon, spoon; all paper-wrapped carefully by a Portuguese worker.  Every implement was crafted beautifully, a delight to see and hold.  Our silver drawer was cleaned out, the old silver removed, replaced with new slender pieces washed and carefully dried.  Where we had two kinds of forks in a place-setting, we now have three (a dinner fork, a salad/dessert fork, a fish fork).  Where we had two kinds of spoons, we now have four (a mocha spoon, a dessert spoon, a teaspoon, a soup spoon) and where we had two kinds of knives we have three (a dinner knife, a fish knife, a dessert / butter knife).  And then there are the serving pieces, all slim and delicate, and they go well with our new china.  Every day we’ll eat on splendid plates with elegant silver.  How good can it get?  Michael declared he knew how the pattern got its name.  “How?” I asked.  He answered, “Moon. It’s called moon.  Look at the spoons.  They are all perfectly circular, like the full moon.”  I think him right. (Our old flatware’s spoon ‘bowl’ shape was an oval.)  Perhaps they should have named our new set Diana, after the goddess of the moon.  And our new plates are round (old ones were square) too, coincidence?

July 7, 2017 – FRIDAY

Photo of orchid

Give me some San Francisco fog, PLEASE!!!: We are not prepared here on California’s North Coast to deal with heat.  Our few hot days typically come in October, yet here in July heat — when FOG should be unending.  Here in the East Bay since the 4th we have been sweltering. Yesterday I cooked baked beans all day in a low oven.  (Made me wish we had a bean hole in the back yard like a Yankee.)  Today I simmered half a ham.  It was hot without the cooking and unbearable with it.  We are to host a poker party tomorrow and will do a Georgia O’Keeffe –themed 4th of July.  She was a Wisconsin girl so we are doing a Midwestern picnic meal: Ham; Baked Beans; Potato Salad; Coleslaw; Fresh Corn and Chocolate Cake.  The concession to New Mexico will be the hot New Mexican weather (Not SF Bay weather) and Sangria. We’ll buy the corn at the farmers market, but since I’ll be handing out flyers to ‘save our market,’ I bought vegetables & fruits at a local grocery store.  Saving our market for the future is more important than where I buy the foods for tomorrow’s meal.

The Orchids are blooming on our back deck, — cats are hot — me tooooooo and glad for the slightest cooling breeze.

July 8, 2017 – SATURDAY

Photo or cake & Oskar

Poker:  I lost $8.15.  On one high /low game I almost won both ways, but fearing loss and no gain, I did not bet it that way deciding to bet sensibly (not typical) I bet only high.

Just before the gamblers arrived, we parked the cats in the garage, opened all the doors and windows, turned on the fans and drank cold sangria, with frozen grapes for ice cubes.  AAAAHHHHH, cool and cooling we waited for a full house.  The game was on. JM won the evening by a few cents.  A win is a win.  He had a low score in golf this morning. I was sad for him.  “NO!” he said, “In golf, low is good!”  I was happy for him.  He started the day low and ended it high.  He won low and high.

Week 26

 June 25, 2017 – SUNDAY

Photos of Halima

There was a clatter: We were awakened predawn by crashing and thrashing. It got us out of bed. I discovered a torn paper shopping bag caught in the opening of the cat door. JM checked in the garage. When he opened the door, Charley came out. Thinking it was Charley who had somehow been tangled in the bag before ripping it off, we returned to bed. I got up shortly afterwards and noticed Halima’s collar on the hall floor. I checked for her in the garage. There on our old Saarinen table she lay crouched. I picked her up. She struggled little. Around her abdomen, the rope-like handle of a brown paper bag. I could not pull it off. I rushed up to the kitchen, grabbed scissors and took Halima and the scissors to the bedroom. JM held his girl and I cut the bag handle loose. She bolted. Several hours later she, still in trauma, walked with her body and tail low to breakfast. Halima is our sweet, gentle, good-natured girl, and it distresses us to see her even a little upset.

Halima slept all morning and far into the afternoon. It seems she got little sleep last night. Who knows how long she had been tangled in the bag as she tried to break herself free. We found the travel gifts we had bought, which had been in the bag, scattered around the living room and beyond. Poor baby. But she, in mid-afternoon, finally seems to have settled down. Cats love bags, small and hidden places. That love of the cave sometimes gets them in trouble.

June 26, 2017 – MONDAY

Photo of bird’s impact tatto

TATTOO: We have put stickers on our picture window, but it appears we need more. While JM was sitting next to the big window, a brightly colored parrot crashed smack dab into the center of it. The stunned bird sat on the porch briefly before flying away. It left behind an ‘impact decal’ (an impression of its body & feathers), something we’ve never seen before. We have done things to lessen bird window deaths. I’m still considering placing a thin net between our columns to prevent future window collisions. The city, except for pigeons, is a dangerous place for birds.

(NOTE: Tuesday. We worried about the colorful bird that hit our window and wondered if it were someone’s escaped pet. A neighbor on the street below us found the stunned bird, posted it on the neighborhood website, found the owner and returned it to them. It seems that the accident of hitting our window saved its life. JM will let the owner know, via website, of the bird’s accident. We suspect it has concussion syndrome.)

June 27, 2017 – TUESDAY

Photo: Halima on silk jacket

Airing: I have more than one bad habit. (“Every day in every way, I’m getting better and better.” I wish.) Some bad habits were formed for good reason. Halima is curled up on my silk dress, a dress I wore last night, then hung out over a drawer I pulled out so it might ‘air.’ I am obsessive about smelly clothes, and if I am not putting an item I’ve worn directly into the laundry, I like to ‘air them out’ before returning them to the closet. So my study has last night’s dress ‘airing.’ After an item ‘airs’ I return it to the closet and typically hang it inside-out so that I know it has been worn and is not ‘clean.’ It’s a habit, maybe a neurotic one.

Perhaps I got my obsession with clean clothes and clean-smelling clothes from my mother. Mother used to say that she did not want her house to ‘smell like an old person’s’ house.’ She said that because so many old people’s houses smell bad. After a college roommate visited me in my parent’s home, she commented on the fact that our house smelled good. My friend said lots of people’s houses smelled ‘off,’ but my home smelled good, inviting. I had not noticed the house’s odor — good or bad. It was simply the smell of home.

One male college friend of mine, a very nice handsome boy with clear face and pink cheeks, smelled. Or as my dad said, “No. He stinks, you smell.” (The saying, “I smell, you stink.” ) I thought he stank because he did not shower. A friend of Michael’s too. After we married, I asked JM about that friend’s hygiene habits and his bad smell. (I had wondered how his wife could have endured the smell in the dating of him.) JM said others also had noticed his bad odor, and the consensus was that our friend showered, but that he returned well-worn clothes to his closet without cleaning them. The smell of worn clothes penetrated every item in the closet. It was not his body per se that stunk, but the clothes on it. When our friend dressed in his suit, the stench was particularly strong. Perhaps, hoping to save money, he rarely, if ever, had it cleaned, or it had kept company far too long with the unwashed.

I prefer clothes that I can wash to clothes that have to be dry-cleaned. I like to wear an outer garment only a couple of times before cleaning it, and I trust water and soap more than harsh chemicals for the cleaning of clothes. There are two kinds of dirt, water-soluble and oil-soluble. If a washable item has oil-soluble dirt, rather than wash it in the washer, I take it to the cleaners. However, sometimes the dry cleaner is not able to get out oil-soluble dirt. Our new Miele washing machine is getting out oil-soluble dirt which dry cleaning did not remove. I always feel that water-washed clothes are cleaner – even if they are not. Washed or dry cleaned, closet clothes are stripped of bad odor before they are returned to it. If I smell, no, if I stink, it is not the fault of the clothes.

Our cats like to experience life vicariously. They like new smells (odors). When we bring in new item into the house, they experience the outside world by sleeping on it. And this morning I found Halima experience my excursion to San Francisco, via the dress I wore. The dress, I suspect, has my secure odor, but more, the odor of where I had been. If Halima could not go with me, she did the next best thing, she visited the place through the odors that clung to my garment. To a cat, the world is a garden of odors and unlike my preference, the smellier the better.

June 28, 2017 – WEDNESDAY

Photo: the tire

The Chilling: It was HOT and now it is NOT. When the FOG rolls in, as it has done since the heat wave, it hardly feels like summer. It may feel like summer to those who grew up with it and FOG means summer, but for those of us who grew up in areas of the country sans summer fog, FOG signals some other season, certainly not summer and perhaps no season at all. I welcome the FOG at night and rely on it for deep-sleeping, but I want it gone in the morning and want the day’s temperature to be ‘just right.’ But, the weather, like nature, is not subject to personal whim. Today, after weeks of not biking, we will bike along the bay in the cold, not cool fog.

Peter is walking with a cane. The pain in his back is causing mobility problems. Before the back pain he typically biked 30 miles a day. Richard, a thin friend of JM’s is in the hospital with heart problems. He walks 10 miles a day, or more, yet his body has not responded to his quality exercise. Even thinner Michael T., who engaged in a lot of physically demanding work in his profession, is literally treading lightly, so painful it is for him to walk on worn knees . JM and I wonder what more one can do. Perhaps it is not just what one is doing now that is causing health problems, but what one did in the past, or perhaps it is the genetic dice that played out, or perhaps it is time. Days will wreak havoc on all. Time claims all, and often before Father Time claims us, the calendar, which gradually gave us skills as we grew into adults, now claims what it gave. Our skills, both those of body and mind, are waiting to be harvested by time. We get ripe, we are ‘perfected’ and then we rot. Mother, who lived past 98, said her friends had been stripped away, her life had been stripped to the bone. That stripping has started in our own lives. We see it in our own bodies and minds and in those of our friends. Entropy, all systems winding down, but why do those systems exist in the first place?

We met Peter at the dog park, started biking. Michael called out that he was feeling unsteady and stopped, thinking he was having some kind of ‘episode.’ It was not him or the ground beneath his feet that was unsteady (no shaking of the earth, no quake). It was his bike, or rather his bike tire, the tire he had filled a few minutes before, gone flat. Relieved he was that it was the tire and not his body ‘gone bad.’ Peter rode off after concerned talk of a friend whose cancer seems to be getting worse and hopeful talk of another friend who is recovering from cancer surgery. Peter’s aged parents are chugging along, while his contemporaries (and ours) are struggling with health issues. The body is a marvelous thing, but in many ways more delicate and less enduring than we would wish.

June 29, 2017 – THURSDAY

Photo: ceiling crack

The opening: The ground beneath our feet seems substantial, yet it shifts and heaves up and rips apart. Earth shakes and reconfigures, but endures. We have spent at least $100,000 structurally upgrading our home. There is more to do. The roof rafters need to be tied down to the walls and a new roof plywood diaphragm installed. Even without that being done, our house is better engineered than most in the area. We have prepared the house, or almost completed preparing it for the big, inevitable quake, but nature is large and what we have done can easily be undone. We live a mile from the gigantic Hayward Fault, one of California’s biggest faults. A quake struck shortly after we returned from our trip. I thought it a small, close quake. It was both. The crack in our living room ceiling we had had repaired has appeared again: opened, expanded and lengthened. If repaired, it will return. The earth will shake and move. There is no stopping it.

June 30, 2017 – FRIDAY

Photo of Santa Fe & St & Innsbrook

UP-KEEP: George is working in the yard. I’m working in one of our studies. Paper, paper everywhere. I sort. I look for information. I need paper, a specific paper, a site survey to help design the replacement hill retaining wall and I cannot find it. As I look I run across an article on Hohensalzburg Fortress (said to be Europe’s best preserved and biggest castle), Salzburg, Austria.   JM & I visited Salzburg a few years ago, and the castle. It is a town of music (Mozart lived there & there is his annual festival), but the physical city, except for a few places, we did not warm to. We loved Innsbruk but found Salzburg wanting. JM & I like to walk, especially in old cities. Innsbruk ‘felt right’ and Salzburg not. I’ve decided that overall I’m not a fan of the ‘Renaissance’ architecture and art as I was conditioned to be. I prefer walkable Medieval cities and the period’s flat colorful art. After graduating in architecture, if one had asked me my preference, I almost certainly would have said, Renaissance architecture /art and that it was of ‘higher’ quality than Medieval. What my head tells me I should like better, I do not. Overall I like Medieval better. And, here in the US, I find I like the Southwestern ‘vibe’ better than that of virtually that of any other area of the country. Why? I like the ‘feel!’

I read the Salzburg article that talks of the castle, local attractions, the Alps in the distance and then threw it away. I’ve been there, done that (lost my new hat at the castle) and was glad to have visited the city, but, except for the music and the cemetery, the city did not win my heart.   Love is a peculiar thing and like beauty “is in the eye of the beholder.”

July 1, 2017 – SATURDAY

Photo: of market

What could possibly be wrong with him?” :  We played poker with Berkeley friends, foodies one and all. The host is a fabulous cook, who combines exotic ingredients in unique combinations, providing his guests with literally once in a lifetime experience. Tonight did not disappoint. His soup, as good a soup as I have ever eaten, his own creation made with roasted tomatillos, onions, corn, tomatoes combined with chicken broth, shrimp. It was a meal in itself. He also had fresh tortillas, plus carnitas and mushrooms and cabbage for filling them for a Mexican-themed meal. Amazingly good. He’s cooked for local trendy restaurants and overseen the kitchen of a Berkeley food establishment, so is no stranger to the making of quality meals, but at home he develops dishes so challenging that few restaurants would include them on their menu.   A meal at his home is always an adventure, something new or a twist on something old. The other players, when hosting, make exquisite meals, and they, unlike me, know their wines and their ‘whiskey.” One friend at the table is making her exit from the poker group and Berkeley, having just sold her 2-bedroom Berkeley bungalow for a few dollars shy of $1,000,000. She has houses and property in the Central Valley, the other California, and will return cash-in-had to her childhood community. She will miss the local food scene and is considering the growing of this or that exotic vegetable on her property, something that would appeal to the Berkeley set.

We talked little of politics, but talked much of food, of the selling of the home sale and about our Grand Lake neighborhood farmers market. The Berkeley foodies consider our farmers market to be the best farmers market in the East Bay, and, in spite of their own good markets and stores catering to their taste / or caring quality foods and produce, they shop at our farmers. Our market, they said, should be treasured and maintained for if management of the market were to be changed, the market would not be nearly as good because our market’s management group is the best in the business. If anyone understands food and markets they do. That is why our departing friend, when she heard that a neighbor is trying to oust AIM as market managers asked, “What could possibly be wrong with him?” What could be wrong indeed? Besides his personality quirks, one thing could be wrong. He likely has no clue about really good food and he has almost certainly never eaten a meal as good or as exotic as we ate tonight. The would-be destroyer of the market, his desire has little to do with the quality of the market, but much to do with his desire to exert power, or in this age of Trump, I should say, his desire to bully others and to control for the sake of control.

And the winnings tonight, Peter’s idea, will all be given to charity. Peter the cook, the big winner will select the charity. I’ll put my money on it going to a local food bank or Meals on Wheels or the like.