Thursday, January 31, 2008

Curating the Long Goodbye

It's not bad enough that you are reading a blog that already (before this one) has 99 entries labeled 'downsizing.' Yesterday I had this idea....

Now, I have lots of ideas I don't implement from novel and screenplay plots to theme parties to business ventures to art works.

So this idea came from, well, downsizing of course, plus the desire to have some people over to the scene of thirty years of parties and fund raisers and entertainment before we turn over the property to someone else to fill with their stuff and create their own memories.

I thought that it would be interesting to have people over and to curate stuff that is still here with a little 'show catalog.' There would be descriptions of objects, where they came from and where they were (perhaps) going. There would be descriptions of things that happened in the rooms.

Here are a few silly examples:

"This room was added to the original back of the house in 1994. The northern doors from the kitchen were originally windows in a breakfast nook and the southern doors (from the room the owners called the 'bonus' room) was the backyard egress with one door and a small porch. The owners remember their Old English Sheepdog when his eyesight was failing missing the small porch all together in his eagerness to come inside when called. The room features a cathedral beaded ceiling and a built-in media center and built-in surround sound. Equipment is still in place to place antique media like VHS videos, Laser Disks and cassette tapes. The room was used to host benefits and events for Project Transitions, Austin Cabaret Theater, dance companies, Ballet Austin, Austin Lyric Opera and many others. Private events featuring plays, music and frivolity with various guests lists were sprinkled throughout the decades and featured this room for the last fourteen years."

"The Doug Whitfield paintings in this room were purchased at various times in the past. The first two on the left and right of the north wall were purchased at the Fiesta at Laguna Gloria from the artist. Year unknown. The owners plan to try to use some of this art in their small condo. But bids are welcome."
At the parties where we passed out these 'catalogs' we would serve drinks limited to the partially-full bottles of booze and the wine accumulated over the years in the climate-controlled closet we call a cellar. The old-fashioned (original) metal sliding doors in two of the bedrooms and the front of the refrigerator would be used to put up with magnets various ephemera found while going through every box, drawer, closet, nook and cranny of the house. As shown in above scan. Meticulous museum-style descriptions would be in the catalog, of course.
Well, it's the end of the month. And I have duties. So enough of this frivolity. But you get the idea. My mind is full of amusing and unimplemented ideas. Just as my house is full of amusing and underutilized 'stuff.'

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Time for Reflection

At least the photo is not another shop window. It's FFP with his reflection at Jeffrey's bar. (Which is remodeling. The tile murals are altogether gone now.)

I am very jealous now of the time I spend (usually in the mornings), writing whatever I like here in the Visible Woman's space and/or over at Austin Daily Photo and/or in The Journal of Unintended Consequences and/or my private journals. Even with 'duties' pressing in on me (errands for Dad, a workout, downsizing, end of month business stuff, taxes, chores, organizing stuff for my country club board duties) I still spend some writing (well, typing anyway) and fooling with my digital pictures, usually from the time I get out of bed until time for my tennis game or I feel I must get started with my day.

It is a pleasure to write, er type. For me anyway. I know it is painful for some people. And I know that feeling when you have to write something specific and it isn't coming. But diaries, journals, blogs? Say whatever you want? What's not to like.

So that's how I start most days. At the computer. Caffeine and reflection. (And not just in the photos.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Je Ne Regrette Rien

Okay, this picture. I took it of my left hand in the summer because I got this bruise that looked, well, like an 'old lady' bruise. And I thought "man, I'm getting old." I didn't know how I got it and I haven't had one that looked like it since. I didn't look at it with regret when I saw it, though. Regret isn't something I spend a lot of time on. I'm turned toward the future, hopefully armed with lots of learning. From mistakes.

I asked my dad if I could do anything for him this morning on the phone and he said "not unless you can turn back the clock about twenty years."

It's best not to regret anything except the inexorable passing of time. And you can't stop that so why regret it.

I asked FFP yesterday if he regretted giving anything away. He said not really and I said I hadn't either but he said that I once wrote that I regretted giving away an espresso machine he gave me when we got married. Ha. I guess I did write it. (He's seldom wrong about these things although I don't remember this.) I don't regret that now, for sure. We never used it after we got into owning a Capresso.

My lack of regret over giving things away is giving some measure of confidence to keep on tossing. Of course, it isn't going fast enough. But each cubic foot is a victory and there are little flurries when we get rid of a lot of stuff.

Last night we were dining with a very young lady (not yet thirty) and talking about bad financial advice we'd taken. I don't regret that either. I'm just glad that in spite of bad advice and our own boners we've managed to hang on to a little something.

Yeah, regret. It's so yesterday.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Time to Be Productive

Photo taken at a ceramics store on Burnet Road on Saturday.

I have to make it quick this morning, limiting the time that I allow myself to write a few paragraphs and sip coffee. It's funny but retired people also take their weekends off sometimes. Yesterday I was particularly lazy. I dawdled over coffee and writing and then watched the Australian Open Men's Final off my DVR while making sure I didn't find out the result. I drank more coffee and ate migas FFP made.

Then I had a workout for a little over an hour, starting a new book on the bike. (No, I'm on page 609 of Ulysses, no where near the end, but I wanted to read this one so I could loan it to my dad to read.) The book is Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded. My sister gave it to me for Christmas. It seems fantastic from what I got read.

Anyway, when I got home from the gym and showered it was after 1PM. FFP and a friend of ours had picked The Savages to see. My friend said something like "I want to see a light comedy that is uplifting at the end. But given the choices my short list is The Savages and Let There Be Blood." FFP had picked The Savages in spite of a desire to go to an Alamo. So by 2:50 we were watching previews at the Arbor. There seemed to be lots of violent, horror and fantasy in the previews. I leaned over to my friend and said: "I don't think I'll see that. Aren't aging parents scary enough?" I thought, from the reviews, that The Savages would be all depressing with a dysfunctional parent wreaking havoc on children in old age revealing all their flaws and wounds. It was all that but managed to have this vaguely uplifting finish that was either really silly, just tagged on at the insistence of the producers or a failed attempt to bring closure where little is ever found. I ended up liking the movie and liking the characters played by Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman in spite of the fact that they are types of characters I love to hate in real life. (She: pathological liar; He: Self-important academic. I love academics but only if they see the humor in it.) I guess what I admired was the set decoration and the direction and how everything added up for you just like you were peeking in on these people's lives.

Anyway, enough with the movie review. I should have seen this movie in the Austin Film Festival and for some reason I didn't. So, having spent time on it yesterday, I spent the evening eating take out Chinese and drinking wine and then watching Suddam Hussein's FBI interrogator on 60 Minutes. And then watching Talk Radio on DVD. (It is a fantastic story. I never heard of the guys in it until I read a movie review. It was pretty good. Especially the costumes.) And working the Sunday New York Times Magazine crossword. (Almost finished it.) And reading a little bit of the paper otherwise and falling asleep.

My day slipped away. I 'took it off' I guess as much as a dilettante can. (Reading and watching movies being my job, you know.)

Today has to be different. I have to get a quick workout and take care of business for my dad. His handicapped placard needs to be renewed. He needs errands run and I'm going to accompany him to a doctor's visit. I have to be more productive than I was yesterday. But it was Sunday.

Of course, now I've spent more time on this entry than I intended. Well, onward, dear readers. Get on with your days, too, now.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Age of Things

This picture was just taken yesterday. (I know, you're welcome, not that you can tell much difference from my recycled shop window pix.) The shop is Home Girls on Burnet and they sell vintage stuff. You can glimpse a deco-influenced piece as well as the cat and me. All vintage things.

I'm reading Objects of Desire at the moment. (Among, you know, all those other books.) Its subtitle is "The Lives of Antiques and Those Who Pursue Them." It's funny, while downsizing (I'm getting rid of this book as soon as I've read it!) to read about serious collectors.

The older something is, the more trouble I have throwing it out. This is true whether it's a hand-written note or a ticket stub. A magazine or a video tape.

Yesterday I was gung-ho to get some stuff straight. I started a standard chore (doing laundry) and then started on the downsizing/organizing. I was attacking a shelf where I'd stacked a few old VHS tapes I hadn't had the heart to discard. One was labeled "1982 Wimbledon, Day 4." In fact, I discovered it had the Women's final, Men's semis and commercials for several of FFP's old clients. (Not to mention technology commercials for IBM that were hilarious.) I did manage to toss one other tape I couldn't get to play, but I wasted a lot of time watching this one. The pleasures of it! Men in short, tight shorts. Chris Evert, married at the time to John Lloyd listed as Mrs. J.M. Lloyd on the scoreboard. An umpire who sounded like the butler in "Rocky Horror Picture Show." The wooden rackets. Admittedly, I'm a sucker for tennis (witness all the Australian Open coverage I've been watching of late) but this is way beyond that. I could give this tape up (and probably will) but there is not much chance of recapturing it later on DVD. The match videos available on DVD probably have British commentary and certainly no great old commercials. And there aren't many available, I've found. The tapes are deteriorated, sure. They are over twenty-five years old! And I could transfer them to DVDs myself, but that's way too much trouble. So I'll probably watch this one last time and give them up. We won't even talk about the fact that there are still four VHS players (maybe five?) in this house. The one I played this on a friend was tossing out and I wired it in the bedroom so I could watch film festival submissions on VHS there.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Pleasure of Wearing Things Out

When your shoelaces break, when a small hole or two starts to develop in your sweatshirt, there is that 'ah, gee' thing you experience. But, if you are me, I then figure it's time for something new or time to revel in the patina of something old. There is a certain 'je ne sais crois' in a ratty old sweatshirt or a pair of jeans you've wore out and softened over years of wear and laundry. People today buy clothes distressed by the manufacturer. (Even I admit that my jeans don't start out as stiff 501's. Of course, part of the that is my hips and thighs can't deal with 501's!)

The photo is a detail of a picture I took in 2003 of random stuff I'd collected in a drawer or box...spare shoelaces (and whimsical ones at that) and memorabilia and little junk. I have been sorting and paring down this sort of stuff all over the house. And still it appears somewhere else, in a forgotten corner.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Where in the World?

I watched intently as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated Rafa Nadal yesterday. (What an inspired match from the Frenchman.) Every time I see Rafael Nadal play I think about where he comes from. Mallorca in the Balearic Sea. I wouldn't even know where that was except once, long ago, I was in Barcelona and I met a bunch of young Americans and we took a boat to Ibiza. The boat stopped briefly in Palma de Mallorca. But we were seeking cheap off season accommodations and food and we went on to Ibiza. I remember the boat getting there was exceedingly slow but we were on a different boat on the way back and it must have taken thirty hours. Or so it seemed. What a neat place Ibiza was though. Beaches, seafood. I believe I had a room with bath for about $4/day. It included three meals. But I splurged on a seafood feast I told my parents about in a postcard (above). For $2. I especially remember the delicious fried squid. Funny how when you've been somewhere the geography becomes less elusive.

For the record Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was born in Le Mans. He has an ethnic French mother and a Congolese father. Hmmm, now where exactly is Le Mans? Yeah. I don't think I've been there. But it is north of the Loire. And I've been there.

I hope I can travel more in the future. After the year of real estate hell and assuming we find some good help for the parents. Because travel is the best geography lesson in the world.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dad, the Past and the Future

In 1952 someone snapped a picture of my dad and his mother and all his siblings. Dad is third from the left.

In 2008, yesterday, Dad had a day surgery but was put under general anesthetic. After which he informed the nurses he knew how to take care of himself at home, told them a few jokes and, once home, insisted on cooking his own lunch.

Yep he's a trooper, my dad. His own dad died in 1948 and his mother (center) would be dead in about a year. But fifty-two years later he is still going. (As are three of the sisters in this picture.)

You wonder when you see a picture like this if anyone in it could imagine the future. And you think, probably not. That's just how I feel, too. I can't imagine the future even as I try to plan for it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Big Changes, Small Changes

This was taken a little over a week ago, peeking into the hole for the new Austonian condos. (Much fun has been made of the name since we call ourselves Austinites, but I figure its their hundreds of millions, you know.) Change is happening fast downtown and once ground is broken and hole is dug then before long up it will go. (We hope. Intel shell fiascoes would be bad for high rises.)

Our situation is changing, too, as we prepare in tiny small steps to change residences. We are going to buy new things, pick and choose from our old things, move things.

I like the changes small, really, but occasionally you have to make the big change. In 2000, we put my parents through it by having them decommission a house they'd been in for over thirty years and be homeless for a few weeks and move into a totally new place. My dad is settled into that new situation now and loath to change. FFP's mom and dad are dug into their home of over sixty years. They aren't even accepting of our change. FFP's mom wants to capture some furniture we are getting rid of for the move.

I was thinking yesterday about the subtle difference that small changes can reading habits, writing, exercising. I'm always bellyaching about not accomplishing anything in retirement. But that's just because it's been the small things. Reading more. Becoming more informed. Writing more if only journals and blogs. Exercising and improving the quality of that very slowly.

I've learned where Gambia is located.

I've built up to the point that I used twelve pound weights for my bicep curls.

I've started James Joyce's Ulysses if not finished it.

I've taken the time to turn a single word over in my mind, making sure of the spelling and the dictionary definition. For example, dilettante. It's hard to remember which letter is double in that kind of word. And it's such a powerful word, too. Encompassing both a love for arts and the concept of being a dabbler. FFP says that when our move precipitates a need for new business cards that we will put on them, for a title, that single word. Dilettante. I love it.

Yesterday I was in the gym and I was thinking about sorting through the stuff, collage art and digital photography and a poem I wrote and a list I started of 'everything I owned.' I thought it would be funny to fuse photos of stuff and that list in a digital collage. Ha. I know I'll get that done. Well I went so far as to locate my poem again:

Dabbler, Babbler, Dilettante
Flitting about
Cannot stop.
Focus Free
Excuse me,
I must hop!

And I found my random list of stuff composed over several weeks or months in 2004. Happily or sadly a bunch of that stuff is gone. But not enough of it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Most Difficult of Subjects

No. It's not hard to write about shop windows. Sometimes family and love are a little difficult. Yeah, that's a tough one. Worked on a little essay about money for this space, but I haven't posted it. It's a gnarly subject. And today the stock market is crashing so it's an even more sensitive subject. Can you say recession?

This shop window reflection is from 2004. I can't see where I used in on my blog back then but I probably did. There are several things I like about it. Maps and globes, of course. But also the possibility that my hair is visible and wild. Of course, it could be a tree or bush!

The rain fell and while the weather was depressing it quelled my cedar fever. It left even the clay courts unplayable for tennis, however. I was bad about exercise yesterday, though. So I need a great workout today to make up for it. And I need to accomplish more than watching a zillion minutes of tennis, a French DVD and a program about how man made things would fall apart without man. (Yeah, History Channel. Not that great a show.) And reading papers and working crosswords. Because that's about all I did except for doing a few chores for my dad, lunch with a friend and a walk through Best Buy looking at things I didn't want. It was a Holiday for some working people and I took a holiday myself, I guess. But not today. Today I'm all about accomplishing things.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Favorite Aunt

I like my dad's youngest sister and the man she married. Because of their fierce independence and their willingness to keep going and come back from accident and illness to reclaim that. This is a picture of lobster pots on the dock in Maine when we visited their (summer) home in 2005 and went to the coast for a lobster and steamer clam feed and a look at the scenery. I wish they wouldn't maintain two homes. One in the middle of nowhere Maine and a rented apartment in the Dallas area. It's too complex, I think, when you are getting older. I mean we are almost two decades younger and we are simplifying. But still. I love the way they embrace life, the way my uncle hints that we need to go eat a bunch of raw oysters and exults when we do it, the way they have their cocktail at 4PM, health and situation permitting. When they are in Texas they sometimes manage a trip down here, but they always seem to manage a trip to Memphis to gamble. You have to love it. But I worry, yeah, that one day they won't be able to manage it all.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Family Dancing

[Picture is from September 2006, Design within Reach Store, Austin.] Note cool hairdo (not). And yet, no gray.

I love seeing my family. Especially my dad's sisters and my cousins from that side. Yesterday my cousin from Houston came over with his wife and two of my dad's sisters and the younger one's husband were down from Dallas. What I don't love about seeing family is wondering why my cousin (who is younger than I if only by a year or less) has gray hair. And why my aunts are older and my dad is using his walker around the house. We played a domino game called Spinners. It's mostly luck with a bit of strategy if you care to concentrate. Everyone can still follow the game and match the pips and complain about their bad draws.

But it's hard to ignore when you are with family how old everyone has become. Except me, of course.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Books--A Photo

Digital photos are cheap to keep. You can buy a terabyte of network storage for less than $300. This was a little bookstore in some town in Oregon. (I'm sure we actually bought something there.) We collected a quaint museum and a market there, too, I think.

While I'm down, down, downsizing, FFP tells me that the mother-in-law is shocked that we are letting some furniture go that FFP had before we married. We kept meaning to replace the table and breakfront since the style wasn't too our liking. Now she wants us to move them into her little house when we break for the condo. Naturally we just said 'OK.' I told Forrest that maybe she would outlive us and then she would have to deal with everything eventually. We laughed. But someone does have to deal with it. Eventually.

Friday, January 18, 2008


Last time I visited Portland I snapped this picture in, obviously, Powell's City of Books. This section had books on toys and and couple of handy ladders for employees. I had quite a collection of books on toys and pinball machines. I gave them away. Even though I have lived in one place for thirty years, it isn't that hard for me to realize that there comes a time to let go of mounds of stuff, pieces of furniture, old ideas and ways of doing things.

I'm going to keep collecting bookstores. If not books. And I'm going to let go of furniture and acquire new stuff that works in the condo. Some changes aren't that hard for me. But some are.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Things Change

This photo is almost four years old. The shop is Tesoros Trading on Congress. I think the store is still there although they've also opened on South Congress and this store will go away when a hotel gets built on the two hundred block of Congress. Everything would be different today in the reflection anyway. Not to mention that the small girl shopping inside would have grown up. Change is the way it is. But we are so resistant to it.

It seems I have to face change more and more every day with our parents aging and our own downsizing and organizing.

Touching all this stuff, usually multiple times, before it is given away, filed away, shredded or tossed is both burdensome and joyous. We find ourselves reveling in certain memories, marveling at people we once knew. We shake our heads at opportunities and money lost and at the accomplishments we managed to eke out of circumstance. I'm going to enjoy this process when it's finished, enjoy living with a smaller number of select things. I'm sure of it. But the process is painful sometimes.

Today some relatives are visiting my dad. Reminders of the passing of time will abound.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Don't Encourage Her

My friend the playwright treated me to lunch yesterday (we take turns) and while we discussed his upcoming reading and Frontera Fest entry he somehow managed to encourage my shop window reflections. He went so far as to say I should have a show. Ha. Well, I have the artist's statement after all. So you have my friend the playwright to blame for this 2005 example. I tried to remember where I was when I took this and I finally did but only by consulting old journals I have online where I used a similar but even tighter crop and showed the picture before.

I don't think I'll be inviting you readers to a show of my photos any time soon. But you may be subjected to more of them in this space.

Meanwhile I am still blowing my nose and such but somehow I feel I've turned a corner in fighting this allergy or whatever it is. I hope so because I'm going to try to exercise, make a meeting and accomplish some things in the great downsizing of 2007 and 2008. Or maybe I will just enjoy feeling better and sit here and drink coffee until time for the meeting. There is a danger in feeling better. You might just revel in it unproductively.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Eyes Wide Open

FFP was shooting some pictures at a party last night for potential use in the neighborhood newspaper to which he contributes his weekly writing. The party was given by a young people's arm of the Heritage Society, Inherit Austin. We are honorary 'not so young people!' I guess they include us to do a little PR for them, but their parties are great. This was at the historic Littlefield House on the UT campus and the president of UT, Bill Powers, came by and met everyone. Lots of handsome young folks at this party. A tall friend offered to shoot us and he got a pretty good picture.

I'm still fighting allergies et al and yet I'm going to try to rescue a sick friend, play tennis and have lunch with another friend. I took a strong dose of cold medicine to alleviate the symptoms to get through the brief reception above. Worked pretty well. Have I mentioned that I hate being sick?

Monday, January 14, 2008

The TIB File

A reflection at the Austin Java City Hall Cafe. Enhanced with software.

Since we are deep in the downsizing here, touching everything and deciding its fate, it was natural for me to think of the family TIB file and how you keep some things because otherwise you fear there will not be evidence of how crazy things actually were.

The TIB file (not to be confused with the tub file or the round file, a euphemism for tossing something) is a file of truly incredible, um, brochures, briefings, bric-a-brac, banterings, um, well, actually the B, well it stands for something else here but you've probably already guessed it. No matter. Really, in our house, one of the shortcuts of language of our three decades plus relationship is 'TIB file.' It means a place for something that is (pick one) too hilarious/unbelievable/insulting/misogynistic/perfect for that book I'm writing on corporate stupidity to throw away but I have no idea where to file it.

Looking through one such file (it's possible there are more around here) resulted in some laughs and a pile of stuff that I may scan before putting in recycling or even, hrumph, keeping. I found an article clipped from a 1987 New Yorker, too. Here is the abstract of it from their WEB site. I mention it because a phrase in that article also entered the vernacular of our marriage but we had forgotten enough details about the piece (a send up of a legal ruling) to keep us from finding it on our "The Complete New Yorker" DVDs. That phrase was "absent his testimony." It is funny and much funnier when you realize that it was in reference to a dog. We have found in the last twenty years ample use for this phrase, oddly enough. Hilarity guaranteed. Good relationships are like that. Trigger words and secret language.

So the TIB file (or this one anyway) has been sorted. That must be significant somehow. Perhaps now I will make it through folders with such labels as 'Trigger' or 'Odd Facts and Input.'

Like secret languages, this entry is boring. Are you still reading? Then, as long as I indulged in another reflection picture and one digitally enhanced at that, I might as well mention for new readers nonplussed by all the reflections of various ilks that I once made a self-indulgent artist's statement for my body of work of digital photos of refections. Ha. I make myself laugh today. (Maybe my cedar fever is reducing its hold on my brain's humor center.) Hey, and my friend's response to that old entry is funny, too.

With that, I leave you, dear readers. I'm going to try to get some exercise and, you know, clean out another file.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The End of the Recluse?

Photo was taken this morning on Congress. It's a reflection in the window of the sales office for the 21C Museum Condominiums. The soft Bug is part of the art exhibit in the sales office. The eventual building will include a showcase for contemporary art.

Yes, I got out of my cedar fever fog and out of the house both last night and this morning. Can't say as I'm over the drainage and such. Managed to coddle myself yesterday for the hours leading up to a wonderful dinner party. We bought the party as a package from the Ballet Austin fete auction. Included were everything for a great party but guests. We were allowed to have it in a fabulous home using their kitchen and dining room and beautiful flatware, china, glassware, chargers, etc. A florist made beautiful cubes of flowers for the table. A caterer prepared the food and provided waiters. Wines were pulled from the collection of a local connoisseur to match the food. A piano player from the ballet came by to play during the cocktail hour. FFP provided the people, inviting people to dine and visit and share experiences and world views. We met one couple we hadn't met before he invited through some connections. The party was stunning and the food and wine wonderful although I was suffering from a little dulling of the sense of smell and taste. I managed to reach a stasis with the allergy and get through the party with no coughing, sneezing and a minimum of nose blowing. It was really great. The owners of the house didn't sit down to dinner with us but did visit during cocktails and apps and after dessert. It is really special to have such great food, service and wine along with great conversation from interesting people. The generous caterer, florist, homeowner, cellar owner and piano player donated their time and talent and we gave the ballet a nice donation and a good time was had by all, I believe.

I was a little choked up after I got home, but after a few more drugs I got a good night's sleep and actually stayed in bed until the sun was streaming in our southeast windows. By 9:30 we were headed downtown. We went to Austin Java for breakfast and read The New York Times. Then we walked around and over to East Sixth and snapped a few pictures. I think I'm getting better, allergy-wise. But just to be safe I think I'll stay in the rest of the day and read the rest of the papers and drink hot drinks. Maybe I will continue sorting some files, though. More about that, perhaps tomorrow, when I talk about the TIB file.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Flamingos

Actual (paraphrased) conversation from, I think, yesterday:

Himself: Should we just get rid of the flamingos?

Herself: Eventually, but not right now. It helps people find the house.

We were talking about our cheap plastic flamingos in front of our house. We do use them as a landmark when we want people to find the house. When it is for sale, though? No. They are out of here.

There will be no place in condo life for cheap plastic flamingos. Our high rise will have strict rules about what can be on the balconies for safety and aesthetics. Fine with me. Sadly I once had an extensive collection based on the pink birds.

It is much easier to hang on to digital photos. This one is from May 2006, our anniversary trip to Paris. I talked about this shop window before using a different shot.

I think I have five or ten cubic feet of actual prints of photos. I have discarded (or given to the art magnet school for collages) a lot of rejects and dups. But more reduction will be needed. Some I have in physical form that started out digital and some that started out as emulsion have been scanned. But mostly it was (1) develop film; (2) stick in boxes, drawers, albums; (3) sort later until nothing can really be located; (4) despair at the collection and what to do with it. I have tried to move most prints and slides to archival quality storage. Also a lot of my mom's collection. But some are still in boxes, envelopes and cheap albums. Sigh. Yeah, it's easier to keep thousands of digital prints. If, you know, you have backup!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Keeping the Graffiti at Bay

I thought of posting this graffiti from South Congress on my Austin Daily Photo blog. But I decided to save those readers and just give it to you denizens of the Visible Woman. (The snowman is a nice touch, yes?) Not that I'm trying to protect those readers over there but, really, I need to get out and take some more 'representative' pictures for them. I've been a little under the weather with allergies (I guess, maybe cedar fever). A twelve-hour chunk of my day yesterday was devoted to sitting and drinking hot drinks and reading and watching TV and waiting for time to take more decongestant or Advil. Sad. It's good to not work so one can nurse whatever. I played tennis in the morning but the sneezing and dripping took a lot of the joy out of it. This morning I felt better until the drainage started while I was talking to my dad and I coughed some and, well, it wasn't pretty. Usually these things just take time, but I don't like giving them time.

So will I turn it around and accomplish something today? We have a stuffed to the gills garbage can going out today and a bunch of recycling. I've officially conquered the newspaper problem (for the moment, they keep showing up) with more going out than coming in until there are barely any papers that aren't today's sitting around. FFP just handed me some photographs to 'file' somewhere. I said "Yeah, I'll file them as well as I file anything around here!"

Mustn't get too discouraged, though. I have trouble looking at what I got rid of and, instead, tend to concentrate on what is still lurking. It's easy to walk around the house and see stuff that needs to be 'dealt with.' What's gone is starting to be a little more obvious: blank spaces on bookshelves (though there are still lots of books in lots of places), blank areas of rooms where something say that has been given away. But what's gone is overwhelmed by what's still here. Of course, when we are looking for something it is nowhere to be found. This morning we were looking for a spare key to someone else's house. I found unknown keys and keys to our deadbolt locks and keys to the mail box. But, well, you get the idea. Simplify, simplify. Eventually it will be easier by virtue of the fact that there will be fewer spots to look that have anything to look at. When you live somewhere thirty years things can wash up in corners of drawers and the backs of closets that are real puzzles.

Now if I can just start breathing easier I can get back into this crazy thrill ride that said we have room to keep whatever we want whether we could find it again, needed it, would ever use it or, even, remembered what its purpose was. That's hubris. A result of having too much space. The cure is painful, though. Sorting stuff and sorting it again.

By the way, I have no idea why I continue writing a blog every day. It must have something to do with displacing from everything else I need to do. There is no NaBloPoMo or Holidailies that I've signed up for. There is no requirement to meet. But 'just typing' here (and in my personal journal) feels like such an indulgence and treat that it feels like being nice to myself. And, I can do it while drinking coffee and sitting and waiting for the next sneeze or sniffle. But onward. Progress today. Just do something.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

At a Glance

This picture was taken in November of 2006. I don't really remember taking it, but there is no doubt in my mind (nor probably in yours if you are a frequent visitor here or know me in person) that the shadowy figure on the left, reflected in the window is me. For visitors who aren't 'from around here' I would point out, too, that the nine-banded armadillo is having a tea party in the window. He is undoubtedly real (but stuffed). We see armadillos like this around here occasionally, live and (mostly) as road kill. But that really has nothing to do with my point today. Rather I'm interested in how certain I would be (and maybe you, too) that the dark shadow is me.

It's funny how we can recognize people at a glance with only the smallest clues. When I've only met people a couple of times, I'm terrible at it. But after being around them a while I can hear their voice or laugh around a corner or see a gesture or body type or body language from afar and know for sure who it is. I can't always describe the people I know. I may forget what color their hair is or how they groom it or even whether men have facial hair. I may not be able to describe how they walk or move their hands. But the sum total of those clues makes me recognize someone with no doubt in my mind. It's a tribute to how different each person is (even though they fall into clear 'type' categories) and to how our brains work.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

What Year is It?

It's that time of year when we find ourselves writing the date wrong. Yes, my goodness, we say it's 2008. John who writes on of my favorite blogs, Journal of a Writing Man, surprised himself by not fumbling the ball on this for 2008. I have found it to be the same for me. Of course, I use a bookkeeping program that keeps the date and now I use this blogging tool which quietly remembers it's a new year. Still, faced with a check to write, I did put 2008. So for some reason I'm not as confused as usual. Which is always good because I tend toward confusion and to avoid the inevitable entropy I struggle mightily, putting all appointments on a calendar, writing reminders on sticky notes placed on my monitor and noting things in a notebook.

Time does pass though and without some effort things fall into disarray. A once-new house loses paint and then the roof starts to wear through and stuff accumulates on the porch. And no this isn't our house before we started downsizing! No, in fact you can't find this house in the condition shown. This picture was taken in 2001. This house had a face lift with siding and a roof. And it's for sale. I didn't see the work done but it seemed to happen so quickly that my dog-walking friend and I theorize that they just covered what you see here.

Today I took my car to get maintenance and an inspection sticker. I asked the service writer to get it inspected. He looked down at the windshield and did a double take.

"Oh. I guess it is 2008."


We chatted amiably about the relentless passing of time. He then informed me that, normally, they recommend doing a bunch o' work and replacing belts, the water pump and such like after seven years. My turn to realize I've been driving this car a little over seven years. I drive so few miles that I swithered a bit about doing the work or waiting and so did my young friend the service writer who was waking up to the fact that it was 2008. In the end I decided to get the service. I feel sure it would be a couple of years before I'd pay the price for my penny-pinching but if I'm going to keep driving a seven-year-old car with a banged up bumper then it might as well be reliable. Our cars tend to get replaced after ten years, but I'm not so sure I will replace this one as I plan to drive less and less as time goes on.

And, if I replace this car after ten years it will be 2010 or 2011 before I do that. Doesn't that sound strange??

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

In a Rhythm

I can't seem to stop myself with the reflection pictures. I have to post them over here so that they won't take over Austin Daily Photo.

I seem to be in a rhythm of posting every day whether I have anything to say or not, just giving myself something to do in the morning before exercise or tennis while drinking my coffee and checking other parts of the world on the Internet.

We are in a rhythm of discarding and downsizing here, too. As soon as a load of household stuff is off to the thrift store, the dining table starts to fill again with possible candidates for discard. I continue to consolidate souvenirs and archives, reducing the amount kept and the space taken up. I save stuff for the art department at the arts magnet high school (for collage work) or put old paper stuff in sacks for recycling or save postcards for my sister and nieces. I watch the space and weight of everything being kept and being discarded, aware that I want to limit my storage outside the condo and its small storage area to a very few boxes of things.

I'm sure the careful reader remembers the lurking under the stairs entry. Well, yesterday I swept under the stairs and then filled the area with empty boxes and containers waiting to be filled with whatever moves or needs to be packed to be given away. We have gone through most of it, given a lot away and tossed a lot of stuff. FFP got rid of so much stuff in another area of the storage room that the shelves holding it got hauled away yesterday by the handyman. The garbage can (pay as you throw) is full and it's days until pickup.

We also used curbside mall yesterday, putting all our dog stuff out on the curb with a free sign. We have lots of street traffic and it was gone quickly.

We are getting more draconian (FFP's word) about the books, too. If we don't think we will want to read them soon and they are readily available in a library, we let them go. Sometimes anyway. But loads of books are still leaving. FFP gave up a ton of assassination and conspiracy and political books to a friend and the Top Drawer thrift store continues to get stuff.

We have a long way to go, for sure. But we are in a rhythm of tossing, giving away, cleaning out. We have to do some of it every day, relentlessly. We have to start attacking the issue of furnishings and art, too. Which is hard because we have people who want certain things, we are moving certain things, we are moving things to dad's house eventually, we don't know what a buyer might like to have. So there are big issues over big objects. When you get right down to it, though, these things are easier to take care of by selling or having a charity haul them off than the tedious sifting of all the old photos and souvenirs, journals and datebooks, books and magazines. At least I hope so.

Oh, yes, there is much more to do. Much, much more. But we are in a rhythm of doing it, aren't we?

Monday, January 07, 2008


It's not usually obvious which shop is used for my reflective art, but in this one you can see that I've co-oped Austin Art Glass (SoCo) and its windows and parked cars and made yet another self-portrait.

I don't feel as old as I am. Which is (a) not old enough to apply for Social Security this year; (b) over three decades younger than my dad; but (c) old enough to know better.

Ah, yes. I should know better about so many things. In going through all the junk here, I've found some amazing stuff. I gave my good friend a couple of snapshots the other night. One was of a cat she had long ago (passed now) when it was a youngster and the other was of she and her sister at a party at our house. They both looked so young. It really took her aback to see that photo. Of course, it was taken over fifteen years ago, we figure.

I look younger in old pictures and maybe that's why I currently like these vague photos with a little radical windswept hair to give a younger look. Or so I tell myself. I've found it's easy to believe that people older than us age. What's hard is realizing that we do, too. And our friends. And especially people we encounter as children. Then you have those conversations like I had with my friend yesterday. She was describing her nephew's experience at college.

"You mean xxx?" I asked, making sure I had the right nephew and giving his name.

"Yes, Ketchup Boy. I think he's going to be twenty. Can that be right?" she answered.

"He's in college. Hmmm." I said. It really wasn't computing.

We called her nephew Ketchup Boy because once I went with her to have lunch with her brother and sister-in-law and the kid. He was, maybe, three and he was playing with the Ketchup bottle, or it may have been multiple bottles, giving us a scare that we were all going to walk out of Hut's Hamburgers looking like serial killers.

Time turns rowdy toddlers into men. Or at least college boys. Frightening.

On the subject of killers (weak segue, I know): I finally saw the movie "A History of Violence." It's an interesting movie, but it's the usual deal where the hero escapes every rain of bullets with minor injuries so a brief hospital stay can make him good as new and ready to take on multiple assailants. For a contrast to that go see the Coen brothers' "No Country for Old Men."

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Which of Me?

Which one do you want?

The so-so daughter making an not-so-early welfare call to her dad because she slept late? (I offered to do for him as he wasn't feeling great but he had gotten his paper in, was skipping church and 'has everything he needs' according to him.) ??

The friend who agreed to skip going to the gym and go to brunch and give advice on maneuvering toward sanity in the workplace and realizing your creative goals even though she has almost forgotten how to do the former and is not so good at the latter?

The spouse who makes the bed; folds the laundry you so kindly sorted, washed and dried; picks up on your sudden burst of cleaning and discarding and helps get some few cubic feet discarded including going through the dreaded coffee/tea/spice/flour/sugar cabinet?

Yeah, I'm all those people today.

Took this picture of myself using the shop window at Uncommon Objects as a lens last Thursday. I call this 'Many Mes.' Ha.

Today was one of those days when I was probably going to have a little trouble motivating myself. So it was a day when it helps to be pulled into someone else's needs, or intellectual discussion or coffee cup sorting.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

No More Stuff!

On Thursday we were down on South Congress taking some info to the CPA. We also grabbed some lunch and wine at Enoteca as dilettantes are wont to do. Afterward I was using the shop windows as canvases for dark self portraits and insisted that we take a swing through Uncommon Objects. (This is actually the window at Off The Wall, I think.) Himself agreed but pointed out our extreme need to acquire no more stuff. Yes, yes. I like to see if I can get any digital photos of interesting stuff, however. And see things for sale that are very similar to things that in all likelihood will get given away from the PB Manse. Puts things in perspective. They want twelve bucks for that? Means they paid someone six. Chump change. Give it to the thrift store or someone who wants it without regret.

This morning FFP said "I suppose we will have to winnow down the coffee cups at some point." Or something very like that sentence. (I'm no good at remembering verbatim conversation which makes me a poor spy, novelist or witness.) Actually we'd already made a pass through the coffee cups. I expressed my desire to keep just the "Too Much Coffee Man" cups, my favorites. Ah, the big and little decisions. But since coffee is central to my life having favorites is important.

[Ed. Note: Those TMCM cups you found to link to are different than the ones you have! Do you need those, too? Are yours rare and valuable? LB: Stop it! We have six or seven of them and it's enough. No. More. Stuff. Or at least no more until we've tossed everything and started over again.]

Friday, January 04, 2008

Life's Equations

Yesterday I was pedaling away on the exercise bike while flipping through some old newspaper sections. While I didn't make any resolutions, I made a pact with myself that I would throw out more magazines and newspapers every week than arrived at the PB Manse. The natural result of this, over time, is that at some point the magazine and newspaper count would probably reach zero at least for a moment. Your holdings increase/decrease by X-Y where X is what you acquire and Y is what you divest yourself of.

It occurred to me that so much in life is like this simple bit of math. Your weight increases/decreases by X-Y where X is the energy acquired from food and Y is the energy expended. Your net worth increases/decreases by X-Y where X is your income and Y is your spending. (We won't talk about the ups and downs of your assets.)

X-Y=Z is one of the simplest equations imaginable and even those who shirked Algebra usually comprehend it. And yet so many of life's seemingly hard dilemmas can be reduced to that.

Well, no resolutions, but here's hoping it's a year of negative Z for possessions and weight change and positive Z for net worth. It's just simple math after all.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

What Makes You Keep It?

Life is ephemeral. I know this. But I've never been able to embrace it.

Today's picture is a fragment of a photo taken on Second Street in 2006. I'm not sure the shop is still there. Anyway.

FFP has been going through his socks. In the spirit of downsizing. He has found that there are only certain socks that he can wear comfortably. So the others are going. Piles of socks appear on the bed while we are watching TV. He puts some in a garbage bag. Others he piles up. I look through them. I mentioned a few days ago that I had picked some to try, worn them and they made me happy because I liked them. I wore another pair yesterday. It feels really good to salvage something you like from something someone else is discarding. Of course, I'll have to go through my own socks. I actually have a pile of socks still in their store packaging. Most of them, I don't want so I'm going to take them to thrift store I think. I've become more circumspect about my socks in the last few years.

Anyway, I was sorting old paper ephemera...postcards, ticket stubs, etc. I noticed that the older it was, the more likely I was to keep it. Hotel bills from ten years ago. Hmmm...maybe keep it. From two years ago? Nope. Which probably means you should get rid of things sooner and never have to make the decision again! That's why all the Christmas cards are getting thrown out. Well, except maybe the one with my little great nephews' picture or this cool one....

Dang it. Too. Much. Stuff. And besides...I can't keep all these socks!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

End of Frivolity

I suspect they were showing this shirt on Second Street as an idea for New Year's frivolity. But it's 2008, it's time to put the nose to the grindstone. So I'm going to sign off of a completed Holidailies (thanks Chip and Jette) and do something useful. Well, at least useful to the government!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Ravages of Time

Well, that's that...2007. Gone. Time changes everything. This is the last of the 'required' Holidailies entries. I suspect the 'every day without fail' Visible Woman will drift away again. Today I'm showing a photo of a shelf in an artist's studio I took in May 2004. As opposed to fireworks or champagne bubbles. I didn't take pictures like that last night because we slipped out of the party circuit at a reasonable hour to sit and watch Dick Clark's special. Uh, yeah, the ravages of time. I guess I hadn't been paying attention to Dick. When did he have that stroke? Anyway, he's fighting back. That's all we can ask of people in the battle you can't win. Life. The battle you can't win. Ha. I'm in a good mood on this first day of 2008, huh?

I always feel bad about time slipping away on the first day of the year. See here from last year.

Well, let's see, I'm not making resolutions. And I'm not doing anything to get a jump start on the year. Maybe I could reprise something I wrote before. Yeah, how about this...I made resolutions for other people a couple of years ago. Yeah, January 2006. I refused to resolve then and preceded to resolve for those near and far from me the following:
  • Whatever your political affiliation is, do not act like your party is good and the other is evil. All politicians are evil. In direct proportion to their power. With exceptions of course. But they cross party boundaries. Think independently about people and politics. It would do the country a world of good. It would do the world a country of good. Whatever.
  • Don't expect me to jump when you are ready to do something. I'm happy to make plans with people and I reply to social invitations, commit to them and attend if death or serious events don't detain me. Mr. Morris complained about people failing to RSVP and to attend to invitations. I know this isn't going to change. I deal with it with statistical analysis (large events) and frequent reminders (small events). But don't expect me to be on a string for your last minute activities. Sure, call and let's do something. But don't be surprised if I'm not in the mood.
  • Take fifty percent of the responsibility for keeping up our friendship (if, you know, we have one...otherwise ignore this or apply it to your own friends). I'm happy to be the instigator some of the time. But if it's always me writing, calling, planning and always you hedging, equivocating, waiting for a better offer then one day I'll get tired. There are exceptions, of course. Some of you I will keep seeing even though I know I'll always be making the call. You know who you are. (Only I don't think any of them read this!) [Ed. Note: Some of the people reading this are the best at holding up half or more of the relationship. You know who you are. Thanks.]
  • If you read my journal, remember a few things about this means of communication. Don't be smug because you know all this stuff about me. (I wrote it for the whole world after all. Duh.) Don't corner me at a party and act like you are a brilliant researcher who uncovered things about me on the WEB. If you want to talk about something in the journal, admit that you read it in the journal. Don't act like we had a conversation about it. I'm forgetful and it makes me crazy. And if you are my friend and are reading this, remember that you may be getting all you want of me but I may not know what's going on with you. It's a one way street. We aren't really keeping up with each other. And it's kind of spooky in a way. I know all about it because I read journals that others write. I know some of them personally. But I know that I feel way closer to them than I have any real right to feel whether I've met them or not.
Yeah. That still feels good. Not an accomplishment exactly. Just some recycled words. I am feeling a bit of a failure today, but it will pass. And I am inordinately happy with a few things. Like the fact that my health seems good and, unlike last year, my dad's health, while not great, is good enough that I don't have to go over there and take care of him today. And FFP was cleaning out his sock drawer and he didn't want a couple of pairs of socks that I kept and wore the last two days and they are very cool. Being inordinately happy is what it's all about. Maybe that should be my resolution: be happy without reason! Not that we don't have many, many things to be thankful for. Really we just have to embrace the things that are good.