First Things First, because our democracy is at stake. New York Times Commentor Joanne DavisB from St. Louis put it better than I ever could:

Donald Trump is uniquely ill-suited to and unqualified for the Presidency. He is temperamentally unfit, perhaps to the point of mental illness; he is a studiously ignorant opportunist with no discernible moral compass.

Now that I’ve done what any other patriot would do, I can get back to the pure drivel which is this blog.

Even though it is unbearably hot here on the north shore of Long Island this week — 90 degrees with 94% humidity, which means that the air here is as heavy as if you were wearing a Winter coat made of the itchiest wool and spun glass blend you can imagine — I modeled my re-purposed beachwear thingy from last week, which originally looked like this (more was not pink):

But I cut off the hoodie, nixed the weird sleeve-holders, and sheared the hem to non-shirttail length:

I have been wearing this top every day since I “made” it. And I must say that since I’ve become a Fashion Designer, I’ve been a lot less bored with myself. Lately, I’ve been wondering if Boredom is one of the least inspected aspects of being human, because I suspect that Being Bored is a HUGE part of being human that nobody ever wants to talk about. I, for one, find myself Being Bored at least 20 times a day. Is that just me?

Ah, but then I got something in the mail that was a complete surprise this week, which is an increasingly more rare event these days. I pity the kids who are growing up toady who do not know what it is to anticipate the delivery of the daily mail — love letters, post cards with foreign post marks, a brown paper package wrapped up in string, etc.

But I digress.

I got a carton of books from my Korean publisher:

This is Le Road Trip as it will be read in South Korea. I like that they chose to put les escargot on the cover. And the cats. I am dying to know if that bundle of symbols at the bottom edge is my name. I would love to write my name in Korean!

I have one last story to tell you today, about a girl who did not die from rabies but was still very, very annoyed:

I knew what I was doing: I had taken the precaution of draping an old Winter coat over the raccoon before I tried to lift it off the fence in my backyard. It was the middle of February, and the raccoon had been sitting on top of an old wire fence in my backyard all morning. I was sure he’d gotten his foot caught in it, somehow, and I was determined to set him free. So I persuaded my husband to traipse out in the snow with me and distract the old varmint while I attempted to release him. In other words, I HAD A FOOLPROOF PLAN.Rabies is 99.999% fatal. It is also 100% vaccine-preventable. 95% of all rabies incidents occur in Africa and Asia. 95% of those deaths are caused by domestic dogs that have not been vaccinated against the disease. So if you are heading out for a dive into the dog pounds of Africa or Asia, it is not a bad idea to get a human rabies vaccination before you go (it’s good for 2 years), which will cost you (in America) anywhere from $165 to $395.

If, however, the raccoon that you are trying to lift off a fence in your backyard bites through the Winter coat and sinks his teeth into your middle finger, the cost to prevent rabies retroactively (Is that a thing? “Prevent retroactively“?) costs a whole lot more.

In my case, on that February morning, the bill came to $21,429.00

First of all, as you can see, just walking into the Emergency Room costs $1,600.

I refused the bed they offered me, but I did let them weigh me and take my blood pressure, and I answered a few questions about my current medications and history of cancer (none, and none). It was about 10 minutes of admin.

Four hours later, the hospital pharmacy had finally sent the vials of fluid that had been requested four hours previously. As you can see, the rabies vaccine itself cost $2,092. The Immune Gobulin is given to provide rapid protection until the rabies vaccine becomes effective, and it  cost $16,628. (I am currently objecting to the note that 4 units of 150 — 600 units — were billed; I believe that the dose for my weight would have been all of 80 units. I await a call back from a manager of records to get to the bottom of this.)

The diphtheria / pertussis shot is standard treatment for dog bite wounds — you can see that it cost $289 to get the vial, and then it cost $399 to have a nurse shoot it (in England they call it jabbed) into my arm.

The “Vaccine Other” charge of $236 is anyone’s guess.

The Drug Req Self Adm charge of $29 is for one amoxicillin pill (in England they call it a tablet) that I put in my mouth and swallowed all by myself.

The last charge for $347 for Tx Svcs General must be for when I refused to have a X-ray of the raccoon bite.

So that’s how this visit to the ER cost $21,629. However, because I have private health insurance, this hospital and my insurance provider have already contracted set fees for this kind of service and my good old insurance company is contracted to only pay $7,045 to have me not die of rabies.

The difference between the $21,629 that the hospital wants, and the $7,045 that my insurance company has pay, is “written off” as a credit, or a tax deduction, I don’t know.

If I were uninsured but gainfully employed or owned a house or a car, I would probably be responsible for the whole $21,629, for which they can (and probably would) either sue me or sic a collections agency on me. If I were dead broke or here illegally, the taxpayers would pick up the bill.

My question is, if the hospital and my insurance company have agreed that this service of saving dumbshit raccoon saviors from dying from rabies costs $7,045, why does the hospital rack up charges of $21,629? If the service was truly worth $21,629, why didn’t the hospital negotiate for that price, instead of cutting their cost by a whopping  78%??? Shouldn’t a hospital bill reflect their actual costs of care???

P.S. I have to pay a $200 deductible, which the hospital they will get when they explain their bullshit charge of  $16,628.

It’s a whole other story about how many phone calls I had to make to get this info, between me and Billings, Montana and etc., but it’s not very interesting.

Have a wonderful weekend, my Wonder Ones, and stay cool. Our dear Commentor Kirra from Down Under has left our shores to return to “Wintery Australia”, and all we can say is TAKE ME WITH YOU.

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Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, der Drumpf Jr.

Christmas has come early!

Sung to the tune of It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: (I prefer the Johny Mathis version.)

It’s beginning to look a lot like impeachment!

This is how we know:

Take a look at der Junior Drumpf’s

Latest e-mail dump

With the treasonous Russian evidence aglow!

It’s beginning to look so obvious —

criminal charges fit.

POTUS can huff and puff but our nation will call his bluff cuz

all der Drumpfs are shits!

But, Oh Donald, you sordid pathetic half-wit, I could almost love you today — your destined come-uppance will be a pure delight to watch and lo, How I will dote on you, you festering bung hole of a human, all the minutes and days of your demise.

Der Trumpf is in France this week. I took the precaution of emailing my French friends:

I know for a fact that Donald Drumpf is going to do or say something stupid and offensive to the great French people. I am sending you my deepest apologies in advance. 

So, as he met the French President and his wife, Brigitte Macron, on Thursday, der Drumpf said to her: “You’re in such good shape!”

And since you asked, No, being right about der Drumpf never gets boring.

Hello there. If you are reading this blog for the first time, Welcome; we are all deep thinkers here, ponderers of all matters ontological  and cosmological and stuff. In fact, last week we here were discussing Chomsky’s theory of language acquisition re: Skinner’s behavioral paradigms, so if you’re new to VivianWorld you might want to brush up on the subject here. Go ahead. We’ll wait.

OK. Now that it’s just you and me, faithful Dear Readers, let’s digress to our regularly scheduled blog trivialities.

I am not a fan of bad posture. So I was shocked — shocked — when I saw this picture that Top Cat took of me in my 13th Wedding Anniversary dress last week:

I thought I’d been standing up straight so imagine my horror when I saw this stoop-shouldered crone. The shock of seeing your true self, and all. So I asked my dear Top Cat, my darling  husband of 13 rotations around the sun, to re-take it:

A little too “Kardashian on an imaginary red carpet pose”, but it’s an improvement over the schlub-slouch in the previous pic. Let this be a reminder, Dear Readers, that when in doubt, throw your shoulders back and take 5 years off your LBD.

 

Being as I am not currently in the process of writing a damn book I am filling up my time with various new hobbies, one being shopping. Because I have a problem that needs solving: I am 61 years old and I don’t have a go-to Sumer Look; a uniform, a style; a polished casual fashion statement that is “Me” that I can wear on these long hot Summer days and look appropriate.

Me in the backyard. This is not an outfit that I would wear in pubic. Well, actually, it IS an outfit that I’ve worn in public, but I’m not proud of that. P.S. Taffy is not dead. He is sleeping.

I want to be cool, and “cool”; but nothing so flimsy or sheer that I have to wear a bra (right?). I want to look tidy, and my age, and I want pockets. I love pockets. If there are zippers, the zippers have to be non-decorative — they have to function as fasteners between two meaningful parts of the garment. I don’t want gratuitous zippers.

I want solid colors, simple lines, and NO CAPRI PANTS.

I hate to break it to you, but no one looks good in capri pants.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this Summer the stores are bursting with tops and dresses that feature an off-the-shoulder neckline, or weird sleeves that have the shoulders cut out so as to appear to have random scraps of fabric attached at the armpit. I wasn’t that keen on this look the first time it cycled around, back in the 1970s, and I am no fonder of it now that I’ve aged out of the Rock Chick esthetic.

NO.

HELL no.

So after a quick walk through Lord & Taylor’s because I hate shopping spending many hours investigating the offerings at the mall, I have come to the conclusion that I will have to design my own clothes,since clothing manufacturers don’t seem to be looking out for women my age. But, being as I do not know the first thing about clothes-making, what I plan to do is: Buy stuff that is already made and alter it. I don’t care if I have to “marry” two separate pieces into one, or if I have to cut down a dress, or even if I have to re-purpose a bathrobe. I’m open to any and all possibilities.

Starting at the T J Maax up the road, where I can begin my experiments in Fashion Deconstruction with cheaper clothes, I found a rack of “CoverUps”, a category of clothing that I did not know existed. [FYI: It’s beachwear.] Unlike what is on the regular racks, these colors are fun, the fabrics are sturdy but lightweight , and the styles are a bit dopey — which is fine by me! They are made large so as to be easy on/easy off, which means that you have lots of material to play around with when you make your alterations.

I found this:

Well, to be honest, I did’t find this particular piece; I found one like it in grey linen that I didn’t take a photo of. Because this is it BEFORE, when it had a draw-string hoodie (nobody my age should wear a hoodie, I’m just saying) and it had a button thing on the sleeve that let you roll it up, and it had very long shirt tails in the front and back that made it look almost like a dress.

This is it in blue:

I saw this and I thought, all I have to do was cut off the hoodie, remove the button-thing on the sleeves, cut off those damn shirt tails front and back and I might have something I could wear. I also wish I could take it in on the side seams, but that is beyond my skills.

As of now, I’m halfway done with my re-model. I’ll show you the results next week, when I premiere my New Look.

Dear Readers, in addition to fashion, I am currently obsessed with an Instagram account for Ringing Rocks Jewelry at https://www.instagram.com/ringingrocksjewelry/.

Ringing Rocks is a real thing, and jeweler Christine Sakos incorporates something of their mysterious sound waves into her designs. ou will find her jewelry fascinating, as her pieces reflect a wondrous and very personal mythology that incorporates nature, unseen energies, shades and shadows from the Pennsylvania forest she calls home, and RAISING MOTHS:

By raising these spectacular Luna moths, Christina is doing her noble  best to keep our climate-threatened native species from disappearing — a loss that would make our Summer nights so ordinary, so beige. She also raises Cecropias, North America’s largest moth.

I am obsessed with checking in on her updates on the latest brood of beauties. Drop in, sign up, and Follow Christine if you need a little — a lot — of real-world magic in your life. Support the moths! Tell your friends!  Watch Christine save the future, one moth at a time!

You can also read her blog and see her caterpillars and her astounding jewelry at https://www.ringingrocksjewelry.com.

Happy Bastille Day, mes chers.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers.

You are ALL high quality people.

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England, America, and Australia in the house! The “house” being New York City’s oldest and last soda fountain, the Lexington Candy Shop on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan . . . 

. . . and the representatives of the English-speaking world being (from left to right): our own Dear Commentor Elizabeth (from London) , Moi (from Missoula, Montana of these United States), and the holder of the title of our Longest Distance Dear Commentor, who you know and love as Kirra (from Adelaide). This is us on our culinary leg of our cultural tour of NYC last week, after stopping at a typical New York coffee shop for lunch . . .

. . . before fetching up at the Lexington fora  dessert of New York delicacies — egg creams and malted milks. Note to Kirra: I should have explained that a malted milk is like a liquid Tim Tams.

We had begun our ramble through the Isle of Manhattan at the Jewish Museum on 92nd Street to see the Florine Stettheimer exhibit. I love her work and this show is the largest ever gathering of her paintings and costume designs.

I love that her pictures are about something, most usually her life as a wealthy, sophisticated New Yorker with friends from all over the art and theater world.

Her use of color is exciting — she does not shy away from committing herself to richness (above) or froth (see: portrait of her sister).  I love that she uses framing devices such as drapes — which appear in the picture plane as if from no where — and gets away with it! And it takes supreme control over narrative to put in the large quantities of information that she succeeds in putting in her paintings:

See how there is a LOT going on, but you the viewer don’t feel overwhelmed, confused, or disgusted? [cough * Hieronymus Bosch * cough]

I also like how she doesn’t overlap any of her figures as if she were a primitive/outsider painter, which she is not.

If I painted, I would paint like Florine Stettheimer. Which is not to say that I won’t be knocking off some of her brilliant ideas in the future — I steal from the best.

In fact, there is one picture I’m already dying to paint. It’s about something that Kirra told me about her daily life in Adelaide (Australia). She happened to mention, as if it’s just one of those normal things you get used to when you’re  a music teacher in Adelaide (Australia), that the school where she teaches is situated on a nice plot of land that has a nice grove of eucalyptus trees on it. And, oh, yeah, those trees are full of koala bears, which you can see every time you look up.

Mind you, Kirra has been a Dear Reader her for a few years now, and we’d been chatting in person in New York for about 2 hours before she happened to mention this thing about the koala bears. Now, if that had been me, I’d be all, “Hello there, My name is Kirra and I am surrounded by koala bears at work, that’s right, KOALA BEARS, so yeah, my life’s pretty awesome compared to yours.” I mean, being surrounded by koala bears would be something people would know about me within the first 5 seconds of our meeting. KOALA BEARS, people.

Yes, I definitely want to paint a forest of koala bear-bearing eucalyptus trees, with me in the middle, like Carie Stetheimer,  with a big fat smile on my face.

Apart from the breath taking news that there are people in the world who get to go to work in a koala forest, the rest of our Modern English Summit passed in companionable merriness as we walked down 5th Ave, past the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Museum with its staircase . . .

. . . which is famous for something but I can’t remember what. And we strolled past the Guggenheim . . .

. . . and then we took a bus down 5th Ave. to the Public Library:

Kirra and her husband Neil headed on to Boston, thence to Ann Arbor — I hope this is just the first of many return visits, depending on der Drumpf not being the harbinger of the End Times that he seems to be.

One pic, thousand words, eh? Because I am running out of words to deal with the human turd that is der Drumpf. But thanks to Commenters Fan in Vt and Vicki in Michigan, one word I won’t use is “girly“. I get it.

I also want to apologize to pigs. Calling der Drumpf a pig is an insult to pigs, animals that I like very much.

Melissa: Mike Nesmith’s mother invented Liquid Paper, and she made pots of money from it. Mr. Nesmith writes quite movingly about his relationship with his mother, which had its ups and downs. He was her only child. Mr. Nesmith also made a lot of moola on his own.

Alex: You saw the Monkees IN CONCERT?! What a lucky girl. You must have had nice parents, ones who actually noticed what was important to you.

Book news: Well, my old publishers, Bloomsbury, don’t get my new book. Which is understandable, since it’s a one of a kind thing: I even asked my agent if we could put it  out in the world without a title. . . she said that was a stupid idea. NOT IN SO MANY WORDS, mind you; but I got the impression that it’s a thought right up there with rescuing a raccoon in my backyard.

So now I have to do something I haven’t had to do in ten years: I have to sell myself to a new house. This is the worst: it’s like going on a job interview and a date at the same time. Ew.

Well, with that in mind, you know that I’ll be enjoying extra big cocktails this weekend.

Nobody here has to sell themselves to me: You are the finest Dear Readers any blog can have. Thank you all.

Here’s to You!

**THIS JUST IN**

I just got a text from a fellow cat rescuer: She has three babies ready for forever homes! These boys were found with their feral mother and have been living with a foster mother (and mama cat) and raised to be cuddly, calm little critters that would make great lap cats.

They are currently here on the North Shore of Long Island . . .

. . . but these fellas are willing to relocate out of state!

If you need more info, just leave me a comment —

— and one, two, or three of these golden fluff balls could be yours.

 

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Before I forget, Donald “Tiny Hands” der Drumpf is a self-serving blowhard maggoty half-man and every word that he vomits out of his little girly pie-hole is a lie: a deliberate, democracy-destroying horse-shitting puke-encrusted lie.

“It’s not easy being stupid…”

Today’s headline is a quote from page 89 of Michael Nesmith’s new book-long “autobiographical riff” about his life (so far) on Earth. I love the title, and as a life-long Mike/George fan in the Monkees/Beatles vortex I was vastly interested in finding out what one does in life after becoming very famous, for three years, in your twenties. In Mr. Nesmith’s case, fame and money allow you to unfetter your thinking from the usual day-to-day preoccupations of the un-famous and the un-rich (paying bills, keeping the boss happy, wondering if your life has any meaning), which leaves you frees to spend the rest of your life thinking up stuff to do that keeps you living about 7 years in advance of the culture. He’s a very clever guy.

You remember him then:

This is him now:

On page 89 Mr. Nesmith, in his characteristically elliptical way with words, takes himself to task for letting his fame and money give him a huge ego and overblown sense of entitlement (see: stupidity) by writing: “It’s not easy being stupid“, which is his way of explaining how the consequences of his pathological celebrity behavior made his and others’ life unnecessarily complicated, anxious, emotionally draining, spiritually unstable, and unhappy. That is to say, fame and money don’t make life easy: it makes life hard.

On the other hand, it seems to me that there are plenty of people who find it  easy to be stupid. Just take the plaintiffs and defendants on any average episode of Judge Judy. They are all un-famous and un-rich and they all seem to revel in their stupidity.

The uninsured driver who is indignant that she has to pay for the damage she caused when she T-boned an unsuspecting Honda because she didn’t hit that Honda on purpose. The unmarried mother-of-three with one-on-the-way who claims she shouldn’t have to pay back a personal loan from her best friend because she’s a single mom. The owner of an unleashed  German Shepherd who says her dog only bit the plaintiff because the plaintiff annoyed the dog by walking neat it. The plaintiff who is suing for harassment because the woman to whom she owes $1,200 keeps calling her to ask where’s the money she’s owed.

For these people, it’s really easy being stupid because they live their lives believing that I should not be held accountable when my actions have consequences that I don’t like.

(I thank the great Neil deGrasse Tyson for that pithy summation of human nature.)

Speaking of which, last February my own actions had a consequence I did not like, not one little bit, and I’ll be goddamned if I’m going to be held accountable.

Last February was when I tried to rescue a blind raccoon from my backyard, only to have the little bugger turn around and bite me on my right hand.

The actual raccoon. I thought he was stuck on that fence and I tried to lift him off of it. Stupid idea.

With shaking and bloodied fingers I ran to my computer and looked up “Rabies, vaccination for” on the internet and was directed to the emergency room at a Catholic hospital about a mile away. Off I went.

I also did research on the cost of rabies vaccines for humans.  Like all other aspects of health care in America there is a wide range of prices nationwide, from a low of $167 to a high of $957.

However, in the New York/New Jersey/ Connecticut neighborhood where I live, the prices range from $317 to $365 for the vaccine. To this base price one must add the administrative cost of having someone fill in my three-page emergency room patient paperwork, weigh me and take my blood pressure,  have a doctor come inspect the bite mark before prescribing the approx. $350 rabies vaccine administered by a nurse, and of course I must be charged for the band aid I got from another different nurse (my FOUR HOUR wait time, by the way, was FREE). I refused x-rays because I’d already been there for two hours and could tell that waiting for x-rays would take all damn day.

Now, I have private health insurance. I never had Obamacare and the current debate about Drumpfcare does not affect me personally. And I still get shitty health care, at least as far as the rest of this story goes.

OK, about this incident with the raccoon, I felt bad that my lifestyle choice (of trying to free wild raccoons from my backyard) had resulted in my becoming a burden to the policy holders of my insurance company, because I believe that unhealthy lifestyle choices are the kind of pre-existing condition that should be exempt from coverage: You smoke, you pay for your own emphysema. But I rationalized that this piddling rabies vaccine cost was a one-time expense in my lifetime. I am NEVER going to try to rescue any more raccoons, ever.

I recently received my co-pay bill for this treatment — my out of pocket fees are $200. So, try to guess what my insurance company was billed for the rest of this little emergency room adventure.

Go ahead. GUESS how much this hospital charged my insurance company for this dose of $350 medicine plus paperwork cost.  The correct guess is:

$21,629.00

When I heard that the hospital charged my insurance company $21,629.00, my heart literally skipped a beat. My next call was to my insurance company, to warn them that they were getting conned by St. Francis Hospital, who had obviously charged them for some kind of pricey hand replacement surgery plus diamond-studded manicure that I never received.

Thankfully, I was assured that the insurance company did NOT pay that outrageous bill in full. As is (apparently) common practice, my insurance company negotiated that figure down to a much more reasonable figure:

$7,062.97.

This is a raccoon-flavored example of what is the problem with health care in America.

I called St. Francis back and spoke to Dolores (probably to er real name) in their billing department (which is in Billings, Montana — approx. 2,000 miles from the emergency room here on Long Island) and asked for their itemized $21,629.00 invoice. I want to see how a simple $350 rabies vaccine ends up costing tens of thousands of dollars.

As they say, that bill is in the mail. I expect to be outraged. But somebody will be held accountable.

Still fuming, I donned my Michael Kors swimsuit and tore out of the house, for I have recently discovered the way to achieve inner peace. As a way to escape the stupidity of the world I just love swimming laps, averaging 70 laps per hour in a 25-meter pool. I can’t wait for Pool Day, twice a week; it’s the quietest and calmest hour of my life. Also, that swimsuit cost $100 for just the top (when did swimsuits get so expensive???) so I’m swimming until I amortize it to $1 per kilometer.

The other three days a week I traipse upon a treadmill; average 4.3 MPH at 3.5% incline for 65 minutes.  But if there’s anyone on the treadmill next to me, I have to outlast them because I am usually quite annoyed with the world (see: der Drumpf). In my mind, I am the righteous  Robin Wright, Amazon General Antiope in Wonder Woman (GO SEE THIS MOVIE), sleek and dangerous and fierce as all get-out.In reality (according to my new physical trainer) I have to tone up my puny 20.02% BMI so I need to incorporate upper body resistance work into my routine. I hate lifting stuff but I do want der Drumpf-face-punching arms like General Antiope.

Thank you, each and every Dear Reader who sent me your Comments re: that anonymous der Drumpf-er two weeks ago; and for last week, when I was too sick of myself to show up for duty. Your Comments mean that keeping this space is worth it, and that what we share here is real and meaningful.  Thank you.

And since several of you Wonderful Yous have asked about the new book I seemed to have written, all I can say for now is that it was a small book I did just for myself and sent to my agent never thinking that she would never find it worth putting out in the world. It’s  a pure indulgence on my part, something I thought was definitely not at all commercial . . . but my agent read it and was so enthusiastic that I was at first thinking she was kidding. She called it “magical”.  I have a contract with Bloomsbury which means that they get first look at it, so it is currently being sussed by my editor there and as soon as I have any news I will Tell All.

One of our most loyal Commenters, Kirra, is arriving upon these shores from yon Down Under this coming week and lo, there will be face time and meanderings and perhaps a cup of tea or two to report on when we next gather.

And don’t forget to wish Canada a Happy 150th birthday on July 1 — we love you Canada!! You’re the world’s best neighbor!

Have a great weekend. And, oh yeah, der Drumpf is a pig-eyed asshole.

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So I got a Comment on my About Me page from “Anonymous” last week:

Please stop your language about Trump. I like your books and tutorials, but your vulgar political comments are a real detriment to your blog.

Well, “Anonymous”, (it takes real courage to post a criticism while you hide behind anonymity — and I’m taking to you, “Anonymous” in Overland Park, Kansas), you are free to stop reading my FREE blog and my FREE tutorials any time my opinions give you and your delicate sensibilities the vapors.

OK, now I can tell you why I wasn’t here last week. It’s because I was in Hell.

Specifically, I was in a Destination-Four-Freaking-Day-Wedding Hell. FOUR DAY WEDDING. What kind of people need that much validation?

The destination was Lake Tahoe, California side, which is the side that schlumps around in a strangely entitled neo-Woodstock daze in clothes that would be far more sightly on someone 75 pounds lighter: I had no internet, no TV, no phone, no radio, and just enough hot water for one of us — but not both — to take a nice shower once a day. Not to mention the fun fun fun of being at the beck and call of “The Never Ending Wedding Plan”, which included an utterly revolting, esthetically disgusting, and completely immoral Pig Roast. It was vile, vulgar, and practically vivisectionist.

Suffice it to say, The Wedding and I did not share the same values.

However, the journey started with the very best of karma on the Jet Blue flight to Reno, where the passenger in Row 13, Seat A made me ever so happy that I was the passenger in Row 14, Seat B:

Loki here (that’s his name, Loki) made up for sitting on the tarmac for FA at JFK for an hour and a half. In-flight entertainment on Jet Blue sucks, so by the time we arrived at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport at midnight I’d watched the live action Beauty and the Beast for the second and third time in my life. (A week later we left Reno on the red eye at midnight, and I watched Beauty and the Beast for the fourth time in my life. Emma Watson, cute and lithe as she is, has only two different facial expressions throughout the film.)

Things we did in 24 hours in Reno:

1. Had a gut-busting breakfast at Peg’s Glorified Ham and Eggs. They serve two kinds of eggs with hash browns and two slaws in a frying pan, with beans on the side. It seems that beans on the side is a staple in this part of the country. I give that a big thumbs-up.

2. Gave moral support to the patriots of the Tuesday Resist group in front of the federal building in downtown Reno:

3.  Found a dead bird on the sidewalk . . . 

. . . took it to the best bookstore in town . . .

. . . found the shadiest spot in the miniature zen garden there . . .

. . . and said farewell to its little soul:

4. After laying bird to rest, Top Cat bought me the new David Sederis book, Theft by Finding. It is more subversive than his previous books, which gives me hope because we’re practically the same age and I hope to become less and less conformist and conciliatory as I age.

5. Walked around my old high school:

 The place was so empty, so eerily quiet, that Top Cat and I thought that the school year must have ended, so we felt free to stroll around and take photos:

And then a bell rang . . .

. . . and I kept taking photos.  Top Cat and I wondered why no one in authority questioned us for being creepy, or calling for a lock down. This is Nevada — what; are these kids armed? And ready to take care of themselves at the first sign of trouble? This, of course, supposes that Top Cat and I look dangerous, which in our minds we do.

I took my last year of high school here in 1973 and have not been back since, and this visit did not jog any strong feelings about the place. It’s my old junior high, Upper Moreland Junior High in Willow Grove PA, built in 1929 and torn down c. 1975, that haunts me as the place I dream of whenever I feel vulnerable and need to find myself in a maze situation from which I must escape. Earl J. Wooster High School holds no terror for me, awake or asleep.

6. Dipped into the pool at The Peppermill Casino and Hotel to cool off in the 90-degree afternoon, and for two hours watched six heavily tattooed 20-somethings get so drunk poolside that one girl had to crawl out of the shallow end to her towel, and then had to be led, like a blind person, off the premises.

7. Cleaned off the chlorine and drove southwest to see old V. Swift residence. We got invited inside to have a look around inside, had a wonderful chat with new owners (who were born in the 1980s — THE 1980s!). It looks like this now:

And looked like this in 1973 when I thought it was huuuuge (but now seems so small that I was astonished by the size of the bedroom that me and my sister shared, a room so small that by the standards of these days would almost amount to child abuse):

8. Stopped by Home Goods, my absolute favorite store, to see what the Reno in-crowd is demanding from the premier retailer of good taste. Actually, it was small and dark and unexciting. Shopping Note: Before we headed out of town for Tahoe the next day, we also had to go to Costco (the Wedding Plan requires us fulfill a list of a crap load of items for a Wedding BBQ, no please, no thank you; also to a liquor store for cases of stuff, ditto) and it was twice the size of the Costco here on Long Island, and in the pet food section they sold huge bags of Chicken feed and Horse food.

9. Drove up into the Sierra Nevada foothills and watched the sun set over the Truckee Meadows Valley:

10. Dinner at local Mexican food institution, Miguel’s.

Miguel’s was northern Nevada’s first Mexican restaurant (opened in 1959) and the owner, Miguel Ribera, became so beloved for his excellent food and for the scholarships he offered to hispanic youth that there is a resource center and a public park named after him. This restaurant must have been opened when I lived in town but I never dined here before.

11. Returned to hotel, played Texas Hold ’em until 2am.

The only thing that I want to tell you about Tahoe is that on our last day there, Top Cat and I drove out to Sierraville to escape the snow . . .

. . . and to find the Clothing Optional hot springs hippie resort there. Clothing Optional is OK for Top Cat but neither of us wanted to spend the hours it would take to negotiate how much it would cost him to pay me to skinny dip, so I found a nice sofa in the waiting area . . .

. . . where the whole time I stroked and cooed over this fella he did not open his eyes once . . .

Shot with DXO ONE Camera

. . . until he stretched, and moseyed outdoors to patrol the perimeter:

Still not giving me the time go day.

I’m a cat person so of course I think he’s irresistible.

I’m not going into detail but when I got back to the Isle of Long my agent and I had a lovely discussion about books, such as one that I might have recently completed, and now I have to write a new bio and stand by.

But for now I’m going to make like my Sierraville buddy here, and just head for the horizon.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and stay as far away from Lake Tahoe as you can. (Sorry, Lake Tahoe.)

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So it was a national holiday in the US of A last Monday: Memorial Day, the day when we Americans remember those who have died in our nation’s wars. It’s a solemn day.

So Ivanka Trump, who as you know has the same common touch and mind meld with “the people” as her piece of shit father, used this sad and mournful day to tweet:

Not to be outdone in our love for America, Top Cat and I purchased patriotic pastries:

This got me wondering, Do other people live this way? Like, in places where they don’t have a hair ball of puke for president?

Because thats a whole lot of red, white, and blue (see: above).

So, on this long Memorial [Three] Day holiday, Top Cat and I put in the annuals (ha! I know I got that right! ANNUALS!), which means the cats think they have a nifty new litter box (with floral accents) in the back yard:

Meanwhile, Bibs and Lickety were stalking something out back by the back property line:

Top Cat and I watched to make sure they didn’t bother the woodland creatures in the back yard. And we also kept an eye on the birds (the smart ones, that is) as they picked out the delicious peanuts from the bird chow we put out:

Ands then we watched the other birds (the dumb ones) look confused when there were no leftovers:

And then Top Cat and I got into a fight.

I should say,  Top Cat and I do not fight much.

We have the usual conflicts of any people who spend a great deal of time together: the little misunderstandings, minor differences of opinion, momentary mis-communications — all which are settled and explained and apologized for in a matter of minutes with calm tones of voice. No, really. We are reasonable people, and our domestic life would make for very boring reality TV.

Our last big fight was three years and five months ago. And it was HUGE. It was the biggest fight we’re ever had.

And now Top Cat wants to re-visit the same issues in that huge fight of yore by asking me for a favor which would require me to “be the bigger person” and let the things of the past be bygones.

Which is really funny, because he knows that I am never ” the bigger person”, not when there is too much to be gained by being the smaller person. For example, never having to stuff hard feelings and rage and bitterness into that place in your soul that eats you alive from the inside out: Small people never have to forgive (which everyone knows is very, very difficult, almost impossibly superhuman, right?) — they are the ones always being forgiven. I’m way into being teeny tiny like that.

Letting the things of the past be bygones only works if you have a terrible memory and, Dear Readers, not only do I have excellent recollection, but I also take notes. Hello? Remember me, the diarist? The one who writes memoir? Where do you think I get my material???

If you want to know exactly what was said by whom on which date, I’m your girl: I have it all in writing. It keeps things fresh so that what happened, say, three years and five months ago, are as if it were just yesterday.

At one point in the increasingly heated conversation Top Cat angrily announced: You never do anything you don’t want to do. Thing is, he said it like that was a bad thing.

Well, as far as I know, nobody gets extra days being 29, or a lifetime immunization from heartbreak, or a reincarnated pet by doing things they don’t want to do. So yes, of course, in my life and in my marriage, I have tried to do as few things that I don’t want to do as possible: I have stayed away from a few weddings and bar mitzvahs, family reunions and dinners out with bores. But there are times when I have indeed shown up, which would be unkind for me to list here, but anyway on this particular point you can’t make me feel guilty because sheesh: life is short and I’m getting old and Woody Robinson (the best cat in the world) is never coming back so you better believe that more and more, I will be spending less and less time doing things that I don’t want to do.

So as Top Cat and I still simmer over this fight, I can’t help but think how I, had I been in the position to ask of Top Cat a huge favor equal to the one he is asking of me, would have gone about it completely differently.

First, I would have taken me out for Mexican food. Because I do loves me a good enchilada.

I would also order me a huge margarita. Because, duh.

Next, I would have told me how much happiness I have brought to his life, how much I mean to him, and how very dearly he respects my feelings. I would be sure to use the word “precious” somewhere in there. “Angelic” wouldn’t be amiss, either.

I, naturally, would by now be filled with feelings not unlike giant fluffy pink clouds and warm rainbow-colored sunbeams.

THEN I would break the bad news about having this HUGE favor to ask, one that he knows is going to ask a lot of me, a very small person, one that he knows I am not likely to be the least inclined to give. I would ask the favor, and quickly tell me that he understands that I need time to think about it, and not expect me to jump at the chance to let bygones be bygones.

Then I would back off. Because I would be smart enough to know that there would be blow-back re: this favor of “letting bygones be bygones” because, duh, we’ve been married for 13 years and he knows that I am the least “letting bygones be bygones” kind of person in this relationship.

The next day is when I would bring up the topic again, asking for this huge favor again, only this time I would do it while we were at North Shore Animal Shelter picking out our new DoG.

And that, Dear Readers, is how you ask your wife (if your wive happens to be me) for a huge favor.

Right?

Have a great weekend, everybody. I hope that nobody asks you to do something that you don’t want to do, but if they do, I hope they ask the right way.

 

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I might as well live on the North Slope. Or Ultima Thule. Or Westeros. It’s cold here on Long Island and Yours Truly is not one bit pleased, not one little bit. Today is the sixth day in a row of rain:

You can’t see it, but those watery icicles on the edge of the table are dripping as if the cruel goddess of Crappy Springs is dumping an infinite ice bucket of Liquid Depression from on high. I’m not into this at all.

And it’s so cold that Steve is back to spending his days in his Winter nest half-way under the bush/all the way under the eaves by the front porch:

Here’s a close up because I know you want more of Steve-o:

I had to put my electric blankie back on the bed. I’ve had to don the dreaded Winter fleece once again. And I’ve been eyeing the vodka almost non-stop since 11 AM.

I would love to complain all day but we have a blog to do. So let us get to the topic of the day: Obituaries and How To Write Them and then we can declare it Happy Hour.

Let us start this without backstory (for now) so you can read this obit clean, like. Let’s pretend that you are opening your October 8, 2014 New York Times newspaper to the obits pages:

 

There’s only one photo in the paid portion of the obits, and it draws your attention immediately. You read:

Yes, that’s the obit I wrote (except for the bit “in acceptance of the inevitable” in the first first sentence and the entire last sentence, which were written by my sister Buffy, who also edited the obit for length). Rolly didn’t have children, so that’s why I was tasked with giving the last word about the family’s favorite relative.

As you can read, I did not use Rolly’s obit as an excuse for every related schmo’s to get their name in print. I object to having to read lists of names of survivors in an obit, particularly the grandchildren (the boring Caitlyns, Kaylas, Taylors, Tylers, Madisons etc), who should earn their place in the New York Times by dying, same as everyone else. I wrote this obit to be all about Rolly, not about is survivors.

Re-reading this for the first time in two and a half years I can spot some clunky writing that I would love to edit (adding one transition and cutting out two adjectives) but for the most part, I’m happy with it.

P.S. This obit cost about $5,000. The Times is not cheap.

Here is what I believe when it comes to writing obits:

1. I believe that obits should give a reader a lively biographical account of the dead person’s personality and values. The best way to make that kind information entertaining is by telling stories, which means putting the relevant bio details in context rather then merely listing dates and accomplishments.

Listing of dates and boring facts should be kept to a minimum — does the world really need to know the exact date of one’s college graduation? Or marriage? Really? (Sorry, Deborah, and all future genealogists; obit writing is an art and you can’t make art out of public records.) Too many dates allows down the pace and retards the fun factor of an obit, makes it too much like homework.

2. Avoid being predictable. In obituaries, everybody who gets out of the house is a “world traveler”. Everyone who ever laughed at their own jokes had “wit”. Every over-eater had “gourmet tastes”. Every Tom/Dick/Henrietta will be “sorely missed”. Anybody who had kids was “devoted to family”. Every kid that dies young had a “smile that lights up a room”.

3. Never list adjectives in lieu of real sentences — to quote an obit on the same page of the NYT as Rolly: “A woman of great warmth, optimism, humor, and beauty, [the dead lady] always saw the best in others and brightened up the lives of family and friends.” Having read that sentence, aren’t you left with the message that this lady didn’t make much of an individualistic impression on those around her? She is described only in relation to others, no mention of what she did to actualize her own self, who she was in her own right — we’ll never know.

3A. If you must list adjectives because the New York Time’s ain’t cheap and you’re on a budget, pick interesting ones. Pick adjectives that describe the dead person’s individuality, not their qualifications for sainthood.

P.S. Ever notice how women are never described as “smart”? Could it be because being smart doesn’t bear on her serviceableness to her family? No, they only care that she was warm, would laugh at your lame ass jokes, and was pretty. Families suck the life out of their women, don’t they?

4. Never, ever, use the word grace. Another quote from another obit: “An artist and teacher of exceptional talent, heart, generosity, and grace.” Let’s never mind the listing of adjectives — let’s figure out “grace”. It’s a word that sounds a lot as if it means something, but what does it mean??? Does it mean she had good manners? Does it mean that she lent people money happily? Could it mean that she kept a vase of flowers in her desk? Does it mean that she only cursed in French? Or could it mean that she could actually disappear into the astral plane and do housework for the less fortunate? We’ll never know because we don’t know what “grace” specifically pertains to, so it’s a word that doesn’t mean anything.

 

Now, about Rolly’s obit: I knew Rolly for 40+ years, and I knew what stories he re-told and those were the ones (and characters) he wold want included re: mom’s bacon sandwiches and his uncle the Atlantic City bookie. I also knew that walking across the Brooklyn Bridge at age 86  fulfilled a life-time dream of his, and in fact the photo we used the top of his obit (and it costs extra) was one I took of Rolly ON the Brooklyn Bridge:

Uncle Rolly with my brother Jimmy on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Old friends and business associates of Rolly’s called me up to say how much they really liked the obit I wrote, so I can happily say that the obit portrayed Rolly very much in the way that those who knew him longest and best knew him.  His ad agency, in its official press release of Rolly’s passing, used bits if this obit so, yeah, if you’re plagiarized you’re doing something right.

The one thing I left out was the fact that Rolly was a widower. Rolly truly loved his wife, Naomi, and maybe he would have wanted her mentioned but I didn’t put her in the obit because her two kids (Rolly’s step children who he helped raise and financially support well into adulthood) had, by unanimous family opinion, been real shits during the later years of Rolly’s life and I wanted to spite them, wipe them completely out of the record. And truthfully, Naomi was kind of bitchy. So, yeah, we survivors have the final word so if you don’t want that to happen, WRITE YOUR OWN OBIT!!

You know the most famous obituary story,don’t you? About the rich businessman who was mistakenly obitted (yeah, I made that up, and isn’t it brilliant???) and he, reading this premature obit, realized that he didn’t want to be remembered for having the world’s biggest dynamite factory so he funded philanthropic awards in his name and that’s how Alfred Nobel is now mostly known for his Prize. So maybe writing your own obit will reveal a life’s mission, or not. You never know.

My last belief about writing obits is that you shouldn’t do it on a rainy day (too dispiriting, and suicide notes never count) so I won’t be writing my Last Word today. Or tomorrow, from what I hear on the forecast, even though I am close to being bored to death with this crappy RAIN. (Note to self: Obit should mention She did not like rainy days.)

If you are going to Comment below — and I desperately hope you do — please include the one adjective that you’d most like to have in your obit.

I am sending out my biggest hopes to all you Dear Readers that, wherever you are this weekend, you are neither soggy nor shivering. I wish you the warmth of love and the comfort of soft blankies which I hope are made of warm breezes and starry rays of light. And most of all, I hope you feel especially alive.

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I want to smooch this face!

Thank you, Dear Reader Alexandra from Seattle, for sending me this pic of Truman, the long-haired dachshund/part cat, on his browse through the University of Washington’s University Book Store. Truman does not like to be parted from his beloved couch, which is in the living room of the house he never wants to leave, and he absolutely refuses to put mileage on his own little feets, so he must be strolled in his special Truman-mobile when it’s time for the dreaded “fresh air” outing. On this day, Truman had his human stroller him to UDub (Go Huskies) for some meaningful shopping at the city’s favorite book store, which no doubt included a stop at the book store cafe for some meaningful coffee, which is totally a thing.

The GoAaF is a staff pick!

I have had a most excellent week here in VivianWorld, starting with getting pics of a long haired dachshund giving the GoAaF his best Look of Awe, and continuing with me coming across a New York Times article about the celebrated chef and restaurateur Wylie Desfrene, one of those Day In The Life Of things.

Wylie Desfrene, celebrated chef and restaurateur, was quoted by the reporter from the New York Times as being the kind person who tries to have at least “two meaningful coffee experiences a day”.

Please note: There is no “N” in restaurateur — he’s a restorer of the human spirit via food, not a restaurant-er, which is the history of the word “restaurant”, BTW, which only gets its “N” because it was one of those gerund or participle things before it became a noun. You’re welcome.

We’re here to erudite you, whether you want it or not.

After reading that NYT article, I spent the day feeling bad that I’ve never required daily meaningfulness from my hot beverage because I’m such a pathetically shallow and dim-witted person. I’m too stupid to drink meaningfully because, basically, I’m dead inside, just like every other ordinary, negligible person who lives and dies in utter anonymity. I was feeling very bad about being just me.

And then I thought, Whoa. Telling a New York Times reporter that you seek two meaningful coffee experiences a day is exactly what you should tell a New York Times reporter, whether or not you have any earthly idea of what a meaningful coffee experience is because, truthfully, no one does. But it sounds pretty damn deep. Makes you go, HuhWylie Desfrene is a genius!

So, New York Times, if you’re reading this, I not just your average travel memoirist! I’m a dream cartographer, a cataloger of whimsies. I also like to go on long car rides with enlightening red beans and rice.

True story: I went to two funerals last week and, driving home on I-95 from the one in Washington D.C., Top Cat and I pulled over in Delaware (I was starving and desperate) and got a Popeye’s red beans and rice. Now, you know that I consider myself a connoisseur of red beans and rice, and that it’s my go-to entree when I am in New Orleans, where I’ve shoveled it in tasted it in its high and low iterations (that is, in various restaurants with, and without, starched white cloth napkins) . . . and Popeye’s red beans and rice IS AWESOME.

I am, right now, promising myself to take myself to Popeye’s as soon as I finish blogging.

P.S. Just got back from Popeye’s. I got the large side for $3.99 and it was deliriously good. Oh man, I am stuffed to the gills. Now, back to the blog:

Going to two funerals in one week gives you a lot to thing about. The main take-away for me is, I must write my own obit (I already have my cause of death picked out). If you want to see just how bad an amateur obit can be, read the paid-for obits in the NYT. Those things aren’t cheap, and they stink.

Fun fact: When my dear uncle Rolly died two years ago I wrote his obit that was published in the paid-for section of New York Times which a total stranger re-published on his blog because, he wrote, it sounded like Rolly was a guy he would have liked to have known — and that’s what an obit should do. If you, Dear Readers, clamor to know more about my obituary-writing experience and my snot-nosed Helpful Hints for Writing an Obituary That Doesn’t Stink, I will be happy to go into it in detail in a future blog.

Funerals, Popeye’s, food for thought, dachshunds — so many favorite things, could the week get any better???

Oh, yes, it can, and it did:

Finally, at long last, on May 16, 2017, I got to turn off my electric blankie. Finally, at long last, Spring dragged its hoary butt into what the TV people call “Seasonal Temperatures”. Lickety (above) likes going outside about as much as certain long haired dachshunds but there he was, sprawling on the patio like he’s just drunken half a dozen un-meaningful margaritas. That’s it! Your first 80-degree day of the year is intoxicating! Heat — glorious sun-baked warmth, star-sent lightness of being, dazzling brightness of skin-kissing light — heat makes you a sluggish, simple-minded, drunk! Wait. Is that what explains Florida?

All that, and der Drumpf’s getting his ass handed to him on an FBI platter made this one of the best damn weeks of my life.

Russian Imperial Porcelain

Russian Imperial Porcelain. It’s an FBI platter made of Russian Imperial Porcelain. Get it?

Thank You, venerable laws of karma;

Thank You, ye olde petards of irresistible hoist;

Thank You, sweet delicious Told You So’s.

For the first time since November 9th 2016, I can’t get enough of the news. Every breaking story out of Washington D. C. fills me with hope and joy, and an urge to dance my face off. Happy, happy, happy days are here again.

Before I go, I want to give you something in appreciation of all you Dear Readers. Last week I put up some watercolors of irises, and judging by the comments there are a number of Dear Readers who are going to be doing some iris painting of their own. So, for those of you who could use some itty bitty help in that department, I’m giving you my iris drawings:

You can see that I made changes on this second pic after I’d done the drawing; and I’d originally drawn it facing the other way so I flipped the image (turned over the tracing paper to use it on the back side) before I pencilled it onto the watercolor stock.

Have a great weekend, all you Wonder Ones, and may all your dancing be in hope in joy.

 

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I discovered Irises last week.

I mean, I discovered that I like painting them.

Monet’s irises

The best thing about painting irises is that they are the perfect flowers to go crazy with the bleeds with:

They look good blotchy!

I was not at all sure that I could pull this off, so I didn’t take step-by-step photos.

So that’s the art part of the blog today. Now for a

Change of subject.

How many times has this happened to you: You’re putting down some New York Times newspaper linings in your cat litter boxes and just as you’re about to pat a few pages down into Fluffy’s rest room apparatus, you realize you’re looking at the obituary of a guy you dated in the mid 1980s.

Richard Sandomir, one of the N Y Times’ staff columnists, wrote it; meaning that the editors of the NY Times decided that this guy’s death was of “historical importance”. In 1985 I was aware that this guy (a classical musician) was somewhat famous when he gave me some of his records and began to escort me to his concerts at Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center in D.C., but I hadn’t thought of him in ages — not since that afternoon at the Watergate when he let it slip that he was still married. I never saw him or heard of him again after I dumped him then and there, until, that is, I read his obit in the N Y Times.

Remember how easy it was in the olden days to date, by accident, a married guy? In those days before everybody was Google-able? This musician was my first lying married guy, but not my last. O Lordy, I am so happy that I don’t have to date any more.

I’m so glad that I’m not still trying out personalities like I was when I was dating this musician, when I was still young and wishy-washy enough to think that I could be the kind of person who marries a classical musician even though I have absolutely no interest in, or love for, classical music. (After this classical music guy, there was a jazz guy that I actually got engaged to, and I really REALLY can’t stand jazz.)

I’m so glad to be old and set in my ways (fun-loving, optimistic, non-judgemental, with a love for humankind that makes me basically another Mother Theresa). And I love 1980s pop music. I like tunes that make me feel like walking on sunshine.

This is a short blog post today because I added extra reading to last week’s post — it’s in the Comments section, and elaborates on my handwriting analysis judgements. I claimed that somebody had the handwriting of a pervert, and I meant it, but in the nicest way, of course.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Be true to yourselves and the music that makes you dance.

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