A Garden Tale

We have a planter box in our back garden that is empty. Alf and I decided it took too much work, and not to mention water, to nurture and grow vegetables. Consequently, word got out in the neighborhood and it has become the toilet for cats that poop in for visits. I caught one the other day peeing. He looked me straight in the face with a grin and continued peeing.

Our son however, didn’t like the look of the empty box. Last weekend he showed up for a visit with four sweet pea plants and put them in the ground.

“The soil is full of cat pee,” I warned.

“Fertilizer,” he said.

I love sweet peas with their curly tendrils and their delicate multi-colored flowers that can fill a room with their fragrance. We didn’t have trellises, but he found leftover tomato plant stands which he put around each plant.

“Take care of them,” he said when he left.

Two weeks later he called me from the road to Idaho. “How are the sweet peas?”

I stuttered. It has been scorching hot and the sweet peas turned lemon yellow and looked exhausted.

I called a local nursery for help. They told me to shade the plants with an umbrella, water them frequently and fertilize them.

I envisioned taking shifts with Alf holding umbrellas over them. Or recruiting neighborhood kids to take turns and we’d pay them in candy.

What we did instead was drape a tablecloth over the tops of the stands, and clip clothespins to keep it from flying away. It looks like a Sukkah booth.

This morning the sweet peas look perkier. And our son, who is coming for a visit, will see we’re taking care of his investment.

Frankly, Calvin is less fuss.

“I’m the best investment you have in this family. At least I don’t ask you to shade me with an umbrella on our walks!”

And the Theme Continues

The older I get the same themes in my life keep coming around. Maybe it’s because there aren’t any new themes out there anymore. They’re all used up. Like going to the party store hoping to find new colors and designs and coming home with pink and yellow again.

My neighbors are from India and they tried very hard to get into the spirit of Christmas this year. The ones across the street draped the front of the house with strings of lights from the eaves and bushes. They also inflated several snowmen that lit up at night. They still haven’t taken them down. They must be on a timer because promptly at 6 pm the lights come on and the snowmen stand at attention with smiles on their faces.

Why am I mentioning this? Because I’ve lived in the same neighborhood for forty years and have seen different people groups come and go. When we moved in most of the neighbors were Portuguese. Then they were Asian. Now they’re Indian. And every one of them were bitten by the Christmas bug. But nothing beat the Portuguese. One neighbor was the master decorator with reindeer, Santa, sleighs, trees, and magic stars over the roof. We waited every year for the unveiling, which was at the end of the street so no one could escape his display.

Themes come and go. Traditions too based on the culture. Ours are especially commercial. Everyone gets infected the longer they stay here. If I lived in Mexico I’d be drinking Mexican hot chocolate and marching in a procession to the Church. No Santas allowed.

Calvin says, “Good grief! What made you so broody today? Maybe it was what you ate for dinner last night. Speaking of which, are you going to give me those leftovers I saw you store in the fridge? You can skip the hot chocolate.”

And We’re Back

It’s been a while, I know, but between the pandemic and some serious health problems for me, life got complicated. Calvin pivoted quickly when he realized his treat schedule was going to change, his daily walks, too, and he was going to need to roll with it, and not in the mud either. Not an easy task for a beagle but he rose to the occasion.

My family came to the rescue as well, each member contributing their talent for keeping me sane. My daughter took care of the endless administrative details that came with doctors throwing papers, articles and weekly instructions at me, not to mention the myriad of appointments for tests. The paperwork was my doing. I insisted on seeing the research for the prescribed protocols that my care team wanted me to embark on.painting30

My son took time off from work to take me to doctor treatments, hold my hand while I was in treatment, and made sure I was looked after well. He would have made a great RN.

Alf held down the fort. That meant Calvin at home. The chemo center would not allow for a nose-to-the-ground hound dog on the premises, although he would have made a great therapy dog dispensing slurpy kisses and smiles to fellow patients. He also would have devoured the contents of their lunch boxes and left them with only their water bottles and tea.

Nobody is ever prepared for a cancer diagnosis. It’s shocking. It takes time to process and accept it. I’m grateful for the resilience of my family and their loving support, the care of neighbors and friends, and the amazing contributions from my extended family without which I wouldn’t be here to tell about it.

Calvin says, “You didn’t push very hard for me to be in the chemo room with you. I would have made everyone giggle like children and that’s better than any treatment.” beagle

All We Like Sheep

Image result for crowded subway train

This morning the subway system had a major malfunction. Everything was broken – the tracks, the cars, and even the people. What completely baffles me are the passengers. They’re sheep. Our train was so full we couldn’t squeeze in a fly, but does anybody notice that? When we pulled into the stop, our conductor, realizing the suffocating situation we were in, announced to the crowd on the platform to wait for the train just behind us, which was headed in the same direction and was empty. What did the crowd do? They shoved and pushed their way into our train. I was afraid we would collapse from the load. And then we faced the under water tunnel into the city and I cringed. I have nightmares of a breakdown in the tunnel with no escape unless you like to swim, which I don’t. And I didn’t want to die with this morning’s crowd. They were too stupid. If I’m going to die in an accident, I want to go down with smart people.  Fortunately we made it safely into the city otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this. But it goes to show how people in general do not think, or react well to a scenario that requires reason. If I had been waiting for the train and had had the option of the second train, I would have waited, but then again, I could have been the only one facing the risk of getting trapped in the tunnel with no one else on board but the train operator. At least I’d have had him for company when we died together.

Calvin says, “Stick to walking, always the safest bet unless you run into something ten times your size and then run like hell.”  beagle

A Little Slather Will Do Ya

I’ve taken up painting. It’s therapy on the weekends. Lately I’ve found I need it after work, too.

I love a white canvas begging to be slathered with color. Fear used to paralyze me. Not anymore. It’s just paint. If I don’t like it, I change it. I control my universe.

What I find most fun is faces. They just appear. My sister says I paint our grandmother over and over again. Okay. Maybe. But I don’t recall any emotional turmoil with her growing up, so why would IRelated image be resurrecting her on my canvases? I think my sister is projecting her own drama.

I comb the internet for paintings that arrest me and then study them. The ones that immediately capture my attention are the modern abstracts, the ones that look like ink splats on a page. I’m drawn to furious, powerful colors. Robert Motherwell and sculptor Louise Nevelton fascinate me. Their work is enormous and commands an entire room or a street. Next time I’m in New York I want to hunt for their work wherever it leads me.

Image result for robert motherwell paintings

Calvin says, “Hey, I could do that. On my next walk, watch and see.”  beagle

Sage and Tequila

An interesting thing happened to me and my sister on the way to Marfa, Texas. It was the weekend of the yearly art festival and we arrived on a Friday late morning. Right away we noticed very few people on the streets, and all the galleries were closed. There was no buzz in town. No crowds. Nada. We checked our smartphones to make sure we had the right weekend. No goof-ups. Our dates were correct. FullSizeRender (1)

We concluded we had arrived too early so we went into Capri, the only restaurant doing business and sat at a table inside near the bar. The outside area was full of boomers and millennials. The wait staff was a bunch of guys in blue shirts and beards. I didn’t check if they were wearing boots, but presumably so. After all this was Texas.

We sat so long I could have written a play. We were being ignored. So we got smart and moved over to the bar where at least we could order drinks. By then we were thirsty and hungry. The bartender, also a blue-beard, made our drinks and also took our food order. It wasn’t anything complicated, a kale salad and a melted cheese and dip thing.

We watched the bartender make picked okra margaritas, glasses of champagne with tequila, and hibiscus  concoctions for the other customers. Meanwhile the blue guys came out with plates of food for the people outside and for three guys seated on my left. It turned out they were the band for the night’s concert. We knew that because the chefs came out and announced every twenty minutes who they were with loud clapping. The chefs also sported beards, but longer ones.

We continued to sit and wait for our food while we finished our drinks. The bartender never asked if we wanted refills, nor did he go into the kitchen to see where our food was. He made no eye contact and was as friendly as a black-tailed rattlesnake.

FullSizeRender (2).jpgAfter an hour – don’t ask me why we waited so long – we got up. My sister went to the restroom and I told the bartender to cancel the food order, that it was a disgrace in customer service. He disappeared into the kitchen – finally – and came out a few minutes later. I had my credit card in hand. He said, “The drinks are on the house.” No apologies, no explanations, nothing.

We were so hungry by then we went looking for another restaurant and found one at the Saint George Hotel. It was housed in a modern building with a museum looking bookstore in the lobby. We walked in and went straight for the bar, but before we could warm our tushes on the bar stools, the bartender announced, “Out kitchen is closed. If you’re hungry come back at 4 o’clock.”

We laughed. Clearly there was no food in Marfa.

We ended up at the corner Dairy Queen eating chicken strips and fries. Then we made a U-turn and hightailed it out of town.

Calvin says, “Goes to show that cowboy country ain’t food friendly.” beagle


Third Time

After driving to Tulsa and leaving off my friend there, I flew back to California. It was on the flight from Dallas that I got the adventure I didn’t get on the road trip.

We were late in pushing back from the gate because there was a technical glitch in the cockpit that needed investigating and fixing.

We finally got clearance for take-off. We were strapped in and ready. The engines were revved up and we flew down the runway, but then the pilot slammed on the brakes. He revved up again, we gathered speed, and he slammed on the brakes again.

At that point I was going to raise my hand and say I wanted off the flight. taking off

The captain aborted the flight and we taxied back to the gate where we sat for another half hour as a tech worked on the indicator light that insisted on blinking its beady little head.

I was grateful our captain wasn’t taking any chances with the flight, so that calmed me down.

The third attempt at take-off was successful since I’m writing this. The flight itself was uneventful and the landing was smooth without any hard bounces.

I thanked the captain as I got off for another day of life. He was madly writing notes on a clipboard.

Calvin says, “Woa. If I had been under the seat I’d had bayed my head off.”

Sticky Hot

It’s been so hot here in the Bay Area it reminds me of the other coast in the middle of summer.

Who shoved the fog away?

Usually you can depend on the cool breezes coming off the bay in the evenings and lowering the temperatures, but not these days.

Even the birds aren’t chirping.


I wonder if the airport has delayed its flights and is bringing them in when it’s cooler. The image that comes to mind is of tires melting on the tarmac while planes wait for take-off. Or the other way around, planes leaving rubber smudges as they land and roll to the gate.

I’m amazed at my garden, or what’s left of it since the drought. The succulents are thriving as are the juniper bushes. I could pour sand on them and they’d still grow. What’s shot is my grass. The azaleas, rhododendrons and roses look so pitiful it hurts. I was complaining to Alf about all the upkeep not long ago when we still had water. Maybe this is the solution, to let everything die a slow death. Do I have the courage for it or will I feel too guilty and push my water limit in saving them?

I know the decision my neighbor took – everything is green, healthy and happy. His plants wave to me and I hear them cheering in the evenings around his gurgling fountain. They’re having a cocktail party while we’re preparing for a funeral.

My neighbor across the street, on the other hand, has pulled out his grass and I’m hoping he’s not planting artificial turf. That horrible green is downright ugly. Next thing I’d expect to see would be pink flamingos lining his entry. And then I’ll know I’m on the other coast, in Florida.

Calvin says, “Okay so it’s hot. Live with it. Take a nap on the dining room table like me.”  beagle

The Lost Art of Working Hard

George is a baker who gets up at 3 am every morning to prepare the day’s bread in a bakery he does not own. He lives in a trailer with his daughter. “I’m blessed,” he says with a smile that spreads over his face.

“How did you learn to bake bread?” I ask him.  cropped-rubbed-my-tummy.jpg

“I lived in San Diego and worked at the counter of a bakery. One day I asked the baker if he’d teach me. I was sixteen at the time making less than minimum wage,” he says.

“So you want to bake bread?” the baker asked.

“I said yes.”

“He looked me over and said, ‘two rules: one, you’re here at 3 am every day, and two, you don’t get paid.'”

For six months George stuck to the baker’s schedule and, while he never made a dime, he learned how to make bread, cookies, and cakes.

Two months later the baker quit and George took over. The owner of the bakery did not pay him what the ex-baker made, but he put in his hours and did the work. Then one day he decided enough was enough and gave his one-month notice. That’s when the owner took notice. She offered him a dollar per hour more if he would stay. George said no. She offered him two dollars more, he still said no.

He packed a bag, and with his daughter, drove to Ashland, Oregon. He had no job, no connections, nada.

“I took a big risk, but it paid off,” he says.

Today he’s the baker at the Village Baker on Main Street. His selection of breads are amazing – blue cheese & green olive, jalapeno & cheddar, artichoke, Parmesan & chive are just a few of the many mouth watering options in the display cabinet.

George has been baking for 20 years now and continues to love it.

“Do you teach classes?” I ask.

“Nope, nobody wants to work that hard,” he says with a shrug.

Calvin says, “Even young beagles don’t want to hunt rabbits anymore. Who’s going to control the rabbit population then?” beagle






Bringing Up Kate

We just returned from our annual trek to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.

They’re dumbing down Will. In an effort to appeal to a younger generation, this year they’re serving up The Taming of the Shrew in a boardwalk setting with the cast in 50’s diner costumes and a live band on stage.

Petruchio, wearing Elvis hair and Country-Western garb, struts and swaggers his way into Kate’s life, with the help of her father, and begins to deconstruct her until she’s a pliable and submissive bride.   Screen shot 2013-05-11 at 2.46.42 PM

His tactics? Starvation and sleep deprivation.

Okay, it was the way Will wrote it, so nothing new here.

Underneath the tantrums, Kate sees the shallow lives around her. She’s smart, quick witted, capable. She isn’t going to settle for stupid. But there isn’t a man worthy of her. The suitors that come courting are besotted with Bianca, Kate’s sister, who personifies a beauty as airy as meringue.

In contrast, Kate is a ferocious woman. No doubt prompted by her father’s lack of affection because he too favors his younger daughter. Nobody that comes to woo Bianca is Kate’s type.  She would squash them like bugs. What Kate needs is a man, not a limp fashionista.

Petruchio rises to the challenge. He is confident and determined. He takes Kate to be his wife and disciplines her so she grows up to be the woman she is meant to be.

It’s an interesting story for today’s young audiences who have been brought up on reality TV with all its raw vulgarities and blurring of the sexes.

Traditional values between a man and a woman still play well.

Deep down we resonate with it whether we admit or not.

Calvin said, “I would have used other ways to mature Kate, like licking her face and rubbing my nose in her hair.”  beagle