Monday, April 29, 2013

Toilet Paper Error

You will remember my intention yesterday to send a letter to the editor of the New Yorker about toilet paper -- well, it looks as if I had another Senior Moment.  I will violate privacy ethics by reproducing here an email I just received:
Dear Ms. Lank,
I wish we had published George Packer's essay on Depression journalism, but we didn't — The New Yorker did.
Please direct this letter to https:// (I deleted this address -- e. l.)

Elsa Dixler
Staff Editor
New York Times Book Review

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Everything Old is New Again

   In the current New Yorker, an article on Depression journalism (as contrasted with reporting on today's problems) mentions that toilet paper is in short supply in Detroit schools right now. 
   That brings back memory of the dank girls’ bathroom in the basement of my grade school in the Boston suburb of Malden.  This would have been somewhere around 1933, at the height – okay, the depth – of the Depression.
   A monitor stood in the gloom at the door, and as you entered, you reported whether you anticipated making number one or number two. You were accordingly handed either one or two sheets of toilet paper. 
       I think I’ll send the NYorker a Letter to the Editor about this. Let's see if they use it.

   p. s. I am unable to find an appropriate illustration for this one.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Radio Update

Said I’d let you know -- was I able to understand all the callers on our PBS station during Tuesday’s noon-hour phone-in?
all but one, and you never would have noticed.  As it happens, niece Amy went to the station with me, so she put on headphones, took notes, and shoved the paper across the desk in time so I could give a smooth answer – “Sure, if you keep your present house and rent it out, you can still get another mortgage loan on the new home you buy.  They’ll count your current payment against you when they figure your debts.  But the good news is they’ll give you income credit for the rent you can expect to collect.”
So the caller was happy, I was happy, and all was sweetness and light.  And I was invited to come back next month.
Full disclosure, I sure do love to talk.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

He is Us

     What an outpouring of assistance, comments and emails!  That creature was downright spooky, though, not a bit like our old friend Pogo
(O) Possum.  You'll notice that at least I remembered the initial letter right!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Yet Another Can't-Remember Moment

I've been looking out at this back yard for 59 years, never before saw this creature which --as we speak -- is snuffling along a downed limb of the willow tree right in front of my office window (what little I can see out through the wreckage at the moment.)  I'm sure it's not a dog or a cat.  Long hairless tail.  Considering how small and fluffy it is, it's surprisingly un-appealing.  Looks sort of like a ghost.  I have the impression the name begins with "o"?


Saturday, April 20, 2013

End of the World

When I saw the headline in this morning's paper, I flashed back to a classroom in Syracuse -- must have been around 1944 -- and a journalism professor saying "Never use your biggest type.  You need to save something for the end of the world."

Thursday, April 18, 2013

p. s.

Re-reading, I think perhaps it should be "a misguided pair of robins is house-hunting.  Sorry about that.
These are not my robins.

One door closes, another opens--

I planted daffodil bulbs outside the porch when we built it all those years ago, and year after year they've  come up all leaves, no flowers. I thought perhaps it was because Norm later had gravel spread there. And I was told that if they didn't bloom, they never would.
So what a surprise today, outside my desk window -- first time ever! in among the ruins.  There's probably some deep cosmic reflection one could make at this point, but anyhow.

Some amputated branches on our deck, btw, are cheerfully planning to burst into leaves, and a pair of misguided robins are house-hunting there. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Anyhow, I'm Fine

What can I tell you?  I'm not really all that motivated to post something lively today.  Part of the willow tree just fell down on the house.  I was sitting here at my desk --

and here's what the back yard looks like right now.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Closing Doors

      I remember just where I was standing when I first heard someone on the radio say it  – “When one door closes, another opens.”  Okay, now I know it’s a cliché and not necessarily true.  But this was back in the 1940s.  My father had just died and we’d just had our first child (named for him).  I was standing in the kitchen of our $18.50 a month apartment (servants’ quarters of an old mansion, no central heat) the first time I heard that platitude, and  I was unaccountably comforted.
      These days, though, doors are closing, period.  That’s it.  No new ones opening—or hardly any.  (Okay, maybe this blog.)  I’m compiling an interesting list of Old Age Closed Doors that I look forward to sharing with you, but for now we’ll just consider the earliest one and the latest.
     The first thing I had to give up because of advancing age may have been Wearing High Heels. 
Yes, friends, I wore these shoes – must have been back in the 1960s.  Even when I could no longer do so, I couldn’t bear to get rid of those patent leather beauties. Then when I was finally cleaning out the back of a closet my daughter caught me tossing them.  “Hey, don’t throw those away!  They belong in a museum.”  So we photographed them for the record.
     And the latest thing I’ve had to give up?  I’ll let you know in a few weeks.  Just had a call from the host of our local public radio call-in show; can I come in on the 23rd for the noon hour to talk about real estate?  And for the first time ever, it occurred to me that I might not be able to hear the phone-in questions.  Didn’t have any trouble last time, but that was six months ago.  I hesitated, and he said “Well, you know those headphones have volume controls.”  And I responded with the title from that fine book I reviewed for you last week –
Stay tuned.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Well Before Velcro


  I wish I knew if more octogenarians were reading this blog, because I’d love to know if I’m the only person left alive who remembers wearing high button shoes.  
The ones I remember might have been black kidskin.  The house I associate with those shoes is the one we lost after the stock market crash, when I would have been three years old.
         I must have graduated to something more modern by the time I was five, because we were "doubling-up" with relatives that year, and I remember exactly the sunny day – and the spot on a Buffalo sidewalk  -- and the exact moment -- when my cousin Betty taught me to tie my shoelaces.
         But while we’re at it, gang, how many of you can identify this artifact? 
Yep, it’s a button hook.  When I was a girl it was sometimes mentioned in low-voiced discussions of the dangers of self-induced abortions.
         And why am I surprised to find that in the course of looking for this illustration, I ran into this? –


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Great Marketing Opportunity!

 Those catalogs aimed at the Senior Set are definitely missing a bet.
They offer carts to ease the strain on elderly muscles, but they miss the point entirely.  Those carts carry stuff way down low, where it’s difficult to bend and almost impossible to lift.  People my age need something more like supermarket carts – having one of them at home would make life a lot easier.

Meanwhile, the catalogs show pictures of happy grandparents pushing rollators (I can’t believe that word isn’t trade-marked).
And they completely ignore what would be a great selling point. 
Though I don’t need one (yet), I ordered a rollator that was too good a bargain to pass up.  And it turns out it’s just right for
bringing the groceries in from the car,

hauling around the laundry, or
getting the bird seed from the car to the backyard storage can.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Roger Ebert and me

       Back in the 1980s I wrote a book about homebuying. The publisher had just hired a new publicist, who sent me on a series of radio and tv book tours – through New England, all over Texas, New York, Philadelphia, around the Midwest -- famous stations I remembered from my childhood – KDKA in Pittsburg, WBZ in Boston.  It was downright exciting, and I felt as if I were in disguise playing with the grown-ups.   
       Two of the grown-ups I particularly remember.  One was Diane Rehm – can you believe? I actually found myself shut up in a little sound booth with the PBS talk show host.  She was impressive, and what’s more she’d actually read my book.  (Some other radio and tv hosts would greet me with a lazy “What would you like me to ask you?”)
        The other grown-up was Roger Ebert; it must have been in New York City.  An hour-long tv show had four 15-minute segments--my interview was one, and Roger Ebert’s was another.  Yes, my friends, I hung around in the greenroom with Roger Ebert. 
For some reason we started talking about the movie “Sounder”.  That was such a marvelous evocation of the life of Louisiana sharecroppers in the 1930s that, watching it, I had lost myself in that world, until, I told him, I was abruptly awakened.
       The scene was one the cinematographer must have been proud of – an early-morning meadow, mist rising, grazing cows, big white birds walking among the herd – wait a minute!  Those birds were cattle egrets, which couldn't have been there in the 1930s.  They were never seen on the North American continent until they established themselves in Florida in the early 1950s.  My sister and I had even photographed the first one ever identified in our area – and that was in the 1960s.
        Birders run into errors like that all the time, and Ebert had heard it before.  We compared notes on the scene in which Mary Poppins sings to the robin on the windowsill – and it’s an American Robin, never seen in England, no relation to the perky little British Robin.  Then Ebert was called to go on the set and that ended my brush with greatness.
        Back home when I told my sister about it, she had her own movie error to contribute. 
        “Everyone,” she said loftily, “knows that Shoeless Joe Jackson batted left-handed.”

Friday, April 5, 2013

Happy Return

            My 87th birthday was absolutely joyous, and I can’t figure out exactly why.  For one thing, I’d been looking forward to it, somehow feeling that being so old is impressive.  It's irrational, I know.  All it proves is that I’ve kept on breathing a given number of times.  But I even started claiming the age a few months early, times when I was playing the helpless-old-lady card -- “Maybe you could help me with this? – I’m afraid you’re dealing with someone who’s 87 years old.”  Works wonders!  I’m sometimes reminded of Anne Frank’s conviction that people are basically good at heart.
            On the way to class that morning I treated myself to an Egg McMuffin in the car.  Then a really fine study session; I’m starved for good conversation and it's the best I get all week.  Next a well-balanced politically correct lunch at the Senior Center where we got a book review of McCullough’s John Adams.  Arriving home, finally remembered to run the engine of the summer car for 20 minutes (I learned my lesson about that battery the hard way.) 
            One of the kids skyped, one phoned, and the third IM’d for a nice long session.  Then in the evening an old friend picked me up for a fancy expensive not-all-that-good dinner with a lot of very good catching-up chat.
And the young people at the next table turned out to be a group of bankers, lawyers, brokers and the like, who all read my real estate newspaper column.  So when the waiter brought the cupcake, they sang Happy Birthday.  I'm hoping Friend was impressed.         
Feeling extremely okay and enjoying being a year older in a way I don't remember ever happening before.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Oh, to be in England

As electronic miracles continue to multiply, I often remember what our old friend Henry David Thoreau said about the telegraph line that had been strung over half the country—
“They tell us that Maine can now communicate with Texas.  But what does Maine have to say to Texas?”
It seems wrong, somehow, to use this incredible medium just to tell you that it’s snowing here.  But I will anyhow:
When I woke up on April Fools’ Day it was snowing.
Yesterday my car blundered into a white-out at noon.
                        Right now it’s snowing.

Oh, to be in England, now that April’s there!


Monday, April 1, 2013

Name That Tune!

Found it!  The taunting tune that goes with nyah nyah is the old Bye Baby Bunting (Daddy’s gone a-hunting, to get a little rabbit skin, to wrap my baby bunting in.) 
Abigail gave me the clue.  As soon as she heard the tune she said “That’s Nanny Nanny Boo Boo”.  Simon disagreed -- “No, it's Nanny Nanny Poo Poo.”  So I had something I could Google -- I just tried Nanny Nanny -- and yes, there it is, part of an entry that's all about "Taunting."
Now I know how to sing “You can’t catch me” in Croatian, and  I am also in a position to tell you that the crotch-grab is used almost exclusively by males.  As for the gesture below, it goes back thousands of years, and was referred to by the Ancient Romans as the digitis inpudicus.
 p.s.  -- Happy April's Fool's Day -- it started snowing more than an hour ago and it's still at it.