Friday, July 17, 2009


Are you listening to me? We all crave attention, I think, of one sort or another. If no one ever commented, would I still blog? Well, yes. I'm writing (and posting pictures) for my future self. My current self pays an inordinate amount of attention to old blog entries and their predecessors, online journals created by my former self. I pay so much attention to myself that I don't need much from others! My tweets would drift off if no one ever responded, though. (I send them to facebook where I have enough 'friends' to get a rise out of a few people there.) But they might still go on even if the silence was deafening. After all the twitter-dom keeps them. Apparently for a long time.

I'm reading a book called "Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life." [Ed. Funny. LB: Shut Up.] Anyway, one point this book might be making for me as I read a few pages here and there is that "we are what we pay attention to." I'm a believer in a true reality...facts and truth are there, just too complicated for us to interpret sanely sometimes. But I also think that our own 'objective' reality is based on what we are exposed to and focus on.

I'm often amazed at comments about pop culture that not only do not resonate with me but indeed leave me as confused as if they were in another language entirely. I went decades without paying attention to popular music, have put up a firm resistance to lots of TV, books and movie offerings (although I'll often read reviews of these things, perhaps to keep up some culture cred for crosswords or just to understand why I don't want to start paying attention to the actual things).

In my world, my husband gets my close attention. My father gets a lot of attention although probably not all he needs. My condo and its objects fall under my gaze and penetrate although it is easy to lock things away, look until you don't see, etc. And a book cover observed is not a book read.

I read news, in actual papers and online. I read about some events multiple times. I read certain bloggers religiously and others casually. Thus, these inputs inform my reality. That and the voices in my head. Reading about stuff, however, isn't living it. I can try to imagine living in a mud hut with a charcoal fire or wearing a burka or risking violence toward me if I didn't. But this is largely unsuccessful. I attend more to the shorts, jeans, T-Shirts, slacks, blazers etc. that I actually wear and to the reality of a tenth floor apartment in a high rise with AC and a microwave and a plasma TV.

I read a study once that followed children from the crib to school age. Kids that were very sensitive to environmental changes in the crib (such as the amount of light) tended to exhibit shyness as young kids. Maybe shyness is simply too much response to things. New people and environments are overwhelming to certain people who pay attention.

Today I took a walk. I noticed people. I noticed an argyle sock in the gutter. I saw a feather, two small rubber heels from shoes (a block apart) and a sandwich container from a convenience store on the sidewalks. Things like this penetrate and get my focus. To no one's surprise I don't focus on great deeds! It's taken me days to do this blog entry for heaven's sake.

[Today's photo is courtesy of the shop window at Haven Gallery on W. Sixth. I still think my photos are art. The ones where I take a more central role, though, maybe not so much.]

Monday, July 13, 2009

What Do You Want?

Right after what was apparently the most significant event of the summer (Michael Jackson's death), I noticed a homemade sign on Austin City Lofts. "Wow," I thought. "Does someone really care that much?"

I have long said that the key to being happy, to 'getting what you want,' is to know what you want. I think I've failed miserably at that.

My horoscope today (the Creators Syndicate one in the Austin American-Statesman) says "If your environment isn't well-organized, you will feel distracted if not distraught. Make it a priority to get things in order." Well, that might have been true in the old house. No, it definitely was true. But I think my work area is just about perfect now. The whole house, really. I always have some cleaning task queued up that needs to be done and I do need to go through some boxes and files and organize the storage space and better organize the kitchen but, really, I can pretty much find things and, well, that isn't the problem. [I don't put much faith in horoscopes or fortune cookies or seer advisers. However, if I'm reading a paper and it isn't today's paper then I want bother to read the horoscope!]

We had dinner and and outing with a creative young friend on Saturday and she said she needed to focus her interests a little bit. (She is into photography, has a film she's editing, does fashion designs and sells 'reclaimed' fashions made from thrift store finds, etc.) She's only twenty-five, though, and she's managed to get a college degree, do some travel and live overseas a while and make a move here and get and hold a job to support herself with only a bike someone gave her for transportation. I'd say there is plenty of time to focus for her. Of course, she is thirty-five years younger than I am!

When I retired (how many times over the last six plus years have I used that phrase?), I thought I would learn and accomplish things.

The learning? It's a slippery slope as illustrated here. I would want to know more about world events and that would stick me with learning, for example, where the countries in Africa even are and then I'd have to take the time to actually read articles in my stacks of papers that I used to skip over. I'd want to learn more about movies. I considered learning to make one, decided it was too hard and gave away some equipment that could have made it possible. I read scripts and bought, and left unread, books about screenwriting. I started going to festivals, became involved in screening movies for a festival, read some books about movies, took the time to watch some classics. The result is that I still can't tell you who's who in the film world or really recognize many style things except for maybe some Woody Allen motifs.

The accomplishments? I wanted to find some volunteer work to do, but since I don't much like interacting with people that has been limited. I wanted to be healthier (exercise, diet, lose weight, ho hum) and maybe I am, maybe not. Not like I envisioned. I wanted to write, get organized, cook more.

I think it all boiled down to wanting to become an expert at something enough to help myself or others. I think maybe that's what missing from my life. It would probably take focus, though, and I think I'm destined to dabble. And to feel a little bad about it. Some people are thrust into situations where they have to focus and form strong opinions and do something about them. That hasn't really happened to me. In my career, there was some specialization forced from the outside and, I have to say, it allowed me to occasionally seem to accomplish something. (Although not as often as you might think.) Truthfully, accomplishment of anything needs to be forced on me. And I'm very resistant to intrusions in my retirement so it's hard for those situations to develop. I guess if I can force myself to write about the dilemma, though (fulfilling the 'pretending to write but really just blogging' destiny that's been my mantra of late) then I can maybe exert a little influence on myself to force myself to figure out what I want and accomplish it. You think? Honestly, I doubt it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Does it make you feel better if some smirking (once) rich guy gets 150 years in prison? Does it make you feel better if someone who has made you feel small, called you names or dismissed you has some grief? Does it make you feel better to see oppressors jailed or killed?

The word schadenfreude is from the German. It means damage joy. If you are flying high and people you think are a??holes are underwater, can that bring you joy? Even if you are just rocking along just the same does a bit of trouble coming the way of a perceived tormentor do your heart good?

I'm pretty sure I'm hiding and watching a number of people to see if they 'get what they deserve.' Or what I think they deserve. Sort of in the manner of those town folk in "The Magnificent Ambersons" waiting around to see if the obnoxious Georgy gets his 'comeuppance.'

But you know what? It doesn't give me joy to see the descent. It's more that instead of feeling bad for them I'm just not cheering them on. Mostly I get my pleasure from a casual indifference to their success or failure. A few less people on the planet I have to feel bad for if things don't go their way.

I just wish people wouldn't have given me a reason to not wish them well. That things had been different, that they had been honest and generous. That they had not placed themselves above me and others. That they had not set themselves up for the fall. I'd just rather folks all made me want to see them do well. But it would be exhausting, too.

Everyone will reach a nadir even if it is just the final extinguishing of life, that moment when we can no longer cling to this realm. (If you are going to some heaven, well, yeah that's the last revenge from my unkind thoughts I suppose if you've offended me.) How horrible to have people smiling at our inevitable defeat. I think there are probably a few people who will feel my ultimate demise will be a victory and who will take joy in dips in my life. Certainly there are people out there wishing me ill or, at least, not hoping for the best for me. But I don't think there are many. Most of us are indifferent to most of the rest of us. The Madoffs managed to alienate a lot of people in a big way but, yeah, they had to really work at it.

Anyway, much as I like the word, I don't think I have much use for damage joy. Like those that awaited George Amberson's comeuppance, it's all too easy to simply forget all about it. And find what joy we can make of our own existence.

[Photo today is a shop window reflection from New York City.]

Friday, July 10, 2009

Art Critic

One of my joys in traveling is to visit museums. I enjoy the art, of course, but also the other people enjoying the art (or by turns being puzzled or even repulsed by it). When we were in NYC, FFP and I handed the camera back and forth and shot pictures while at MOMA. One thing I like about that museum is that except for some special exhibits you can take photos there. Here I think this viewer has unintentionally become part of the exhibiting of this Pollock.

Yesterday was my walkie/talkie (and lunch) with a dear friend. Given the searing temps in Austin we didn't go too far for lunch (Chez Nous on Neches) although that ten blocks or so was enough to feel a bit hot and sweaty. Afterward we decided to go to AMOA where an exhibit about memory has been mounted. FFP and I went to the opening but, honestly, it's hard to enjoy a show at the opening. After that we stopped at Arthouse at Jones Center where the New American Talent is up. My friend is a playwright and he is working on a play that involves the art world. We had a rambling discussion of what is and is not art, what is 'good' or 'bad' and so forth. That's a discussion that never ends, of course. One of the best things about museums and galleries and movies and plays and performances and reading and writing is the way we don't just consume it...we are all critics. Sure, we listen to the 'real' critics and, in the visual art world, are very influenced by them. My friends says that putting something in a gallery, putting a seven figure price on it attracts some people.

Personally I love learning what I like, what I love, what merely puzzles me. Given our discussion we pronounced on the art we saw yesterday. It was interesting how our opinions differed and how quickly they were formed.

Here's a photo I edited that FFP took at MOMA of a girl knelling before the art with a tattoo.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Growing Old

My current age finally seems old to me. In the past I've been startled at my age but never thought it was that old. Perhaps my current age would seem young and frisky, too, if I felt more young and frisky.

It's not that my health isn't good. Oh, I have aches and pains. I get little injuries and illnesses which I nurse along certain that time will cure them and it does. That's sweet. I can still walk a pretty long way and climb some stairs. Theoretically I still have some percentage of my mental capacity.

What I finally have lost is that sense of endless possibility for things I'll achieve, the places I'll go, the things I'll see happen and the better, stronger, smarter (and yes, thinner) person I'll become.

I feel boxed in. Trapped by how old I am and what will and won't happen.

Of course, I know how it ends. But not when. And there's the rub. Or, one of the rubs.

I once dreamed I would learn many things that I have not mastered. I once dreamed of traveling to many corners of the globe. Now my dreams are circumscribed by the certainty of dangers and lack of bathrooms in many locales.

Ah, bathrooms. Old enough to be out from under the proverbial 'curse' of womankind, the bladder and bowels are aged and not what they once were. Sadly, even the spouse needs to carefully regard bathroom locations these days.

We sometimes imply that it is the three elderly parents which keep us close to home. And this is, perhaps somewhat true. However, they show great independence and we have found others to fill in for needed duties. Maybe the truth is that as we see their worlds shrink it is hard to escape our own feelings of being boxed in. None of the old folks can drive now and none would sign up for a trip further than about ten miles, I don't think, even being driven. My in-laws have never flown and my dad doesn't think he's up to it any longer. I'm definitely up to road trips, long plane rides, etc. But somehow find the idea of going far a bit tiresome myself. Still I enjoyed the last trip and must just plan another.

It all seems a bit futile sometimes. I know life is ephemeral, but this has never stopped me from wanting to improve, learn, grow and go. And it isn't now. It just feels different. Less open-ended, more final.

This feeling is reflected in my acquisition and desire for things. I remember when I was a kid, late teens, early twenties. I was just stopping growing and so had started to actually wear clothes out. I clung to disastrously worn old tennis shoes and jeans, proud to have actually owned them long enough to make them well-used with a few holes and some character. Then I went through a long period of acquiring clothes. Now I find myself loath to buy anything new even though my wardrobe is ancient and starting to wear a bit thin and shiny in places. I remember wanting to expand my living space, buy more real estate, own more gadgets, books, CDs, movies. I wanted to acquire art and build new space to have walls to display it. Now I want to have just what I need, no more, less complicated please! (Although I still get a bit of pleasure from looking at the books we saved last year and those added in since then on the shelves we built into this condo.)

I have also reached a point where I realize that I have already been here a while. I reflect on places and people. On the dead and the living. Heck, as I look through my contacts data base or even my facebook friends I often think "who is that anyway?" I've known people and forgotten them, left them to meteroic success or maybe dismal failure. There are stacks of events poorly remembered, distorted images, hoarsely-pronounced lines from the dull yet surreal play that is my life. I have known people, tried things, read books, seen art and it's all stuffed deep inside me and hard to find.

I have reached an age, I guess, where I realize that one day, possibly not far off, I won't walk in this realm. I don't just know it, as I feel I have for most of my life, but realize it in my bones. Which the young cannot do, nor could I when young. And that, that feeling more than the knowing, makes me old.

I think, though, in my old age, that I should release myself frequently from duty (from financial head-scratching, domestic duty, volunteer work, exercise, worrying about the parents and socializing) and just read and write and think freely, with no guilt about what has or hasn't been done. Thus today I will leave dust and the need for exercise and the call to pay attention to other exigencies of my little life and do a small amount of reading and thinking. You can never really get those duties truly done anyway. And I won't worry that what I pour into my brain from reading or my own creations will merely disappear with me when I am, inevitably, gone.

[Today's photo is a NYC shop window reflection. The title of the piece is "I Have a Book in Me." Ha.]

Saturday, July 04, 2009

You Go, Girl!

Men are fine. No, really. But don't you love this? It is a shop window in NYC. Saks Fifth Avenue, I think. They posed the wedding dresses on bald models with little plastic cake top grooms. I think big weddings are stupid, of course We went to a wedding celebration, post-wedding, at a barbecue joint last week. That was nice.

Sometimes men are so pompous, though. Not many of them here in the U.S. of A. Some, though. Do I really care who the governor of S.C. thinks is his 'soul mate?' I do not.This pomposity is rampant in Iran, and in all those countries where religions have told the males that they are the chosen sex, chosen by God. I, for one, vote no on 'reaching out' to a country where women are chattel. Unclench your fist AND free your women!

Don't know where that came from except that all the celebrity death nonsense makes me wonder if we understand what is happening around the world and then, of course, I chose this picture for this post. And it's just frivolous and fun. So am I serious or not. You decide. Other people have trouble telling sometimes.

I haven't written anything longer than a tweet in a while. One post from our NYC tour. A vacation, catching up on parent duty when we returned, catching up on errands and such and, I must admit, all that tennis on TV...I've felt really busy.

I really did enjoy New York. We did a lot of eating and activities, but there was a lot more that I wanted to do. Highlights? OK, here goes.
  • We got to eat at some favorite places but there just wasn't time or appetite for all the eating we would have liked! Old favorites Artisanal, DB Bistro Moderne, Orsay were visited. Greek fish restaurant Avra was right next door to the place where we stayed. Ate there twice, once entertaining six diverse friends for lunch (playwright, construction expert, computer expert, financial expert, assistant on the Letterman show and technology teacher). Discovered a new place, Commerce, in a precious part of the Village (on Commerce near the intersection of Bleeker/Seventh). They do well with parts (offal) and fish and have a great vibe in a historic little space near the Cherry Lane theater. Our last night there we ate a Giambelli's, a very traditional NY Italian joint we found in the neighborhood for a meal after an afternoon matinee and some packing. We had a nightcap at the Waldorf bar that night, too. Expensive, buy hey.... We ate a pub lunch on the day we celebrated Bloomsday.
  • We really got to see a lot of cabaret this trip which was fine with me because I love sipping a cocktail and listening to classic old tunes. Marilyn Maye did a Johnny Mercer tribute at the Metropolitan Room. We went to Cherry Lane Theater to see Jim Caruso, Billy Stritch, Klea Blackhurst, Christine Ebersole and an up and coming jazz guitarist, Aaron Weinstein, do another tribute to Mercer. The book is big and two nights of Mercer was fine. At the Metropolitan Room we drank cocktails, but the second show was a theater setting and so we discovered the aforementioned Commerce almost next door after for apps and drinks after. (We returned for another meal, so impressed were we.) We also went to the Blue Note (first time I'd been there) and heard Jane Monheit. Enjoyed the people we met at these places, too.
  • We went to the Metropolitan Museum and saw the Francis Bacon exhibit and the fashion exhibit and another special exhibit of pictures and painting from the '70's I think. Also went to the International Center for Photography for a show of Avedon fashion photography. We wandered the MOMA, too. That's just an obligatory stop for us on most of our trips.
  • We saw "Hair" on Broadway. It was entertaining enough but the relevance seemed to be gone from it as it was sung and acted by youngsters who would have to volunteer to get sent to war.
  • We really enjoyed visiting with our friend Barbara Hammond. She joined us for the lunch at Avra (she is the playwright mentioned above), we caught up with her at the Ulysses reading (see below) and we had a theater evening with her. Dinner at Joe Allen and a play, "August: Osage County," that left all three of us nonplussed. I was expecting a serious play with some humor from the down home circumstances in the 'provinces' of Oklahoma. There was more farce than I expected and little subtlety in using dramatic devices like family conflicts, unexpected parentage, etc. It was great having a New York theater evening with a NY playwright. We hope to be able to go back some time and see one of her plays produced.
  • Our original impetus for going to NYC at this time was for Bloomsday. The event at the downtown pub Ulysses' Folk House was so much fun. We got there early, ate the carvery lunch, drank a bit. Weather was rainy and blustery but the reading in the outdoor part of the pub on Stone Street went well with the weather holding off. Guinness had a big ice sculpture and they were giving away oysters on the half shell and oyster 'shooters' that careered through the sculpture to land in a cup with sauce (giving them an extra chill and some drama). The pub gave away little plates of gorgonzola and glasses of red wine, too. (Leopold Bloom's pub lunch at Davy Bryne's in the novel was a glass of burgundy and a gorgonzloa sandwich.) We met two Chrises there and they decided on the spot to join in the reading and did a bang-up job. We stayed so long downtown that we were a little late to the more formal reading at Symphony Space. But it was only about a half hour in when we arrived at that Upper West Side theater. We stayed until the end which was a complete reading of Molly Bloom's soliloquy. (You go girl, indeed. Yes.) A lot of the segments were devoted to the parts of the novel referencing food in this performance which was cool given our affinity for food.
  • We had lunch one day with some kids we met in Austin at the (sadly now closed) Taste Select Wines. They hope to move to Austin. They are young and smart and have been battered by the economy.
  • If I could transport one thing from NYC to Austin it would be Artisanal Fromagerie/Bistro/Wine Bar. Just a place to get a basket of those gougeres would be thrilling. Cheese puff doesn't begin to describe it.
So yeah we had good luck with the trip to NYC and good luck coming and going on Jet Blue. (Except the TVs at our seats didn't work on the way home, but they sent us a $15 credit each so if we fly them again within the year, there is that.) I wish we could go somewhere in July especially since the temps promise to melt us here, but I'm also a little glad we are staying put and getting some things organized. We are, aren't we? Still I want to travel more. That was the idea of retiring and of downsizing. Wasn't it? There had to be some point.

LB and Barbara Hammond at Ulysses' Folk House.

Yeah, so here I am blogging. I'm sure not many are reading and this rambling doesn't induce me to put a link to this on facebook or twitter. No, better to natter away in this lonely corner.