Tuesday, April 29, 2014

In Time for Mothers Day

 You may remember I suggested as a welcome – and inexpensive -- gift for your Grandmother the purple cane that elicited comments almost every time I took it out.  Since then I’ve added yet another cane to the collection, and this one does garner a lot of admiration from a lot of people (doctor’s receptionist, kid at the checkout counter, librarian) who are looking for a bit of easy small talk with the old lady. 

       It’s real bamboo, lightweight, handle curved enough so that it’s easy to prop it or hook it up.  And an appealing shy shade of green.
     In case someone really does take this as a gift idea, I’ll – yes, I know it's being commercial  – give you the link for the web site:  www.fashionablecanes.com.  They’ll cut this to size free if you send them Grandmother’s floor-to-wrist measurement.  I suppose, though, that if it’s to be a surprise, you’d have stand next to her in some sneaky fashion, noting where her wrist comes in relation to your own arm. 

2nd from the right 
    This blog is supposed to be for octogenarians, of course, but I’m finding there aren’t that many old folks reading blogs – most of the responses come from what I regard as kids.  You’re all kids to me.  But if someone who uses a cane – or should do so – is reading this:  trust me, there’s a real lift in trying out different ones and matching them to your outfit.
Having just typed that, I looked at the word “outfit” and can’t believe it’s really a word.  Weird word.  Out. Fit.  Could I have just made it up?  But you know what I mean.   

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Toujours Gai

Some of you may remember the willow tree that fell on the house last year.  I didn't have the heart to remove the whole tree -- it's right outside the office window and makes a great refuge when a hawk zooms into the bird feeders. 

So I had them leave the biggest stump in the county, and behold -- this spring it's right in there, keeping calm and carrying on. I sort of identify with that tree, and I keep thinking of Archie's friend Mehitibel the Cat, who sings 

Cheerio my Deario --

If you'd like to hear Eartha Kitt singing Mehitibel's song, here's the youtube link:
                                   TOUJOURS GAI

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Brushes with Celebrity

     Someone on my Facebook page posted an item that elicited "Like" votes from 148 people last week.  How come I don't have 148 friends? 
     Of course by now most of my friends are dead, some so long ago they never had a chance to friend anyone on Facebook anyhow.  And I decline most Friend offers -- don't have the patience for  reading about what strangers have for breakfast every day -- though I do enjoy email each morning with an account of what Samuel Pepys did on that day back in 1661.
PYA, Class of '43
     I never did have many friends even out in the normal world, maybe because we moved around a lot, doubling up with relatives during The Great Depression.  By the time I graduated from Penn Yan Academy (old-fashioned name for a public high school but doesn't it sound classy?) I'd attended eight different schools. 

     So it was a real lift to run in to people I knew in the last two issues of the New Yorker.  Spending most of my time in bed watching old movies, or sitting at a desk overlooking a suburban back yard of Rochester New York, doesn't throw me into sophisticated circles.  Every issue of that magazine has cartoons with inside references that just baffle me -- I suspect that if I lived in Manhattan I'd get the jokes.
   But reading last week's article on vegetarianism, I knew I'd run into cousin Mollie Katzen sooner or later, and yup, there she was.  Gave me a lift.  And just now, who turns up in the latest issue but Mark Mapstone, the doctor running one of the Alzheimers studies I've been volunteering for!
     So I'm feeling pretty cosmopolitan this morning. 
     You'll excuse me if I can't seem to find a good illustration for Alzheimers.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

It Happens Every Spring

 The annual pair of mallards appeared outside my office window right on time last week, and they’ve been wandering the temporary puddles in our soggy back yard ever since. 

This morning I find the female sitting immobile, with a
contented look on her face, next to the nasturtiums Amy planted yesterday.  Sure looks like she’s incubating eggs.
Bird-brain!  Don't  you remember?  This will all dry out to hard heavy clay in a couple of weeks, and you’ll have to re-locate.  Maybe it’ll even be too late to start again.  Those wasted efforts!  I fret about them every spring.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Soho Adventure

Nothing is happening.  Well, not true -- the big news is that it has stopped snowing.   So just in case you weren't with us then, here's a post from back when I really was 86 --

     One summer in the 1970s, I went to England for a week by myself.  We were empty-nesters, having recently sent our youngest, Anna, way off to study theatre at UCLA.  Norm couldn’t spare the time, but when a local group put together a cheap (“Mother, don’t ever say that, say inexpensive”) charter flight I couldn’t resist and off I went alone.
     One noon in London I found myself exploring Soho, in a street of tall narrow wooden houses all connected like townhouses.  In front of one entrance was a restaurant sign, offering “macaroni al forno” so in I went.
     “I’m afraid there are no seats available on the ground floor” and I could see that for myself.  The place was jam-packed.  “But if you’d care to try the first floor” --  so I started up the narrow wooden staircase.  Same story, full house, and I climbed the staircase that doubled back on itself all the way to the fifth floor before I heard “Would you mind sharing?”  Well of course I wouldn’t; dining with strangers promises tourist adventures.  “The table in the far corner has one empty place, back there with the two young ladies?”
      I snaked through the packed tables, and the young ladies smiled a welcome.  Squeezing into the corner, I put off the moment that I would speak and reveal I was American.  Instead I was thinking “I am jammed in to the farthest corner of a five-story wooden building.  I don’t see any other exit except that wooden staircase.  I’m all alone, nobody knows I’m here, if this place caught fire no one would ever know what had become of me.” 
     But another part of my brain was watching the young ladies, making a note to write Anna that girls in London seemed to wear a lot of eye makeup this summer.  And then – maybe I wasn’t so welcome.  They were whispering to each other, jabbing elbows,
      “Go ahead!”  “No, you.”  “Just ask her”  and finally one of them said,
      "Excuse me, but we were wondering if you were an American.  Because you look like a friend of ours, Anna Lank.”
      They were from California, taking a summer course at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.
      I never did think Annie and I looked that much alike.  Here are pictures from the early 70’s – what do you think?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Fine, thank you.

Don't think I've ever let a week go by without a single post, but no, I'm just fine, thanks for asking.  I'll be back with more scintillating missives -- just not today.  Don't touch that dial!  Meanwhile, just so this wasn't a total waste of your time -- here's one of my favorite pictures:  two of my granddaughters and their cousin a few years ago, in London's Hyde Park.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

For My Granddaughters

ASTP emblem
That bottom drawer again – turned up a column I wrote in 1945 for the SU Daily Orange.  I had come to the University in the middle of World War II, when it was pretty much just a girl’s school, fraternity houses closed up, no sports, all the boys our age overseas.  And then with the war just ended, I was already nostalgic, writing to tell younger students what the wartime campus had been like when it was used for training courses by the Armed Forces.   
…when a entering freshman felt as if she were moving in on an army post, and dates – honest, no kidding – were a dime a dozen.  Many a new frosh woke up those first few days in total darkness, terrified, as she heard coming out of nowhere loud whistles and yells of “Come on, now!  Everybody out in formation.!”  As soon as we learned to sleep through this 5:30 a. m. routine, the army men got wind of it and varied the program by yelling in cadence as they passed our windows at 6.
This formation business was diabolic.  Starting across the Old Oval after first looking carefully in all directions, you'd reach the lamp-post in the center only to find six groups bearing down like menacing freight trains.  It cannot be denied that upon occasion the squadron leader even changed his commands so as to run down some poor coed, and ended the routine with an embarrassing “eyes right!’.
How quickly we learned to tell the Navy’s V-12s and the Air Corps’ men from the Army Service Training Program’s…The ASTP men who were learning Russian were impressive as they marched through the street singing Red Army songs [remember we were allies with Russia?]  If two were on the sidewalk conversing they’d switch to Russian as we passed.  It was awesome.  Air Corps men, though, had a nasty habit of changing from their very interesting songs to “Little Orphan Annie” as soon as a coed got within hearing distance.
They used to tell us, “It’s easy to tell the freshmen from upper-classmen; the freshmen smile back.”  It’s true, we were very friendly in those younger days.  Then the  Women’s Student Senate ruled that “Hello” and “Thank You” were all coeds should say to busy servicemen during the day.  We immediately rushed out and said “Hello, thank you!” to every man we passed.
Our dorms and “cottages” ran parlor open houses, usually on Sunday afternoons, and when word got around that the University didn’t provide those poor girls with Sunday night suppers, the whole house was usually taken care of for supper dates.  Six-thirty to 8 were the magic hours when the men were free and we hadn’t been [literally] locked in for the night yet. Coke dates were about all we could manage.  And almost every evening, Syracuse winters being what they were, we’d engage the servicemen in snowball fights.  Someone would plug a phonograph out on the porch – the tunes were “Sunday, Monday and Always”, “Boogie Woogie” and “Paper Doll.”  And oh! those graduation formals!  Colonel Reis El-Bara headed the receiving line and led the first waltz, and you felt like something out of the Court of St. James at the very least.
This newspaper carried military news [I notice in the article next to mine a reference to "the Nips"] and had no sports page.  We watched evening retreats in Walnut park, and on Saturday afternoons the reviews would completely fill the Oval or Hendricks Field. 
So all that’s left are some wonderful memories, a few real romances, and the double-deck bunks in some cottages that are stenciled  “AAF, 65th CTD.”  But the Sandwichman’s*  ring, every night at ten o’clock, will never sound as nice as “Taps” used to, ringing across the snow-covered campus.   
The Sandwichman sold his snacks (two slices white bread, mayo, one slice cheese) in the front hall.  If he had arrived before 8 p. m.,  he could have come in as far as the downstairs parlor (where the rule was "both feet on the floor")  In those pre-pill days, they must have been frantically worried about one of us getting pregnant.  And when one girl married her fiancĂ© just before he was sent overseas, she was not allowed to return to her room in the dorm.   Might have contaminated the virgins, I suppose.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Not Quite Alzheimers

An unexpected development as I grow older – it's surprising how little meat seems like enough. Yesterday I realized I haven’t had a steak in a couple of years.  And of course cooking for one requires new techniques.  So I went out and bought a steak, a lamb tenderloin, and a package of drumsticks. 
Came home and cut up minimal portions -- two or three ounces of meat, sealed in a sandwich bag, ready for the freezer. Feeling pretty efficient, I decided the drumsticks could be cooked before freezing, even more efficient.  Floated a sheet of foil over them, stuck them in a 350 oven.

Fast forward to 4 a. m., when I woke with a start and heard a voice – it must have been my own – saying “drumsticks!”  Out to the kitchen, turned off the oven.
Mummified, that’s mostly what they look like.  Might as well throw out the pan too. 

But I tell you -- the house does smell wonderful.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Can You Believe?

Can You Believe?     I’d like to think we didn’t really drive with the baby – our precious first, over-protected baby – stuck up in the station wagon’s jammed-full back seat that way.  But when we were three adults in the front seat – that useful bench seat with the shiny plastic slipcover – maybe we did.  I do know that a few years later we’d pack suitcases on the floor of the back seat so that on long drives our three little kids would have a nice level area to tumble around and play in.
 But anyhow -- you'll be happy to hear they all made it through okay.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hospital List

Still unearthing stuff from that bottom drawer, and found a page from the notebook I used -- writing upside-down in pencil -- the year I lay flat on a board in the hospital.  So my memory is right – I did read a book a day.  These must have been brought to me by the Grey Lady, the Red Cross volunteer who came around with the library cart. 

Looks like a perfect selection for a 14-year-old.  The triumphant boast about the first one, that I could read it in French, isn’t really all that impressive – I’d already read the book, as “Nobody’s Boy”, in English.  The Daddy Long Legs I own today, picked up a second-hand copy years later.  Lord knows how Josephus got in there but I do like my patronizing judgment that Leon Feuchtwanger was a good writer.   Don’t remember the Mary Roberts Rinehart --  she was a best-seller in those days.  No recollection of the Africa thing, but the last two -- the Robert Nathan and the Margery Sharp -- are still exactly the novels I’d take to a housebound friend.
Later in college I wanted to repay the debt, volunteered as a hospital Grey Lady, went through training, bought the grey seersucker dress, and then discovered I couldn’t complete a shift pushing the library cart – done in by the same back that had me immobilized in the first place.  Early end to my Red Cross career. 
 Great book list anyhow.