Saturday, July 28, 2007

Tennis Nostalgia

Ever since I learned to play tennis, I've enjoyed watching it and reading about it. I learned to play a little in 1970. I don't play a lot better now, but I've played for most of the 37 years since.

In sorting old memorabilia, I found some ticket stubs for a tennis match from the (now defunct) World Championship of Tennis Tour. The Tour culminated each year in a final in Dallas. It never took on the importance of a grand slam, but it was right there in my home town before I moved to Austin. I had gone for a few years before this '76 event. If I'm not mistaken, my future husband went to Dallas from Austin to see part of this event with me. We would marry at the end of the month above. My memory is always a little vague on such things. I do remember seeing a match at WCT between a young (17?) Bjorn Borg and an aging Rod Laver (must have been forty).

Also, in, gulp, downsizing news...I have all these old VHS tapes that we recorded TV programs on. Some are pretty easy to toss. Say you recorded a "Northern Exposure" episode. It is or will be soon enough available on DVD. I already own a couple of seasons. No worries. A showing of the venerable movie "Casablanca" recorded off a TV airing? Already own the DVD.

But I found a VHS tape of the 1980 Wimbledon final. After 27 years the tape is still watchable although there are blackouts and static interruptions and obvious deterioration. I figured I'd watch a little of it, see how bad the quality was and toss it without a thought. I watched the whole thing. It is beyond fascinating for both the tennis and the culture. They play a tie-breaker in the fourth set that goes to 18-16 or something. They come to the net and, frankly, hammer out a better version of tennis for spectators than today's stars. And Borg's fiancée smokes nervously in the stands. Imagine seeing someone smoke in the stands today.

And what to do with this old video? Lots of tennis matches are available on DVD and the Wimbledon people used to sell this one. It is out of stock and, of course, it wouldn't be the U.S. version with all the old commercials either. Well, it occurs to me that I can't agonize over every thing this way or I'm never going to get through downsizing. Downsizing. Can't finish it. Can't quit talking about it.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Drowning in Memories

I said I wouldn't mention downsizing again. But it's hard to avoid. Some friend suggested that I scan some stuff and then discard it. Sounded like an excellent idea. Only. The discarding part is hard. Thirty-five-year-old ticket stubs. Gosh. Once you save them this long, it seems silly to part with them. Even if you scanned them. They won't take up much room in this box....

Oh, I'm finding stuff to part with all right. There's a box or two full of ephemera and souvenirs that are either going to an interested party or into the trash. If there was a little kid standing here right now, a little kid like I was fifty years ago, that little kid would get all kinds of foreign coins and stamps and stuff to cherish and 'collect' and play with. Only there is no such little kid here just now.

Another thought I've had for the last few weeks is how long it will take to go through all the pens, pencils, markers, clips and other stuff that we have in cups and drawers in every room. This stuff does accumulate. And since we have entirely too many rooms, some of it accumulates in every room.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Morbid Thoughts

Maybe it was Lady Bird's several day tribute with the funeral, fifty-mile cortege and the burial, all on TV. This shop window on South Congress (showing Day of the Dead folk art) seemed to illustrate my mindset. Anyway, I've been thinking about how we all end up. Even though we never know what the end will be. They say that but then you see people in nursing homes with Alzheimer's or in the hospice in the final stages of some fatal disease and you are pretty sure where they will end up. For some of us, we keep breathing for quite a while after our fate is sealed. For me, my body seems to be working. But the clock ticks. My dad seems obsessed now with his birthday. He told me a few days ago that he would be 91 in two months "if he made it." He doesn't have any new complaints and he is getting around and doing a few things. He's been coming to the club with me for water aerobics, climbing in and out of the deep end on the ladder. He's been trying to kill poison ivy at his house and he says he washed the filter on his AC unit. He shops, eats, reads, naps, visits with people, tells jokes. The mere numbers, though, seem to impress him now. Somehow this extra year over ninety more so than last year when we celebrated the 'significant birthday.' I think he does a pretty good job of living every day. I guess I do.

People who are struggling or who have already succumbed to the inevitable are on my mind just now. It happens.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Reading List

Picture of random books taken some time in the past somewhere in the house.

I am tired of talking about downsizing. That isn't all I do. Really. Right now I'm reading three books. Well, I'm reading two books and I'm listening to another one in my car. I go from riding the recumbent bicycle to nowhere and reading James Joyce's Ulysses to driving home in the car listening to an unabridged A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith on tape. At home I'm reading Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being. OK. I'm reading that in the bathroom, I will confess. Too much information I'm afraid. Of course, I'm reading newspapers. The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Austin American-Statesman. I've read a few articles in The New Yorker of late, too.

I'm about 200 pages in on Ulysses. (My edition has 933 pages.) So when I'm reading that I'm immersed in the conversations and stream of consciousness of people in Dublin in 1904. I've well-prepared myself for this endeavor. (See here.) Still it's a dense and confusing book. Fun, though.

I'm at least three quarters of the way through A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and it's been good listening. I decided to listen to the tapes since I still have a cassette player in my car. After I finish this listen I'm going to give them to a friend. So I'm transported to the early twentieth century there, too. Williamsburg, Brooklyn. A clearer exposition but lots of details of life there.

I'm nearing the end of The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I love the movie made from this book and I'm always thinking about it as I read. But the book has lots of philosophy and such, too, it's not straight narrative. So they both stand quite well, the book and its movie. Here I'm in the late '60's and early '70's in Czechoslovakia and Switzerland.

It's funny how the books you are reading occupy a little track in your brain. And when there are three? Well, it might seem like clutter but it works pretty well.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


The big news here is that they are burying Lady Bird Johnson this morning. The ceremonies have taken all weekend. We didn't line up along the 50 mile route of the cortége. Instead we slept in and are sitting around the house pondering what to do with our Sunday.

Death is a time for reflection, of course. As are birthdays and the anniversaries. We've been celebrating a birthday for Forrest and last night attended a friend's party for her birthday. (She has the same birthday as Forrest actually.) There was great food at the party as the honoree is part of the food community and restaurateurs and foodies contributed to the pot luck. I took deviled eggs "à la Russe" as I call them. I mix up the filling with capers, onions, lemon pepper, lemon juice and mayo and top them with a bright colored caviar. When competing with foodies, deviled eggs are a good choice. Lots of people love them. No mater how many you make (I took 32 halves) you never take home leftovers. And usually no one else makes them.

It's lovely to have a day with no obligations. But it's an obligation in and of itself to not just sit.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Cubic Foot of France

As those of you following along at home on the downsizing slippery slope may know, I often think of my 'stuff' in terms of cubic feet. As in "how many cubic feet did you take to the thrift store today?" A few years ago, I decided that my growing collection of travel guides and maps and clippings about places I wanted to go would be best collected in boxes so that when you got ready to go somewhere (or a friend asked for stuff about a certain place) you could just pull out a box. So it happened that I have a box labeled 'France' with about a cubic foot of stuff about France. Which would be sad enough if there weren't also a box with about as much material labeled 'Paris.' There are other boxes, too. For 'New York' for example.

This system of organizing the travel-related stuff works well enough. But now that I'm downsizing one has to ask whether all this really bears saving. Also, I found one very mysterious thing in this box. Stationery from a hotel in Paris. One that I'm pretty sure I never stayed in. OK, I'm completely sure I never stayed there. It is close to the last place I stayed in Paris so maybe we wandered in and got the stationery to remember the place? Or someone who stayed there brought it back for us? A look at the place on the WEB makes me want to go stay there! But where did I get this stationery?

So what did I do? I bookmarked the hotel's page on my computer. And I put the stationery back in the box with all the books, maps and language guides. And I closed the top. This will get decided another day.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Sunday we were visiting the South Congress area. Some businesses have moved or folded and the ones occupying space keep tending to the upper end of the scale. Uncommon Objects, its doorway reflecting us and the church across the street in this picture, has remained. Selling the odd and the end and always decorating their windows in an amazing way, they soldier on.

I've enjoyed buying things at Uncommon Objects. I've bought weird bookends, objects for the cocktail shaker (etc.) collection and some fake pastries. I once considered starting a fake food collection. Really. My problem for the years from the end of the eighties until 2002 was that I always had a rather large office at work tempting me to decorate with weird collections and stock it with books and such. And at home I had all this storage, many bookshelves. Every remodel (1994, 1996, 2004) brought an upheaval of moving stuff around that resulted in some divesting but eventually bringing more storage and more temptation. I had money and stuff was fun to shop for and look at. I dabbled in ebay. I went to discount stores. And I wandered into junk and antique shops and came out with stuff. People gave me presents. They were often inspired by my weird collections to give me really weird (but cool) stuff.

Given all the acquisition it is surprising that I'm not drowning in stuff even more than I am.

Much has been given away. Much has been thrown away. But I think I still have those fake pastries.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Brings you Up Short

Sorting through a box of things I'd saved for a collage project. (Remember there was plenty of storage around here if we were going to stay in this house.) I come across this 1997 photo. I'm sure this was a duplicate copy of this picture. I used some film camera or the other on this trip. I probably ordered several copies of all the photos I took. Who knows. The sun gleams off the Twin Towers as we sail down the Hudson on the QE2. Other pictures I have somewhere show my co-workers who were on the trip with this basic backdrop.

I saved the picture out. I don't know where the other copy is, at the moment. (Not that I looked for it.) I scanned it. As you can see.

The whole downsizing thing is depressing today. I have posted on Freecycle (a Yahoo group to give things away rather than toss them) to find a home for several cubic feet of weird stuff. We tossed some more books into the thrift store pile. We have cleaned off all the shelves in the hallway in preparation for painting the hall. I was talking to a friend who is also moving to the condo building downtown next year yesterday. We keep reassuring ourselves that it is OK to let things go. To not get depressed about it and just find good homes. We enjoyed the stuff while we had it. But, yeah, it's hard to know what to do with some of these photos! Here's one of me with eyes half closed, a case of bed head and a frown. Maybe I'll scan that one and put it up tomorrow.

And so it goes. I'm looking forward to having a lot less stuff. The process can get tedious, though.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Downsizing, The Subjournal

Part of downsizing is sorting stuff that has been sorted before. Including allegedly arty photographs of collage-like arrangements I took with my Polaroid 100 back in the early seventies. As I pondered what to do with these photos it occurred to me to scan them, creating more clutter on my computer, surely. And in this blog. But the photos are interesting and bring to mind other clutter, other ideas, other selves.

I thought of making a journal just about the downsizing effort. Instead I've just labeled entries here. (With 'downsizing' and 'stuff.') After all I'm contributing to two other blogs and there is a limit to the attention I should pay to blogging. When I should be sorting, tossing, deciding, consolidating, cataloging, arranging.

These little collages were arranged by me in an apartment in Dallas (well, Highland Park, actually). Before I moved to Austin (1975). I'd acquired an old type tray at a flea market, I think. I had also acquired some old wooden and iron type somewhere. The overgrown piece of okra? From my Dad's suburban gardening, I suspect. The bell peppers probably from the grocery store. (A favorite way to 'cook' for me then was to heat up some butter, thrown in chopped onions, bell peppers, mushrooms and sauté them and see what developed...maybe adding some browned meat and cans of corn, tomato sauce, whatever.) I didn't cook pasta that much but seem to have had some dried pasta on hand. Various ephemera I'd collected included wine corks, some ration coupons from World War II, Scrabble tiles, a rock that looked like a cameo, a ticket stub from the Deutsches Museum in Munich, a small ceramic turtle and a piece of coral. And a paper 'hanger' from a bottle of beer I bought on a train in some French-speaking part of Europe. It says "ne la jetez pas par la fenêtre...vous peurrirez blesser et même tuez quelq'un." Which, I believe says, given my limited French "don't throw it (feminine, la bouteille, the bottle) out the might hurt or even kill someone."

It's interesting to think what happened to the things I owned at that moment. I only recently gave that Polaroid to a camera collector. I obviously saved the photos and the biodegradable things are gone. The coral? I don't have a clue. There are shells and natural things on a display in the house but no sign of that. I know that my mother-in-law tried to give the type tray away without my permission, it was retrieved and then, at some point I gave it away or sold it myself. I don't know if the type is still around. Mostly the stuff has flown. But the pictures remain. I remember taking them. Thinking them somewhat artistic, I guess, but not really being satisfied. I've always been intrigued by collage and wanted to create collages. Fact is, these photos turned up in a large box of stuff I'd saved only for the purpose of creating collages. Now, though, I've decided to save these photos in an 'archive' box. Sorting and sorting again. Only when I give stuff away or toss it in the trash is its fate sealed. I'm saving some of the stuff in this box with the idea that I'll give it to the arts magnet school for the kids to work into collages. But who knows? Maybe I'll throw the stuff away or sort it again!

If every piece of junk in this house gives me this much pause...I'll never finish downsizing.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Barely There

Ever feel like you are sort of missing from your own life? I don't know what it is but I feel disconnected today. Unable to solve some problems. A bit of a digestive upset (probably not helped by eating nachos, but hey I ate a 'good diet' yesterday and the upset came before that lunch). Doing things but not feeling like they are particularly useful. How to deal with that? Well, I usually deal with it by hibernating and reading and watching movies or TV. All the while thinking, on the back burner somewhere, about how to bring me back into my life. I think I here thunder out there. I guess it's going to rain again. Maybe the rain is the problem.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Junk as Art

Every quarter or so we get a postcard from the city announcing 'Large Item Pickup.' They promise to take lumber, furniture, appliances. They announce all kinds of rules and regulations. On the announced day piles appear at the curb. One of our neighbors had been accumulating odd items in one of their two driveways. Worrying that the house was becoming a hoarder house I was glad to see that a bunch of stuff is on the curb, hopefully waiting for the city trucks. (Which never arrive on the announced day, it sometimes is weeks after when they show up.) A piano stripped of its front and keys appeared among the neighbors stuff. It's amazing what accumulates and deteriorates in our lives. We have had some equally puzzling stuff hauled away from our place.

Oddly, since we are the downsizing royalty at the moment, we don't have anything on the curb. I'm not saying that we shouldn't have. I think there may be a few things in the storage shed that the city might pick up. But we have paid for hauling on a lot of stuff already. And nothing we could put out would look as forlorn and almost lovely as this old stripped piano in the rain.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


What was it old Kris Kristofferson said in that song I loved to hear Janis sing back in the day (the early seventies for me). Oh, yeah. "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose."

Be that as it may. When I know we have no plans for an afternoon and evening and nothing to do tomorrow during the day on the 4th...the alleged celebration of the nation's freedom but really a day for too much sun and pleases me. I like some 'free' time. Even retired I look forward to it.

I'm afraid the sun (if not the booze) is going to be spoiled for a number of people by the incessant rain. As I write this I hear it continuing outside. Lakes are closed.

We plan to watch Wimbledon (if it's not rained out) and in the evening have dinner with some friends at their house.

No flag picture today. Just the reflection (yeah, yet another) of yours truly in a junk shop window on South Lamar.