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This is what Bibs has to put up with at this time of year:

Our kitchen patio is shaded by a Japanese Dogwood tree and in the Fall, this tree unloads its berries with a vengeance:

So far, I haven’t had one plop into my morning cup of tea, but at this rate of bombardment I think it’s inevitable. We have to sweep the patio twice a day to clear a path through the mast, and to stay ahead of the rate of rot (these berries are very squishy, and on a warm day they ferment quickly).

If Bibs and I were foragers, we’d make wine out of this stuff. But we don’t, because there’s a rather good wine shop a short walk away and I need the exercise.

I wrote about the Japanese Dogwood in my book Gardens of Awe and Folly . . .

. . . because of an ancient horticultural connection between the northeastern United States and the Land of the Rising Sun and you know me, I likes a good horticultural yarn. (See: page 90 on why the woods of Long Island are no different in make-up, mood, and spirit than any forest on Honshu).

For pre-historical reasons, we here in the northeast states of America share a surprising number of plant species with Japan, one of them being the Dogwood tree. Our native American Dogwood trees have cute little berries. . .

. . . so their seeds can serve as food, to be eaten and pooped out distributed by smallish birds such as this Cedar Wax Wing:

Photo credit: The Audubon Society

On the other side of the world, after millions of years of evolving in their own way in Japan, the Dogwood tree’s seeds come packaged inside fat, juicy morsels of fruit . . .

Photo credit: T. Abe Lloyd

. . . the better to serve as food for its poopers seed distributors, which is not a bird but a mammal, which we know as the incredibly cute Snow Monkey:

Photo credit: Baltimore Sun

The thing is, the Dogwood tree got to Japan a couple of hundred million years ago, but the Snow Monkey only arrived from Korea about  half a million years ago. That’s how smart nature is.

Ah, nature, the passing of the eons and the passing of the seasons. I am writing this on the Hebrew New Year, the Rosh ha Shena, first day of 5778. Also, today is the Last Day of Summer 2017.

How I Spent My Summer

For longtime Dear Readers, it is not news that I adore Blue Jays.

Blue Jay in my backyard.

For Blue Jays, Summer on Long Island means Feather Molting Time, which to me means Blue Jay Feather Harvesting Time. I am all about Blue Jay feathers. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me when I find a Blue Jay feather. It’s like a miracle. Collecting Blue Jay feathers is what you call an “obsession” with me.

Please note tail feathers. It’s important to the story below.

Last Summer (in the wretched 2016) I had one request of the universe: Let me find 50 Blue Jay feathers. This Summer (of the same politically wretched 2017) was very different. This Summer I was all, like, Whatever. I decided to let the universe send me whatever Blue Jay feathers it felt like throwing my way. (The same rule applied: I only collected the Blue Jay feathers that I found on my own acre of Earth. That is, in my front or back yards.)

It was an experiment: Do our thoughts and intentions really manifest in the physical world?

For all of Summer 2016 I made it a point to be very active in my Blue Jay feather harvesting, and I kept a tally of each time and place where my intention of finding 50 Blue Jay feathers was made manifest.

In an average year, I find 9 Blue Jay feathers. By the end of the Summer of 2016 I had found 30 Blue Jay feathers.

Maybe the following photographs will show you why finding a Blue Jay feather is something magical.

Nature, as you’ve probably noticed, is mostly green. So it’s a jolt to peer into the weeds and see something electric blue:

It’s a Blue Jay feather!

Look closely at this photo of clover:

It’s a Blue Jay feather!

Here’s an instance when I was about to put the seat cushion onto my Adirondack chair . . .

. . . and the universe offered me a Blue Jay feather!

I don’t know how I was able to perceive anything out of the ordinary in this patch of grass. . .

. . .but there it was! A little Blue Jay feather!

Yes, I made it a ritual to walk slowly across the property, eyes focused on the earth . . .

. . . or else I would never have seen this Blue Jay feather!

Out on the edge of the back yard, near a baby Spruce tree that we planted as a seed . . .

. . . some kindly bird let me a Blue Jay feather!

Sometimes, it seemed as if the universe was delivering Blue Jay feathers to me personally, like this one on the kitchen patio:

Blue Jay feather!

You don’t have to look very hard when it’s right in front of your eyes in the driveway:

A Blue Jay feather!

This one was ridiculously easy. Top Cat and I were having breakfast on the kitchen patio and I got up to fetch more toast, and voila! A Blue Jay feather!

I help it up against Top Cat’s denim shirt. This is a true blue Blue Jay feather!

That one, above, is also a center tail feather, which is my favorite of all Blue Jay feathers, so I kept hoping I’d find another one. Well, what do you know: in the same place where I had already found a tail feather  (first photo above). . .

I found another center tail feather! Blue Jay feather strikes twice!

Lastly, this is my favorite Blue Jay feather find of the Summer. It was, once again, on my driveway:

The camera can’t show how, to a brain attuned to the heart-stopping wonderfulness of the hues of a Blue Jay feather, this little thing glowed like a big, fat, full Blue Moon:

It’s a Blue Jay feather!!

I hope you’re not sick of Blue Jay feathers yet. Because I have to announce the results of my laissez-faire Summer of 2017 Bue Jay feather Harvest;

And here it is:

So, it was a pretty goodyear even though I had disengaged myself from “the process”. But, it’s less than half what I got in the 30-feather Summer of 2016, when I was mindful.

Thank you, Universe. I can tell that You always want me to be happy, but you appreciate it a teeny bit more when I met you halfway.

 

And that’s what Top Cat and I wish for you all, Dear Readers, as we toast the New Year:

Let the Universe Give You Its Gifts.

 

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This is why I love the internet. While Hurricane Irma took up a lot of attention last week, a different mini-tempest was raging in the small corners of the online world over this Instagram post by a young lady in Australia:

Public opinion seemed to be heavily in favor of yelling at this young lady for being shallow. The British newspaper, The Daily Mail, even took a poll and 67% of their respondents thought that anyone who would complain about the itty-bittiness of this engagement ring was not a nice person.

Photo credit: Sotheby’s This is the most expensive diamond ever sold: the 59.6-carat Pink Star, $71.2 million dollars (sold April 2017, oval brilliant cut)

Well, this proves that I’m not a nice person because I loathe this ring. It is a travesty.  I would be embarrassed and ashamed to wear it, and I’m talking as the 20-something / 30-something me, not the jaded 60-year-old me who now has some really nice stuff in her jewelry box. No woman, no matter how young and in love, should settle for this.

Jewelry is something that I have expert opinions on. (Certified gemologist, trained diamond grader, colored stone appraiser, Faberge expert for Christie’s auction house.) Let’s forget the intrinsic aspects of this piece of crap, which is that when you buy a diamond that is this tiny you are getting the worst crumbs of the diamond trade, and the stone has practically no market value at all; the ring is essentially worthless, except for the gold weight, which looks minimal. Let’s talk about the intangibles of which this ring is lacking, that is, those elements of taste and sentiment that this kind of jewelry is supposed to embody.

Elizabeth Taylor wearing the engagement ring given to her by Mike Todd in 1957: 29-4-carats (emerald cut, internally flawless).

No. 1, there is no law that says an engagement ring has to include a diamond. To be so rigidly conventional in your thinking that you end up buying a stupid-looking little flake of the “correct” stone shows a disheartening lack of imagination. So in this respect, this ring as an indication of a crippling conformity and dull-mindedness.

Princess Diana’s engagement ring: 12-carat Ceylon sapphire.

No. 2, this ring has no artistry.  It’s basic, no-frills, stripped-down, and minuscule. It’s not the kind of ring that you, as the wearer, are likely to spend many moments gazing at because it is BORING. Why is your fiancé such a dullard? (See: No. 1, above.)

Photo credit: Paris Shop Girl

No. 3: For the same amount of money, you can get a nice little opal, or blue topaz (real stone, fake color, but pretty), or a very nice amethyst (I love amethysts), or lapis lazuli, or aquamarine. There’s a lot of colored stones to choose from, and a lot of rings that make an impression, a statement, has personality. And then, later, you can upgrade it (to a diamond, if you must) when you’re older and more financially secure.

BTW, those rings (above) with colored stones are from Paris Shop Girl and are 18K gold over sterling silver and they cost $44 each. Yeeeesh. By comparison, that young lady’s “diamond” engagement ring looks like it cost $10. Even for a starter-ring, it looks cheap. Which brings me to No. 4: Don’t marry a cheapskate. If quality matters to you, don’t do it. Cheapskates never change. Your entire married life will be about cutting corners, doing things half-assed, and settling for second-rate.

No.5: Rather than wear something so sub-par, so meagre in thought and deed, wear nothing at all. There’s no law that says you have to wear an engagement ring in order to be engaged. Your imaginary ring will do just fine.

So now you know why we, the people of the internet, should stop telling young ladies to just accept and be grateful for whatever cruddy little trinket they are offered. It’s simply more of the same brain washing that tells women to shut up and be honored by any kind of male attention they get. Ha! I say, Resist!

Since we are on the subject of jewelry, here’s a photo of Vivian Leigh’s jewelry box:

Vivian Leigh (1913 – 1967) starred as Scarlet O’Hara in the movie Gone With The Wind in 1939. Her jewelry is on sale at Sotheby’s London on Sept. 26.

I love looking into people’s jewelry boxes. When I was an appraiser I used to do a lot of jewelry boxes for older ladies, so that they could divvy up the heirlooms fairly amognst the children. A few times I was called in by a client who was hoping to find something of value to sell in order to meet living expenses. Those were sad, especially when they had nothing but fake gems in base metals.I would try to compliment the design or the “charm” of their jewelry, to soften the blow.

P.S. If an appraiser uses the word “charming” to describe your stuff, whether it’s furniture, objets d’art, or jewelry, that’s code for “junk”.

Photo credit: Delany Antique Clocks.

Everyone I know if Florida made it through Hurricane Irma just fine. No flooding — yay — and they got electric power turned back on within 48 hours. Still, it’s been an ordeal and the cats are still hung over from the crazy Hurricane Party they threw in their hotel room.

Speaking of hang overs, here’s Lickety this week:

I don’t know why Lickety and his mama, Candy, have now decided that the bookshelf in the dining room is their preferred napping spot this week. But that’s where they are hanging out these days. And Oh! these days!

What a gorgeous final week of Summer we’ve been having!

Dennis, from next door, in the flower bed that never flowered.

 

Taffy and Bibs, mortal enemies but fine napping buddies.

I have a seasonal wrap-up to present to you, Dear Readers, next week, so until then, have a great weekend.

Remember: You are all 24-karat magic, and your brilliance is flawless.

 

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Hello Vivian Swift,
You sent a payment of $100.00 USD to Muttnation Foundation, Inc.

Muttnation is the animal rescue organization headed up by the wonderful country singer Miranda Lambert. When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas on Friday, Aug. 25, Miranda was in Ireland. She got home to Nashville at 9 p.m. Monday night (Aug. 28) and was on an 11:30 a.m. American Airlines flight headed to Texas the next morning.

In Texas she met up with the rigs that Muttnation  had sent from their home base in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and in three days she and Muttnation took 230 dogs, cats, and “other” domestic animals out of Houston shelters and drove them back to OK. This frees up local animal welfare resources so that they can deal with housing and re-homing flood victims’ lost pets.

These relocated animals will be adopted out in OK or sent to shelters elsewhere (near you?) in America…but either way, these dear cats and dogs and “others” are safe and will find forever homes.

You can read about the operation here.

Miranda Lambert. I don’t own, or know, a single one of her records, but she’s my kind of hero. She and Muttnation deserve my money.

To keep you interested in reading Part Two of my Harvey story (because aren’t we worn out from hearing about Harvey Harvey Harvey?), here’s a pic of Lickety’s butt in his new favorite spot on the dining room table:

Yes, I keep a paper cutter on my dining room table. I also use my dining room table as a laundry folding site, and when I made the mistake of leaving some towels unsupervised, Lickety laid claim to them.

I took these pix two weeks ago. He and the towels are still there.

Getting back to my godless philanthropy:

I also sent money to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. You can read about them here.

Donation to CDP Hurricane Harvey Recovery Fund $100.00
 
 
You have covered the transaction fee, so 100% of your donation goes to the organization. Thank you! $3.00
 
Total $103.00

I refuse to send money to The Red Cross.

My personal beef with the Red Cross started when Super Storm Sandy hit Long Island in 2012 and the Red Cross showed up in the most devastated area, called the Far Rockaways, with grocery store cookies and flash lights that didn’t have batteries, and you, Dear Readers, know how I hold grudges. But if you want a less Vivian reason for never giving money to the Red Cross, you can read this.

Last Wednesday, Sept. 6, the US House of Representatives voted for 7.9 billion in Hurricane Harvey aid. This bill now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to be confirmed by the end of the week. So let’s say that, all in all, relief for victims of the Harvey disaster will arrive about 15 days since the hurricane hit Texas. By comparison, when my neck of the woods was devastated by Super Storm Sandy in 2012, do you know how long it took for aid to be approved by Congress?

66 days.

SIXTY SIX DAYS.

The senior Senator from Texas, Fuck Face Cornyn.

The junior Senator from Texas, Fuck Face Cruz.

Thanks to the objections of Southern Republican “fiscal conservatives”,  led by the two senators from Texas Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, victims of Super Storm Sandy, people who were homeless, lost, hurt, broke, and suffering — people who happened to be New Yorkers who were, help me Jesus, Jews, blacks, Hispanics, and Democrats — had to wait over two months for relief.

So, yeah. I will send money to help those poor souls, animal and human, in and around Houston. Houston took in 250,000 evacuees from Hurricane Katrina, more than any other city in Texas, and tens of thousands of Katrina survivors still live in Houston. That’s a lot of love. I have a lot of love for Houston. I do.

If you don’t think this is funny, find someone from New Orleans to explain it to you.

But the rest of Texas can still go fuck itself.

One last Harvey note:

Our friend from New Orleans, Karen — whose rose garden was one of the memorable and thought-provoking gardens that I wrote about in my book Gardens of Awe and Folly  says that if Harvey had veered east and hit NOLA instead of Houston, she (Karen) (a veteran of Hurricane Katrina) was prepared to evacuate herself, her cat, her dog, and the thousand bees in her backyard bee hive. In her car. Because that’s how they roll in the Crescent City.

As you read this, my sister, her husband, my mother, and their cats are evacuated from the west coast of Florida. They are holing up in a high-rise hotel inland, with three days supply of water, cross word puzzles, and Johnny Walker. (The cats are borderline alcoholics. Tiger is usually OK, in general; but Snowball is a mean drunk.) Hurricane Irma, as you probably know, is the biggest storm ever seen in the Atlantic Ocean and it is headed straight for the Sunshine State.

Speaking of beer, last Thursday was the final day of August and like you, Dear Readers, I waved My First Farewell to the Summer of ’17 with an appropriate refreshment. I viewed my final August sun set from — where else? — my yacht on the Long Island sound:

Actually I was on the totally empty deck of a waterside cafe on Manhasset Bay, but the view was just as splendid as if I’d been starboard on a 70-meter Fincantieri. Top Cat and I toasted the last day of August (me, Long Island Iced Tea; TC with a craft beer because he’s fancy) and then we moseyed out to the end of the dock.

Naming a boat poses a serious mental challenge.

I didn’t catch the name of this beautiful craft gliding upon the cool surface of high tide . . .

. . . but I’m pretty sure it was the S. S. Guppy:

Speaking of yachts, I feel stinking rich every time I open my back door and I see this:

It’s morning and this is the crew waiting to come in side the kitchen for breakfast. Notice how they have all turned away from me — they saw the camera and are being CATS. From left to right (starting with the Holstein) they are: Lickety, Bibs, Taffy, his mama Candy (wearing her Maryland colors), and that’s Dennis at the top, who lives next door and who shows up for breakfast every day. They are all house cats except in Summer, when they answer the call of the wild and spend 90% of their days and nights in the back yard.  But the minute it gets slightly chilly, they will all be back inside, napping their lives away.

On Labor Day I had a visitor to my back yard:

It’s a red-spotted purple admiral. I’ve never seen one before. It was a good omen that he showed up when he did, because an hour later Top Cat and I were on our way to a five-mile walk Labor Day/Second Farewell to the Sumer of ’17 in a nature reserve here on Long Island called Caumsett . . .

. . . which is very special because it is the only New York habitat of a very rare butterfly that I was hoping to see:

As Dear Reader Tucson Tana knows, this is Baltimore Checkerspot, the Maryland State Insect, which is very hard to distinguish from a player on the University of Maryland football team:

You’re so right, Tana. This college football team uniform is AWESOME.

Although I didn’t catch a glimpse of the rare and beautiful Checkerspot, I did catch sight of one of these:

I don’t know if this is a Monarch or a Viceroy butterfly, and I don’t want to eat one to be sure. (The Viceroy is OK to chow down on, but Monarch is toxic.)

Being that it’s the last three-day holiday of the season, we Americans think that Labor Day is the sentimental end of Summer, hence it’s #2 place on my roster of Summer Farewells. Summer holds such a huge place in my  psyche, and probably yours too, that it is the one season that deserves a real send off. That’s why I take my time in saying Good Bye to it. I always hope that each Summer will be contained in a very specific memory of achievement, dreams, changes, travel, etc…but not this year.

However, upon a path in yonder woods within the Isle of Long, Lo I think I found A Sign from the Universe that my Summer of ’17 hasn’t been as regretful and lackluster as I might be thinking:

A Blue Jay Feather, nature’s way of reminding you that the world is still a pretty wonderful place, if you keep your eyes open for miracles.

Top Cat and I sat above the beach at Caumsett and pondered the crashing waves coming in from the Long Island Sound. That’s only Connecticut in the distance, so it’s not like I got any Big Ideas inspired by the view.

But I’m getting there. Thinking Big is my mission in life. Spacious thoughts are my destiny.

We have two weeks until the official, calendrical end of Summer, at which time I will indeed wrap up the roses and thorns of ’17. In the meantime, when we were all talking about Thinking Big the other week I had a small echo of a memory of something I’d once read on the subject.

I looked it up. In June 1979 I copied these words from a book I had just read, called Henderson the Rain King (great title) by Saul Bellow. Bellow wrote it in 1959 and part of it is set in Africa, a place Bellow had never been. I rather liked it when I first read it, but then I went to Africa and I re-read it in Africa, and Bellow’s lack of first hand experience of Africans shows. Anyway.

This is for you, my fellow Big Thinkers:

They say, Think Big. Well, that’s just another business slogan. But greatness! That’s another thing all together! Oh, greatness! I don’t mean inflated, swollen, false greatness. I don’t mean pride or throwing your weight around. But the universe itself being put into us, it calls out for scope. The eternal is bonded into us. It calls out for its share. And I have to do something about it.

So that’s how we do it, Dear Readers.

Have a great weekend. You are all part of the Greatness. You all have the universe within you. You are stardust (in the most literal sense), you are golden.

 

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I adore the  State Flag of Maryland:

Photo credit: Jimmy Emerson DVM on Flikr

There are 50 states in the USA and this is the only one that has what I call style. The colors and shapes are so unexpected, so discordant, so difficult to pull off in that limited amount of space, yet it holds together like an epic poem reduced to haiku; like the way the weirdly plastic flavors of Cool Ranch Doritos pairs outstandingly well with an ice cold Grand Marnier margarita; like the way the audacious and sophisticated cord progressions in a Burt Bacharach song (like, in Alfie) take you by surprise and yet seem so right. Like that. I really, really love this flag.

Marylanders also have a State Cat, chosen on the same design principles and esthetic as their State Flag:

Right. The State Cat of Maryland is the Calico.

So, yeah, I’m fairly sure that by now you and me both think Maryland is pretty much our favorite state in the union. And now you can understand why a person of culture and taste might get a strong desire to visit Maryland and why last week I, being such a person, ventured off my Isle of Long and drove down to The Free State:

Once I rolled onto Maryland soil I kew I was south of the Mason-Dixon line because I followed this homeboy for about a mile, laughing all the way. It looked hugely funny, the way this Chevy seemed to be coming apart at the seems at approx. 60 miles per hour, bumper flapping in the breeze the way a bumper should never, ever, flap in the breeze.  Ha ha ha ha.

Well, I laughed about it until I pictured what would happen if the damn thing actually fell off (which I then hit, spin into on-coming traffic, and die) so I veered onto the nearest exit towards the reason for my visit to The Free State:

Marilyn: Note the sleeveless top. I’m 9 years away from proving to myself that I can achieve my new goal in life, which is wearing a sleeveless top with no shame when I’m 70.

You might remember how, several months back, on a cold late Winter day, a skinny, straggly, smelly, and sick stray cat wandered into my back yard, and how I couldn’t take him in because I needed to take in another cat like I need to take a joy ride over some Maryland guy’s Chevy bumper, but you might not know that a Dear Reader of this very blog saw the forlorn Mr. Fluffy here and decided this was a match made in Kitty Heaven.  So after Mr. Fluffy got his bill of health from the vet, we enacted some inter-state Cat Commerce and Mr. Fluffy was exported to Maryland, and this was the first time I got to visit a new and improved Mr. Fluffy in his forever home.

Mr Fluffy loves his forever people, and his forever people love him, and all this love has made Mr. Fluffy fat and beautiful. Just another reason why I LOVE Maryland.

Texas, however, can go fuck itself.

In the fiscal year 2011 – 2012 Texas — yes, TEXAS — received more federal disaster relief aid than any other state due to wildfires there in 2011.

And then in October 2012, Super Storm Sandy hit the East Coast of America, crippling the country’s most densely populated region with a 600-mile long swath of destruction.

So of course every Texas Republican in Congress (except for the guy from Houston, Rep. Joh Culbertson) voted against disaster relief aid for New York and New Jersey — that’s 20 in the House and both Senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.

Republican claims that the Super Storm Sandy aid bill was loaded with pork-barrel spending have been proven false time and again. The Texas Republicans were just being dicks. They are being their usual greedy, self-righteous, white-supremist, anti-women, “Christian”, small-government-hypocritical dicks.

Jeff Sessions, currently Attorney General, was a Senator at the time and he also voted against Super Storm Sandy aid. His home state of Alabama is one of those Southern Republican states (inc. Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, South Carolina) that sucks vast amounts of federal money out of Washington D.C., way more than what they put in, so that 34.9% of Alabama state spending comes from taxpayers who live thousands of miles away from that shit hole.

Republican lawmakers from Long Island (where I live) have reminded the Texans’ of their stand against Big Government in 2012 but have said that there will no hard feelings when it’s time for them to vote for Hurricane Harvey aid. Don’t worry, Texas, our New York and New Jersey federal tax dollars will go to help those poor people suffering in the wake of this terrible disaster. Yeah, yeah,yeah; it’s the right thing to do, we are all Americans together, etc.

That doesn’t mean that Texas . . . at least those parts that send Republican dicks to Washington . . .  can’t still go fuck itself.

Dear me, dear me. . . Is that kind of language unbecoming to a woman my age? Shouldn’t a lady of my mature years refrain from telling Texas to go fuck itself? Or is the fact that I can still get so riled up at smarmy-mouthed self-serving lying bastards a fabulous sign of vim and engagement with Things That Matter? (Spoiler alert: I think this opinion polled is rigged.)

Aging gracefully means something different these days than it used to mean.

This is what 58 Years Old looked like in 1954:

This is me at 61 Years Old in 2017:

I used this photo of me because all the 58-year old celebrities I found pix of have obviously had “work” done. And I happen to be wearing blue.

OK, OK; everybody looks awesome compared to Mamie Eisenhower (for those who don’t remember, Mamie was the wife of our 34th President, Dwight Eisenhower), but that was fun.

But the consensus from last week’s Comments was that the years 60 – 80 are, as experienced by our Dear Readers, can be a whole lot of fun, mostly because it’s the age at which one becomes more skilled at impropriety. Like Gigi said, every day is a once-in-a-lifetime galaxy event, through which we dance as if we have diamonds on the soles of our shoes whether they are Birkenstocks or Jimmy Choos.

Full disclosure. I tried on a pair of Birkenstock shoes once. They made me cry.

I’m agreed with Becky and Jeanie and Monique: the arts keep you from miles away from becoming the kid of old lady who yells at the TV all day.

Claude Monet, mourning the death of both his wife and his son and with his nation mired in the stalemate of slaughter that was World War I, responded to well-wishers on his 75th birthday with these words: “I am happy to let you know that I am more and more passionate about my work, and that my greatest pleasure is to paint and to enjoy nature.

His biographer Charles Merrill Mount wrote about Monet in his 70s: …that cagy resolute crank determinedly struck a defiant attitude. No one expected from him more than intermittent vitality…Instead he boldly embarked on the largest and most protracted work of his lifetime.

This is just one mural in the Grandes Decorations. There’s 7 more where this came from.

That’s what Monet did during the last years of his life: he painted the Grandes Decorations, the 8 murals that line the walls of a specially-built oval gallery in Paris. See? THINKING BIG can happen at any age.

I’ve had some Big Thoughts in my life. Going to Paris for the first time, when I was 19, that was a Big Thought, maybe the biggest one I ever had. 

The last Big Thought I had was  two years ago when I got Top Cat to go on a walk across England along Hadrian’s Wall with me. Well, on second thought, maybe that was just a Slightly Larger Than Average Thought; after all, all it took was money and time.  And we were certainly not the first, nor the oldest, nor the youngest, nor the fastest, to walk from Newcastle to Bowness.

A really Big Thought should take more personal, creative effort, don’t you think? Something that only You, and You Alone, could conceive and achieve?

I will think on this and report back.

In the meantime, this weekend in America we say Good-Bye to the Summer of ’17.

Labor Day — the first Monday in September —  signals the un-ofifcial (but heartfelt) end of Summer in the U S of A. One last True Summer day dream, one last True Summer sweet sorrow. Let us observe a moment of silence for What Might Have Been. (Oh,Summer, why do you burn so bright only to smolder into the most regretful season of the year?)

Have a great Labor Day weekend everyone. May all your beverages and your thoughts be super-sized.

**The Maryland flag bears the arms of the Calvert and Crossland families. Calvert was the family name of the Lords Baltimore who founded Maryland, and their colors of gold and black appear in the first and fourth quarters of the flag.

Crossland was the family of the mother of George Calvert, first Lord Baltimore. The red and white Crossland colors, with a cross bottony, appear in the second and third quarters.

So now you know.

Please Comment! Just click the READ MORE button.

 

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On Monday America the moon cast its shadow all across America, a “happening” from coast to coast. Here on Long Island we got a 70% partial eclipse, which did not stop my cats from going absolutely wild in the weird astronomical low light of mid-day. I was there to record just how the strange ions (or whatever) affected the teeny tiny brains of Taffy (the buff-colored one) and Bibs (the striped one), who do not like each other at all.

As you can see, this eclipse really did have weird  spiritual/psychological ramifications of peace and love for catkind.

The commotion started at 1:23 pm:

Things got even more exciting around 1:55:

At 2:12 we were absolutely frantic with anticipation:

Peak umbra was 2:44 local time and the crowds went bat-shit crazy dancing in the streets and crying tears of hallejualla :

The situation became positively frenzied as the moon slid onto the other side of brightness at 3:15:

And when it was all over at 4:00, and we were all hung over from the soulful impact of the heavens doing their immortal thing and normal behavior and boundaries were re-established, Dennis, from next door,  came over to compare wacky eclipse stories:

But when it comes to moon-dancing in your dreams during an eclipse of the Sun, Lickety really nailed it:

For just five minutes, I want to be in the mind of that cat.

Thank you all, Dear Commuters, last week who, by the judiciousness and passion of your words, confirmed what I’ve know all along: you all are much smarter than I. I rant, I rave, but it’s nothing personal dear Maryanne in SC, and as for Going High When They Go Low . . . yeah, well, we all saw how well that worked for Hillary. I’m sorry to the Dear Readers whom I offend, but it’s time to fight fire with fire NOT LITERALLY. The other side has no morals, no respect for truth, no decency. They are evil, and standing up to them is standing up for democracy.

I wonder what would happen if, the next time the Klan and the Nazis march upon an American city, all us good citizens of sound mind met them and just pointed to their little tiny Jolly Rogers and laughed?

Seems to me that these creatures of the night take themselves very seriously, and they are all too repulsive to get girl friends, and they relish the way they can tie us hordes of do-gooders into little knots of bewilderment that such stupid can exist in the world; so if we just laughed might that not make their heads explode?  Just wondering.

Anyhoo, I did not come here to rehash the atrocity that is our every waking day here in America in the time of der Drumpf.

I came here to tell you a story about Liz Smith.

 

Liz Smith used to be a well known newspaper gossip columnist in New York City. She was a hot gossip columnist in New York City back in the 1970s and ’80s, maybe the ’90s.

That’s a photo of her (above) in 1987 with the kind of trash people one rubs shoulders with when you’re a gossip columnist in NYC in the ’80s. Liz Smith is the lady who is not Drumpfy-sparkly.

And then newspapers went the way of the world: away, on line; and so did gossip columnists, now that everyone’s a gossip columnist because of easy access to “celebrities” and easy access to distribution of “information” (see: this very blog you are reading).

And then Liz Smith got old:

Photo credit: Hilary Swift, New York Times

The New York Times published an interview with Liz Smith on July 28 of this year and I’ve been dying to blog about it AND HERE’S MY CHANCE. Because she talks about being old, in her case 94 years old, in a way that I found quite thought provoking. Especially this bit:

“I am in search of Liz Smith,” she said softly, musing at the thought. “After a lifetime of fun and excitement and money and feeling important and being in the thick of it, I am just shocked every day that I’m not the same person. I think that happens to all old people. They’re searching for a glimmer of what they call their real self. They’re boring, mostly.

“I’m always thinking falsely, expending what little energy I have, believing every day I may just rediscover that person. I try to be all of the things I was, but it inevitably fails. I don’t feel like myself at all.”

You might react, at first, as I did:  Get a grip Liz Smith. You were a gossip columnist for New York’s worst newspaper (the Post), and by definition a hack, leech, a bottom-feeder. What’s with this “feeling important” crap??

But then, like me, I hope you pause and let her words sink in.

Don’t we all feel important as the central figure in our own lives, surrounded by bit players and second leads?

And isn’t “feeling important” just a very naked, and honest, way of saying that Liz Smith used to feel relevant?  And doesn’t that wonderful feeling of being important, being in the thick of things, relevant, fade for us all, year by year, year by year?

Verily, I say unto you, Liz Smith has spoken a Great Truth.

It starts when you discover that not only do you not know what is the hit song of the moment, but you don’t even care what the hit song of the moment is. All the “celebrities” that pop up your Yahoo home page have names that mean nothing to you. People all around you start wearing clothes and beards that repulse you. You start voting against the local school budget. You lust after a good night’s sleep instead of the cute guy at the Stop ‘N’ Shop deli. You watch a lot of Law and Order re-runs because the predictability of the “procedural” is right up your alley. You get my drift. We drift out of relevance, and we hardly notice it until we do.

It was on a late Spring day this year that  I had my own utterly appalling Liz Smith-like reckoning about how the OLD version of us bores the daylights out of the YOUNG version of us that we can still feel in our bones.

It was a Monday and I had a long To Do List, which included going to the bank. I plotted the 7 or 8-mile route that would take me from home and back again, via To Do List #1, To Do List #2, etc. For maximum efficiency, I even plotted a course to a new bank branch office so I didn’t have back track out of my way to stop in at my usual bank (which is almost exactly 1 mile from my house).

So I pull up at this new bank branch, I park in a strange parking lot, I walk into a totally foreign bank lobby, I stand in a wholly different configuration of queue than I am used to, I make a transaction with a teller who is completely unknown to me, I exit through a set of unfamiliar automatic doors, and I get back into my car. And I am feeling really, really proud of myself: for the first time in 13 years of living on Long Island, I have discovered that there exists a whole new place to do my banking! How exciting.

I hate to say that the glow lasted until ten minutes later when I was stuck in traffic on Old Country Road and I realized what was wrong with this picture.

How can it be that I, Vivian Swift, who once traveled on one-way tickets / impulse -jetted / left in the middle of the night / jumped on stage . . .  to places I’ve never been before / African countries I never even heard of / to hitch hike with Buddhists and Hell’s Angeles / at rock concerts . . . have let myself drift into the kind of life where I, that Vivian Swift, am proud of finding a new Chase bank branch office five miles from my house on Long Island?

Oh, man. I was really disgusted with myself.

Because all-text blogs are dull, here’s a pic of Top Cat tending to his awesome tomato plants.

So all that happened about four months ago.

That’s my white wine, and Top Cat’s red; with emmenthaler and french bread and Top Cat’s tomato with basil hors d’ouvres.

Like Liz Smith said, I’m shocked that I’m not the same person I used to be. Shocked.

All this Summer I’ve been taking to Top Cat about how this decade, the ten years between our ages of 60 and 70, is our last chance to Be Who We Used To Be. And how this decade is the Time Of Our Lives. And how we have to make plans to take maximum advantage of this last wonderful years (before decrepitude, as it seems to me, blame Liz Smith if I’m getting too far ahead of myself).

It’s an on-going conversation, as you can imagine, because of how hard it is to grapple with the fact that we’re talking about our mortality. Yeeesh. In 9 years I’ll be 70. If I’m lucky (ha ha).

Faced with this feeling of doom, I got myself a personal trainer for the first time n my life, and she knocks the snot out of me once a week. I also joined a gym so I can swim in between my push ups etc.

It turns out that I love swimming. I love it because I can not think of anything else but the swimming, the stokes through water. I’m never this Zen. I swim a 25-meter lap pool and I do about 70 laps in an hour.  I keep count. Because I keep count, I have to concentrate, which is extremely difficult to do: If my mind wanders, which it is apt to do, I lose count and I am flummoxed and liable to start counting backwards. TRUE STORY.

My mind is more likely to take off on its own tangent in the 40s and 50s. It’s just too much counting.

So I have found that I can be trusted to keep count up to 35. After that, I have to start over from 1 (one) and go back up to 35. So that’s what I do, I count to 35 twice.

Like I said, I hate counting to 70, but it’s a count I must figure out how to do.

In my life so far, I’ve had two careers. It looks to me like it’s time for me to start my third, the one that takes me though my 60s to at least my 70s, so I don’t end up bored with myself or feeling like I’ve accomplished a great thing because I ventured to a new bank branch office. I have no idea what that new venture will be, but I hope to swim my way there soon. I hope to have something worked out — a timetable, a Mission Statement, or a Wish List — to be Not Boring for my Glorious 60s — before the end of the year, and I will let you know what we have decided is the best way we can experience these last years of vitality.

Have a great weekend, my Dear Readers and Commenters, and I hope that whatever side of 70 you find yourself on, that you are still the fascinating and wily and cute creatures you’ve always been.

Stay away from the news, surround yourselves with fat fluffy cats, and, oh yeah, der Drumpf is is politically inept, morally barren, and temperamentally unfit for office.

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This was the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville on August 17, during a vigil for Heather Heyer, who was killed by an American Nazi on Aug. 12:

Photo credit: Jason Lappa for The New York Times

The ugliness that happened at Charlottesville because of torch-wielding “Unite the Right” assholes. . .

. . .  should not have come as any surprise, and der Drumpf is not solely responsible for giving American Nazis the confidence to march in the light of day. White supremacy is what the Republican party has been dog-whistling for decades. der Drumpf is only saying out loud what the party has been nudge-nudging/wink-winking since Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy. So, No, the GOP is not off the hook just because a few Republican politicians scold der Drumpf for his disgusting sympathy for the “fine people” of the alt-right.

What I think we should do, instead of tearing down the statues, is to paint over them, in big words: You Lost.  And for all those wonderful “Christians” who support the Drumpf agenda, we should add: Because God Was On Our Side. Get Over It, For Fuck’s Sake.

And if anyone wants to debate with you that the Civil War was about the glorious cause of state’s rights, remind them that the No. 1 state right that was fought over was the right to own slaves. And if anyone gives you that bullshit about the Stars and Bars being “just a battle flag”. . . ask them why they are proud of being on the losing side? Because they are such losers??

Oh, the hell with it. We should just let them secede. Florida’s going to go underwater away, and would anyone with a fully-functioning brain miss South Carolina?

BTW, those guys in the photo above are giving a Nazi Salute. Klansmen make the same salute, only with the left hand. So now you know.

Here’s a news item about confronting American Nazis that made me laugh. Yvette Felarca, a teacher in Berkley California, is facing assault charges in regards to her participation in a counter-demonstration against the alt-right in 2016, which led to a street brawl when the two forces faced each other. She was filmed hitting a brown-shirt. She wants all charges dropped. Her defense? It’s so pure, so plain: It shouldn’t be a crime to punch a Nazi.

LOVE IT. Also, Yvette Felacra is a teeny tiny Asian-American, so I bet her fists land like little pitty-pats on a big bad White Supremacist (who are all babies).

I know that I have lost Dear Readers of this blog since I started bad mouthing the imbecile in the White House. But here’s the thing: if you don’t speak up against this monstrosity, then your silence condones every perversion of language, truth, justice, and humanity that this der Drumpf piece of shit spews. It’s time to chose sides, people.

In Other News: I read two books last week, both of which I can recommend. This was my favorite:

 

(But skip the chapter about his favorite pornographer. All porn makes me ill.)

This is a collection of personal essays on the people and things that inspire John Waters. I have never seen a John Waters film. so I am not his built-in readership. But he’s such an odd fellow. . .Who wouldn’t want to read about how he got to be John Waters?

John Waters knows how to keep a story skipping across the pages and I read the whole thing in almost one sitting. YUM. But what I adore most about him is that he has a solid world view, one that is waaaaaay different than mine, but he’s so smart that he can articulate his values and esthetics with such vigor and humor that he makes me wish that I wasn’t so fussy about living a regular, normal life. For instance, I would never wear clothes that cost a ton of money just so I can look bad, but he does (by the famous-for-shredding-seams haute couturier Comme des Garcons) yet he succeeds in making me understand why someone like him (or, more accurately, him) does.  After reading those two millennial authors I discussed last week, whose work was froth, it was like gorging on pure protein to read words that had a long life (John Waters is 70 years old) to back them up, as if each word had a weight to it, a real heft, have stood the test of time and all, that made the story right juicy. And it was like champagne to read about someone his age (John Waters is 70!!) who is still challenging himself and the world to be more creative, less attracted to surface shine. Ah, so that’s how you age gracefully!

This book came out in 2007 but I just around to reading it now:

Joshua Ferris wrote about office work, and the culture there that assumes shape amongst co-workers. And not once did he resort to the usual shorthand — likening it to high school —  about the various roles each cubicle-person plays for the others. And there is a plot, in case that’s what you read fiction for. But mostly I liked the observations about meetings, looking busy, and waiting for the weekend. I did laugh out loud at one point, but then, I think the word “scumbag” is funny.

I’ve been thinking about the various offices I’ve worked in since my first office job in 1973. At one, in the 1980s for heaven’s sake, I was told that the old guy who went around kissing girls on the mouth was just a quirky “something that Ozzie did.” And when I recoiled at his approach to me, and told him No, thanks, some of the ladies criticized me for hurting his feelings.

For those readers in the Long Island area, the office was the inventory admin one at Fortunoff’s (on Fifth Ave) and I was not sad when they went out of business ten years later.

God, I’ve had a lot of crappy jobs.

And so we come to the end of this week’s post. I was laid low by the plague this past week, or something that certainly felt as deadly as The Black Death, so I am out of steam now and I didn’t get to the things that I had planned to write about . . . next week, then.

As bad as these days are, there is still some loveliness in the world. Here is a picture of a recent traffic jam in my little village :

And here’s a picture of some of those antsy Long Island drivers caught in that traffic jam:

Have a great weekend, every one. May all your driver’s seats be full of fluffy, unconditional love.

 

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Lord knows that we could all use a good laugh in these dark days of der Drumpf.

I’m not a laughy person, in general. I don’t chuckle at my own small talk, I don’t ha-ha when others punctuate their drivel with [seemingly] random jollity, I don’t chortle along with lame punsters. I hate puns. I’d rather punch a punster than  crack a polite smile. So let’s just stipulate that I’m a very straight-faced person.

So I am delighted to share with you two things that recently made me LOL, for reals.

I don’t care who knows this: I love the Real Housewives of New York. Mostly, I love them because I get to drink vicariously every time I tune in. Happily for me, in this season’s episode 17, they all went to Mexico for product research for Bethany’s Skinny Girl liquor brand, the product being tequila and the ROI being that they all got well and truly loaded. I’m talking Outstanding Television.

And then the Countess, LuAnn (was there ever a more hick/less Countessy name than LuAnn??), who is the tallest of the New York Housewives and quite the most pretentious, tried to walk away from the dinner table, and promptly  fell into the shrubbery.

This was  the best pic I could get of the incident, but I hope that you can see that she was not hurt, and that she kept giggling even as she struggled to get back upright (which she could not do — the waiters had wade into the bushes to pull her to her feet).

I’m still laughing. Not at her, but with her, because it does my heart good to see a woman in her 50s still making memories like that. For me, age 61, I’m pretty sure that my shrubbery-diving days are over, and maybe that’s why I don’t laugh enough.

Hmmmm. Food for thought.

The other spot of hilarity in my ho-hum life is that our Dear Reader and Commentor, Elizabeth, who is English, introduced me to a little society of English bloggers who all seem to know each other (mostly through their blogs) and all post the most delicious details about their everyday lives in various corners of Her Majesty’s realm. It’s like reading all the fascinating housekeeping bits from a Barbara Pym novel; the cupboard-clearings, the church rumble sales, the shopping for crisps, the gooseberry jam making — I love it.

About a week ago, one of the bloggers in Wales put up a wordless post, which was a  gif (a short video) from Disney’s The Jungle Book cartoon. It was about  a few seconds of beloved Baloo the bear, dancing:

He got 42 Comments, all taking a guess at what this blogger was celebrating with this joyous bit of dance, all from friends in the blog-o-sphere (remember, these people are English, and have an English sense of humor):

Comment: More in depth blogging.

Comment: I know, you’re dancing for joy because you get to revamp your kitchen?

Comment: It’s a bit blurry but clearly you have a unique dancing style. The little grass skirt really suits you.

Comment: If you turn around, are you bear arssed ?

Comment: Deep and meaningful.

And so on.

But my all-out favorite, the one that made me LOL, was:

Comment: You’ve reached your target weight at fat bastards club?

Now, that’s my kind of FUNNY. If I could figure out how to Comment myself on Blogger sites, I would have happily left my praise for such a happy band of like minds.

Speaking of like minds, I recently finished reading this book:

As far as being able to read a dictionary a page or two at a time, just for pleasure, John Simpson is my kind of guy. I can recommend this book to anyone who has ever wondered whether dictionaries wrote themselves, or what. It’s also a very English book to boot.

My favorite digression, one of many taken by the author, was about the word pom, which enlightened me about the close connection between Australian and English humor. (Yes, I’m italicizing English every time. It’s called a running gag.)

Pom, in case you don’t know your Monty Python routines , is what an Australian calls an Englishman. As defined by The Oxford English Dictionary, it is “an affectionate term of abuse” and that is why the Australians and English are funnier than us Americans. We only have nasty, rotten, hurtful, and ugly terms of abuse. We are too simple a people, too half-witted to have the subtlety and sophistication it takes to have an affectionate term of abuse. 

That’s funny.

There’s a slew of books, out now, written by millennial (barely 30 years old)  ladies, that are supposed to be funny. So far I’ve read:

Both these books are collections of autobiographical essays, so their subject matter is limited to: middle school, college, drinking, being 20-something broke, being a child in a dysfunctional family, and quite a lot about weight. Scaachi Koul is “chubby”, and Samantha Irby is “fat”. Samantha Irby is the better writer, but she uses a lot of F-bombs. A LOT. And she has digestive issues that she mentions almost every other page. Saachie Koul is Southeast-Asian Indian, and she needs to learn how to cut her word count in half. They are both very frank about bodily functions, and no indignity is off limits. Does that make them funny? They both make me miss Nora Ephron immensely.

Top Cat and I went to the movies, together, and saw The Big Sick. It’s a modern romantic comedy. You can tell it’s about millennials because the tag line includes their very favorite word of all freaking time: AWKWARD.

For me, there were four big laughs in it, but I can’t recommend it because the actress playing the girl friend has acute vocal fry. And OMG, what is it with millennials that they all have to be so grubby??? The lead guy has an apartment that is so grungy I’m amazed that a girl consented to spend the night there! I swear, the whole time I was dating (in real life) — which was many years, over my 20s, 30s, and 40s — I never had a date with a guy who had an apartment that scuzzy. And if I had, I would have made excuses and shot out of there like I had Crohn’s disease. (Thanks for that, Samantha Irby. I could have lived my life quite happily without ever knowing the details of chronic bowel inflammation.)

So as you see, I am doing my best to amuse myself these days, and not ending up in the bushes, even though, like I said, the thought has occurred to me.

But I promised you a Barbara Sinatra story last week, and here it is:

Barbara Sinatra, Frank Sinatra (Old Blue Eyes, Chairman of the Board — in the olden days they  used to give famous people fun nicknames) died on July 25. She was 90 years old.

Kevork Djansezian/AP

The Washington Post had the best obituary. I think the Post caught how down to Earth, and un-Hollywood she was.

In the Fall of 1994 I spent an afternoon in the Sinatras’ house in Palm Springs, CA because I was the Faberge expert for Christie’s auction house and the Sinatras had a Faberge collection they wanted appraised. For some reason, Christie’s decided that it would add glamour to the house call if I took the European Faberge expert wth me, a twerp who was supposed to be some Russian Prince. Actually, Alexi wasn’t as bad as some of the other Russian “nobility” I’ve met in the course of my work in Faberge, which has left me with a profound skepticism that the words “Russian” and “nobility” ever make sense together.

P.S. Most of them are broke and dumpy, but very impressed with themselves.

Mrs. Sinatra greeted us, and sat us in her living room, where the Faberge was kept in a glass-topped showcase/end table (all small bits: gold boxes, stone and crystal statues of animals and flowers, some nice enameled picture frames, if I remember correctly). I got these pix of Frank’s Faberge from the internets:

And then Mrs. Sinatra did something that no one in her position ever does, when Christie’s people are appraising: She offered us coffee.

She was the very rare client who did not make us Christie’s people feel like The Help.

I thought that was uncommonly gracious of her, I accepted, as did Alexi.

And I don’t even drink coffee. In fact, that cup of coffee in 1994 was both the first and last cup of coffee I’ve ever drunk.

And the other thing that impressed me about Mrs. Sinatra: In every, and I mean EVERY collection of Faberge, there are going to be fakes. It’s just a fact. So, of course, I spotted two or three fakes in  the Sinatra collection and gently explained to Mrs. Sinatra that Christie’s could not catalogue those times as Faberge.

And Mrs. Sinatra just nodded in agreement and said, “I was sure there were a few fakes. More coffee?”

THIS NEVER HAPPENS. Usually, people are so personally insulted when you inform them about fakes that they turn on you. They tell you that, why, just last week someone offered them tens of thousands of dollars for that very piece; or that they have a deep, deep  feeling that I’m wrong; or they snatch the time out of my hands and tell me that I can’t possibly know what I’m talking about even though appraising Faberge is what I do for a living and they, on the other hand, are dentists.

Mrs. Sinatra sat with us, making nice small talk until Alexi and I finished our appraisal. I remember she told me about having been married to Zeppo Marx before Frank, and how one of the older ladies in the California Christie’s office was an old friend of hers from their show girls days. She went into her bedroom, or maybe it was the vault, to fetch the diamond necklace that this old friend of hers calls the “Oh Shit” necklace, because whenever she (Mrs. Sinatra) wears it, people look at it and go, Oh, shit! It had a lot of big diamonds on it.

Then she asked if we’d like a tour of the grounds. Of course I said yes, and NO, we did not run into Frank. She took us into the office, and we were able to stand nose-to-nose with Frank’s Oscar for the Best Supporting Actor, 1953, From Here to Eternity.

You know, all these years I’ve been puzzled why I swear I remember seeing TWO Oscars on that shelf. I knew about the Supporting Actor one, so I’ve always assumed that my memory was wrong about that second Oscar. Just now, thanks to the internets, I have discovered that Frank DID win a second Oscar, in 1971, when he was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

Thank you, you glorious series of tubes.

Mrs. Sinatra also took us to see Frank’s train collection. (I got the following text off the inter webs because there’s no way I want to write about trains.)

The trains resided in a replica of an actual railroad station that was located in Ramsey, N.J. Sinatra crammed his station from the floor to the rafters with wooden display cases and shelves brimming with trains of every type and manufacturer. The huge layout dominated the center of the room. Five trains could be operated simultaneously on the layout while others ran on separate loops or around the ceiling. A prominent area of the layout depicted Frank’s hometown of Hoboken. Another area of the station served as a library nook for Sinatra’s many train books and periodicals.

Who knew that Frank loved model trains? Mrs. Sinatra pointed out the most recent bequest, a Japanese bullet train presented to him by some important person in Japan. The Prime Minister?

Anyhoo, I left Christie’s a year later, so I was not involved in the Dec. 2, 1995 auction of about $2 million of Mr. Sinatra’s household goods.But the Faberge estimates where all mine, baby.

Here’s how the Faberge did:

There were some 30 objects by Karl Faberge, all of which sold for a total of $818,685. Among them were two jeweled gold presentation boxes, made in St. Petersburg, which were bought by an unidentified Russian buyer for a total of $291,000.

And that’s my Barbara Sinatra story. Thank you all who voted to hear it.

Thank you for all you reading recommendations last week. I have already finished one of the books (The Cake and The Rain — AWESOME title!) that I might tell you about next week, so long as I don’t fall into any bushes and break an arm or something. I do have a Liz Smith story also, which I will have to tell you because it’s helped me decide what I’m going to do with my life, now that I don’t seem to be writing books any more. Next week, Dear Readers.

Have a great weekend, whether it’s Summer or Winter wherever you are.

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This Summer I’ve been trying out all kinds of new reading material, and most of them bore me to bits.

Science Fiction: I tried The Martian Chronicles, a “classic” written by Ray Bradbury in 1950, but even on Mars it’s the lady Martians who stay home and do the housework. Yawn.

I’ve tried mysteries. P. D. James is supposed to be the gold standard here, but she writes about a life on earth that I am unfamiliar with in that, say, when her poet/detective Dalgliesh declines the offer of a biscuit with his tea he does so with a gesture of sorrow, the likes of which I have no way of knowing what the hell that means. Her exposition is so over-wrought. Also, I loathe poets.

Fiction: If a book begins with a description of scenery, either of a landscape or a building, I’m outta there on page one. I also don’t want to read about Naples, Africa, Scandinavia, American university professors, zookeepers, anything with “Wife” or “Daughter” in the title, or autism.

Deckle-edge is also a mighty huge turn-off.

There is only one sure thing, as far as books are concerned. I can not pass up a memoir written by a famous person: guaranteed satisfaction every time.

Carole Bayer Sager is, in my opinion, a superstar. Her memoir They’re Playing Our Song is about her life, New York to Beverly Hills, which includes amazing success as a songwriter in the 1960s (Groovy Kind of Love) up to The Prayer (1999) to 2016’s Stronger Together. One of her BFFs was Elizabeth Taylor; she also worked with Michael Jackson and just about everybody in the music biz in the past 50 years. She wrote TWO songs for the Monkees!!!

The best bits are about her marriage to and divorce from Burt Bacharach. Hoo-boy, she does not like him. I read this book in one day and her hard-won ownership of her life gave me permission to write about something this week that I wasn’t sure I should, but here goes.

This past week I was very unkind to an old boyfriend, and I feel a little bad about it, but I’m pretty sure he deserved it.

I met a guy in Paris in the Summer of 1976. He, being of a soundly cliche intelligence and because it was a “cute meet”, decided that we were crazily fated to be meaningful to each other the rest of our lives, according to a fantasy he had that I was his Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

In modern parlance, we “hooked up” a year later n California, and then again in New York City 1982 – 83.

I moved on, but Old Boyfriend has remained stuck in this fantasy of “us” for the last 40 years. He likes to get in touch yearly to talk about how crazy we used to be (Big Deal: We went to street parties on Bastille Day in Paris), and how whacky we still were at heart, even though he had long ago opted for marriage and kids and crappy vacation snapshots of the family all wearing the same hawaiian shirt and Xmas newsletters.

I used to marvel at this delusion of our “bond” until it stopped being kind of funny/peculiarand started to annoy me that he was never the least bit interested in updating his info on me. He had zero curiosity about my life; he was still invested in the 20-year old me, long, long, long after I had become completely bored with her and had evolved into a much more fascinating creature.

About five years ago it all got too creepy so I finally told him that we have nothing in common, NOTHING, and I had no desire to continue these communications.

Carole Bayer Sager makes the same point in her marriage to Burt Bacharach (spoiler alert): Burt was never interested in her as the person she really was; he only wanted her to be his muse — he was only interested in his idea of her. I totally get that. In my puny way, I get that (see: below).

Lo and behold, last month Old Boyfriend drops an email to me. Two sentences, along the lines of I still think of Paris and hope you’re doing well. 

I let it sit in the ether for two weeks, then I emailed back: Life is spectacular. Being a Capricorn is starting to pay off: my 60s are so far a whole lot better than my 30s.

He emails back the same day:

Very good to hear and i agree that life in our 60s (still hard to believe) is and can be great.
 
Where are you living these days?
 
I was just trying to figure out when was the last time I saw you. Has it really been thirty years? Scary. 
 
Take care of you.

Let me tell you what exactly about this email made me crazy with resentment and hatred. It was the line: I was just trying to figure out when was the last time I saw you.

Really? How can he not remember? That night about 19 years ago? How can he not remember that time he came to New York from his home in L.A. in the late 1990s to tell me that he’s been “very good for 14 years” (he’d been married for 14 years by then) and now he needed some fun and was I up for “fun”? How could he not remember how he propositioned me to help him cheat on his wife?? And how he expected me to jump at the offer??

Back on that evening in the late 1990s which I remember so clearly, I remember that my first reaction, upon receiving his offer of “fun” was: Jesus Christ. He’s so boring that he doesn’t even have the balls to go out to a bar and find someone new; he has to fly to New York to look up someone he’s already known since the ’70s. I knew he was lazy and had no imagination, but I didn’t know he was this lazy.

The next moment my blood boiled. How dare he think that I would be tempted to have “fun” — with him???  As if I couldn’t do a whole lot better on any Tuesday in Midtown???

And then I was disgusted. This just proved that in the intervening two decades between Paris and that night in the late 1990s — years I had filled with travels, my own marriage and divorce, and few interesting change of careers — he had taken in nothing new about me that changed the fantasy he had of me in my 20s. In my 20s, when we met, I was a much free spirit in that I was getting as much information about life as I could so that, when I grew up, I could make connoisseur decisions about what I liked and disliked, what I valued and what I disowned, and who I wanted to be.

And there I was, a full-grown woman, and here’s Old Boyfriend acting as though he is someone who does not fall far, far, far below my high standards.

(Also, let me say that, morally, I do not approve of husbands cheating on their wives, and certainly not WITH ME.)

It was on the sidewalk in front of the Film Center Cafe (now shuttered) on 9th Ave in Hell’s Kitchen that I declined his offer, told him I had to go home, and left to catch my train back to Westchester. I never saw him again, but took a certain delight in getting periodic updates on his dopey humble-brags about his incredibly dull life. He goes to Amsterdam off season! His son is elected high school class V.P.! His daughter gets into a third-rate college!

So, yeah, when he wondered when was the last time I saw you, I wanted to reach out into the inter webs and punch him in the face.

But what really set me off was his follow-up query: Where are you living these days?

Carole Bayer Sager (author of the memoir I’m recommending as a great read) channels my feeling about this little query on page 283 of her excellent memoir. She’s at a Hollywood/Beverly Hills diner party with the rich and famous: [The diner guests] engaged in the usual feigned interest in what everybody had been up to, though, of course, if they cared, they’d have known.

If Old Boyfriend cared about what I’d been doing lately, he’d have known. I mean, it’s not like it’s hard to find me out there in the inter webs.

So I sent him a nasty response:

Really? “Where are you living these days?”
 
Have you heard of this thing called “Google”?
 
Try it. Oh, wait. That was one of the things that bored me about you. You aren’t very curious about anything that is outside of the teeny tiny sphere of “you”.
 
Dude. I’m in Russia, China, and South Korea, not to mention all the English-speaking countries of the world. Get your head out of your ass.

Yeah, that’s me after three glasses of wine and a little bit of Don’t You Know Who I Am? (I am the most famous Vivian Swift on the planet, after all. No brag, just fact.)

And wasn’t it extremely nice of me to pick on him for that, instead of reminding him of his disgusting 14th-wedding anniversary offer?

Old Boyfriend sends me his reply, and I have to admit it’s kind of classy:

So glad I reached out to you.
 
Have a good life.

Damn. I was really looking forward to having it out with him.

So I guess that after 40 years, this guy is out of my life for good. As they say in Paris, Meh.

Thank you, Carole Bayer Sager, for writing (page 205, about Burt): I will not miss his narcissism or his inability to ever really hear or see me.

Sam Shephard and Patti Smith in 1971

Patti Smith’s Old Boyfriend Sam Shephard died, and she wrote an obituary for The New Yorker. Oh lordy, I can’t stand Patti Smith: “…a cold, still night, when one could hear the stars breathing.”  Hearing stars breathe is the kind of thing a very pleased with herself 16-year old writes. And good god, what a name-dropper: she’s not even out of the first paragraph and she brings up Yves Klein in reference to  “a blue that might lead anywhere”. A blue that might lead anywhere??? What does that  fucking mean?? And so on, and so on. Every other sentence is an atrocity.

For the record, when Patti Smith name checks Yves Klein she’s ham-handedly alluding to how he’s the one artist who came closest to replicating the intense saturation of Majorelle Bleu, which you can read about in my posts filed under that category in the side bar to the right. P.S.: It’s a blue that leads to Marrakech but, OK, if you want to call it “anywhere” go ahead. Just don’t call it “nowhere”, as Patti does in paragraph 2: … a sliver of a many-faceted nowhere that, when lifted in a certain light, became a somewhere. Oh sweet jesus, she is such a shitty writer.

However, I mention this obit because this, the relationship between Sam Shephard and Patti Smith, as she tells it, is how people navigate a relationship through the decades from their dopey 20s to their mature 60s and 70s. They update each other on the workings of their inner lives, they listen to each other, and they give each other room for change; they keep track of the events and the transformations, and they adjust their understanding of the other accordingly. They do not keep harping on and on about The Way We Were.

Then again, it seems that Patti was happy to make herself available whenever  Sam called, at whatever hour of the day or night, used her as a sounding board when he wanted to hear his own voice. So maybe Old Boyfriends are all the same.

At least Sam Shephard was famous; my Old Boyfriend is just some guy with a condo in Long Beach.

Barbara Sinatra died on July 25 and I have a story about spending an afternoon in her house in Palm Springs and liking her immensely, but I got sidetracked and now this blog post is far too long and I haven’t even got to my weekly update on der Drumpf update because I care.

I could circle back to Mrs. Sinatra next week if you’re interested (let me know).

I’m only dealing with the little lies this week, as when der Trumpf brags that he got a phone call from the head of the Boy Scouts telling him that it was the “greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful.” THAT’S A QUOTE from der DRUMPF.

PHOTO: REUTERS/BRIAN SNYDER

Then der Drumpf brags that the president of Mexico called him to congratulate der Drumpf’s victory on keeping immigrants from crossing the border.

Then the head of the Boy Scouts apologized to the nation for the crudeness of der Drumpf’s speech to the Boy Scouts and their Jamboree, and said that no one from the head office of the Boy Scouts ever called der Drumpf; and the president of Mexico let it be known that he has never talked to der Drumpf on the phone. Never.

How does devout Christian Sarah Huckabee Sanders live with herself ? After assuring reporters that no, der Drumpf didn’t lie about those phone calls, it’s just that the conversations didn’t take place on the phone, and those conversations never happened? How do all the devout Christians who voted for this lying, deluded, dumb-as-a-bag-of-Cheetos piece of shit live with themselves?

You don’t have to answer. I think I already know.

It’s AUGUST everybody! For all you dear Commenters in the northern hemisphere, it’s the height of Summer and all our Summer fantasies have to some true now or never!

Thea, you will be glad to know that Top Cat finally kept me company out in the backyard last Sunday, as we were seated in our sun set-watching devices, remarking on the beauty of the end of the day. He opened a prized bottle of St-Emilion and after one sip his exact words were: “Why have I been denying myself one of the greatest pleasures known to man?”

And for Jeanie and Becky, who loves a good Lickety pic, this is for you (taken over two days):

We have a smoked-glass dining room table. For some reason, Lickety has decided that Top Cat’s place mat on the dining room table is where he wants to nap lately.

Because some readers have recently sent me emails about not being able to Comment on this blog : Click the READ MORE button on the bottom of this latest chapter of my molehill life, scroll down, and leave a Comment. It’s a design flaw that I can’t seem to code out of.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers. I hope all your naps are on the cool, hard surface of your dreams.

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Let’s not talk about the latest bullshit that der Drumpf has concocted to distract from the fact that he is a sniveling manboy in hock up to his eyeballs to Putin; let’s talk about how awesome it’s going to be to watch der Drumpf’s staff blow up each other until all that is left is a pus-filled carcass that is the true heart of the der Drumpf administration. (One word, synonymous with “lighting the stick of dynamite”: Scaramucci.)

Just another Drumpf staffer, making ‘Murica great.

Even thinking of der Drumpf probably makes you feel dirty. So let us cleanse our psyches by going to a land where ass-holery is not so highly revered, such as Australia. . .

If it’s CUTe you’re looking for, you can always count on a wallaby.

. . . or Canada . . .

Just think. But for the 48th parallel, he could have been OURS.

(Just to compare the awesome body language of a real high-quality manly man who is smart and worldly and has accomplished beaucoup on his own v. the weird posing of a snot-nosed mini-turd chip-off-the-block of a cess pool, regardez-vous, s’il vous plait🙂

. . . or my house. Here’s my sweet mama cat Candy with her oaf son, Lickety, on our cookbook shelf in the dining room when it was 95 degrees last week and snoozing in a sun beam was not an option:

That doesn’t look all that comfortable to me but I have to trust that even my cats know where the cool spots are even though, in the brain power department, my cats are rather like the night-lights you switch on in the brain power department when the store is closed and it’s midnight. Because they’re cats: Pure id, fulfilling the pleasure principle.

Speaking of our stemware collection, many months ago Top Cat, for no reason other than curiosity, decided to go gluten-free. Fine: He substituted his half-a-bagel at breakfast for a rice cake, he cut back on the Doritos, he cheated every Saturday with ciabatta, and he lost 5 pounds. Then, inevitably, since he was not snacking as heartily as he used to, he cut out his usual side dish to his Cool Ranch Doritos:

He quit drinking.

So it’s been almost a month that he’s been dry and last Sunday he told me that I should quit drinking, too, because it’s not healthy that I drink every day.

First of all: Every Day??

I WISH. 

Oh, how I wish that the usual laws of physics did not apply to me so I could have two glasses of wine (OK, three.) (OK! OK! Four.) every day and not end up looking like this:

Or this:

Yes, Lickety is the Otis of our house.

Oh well. It’s useless to argue facts with a person once he has entered the Come to Jesus phase of his self-improvement regime.

So now, in addition to making it through the all the school nights of the week (that’s Monday thru Thursday) and counting the hours until Friday’s blessed arrival of the 5 o’clock angel, I will have to enjoy my beverage[s] in private, sitting in my room by myself watching reruns of Deep Space Nine. Which actually sounds like a pretty hot date: I have a thing for Gul Dukat. (Well, who doesn’t??)

I have to admit that my weekendly rendez-vous with my favorite Pinot Grigiots or white Bordeaux is one of the least boring, nay, most fun things I do, period. I’ve never particularly liked the things that other girls liked: the shopping, the make up, the long phone calls, the crafting get-togethers, “networking”, or beer. I tried a book club but the prospect of reading that much fiction kind of made me want to puke. I have zero interest in quilting. Seriously: Can you see me getting into flower arranging?? No, I am NOT joining a church, or a bluegrass band, or, honestly, anything that involves putting up with other people. The things that some people find fun, well, they bore me.

In April I signed up for Sign Language classes at our local library — that’s been . . . well. . . not exactly fun, but not exactly not fun either. It’s been engrossing. I’m not bored! And I found a delightful study buddy in that class: we meet every Sunday to teach ourselves the signs for our favorite Beatles songs, and then we have wine. That’s fun.

So this past Monday I met with the instructor of ASL at Hofstra University for an evaluation, as I am considering taking my interest in American Sign Language to a new level and I was hoping that I’d test out of the university’s Beginner classes. That evaluation was not fun, because it turns out that taking an ASL class at your library does not, in any way, equip you with the rudimentary conversation skills it takes to hold your own with a fluent, native [deaf] signer. She asked me what I did for work and where I lived and why I wanted to learn ASL, and all I wanted to do was show her that I knew the words to Yesterday.

This week I also taught myself how to make Greek spinach pie. It wasn’t FUN, but it wasn’t not FUN either. Maybe my standards for FUN are too high?

Thank you for your compliments, last week, about my foray into fashion design. I wear that top all the time, and I love it. So, yeah, that was fun. And thanks, Christine, for the nice comment on my hair. I’m letting it get longer for no reason other than my stylist is taking the Summer off. I like it so far, but I don’t want to go long again, I think.

Patricia: When I got home from the hospital emergency room, the raccoon 9see: last week’s post) was still sitting on top of the fence. His foot was not stuck; he was just sitting there. This was not a well raccoon. So I called Animal Control and a guy came and scooped him up in a net and he was euthanized, because fence-sitting for hours at a time is not normal raccoon behavior. His brain was tested and that’s how I got the all-clear re: rabies.

Ann: Would I do that again, put my hands on a raccoon? Nope. I’d call in the professionals at Animal Control asap. I’ll stick to feral cat rescue from now on.

Merci, Margot: Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored — I’m in. Thanks for the recommendation. *Sigh* I do need more fun. Or more wine.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

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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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