Monday, January 30, 2006

Laughter was our way...

During many attempts to organize my files and piles, I run across (and must stop to read) many papers from the past. Some range from painful to annoying. But some are wonderful, like this acrostic poem my daughter Gillian wrote for me, spelling out a nickname and so much more.

Laughter is our way
Uplifting in like
Cleverness and the
Knowledge that we share.
Yellow garden spiders and
Simple card games are
Ties that bind us.
Older and wiser we
Never forget, best friends,

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Why I'm glad I don't carry a gun

Went to see Brokeback Mountain this afternoon. It's a wonderful movie--great characters, touching story line, visually sumptuous. I was thoroughly engaged. The only unpleasant part was the presence of two old hens directly in back of me.

They whooped and cackled at every exposed breast or butt. They tsk-tsked at each utterance of the f-word. They gasped loudly at the sex, be it hetereosexual or homosexual (despite the fact that the latter was surely what brought them there). Worst of all, they laughed at the most inappropriate times. Near the end, one scene had me in tears and the two old bats in titters.

It was all I could do not to trip them on their way out. I refer you to the title of this post.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

First Kiss

No, it didn't happen today.

I still have the diary I kept when I was 13. One entry says, "First kiss, can't sleep." It happened at my eighth-grade graduation. At the end of the evening, Richie, my best friend Algene's boyfriend, kissed me on the cheeck.

How was that a first kiss? I can think of a lot of scenarios for a first kiss, but someone else's boyfriend's lips grazing my cheek is not one of them. Still, at the time I thought it was. And I couldn't sleep. I guess it doesn't take much to make an impression on a 13-year-old.

When did I get my first real kiss? The kind that a Kevin Costner character described as "long...slow...deep...wet"? I have no idea. No memory of it whatsoever. I guess by that time I was old and jaded and no longer impressionable. Maybe 14.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Monday, Monday

Woke up to 6" of heavy, wet snow. Jay came by to plow me out. He does this after every storm because his wife was my daughter Jill's best friend. She's pregnant with their first baby, and I feel as though Jill is getting a niece or nephew.

I took Wolfy for a walk, and he jammed his big, black husky-shepherd nose into a series of prints in the snow. I took a look: very large dog paw prints. We turned to head up the road and both stopped as we saw one very large dog, a German Shepherd, at the top of the hill. She belongs to my neighbor, who lives about 1500 feet up the road

Later, I followed the shepherd's tracks around the barn. She had clearly chased my "porch cats," who hang out in the barn sometimes. She went in and out of my garage, and everywhere else in pursuit of those cats. I worried about them until they showed up for dinner tonight. At the moment they're cozy in their box inside a dog house on the porch, heated by the SnuggleSafe disk that I'm so glad I bought for them. But our little circle of security has been invaded by the enemy. Although German Shepherds are one of my favorite breeds, I'm not happy with the idea of one of them going after Kitty Witty I and Kitty Witty II. (All suggestions for names gratefully received.)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Stocking Up

Around here they joke that everyone must eat French toast during snowstorms because whenever one is forecast the stores fill up with people buying bread, milk, and eggs. I don't eat bread, I eat very few eggs, and my soymilk supply is good for a week or more. But 8" of snow is predicted for tonight and tomorrow, and I feel a compelling urge to go to the supermarket.

I have a bad cold and don't feel very well, and still I'm contemplating getting in my car and driving a minimum of ten miles to the nearest store to get--what? I'm trying to figure out what I could possibly need. As always, it comes down to pet food. I have full bags of dog and cat food, but they're open, and that sets off alarm bells. Silly alarm bells, really, because these are big bags.

Why do I feel the need to procure great quantities of pet food whenever a snowflake threatens? Is it a leftover contagious emotion from the long-ago days when my husband filled the basement with vacuum-packed buckets of grains and vitamins, preparing for the total anarchy predicted by various experts? Or does this go even further back, to the canned food that lined the shelves of our kitchen cupboards in my Cold War childhood? My dad, far more organized than I, had a system of rotation, so that we'd eat the oldest can first. In my house today, I have an unfortunate lack of systems. The concept of rotation is rather foreign to me. If the dog food has an expiration date I'm not aware of it. But I know one thing: I want to make sure we have lots and lots.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


I went out to hear some jazz last night, kissed all the boys in the band on the lips (they're my friends), and woke up with a sore throat and a cold this morning. I'm not suggesting that I picked up something from one of them, but I'm concerned that one or more of them may have picked up something from me.

So I spent an entire Friday in my bedroom, except for dog and cat care and tea making. I watched a movie--all of it, unusual for me, at one sitting. It was "Working Girl," which I'd seen twice before, but long ago. (I didn't want to tax my fuzzy head.) I caught up on a few of the magazines in my ridiculous To Be Read stack. And I've been listening to "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me," one of my favorite shows on NPR.

It was a banner day when I learned about NPR archiving its shows online. Instead of listening to this one at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, I can tune in any time I wish. I can repeat lines I missed. I can even repeat the whole show if I want to. I guess this concept could be considered Tivo for radio freaks. Except it's free. And it's always fun, even for heads that are not at their sharpest.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Everyone's a photographer

I went to a christening the other day. When I entered the church, the baby's mother handed me her digital camera and asked if I would take pictures. I was flattered, and happy to do it. I joked that with my experience as a newspaper photographer I would push past the priest to get the perfect camera angle. Well, she thought I was joking.

What I had forgotten was that digital cameras have made everyone a photographer. People who never took a picture in their lives now have a Sony or a Canon in their pockets. Not one of them uses a viewfinder; they all hold the cameras out (with one hand) at arm's length. So not only was the church filled with avid, pushy photographers, but they took up twice as much space as they might have years ago with their Brownies or Instamatics.

"Our" baby wasn't the only one baptized that day. When the priest moved to the baptismal font, accompanied by three infants, their parents, and three sets of godparents, a crazed mob of photographers, arms outstretched, stormed the front of the church, some crashing into the Steinway grand a few feet away. (Navigating via an LCD screen is risky.)

My thoughts of camera angles vanished, and my goal shifted to simply getting the baby, or part thereof, in the picture. Even so, my chances were slim. Whichever way I leaned, reached, or ducked, the same thing filled my lens: the permed, dyed, rather thin auburn head of hair attached to the woman in front of me. As the priest mumbled holy things, I sent hateful thoughts to that hair. I wanted to pull it out by the roots. I imagined setting fire to it.

Then a miracle happened. (This was a church, after all.) Ms. Auburn ran out of battery, memory, or steam--I don't know which. She turned and pushed (old habits die hard) her way back to her pew. I jumped into her space and stuck the camera, at arm's length, between the necks of the two people now in front of me. I squinted at the screen. Yes, there was a baby in there. Our baby. And--omigod--her smiling mother! With no time to even pray they were in focus, I took the picture.

Remind me never ever to photograph a wedding.

Monday, January 16, 2006


It was 7º F. here this morning. So much for the January thaw.

I'm an only child, pretty good at amusing myself. For the most part, I do all right living alone. I'm never bored. But sometimes I miss having someone to talk to. Writing is all about telling. But telling is not the same as talking. This explains, I think, how I got hooked on a website that would probably not have attracted me otherwise--at least not enough to have created an addiction.

The site is populated by a large number of of people, almost all women, most of whom are kindhearted and fun-loving. (Like all populations, it includes a few snots.) When I lost several pets a year ago, they felt my pain and posted accordingly. They really were a comfort. And they've made me laugh. But I realized recently that I've been spending way too much time on a website where they talk about TV shows I've neve watched, recipes I'll never make, and relatives I can't keep straight. Every morning they pose a question: Do you keep your toilet lid up or down? What did you have for dinner last night? Are you an innie or an outie? This morning the question was Do you own a toaster oven?

I deleted the site from my Favorites list and added it to my New Years list of addictions I have to overcome, where it joins yogurt, walnuts, bittersweet chocolate, and laptop Scrabble.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

January thaw (and my revolting haircut)

Well, that's the last time I get my hair cut on Friday the 13th. The stylist (and I use that term loosely) turned me into June Allyson in the middle of a Depends commercial. It was so bad that I couldn't bear to see my reflection in the glass of the front door when I got home. In desperation (after two hours of trying to tousle my hair into the messy, edgy look I think befits a writer) I plugged in the electric curlers. Twenty minutes later I looked like Sally Field in The Flying Nun.

I don't even want to think about what I look like this morning. Instead, I'll tell you what my property looks like: black and brown and grey and white. White from the last vestiges of snow. Black and brown from saturated trees and weeds and stone and mud. Grey from the fog over everything. It's 54º F. on January 14. The basement pumps have been running constantly. Rain and wind, hitting the windows hard, woke me up at 4:00 a.m. I guess I'll call my daughter...I'm certain she isn't skiing. Tonight we're supposed to get snow, and tomorrow the wind chills will be in the teens. I'm supposed to drive over a mountain to a baby christening at noon. We shall see...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

New year, old me

It's been eight months since I posted. At least I know I'm not overwhelming my readers.

I turned on Oprah today to hear Carole Radziwill talk about her book, What Remains. I'll bet it's good. Do I really want to read another book about loss? I think I'd like to read this one. I'm not so sure about Joan Didion's Year of Magical Thinking. My stepdaughter Nancy sent it to me, so I'll probably give it a go. Otherwise, I was inclined to pass it up. Nancy said Didion and I couldn't be less alike. After listening to Didion on Fresh Air, I have to agree.

Nancy also sent me the Best American Essays of 2005. Add these books to the stack at my bedside and the (many) shelves around the house, and I've got to make some time to read! I also have to make a place to read. A sofa would be nice, or a loveseat. My sofa and loveseat are still sitting in the furniture store's warehouse, waiting for me to finish readying the living room. I wonder how the leather is holding up?