Sunday, December 25, 2016

Plus ca change le meme chose. 

In the day-by-day emails of the greatest diary ever written, we're up to December 1663 now, and Sam Pepys writes that in the Coffeehouse the discussion was about

"the great evil of discouraging our natural manufacture of England ... by suffering the Swede to bring in three times more than ever they did and our owne Ironworks be lost..."

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Life Before Google

Reading those old DOS journals, I find this. 
Kids, here's what life was like Before Google.
                  July 8, 1993
Anna r. on TV 1990s
  Anna opens at the theatre in New Hope,Pennsylvania tonight.  Bet it's hot as hell down there. [Must have been before we air-conditioned the house.]  She plays a psychologist who counsels a talking dog, so of course we want to send flowers.
  I look for the name of the theatre in the flyer she sent us.  It isn't there, but she's at the New Hope Performing Arts Festival.  
  I get out the atlas.  New Hope is near Philadelphia. 
  Buster sits on the atlas.
Buster visiting bathtub
  I check the phone book.  There are 12 area codes for Pennsylvania. 
  I remove Buster from the phone book. Philadelphia's area code is 215.
  Theatres usually have the phone numbers of florists handy, so I call Philadelphia information at 1-215-555-1212 and ask for the phone number of the New Hope Performing Arts Festival.It's 215-862-5880.
  I call 215-862-5880.  I get a tape reminding me that the play opens tonight.
  I call Information again.  They can't look up a number without the name of the florist.  I explain my quest.  They find the New Hope Flower Shop, 215-862-3169.
  I call 215-862-3169.  I get a crackling noise. 
  I think perhaps it's because Buster walked on the phone.
  I call it again.  I get a crackling noise.
     I call it a third time.  I get a dial tone.
  I call the operator and explain my problem.  She calls the number.  She gets a busy signal ­and­ a crackling noise. She tries again, and says it's out of order.
  I call Philadelphia information. They can't read the yellow pages but they'll transfer me to the service people who can.
   The service people find a number in the yellow pages for Tiffany's Florist, 215-862-1200.
  I call 215-862-1200.  "The number you have called, 862-1200, has been disconnected.  Repeat:  the number you called..."
   I consider Flowers by Wire.  But if I can't get through, how could they?  And how would I know in time if they failed?
 I call Philadelphia information and ask to be transferred to a service person.  No, not about a faulty line.  No, not about new service. I want the people who can read the yellow pages.  Reprovingly:   "That is just a courtesy we provide...I'll switch you over."  I get a dial tone.
  I call Philadelphia information again asking for the yellow pages service.  "Certainly, I'll connect you."
  I get a dial tone.
  I call again, pleading not to be cut off.  "Yes, I'll stay with you until you're transferred, but I'll put you on hold, don't get worried."
  I get a silent line.
  I get the yellow pages people!!
  I ask "Have you got time to hear my problem?"  "Yes, if it's not too long."  I summarize the morning so far.  I ask if there's a newspaper in New Hope.  "I can read the yellow pages for you, but there is a service center in New Hope.  Would you like that?" 
 That would be great, perfect. 
 Buster sits on the page I'm taking notes on.
  I call the New Hope center at 215-862-5880.  It's busy.  I put my automatic re-dialer on and it calls every 30 seconds for ten minutes.  Still busy.
  I try the automatic re-dial for another ten minutes.  I decide everything in New Hope has been washed out by a heat wave.
  So much time has elapsed that perhaps the box office is open, so I call the theatre again.  A tape reminds me that the play opens
  I call Philadelphia information.  I'm put right through to the yellow pages.  This time I get all the rest of the New Hope florists: the Pod Shop and Boxwood Gardens.
  Boxwood Gardens sounds like a garden store, so I call the Pod Shop at 215-862-2037.  A young woman answers immediately.  Roses are $60 a dozen.  We settle on assorted summer flowers.  I mention my morning's adventures. She laughs and says "We're all the same florist anyhow."
  Break a leg, Anna!
Watching Cat TV with Norm

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Appreciate it!

These days when I see someone hurrying in to the post office I stoop harder over the rollator and bite my tongue not to call after them -- "Do you appreciate the fact that you're walking?  Be sure to realize that you can walk!"
   It seems such a counter-intuitive thing -- all that height, that weight, that muscle, balanced on two small feet.  Yet babies pull themselves up almost automatically -- and what a triumphant look the first time they achieve it! 
   You can see by the spots on the knees and the toes of those white shoes that up until then he'd been crawling -- this was in my in-law's living-room in Montreal.  Fine moment.  

So anyhow -- my other son showed me how to access those DOS journals I kept on floppy disks after 1983 ('moved the typewriter off the desk today')  and I am delighted to find this entry in July of 1990:

Sometimes when I'm walking I am very conscious of the fact that I'm walking.  I can walk!  If I can't in the future, I'll never have to say "I should have appreciated it while I could..." because I do appreciate it. 


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Couldn't Be Beat

Last week's festivities -- 29 here for a fine feast, some who came spur-of-the-moment from London, woodfire burning constantly, and we used up five bags of marshmallows.  I did nothing but sit around while the people I still think of as The Kids did everything including the list-making.
               This picture was taken before all the homemade pies arrived. 
We had plenty of drama all week:
The garage door opener wouldn't shut. 
The microwave fan wouldn't go off.  
The disposal wouldn't dispose -- Avi said we wouldn't need a plumber, that when the eye surgeon arrived for Thanksgiving dinner he'd take the pipe apart and fix it -- and that's exactly what happened. 
This general dissolution was evidently contagious -- our overflow who stayed at a nearby b&b came back to borrow a plunger at one point.
We had an 89-year spread of ages -- great-granddaughter Athena spent most of her time in a big carton, obligingly left in the living-room by the applance guy.  Grandsons Nathan and Aaron each chose sets of Jane Austen from The Collection.  The London contingent furnished two young boys who kept the mini pinball machine in pretty constant use.  I have fine pictures of all these goings-on, forwarded from various attendees, but they just won't transfer to this screen.  That's why this post is so late -- I've been trying, giving up in frustration and then trying again the next day.
So I'll just tell you a bit about what I've been doing since:

I forgot to mention -- the washing machine stopped washing also -- and this during a  week involving one way and another nine house guests including a toddler.  I ordered a new washer, asking for the simplest replacement, but this new control panel seems to offer 42 choices ...  I was reduced to reading the manual. 
All's well that ends well.  For your viewing pleasure, here's a Before and After of every bath towel I own.  That bottle in Before is an unopened Beaujolais left from The Feast.  I'm not a drinker, and all I know about wine is that Beaujolais doesn't keep -- it's supposed to be drunk promptly.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

London Lease

 My friend Ben has moved to London, where he's rented a house for his family.  It seems their landlady could not take two pet hens to her retirement residence, and of course Ben's boys clamored for him to keep them.  But, he asked,  would he be responsible if a hawk got one of them? So the Land Agent or whatever they call it there wrote a 49th provision into the lease:
49.1 The Landlord gives consent to the Tenant to keep the Landlord’s two chickens and coup in the garden. In consideration of this the Tenant must ensure that these chickens do not cause any difficulty or damage or nuisance either to the Premises and or the fixtures or fittings or to any neighbour. If that should occur the Landlord and/or the Landlords Agent reserves the right to terminate this consent and to require that these pets leave the Premises immediately.
 49.2 The Tenant agrees to remove all mess from the garden or other outside areas of the Premises both during the Tenancy, particularly prior to any visit from the gardener, and prior
to the end or earlier termination of the Tenancy.
 49.3 For the avoidance of doubt the chickens and their eggs will belong to the Tenant and the Tenant will be responsible for any costs associated with the keeping of the chickens.
 49.4 The Tenant agrees to return the land at the end of the Tenancy in the same condition as stated in the inventory and schedule of condition at the commencement of the Tenancy unless the Landlord gives written confirmation he would like to retain any additions or
changes that the Tenant has made, with no compensation payable to the Tenant at the end or earlier termination of the tenancy.
 49.5 The Landlord shall have no responsibility or liability for any claims whatsoever (including 3rd party claims) arising from the condition of the fields or fences due to any chickens being
kept by the tenant.
 49.6 It is further agreed that in the event any of the chickens shall die then the landlord will not be responsible for replacing or compensating the tenant for such loss.
I'm not sure what 49.4 has to do with chickens, but it's pretty much  what I used to teach in those real estate courses.  Just the same, if I had been on the Premises I would have given Ben the usual advice: have your own solicitor look the lease over before you sign.
I don't know what the other 48 provisions of that lease were, but in the Chickens section I still don't see any answer to the original question:  Is Ben responsible if one of the hens dies?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Rains Came

P. S. to yesterday's post -- a friend sends me pictures she took after dark in Mt. Hope Cemetery.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Restores Your Faith

     I've just spent  a wonderful afternoon. Three hours in Mt. Hope Cemetery here, never had to get out of the car, spoke to lots of people. 
     My opening gambit out the car window was  "I cast my first vote for Harry S Truman"* and everyone wanted to talk. When I told one man I had nearly voted, in 1948, for the third party candidate whose name I'd forgotten but he had been Secretary of Agriculture, the response was "Henry Wallace, I'm just reading a book about him."  That kind of afternoon, that kind of crowd.
     The older Victorian section of the cemetery is all glacial mounds and dips, big old trees, wonderful fall colors.  Wish I'd taken the camera.   And --
     an amazing spontaneous gathering, thousands of people in a two-hour waiting line carrying flowers, flags, little girls and "I VOTED" stickers to the modest gravestone of Susan B. Anthony, the suffragette leader who went on trial in 1872 because she had registered and voted. 
       I believe the web site Anna sent is a morning feed,

but when I left the cemetery gates at 6pm, more cars were  pulling in.  The city? the cemetery? someone? was firing up floodlights at the grave site, and folks were getting flashlights out of their cars. 
       After all the stress of the past few months, I'd pretty much forgotten there could still exist so many patient smiling happy people. 
        It was wonderful.          

.*No period after the S, it was "S for nothing."

No cell phones, no tv, no portable radios, no computers, no results

      You had to be 21 to vote in those days, and I was already married, living in Penn Yan in our honeymoon cottage on North Main Street (rent $50 a month, but Norm would later risk going into business for himself and by the time Avi was born we had moved to an unheated still-after-the-war- rent-controlled-$18.75-a month apartment also on North Main Street)-- but I digress.
      So I cast my first vote at some polling place just where the hill starts on Liberty Street.  Had not registered as a Democrat -- that'd be as much as your life was worth in Yates County (smallest county in New York State, btw.)
     I went into that booth  with every intention of voting for Henry Wallace, third-party candidate who had been Secretary of Agriculture, and whose rallies back at college had featured country music with guitars.  I can still see my hand poised to pull the lever for him -- and then I moved my hand up and voted for Truman.
    But here's the interesting part -- I remember being at the wheel of a car the next day, and the car was stopped in the middle of the quad at Syracuse University.  I must have driven my Mother there and we must have been visiting my sister, who would have been a freshman.
    What I remember is that we put the car radio on loud, and students were cramming around and poking their heads in the windows to hear the noon news, because no one knew yet if Dewey or Truman had won. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Advice, Please

So here's the box that appears in the southeast corner of my screen.  If I sign off and re-boot, it's still there.  There's no X to delete it. 

It's against my principles to click on any invitation -- but then again, it doesn't have any misspelling or grammatical errors ... maybe it's for real?

Your attention to this matter will be much appreciated.

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.