Thursday, February 28, 2008

By Design

Part of a design exhibit up at MOMA when we were there was an Airstream trailer. Airstreams have fed my imagination since I was a teen. (One of my unwritten pieces, either a short story or a memoir, is "Airstream Dreams.") We enjoyed walking around the MOMA, taking pictures, seeing a few pieces we'd seen before and the special exhibits. Lines weren't so long as our last visit which was right after the renovation and move back to 53rd.

More New York thoughts later. Right now it's time to play tennis on a cool Austin almost spring day.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I've Been Touring

FFP and I don't normally do tours. We book flights, hotels, make reservations and go it on our own. That will probably continue to be our norm, but if Stuart Moulton, pictured above is putting together a trip, I'm there! We had a short jaunt to New York City under his care. We had a couple of weather-related flying setbacks, but Stuart's planning and execution was amazing. He's really a Realtor and the leader of Austin Cabaret Theatre but if you like food and cabaret shows (and fashion we understand from some other participants) there couldn't be a better guide to New York.

I took the picture of Stuart at the Cafe Carlyle after we heard Judy Collins (you heard that right!). More later on the trip, but thanks Stuart! I'm ready to move into the Palace Hotel and let you plan my life!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Creating Buzz for Buddies

I'm in New York and I thought I would do what my buddy Rob did and take pictures of his book in bookstores. FFP and I went to our favorite store (Crawford Doyle). The clerk (who I think was the owner) fumbled around when I ask for "Schuyler's Monster" without spelling it. After mentioning Robert Rummel-Hudson he found it in the computer and was apologetic about it not being in stock.

We happened to be at the Borders in Time Warner center and I used their customer info booth to look for the book. Imagine my disappointment when the computer said it was 'on the way.' They said it was, however, available at the Park Avenue store.

Hmm. I was sure I'd see the book and maybe at a store that wasn't one Rob visited. Too bad.

Where Am I?

Sometimes I drift away from the shop windows of Austin for my pictures, huh? Where am I? Where are you?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone

This fake food is queued up for the thrift store. We bought it, years ago, in a thrift store.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I Seem to Be Missing

I am sitting at my computer looking through pictures before I go play tennis. I discover that I didn't post anything on this blog yesterday, breaking a record that has gone on for a couple of months. Not that I was trying to set a record. I was just trying to give myself a chance each morning to write (or type) and reflect (ahem) on things.

Yesterday I was out of the house by a few minutes after seven and not back until about 10:30. Then I had a meeting at twelve. (Which I still need to do the minutes from...why do they call them minutes when these things never take less than an hour? The Hours. There was a cool book and movie. But I digress.)

I took my dad for his pre-op visit to the hospital before his surgery. With picking him up and taking him home it took over three hours.

"Are you an organ donor?" asks the kid filling out paperwork.

My dad looks nonplussed. "I never, I, I think I've worn everything out and I'm not sure anything would be good to anyone."

That's a 'no' son. My mind races. Skin? Bone? Heart? Lungs? Liver? Gee. He's probably right.

Not that he's afraid of talking about dying. He doesn't call the paperwork the boy is copying a "Living Will." He calls it a DNR.

"I don't think I'll get anything done again," he says when we are waiting between visits from various people in the pre-opt exam room

"You will if you are in pain or can't see," I say. "Remember with your back? You said 'try anything!' Now that your vision is impaired you are willing to do this without a second thought to see if it will help."

We visited with no less than eight different people. One typed a computer screen full of stuff that must have been handwritten and faxed by the surgeon. One was the business manager for the anesthesiologist who was responsible for seeing if they would somehow get paid, I think. The anesthesiologist worried about putting him under a general. His walkie-talkie and his phone were calling to him simultaneously from either side of his belt. A small kid with a weird haircut mostly covered by a scrub cap drew blood and gave him an EKG. The EKG waiting room had a copy of The New Yorker from the last presidential election. Not as old as some of the ones in my bathroom, but still.

A long process. But they do have valet parking. Of course, he has to go back to have the actual surgery.

When someone is missing, we think that there is a void but then we adjust. Somebody else does this, that accommodation is made, we decide this was never necessary. Like the visible woman. The blog that is. My five readers wasted time elsewhere yesterday and not much was lost from the world. Do we really miss Fred Thompson and John Edwards in the presidential race now? It's OK Fidel, someone else will take over. You made it over fifty years.

OK, weird mood, huh? If you don't see me for a day or two, don't despair. But I know my duties will be taken up or, like this tome, were never that important anyway.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


I appear to be intently waiting for my subject to give me the right expression. Only, I am the subject. Me and some inanimate objects. This was taken on South Congress in July 2004. No, I don't keep records that well. But the photos are in dated folders and the triangular shape is the distinctive shadow of a church that sits across from Uncommon Objects, which is just the sort of store that would have a window display like this.

We spend a lot of our time in life waiting. Waiting in doctors' offices, hospitals, dentists' offices is one of the worst waiting experiences. I often tell people that I don't do enough check-ups and stuff because I feel like I have been to the doctor or whatever but really I was taking someone else to appointments. Yesterday, I finally made it to get my eyes checked (after three tries). I am happy enough with my glasses. He recommended a slightly different prescription should I refill, but I'm not buying new glasses. I'm happy to say my retinas look normal. In the waiting room I read a magazine we probably have at home. I had to go back to the waiting room a couple of times to wait to dilate enough for this and that. Finally it was too uncomfortable to read. It took an hour to get all the tests and wait between stuff. They took scans with this high tech machine that would allow them to grind ultra-expensive (well $150 more than regular lenses) specs that are supposed to be much better for your vision. I was tempted, but decided not to do it now. So my eye check went fine and even if the check-up was a little overdue (it had been about sixteen months) it was really pretty timely. I drove home with one of those twenty-five cent dark film things stuck under my sunglasses and was still blinded by the sunlight. Still a few hours later I was back to normal. That would be my fill of well care (and doctors' offices) for a while if I had my way.

Today I'm going to be waiting with my dad to pre-register for surgery. Actually, he'll be doing more waiting than I will because I will be filling out the paperwork. Which is worse than waiting. You sit there, seething, knowing you have written up the same thing before and angry that they make you transcribe the drug list you have neatly typed into longhand so you have a chance to mess it up. And, by the way, there is no change since you gave it to the doctor and an assistant wrote it down longhand and then they next assistant said "I can't read Doris' handwriting." Or since you spent fifteen minutes reading the list to a hospital pharmacist on the phone.

Even if I have to spend time in waiting rooms, I'm glad I'm not the patient. I'm a medical nihilist. Always hoping the cure for anything is just waiting a bit. And, of course, the ultimate cure is there if you just wait.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I Can Still Play Tennis.

If you are not completely blind, have you ever wondered what it was like not to see well? Maybe my shop window pictures give some ideas although it's probably not that pretty. Without my glasses, distant things are just blurry. Which sometimes improves their look.

Vision is on my mind, of course, because I'm worried whether my dad can recover from the torn and detached retina.

On the tennis court I was thinking "at least I can still play tennis." Several of my friends (who are my age and younger) can't because of health problems. My companions today were telling me about a lady who used to play with us before she became so blind from macular degeneration that it was no fun any more. They said that she and her husband had both had falls, were trying to sell their house and move to a retirement place, etc.

I can still play tennis, I thought. I see pretty well. I don't even seem to need new glasses. I'm going to get an eye check this afternoon to make sure nothing is wrong. I feel good. I don't have any complaints really. But I seem to feel the clock ticking. Maybe it's caring for old people but I really think it is just me, reaching a certain age.

Today was the perfect day to play tennis, too. Cool, sunny, no wind. Lazy vapor trails across a blue sky. I wanted to embrace it and be happy. Happy that I can still play tennis and have the opportunity to do so.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I Want That!

When I was a kid, I had a great desire for a great many things. This toy was one of the things I most coveted and I did indeed receive it. It was Christmas. Maybe the Christmas of '57, maybe '58. I still have it. I talked about it here and here mostly about a monologue I did where I used it as a prop. I still have it and I think I'm going to keep it even with the great downsizing. The motor inside doesn't work and there are some small parts in there that didn't come with the original. But it's mine. It's mine in spite of the fact that the illustration on the toy has a clear message: "This toy is for boys!" I was a bit embarrassed about receiving it, but I loved it. I loved owning it more than the engineering feats I achieved with it which were few. I'm really not that good with tools. But I love tools and mechanical things. And forgive me if it seemed that my nine-year-old self was being told not to want them.

I did not get the American Tool Set. I own the metal box. I think my sister bought it in a junk shop and gave it to me during my dilettante toy collecting stage. I think I'll use it in the condo to keep a few extra hammers and pliers and such handy.

I think I had some Lincoln Logs once but maybe it was my younger (boy) cousins who also had the earliest plastic interlocking bricks I saw, maybe Legos. In any case I didn't own this particular set. I will concede that there is a girl on this one, but don't you think she is looking admiringly at her brother's creation wondering if her doll house dolls will fit inside?

So, in the process of downsizing I made these photos before deciding what to do with the objects. I have given up most of the toys I collected either to thrift stores, kids or back to my sister who still actively collects way too many things. I don't regret it. But I'm not guaranteeing that some time in the future I won't buy something in a garage sale or junk shop that reminds me of those 1950's desires. Heck, I may even go to Toys 'R Us or Toy Joy one day and buy something for me. I'm over it for the moment, though. I'm even postponing my desire for several adult gadgets until we are settled in the condo and out of the house. (There is that digital SLR and a GPS gadget. Adult toys, I think.)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Artist's Vocabulary

Yesterday it was pointed out that the picture was 'intriguingly different' than my usual ones. This one is more in my usual vocabulary and yet a bit different especially in presentation of the camera in the swirling glass.

I'll leave you with that today. I plan to be more productive than usual. Yeah. Right.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Random Roundup

My Useless Occupations: The me in the mirror. Goofing off, taking photos, not doing anything useful. Last Sunday. I've been playing a little tennis and working out. One needs activity but it doesn't get the downsizing and cleaning done. Today we went out for a big breakfast. Tennis was rained out. I wasn't really sorry. I wanted to goof off, eat too much, let it settle and then go for a workout. (I hope I will do that anyway.)

I've been blogging every day here. As you probably know if you are reading this. Also, on Austin Daily Photo. And keeping a personal journal on the computer, of course. Great time wasters these. Which has kept me from committing to paper (or computer rather) a short story that is almost completely written in my head.

Downsizing: Have I mentioned that my office is neat? Whether I get more work done is questionable. My desk upstairs where I work on some filing and bookkeeping is a disaster at the moment and I did lose track of something but it was filed when we found it! More than once since I put everything away and made neat work surfaces I've had to scratch my head over where I filed something. Actually I've gotten rid of lots of stuff and gone through lots of files so there are some nearly empty file drawers in here. The thing is that I have to completely clear this room so it can be painted and so that we can refinish the floors. That is daunting. And I have to move all my projects and computing upstairs so I have to mangle through the mess up there.

Part of downsizing is getting stuff shredded that needs to be shredded. And there is a lot of that stuff. I do a little bit, marveling at some of the old receipts and checks and stuff, and then I get tired of it and do something else.

I have to shake my head as I go through our stuff. There is physical evidence of unrealized transient passions. Maybe we went to a cooking class (which we did) for Vegetarian cooking. Hence we came to own a wok I Freecycled, a spring form pan I lost the bottom to (I think) and a number of cookbooks. (One of which I keep because I like to look up its advice for cooking brown rice if not stir fries and tofu cheesecakes in spring form pans.) And of course there is the smallish (less than a dozen volumes) collection of old travel books. I bought one in the wonder of a book shop that was once in San Antonio (Brock's) and then assembled a small number before losing interest. I indulged a passion for World War II first person accounts for years and the result is piles and piles of books. Scores? Hundreds? It's hard to give them up, too, because many are surely out of print. And, of course, there are bendies (I gave a bunch away but some remain); martini shakers, siphons and old chrome coffee service; martini glasses; other 'collectible' glassware. Need I go on? FFP had quite a huge collection of conspiracy and Kennedy assassination material. To his credit he let a large amount of it go.

Yesterday FFP went once again to the thrift store with a trunk full of stuff. Out of here: napkins and place mats that won't fit our new decor; cook books (the joke isn't how many we gave way but how many we kept!); amusing picture frames; candle holders with bees on them; some other books and decorative items.

When we find something that once belonged to someone else or we think they might especially want, we try to contact them. Today an old buddy of FFP's from advertising days came to take away a painting he'd left behind in FFP's first house before I ever knew him. Many staples, screws and stretchers later the canvas pieces of the multi-part thing were stowed in a garbage bag to go back to New York.

Slowly, slowly the downsizing continues. It's important not to get discouraged and to remember how little you miss this stuff when it is gone. The clean surfaces in my office will have to be given up, at least temporarily, to refurbing the room but they are possible only because I've cleaned enough out of drawers and closets to stuff things away. Many projects loom. Maybe I'll make a list. Lists are much easier than the doing!

Reading List

When I retired I imagined I'd read all of Dickens. Truth is I have a set of Dickens that belonged to my great grandfather. I've decided to keep them. Why not read them? Am I? No. But. I found a book on tape collection of "A Tale of Two Cities," "The Old Curiosity Shop," and "Barnaby Rudge." As I mentioned earlier I am sort of curating my goodbye to all the 'stuff' and one way I do that is to listen to cassette tapes and then give them away. I'm pretty sure I listened to this set before, but it's my nod to not reading the Dickens that belonged to my great grandfather. I also read books and parts of magazines and then discard them to the thrift store, a friend or recycling.

I am reading at least five books right now. Ulysses, of course. I'm on page 634 of 933, I think. I'm not sure because the other day my bookmark fell out and it was amazingly difficult to find where I was. I'm also reading Simon Winchester's Krakatoa which is amazing. I'm about a quarter in on that puppy. I'm about halfway through a book by Thatcher Freund called Objects of Desire about antique collecting, specifically American furniture and featuring three particular pieces. About halfway through that one. (Confession: it's a bathroom book.) A friend gave me a copy of Peter Carey's Theft that lost a battle with a glass of wine and is falling apart and red-tinted. I'm keeping that in my car as an emergency book for when I forget to take other reading material in my car. It's a pretty good book from what I read so far. I am getting behind on my newspapers. The good news is I found a place to keep the unread ones where they don't look so messy. That's the bad news, too, of course.

My Useless Occupations, Redux: Well blogging certainly keeps one from doing anything useful so I must stop.

Friday, February 15, 2008


Philanthropy is a process that is largely misunderstood by most of us. Here is James Armstrong receiving a proclamation from Mayor Will Wynn honoring him on February 23 with "James Armstrong Day." That day the Opera Ball will be held which is honoring him this year. James puts his name on donor lists and endowed the opera's Music school to be the James Armstrong Music School. At Ballet Austin's new home, the multi-purpose studio with a glass wall to the street was christened the "Armstrong/Connelly" studio for he and his partner. You might think people do this for attention, but really for most of us the attention isn't all that welcome. I worked on a capital campaign with James and he told me that his father taught him to never give anonymously. "My father told me that if your friends see your name," he said, "then they will give, too." People do give to honor one another's causes and it matters who is asking. My father never had much opportunity to be a philanthropist or to teach his kids about giving in the big leagues. But I've learned a bit from people like James who were kind enough to befriend us.

Which, of course, brings me to a line I came up with which is funny but also very, very true for me: "I always wanted to be a philanthropist, but I never had enough money!" I wouldn't enjoy the attention James gets but I would enjoy the giving and the power one's money has to change things. And thanks to James and others in our community like Ernest and Sarah Butler I would understand the power of using your name on your giving to influence others.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


A lot of people, I'll bet, look forward to retirement as a time of freedom. I know I had images of doing lots of traveling without worrying about 'vacation days,' of reading and writing in coffee shops, of learning new things unhampered by the need to spend time learning things at work that I'd often soon find were useless (including the organization chart and how to navigate it). I envisioned myself totally in control of my finances and with all my stuff organized so it would be useful to me. I thought I'd be more useful to society in general and those around me than when I was committed to the 9-5. I saw myself doing exercise programs, playing tennis and playing Bridge. I saw myself well-informed, reading lots of books and three newspapers a day.

Life creates restraints, however, and working for a living is just one of them. Your health and the health of the people you are responsible for curtails what you might do. Once you commit to some activity, too, whether it's tennis or a commitment to yourself to do so many sit-ups a week, that's time you can't commit to something else. You have to budget every hour you spend. Looking at your investments? Then you aren't writing. Or reading. Or getting your house in order. Want to take a vacation? Still you have to plan it around your other commitments. Yeah, we have planned to take five days out of town in 2008. How can it be that we are missing two charity events we probably should have participated in and also having to get someone to take my dad for medical stuff. Five days. Geez.

And we aren't the people we used to be. We retired early but we are still too old to take up mountain climbing. Too old in fact to learn too many new tricks. But, one day, I hope you find me budgeting a morning a week to sit in a downtown coffee shop near my new home and drink coffee and read and write and watch the people go by.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What Should I Rant About?

Yes, a liquor store. And me barely there, barely registering. Which is how I feel just now.

Some days you feel like a rant or two (which I should probably take over to The Journal of Unintended Consequences), but you just can't focus on which one. The medical bureaucracy? (If your job is to schedule appointments for preparation for surgery, why do I have to call back twenty times and when you call why are you using my dad's first name as a last name? All you have to do is make appointments. How hard can that be? If I come in and have a two-hour meeting pre-opt can you guarantee me that you won't lose all the paperwork temporarily and make me fill it out again and then complain that you have two copies? Because that's what happened last time we went to this hospital for a planned procedure.) The hubris of some people. (Just because you are a widely-acclaimed athlete who beat cancer does not mean that all cancer is curable, right now, with money from your organization. And, by the way, I don't really find 'surviving' cancer comparable to 'surviving the Holocaust.' And, by the way, surviving cancer sort of implies surviving death itself. Hubris.) But I shall not rant here. I shall go and exercise with the intention of getting myself in good shape to survive the medical bureaucracy as my dad's caregiver (imagine how hard it is on patients!) and to perhaps change the 'cause' on my death certificate when it finally, inevitably is issued.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Maybe one takes pictures on one's reflections to assure one that one is still there somewhere. Perhaps. This reflection is from a gift shop on West Sixth Street. Taken Sunday. My friend SuRu and I decided to go for a coffee and ended up at Sweetish Hill. So we window shopped and took some pictures.

Sometimes one needs reassurance. Yesterday I was playing tennis and I told my partner that if we didn't finish by a certain time that I would have to forfeit. Dad was counting on me to drive him to the ophthalmologist. It is reassuring to him and to me that I am there for him. I managed to lose in three sets after many deuces. I rushed off to take care of Dad. He started having trouble seeing on Jan. 30 and I'd called but they wouldn't give me an appointment until yesterday.

The appointment wasn't reassuring. Dad has a detached retina. Maybe caused by aging and past cataract surgery. It's something that should be attended to as soon as possible but since "the middle is already gone" it isn't as much of an emergency. Hmmm. So would it have been an emergency if they had agreed to see him sooner? Then they said the soonest the surgeon could do it was over a week away. But even though the time was not convenient for me, the caregiver, it just could not be delayed another week.

I felt bad about all this. Angry I didn't find a different doctor or insist on an emergency appointment. Angry that 'as soon as possible' means 'at the doctor's convenience.' I had to change my own eye checkup so that I could handle the pre-opt appointment for him. Am I really there or am I just a caregiver?

This morning when I called my dad I explained all this, all the dates and times, the risk that his vision won't get better, won't get better right away, who would be helping him when I couldn't be there. He was cheerful and circumspect. He wrote down the dates.

"It's always something," I said.

"Yeah," he said, laughing. "When you wake up in the morning, you ask yourself 'What is going to take the joy out of life today?'"

My dad's attitude always gives me reassurance. That he doesn't blame me for his problems or the doctors' cavalier treatment of them. That he will soldier on, doing his best, trying not to be too much trouble, appreciating the help he needs. When I was a kid, my dad would help me out with things like a broken down car or a little money or help fixing something. My parents always gave me a place to stay between rentals and situations. My family was a nice support system. Now the tables have turned. And really all I need is the reassurance that I'm not making things worse for my dad.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Detail from a South Lamar shop window reflection a week ago.

Thrift stores make great places to shoot reflections with all the odd things on display. Things living out second lives as merchandise again after presumably having a home (or two or three).

Loads continue to go to the thrift store and our other 'outlets' for emptying this house. I think we are getting more brutal about what we keep. A trash can in my office is heavy with old plaques awarding us for this or that volunteer activity. Things that are cute and nice but that we don't think we'd use to decorate the condo are finding their way to a table in the spare room. One side is designated for me and one for FFP and we place items we think should be given away there. When the other person has time, he 'saves' the item or, more likely, places it in a box or bag in the closet for the thrift store. FFP fills his trunk and drops by the thrift store on his rounds. I am afraid to visit the thrift store, afraid to see all those things in a new context. Although, truthfully, when you go to a thrift store you rarely see the things you donated. There is lots of turnover at those places in my experience. But we have donated a lot to this one place.

I am currently trying to keep the house neat and keep the messes put away. It's partly to start making the house look better if people casually look at it to buy and it's partly to keep my sanity. It does cheer me up to walk into my office and see clean work surfaces and general tidiness. Whether I'm getting more done as a result is questionable. This week is full of appointments and places to be.

Well, I am boring myself. Off to play tennis. I've been playing tennis so much I look forward to rain outs. That's good, I think.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Roots and Roaming

My roots? Lower middle class (to be kind) folks with farm roots, a good work ethic and generous spirits. My parents also seemed to have a roaming gene, too. There just wasn't much money with which to scratch the itch. I guess Texans have a not to far in the past legacy of moving to new places (as do most Americans). My parents always wanted to go somewhere. My sister's peregrinations with her husband when he was in the Air Force served as their excuse to travel and, really, hardly any excuse was necessary when money came to hand.

This picture I discovered on my computer today. It shows the parents walking on the sidewalk in what of those frighteningly similar motels. I think it was Raton, New Mexico. The year was 2000. But it doesn't matter. The cheap hotel was just a necessary sleep. We were driving to Colorado, no doubt, to see my sister. (Who settled there after the Air Force was finished with them.)

Yesterday we got details of a trip we are taking to New York City. Ordinarily we plan our own trips but this one was mostly planned by a local producer of Cabaret shows. So when we got the details, I started a folder for info, started planning the things we'd do on our 'free' time. I looked up all the places the tour was taking us and got links to their WEB sties. I love to travel and I haven't gone anywhere at all for what seems like a very long time.

My roaming gene was honestly acquired. My parents traveled to all fifty states before they died. Plus England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales. Parts of Canada. And Russia. My dad has visited Germany, Austria and Iceland since my mother died.

Now if I can just get out of the real estate maelstrom and do more traveling.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Your Vigor for Life Appalls Me

Old shop window photo is the illustration.

Title is a quote from Robert Crumb, I think, and is the title of collected letters of his.

I can't believe how much my mother-in-law cares about some stuff. How she wants to keep things we've had all these years and are ready to let go. I can't believe how much junk they have in their garage. (FFP mentioned a large number of golf clubs.) But, of course, they don't need to house a car because they can't drive. They were working out there on the garage when we went by to drop off a new tea kettle. They are 88 and 97 and they were out there cleaning out the garage, I guess.

The quote from Robert Crumb occurred to me. I had that book actually. I gave it to the thrift store, I think. Although I'm sure it was full of gems like that you could use for titles of blog entries.

We keep getting rid of stuff. Right and left. Freecycle, curb, thrift store, giving to specific people. I had some stuff to 'freecycle' and one person didn't show up for pickup. So I offered to another person. Around the middle of the day today a kid showed up on a bicycle with a skinned shoulder, knee and cut above his eye. He'd ridden his bike here but there was too much to take on his bike. On the way, he'd wiped out and kissed the pavement. He had on a helmet, thankfully. We gave him some alcohol and Band Aids and told him we'd deliver the stuff. (Several cubic feet, truth to tell.) He lived near the new Mueller complex. They have stores like Bed, Bath and Beyond there. So we were able to slip in there and buy the tea kettle.

I'm not sure I have that much vigor for life! My stuff weighs me down. Keeping the place tidy seems to be helping my mood although each project takes longer since I have to get everything put away after.

Friday, February 08, 2008

She Should be Reading

Today's entry is going to be a round-up of things that are happening, things I'm thinking about. Rounding things up seems to be what I'm all about lately.

This photo was probably taken by FFP. I have an actual print of it so I'm not sure if it pre-dates our almost exclusive use of digital cameras but probably so. No doubt he was shooting up a roll of something else.

What you see is me in a distressed leather chair surrounded by newspapers. But I'm not reading. I'm writing! There are plants and flowers and Chalow lounges on FFP's chair. (Those chairs became too distressed becoming stained easily by lounging heads of hair and we replaced them.) I also notice that a Botero poster is on the wall behind the table. So this was taken before we bought a Mace Lucas painting which now occupies that spot.

I am trying to avoid unwieldy piles like those pictured around the house now. I'm going to put stuff away and only drag out one project at a time. And I'm going to keep the unread papers in a basket and send them to recycling as soon as I've read them. (By the way, we had about a dozen sacks of recycling today. And yet there is still more paper to be recycled. And we don't recycle the shredded stuff because it's too messy although we understand they would take it we don't know how to 'package' it. I guess you could staple the grocery bags shut. They do take staples because they take the magazines mixed in.)

I told my friend SuRu last night about my desire to keep an orderly appearance. She said "Yeah, like that is going to happen!" Still, I'm going to try. I'm going to try to keep the condo orderly, too. A taller order perhaps since we will have far less space to 'hide' the mess.

When I think about all the stuff we have already gotten rid of I'm amazed so much remains. What is true, however, is that there are lots of empty boxes and containers. Even after we stuffed everything back in cabinets and closets and made room to hide stuff away this is true. I run over in my head all the things that are gone. In pictures I catch glimpses of things we used to own, now discarded. So much gone. So much here.

Last night we went to a Frontera Fest Short Fringe. We were there to see my friend Allan Baker's short play called "Click." It was great. Allan has a great ear and eye for detail and the actors and direction were great. The play featured discarded office furniture from our house. FFP said "Don't bring it back!" Some of the other pieces had their moments, but none was really a play. More skits and performance art. The final one was beyond tedious. But the evening was worth it to see Allan's play with these actors. He lets me read his plays and it's so interesting to see how they work when presented.

Last night I could barely contain my excitement about the day I was going to have today. Why? Because today I have no appointments. FFP has three appointments this afternoon at two different coffee shops. I have nothing. No evening tix to anything. No tennis game. No appointments for my dad. (That would be one day next week that I have both those things as well as a dinner engagement to entertain a friend for her birthday.) It is amazing how I love these 'open' dates. It's entirely possible that I will do something in the evening, but it will be something that I think is the right thing at the time with FFP and whoever. I will go to the gym but I won't be rushing to get home and shower for an appointment. I may go to Dad's and get stuff to start on his taxes. But if I don't get that today then there is always tomorrow. I love blanks on the calendar. Which makes you wonder why I fill up so many of my days. My friend SuRu said last night that I usually "plan ahead." She said someone else had asked her out last night at the last minute. Indeed. I bought tickets to last night's event well in advance and invited others to come. People were getting on a waiting list for no show seats when we arrived as it was sold out. Planning ahead is good. But, ah, a blank day on the calendar!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Question of Fashion

Trends come and go, don't they? What's shiny and new becomes dated and useless. We built an entertainment room in 1994. Now the cabinet for the TV (sized for an old school 36 inch set) dates the whole arrangement. Inside the cabinet is equipment for playing CDs and DVDs (but no Blu-Ray or that other thing). Also: a turntable, a cassette deck, a Laser Disk player. The DVD player also accepts VHS tapes. (No Beta either. That would be rich.) I remember when cassettes and video tape and Laser Disks were shiny new technology. Heck, I remember the first time I got a color TV.

I am tossing cassette tapes left and right. Yes, I could play them in the big room. Yes, I have a portable cassette player (Walkman??) somewhere. And, yes, I can still play them in my car. So right now I've parked a bunch of books on tape and language tapes in my car. Because I'm going to listen "one last time" and then give them away. Or so I say.

Clothes go in and out of fashion. I tend to latch on when a trend comes that suits me and wear the clothes right through until the next time someone thinks to recycle it. Tailored suits for business wear. Tuxedo-look for black tie. For all the dictates of fashion, people and their clothes are very closely tied emotionally.

I think fashion and appliances is a hoot, too. Everyone wants stainless now, sure. But will white be in again one day? Or will everyone go to custom-faced Sub Zeros? Or will we have a retro look with what looks like a big compressor atop an old school frig really being a personal beer keg?

I had a really weird day yesterday. Rather than continuing the sorting and such we shoved things back into closets and drawers and cabinets so some friends could see how big the rooms were. It made me realize that we still have miles to go to get through all the stuff. We have gotten rid of so much. How can we have so far to go? I also continue to be amazed at all the spots around the house where old screws, nuts, bolts, pens and pencils, buttons, coins, keys, scissors, letter openers, clips, and small metal or plastic pieces of unknown origin lurk. And I'm starting to ask questions like "how many denim shirts do I really need?"

The weirdness of the day multiplied after our friends visited. I decided I could get a quick workout before a meeting. I pushed the opener for the garage door on my side and a cable severed and the spring flew to the other side of the garage. Fortunately there was nothing there...FFP's car was outside. After FFP and I assessed the damage and he called our garage door guy, I headed to the club. But on 45th Street a line of cars was stopped for some reason and the guy behind me didn't stop in time. No serious damage to me or the car, but the time it took for me to get his info just in case made me turn around and go home. I've been deterred by one thing and another from my regular exercise (except for tennis which I don't count) lately. That will be rectified tomorrow, though. Barring unforeseen circumstances. As they say.

Today's entry is disjoint and weird, too. That's the great thing about blogging, though. Especially when you discipline yourself to do it every day. Every single entry doesn't need to be a gem. Does it?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I Was Drinking Wild Turkey

The photo looks like a bleak wintery scene but really it is the reflection of our new home (and power lines and trees) in the window of a guitar store on South Lamar.

If you ask me if it worries me to be committed to paying cash for a tiny piece of that building this summer with no buyer for our current 'ranch' I'd have to say, well, yeah, a little.

But that wasn't why I was drinking Wild Turkey.

We have some people coming today to look at the house informally. Friends. Who might be interested when the time comes. And the house is a disaster with closets and shelves and cabinets turned inside out as we sort and eliminate.

But, no, that wasn't the excuse for the Wild Turkey, ice and water.

I was watching Super Tuesday coverage, marveling at (1) how excited people get about their candidates; and (2) how some states voted for people I would do a write-in against if pressed.

And maybe a little whiskey is in order while watching shows about politics. But everyone knows I prefer Jack Daniels Black Label or a single-barrel craft Bourbon, don't they?

I didn't feel perfect either but for my particular ailment I knew that a certain dose of Advil was more likely a cure than whiskey.

I had a conversation with a friend:

"What are you doing?"

"Sitting here drinking Wild Turkey and watching the election."

"Why are you drinking?"

"Because so many people I know can't!" I asserted. And, while several friends have nasty diseases and treatments precluding alcohol, that wasn't really it either. And why Wild Turkey?

I sort of felt like having a drink. I sort of wanted FFP to make me a Bloody Mary from our friend Al's recipe, but I decided I should have something I mixed myself. There was a giant bottle of Wild Turkey in the pantry and only a 'corner' left in it. So no big mystery. A drink sounded good. I could recycle a giant bottle. And ice and filtered water were readily available.

It tasted good, too, and I suppose it made me nod over the politics before it was all too much and made me ill.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

One Last Time

No, it's not my last post on Visible Woman. In fact, I seem to have become rather addicted to posting every day. (Displacing from downsizing, I suppose.) I shot this Sunday, a detail in a thrift store window of mannequin feet and my friend and I reflected. And, no, it probably won't be the last time you see a shop window here reflecting the not so mysterious photographer.

But I've been thinking of the phrase "one last time" a lot lately. As I clean out a closet I think "this may be the last time I clean this out before I move out forever." Or as I look at the winter-bare backyard I think "this may be the last time I wait for the blooming, budding, leafing out of spring." Certainly as I schedule things to be fixed and maintained I think "this may be the last time we have to take care of this particular thing." When we put something in 'curbside mall' or take it to the thrift store I think "I may never see that object again." (Usually followed by "thank goodness!")

I found it all a little depressing for most of yesterday. I'd spent the day with the elderly and in my own not-so-young head. First trying to get a stopped-up sink fixed at my dad's house. Watching the seventy-year-old handyman try to do it and my dad, weary from his 'chores' sitting on his walker seat, everything and everyone seemed old and broken. Then, after giving up and calling a professional plumber and worrying about my dad just supervising them, I had to take my ninety-seven-year-old father-in-law for a haircut. I mean he's amazing. But still. Everything you do with the old folks feels like it's in slow motion and it might be the last time. When Dad had me stop for provisions, he mentioned that I should get a gallon of milk. "It's a little heavy for me at the store, but I can lift it from the refrigerator." What a winding down of capability life is, I thought, curling the grocery bag with the milk in it as I went to the car.

Later my computer guru stopped by to haul away an old external hard drive, a printer and a fax machine. (He not only consults on the new stuff but hauls off the out of commission for recycling.) He is a former ballet dancer and IT guy and now a student finishing a computer science degree. We were talking about my desire to get a new computer setup (it's been quite a few years around here) and he pulled out his Mac Book and started showing me how he ran it with VMWare and XP and Apple windows. He is so young and eager that it made me feel better. Not that he's that young. He's in his thirties, having fulfilled his dream to be a professional ballet dancer before going back to school. I told FFP later that I would pay him just to come over and cheer me up.

FFP and I went back to a place that's recently reopened after a fire for dinner. Mother's Cafe in Hyde Park. We've probably eaten there a hundred times, enjoying the vegetarian fare even though we are omnivores. The menu is still very similar. I wondered how often we'd make it there when we lived downtown instead of North Central. At least I made it there 'one last time' for a Mom's Reuben (an open-faced sandwich where the rye and kraut and cheese have never seemed to miss the meat).

Monday, February 04, 2008

Says it All

If you look carefully in this shop window reflection with the Salvation Army logo, you will see that there is the reflection of a tall building. This South Lamar shopping strip (which has thrift stores, Alamo South, a Thundercloud, a Mexican restaurant, a spiritual book store, an electric scooter store and some guitar stores, etc.) is situated so that many of the south and east facing windows show a reflection of my future home. Notice there is no longer a crane.

We haven't actually donated stuff to the Salvation Army yet, but we have talked with them about picking up some bigger stuff. In order to move into our place in the big building, we have to give away and throw away. Yesterday we worked on cleaning out various spots. We employed curbside mall (a cardboard free sign and the curb), tried to Freecycle some stuff, filled the garbage can, etc. I was cleaning a surface in our walk-in closet where pockets are emptied. I wish someone could tell me where all those buttons come from. I mean I don't think I have that many clothes that are missing buttons! The coins, mint packages, etc. I understand. I am always mystified when I find yet another key that unlocks who knows what.

Today will be another day of sorting and eliminating. It never ends. Or so it seems. It has to, though, at some point. But I can't see the end.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Weather Changes

Yesterday's temps were in the 70's. This picture was taken a couple of weeks ago at the pool at our club. The temp was somewhere near freezing and the heated pool created a fog of steam but wasn't tempting any swimmers.

Everything ebbs and changes like the weather. We age, things break, the things we do, the people we see, the battles we're fighting are always changing.

I learned or relearned a number of things yesterday while working on cleaning out our storage room. Ballpoint pens dry out faster then felt tips when left unused for years. Liquid paper (yeah, I know, how often do you use that) will dry out and encrust the little brush so you pull out a naked little tube from the bottle. Yes, I'm still allergic to dust. No, it's not easy to figure out what possible use some things ever were to you. Yes, no matter how much you toss or return to clients you will still find yet another video tape of a commercial or old school PMT or negative. And, yes, you can offer just about anything on the Austin Yahoo Freecycle group and get multiple potential takers. And anything left on the curb will eventually be scooped up. We tossed, we found new homes for things. Both of have stuff in our cars to deliver to various groups. I walked across the street with a load of stuff to give the neighbors. I prepared a Freecycle batch of several cubic feet. The garbage can is overflowing and we are moving to bags with pay-as-you-throw stickers. And it's days until trash pickup.

I was glad yesterday when it was time to switch gears, take a shower and go out to a charity event. The moderate weather gave us a chance to leisurely stroll down West Sixth. Leaving the piles and messes and dust behind. Until today. Must work on it again. Watch hours of pre-game and a long Super Bowl? Nah, I don't think so.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

You Learn Something Every Day

I'm not too good with cultural things, pop or otherwise. Always learning. Charo didn't mean much to me. A hot Latin lady (she's Spanish actually) who swiveled and joked. Had to be pretty old by now. So she surprised me last night with her energy, svelte figure and her flamenco guitar work. But you learn something every day. I wouldn't have thought Eartha Kitt could still put on a show either but she did in 2006 at another benefit for Austin Cabaret Theatre. (Last night's show was their benefit, too. See another picture here.)

As we sort through books, FFP occasionally holds one back from the thrift store or being archived for keeping in the condo (or storage) to read. He was reading Terry Southern's Candy a couple of nights ago and laughing out loud. I'm pretty sure I never read it but I did see the movie once.

When he was laughing, he said. "This is hilarious. It's based on Candide, you know." No, I didn't. But, you know, you learn something every day.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Child's Play

For some reason I was thinking of my childhood yesterday. It was before I accidentally found and scanned this picture while looking for pictures from our wedding. (Another story for another day.)

I was thinking about when my aunts bought me a basketball one year. I was about eight I think. It was a great gift. I loved sporting equipment and fantasized about playing sports. Except. We lived on the farm then. And we had a small front porch, a smaller back porch and a gravel drive leading from a dirt road. We did not, of course, have a basketball goal or truth to tell any concrete to dribble it on. I was still enthusiastic about owning it, but I probably went back pretty soon to pretending to be a cowboy and that the 4x4 on top of a fence was my horse. I had a football, too. Football doesn't require concrete or a goal. But another person is a good idea. But my parents were too busy, my sister uninterested. I do remember kicking a lot. I got pretty good at kicking. I'd punt. Then I'd go get it and punt the other way. I used an empty black land field for my playground. Occasionally I got to go to town and toss some baseballs with some little friends (boys).

I'm not saying my lack of athletic skill is that I didn't have the equipment and setting. When I took up tennis in in my flush days post college, I didn't exactly become a pro. When I got to join a tennis club, things didn't greatly improve.

I think the main thing I gained on that farm, while losing time in becoming an athlete, was a deep imagination and the ability to live in my head. Even play sports there.