November 2009

If you’re hankering for quince jelly this Thanksgiving (and who isn’t?)  run, don’t walk, to the nearest Western Beef.

Western Beef is a grocery store, in case you didn’t know. It’s full of delicacies from around the [Third] world. Look for it on the wrong side of the tracks. No, really.

Here in Nassau  County Long Island, Western Beef is literally on the wrong side of the tracks, the Long Island Rail road tracks. And I mean literally literally.


Here (below) are some soft drinks on the shelf: Mango, Cocnut (with bits of coconut flakes suspended in what must bo the gooiest beverage imaginable), and something called “Peru Food”.  All from Ecuador.


These are jars of Cactus, some kind of leaf that looks like a by-product of raking the lawn, and vegetarian tentacles.


This (below) is the sign that says, “Ethnic Cookies”.  And that’s a cactus in a cowboy hat pointing down the aisle. (I don’t know; does this seem a little, oh, insulting to Ethnics?)

This is where me and my camera where spotted by the manager, who asked me to stop taking pictures of the store. In an instant I was all attitude, rolling my eyes and asking him sarcastically “Are you kidding me? You’re worried about my camera??”    because I was raised in the ’60s: I always question authority. Also, I’m a very unpleasant person, in general.


So then I asked the manager where he was hiding the quince jelly and he kindly took me straight to a shelf with about four different kinds of quince jelly, and he apologized for not letting me take pictures and I started to feel kind of crummy that I always get so snotty at the drop of a hat  like it’s my default setting, and I thanked him kindly.  To make up for me being such a douchebag.P1010116

And as soon as he was gone I took this picture of the two quince jellies I couldn’t decide between. I liked the label on the left the best, but the brand on the right was more expensive (the on the left was $2.49 and the one on the right was $6.00). When it comes to foreign foodstuff, I equate expensive  with less likely to have been cooked by workers who shit in the batter. So I bought the expensive stuff.

And so far, my digestive system tells me that it was worth it.

And I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, with or without the quince. But with all the good food, good friends, and good talk that comes from gathering around a turkey and copious amounts of wine.

And remember: look here for my stupendous new announcement to be be published on December 1 at 7 AM Eastern Standard Time.

Until then, see you Monday! That’s Monday, November 30, A FIVE DAY WEEKEND FROM NOW.

Hey. Even bloggers blow off Thanksgiving week.

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“See? See? Those damn Twilight vampires aren’t the only ones who sparkle in the daylight.”


“It’s not so bad being between a rock and a hard place as long as you have a nice big butt for a cushion.”


In the future, every cat will be famous for fifteen minutes on YouTube.”


“I’m only coming to your Thanksgiving dinner if you promise there won’t be any drama that I can’t get in on.”


“Dear Diary: Fell asleep in my tuxedo again, woke up with a raging hangover. In other words, still lovin’ the bachelor pad lifestyle!!!”

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When you live in a 100-year old house, there are things that go Boom in the night REAL LOUD.

Most recently, what went BOOM was a 50-year old shower door, and it had heaved itself right off the wall. Poor, tired, 100-year old walls can’t fight a suicidal shower door.

So Top Cat got to demolish the old shower and with the help of the plumber next door, he put in a whole new shower for us.  That, in itself, is a whole other saga. The less said, the better.

Today Top Cat  put the finishing touches on solving one last problem with the new shower ( a persistent leak  through to the dining room ceiling), and the drawing above is his illustration of the talk he gave on the topic (to me).

Now, listening to a detailed explanation of the inner mysteries of household plumbing is not how I want to spend ten minutes of my life. But Top Cat was so pleased with his ingenuity that he asked me if I wanted to hear all about it and I said “Yes, oh yes!” and he got out his pen and he started to diagram the shower drain, the bathroom floor, and the dining room ceiling — all which you can see, above.

He even said, at one point, looking at his sketch, “Hey — that’s a pretty good drawing!”, and I listened to it all. Because Top Cat married me when I had five cats and I owe him.

So tonight, Top Cat and I are celebrating our new shower. We’re having my favorite dinner (champagne and pizza), and the Toppermost of the Cattermost  has just put an old Michael Jackson album on the turntable.  I know what comes next:


The Moves.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

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You might recognize these elements from the June chapter of When Wanderers Cease to Roam. In my book, June is a month in flight — lots of birds and insects on my mind, floating in air as thick as the honey smells of Summer.

But June is also for remembering when you lived closer to the ground, many years ago, about four feet up from your sneakers —  when you were running the bases in a neighborhood game of kick ball, and about two inches from the dirt — when you rested your chin on the ground to watch ants forage for food in the grass.  That’s why I tried to paint June from a bug’s eye view — to remind me (and you) of a long-gone point of view, when we were small.

I have put these little paintings in a collage because, well, what else am I going to do with all those original illustrations from When Wanderers Cease to Roam?

I’m still working on a title for this one. So maybe I’ll resort to an old trick:

I just opened a book I had here at hand at random and this is what I got:

“Your observations are to be taken with great pains and accuracy”.

(from an excerpt from the diaries of Lewis and Clark)

I could do worse.

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Yesterday I drove across the Whitestone Bridge today to go to my favorite thrift shop In. The. World. It’s in Westchester, my old hometown.

Here are some of the things that I considered buying, but didn’t: 1950s novels with their original dust jackets:


I already have too many books. But oh, how I love love love those 1950s Authors Photos:


I don’t know if I did the right thing, leaving those books to fend for themselves…if I don’t rescue those books, who will??  And, will the right people (not me) rescue  these jackets?:


The swirly-black print one was a beautifully made heavy silk with front zipper ($6.99)  and the one on the right was a brand new patchwork of buff-colored suede stitched loosely together with some kind of matching crochet thread with covered buttons up the front ($29.99) that looked like something that Sheryl Crow would wear on a first date. I couldn’t imagine where you’d wear the balck swirly-print silk jacket, but it’s sooooo me.

Unlike this Nolan Miller number with the spangles on the sleeve which I got a strange, soooo not me crush on:


This photo gives you no idea how much those sleeves glittered, even in the low light of the going-downhill Secret Thrift Shop that I love. Some days, I really miss the ’80s.

THIS is the kind of thing you only find in a really fine thrift shop:


A Betsy Johnson tuxedo-cut denim jacket for $6.99. If I wasn’t sure that wearing such a jacket made someone my age look totally idiotic, I would have bought this immediately.

I’d already been browsing the messy aisles of this thrift shop for half an hour and I hadn’t found anything to rescue, and I was beginning to fear that I’d have to go home empty handed.

Never fear, however: FATE always leads me to the right stuff in the nick of time:

blue 001

This, my dear readers, is a Jackie Gleason LP to add to my excellent collection of Jackie Gleason LPs from the late ’50s – early ’60s.

This one is called: The Torch With the Blue Flame.

A delicate spindrift of marimba tones, the glow of a solo trombone  and whispering strings, blending in a mist of sound…soft, dream-provoking Gleason sounds that sing with a flickering, haunting light…The Torch With The Blue Flame.

Sooo 1959, so Grown up, sooooo….corny.

Oh man, some days I really miss what I never had.

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A squirrel loves a pumpkin.


Baby pumpkins love a pumpkin.  [All photos were taken Nov. 11, a warmish day that was just right for walking around the neighborhood peeping at pumpkins.]

pumps 002

Afternoon sunlight loves a pumpkin, or two, or four.


Pumpkins waiting for the mailman love a pumpkin.

pumps 001

Zombies love a pumpkin. Pumpkin innards remind them of human brains.


Peek-a-Boo pumpkins love a pumpkin.

pumps 003

The Hallelujah Chorus  loves a pumpkin. Somebody say Amen.


And my neighbor who hasn’t fixed his garage yet from when lightning struck it last Summer loves a pumpkin, probably. Because EVERYBODY loves a pumpkin.

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fall one

November 1:  I’m excited about Fall, and ambitious. I’ll paint the most complicated leaves I can find.

fall too

November 7:   Ooooooo.  The first REDS.  There’s a leaf from the Japanese maple in the front yard in there, which has just turned from dull maroon into brilliant vivid crimson.

fall three

November 17:  Here’s how I learn all about BROWN, and when a single oak leaf turns into a complete Fall landscape.

fall four

November 30:  All the trees are bare, and the leaves are scattered on the ground like bits of old wrapping paper, torn and worn, pushed by cold winds into the farthest corners of the yard. 


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My awesome weekend (con’t): Day Two, Saturday, Oct. 31

Here’s the most crucial thing you need to know about Long Island: the North Shore is New England, and the South Shore is New Jersey. Culturally, socially, and mall-wise; when you’re looking for a place to pimp your car, you head for the South Shore. When you’re looking for a landscape in which to take an inspiring all-day nature walk, muse on the transcendental nature of human existance on a fine Fall day, you head for the North Shore.

The North Shore of Long Island is 120 miles long, all of it shoreline on the body of water with the highest number of yachts per capita, the Long Island Sound. Despite its long history of being a millionaires’ playground (from back when a million bucks was serious money) the North Shore is still a bit raw, wild, rural, and reticent. It is the anti-Hamptons.

On Saturday, as fine a Fall day as there ever was, Top Cat and I drove 16 miles east of our little toe-hold on the North Shore to spend the day wandering in the 80-acre sea-side nature preserve called Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge, in a town called Lloyd Neck.  Lloyd Neck was not happy when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie rented a mansion there this past Spring while Angelina was filming a movie on the Island — Lloyd Neck is the kind of place where yammering for attention makes one too gauche to live on Lloyd Neck. Please. Don’t do that: it upsets the locals. Which I know for a fact.

Target Rock Preserve is named after a rock. A rock called “Target Rock”. It’s a big rock, and it sticks out of the Sound, and it was used as a — wait for it — target, during the American Revolution.  But more about that later.

Because our first stop in Lloyd Neck was to visit my favorite house on Long Island, a house that Top Cat and I had seen for sale when we were in Lloyd Neck last Spring, stalking Brangelina.  We’d taken a wrong turn ( get-away manouvre) onto a private road (onto a side-street to lay low)  and ended up at a dead end (sorry: that’s  cul de sac  in this neighborhood) and discovered my dream house. It is a pristine mid-century “modern” ,  California-esque split-level structure perched in a notch on a cliff above the estuary waters of the Long Island Sound with a 180-degree view of the Target Rock Refuge.

When I saw this house last Spring I wanted to live here, and Spring is my least favorite season. I had to see it in my most favorite season just so I’d know what the perfect house for me looks like at the perfect time of year.

It. Looks. Beautiful.

And as  I was  strolling around the property, peeping into windows and gesturing around the view as if I owned it, the new owner waved hello to me from the living room picture window. At least, I think he was waving hello. He was definitely waving, so I waved back. Friendly, like.

And he invited me and Top Cat to come in and look around.

The new owner is a young man from The City (which, around here, means Manhattan) who had just received the keys to the house from the broker and was taking his first look around as The Guy Who Owns The Perfect North Shore House. And he let me take pictures.

Readers, this is what the Perfect North Shore House looks like:


View of the Long Island Sound from the second-floor balcony-living room. That corner window is two-stories tall:


The other end of the balcony-living room looks like this:


Those floor boards, set on the angle: is that too much or what?  And you can see the staircases over there next to the fireplace, six steps going up to a suite of bedrooms with connecting baths, and another set going down, to a master bedroom with a full-size dressing room — all kinds of shelves and drawers built-in so that you hardly need furniture to mess up the composition of the rooms. Sigh.

This balcony-living room is, as you see, “sunken” all around — the kitchen is six steps up:


Oh, I could write odes to those 1959 shades of blue, the aqua tones of my youth.


(See those cupboards above the low counter?  THAT’S THE REFRIGERATOR!! )  My friends, this is what the future used to look like, circa 1959,  a split-level  built-in space-age composition of wood panelling set off with gem-like shades of astro-blue.

On an Impala, this color was called “Acapulco Blue” (from back when Acapulco was a jet-setter’s playground, not a run-down shopping mall for cruise ships):


Those aqua-colored tiles on the backsplash:


This, my friends, the future was an exciting place, circa 1959:


This is the steel-chrome -wrapped kitchen “control panel” next to the electric range, which you can’t see because the light coming in from the deck with the 180-degree view of the Long Island Sound is shining way too brightly, as bright as the 1960s.

I miss all that, all that mid-century optimism about the way the future used to be, and I love the way it’s all still there in this Perfect North Shore House.

I want to tell you all that I did not spend the rest of the day in an agony of house-envy. I want to tell you that, but it wouldn’t be true.

So we thanked the new owner of my dream house and hinted that we could definitely be in the neighborhood for a house-warming party and we continued on to Target Rock.

Nature is a good antidote for any house-envy what ails you.


So they say. “They” being the people who don’t let you bring in the real medicine.


Seriously. I get it: no cocktails in the woods.

And any way, when I go nature walking, I carry my martinis in a thermos, like any other civilized person.

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, The Target Rock:


Legend has it that British ships anchored here during the Revolutionary War used this rock as a target for  “gunnery practice”, but that doesn’t explain why the bullet holes are on the side facing the shore.


We also caught sight of the rare and elusive legendary Forest Cat of the Woods of the North Shore. . .


. . .who ignored us from the edge of the parking lot at the entrance to the Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge.

And that reminded me that I had 14 cats at home that I hadn’t seen for hours and that reminded me that Home Is Where The Cats Is.

So I said to Top Cat, “Home, James”, which is his real name thank goodness, and we headed down the road to our own Perfect North Shore House.

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