Monday, December 19, 2016

Made My day, too.

I was at the Trader Joe’s on Queen Anne this afternoon and I was waiting for the elevator to go down with my cart of groceries to parking.  A gentleman also with a cart held open the elevator door for me gesturing that I should so in first.  

Once inside I noticed that besides groceries he had two large Christmas packages wrapped beautifully.  He said that they were Panettone from his country, saying it was hard to find.  I  know that Panettone is an Italian sweet bread and I said , “Where are you from?” thinking he would say some place in Italy and instead he said, “Peru” and I said, “No me diga” (which means “Don't tell me.”)  And I couldn’t help it so I started to sing the Peruvian national anthem.  I could have bowled him over as his expression was priceless and he joined me me in the second stanza.

We walked our carts to our cars and he started to sing a popular Peruvian song which I didn’t know and I started to sing a huayno.  He was stunned.

Of course the conversation came around to where I learned the anthem and told him in Peace Corps training we had to know the whole song before we left for Peru.

We chatted amiably through the parking garage and he had those wonderful manners of Latin Americans.  We shook hands and he said, “My family won’t believe me when I tell them that I met a woman in the elevator who sang the Peruvian national anthem! You have made my Christmas no, even my New Year’s. Thank you so much.”  He was still shaking his head in disbelief as he got into his car.

Monday, October 31, 2016


I will be so glad when this election is over.  I am sick and tired of the lying, bringing up personal not professional issues, attacking one’s family, name calling, fabricating the most outlandish stories.  When the national news comes on I mute all the political discussions.  I don’t like either candidate but sure don’t want The Donald Crazyman Nutzo running the show.  He would have us all blown to smithereens.  He has the mental age of a first grader, who was asked to repeat the grade because he can’t even put a meaningful sentence together.

And Hillary, smugging her way around everything, her phony smile, waving to the crowd, too bad that a better woman couldn’t have been offered up instead of this nefarious politico who, just a few short years ago claimed that she and Bill were “dead broke” leaving the White House.  Humm now millionaires – where does that come from?  So we have the worst of two candidates running for the big Kahuna of our country, never have we had two less desirable people up for grabs.  But she has my vote.

And my phone will stop ringing during the dinner hour, with those damn political recorded messages.  I am all too wise to the dead phone when I pick it up and if there isn’t a voice within a half second I slam the phone down.  My mailbox is stuffed with four-color brochures from candidates running for county, state and federal offices.  What a waste of paper.  The candidates’ ads in television are a bore and filled with the trappings of speechwriters saying any old thing completely unsubstantiated.

After November 8th things will be back to normal, well not quite.  There will be the whining, suggestions of ballot stuffing, rigged elections, and let’s not forget the “chads” call in 2000 Florida presidential election.

Monday, September 5, 2016

I Got Him!

For the past several weeks I have been dogged by a housefly the size of a gopher.   It lurks in the shadows and just as I pour my morning coffee in the kitchen it dive-bombs me.  I reach for the fly swatter and it melts into the dark recesses my apartment.  I looked up some facts about flies and learned that they can live for up to 28 days and this one was a granddaddy of them all. 

First I put up a sticky fly ribbon hoping to catch him but after three days with no luck I took it down.  Then I went on the #1 website for eliminating flies and found directions to construct a fly trap that they claimed works. 

I followed the instructions and made the trap out of sugar water, a glass, and a paper funnel with small hole in it. According to the instructions flies get attracted to food with a sense of smell which is 10 million times more sensitive to sugar than the human tongue.  Flies compound eyes have very bad vision.  The theory behind this home made fly trap is that the fly will be attracted by the sugar, crawl down the cone, drop through the hole into the sugar water, have their fill then because of their bad vision can’t figure out how to get out of the glass and then I supposed gorge on sugar water and are transported into another world in an ecstasy of excess.  That sounded pretty good and pretty humane.  I had that trap out on the counter for four days.  Each morning I would check to see if that huge black critter was belly up in sugar water.  No luck. 

I would then try to stand for several minutes with a fly swatter raised in the attack position, but the fly would disappear.  One evening hard pressed for something for dinner I took out a frozen hot dog bun and put it on the counter.  I saw the fly.  Maybe he preferred a bun to sugar and I got out my swatter.  He landed on the bun.  I took one slam and did him in with one blast and he lay feet up on the counter.  I couldn’t believe that I got him after all this time.  He was too wee to be stuffed and mounted on a plaque but I just about felt like doing it.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Clearing Clutter

There are claw marks on everything I have had to let go of so, as you can imagine, my closets are in bad need of weeding.  I anthropomorphize everything I have ever owned. 

Old books, broken at the spine and disintegrating are loving reminders of my youth.  Any rational person would have thrown out Paul Goodman’s “Growing Up Absurd” in the trash as it was so beat up that it would have collapsed but was being held upright on the bookshelf between copies if MFK Fisher’s’ The Art of Eating” and “The Portable Dorothy Parker”, which by the way survived two years in the Peace Corps, nibbled away by silver fish, and crumbling away should also be tossed.  I just can’t seem to be objective and trash them for more room on the shelf.

Threadbare t-shirts frayed at the collar would be better put to rags but I can’t seem to toss them into the Goodwill box.  I kid myself by saying that when I buy a new t-shirt I will have to toss an old one, and it never happens.  As a consequence I have dozens of shirts, surviving dozens of washing hanging like a list of places visited and tasks accomplished.  There’s the Bulgaria one silk-screened in Cyrillic, the Italian t shirt purchased in Perugia written in Italian saying something to the effect that “If you want to know me watch what I do.”  It has been washed so many times it has gotten smaller and smaller.  (I couldn’t have gotten bigger and bigger!). And at least six Jungle Party Volunteer t-shirts, in yellow, orange, red, light blue and green sort of like battle ribbons issued over the years at the zoo.

And how about that lovely white lace crocheted long sleeved dress I wore to my wedding?  Don’t think I could fit into again and I surely will never wear a wedding dress again, but gosh I can’t recycle it to Goodwill.

On a larger scale I drove a Fiat 124 white convertible and I loved that little car.  It was temperamental.  Although I bought it new, when it rained it leaked water in from the floor – not the roof.  And I needed to give it a tune up every 5,000 miles.  It was like a high-strung racecar and it was my magic carpet, taking me everywhere.

One dark night I was driving home from a party and I thought I was just about ready to run over a paper bag in the middle of the road.  Unfortunately it wasn’t a harmless paper bag but a foot diameter rock which hit the low-slung oil pan, which jammed the pump up into the engine block and cracked it.  It killed that little car and I felt like a great friend had died as the tow truck hauled it off to the auto graveyard.  I mourned that little beauty for months afterwards.

I really have to get a grip on what is real and what is inanimate. I have an awful hard time distinguishing between the two.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

High Heels

The thing about high heels is that they are meant for little tiny short girls not for someone like me at 5’10”, when for cripes sake, I am already taller than most of the boys and sure as hell don’t need no freaking heels to make me look taller. 

Brewster Freeland was the cutest damn architecture student with black curly hair and eye lashes to shame a woman.  He was about 5”6” and wouldn’t you know he asked me out on a date. I mean a real date to have Chinese food at the Mandarin the only “foreign” food restaurant in Eugene.  I wore my heels, as ladies did on those days, which shot me up almost to the ceiling.  And, my gosh, he wore a crisp white shirt, jacket and tie.  I thought he was very sophisticated when he asked if I would like a drink.  I was so innocent I said I didn’t know what to order so he said that I might like a “Grasshopper”.  It was delicious and tasted like melted chocolate chip mint ice cream. 

We had a romance for several months.  In those days romances were quite chaste unlike today’s vulgar display of some young women looking like hookers and all to willing to do just about anything, if you know what I mean.

I do digress - we were talking about high heels.  I don’t know who started the fad probably during the 9th century when men wore high heels to keep their boot in their stirrups. And we sure see the foppish men in the 16th century wearing high heels along with wigs with dangling curls, velvet jackets with white lace and pantaloons, puffy sleeves and tights.

Short stocked royals, the result of inbreeding, took to heels to make them look taller.  They got over that style pretty quickly when rude comments were made questioning their masculinity. 

Then women started wearing the contraptions.  And today it is simply amazing to watch young women, hoping to be fashionable and sexy, wear tall leather boots up to their crotch and titter on 5-inch stilettos. 

Speaking of stilettos when my husband and I had refinished all the downstairs hardwood floors in our Victorian South Slope house which we were putting on the market. Some real estate agent brought a potential seller into the house when we were not there and there were thousands of pockmarks, made by metal stilettos, all over our new floors.  We had no proof who did it but my suspicions were that they knew what was happening and did not confess to it.  So much for women who wear heels.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

RIP Enza Quargnali

Enza Quargnali was a co owner of the La Romita Art School in Terni, Italy.

She is now a shadow lurking in the hallways of La Romita.  On hot afternoons as shutters are drawn, closed against the blazing sun, the long curtains flutter as though a spirit has danced down the hallways.  It is our Enza walking the tile pathways checking to make sure everyone is safely snoozing for a siesta after a hearty lunch of Ciriole alla Ternana, bread, a staggering tossed salad, and several glasses of wine.

We will always remember her, a slight thing with intense energy, only the truth passed her lips, incapable of shielding students from the obvious.  Her reading glasses hanging from her neck a hidden treasure from Murano are the only evidence of a weary body.

Silent is her voice, English with an Italian accent, bouncing off the ceiling of the cucina warning of an impending storm.  She is the gray heavy clouds saturated with moisture which come in thunderous crashes pouring rain down onto the mountains and rolling into the valley with bolts of lightening flickering in the distance.

She is imbedded in the terra cotta walls, the flowering pots gorging flowers cascading into the patio.  The chapel walls, now quiet, will echo her presence, a constant reminder of the family who so lovingly poured their creative talents into every brick, every wall, every room beaconing artists to reach their inner soul.

She is the monastery herb garden with scents of rosemary, lavender, sage and lemon.  She is the old gnarled olive tree still clinging to the steep hillside giving a bounty of fruit every season. 

She is the bleating sheep calling for the flock to gather which will never come.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Stranded on the Carousel

It was a glorious day at the zoo today with temperature in the high 70°'s.  I was busy mentoring two new volunteers, showing them around zoo grounds.  We visited the tapirs, Visayan warty pigs, siamangs, Malayan tigers, sloth bears, Asian small-clawed otters, and penguins when we spotted the beautiful carousel on the grounds.  Thinking it important for these trainees I suggested that we ride on the merry go round to gain the experience.

It is a lovely old Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel with brightly colored carved wooden horses, shiny brass posts and mirrors to reflect the excited faces of kids having a whale of a good time. The horse I chose was in the "down" position so with some difficulty I was able to swing my long legs over the saddle and straddle the charging steed.  The stirrups were so short that I looked like a jockey at a horse race with my knees practically under my chin.  The carousel started with the slap happy traditional merry go around music which brought back chilldhood memories.  However, seeing my reflection in the mirrors I just looked like a very overgrown "big lady", way too long legged to be on that critter. I was more than a little concerned because when we were in the "up" position we were way up in the air and I noted alarmingly that I was not going to be able to dismount the steed if I was still up that high and not down.

We came to a stop and I was not only in the up position but the way up position and there wasn't a way for me to come down.  I was trapped.   Much to their credit my two volunteers ran over with great concerned and didn't burst into gales of laughter as I would have had the positions been revered.  There I was stranded in the up position while all the other riders had  been lifted off their horses by their parent or were able dismounted themselves. A long line was waiting to get in, but couldn't do it as long as I was impaled on the horse.

The expert carousel operator came to my rescue by slowly nudging the horse down, down to the lowest position and I was able to awkwardly get off the horse but I confess that I was red-aced as I fled the scene.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Beggars Can Be Choosers

This morning I walked across the street to buy my weekly Sunday bagel at Safeway’s.  As usual there was a panhandler standing in front of the store’s main door asking for money.  I have seen this guy before and he always has two dogs  with him, a small terrier and a larger brown dog.  I felt kind of sorry for the pooches and decided that I would also get some doggie treats as life is probably not easy for them sleeping in alleys.

I purchased a bag of dog treats and as I left the store I walked over to the panhandler and gave him the package saying, “This is for your dogs.”  He looked at it, turned it over and read the ingredients.  “It has corn in it and my little dog is allergic to it,” and tried to hand it back.

“I don’t have a dog perhaps you do know someone and can give it to them,” I said.

“Oh, she does,” he says pointing to a female pan-handler just coming out of the store to retrieve her dog tied to the handrail.

No one even said, “Thank you.” I must remember that no good deed goes unpunished.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Lunch in Paris

I had just spent the morning sketching in the Marais, one of my favorite Parisian neighborhoods, and stopped at the Salon de thé Bar on the Rue Vieille du Temple to order lunch at their sidewalk safe.  It was quite crowed so I joined others at a common table and sat across from a rather rotund woman, dressed in a pink dress with chubby fingers wearing lots of rings, some with diamonds glistening in the sunlight.
Being on a limited budget I ordered a cafe au lait and a cheese sandwich.

The lady in pink proceeded to order a four-course lunch French with gusto and didn’t pay any attention to the other diners around her.  I had a perfect view of this gastronomic groupie who tore into her meal with complete abandon. 

First she ordered a carafe of rosé and poured three fingers of wine into her tumbler and downed it in one gulp. 

Intent on her meal land she hardly looked up as she broke the onion soup thick with cheese and bread.  Steam rose from her initial attack at the crust and she slurped the dark brown liquid into pursed lips.  With one hand on the spoon and the other hand holding her baguette she manage to dispatch the bowl with relish. 

There followed a small plate of patés, a paté de campagne forrestier with porcini mushrooms reeking of wine and Cognac, and the other one seemed to be duck foi gras which she slathered on bread with a thick knife.  

Her main dish was escargot (one of my personal favorites and I frankly had to keep from drooling).  The garlic and parsley sauce bubbled around the small snails tucked into their little round indentations ready to be speared with a tiny escargot fork.  She downed the first one, then dipped her bread into the sauce twice to soak up all the juices.  With hardly a pause she speared the second snail repeating her bread dipping technique, until the plate was swabbed clean.

You’d think at this point she would have swooned over the amount of butter, cheese, fat and trans fats she had ingested but she ended her gastronomic marathon with a glass bowl piled high with strawberries. She very delicately took a spoon of just one strawberry, swallowed it and then spooned another, taking her time to complete her hearty lunch.  At the end of lunch she looked up, rolled her eyes as though thanking Bacchus himself for this culinary extravaganza. I was mighty impressed and promised myself to save up for some escargot sometime soon.   

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Democracy is Alive and Well in District 36

This weekend I attended my precinct caucus at Seattle Center’s Armory. It was held in the mezzanine, a large open space, which was jammed packed with mobs of people, the air sparking with energy. From my perspective they all looked like Millennial, perhaps voting for the first time, with a scattering of a few of us “old folks. There weren’t enough chairs to go around so people were standing or sitting on the floor with a look of expectant hope on all their faces.

It took a while to work my way through the maize of dozens of precincts to find mine. A young man offered me his seat, for which I was grateful.  A gentlemen sitting to my to my right said,  “I am 80 years old and I don’t look it”, but I wound never want to shatter his dream because in fact he looked a lot older.

The chattering quieted down as a volunteers read the instructions for the process and asked others to volunteer to be a group leader, secretary, vote counters and hands shot up in anticipation.  We filled out a form to select our choice for a candidate to run for President of the United States. 

The discussion was open for people to plead their case in three minutes or less in support of either Hillary or Bernie. All the speakers were passionate, reasonable, and specific and not one negative thing was said about an opponent.  A speaker might have issue with a specific platform proposal but no words were bandied about a candidate’s spouse, previous romantic liaisons, questionable personal comment, and everyone was respectful.  They all emphatically agreed that whoever would receive the most votes  would have their vote, anything to derail the Republican candidates. 

Some voters brought children old enough to understand what was going on. Speakers included heath care workers, lawyers, Chicano supporters, small business owners, computer industry workers, and young people with staggering college loans.

Speeches were closed and votes were tallied up - 87 for Bernie and 24 for Hillary.  Our precinct was allowed 6 delegates to the Congressional District Caucus in April. Then there are several steps to whittle down to delegates to be selected to attend the July Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, the home of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.  How apropos.  I have to say this morning long process convinced me that the younger generations are swell.  And all along I thought all they were intereted in are smart phones. I confess to being wrong.  

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Tit for Tat

What’s with all this tattooing? I used to think that the only people who got tattoos were drunken sailors on leave in Hong Kong, who got really unskilled tats and regretted waking up the next morning from out on a toot and were very sorry that they had done it.

I belong to an athletic club and I am truly shocked to see some women in the dressing room showing off some really awful tats.  One woman, who would otherwise be rather attractive, has complicated tats of   
vines and leaves with little animals hidden among the greenery from the top of her arms down to her wrists. And that is it.

Mind you I can understand a woman wanting to get some discrete little graphic on a place where no one would see it except for her doctor and an intimate partner, but some of these woman show off tats that practically cover their body except from their heads and hands.  I somehow, thankfully, did not receive that gene in my DNA, which wants to get my body permanently painted.  And if, by chance I did get that gene I would pick out a really good artist to do the work, not some untrained “tattooist” who is just learning the trade, as so many of these people seem to have.

As a kid growing up the only woman who had tattoos was the one featured at the side show at a carnival.  It was a true oddity and people paid money to see her.  Now it is for free in any female locker room and sometimes in any restaurant on a hot day being served by a tattooed waitress with a tattoo of a huge eagle trying desperately to crawl out of her bra.

I wonder if it is some kind of masochistic reward to have an electric needle hammering away on my skin, shooting up colors.  Maybe it is the process rather than the result which people are after. The designs being the reward for agony, perhaps like the Mori people of New Zealand as part of a coming of age ceremony.  I do not think tattoos on North Americans are trendy cool or sexy.  I sort of rate the a kind of “in your face, look at me” kind of action.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Significant Value

The sign said, “Please leave something of significance. “ What a novel request to make for what I thought was, for sure, was made by the padre of our local church.  I know they are struggling to keep the modest church from financial disaster and perhaps this is a request for some sort of ecclesiastical garage sale.  I was hard pressed to decide what significant item I might leave for the sale.

Back home I looked on my bookshelves trying to decide what might be appropriate.  There is a little carved rabbit I bought it from a Hanoi street vendor years ago.  At the time I had hoped it was not made out of ivory, perhaps animal bone, but it is a dear little thing significant to me because I was born in the year of the rabbit.

The next item is a circular bone box filled with sand and eggshells from a young woman who gifted me the treasure.  Inside the box are the egg remains of the now extinct Malagasy elephant bird.  That for sure ought to fetch a good price from the right person who knows its value. 

Propped up against a bookend is an Incan figure, from the shoulders up.  I am a bit ashamed to say that I dug it up in 1963 from a graveyard, located in an isolated desert valley in Peru. At the time it seemed innocent enough but I suspect that I would not do that again, out of respect to the departed.

I hold dear my small green rhino carved out of malachite which I purchased from a sidewalk vendor in Chile, but another might think that it was just a plastic animal.

On my mantel is a Tibetan prayer wheel which I can easily spin around and around.  Inside there are dozens of prayers written on thin yellow paper and I suppose giving it several twirls make for a quick succession of blessings and acknowledgements to Buddha.  Helps to cover as many bases as one can I’d say.

I was in a quandary trying to select the perfect significant item for the church.  Looking over my collection I opened a small brown box.  Inside nests a Zuni fetish, a brown bear inlaid with a turquoise cloud and raindrops, signifying safe journeys for its owner.  This is it!  I shall take it over to the church tomorrow and leave it for the sale.  Safe journey, sweet bear.