Monday, December 31, 2012

Out without a Bang

It's over. The year. The 2012 Holidailies.

It should be a time of new beginnings. Of new resolutions and resoluteness.

For me it seems to be more like a rehashing. The papers are full of recaps of 2012. My 'to do' list is a series of 2012 things: this tax return schedule, that quarterly payment. Starting fresh seems impossible faced with these things.

I could resolve to handle such things better in 2013. But, the fact is, given the available information and my advancing age, I did all right. I guess.

In the past I made resolutions about exercise, diet, organization, money, writing, reading, volunteering, friendships, time management as well as strange and obscure ones about riding the bus or learning to play Bridge.

It bores me to think about it.

I don't want to resolve to write here every day. (I'd probably blow that one tomorrow.) I don't want to resolve to keep up my other blog (Austin, TX Daily Photo) that I have faithfully executed for over five years. I might just end that one, too. I certainly don't want to resolve to keep up on facebook, twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus or any other social media.

So I think this will be it.

I resolve to live fully in the moment at hand as best I can and to do things a little differently every day to shake things up. 

Meanwhile there is a long list of those 'to do' things I can't avoid. So I'll just do some of them.

It's been fun with Holidailies, really, with an outside 'force' making me write something. I also took time to read samples from other blogs. That was good. Thanks to Chip and Jette and the reader's panel for the work. Goodbye to all that for at least a year and to 2012.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Where's this Conversation Going?

The photo was taken in July. Shorts weather. Blackmail shop window, I think on South Congress. But that's not where I'm going today.

I had brunch with four girlfriends.

The conversation began while we were waiting for our table. I said to one friend: "Is that a new muffler?" She had a pretty scarf on, but she asserted that she'd had it a long time. She said, "You know you have stuff and sometimes you don't take it out of the box...."

I mentioned that I had a muffler I bought in Germany in 1972. It always amazed me that I'd never lost it. Then I said that I still had a lap blanket I bought on that trip...a souvenir from the already over Olympics in Munich. Another friend said I should find out if it was worth anything. This segued into researching values on eBay and the Internet and how "Antiques Roadshow" folks seemed so naive about what they had.

One friend told the story of a friend's family who found, after the patriarch died, a book by Winston Churchill that was signed. Which transported her to other stories about that family including a show at the Paramount where they had front row seats. Which led me to say I preferred row T there. And caused her to say what her niece, the opera singer, said about the best seats in a hall. Which led another friend to say that she had seen a performance of a choir in Paris that she knew said niece had sometimes performed with. And she was surprised that she was, indeed, there. Which led to a description of poor accommodations on that trip. A room that smelled of smoke. And a discussion of smoking regulation and anecdotes about same.

And we hadn't even sat down. Sitting down we covered more ground. Banks, online banking, driving on ice and snow, finding old letters.

Outside, as we were leaving, we recounted all the houses and apartments one gal has lived in, all in the Austin area. None of us, not even she, could quickly summarize.

And so it goes. A conversational flow.

This is the penultimate day of Holidailies. It's been fun, I suppose but I think I will welcome 2013 with a little more silence online. Or not. At least I met this simple challenge: type something here every day. And the conversation sort of flowed at times....

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hat For Every Head

I've been goofing off, reading in my easy chair and pretending to care about football, and in the back of my mind trying to think what to write in this space for the 29th day of Holidailies.

We got two holiday cards today. One from someone who is the child of college friends of mine who sends pictures of her husband and young child and who lives maybe five miles away. Another from a proud grandfather, mailed from Seattle where he's helping with his daughter's new twins, a continent away from his own home. I hadn't sent either a card. I will now, though, to complete the loop. (Besides I have a box full still unused.)

Earlier I was sifting through social media, thinking about people and their posts of children and snow and their comments about things received and places visited and new babies.

And I decided to say: any kind of communication works for me. Whatever the frequency or form. It's good to reach out.

I've had two Manhattans and I really have nothing else to say except keep writing and talking and blogging and tweeting, snapping pictures and sending missives far and wide. Emails, snail mails, blasts to all your 'friends.' Whatever. Just keep talking.

We have to keep up the chatter.

[Photo taken at a wonderful hat store, a venerable brand but new to Austin.]

Friday, December 28, 2012

Less is More

Now comes that time of the year, that last few days on the calendar, when people start to say "Well, that's over. Next year will be better."

And they start wrapping things up. Lists of best books, movies, moments, achievements, news stories, the departed.

And they start making resolutions.

Oh, I've done it.

But this year I have resolved that, if I resolve for 2013 at all, I'd make one and only one declaration. And one terse enough to tweet.

I've had lots of ideas.


  • Try to say no more than is absolutely necessary for communication and conversation.
  • Give yourself a break. Every single day.
  • Write down what you eat, drink and do so you can figure out what works. But assume most things are coincidence.
  • Embrace complexity.
  • Learn one thing every day.

I've made long boring lists before. I've even made myself assess progress against them. But I just can't do it. Maybe I'll revisit those old efforts in the waning days of this Holidailies exercise. Just to fill the space and convince myself of past futility. Because, after all, I did resolve to write something for every day of this December. But a brief foray into that old stuff would "bore me terrifically" I'm afraid.

[Note on the picture: One more self-portrait as a vague shadow. There's a theme there somewhere. Taken at one of the household shops on North Lamar.]

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

It is not that I never accomplish anything. Slowly, slowly I get things done.

When we aren't out of town I make a little progress managing our financial life every day. I'll pay a bill, record stuff on spreadsheets and Quickbooks, balance with the banks, verify credit card bills.

I move stuff around. I almost never leave a room without picking up shoes, a cup, a glass, something that belongs somewhere else.

And I clean. Why just the other day I cleaned off the stove top. We keep our main pots and pans there and we don't cook much. The lids get dusty or spotted with stuff from the one burner we use. I cleaned everything thoroughly including the stove top itself with the special cleaner. For a bonus I scrubbed out the microwave, cleaned the door and washed the class turn table. This took longer than it should.

Today I almost cleaned the master bath. I did everything but use glass cleaner on the shower enclosure and rinse out the tub we never use. (Like the stove top it gets dusty!) This took longer than it should.

I move forward but my pace is just slow. Also I have to claim as accomplishments taking a walk or meeting up with friends.

I even seem to read more slowly than ever, not getting through the papers until late in the day and slowly plowing through my books.

Ah, well. Tomorrow I'm going to accomplish one cleaning task while FFP goes for a massage. And I'm going to 'waste' time reading or working puzzles or taking a walk or going to the gym. After all, I'm retired.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Seasons Greetings, Postal Division

I almost never opt out of the mailing of physical missives to people during the holidays. I think I did in 2010, an odd and distressing fall just didn't give me an opening for such things. 

I'm not religious. I've come to think of the New Year coming along as just a more intense month and quarter end for taxes and forms and such.

 But I do think it's a great thing to trot out our list and send something physical to people. See if the thing gets returned by the P.O. and you've lost track of someone. (This happened once this year so far but the address was perfect. Resent and it didn't come back.) Maybe include a little note for people that you infrequently (or never) connect with via email or social media or, whoa, 'in person.' 

This year I took a professional shot I'd purchased from a photographer with us and our building and some of the other skyline behind us, had Snapfish print it with "Season's Greetings from our backyard. Forrest and Linda." I ordered a couple of hundred, with envelopes. As of today (the day after Christmas) I have prepared  89 cards. Some I sent after receiving one from another party. Some I sent one day and, in a sort of mind meld, got one from those folks the next day. I have received, as of Christmas Eve, 57 cards for people and 15 from organizations or businesses. 

I used various 'forever' stamps with patriotic images but a lot of people used Christmas stamps.


Of course, we received cartoon animals (always at least one cat). We got various sort of not really holiday cards with swan or boat or deco design or reference to Mayan Apocalypse.
And we got our share of traditional themes and even some religious ones.
There were plenty of personalized ones with pictures of people with their kids or just pictures of the kids, some with elaborate multi-picture chronicles. Some included pets or obvious future children in baby bumps.

And a couple were just pix of the dog part of the family.




A number included elaborate recounting of 2012, often illustrated. I managed to read most of these to be end.

I'm sure we will receive a few more in the coming week. And I'll mail a few more, too. And then I'll start to wonder if I should do it next year. I've thought of saving the ones I received and making collages on blank cards next year. Or going back to a really mechanized approach with no hand-written notes, pre-printed labels, rubber stamped return addresses. This year I hand-addressed them and hand-wrote the return addresses. I used (and verified and corrected entries in) a database with 626 entries some of whom I'd never send a card to and a few of whom I don't remember who they are. I usually have to delete a few entries (or remove one name) this time of year to acknowledge deaths. Haven't had any break-ups (that I know of) lately but that happens, too.
It seems to be a lot of wasted effort in this era of electronic things, but still I go on and so do many others. For me, it's always a diminishing return in shear numbers (I send more than I receive) but there is a positive psychic return. And in the 'you just never know category' someone I once exchanged cards with but who is now just a facebook acquaintance from the past, found one of our cards from 28 years ago and published it on my timeline. So, I leave you, dear readers with this old sentiment from a time when these dogs were alive and we wore strange glasses: "Have a Warm and Cuddly 2013!"


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Morning, Enjoying the Time

When I was a kid, we'd bound up on Christmas morning and see what Santa left (these gifts were never wrapped) and see if there was anything in our stocking cooler than fruit and nuts. Then we'd play with our toys and maybe go to our grandmother's for the meal and 'the tree' (where you unwrapped gifts that weren't from Santa but from your family but could sometimes, if you were very lucky, include something besides clothes). We often had a lot of time to wait for the 'tree' because we'd wait for Dad to be there and he often took a shift at the V.A. hospital where he was an attendant. Extra pay on holidays. Or he'd be doing some farm chore that didn't respect the holiday. Finally we'd rip into the gifts, sometimes all at once, sometimes having everyone wait patiently while we unwrapped in order, usually youngest to oldest. Sometimes the opposite, though. Often the little kids would pass the packages around making a pile for each person.

When all was said and done, you'd have a bunch of presents. You'd have a trash can full of ripped paper, ribbon and tape. (Or some relative would be trying to preserve it for recycling.) You'd have eaten the traditional meal. My favorites were homemade rolls, homemade dressing and giblet gravy and homemade cinnamon rolls, maybe some cherry pie. Turkey was an after thought to me. I just had a little piece to enable some more gravy. We might be enlisted to set the table, to clear it, to help wash and dry dishes. Finally we'd get some time with our presents. You might start to read a book, enlist someone to play your new game or assemble or play with your new toy. Usually something would break or disappoint in some way by day's end. You might even end up getting out some old favorite thing (Monopoly or a toy you were really too old for) and engaging with it.

There was a not real pleasant denouement until you settled in with your new stuff and then you spent the rest of your vacation just glad not to be in school.

Today we got up at our usual time (some time between 7 and 8 although FFP usually rises early to take some pills and then returns to bed).

We exchanged gifts yesterday morning so there were no gifts. FFP had his usual oatmeal breakfast. I don't do breakfast but had several cups of coffee. We ate out the last couple of days and when I got hungry I reheated leftovers brought home from restaurants and had that. So did FFP.

I worked the NY Times crossword and Ken-Ken. Easy today because it's Tuesday and I always enjoy the ones I can do. A bit of a Christmas present by Christmas being a Tuesday. Crossword theme was 'Secret Santa' with that in circled cells strewn through longer clues.

We watched some episodes from the first season of the "Sopranos." (Not a very merry activity! But enlightening.) We got the disks at a going out of business sale for a music and video store (Cheapo Discs) yesterday.

I read some of the Arts section of my NY Times. I made a call to Colorado, timed to be able to talk to all of the relatives gathering for a second Christmas gift exchange. The chaos on the line reminded me of those Christmases of old as described above.

But I enjoy Christmas this way. Time to read the paper, work puzzles, play a game of Scrabble against myself on the iPhone and to write a blog entry. Maybe before we go out to a late afternoon rendezvous I'll have a nap. This peaceful gift of time is a wonderful thing. I have plenty of toys and books. Just need to take time to enjoy them.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Joy

Sometimes it's the simplest things. I'm giving myself a break from cares for the day.

We exchanged gifts. FFP gave me a book. ("My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop."). I gave him a stud and cuff link set. He also got me my favorite bath product earlier and I 'let' him buy a driving cap and fedora.

We shopped a used video and music store that's going out of business. (Cheapo Disks.) Bought some weird movies and old TV for next to nothing.

We ate at a new, fancy oyster bar. Some raw oysters and some delicious chowder.

I could be doing financial stuff or cleaning. But I'm going to read and watch videos or TV and drink coffee.

Later we will meet four friends at Ruth's Chris for Christmas Eve dinner.

Joy.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Presents

This graffiti is in South Austin. On Monroe I think. The streets really are full of presents for me. When I'm not depressed and I walk: every twig and feather, every piece of trash, every person and what they are wearing, every house, every car, every dog, every sign seems interesting. When I am depressed these same things don't seem interesting but they do distract me from my depression.

Today I was not depressed. Life seemed full of possibilities and new things to be conquered. When I'm not depressed, that's how it is. The NY Times Magazine crossword was easy. With help from FFP I finished it. Completely. No cheating. I enjoyed it. I learned a new word. Lanose if you must know. I told FFP that the blogs would rate it easy. They did. I don't care. I finished. I enjoyed.

We ate at a new place. Lucky Robot. Food was fine. You ordered and paid with an electronic gizmo on your table. The waitress was nice.

FFP shopped for hats. I was patient.

We went to Armadillo Christmas which was overcrowded. We heard music from afar. (Carolyn Wonderland.) Our friends wanted to leave and go to Threadgill's. No arguments from us. We had some drinks and food. We talked of many things. Memory and its fickle workings, the old Armadillo piano that's been brought back to Threadgill's, fine dining in NYC, couples' secret languages, books.

We came home to an evening of reading and TV. I tramped around a lot south of the river today. The streets really were full of presents for me in my current mental state. And so it goes.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Mere Reflection of Cheer

After two Blood Marys and much chatter at the Headliners mid-day Christmas party yesterday I snapped this picture in the foyer mirror while FFP ushered some people into the elevator as we were leaving. Yes I have on a red blazer. It is twenty (or thirty?) years old. I liked the bright red ball display in the foyer. The decoration here at our house is still confined to one little bendable Santa perched among the holiday cards we've received.

We went to another party last night. It didn't make me more cheerful although there were gas log fires, many stockings hung by the chimneys with care, an enormous live tree and Christmas music and people sporting the most outrageous Christmas sweaters.

It's not that I'm not cheerful. I'm just not especially cheerful. The season is not pumping me up.

The highlight of my day yesterday might have been an e-mail I noticed on my iPhone on the way to that second party notifying me that this entry was selected as a"Best of Holidailies "by a distinguished panel of readers" that  "has been reviewing all entries posted to the Holidailies portal."

As you may know, dear reader, I've been posting every day because the Holidailies portal was set up this year to urge participants to do so. My friends Chip and Jette are behind this activity. They are assisted by the panel of readers. There are 97 full-blown participants (registering each post with the portal) and there are more who just registered a link to their journal, er blog. I thought writing in this blog form (know as online journal or diary in the olden days of the Internet) would be good for me. A gift for myself if not for the readers.

But it's not a contest, right? It's not about seeing a number by your name that is close to the number of days of Holidailies. It's not about getting a 'best of.' No. No. It's about writing. Pixels to screen. Words. Sentences. Paragraphs. Leading to the people reading and getting some value perhaps. Or leading to self knowledge. It's about editing a picture for each day and wondering why you like the distance and opacity of reflection pictures so much.

Still... acknowledgement cheers me a little. Someone read about the great gifts my parents (well, Mom mostly) gave me. They thought about it. And said, "Hmmm. Interesting. Good even. Maybe 'Best of'."

And so I add the 22nd entry in this Holidailies. There it is: "Welcome to Day 22 of Holidailies" and by my name as soon as I register it the number 22. One of thousands of this antiquated thing called an online journal entry.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Weather Outside...

Well it's not that frightful. This is a window at the local Brooks Brothers store, I think, shot back in November. In any case, we did get some cool weather although last night I walked several miles with just a sweater and leather jacket and a muffler. It wasn't windy and didn't feel that cold. And, of course, no snow.

We are going to a 'bad Christmas sweater and karaoke' party tonight. I don't have a bad sweater. I'll wear some funny pins if I can find them. I will not sing. Even if they do mean for the karaoke to be bad as well.

I bought two bottles of champagne and two of Rye whiskey today. They are just 'thank you' gifts for hosts and some other folks. I wouldn't call them Christmas presents. I may try to sneak out for a surprise for FFP tomorrow. Or not.

Some would say I'm not 'in the spirit.' But I've been having the spirits. I had two Bloody Marys at lunch. I had two really nice glasses of wine last night. It's possible I will drink every day right through and including Christmas.

At least I haven't said Bah Humbug. Until now. I just did.

But, no. Really. It's fine. Let's celebrate. And rejoice. And such. Or, you do it and I'll toast you for it.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Booked Solid, Dressed Comfortably

I don't have a little black dress. (The picture is a detail from the Blackmail shop window shown yesterday and that is a reflection of me with a short-sleeved polo less than a week ago, jacket tied around my waist.)

It's colder today, in the mid-forties. I'm played tennis. With old sweats and a Polartec jacket over my shorts and polo. Then I have a late lunch/walk/talk with a friend. (We do it about once a month.) We usually dress casually regardless of the lunch spot because we usually walk a bit, too. So jeans, jacket, hiking boots today.

Later FFP and I will walk over to see the enormous light display at Zilker Park. It's called the "Trail of Lights." We used to call it the "Trial of Lights" for the traffic it caused. But a guy who used to work for us and whom we love dearly worked on it and so we are more benevolent about it. So we will walk over there and see that. And then we'll walk to a restaurant and meet a friend for wine and dinner. I'll probably go with black jeans, a sweater, a blazer and hiking boots. Because we'll walk four miles at least to do all that. The restaurant is nice, but casual. Wink on Lamar.

Tomorrow (which some are touting as EOW) we have a party in the middle of the day at a downtown private club we belong to. That will require a nice pair of slacks and jacket and maybe some jewelry and dress shoes. But the place is less than a mile away and all my shoes are flats or loafers. In the evening we are driving to a bad Christmas sweater and karaoke party. I don't have a bad sweater but I have some silly Christmas pins I'll wear on my decades-old red blazer. I don't sing. FFP might. He will not drink. Because he's driving. The noon party has free Bloody Marys. I usually make an exception to my no drinking before five for this occasion. I don't know, though, I might not drink at the evening party.

But I digress from dress to drinking.

Saturday brings a party. I could walk there but the streets around there are dark and scary (for falling more than anything). FFP will drop me off. I'll wear a read sweater or blazer. Black slacks probably. FFP will do some duty at Ballet Austin's "Nutcracker" and return to the party.

Sunday we will loll around in sweats or take a walk in jeans. In the afternoon we will catch a musical act at the Armadillo and eat at a casual place nearby. Jeans, hiking boots, sweater?

Monday is Christmas Eve. We'll probably walk and then go to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in the evening for dinner with four friends. I will dress up as in: nice slacks, nice blouse, jacket, dress shoes. Sweater or muffler if it's cold. Less than a mile to Ruth's Chris. We will walk.

Christmas Day will be lazy. Football? Walk. We will meet friends at a 24 hour diner (called 24) at 4PM for a Christmas dinner. Casual, I think. Black jeans, sweater.

Yep...I'm booked solid. But I haven't had a need for a little black dress. Oh we did our version of black tie last Saturday. I wore tuxedo pants, some great Cole Haan tuxedo flats and a top and jacket with a bit of sparkle bough at a Chico's sale.

And so it will go. Another holiday without a little black dress.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Exploring the Neighborhood

The wonderful Gail Chovan, designer and owner of the South Congress shop called Blackmail, does some fabulous windows. This Christmas it has a black tree and across the panes it says 'I see a green tree and I want it painted black...
I love shooting interesting shop windows reflecting the street scene and, of course, us in our walking garb.

One of the joys of walking SoCo are the wonderful shop windows and the variety of people there. You not only get a little validation for your odd feeling about the holiday from Blackmail's window but you can ponder who might like to receive a silver head for Christmas as you check the windows at Tesoros Trading.
And you can go inside Uncommon Objects and imagine who'd rather have a hand or two.
Yep it's definitely weird shopping. You can find some great stuff, though. I love going through the old postcards and photos and seeing toys I had as a kid fetching big prices at Uncommon Objects. (They say not to take pictures, but I do anyway. So sue me.)

I have this idea that I will carefully explore all the places within two miles of our house. That I'll explore the shops and restaurants and hotels and sidewalks and shortcuts and construction. That I'll visit the museums when they have new shows and catch performances at the theaters. And note the interesting houses and yards and yard art. There is too much to really keep up with, of course, within two miles of my house. Within walking distance. That amazes me.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Uncommon Presents


I haven't purchased a single Christmas present. Oh I sent some fairly large checks to Colorado for my sister and brother-in-law and their kids and kids' families to spend on Christmas and December birthdays. And I did buy a bottle of Rosé Champagne for a friend's birthday. But not one present purchased for Christmas and wrapped in red and green or stuck in a Santa gift bag.

I used to buy some small things for some friends, but they've agreed to call a halt to it. When we still had parents alive we'd come up with something for them to unwrap. I usually come up with a wrapped gift (if not a surprise) for Forrest.

This year: nada.

I mean, some years I probably bought scores of gifts. I'd give little goofy presents at work. I bought presents for all my cousins' kids one year, I think. I bought people gadgets and plates and socks and small leather goods and glassware and stationery. I bought people books and journals. I bought calendars for people's special interests. I purchased much gift booze. For several years I sent stocking stuffer gifts to my relatives in Colorado, carefully assembling a load of small surprises for each person.

And now. Nothing.

While not shopping but wandering in a few stores and online sites I've considered things I could have gotten people. A two volume Baedeker's guide to Germany published in the early twentieth century, in German, with lots of amazing tipped in maps for a friend who speaks the language and has spent a lot of time there. Cute Lego toys for my great nephews and great niece. (I didn't even go inside the Lego store in Rockefeller Plaza.) I considered  iPod touches for kids, noting prices and what gift cards were offered with purchase. I considered collapsible water bottles for everyone. (How handy, who couldn't use one?) Tiny lightweight umbrellas from REI like the ones I got myself recently. New varieties of whiskey and various drinks-related accessories at my favorite wine and spirits store.

I bought none of these things.

I'm sorry about the economy. And there is still the chance I'll find something for FFP (maybe I should have gotten those expensive cuff links). Maybe I'll pick up a bottle of something when setting out to be with friends or go to their parties. Or, maybe, I'll have a completely clean slate. A perfect curmudgeonly attitude. Bah. But if it's the thought that counts...I did think about presents.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Images of Myself

Everything revolves around me. Or you. Depending on whether you are me. Or you.

I have theories about things in the world. I concoct those theories them from the perch that is my fairly long, very lucky life. A life with some bumps and curiosities and some pain but, all things considered, very fortunate. I base my world view on things I saw and lessons presented by others that have held up in practice.

When there is big news you measure it against your world. When a gunman took to the UT tower on August 1, 1966 I was, I believe, in Sacramento, California. . My sister had dumped me with the parents of some high school friends and gone (with my car) to see her husband at a temporary USAF assignment. I'd just graduated high school in May. I don't remember much about how the news came or if friends writing me letters  mentioned it. Yes we wrote letters then, on paper, and mailed them.  I know I found out about it, wondered about people I knew in Austin. I know I started college in another Texas city in September without a thought that there would be a sniper on campus.

I do know a few things now about that shooting spree. We didn't have social media and the Internet to follow every development. There was much less detailed news, day after day. My future husband whom I'd not yet met was nearly in the line of fire. SWAT teams were developed all over the country to provide a better intervention than citizens with hunting rifles and a brave but thrown-together team of peace officers and civilians to end the siege. A plaque, no bigger than a foot square commemorates the fallen of 1966, without naming them, near the turtle pond north of the tower. The first on campus victim that day was an unborn child. Very little emotional or financial support was given to the victims and their families.  School was closed for one day. The blood was cleaned off the pavement. The flags flew at half mast on campus for a week while school started again after that one day. I'm pretty sure they didn't fly at half mast anywhere else in the country. President Johnson called for more gun control. Governor Connally did not see a benefit. (I remember the day Connally was shot in 1963, too.)

Whenever I think of guns, I think of the farm where I grew up. We had cows for beef, diary cows, grew cotton and corn. And we had sheep. A wild dog or a coyote could end a lamb's life in a heartbeat. There was no calling 911 to defend our little two bedroom house with the basement where we played and my mom made butter. My dad kept loaded guns on a rack at the back door. A 22 and a shotgun. I remember being allowed to shoot the 22 at a target (well a tin can). Feeling the kick, made to appreciate the power and destructiveness. We were never to touch the guns by ourselves. We were responsible for keeping our friends from touching them. Amazing. I got a BB rifle, too. I had to follow the Daisy Rules of Safety with it. In fact, my dad even corrected us for pointing plastic toy guns at others. I'm betting he wasn't there when the picture to the left was made. I never killed anything. I might have tried for birds with the BB gun. Mostly I shot up cardboard boxes and trees. Ditto with my bow and arrow. Seems crazy now to even have these 'toys.' But I did. And I didn't have a car seat or a seat belt and I rode in the back of pickups. Funny it didn't seem so dangerous as it sounds.

I do understand guns, I think. The message about harm got through. So I don't own one. I'm not a hunter and I don't plan to defend myself with one. When my father died, I thought he'd given away his guns. There was no shotgun but when I found 22 ammunition I knew I'd find a gun. And I did. High out of the reach of children. in his view at least, under a blanket, a loaded 22 rifle. The very one, I suspect, that was racked by the back door fifty years before. My dad was old and sick but I guess he would have tried to get it in a home invasion. Couldn't have come out well, I don't think.

There was a school shooting in Austin not too long after I came here. A teacher died. No one else was shot. Parents had a gun where a child could get it. That classic tale.

I knew a child at Columbine HS on the day of the shooting. He was unharmed.

I find it hard to imagine this world where weapons called assault weapons are used for sport, collected and find their way into the hands of people who somehow believe killing strangers will satisfy a need. My context is so different. Oh, we drew pictures of tanks and machine guns when we doodled as kids and imagined our plastic shoulders rattling off belts of bullets. Growing up post WWII somehow all kids sketched Nazi tanks with swastikas being overrun with US soldiers. The planes had dotted lines of tracers and bullets. The stories were in the air in that decade after the war and had entered our DNA it seemed.

My experience tells me that guns are powerful. That children don't learn to respect them in many families today and that there is too much access to them and that the assault weapons are better confined to the abstract of children's doodles, to video games and to the reality of war. (Unless we could end war. Yeah.) My experience tells me that some always respond to the latest incident of school shooting, theater shooting, mall shooting, P.O. shooting (remember those?) with some resolve to 'never let it happen again.'  We blame a tumor, parents, God, a lack of gods, mental illness, the guns themselves, workplace woes, romantic woes, bullying. We think we can fix everything but experience shows that we can't. Not that we shouldn't try. But some tries will be wildly misguided. And something else tragic will happen.

All I know is this: I will never be the shooter. Or the source of the weapon. I hope that's true. Especially now that I've given away that 22 I found, loaded, under that blanket in that closet.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Looking into the past...

[Photo is shot through a nice glass of white wine at the MOMA sculpture garden in New York City. That's Picasso's goat you can see. If some outdoor furniture weren't in the way you could see the, um, backside. Something like this, shot when having a fine meal at a restaurant, with the atmosphere of this view, the wine drinking in the middle of the day, is a moment that can be recalled easily by the fuzzy photo.]

I read in the NY Times today about apps that package up your prior social media posts and return them to you some time later. Studying one's past in this way is interesting. I was reminded of my occasional forays into old online blogs, written journals, souvenirs, letters or piles of photos. Even old receipts and budgets and checks can dredge up the memory machine. Back you go...to another place and time that often seems familiar but sometimes seems strange.

I picked a little notebook out of my piles today. Inside are notes from 2003 and 2006. There's the description of a day with Dad when we go to someone's memorial service (I don't know whose it was) and then travel to Dallas to visit his relatives. There's the description of a dream where my dad and I plummet off a cliff in his van and I wake up before we hit bottom. (I don't remember this dream or even writing it down.) There are notes from the anniversary trip FFP and I took to Paris. It seems to be about me and yet it's so distant, so separate. I read about visits I barely remember and encounters that I don't remember. (Do the others remember them?) This time is also covered by online entries. The 2006 ones are in the transition to Blogger. A lot is there but it's all very confusing. I'm glad I have the records, but they also overwhelm me. Things happen faster than I can absorb them. But what if I took it all to heart? Our forgetting is part of our mental health. The time I explored today included a friend's death and the diagnosis of another friend with a serious cancer. Time is supposed to make things easier. But perhaps only if you don't remember...or read your old journals.

So, no, I don't think I'll sign up to be automatically reminded of my social media posts. I think I'll make myself make an effort to dredge that stuff up.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

There was a time when I wanted many material things. As a kid I couldn't walk through the Five and Dime or peruse the Sears Christmas Catalog without having a long list of things I'd love to have. Even ten or fifteen years ago I'd have a fairly easy time making a list of things I wanted. Not now.

Lots of people gifted me things to do with tennis over the years. And I do still play and enjoy it. But now I have a racket I like and I've gotten  new grips and strings as needed. I have a bag for carrying my stuff. Hats, shorts, shirts, a pretty new pair of tennis shoes, plenty of socks. No tennis gadgets, figurines, calendars or funny T-Shirts required. One of the best presents I ever got was a tennis ball basket gadget that holds and picks up balls. However, I eventually gave it away because I belong to a tennis club now and these can be borrowed and also I never just go out and practice but rather play with others.

I'd like some new clothes. But finding what I want is the issue. I'd go get some custom-made if I wasn't so lazy and so afraid I wouldn't wear them out before I got my money's worth. (The ones I had made when I worked have seen better days.) But I can get by with what I have and no one, not even Santa, could pick something for me.

I am overrun with computers and gadgets demanding my attention. FFP thought about buying a really good camera but, honestly, the ones we have are good enough for what we do, I think. We have a TV in every room.

I have plenty of books and just need to spend more time reading.

I have plenty of food and drink. My niece sent some goodies from iGourmet. That will be sufficient to delight with some new tastes for a couple of weeks.

So really. Send nothing, Santa. Get some warm clothes for people who live in the cold country. Bring peace of mind to the crazies and those they've victimized. Get some toys for kids whose parents can't afford them. Leave food for the hungry. Give us some reasonable and sane laws from our government for a change.

It is fun to desire something and experience the excitement of getting it. It is nice to have a hunger satisfied. But when you only want time and peace of mind, you aren't likely to get it.

Yours,
Linda

Friday, December 14, 2012

What Are You Reading?

I have piles of books. Books I've read. Books FFP has read. Books we've both read. And many neither of us have even started. These, however, are not ours and were on one of the bookshelves in Tatzu Nishi's Columbus living room. I intentionally shot and cropped it to show the pages and obvious signs of someone reading them. Virginia Woolf, Doris Lesing, Bob Dylan, etc. How were they chosen?

We bought three books at Book People day before yesterday. One off the remainder table about the Dallas Cowboys. Another is about WW II and D-Day. Another is about Leonard Cohen's song "Hallelujah". There is a biography out about him, too, but this book is just about the song. FFP is reading that first one as I write.

I mentioned to FFP yesterday that we had no plans for Christmas Day. He said, "It's a shame because we don't have anything to read." Ha. We do have one wrapped present. It's from him to me. It looks like a book. It definitely is since I know he got it at Book People.

I have trouble keeping up with my newspapers. Not because I read them all that thoroughly but because I stop to work puzzles or read one or two articles completely. And I always feel like I should dispense with the newspapers before I read a book although I almost always read part of a book before falling asleep when I go to bed. And I often read a book on an airplane.

I need to read more and spend less time on the computer. I hope Columbus got a little reading done while he was allowed to have a living room and books. He's all alone again, up there on his pedestal in the cold, with nothing to read at night when the city snoozes a little.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Decorations of Red

This photo was taken back in November at the annual Settlement Home Garage Sale. They always have a huge selection of Christmas stuff.

In our apartment there are no decorations save the few holiday cards we have received and one lonely bendable posable Santa. (One year I brought all his friends out of storage and he got left behind when they were returned.)

No one will be coming around here looking for decoration. We are not having a party. We haven't even invited anyone here for a drink. (We've got a few dates at restaurants and parties to attend.) I'd have to get busy and dust and vacuum to have serious company.

As the song says: "Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree won't be the same without you here with me." I'm not sure who would need to show up to put me in a decorating mode. But I'm pretty sure my enthusiasm for it all died with my mom ten years ago. Here is a picture I posted four years ago, taken in 1978, that shows her working on a homemade decoration. Mom unabashedly loved Christmas and you couldn't help yourself...you were drug along.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Star of My Story

When I shot this (locals may recognize this as the door on Seventh Street into the Driskill Bar) I had the idea of doing a series of (lone) stars for my Austin, Texas Daily Photo blog. But I decided to use it today here.

I've been thinking as I struggle against (pick one or more) a cold, allergies, bronchitis, or some nameless illness that we are all our own little experimental labs with a (statistically insignificant) sample of one. I've tried  various OTC drugs to treat the obviously non-life-threatening symptoms. (Runny nose, congestion, cough, head ache, no fever.) To get a ground zero I've also tried going without any medicine for hours or days. (Except some herbal tea.)

Life is like that, isn't it? We do something then assess how we feel. Carries over to spending money. We think some object or trip or experience will make us happy. We buy something, go somewhere, do something. Then maybe we stop and say, "Whoa. I'm never doing that again!" Or: "All right. Let's do that over and over!"

There's no real substitute for this trial and error thing. You are unique and your mileage will always vary. It doesn't help for parents or friends or mentors to tell us that something will or won't work for us. Nothing works like trying it. You have to personally buy a house or get a pet or try to drink gin or quit your job and travel. The lucky among us get to try enough things by the time we are my age to be pretty safe in picking what will make us happy. Of course, it's still hard to figure what is going to cure this crud in our unique systems.

Missed Deadline

Yes, I'm doing Holidailies. It's been almost forty-eight hours since I posted. Not exactly 'daily.' I thought about it yesterday. I edited this picture yesterday to use it. I thought about writing something last night. But I didn't. Is there a twelve step program for being a blogging laggard?

Of course, it doesn't matter. I can even achieve the badge of honor on Holidailies (the maximum number by your name) by squeezing in some entries that are not quite twenty-four hours apart. (Or that used to work on the old Holidailies.) And, really, the whole thing is an exercise. It's important to go through the motions in life but you can always cheat a little bit, huh?

When we were taking pictures of the holiday windows in NYC, I was surprised to see that this one still had someone touching up the icicles blocking the elegantly-dressed mannequin in the winter wonderland. But things don't always get done on time, do they? Some things are critical, some aren't. In my world, if I get to my agreed on appointments on time, there is always another day to do chores and such, it seems. If you are lucky. There are bills that need to be paid on time and holiday cards will look silly after the 15th of January I suppose. There are consequences. I've sent about twenty cards so far, I think. Trying to at least keep up with returning the favor on the ones I receive.

Certainly work posed many, many more deadlines. When I worked for a living. Over ten years ago.

But. My life is not devoid of deadlines. The most dreaded ones loom: tax deadlines. I hate taxes. I hate paying them, of course. But I also hate the mounds of paper and the incomprehensible forms (even though my CPA figures out what boxes things go in). Congress and the President are currently contemplating unknown changes that will doubtless not only complicate things further, but throw several monkey wrenches in how we planned to fund our retirement. It makes this old lady weary. I believe the uncertainty is, itself, affecting the economy. It certainly affects my spending and giving to charities and plans for the future. All the looming tax deadlines almost spoil the festive holiday feeling. (That and the winter allergy attacks from 'cedar fever' triggered by pollinating mountain juniper.)

But here's a Holidailies entry. There's that done.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Strangers Make the World Go Round

I've been sitting here hand-addressing holiday cards and, in many cases, writing a hand-written note to enclose with the 4x8 photo cards I ordered from Snapfish. Very old school communication with people that, for some reason, we know. I have decided to avoid pre-printed labels and even the return address stamp. Sure I may introduce errors but who gets hand-addressed communications these days? (Except those that are faked up with special fonts.)

But most of our world is propelled by relative strangers, by people who manufacture, package, drive, deliver, build, connect, repair, etc. And much of our entertainment comes from the people we don't know who walk through our world. As I mentioned on December 3, I enjoy watching people at home and when traveling who just happen by where I am.

In the picture above FFP chats with a woman who walked by the Berdorf Goodman window we were photographing it. I'd backed up for a picture and I caught, instead of the window in full, the two of them exchanging a pleasantry  I don't know what was said. If I'd spoken to her I might have said, "I love that coat!" But I did not. I'll will probably never know who she is and what her path through this world looks like.

I have for a long time been fascinated by the people in my travel photos who are total strangers. People who happen to be in the frame and then, most likely, are never encountered again. Their existence for me is tenuous and yet there they were in the same place in the space/time continuum.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Many Mes


If you click on the kaleidoscopic image above and make it bigger you will see that there are many LBs surrounded by NY City cabs. This was part of a complicated display in the Saks Fifth Avenue window that had a mannequin with a panning camera, a  bunch of mirros and an old-fashioned looking TV screen constantly showing a changing image. When the camera panned by you it put a bunch of pieces of you on the screen.

I often feel like there are many LBs, many sides of me. There's the lazy one who has been fighting some weird cough and stuffy head since returning from NYC and is sitting here, after 11 A.M. in her bathrobe, drinking coffee. I've had no shower or breakfast, but I have watched CBS Sunday Morning, updated my other blog and tackled the puzzles in the NY Times magazine with mixed success. There's the dynamic one who will suddenly and inexplicably accomplish great feats in a single day. 

There's the shy me that's happy to stay home while FFP visits with a Bush daughter who is playing the Mother Ginger role at Ballet Austin today. (He is the board member who has 'wrangled' celebrities to play this role in the ballet's production for years. Made up as a buxom woman, the victim, er celebrity, is rolled out atop a giant skirt and children dancing as candy bon-bons emerge.) FFP has done the role himself. And he loved it.

There's the aggressive LB willing to yell at drivers who ignore pedestrians without regard for whether they might be armed.

There's the LB who figures she can conquer anything. That she won't be felled by any illness but will 'feel better in a few hours, and, if not, tomorrow for sure.' There's the LB who feels like she's sinking into old age when her skin bruises too easily or she gets up from bed or a chair and can't walk properly for a few steps. Then there's the LB who thinks she can sprint across the tennis court and chase down every ball even when she can't and the last point proved it.

There's the LB who thinks she can solve any problem. And the one who finds some tax forms and investment reports impossible to decipher in her remaining years.

There's the me who makes fun of typos in publications. And the one who has homophones like 'here' for 'hear' or 'there' for 'their' somehow flow from finger to keyboard.

Of course, there is the LB who is generous with charities and friends and is a big tipper and will buy an expensive bottle of wine in a restaurant. And the one who worries over every charge on the credit card and makes cash flow analyses to be sure that taxes, insurance and large obligations will have ready cash and that she can pay those credit cards on time, early even. There is the LB who is wildly liberal vis-a-vis human rights and the one that isn't so sure that the 'rich' can really provide enough tax revenue to run the country. There is the LB who considers herself rich beyond her wildest dreams and the LB who not only remembers being poor but feels poor around certain acquaintances.

There's the LB who wants to write stuff here and bare her conflicted soul. And the one who thinks, "Really? Whose business is this?"

There is the LB who thinks holiday cards are silly. And the one who is about to hand address some with personal notes inside and who is excited to get every one in the mail. (Well, maybe not the ones from brokers, real estate agents and other businesses.)

My job in life is to manage the many mes and to not let them trip over each other too much. I'm not real sure how I've done in that regard.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Secret Addiction

Lego. If there is one toy (or really an endless toy system) that can stir my childish heart then it is the one with all those almost indestructible plastic interlocking bricks. They didn't figure into my childhood because the company didn't really hit their stride in the construction toy market in the U.S. until the 1970's. I made do with Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs and an Erector Set. Cousins of mine, eight and ten years younger, had an American-made knock-off called American Plastic bricks. They were not as sturdy or interesting.

When I traveled around Europe aimlessly in 1972 I went to lots of toy stores. There were some amazing construction toys but even then in Europe there were no giant Lego displays and the brand was not the dominant player it is today. On my recent trip to New York City I refrained from going inside toy stores although I shot some pictures of the windows of the Lego Store in Rockefeller Center like the one above. I have made FFP go into the Times Square Toys 'R Us before to see the giant buildings and figures made from Lego. But during the Christmas season I wouldn't do that.

I still have the urge to buy a Lego set and put it together occasionally. But I've successfully resisted it for years. Five years ago I wrote about the Lego collection I put together and then let go. I guess there are topics I keep returning to, huh? The silly ones.

Friday, December 07, 2012

The Best Gift

I just noticed that today's Holidailies writing prompt is 'What is the best thing you ever received for the holidays?' I had just edited the picture above with the intent of using it for a piece with the boring title 'Shopping.' This is one of the 'jewel' windows at Berdorf Goodman in New York City. For the holidays they have little doll-like mannequins offsetting the jeweled baubles. Personally I don't have or want much jewelry but isn't this a lovely picture? Yours truly is reflected with her handy digital camera. One of probably six or seven digital cameras I've owned. None were gifts.

But one of my best gifts was a camera. I was in my teens and I was dying for a Polaroid Land Camera 100 with chrome and leather trim. You could get one for probably $120 1960's dollars. A lot of money. (A little inflation calculator I found indicated that it would probably be equivalent to around $900 today.) You could also get one for a bazillion books of S&H green stamps. My mom let me have her stash and I continued getting hers at the grocery store and pasting them in books. My grandmother gave me hers. I had nowhere near enough. I had maybe a dozen books. The camera required 40 or 50. My mom talked me out of the stamps, reasoning that other nice gifts could be obtained. I was crushed that I wouldn't get the camera. It was way out of range for a present back then. But on Christmas morning there it was. I took probably thousands of pictures with it. My folks gifted me portrait and close-up lenses. I was always using babysitting money for film.. My nieces, born in '68 and '70 after I was out of high school, were endlessly photographed with this camera and the originals and copies of these are cherished possessions around the family. (We used to mail the originals to Polaroid. On the adhesive backing they provided was an order form. They'd reprint the photo in different sizes.) Here's my youngest niece, just sitting up in 1970.



Yes the camera was wonderful and quite a coup to get and, unlike so many other things, the pleasure lasted a long time. I took it to college. I had it at the ready for many family gatherings. I'd stand there, posing people and then deftly snapping out the developing print and guarding it until it was dry. There was much chemical waste. And those flashbulbs that popped and crackled and heated up, only avoiding exploding fragments because of a plastic-like film over the glass. I kept the camera long after it was functional for sentimental reasons. When I downsized I gave it away to a Freecycle contact who wrote later that he'd repaired the bellows and made it work again. Of course, film is problematic although there is a group that bought Polaroid's factory machines and was attempting to make it available again.

But if the camera was my favorite gift, I'm pretty sure the Christmas when I was nine years old was my best overall Christmas coup. I wanted an Erector set. And I got the best one imaginable. It had an electric motor and it was the Rocket Launcher set and it had a picture of a 1950's little boy operating the rocket launcher he'd built. I was a wily little girl and when I picked this Erector Set out of the Sears catalog, I also picked a gift that would be considered educational and unisex: a metal world globe with little Disney characters in costume. And, yes, when we returned to school and were asked to say what we gotten for Christmas that we really liked (how politically and socially incorrect that would be these days) I talked about my new globe. I still have the Erector set. The globe went to a charity when I graduated from high school I think. I kind of miss owning it and still look on eBay for one now and then.

These days I don't want for anything. I don't have a Christmas list and, hopefully, I won't get too many presents. When I want something, I usually just buy it. While we were in NYC we looked in many shop windows but only entered a few stores. Our only purchases were two books at our favorite Manhattan indie bookstore. But I still remember the excitement of not having something, of wanting it for a long time and then finally receiving something that really did, in the end, please me to own. That's tough to achieve, I think.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Does This Room Make Me Look Fat?

I mentioned thid Tatzu Nishi art project surrounding the Columbus statue of the eponymous Columbus Circle  in New York City with a living room in an earlier post. You could climb up to it on several flights of stairs. When you got up there Chris dominated a room with couches, a flat screen TV, bookshelves with books, some other furniture and kitschy wallpaper depicting American iconic topics such as Mickey Mouse, hot dogs and baseball. 

I like things like this that change a place into an artwork. We made a special trip to see Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Gates in Central Park. When I first read about this opportunity to climb up here with Columbus it was to end in the middle of November. They extended it and we were able to see it, but it was only extended because of the disruption caused by super storm Sandy. Life is random, isn't it? And now...it's gone again, I believe, ending last weekend.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Home for the Holidailies

It's Day 5 of Hoidailies. I arrived back in Austin in the wee hours of this morning. But I managed to post four times while I was on a majorly decadent vacation in New York City. Will have to go back and see what those posts look like. The picture is a reflection of us in a Christmas display on Madison Avenue. We were headed to eat at one star Michelin meal restaurant The Modern.

It's nice to be home, of course. Disappointing that the maid won't be by to tidy up, but nice to have all your computers and tools and sartorial choices and stuff around. We stayed in a ridiculously expensive hotel. But no hotel will ever have the satellite system we have or the DVRs handy. Oh, sure there was a little TV imbedded in the bathroom mirror where you could watch CNN while you brushed your teeth. And the thread counts and mattress quality was over the moon. And the shower and tub beats ours big time. The maid would leave the TV on the smooth jazz station when she turned down the room, though. Ugh. And we love the la crema coffee the Nespresso machine made but we couldn't seem to get enough of the most robust pods to suit us. And when will they learn to bring us more hangers? (Although, to their credit they did detach from the rod! And they brought more when we asked.)

So...yeah, one day hotels will figure out how to make it just like home, only more so. Maybe. But I digress.

We are home for the holidays. FFP is very involved with Ballet Austin and its "Nutcracker" production this time of year. We've said yes to a few holiday parties. I will send some holiday cards. (And enjoy receiving some.) FFP and I will exchange presents. (He already got me one so I have to find something for him.) I don't think I'm going to do much decoration. Or serious celebration. Although the bendable, posable Santas and other Christmas figures may make an appearance if I feel like digging around in my storage cage. And we'll eat at some nice restaurants and wander through the hotels and see their decor.

I do look forward to some days when nothing is happening and I can sit down and read newspapers and books and take long walks around the neighborhood. We do plan to travel next year but we haven't made a single reservation. And, of course, my most hated time of the year looms after the holidays. Tax time.

Maybe I'll recount our NYC trip in the next few entries. It will bore you terrifically if you don't care for fine dining, jazz, museums, cabaret music, a Mamet play and strange NYC encounters.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Little Things

One thing I love about travel is the tiny observations and happenings that come your way. I need to post something now since tomorrow we have to pack up and travel back to Austin. So I'm going to just list a few of these things.

-- I love to take pictures of people looking at art or even shooting pictures of art. (As in the picture below of FFP and "The Scream.”) I didn't invent this. The NY Times runs photos of works in galleries with onlookers all the time. Still. It's interesting.

-- They have sidewalk Christmas tree lots in Manhattan. With some pretty big trees. I didn't notice this last year at this time when we visited. Not sure why. One of the New Yorkers we visited with was eager to buy one. She was going to have to buy in her own hood, though and get help to lug it home.

-- The cabs here have the shield number as a license plate number. Has it always been so? Why didn't I ever notice?

-- It seems that a lot of shoe stores are showing shoes with spikes like dog collars in the comics. But darned if I could spot any New Yorkers wearing such. I actually saw these spikes on a phone case in a shop window, too!

I am perhaps too easily entertained, right?

People

One of my favorite things about travel is people. Well, of course, you say. Who would want to arrive in New York or Paris and find lonely, empty streets with a few pieces of trash wafting in the wind?

So, yes, glad to see the cab drivers, bellmen, deliverymen, sales people, waiters, chefs, desk clerks, etc.

But I like meeting up with friends in a place I don't live. And I like meeting new people, travelers or strangers.

When we arrived in New York a little after noon last Tuesday, we had no plans or reservations until the next day. After getting checked into the hotel we got a table at Ai Fiori in our hotel and had a leisurely lunch with a glass of wine. We heard the people next to us talking about Austin. The guy left first and as the woman gathered her things and paid the bill FFP told her he couldn't help but overhear the conversation about our hometown. We knew several of the same people because she'd studied and worked in Austin. She lives in the residences above our hotel. We immediately became friends (FFP said he had seven or eight mutual Facebook friends with her when he connected later) and that evening she joined us, with her partner briefly, for drinks in the bar of the hotel. Also joining us was an artist friend who lives in Austin and Williamsburg in Brooklyn. We'd bumped into her and several other people we knew on the plane. So impromptu drinks, introducing a brand new friend to an old friend. Heaven to me.

We arranged meet-ups with other people this last week. Drinks with a couple who lived in our building but moved and now live in Phoenix and San Diego. They were just in New York to see lights and some shows. We had lunch, visited the Whitney and shopped the Upper East Side with another friend who lives in the Village and the Hamptons. We were joined by friends we've known for three decades who live in a suburb and some young Upper West Siders for brunch. We met up with Austin friends at a cabaret show at 54 Below. We dined twice with friends who live in New Jersey and were in the city. We had a nice talk with a friend who is a manager at a fine dining restaurant and she got us a peek at the kitchen. Tonight is her night off and we may meet for drinks.

And then there are the people you don't know. And never will. Yesterday we had brunch with friends in SoHo and saw a dance performance at the Joyce and dined at a favorite haunt in the Village and saw a jazz show at the Village Vanguard. It was all great fun, but I also enjoyed the time we spent having a drink perched in the window of a tiny Mexican restaurant watching people walk down 7th in the Village. What are they wearing? What are the carrying? Young? Old? Who might they be? Endless walk-on actors in life's movie.

Great shows and food. No excursion buses or trips to the top of the Empire State building. But the people!

The picture was shot by FFP on his iPhone. It is Dot, a lovely woman selling books at Crawford-Doyle Booksellers on the Upper East Side. Each trip we trek to this tiny, iconic store and, if we are lucky, Dot is working and contributes to the selection of a couple of books that we buy.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Life is Good

My Dad used to say "it's a good life if you don't weaken." I always took this to mean that fun took its toll, too, and required you to stay in shape. Later in life he did weaken and he had to restrict his drinking and didn't feel up to the travel he loved.

What I enjoy most in life is probably eating and drinking. Oh I love theater, jazz, ballet, museums, walking, people watching.

But it's the eating and drinking that will be most curtailed as the flesh weakens, I think.

So far, more or less, so good.

Last night we got to dine at the 50-year-old New York City Institution La Grenouille. Reservations are hard to get especially when folks are visiting for holiday shopping and viewing the decorations. Our friend is a regular and he got the reservation.

Intent on making our way through the dense holiday crowds ogling department store windows and the Rockefeller Center tree without being late to meet our friends, we arrived about fifteen minutes early. I ordered a Manhattan at the tiny bar in the beautiful room. (That's the picture below. I wouldn't be so touristy to bring a camera or take more fuzzy iPhone 3GS shots.) An older woman, speaking French, picked holiday baubles from a box on the bar. Turned out she was having a holiday dinner and I saw the gentlemen helping her carefully strew them on her eight top that was next to us.

The room, the service, the French food were all amazing. I didn't know if the restaurant itself would be a dowager, having seen better times but with aging patrons imbuing it with their former ideas of it. The patrons did seem to be aging but every detail of food and service was wonderful. I'd heard about this place forever and was thrilled to dine here and have the strength for some lovely wine (Duckhorn Merlot) and rich French organ meat dishes and even a soufflé.

I realize this is not everyone's life. I decided that I would not only write every day for holidays but would read other blogs from the Holidailies site. I know people struggle with budget limitations and physical ones. I know I'm lucky to have this time with money and some stamina. I remember when this wasn't my life. Sometimes I think it's all slipping away because it surely is doing so. For someone whose bucket list is mostly drawn from dining guides, this was definitely a check mark, though. It's a good life. You know. If you're up to it.



Friday, November 30, 2012

Been There, Done That, Got the Souvenirs, got Rid of Them

I'm on a trip to New York City. I like to travel or, actually, I like to be some place else, staying in a hotel, selfishly focused only on my own pleasure. I'm not crazy about airport security although I'm pretty tolerant of the getting there aspect of travel especially if there are no delays.

There was a time when I was checking places off my list. Seeing what was supposed to be seen. Now I'm happy to return to old haunts. To be reasonably familiar with a place. To walk past the guys hawking tickets to the Empire State building or bus tours and go to a favorite restaurant. I don't need to take home a T-Shirt, refrigerator magnet or a little replica of anything. Oh...I've done that. When we downsized some of my souvenirs were given away. Don't miss them.

The photo is taken from the 4th level of Time Warner Center looking at Columbus Circle. That's the statue of Columbus in fact. He is temporarily covered with a 'living room' which is accessible to the public. It's an art project by Tatzu Nishi called "Discovering Columbus."Today we have timed tickets to look the old Italian in the eye. It will be gone soon like Christo installations and the holiday windows we are enjoying on Fifth Avenue. I like photos that are stuck in a certain time although of timeless things.

Well, that's me for today trying to do Holidailies remotely. I love the old familiar feel of this Year's portal. Cheers to Jette and Chip. Last year when we visited NYC around this time we had a breakfast meet-up with Jette who was visiting, too. That's another thing I like about travel...meet-ups, planned and unplanned. More on that tomorrow perhaps. I have to go look Chris in the eye.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

New York, NY

A temporary (?) sculpture of Andy Warhol. Near Union Square. Manhattan, New York City. I am testing the Blogger app on mu iPad. Expect something of more import in December.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Zoey: January 13, 1998-September 4, 2012


I called Zoey my god dog because I knew her all her life and her mom (owner) and I went on many adventures with my last dog, Chalow. When she was still a small pup with big feet, not yet grown into the regal yet goofy standard poodle she would become, she would plop down on her hindquarters during walks and look at us as if to say 'what are we doing?' Once she discovered squirrels and her legs grew out she pranced along, sometimes starting up every sidewalk or drive. She could jump up very high from a standing start and the huntress she felt she was tested the collar and lead when something would move in the bushes. The happy picture above is from 2002 with one of the many hairdos she sported over the years.

Here's her obituary from my friend:
As most of you know about a year ago Zoey was diagnosed with cancer. For the last year she has been taking an anti-cancer drug and Prednisone and has been doing fair. Over the past couple of weeks her back legs have been slipping out from under her more and more. Often I would actually have to lift her back up because she couldn't get traction on the hardwood floor. Sometimes she would shiver even when it wasn't cold which is a sign a dog might be in pain. She made valiant efforts to hide her weakening condition but several times I let her outside and would notice her just standing in the yard, not looking around, just standing. 
Recently it was so obvious that she was in decline that I finally decided to let her go. This past Tuesday, September 4, 2012, around 12:35pm I sat by her side while the vet gave her sedatives and she passed gently on. Zoey was born on January 13, 1998 so she was 14 years 7 months and 22 days old which is a pretty good run for a big dog. 
About 2 months ago I knew we were approaching the end because I opened the door to let her out and 5 feet in front of her was a squirrel on the ground. In her youth Zoey would leap off the top of 6 steps, pompomed tail in the air, running full blast across the yard trying to catch a squirrel 50 feet away and already half way up a tree. This time she leaned forward for a moment and I thought she were going to take off once more; but she stopped as if finally accepting that she wasn't going to catch this one either. She couldn't muster that last burst of energy to fly off the step and try for the 100th time in vain to catch a squirrel, so it was clear her joy of life had changed. In life she never succeeded, but I know all dogs go to heaven which is full of squirrels; and I hear they actually catch 'em. 
Rest in peace, Zoey Ray of Sunshine, Pedigreed Black Standard Poodle born in Gholson, Texas; one of a litter of 13 adopted at the age of 8 weeks old. Living life at full throttle for almost 15 years.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Packing List Revelations

I'm getting ready to go on another trip. Not counting staycations (I think we did one of those, traveling about two miles and staying in a hotel for two nights) I have been on five trips this year and I'm heading out for another this week. Los Angeles, New Orleans (with a stop in Houston), Manhattan, the North Shore above Boston plus the Hamptons, Denver suburbs to visit family and now, this week, Portland, OR and environs. When I retired I thought it would be wonderful to travel without worrying about work. (In 2000, I went to Geneva, several places in Australia and Las Vegas for work in a short space of time. Probably made several other trips that year.)

I'm eager for this getaway to Oregon, a regular trip for us in August and one I look forward to all year long.

But another part of me is tired of pulling out the packing list and checking things off and organizing it all. Again.

The packing list.
At some point before that busy working 2000 year I decided to make a master packing list as a WORD document. The idea was that I'd copy it for each trip, edit it to eliminate things I wouldn't need for a trip, add special items and then check things off as I packed. As my life and the world evolved, of course, some things were added to or eliminated from the master list. The master list no longer calls out a PDA and spare stylus but does introduce the possibility of taking along a laptop, an iPod, an IPad and and iPhone or other cell. I've dropped off pantyhose and feminine sanitary supplies from the list. I no longer take a spare watch because, after all, doesn't every gadget tell time?

A few things are still on the list but get eliminated from the list almost every time: formal wear, robe (if the hotel doesn't have one, too bad), hair dryer (I try not to use one now and hotels usually have them). I almost never take our iPod either but sometimes it's a good thing to do.

A Downsizing Every Time
Most of us have too much stuff. But packing, particularly for a trip involving airlines, will focus one on what is really needed. If you can live on what's in that suitcase for a week or ten days, what do you really need?  I always sort of test myself out on whether I actually use everything I take. Of course, one gets a pass on emergency supplies. I always hope I don't need bandaids, Advil, stomach remedies, my tiny umbrella, spare credit cards and photo ID (kept separately from wallet), cough drops, stuff like that. But it's good to get home with almost all your under things and other clothing having been worn. If you took a book, you ought to have read it. My current dodge is to have reading material on the iPad and then to read one of the books FFP takes along. We always, always seem to visit a bookstore. And buy something. We buy papers along the way. We are never without something to read. But at home, of course, it's much worse with unread books, papers and magazines always threatening to topple from every surface.

If you have to carry it, you'll have less!

Always Take the Time-Tested
It's OK to take something new on a trip, I guess. (I'm bought a new carryon for this trip. And, yes, my packing list lists all the possible 'containers' that I might take.) But for clothes and shoes I like to take things I've comfortably worn at home. Walking shoes need to have at least fifty miles on them, preferably with some five mile stretches. Dress shoes need to have gone a few miles, too.

Money, Ticket, ID, Prescriptions
I don't take prescriptions. FFP does. The theory is that if you have money (and credit cards), your ID, tickets and prescription drugs that you can buy anything else. It's a reasonable theory, but FFP can't buy some things off the rack and it is tough for me to find clothes. Short sleeve shirts, polos, underwear, maybe shoes (but see above) could be replaced.

These days you'd be kind of lost without your smart phone. Or an iPad or something. Or both. But still, there are essentials and there are other things. We go on the plane wearing sturdy walkers, a decent shirt, nice jeans and a black blazer. Dress shoes are in the carryon (although FFP has come up with sturdy walkers that  also pass muster as dress shoes). I usually pack my dress shoes, a few under things and socks, a change of pants and shirt, prescription drugs, electronics and chargers, emergency stuff and tiny light umbrellas and lightweight anoraks in carry ons. We check one bag with more clothing, toiletries with liquids and sharps and such. I close the main compartment with a cable tie, cut off the end and place my trusty Swiss Army knife in the front pocket. If the inspectors (or thieves) open it, I'll know (unless they very carefully duplicate my cable tie color and trim). And if they steal the knife, I'll buy another. But I always have scissors, openers, etc. if my checked bag arrives.

Will You Remember What You Wore?
If the shoes hurt or you were cold or too warm, you might remember. If someone takes a photo of you, you might remember. I guess if you felt really out of place, then it might stick with you. But mostly if you were pretty comfortable, it's not what you remember about a trip. If someone takes a picture of me on a trip, I'm likely to be wearing...a black blazer!

A Trip to Regret
I am almost burned out from the traveling this year. The security lines, airline snafus, packing. But I have been trying for weeks to think of a trip I really regretted taking. Oh, there have been times I didn't mind leaving a place...to get home or go somewhere else. But later I never remember wishing I hadn't been there. I always saw something new, learned something new (sometimes about packing) or met some interesting person. So I'll keep on printing my list, packing and going.