Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Refrigerator Posting

With one of my own kids about to become a grandparent, it does seem a little late to start bragging about stuff they brought home from primary school, but I just have to show you.   Found this in a bottom drawer I'm cleaning out, couldn't think why I'd bothered to save this bird report -- then I read the p.s.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Baffling New Yorker

These days I measure how much brain power I’m losing by the number of New Yorker cartoons I don’t get.  And we’ve set a record -- hit a new high, or rather a new low, with the current issue.  Take this one:  the men on the left-hand bench are having no luck trying to feed the ducks, who scurry to the bareheaded man on the back bench.  Caption says “You can't compete with a retired pharmacist.”
In the past, when I still had all my wits, I’d assume a puzzling cartoon probably referred to some current Manhattan situation.  After all, when they named that magazine The New Yorker, they weren’t thinking about Buffalo.  So maybe there’s a scandal in Brooklyn about a retired pharmacists who’s dealing drugs?  Would someone let me know?
But with this issue I set a record.  Take this next one;  Evidently the Bogeyman has a shrewish wife,  whom we can’t see, and she’s complaining that he doesn’t run the vacuum.  But why is she upset about that,  when that bedroom is in perfect order?  Why are we in a bedroom altogether?  Can someone please explain?
Seventeen pages later, we find ourselves on a subway train.  Husband says “Everyone just relax while my wife figures out what’s in her eye” and indeed she is poking at an eye.  Oh – wait a minute!  It's hard to tell -- has the husband has just pulled the emergency cord?  And is that the joke?  Do you suppose?
Then on page 110, we find this one – “Steve invalidates his wedding vows through the clever use of homophones.”  That one, of course, sent me to the Internet for a definition of homophones, and we do see, if we look closely at that whispered caption, that Steven's response is "Eye dew."
So nu?

And on page 126, the most baffling one of all.  These creatures are dismantling what?  A tank?  Why?  Or is it a Moon Rover?  They’ve set it up on cement blocks and they’re stealing the metal tires?  Are we on Mars?  I'll bet this one really IS a Manhattan reference.
Maybe Upstaters aren't meant to read that magazine at all.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

plus le meme chose

...He says of the Syrian affairs that the ...French and Russians have been intriguing there is no doubt...the spirit which all over the East is so easily roused just now...Musselman fanaticism--The result is terrific, and of course the English Govt. are as keen to stop these horrors and to restore order as any, but the plan proposed by the French would...have been the signal for a universal massacre of Christians...--with great difficulty they have got it modified...

I may have mentioned that I'm reading my way through all my old books before giving them away?  The bit above comes from the Letters of Lady Augusta Stanley, and she wrote it to her sister from Queen Victoria's summer home in Osborne, on July 18, 1860.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

nor sleet, nor gloom of night

Found this yesterday in a bottom drawer I haven’t opened for lo these many years.
First off, the stamp.  A quick google tells us that the buying power of that stamp today would be 29 cents, so it really was a bargain.  And let's consider what service it bought..
For starters, I hadn’t been on the faculty at Westbrook for more than a year.
Next, there’s no street address given -- and in addition, we'd moved just a few months before.
And – my last name was no longer Handleman.
That envelope reached me just fine. 

So what did the letter say?  I re-read it last week – can’t seem to find it now.  Maybe it got into the throw-out pile. 
In it, that literary agent assured me he was still interested in the book I was writing.  I seem to remember he'd contacted me after seeing an article I’d written in a national magazine, and we had indeed discussed a book.  But what do you suppose it was to be about?
Beats me. 
By the date of that postmark I’d married and was happy as clam with a new baby. 
Did not publish my first book until 30 years later.  It was a real estate textbook.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Macy's Service

Internet shopping was invented for my old age. Instead of limping painfully around the malls, I sit here eating lunch at the desk, while the computer searches the markets of the world for just what I want.  But I could use some new sheets, and the other day when Macy’s newspaper ad offered door-buster bargains (only until 1 p. m.) –
You just can’t buy sheets without feeling the fabric first.  So off I went to Southtown Mall for the first time in ages.  A good omen: there was what my kids call the Babe Spot, the handicap parking slot right next to the main entrance, vacant and just waiting for me.
Then up the escalator – household goods in these stores are always on the second floor, past the children’s wear.  Found just the right sheets, one set for the king size I still use, one for the guest room  queen.  Women waiting at the cashier’s counter took one look at me and stepped aside.  I don’t think it was just the cane.  I do need a haircut, and in the dry indoor air -- Fright Wig is the term that comes to mind.  So the witch gratefully hobbled to the head of the line, and yes -- I got the exciting doorbuster prices!
Off to the down escalator, and there I was amazed to find myself stopped short, downright scared.  The bags weren’t that heavy – when I got home I actually weighed them, about five pounds each. 
Pete’s sake – before that pre-diabetes scare a few years ago, I was 30 pounds heavier  and never had any problem with an escalator.  Maybe it was managing the cane.  At any rate, I finally planned how to step on,  and then spent  the next ten seconds worrying about to get off. 
But none of this is what I started out to tell you.  As I stepped off the escalator, a tall man in a dark suit suddenly appeared and said “Can I carry those for you?”   And as he was wearing some sort of a badge, I surrendered  my two bags.  He took them all the way out to my car --and it was way below freezing out there.  So what I want to know is, does Macy’s have a  drive to fight Internet shopping with all sorts of new personal service?  Or have they always sent the Floor Manager (which it turned out he was) to rescue Lttle Old Ladies, and I just never looked Little Old enough to run into it before?  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Last Night at the Lobster

At the Red Lobster the other night – and btw, if you like that restaurant, you might enjoy Stuart  O’Nan’s novel Last Night at the Lobster, but let’s not digress – our beverages came with interesting straws, and I did want a photo to show you.  My cell phone has a camera and I could probably figure out how to take a picture, but I'd have no idea how to get it out of the phone after that.  It's not a smart phone, it's a dumb phone.

So Amy laid her straw on the menu for contrast, and photographed it so that the tip showed.  It was, as you can see, firmly and irrevocably sealed tight.
The other end of those straws, though, was completely open.
So that was good.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Days of Infamy

Years ago, when a movie about the Alamo came on TV, my husband the Canadian said we didn’t need to watch it.  “I know,” he said. “REMEMBER THE ALAMO!  Big U. S. victory, right?”

“No,” said I.  “Big U. S. defeat.  Everybody died.” 

So why DOES this country memorialize defeats?  Come on, can you think of any day of the year that celebrates a big victory?  Any inspirational slogan?
All I really know about the Spanish American War is  “REMEMBER THE MAINE!”  Wasn’t that a ship that sank?
And within my lifetime, a disaster that has not only a slogan but a day named after it – and a song.  I still remember all the words, but you probably don’t, so here it is:


Monday, December 2, 2013

Stay Tuned

 This isn't a post, it's just an apology for no post.  Over the Thanksgiving weekend we ended up with people sleeping in the office, on the livingroom couch...and now everyone's gone.  I bade farewell to each departure with "Did you remember to take your toothbrush?  your chargers?" -- those being the items most often left behind.  So far, though,  all that's turned up is a pair of jeans, a shopping bag called an Envirosac, and -- at first I thought that was a pacifier, but -- maybe it's a bicycle bell?
So I'm afraid this morning is devoted to laundry, and clearly this is going to be a good day for re-arranging the linen closet.  But don't touch that dial!  As they say on TV just before giving us five minutes of commercials -- we'll be right back.  With some fascinating posts.  Just not today.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gift for Grandma

Public service:  I’m solving your “what do we get for Grandmother?” problem.  If the old lady uses a cane, you’re all set.  Canes Can Be Fun! and they don’t cost all that much.  I’ve just gone out and bought two more. They’re the right-hand ones in this picture.
Some of you may remember that when I first corralled my canes for a group photo, the black one was missing.  Never did find it, must have left it somewhere.  But on the rare occasions when I dress up, nothing except black seems elegant enough.  For further class, I ordered  it as this sort-of-British-royalty walking stick.  It’s a disappointment.  With no crook it’s difficult to prop up when I get where I’m going, or when I need to use my hands.  Don’t get Grandma a walking stick.  
I make no apology for the other new one.  If you could see it, even you couldn’t resist genuine bamboo, and it’s in a delightful shade of green. 
So what would I recommend for your Grandmother?  As I wrote before, the bright purple one elicits the most comments, so that might be a good place to start.  Little old ladies are supposed to love purple, just as pre-teens do.
While I was wondering whether it was ethical to give you the name of that company I like, I typed in “FashionableCanes.com” and lo and behold!  Out of all their hundreds of canes, the one right there on the home page as the Deal of the Day turns out to be --

Deal of the Day

Vivid Purple Derby Walking Cane With Ash Wood Shaft and Silver Collar

                        $30.56 (You Save $3.40!)

Talk about coincidence!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Intimations of Mortality

So I woke up feeling really rotten, which is unusual. Thought maybe it was a heart attack (I didn’t have chest pain with the other ones, so who knows?) Decided it probably wasn’t, and lay there thinking about death. I don’t have any trouble with the thought – these are bonus years anyhow – really good years, but just bonus. And if I died today, I wouldn’t have to clean out the frig to get ready for Thanksgiving; that’d be a plus.  Found myself thinking that dying may well be an interesting experience.   But how frustrating that I wouldn’t be able to write about it afterwards.
Only illustration I could find.

So I quit thinking and got out of bed.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Menu Excerpt

This from the menu at last Saturday night's excellent restaurant.
I was hoping to show you a photo of some chicken breasts ranging freely, but I can't seem to find one.  You'll have to picture it for yourself. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Hey, Doris!

The problem is that I live alone – so  I have no one to share with but you when I hit a Hey Doris!.  That,  according to my son the newspaperman, is what one calls the kind of news story that causes the reader to rattle the paper and call out “Hey, Doris – listen to this!”
What I just ran across is not a newspaper article but a  catalog item I absolutely must share,  and there's no one but you to yell to. 
So -- Hey, Doris -- look at this one!  For a reverent way to celebrate the Nativity, buy some stockings for your chair's legs.  

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Lost Illusion

Spoiler Alert -- Maybe you shouldn’t read this.
One of the worst things Anna ever did for me:  my actress daughter mentioned that when movies shoot scenes in public places, they often get permission to block off traffic in the early morning hours, before things get busy. Those aren't sunset shadows -- that baseball shot must have been taken around 7 a.m.
Or take that great movie Mystic River.  One of its strong points is that it was shot on location in East Boston, taking over a whole block of Boston three-deckers and bay-window-front houses.  There’s an authentic atmosphere to the streets, the cramped house fronts, the crowded interiors, the bars.  And yet –
Once you’ve heard that bit of information from Anna, it gets a little harder to lose yourself in the story, because you can’t help noticing:  was the boys’ friend really abducted soon after dawn, with the glare of early-morning sun  way in the background?  Did the cop really arrive just an hour later? 

The girl’s first communion is supposedly just over, so why are her parents standing outside with the rising sun in their eyes?  And it looks like Jimmy got up at dawn to pick out that tombstone.

How come Dave and his son are already returning from a Little League game at that hour of the morning?  And in the ironically cheerful parade that ends the picture -- come on -- those shadows are the giveaway.
Hard to ignore once you're aware of it -- does break the illusion.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Shlock and Sillyness

I did think I'd seen the worst when a catalog offered Pride and Prejudice salt-and-pepper shakers in the form of Elizabeth and Darcy. 

Today, though, a different company says that for just $7.00 (plus s&h) I can become the proud possessor of a kit containing 22 assorted Jane Austen temporary tattoos.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Eleven Eleven Eleven

In the 1930s this was known as Armistice Day, and our parents and teachers still had vivid memories of the day in 1918 that ended the nightmare of the Great War -- on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, at eleven a.m.
We didn't get the day off, and I remember the bells in the hall started clanging at 11 o'clock.  We stood beside our desks facing the flag, heads bowed, for two minutes of silence.
Then again I remember being out on a sidewalk once – must have been a Saturday -- when church bells started ringing and factory whistles blared.  Cars pulled over, a trolley stopped in the middle of the street, everything went quiet, men took off their hats and held them to their hearts for a full two minutes, then everything started up again.
And a few years ago, visiting in Canada, I was in a gathering in a suburb of Vancouver, standing silent in the rain under a group of umbrellas, as two squadrons of single-engine WWII  planes flew under the  clouds on Remembrance Day.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Generation Gap

Anna knows I like spaetzle --I have upon occasion made myself one egg’s worth for breakfast-- so she emails me an article about spaetzle from Wednesday’s New York Times. 
Their recipe is almost identical to the one in my 1964 Joy of Cooking.  The only difference is that my recipe doesn’t include the caraway seeds, the cabbage, the leeks, the garlic cloves, the chile flakes, the thyme branch, the apple cider vinegar, the rye flour, the whole milk, the Gruyere or the Emmenthaler cheese. 

I do, however, sneak in a pinch of nutmeg.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Election Day

Beautiful sunny day.  Amy and I drove out to Mt. Hope, the Victorian cemetery laid out by Frederick Law Olmstead, to visit the grave.  Found it covered with memorial stones and pebbles; someone had planted two new flags.  Amy left flowers (ribbon is lavender because that was the suffragette's color).

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Acronym in Progress

Today, back to the ostensible subject of this blog: being old.
I’m about to tape a checklist to the door that leads to the garage.  Otherwise, I get out to the car and find I’ve brought the wrong set of keys.  This entails a moderately painful get out of the car, unlock that door, fetch the right keys (forget to put the others back where they should go), moderately painful get back in the car.
Or I’m half-way down the driveway and realize I forgot the driving glasses.  (See remedial routine above.)  Or get all the way to the corner before I remember the cell phone (suppose I needed to call 911?).  Or arrive at the doctor’s office without the hearing aids.  Or get the only slot way back in a parking lot and discover I have no cane.  Or arrive at the checkout counter without my wallet.
Airline pilots and – these days – surgeons, use checklists to avoid mistakes, but come to think of it, perhaps I could manage with just an acronym.  I understand they’re routine in med school for things like memorizing the bones in the foot – and many of them are unprintable.  Easy to remember, impossible to forget.
 I can still see my mother standing at the kitchen sink, one day in 1934, telling me how to remember the names of the Great Lakes – HOMES.
And a couple of years before that, cousin Betty giving me my first piano lesson – those lines signify Every Good Boy Doth Finely.  Second thing you learned  – the first was the location of  Middle C -- right?

So what can I do with Keys, Wallet, Hearing aids, Glasses, Cane, Cell phone?
Distinct shortage of vowels there.  What if I make it Eyeglasses and Hearing Aids?
Wouldn’t you think an E would be simple to fit in?  And that extra C is still a problem.  Maybe I can just call it Phone.
Well, work in progress.  At least I don't have to worry about mislaying my purse.  I don't use 'em.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Where Was I Then?

Another of those where-were-you-then memories: It must have been scary, for me to recall the scene so vividly after 75 years. 
It had to be Sunday evening, and it had to be later than Jack Benny’s program, because Daddy was listening to Walter Winchell. I can still see him, sitting in Daddy’s Chair next to the big Philco floor radio. That’s the Chair I never could bring myself to sit in, not even 70 years later when it ended up in Anna’s apartment in Manhattan.
Winchell started his rapid-fire news and gossip delivery –  "Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America from border to border and coast to coast and all the ships at sea. Let's go to press!"  (yes, I just googled that, because I couldn't remember the border-to-border and coast-to-coast part)  and then he broke in – this was the scary part -- to announce, several times during the program, that “There has been no emergency in New Jersey this evening.”  Or maybe it was “no catastrophe”. 
I  believe Orson Welles said Winchell’s assurance that no Martians had landed only contributed to the panic about Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast that Halloween eve in 1938.
But anyhow -- how come I  wasn’t out trick-or- treating?