Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday chores

What did I do today to earn my keep? I cleaned out drawers and shelves, packed up some of the "take to Mexico" things, and then wrapped Christmas presents and finished addressing my Christmas cards. Hey! I'm leaving in three weeks and have to get all of this business taken care. I have taken a photo of said gifts and will put it up when I get my old computer back. I can't do anything on this dinosaur !

The weather here in the valley is very strange. It is snowing up in the Sierras at 7,000 or 8,000 feet, while down here it is warm and lovely. In fact, if we had kept the cover on the pool we could probably be swimming. Tomorrow it is due to cloud up a bit and perhaps rain. Strange and changeable. When I went out for my morning constitutional it was clear, crisp and beautiful. The trees, especially the Chinese pistache varient, are turning red and dropping their leaves. The Patient cleaned out more gutters, inspected the roof for potential problems (leaks!), and generally took carfe of the outside. Daughter Cait is going to check on our flight status this week; are there seats or not? Do we have to change our travel plans or are we going to get out when we expect to?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

moving pictures

Here it is, some months after the great bedroom re-do and I am only now hanging my pictures back up. In the process, I have moved one thing from this room into another, something from another into here. A few days ago I was inspired to remove all the pictures from the walls in the living room and start all over again. I had been looking at their arrangement for over a year and was not satisfied by what I saw. The new plan came upon me as I gazed yet again at the (to me) unsatisfactory layout. Once again, some things moved into better position, some left the room and will be hung elsewhere. Much better. A moveable feast.

Then the Patient decided the draperies in the dining room need to be rehung and adjusted. He has been hammering and muttering for several hours, but I think he's about finished. This morning, after the Farmerks' Market he went to the hardware store and purchased a new toaster for here ~ we'll take the old one to the beach where it will rust out in one season ~ and a new wall clock for the Mexican kitchen.

All of this bustle is occasioned by our departure in three weeks. We've been anticipating this trip for a year and suddenly the time is getting perilously short. Am I packed? Yes and no. Yes, my suitcase has some stuff tossed into it, I have counted out my drugs, packed my insulin pump materials, bought and then returned a pair of boots (too small), included and then rejected several things. But also, no, I'm not packed because I can't seem to make up my mind about any of it! Besides that, I have to pack all the stuff for the beach, too. Oy!

Two other moving pictures. I had never seen either "Fiddler on the Roof" or "The Color Purple." I have now seen and enjoyed both. Tonight: a reviewing of "The Prestiege" which we liked very much when we saw it on the big screen.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

the Patient's milestone

One year ago today the Patient began his treatment for tonsil cancer. He reported in at 10 AM for his first of (thank God!) only eight Amifostine shots and his first of 35 radiation treatments. And here he is, twelve months later on a clear and sunny road to complete recovery. He stopped treatment on Tuesday, November 14, 2006. We will be in Vicenza for that milestone and will celebrate appropriately, so long as that gala includes a heaping plate of porcini mushrooms. But for tonight probably one of the special bottles of red we've been storing for some splendid occasion. Can't think of a better one.

I am currently writing these blog entries on my very ancient and tired Mac laptop. I can't put up photos, can't enlarge type or do any of the whiz-bang things the new (and currently sick) machine can do. Just the basics. I was hoping to get a snap of the Patient doing his garden chores to prove how well he looks. It will have to wait.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

visit to the Apple hospital

I regret to inform you that my trusty Mac has been admitted to the Apple Hospital at Arden Fair. Diagnosis: faulty fan. Prognosis: excellent after an operation to replace said faulty fan. Time of recuperation: one week. Cost of operation: $212. All cards, balloons,flowers and other expressions of best wishes should be sent to the owner,this author. This little Mac has never been away from home by itself. I hope it will not be too homesick or afraid.

Monday, September 24, 2007

an afternoon at the cinema

We watched this extraordinary film this afternoon. East Berlin before the fall of the wall. Desperate lives lived in dark times. Redeeming decisions. Life, death, everything in between. A brilliantly realized idea of life closely observed by those not living it. Uplifting, scary, shocking. At the end, when the Stasi officer is confronted with the dedicatory words of the novel written by the subject of his surveillance, his grasp of the extent of his transformation is breathtaking.

Adieu Marcel

An interview with the mime

Sunday, September 23, 2007

the blessed rain

A bit more rain today which means more cleansing of the dusty leaves on trees and shrubs. I went out for an early walk and was delighted at how fresh and clean everything looks. The impatiens are still in bloom throughout the neighborhood and in fact are looking better than ever. In our back yard, the Cape Honeysuckle that had been frozen right down to the ground has come back and even presented some beautiful red blossoms. The entire day had a grey, dark atmosphere. Nice, when you're inside puttering around. When we were here last winter we had almost no rain, and certainly not in September.

I am now about half through the third volume of The Pallisers by Anthony Trollope (this is a picture advertising the BBC program on PBS). It could have been written now and entitled The Kennedys or The Bushes, although it would have been quite boring if about the latter group. Political dynasties don't change much in their search for power and recognition.

We didn't get to "The Lives of Others" this afternoon. Other thing intruded. Perhaps tomorrow. Meanwhile, the trusty Mac has developed a strange noise, a rapid clicking whirr when the machine is started. Could be the hard drive but I think it is the fan. I am scheduled to take it to the Genius Bar at the local Apple store on Tuesday morning for a diagnosis. Let's hope it is nothing serious. This little machine is scheduled to be whisked off to Italy in a month to record any and all adventures and must be well in order to make the trip.

I have been in contact with Cait about the status of Riley, her and Mike's delightful chocolate Lab. She was diagnosed with bone cancer, originally in her shoulder but now in her ribs. Cait says she is soldiering on but that it is getting harder and harder for her to get around. She is a wonderful dog; smart, clever, gentle, beautifully trained, a great hunter. She is on pain meds to relieve discomfort, but she is probably not long for this world. She will be deeply missed.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

time's up

When was the last time you dialed POP-CORN (767-2676) to get the correct time? This service is no longer available. Without warning or any notification that I saw, it just disappeared. This travesty took effect on September 19, 2007. How am I going to know what time it is if all the batteries in the house are dead, the electricity goes out, and the sun doesn't rise? (In Mexico, you get an actual human being to tell you the time when you call.)

Now on to less important things.

I went to see "No End in Sight", Charles Ferguson's documentary about the Iraq war. Everything in it I had heard/read before, but having it distilled into 2 hours was almost more than I could bear. The cast of characters doing mischief in Washington is appalling. Don't miss it.

Then I saw "Blue Water, White Death" by Peter Gimbel, the department store heir and movie maker obsessed with sharks. Although nobody gets eaten in this documentary, it's every bit as nervous-making as was "Jaws."

Two more films on deck for today. "The Lives of Others" and "A Month by the Lake", set at Lake Como. The latter flick is in preparation for the Italian adventure, due to commence in a month.

Meanwhile, EK came today for a walk-about and a set of operating instructions pursuant to her taking up residence here while we are on said adventure. Except for a door that simply does not want to be locked, the house behaved beautifully.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Chanticleer, Harold and Maud

I cannot think of an original thing to add to the praise of Chanticleer. They came, they sang, I swooned. The only disappointing aspect of this marvelous concert was the audience. The Jackson Hall of the Mondavi Center was about one-quarter full. Yet these elegant, gifted gentlemen sang as if before a full house at Covent Garden and we gave them the loudest acknowledgement we could muster. They will be back in December for a Christmas concert (I'll be doing Navidad at the beach). The house will be full, I'm sure. This time? Three o'clock on a gorgeous fall Sunday; just bad timing.

As for "Harold and Maud", it holds up. I like to see it every few years just to remind myself of the transformative power of love. Ruth Gordon is as mischievious and wise as ever; Bud Cort still amazed by his experience with her and the salvation it brings. And there, in the sunset, were the old Emeryville Flats, now long gone, paved over by freeway and by-pass and on-ramp. Transformation of a darker sort.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

culture glut

First there was the trip to San Francisco to the SFMOMA. Then last night there was the bi-annual Art Auction at the beautiful Pence Gallery downtown. The place was packed, the walls were covered with tempting things, including a signed poster by Wayne Thiebaud, a Roy DeForest I wanted to bid on but couldn't find the deed to the house to back up my bid, and a couple of Richard Croziers. I finally ended up buying one piece of Crozier's work. When I get it framed and ready I'll post it.

Now as if all of that culture weren't enough, this afternoon I am going to hear Chanticleer at the Mondavi Center. The first time I heard them was at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco many, many years ago. Since then I have collected their CDs but have not had the chance to hear them in person.

I am filling up on all this good spirit food in preparation for the long drought during our Mexican sojourn. That special place has much to recommend it and much food for the soul, but it never hurts to put something away for a dry spell.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

martha® would be proud

My mother cleaned house like mad before the cleaning ladies would show up. "Well," she would explain, "I don't want them to think I keep a messy house." (She didn't, not by a long shot.)

So it is here in the adobe hacienda. The delightful woman (EK) who is going to live here during our absence is dropping by next Saturday for "operating instructions." Considering that event I have begun to "tidy up" the area. First chore: kitchen drawers.

This particular drawer has become ~ up until now ~ a sort of catch-all, with a few permanent fixtures such as the wine opener, kabob spears, nutmeg grater, and whet stone. I tried looking at this mess with an outsider's eyes and decided something must be done. I had already emptied out drawers holding silverware, linens, place mats, and pot holders. Now it was time to get serious about this boar's nest. Much was tossed, some was repositioned in another spot, about 100 flaccid rubber bands were thrown out (I know I should recycle back to the paper deliverer), and now it's all neat and tidy.

You can see my nifty grater ~ that shiny rectangular object at the top of the photo ~ that I bought at Deloraine's in Paris during our last trip. It has a little set of legs that unfold and prop up the grater and the cheese (or rind or horseradish or whatever) falls into a tray beneath.

I've warned the Patient about the helter-skelter tossing of implements into this picture-perfect drawer for at least a week. After EK gives us the once over we will probably revert to our more casual mode of housekeeping. I don't want to have to do this again the night before we take off so I'll be monitoring its condition closely.

Friday, September 14, 2007

games people play

1. Without anyone watching you and while sitting where you are at your desk in front of your computer, lift your right foot off the floor and make Clockwise Circles.

2. Now, while doing this, draw the number "6" in the air with your Right Hand. Your foot will change direction, and there's nothing you can do about it. Nothing! Nothing I tell you!

Go figure.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

a day in the city

I went to San Francisco today to see the Matisse show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Not only is this a wonderful art venue, very conducive to museum wanderings, but the shows themselves are so exciting. This particular group of show ends on Sunday and I didn't want to miss them. Exhibits included Matisse: Painter as Sculptor and a photograph exhibit titled Martin Munkácsi (1896-1963): Think While you Shoot. Both Henri Cartier-Bresson and Richard Avedon give Munkácsi credit for inspiring them in their careers.

Then to one of my favorite post-SFMOMA spots for lunch: LuLu's. I was hoping to get their delicious sautéed brussel sprouts with capers but since they are of the opinion that sprouts are not now in season, I had to settle for grilled mussels and a glorious salad of heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. This is basically a caprese salad, but since LuLu isn't Italian, they call it something else.

The city? Perfect weather, lots of bustle and noise. Just the way a beautiful city should be. I can see why people wouldn't dream of living anywhere else.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

a pilgrimage, and a movie

Last Friday night I sat in the dark weeping while listening to a four-hour tribute to Luciano Pavarotti broadcast on "Friday Night at the Opera" from KXPR in Sacramento. Transcendent. The next morning I got out the map of Italy to plot a trip to Modena, his birth and burial place. It looks like an easy train ride from Vicenza west to Verona and then south to Modena. We could stop in Verona to look at Romeo and Juliet's presumed balcony. Or not.

Movie of the Day: "Ray". I watched this brilliant film last night. Jamie Foxx WAS Ray, the same way Helen Mirren WAS the Queen. Seamless characterization. I loved watching it; I didn't want it to end. Foxx gave us all the turbulence, talent and, finally, grace of Charles's rich and colorful life. No wonder he walked away with the Oscar for his role. Tonight, for something completely different, "Places in the Heart" with Sally Fields. One of the reasons I want to see this film is to watch Lindsay Crouse. If you have never seen her in "House of Games" (1987) with Joe Mantegna, put it on your Netflix® queue. At the top.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

an anniversary of sorts

Who can forget the stunning, unbelievable pictures broadcast on that bright September morning six years ago? We watched in horrid fascination as the twin towers crumbled amid thick billows of smoke and dust. Then we listened to and read the passionate, tearful pleas of parents and spouses and friends looking for their loved ones who had simply disappeared. A poll taken this morning says that 81% of those asked said that this was the most important event of their lives. It represents the end of a national innocence, a rather smug acceptance of our invulnerability and superiority. For me, however, I think the defining moment was the assassination of JFK; that was the end of innocence.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

a poem for your Sunday

I hope you have at least one hour today that you will find memorable. Mine was reading a critique of A Dance to the Music of Time, Anthony Powell's 12-volume novel that chronicles English society ~ mainly London ~ from 1910-1970.

The Book of Hours

There was that one hour sometime
in the middle of the last century.
It was autumn, and I was in my father's
woods building a house out of branches
and the leaves that were falling like
thousands of letters from the sky.

And there was that hour in Central Park
in the middle of the seventies.
We were sitting on a blanket, listening
to Pete Seeger singing "This land is
your land, this land is my land," and
the Vietnam War was finally over.

I would definitely include an hour
spent in one of the galleries of the
Tate Britain, looking up at the
painting of King Cophetua and
the Beggar Maid, and, afterwards
the walk along the Thames, and

I would also include one of those
hours when I woke in the night and
couldn't get back to sleep thinking
about how nothing I thought was going
to happen happened the way I expected,
and things I never expected to happen did—

just like that hour today, when we saw
the dog running along the busy road,
and we stopped and held on to her
until her owner came along and brought
her home—that was an hour well
spent. Yes, that was a keeper.

Joyce Sutphen

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Addio! Luciano

How very fortunate we are to have lived in his time, to have heard that incomparable voice. I never tire of Puccini's gorgeous aria, Nessun Dorme from "Turandot", especially as sung by the "King of the High C's". His plea for peace and reconciliation moves me to tears every time. Here it is again. Enjoy.

a really good movie

Being housebound today I devoted my time to movie watching. Not a bad occupation as things go. First I watched "Notes on a Scandal". This is a first rate film with extraordinary performances from all the cast, but especially Judi Dench and Cate Blanchette. Dench is so sly; Blanchette is so needy and unsuspecting. It's always a treat to see a movie made for a grown-up audience.

Then I watched the first four episodes of "Murder One: Season Two." Some years ago we watched the original "Murder One" faithfully; nothing was allowed to interfere with our Monday night's viewing of Daniel Benzali as the fearsome Teddy Hoffman. I was unaware that a second season had been made until my sister told me. I thought the first season was so classy and different, with some good performances by, among others, Stanley Tucci who was so wonderful in :"Big Night" and "The Devil Wears Prada" among other things. But this second season with Anthony LaPaglia as the lead leaves much to be desired so I have cancelled my Flix® order and will move on to something else. I think "Ray" comes next .

Think about this from Robert Pirsig, the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: "I think metaphysics is good if it improves everyday life; otherwise forget it."

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

the lure of packaging

Because of the strange malady I brought back with me from Mexico I am currently ~ finally ~ undergoing a rather distasteful exam. Part of this procedure requires that I be on a completely clear liquid diet for 24 hours. So this morning I went off to the super to make a tasteful selection of things to eat and drink. Ginger ale, Gatorade, apple juice, consommé soup, lime jello. Doesn't that sound delicious? Usually when I go to the market I am quite focused on what I am going to buy and don't spend much time browsing. But today, as I wandered up and down the overstocked aisles, I was dazzled by the bright packages, the multitude of choices, the sizes of the giant boxes and bags. And the choices! How many brands of honey mustard salad dressing does a society need? How many different types of olive oil? Toilet bowl cleaner? Shampoo? As I gaped at all this stuff I realized how modest are my wants and, indeed, my needs. I've been using the same brand of laundry soap since I did my first load all those many years ago. The most radical thing that has changed in the last few years is that I buy more expensive coffee. I'm going to have to take stock of the market's shelves and examine all the offerings, once I can start eating again. I'll bet I'm missing a lot!

Monday, September 03, 2007

a rest from all my labors

In order not to labor too hard over today's post, I am sending on another atmosphere-filled photo from my late visit to Ohio. Seen en route to the Amish Country, this remnant of a bygone age when people rented out the sides of their barns for such advertisements. Better than a landscape littered with billboards, I submit.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

la vie en rose

Last night I took the Patient out to the movies. We saw "La Vie en Rose" aka "La Môme" (The Urchin) the story of the French singer, Edith Piaf. It was an utterly chaotic movie; dark colors by which I imagine the director was trying to indicate a dark life, frantic cutting and editing, again hinting at a frantic emotional wreck of a woman. The music, of course, was glorious and the actress who lurched her way through the role, Marion Clotillard, has a sensational B-I-G voice, but somebody needed to turn down the Dolby. Special treat: Gerard Depardieu as M. Leplée, the man who "discoverd" Piaf when she is a street singer in Paris. Would I recommend it? Not unless you don't have enough chaos in your own life or you really love Piaf's singing. Nonetheless, it was a treat to be out on a date. The only way I got him to come with me was to offer to buy his ticket. How could he refuse such a generous offer?

As you can see, the Mac is back in good working order. It took virtually all day to find the new part I needed to get things going again. I finally had to drive up to the Apple Store, after trying three other places. On a Saturday, in the midst of the State Fair, in 103º weather? I love my Mac.