Sunday, July 30, 2006

Are You a Blogger or Not?

When you let yourself off that leash of writing every day, then there are questions. How often should you show up? And what to write about? You have to read your own last entry to see what you were talking about. You can't just talk about today or yesterday and be confident that you have brought your readers up-to-date.

We've been having an 'arts weekend' so far. We went to a gala on Friday benefiting Austin Cabaret Theater and saw Eartha Kitt perform. Before that a jazz group from San Francisco and a Tony Bennett tribute singer entertained a bit. Afterwards, Eartha was surrounded by people getting autographs and pictures so I took a picture of Holly of the Downtown Planet and the piano and sax player from the jazz group. Holly recently scooped all the local media on a possible embezzlement scandal at the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association. And she's a bright and pretty girl. Unfortunately, I don't remember the muscians' names. See, I'm no journalist.

Even though I don't have a picture to show you, I will say that Eartha was amazing. Soft and melodic to screeching in several languages. She sang an African song that would stand up well to Mariam Makeba and she sang a "La Vie en Rose" (after setting the stage by talking about seeing the little sparrow in Paris back in the day) that, if you closed your eyes, you would have thought Edith Piaf was up there. She was sensual, showing us legs and movements someone her age really shouldn't have.

Last night we saw a play at Zach Scott called "I Am My Own Wife." A one person play about a transvestite who survived WWII and communist rule in East Berlin, the story is fascinating even if the facts are in some dispute. I found it a little slow, though. It would have made a better book where pages of exposition could evoke Berlin during all this time. I like Berlin and am intrigued by its history. There is an autobiography I find. This play did win a Tony for best play, though, so my opinion doesn't count, I guess.

We had a couple of guests last night. FFP wanted to go to Jeffrey's after and no one objected. We had some half price appetizers on their late Saturday night happy hour and some expensive drinks (a delicious glass of Bogle Pinot Noir for me) and enjoyed our company.

No arts events planned for today. But this morning it looks like we will go for a cheap Mexican breakfast. Always a good thing to do on Sunday morning in Austin. You know, if you aren't a church goer.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

It's the Not Knowing

Yeah. It's the not knowing that drags us along. We can predict certain things, assign them a probability, but we don't know until it all plays out.

My dad's brother died. He didn't recover after we visited him in the hospital. The picture on the right is my dad's family with his parents and all his siblings save the one as yet unborn. Dad is the small, hopeful-looking boy, dwarfed by his brother and older sister and even a bit shorter than his younger sister on his right.

Dad and I were talking about all the unknowns and how it is good not knowing as we drove Monday to the funeral in a little town northwest of Dallas.

Dad has had his eyelid lift since I last posted here. Technically called a blepharoplasty according to the surgeon, what was done was the removal of excess tissue from the eyelid. This excess flesh was pushing his eyelashes against his eyes and generally making his eyes uncomfortable and interfering with his vision. It went rather well. His face was (and still is) bruised but he never had swelling and the incisions have healed nicely. He said he kept thinking he wasn't going to last long enough to make this surgery worthwhile but, after finding it uncomfortable for two years, he just decided to get it fixed. I don't like the idea of cutting and I hate the nurse maid role, but I went along with it. And it has turned out well. Soon the only evidence will be his rather more wide open eyes. The bruising around his eyes has faded leaving bruising around his cheekbones that puts everyone in mind of Kiss makeup. And I guess he'll get Medicare's money's worth and last a while with his better vision and comfort.

We spend a lot of our time planning for the future, doing uncomfortable things for comfort later. We are never sure how it will pan out. We know we will die but not when and the journey until that time can take a lot of turns. August 1 approaches. August 1, 1966 saw a sniper (Charles Whitman) on the UT Tower ending a lot of lives and turning others in directions that hadn't been dreamed of. FFP was on campus that day. He escaped harm. But it would be wrong to say he wasn't changed.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Blogging isn't Progress!

Or is it? It's instructive to look at pictures taken before you were born, isn't it? My sister looks happy, doesn't she? Just kidding. She was always good to me. And she liked having me around, I think.

I have to get that invitation done for my dad's party.

Instead of working on that or working to get the place tidy and organized I spent yesterday in dalliance. (I bet that word isn't used too many times on the WEB today.) Yeah, we went downtown for brunch and walked around, saying 'hi' to other people brunching who we knew. I dozed over a couple of disks from Netflix. (This Indian movie, 'Fire,' was very good.) I'd been neglecting Netflix for reviewing movies for the festival. I also watched the very long 1987 movie 'Cry Freedom' which I'd never seen. I read the entire Sunday newspaper and finished Saturday's, too. Which doesn't mean that there aren't still piles of unread newspapers in these parts.

It was a nice way to spend a day. But not very productive. As the week unfolds, I have appointments and duties. I should have done more yesterday.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

My First Year

The original of this photo is on a newly exposed clean part of my desk, stacked among others representing milestones in my dad's life. I have a HUGE desk, by the way, but there is rarely a clean space to work and look at things like this. The desk wraps around me and goes about six feet in two directions. It is 36 inches deep but of course that means some space is wasted in the corner. There are surge protectors, a stack of storage cubes with a TV and cable box on top, a computer, phones, scanner, ink jet, reference books, external hard drive, a cable modem, router, hub and chargers for various batteries. I try to relive the clutter every now and then. There are two keyboard drops and two stacks of drawers. Anyway, there is a little work space at the moment but something will suck something into that area any moment. But I have scanned the little heap of photos into the computer. That is some tiny progress.

This photo was taken during the first year of my life. I don't know what I'm doing. Stretching? Reaching for Momma? She must be taking the picture. Dad seems comfortable holding me but my sister, clutching her doll, seems a little disappointed in the living doll she has received. For the record, that's the shadow of my dad's work shirt collar, not an early evidence of the spiky hair I exhibit occasionally now.

So I am cleaning up. I need to go buy some more archival photo storage sheets and get these back photos filed away. What's that I hear you saying? That things are getting messier faster than I try to clean them up. Ah, well, yes.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

My Dad in Pictures

I haven't found any of him as a young kid, but I've captured him in 1941 with Mom. He's about twenty-five.

I have actually been working on the organization and such. I've scanned some pictures for the 'story' of my dad's ninety years. I'd actually scanned this one before and used it on a 'save the date' card I distributed earlier in the year when I reserved a time for his party.

I actually did a couple of other things to get organized, too. I like to keep the disks and instructions for software and gadgets in their original boxes. But they take up so much space that I decided to just fold the outer boxes for some of my stuff into a folder and put the stuff inside. I came across, also in the same closet, my parents' first photo album. It was falling to pieces so I had earlier taken it apart and put each fragile page in an inert plastic sleeve to preserve it.

All that youth and hope. It amazes me to see my parents quite a bit younger than I am. In this picture they are less than half my age! My mother is probably nineteen.

The only question is: will I get organized before I'm ninety years old?

Watch Me Clean Up!

I have this obsession with getting things tidy. I long for clean neat rooms, open space on the desk, neat drawers and closets where you can find everything.

But in the digital age there is more to getting things organized than all the physical stuff. There are all the docs and photos on your computer. Copies and variations and obsolete and useless stuff. With good things scattered about, too.

Then there is that intersection of the physical and the digital. Like the document on my computer that purports to list the contents of my fire safe. And finding a physical photo and thinking "maybe I should scan this into my computer." Where, of course, the picture becomes more clutter.

But I *AM* trying to tidy up. At the same time I'm trying to give some stuff away and get an invitation together for my dad's 90th birthday in a couple of months. But it's hard to get started on it. I'd rather blog. So I thought I'd let you guys follow along.

I started looking through digital files. To tidy them up and to look for pictures of Dad for use in the birthday invitation and maybe to make a slide show for his party. This picture is of the Sony Center canopy in Berlin. It has nothing to do with Dad. I just stumbled on it. It was taken in 2002, I think, on my last trip to Berlin.

Bien moins jaloux de leur survivre

So yesterday was Bastille Day. I was driving home from the club and the local public radio station was playing a rousing version of La Marseillaise with a huge choir and an orchestra. It was long and I wondered if there were really that many choruses. I thought "I bet you can find the words on the WEB."

So this morning, when I was trying to sleep in but FFP and the dog kept waking me up for this and that, I got up, brewed a cuppa in the Capresso and found that had the words. In French and in English. So I settled in for a pleasurable few minutes with my computer and my giant Harrap's French/English dictionary. I realized that I just don't know that much French. That, coupled with my difficulty understanding sung words in any language, has meant that for years I couldn't get past 'Allons enfants.' Which means "Let's go children." Those are the first words.

Before the last refrain there is a strange chorus that is a bit ghoulish. It is all about avenging or dying and it expresses an eagerness to join one's ancestors in death. "Bien moins jaloux de leur survivre." Much less eager to survive them. " Que de partager leur cercueil" Than to share their coffin. Hmm. What an interesting song. And even though I had the translation there I looked up a couple of words in the dictionary. And I remembered using my pocket translator to translate this word in 1989: cerceuil. I was in the hills of Provence near Mougins village in a country inn. I'd gone on a trip with some girlfriends. I'd gone to the village and gotten some papers. An earthquake had devastated the San Francisco area. The paper talked about the double decker freeway collapse in terms of "cerceuils de béton." Coffins of concrete.

Illness and death are on my mind. Who knew the French National Anthem was just going to reinforce it?

I tried to find a picture from Paris that I hadn't shown you. Well, this one was taken in the Musée d'Orsay. They have a giant cutaway of the old Paris opera house and this is a detail of it. I suppose it would have been more appropriate for a rumination about "The Phantom of the Opera." But, oh well.

I made another decision this morning. When we downsize and severely curtail the amount of stuff we are carting through life, I'm going to keep my gaint French/English dictionary. But a lot of stuff I'll just count on looking up on the WEB.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Closing In

The world is an enormous place. Sometimes your little part of it feels like it's closing in, however.

This photo was taken out the hotel window (the Fairmont in Dallas) on our little jaunt up there the other day. My hand and camera look enormous with respect to the buildings. All those offices. People inside. (Well, usually. I think a lot of them might have been empty when I took this.) All those people, everywhere.

FFP and I've been discussing downsizing a lot. The very admission that we need to reverse the acquisitive trend and reduce our stuff and move into a smaller place with less responsibility highlights the general helplessness we all feel as our time winds down.

Yesterday I took my Dad to see his older brother in the hospital. When we arrived a woman from admissions was arranging a small marker board on his chest and snapping a digital picture. It was a VA hospital but I still found it a little shocking. "Can you open your eyes?" she asked. He didn't though. Not for her. He did for my dad. My dad's brother is ninety-two. It looks like he might recover from this pneumonia and move back into his small room at the nursing home. Maybe.

As we headed downtown last night to celebrate a bit for FFP's milestone birthday (we are celebrating the entire month), I got a call that my friend in South Africa had some upsetting news about her cancer. She's been fighting it nine years. Will it finally win?

The reminders of the finiteness of one's life flit around me. The big old world keeps turning...but we may get off at any time. And, if not, a lot of our mates will.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Times Change

This picture was taken on Cole Avenue in Dallas. When I was living nearby (on Abbott St. in Highland Park) there was an upscale (to me) restaurant in a deconsecrated church. Today it's a burger joint. Here it is reflected in the glass facade of a tall building across the street. That wasn't there when I lived there.

My trip to Sherman and Dallas over last weekend and the holiday sure put me in mind of how much things change over several decades. And yet there are glimpses of what was. And even I don't remember the church being a church.