I’m here. I just don’t want to write humorously, gently, thoughtfully, or lovingly. I’m feeling kind of pissed off and ornery. I don’t like:
• Washington DC • wind • my neighbor’s lying, ne’er-do-well son who could help her and doesn’t • the fact that ER’s last episode is this week • being fat and unfit • customer service people who talk like robots • driving behind or near someone on a cellphone • cuticles • potholes • myself when I am ungracious, childish and ill-humored
This too shall pass. I wish it would hurry the hell up.
Rain, and even thunderstorms are forecast for our 3 days in DC, but that’s what umbrellas are for. Meanwhile, we have a new pet sitter, and she came over with her husband tonight for orientation, receipt of the key, and a preliminary look at the 6-page pet and house sitting manual I have developed. You think this is funny? I don’t care. These are our babies, and we want them safe and happy.
I think they will be. Carrie and Ricky have five pets of their own, and are a very sweet couple in spite of their own pets’ names. You see, Ricky is an expert at horror makeup and special effects. Their cats are named Slash, Krueger, and Elvira. The dogs are Mandible (geez) and Hex, which is short for Hecubus. A sweet couple, indeed. The audience is now shouting “No! No! Don’t leave Pancho, Billy and Miss T with them!” while the organ reaches a frightening crescendo….
I finished reading Louise Erdrich’s The Beet Queen Friday night, and have been thinking about it ever since. Among so many other things, this is a book about people who give up and people who don’t, and how life is full of so many hard edges and dry places that redemption seems impossible, but comes anyway.
There’s a part in the Sunday Celtic church service I attend, after the spoken Prayers of the People, when those who are so inclined may go to one of several tables and light one or more candles for those in their personal prayers. A great many of us do so. I always light candles for at least four people.
Tonight, while listening to the music and waiting my turn, I can see these four in my heart. My mother is a little girl, perhaps 5, in a studio shot, with the sweetest look of innocence and vulnerability. It is an understatement to say that our relationship was complex. Things said and unsaid around the end of her life form my most painful regrets.
My father is a grownup in his picture—about 22. He is a pilot in the Air Force, and there is a look of confidence and joy on his face that he had never had before; and after the War, never had again, except as memory.
My daughter is asleep, hair spread out on her pillow, humming softly. We laugh and tease about her sleeping hum, but I miss it. She knows more than I do about so many things, but this is the one certain time that she is still my child, my baby, under my watch.
My beloved She is in a familiar pose, reading in the soft glow of a lamp, cat on her lap, dog snoring nearby. She is where I can always find her, and when I get home, I will.
I step forward to light the candles, and the moment is only about that light, and the love.
I’m pretty sure that this post is going to be about food. I’ve had quite a lot of it in the past 24 hours.
The highlight of foodiness was lunch today at Chez Foushee. We had two excuses for a nice lunch: my friend Marsha needed to be rescued from her job for a couple of hours, and Ed The Painter arrived this morning and has taken over our kitchen. I notice that Ed has gotten older and creakier since the last time he painted over here, but his groaning doesn’t sound nearly as horrific as what I sound like putting on my socks, so I guess he’s alright for awhile.
Chez Foushee, which happens to be on Grace at Foushee Street, has wonderful food and impeccable service. If you’ve been there once or twice, you’re treated like a favorite long-lost cousin on arrival, and if this is your first time, you’re likely to be hugged on your way out. She and I both had the tilapia on toasted flatbread with dressed mixed greens, sweet potato relish and saffron aioli. Please know that I am usually not a big fan of fish, and have even shuddered at the thought on occasion. This was scrumptious. Before that I ate as much white bean hummus as I decently could, and afterward I ate an entire piece of Chez F’s famous lemon butter cake. I justified the latter because I had been thinking about it for two weeks.
It was a rough day. After we got home, I barely had time to take a nap before going off to my haircut appointment.
For dinner tonight (can you believe we had anything at all?) we had leftover sausage crepes from our dinner last night. I had already eaten a couple this morning, for breakfast. Ed was here in the kitchen and everything, it was just easier than stirring up some oatmeal as usual. (Right?) I have been making these crepes for over 30 years, and they are excellent for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in having the recipe.
When I was a little girl, this hung framed in my grandparents’ bedroom, in the house where my mother and I lived. I believe it is from the 1920s, not just because of the wonderful design, but because my grandparents bought that house about 1925, and my grandmother was the type of person who put a knicknack on a shelf or hung something on the wall or purchased a chair and set it in place once, and never moved it again, ever. She set up her little house in the beginning, and that was that until she died 50 years later. I have it in my room now, and some days I know I should run in there every five minutes and look at it.
I always attributed the choice of this particular item to my grandfather Mac, because he would have believed in every word. He smiled a lot, and I never heard him complain about anything, ever, including dying of lung cancer. He was also fond of reciting Rudyard Kipling’s poem If, which he had copied out in his beautiful handwriting. I wish I had the handwritten copy today, but I have the words, and I know Mac lived by them, too:
If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies, Or, being hated, don't give way to hating, And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise; If you can dream - and not make dreams your master; If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with triumph and disaster And treat those two imposters just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to broken, And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools; If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breath a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on"; If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch; If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you; If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds' worth of distance run - Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!
There was only one exception to Mac’s good nature, and that was any politician who did not agree with him. I know Mac was a yellow dog Democrat except for Ike, whom he supported, and I don’t know specifically which politician(s) he yelled about, but yell he did. That is how I happened to ask my grandmother what a son of a bitch was. She’d be making dinner, and I guess he'd be in his room listening to the evening news on the radio. Suddenly, he would appear in the kitchen door, arms waving and voice rising, carrying on about some politico or other. After a brief rant, he would disappear, only to reappear momentarily with furthermores.
I did not inherit many of Mac’s wonderful qualities, but I do share these political rants, becoming more vociferous the older I get. I thought I was through yelling when George W. departed, but these days I get terribly exercised over the fools who want my Barack to fix everything except the common cold, and then attack him for having having too ambitious an agenda. The other night, some Republican idiot mouthed off while She was watching TV at the kitchen table and I happened to pass by, catching the remark. I yelled back at the TV, but leaned right next to her ear to do so, and the poor woman shot about ten feet in the air. Oh, Mac. I miss you so.
It’s Windy City here in Richmond. Good thing, because it’s nearly 80 degrees. In March! It makes me nervous when we have a couple of days like this in Virginia. Last year it seemed we had about a week of Spring and then it was Summer and nasty for about 5 months.
The old ladies went to the Mall today. Shopping for clothes is something I like less and less as I grow older and fatter, and I’ve never been someone who can shop all day. So I don’t go very often at all, and when I do, it’s nice to have She along. Otherwise, I’d try on one thing, see “old” and “fat” in the mirror, and come home and put my head under the comforter all afternoon. She keeps my spirits up. Although she did comment about one pair of pants I was considering for try-on: “Where’s your bucket? Where’s your straw hat? Aren’t you going clam digging?” Didn’t try ‘em. We went to Nordstrom. The prices were not K-Mart or Target low, but they weren’t bad, either. When you consider that every pair of pants we buy needs taking up, and Nordstrom does it for free, and how great their customer service is, it makes more sense. We each bought two pairs of pants and several tops. We had the salesperson on the run fetching different sizes and colors, and she was always delightful. She even took our purchases to the car for us! I don’t know why every store can’t copy the Nordstrom model of customer service. There is a clerk at Macy’s who has been there for years. She’s as helpful as a rock, and just about as bright. She only becomes animated when she’s ringing up the purchase, and then she hopes you will “go to the online survey and tell Macy’s what excellent customer service you enjoyed today.” Service for what? Punching the cash register keys? Well, it looks like I won’t have to enjoy her service this season.
We had the opposite in customer service at our next stop, which was lunch. I knew we should have simply pressed on for home, but it was 2:30 pm already, and we had been curious about “Max & Erma’s,” a new restaurant along Broad Street. Good Lord. The place smelled like stale cigarette smoke as we walked in, but I’ve been smelling strange things lately, according to She who wondered out loud if I didn’t have a brain tumor because that’s a symptom. Cheesy, faux cheerful décor. Fawning waitress (for awhile, anyway) who asked me soberly if I wanted to “upgrade” my fries to onion rings. Upgrade? That’s a new one in a restaurant, isn’t it? With four or five other patrons in the whole place, we waited over 30 minutes for our sandwiches. When She asked about our order, Fawn said “It takes a moment [sic], ma’am” and disappeared. Finally the so-so but thankfully not repulsive food arrived. While we ate, Fawn buzzed our table like a stunt pilot. Then: nothing. No Fawn. I tried to pay “up front” but the hostess said our “server” needed to take care of that. The hostess was pretty busy, watching some afternoon judge show on TV and reading the paper, but she supposedly toddled off to locate said server. After another long wait, Fawn drifted over with the check, we paid up and boogied. Never again. Bonne chance, Fawn. Eat dirt, Max & Erma.
Billy has been waiting patiently for his turn to be introduced, but he hasn’t exactly been staring at his belly button lint. He has his daily and nightly rounds to make around the neighborhood, and his front porch observations to record. He knows who got a package delivered today, who had to have the plumber come out, and whose house is being painted. He really does know Ed, the painter who’s currently working at Linda’s house down the street, and who has painted rooms in our house in the past. We talked to Ed when he started work at Linda’s last week. “Billy Bob came down to see me,” he reported proudly.
Our kitty boy is famous in the neighborhood, not only for visiting, but for his walks with She and Pancho. There is the woman with the boxer dog on a leash; a few feet behind them trots their companion cat, tail high and proud, on assignment. They walk for blocks, with Billy occasionally taking a shortcut through a drain pipe running under the street.
Billy isn't really named Billy Bob. He started out his residency here with the name of Billy Collins, my favorite poet. He isn’t a poetic sort of cat, though, and he quickly became Billy Boy or just plain Bill. Gangly and so decidedly not a poet, he was not terribly lovable. He was about a year old, and skinny as an envelope. We liked his intelligent and watchful eyes, and his beautiful stripes. She thought he was going to be big, because of his feet, and we had already said we’d take him before he stood up in his cage, Lincolnesque in his homeliness. Even his tail was skinny. But once you say out loud that you are going to rescue an animal from its cage, you don’t go back on your word. We took Billy and Miss T home on the same day.
The skinny little dude behaved as though he’d never been petted in his life, and couldn’t be less interested. In retrospect, we think he was nearly feral. He literally climbed the walls, leaving shreds of paint hanging in his wake. We had promised the rescue people that we would keep the cats indoors, but eventually Billy got Out. We didn’t “let” him out. This is a cat who can leap to the top of an interior door, and he has no trouble leaping over, around, or through a mere human. Once he finally convinced us that Out was where he had to be, or else, he became a happier and calmer fellow. He even abides, pretty much, by a 10pm curfew. And finally, he began to understand about cuddling and being petted, especially by She. He cuddles on her lap while she says her prayers, sleeps glued to her side, and head-butts and kisses her awake in the morning. He is still opposed to being picked up, but he is loving in every other way, and polite to strangers.
Remember The Velveteen Rabbit, who became real when he was loved? Billy became lovable when he was loved. Funny, I’ve seen the same thing happen with people. Have to remember that.
We had a snowstorm here, and we lost power on our block on Sunday night about 10pm. We were in the midst of watching a 2-hour episode of Thin Ice with Tom Selleck. First time I’d seen it. His Golden Retriever is the best part, but the show’s not bad entertainment and I did want to find out if the kidnapped boy was still alive. Does anyone know???? We slept okay under warm covers, but this morning the power was still not back on, and it was damn cold. Let us just say here that neither of us is good at suffering gracefully or in silence. That will tactfully sum up the day we had until about 2:15 pm, when a Dominion Power truck drove by. A few minutes later, the window curtains were riffling gently from the nice warm air coming out of the heating vents. Thank God. We got about six inches of snow in this area, and it truly looks beautiful. When you’ve got power. P.S. She just read this post, laughed, and said "It's funny now. Wasn't funny then." Nope.
Listening to Phoebe Snow “With A Song In My Heart.” Mmmm hmmm. Yes, Phoebe. If you know someone who covers this song better than my Phoebe, please tell me who it is. Perfect for being warm inside on a cold Sunday in the rain.
The title makes me hark back to the past, though. I hark easily. (My daughter can attest to this.) Readers, if you are old enough, let us give a nod together to the late Susan Hayward for her performance in the 1952 film of the same name. It's wonderful tear-jerker, based on the real-life story of Jane Froman, a well-known entertainer in the 40s and 50s. Ms. Hayward was nominated for an Oscar for her performance. I saw it at either the Tivoli or the Plaza theater in Laredo, Texas (they were kitty-cornered from each other). During the intermission before the 2nd “feature,” I was always so surprised to glance in the candy counter mirror and discover that I still looked like a little girl instead of the glamorous movie star I was sure that I had morphed into during the last hour and a half.
Here’s another hark for today: Does anyone remember archy & mehitabel, the unique characters created by Don Marquis in 1927? No, I wasn’t alive in 1927, but the adventures of the cockroach who typed in the newsroom late and night and his unlikely pal, Mehitabel the cat, were going strong when I was growing up. The books are still available, and there is an excellent website here: http://www.donmarquis.com/archy/if you are not familiar with these tales and would like to sample a few.
Meanwhile, I’m off for my nap, but to quote Mehitabel:
there s a dance in the old dame yet toujours gai toujours gai
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