I Don’t Know About You, But I’m Feeling a Bit Taffy Now

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The back story: We shucked the first fresh Long Island – picked corn on the cob last weekend for our first true BBQ of the season, and Taffy took the time to haul, one by one, the husks of our freshly-picked corns on the cobs to his favorite spot in the backyard just so he could…

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…dive into the joyousness of the moment.

Oh my DoG, I love that cat. And he wants me to tell you this:

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It’s not all glamour being a Really Real Housewife of Long Island. Vivian’s whine about the burdens of HEROIC book-making in 90 degrees of Long Island swelter will follow. Stay tuned.

I will be back here later today with the whole story.

Welcome to My World

Why, hello there! How nice of you to drop by! Just let me finish my ordinary everyday housewifely duties, won’t take a sec, and then we can sit and discuss your very, very flattering offer to have me star in your new reality series The Real Housewives of Long Island.

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There now. I hope you don’t mind, but the FedEx man hasn’t been by the house yet today, you know how unreliable overnight service from the Himalayas can be, so I’m afraid that the dew on my hand-picked Assam tea leaves from yesterday might not be quite il faut. But not to worry, I  brighten up my brew by using water melted from the Lambert Glacier — I do hope you agree with me that water melted from the East Antarctic Ice Sheet adds a certain je ne sais quoi to a cup of tea, don’t you think? That’s why I simply can’t allow West Antarctic Ice Sheet water in my house. Keep it simple, I say.

And yes, all my tea leaves have been blessed by the Dali Lama. But I’ve been hearing murmurs, you know, that the Dali is on the verge of becoming passé. Have you heard of this new guru, simply fabulous, the re-incarnation of Deepak Chopra even before Deepak Chopra has died? So cutting edge. I must check this out — I would hate to be stuck with Dali Lama-blessed tea leaves if it turns out that the re-incarnation of the not-yet-dead Deepak Chopra is the one that Gwenth Paltrow says is “The One” to bless tea leaves.

I’m very spiritual, you see.  I myself am the re-incarnation of Cleopatra’s 16th-great-great-grand-daughter’s once removed’s half sister’s friend who went to Vassar. Her spirit name is Pug Face. She’s why I am so smart. We’ve simply reams of wisdom between us.

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You’ve noticed my  limp. It’s just temporary — I’m wearing a knee brace. Bad fall from my polo pony, you see, nothing serious. The pain pills pack a bigger whallop than any Quarter Horse, let me tell you. It’s like I’ve been tossed under a stampede of quilted-hoofed unicorns. Simply divine. Would you like to try one? No? You don’t know what you’re missing, my dear.

Oh, I see you’re looking at my record collection. Yes, I am quite fond of French pop music from the 1980s. A musical genre so vastly under-rated, don’t you think? Ah, the 1980s . . . I have fond memories of the 1980s when I was  in my thirties and going to my first rehab  just a child, really, with my family on the Cote d’Azur, lazing on the beach listening to Radio France on my Walkman. Good times. When I drive to the liquor store to my volunteer job with the nuns helping poor people, I often pop in a 1980s Johnny Halliday CD in my 10-year old Camry in my voiture and crank it up to 11. Yes, I sing along at the top of my voice, as I am familiar with at least half the words in the songs. French words, you see. Like they speak in Europe.

You might want to jot that down in your notebook: International lifestyle role model.

Now, where were we?

Oh yes, you want to know about my table flipping skills.

Indeed, I can flip a table if needs be.

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But I must say, personally, for me, table flipping would be a last resort. I prefer to use my wit and superior language skills, rather than furniture, when I need to make a point at a diner party.

Just last month I was at a very exclusive dinner party, at a most exclusive restaurant, and not to name drop but a nephew of a well known Atlantic City bookie was there also, and, sadly, one of the ladies had tippled a little too much of the vino, if you know what I mean, and was holding forth a little too, too much of the veritas, if you know what I mean. Talk talk talk talk talk, good lord that lady could talk.

I believe she is in Real Estate, if I can remember the thirteen thousand times she mentioned it, and watches a lot of TV, if I can keep straight the white-water-rapids-stream-of-conciousness that flowed forth from her that evening.

And there I was, the most interesting person in the room, on verbal lock down. Mind you, it wasn’t for myself that I was bored and pissed, oh dear, no — it was all the other guests for whom I felt the most pity, for they were being deprived of my interestingness. I had a Marrakech cat story that would have blown the doors off any real estate chit-chat.

Well, someone had to find a way to break the conversational log-jam. And I felt that everyone was silently begging me, as the most interesting person in the room, to do it, as you know that I  am a  1/16th  of the world traveler and the re-incarnation of Pug Face.

So I turned to the chatterbox’s husband and I asked him, “Does she ever shut the fuck up?”

You see? Witty. Word play at its best.

And yes, now that you ask, it actually was the conversating equivalent of flipping a table, in so much as it engendered an abrupt change of atmosphere in the room. And the waiter went looking for Security.

What? Do you have to go so soon? But you just got here! I do hope you have everything you need to know about me, and my qualifications to be a Real Housewife of Long Island.

Thank you for your consideration.

 

I Had a Very Good Day and Then It Got Bad

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This is from a blog post I did in September of 2012, which I filed under emergency room. This is from when still had long hair and was 30 pounds heavier. Yes! I’ve lost 30 pounds in 2014! But that is another story…

As I write this on Thursday May 28, for my Friday May 29 post, I think that what I did to my right knee on the Labor Day weekend of 2012 is what I think I did at the gym on the treadmill when I was closing in on Mile 3 when my iPod (with my Skull Candy headphones) blared a song that I looooooooove on the 80’s Dance Music Shuffle: Dancing By Myself by Billy Idol. I know you remember dancing on the bar to Dancing With Myself in the 1980s.

Well. I had to crank it to 4.6 miles per hour and I actually danced on the treadmill for the 3.23 minutes it takes to body slam to Dancing With Myself. And I felt exhilarated when I hit my three mile mark at 49 minutes flat.

I did not realize, until I limped to my car in the parking lot of L.A. Fitness, that I might have ruptured my quadricep tendon  that wow, getting into the driver’s seat is hard when your knee is all swollen and can’t bend.

So, when you read this on Friday May 29 (or Saturday, DoG Knows When in the luscious Antipodes), I might be having surgery to make my knee do its bendy thing.

HOWEVER, my Dear and Darling readers, I have a Flash Back Thursday post that I hope you will enjoy, especially since I finished reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed two days ago.

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Gratitous photo of my mother’s cute cat Samy b/c I think my Dear Readers need something visual at this point.

Yes, I want to say up front, that Wild is a wonderful book and Cheryl Strayed deserves all the accolades she that have been awarded to her. STILL..

…STILL, I must say that, reading her account of the grueling hike she made with a wounded heart in 1995 along the Pacific Creast Trail,that  I have known many, too many girls like Cheryl Strayed. She’s pretty. She’s blonde. And even sweaty and filthy, she still manages to find men who will GO OUT OF THEIR WAY to help her on her journey.

Hey. I backpacked plenty in my 20s.  I saw how girls like her got thru sticky situations. In fact, all my life I saw how girls like her took for granted the kindness of strangers.

Well. I wrote this back when I was 55 freaking years old, about me and girls like Cheryl Strayed.

Enjoy.

Once upon a time, last week, when it was sunny and warm and …

I was running  errands  in my village, and since I was going out in public I’d pulled on a brown skirt so I’d look presentable (after all, I know people in this town).  OK, the skirt had an elastic waistband, and I had my worst-looking pair of sneakers on, and I thought that my sunglasses were dark enough that I wouldn’t have to put on make-up, but really: I thought I was decent enough for my public appearance.

Being out and about in my village means that I have to cross a very busy main street, which always makes me fearful.

Because I’ve learned that you should always assume that Long Island streets are full of Long Island traffic with Long Island drivers who are: (1) busy texting, reading, doing their nails, or in such a goddam hurry that they WILL mow you down (2) OR drunk.

So I practice defensive walking.

I waited at the light, and on the other side on the busy main street I noticed two teenage girls also waiting to cross.  They were heartbreakingly lovely:  long glossy hair, tall and tanned, wearing short shorts and teeny tops and giggling about something to each other.

The light changed and I began my “Don’t Kill Me I’m Only Trying To Cross The Street” scurry.

I have bad knees, arthritis from all that pogoing to punk bands and various bar fights back in my hey day, and when I scurry across a busy main street I do not lope gracefully. I scurry like the crippled, barnacled, terrified-of-dying pedestrian that I am.

The teenage girls on the other side of the street had not immediately noticed that the light had changed and I was half way across the street before the teenage girls deigned to set  foot in the crosswalk, and I met them a few paces into their leisurely stroll across the road.

I had not planned to say anything at all to these girls, but before I knew it this came out of my mouth:

You better hurry!” I barked at them; “Or you won’t get across the street before the light changes!

Of course they looked at me with utter incomprehension (and a little bit of fear — who was this crazy lady barking at them in the road???) while  not breaking their stride one bit, and continued their slow amble across the road. I, from the safety of the sidewalk on the other side, had to turn back to watch how serenely those girls g-l-i-d-e-d to across the road, safely, even after the light had turned red. And then I started to laugh.

How could I have forgotten??  How could I have forgotten that  two heartbreakingly lovely teenage girls in short shorts and teeny tops with gleaming hair and tanned skin KNOW, in every cell of their beings, they KNOW that they never have to hurry to cross a busy street. Because traffic will always, ALWAYS stop — for them.

How could I have forgotten the power that beautiful girls wield?

These beautiful girls will grow up to be the beautiful girl in your college English class who can’t write a sentence — she connects all her phrases with dashes — like this — for pages at a time — which your besotted professor will hail as “epigrammatic”  while you will be scolded for beintg “too muzzy”.

They will grow up to be the beautiful co-workers who are allowed to skip a day of work when they call in “tired” (oh yes, this is true), and they will grow up to be the beautiful wife who gets to tear out the gorgeous French Rustic kitchen in the mansion her husband bought for her so she could put in a new French Rustic kitchen because (as one such wife complained to me) “The old one was eleven years old!”

I had to laugh.  The only people who have to worry about getting across a busy street in one piece in life is people like me, people who only have good personalities to offer to the world.

And whatthe jell was I was thinking, wearing that brown skirt. It’s like I was just begging to get hit by a bus.

Have a great weekend, all my beautiful outside and in Dear Readers.

 

On Any Given Day, We Might As Well Go To Paris

I was so proud of myself for getting this blog post done on Thursday, so you Dear Readers would have it on your screens first thing Friday morning. Then it was after lunch time and I had not gotten any Comments yet, which is weird, until I remembered that I’d forgotten to schedule it for publication. Which I just did, at approx. 12:44 Eastern time today, Friday May 22. So so so so sorry.P1010234

So now that we all know that this lovely purple-blossomed tree is an Eastern Redbud (thank you, Deborah, janet b., and a quiet life — see: last week’s Comments), many of you, probably none of you, might be wondering why I mistook it for a Paulownia. I’m so glad you asked! Because it gives me the opportunity to show you my photos of what I think are probably Paulownias!

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This is the Boulevard St. Germain in May and yes, that’s probably a Paulownia in blossom on the right.

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Wait. Is it? Doesn’t this look like another (but much prettier) Eastern Redbud?

I am what I dreaded becoming, as a writer of a Damn Garden Book: the kind of person who frets over the identification of trees which that person would never have bothered to notice before she wrote a Damn Garden Book.

I took this picture in May of 2013, when I was in Paris on a garden fact-finding mission. Mind you, I have been in Paris in many previous Mays but on this visit I was looking at the city with gardening eyes.  And Lo and Behold, the Ville Lumiere is lousy with purple blossoming things in May.

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Aside from Wisteria, and what is probably not a Paulownia on the Bld. St-Germian, I think all the other trees photographed are Paulownias. Sadly, I happen to know a thing or two about Chestnut trees, some of which I am about to tell you now.

In the photo above, the tree in the foreground on the left is a blossoming Horse Chestnut. In the photo of the Boulevard Saint Germain (way above), the tree on the left is a blossoming Red Horse Chestnut, a hybrid of the Horse Chestnut and the Red Buckeye. There are about 100,000 Horse Chestnut trees growing in Paris. *Sigh* You can read all about the Aesculus hippocastanum in my Damn Garden Book. Sounds fun, eh?

To make up for all that tree talk I am giving you this, from an ordinary public park in Paris:

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 Change of Topic

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This May I went to a book event for Bethany Frankel, star of The Real Housewives of New York and author of four self-help books, the latest being I Suck At Relationships So You Don’t Have To.

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The event was held at the Bryant Library of Roslyn, Long Island and, as you can see, the room was packed. The reason I went was because I wanted to make myself feel really, really bad by comparing her book event to the fact that the Bryant Library is my local library and they turn me down whenever I propose holding a book event there. And I must say, as far as the fueling of my self-loathing went, Mission Accomplished!

I also wanted to see what helpful hints I could learn about holding a book event that passes Bryant Library muster and all I can say is, it helps to be Bethany Frankel. She is charming, smart, funny, motor-mouthed articulate, and personable. She was just wonderful.  You might not know that she made decent money in her work life for the first time only when she sold her start-up brand — the Skinny Girl line of booze for women —  for $100,000,000, when she was 41. One hundred million dollars…when she was 41 (in lady-entrepreneur years, that’s practically dead).

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But as she spoke to the room (standing up, even though a comfy chair was standing by for the convenience of her stiletto heeled footsies) there was nothing in her public demeanor or in her response during the Q&A (that went everywhere from her business success to her parenting philosophy to what’s up with Sonja) that broadcasted that she is stinking, filthy rich. Down-to-Earth, is what I’m saying, as a Bryant Library reject whose very best ideas pan out to minimum wage. She was very impressive, is what I’m saying, as a wise person who knows how many Chestnut trees are growing in Paris.

It was while I was burning with resentment…I mean, listening to the delightful Bethany, that I got the happiest thought of my life, what Einstein called der glücklichste Gedanke meines Lebens (when he figured out general relativity in 1907 SEE! I KNOW STUFF!).

If I ever hope to have a shot at filling up the meeting room at the Bryant Library, I have to become a Real Housewife. And that’s when I wrote out a list of my qualifications, fully intending to brighten your Get Away Day with an uproarious post that the critics would call Hilarious! Transgressive! The usual spectacle of existential dread!

But then I got sidetracked with the whole Purple in Paris thing and I know you want to get a head start on the unofficial Start of Summer holiday, so I will not hold you back from your (and, ahem, mine) margueritas any longer. The Housewives of Long Island side-splitter can wait another week.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone.

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James Alexander Malloy, C Co., 175th Infantry, 29th Division, killed in action in Normandy, France, on June 16, 1944.

Life is Hard When You Don’t Have your Favorite Tea Cup

Horrors. This week I broke my favorite tea cup:

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Well, truth to tell, I actually “broke” it several months, maybe a year, ago. I chipped it during dish washing:

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And just last week it finally decided to start leaking. Woe, woe, woe is I.  For now, I’m using my second favorite tea cup:

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Speaking of cats…

This is Lickety, giving his brother Taffy a quick spit-and-polish:

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But it’s un-cat like to stay awake for long:

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Good thing Taffy doesn’t mind sharing his second favorite blankie:

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Taffy also doesn’t seem to mind sharing his sofa with his arch enemy, Bibs, the outside cat who, after three years of training has finally learned how to come inside when we hold the back door open for him:

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And now for a few pictures of cute tootsies:

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That last cat (above) is not mine. She’s not even American. This is a photo of a shop cat that my sister recently sent me from Argentina. What you can’t see is that she is wearing a pink ribbon whilst she poses in a stall in an antiques/thrift market. A pink neck ribbon! How Cuuuuuuuute. My sister sends cat pix from all over the world. And here is where I make another brilliant segue.

I try to stay on top of my emails. Every day I try to delete them as I answer/act on them as they come in, so imagine my surprise when I noticed last week that I had 4,909 emails sitting in my In Box. As I went thru them carefully, I found way too many that had been long buried in the pile-up. One email that I found was dated Oct. 29, 2014, from my sister, the world-roving cat photographer, mentioning that she was going to Kyrgyzstan for a week (she’s an intellectual property/copyright/customs lawyer/consultant specializing in second world countries in addition to being a world-roving cat photographer).

Yes, Kyrgyzstan. And I ever knew anything about it! Which is to say that if you have emailed me in the past 1 1/2 years and I have not responded, please accept my mille pardons. It’s nothing personal! It’s Yahoo Mail screwing with my In Box email scrolls, marking unread emails as “Read”! Really! I answer every single email I get, which is a dandy system as long as I get emails that don’t skip from my In Box right into the “Read” (past tense) file. I am still catching up — and I will respond to all your kind notes.

In other news, this week the cherry blossoms are giving it up to gravity:

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While what may or may not be a Paulownia is still in bloom:

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The picture of the may-or-may-not tree is from a recent outing to the village of Princeton, New Jersey, where Top Cat and I stopped for lunch two Sundays ago. It seems that there’s a rather beautiful and old university there, and the streets were packed with parents and alumni in town for a tradition that the kids call the Spring Lawn Party.

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The various Eating Clubs associated with the university were each hosting a party, on their lawn. You had to be a Princeton student or grad to buy the wristband that lets you roam from lawn party to lawn party.

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I never thought that I’d ever say this about 1%ers, but they were all very cute.

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Princeton lawn party 2015

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Well, despite this post, I must say that my “book-done lifestyle” so far has been ever so busy and interesting. I’m shopping for a new tea cup, I’m catching up on my emails, I’m driving to Princeton for lunch, and I’m meeting up with a Real Housewife of New York.

Oh, did I forget to tell you that?

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That’s a longish story that I’ll have to tell you next week. But here’s a sneak preview: Yes! I’m applying to be a Real Housewife of Long Island!

Because I have such an interesting life and all.

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Stay tuned.

I’ve Been Working on the Rail Road

All the live-long day.
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There was nothing wrong with this picture. But then the gardeners at the Chelsea Physic Garden in London redesigned this bed of pom pom trees last year, and my illustration became too out-dated to use in the Damn Garden Book. The reason I didn’t just bury this pic in my Failure File is because I love the stones. I must have had a good day when I painted this back in 2012, because I love the way I got the stones to look greenish-gray — and I also liked the way the dirt came out. This is very flukey, when the Muse shows up and you get boring bits of stone and dirt to look “right”. So I wanted to save it.

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So, yes, this is another Rescue Story. And yeah, it seems to me, too, that I’ve never gotten one illustration for the Damn Garden Book to look right the first time. That’s why I swear that this will be my last illustrated travel memoir-ish. It’s just too depressing to keep failing, day after day after day…I have better things to do. I think. Maybe. Any hoo.

After cutting out the now-historically inaccurate bit,  I went to work:

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Blend, blend, blend in the scissor’d edge:

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Instead of fussy pom pom trees, I’m going to put in some decrepitude (see: last week’s post), to make it look the way it did on my first visit to the Chelsea Physic Garden in London, in 1999. Mind you, this manuscript must be completed by today, Friday May 8; and I am painting this on April 23. It’s this kind of perfectionism, which causes one to make ridiculously time-intensive last minute editorial decisions, that makes any kind of creative person with a deadline to become the kind of person that everyone warns is very touchy.

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Whilst I am being all Impressionist here, I would like you to pay attention to the stump of pom pom tree, that brown stick on the left hand side of the round shrub that stands out like a turd in bowl of pea soup (see below):

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My first idea was to paint over it with very, very dark green blades of dark green weeds, but that looked too obvious. So I painted over that mistake with white acrylic paint:

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And then decided to do the same for all the other too-dark green blades of weeds I’d already painted it:

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Well, I regretted the fix-up.

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So I did the only thing that a very tense, touchy, under-deadline pressured author/illustrator could do:

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The picture was too monotonous — too much blades of weedy things sticking straight up. It lacked texture. Also, that ball of boxwood had begun to annoy me. It lacked decrepitude.

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And so, with an appropriate amount of cursing, I started over….AGAIN.

Blend, blend, blend in the scissor’d edge:

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This time, I made very faint pencil marks to plot out TEXTURE:

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I made this picture dark so as to show you the faint pencil lines. It’s ugly, but effective. I think that’s pretty much my Philosophy of Illustration in a nutshell.

So far, I’ve been painting for about three hours. I know this because I had not intended to spend all day on this thing, so I’m watching the clock, hope hope hoping that this damn picture WoRKS OUT.

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Working wet-in-wet, I drop in some background…

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…before I put in the foreground:

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When I was 40 years old, I made a conscious decision to change my handwriting.

Ever since I’d learned to write, I had been making a capital “I” that looked like a little round circle. Everybody has some quirk in their handwriting, but this — and the way I made a small “r”(it looked like a pointed stick; Oprah does it too) — had become very irritating to me. So I simply made a New Year’s Resolution and forced myself to change my dopey little curlicue “I” into a tall, slender, stand-alone “I” SANS SERIF, and I began printing a small “r” whenever I needed a Latin rhotic.  I also didn’t care for the way I made a small “g”, too, until I learned that my figure-8 small “g” meant that I was very intellectually creative, so I kept it.

I mention this because I am also trying to change my watercolor painting handwriting. I’m trying to be looser, more Impressionistic. So at this stage of the illustration, I was feeling very confident that I was headed for Impressionistic success with this painting:

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But, in the end, I saw, clearly, that I blew it:

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Not for the first time, did my gut wrench over a Damn Garden Book illustration.

So, You Will NOT BELIEVE What  I Did Next!

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Yes, I ripped it apart — literally — and STARTED OVER.

AGAIN.

Now, this did not happen immediately. I had other obligations — life stuff, and a re-write of the whole London chapter — that I had to pay attention too; and, truth to tell, I was hoping that that last pic would grow on me. But, no, I have too much intellectual honesty and artistic integrity for that.

And, so, five days later, we been again, again:

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DONE. I know it’s a mix of persnickety manuscript-illumination and loosey-Roherschadt blots, but it works for me. (That obvious scissor-edge in the dark green front end can be eliminated digitally when the book goes into production, which is OK by me, although I prefer to do it manually, e.g.; I defy you to pick out the scissor edge on the whole right side.)

And I didn’t let the pom pom trees go to waste, either. I put them into their up-dated bed, like so:

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I’m DONE. I hand in the complete manuscript today, so from now on in the only fixes I’ll be making on the Damn Garden Book will be inserting (or deleting) commas, accent marks, and redundancies; and not getting annoyed that the proof reader keeps marking my capitalizations of the Four Seasons even tho I sent a note telling her (it’s usually a her) to leave them STET.

And then I am DONE.

DONE   DONE   DONE   DONE.

I’m going to take up a new hobby, and no, it will not be gardening. But, as an offshoot of writing this book, I am thinking about learning the beautiful language of Brazil. Portuguese.

Have a great weekend, everybody. And have a caipirinha on me.

I Like Depcrepitude

I have to be honest with you today, Dear Readers. Last Week Top Cat bought me a gift from Ye Olde Fine Wine and Liquor Store: whipped cream flavored vodka from France. It was kind of a joke. I mean, really — whipped cream flavored vodka? Seriously. What would anyone over the age of 15 want with whipped cream flavored vodka?

Last night I opened my gift and discovered that whipped cream flavored vodka tastes like the best soda pop you’ve ever had; like liquid bubblegum; like cotton candy with ice cubes; like birthday cake in a glass. It was like drinking Pixie Stix, and we all know that Pixie Stix come in a six-pack. Last night it was all about the “whipped cream”.

This morning I am dealing with the “vodka” part of that equation. So, Dear Readers, please lower your expectations this morning, please don’t make any sudden movements, and please, I beg of you, keep anything foody or shiny out of my sight.

I’ve been meaning to talk about my love of decrepitude for a while, so it serves me right to make this the Topic of the Day.

I love decrepitude in a garden. Not ruin, not neglect, not that other thing that means something like disintegration. (My head hurts. I’m not going to spend much time this week searching for the mot juste.)

Wait. Let me start again.

I painted a remembrance this week, of a garden visit that I’ve always treasured for its beautiful decrepitude. It was a walled garden in London.

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I’ve never painted decrepitude, but I had a feeling that it would involve a lot of yellowy rusty-colored blobs.

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And scraggly shrubbery:

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I tried to keep the yellows and the rusty bits composed because, while nature can get away with being monotonous, an illustration can’t. So I blobbed strategically.

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See that blob in the lower right corner above?

Below, is me making that blob look sticky and brambly:

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At this point, I was becoming concerned that there was a lot of same-old same-old brambly-ness going on:

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Don’t ask me why, but I dotted in some white acrylic paint to brighten and break up the monotonous texture. I also started painting in the background, which I wanted to be really dark because the pic needs contrast:

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This is me, making more sticks:

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It’s really not that hard. Less is more. I have to keep reminding myself that.

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I forget why I took this photo (below). I know I wanted to show something…

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…maybe I wanted you to be inside this decrepitude, the way I was in my mind the whole while I was painting it. Because when you back away, like this…

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…I think you lose the “there” there. This is one of those paintings that I hated to crop. I like the little dabs of try-out colors that all my watercolors have by the time they are finished. All that marginalia tells a story, the story of how this pic was painted.

So that’s my picture of decrepitude. I made a few more paintings like it, each one more or less, mostly less, successful in portraying the state of lovely decomposition that I call decrepitude. And “decomposition” isn’t the right word either.

This might be the hangover talking, because I’ve now passed the stage of intense, intense focus on not throwing up and am entering  the stage of recovery that the experts call “feeling weepy about climate change and the fate of the polar bears” but this garden didn’t want to be weedy and overgrown. It wanted to be beautiful, and be admired. It wanted to be great, like it once was. But it just didn’t have gardeners who loved it enough to keep it in shape. So there was something so brave and epic about the way it flourished, best it could.

Decrepitude.

Thank you for not making any loud sounds, or frying bacon, or asking me why I don’t remember buying that $495.00 paint-by-number Paris street scene off of eBay last night. Much appreciated.

 

An Effective Counter-Historical Narrative

I went to a day-long program at New York University in Manhattan last Friday, where I was in a room with at least 50 PhDs where things such as “an effective counter-hisotrical narrative”and “alternative epistemic machinery” were said. I loved it.

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Mind you, it’s not that my own cat buddies …

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… aren’t intellectually stimulating companions (they’re not)…

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… but this program at NYU was all about decompiling computer history, a subject I had absolutely no interest in. So I signed up.

I boarded the 8:42 to Penn Station and sat my ass down from 10 – 6 to hear all about the textures of digitization in daily life, and the myths of internet infrastructure, and abstract unintuitive machines, and such. I am happy to report  that the lemma of American cultural imperialism is still alive and well, only this time it’s all MicroSoft’s fault.

Remember the good old days, when it used to be rock and roll that was going to take over the world and ruin culture for everybody? *Sigh* That was then.  These days, rock and roll has all the cultural hegemony of baton twirling.

Seriously, tho. The program brought together really REALLY smart people, and they all gave my brain quite a workout, which I admit has gone flabby in recent years. Last month, for example, I tried to figure out why Kate Hudson is launching a clothing line based on her “intuition as an athlete and a fashion lover”, and why kate Hudson is famous in the first place, and I just couldn’t do it.

So, please meet the brilliant thinkers who made me think hard about the things they think deeply about:

Here is what Jason Scott (below, in a photo that I took myself and didn’t have to grab from the inter webs), who is the world’s first and most famous archivist of the internet:

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Kevin Driscoll (M.S. from MIT, Ph.D. from USC , D.J. from his being a millennial) from whom I learned about the effective counter-historical narrative in the context of myths concerning internet infrastructure:

driscoll_xorAnd superstar Stephanie Dick …

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… (Ph.D. Harvard, Alan Turing Centennial Fellow, and lots of other etc.’s), who talked about how the brute force of computer-done mathematic proofs are different from elegance of people-done mathematic proofs and how both embody an intellectual grace all their own, and since she’s a gifted mathematician herself  and as articulate as Neil deGrasse Tyson, she was analytically astute and cogent and AWESOME.

Ramsey Nassar …

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… game designer, computer scientist, and the kind of Ph.D. that gets to dig deep into secret Ottoman archives in Beruit (maybe it was Constantinople) to discover the Arabian Turing Machine that challenges the entrenched MicroSoftic-imperialistic narrative of the history of computers. As an amateur linguist, I savored his short tutorial on the scriptural form (there isn’t any print form) and mechanics of the Arabic language.

Joy Rankin …

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… (Dartmouth, Duke, MIT, and Yale for god’s sake!) who discovered how the  Minneapolis school system in the 1970s built a social network before there were personal computers . I know, I know…the 1970s…yawn. I get depressed every time I remember the 1970s. I was not on my game in the 1970s; but neither was the rest of America. And here’s Joy Rankin, born way after the hey day of Tony Orlando and Dawn,  researching the 1970s as if they were interesting. Way to go, future MacArthur Genius.

WHY WAS YOU THERE??? you may well ask. I was there to hear the one speaker whose work I was familiar with and am quite the fan of….

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… the one and only Stacy Horn.

I know Stacy as the author of my favorite book of 2001 (see above, subtitled “A Morbid Memoir” but its not at all morbid, in my opinion, and is actually a lovely story about the meaning of life and cats).

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Stacy is also the author of books about the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory and the cold case squad of the New York Police Dept.  Her most recent is Imperfect Harmony, about the psychological and physical well-being to be had from singing with others, based on her 30-years of singing with the Grace Church Choral Society (it’s not a religious book). When I discovered that she’d be speaking about the social network she founded way back in 1990, when she founded the first social network on the East Coast and (side bar) became the hottest IT babe in America (glamor shoots for Vanity Fair, Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, etc.), I HAD to be there.

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These are NYU Ph.D. students (above) being captivated by Stacy’s program. Stacy’s talk was personal, historical, whimsical, and AWESOME. She was what everybody else was talking about: a pioneer in the making of computer history.

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At the Q & A part of the program

What a joy it was for me to be breathing the same air as this group of people — speaking and listening — who were so intellectually engaged with the world. I always say that I need to get out of the house more often but I never would have thought that a program about decompiling computer history would make it so worth missing Judge Judy, but it just goes to show you.

Wherever smart people work, doors are unlocked.  (Steve Wozniak)

The thing about smart people is that they seem crazy to dumb people. (Anonymous, on a T-shirt)

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss celebrities. (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Smart people know that you can only believe half of what you are told. But only very smart people know which half. (Janina Ipohorska)

Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.  (John Wooden)

Richard Branson, for example, is a total maverick but he surrounds himself with smart, successful people and he listens to them. (Brandon Burchard)

Smart people do amazing things against awful odds.  (Kim Harrison)

I think smart is sexy. I like smart people. People that are comfortable with themselves I think is very sexy. My cat is really sexy.  (Gina Gershon)

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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Triscuit Factory

Well. After spending four days slaving over a Book Cover painting that Bloomsbury rejected, I needed to retreat to my comfort zone. So bring on the Triscuit!

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This is the third part of a Triscuit Tryptich for the New Orleans chapter of The Damn Garden Book:

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Which brings me to a sad story. As you know, I have always called my Triscuit-sized miniature paintings “Triscuits”.

Fun Fact: Triscuits were the favorite snack cracker of the degenerate William Burroughs, who deciphered the etymology of his and my fave snack food as deriving from the French: Tres Cuit. Awesome.

Having endured a pseudo-trademark threat of legal action for a photograph I posted on my blog in 2012 (long story, TBA) I decided to make my relationship with Triscuit legit. I wrote what’s called a “begging letter” to get permission from a conglomerate called Mondelez (Mon-dell-ease) to use the name “Triscuit” in print and bloggy-type postings. I prepared a package that included my 2 books, each Post-It [Trademark] tagged for the pages that feature my “Triscuits”, and sent it hither to the land called The Nouveau Jersey.

I also included a fulll-color photocopy “gallery” of unpublished Triscuits, to impress Mondelez with my artistry:

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Three months later I had a telephone conversation with a delightful representative on Mondelez who had reviewed my packet and request, and said that she could not offer me official permission to use the trademarked name “Triscuit”, but also would not bar me from using the trademarked name “Triscuit” either. She said, “Just use your best judgement.”

That is incredibly sweet. In other words, I’m allowed to use the term “Triscuit” in print and blog until Mondelez sends me a Cease and Desist order. I’m OK with that.

The downside of all this is that, ever since I took my original art in Triscuit form to Staples to get a color copy to include in my packet/plea to Mondelez (see above, photo of color copy of my gallery of Triscuits) , I have not laid eyes on these original Triscuits. Somehow, I have lost them all. I’ve called Staples to ask if my Triscuits were found in the color copier, and called them again, and called them again — the Print Dept. has been very kind about keeping all their staff alerted to any scum bag who might, just might, show up to return some original art work he found left behind on the Self-Serve color copier. I also have thrown TWO Find ‘Em parties in my house, and nope…nothing has turned up.

It’s been four months. I have numbed myself to the truth that these treasured Triscuits are gone forever.

Life is a mystery.

Anyhow, life goes on, and against Top Cat’s plea to Keep It Short, I am going to elongate this post for one more story.

I received a package in the mail yesterday, and when I ripped it open I found this:

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Of course I recognized the handwriting, and the wonderful hand-wrapping:

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I tore the gift paper apart (double-sided! Fancy!):

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Turned the treasure over and voila:

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If you have been following Liz Gilbert’s blog, you know that this is [an uncorrected proof for limited distribution/review only of] her hotly anticipated new book Big Magic; Creative Living Beyond Fear.

From what I’ve read so far, this book explodes with the charm and voice of her wonderful first-person self that we loved in Committed and Eat,Pray, Love. I will be devouring this book ASAP and I will be reporting on its wondrousness next week. Stay tuned.

P.S. Bloomsbury, having rejected my own  painstakingly awesome cover illustration (see last week’s post), just sent me their own idea of a book cover for The Damn Garden Book.  I must admit, it’s fabulous. It is sooooo much better than what I did. I love it. I’ll be showing you that, too, all in good time…all in good time.

 

 

Finishing The Hat

As you might remember, last week I left you with this incomplete painting for the cover of my Damn Garden Book:

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What I am about to show you in this post took three days to accomplish, if “accomplish” is the right word. Hmmmm…let’s say that what I am about to show you took three days to ruin and rescue, ruin AGAIN and rescue AGAIN. And, by the way, in the end, my publisher didn’t care for it. Ha! I’m re-doing this baby over my shriveled with anxiety/exhausted by self-doubt remains!

I think most what I am about to show you is self-explanatory but it’s not very likely that I’ll be sitting around here, loading up the visuals, without butting into your experience of the ruin and rescue that is pretty much my bread and butter as an artist.

I begin by applying liquid masking fluid comme ca:

P1000911Joan, this is for you: When I turn on the light box, the sketch that I made on tracing paper appears, like magic, onto my 90-lb. watercolor paper (see below). I use this as a guide before I paint, but I must paint with the light box off (forgive me for repeating myself, but its the only way to see the true color of the paint).

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I hum my Painting Stand-Out Leaves song as I paint what I hope will be stand-out leaves:

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I have to constantly check the colors that I’ve already laid down on the other side, to make sure that I’m balancing light and dark greens, but not too balancing:P1000916

To get the dreamy look of blue-ish-green verdure that I love (but use sparingly), I have to work wet-in-wet:

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I now have the idea of introducing yellow into the picture. I start on the previously painted side…

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…and I put an equally bright yellow on my “new” side (see below). I also note that the “stand-out” leaves do not “stand out”, so I add one more blob of yellow to appease my sense of composition. first, I paint in a white undercoat with acrylic paint:

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But I can tell that the undercoat is very, uh, textural (gloppy), so I cut out a poise and glue it into place:

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(Jeanie: I use good old Elmer’s glue.) Please not the lovely blue-ish-green billow I put in above the yellow whatsits:

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Since I am desperate to not screw up now, I do the sensible thing (for once) and I make a “practice” painting of the banana leaves I want to do next, to add some texture that will balance those spiky shoots across the way. Note how I edited out the droopy frond because it looks stupid:

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It is obvious to me that I need to raise the banana leaves a little bit higher to balance — but not too balance — the composition:

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Nope. It’s not right (see below). I’m starting my fourth day of painting this damn thing, and the first thing I realize is that all the stuff I had just put in isn’t enough to give this imaginary garden some pizzazz.  I need to go back and add some pizzazz elements down in the lower left hand corner. Yes, I will sacrifice my dreamy blue-ish-green billow for the good of the many:

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I know exactly where to find my pizzazz elements — in my huge (note tea bag for scale) binder of failed illustrations that I never throw away — for exactly times like this:

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I dig out a Japanese lantern, some spiffy striped leaves I saw all over New Orleans, and a poinsettia tree that I remembered from Rio, and I arranged them so I could see if that’s how I want to go:

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Yep. That’ll do.

Because my brain is numb from how much damn time it’s taking to paint this damn thing, I become distracted by the sight of a very, very small beetle making his way across my desk, and I take pity on him. He looks faint with hunger, the way he is wobbling from step to itty bitty bitty step. So I go to the kitchen and I put a speck of honey on the tip of a knife, and I smear it on the desk. Mr. Beetle has no problem finding it (well, I did put it right in front of him).

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Mr. Beetle eats, and then turns around and moseys off whence he came, and I still can’t face another whole day of painting in terror. So now is an excellent time for me to mention my new favorite TV show:

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Google Images are really small.

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I  totally escape when I watch this show. It’s about being the last survivor of a world-wide virus that has killed 99.9999% of humans. I watch it and my mind is completely soothed with its premise. Imagine. 99.9999% of humanity gone. Disappeared. Ceased to being.

No war. No terrorists.  No Kardashians. No slow drivers in the left lane. No rappers. No politicians. Ahhhhhh. What a paradise. Seriously. I project all my anxieties into this TV show, and the silence and emptiness that comes back to me is Nirvana. I also laugh out loud at the hi-jinks which ensue when one is The Last Man on Earth.

I’m also a fan of Kristen Schaal, who is one of the leads:

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Even thinking about The Last Man of Earth puts me in a good mood. I’m even almost ready to go on with this post!

However, my sweet Top Cat is always urging me to Keep It Short so, this is a fine time to take a break from reading, maybe dial up The Last Man on Earth on your On Demand channel, and continue with Part II in the post that follows this one when you are ready for more damn painting.