Thursday, November 14, 2013

How Do You Do and How Do You Do and How Do You Do Again?

It's a childhood memory. Can't remember which TV character said it or what show it came from. I know it's part of a nursery rhyme, but I'm almost certain there was a cartoon character who said it. My childhood memories are disjointed, scattered and come and go at will. They come flooding in when I least expect them. The other day I was thinking about The Beany & Cecil Show. Beany was always getting into trouble somehow and Cecil, the sea serpent would come and save him, exclaiming "I'm comin' Beany Boy!" Then, of course, there was the cartoon about Mr. Wizard (a lizard, I believe) and a turtle boy named Tooter. Tooter would ask to be put in a certain situation by Mr. Wizard, and despite Mr. Wizard's reservations, he would send the turtle somewhere in time that ended up being dangerous. Eventually, when things got too rough, Tooter would cry out "Help, Mr. Wizard!" and Mr. Wizard always brought him back safe and sound. I could sure use a sea serpent or a wizard lizard like that right now, somebody who had my back. How do you do and how do you do and how do you do again?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Glorious Mornings

September is here again and today it is especially crisp, though tomorrow will bring with it the heat and humidity of a regular summer day. Nature has graced us with the Morning Glory, the most beautiful of late summer flowers. I planted some a number of years ago and have always marveled as the vines slowly climb and expand across the backyard fence and over the roses in the front yard. I even see vines growing profusely from the cracks in the sidewalk where the ambitious wind has driven their seeds. I originally purchased dark pink/magenta plants, but the bees have been busy these past few years, cross-pollinating with the purple flowers. This year has brought the purple and pink together and I admire them in the early morning, cascading in collusion. Morning Glories are the biggest tattle tales I know, wrapping themselves around my idle rake and hand mower. And they have crawled across the lawn, which I have truly neglected since the beginning of August. As September moves forward, memories of summer flowers become hazy while the Morning Glories shine on through the first hard frost.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Little Green Visitor

I am often amazed at the natural world surrounding me, but never more than when I see a sight such as this little green bug I spied today while watering my tomato and marigold plants that I have sitting on my second floor porch. How he got there is a wonder to me. Did he fly or climb? Is he a grasshopper or a leaf eater? I can't answer either of these questions. Still, there he is, sitting in a potted plant that has yet to flower, blending in quite nicely. Something to ponder on this August afternoon. Something to ponder.

Monday, July 22, 2013

When All Else Fails, There's Always the Marigold

In 1974 I became acquainted with an older man named Gary, a Vietnam vet who had immersed himself in the drug culture. Gary could often be found in front of his house tending to his marigolds which grew in profusion on either side of the walkway, skirting the purple hand rails he had carefully painted. The seeds packets were giveaways in bags of Fritos and Gary had procured several bags of the corn chips in order to have enough seed to cover the long walkway. Once, when my aunt and I were driving to work, she spied Gary bent over weeding his golden treasures. His hair cascaded over his face hiding his masculine features. That, coupled with my aunt's poor eyesight caused her to exclaim "she really has a beautiful crop of marigolds!" I didn't say anything because I didn't want her to know that "she" and I had known each other for several months. After all these years whenever I see marigolds, I think of Gary and wonder whatever happened to him. I wonder what happened to a lot of people, but it seems they always leave a piece of themselves behind, tucked somewhere in my memory, ready to come to life again at a moment's notice. The marigold blossoms that Gary so carefully nurtured return every time I plant them or spy them in another person's garden or planter.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Sometimes, A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

I haven't written a blog for a while now, but I just haven't felt there was anything worth writing about. However, I like taking pictures and in my estimation, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are a few recent pictures that might please a viewer:
The second blooming of my Knockout Roses
Overhead canopy in front of my house
Tiger Lillies in my backyard

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Woodsman

This is the story of Mark, a drug addicted street hustler who goes from shop to shop trying to sell the stuff he's just stolen from another nearby shop.  The man is a walking disaster with a dyed blond head shaved at the sides and covered with tattoos.  His face has that weather worn, weary look to it, like a sea captain who spent years sailing the Baltic or some other northernmost body of water.  The shopkeepers disdain him, says he's no good and yet many of them buy from him.  I don't let him in the store because I don't want to do business with the street.  It's a disaster waiting to happen when you buy from the street.  Pretty soon you find items missing and what you've just acquired doesn't make up for the losses. 

The other day I watched Mark grab some old tree branches and drag them down the street and then proceed to strip off their dead leaves and whittle them with a jack knife into a sculpture that was placed inside a seatless chair.  It sits in front of a shop across the street, storefront decor. I am pleased when I see it, despite the bitching I hear from others about how awful it is and how it's a nuisance and a hazard to pedestrians. 

I saw him in another store today attempting to sell some hot jewelry, and I watched him walk away wearing a red and black wool lumberjack coat, urgency in his step.  I have dubbed him the woodsman.  And I secretly like him more than most of the other people I have encountered on this street.  Originally written 1/12

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Let Hope Live

Originally written 10/09: If any event can be termed "thought provoking," yesterday's Arts Festival for "Let Hope Live," a foundation for the care of children with cancer might get such a fitting title.  The setting was pastoral, a family owned produce farm set on a ridge overlooking New England hills donned in fall apparel and fields of pumpkins in all directions.

I arrived before 10 a.m. with one jewelry case and one crate of nothing great, but more than anything, I just wanted a chance to hand out cards, promote my business and make a few bucks.

The women who were running the festival were beautiful Vikings.  Their long blonde hair flowed around faces hardened with the work of running a small business and they were stocky and strong from physical labor.  They ran large tractors as well as any male with the swiftness and surety that comes with growing up in the business.  And one of them had lost a child to cancer, which is why they had established the foundation.

At 11, nobody had driven up the hill to attend the festival.  There were about fifteen vendors besides me, set up and waiting patiently.  After 12:00, the wind grew more bitter as the dark clouds whipped by.  The tent behind me was picked up and stuffed animals flew everywhere.  Thankfully, having such a small set up allowed me to fly from the scene as quickly as the wind had kicked up.  I was extremely grateful for my gas guzzling beast when I was able to kick it in to four wheel drive and high tail it out of the mushy cornfield the organizers had asked me to park in after unloading.

I left the beautiful Viking women behind and considered the thirty dollars I spent a worthy cause for an all too real tragedy in many families that occurs all too commonly.  Let hope live.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pink Tea Roses

Sometimes, the most beautiful gifts are not readily apparent. The first spring in this house, I found a slip of a rose bush growing in the backyard. It had no blooms and was choked by weeds and tall grass. After careful weeding and some rose food, the little slip began to grow. I waited patiently for two years, nursing it diligently as the slip became a bush, but still no roses. Finally, on the third year, the bush began to bloom. It is now in its twenty-third year and has gone through several prunings, been cut in half by a mean neighbor on the other side of the fence and has survived severe freezes and droughts. Today, as I look out my bedroom window, I can see the roses opening again and I think of how lucky I was to have found it and how grateful I am for a gift that returns each year.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Type of Misunderstandings That Cause Wars

Yesterday, when I went for my morning run, it had just begun snowing and there was about an inch on the ground, so I decided to run the bike path because the snow cushions my feet and they don’t hurt as much.  As I was coming back from the halfway mark, a young man approached with his ipod.  He swung his arm out towards me and I could barely hear a woman’s voice singing some popular tune.  He looked at me and said “this one’s for you.”  My immediate reaction was to laugh because I thought he was making fun of me, but apparently that wasn’t his intent.  As I passed him he got angry and shouted “what’s so funny?”  He was obviously in an altered state either through drugs or a serious chemical imbalance.  It really frightened me and I ran a little faster, hoping he didn’t turn around, tackle and beat the shit out of me from behind.  Ah me, a creepy confrontation on the bike path.  Unfortunately, I laugh easily in the face of uncomfortable situations and I immediately think I’m the brunt of some joke when approached the way I was by the man.  I thought he was laughing at me, he thought I was laughing at him.  Misunderstandings like these have caused serious wars. Originally written sometime in the winter of 2011. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Follow Me, Follow Me

The refrain "follow me, follow me" has dragged through my head today and I spent time trying to remember where it came from.  I used to sing for an ensemble in college that played medieval music.  It's the beginning to one of those Old English ballads.  Anyway, follow me as I type this entry.  I went to a grand opening for an Italian restaurant last night.  Trish went through the same program I did to get the small business loan and launch her own venture.  It's a spin off from her mother's and she named the place after her grandmother.  I think I've watched too many movies about Italian lifestyles!  As I sat at the bar I suddenly felt I was in a scene from Goodfellas or A Bronx Tale.  I live on Goose Hill, which was built by Italians at the turn of the century.  They were the ones who helped develop the railroad and the Alco plant.

There were still a few left when I first moved into my neighborhood, but they have since died,  Mrs, Aldi, Mrs. Greno, and Tony (never knew his last name), were all wonderful neighbors.  Tony would trade me the peaches off his little tree in his front yard for some Romano tomatoes I had growing in the back yard. But I loved Mrs. Aldi the most.  She had a little garden next to mine and we used to exchange what we grew.  I'll never forget the time she came outside and tripped and fell down her front steps.  Her wig fell off and she lost a shoe.  I tried to help her but she said she was all right and ran back into her house tugging the wig over her sparse hairs, very embarrassed,  After that, the kids called her Mrs. Baldy and we laughed at her expense, poor thing.  Just before she was sent to a nursing home by her grand niece, I came to help her because she phoned to tell me she had fallen off a chair and couldn't get up (Yup, "I've fallen and I can't get up!")  I peered into her eyes as I lifted her and I saw death as clearly as I see the lines I am typing at this moment.  She smiled and said "you've been a good neighbor."  Soon after I visited her in her hospital room and brought her some flowers, which she loved and we said good-bye.  That was the last I saw of her.  I still miss her. 

Anyway, back to the party at the restaurant.  I thought there were few Italians left in the neighborhood, but they came out of the woodwork for this event.  Men with Romanesque noses and women with hardened, painted faces lined the bar.  And they were all throwing mounds of cash out on the bar to impress.  I was reminded of the scene in A Bronx Tale where "C" is trying to make his way through a crowd to get to Sonny, who is standing at the bar just before he gets shot.  I became a casual on-looker to the scenes playing out as I drank wine and enjoyed the Italian buffet.  Trish's cousin asked me if I wanted to get really bad and "go out in the car and kiss."  He was old and fat and I was so taken aback that I withdrew and then realizing the ridiculousness of the situation, told an old acquaintance and laughed.  She told him he was crazy, Trish's cousin or not.  There was a big shot who was buying drinks for everyone at the bar and unlike the mafia movies, a few black men stood in the crowd.  One was Trish's boyfriend, a tall man who sported dreadlocks and  another was a fantastic singer of Motown, who crooned at the karaoke stand.  I drank and ate too much and ended up going home and throwing it all up.  Still, it was worth it, if just for an offer to "kiss in the car." Originally written 2/12

Thursday, June 6, 2013

It's a Wonderful Life

One thing I can honestly say about my life is that it's not boring and when it's on the verge of becoming mundane, something happens to spice it up whether I like it or not. I got a phone call from a woman a couple of days ago who is a secretary at my former employer and she is just finishing up the clean-out of her deceased parents' home. I agreed to see what was left, though the majority of it had already been sold or removed. She didn't want any money, just wanted me to take anything to relieve her of the burden of dumping it. Honestly, there wasn't much left, but I love Debbie and appreciate the fact that she thought of me. I taught her son English years earlier and the entire family was just a group of really nice, hard-working people.

Eventually, after listening to her tell me about her father's job as a cameraman for the local WRGB Channel 6 and her mother's love for making crafts, I walked away with a few lamps, a wonderful resin electric clock that had never been used from the 60s and a few other knick-knacks. I also found a very large piece of art in the cellar that had water damage on one end. It was dirty and despite the damage, a beautiful Mid-Century rendition of a Ming Tree. I have since cleaned it and minimized the damage. It hangs in the shop where people can gaze at and admire it.

These are the types of things I live for: rediscovering the beauty of lost art and rediscovering folks who smack of goodness and decency. It's a wonderful life!

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Story of How the Partner Resurrected the Frog

We live close to a bike path and there is some wetland that surrounds the area as it is slightly less elevated than "Goose Hill."  When my son was young, he would pull on his black rubber wading boots and search for minnows, tadpoles, lizards, ribbon snakes and whatever else inhabited the marshy area on the other side of the asphalt path.  During the summer months our front porch became a menagerie of terrariums and aquariums where the boy housed these small creatures.  Eventually, after days of observation, he would set them free again.  One Sunday morning, he managed to capture a few adult frogs.  He carried them around and played with them, then put them on the front porch in an empty aquarium.

The partner was watering his front yard and I was nearby conversing with him when suddenly we heard the amphibian hunter howling and running up the walkway, his rubber boots sloshing from side to side and his face stricken with a look of pure anguish.  In his hand was a frog that was completely limp and seemingly expired.  "My frog!  My frog is dead!"  He sobbed as if his heart were broken.  My partner and I looked at the poor thing with its tongue hanging outside of its mouth and its immobile limbs and figured that he had dehydrated from being out of the water too long.  After consoling its caretaker, the partner took the frog and began drizzling water over its body and opening its mouth and drizzling water over its tongue.  Still, there was no movement and we walked away.  But to our surprise, a little while later when we returned, the frog began to move a little, so the partner again drizzled water over it in the cool shade.  Eventually, the little guy came back to life and my ecstatic son raced down to the swamp lands and released it into the wild. 

The boy continued his love for amphibian hunting, but he never kept the frogs for long after the near death experience, preferring to release them after only a few minutes of observation and play.  

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Here I Am Auntie Em

The recent onslaught of tornadoes in the Midwest and South has brought back some terrifying memories of such occurrences when I was a teenager living in Iowa. I was supposed to write a tornado trilogy and had promised to do so in an earlier blog, but never got around to it. Here is the first of three stories that actually occurred as I remember it.

Part I: Middle School Windstorm

It was one of those sultry late spring days in May near the end of the school year as I peered out the huge multi-pane glass window facing south on the third floor, farside of the library. Escaping into another of my melancholy daydreams, I just wished for the school day to end and the Study Hall to be over. The humidity and closeness in the air was unbearable. This was the Midwest, prairie land, and there were no such luxuries as air conditioners or fans in our school, which had been built in the early 20th Century. The desks we sat at were the affairs one sees in pictures of one room school houses, wrought iron legs and hard maple seats and tops with years of carved names and mementos by bored middle school kids.

The sky was clear with puffed whisps of clouds skirting overhead and birds floating aimlessly on the currents. But further back on the horizon was an ugly purple blue mass of a cloud and it was sliding forward with unusual momentum, a giant enraged fist. I watched as the cloud came ominously closer. Suddenly, large thumps could be heard against the little panes of glass. The poor birds, who a few minutes ago had been gliding peacefully, were now unwitting projectiles.

The artificial darkness from the cloud engulfed the other students and me as we watched in silent horror while panes of glass exploded from the pressure of the terrific gusts and the rain, shards of glass flying in several directions.

Luckily, we were not close enough to sustain injury from the glass, but the warning bell for the tornado sounded and we were quickly shuttled off to the basement, a horrid, enclosed area which was painted a slick forest green enamel. We stood against the wall as the storm passed overhead and thunder shook the school. Mike Hoskins, better known as "Hoss," picked his nose idly in front of me and then smeared his finger onto the dark green. I was sickened by his actions and the damp air that clung to the walls of the lower level dungeon.

Within a matter of ten minutes, the storm ceased and once again, the sky was tranquil. Only the wet ground and a few lifeless birds next to the building indicated that a funnel cloud had just passed over the area.

It was my first spring in Iowa, my family having moved from the suburbs of Washington, D.C. the previous fall. I walked to the bus that afternoon with a newfound sense of powerlessness in what seemed to me a chaotic and foreign land. This was to be the first of many experiences with sudden and violent storms.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Return of Carleatha

My daughter is caught in a hamster wheel. She can jump off occasionally, but before long, she is on again ... running for her life. A couple of years ago I wrote about her battle with a depressive episode that lasted for months. She spent many weeks in the psych unit at Ellis Hospital. She's been in and out several times since, sometimes for mania, but this time, once again, she's depressed. One of her floor mates two years ago is now her roommate. Meghan and Carleatha shadow each other in a never ending cycle of mental health clinics and visits to the ward. Carleatha. Carleatha, imp, fairy, pixie, a foil for Tinkerbell. Carleatha with the shock of short white hair that sticks up stubbornly on top of her head, Carleatha with that round chocolate face, black plastic spectacles perched on the end of her nose. Carleatha. Yes, Carleatha, a sixty something schizophrenic whose imaginary world sometimes gets the better of her. When Meghan is distressed, she calls out names before her body's battle for sleep finally takes over. One night Meghan, in a semi-conscious, drug induced sleep called out to Carleatha, who startled from sleep replied "Huh? What?" I'm sure she was trying to determine whether the voice was real or not. Ah me. Carleatha.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Santa Maria Pine Cone

A long time ago I lived in a ranch house in Santa Maria, a coastal town in Central California. I might still be there to this day had I not been so lonesome for my two small daughters, who were located on the opposite side of this great continent. Every day I would go out into the backyard, pick apricots from the tree and then plop myself down on a lounger and eat a few of them. I never remember it raining in Santa Maria. The world seemed timeless with clear blue skies and no humidity in the air, the temperature hovering between 70 and 77. There were also huge conifers in the back yard and I found a dropped pine cone that I determined would be a memento for the short space in time I abided there. Today I gaze at it and feel that California sun on my face with that peace of mind that doesn't come often enough. It is a good place to be, indeed, a good place.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Where Have You Been, My Friend?

Today I am thinking about old friends, people I haven't seen in years. Somehow, all the moving around I did before finally settling down left me bereft of many of them. I wouldn't even know how to find them. The tree is in full leaf decorum outside and I can no longer see the apartment building across the street. I am hiding behind its canopy and dreaming of old times with old friends ... The sun just burst through a cloud.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Trip to the Attic for a Trip to South America

My son is leaving in a couple of weeks to backpack in South America. In order to procure needed funding, he has begun to dig in my attic, that hoarders treasure trove that can keep one occupied for hours. We have been culling through mounds of newspaper, bubble wrap and cardboard boxes and rediscovering long forgotten items from his childhood to past flea markets. More than once he has berated me for being a hoarder and has been diligently cleaning as he unpacks the relics stacked in heaps. Last night, after another fruitful trip up those stairs, two pairs of women's bedroom slippers from the 1960s, one in its original packaging and both in unworn condition along with four Hazel Atlas dots juice glasses were unearthed. On Sunday, the good son will sell the wares he has chosen at the flea market in front of the shop. Meanwhile, I have a few new items to gaze at and admire before I decide on how best to let them go and how best to let my son go, too.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

How I Get By -- The Value in the Natural Setting

You must understand something. I live in a small city in Upstate New York in a run down section of town that some would call a ghetto, urban blight. I prefer to view it as aged, a character that has survived the French and Indian Wars, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the coming of the railroads, two World Wars, the rise and fall of the local GE factory and lastly the devaluation of American Made goods. I'll admit that the noise and dirt in this neighborhood can sometimes be disconcerting, but I deeply appreciate its history and its natural surroundings. All one has to do is stand at the top of my street and the breathtaking view of the Helderbergs can readily be seen. The tree in the front yard is one of the few left standing on this side of the street and it provides a luscious green cover during the summer months. I have perennials in the front and back of my postage stamp yard. Each day of this early spring I have been able to view the progress of these beauties. The Solomon's Seal is beginning to bloom and the Pink Columbines that seeded their way into the cracks of my foundation are on the verge of blooming again. The tulips beneath the rose bushes create a wreath.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

1960s Summer Fun "Fruit Salad" Jewelry

I'm often amazed at the quality workmanship and ingenuity that went into these little sets. The biggest name jewelry houses such as Vendome and Miriam Haskell were masters at making even the simplest pieces of plastic look like genuine jewels. This particular set is unsigned, though it does have a patent number on the earring clips and I suspect that it's a Vendome. Known as "fruit salad," the hard plastic pieces were hand-wired to filigree frames to create fun floral and fruit motifs.

Monday, May 6, 2013

1970 Love Story in the Wall Paper

A good buyer who often comes into my shop brought me in this spectacular roll of wallpaper from the early 1970s, probably 1970 or '71 because it contains the logo for Love Story, a very popular film in 1970 that featured Ali McGraw and Ryan O'Neal. The plot surrounds a pair of young and beautiful college students who fall in love, but the girl is diagnosed with cancer and dies. One of the most famous lines that came out of this film was "love means never having to say you're sorry." This wallpaper is so iconic of 1970/71 and the colors leap out at us in shades of orange and magenta, so pop, so hip. It takes me back to my early teenage years, when our country was in the throes of Viet Nam, college protests and a social upheaval. The vivid colors, logos and slogans become an abstract snapshot and a reminder of a dynamic time indeed.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Tina's Annual Barn Sale

Every spring Tina cleans and displays her wares in an old barn behind her house. It's that time again, Tina's barn sale. It starts in early spring and ends when the air gets crisp. Not only does Tina sell vintage, but she sells her chickens eggs and the organic veggies she grows in the back yard. She's the girl who never lives beyond her means and loves to pick and make her cash the hard way. I just love Tina.