May 2018

While I am sitting here waiting for our new couches to be delivered today I am thinking about the last time I got new furniture, and how it changed my life. It was back in the days when I was a reformed wanderer, having settled down into a quiet life in a small village on the Long Island Sound, collecting tea cups and making the diaries that would be the fodder for my first book.

Self Portrait of the Doodler-Diarist.

My cat, Woody Robinson, used to sit on the kitchen table with his head under the lamp shade.

As a reformed wanderer, I had come into my new life in a small village on the Long Island Sound pretty much empty-handed. I gradually acquired stuff, but I still lacked a couch after a year, when my upstairs neighbor, Sid, moved out and gave me his couch. It was a nice couch, covered in a nubby beige material.

The couch was already 10 years old, and Sid had a dog who used to sleep on the couch, and his cat, Malcolm, had died on that couch, but Sid had cleaned it up so as far as I was concerned, it was up to snuff. Yay! I had a couch!

A few years on, and the couch had become a little grimy, a bit worn, but I still liked the couch a lot. So I sewed a new cover for the couch. I didn’t have a pattern. I made it up as I went along.It took me 12 hours. I was very proud of myself when it was done.

Maybe you remember page 178 of the book I wrote about living a quiet life in a small village on the Long Island Sound, when I introduce Honey and Candy:

page 178 from When Wanderers Cease to Roam.

Here are the same Honey and Candy, on my couch, fitted with the cover I sewed for it:

(I still have the garden that I am embroidering in that last pic, with the help of Honey and Candy. Are they the cutest or what?)

But, skipping ahead a few more years, the couch had become ratty once again. And it smelled, from all the cats that had come and gone (I was in my cat-rescue days, and some cats were very stinky). And now, the couch that I had once loved so much that I spent 12 hours sewing a custom-made cover for it, that couch was not doing it for me anymore.

At the same time, I had also become stuck in quite a rut, life-wise. I felt that I was ready to move on from this incarnation of me, move on from my quiet life in a small village on the Long Island Sound, but I really had no idea how to do it without buying a one-way ticket to, oh, let’s say Argentina. Or Scotland. Or New Zealand but that was a long shot.

The point is, I didn’t know how to move forward so I was stuck in an increasingly drab, small, and scuzzy life, and all my dithering and dead-end-ish-ness was made evident by my worst piece of furniture, my couch.

I wanted to get rid of the couch, but I was too stuck in my rut to have the where-with-all to do anything about it, so I just put a sheet over it and put off thinking about my crappy the couch and my life:

We pause here so I can tell the story of The List, which will become relevant to the couch in just a bit.

About the same time I was living with this couch that I was becoming more and more sick of, I wrote a short list of everything I wanted to in my life, on a Post-It, and I titled it: Things To Do Before I Die. I still have that Post-It.

It was a short list, just 4 things, all of which seemed impossible at the time:

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

I have written about The List before, to tell you Dear Readers how  important it is to write things down if you want to realize your dreams. It was the writing of this list that made achieving everything on the list possible.

Everything except for kissing the tiger. I have learned that there is no ethical way to kiss a tiger  so I have banished that from The List. But the point is that I had made The List and The List had made it so that I have written a book, I have got it published, and I have married the prince charming of my dreams.

But what I never told you was that for two years after I wrote The List I was still in a slump, a funk, a rut, and I still had that awful couch. I had The List, but I didn’t know where to start.

And then on one ordinary day, in a blinding moment of clarity, I got up off my couch, went to the store, and I bought a new couch.

It was just that easy. And all this time, I had been dithering because I didn’t want to invest in a new couch, that I didn’t have the extra money, that it would be one more thing I would have to deal with, that it would present me with too many choices (none of which I wanted to make), that it would require complicated logistics that were beyond me, etc etc etc.

It was getting that new couch that kick-started my fate, that set in motion all the good things that happened to me that made it possible for me to complete The List  in five short years after I got the new couch.

All it took was something — anything — to start the chain reaction, and it turned out to be me getting a new couch.

See? The universe will reward you for getting up off your lazy ass, and making that one, lone, first, step towards your dreams. Any first step will do. You only have to lift one foot and put it in front of the other. You just have set things in motion.

I don’t have a picture of the new couch because very shortly after I got the new couch, I met Top Cat, my prince, and less than a year after that I gave my new couch away when I moved into Top Cat’s house to marry him, and he already had four couches. Plus, he had a room that I could call my own, where I wrote my first book, and my second, and my third. The fourth book is pending.

I had lived in that small village on the Long Island Sound for a total of ten years.

I’ve lived with Top Cat for 14 years now, and we finally replaced two of those couches of his, after dithering about it for a few years.

And it wasn’t until I was sitting here, waiting for the delivery of our new couches, that I remembered that I have been here before.

I don’t know about you, but at this stage in my life, I seem to want life to stay exactly the same (no more adding on of the birthdays, no scary diagnoses, no thinning of the cat herd), while at the same time I also want it to be as full of possibilities as it used to be, when it was possible to marry a prince and possible to beat the odds and accomplish a dream. I want stasis, but I want change too. Is that so hard?

Top Cat and I are ready  to move on, somewhere, somehow, even though we’ve got a house and four couches and a ton of cats to consider. Maybe it’s time to make a new List.

And then I’m giving these new couches a year to do their magic.

Have a great weekend, everyone. May you put something ridiculously fantastic in motion.

XXOO

 

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This is how I read the Sunday paper (New York Times, of course):

That’s a lot of cat on my lap. Cindy is the black kitty near my heart and that’s Lickety on my knees. It’s been chilly here on the north shore of Long Island so I was happy to have these feline warmers in the vicinity.

Last week Dear Reader Jeanie asked about the “dummy” books I make up to show publishers when I submit a book proposal.

Normally I only do the first three chapters for a dummy but since this book is so short, I am doing the entire book (which ends up being about the same size as three chapters from one of my usual illustrated travelogues).

First, I go to Staples and spend about an hour and a half/two hours making the color copies of all the illustrations I’ll need for the dummy. I must warn you, before we go too far, that making a dummy is incredibly, maximally, and moronically boring.

After I have all the necessary color copies (at 69 cents per scan, the cost adds up fast) I go home and get the paper cutter out.

I must cut down a pile of bond paper into the appropriate dimensions of my book, known in the book biz as the “trim size”. For this book, I’m doing an 8-inch x 8-inch square trim. (Cutting paper is really boring.)

I assemble omymaterials: the color copies and the print-out the text of the book, which will also be scissored into bits:

I work at my dining room table because it’s the biggest surface in the house:

I am gluing bits of text and bits of illustration onto each page, so I have to let them dry out before I go onto the next step.

About two hours later, when I have gone thru my original manuscript page by page, and replicated each page, page by page (which is very boring to do), I will have bits of illustration and text left over. This is because I will have forgotten to make a color copy of something, or I have changed my mind about an illustration and I will re-do it, or there is an error in the text that I only discovered at this late stage of the operation:

So, I will paint something new, and I’ll sit at the computer and fix the text, and I’ll print it out, and I’ll go back to Staples to get new color copies, and then I’m ready to finish this dummy.

Thank the lord for clear plastic sheet protectors. I buy them by the 100s, and they are what makes my “dummy” books possible. For this dummy, I have cut off the top three inches of each sheet protector so so that my 8-inch x 8-inch pages fit into them like they were custom-made.

Next, I load my pages into the sheet protectors:

That’s the original manuscript above, and my “dummy” replica below.

You have to remember to load each sheet protector with two pages, back-to-back, so that they can assemble into a verso and a recto when it all comes together. This part of the operation is both fiddly and boring, but at least it means that I am near the end!!

When I cut down the sheet protectors, cutting off the top three inches, I was left with only two binder holes in each sheet protector. So now I have to punch a new upper hole into each sheet:

This dummy takes 41 plastic sheet protectors, and punching through that heavy plastic on the margin 41 times hurts. But I have to do this because I’m using a two-prong Duo-tang thingy to bind my dummy:

I have to fiddle with the prongs because they don’t exactly match the holes in my truncated sheet protectors, but that’s  not a big deal:

In the end, I have a neatly-bound dummy:

This is what the dummy looks like from a side view:

All in, each dummy costs approx. $30.00 and takes four hours to copy, print, and assemble. If I knew how to do this electronically, I would — but I’ve never figured out how to use my scanner. And, since making these dummy books is how I’ve gotten all my book contracts,  I’m not going to fix what ain’t broke.

And now let’s talk about The Wedding.

Harry and Meghan are a beautiful couple and everyone wishes them a lifetime of love and happiness, except, it seems, the bride’s siblings. Their lovely half-sister is about to “marry up” — way, way, WAY up — and they can’t stand it.

I know it’s crass to talk about class but that is the crux of this story. For the half-siblings (none of whom seem to have a job) the resentments must be long-standing, probably starting from the time when Meghan began to get some fame and money in her acting career. But now that she’s marrying the most famous prince in the world and leaving them far, far behind, the difference in their fates must be driving them crazy. Last I heard, one of them has even staged a car accident in order to get some publicity and sympathy.

I guess we all have embarrassing relatives — even the British royals have a Nazi or two in the family and the divine Kate Middleton has that nutty Uncle Gary.

Meghan and Harry seem to be gracefully handling the fall-out from Ms. Markle “getting above her raising” , as they say in Appalachia, and which I did the day I left Pennsylvania for Paris, so me and her we have that in common.

I think Meghan and Harry will be good to and for each other and I wish them a beautiful wedding day.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and I hope it’s filled with pomp and circumstance and kitties on the lap and good cups of tea.

 

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Before we get to work today, I have to ask you all something.

On Thursday three Korean-Americans were released from captivity in North Korea and der Drumpf gave them a hero’s welcome at Andrews Air Force Base:

Greeting them on the tarmac der Drumpf said: ‘These are great people. Frankly … this is a special night for these three really great people.”

But wait. Doesn’t der Drumpf dislike people who get themselves captured?


Remember? When he was talking about John McCain’s captivity as a Prisoner of War in Hanoi, North Vietnam from 1967 – 1973?

I’m sure Sarah Huckabee Sanders can lie about explain it.

In the meantime, I have my own problems.

Remember how hard it was for me to get the watercolor paints to lie down the right way for a picture of Claude Monet’s famous Japanese bridge? After too many awful attempts to get those watercolors to behave, I finally settled for this:

Even though I was never 100% satisfied with the shape of these dried-up pools of water-soluble pigment, this is the image that I submitted to my agent when I gave her the completed manuscript of my Damn Monet Book because I just gave up. I truly, deeply, and madly did to want to ever, never paint that bridge again. Those railings are a horror to draw and to paint and I don’t like doing structures and there is a lot of structure in this, uh, structure.

Then this happened: Three and a half weeks ago I got on the scale at my gym and saw a number that I did not like. Immediate and drastic action was called for. OK, it was only 5 pounds (OK, 7 if I wanted the luxury of “wiggle room”; 10 if I want to be skinny but mean). I’ve been on an all-vegetable diet for 24 days and for the past week I’ve been off the booze to save calories so I thought what the hell: I’m having a pretty miserable life anyway, I might as well re-paint Monet’s damn Japanese bridge.

I intensely disliked having to draw the bridge and the vines, but I have to say that painting them was incredibly soothing. I like the safety of having to only stay within the lines.

Now for the dastardly blobby stuff that can so easily go all wrong:

Having survived this picture so far, I think it’s OK to draw in some background foliage (to be dealt with later):

I’ve mentioned before that I like it when pictures have a “bull’s-eye”. This picture’s bull’s eye is the glimpse of greenery that appears at the far end of the bridge:

Done:

Watercolor is different than oil paint (duh) in that you can’t paint light colors over dark ones, which means that sometimes you have to paint the foreground first, and then color-in the background:

I want to avoid the mistake I made in the all the previous pictures, in which all the backgrounds were too over-worked. I want to keep this picture light and easy:

The horizontal lines are wonky, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed later:

Let’s so if I can get away with going just a light wash for the floor boards of the bridge:

I’m using my trusty acrylic paint to get the saturated green-ness for the railings of Monet’s damn Japanese bridge:

In this picture the light is coming from the left-hand side, so it needs some brightness:

I am not good at doing illustrations that don’t go all the way to the edge. If there’s a technical term for that, I don’t know it. In photography it’s called a full bleed, but bleed already has a meaning in watercolor that isn’t about going all the way to the edge, so I doubt that it’s that.

Anyhoo, I wanted to do a soft-edged illustration here, which calls for a lot of self-control that I am not usually able to muster. But so far, it’s going OK here:

This (below) is what the picture looked like before I made corrections:

Well, actually, in addition to “corrections”, I had to rescue this picture by cutting out (with scissors) the foot path of the bridge and gluing in a new one because, nope, I could not get away with just doing a light wash there:

As of today (shortly before noon on Thursday, May 10) I have hit my 5-pound weight loss goal. At my age (62) it takes a lot to lose 5 pounds. I added 30 minutes of treadmill to my daily (M-F) workout and I ate a lot of cabbage stew and I substituted flavored rice cakes for Entenmann’s cookies and, as a last resort, I cut back on the wine. I also cheated. I made nachos at home on two occasions, and we got a very small pizza one night because I get extremely depressed when I have to live too long without pizza, and twice I went to a diner and had a grilled cheese sandwich. But still, the jeans feel a lot better and I’m hanging in there for 2 more pounds.

I was at my gym last week and I noticed that one of the trainers was giving a tour of the facilities to a new couple. I noticed them because the new couple were dressed as if they were ready to jump into the octagon, which was a little strange because they were not even members yet, and they were both in their late 60s (I’m guessing). The woman was wearing tights and a tank top and those fingerless leather gloves that weight lifters wear. She had a tan and fluffy blonde hair. I was thinking unkind thoughts about how some people over a certain age should know better, that when they think they look good, they should know that they actually only look good for their age when I heard the woman explain to the trainer: “I am very active. That’s why I’m so lithe.”

I adore this lady. I’m going to put that in the vault and keep it nice and shiny so it will always be a thing of beauty when I take it out to play with. I am sure that I’ve never heard a person use the word lithe in conversation before, so it takes someone really special to use such an arcane word to describe herself.

Taffy, being lithe on Monday.

Taffy, doing lithe on Tuesday.

Taffy, at his lithest on Wednesday.

We couldn’t do a Thursday taffy portrait because it got double-fleece and electric blankie cold again and a bit rainy.

Because of the weather I saw Avengers: Infinity War. I would have liked more Doctor Strange, and there is an awful lot of violence in it, but I thought the picture was dandy. Just goes to show you that movies are the premier art form.

Speaking of art, did you miss the Rockefeller estate sale at Christie’s New York?

That’s a shot of the Monet water lily picture that sold for $84.7 million on May 8, a new record for the artist.

Speaking of Monet, my agent got back to me about the  manuscript of my Damn Monet Book and she is very enthusiastic. We will submit to publishers in the next month or so, after I make more dummy books, which are a pain in the ass to compile.

Have a great weekend, everyone. May all your bridges be the kind of bridges that make life better, or span untroubled waters, or whatever it is that bridges could do that would make your life a wonder and make me sound wise by wishing that you all have those kinds of bridges to cross, or something. When you read this I will likely be drinking wine (finally) and feeling very at ease in the universe. I hope you do, too.

XXOO

 

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Yes, this is a boring watercolor blog and we will get around to discussing how I stole everything possible from Claude Monet for this week’s dabbling but, Dear Readers, you know we have to talk about the fire-breather in the room, Michelle Wolf.

Comedian Michelle Wolf did a 19-minute roast of Washington D.C.’s hack politicians, spineless journalists, and their pathetic enablers at last Sunday night’s White House Correspondents Dinner and she burned it to the ground. I watched the whole thing and I thought she was perfect. (Note: as of May 3, Michelle Wolf’s bit has been viewed on the C-Span site a record-breaking 4.4 million times. I think people pretty much like the way Michelle Wolf spoke truth to power.)

The best Twitter response I read, regarding the Republicans’ palpitations over the forcefulness of Michelle Wolf’s jokes (lordy and mercy me, the language!!) was: Relax Republicans. It’s just locker room talk.

The Republicans’ indignation is Fake News! Totally Fake!! It’s a witch hunt!!

My second-favorite joke of the evening was the one about lying’ sack o’ shit Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ that ended with the punch line “smokey eye”, which in case if you don’t know what a smokey eye is, it is this:

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The joke was about how she lies, and not about how ugly she is (inside and out). But it was interesting to note that when she appeared on Fox News four days later, on Thursday morning , she was not wearing her trade mark “smokey eye”:

If her lips are moving, she’s lying.

Do you think it’s because Sarah Huckabee Sanders just can’t face herself in the mirror any more?

Whatever. Like I mentioned, that “smokey eye” joke was my second-favorite part of Michelle Wolf’s routine. My first fave part of Michelle Wolf’s take-down was her several minute’s worth of material about how President der Drumpf is broke. I’m sure that her riffing on how little money der Drumpf  gets der Drumpf where it hurts him most. I LOVED it. She began:

“People call Trump names all the time. And look, I could call Trump a racist or a misogynist or xenophobic or unstable or incompetent or impotent. But he’s heard all of those, and he doesn’t care. So tonight, I’m going to try to make fun of the president in a new way, in a way that I think will really get him. Mr. President: I don’t think you’re very rich. Like, I think you might be rich in Idaho, but in New York you’re [only] doing fine.”

I have always maintained that der Drumpf is not nearly as rich as he has bullshitted everyone into believing he is, mostly because everything he does is penny-ante small-time cons, and because he was and talks like a poor person trying to act like he has money and getting all the tell-tale “tells” wrong. All that glitz, and bragging, and of course his fake Renoir:

The un-funny Fran Leibowitz got it right when she wrote “Trump is a poor person’s idea of what a rich person is.”

Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the Luxury Institute, a consultant to luxury brands, says that Trump is “A caricature of what wealth is — as opposed to what real wealth is,” and says Trump sold his cheap-ass “luxury” steaks, vodka, water, deodorant, university, ties, perfume, and etc. to those   “who didn’t know the difference.”

So, yeah, just because Sarah Huckabee Sanders is ugly doesn’t mean you can’t make jokes about how she much she lies. Because she is evil.

So let’s talk about something else near and dear to my heart: The Incredibly Persistent Pile of Snow.

I discovered this heap o’ snow on April 12 (in a very inconvenient parking lot at a shopping center here on the north shore of Long Island) when it was still bigger than my car. I was impressed! We had not had snow fall since April 1, when a modest one-day blizzard didn’t even stay long enough for me to get out the snow shovel.

I became strangely enamored of this pile of snow, with a fondness that I usually reserve for puppies and Pinot Grigio. So here’s how our fond affair went down last week:

April 29…does this pile of snow have the grit to make it into history?

 

April 30 (I am hoping for the best!)

 

May freaking First! Historic! I want to hug this pile of snow!

This Incredibly Persistent Pile of Snow deserves a close up:

This special pile of snow is about the size of a bread box, ha ha, nobody knows what a bread box is anymore.  It’s about the size of a boom box. Ha ha! Nobody knows what a boom box is any more! It’s about the size of a Selectric…OK, this is getting tedious.

I was rooting for this pile of sow. I was certain that this pile of snow had the Right Stuff, the gumption and the heart, to make it to May 2, and beyond.

So here’s what I found on May 2:

Let me explain that here on the North Shore of Long Island, we take pride in our parking lots. And truth to tell, that pile of snow was very daggy. There were candy wrappers and old newspapers and other bits of unsightly trash embedded in it, and yes, there was even a pair of socks mixed in there with the usual gravel bits and fir tree droppings:

The pair of socks, and I think that’s a chicken bone.

Well, of course the managers of this parking lot came in and cleared all that grunginess away. They also mulched the parking lot’s flowers beds. It’s a fancy parking lot.

So we will never know if our Incredibly Persistent Pile of Snow could have Gone All The Way. Sad!

Let’s let Bibs cheer us up:

The temperatures were soaring here on the North Shore of Long Island this past week and we were loving it. 90 degrees yesterday! Top Cat and I hauled the patio furniture out from storage, finally, and set up our kitchen patio, and Bibs was the only cat smart enough to make use of the fine weather.

We also wanted to put the Adirondack chairs out in the back yard, and position them for sun set watching, but I can’t sit on an Adirondack chair without having the padding of a nice cushion, and all our Adirondack chair cushions were being used (and abused):

Right. Let’s get down to business.

This:

This was an exercise I did just so I could find out how Claude Monet “did” weeping willows, because it’s different to how I “do” weeping willows and he’s  the most famous artist in the world so, like, I make it a point to steal from the best:

When you look closely at Monet’s weeping willow fronds, they are much more complex than you’d think:

On the whole, I think Monet’s brush strokes are very hammy and clumsy, but I have to admit that these lines are delicate and masterful. If I was going to copy them, the task would be as challenging as if I were forging his handwriting — these strokes are very personal and individual. And to think that he did this when he was well into his late 70s!

There was only one thing to do. I had to trace them:

And of course, this tracing is only the short-hand version of what Monet does. But that’s what I used when I painted my version of his Grand Decoration (now hanging in the Jeu de Paume in Paris).

And yes, there is a huge difference between Monet’s painting and my copy. It’s not easy to copy an oil painting in watercolor. And I rarely copy paintings. But it was very instructful to try to mimic Monet, and I have to say that I highly recommend it.

Meanwhile, on the den patio (we are a two-patio family) our neighbor’ cat, Dennis, is waiting for us to come out and play:

I love it that when Dennis saw me taking his picture from the den window, he decided to pose for me but, like, all non-chalant:

Have a great weekend, everyone. And if the latest outrage from der Drumpf leaves you feeling all chalant, take a tip from Taffy:

Keep Calm and go for a roll in the dirt. Or go for a glass of wine. Wine is good, too.

Memes stolen from Yellow Dog Granny @ Blogspot.com.

 

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