Friday, August 31, 2007

sick mac

It appears that my trusty laptop has developed a case of the nonchargus batterius. The little pin light on the connector plug shows that no charge is being delivered. In fact right now I am operating on only 70% of the battery life and soon I will get these threatening messages on the screen that tell me I'm about to lose contact with the world at large. This means I may have to sign my machine into the Mac Hospital for some diagnostic tests or just possibly buy a new connector switch. If I have to check her in I will revert to my older, slower laptop to keep in touch.

But before I do, let me say that I did watch "Music and Lyrics" and I give it about 2 stars. Why? Drew Barrymore is a terrible actress, Hugh Grant looks very odd in this movie, like he really isn't himself, and the story is sort of silly. I got tired of his hip gyrations and her inanities. However, it did manage to pass a couple of hours indoors when it was simply too bloody hot to go outdoors (105º here in the valley). I am hoping "Notes on a Scandal" will be better, hot or not.

I hope everyone has a safe, sane, cool (but not here) Labor Day.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

it's a go!

Yesterday the Patient received the news we have been hoping for. Everything looks good. He is free to travel anywhere he wants. He doesn't have to return to this particular doc until next May! Our relief is tremendous, as you can well imagine. This release means we really are going to take our delayed Italian journey in October. We leave for Pisa on October 24, train over to Florence for 10 days, train northward to Vicenza for 2+ weeks, to Venice for a couple of days and fly out of there to Los Angeles on November 20th. This is almost the same trip we had planned for last year. I knew we'd get there somehow.

I have just returned from visiting my retinal surgeon. She has given me the green light as well. Last year's surgical procedure has held up well and no further work needs to be even contemplated. I am much relieved.

You will undoubtedly read much more about the preparations for Italy right here. But for now this particular author is busy counting her many, many blessings.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

a few words from Goethe

Goethe said, "One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words." Excellent advice to live by. Yesterday was his birthday; he was 258 years old. Imgine.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

postcards from somewhere else

We are back from a week of family doings in and around Columbus, Ohio. Here is some of what we did. But only some.

on the banks of the o-hi-o

This shot is from the waterfront walk in Pomeroy, Ohio looking across the beautiful Ohio River to the banks of Mason City, West Virginia. The river was quite high. There had been quite a bit of rain, although we were many, many miles from the flood area in the northern part of the state.

the bounty of nelsonville

After two days on the farm we headed back to Columbus. On the way we stopped at a roadside stand in Nelsonville to buy corn, tomatoes, cucumbers. These tomatoes were so beautiful and, later on, so delicious.

through the Hocking Hills

This impressive sight is called Ash Cave. It is in the heart of the Hocking Hills, a popular hiking and resort area south of Columbus. We drove through the area on our way back to Columbus after a couple of days down in Meigs County. Ash Cave is a towering cliff formation in the woods. You can get an idea of the size by the contrast with the people; that's the Patient in the red shirt. The Hocking Hills are becoming a trés chic weekend and vacation get-away spot for Columbusites. In fact, there was quite an article in the NY Times about the growing popularity of the place.

the cousins

Saturday we went to the bi-annual reunion of the Patient's family. It was held in Ohioville, PA, just across the river about 160 miles northeast of Columbus. This photo is of the Patient (on the right) and two of his favorite cousins. There were about 50 people there, three generations. Lots of good food, old stories, great fellowship. This is the fifth reunion we have attended. The numbers are shrinking, however, as second and third generation cousins are not as close as is the first generation. I just hope we can continue to attend as long as the enthusiasm lasts.

in jane's garden

We stayed with the Patient's sister Jane during our time in Columbus. She has a beautiful, colorful garden. Outside her front door she has two big bushes of Moon Flowers. This is the time of year when they are in bloom. Each day the plant produces about 30 buds which then bloom at dusk. The scent is just delicious, sort of like a magnolia flower. A tangy, lemon-y scent. The blossoms are still there in the morning, but soon they wither and get plucked off to make way for the next batch.

charm school

Monday morning we took off for the Ohio Amish country located to the northeast of Columbus. We drove first to the town of Charm, of which the above is the school. And you thought "Charm School" was just a joke!

We were headed for Kidron. On the way we went through many picturesque tiny settlements, including Winesburg. I first heard of this place as the title of Sherwood Anderson's book, a cycle of short stories about small town life in Winesburg at the end of the 19th century. Yes, it surely is a small town. I read this book many years ago and as I drove though it I thought about the people Anderson had told us about ~ George Willard, Wing Biddlebaum and Doctor Parcival.

The countryside in this part of the state is green, gently rolling, dotted with tidy, prosperous-looking farms, acres of neatly mown lawns, miles of corn fields. Gardens are colorful with masses of blooming flowers. Evidence of the Amish is everywhere. We saw men tilling the fields with horsepower, many carriages and wagons, adults and children going about their daily rounds in their distinctive dress. There are also identifiable shops in the towns; blacksmiths, harness shops, used buggies for sale. No electric wires can be seen going into Amish homes. No telephone lines, either. But I did see them working in shops dedicated to selling Amish-produced goods. I did not take any pictures of them, but did get this shot of a horse and buggy tied up at a shop.

That's about it for now. I have a few other pictures and some more stories about the trip. I'll save them for later when life gets dull and I have nothing to report. It was a truly fine holiday. Now it's time to get ready for Italy and other parts, and we only have 6 weeks to do it!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

hot, humid, wet and green

A quick post from the library in Pomeroy, on the banks of the beautiful Ohio River. I made all my flights, arrived ON TIME, and am now down in southern Ohio. We stayed with the Patient's sister in Columbus last night, drove down to the "farm" this morning for a couple of nights, then back up to Columbus on Friday. Saturday we drive to PA for family reunion. Monday we'll drive to the Amish town of Charm -- I'd go there just to say I'd been there -- and Kitteridge. Home on Tuesday. Thunder and lightening last night and early this morning. The countryside is 15 shades of green. Absolutely splendid.

I'm not in California anymore.

Monday, August 20, 2007

good-bye CA, hello OH

I leave v. early tomorrow for a week of fun and games in Ohio. The Patient's family has a bi-annual reunion; every year there are more and more people I don't know. We plan to take a side trip into Ohio's Amish country. Perhaps up to PA, too. Photos to follow. I think I have the compound in good order for my departure. Had dinner tonight with friend who is going to house sit while we're gone. We tried a new local Chinese place; Wok of Fire. Pretty good. But not as good as the old favorite Ding How. My fridge has enough left over Chinese food to keep the caretaker fed and happy for a week.

I see by my Netflix® message that I have two movies arriving tomorrow: "Music and Lyrics" and "Notes on a Scandal." Makes me eager to get back and dim the lights and I haven't left yet.

I'm not taking the trusty electronic tablet with me on this trip so this will be my last post for awhile. I'll tell you all about it when I get back.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

great two-liners

Today is Ogden Nash's birthday. I had thought he wrote "Men seldom make passes/at girls who wear glasses." That was actually Dorothy Parker. But he did write such little classics as "Celery, raw develops the jaw/but celery, stewed, is more quietly chewed" and " Parsley is gharsley." And, of course, "Candy is dandy/but liquor is quicker."

This is a four-liner, but perfect:

The Perfect Husband

He tells you when you've got on
too much lipstick
And helps you with your girdle
when your hips stick.

I first read Nash poems in The New Yorker some time in the last century. Instant fanhood.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

there aren't enough stars . . .

. . for this delicious movie. Pitch perfect. I laughed, I cried, I was astounded at the excellent performances by the entire cast. Alan Bennett ~ he of "Beyond the Fringe" and "The Madness of King George" ~ is acutely tuned to the dialogue of these smart, smarty and remarkably innocent boys. As I noted above, pitch perfect. Bennett is also the author of Talking Heads, a series of monologue plays shown on BBC TV, of which "Bed Among the Lentils" with the incomparable Maggie Smith is one. If you ever find it grab it and prepare to fall in love.

I, myself, went to boarding school. All girls. Although we did not have a Hector to lead us into, around and through language, literature and other more interesting facts of life and learning, we did have a couple of eccentric teachers. Miss Parker, M.A. Radcliffe College, had wiry gray hair that looked like it was constantly full of static electricity. She smoked unfiltered Camels, was alarmingly thin, wore the weirdest clothes, and had a brilliant mind. Miss Brown taught Latin. I think she spoke Latin. She had mischievous, twinkling eyes which belied a strict, no-nonsense manner. What was this all worth? Everything. Along with Medieval History, chemistry, French and the poetry of Tennyson, we learned how to compete. We learned that it is a good thing to stay in the game. It's OK to win, and that you don't have to fade away because your competition is a boy, that you don't have to give in just because it's a boy, no matter how shamefully ignorant he is. A valuable lesson.

Three hours in the garden this morning. Digging, pruning, clipping, sweeping, watering, fertilizing. Next chore is going to be to divide the bulbs that have pretty much taken over some pots. I had to pull out two rose bushes; they just didn't make it. Fortunately, no lawn to mow. Makes me glad I don't live at Les Tuilleries.

Friday, August 17, 2007

another william h. macy gem

He is one of my favorite actors. He is so good at playing the "everyman" who gets himself into tight spots, seemingly without meaning to. See "Fargo" especially. I have admired his work in everything I've seen. Last night it was "The Cooler" set in Las Vegas. Once again, he is just a guy trying to do the right thing in a very nasty situation. Alec Baldwin is one bad operator. Tonight will be "The History Boys." Watch here for review.

With the Patient off on a frolic in Ohio the care and tending of the acreage falls to me. Clean the pool, sweep the front and back patios, water everything, do gardening chores, shop, cook. It's enough to wear a person out. Especially one such as he is who is not cooking on all burners as yet. Much, much better, but still operating at 75%. If I could just get 30 pounds on him he'd be in better shape. Despite how much he eats ~ and it's a lot ~ he doesn't gain any weight. When his body decides it doesn't need every single calorie it can get to repair itself after last year's terrible assault, then it can devote itself to layering on the fat. Perhaps pasta in Italy will help.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

R.I.P Elvis

Thirty years ago today Elvis died. He would be 72 years old. Instead, he will always be 42. I think that's better. I never "got it" about Elvis. I guess he just wasn't my type.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sophia and Jane

Dinner at Sophia's was delicious; ginger stir fry with chicken, a glass of pinot blanc, good conversation with friend Alison. Leftovers tonight.

Now on to Jane. What this movie needs is Emma Thompson. I know she's too old now to play a 22 year old, but I would be willing to suspend belief just to see her do this role. This is not to say Anne Hathaway fails; she doesn't. She's just not Emma, and I truly believe Emma is Jane Austen. As for James McAvoy (last seen as the young doctor in "The Last King of Scotland"), her erstwhile suitor Thomas LeFroy, his screen presence is electric. I commend to interested readers Anthony Lane's review of this work of imagination in the New Yorker Magazine August 13th issue.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

the Patient sends greetings

He made it to Ohio this morning without a hitch. When we fly (free) stand-by (compliments of daughter's employment at Delta) we never know if we're going to make the flights we're booked on until the very last minute. He got a nice big Business Class seat, a tasty breakfast, and the next he knew he was in Atlanta. From there it's an hour's flight to Columbus. He called from his sister's house to say that all was well. I'll be meeting him there next week.

As for me in my single state, tonight I'm going to see "Becoming Jane." Review tomorrow. Among the stellar cast are James Cromwell (loved him as the farmer in "Babe" but not so much as Philip in "The Queen") and Maggie Smith (loved her in everything; she has a delicious pinched boredom with the riff-raff). Nobody can do down-the-nose disdain better! First, however, dinner at Sophie's, a much-loved Thai restaurant. You can see I'm getting all my entertainment out of the way the first night. The rest of the time it's going to be catching up with movies from the Flix®.

Monday, August 13, 2007

travel frenzy

The Patient leaves tomorrow morning at 6:30 AM for his annual trek to visit family in Southern Ohio. I will follow next week. Today has been spent in a whirlwind of preparations, but I think he is ready. I have tried to do some advance planning to avoid the usual temper-raising, hair-pulling last minute musts, like deep watering the garden, cleaning the fridge, vacuuming the entire house, etc. These are things he
"needs" to do before he leaves the nest. After all, I AM going to be here for another week and can, if necessary, do these pesky chores. There's no accounting for compulsion! There will be a family reunion on the 25th which the entire surviving clan will attend. Usually about 75 people. The country side will be gorgeous; green and lush because of frequent summer rains. Unlike our dry valley vistas. Restful for the eyes.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


Some call it going haywire. Others call it Steve Blass disease. The fashion obsessed and malaprop-prone call it Bill Blass disease. It happens when a major league baseball player or other athlete suddenly loses the ability to do a simple thing that he has done all his life. In pitcher Steve Blass’ case, he couldn’t throw the ball over the plate anymore. When it struck catcher Mackey Sasser, he couldn’t accurately throw the ball back to the pitcher. Second baseman Steve Sax, who had been a great player, could no longer make the short throw to first base.

In all these cases, some sort of mental block triggered the breakdown. When you go haywire, it’s virtually impossible to make it back to normal. Steve Sax once memorably said that people would tell him just not to think about it. He said that’s like telling someone, “Don’t think of an elephant!” When someone tells you not to think of an elephant, what do you do? You think of an elephant.

Perhaps the saddest case of going haywire is the one that hit St. Louis Cardinal pitcher Rick Ankiel. In 2000, Ankiel was a 20 year old prodigy. The St. Louis Cardinals had signed him to a contract that included a $2.5 million bonus a couple of years earlier. Just barely out his teens Ankiel racked up an 11-7 record in the big leagues. He was 9th in the league in E.R.A., and 7th in the league in strikeouts.

The Cardinals made the playoffs that year, and there things went tragically wrong for Ankiel. With the nation watching, Ankiel threw five wild-pitches while allowing four runs in the 3rd inning of the Cards’ first playoff game. The Cardinals nevertheless advanced to the National League Championship Series, and Ankiel’s wildness continued to plague him. He didn’t make it out of the first inning in Game 2; out of the 20 pitches he threw that night, 5 got past the catcher. Ankiel returned to face four batters in Game 5 of that series; he threw 2 more wild pitches and walked two men.

Rick Ankiel never got back to normal. He never even came close He tried for what had to be five painful years until finally surrendering before the 2005 season. But Rick Ankiel is a great athlete, and was determined to make it back to the Major Leagues. He decided to do so as an outfielder.

Having started over as a 26 year old, Ankiel improbably became a very successful minor league outfielder. Last year, Ankiel suffered another setback, missing the entire season due to a knee injury. This year, as a 28 year old, Ankiel led all Triple A players with 32 home runs.

The St. Louis Cardinals once again brought Rick Ankiel up to the big leagues this week, this time as a power-hitting outfielder with a cannon for an arm. Ankiel made his return to the Cardinals’ lineup last night. Penning yet another unlikely chapter in the Rick Ankiel Story, Ankiel returned with a bang, hitting a home run in the 7th inning. Cardinal manager Tony LaRussa said that except for winning the World Series, Ankiel’s home run was the happiest moment he had ever had in uniform. Ankiel called the experience “unbelievable.”

"You almost can't put it into words,” he continued. “I couldn't have written that any better. No way. It felt so good I can't describe it. It's almost ... euphoric."

Ankiel’s home run wasn’t his first in the big leagues. He hit others as a pitcher back in 2000. But he got the ball back from last night’s home run, and he’s keeping it. As well he should - that ball didn’t come easy.

*Originally posted at Hugh Hewitt.

the past recalled

For over 35 years the Patient and I spent our Thanksgiving holiday with old friends first met during Berkeley and law school days. One couple were always the hosts in Santa Rosa. Each family contributed to the feast. After a few years we fell into a routine; everyone brought the same things so, depending on your other eating habits, you knew that at this particular meal you would always get ratatouille or mashed rutabagas (one of my favorites), Dick's chestnut dressing or Jim's rum pumpkin pie. This all stopped when first the hostess then the host both died. This wonderful extended family -- numbering 23 core members with additions of anywhere from 5 to 10 per year, depending on who was in town -- spent its last holiday together in 2001.

Yesterday the son of the original hosting family and his wife held a reunion of his generation, their kids and some of us old folks. It was deja vu as we watched the 3rd generation run around together, just as the founders' kids had done many years ago. He and his wife have a magnificent spread in the hills outside Santa Rosa. They bought an old barn on 23 acres of land, remodeled the barn into a spectacular house with gorgeous views and plenty of room to grow some grapes. We drank his own wine to toast the occasion.

This beautiful baby is the youngest member of the extended clan. He is Carter Camp, 17 months old, and a charmer beyond belief. He is about the same age now as his daddy was when the group first got together. His grandpa and the Patient were classmates at Boalt; his grandmother and I have been friends for 40 years. I can only wish for all the 3rd geners (there are 14 of them) the same rich and abiding friendships that we, as their parents and grandparents, have had together.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Barber of Baghdad

You probably thought this was going to be a political rant. Alas, no. This is an opera in two acts by Peter Cornelius. It is based on "The Tale of the Tailor" and "The Barber’s Stories of his Six Brothers" in A Thousand and One Nights. It is being aired on the Friday Night at the Opera program on CPR (Capital Public Radio) in Sacramento. I don't have time to write anything more than the fact that I am going to settle back and listed to this comic opera and try desperately not to think about that glorious voice belonging to Luciano Pavarotti that will most probably be stilled soon by a vicious case of pancreatic cancer. I have no where near enough of his recordings. It is said that his La Boheme with Mirella Freni is one of the best ever. That's the one I heard last Friday night.

Shhhh. Curtain going up.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

a forgotten anniversary

Yesterday was the 33rd anniversary of the resignation of Richard Nixon, the only president in our history to do so. I remember watching several days of the Watergate Hearings while holed up in a motel in Paradise (near Chico). We did not have a TV at the time and wanted to see what was happening. So we packed up the girls and found a place with a color TV mounted on the wall. We bought bottles of gin, sent the girls out to swim in the pool, and hunkered down for a civics lesson like no other.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

it's still hank aaron

Why? Because he didn't use steroids, or "performance enhancing chemicals" as Frank DeFord calls them. You did notice, didn't you, that neither the Commish nor Aaron was there to offer personal congratulations?

For an expression of fans' dismay see Bob Green's article, Steroids and the Asterisk from the New York Times, Saturday, October 20, 2005. This is, as you can see, not a new issue.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

I, the non-juror

I spent yesterday in Department 4 of the Yolo County Superior Court waiting to be seated as a juror. I have managed to avoid jury duty for two or three years since I am never here when called. This time, however, I had no excuse. There were about 70 people in the pool. I never was called into the box and when the jury was finally empaneled there were 20 of us left over. I'm a bit sorry I wasn't chosen; it sounded like an interesting case. The Public Defender was the same one who tried a case on which I did serve as a juror. This was five years ago, I think. Vehicular manslaughter. She was, at that time, not as polished or skilled as one knew she would become. And this time? Assured, relaxed, in command. It was a pleasure to watch her.

Monday, August 06, 2007

In Memorium

Today is Alfred Lord Tennyson's birthday. He would have been a ripe old 198 years old. This verse from his poem, "In Memorium" is for those souls lost in the collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis. Yes, life does go on, sometimes relentlessly.

He is not here; but far away
The noise of life begins again,
And ghastly through the drizzling rain
On the bald street breaks the blank day.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

it's not Kansas

These gorgeous sunflowers are from the garden of Diane Madison, horticulturalist extraordinaire who sells her flowers, fruits, vegetables, and herbs at the Davis Farmers' Market. She has the traditional black-eyed flowers, but these are so bright and "sunny" that I chose them instead. Just to look at them drives away any gloom one might have.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

the first cut is the hardest

Great-niece Ruby, at age 2 1/2, paid her first (of many) visit to the beauty salon for a summer trim. Those baby curls are now history. This is your Saturday "Aaawww" opportunity.

Friday, August 03, 2007


POSH: A popular etymology states the expression originated from the phrase "Port Out, Starboard Home", which, before air-conditioning, were allegedly the most desirable cabin locations on ships travelling to and from British colonies in the Far East because they were shaded from the sun in both directions. Thus, it's not much of a leap between the nautical POSH to the social description of something quite luxe.

It has been many years since I have been in San Francisco, alas. Yesterday, along with visitors Alex and Em, I took the plunge, layerd up with warmies, and venturing forth. For this trip we took the Vallejo-SF BayLink ferry. This was our stalwart barque for the trip. POSH.

The ride was gorgeous. Coming into SF is a bit like approaching Venice; it floats out there like some sort of mirage with a skyline. It was cold, windy, cloudy, grey.

I have not been in the renovated Ferry Building, now gourmet gulch. Food shops, restaurants, flower shops, a couple of antique stores. What a welcome to this city nonpariel (except, perhaps, by the aforementioned Venice or Paris). Emily decided on the spot that she wants to live there. The smells are what hit me; sea salt, fuel, sourdough, coffee. Delicious.

We strolled up Market Street past all the bounty (and some of the blight) any lively city offers. I was reminded over and over how much I had loved working in SF all those years ago. We eventually made it up to Union Square along with what seemed to be 2 million other shoppers and gawkers. By this time the glorious sun had driven away the fog and clouds and we were gifted with one of those perfect San Francisco days; clear, bright, lovely breeze. This flower stall is outside Macy's, on the corner of Grant and Geary, just down the street from where I worked at the now-defunct White House. Every Monday morning I would dash over, buy some flowers that would give me a week's pleasure in my cold, cramped, dark office. We invaded the chi-chi boutiques at Neiman's and Armani, tried on ridiculously expensive clothes to the dismay of snooty "help" who took a dim view of our in-the-big-city-from-the-outlands attire. We had lunch at Kuleto's, one of my favorites.

Then it was back to the shopping duties. As we were walking along Powell Street one of these beauties came rumbling by, clanging its bell and being oh, so San Francisco. It now costs $3 to ride. I think the last time I caught one it was 50¢. That tells you how long ago it was.

We decided we could go no further and it was time to make our way back to the Ferry Building to catch a boat home. It was, by now, 5 o'clock and we joined the great wave of commuters heading out of the city. The weather had held all afternoon but as we pulled away from the dock we could see the fog returning.

You can just barely make out the Golden Gate through the gap between Angel Island and Marin.

After the peaceful ride across the bay, having to get into a car and battle commuter traffic was a rude jolt. But the beauty of the day made this last leg of the trip worth everything else. My next project is to get the Patient to do this. I am trying to tempt him by promising (1) no shopping and (2) lunch at Tadich's as a reward.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

not a book blog either

I have just finished reading Trollope. Not the old gentleman, Anthony, but a distant relative and contemporary writer, Joanna. Her big, boisterous novel The Taverners' Place chronicles the Taverner family from the mid-19th century until England's entry into WW II. This novel is worthy of her literary inheritance; big family, big house, big ideas, big social upheavals, big losses, big changes. My next big read, after re-reading Anne Rice's Cry to Heaven, prompted by my recent reading of Kingsley Amis' The Alteration, will be by the original Trollope. I will attempt The Pallisers, a six-volume novel about the politician Plantagenet Palliser and (in all but the last book) his wife Lady Glencora. The plots involve English politics in varying degrees, specifically in and around Parliament. I may get bored silly after one or two volumes of these stuffed shirts and their addlepated side kicks, but thought I'd give it a try. If I can't bear it all, perhaps I'll try Barchester Towers instead. That series is about the clergy. Knowing a bit about ecclesiastic politics as I do, these novels could be even more boring than the Pallisers.