WEEK 5

January 29, 2017 – SUNDAY

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Ready for Dinner

Old love is gold love? — – depends on who has the gold:  Last night we dined at Meritage (in Claremont Hotel, physically in Oakland, but address claims Berkeley) looking out over the lights of Oakland, the Bay and San Francisco. Seated at a romantic banquette, we dined on white linens and fine table service. We ate slowly, enjoying the food, the wine, the view and each other. But during the meal I commented to Michael that I thought it unusual that at two tables directly across from ours, adjacent to the windows, were seated one couple and then another followed by yet another where men, well into their 60’s, were paired with much younger women, women 20 to 30 years younger.   There were toasts, there were smiles, there was the staring into the other’s eyes and it was apparent that the pairings were not that of father and daughter or mentor and mentee. “Old farts (men) dating young women,” I said, or perhaps I should have said, “Young women dating old farts?” Fine with me, but why three similar couples in such a short span of time? J. Michael said he’d researched the restaurant, looked at its website and its links. He found on the restaurant website one link which likely explained the three couples. The link: “Why young women should date older men.” He pulled up the link on his iPhone. The link claimed that older men were a good choice for a younger woman because they knew their way around the world and the bedroom. There was no mention of the attraction that money and power played in a younger woman finding an older man ‘attractive’ or facts substantiating that an old man’s love making matched the intensity or frequency of a younger man, even that same man in his youth. We laughed out loud and asked the waiter if he were aware of his restaurant’s website and the link. He was not. I asked Michael if there were a ‘cougar’ link. “No, emphatically no,” he said. “Why the sexism in the link? Where is cougar link encouraging young men to date older women?” I said. And he, “It’s niche marketing!”   And so it seems it was.

I had dressed in my finery for dinner and wore a silk scarf (made of cloth from Japanese kimonos) to ‘hide’ my sagging neck. Gray or not, wrinkled or not, we thought ourselves a ‘dashing couple’ and I was glad to be dining with a man who was not attempting to deny the reality of his own age by insisting that his female companion reflect physically the age he imagined himself to be.

January 30, 2017 – MONDAY

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWestern Sky

Written in the sky:  We rarely have the wonderful sunsets here. But on occasion we have a passable sunset. To the west, the sky over the Pacific is rose-hued. I think of sunsets and Global Warming and wonder if Carbon Dioxide affects sunsets. It does trap heat and is making our oceans more acidic. Global Warming threatens both land and sea. Last year, the warmest on record, affected cultivated crops and life here on earth.   I remember reading about the aftermath of the volcanic explosion of Mt. Tambora in the then Dutch East Indies. That explosion injected dust and sulfur dioxide gas into the stratosphere. As a result, that year the earth cooled one degree Centigrade. The earth, or at least the Northern Hemisphere, had no summer. “The Year of no Summer / Year without a Summer,” it was called. Failed crops, starvation, death and unrest ensued, but, for all to see, glorious, vivid, intense purple-pink, yellow-red sunsets. Atmospheric particles prevented sunlight from warming the globe, the effects devastating, but the sunsets unparalleled.

Carbon dioxide does the opposite of a large volcanic eruption. It traps the heat in our atmosphere, in our oceans, increasing temperatures worldwide. Hot volcanic ash in the end cools the earth, but the excessive burning of fossil fuels warms it. And just as surely as a volcano’s ash cooled the planet in 1816 causing widespread disruption of cultivation / harvest, carbon-dioxide-induced global warming will disrupt not just cultivation of land crops, but it will cause (& is causing) some sea life to literally dissolve. Oregon’s oyster, mussels and clam beds (bivalve mollusks) are suffering. The calcium-based shells of mollusks are not forming or dissolve in acidifier seawater.

We depend not just on our land for food, but on the sea as well. Carbon dioxide dissolving in large quantities in our oceans is destroying calcium carbonate, the material marine organisms use to build their skeletons. So when there is a lack of the minerals sea organism use to build their bodies, there are no bodies, no organisms. Just as a car cannot be built without the necessary parts, an organism cannot be built without the necessary elements.

This evening I view a lovely sunset as the sun sinks into the Pacific Ocean. It is not the kind of glorious sunset reported in 1816, but pretty enough. I think of beauty, of natural cycles and their disruption and in the new year, the year following 2016 (200 years after the great volcanic eruption), I think on earth’s future, both the near future and far.   And I will go to bed and awake with fear, because of that likely future.

January 31, 2017 – TUESDAY

2014 November Bird TripArt Deco fan from Atlantic crossing

Without us – the bands play on:  I think my favorite art / architecture period is Art Deco. A few years back, our local Art Deco shop closed. We bought a fan, a fan from a trans-oceanic crossing. Images on the fan – ocean liners, exotic excursions in Africa — a reminder of my crossing the Atlantic from Africa to North America when I was a child.

It reminds me also of the ocean voyage that J. Michael and I did not take.   We planned to sail across the Atlantic dancing to big band music on the last voyage of the ocean-liner Queen Elizabeth II, from NY to London. Just when we were to make our commitment, to put down the deposit, mid-term elections happened. Republicans gained a majority in Congress. We became depressed and decided to stay home.

Our Italian cooking teacher gives tours to southern Italy and Sicily. She recently told us that she had had a lot of people sign up for her tours, and then the election and sign-ups stopped. “Why,” she asked? “Depression,” we answered. A friend who is a purveyor of wine and cheese, said of his two shops that immediately after the presidential election, business dropped precipitously. It seems that, as with us, the reality of the national political situation is causing widespread depression, depression severe enough to cause a change in plans.

We will eat cheese and drink wine, but travel and dancing to big bands will not, in the near future, be for us or for many bay area citizens.

February 1, 2017 – WEDNESDAY

Seen, not seen:  — An early morning bike ride along San Francisco Bay, but different from past rides. The water of the bay smooth and gray and all surrounding the bay filtered by diffuse light, making the bay itself and the cities that ring it indistinguishable from their atmosphere. Riding just after low tide on one side of the path, we see bottom mud flats stretch fingers far out into the water, on the other, high mash grass with depressed areas in which streams seemed meandering in bowls. It was not fog, but as soft as fog, light making things close, crisp and clear while the distance hardly seemed to exist at all and San Francisco a hint, a small faint hill. Today the bay had no distinct perimeter where water met land. There was the land and water at our side, but little beyond. If it had been fog, all but the near would have been obscure. Today only the far was gone. I could see the near and the mid-distance and because of that I saw things that I had seen hundreds of times, but never seen, never observed. In the past, things were there to be seen, but my eye had wandered passed them focusing beyond, so even as my physical eye saw them, they were not seen, or at least not comprehended. I had not noticed many things I observed today for the first time because seeing blue water, or waves, or reflected sun, or…. they demanded to be seen and the lesser was passed over. At the start of the ride, just beyond the edges of the low tide, I saw a structure, a small platform on top of piles. How could I never have noticed it? And we continued. Grouped near an island, piles lashed together standing straight and tall above smooth water and then the next island the same, except that island’s piles were listing. JM had never noticed them either. Peter reminded us that they were old. They were, somehow, until this morning, missed by us, and likely by many others. I had no camera to photograph those ‘new’ objects, but today a new ride with new vistas – the near, seen for the first time. Those ordinary objects could hardly be expected to compete with unsurpassed views which demanded I see the beauty of the distance while missing what was in front of me, —- and I think myself observant.

On the return trip, the guys rode far ahead. I paused to see the water’s steel surface sliced open. In the middle of the cold bay, a glowing pink gash of light emanating from below the water. Logic told me it was sun breaking through gray sky illuminating smooth water, but I saw no cloud break, no ray of light, and I saw what I saw in spite of logic. I caught up with the men. Just then, just above our heads sandpipers flew, and JM said, “I felt the flap of their wings.”

Before the glowing water, the day started pink when my eyes opened to dawn’s sky. As Tennyson wrote, “Tis the low light gives the color.”  ‘Twas the low light that made me jump from my bed, grab my camera and run out the door. Photograph the eastern sky? I did. A couple of cars drove by. Perhaps the drivers wondered why I was standing in the front yard clad only in a nightgown.  Twas all Tennyson’s fault. Well, at least, it was a flannel gown.

February 2, 2017 – THURSDAY

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Considering options

Pipe dream, if only it were:  The plumber worked under the house all afternoon on the kitchen sink’s drainage pipe.   That pipe gets plugged and re-plugged and has done so for the 25 years (and likely before) we lived here. Countless times we have had the sink drainage pipes rooted out. We have done things to prevent the pipe from ‘plugging up.” We replaced the lateral that connects the house drain to the city sewer, having been told that the problem was there. The lateral did need to be replaced, but the sink drainage problem remained after the house’s overall drainage functioned well. We reduced the frequency of the kitchen sink’s back-up by not using the garbage disposal, but the sink line still plugs up. As part of our new water heater installation we asked that the pipe under our sink be corrected. The plumber has finally worked that ‘little’ work into his schedule and so today a drainpipe section under the house was replaced. However, it seems there is another problem, a pipe leak in the wall. We get to consider yet more plumbing work.

Since we moved into our house, we have rebuilt it, piece by piece. There are more pieces to replace. The re-working of the house is likely to continue until we die – and beyond. Yet again, a small repair, reveals another bigger problem.

This afternoon I looked through cookbooks and at reams of recipes for our Saturday party. Perhaps the food will have a Spanish theme. Decisions to be made, items to be listed, foods to be purchased and prepared for the party, White Elephant Party. And I must begin preparing for the party, leaking pipe or not.

February 3, 2017 – FRIDAY

Getting ready for the party

thoughts aside:  I concentrate on what we will make for the party. I try not to think about politics or the unprecedented statements coming from the White House. I know I’ll not be able to march tomorrow: dishes to be made, laundry to be washed / dried, house to be picked up – newspapers, magazines, cookbooks, letters, cards – to read or set aside for later perusal. I list what must be done (grocery shopping, banking, baking, cleaners, farmers market….). I’ll finalize the recipes we’ll use, make a list what’s to be bought, determine the order of food preparation and start it. Today the making of fresh kale chips (baby kale dried slowly in the oven, then salted lightly); a Pennsylvania Dutch cheesecake to be baked; biscotti to be made, baked and baked again; dishes, cutting boards, napkins, tablecloth, glasses selected and made ready. I’m thankful to be doing things that require thought, but not deep thought — and welcome a reprieve from the almost constant dread there in my gut — the result of the new president’s action. I’ll think of what needs to be done to prepare for the party and little else.

February 4, 2017 – SATURDAY

CAKE  & Kale

Naked lady:  The kale I made yesterday was not good today. I returned it briefly to the oven to re-crisp, and it ruined the taste. Why something that was good yesterday, unsavory today? I always promise myself that I’ll try out the foods before I prepare then for a party. Never happens, and the empanadas (made with duck fat instead of pork fat / lard) did not turn out, neither crust nor content good. I bought mini prepared carrots in a bag at a local vegetable store instead of buying all my vegetables at the famers market. A mistake, tasted a little ‘mildewy’ — so much for the time-saver. I’ll go back to buying carrots for sticks at the farmers market, the lesson learned: pre-package is not as good as farm-fresh. Gary (partner in a bakery) and Mallika brought a layered long 18” x 4”chocolate cake filled with dark and white chocolate mouse, topped with a chocolate ganache and white chocolate curls – tasty. It made up for the failed falafel and empanada, bad carrots — ‘a spoon full of honey makes the…. go down.’ Dessert a big hit and understandably so.

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Naked Lady book end/ best of show

We gathered to exchange ‘bad’ gifts and the worst – but most wonderful gift of all – was porcelain naked woman, sitting, legs straight our in front and back, straight up, 90 degrees to her legs. Perhaps a Hindu symbol on her head. Peter bought it months before the party at an auction with White Elephant in mind. He thought it a bookend, the other up for auction too, but he bought just the one for the party. It got taken and re-taken. I had if for a brief moment and if it had remained with me, it would have gone on our garden wall. But it was not to be. Hans took the prize home. I’ll ask him for a photo of it since, in the hectic evening, I forgot to photograph the lady who won the hearts of party guests.

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Trump in Flames

Finale: the burning of the Trump in military gear poster brought by our late friend Pat in October 2015 to our theme “Trump the Joker” poker party. I had written on it ‘to fear’ and JM had added a goatee and Hitler mustache. Trump is to be feared. The majority of Americans know it as does much of the world. The poster used as a dart target on new years tonight met its ultimate fate: hoisted up on a pole in our yard, then set afire.