Saturday, February 28, 2009

Not So Fast

I'm not feeling up to my life right now. Out playing tennis in the wind yesterday, I made a lot of mistakes. And when I did something right it didn't seem to matter to me.

Today's photo is a shop window reflection of a yoga place that was dressed up for the Marathon the other weekend. I don't run. Twenty-six anything? I don't think so.

Right now I don't have an injury. No excuse. No strained knee. No strained toe. No strained lower back. I was a little allergy dizzy yesterday morning but it was gone when I was playing tennis.

I've worked on my taxes. That's depressing. But I've almost got everything together for the CPA. Two partnerships haven't shipped K1-s. I have swithered over whether to bother to claim some non-cash donations. (What did you pay for the little antique table you gave to the Settlement Home? Why $200 I think, or so, there was still a tag on it. What is it worth? Who knows? And the wine the ballet and symphony auctioned off? It makes me tired.) Although in the post-Obama-appointee-we-will-vet-and-yet-what?-I owed taxes? climate I'm a little more cavalier than ever about taxes. And, oh, by the way, I'm sure that they will find a way to make me pay more taxes.

I'm feeling slow. And lazy. And useless. Probably because I am. I need to straighten and clean. I need to exercise. I need to get my car washed. I don't know why I threw that in, but that is one thing about our parking here which is open to the get very dirty. I'd like to be reading and writing but I'm blogging.

Last night we had a real downtown stroll in the cold wind. We walked to a party room at Whole Foods for the release of the new issue of L Style/G Style and then to the Paramount to see Lily Tomlin. (Hmm...was it just me or was that sort of boring.) We wanted to get into the Elephant Room to see Jeff Lofton do a Miles Davis tribute but there were a couple of dozen people waiting on the cold sidewalk at 10PM. So we walked to Taste and ordered some sweetbreads and foie gras. Allegedly the chef saw the offal order and said "Is that Linda and Forrest?" He came out and talked to us. We enjoyed the organ meats. I had a little Montrachet and FFP had some Mouvedre which I also tasted. We were tired and we came home. And this morning we slept in until almost eight.

I sit here watching Face the Nation, having already watched most of Sunday Morning. I have the good life. No demands except the ones I'm making on myself to clean, organize, read, write, exercise. Well, the demands of the IRS loom but I'm on the case. So can I relax and enjoy my freedom and leisure? We'll see. I tried to work the Sunday NY Times magazine crossword but it completely eludes me today.

When I called my dad today he said a friend of his had died and services were Wednesday. I volunteered to take him. Next week is not a bad week with some expected and unexpected free time, time to get things done. But then things heat up with some social stuff and SXSW film fest and some promised relative visiting.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I Am So Forgetful

[Wiggy's Wine and Liquor seems to have the Elephant as a mascot of sorts and this is a reflection of their window. Elephants are supposed to have good memories, right? 'Remember to pick up booze on the way home....']

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and forget what I did last night. No, not blackouts or anything. Days just run together. When did this happen? That? What's on the schedule for today?

Which is why I should keep a detailed journal. Lately I haven't been doing it. I haven't been revealing all here on the blog nor writing a journal document on my computer every day. I wish I would. Otherwise I may forget doing some things, thinking some things completely. And that would be a shame. Or would it?

A lot of times I remember that I have been somewhere before, seen someone before. But the circumstances elude me. And the time frames? Forget it. This morning my dad felt like making conversation during my morning call to him.

"I was going through my pocket knife drawer. I found the one you bought me on that first trip to Europe, the Swiss Army Knife."

"That was 1972." I do remember momentous years in my life and therefore 1972, the year I quit a good job and tramped around Europe, sticks in my mind.

"I thought I'd give it to Forrest, but I thought...he probably doesn't carry a knife."

"No, Dad. I always pack one in the checked luggage when we travel. Then he asks me, 'Do you have any scissors?' or 'Do you have a knife?'"

The only reason I don't forget to pack the knife is that it is on a master list that I maintain and modify for each trip.

Well, I'm off to play tennis. During tennis I will forget, occasionally, what happened on the points that have just been played. This forgetting is sometimes a blessing.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Art of the Walk

Today I made a choice. OK, several choices. But one of them was to not go to the gym and really get up a sweat, maybe finishing reading Molly Bloom's soliloquy on the bike, lifting some weights. And instead to go down to the Hike and Bike trail with FFP and breathe in the fresh air and look at the blue sky and see people, running and walking and biking and pushing strollers. People sweating or strolling. Talking to each other. We saw several people we know. We really enjoyed it. Maybe it wasn't the optimum exercise for the body (because we don't run, race walk or even walk fast...we stroll, stop to look, take pictures). But it really feeds me emotionally.

It is fun to see things from new directions, to see people out there enjoying Austin's amenities. We noticed all the adjacent parking lots were crammed. We felt good we didn't have to drive to get there.

Another choice I made this morning was to sit, drink coffee, watch Sunday morning TV and work the crossword. Ah, yes. Sunday. A day of great choices.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Why You Need Me

OK, maybe you think you don't need me. But you do, I promise. Otherwise who else would be:

  • Not worrying about losing a job since I don't have one.
  • Continuing to spend money eating out and drinking like there is no tomorrow. (I thought Obama said to do it, didn't he? Or was that Cheney telling me there was no tomorrow?)
  • Taking pictures of reflections on bad hair days and digitally altering them to make them fraught with artistic flair and meaning.
  • Not accumulating debt. Still not. No toxic loans. No anything loans.
  • Driving an eight-year-old car. See one above.
  • Moving downtown at 60 and trying to be an urbanite. (Why is suburbanite OK with Blogger spell check but urbanite not?)
  • Questioning spelling.
  • Blogging when she has nothing to say.
  • Providing contrast to the size 0-4 bodies downtown.
  • Still subscribing to magazines and newspapers.
  • Making everyone else look productive.
Yeah, so, I haven't anything to say but I feel like blogging. I'm feeling celebratory that my computer works so much better after cleaning up the mess VMWare made of the Windows image.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Flânerie? Is it a kind of stone work as above? Just a squishy French word that the Blogger spell check doesn't recognize even though a good English dictionary will have a listing? Am I a flâneur? Is that a confession I should make on the Internet?

Got an e-mail a couple of days ago that Michael Barnes, the uber-social blogger and columnist over at the Austin American-Statesman, had posted a blurb about a book about walking. In it, says he, this Brit Geoff Nicholson talks about synonyms for walking. One of which is flânerie. Anyway my friend who alerted me to the post is a friend that I used to have lunch with monthly. We still have a monthly lunch but we add a stroll to it before and/or after. I have been familiar with flanerie for a long time. It's not really about walking. It's about the the kind of observation you can only usually do while walking. Or sitting in a public place. I like to walk around with my digital camera and, if I'm alone, perhaps with a notebook. Sure I'm motivating on my feet but, more importantly taking in images (whether actual ones or just mental observations) and ideas. The stone wall above is interesting. It's tucked away in a walkway behind Book People. Only walkers would probably ever see it.

I already own two books (one read, one unread) about Flânerie. This one and this one. Starting small book collections about an obscure subject and perhaps reading (or pretending to read) them in a cafe or sitting on a wall...that's very much in the spirit of the flâneur. It's all related in my mind to the dilettante. Something I've frequently written about. And even wrote a poem about.

Yesterday I had a walk and a lunch with my flânerie friend. It was random and fulfilling. As such things should be. And this morning this vain attempt to write about how I feel about these things I have wasted time that should have been devoted to cleaning, exercise, finances or, at least, some reading. But somehow that's OK with me. And what would we expect from a dilettante fan of flânerie. Now I' m thinking that since FFP has taken the dilettante mantle (he has 'Consulting Dilettante" on his business card) that I should make some new cards that say "Flâneur." (Right now mine say 'Pretending to Write but Really Just Blogging.' Much less pithy if funny and accurate.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Stuff Happens

Boy I look fat. But then...I am fat. I look solemn but I was really feeling pretty good. Can you see the glass cowboy hat in the window?

We took a walk into old West Austin today. FFP went with me and we ate a sandwich at Portabla. Delicious. We could have lunch and dinner (breakfast, too, probably) at a different place without repeating for many weeks, all walking. It's awesome.

We planned a trip! To New York. For Bloomsday. I'm almost finished with Ulysses. Bloom is home, in bed, pondering it all.

I'm having some interesting computer issues. I'm doing a few chores, enjoying my life, reading papers. I'm not blogging anything of value. So it goes.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Ephemera, Ephemeral

This title (illustrated here with a collage of scanned paper ephemera) has been kicking around in my head for a day or two. Also this one: Words and pictures.

Life consists of nothing but millions of moments. Each marked from our perspective with ephemeral thoughts or actual ephemera (a ticket stub, disposibile drip catcher, label, a piece of currency). Even the most substantial things eventually flee us...or we them.

Moments are marked by ambient sounds (I happen to be listening to Jeff Lofton's jazz trumpet on his WEB site as I type this), the light, the disappearing coffee in your cup. If you follow something like Twitter or Facebook feeds you can follow the beat of your friends' moments. There's you, wasting a moment, watching others waste a moment. [I stopped here to get another coffee from my Capresso Jura E8. I also thought "I wonder if I'll mention that I heard Jeff Lofton's quartet at Belmont last night after getting some free premium Crown Royals at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse bar. I wonder if I'll remember what we did last night next year or even next week."]

Making it all add up, looking back (looking forward is so much harder) is the stuff of memoir. If I ever write a memoir, please consider it less than accurate. Because...

Yesterday I was reading scribbled notes in an old journal, trying to see if there was anything worth capturing before I did something with the journal. (It's a pretty one with lovely paper, made in Florence with scenes of that same city reproduced in a watercolor on the cover.) I immediately fell into a curiosity about what I was doing at the time I wrote the notes (six years ago, 2003). I could see that we were getting ready for a trip to New York. I was confused as to why. I was only slightly less confused after reading pieces of a pretty comprehensive online journal. All of which made me think that I wasn't writing enough journal entries of the type filled with 'then we did this, then I did that, then I showered and put on blue jeans.' Moments lost.

Besides minutes ago FFP came in from his Pilates class and dug around in the drawer for our tickets to a ballet tonight and a musical performance at the Paramount tomorrow night and I was thinking how much less attractive and interesting the computer-printed and bar-coded tickets were than some tickets I saved in my ephemera boxes. I was thinking I probably wouldn't save them nor write about seeing Ballet Austin's "Hamlet" and Ramsey Lewis and Ann Hampton-Calloway in any coherent way that I could ever find again and associate with this Valentine's weekend in 2009. And that made me a little sad but that's life. How many moments do we spend trying to recapture moments as we hurtle forward through another day, another 86,400 seconds (some spent sleeping...did I mention I had interesting dreams last night now forgotten and unrecorded?). We can collect ephermera, words and pictures. But the past is running away to a speck in the distance, each moment an emepheron, souvenirs of same notwithstanding.

I love this forward motion, but something in me wants to capture it even while understanding that I will never succeed. Hence words and pictures to recall if not recapture.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Who's In Charge?

[FFP and I saw this dog in a parked car along W. Fourth on Saturday. His parents were probably at the Farmer's Market. When we first stopped to marvel at the 'dogs pretend to drive' aspect there was a dog in the shotgun seat. Neither dog barked at us when we stopped but that one got into the back seat as if it expected one of us to take shotgun. Driver didn't budge and kept his eyes mostly on the road. Some foreign girls stopped to laugh.]

I've been thinking lately about the economy, about what BHO (my friend Eugene has started calling him this although, really, it doesn't have much of a ring to it) can do, what I can do, what you can do.

I figure, really, that the causes (housing bubbles, Ponzi schemes, derviatives, speculation, bad loans, the rest of it) just have to take their course.

I was thinking about all this talk of the government restructuring loans. Now if we as taxpayers buy these loans or the banks holding them and want to do that, I guess it's OK. But it started me thinking about the mortgages that I own, made on my own real property. What if the government unilaterally decided to retroactively change those agreements? I'm not saying anyone is suggesting that. Still, it gives you pause. What if a bank was solvent and the government decided to change loans it had made retroactively. That would be bad. I'm just saying.

Anyway, with all the flap over the stimulus plan I wonder what difference it will really make. I'm thinking Barack will have more influence as president over deployment of troops and the holding of terrorist suspects than the economy. Really and truly, world economies are very influenced by billions of consumers. This is especially true in the U.S. I know, I know. Jobs=spending. Hope=spending. Tax relief=spending. But I wonder.

So, what am I doing in the current economic crisis?

  • I'm trying to shop in independent shops I want to help stay afloat.
  • But thinking hard about every spending decision.
  • And buying an expensive Lego for my great Nephew on Amazon because it is oh so easy. (Click the wish list, pick the toy, click the address of my niece, click my credit card, done.)
  • But at least I spent some money on something.
  • I'm trying to eat out at restaurants that I love and that are locally run.
  • And buy wine as gifts for friends at local wine purveyors. (Because really you are spending money and people are enjoying it, it's gone and then repeat.)
  • And buying gift certificates to restaurants as gifts, the same local ones.
  • Driving my eight-year-old car less and making trips count. (Sorry, no new car. Sorry, reduced demand for gas. Or is that good? I did do a pretty major repair on it. And really I always drove cars into the ground and paid cash for new ones even when I was making great money.)
  • Planning to buy things from Royal Blue Grocery's new location in my building rather than from bigger retailiers because a grocery store in your cool is that? They may open within the week.
  • Looking to buy a little storage cabinet for the second bathroom and still considering new digital cameras, a GPS and a netbook. I'm just saying: I might buy some stuff. I keep resisting, though.
  • I'm thinking of planning trips to New York and maybe France.
  • I'm staying in the uncounted unemployed. I have been 'retired' for six years. Which just means I quit my job to live on my investments. I'm too young for Social Security and I have no defined benefit pension. I don't count in the 7.6% and growing ranks of unemployed. I am not taking a job that someone else needs. (Note that Barack's wife left her job, too, and is probably in the uncounted unemployed. She had a good job, too. I'm just saying.)
  • I'm spending money on my credit cards but paying everything off every month.
  • I'm still giving to causes but taking a harder look at my budget for that. (See above about trips. Selfish, huh?)
It's all about a bunch of people doing their things, isn't it? One at a time. Until it becomes a trend. One guy getting a stupid upside down mortgage and onerous amounts of credit card debt is nothing. A bunch of you? That's something. (It's not me. It was never me!) When one company lays off people, too bad for those people. When every other article is about layoffs or furloughs? So goes the economy.

Let's hope the 'economic stimulus' can take a swipe at stalling or reversing these trends. Let's hope it isn't like that tax rebate last year. As my dad says, "I still have mine in the bank." Of course, soon he has to give much more than that to the tax man.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Between the Inevitable and the Immutable

I was not looking forward to going to Dad's today. I was getting out of the house to play tennis and so it made sense to go a bit further north and see after a few things for him though.

The other day I had to tell him his sister died. Not easy. Today I was just taking the obituary for him to read. (It had been sent as a scan via e-mail to me by a cousin.) Today I had to tell him how much he owed the tax man and how much he'd have to make in quarterly payments because he had an unusual bump in income. "I bet you get a refund next year if you live long enough." He allowed that he wouldn't pay the tax man until April. "Maybe I won't have to do it," he said. "Yeah, I'd have to do it." We joke like this all the time. We know that none of us live forever and none of us know when the time will come.

Death and taxes. The inevitable for us mortals. And even politicians have to die.

There was an old wives' tale that I always heard that your fingernails and toenails kept growing after you died. Then I read somewhere that it wasn't true. That the tissue around them shrank back and made it appear true. Whatever. I trimmed my dad's toenails for him. He'd soaked his feet to make it easier. He talked about the horse stepping on the one toe and how he'd had to stay off of it and so he had to stay inside and cook and wash dishes and strain milk, etc.

"I didn't have a crutch. Do you know what I did?"

I did, but I didn't say so.

"I used a straight chair and put my knee in it and moved around the house that way.

I gave my dad a book I bought for him about Iceland. He said he was going to spend the afternoon reading it. I also took him a bottle of champagne in a gift bag with a Valentine's Day Card signed from us and him. It is for his good friend Maja. She is from Iceland and, in fact, took my dad on a trip there. She gives him rides and meals. My sister and I call her 'the good daughter.'

While I was playing tennis and having a fine time on the muddy clay on a day the hard courts were dangerously slick when we started, I was kind of depressed about having to talk to my dad about death and taxes and trim his toenails because his back won't allow him to do it. (When he could still drive he went somewhere and got a pedicurist to do it. I think he went to a place he'd taken Mom for mani/pedi.) But when it was all done, I felt better. Dad wrote a check for the CPA cheerfully. He was pleased with his gift for Maja. And he was excited to have a new book that interested him to occupy his afternoon. (Actually it was only new to him. I bought it in the antiquarian book store on 12th Street.)

[Photo is a reflection in a shop on West Sixth. Thought of using it for the March theme day ('glass') for City Daily Photo, but I think I'll find another.]

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Me and My Papers

Newspapers as we know them are dying. My friend over at Insomniactive has pulled a lot of info on this issue.

This has implications for all of us. Even those of you who, like the others on my hallway (see above) don't get newsprint versions, are relying on the reportage of newspapers even if you consume it online or secondhand. I guess. Unless you only read blogs for info. And just stupid ones like this instead of ones created by legitimate journalists who research things and know how to write. Not to denigrate reading blogs, but nothing beats guys and gals going out and getting stories for a living and bringing them back to us, coherent and thorough and allegedly without bias. (Although it helps to get several as we do, see above.) Reading blogs is a drill down into individual brains but newspaper reporters often bring us the more sweeping issues.

And yes, I know most of the content goes to the WEB for free, no trees involved.

The death of the clumps of paper with fresh news, pictures, charts and figures, delivered to our door is going to hurt me. Even though I'm drowning in papers and even though recycling is a pain and even though, yes, I can find it all on my computer I suppose.

The form isn't the same. Sitting over a meal with FFP (we almost always read at meals when it's just the two of us), or on the exercise bike, I turn the pages guided by the headlines. I pause at photos or maps. I even look at ads. The structure is predictable and comforting. Inside the front page section of The New York Times there is a summary of news (recently expanded to two pages for the age of ADD). There are also ads for luxury jewelry and watches and knick-knacks. Yes, still. On Tuesday there is Science Times. On Wednesday, Dining In Out. The Austin-American Statesman has XLent on Thursday. I skip Sports Sections, mostly, unless there is really big tennis news. I occasionally flip the Statesman Sports over to see if there is a Fry's ad. I look at Fry's ads in that paper and J&R and others in The Times mostly to see what gadgets are out there, what they are going for. I am tempted by the crosswords. So the leisure sections get pulled out. I like to read about plays, movies, books, dance, opera, etc, too. When I'm looking at a new section of newspaper I know it's fresh content. Well, sort of. If you read three newspapers then you may see the same story. It may even be exactly the same story.

FFP goes directly to the editorial and letters pages, I think. I don't usually read these. I would rather get opinion on blogs. We both peruse obituaries. The local ones to see if someone we know died. But all obits to see the fallen, how old they were and what got them. (In The New York Times obits the cause of death is usally paragraph two. After para one which tells you why the dead is newsworthy.) The obits in the local rag are mostly paid ads. Relatives pay hundreds or thousands to run some stuff for a few days. There are also short blurbs from funeral homes that are a 'public service' and, of course, news stories on the deaths of the locally famous or infamous.

There are so many predictable, wonderful things in my papers. Oh, they change things sometimes. I remember when the Times never used color. (I also remember when authors' names in The New Yorker were at the end of articles and they sometimes continued articles over multiple issues.)

Well, I have been trying to write this for two days. While newspapers piled up. And, shudder, we bought three books at Book People today and there two others I've been intending to start and...oh well. Enough of writing about newspapers. I'm going to go read.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Stories from Before My Memory

"I'm sure your mother told you this dozen of times," he said this morning. Well not that I remembered. "We went to a party at the Russell's over near the old highway at Wilson Creek. They were having kind of a rodeo party, people were riding their horses. Someone [he actually named the woman but I have forgotten it in the last hour] saw your mother and said, 'Dixie you should have brought a basket.' We got home and about two in the morning [he hesitated here and I thought he was going to say her water broke or something but he continued] we went to the hospital." I knew I was born around four in the morning. I never remember hearing about the party ala rodeo or the basket comment. And I guess I didn't realize my mom hadn't been at the hospital very long when I was born. That's me above, ten months old, in a picture my maternal granddad carried around in his wallet apparently.

When I call my dad, we have discussions that ramble on. Since I call every morning we have to talk about something. Somehow this morning we drifted onto his father. And onward from there to family and the fact that he only had two sisters left of five sisters and a brother. "My father served the purpose of a father. He loved his girls, but didn't give a damn for us boys. He thought he should retire at 55."

"He should have retired at 55 if we was going to get a retirement." My paternal granddad died a few months before I was born at 67.

"Yeah. He was out running the combine the week before he died. He never really did retire."

Family history. We think things are momentous. Historic. We snap pictures of our children. Of graduations and weddings. And then gradually things fade. I often riffle through old pictures for sale in junk shops and wonder at the people whose precious memories are now just another bit of detritus.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

What the 'L?'

Every place on Second Street has a S-A-L-E and that's the L from Estilo (with LB in there somewhere). I've been missing since Saturday from this space, it seems. I've been doing things, though, really.

We saw Austin Lyric Opera's "Rigoletto." I enjoyed it immensely. Well, as much as I enjoy any opera which is to say as much as I'm equipped to enjoy it. A lot anyway. I especially liked the soprano. I think it's so difficult to get stabbed and stuck in a tow sack and still sing an aria. I'm just saying. Yeah, I'm opera stupid but I'm working on it. Great production in our lovely new Long Center.

I watched TOO MANY sports on Sunday. I'm sports weary. I watched the Aussie Open Final (Federer-Nadal), a UT women's basketball game and the Stupid Bowl. I'm giving up sports until the French Open. I think I saw Roddick practicing on the fake clay tonight. Maybe not.

I did Dad duty. I took him to lunch, to church, picked up prescriptions, worked on his taxes, shredded stuff, took and picked up shirts at the laundry, got his garbage and recycling out, took his picture with his monster amarylis. I told him his sister died. I have been to his house three days in a row this week. I was out there a few days last week. Somewhat of a record during a time when he is doing OK, really, pretty much, health-wise. On Tuesday during my every morning call to him he said "My horoscope says 'The methods that helped you get through the day yesterday won't carry you into the future.' So I will have to do things differently." I didn't know he read his horoscope. I also didn't know he watched a string of old M*A*S*H episodes in the afternoon, but I happened to be there to catch him at it this week. Or maybe it's something new. Maybe he's fallen out of love with Rachel Ray and FOX news commentators.

I went to a memorial for a former co-worker who died.

I ate a bag of those Necco conversation hearts they have at Valentine's. I'm a sucker for those. They are crack cocaine for me. But I was disappointed because they have no quality control and half of them had no saying or had it printed in an off-center or in a blurred fashion. So, never again.

I cleaned our bathroom and did a few other chores.

I attended a board meeting at my country club. I'm going to slide off the board. Three years is plenty.

I played tennis. Yeah, of course. But I'm taking a break until next Tuesday and hope my strained back improves.

I attended an education thing about Ballet Austin's upcoming production of Stephen Mill's "Hamlet." I love this production. I loved the education thing where we saw some of the dance and heard about it. I bought the Phillip Glass music for it for the iPod. I like that there is an iTunes mix on the WEB so I can just buy the music. I never have enough time to listen to music. I also became a fan of Jeff Lofton and downloaded a CD his wife gave FFP. He's not on iTunes yet. He played a tune at Austin Cabaret Theater's open mike production with Jim Caruso and Billy Stritch. (Cast Party.) We are now lining up to hear more from him.

FFP and I walked down to South Congress and came back stopping at Vespaio, Cissi's Market and Taste and having some food and a glass of wine at each one. That was Tuesday.

I've been busy. Yep. I caught up most of the financial stuff for now although my taxes loom. I'm behind on reading. I think I'll go read some now. Just as soon as I see how many labels I can attach to this post.