Stories from my molehill life.

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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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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IT Tech Lickety in search of internet gremlins.

My internet service keeps crapping out at t

Let’s start again: There must be a blockage in one of the series of tubes that make up the internet because I can’t se

Short and fast: The gremlins are at it again. I can’t get decent internet

but I have my crack team of IT techs on it so as soon as I

get more than intermi

ttant service I will regale you all with th

e latest

news etc. in VivianWo

rld. Meantime, go make a cup of tea and take a break f

rom, you know, the int

er

webs.

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I have to say that curiosity has the opposite effect on me.

Curiosity is what keeps me energized and ornery, in a way that is generally known as “being alive”. It’s the lack of curiosity that I find exhausting.

This is a picture of my desk that I took in June 2015, when I finished my last book, Gardens of Awe and Folly:

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And this is how it looks today . . .

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. . . still waiting for the Goddess of Curiosity to grant me one thing that piques my interest, or even half a thing on which I can elaborate. Or a third of a thing that I can pad with footnotes and one-sentence chapters (for page count).

As of this chilly, dreary, edge-of rainy October morning, nothing in the intervening 16 months has lit the proverbial light bulb, nudged the envelope, out-thought the box, or slapped me upside the head with a transcendental “Doh!“.

There is a hash tag trending in London these days (“hash tags” are how the kids mind meld these days) called #winterprep and I am all for it.

Winter Prep is on my mind today. I’ll be sharing my brilliant #winterprep ideas with you all soon (without the annoying hash tag and with proper capitalization, since we here are not illiterate millennials) but in the mean time, let’s let Taffy, Alpha Cat, take us out, looking forward, on a once-perfect Autumn day:

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Have a perfect weekend, Wonder Ones.

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Patricia, Jeanie, Kirra, Deb, and Magan all voted Yes to that chair last week. So I went back to take another look at it, but (as oft happens in the Home Goods World) it was gone. I am really not too upset about missing the chance to enthrone myself on a chaise a la Montgolfiere because if you look closely, the hot air balloon depicted in the splat was a tiny bit deflated compared to the original at the Musee Carnavalet:

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But Home Goods never disappoints. I came home with this:

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Wine bottle for scale.

It’s  “Wall Art”, a taxonomy that in itself I found thought provoking. When did we start modifying the word “art” with the surface from which it is to be regarded?

I jest. For Home Goods shoppers, “Wall Art” makes a ton of sense. This bit of Wall Art was captioned 86 rue de Rennes.

I was captivated by this hi-res reproduction of a photographed gussied up to look like a painting because I know the Rue de Rennes in Paris:

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The Rue de Rennes is in the heart of the Latin Quarter’s 6th arrondissement.

I had to know: Is there such a place as 86 rue de Rennes???? A quick check of Google Earth confirmed it:

 

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THAT’S THE DOOR!! I don’t know how “they” (whoever produced this piece of Wall Art, who I cannot locate on the inter webs with the info that I got from the Home Goods packaging), as I was saying I don’t know how “they” got away with plastering this image of a private home on a commercial product to be sold in the U.S., if not the world. The French are highly , not to say neurotically touchy about their privacy and I bet there are laws against this (which makes owning it seem even more exciting). I will have to ask my French friends about this.

In my house there is not a wall that is currently available to host this view of 86 rue de Rennes, so its fate it as yet TBA.

And speaking of finding a familiar face in the strangest of places. . .

. . . there I was, last week, sitting at my computer, watching Super Mensch, The Legend of Shep Gordon  on Netflix (because I recently heard him interviewed on NPR):

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Shep Gordon is a music industry legend, beginning when he rocked up to a Los Angeles motel in 1965 and got punched in the eye by Janis Joplin. Jimi Hendrix told Shep that since he’s Jewish, he should be a manager — a suggestion that put Gordon on his fabulously successful career path. As a manager his clients have included Alice Cooper, Blondie, Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross, Ann Murray, and Emeril Bagasse to name a few. Along the way, Gordon became friends with just about every celebrity you can name. Mike Myers was so bowled over by this man’s life and stories that he put this project together to make his directorial debut.  Supermensch, a love letter of a documentary, that proves Myers’ opinion that Shep Gordon  “is one of the most loved, if not the most loved person in show business I’ve ever met”.

So I’m watching this documentary, wondering how one person could have so many lucky breaks in life and be lucky enough to make utmost use of those lucky breaks (in my experience, luck is nothing unless it’s matched with gumption and a willingness to forgo the self-sabotage), when a black and white photograph flashes on the screen:

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Shep Gordon is the guy in the terrible jacket, on the set of an Alice Cooper music video in New York City in 1974.

And, standing next to him in the glasses wearing a the Keystone Cops uniform and fake mustache, that’s me:

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Boy, was I surprised. I did not know that there was photographic evidence, no matter how fuzzy-focused, of one of the worst hair cuts I’ve ever had. It was supposed to be a very cool, with-it,  rock and roll shag. . .

Susan Saint James, ca.1971. (Photo by Universal Television/Tribune/Getty Images)

Susan Saint James, ca.1971. (Photo by Universal Television/Tribune/Getty Images)

. . . but what I got was a bowl-cut country and western “do”:

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And the short bangs killed me. Good lord, I hated that hair cut. And now, just because I was in an Alice Cooper music video because my aunt was married to the directo, the whole world gets to see my terrible ’70s face for all of the 1 seconds that the image flickers onto the eyeballs of a totally indifferent viewing audience.

I know that we all have our own reasons to be glad our 20s are over. You now know mine.

Have a great and lucky weekend, Wonder Ones.

 

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Sure looks like the Champs-Élysées to me:

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Guess again!

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Right: That’s the Empire State Building as seen from 29th Street in New York City, which I viewed on my walk to the Dutch Reformed church on 29th and Fifth on the evening of Sept. 29. I’m going to see Elizabeth Gilbert!

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Life is so unfair. Liz Gilbert gets to do an author event on a stage such as this (see above) while I, on my first author event EVER, got the children’s department at a Barnes and Nobel store in Yonkers where I had to stand under a poster of Captain Underpants. Obviously, someone there had judged my book by its cover . . .

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. . . and decided it was a children’s book.

Well, that’s what you get for not selling 20 million copies. But I’m not whining. Well, not much. Because I’m going to see Elizabeth Gilbert in person!

Elizabeth Gilbert’s very cool historic church event was ticketed and, OF COURSE, sold out :

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Yes, you found him: that guy in the rainbow serape did get up to ask a question and he was crazy: mostly he wanted to tell Liz that she had called on him before at another event a year ago!!! and then complain how hard it is to make people love you.

Liz handled this guy with gentle humor and decisive kindness (got him to shut up without embarrassing him), which is how she spoke about her own struggle to stay engaged and productive while coping with all the demands of living an aware, open, adventuresome, and truthful life.

If you ever have the chance to see Elizabeth Gilbert speak about putting Big Magic to work in helping you deal with adversity, frustration, sadness, fear, perfectionism, and all those other things that prevent you from breaking free, you must go. Hey! Bainbridge Island! Liz is coming your way in March!

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This evening at the Collegiate Dutch Reformed Church of Manhattan was made possible by the newly released paperback version of Big Magic (the book):

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If you go to Liz’s Facebook page you can find a delightful and insightful video of her talking more about Big Magic . . . and, if you are very eagle-eyed, you will spot something quite  fabulous on her bookshelf:

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See it now?

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Yep. That’s my very own, un-related to Captain Underpants book, When Wanderers Cease to Roam.

In the past, Liz has said and written very nice things about my books — she even blurbed my second one, Le Road Trip. And when my recent book came out in March, she graciously included it on her Spring Reading list:

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OK, now I think I’ve accomplished everything I set out to achieve when I became a writer.

SPEAKING OF EAGLE EYES:

I was in my “Happy Place” (Home Goods) last week when I spotted this:

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I love, adore, cherish, and covet this chair!

I loved it back in 2013, when I saw it in Paris, on display at the Musee Carnavalet:

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And I loved it back in 2006, when I first saw it in my New Orleans hotel — the St. Louis (in the French Quarter) :

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I loved it so much that I made an illustration of it in 2009 for a book about Adventures in Tea Time that I never did:

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So, if you happen to come across this chair in your “Happy Place” (your local Home Goods), now you will know that it is a Chaise a la Montgolfiere,  so called after the brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier, who ushered in the modern era of flight in 1783 when they demonstrated their invention, the hot-air balloon, at Versailles in the presence of King Louis XVI and his court. This successful exhibition before royalty made the Montgolfier brothers national heroes, and started a mania for all things baloony. The term montgolfière was applied to decorative arts, hair fashions, and dresses:

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But getting back to the chair at Home Goods: This is not a cheap chair. It cost $249.99 at Home Goods, which is not in my budget even though it is the only one I’ve seen that comes with arm rests!!!

Vintage 1020s or 1950s reproductions of this chair are even more dear: they go for around 645 Euros ($710.11 American) each.

But I’m not whining. Well, not much. Because as soon as I sell 20 million copies of my books, you all know what I’m forking over an insane amount of money for:

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And so, my Dear Readers, Remember: this blog comes to you free every Friday, so please support my continued presence in this totally gratuitous endeavor by giving everyone  on your Christmas, Hannukah, and Kwanzaa list a copy of a V. Swift book. Tell them Liz Gilbert’s bookshelf told you to.

I’m just 19,999, 950 copies away from getting my dream dining room!

 

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It’s a busy Monday morning at the Starbucks in the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. As I wait in line to order my cup of tea I ponder things.

How many wombats can you fit in a wheelbarrow? Is Freud’s theory of personality still relevant? Should I get a DoG?

Observing the young lady strolling past the food court, I wonder about girls who wear teeny short cut off jeans and big tall leather boots: Is that a thing?

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I looked it up, and I guess it is.

For narrative purposes, I’ll say I had this thought, too: That squirrel I watched in my back yard, eating cream cheese off a fork — was that the cutest thing or what?

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Point is, I had plenty of time to think there at the Starbucks. But I snapped to attention when I saw that I had shuffled to the head of the line and I was on deck to place my order. When one of the two baristas on duty called out, “Can I help the next guest?” (they don’t just yell NEXT at Starbucks), I walked right up to the counter and spoke up, loud and clear: Small English breakfast tea, please fill it only 2/3rd full, and one croissant you don’t have to heat it up thank you.”

Then the other barista called for the next guest, and the next guest/woman behind me seemed to be very surprised to find herself on line at Starbucks. Oh! “the next guest” exclaimed, Oh! Um, hmmm…um…what I want…um…hmmmmmm…. And she frantically scanned the menu board above.

Wow, I thought to myself: You’ve been standing on line for 7 minutes and you don’t know what you want??? Are you always an asshole or is this a special occasion? Because, as we all know, it should come as no surprise that when you stand on line at Starbucks, sooner or later you’re going to have to order.

But then I decide to give humanity the benefit of the doubt:

She’s having a real hard time spitting it out, I think. WOW! Her order must be very complicated — one of those secret off-the-menu S’mores frappacino/non-dairy foam from Jupiter/ wave a degree from Cornell over it things that I’ve heard about. 

I eagerly awaited her choice. And then, after lengthy hesitation, she, the next guest/ Starbucks customer, finally summoned the language she needed to ask for:

An iced coffee.

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These days, I’ve been wondering how I can fill all the hours that used to be taken up by book-writing, now that these days, there isn’t a book that needs me to write it. I have very few options.

I can not do customer service because, present company excluded, I hate “customers” (see: Starbucks story above). I can’t do reality TV because I don’t want to frighten the cats by having a film crew stomping around my house. I can’t be Susan Branch because I’m waaaaay too damn cranky.

And it seems that there is no money in collecting Blue Jay feathers, which is really all I want to do these days.

By the way, on a day when I was not looking for Blue Jay feathers I had 3 feathers delivered to me, such as like this:

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Ca-ching!

Sadly, the only thing I’m half good at is watching paint dry:

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I’m painting a large (or should I say, Venti) view of the Chelsea Physic Garden. In my world, that’s 8 inches x 10 inches. But I got as far as this foreground bush (above) when I messed it up. It’s too dark — that’s a problem I often have: I load on the color too much, and I like it when the watercolor has a lot of water in it. I tried to rescue it by painting a layer of white goauche over it:

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But that looked really stupid. So I started over, this time from the background:

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And then I forgot to take in progress photos until the end:

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It’s all about the crop. This:

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Or this:

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That’s it, my Dear Readers, that’s all I got this week. Well, that’s almost it:

Thank you for the love you gave my girl, Dame Helen Mirren, last week. I liked how I was close enough to get the spill-over! THANK YOU!

And, to follow up on having my article on my Top Ten Garden Books published by The Guardian last week, I got some push-back by a Commentor there who did not like my criticism of John Muir’s writing and wrote:

How appalling to open by denigrating John Muir who did more for the world than you surely will ever do. He helped found the first national park system which spread worldwide and caused more good in the world than any other conservation measure. You say you thrill like one of the bloggers to Marvell’s work; hard to believe. Muir is a beautiful writer who saw interconnection in all things. That vision remains desperately undernourished and misunderstood today.

Write your own books, fine, but think about the cost of rubbishing a fine thinker.

I wrote back a message that told her, in effect, that she should go soak her head, and she responded:

Nice person! True colours at last.

Try reading, thinking, understanding rather than resort to crudity. That is the last resort of the weak minded. Also, I don’t think you should be paid for writing this kind of language. It is appalling.

Ha! I wrote back: If you think I’m forfeiting the million dollars that The Guardian paid me to write this article…I’m laughing all the way to the bank!

I really can’t stand people.

So that’s what I was doing in Atlantic City this past Monday:I was looking to invest my windfall (journalism is so lucrative!) in property and I’d always fancied owning a casino. But since the Borgata. . .

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. . . isn’t for sale, I had to search for other investment opportunities. I settled on buying the sunset:

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So, appalled Guardian Commentor, if it’s twilight where you are and the sun is setting, don’t look at it. It’s mine.

Here’s the latest portrait of Dennis Whiskabottoms, with his newly-tipped ear:

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See you all here next week, my Wonder Ones, with more stories from Down Time on the Isle of Long.

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It’s like finding an early morning treasure when I come across Dennis, our recently-acquired feral freeloader, on the back patio when I go out to feed him at 6 o’clock in the morning — isn’t this a great way to start the day?:

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And, sometimes, there’s other treasures out there, awaiting me:

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You might remember that in last week’s blog post I demanded that the Universe send me a damn Blue Jay tail feather (for my collection). Well, later that same day, after sending my peevish request out into the infinite benevolent indifference, I was cleaning out my refrigerator and I smacked my head really hard and good against the corner of the freezer door handle, and it hurt like being jabbed with a hot pocker and smacked with a sledgehammer at the same time (I’m guessing) and is an injury that is only possible because I have this kind of out-of-style refrigerator:prod_2041918312

A bump on the head is how the English actress Natasha Richardson died (in 2009) and is what killed Michel de Montaigne’s brother (in 1569). So I took care to notice any symptoms of double vision or confusion the rest of the day until bedtime, at which time I warily laid myself down to sleep with the thought that if I don’t die during the night, I would most likely wake up the next morning and sincerely thank my lucky stars (and you well know that in my case, I do that literally; the “stars” being the Sun and Deneb Algedi).

And I did wake up the next morning, and the first thing I did do was promise the day that I would love it and treasure it. And then I forgot about it as I got out of bed and put Top Cat’s coffee on and fed the indoor cats and cleaned litter boxes and headed out to the back yard to give Dennis Whiskerbottoms his breakfast. And then came the small jolt of electricity when I saw the Blue Jay feather right at my tootsies.

Without meditation, without searching, even without being the least bit mindful of my endless quest for Blue Jay feathers and their purpose to remind me to pay astonished attention to life, there was my treasure, as if delivered right directly to me. I was reaching down to grab it into my chubby mitt when I remembered that such a momentous find needed to be photographed in situ:

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I know it looks staged, but I can’t help it if the Universe is a tad ham-handed when it comes to depositing Her gifts at the feet of a wretch like me, and I promise that this is a true story:

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And yeah, it’s a tail feather.

I KNOW! Life is like a dream! If, that is, you dream of Blue Jay feathers! Thank you, Blue Jays and Universe!

You know who else gives me dreams?

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I have Taylor Swift to thank, from the bottom of my heart, every time I make a reservation or leave a message or make an appointment and I don’t have to spell my last name, S like Sam, W, I, F like Frank, T like Tom. And it would still end up as Smith or, most of the time during the 11-year run of the television show M*A*S*H, Swit.

Loretta Swit is a fine actress and exemplary animal rights and military veteran rights activist, but I don’t like her last name and I absolutely hated the inevitable “joke” whenever a stranger heard my name: Any relation to Hot Lips, ha ha?! I must have heard that “joke” thousand times in my 20s. No wonder I can’t stand people.

Taylor Swift is her generation’s Joni Mitchell, a brilliant singer/songwriter dream girl who is always ahead of fashion, and always has the hottest boyfriends. (If you don’t know Joni’s dating history, here’s partial list from back when these guys were the topper-most hot guys: James Taylor, Graham Nash, Jackson Browne, and I think one or two of the Byrds.)

Until recently, Taylor Swift was the long-time girlfriend (15 months, which is almost a decade in famous pop star years) of a handsome, 32-year old  6’5″ multi-millionaire DJ and Scotsman named Calvin Harris:

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They were such a cute couple. But they did break up and shortly after they went to splitsville, I began having infrequent but repetitive dreams that I was back in my 20s. That alone would be a most excellent reason for me to wish for 12 hours of sleep every night, but wait there’s more. In my dreams, there’s also a young man, courting me, with a fervor and sweetness that only happened once in my real 20s, back when a book shop co-worker confessed that he had a crush on me and thought I was so adorable that if I were a dog, I’d be a collie.

I dreamt of that same scenario last night, only this time the dog-allusive young man gave me a gift that I was able to inspect in detail, and then later remember in detail after I woke up. It was a necklace, a fine gold chain on which were strung white pearls alternating with polished rock crystal spheres of a very beautiful type. Namely, colorless rutilated quartz:

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Photo from the internet, curtesy of mineralminers.com.

I guess you can tell that I am a certified gemologist (from waaaaay back); I hardly ever dream of jewelry but when I do, I tend to be very specific about the gems. But rutilated quartz? That’s a new one. I didn’t know I liked it enough to dream about it. (FYI: I can not think of a way to put pearls and rutilated quartz beads on a gold chain, since piercing the quartz would pretty much ruin the effect of the rutile inclusions.)

It was while I was pondering upon this jeweled necklace that I figured out why I was dreaming these weird happy dreams of dating.

It’s because I’ve been closely following Taylor Swift’s new romance with the elegant and sexy actor Tom Hiddleston because yes, I read the Daily Mail.com every day so sue me.  Tom Hiddleston is 35 (9 years older than Taylor), 6’2″, from a very classy family, English with a Scottish father, Eton and Cambridge educated. They met at the 2016 Met Gala and, in my opinion, he fell for her like a ton of rutilated quartz and swept her off her feet as soon as she became available. I like her with him.

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So I’ve been feeding my mind lots of Taylor Swift romance and my brain only hears the Swift part before it jumps to conclusions, i.e., that the Swift it knows best is the Swift who was once favorably compared to a collie, so I’m dreaming about my old romance when I was Taylor Swift’s age. I’m old enough to have been Taylor Swift’s kindergarten teacher. Should I feel creepy?

Other follow-up from last week: I did make contact with the Cat Lady three streets over and she graciously gave permission to TNR her crew of feral freeloaders, so: YAY! Master trapper Susan has captured 9 of these guys so far, including the very sick one that we were out worried about.

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Three Desperados (out of 15)

And as for Steve, well, he’s still Steve on our front stone wall, sleeping off a two-course dinner of Friskie’s Turkey & Giblets pâté and more Friskie’s Turkey and Giblets pâté, and dreaming of a three-course dessert of Friskie’s anything:

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And, without segue, here are pictures from my little village on July 4th, Independence Day, America’s 240th birthday:

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And, for obvious reasons, my favorite:

P1080282Sweet dreams, everyone.

 

 

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In 2001 I made a list:

  1. Write a book.
  2. Get it published.
  3. Get married.
  4. Kiss a tiger.

I made this list because my life was in book-less and date-less rut and I’d heard that writing such a list would help me create a future where all my dreams would come true. Long story short, it worked.

I crossed off Items #1, #2, and #3 in pretty short order  (6 years) And then I had a third book published that did not top the New York Times best seller list, and then I sat next to a guy on an airplane who would not stop talking about his 9-year old grandson (he reads blueprints!) who made me depressed (the children of children of total strangers are of less than zero interest to me), and then I got a filthy nasty cold, which made me even more depressed (I’m a bit of a whiner), and then life looked once again to be as deeply dug into a deep rut as ever before, and then I threw myself a pity party and I blogged about it.

I should have known that all you Dear and Wonderful Readers would give me exactly the pep talk I needed to, in the words of that great humanitarian, Cher, Snap out of it. Oh, I’m still pretty sure that I don’t have another book in me, and I know that that basically makes me 60 years old and unemployed, which is definitely not where I want to be at this time in my life, but hey! I’m all grown up and I’ve got Ray Charles singing my new theme song and not cutting my bangs anymore!

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This is me in 4th grade. I am 8 years old. This top had a matching skirt. Even at this age, I was aware that childhood sucked.

Good news: My first book, When Wanderers Cease to Roam, currently “out of stock” (meaning, practically, “out of print”, the worst thing that can happen to an author) WILL go into a second printing! Copies should be available by Fall (Northern Hemisphere Fall, that is) so everyone can rush out and keep extra copies on hand for holiday gift-giving. My spare copies come in very handy as tea trays:

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Cindy uses her copy as night table:

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And yes, I took the time to stage two photographs because I have absolutely nothing better to do, since I’m unemployed and all.

Gooder news (for me, anyway, and this post is all about cheering me up up so it counts): Gardens of Awe and Folly is being published in the UK on July 15, which I only found out because the London office of Bloomsbury (my publisher) contacted me about it. They had been contacted by The Guardian newspaper, because apparently the Guardian cares about V. Swift and her gardens, and they want V. Swift (me) to write about the GoAaF and my 10 favorite garden books. So from hence forth my biography will read: Her writing has appeared in such name-dropping-worthy journals as The Guardian. 

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Well, some people would be impressed.

And the Goodest news: I’ve got a new ginger kitty showing up for breakfast. . . 

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Between me and Joanne, my neighbor, we named him Dennis Whiskabottoms.

. . . and I’m not even tired of my old ginger kitty yet!

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I have settled on being satisfied with smooching these doofus felines since they are as close as I’ll get to crossing off that last Item on my famous list of 2001, #4, Kiss a tiger, and I’m OK with that. About a year ago I started to seriously look into completing my list and soon discovered that there seems to be no ethical way to Kiss a tiger, any where in the world. I am ashamed to have ever let such a thought enter my mind: Whatever tigers might be available for kissing are typically drugged or mistreated into submission and I do not want to be a part of that, no way, no how. Here’s the news flash: tigers are not meant to be kissed. Or petted, or put on leashes, or kept in your back yard. They are meant to be left alone, in their native habitats, to be their solitary, apart-from-humans, and magnificent selves. So no tiger-kissing for me.

So what this means to me, the main character in my life, is that as of now, I am list-less, well and truly listless. I need a new list. 

That list of 2001 came to me in about 20 seconds. . . I suspect that my new list will take a bit longer. 

But, as you have read (above), it’s not all bad. Some of it is good, and gooder. Little by little, I’m finding reasons to wake up every day and say to myself, Oh, what a beautiful morning!

I hope your morning, this and every other one, is beautiful too.

 

 

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—-Yes, I forgot to turn on the Comments for this post, but I have corrected that so please read on and confess your latest buyer’s remorse!–

Now, back our regularly scheduled post:

I bought new shoes last week.

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The thing is that I got up one day last week, put on decent clothes that I wear when I go out of the house instead of the duds I usually wear (which make me look homeless), I put on make up, I found my car keys, I got in my car, I drove to a store, I tried on various kinds of shoes, and the whole time I was stone cold sober. And, after all that effort, I bought these shoes, completely forgetting that wearing high heels is freaking torture. I can’t stand high heels.

I don’t know what I was thinking, buying these high heels, which is so unlike the stuff I’ve bought online after a few glasses of wine, in which case I know EXACTLY what I was thinking.

Two weeks ago, under just those boozy conditions I mentioned, I bought this from eBay:

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It’s a vintage 1960s music jewelry box that plays I Could Have Danced All Night

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…and inside it has a fuzzy round thing with a bit of orange plastic on its face and a felt flower-like thing on its head (allegedly this is a bird) that spins around while the music plays. I remember thinking, I HAVE TO HAVE THIS!!! Because I had a jewelry box (with a ballerina twirling inside) made in Japan just like this, that played I Could Have Danced All Night when I was a small girl. Every once in a while quaffing the elixir of the gods I roam into eBay looking for my old jewelry box so when I found this I thought, Well, it’s half right…and half right is better than not having a jewelry box that plays I Could Have Danced All Night, right?

Same few glasses of wine, different day, I was on eBay buying this CD from a seller in Norway:

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It cost about three times as much as your usual CD, but I had to have it because I had heard these guys sing that old Leonard Cohen (Hallelujah) song on You Tube and I had really liked it, even tho I am not a Leonard Cohen fan. In fact, I loathe with a passion that stupid song, Suzanne: she’s touched your perfect body with her mind???? What a perv. But I like it when four Norwegian guys get together and sing Hallelujah. I’m unpredictable that way.

So, although I have never listened to this expensive Norwegian CD, I liked having it so much that I also bought this:

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Which I have never listened to either but, one day, when I get the urge, I just might, and that’s what makes owning it worth it.

I’m also a fan of eBay in the UK, which is where I got this:

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I saw this for sale and I thought, I HAVE TO HAVE IT because I could sew this onto the back of my leather jacket so everyone will know what my favorite punk band of the 1970s is, as soon as I buy a leather jacket. See? There’s a whole complete thought process.

This is another eBay UK must have of mine:

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Hand embroidered, and already framed, I saw this and thought: I HAVE TO HAVE IT because it brought back memories of being in London that Summer of 1977 of the Silver Jubilee, seeing punk kids with my own eyes and being terrified by them, and being rained on for days on end, wearing bell bottoms and learning to order tea “black” or else you always get milk in it, using pay phones that “pipped”… those memories are priceless. This purchase was worth every cent it cost to ship it across the pond.

One evening not so long ago, me and my bottle of wine fetched this up out of the eBay zeitgeist:

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I HAD TO HAVE THIS because this is what the future looked like to me, as a 9-year old in 1965: I was going to be a teenager with my own Princess phone in Acapulco Blue and I was going to spend too much time on it talking to my friends about boys, and I’d drive a Mustang convertible and go to dances and be popular. None of that happened — not one iota of that came true — but I still love the design of the Princess phone and this one is cat-sized!!! And now that you’ve seen it I know that every one of you Dear Readers is mad with envy, which is what owning stuff is all about.

And then there was the time that I HAD TO HAVE this:

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A desert plate because, you know, thistles.

I don’t think you need to have downed half a bottle of Pinot Grigio to get why I HAD TO HAVE this:

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An 8-inch tall glass bottle of vintage Avon perfume in the shape of the Eiffel Tower???? No explanation necessary, just buy it and congratulate yourself.

By the way, on the same day that I bought those ridiculous high heel shoes I also made the brilliant purchase of these:

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They are Sketcher fuzzy-lined suede boots and they are the most warm, happy, comfortable shoes I’ve ever clapped onto Pearl and Vinny (the names of my left and right foots). I LOVE THESE BOOTS.

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My husband thinks they are hideously ugly. Well, the good thing is that he won’t have to look at them this coming week because I am out of sight for the next five days, off on a fact-finding trip far, far away, traipsing in my pillow-like Sketcher boots around a certain world capital and a certain quaint village in search of content for my next book.

Which I will tell you all about next week, avec plaisir.

 

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