Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I Miss My Irish Twin

David's birthday is tomorrow. Mine is September 3. Every year in late summer we were the same age and we liked that. it was goofy and somehow special like the games of ringoleavio and his special trick of lying in the shadow of the gutter so close to the lamp post that was home no one ever thought to look for him there.
like the August peaches in the yard.
like the sound of all those boomer children singing "Car, car, c-a-r!" to warn each other: get out of the way or die.

Now I will grow older and he will not. I believe I miss my brother more than anyone else.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Season of the Tomato

Tomato flavors at the green market are varying from farm to farm and even, in the batch I bought Saturday, from fruit to fruit, or vegetable to vegetable if you're interested in that argument.

I'm eating one a day while they last, at lunch on a sandwich with swiss cheese and pesto and at dinner with pasta and pesto. (I'll be making pesto with some friends later on.)

Thursday's tomato had a lot more rich juice than the others in its carton and responded to a slight flurry of salt by becoming sweeter and tangier. The best so far.

Of course, it wouldn't be summer without sun tea.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dangerous Book - Episode 7

As it turned out, I accomplished even less than anticipated after such a morning. The memory of little Astible in my neighbor’s arms and my own, almost unacknowledged, feelings for my own little dog were so distracting it was all I could do not to run home to be sure Juniper was alive and well. In fact, I did go back to Monnish Court for lunch. On cue, her fluffy head appeared in the window frame as I approached the veranda. She must recognize the sound of my footsteps.

On the way back to campus I met Professor S. and pulled him into the Quik Snack. Astible was still at the vet’s office. “She’ll hold her,” he said moistly, “until I can get her grave ready.”

Authors of trendy garden books shy away from a discussion of the darker powers of herbs and plants, but Good Houskeeping will tell you not to mix Clorox with ammonia. And Martha Stewart will tell you not to give eight ounces of chocolate to a small dog.

“How did she come to get so much?” I asked, knowing, as all pet owners do, that if you bring your dog to a party you need to monitor it carefully. Juniper is never so adorably well behaved. She will sit straight, lift paw, roll over and lick for a cheese straw. She was probably spared the brownies because Astible got them all.

“She must have eaten a whole plate,” he said, shaking her head. “The little pig.”

Food had killed his dog. And now food was offered to him. Our neighbors have been busy with gifts, he said, telling me about Phoebe’s apple and potato quiche, Veronica’s deviled eggs and Mrs. Moth’s cheese straws.

“She keeps a supply in the freezer,” he said.

Ah, to be prepared. I offered him a cup of coffee at the Kwik Snak and the loan of my garden as a grave for Astible. But I’d been anticipated there, too. Veronica and Phoebe, he said, shaking his head, had offered room in their respective spaces at Evergreen, a pretty cemetery that backs up to Monnish Court on the east. Veronica’s got a cat in hers and Phoebe an assortment of relatives.

We drank coffee together (waved to Peter and friends in a back booth). I couldn’t get away from the desire to help Professor Sergeant in some way. People who don’t have pets, especially people who don’t have dogs, don’t understand what it’s like when one dies. Part of the pain of falling in love with my own dog was knowing that she has a scant fifteen-year life span. Chances are I will bury her.

“It’s ridiculous to think of your time with a dog as a countdown to grief,” I said. “I could easily get run over by a bus.”

He smiled at that. “Or an undergraduate in a red car.”

I offered him a box I’d made in a woodshop class two years ago to use as a casket, but he said he’d be burying her with her old pillow and rug she’d used. “I’ll bury her toys, too,” he said.” But he had not decided on a plot. Tuscaloosa does not have pet cemeteries.

I thought of the blue marble and the charm bracelet I’d found yesterday. I was wearing the bracelet. “I found this yesterday when I dug my plot,” I said. “Buried treasure and a blue bead, too. One of those Turkish good luck charms.”

“That’s what I’ll do,” he said. “Someday another gardener will find Astible’s toys.” He will plant a garden, he said, maybe a little wider than mine, on the other side of the front steps. It was a very good idea; the second garden would balance my own and we could keep track of each other’s growth.

“Scratch the date on the collar,” I said and he agreed.

“I want you to have her new leash,” he said. “It’s a retractable. And take Juniper off that choke chain.” This was an order. I thought Juniper was too little for a choke chain, but her trainer had insisted and, frankly, it worked wonders. But Professor Sergeant looked so fierce, I agreed. “Just get to know her better,” he said. “You’ll learn to mind each other.”

“In the time I’ve had a dog I’ve learned more from her than she’s learned from me,” I said. “She’s made me a lot friendlier. People smile at her and then at me. I can’t help but smile back. And they’re always petting her, so we talk.”

“’If you feed me we will need each other,’” he quoted.

“That would make a good epitaph.”

“It would,” he smiled. “Thanks.”

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Season of the Peach

An extraordinary day here in Georgia: mild temps, no humidity and a cool and continual breeze. What gives! The Piedmont Park green market was alive with midtowners and their small to medium sized dogs. Thanks to all who did not arrive with large animals in tow.
Arrived in time for Pilates and yoga classes benefitting the Atlanta Children's Shelter. Unfortunately, had had a mental frizzle and left without my mat. No matter, drove home, re-kitted for walking and returned on foot. Need to step up the 3Day training anyway (boy, has that gone to hell, but the link will take you right to my page.) It was so cool that even when I returned home at 11, I hadn't broken a sweat.

Roamed around town, eating out at Mellow Mushroom while reading one of the few Jennifer Chiaverini novels I haven't yet devoured (The Quilter's Legacy). I think I've read all but one now. They are so compelling. The only thing that makes me put one down once I've begun it is the lure of fabric and a threaded needle. ...And I don't even quilt. Sadly, this hasn't stopped me from buying fabric and starting a simple project. I've also begun to look at journal doodles as potential patterns for embroidery.

If all the Atlanta links make this posting look like an ad for my city; maybe it is. I'm also practicing "key words" and "search engine optimization" --- two phrases in my newest twist of career. Perhaps key words are like themes and re-occurances and SEOs are a kind of cadence.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Off the Grid - Week 12 10 Operating Principles

I have to use a calendar to count the weeks now, which probably means I've acclimated to my new life. The other day I checked with my doctor to see if I should take some mood stabilizers, but since my appetite is sadly unimpaired and I fall asleep easily (though wake too early, but that's middle age, isn't it?), haven't isolated myself (any more than usual), he really didn't think I qualified for any of the better drugs. What was I hoping for? A magic pill that would keep my energy levels high and my creativity on a constant buzz? Not gonna happen.

Here's what has to happen to survive this life or any other. The thing about a job, especially in a cube, is that it takes up your day, sucks your energy and belittles your soul. People with jobs get laid off. People with work do not. Or am I still in denial? I've come to know plenty of people who would argue that they loved what they did and are still minus a paycheck, the illusion of security and health insurance.

I still don't know how I'm going to hold on to my condo, my car, my health once the unemployment insurance is up and the COBRA is over, the savings depleted. I'm scrounging for work and getting some but for how long.

Ok, here's my next list of 10. It's for the immediate long haul.

1. Respect your rituals. Rituals regulate the anxious heart and help you to breathe evenly, which lets the imagination operate as it must.
2. Pay attention to the buzz kills. But only long enough to identify them and get off the phone.
3. Pay attention to your self-deception. Treat it like sugar...a little goes a long way.
4. Get the make-up back on. You don't want to wind up on "What Not to Wear."
5. Take the damn naps.
6. Pay attention to the advice you get from people doing the job you want (or think you want.) I've found the most positive people are the public relations professionals. They need writers, want writers and know there's work out there. I don't think they're lying.
7. Learn something new. Tonight, I twitter. Tomorrow, I figure out why.
8. Move something forward every day.
9. Spend a day reading everything you've downloaded and digest it.
10. Do your job. It's easy for me to say this. I'm a writer and writers don't need to get paid to work.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Dangerous Book - Episode 6

Long after the croquet

It’s very late and all my windows are open to the cool and damp river air of this beautiful star-filled Alabama town. Across the courtyard Mrs. Moth paces behind her open blinds and closed windows. It’s late, and she is pacing and I am dancing. She is angry, Phoebe told me tonight, because their minister is quitting Calvary Baptist (our landlord) and joining the big church downtown where there is better parking and “greater opportunities.”

My dancing ritual is a ritual for man wishing. In my remaining pair of four-inch heels to an inspiring aerobic ballad, I dance to a choreography of images. Where we met –– in an infant garden introduced by an elderly fairy godmother — where he included me in his plans (an ordinary Thursday evening of croquet and drinks, a lingering conversation among friends and neighbors), where he suggested a private meeting (lunch next week) where I gave myself away to the delight of his smile, where words and a quick kiss up between us like wildflowers after a rain. I danced.

April 13 Good Friday, traditional Southern planting day - heavy clouds

It is mid-afternoon and I am writing at my desk in the office. Something bad happened early this morning.

Although I’d been careful with my plant arrangements yesterday, the garden’s design had become, during the course of the croquet game, a source of amusement and speculation to my neighbors and new best friends.

Everyone had an opinion about the layout. Everyone re-arranged the plants, as if the garden were a kind of board game. At one point, I was so confused I cleared the space, intending to lay them out fresh before going to work this morning. I did all this while Peter and Allen cleared the croquet field and Billie broke down the bar. Then we all said good night and I went in with Juniper to dance in my living room and write the entries above.

I wrote till past three finally falling into a light sleep. A prowling tom cat and a restless Astible woke me and Juniper three or four times. Just before dawn I heard Astible barking. Juniper joined her in this. Then they stopped suddenly and I fell back to sleep and into dreams of digging graves in the courtyard and rolling giant croquet balls into all of them.

In the dream, B., the man I left behind in Atlanta, was seated on one of my lawn chairs, drinking gin and tonic and watching me. He was dressed in the green work shirt that he wore on his mother’s farm and a loose pair of khakis. The blood that had matted his hair had been washed away, but he still looked broken. Just as he was about to say something, perhaps forgive me, I turned away. It was 8 a.m. and I was going to be late for work.

I took Juniper out the back door and let her pee, then shut her in the kitchen.

As I debated whether to call the office and feign a sore throat, I heard sobs coming from out front.There in my garden plot lay poor little Astible, right at the center. Beside her, Professor S. was kneeling but crying so hard and so obstructed by the pile of plants, he could hardly lift her. I ran to him, pulling the overturned pots out of his way. He was hysterical.

“Be careful of your plants,” he sobbed. “Your plants, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” he cried, trying to reach his dog. At last she was in his arms and he wept, a heartbreaking sight.

Seconds later, he bundled her into his car and disappeared. To the vet where Dr. Sothern can tell him how Astible died. I hope she can tell him it was quick.

The poor plants were still in their containers, ready as ever for final planting, but it didn’t feel right some how so I lined them up along the veranda and prepared for the office.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

July 11 23rd International Sketch Crawl - Atlanta Results

23rd International Sketch Crawl, Atlanta, GA at Lenox Square

Here are the photos from today. A group of Atlanta sketch artists (or sketchy artists) met at The White House in Buckhead for breakfast, then traveled to Lenox Square to mingle with the crowds and draw. Here are the results:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Knuckle Update - Six Floors Down

Doesn't matter if you're moving six blocks, six miles or six floors, you still need more boxes than you've got.

Now that the Knuckle's been ousted from the rehab whether anyone thought she could handle it or not, it's time to move her little butt down from the quiet independent floor to a more active floor in the assisted living block of the same building. She is still welcome to eat in the main dining room, where the indies and those ALFs who can bring a fork to their lips, gather daily at 4 p.m. like voracious pigeons. In the indie dining room, there is waiter service, cloth napkins, courses served one at a time and a brave sense of civility among the deuces and the four and five tops. There's also a spectacular view of the Clearwater Gulf to Bay Bridge and the ultramarine water it spans.

The Knuckle is also welcome to eat in the ALF's fifth floor dining room, a small spartan space in the lobby of that floor where the atmosphere, while not quite Titicut Follies, is a rigidly lively and slightly surreal version of the dining experience. Paper napkins, tables and walkers in a bustle, no carpet, linen or drapery and one window before which sits a woman who has been sitting there since lunch. Instead of the fresh-faced teenage waitstaff of the first floor, here we enjoy cheerfully screaming aides who alternate service with sotto voce yet hilarity-provoking personal comments. To be fair, they do know their residents. In fact, everyone at the Oaks knows the names and personalities of the residents; it's one of the things I really like about this place.

Still, on the Knuckle's fourth day out of Rehab (which means four days out of bed), she's had her hair done, her clothes donned and even a little lipstick added and she's heading for the show.
I'd intended to let her go downstairs with the companion we'd hired and find her friends, while I "supervised" the shift of her big furniture and its placement, but there was in her shrinking aura that sense of anxiety and stage fright familiar to kindergartners on their first day. "I'll be right down."

I found her sitting upright at a table for two working her way through a cup of cream of broccoli soup in the approved style: bring the food to the mouth, not the face to the plate. (That's just so nursing home.)

She plowed through her prime ribs like an 80-year old (the new 60) but she's 92.
Parked her with the her buddies, all lobby lizards, and left her to sort out the new apartment. A job well done.

More as it occurs to me...and there's plenty.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th from Delightful Dunedin

The crowd at stadium in delightful Dunedin, July 3. A concert featuring a band with lots of experience singing Jimmy Buffet songs. Even their Van Morrison homage had the flavor of lime. This was a charming way to start the weekend. D and I, her niece, E and E's beau, W and I parked nearby like most others and strolled, beers in hand, into this lifesize stadium, where the Blue Jays play. It had been raining crazy, street-flooding, hydroplaning rain for days but on Friday night the clouds nudged each other off stage. You'll see families and friends playing catch on the infield and the rest of us moseying into seats with fresh beers.
Apres fireworks, we headed up Alt 19 to the causeway for a series of runs: one mile, five mile and 10 mile, ending around midnight.