Sunday, June 28, 2015

Big Worry

You'll never guess the big worry on this teenager's mind, but first I'll tell you about her situation when she wrote the chunk of old foolscap I just came across.  (We can ignore the "Private" -- I don't think it counts after three-quarters of a century.)
She's lying supine, flat on her back, with a board under her hospital mattress, allowed to roll over just once a day when the nurses change the sheets and give her a bath and massage.  Hasn't sat up for six months.  No radios allowed on the wards, not even with earphones.  She's more than 50 miles away from family and friends.  No phones of course.
   After months in a dim cubicle with curtains on either side  (fluorescents not yet in use) she's been moved to the far end of the 10-bed ward, so now she has the window on one side. Three feet away, behind the curtain on her left, an elderly nun is dying; black-robed sisters watch all night by candlelight, slow-moving shadows on the high ceiling. 
   She is more than halfway through a year-long sentence, aimed at heading off the hunchback developing on a adolescent spine. She writes in pencil. She doesn't own a fountain pen -- they're expensive -- and it'll be years anyone markets the (also originally expensive) ballpoint that will write upside down.   She writes on a legal pad, holding it overhead.  She starts with an attempt at whimsy, which will not, decades later, turn out to be her best style:
Private
(I hope)
The Great American Novel.
  This is going to be the Great American Novel.  I don't think fourteen is too young to write it.  I was going to wait until I was at least twenty-one, but, as I have very little writing talent, I suppose I'd best begin now.  Then when I'm at least twenty-one I can write the Greater American Novel, and when I reach middle or even old age...(Let's skip some here.)
   My penmanship is terrible.  When I was in eighth grade Miss Forbes kept me after school because of it.  I wish Mr. Greenberg had kept me after.  I had a crush on him.  He was my first crush.  He offered to coach me in Latin during the summer.  I wish Mother had let him.    
   If I had to write "had let" in French I'd have a terrible time.  I wonder what tense it is? (75 years on she remembers her dread of  Miss Forbes and her dread of French verb blanks, but she doesn't remember Mr. Greenberg.)
   If I ever write a book, I think that's what I'll call it. "A Book".  I hope no body thinks of that title before I use it.  (Decades later, her best-selling title will be "Modern Real Estate Practice in New York.")
   I guess I'll let the novel go untill I can use my typewriter.  I'm flat on my back now, you know.  I expect to be in here 'till June.  I hope hope hope my face clears up by June.  My Sunday-school class is having a dance then, my first Formal.  My Formal is red and white in tiny checks on a thin material over a white skirt.  It has white lace with ribbons in it down the front and round the top.  You wouldn't think I could wear red, with my hair, but it looks beautiful and it has a full skirt.   (The exciting "full-length"  gown is a hand-me-down from rich cousin Betty, who likes red.) The dress will look fine but what if my complexion doesn't clear???
   This whatever-it-is is full of I's.  Well, why not?  I'm writing about myself for my own enjoyment.  I'm really enjoying it.  But I'd better be honest.  I keep thinking of some one else's reading it.
   This buzzer to call the nurses flashes on a little light above my bed. I can send an SOS -- three dots, three dashes, three dots.  If it didn't bother the nurses I'd learn to send the whole Morse code with it. (The nurses wear white dresses, white stockings and starched white caps that show what schools they attended, with 
black velvet ribbons indicating their status.)  
   Mr. Emmanuel asked me to write for the Sunday-school paper.  I wrote a fair article called "Parents Should Know."  I think he thinks it's going to be a regular feature.  Well, maybe it will.  (Forty years later she writes a weekly column that will appear in more than seventy-five newspapers -- that's before newspapers start to die out.)
   If I ever write a story and a murder enters into the life of one of the main characters, I'll just tell enough about it to show how it influenced him and even if you're dying to know who killed the old man, I won't even figure it out myself.
   I had a nice trip down to the X-ray room today.  Saw an Xmas tree in one room, and had a nice conversation with the elevator girl.  The X-ray man has an awfully nice-looking young man there -- and all he did was read "Thrilling Detectives" magazine -- the young man, I mean.
   When my writing gets unreadable, it's time to stop.

She got out in time for The Formal -- that's Daddy (he was short) -- don't remember who her date was.  The fur bunny jacket was Betty's also. 
Betty's dead now.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Weeping Willow

2013
 Some of you will remember the tree that started falling on the office window two years ago.  When they took it down,  I had them leave the main trunk as a stump, about roof-high, for the convenience of birds who come to the feeders.


 


  
It looked wonderful one year later, last June, on the left there -- full of vitality, bravely compensating for the amputation.  But on the right, here's what it looked like yesterday, even after all that rain.  I guess it intends to give up. 
That healthy green fluff  bunched behind its left side is a volunteer sapling of some other species -- looks as if it did quite well over the year.
One door closes, another opens. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Who D'Ya Like?


Before this goes much further, here's the guy I'd love to see get the nomination, during a difference of opinion with Norm in New York City some years ago--
and not to worry, here they are after they Made Up.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Little Woman's Fur Coat

I didn't stay in bed watching movies this morning.  I stayed in bed solving a double-crostic. 
 As you may be able to see, this one was number 82, in a book that reprints 182 double-crostics from the Sunday New York Times.  When the answer to a clue is Spiro Agnew, you know these are old puzzles.  Period pieces. 
I didn't have much trouble with the first four clues --Rough out, Intertwine, Network, Gandhi (which I misspelled) so I knew the author's first name was RING.  Cinch after that -- the next words down obviously started with LARDNE and R.  My age and that of the puzzle matched nicely.  I suspect there are lots of literate young people who never heard of Ring Lardner.  And then the remaining clues started with the excerpt's title:  WORLD SERIOUS.
You may not be able to read the quotation:
IT LOOKS TO ME LIKE AS IF THE SERIOUS SHOULD OUGHT TO BE WELL OVER BY SUNDAY NIGHT AND THE LITTLE WOMAN'S NEW FUR COAT DELIVERED TO OUR LITTLE HOME SOME TIME MONDAY AND MAYBE WE WILL GET INVITED OUT SOMEWHERES THAT NIGHT AND THEY WILL BE A BLIZZARD.
Ring Lardner specialized in giving his protagonists nifty grammar, but that last "THEY" strikes me as  a bit excessive.
None of which is what I started out to tell you.  What I noticed is "the little woman."  When's the last time you heard it?  the last time anyone said it?  are there literate young people who wouldn't know what it means?
And if it comes to that, what's become of fur coats?  When I was young, fur coats were everywhere, and all of us could interpret the wearer's status:  the inexpensive bunny shrug; the fox stole complete with head, tail and sometimes legs; the college man's raccoon -- that last pretty much gone after World War Two.  
We recognized immediately the young woman's sheared beaver, the matron's Persian lamb, the factory worker's stiff  "mouton." 
  I doubt if we knew much about nutria, but when mink appeared, people nearby would nudge each other and gape.  Stylish models wore trench coats lined with it.  In Montreal my mother-in-law's women friends (none of whom knew how to drive, btw) had one fur for waiting at bus stops and a fancier one for evenings. 
I found hundreds of illustrations for fur coats, but when I tried for The Little Woman, nothing came up but book covers and movie posters for Little Women. 
You can't beat that 1933 b&w version, the one that had Katharine Hepburn as Jo and -- of course -- Edna Mae Oliver as Aunt March. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Journal Entry, no Illustrations

Monday, June 15, 2015
I woke up at 5 o’clock, which is remarkable.  Can’t remember when I’ve slept through without waking at 2 or 3.  But yes, I didn’t have any hot water bottle – which I usually fill around 4 am to help get back to sleep, so yes, I evidently slept right through.    That doesn't even happen once a year, and it felt good.
Got up and went out to turn off  security but evidently I’d forgotten to turn it on Sunday night, must have been pretty tired, that happens lately.  Checked the doors, all locked so that was good.  Checked the decoy wallet in the utility room where that burglar used to go.  $5 bill still in it but the 20 is gone.  No panic, it might have been anyone, might well have been myself in a hurry out the door, given what my memory is these days.
The morning paper wasn’t in the box—evidently a substitute carrier, looked a bit in the bushes.  Must have already taken it in.  Checked discarded newspapers in the bedroom but they all were from Sunday so I hadn't read it yet.  Checked out in the office, all the way back to the bedroom, couldn't find it.
Hip hurt a lot so I took a hot bath, read in the tub, took morning pills, healthy breakfast (egg, toast, pear, oj), back in bed with no paper so clicked on TV, but the news channels evidently repeat the previous night’s news that early in the morning.
Then I began to feel seriously disoriented and finally it struck me – as you’ve probably wondered -- that it just might still be Sunday evening.  Most uncomfortable sensation.  No use checking watches or the bedroom clock, surfed the news channels but none happened to be showing the time. 
Finally I thought of the computer and came out to the office.  Pulled up a clock and there it was in black and white – well, grey and blue on a sort of off-white.  Yes.  The screen said  6:30 PM. 
That's POST MERIDIEN (MEREDIAN?) – anyhow, still Sunday evening.  
Here’s the worst part:  it was hard to accept.  Even when things started getting dark outside I hardly  felt oriented. Altogether upsetting experience. 
 
Don’t anyone bother to tell me it could happen to anyone.  The only redeeming aspect is that it’s always interesting to have a first -- there aren't many new happenings left after more than 89 years.

p. s.  Just after I posted this, received an email from a woman who asks if I'll be home if she comes over tomorrow to discuss selling my (remaindered) little book at the national Austen conference.  I started to reply I'd be home all day Monday, thought twice, had to study the calendar and check again with the computer.  Today is definitely Monday.  It is Monday now. She'll be over tomorrow.  That will be Tuesday.
Got that? 
I'm outa here.  Going to Trader Joe's to buy frozen onion soup.  I've been meaning to tell you -- their frozen onion soup is terrific.  A bit salty for a heart patient, but so is everything else.  It's great onion soup. 

 

 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Name that Bird !

And that's all the illustration you're going to get for THAT.
Daughter IMs from work  "that would make a good post" after I IM a few funny experiences I had, to cheer her up about an unpleasant medical examination she's scheduled for.  I  IM back that the topic is not suitable for general discussion.  She counters that the blog is supposed to be about getting old and I should post more about that.
    So here's a big Getting Old irritation -- the way nouns escape you.  It's always nouns one can't think of -- the name of the person you're talking about, the great dish at the restaurant, the title of that movie.  Never mind telling me it's bothering you even at your age -- trust me, that's nothing like what will happen in your later years. 
    I don't notice it on days when I'm home alone, no problem.  I know what I'm thinking about.  But when I try to write -- yesterday I noted in my journal that the catbird is still skulking at the suet feeder, and also at the feeder, which is unusual, is  a ....well, I kept typing in a sort of stream of consciousness, and here's what the journal entry looks like:
Particularly good birds at the feeder today. Catbird still out here.  Also -- other bird I think it's rare to see at a feeder, don't remember seeing that before in all these years, but if course I forget things these days.  Very common black bird – yellow bill, speckles,  damn it can’t find its name. 
Couldn't remember words a lot in conversations with Amy yesterday.  Don’t notice at all when I’m alone of course, because I know what the bird is.  Common as sparrows.

  See them lined up on telephone wires. Latin name sternus vulgaris.  Easy to remember because they have so little tail, can’t think of English name.   Related to robins, sometimes see in flocks of migrants with them. 
 Big swarms, Norm and I once parked to watch a swarm near St. Catherines in Ontario. I think it begins with  S.  Introduced, not native.  Very common.  European farmers prize their song.
I could write a whole dissertation on this bird but what is its name? 
And so on for several paragraphs, and then out of nowhere:
Starling. 
Big sigh of relief.

And by the way -- while Google offered me hundreds of pictures of starlings, not one of them was shown at a feeder.  That at least was reassuring.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Feel Sad, Feel Happy


Still feeling bad about that mouse.  It was, after all, merely trying to make a living like anyone else.  I’d like to think Rex released it, but I don’t want to ask.   Hate this kind of thing.  When I find a spider in my morning bathtub and automatically squash it, that means  the day has started with a small death.  Easy to sound remorseful, but of course that doesn’t keep me from squashing. 
So on a more cheerful note:
As a real estate writer I’m on too many public relations mailing list s, and hit “unsubscribe” regularly, but I must share with you the pr release that came in this morning:
Hi Edith,
I noticed you report on real estate so I wanted to introduce myself.
My name is Derek Peterson and I am the CEO of Terra Tech -- an urban agricultural company that's purchasing greenhouse space across the country in anticipation of the full legalization of marijuana.
If you're ever working on a story about the marijuana business real estate market, please let me know and I would be happy to provide you with some insight. You can reply to his email or contact my publicist Brian Sonenstein at brian@nisonco.com.
Take care,
Derek Peterson
Terra Tech CEO

Derek Peterson is the founder and CEO of Terra Tech, a publicly traded urban agriculture  company focused on local farming and medical cannabis. The company began in 2010 and has been featured by National Geographic, Fox News, CNBC, Bloomberg, The Huffington Post, CNN and more. After a decade of working in investment banking, Peterson learned in late 2009 that a friend's marijuana dispensary was clearing $18 million a year, dwarfing Peterson's $300,000 to $400,000 annual salary at Morgan Stanley. Rather than joining another Wall Street firm, Peterson decided to get serious about weed and took the company public in early 2012. The company has grown significantly since then and is currently developing acres of hydroponic greenhouses throughout the country, positioning itself to become a primary player in the commercial cultivation of cannabis in the US. Currently, the company is valued in excess of $100 million and is leveraging its size to aggressively acquire other companies in the cannabis space.
If you would rather not receive future communications from Evan Nison Consulting, let us know by clicking here.
Evan Nison Consulting, 18101 Von Karmen Ave, Irvine, CA 92612 United States

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Harrowing Tail

Warning, right off the bat.  Only you know if you're strong enough to take this story.  Not suitable for chidren under the age of 10.
So for starters, there’s this old Empire chest in the hall.  Yes, I know, my mother’s so-called craftsman once restored it by sticking on inappropriate Colonial hardware.  And the  veneer is chipping off. 
But it’s stood in the hall here for more than 60 years.  I’m not much given to setting up interior décor still lifes, but for some reason it’s pleasing to walk down the hall and pass this slab of mahogany with its not-really-Tiffany lamp, bit of old Oriental saddle bag and the oil lamp left there after an electric failure.
For decades the chest has been a catchall for gift-wrap supplies and old newspapers.  The messy big drawer holds purses I no longer carry, plastic supermarket bags, and…candy. That’s where I tuck candy to keep it out of sight and make sure I have to get up and walk over to get to it. 
So last week I ventured over, pulled out the big drawer, and – Hey!  Come On! –those chocolates were nibbled right down to the raspberry creme. Sorry,   I was too shook up to get a good picture.
This house does not have mice.  Or does it?  Mice don’t venture into Empire chests.  Or do they?
Well, I cleaned out the whole chest, for the first time in 60 years.  Amy came over -- no way I could have managed the bottom drawers.  We found  a beautifully embroidered linen pillowcase I swear I never saw before in my life. Norm’s original social security card with a very old address on it.  Lots of gift wrap.  An issue of LIFE magazine about John Kennedy’s funeral.
And in the newly cleared Big Drawer I set a mousetrap.  Did not bait it with chocolate – just a bit of cheese and some peanut butter.  Felt pretty efficient.  Forgot to worry about what I’d do if I caught a mouse.
So this morning, yes!  Victory!  Mouse in the trap!  I found the grabber (remember, I told you recently how handy grabbers are?) and set off for the hall, only to be stopped abruptly by  some loud thumps. 
That mouse was just resting.  It was not an ex-mouse.  It was a very much alive one, jumping around that newly emptied drawer trying hard to get free.
I tried to think of some painless way to kill the creature -- maybe spray it with something?  And I’m not sure I want to tell you the rest of the story, which involved phoning my brother-in-law, opening the front door to let him in, and not asking what he did with that mouse. 
I don’t know why I had to post all this. 
It won't particularly enlighten or amuse you. 
I just had to write about it.  Sorry about that.  I'm sorry abou the whole thing.   

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Live Long and Prosper!

Full disclosure -- I stayed in bed till noon yesterday.  I'm sure you'll understand when you hear that cable was showing Zefferelli's Romeo and Juliet.  I may have reported before -- my friend Dottie's review after she saw that movie in 1968:  "The theatre was full of 14-year-old girls, they were all crying, and I sat there wishing that for once those kids wouldn't die."
Turns out that in the 18th century, the play was indeed turned into an opera with a happy ending.  
        At any rate, this time around I suddenly noticed a line I'd overlooked before -- Romeo's admonition  to Balthasar -- "Live and be prosperous!" 
 I'd always known that Leonard Nemoy was thinking of the traditional priestly blessing when he suggested the Vulcan salute.  
Never thought to wonder, though, about the source of the phrase that went with it.  Shakespearean!  Classy!
     For that matter, King Lear was often played, for the first few  centuries, in a happier version cobbled together by a guy named Nahum Tate.  He kept many of  Shakespeare's lines, but put together a satisfying denoument, in which poor Cordelia gets to marry Edgar and King Lear is restored to his throne. 

Astronaut's salute when Nimoy died. 
Thumb points to Cape Cod, btw.
 


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Skulker!

No real excuse for posting this, as I don't suppose it's of much general interest and has nothing to do with being old -- except that it did involve something I  hadn't done before, which is  always noteworthy after more than 89 years. Yesterday I photographed a catbird.
Catbirds are not rare, but you don't see them often.  They skulk.  There's another first -- never typed that word before, probably never even said it aloud. No other word for it, though -- catbirds skulk.

 But wait -- there's more! 
Just now as I sat typing this, darned if the bird didn't appear again, and it's not even scared off by my reaching for the camera.  I didn't take the time to get the light right, but perhaps you can see it has its beak half open in begging feed-me! mode.  Clearly a baby that hasn't yet learned it's supposed to skulk
- - - - -
And just as I finished posting this, I find I must amend it to inform you it's back once more, and this time it's after the cake of suet, the one that's usually frequented by woodpeckers.  Definitely a mixed-up catbird. 
That sparrow over on the niger feeder seems bemused also.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

At Ease

Reading the obits as usual -- last Sunday it appeared the Greatest Generation is leaving the room in formation.  These obits mentioned the Battle of the Bulge, the beaches of Normandy and Iwojima ...  these are, after all, the ones who came home.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

That Phrase

Yesterday I heard a phrase that took me back at least 80 years -- that's how long it must have been since I'd heard it.  My cousin's daughter, missing her mother, in a manic phase again and evidently forgetting to take the pills, phoned from Boston.  When that happens I settle down with a game of solitaire on the computer and just let her talk.  Every 20 minutes or so she pauses for breath and I say "uh-hm", which seems to work just fine. 
      When I was a child we lived in Boston, and what I want to know is -- was That Phrase she startled me with a local thing, or was it used all over?  Have you ever heard it?  Is it still used today?  Maybe it is--I had no trouble googling "Images" to fit it.
So yesterday my caller spent a lot of time on the subject of her sons.  One has just bought a condo with his girlfriend, she says, the young woman is charming, they love her, and
                       She Has The Map of Ireland on Her Face.

Friday, May 1, 2015

M'aidez !!

Look what turned up on the front door handle this May Day morning!
 
I suspect I know who left it -- her Mother hung a May Basket in the same spot maybe 40 years ago.  And my daughter may have had something to do with it also.
Was (is?) this just a New England custom?  When I was in grade school, back in Boston, we were each allowed to choose a single sheet of construction paper (this was during the Depression after all ) and make a May Basket to take home.  (Remember construction paper?)
In Louisa May Alcott's book Jack and Jill, a whole chapter is devoted to the girls in the village (certainly Concord), excited about making May baskets.  They find only a pitiful few early flowers -- if I remember right, the kindly grumpy old neighbor rescues them by sending over lots from his conservatory.
And when I taught at a college in Maine, in the 1940s, there was plenty of excitement about May Day.  With no garden flowers out yet (it was a late spring) students went into the woods and picked early-blooming snow trillium to hang on each others' doorknobs. We can only hope there wasn't any worry, back then, about endangered species -- and that they weren't breaking too many laws!



Friday, April 24, 2015

Maida Revisited

It had been eighty years – at least – since I last read “Maida’s Little Shop.”  Invalid child wishes she owned the penny candy shop she sees near the school, in a quiet neighborhood of Boston.  Famous, fabulously wealthy father buys it for her, sets her up in disguise to run the shop and live in an apartment above it.
     A friend lent me her copy recently.  The copyright date was listed as 1909.  In the early 1930s I had probably read a later edition, maybe this one.
     Back then, the story was full of things that were so much like my own neighborhood  I could lose myself in the story.  At eight or nine I took for granted, hardly noticed, that the children picked up horse chestnuts to play with, that the basement under Maida’s shop included a coal cellar, that the little girls played the singing game “In and Out the Window” at recess.  And went home every day for lunch.  And bought little china dolls for a penny.  And hung May baskets on each others’ doors. 
     A sloping street near the shop was blocked from traffic so the children could coast  – I remember that. Crepe hung on a door announcing a death – I remember that.  A child died from diphtheria – I remember that also.  
     The book was written before World War One, and the kindly doctor who cures cripples comes from Germany.  I would have remembered Jo March’s Professor – back then Germany was a cliché for wisdom and learning.  And -- how come it never struck me in the 1930s, when all the kids were afraid of the Truant Officer – that no one thought it odd Maida wasn’t in school, or that her crippled young neighbor, who stayed home to care for his baby sister, hadn’t ever learned to read?
     But it was gratifying, these days when so many things are hard to remember, to find that at least eighty years on, I had no trouble understanding the children’s secret language.  Maybe you remember it too?
     ig-Pay atin-Lay.