Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Too many bugs, too little punctuation

Here's a question just came in to the column, and I have to share it with somebody so you're it.  You tell me -- what do I answer?
I am in need of help I'm living in a house with bedbugs I lived there for 6 months no Furinture then purchased furniture then threw out three garbage bags of food because of mice still paying rent I'm on a 1 year lease don't want an eviction on my record contacted health Dept net office and housing council no help drained dry stressed out have four children not sleeping because of this unfortunate lived at another address house got vandalized frames of Windows were broken no help can u referred me what I should do no rent controlled property's in new York not sure where to turn dealt with bed bugs before only good thing landlord let me break the lease not the case now

 Sounds as if she has already tried her local Health Department, which is what I would have advised...I'm stumped. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Twins Books

     The first series of Twins books I read belonged to my cousin Betty.  I know I was six, because in 1932, deep in the Depression, we were homeless and "doubled up" with my father's relatives in Buffalo.
     Here's everything I remember about the Bobbsey Twins:   Bert and Nan were eight years old; Flossie and Freddie were half past four.  They lived in Lakeville.  And some girl in the book became seriously sick because she disregarded her mother's warning and jumped rope 100 times.  I was just learning to jump rope (counting of course) and I had a nightmare.
     I wouldn't turn six until the end of February, but someone had talked me into first grade.  That must have been a crowded house, come to think of it.  Betty had a twin (!), my folks had a new baby, and they probably wanted to get me out from underfoot. Number 74 was a forward-looking demonstration school for the Normal School, the two-year teachers' college.
     Our pleasant young teacher posted a clipping -- the first words I learned to read -- the masthead
                          Buffalo Evening News
 in gothic type.
     The next year we moved to the slums of Lynn, Massachusetts, and doubled up with my mother's relatives -- four adults, two children, a toddler and a baby, in a four-room "cold-water flat" above a little grocery store.  The icebox, I remember, was outside in the stair landing.
     So I started second grade, and I have only one memory of that school in Lynn -- the day the principal took me out to the room next door.  She handed me an open book, stood me in front of those third-graders and said "Read it out loud."  Hard to believe anyone would do that, but she did.
 I still remember that first sentence:  "One summer morning, very early, Vrouw Vedder opened the door of her little Dutch kitchen and stepped out."  I had trouble six words in, with "Vrouw".  Must have got it, though, because then and there I was "skipped"  -- ended up six years old in the third grade.  Evidently if you could read, you didn't belong in second grade.  Not in that school, anyhow.
     And what I set out to tell you is that, reading through my top shelf now, I discovered I OWN THE BOOK.  The Dutch Twins, by Lucy Fitch Perkins!  The original 1911 edition!  A pencilled booksellers' note on the flyleaf says I paid $15 for it, evidently in the 1990s.   
     So does anyone else remember that other Twins series, which turned up several times later as I kept changing schools?  Here's what sticks in my memory -- the Scotch Twins (yes, now I think it should have been Scottish but it wasn't) met the Young Laird out on the hills.  The Japanese twin told her brother "that pot is always rice -- what's cooking in the other one?"  And the Irish Twins had an uncle who had emigrated and was a policeman in Boston.
                I don't remember a thing about the Cave Twins.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Here's What It's Like

Took a package to the post office -- not as simple as it sounds of course.  Driving is still okay, in fact it's a delightful just-as-mobile-as-anyone-else behind the wheel -- and feeling no pain!  But then it's shuffle around the car to get that rollator out, stow the package in it, totter inside and -- I had picked the wrong time -- stand in line.  Nowhere to sit: "We used to have some stools but they made us get rid of them, people might fall and sue."
So decided I'd better stock up on stamps too.  I settled on a couple of cards of Songbirds in Snow, paid the clerk, tottered back out, started to take the songbirds out of the rollator bag -- and the bag was empty. 
No stamps in my shirt pocket.  No stamps in my pants pockets.  I don't carry a purse.  No stamps anywhere.
All that tottering hurts, of course, but back in to the post office, ignoring the line, right up to the counter, where no songbirds in sight.  The clerk was really concerned, came out from behind the counter, searched all the way back to the entrance, went out to examine the sidewalk.  Came back in and insisted on taking my name and phone number in case they showed up.
So this morning I had dim sum in a Chinese restaurant with friends.  Good conversation, good nibbles, reached for my wallet and you guessed it.
Okay, things like that happen to you too.  I know.  But perhaps not all day long, every day?  Just you wait.

Friday, September 30, 2016

L'apres midi d'une old lady

It's just that I need to tell someone about it, and there's no one here, so I'll give you an account of my morning. 
Got up early, emailed the kids that I was still okay, hot bath to ease the hip, balanced breakfast --prunes, egg salad sandwich, coke (need the caffeine.) Back in bed to read the sad excuse for a morning newspaper, made the mistake of surfing TV for something to watch while getting dressed.
And came in on the start of Shimon Peres' funeral in Israel, in a huge tent that held, the NYTimes report immediately online tells me, 4,000.  I haven't watched C-SPAN lately, kind of forgot its "you are there" fascination -- no commentators, no breaks, no commercials, just the whole of whatever's going on, however long it lasts.
So here's the moment I wanted to call "Hey Doris, look at this!" about -- I watched Netanyahu make his way in along the front row, shaking hands with the mourning family, then with the assembled world leaders (including Mohamad Abbas) arrive in front of his seat next to Obama, and -- was I the only one who saw it that way?-- deliberately ignore a discomfited Obama by talking for a full minute with the other World Leader before him.
After which, I have to confess, I stayed in bed and watched the whole funeral.  Waited for the TV director to zoom in on Obama's speech so we wouldn't keep getting distracted by that secret service man who was constantly moving around, visible every time the wind stopped flipping those flags (see him with his back turned?)

And discovered three hours had passed. 
So then I made the mistake of surfing TV again for something to watch while getting dressed and found the tear-jerking end of The Prisoner of Zenda, possibly the best movie ever made. So I got back in bed.  Ronald Coleman's voice -- Doug Fairbanks' so-charming villain -- and the dialog!  I came in on Princess Flavia saying "If love were all, I could follow you in rags to the end of the world."  But love isn't all, so she's going to follow her duty and marry the King of Ruritania instead.
And that's how it got to be a couple of hours past noon.
Time for lunch.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What Went On?

These days the obituaries are about the most interesting part of our increasingly feeble excuse for a daily paper -- there's plenty of sociology here, and it's intriguing to see what family members consider important about a Life.  I've been wondering about this one for more than a week now:
“…Although he experienced significant betrayal in his life (and you know who you are) far far more important was his relationship of 42 years with his wife, best friend, companion, partner and business manager Victoria.  He loved his sons Michael Patrick and…”
Who do you suppose you-know-who-you-are is, and what went on?  At least there's no mystery about who wrote the obit -- definitely Victoria, wouldn't you say?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Hosta Hospitality

Three graceful fawns (is that the word?) just showed up, but -- sorry -- they simply refuse to stay together and say cheese for a picture.  
I knew there was some reason I planted that hosta -- and here I was getting ready to hire someone to weed!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Tsk tsk

About the only time I regret living alone (except when the bird feeders need filling) is when I hit what my son Avi calls a "Hey Doris!" moment -- and there's no one to say "look at this!" to.  I forget what the 10th-grade teacher called it, but isn't there something wrong with the first sentence in this e-mail just received?  and from an organization that deals in the written word!
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Sorry for the delay!
As a valued member of the Democrat and Chronicle, we wanted to let you know that the delivery of today's newspaper may be delayed. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your patience.


Thursday, August 25, 2016


     You must get these emails yourself -- pleas from your nephew who is suddenly in jail in Minnesota "please don't tell my folks, just send bail", and official congratulations  about your sweepstakes award of $4,000,000 "held here in bond until you prepay the taxes".
     Of course the column invites mail from strangers, and the address appears every week in dozens of newspapers, so I end up opening all sorts of exciting propositions.  But here's a first, which arrived a couple of days ago:Attention.  I am very sorry for you, is a pity that
this is how your life is going to end as soon as you don't duty as I am mailing you now is just to KILL you and I have...already been paid...Now do you want to LIVE OR DIE?...$8,000 is all you need to spend...

It's a long message, at least 800 words, and it ends --
On the off chance "someone who you called your friend" is reading this --
                        UP YOURS!!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Stag Party

The damn stag is still out there.  Plenty of leisure for taking
pictures.  I'll start by showing you where he's standing -- using no zoom, this is my desk.  The green thingie hanging out there is a bird feeder just filled by the cleaning lady -- I'm afraid of falling now so I wait for her to do it.  Okay, you're oriented, right.  Now, for your viewing pleasure, the kind of thing my uninvited guest has been indulging in for half an hour now,  
stopping every now and then to give me an challenging stare as he takes a chewing break.  Maybe deer chew cud?
The other night I turned on the backyard spotlight and there this guy was in the dark -- but I was still blaming that horde of sparrows for emptying the feeder.
Of course it's always comforting to know that other people have worse problems (what's that word?  schadenfreude or something?  yes, I know, I could look it up.)  Here, for instance, is the photo my kids Dov and Connie received last week from their housesitter back in Vancouver -- look what's been getting at their bird feeders!

Monday, August 15, 2016


Heading for the morning bath, I find on a top shelf a book I'd quite forgotten -- Queen Mary and Others, by Osbert Sitwell (yes, Edith's brother.)  It's a handsome hardcover, which I evidently bought for 88 cents. 
It seems to be a first edition, 1975, but alas! a quick trip to reveals that it's still a drug on the market -- used book stores are offering copies for 99 cents today. 
Anyhow, what I set out to show you is the footnote on page 30, which I'm having trouble photographing.  Sitwell (Sir Osbert, actually) is reporting on a luncheon party --the writing style is catching -- attended by Queen Mary, and he mentions their host's son-in-law -- if you ask me, simply as an excuse to append this brief footnote, 
*Some years later, he met a strange death, by sawing off a branch on which he was standing.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Mystery Solved

You may wonder what Fanueil Hall in Boston has to do with that mystery slab, but long ago, a restaurant in there was the first place I ever ate Indian Pudding.  And that's what Anna reminds me she made when she was here a couple of weeks ago.  Now of course I do remember.  It was great.  Tasted authentic.
We can blame the whole foo-fa-rah on small vessel ischemic cerebral atrophy, which is that white stuff on the outside of my brain that showed up on the hospital's MRI last month -- a great excuse for everything these days.  And not worth fretting about.  

 I think Anna ended up using an Internet recipe, but I know she did consult the cookbook she and Monica put together years ago.   When my sister Esther died, so many people wanted Esty's  index-card  recipes that we ended up -- in those primitive analog days --  at Kinkos. 
The epigraph below is from the Pilgrim's Hymn we always sang at Thanksgiving -- still do, if it comes to that, but for the last 20 years without Esty.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Mystery Slab

A friend asked why posts have been scanty recently -- I must confess it's gratifying that someone noticed -- and as you might have guessed, The Family was visiting from out-of-town (out-of-the-state, out-of-the-country.)  Working my way through the leftovers, and having received no response after an appeal to my recent visitors, I throw this open to all and sundry -
It's somewhat crumbly, and to my surprise a bit nipped off tastes of ginger, but no gingerbread was involved in the recent festivities, and anyhow this does not have the texture of baked goods.  Clearly it was cut with a knife there -- off a larger something...
What's interesting is that I don't seem able to eat it until I know what one is supposed to do  -- does it call for a glass of milk?  does one use a knife and fork?  should it be warmed up? grilled?  is it appropriate for breakfast?  is it a dessert?  should it be ingested in small amounts?  crumbled over ice cream?  is it safe after it's thawed?  If that dark bit isn't a raisin, what could it be?
I don't seem able to simply relax and take it on its own, somehow. 
Clearly, we've become too civilized.

*btw, that face peeping out of the corner in the first picture is, appropriately enough, Samuel Pepys -- I made the mistake of putting the Slab on my desk to take the picture, and Sam's portrait is on my mouse pad.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Alive and Not Kicking

1. okay (adj.)

being satisfactory or in satisfactory condition                     
  • hunky dory
  • cool
  • swell
  • on the ball
  • right on
  • AOK
  • ippsy pippsy
  • peachy keen
  • copacetic
  • cooking with gas

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Farewell My Lovelies

Company all gone, frig that was absolutely stuffed a few days ago is pretty much empty. So are the cupboards - when I went looking for a jar of spaghetti sauce just now, none left.  But the pasta was already boiling, so I searched for something to add to it, and in the back of the refrigerator found this tub of turkey slices.  Anna buys them for her boys, must have left them.
So I pulled off some to see if it was too salty -- it wasn't -- and then too late
noticed the top half of those slices.
Which inspired me to take a look at the expiration date on the tub.

Yes, the kids were here in May...
 I hasten to post this in case you never hear from me again, so you'll know what happened.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Movies -- Did I Post this Already?

As usual, got back in bed after breakfast, as usual turned on tv, and as usual didn't feel like getting up.  Midnight in Paris was playing again, and I found it delightful again. This time I paid more attention to the camera work, so evocative, so appealing.
Got to thinking about which movies I enjoy seeing more than once and came up with a few favorites -- perhaps you'd enjoy them, perhaps you already have.  I won't call them Best Pictures, except that I do remember thinking, the first time I saw Babette's Feast, that this was what motion pictures were invented for. 
The rest is not a particularly intellectual list, now that I think about it, but anyhow, along with Babette, I am fond of Starman,

Moonstruck and -- shoot!  Lying in bed this morning I had a list  and now I can't remember the others. 
I'll let you know if they come to me.  Meanwhile -- Netflix says I need to add to my queue. Your recommendations?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Onset in 1926

       It seems kind of picky for the kids (okay, they're in their 60s but they're still The Kids) to suggest -- more than once -- that I might like to get a driving re-test.  First off, about the only time they get to critique my skills is after I've picked them up at the airport.  That runs less than 15 minutes, and half the time it's "that's okay, Mother I'll drive" anyhow. 
       When I asked Avi point-blank what he thought of my driving ability he said it was no worse than  ever.  Hmm.
       Taking tests can be interesting, though, and if I can explore the matter without alerting the Department of Motor Vehicles  -- more specifically their License Bureau -- wotthehell! 
        Lifespan, our local seniors agency, gave me a phone number to call and I've been offered a lengthy
 evaluation followed by a road test.  It starts with a lot of paperwork, including discharge papers from that recent hospitalization, the TIA thing.  There's a form to be signed by my doctor, and one for me to fill out.  That's what I wanted to show you.  At first I was sure I was in the wrong place.- I am to check one of these boxes for Current Diagnosis:  Learning Disability, Mental Health Condition, Seizure -- then I noticed the ailments were listed in alphabetical order, and Bingo! -- take a look at the very first one:

The form asks for Onset Date for each problem.
                                Okay --                  
                         February 27, 1926

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Flamingo Update

Wish I'd thought of it first -- these flamingos hang out on a front lawn near us.  They re-group and move around a lot, lending new interest to every drive on busy Elmwood Avenue.  But -- you'd think, after 90 years, I'd have learned life is full of disappointments -- today the lawn sported a new arrival, and frankly, it strikes me as just plain tacky. 
It's not even a flamingo.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Louis's Sundays

His place is about this size.
Record muggy heat this morning, and as I got the Rollator out of the car and started tottering across the parking lot to Louis' hair salon (currently a single basement room in a big apartment building) it crossed my mind -- for the first time -- that I might not be able to do this much longer.  Louis and I have met monthly for half a century now.  While I struggled with the doors, I was rehearsing how to ask if he ever made house calls.
     Then as I inched into a chair he whipped the cape around my neck and said "I have something to tell you.
"They just raised my rent here and I've decided to quit the business.  It'll be hard on the ones that need color, but for just a haircut, and someone like you who pays in cash [?!] I could come to your house, starting in September."
     It struck me as what Annie used to call "COSMIC."      Louis lost his wife some months ago, and as he snipped away he told me that he goes to the cemetary every Sunday, visits his wife's grave and "I talk to her.  Then there's this guy who's at his wife's stone about 100 yards away.  So then the two of us go to breakfast  at McDonald's.  We get the special deal on two Egg McMuffins with sausage, and two free senior coffees."


"And then we go to the track and bet on the horses."