Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sorry to be Short

Seems like my posts here have been sort of terse for the last few days. I guess I've fallen into a rut of just typing something in, adding a picture, obligation done. I've been writing a lot in my personal journal. But that all seems to fall in the category of "my mouth doesn't hurt or does hurt in the following ways" or "these are the things I'm not getting done."

I will try to be more of a correspondent with the Holidailies obligation. Because that is something that commands more respect to me somehow. (Yeah. Stupid, I guess. Made up obligations to mask real and present ones.)

The picture? My shadow. Tennis court. A lot of my friends can't, won't, shouldn't play and I'm humbled that I still can. One of the friends I was playing with yesterday who is older by ten or fifteen years was mystified about why I'd take a picture of my shadow on the tennis court. Explaining about a blog that begged for pictures seemed futile.

Where Is My Head?

The reflection is a cow girl shop on Second Street. My head? Well, the cycling tooth pain and mouth problems continue. Right this second, barely there. From Tuesday night until I went to sleep last night? Yeah, that hurt. But. I talked to friends and a couple are so much worse off than I am that it made me feel like a wimp. So I buzzed around doing a few things yesterday, but not enough . A good workout, catching up with friends, organizing financial stuff and I tossed a cubic foot of old boxes with software manuals and disks inside. One said 'for Windows 3.1 and 98.' Yep. Much downsizing to go, I'd say.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

To Trim or Not To Trim?

Last year we put our outside flamingo Santa Christmas decorations up and I filled the house with my (mostly) bendable, posable Christmas toys. I didn't give a party, I don't think, so it was all for us and our parental units. Now the dilemma this year is: to trim or not to trim? There is no question of lights and amusing lighted flamingo things on the front lawn. We actually sold all that stuff. (Downsizing-1; Accumulation-0.) But the cute guys shown in this picture? Still got 'em. Do I drag them out and scatter them around the house along with the cards I receive for a festive air? Do I keep them, as I've threatened to, even when we move to the condo and use them to decorate at Christmas? These guys only occupy a couple of cubic feet of space and they pack away easily when you bend their little arms and legs. I haven't planned a Christmas party and my parental units will probably just be here to 'celebrate' for a few hours.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Good News, Bad News

Don't you hate those 'good news, bad news' jokes? Well, my good news is that I did NOT have a root canal. That's also the bad news since that means I'll probably continue to have my symptoms. The other bad news is it cost me some money to get an inconclusive diagnosis. Something is probably going on. Which tooth isn't certain. Wait and see. But the other good news is I now I'm a patient of an endodontist who looks young enough to still be in high school so if I wake up one day with a walloping pain I can get an emergency appointment. And I'm assured that I'm not ignoring something that should be taken care of. I have a baseline X-Ray and exam with the guy and he'll do another in two weeks (for free if they still don't perform a procedure). La. Ti. Da.

It's unreasonable to feel good about this, I suppose.

I guess it was just that I knew I was doing everything I was supposed to do to take care of the problem if it's a problem.

To celebrate not having a root canal we went out and ate dinner really early at Hyde Park Bar and Grill. A couple of Shiner Bocks from the tap and some tasty food made me feel better. I have managed not to take any Advil since the weekend. This morning my mouth is in one of those states where I say "if it felt this good all the time, I wouldn't have complained."

It brought everything into perspective when we came home and, all our Netflix selections in the mail system somewhere, selected to watch a disk we own: Annie Hall. Alvie explains to Annie how everything is divided into the horrible and the miserable concluding "that's very lucky to be miserable."

Fact is I'm not even miserable right now. I was a couple of times over the long holiday weekend. Maybe I'd even disagree with Alvy. There are moments when everything that's wrong stands at bay and let's you have a look at being, if not happy, without immediate palpable misery.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Barely There

This post-holiday Monday I'm trying to re-engage with myself, get things taken care of and all that. I spent most of yesterday afternoon writing notes on Christmas cards, putting on mailing labels (or writing addresses by hand on a few) and stamping our return address. I know it's better to have fancy cards with printed return addresses and to hand write the recipient address, etc. But I do write something on the back of the (inexpensive) photo cards. I made up about 175 of these yesterday. These were selected from the around 500 address items in my database. Criteria for sending a card is complicated and involves many factors from whether we generally receive a holiday card from the recipient, whether I feel the need to keep in touch or see if the address is correct (will the card come back?), etc. We have received three cards from others already. Two were addressed to me and one to FFP.

I'm feeling a bit disjointed today. I am going to see an endodontist about my reoccurring weird mouth pain. My dad has been complaining of back problems and although each day he tells me "I'm getting better" he has nevertheless decided to go to the doctor today. He asked me yesterday to go today and shop for his groceries and vacillated today about whether he'd do it himself but finally decided I should do it. Which I'm happy to do. So I have a few errands. I have to mail stuff to Colorado today (some stuff needs to arrive before Christmas) and buy holiday stamps for all those cards. I have to buy and deliver a few groceries for my dad. I have to call the dentist and tell him that I'm going to see the endodontist so he can consult with him if he wishes. And I have to maybe have a root canal. Although probably not since I'm not in a lot of pain so they'll probably schedule it for later. I hate it when you have 'see about root canal' on your 'to do' list. I'd rather shop and I hate to shop. Actually I've never had a root canal, but anything dental is not my favorite. So it goes. I'm worried about my dad, too, of course. He's had a number of months without many complaints and of course I knew it wouldn't last forever.

The photo was taken on South Lamar last month. It evokes my feeling of being barely there in my own life today.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Nothing But Blue Skies

I am basically an optimistic person. But I'm realistic, too. This picture shows a cloudy sky reflected in the water at the bottom of the hole after the water main fix.

I don't expect everything to go wrong. Some things, yeah. And my world pretty much tracks those expectations. I read the papers. (As a lot of you know I spend too much time reading the papers.) I know that my life is charmed compared to many around the world. And in my own community.

I'm about 50-50 on whether the water main will leak again in my yard while I own the place. I think it will eventually leak out there again. Probably though something somewhere else will unexpectedly go wrong.

I expect most things to work. Luckily, in our world, most things do, most of the time. It does seem with three houses to look after that something is amiss a lot of the time. So it goes. Maintenance.

I expect to get better if I feel ill. I've been so lucky with my health my whole life. A problem went undiagnosed for a few years but once I had surgery for it 1970 I have avoided being in the hospital for an illness or accident since. I'm still not sure my problems with my mouth, face, head pain are getting better or if it will all culminate in the discovery of an abscess needing a root canal or some other problem. I have put off going to an endodontist even though a referral is lying here on my desk. Without a confirming x-ray (which the dentist didn't get on several tries) I understand that the endodontist will try to stimulate the pain with hot, cold or electrical stimulation. My own experiments don't trigger this reliably. But probably I should follow up. But I was hoping the discomfort would start occurring persistently and reliably enough that the source would be more obvious. That point may have been reached last night and early this morning. I have heard of people having a need for a root canal and being in extreme pain. And others being unaware of the nerve because it was dead. I'm some where in between. I haven't taken anything but Advil and the pain is not such that I would take a narcotic. But the thing is nagging away at me and I've got to see about stopping it.

Meanwhile it is rainy and cold. But I expect blue skies soon. Yep. I expect things to get better. And they usually do.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


The picture is a reflection of South Congress in the window of an art gallery showing a painting which gives the illusion of water color and tissue paper over a mundane photo of a street.

Before I retired I envisioned that retirement would be a certain way. Some things panned out. Others, not so much.

I thought I'd exercise and play tennis. This has become true. I never think I do enough activity but the truth is that my regime has made me fitter. I feel it, for sure.

I thought I'd worry about money with no regular influx from the man and having to pay health insurance and so forth. I spend time managing money, but I don't worry.

I thought I'd do drug studies. No, really. I used to read those ads and think "that is the way to pick up a little money in retirement." That is so silly, I can't believe I entertained it for a second. I hate taking an Advil for a headache. (One of the big things that has bothered me about my stupid floating aches and pains in my mouth is my temptation to take Advil for it.) I don't like taking vitamins and try to get stuff in my food. I think time will cure anything. Most studies require that you stay in the facility some of the time and show up for appointments. With my social schedule? Plus...I've noticed that many, many of these studies have an age cut-off of 55. Hello?

So, yeah, no drug studies.

I wasn't delusional about taking contract work. Every time someone has approached me I have assessed whether there is no possibility of me taking it (when it was going to be a long involved engagement in a morass of politics or was out of my ability range) and recommended someone else. When I thought I might take it, I was very clear on the parameters, gave my free advice (and totally worth it) freely and somehow avoided ever having to really turn down a contract. (I got some good lunches, though, and had interesting discussions.)

I thought I'd do more volunteer work. I really haven't although I have been sucked into a rabbit hole of the board of my club. Must find a way out of that one.

I thought I would write novels, screenplays and short stories. I thought I might even participate in making movies. I have blogged.

I thought I'd do something with my photography of shop windows and my interest in collage. I have posted photos of shop windows and computer collages on my blog.

I thought I'd get all my possessions in order, organized and labeled, neatly arranged and easily accessible. I thought the house would look neat and artful at all times. In spite of the fact that I'm facing a great downsizing (which I didn't really anticipate in 2002) I'm surrounded by piles and stacks of stuff that needs to be, well, organized and labeled. Or discarded. I think we have gotten rid of a room full of stuff (scores of cubic feet). But you wouldn't know it to look around here.

I thought I would play Bridge. Ha. I thought I would cook more. And eat more healthy foods. Ha. Ha. I thought I'd do some interesting things with the computer. Other than editing pictures for the blog and blogging. Ha.

I never set out to blog or try to read all the newspapers that show up at this house or to get better at working crossword puzzles. But there you go.

Friday, November 23, 2007


This reflection picture is from Joe's Bakery over on E. Seventh Street. Joe's, not Jose's, and waving the flag. Assimilation. Agreement. That's worth reflecting on.

There is currently a big flap here in Austin over Hyde Park Baptist Church refusing to rent their 'sports complex' to an Interfaith group for a Thanksgiving celebration. They found out that, zuts alor, non-Christians might show up and pray. That a church can operate tax-free a place that they 'rent' to other groups is what galls me. If a for-profit business refused to rent to a group, they'd be sued. Instead we let these people run a business (where would Jesus play basketball?) and skate taxes. All taxes. Including the property taxes we have to pay. Non-profits with exclusions of who is welcome there shouldn't get these breaks, in my opinion. Not charging property taxes to a real non-profit is another thing entirely.

See the table below? Yeah, that is just one of the 46 properties that belong to Hyde Park Baptist Church assessed in Austin and not taxable by any entity. It's the property worth over a million dollars, removed from tax roles by these good Christians. You are paying for their sport complex every day if you live in Austin by paying higher taxes yourself. You apparently also pay if you want to use the complex...if they will let you! Depends on whether you recognize their devotion to their one true religion as correct. I get it, of course. Can you imagine Jesus looking down on that church's sports megaplex and hearing someone offering up a wrong-headed prayer? Whoa.

Entity Name

Assessed Value Taxable Value

1,400,275.00 0.00

1,400,275.00 0.00

1,400,275.00 0.00

1,400,275.00 0.00

1,400,275.00 0.00

1,400,275.00 0.00

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Who's a Turkey?

Me, I guess. We have two Thanksgiving celebrations planned. But I don't have a turkey in the oven. At the club they've been churning out turkeys and trimmings. We plan a brunch there with the old folks (combining a celebration of my father-in-law's 97th birthday as a part of it). A friend will have us over in the afternoon for drinks and another traditional spread. (Although she's been on a diet so I expect a healthier aspect to this one.)

So there are no aromas around our house this morning. It is cooler than yesterday. About forty degrees cooler than yesterday afternoon. The paper was weighed down with extra ads. Me, though, I'm done shopping at any actual stores. Having said that I'm sure I will find myself shopping some time between now and the conclusion of the 'after Christmas return and bargain fest.' But mostly, no. I'll be eating lots of turkey, though. That's so holiday!

I'm also not working out this morning. I have time to do it before brunch. But, no. I'm going to being drinking coffee and looking at ads for stores where I probably won't shop, not for over a month.

And this evening after turkey number two? I'd like to say I'd be doing something useful on the downsizing express. But really? Napping you think?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Down in a Hole

Since two weeks ago tomorrow, we knew in our heart of hearts that something like this lurked four or five feet below. The city fretted, argued that it was ground water, leaned on their shovels, destroyed a good swath of the yard (and lots of sprinkler pipe) looking in the wrong place with a backhoe. They chatted and leaned while waiting for backhoe repairs (first a tire and then "it just kept dying"). Then they went away and sent someone to take a sample to the lab to 'show it wasn't city water.' That guy (this was Monday) said, "By golly, it's a water main leak...I can't believe they couldn't hear it." He promised they'd come yesterday and fix a great swath of pipe so it wouldn't just happen again. So they came today (not yesterday) and what did they replace? The absolute minimum to stop the leak shown above. Now we have a mess, hundreds of dollars of sprinkler and lawn damage and a piece of our driveway knocked out.

Is that the only reason I'm down in the dumps? Not really. The holiday season has succeeded in depressing me before it began. Something about needing to buy gifts when I need to throw away most everything in the house. I tried to get a jump on the season (and get some birthday gifts off) but I arrived at my favorite pack and mail store at 3:30 and they closed at 3PM...until Monday.

And each time I think my mouth will quit its weird burning...back it comes. Maybe it's getting better and maybe not.

Other than that stuff? I had a great day, thanks. And I'm making a list of things to be thankful for. And it will be a long one, of course.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


It's really easy to post something to this blog every day. It's even easy to have a relatively new picture to show you readers. (All three of you.) I'm always filling up the digital camera with photos for Austin Daily Photo and only some of them get used over there. This one was taken in Jennifter Balkan's studio during the East Side Studio Tour.

I'm often inspired by objects sitting around me, too. Although those objects are beginning to chide me as I fail miserably at downsizing. Must concentrate on what I've accomplished, not what hasn't been done. That will inspire me.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I Didn't Get Much Done

I had lots of free time yesterday. But I didn't get much done. I did an OK workout. And I went with FFP and a friend to a Heritage Society tour. My friend and I had coffee at Café Pacha and talked about the movie we aren't writing, taste, decorating and caffeine. (She actually sketched out a scene yesterday that is laugh out loud funny, but still I have faith that my block will stop her cold.) Pacha was buzzing even at three in the afternoon and we parked nearby and popped into the ceramics shop and the Home Girls to justify using their parking. (No one else was shopping.) There weren't any attractive tables inside so we sat on the back porch where we used to go with Chalow and my friend's standard poodle. Chalow is enjoying dog afterlife and the poodle had a bout of illness that cost my friend four figures after our last walk and so we sat there, dogless, and noticed this sign. We laughed that maybe ours wouldn't be allowed now anyway. (Although we always kept them seriously restrained on this little porch.)

When I went home, watching The Simpsons and King of the Hill and trying to work the Sunday Times crossword and having some beer and nachos and reading some more papers seemed so much better than actually accomplishing anything.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Holiday From Retirement

That's my reflection (in my dull costume of black jeans and plain shirt). The shop window belongs to Lucy In Disguise, a longtime Austin costume shop on South Congress. I snapped this Friday when I was a bit early to my lunch with a friend at South Congress Cafe.

We have had lots of social obligations of late, but the week of Thanksgiving everyone mostly gives it up and quits trying to schedule events outside the family. As a result the next week on the calendar looks, as FFP and I say, "clean and green." I have a committee meeting, he's participating in a tour for Ballet Austin to court a donor and I have agreed to play tennis a couple of times and do water aerobics, weather permitting. But lunches and evenings are pretty empty. We have planned to take all the parental units to a Thanksgiving buffet. This will allow us to honor the turkey and trimmings without the effort and leftovers.

So what does all this 'free' time mean? I hope it means that I'm going to get a lot of exercise, pretty much wind up my Christmas obligations and make great strides in the downsizing effort.

Let's see how that plays out!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Life Cycle

I was driving down Jackson Avenue near Mopac a few days ago and saw a vulture trying to get a road kill squirrel out of the street so he'd be safe eating it. The squirrel still looked pretty fresh and the bird kept stepping on his tail.

What else is happening in my world? The city dug a hole in my yard, broke pipes for the sprinkler system and filled up the hole without finding the leak. I'm now suspicious that the leak is under a driveway. The whole futiule destructive affair took all day and the backhoe had a flat tire (which took hours to fix) and then kept dying. They finally got dirt in the hole and put some cones around it. The cones were gone by morning taken, no doubt, by young hooligans. Muddy tennis shoe prints led south.

My mouth problems come and go. Sometimes I feel almost one hundred percent. I have avoided taking any drugs (save alcohol of course) since Sunday.

We went to a party last night at the most amazing house. Good champagne was poured. Excellent food was passed and there was a display of meats, cheeses and patés that was amazing. The house had a library that was as big as the condo I'll move into with a higher ceiling. A ladder rail gave access to the highest of the lovely wood shelves. The house was full of art. The party was to introduce the people doing the 21C Museum Hotel project here. All the museum bigwigs and Heritage society people and lots of other luminaries were there. Can't say how we got invited, but it was worth it to see the beautiful house which is tucked away off a street I travel often. The use of art and native stone made this place a beautiful retreat. While valet parking was a challenge, the house itself absorbed a huge crowd. FFP enjoyed a long talk with Gary Cartwright. At one point we found ourselves in the media room where a trio was entertaining a very few people. Michael Barnes sat down to talk about the difficulty of making all the parties and events he must write about. I wouldn't dream of having to do it like he does. Although I'm often glad to be many of the places I bump into him. I'm always amazed at how many people FFP has written about in his column. Last night we bumped into an artist he'd written about several years ago. I suddenly remembered seeing her work at the house of someone else he'd written about. FFP often has the biographies of the people around us in his brain. That doesn't keep us safe from bumping into someone who seems to know us and know when they met us who doesn't seem familiar at all. Disconcerting.

I had lunch yesterday with a friend of mine who has retired but writes plays. He keeps up with this blog and so I don't have to catch him up too much on what's happening in our usually once a month lunches and we plunge right into weighty discussions.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Stuff of Another Era

I was combing through pictures and found this one from last year about this time at a flea market on Burnet Road. It caught my eye because of the typewriters and slide projectors. Hmmm...I think there are some of those somewhere in this house. Sigh. Right now I'm in an acquisitive mode. But the good news is that all of it is gifts for birthdays and Christmas. So it will be out of here soon. I did tell a few relatives some books that I'd like so there may be an influx of stuff for the holiday. Sigh.

Seeing typewriters is always a little nostalgic for me. I remember when owning a typewriter was a big deal and promised to make a writer out of me.

For the record, it has been easy to post a picture and a little text here every day. (My commitment to NaBloPoMo.) After all...I'm displacing from downsizing!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I'll Never Be a Cook

This is my lunch. As elaborate as the sesame tofu and roasted root vegetables look, don't be fooled. Central Market chefs prepared it. I microwaved a portion. I didn't even shop for it or get it out of the refrigerator! I'm so much not a cook, that I don't even shop for food, usually. No. FFP has to shop for his mother anyway so he usually buys all the groceries. I add a few bulk things from the occasional Costco run.

So my new downsizing mantra is this: all you need for your culinary lifestyle is a good sauce pan (primarily for boiling eggs), a good sauté pan, a microwave, a toaster and lots and lots of glassware. The rest of it can go. Of course, we will keep a few other pots and pans and baking dishes. But, let's be honest about our lifestyle. And, yes, I know about all my determination to cook more in retirement. Let's just say I've gone better at almost every other goal.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Don't Overthink It

My mouth has felt so much better the last couple of days. I still have the occasional dull ache that radiates from around the new crown up into my sinuses. But it is usually so mild now that I wouldn't notice it if I weren't looking for it. Sadly, I have to go to the dentist today for a cleaning and to check out my problems. I feel good enough that I don't want to go! Ah, well. Also the hygienist at my dentist's office has, of late, made me feel like I'd taken a beating. Admittedly it didn't last long. Not like the three months of various problems I've had with this crown thing.

But when you feel good, it's best not to overthink it. Just enjoy. Isn't it funny how, after you've felt a little bad, how good you feel when you don't feel bad anymore. Sort of better than good. And...I haven't had any Ibuprofin since early Monday. A little alcohol, though. I was telling a retired doctor at the gym about my difficulties. "Your dentist probably wouldn't recommend this," he said. "But a martini might help."

[Note: Photo is a detail of a found object art work I bought years ago.]

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Jump Starting the Season

Before you could say 'boo' for Halloween, the merchants were trotting out Santa and offering free shipping for online purchases as they ran scared to their all-important season for sales. While it makes me upset to see the tinsel so early, the fact is that I always try to get a jump on the season. I have some November/December birthdays to get out of the way. And I like to ship things early to out-of-town relatives and get my holiday cards done. So I've already got the cards printed and now I just have to cleanse the mailing list, print labels, get stamps, stamp them, write a personal note on each one, etc. I have to get my family calendar updated and get that 'project' printed. And today I started buying those birthday and Christmas presents. Still. I wish they wouldn't put up the decorations so early.

The picture is from last year...with some of the Christmas 'toys' nestled in the glassware collection.

Where Does It Hurt?

I am a medical nihilist. When something hurts I figure it will get better. Usually, I give it time and maybe OTC drugs and it does. However, my teeth and mouth have been bothering me for nearly three months. It started with some elective dental work. The dentist felt an old filling should be removed because of a crack and the tooth crowned. I've been back to get a permanent crown (when I complained about the discomfort) and another time to get the dentist to find out why my mouth remains uncomfortable. But he didn't figure it out. I go again tomorrow. It alternatively aches near the crown and the older crown beside it. Pain occasionally refracts around my mouth. I think I've finally pinned that down, but an annoying other symptom has come up, too.

The trouble with pain is it is hard to pin down. Sometimes it almost doesn't hurt at all. (Admittedly, these times may be tracking with my use of Ibuprofen. Or whiskey. Or maybe they're just random.) Sometimes there is a raw "nerve hanging in the cold air" feeling. Sometimes it hurts to press the gum line. Especially near the old crown that is the neighbor to the new crown. There is no discomfort eating particularly or pressing straight against the tooth. No particular hot or cold sensitivity. The dentist did an Xray, adjusted the crown and prescribed an antibiotic regimen to see if that helped maybe indicating an infection and need for a root canal. Neither the adjustment or the antibiotic seemed to make much difference But it's hard to say given the volatility of the pain levels and locations. I hate trying to track down this thing and I have to wonder...if I hadn't let him drill out that filling....hmm. Preventative dentistry indeed!

As to the other malady that's come along with this problem, I think I may have a syndrome distinct from the possible problem with a tooth. It is called 'burning mouth symdrome.' My gums, tongue, lips burn and I taste a metallic taste and sometimes my mouth tingles or feels a little numb. It occurs with the tooth pain mostly but sometimes the ache is there without this and, maybe, vice versa. It builds up during the day usually. Apparently the cause of burning mouth syndrome can be thrush (fungal infection in the mouth and I haven't had a test or taken an antifungal), allergies, vitamin deficiency, prescription drugs, psychological problems, irritation, diabetes (only it would be accompanied by dry mouth and I don't have that), dental problems, yada yada. But in many cases burning mouth is just chalked up as a mystery. It is what is left when the causes and cures have been tried. A mystery often found in the post-menopausal woman but not affected by hormone therapy. (Yes, that is Internet research. My dentist just asked if I was depressed last time I visited. Now I know why. This time, if he asks, I'm going to say I'm as happy as a person can be whose mouth has hurt for three months!)

I've been getting the occasional sort of sinus headache, too, on the side with the new dental work. But that seems to have stopped mostly.

When doctors diagnose patients from their pain it's like a whispering game with nerves. I'm used to things just getting better. Today, after a good night's sleep (which followed a really bad night's sleep), my mouth doesn't feel too bad. I played tennis. I worked out a little. Sometimes it feels better if I exercise. Tomorrow I'm telling all this to my dentist. Or making him read this blog.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Bottle of Wine With Dinner

FFP and I were talking about downsizing yesterday and I told him I had a new rule. Anything we had that was worth less than what we pay for a bottle of wine with dinner, that is easily replaced and that we haven't used in a while is fair game to get rid of and not look back. After all, if we find we need it after all we can just forgo the wine (or the meal out) and go buy it again. Crass? Not really. We will pass these serviceable things to the thrift store. Where they will be recycled at a price good for someone who wants it and benefit our charity.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


I'm going through photos and this one is a 2004 photo taking of a French shop window. It's funny what evokes memories. Little guessing game for readers: where was this picture taken, i.e. what region?

Is it hard to write something every day here? Not really. It's about as hard as it is to "fill my days" now that I'm retired. Take yesterday: I stumbled out of bed around seven. I worked at my computer a while doing 'important things' like posting to blogs and looking at finances (and other people's journals). I made my welfare call to my dad. I went to my club and played tennis for two hours. I was hungry when I finished so I ate an egg salad sandwich and some fruit while reading the newspaper in the pro shop grill. Then I went to the gym and did a little aerobic and weight work. It was noon before I got home.

I did some proofreading for Forrest, talked to friends on the phone, walked around my front yard trying to figure out where the water from the leaking main was making caverns and channels. I talked to some young people who dropped by to take a piece of furniture (downsizing, yes!). I finally showered and during my shower and grooming I watched part of the first half of the football game between UT and Texas Tech. At half time we went downtown, found a parking place, went to the bar at Ruth's Chris to watch the rest of the game while we ate and drank. Then we went to see "Tuna Does Vegas." See how the days fill up? See how the blog fills up? OK, tomorrow I'll try to write a pithy essay.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Really Thinking...About Things

And 'stuff,' too. Actually "Really Thinking About Things" was the headline on an article I was reading today while riding the recumbent bike at the club. I had to laugh because I'd just been having a conversation with myself about how to control the clutter that the "newspaper pile" causes in our lives. I love my newspapers and as much as I like to look at things online I'd like to keep getting two papers seven days a week, one six days a week and a couple once a week. I had to laugh, too, because some of the objects the woman talked about were ones that have been giving me some pause. For example, old worn quilts that, nevertheless, are fraught with memories.

This photo was taken a couple of years ago. I'd like to tell you that much of the stuff in the picture is gone, outta here, downsized away. Sadly, it isn't so. But I did give away the cheap world globe in the picture, I think.

As to how I'm going to control newspaper clutter in the condo? I'm going to have a basket for the current day's papers that gets them out of sight. Currently, current papers lie around the kitchen. At the end of the day, I'm going to put them in one of two baskets: recycling or LB's unread. Currently, I do put some in sacks or a basket for recycling at the end of the day but the LB's unread pile lives as unwieldy stacks here, there, everywhere. Primarily on a table near my chair in the bedroom. But also in my car, on the floor of my office, etc. FFP, of course, has to be sure that he reads the papers the day they arrive or else he has to pull them out of this relentless cycle. But he seems OK with this now so it's just a matter of keeping the chaos out of sight that is created by the arrival of all this newsprint and then my desire to glance at each section before letting it go.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Water Feature

When we sell our house next year (hopefully) there will be mention in the blurb about the water features in the back yard: attractive gurgling ponds. We will spiff them up so people can imagine enjoying the yard, watching the water.

But right now we have a not so attractive water feature in the front yard. It isn't the one pictured above. No. That water main leak was 'fixed' in 2005. Fixed in such a way that it would "never happen again." (City worker's words, not mine.) Some of the details of that fun time are here.

Yesterday FFP noticed that the depressions in the yard containing the water meter and the main sprinkler system valve were full of water. I went out and cut off the water to our house. I tried to bail out the box for the sprinkler valve but it filled almost as fast as I could bail. Hmmm. A little exploration showed a river snaking around the driveway and under the Ecocrete. And the place just above the seam from the last repair was a sinkhole of mud. Now when you have a leak like the one above that is six feet underground it takes a while to fill the ground down to bedrock and start bubbling around at the surface. So this baby has already been leaking for a while. The city has had a look. They admit they have a leak. They gave it a priority three. (No threat to life or property.) They might fix it in two to three weeks. When they do the destruction to the yard will be considerable since it will be a swamp. They will eventually sort of fix their destruction. Maybe by Christmas. We will have to spend money to make the yard look decent again for buyers. Ain't it fun? Our city, by the way, chides us on water waste. Um, yeah. Can you imagine how much is being wasted every day from this leak? Maybe a gallon or two a minute. Every minute. Twenty-four hours a day. Fifteen hundred gallons a day. That's a bunch o' flushes! And I know from driving around that there are others like this, leaking away treated water for days on end.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Goals, To Dos, Resolutions

I'm all about goals. I make 'to do' lists. I am the queen of the New Year's Resolution and the random time of the year resolution as well. But I'm kind of fractured and all over the place in execution. As I say on the tennis court: "Good idea; poor execution."

I've been trying to get into better shape and stay that way. (I was trying to lose weight, too, but see here.) I made this pact to try to do 45+10+10 in the gym. That means a 45 minute aerobic thing like the stationary bike. (Actually not like the stationary bike but exactly that machine.) Then 10 sets of weight conditioning things. Then 10 minutes on some other aerobic thing (like the treadmill or rowing machine). Now I actually feel like I'm in pretty good shape and this goal is helping. But sometime I just go to the club, play tennis and come home without doing anything in the gym. Or I go to water aerobics and then a tennis workout and figure "that's it." It's not that these things aren't a little exercise. But they aren't my goals. Today after tennis, I ate a taco, drank a smoothie and then did over 45 minutes on the bike. While reading down the newspaper pile. Another goal. But after five or so sets of weight work I just gave it up. It's all about the striving after all.

The fractured picture was taken in the Guinness tourist attraction in Dublin in 2004. (One will find on the permanent 'to do' list: organize photos in the computer.)

Am I better off with unmet goals, broken resolutions and long lists of undone 'to dos' than if I just stumbled along through life as it came? Can't say. But I know myself. I'll keep making lists and making promises to myself. And hoping the half measures add up to something in the end.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Things Unseen

I always laugh when people talk about 'truth.' There are things that are pretty true but the truth is always fuzzy. And we just miss things, too. Small and large. I often notice in my shop window pictures that there are objects that were in front of my camera that I didn't actually see. I snapped the picture from which this detail is drawn at that shopping center on South Lamar a couple of Saturdays back. I noticed the camera, I remember, but not the chrome jet. It is, I believe, one of those knock-off decorative items of another era from a few years ago at Pottery Barn. I have one just like it that was a gift for my decade birthday a few years ago. It is nestled among the vintage and knock-off cocktail and coffee service collection that decorates the open shelves atop the kitchen cabinets. It is one more item whose fate will be decided in the next few months. Use in staging the house for sale? Move to the condo? Sell? Give away? To whom.

It's not too hard to write every day, by the way. It's just hard to make sense or say anything worth saying.

Note: I just went into the kitchen for my second cup of coffee and looked at the chrome plane there. It looks a lot like the one in this picture. But it has propellers. I would have sworn it didn't!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Where Will You Lie in State?

For most of us the answer is a funeral home somewhere with people filing into one or two stuffy rooms. Recent icons who passed away in Austin such as former Governor Ann Richards and former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson were in state in public buildings (the Capitol Rotunda and the LBJ Presidential Library respectively). When our friend (and seemingly everyone else's in Austin) Karen Kuykendall died last week, I could not imagine how any funeral home could accommodate a visitation before the funeral mass . I needn't have worried. The historic Paramount Theatre opened its doors to welcome hundreds of people to scatter rose petals around her coffin and view many large photos of her family and her theatrical exploits. FFP and I stayed a while, greeting family and friends. We bought ourselves a drink. ("Of course there was a bar. Karen wouldn't have had it any other way.") People exchanged stories of Mrs. K. There were laughs and tears. As we left, more people streamed in to pay their respects. Some people were clear on when they met her and why. FFP and I couldn't remember not knowing her. As I said here a couple of days ago, she will be missed by much of Austin.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Reading List

Actually, it's easy to write every day in the blog. Why? For the same reason it's easy to sit on a bike in the gym reading newspapers! Displacing. When I'm sitting here at the computer taking pictures of a stack of books and writing a blog entry, I'm not reading books or writing anything of substance. After all, I signed up for NaBloPoMo. And, yes, when I go to the club at 8:30, do an hour water aerobics class, ride the bike (while reading newspapers, not books) to nowhere for fifty minutes and then lift some weights, I'm not reading books. I'm also not accomplishing anything in the downsizing effort or doing any other necessary chores.

You know, I love my newspapers. Going through a pile (which never includes anything delivered today) on the recumbent bike is such a joy. I can read one paragraph of an article or every last word. It's like channel surfing and combining stuff about science and food and the world. When you've had one dictator and bit of man's inhumanity to man too much you can read about somebody going to Kentucky to taste whiskey and listen to Bluegrass or find a list of places to get a quick, tasty, non-Starbucks espresso in New York City. I actually read some of the Sunday Times Book Review. Sadly, I wanted to buy three books I read about. Even though I'm stuck on page 502 of Ulysses and can't seem to find time to read it.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

That Extra Hour

I just slept through my extra hour. I got up around eight, as usual, only it was really nine. So that's that. Wasted days and wasted nights.

I took this photo last night. Blackmail on South Congress still had its amazing Day of the Dead window up. There appeared to be a common theme with nearby Turquoise Door so maybe they worked on this together. It rocks.

We were on South Congress for my one Book Festival event. We went to a cattle call (or more like 'author call') cocktail party on Congress at a friend's "house" and drove the author Maxine Swann to the impossibly uncomfortable Continental Club gallery venue for an event billed as "Lit Smackdown: Fiction vs. Nonfiction." Maxine was very cordial considering the high confusion of this very Austin event. She said she at first thought the house was a restaurant. Easy mistake to make about that place. She was on a panel with Andrew Helfer, Eric Martin, Emily Rapp, George Saunders, Wesley Stace, Vendela Vida, and Amanda Eyre Ward. And the emcee was Owen Egerton who was hilarious. I would go read the work of all these people if, you know, I wasn't lodged on page 502 of Ulysses. I know FFP will be buying Maxine's work, though, and I now vaguely recall reading a review of her Flower Children. Because, of course, I read lots of reviews of books. But many fewer books.

I enjoyed listening to the writers talk even though as we all know (or those who try to write anyway) there is nothing so true as some fiction and nothing so false as our perception on any given day. They took some questions from the audience but the audience was a little feisty. It was hot, we had chairs that had been reserved for drivers but many were standing or on the floor, there was a huge crowd. So I didn't ask the questions that occurred to me. Like "Have you ever written something and then found out that it really happened?" Wesley Stace answered this during the discussion in a way. That kind of odd intersection of reality and something that just popped into someone's head as possible blurs the line between fiction and non-fiction. I was thinking of the guy in Iowa whose dog shot him. I mean you could write that. You could imagine it. And maybe it's happened before the other day. But I mean, if you read that, you'd think "that's out there." I was also thinking of asking if editing (especially rearranging and leaving things out) didn't make all writing biased if not fiction. But they kind of answered that, too.

I was also thinking about how I was reading a Larry McMurtry novel, I think it was The Desert Rose, one time long ago and Larry mentioned a store, Neiman Marcus, which exists. This was in Las Vegas. I was brought up short wondering if there was a Neiman's in Vegas. Certainly it was OK to set fiction in a real place. And to use a real store. But only if that real store was in that real place? I never found out if the store existed. This was the '80's when he wrote this so the presence of one there today means nothing. Even as I had this conversation with myself while reading I realized it was utterly petty. What if the store was a made-up one in a real city? Is that better. I thought, yes, somehow it is. But why?

The other thing that kept running through my head was dialog. How certain plays are made by a "playwright" taking transcripts of hundreds of actual conversations and using it as dialog by editing, rearranging and maybe directing the actors to have certain poses, costumes or tones.

My attempts at fiction, as I think I've said in this space before, have a "problem with the truth." I fret over times and places and real people and how things really are and get buried in that. That's probably why I'm meant to be a writer of memoirs (or just blogging) where I qualify everything with "I think he said" and "I believe I saw" and the like. BORING.

Maybe the truth is that there is no fiction in the world but there are many things that feel true.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Texas Flash

Two of our buddies went for flash at the party last night. FFP and I took the jeans+tuxedo+bolo tie route in the end. You can't quite see the rhinestone 'eyeshadow' on the gal in the back.

On the way to the party, I asked "why are we going to this again?" Himself said, "I don't know." Which elicited a snippy response from me since it was his idea. Still the party was really fine.

It was at Stubb's and there was champagne...and lots of beer.

People dressed however they pleased. I mean when you say "Texas Flash, Texas Trash" why wouldn't they? There were vintage cowboy shirts, untucked with jeans and boots. On some tucked looks there were big belt buckles.There were tux jackets and jeans. Bolos and bandanas. Flashy Dallas dresses. There was a dress so revealing that the presenter of the awards thanked the lady from the podium.

There was a dance troupe performing to Dolly Parton songs. There was a 'beer tasting' of Pearl, Lone Star and Shiner Bock. There was wine and champagne and a bar with whatever else. There was barbecue. The Kilgore Rangerettes (I'm not kidding) made a surprise appearance. There was a presentation of the Art House award. There were crepe desserts. There were tequila shots. There was two-steppin' and polka, good conversation, bull riding, bottle toss and washer throwing. What after all, not to like? We did the talkin' and dancin'.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Thank You For Not Smoking on Network TV

This picture was taken in 2001 of my friend Patrick Landrum at some event, outside smoking. I was just reading notes I took in an Austin Film Festival Panel called "Groundbreaking TV: A New Era." One of the panelists said that the biggest cultural change between the '70's and now was smoking! It's true, it looks shocking for people to smoke. The panelist said networks don't allow smoking. AMC's period piece Mad Men seemed to be mostly about smoking, drinking and office sex. It had a limited number of episodes and then went into reruns and we saw the first episode for the first time last night. They were just starting to address the fear that smoking killed in advertising cigarettes. It does seem odd now to see people smoking. Very subversive. Makes me sneeze, too. But it is not to be taken lightly. Because it's very risky.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Goodbye, Friend

Karen Koock Kuykendall, 1937-2007. This is a picture I shot of a picture that hangs in her home, a souvenir of her young self in an Austin theater production. You can see a picture of her here on Austin Daily Photo, taken in September as she greeted hundreds of well wishers at Green Pastures even as she battled the cancer that would take her life last night.

I loved seeing Karen perform. (She even gave us a song at that event in September.) But, even more, I loved having a drink with her or getting a coveted invitation to a salon-style brunch or dinner or cocktail party at her house. Last summer, she graciously helped us host an intimate dinner at her big, gracious dining table to help raise money for the new Ballet Austin home. She was a longtime, hard-working board member for Ballet Austin in addition to being a stalwart supporter of Zach Scott Theatre, which is planning to name a new stage for her in their new building.

There is a hole in the heart of Austin today.