Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Happy, Texas

There is a movie called Happy, Texas. I guess I didn't realize that there is a Happy in Texas. (Should have because there is a town named almost everything you might imagine in Texas. In fact, there are 254 counties and a lot of variety there, too. Although, for example, Austin is not in Austin County and Sherman is not in Sherman County.) Today I spent most of the day lost in the vast reaches of Texas west of Austin. My dad was driving when he decided he really needed to stop. There were no truck stops or gas stations visible, but he drove into Happy, Texas and we went to a full service gas station. The cheerful attendant pumped the gas and washed the bugs off the windshield. Made me happy.

Monday, May 28, 2007

A Book Vortex

Sometimes, even when there is a precarious tower of newspapers in front of my reading and TV chair, a pile almost obscuring my view of the TV especially if it's a TV-formatted movie with subtitles, I get seduced by a book. Ever since Joan Didion's book about grief and death and such in the wake of her daughter's illness and her husband's death The Year of Magical Thinking came out I'd read reviews in those very newspapers and been drawn to read the book. Still, struck dumb by all the books we were having to deliver from this house in anticipation of downsizing, I hadn't bought it.

One of the things we do, FFP and I, as I might have mentioned is go on vacation and read. We take books along on trips in anticipation of this reading but we still feel compelled to seek out and patronize book stores, preferably lovely little independent ones.

So while I could have gotten The Year of Magical Thinking at Costco, if I'm not mistaken, we payed full price for it, albeit the paperback edition with a gold seal proclaiming its National Book Award, at a place in Santa Fe close to the plaza called, I believe, Collected Works. We bought two books and I immediately read the other, a small tome of essays on reading by someone whose name I've forgotten at the moment, culled from a smartish publication Dave Eggers may have had something to do with. FFP meanwhile read some of the Didion book. I returned after finishing the one new purchase to Tennessee Williams' Memoirs published over thirty years ago and bought by us in Powell's City of Books in the last couple of years. I think anyway.

Sometime in the last couple of days I decided to take Didion's book along to read on the bike instead of a stack of the aging aforementioned newspapers.

For some reason I was compelled to read it through to the finish. It's a short book. But its "I can't put it down" aspect for me wasn't the train wreck aspect of it. It wasn't watching this brilliant woman felled by the inevitability of life and death just like the rest of us. No, I think the fascination was imagining that I was the child of Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne. I love my parents and they loved me. But for some reason I find kids with very literary parents an enviable lot. It's a good book and I guess there is a little something for everyone in it except maybe those who find religion their salve for illness and death. I enjoyed the peek into the literary life as much as anything.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Downsizing Blues

OK...I'm really sad about people getting old and having cancer. I know...that's the way of the world.

But I'm projecting it on the downsizing project.

Nothing matters, everything matters.

The picture shows books piled on top of my file cabinet waiting to be cataloged. They have survived a round or two of tossing books.

I look at it like a series of ever finer sieves. Things escape being discarded or given away once only to be considered for disposal again and again with an ever more critical eye.

I told FFP today that I thought I would stop cleaning out my office where things are too infused with nostalgia and regrets and clean out the kitchen or something. In my office, there are too many souvenirs and photos. And while I usually look at them as the happy times that they were...after a while it just starts to seem like a crushing march of time.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Dogs We've Known

FFP put a not-so-current picture of our current dog Chalow on Austin Daily Photo. Of course, that draws a few dog people chatting and he wondered if there was a picture of our Old English Sheepdog who died in April of 1991.

Well, there are several but this one had Oscar the sheepdog looking better-groomed than usual as we posed for a picture for our 1983/1984 holiday card. We all look pretty well-groomed that day. And talk about not-so-current!

Look at us: no gray hair. Thinner? Both dogs have met their maker but they were young and frisky then. Lucky, the little mutt in my lap, made it to '97, I think, and the age of 17.

Well, must accomplish something. My downsizing tasks are making me sad today. And the pest control people are coming and right now you can't see the baseboards in here.

The Urge to Post

Since FFP and I started Austin Daily Photo, I seem to have the urge to post something frequently. The rule there is one day=one photo. So once one of us posts there, that's it for the day.

Nothing stopping me posting here or in the Journal of Unintended Consequences, however. Of course, the JoUC requires a certain kind of post.

But there are no rules in The Visible Woman really. Not exactly.

This is a reflection of us in a window that looks out onto a deck at the Norwood Building. You will notice that my new camera (Nikon CoolPix P4) has no viewfinder. Therefore you will not see my face obscured by the camera in so many of these shots. An Unintended Consequence. Wait, wrong blog.

Well, that's it. Like I said: I just had the urge to post.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Not Disappointed...Just Sad

When I was younger, everything was a disappointment. My expectations were so high and rarely met. Doesn't happen that way much any more. I don't expect much. I receive a lot.

This afternoon I came home to find that the yard guys had done the mowing. The maid came late, but I made her leave on time. I cooked or, rather, I heated up things I bought at Central Market, hiding the containers, trying to make it look special.

"Should we call?" FFP asked.

"Not until seven," I insisted.

It wasn't quite seven when he called, though.

Our would-be guests are stressed. So stressed by her illness that she'd actually forgotten. But from FFP's end of the conversation, she wasn't well enough for an outing in any case.

We ate the meal with the two vacant seats at the table in what we call 'the room.' It was good. Especially the dish FFP prepared 'from scratch.' We drank some wine. We looked outside at the backyard where our friends who should have been our guests this evening had gotten married nine years ago this month.

I wasn't disappointed. But I was sad.

We turned on the outside speakers and took a drink outside. In spite of spraying ourselves with some foul-smelling moquito repellant (that was allegedly 'natural') the mosquitoes did bite.

I wasn't surprised at the mosquitoes. Or disappointed. But I did feel a bit sad. We watched the dark but wonderful movie "Notes on a Scandal" and that increased my sadness.

Wedding Cake Building

FFP and I went to the dedication of the Norwood Tower on 7th Street as a Texas Historic Place last evening. This wedding cake building was once the tallest building downtown.

We have been busy with activities for our charities, volunteer work, exercise and with the continuing downsizing effort. I'm getting ready to take off after the holiday weekend to Colorado. If all goes well, I'll give away another van load of stuff to my relatives up there and come home with a bunch of digital pictures of squirmy kids who will never look that way again. I bought a new digital camera. If I could have, I would have purchased a Nikon Coolpix 5900 identical to the one I have. And I could have purchased one on ebay I suppose. But I went to the camera store and got as close as I could by buying a Nikon Coolpix P4. Same batteries, same USB cable, lot of the same operation and the same type of memory (SD). Sadly, no viewfinder. My 5900 still works great but we sometimes find both of us want to have the camera. Particularly if I go on a trip without him as I plan to do this time, taking my Dad to see relatives.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Journal Dilemma

In trying to eliminate a few cubic feet from my life, I've consdiered tossing some handwritten notes and journals. When I'm gone, after all, no one is going to collect all this stuff and sell it to the Harry Ransom center for a few million so researchers can mine it for info. In fact, instead of writing something to get famous enough for that to happen, I blog. And I scribble the my mundane activities and events and thoughts into little notebooks. So, yeah. Toss them. Right? Well, I just can't. Not until, at least, I transcribe them so they can be lost in the cobwebs of my hard drive where they take far less room. What to do, though, when there is some little drawing or doodle on the page? Inconsequential, I suppose.

So glad I retired so that I can spend my entire morning at my country club and my afternoon worrying about stuff like this and helping Forrest start a blogging career.

That Old Self

Going through my closets and sorting every single thing, trying to reduce, reduce, reduce has resulted in rather too much nostalgia. And I'm not even close to done. I've been reading things I wrote in the '70's and '80's and '90's. And postcards and letters from other people and ones I wrote myself and got back from the recipient. And pictures. This one I haven't actually physically touched in a while. I scanned it into the computer a long time ago. It was probably displayed on a journal but maybe not. Scanning and transcribing things into the computer is one way to let go of the physical thing. Not that I would give up this Polaroid of FFP and I on our 13th anniversary. If I could actually find the actual picture, I mean. I have no idea where it is at the moment. As we get older we have more and more past and less and less room to keep it all, I think.

The picture is a Polaroid taken by the owner of a restaurant in New Braunfels where we celebrated our anniversary. Ignoring the oversized glasses (what were we thinking?), notice the lack of gray hair.

Nostalgia can choke you with its dust and over important poignancy after a while. Just looking at one old hand-written journal or photo can be fun. Stacks of them? Overwhelming. Sad.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

If You Can See Me...

The Armstrong-Connelly studio at the new Ballet Austin Butler Dance Education Center has a glass wall to the outside. You can see the balcony of what will one day be the Preece-Ball home. And yes we named something in the new building. The Ballerina's Locker Room I think it is.

FFP was asking me why there wasn't a Austin Daily Photo site like Paris and London and many cities have. So I decided that I would just make one. I have decided, see, that if I have three blogs then I can pretend that I'm keeping up with them. Ha. However, I will be just prowling the archives for the photo site sometimes showing things that don't exist anymore. And, in general, I'm not going to say anything about the photos over there.
Things are business as usual here. Throwing things away. Lots of memories in some of these things.

Friday, May 11, 2007


The Butler Dance Education Center, the new home for all of Ballet Austin's administration, classes, rehearsals for the professional company and small performances, is almost done. (In other words, everything Ballet Austin except the big performances will be in this building.) Silver and gold 'ribbons' are dancing across floors with words from donors.

It's been a day for me to miss people, too. Life is transitory. Perishable. Caducous. I've been cleaning out one of those boxes you keep around of sentimental stuff. We call them 'archives' or 'souvenirs.' Often there are date labels but they can be wildly inaccurate. I find that by going through them I can weed them down to about half the size.

There is sadness, though. You'll be going through the boxes flipping old holiday and thank-you cards into the recycling and the handwriting of people who are gone stops you. Or some notes you made about your goals and desires makes you pause and think how little or how much has changed for you. Or you see a signature and realize you have no idea who this person is who has in the past written a 'thank you' note to you for some kindness. Or you find notes from someone pledging undying friendship. Only the friendship has, in fact, been extinguished by them.

Among the handwritten notes, colorful postage stamps and ticket stubs is a sheet torn from a page-a-day calendar featuring words. Caducity: the quality of being transitory or perishable it reads. March 12, 1990. Nothing special about the date, but over seventeen years gone.

Imagine Me and You

Well, me and FFP anyway. See that glass? That will be my glass! That will be the glass in the living area. Beyond the columns left and right will be a bit more glass in each bedroom only one will be an office. There will be a guard rail making the balcony less scary.

But the whole thing is starting to frighten me as I deal with the downsizing thing.

Right now there are sacks and boxes on my office floor that are either destined for Freecycle or the landfill or maybe my nieces.

I know I don't need a lot of this stuff. I just wish I didn't feel compelled to look through it. To touch it, to try to figure out if there is any reason to keep it.

I found a diary from 1995. You know the old kind where you put pen to paper in a book with dates in it. It was intended as an appointment book, but I tried to write briefly about each day. It was so depressing. One person appeared multiple times but I could only barely remember anything about her. And the bit I combed from memory only came after I read that she brought over a laser disk of the movie "Sirens." That depressed me, too. Laser disks. Remember those big platters? Big as LPs but thicker? We still have some. And a player that, as far as I know, works. This diary contained mentions of other people I remember perfectly well but no longer see. Also people that I do keep up with, of course. Some things haven't changed in seventeen years, some things have.

People come and go. Technology comes and goes. It's sadly easier to shed people than technology. Technology leaves all these artifacts behind.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

See...I Even Took a New Shop Window Picture

Yes...a brand new picture from my favorite shop window...that of Uncommon Objects on South Congress, Austin, Texas, U.S.A.

And there I am, in my dog shirt, looking fat.

My computer is a mess. My desk is a mess. My house is a mess.

I even thought of spending one hour working on the 'downsizing' and then one hour writing about it. To spur me on, you know. But instead I cleaned the coffee machine and took my blood pressure and I'm reading a tennis magazine.

Maybe Frequent, Short Posts is the Answer

Maybe I should just pop in whenever I have a picture or a thought to share and post something.

We took a trip down to South Congress to visit our CPA and then we stopped downtown to look at the Ballet Austin building which is getting close to being renovated. I walked down the street west to the corner to look up at 'our' building. There is glass on our floor now. Wow.

The sun was blinding and it felt hot and it almost gave me a headache. And it's only May 8.

Monday, May 07, 2007

I'm Losing my Memory

Not really. I'm really not losing my memory. No more than usual, I mean.

It's just that I haven't been keeping a journal so that, when I forget what I did today and this week, I can refer to it. Not just not blogging. Not keeping a private journal either.

You wouldn't believe how I rely on my old journals.

So I guess I have to pick up the pace or making a record. At least privately if not in this space.

This picture is from a decorative wall in our hotel room (really a condo) in Scottsdale.

I will say this. I have been leading the good life lately with lots of exercise, tennis, fun with friends.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Where Have I Been?

We had to get home from our road trip. And then there was all the financial stuff that we had to take care of that we'd neglected. And we had to unpack, wash things up and restart the social life.

The picture is from the plaza at Taos. I took it because somewhere I think I have a 40-year-old picture of my family in the same spot. But I haven't found that.

The night after we arrived home we had a super wine tasting with friends. It included a '67, '78 and '82 La Tour. Also a Grand Cru Burgundy, champagne, steak and accompaniments. And general merriment.

I've recovered now from the trip and getting back into 'real' life. We are looking seriously at our downsizing and financing all the moving and carry costs of buying and selling. I'm trying to get back to exercise and tennis. I did go to the gym in our hotels four times which is a record for a week's trip, however. The gym at the Valley Ho in Scottsdale was one of the best gyms I've ever seen in a hotel/spa.

I know that the blogs/journals/whatever that I read need to post once in a while to hold my interest. That's what this is. A sort of heartbeat. I am here. I'll have something interesting to say (hrump) later.