Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Lunch at Arnie's

‘Tis the season for holiday gatherings and I was meeting three friends for lunch at Arnie’s in Edmonds.  It was a drippy day but the upbeat atmosphere in the restaurant was enough to cheer up a Scrooge.  My friends and I had a booth with a view out onto the Sound and watched the Kingston Ferry boats working their way into the slip. We  enjoying our seafood feast among happy holiday chatter as the restaurant was packed.

After lunch, leaving our booth, I noticed a woman in a wheel chair sitting at the end of a long table filled with about 20 people.  She was wearing the most sensational hat.  It was a wide brimmed purple hat with fuchsia-colored feathers flying out at all angles.  I was taken with it and could not pass her without saying something.  It’s always a risk talking to a stranger but I was game for the encounter.  So I walked over to her.
"I love your hat," I say.

"Why thank you,” she replied.  “I have two fancy hats and whenever I leave the house to go to a restaurant I always wear one.  It makes the servers think that I am very rich and that I will tip well, so I get the best service and it works every time."

I thanked her for her great suggestion and will use it in the future.  Now I have to hit the big department stores to find if they have  millinery shops - it's either that or Goodwill.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Remembering Markie

“Paint me an angel with wings”, that was little Markie the sweetest boy who ever lived. I remember him so well.  He lived not far from my house and he was just about the best scout in the world.  He always knew where he was and what he was doing.  He loved all the creatures in the forest and could tell just by looking at prints what animal had crossed the path and how long ago.  I swear he could smell them in a fog and tell me to hush, while we waited by the side of the path and sure enough a little possum would come trotting along. 

While other little boys would impale a snail or ant on the end of a sharp stick, Markie would never dream of doing that.  He loved all things greatly and considered the forest his house, the thick leaves colorful carpets, nursery logs his chairs, the sky his roof.

I swear he had real angle wings and possessed the most magical powers which I think he absorbed from the magnificent trees and the fresh air.  He nearly flew along, bounding so easily over rocks and fallen logs, dashing ahead and I would follow, desperately trying to keep up.  I could almost see his fluffy white wings spiriting him along, gliding through the forest floor with such ease. I learned a lot from him. 

Once when several popular trees fell down in a storm we built a neat fort with ample room for us all to crawl in and be able to look out along the path to spy on what was passing by.  It took us the best part of two days to construct it and we were so proud of our great accomplishment.  Two weeks later three mean boys from another part of the valley broke our fortress up and we sought revenge.  Markie and I dragged several pails of fresh chicken manure from the local hen house and hid in the trees until the mean boys walked by.  Markie timed it perfectly and we dropped the chicken shit right on top of the boys and ran like mad before they knew what happened.  Those boys must have smelled up the countryside for miles. 

I always wondered what ever happened to Markie and a year ago heard that he was killed in the Viet Nam War, a conscientious objector, who was a medic on the front lines.  That would be Markie, for sure, not wanting to harm a living thing.  I can still see his wings.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

All Things Italian

I have to admire the way the Italians walk.  They are not in a rush to reach their destination, for them the journey is more important and they saunter, taking in the moment, looking at everything going on around them.  They are a big contrast to my neighbors who rush to the store, rush to the bus stop, rush to work and if they look at anything their eyes are glued to their iPhones.

I have to admire the restraint of Italian bar and restaurant keepers who do not ask the morning pensioners, who gather to exchange gossip and soccer scores and who sit at the cafes tables, without ordering coffee, to pay up or move on.  In my neighborhood if anyone sits at an outside table they had better order something or the owners will shoo them quickly away.
I also admire how the Italians can complicate a simple process.  Take their toaster. It is not the kind of toaster where you lower the bread into the heating elements, no you have to grasp a wire device to open the metal cage, place the toast into it, and then physically lower the cage into the toaster.  The toaster is then turned on. 

When the toast is ready you grasp the cage, lift it out, the metal cage red hot, turn the cage upside down, open it dropping the toast on the table.  I am surprised that operators of this complicated devise haven’t been branded many times over.

Take the Italian lampshade.  In this case a contraption designed to shade only half of a light bulb, why that is important escapes me.  The design is what I call Italianate – a way to complicate rather than simplify. 

Of course any culture which came up with, frescos by Luca Signorelli, architecture by Andrea Palladio, music by Verdi, Vivaldi and Puccini, pizza Margherita and gelato has my vote anytime.

(Illustrations from my travel/sketchbook No. 41).

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Lost in Orvieto

Detail from my travel sketchbook.

Orvieto was alive with people on Corso Cavour. My sister and I were walking together, she a bit ahead of me and at one point I noticed a stuffed wild boar in the entry of a store so, of course, I had to stop to take a photo of it. 

By that time my sister had melted into the crowd ahead of me and I knew I could find her as she had a striped tee shirt on.  I came into a square of vendors selling flea market stuff and some bad art and I didn't see her or anyone from our travel group who said they were heading to a market to buy cheap clothes.  I tried to match up my little map to where I was and it didn't make much sense.
Wild boar

Apparently I determined I was in the Piazza della Repubblica where I didn't want to be so then retraced my journey, as I had no bread crumbs to follow, and found a side street which then fed into the market square I was looking for.  The Piazza Populo was humming with vendors selling nuts, cheeses, flowers, meats, veggies, handbags, and tables and tables of clothes.  

Cheese truck.

I saw some of our group acting like shoppers at the end of month at Felines Basement madly grabbing blouses, tops, pants, etc.   I joined them and bought a light weight vanilla colored shirt for the early mornings here. Italy is starting the transition into fall.  Warm nights and cool evenings and mornings make for almost perfect weather.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tomato Fight Entertainment or Travesty?

According to the World Hunger Service 805 million people in the world are suffering from chronic undernourishment. 

Yesterday in Bunol, Spain, 22 thousand people threw 150 tons of tomatoes at each other.  Does anyone else find this a sham? 

Wondering if the starving people in Mauritania, Malawi, Zambia and Angola find this annual event amusing.  I dare say they would love to have buckets to catch tomatoes rich in vitamins A and C, folic acid, antioxidants and beta-carotene just to name a few benefits of this rich food source, instead of wasting it in a display of absurdness.

I have never found food fights to be entertaining or overeating contests amusing and enthralling.  Wasting food when there are so many starving people in the world seems to be degradation to the human condition.

David Ramos/Getty Images

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What is more fun? Part 2.

What is more fun watching Robin Williams interviewed on the Actors Workshop when he takes a scarf from someone in the audience for a prop and begins a series of artistic scenes or gives his dancing imitation of Twyla Tharp?  
What is more fun than sharing a wonderful lunch with great friends in the dinning room of the monastery in La Romita, Italy surrounded by artists, great conversation, Umbrian food and pitchers of wine?  What is more fun than rubbing the belly of a chubby little terrier who decides you are the best stranger he has ever met? What is more fun than leaning over in the grocery store flower section and smelling freesia? What is more fun than first getting into an airplane, strapping yourself into the seat and eagerly anticipating a flight to a foreign country you have never visited before?  What is more fun than getting a loved one to laugh or even better yet getting a stranger to laugh?

What is more fun than watching the antics of dogs with great senses of humor; watching the first snow fall traffic coming to a stop and all sounds softly muffled? 

What is more fun than reading a friend’s publiShed piece or teasing Cousin Jerry until my sides ache from laughing?

What is more fun than riding a big Zodiac along the Kona Coast working our way down to Kealakekua Bay for a morning of snorkeling?  Or an afternoon swimming off the lava rocks by the Place of Refuge to watch sea turtles and coral fish chomping their way through paradise?

What is more fun than sharing pizza and wine with best girlfriends and spilling out guts of frustration and fondest wishes in a haven of safety and support?

What is more fun than opening the mailbox and seeing a return address of a loved one? 

Monday, July 20, 2015

What is more fun? Part 1

What is more fun than riding Space Mountain at Disney World, except when my seat belt comes off and I am hurtling into dark space, holding on two pieces of broken belt for dear life?  All I can remember is not wanting to be catapulted into darkness. 

What is more fun than riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney World with a husband who laughs himself silly all during the ride and wants to get in line for a second go around? 

What is more fun than is sledding down a steep hill on the golf course at dusk, when it is freezing and screaming all the way down to the bottom; swimming in the warm, still, shallow waters off Palau where I see the most spectacular fishes of all colors and coral beyond belief?  Or roller skating at a rink when all of a sudden I
remember how to skate backwards; sitting out on the deck of Maggie’s Bluff on a really, really hot day having a fish taco and chilled glass of white wine; riding in my Smartie with the top down through downtown Seattle so that I can see the tops of old buildings?

What is more fun than seeing a good friend win a swell honor, a reward for her hard work and focus? 

What is more fun than watching a herd of forty hippos wallowing in a pond in the Okavango Delta?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Paris Post

"I think it would be wonderful if you did take a trip to Paris. I think you are old enough and seem to have a rudimentary grasp on the language, but I do worry about the possibility of getting into a difficulty in a foreign country.” 

Lucy Hart watercolor 2003
My mother was trying to be supportive but at the same time thought I might not be able to handle all situations all the time.

My duffle was stuffed with all the things I thought I would need.  A couple of changes of casual clothes, one black dress and a scarf for dress up, a copy of Hemingway’s “A Movable Feast” for references as I wanted to visit all the cafes he had mentioned.  My urban city map of Paris was blotched with large red dots of the important cafes I wanted to see.

My first day in Paris was simply a dream. I was staying on the Left Bank (naturally), and found a darling small hotel that was within my budget.  It was clean and tucked into a block of bookstores and cafes along Rue de Buci.   The sidewalks were thick with little tables all of them crowded with students on a break.  I must be near the university.  I marvel at how they can drag on their Gitanes, drink coffee, and talk at the same time.
Lucy Hart watercolor 2003

I found an empty table against a front window where I could gaze out on the people walking by, scurrying to class or to the bakery across the street with windows filled with pastry art which would make the finest pâtissier green with envy. I was on a limited daily allowance so would have to save up for one of the delectables featured at another time.  I was scared being alone, but somehow exhilarated at the thought of being my own guide.

I pulled out my notebook and thought about Hemingway doing the very same thing, sitting at a table in Paris and writing down impressions.  The notebook was new, a gift from a school friend, who said he envied me this opportunity but wanted to see my work when I returned.  It was a leather bound book, rather too refined for this girl, but I know he had pinched a large penny to buy it for me so I will treat it with respect.  It is hard to open that first virginal page, all white and clean.  My hand was actually shaking a bit as I started out with the my first line…..”Rue de Buci and I feel completely at home.  Even though a foreigner I feel like I belong here and it is going to be a splendid daily transitory adventure.”

Saturday, June 13, 2015


[Notes from my travel/sketch journal #1]
Eyes closed, the fragrance took me back to the first time I smelled plumeria, growing on a bush.  The smell is transporting and makes one want to linger to bathe oneself completely in its perfume.  I didn’t know at the time that they release their soft fragrance to attract sphinx moths to pollinate them. Can you imagine attracting only one species of precious moths to propagate yourself?

This was first time in Hawaii and we were staying on the island of Molokai.    I immediately liked it and thought it was completely un touristy.  
Reading while sunbathing.

The short flight from Honolulu on a small aircraft was an adventure in tropical air.  We rented a car from the little airport and drove over dusty red roads to the west end of the island.  The Kalua Koi resort was the usual stuff, well manicured lawns,  swimming pools and myna birds shrieking out from the coconut palms. 
Gent, not sure to go in the water.

My friend introduced to the joys of snorkeling and was I transfixed by the reef fish of so many colors, shapes and sizes.  

We had fun driving to the little communities, but now suffering the economic woes of abandoned pineapple plantations. 
The main town of Kanakakai had only one street light and a tidy row of small churches built by feverish missionaries coming to the island to save the natives.  

Tattooed lady, Marcia, and Rags in Molokai Hotel bar.
I marveled at the signs under cocoanut palm groves warning people if walked under the palms they would be killed by falling coconuts.   

I partially enjoyed stopping in tiny boutique hotels with small bars where only the locals seemed to meet up.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Offensive workplace greetings

What is with these grocery store clerks and baristas in coffee shops lately?  Instead of being trained to give a polite greeting like “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” they are saying, “What are you up to this afternoon?” or “What plans do you have for this evening?”

Sorry, but I don’t think it is anybody’s damn business what I am up to this afternoon or what I am up to this evening. 

To the first question I am tempted to respond “I am planning to rob the bank on the corner, but don’t tell anyone.” Or “After I visit the mortuary I’m going to the monument people to pick out a headstone” or “I’m having gall bladder surgery so hurry up with the latte.”

Also when I say thank you, servers or store clerks say “No problem.” And I want to scream, “I never said it was a problem!  How about just saying, you’re welcome in a civilized way?”

I find it offensive when someone I don’t know inquires anything personal about me, like what I am doing, where I am going and what plans I have made.  I am not after making best friends with strangers behind the counters I am just after completing a simple business transaction.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mother's Day Gifts

It is always a challenge for families to decide what to give Mother for Mother’s Day. The New York Times Sunday newspaper came to my rescue with a variety of options, featured in their T-Store four-color advertising insert.  Some of the gifts included a “personalized” wooden pie box for 50 dollars, a “personalize” rolling pin and pepper mill for $45, and how about the “personalize” cutting board for 80 bucks?  Also shown were the “personalized” Lazy Susans and NY Times kitchen aprons, 80 dollars for the red and 90 for blue.

Is personalizing cooking tools so that some great thief won’t break into her cupboard to steal her cutting board, rolling pin or pepper mill?

Wouldn’t Mother be delighted with a beautiful piece of jewelry to wear to the next gala event instead of something to add to her chores in the kitchen?

Somehow the ad did not mention a 9-carat emerald-cut amethyst cocktail ring, in sterling silver for $1,100 or a cushion-cut ruby ring with tapered baguette diamond side stones; platinum and 18K yellow gold setting from Harry Winston, which is so expensive that one has to call for the price.

Mom really doesn’t want a breakfast prepared by children who undercook pancakes in the shape of Jimmy Durante’s nose, or hand squeezed orange juice including seeds and pieces of rind and sausage with ice-cold centers and of course leaving a mess for Mom in the kitchen to clean up later.

How about giving Mom something that will make her life easier like a nice dinner out to an adults only restaurant, and a precious bobble like a sterling silver Mom Heart Tag Pendent from Tiffany and Co for $125, which comes wrapped in a turquoise box with a white satin ribbon?  She would adore that in place of all the “personalized” kitchen utensils in the world.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Lunch with Gorillas

Recently my zookeeper friend, Judy, asked me to come have lunch with gorillas and I was hard pressed to remember the last time I had received an invitation like this and I immediately cleared my calendar and RSVP'd affirmatively.

I was very anxious to be able to be up close with our primitive cousins.  Mind you I had seen them from behind the safety glass at their public exhibit at the zoo but being able to see these creatures so close behind the scenes was an anticipated thrill.

On Sunday after stepping through a disinfectant bath I walked into the keepers' work area next to cages with great metal bars.  I was given a lovely lunch of baked potato with many toppings but no spoon.  It was served gorilla style which fortunately I was able to do and it was delicious.  I spent some time talking with keepers and dedicated zoo volunteers who were busy making enrichment items for the gorillas (holes drilled into sticks and then filled with raisins and other treasures).

After lunch I was asked if I wanted to hang around to help feed the gorillias.  Need they ask?  I was instructed to washed my hands which I did with the skill of surgeon making sure I would not contaminate any gorilla food I touched. I was then was ushered into the gorilla sleeping quarters, behind bars, to first meet the female, Amanda. Judy had a bucket filled with bananas, carrots, celery and other greens which she placed in a large feeding container.

Judy told me not to make eye contact with these creatures and I have to tell you it was all I could do not to stare them in the eye.  I had to act like having lunch with gorillas was no big deal.  Judy gave me a plastic pitcher filled with something which looked like milk, but perhaps was laced with other liquid nutrients. 

Amanda thumped her chest like a bongo drum and came over to the bars where she pursed her lips and I gently poured the liquid into her mouth.  She gulped down her gorilla smoothie and, having drunk her fill let out very loud purrs.  I was half expecting her to also let out a great belch of approval. 

Judy handed me a large spoon and a container of mixed banana and mango to help feed VIP, an imposing silver back.  “If he takes the spoon just let it go,” my keeper friends advise.  I sure wasn’t about ready to wrestle a 600-pound primate over the ownership of any utensil.

VIP was a true gentleman and accepted my spoon full of mango and mashed banana with gentle grace, patiently waiting for me to round up another blob of sweet mesh for another lick.

I want to say that having lunch with these companions was a humbling experience and taught me to look even more closely at my natural world for true meaning.    

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Mysterious Ani

There are times when I am traveling I will see something so overwhelming and special that I want to stay there forever and take in all the seasons like the time I was in Eastern Turkey and we visited Ani an ancient Old Silk Road site near the Armenian boarder. 
It was a dramatic day, an ominous sky gathering energy, wind and rain in great billowing clouds threatening to dump on us at any moment and there was virtually no shelter that I could see.  The Armenian boarder was so close that I could throw a rock into that country.  I could see a fence with guard towers on it watching I guess for any of us who might run and jump the fence but what would we find on the other side?
Strewn about were remnants of proto Gothic style churches probably of the 11th and 12th centuries.   In its heyday Ani was a community of mosques and caravanserais (inns for travelers carrying good on animals). The city had been conquered by waves of maunders including Byzantines, and Mongols.  It was abandoned in 1336 left to ruin by earthquakes and harsh weather. And here it was one of the most endangered historical sites in the world and I am here hearing the occasional jangle from wandering sheep.

The wind was picking up and the clouds turned slate gray.  I hurried to the largest structure on the site, a Gothic cathedral, huge, out of scale with everything else. Built in the 10th century it is in crumbling stages of disintegration.  I am a Lilliputian in a land of giants.  My footstep echo in the high ceilings and a pigeon flutters out of a nesting spot.  I try to listen to hear the sounds of Gregorian chants absorbed by the thick stonewall.  No one is around.  And it is flat dead silence except for an occasional whistle of the wind circling around the apse in various stages of decay and collapse. The rains come, gentle at first, and then gather strength.  Clouds heavy with moisture careen into one another, exploding crashes of sound.  The churches darkened interior is lit from bolts of lightening and I cowered against a wall.  It was if all the angry Armenian sky gods were battling in a great clashes of swords against the Turks to take back their city.  I wonder if I am going to be just a statistic among centuries of wandering warriors.  What a place to go!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

R.I.P. Stewart Stern

My nonagenarian friend, Stewart Stern, passed away over a week ago.  He was an incredibility talented screen writer (who wrote "Rebel Without a Cause", "Sybil", Rachel Rachel", "Teresa"), won an Emmy and several Academy Award nominations.   He also was a devoted teacher who inspired so many students during this teaching career.  I was fortunate to have taken a screen writing class from him at The Film School and was in awe of his energy, spirited concern for each student and love for teaching.  

Stewart was a WWII veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, went missing in action, and suffered frostbite sending him to a hospital for months.  As a result he was wobbly on his feet and needed a cane. The Film School need a volunteer driver to drive him to class. I immediately signed up to become Stewart's assistant and "bodyguard" to make sure he would not miss a step or fall over.  I picked him up for class in my Smart car, drove him to school, stayed with him during his class to deliver him safely home. But on my watch Stewart fell over twice.  Once while a scene from "Rachel Rachel" was being shown he was sitting too far back on his lecture stool and he toppled over backwards.  Lights went on, students jumped up and I rushed over to him to look down at him to check him out as he immediately said,  "Keep rolling the clip!"  What a guy!

Stewart and me in my Smart car.
During our rides in my Smart car Stewart would sing Broadway show songs, regale me with absorbing tales from his days in Hollywood, and his great friendships with, among others,  Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Beatrice Lillie, Jimmy Dean and Marlon Brando.  He had exceptional story telling skills and I was constantly entertained by his great sense of fun yet often moved by his passion for people and animals. Stewart was also a tireless volunteer at the Woodland Park Zoo with over 5,000 hours. 

I adored Stewart and I have a thousand memories of my times spent with him.  I treasure our friendship. 

Rest in Peace Peter Pan.  We all loved you.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Swing brothers

The Swing brothers were well known all over town, playing most nights at “Maxie’s”.  Carl Swing manned a guitar, Buddy a crisp banjo.  They were two animated redheads, tall drinks of water in flannel shirts and well-worn jeans. They featured bluegrass but would occasionally transition into country western if the crowd mostly wore cowboy boots.  Maxie himself was never sure to whom he was pitching his beers and burgers.  For a while he was trying to lure in the college crowd but didn’t understand that all they were after was cheap drinks and free eats.

Thursday night was Bikers' Night and a neat row of shining Harleys lined the parking strip.  Pity the young ladies who came in looking to meet men. They paid no attention to the lasses just talked biker talk and checked out each other’s Harleys.

Word has it that Maxie was a failed PhD. candidate in philosophy and had a sort of academic nervous breakdown and never returned to this thesis committee.  Maxie kept a stand up table in the front window which held a very thick Merriam Webster's, to keep arguments at bay.  

That was 20 years ago.  Maxie wasn’t the only drop out.  Carl and Buddy never made it past the first quarter as freshmen. Too many coeds and late night parties kept them from hitting the books.  But the Swing Brothers musical abilities saved them from becoming oil jockeys or driving Pepsi delivery trucks.  Everyone who heard them appreciated their talents and tips on Saturday night were generous.

It had been a long long time since I had been to Marie's. I went over to check it out when I was visiting my home town recently  It wasn't the same.  The dictionary was gone from the window and Wi-Fi was everywhere.  They were serving vegetarian burgers and had a long list of draft beers.  There were still the well worn booths, but the crowd wasn't the same.  They all looked like middle school students, dressed in baggy shorts wearing their baseball hats backwards, probably playing hooky from early afternoon classes. Sometimes it's better not to revisit the past.