Don’t Cry For Me  Por Favor-hor: These are my working conditions. (Sob.) I have to paint around big fat furry kitty butts.

But I digress. The thing I wanted to discuss today was something that nobody ever told me about getting older. Which is, the older you get, the more things make you cry. What is up with that?

I think I went through the first 20 years of adulthood (age 19 to 39) without crying more than three times. TOTAL. (Because of cats: the older I get, the more it sucks that we have to outlive our pet kitties. If we are lucky.)

But then I turned 40, and little things started to make me cry. TV COMMERCIALS started to make me cry. And now, I’m lucky if I can make it through a week without puddling up.

I did a talk on Tuesday night (it went well — whew) and I had to drop part of it because I didn’t think I could do it without crying: I have a thing about hugging trees. I love to hug trees. And there’s a special tree here on Long Island that is extremely worthy of hugging, a hundred-year old American Elm tree (you know how 100 million elm trees died in the 1950s due to Dutch Elm disease? Well, there’s one elm tree here on Long Island that has so far escaped the disease and it’s the first elm tree that I  have ever hugged and lo, there is nothing like putting your arms around a lone elm tree…). Yes, I talked about the elm tree on Long Island, but I couldn’t bring myself to talk about THIS elm tree http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2010/01/08/us/AP-US-The-Old-Man-and-the-Tree.html 

because it was only going to make me cry.

And then my friend Melinda sent me a YouTube video that made me cry and it ISN’T EVEN ABOUT CATS:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ds8ryWd5aFw

The other wierd thing about getting older is that I laugh more: I’ve been watching TV sitcoms for…what? 40 years? 50 years? (Ouch.) And I have NEVER laughed out loud while watching them, even when Barney Fife was being his most braggadocious, or when My Favorite Martian got himself in a right pickle, or when Davy Jones got the punch line to any one of the Monkees’ jokes.

Except now. Now I can’t get through an episode of Community (NBC, Thursday nights at 8) , or The Big Bang Theory (CBS, Monday nights at 9:30) , or Flight of the Conchords (HBO Whenever) without laughing. OUTLOUD.

Am I getting stupid?

Or am I just getting old? Old enough to realize, in a way that I never could when I was young, that happiness is so very accidental, so much a happenstance of chance and fleeting moments and hard work, that I can only cry (or laugh) at the bravery of those who  make joy out of this sad and angry and doomed old world? (Bad news this week from Haiti, from the Massachusettes special election, from the Supreme Court ruling about corporate funding for elections: I just want to cry.) Those people who dance in their winter coats, who love a tree for 50 years, who hit those high notes, who make us laugh — I think they are more death-defying than prayer or “art” or stone monuments. I think they are love, and kindness — and that gets me.

Oh jeeze. Am I getting nice in my old age?     That’s sooo not like me.

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January dawn light, through frost-covered windows, shines onto my bedroom curtains,

and makes me remember this light on a dusky winter walk a few days before, in upstate New York:

When the sun unexpectedly shone for a bright moment on a snowy day in upstate New York, I ran to this window:

 

That same sun beam was lighting up this corner of the library.  (What do you read on a day like this? That bookcase contains nothing but murder mysteries — I recommend something English, written before 1950.)

Back to that icy sparkling window: in the upper left hand corner is a peek at the backyard:

 

This is what the backyard looks like:

In the front yard, there is a gazebo where you can sit and look at loons and beavers on the pond.

And when it snows the very next day, this is what the snow around the gazebo looks like at night:

 

 

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This is the house on the corner of MacDougall Street and Bingham Avenue, about six blocks from my house on Long Island. I would be happy to live across the street from this house just so I could look out my livingroom window and see this Wonder Wall every day.

You know what also makes me happy? Knowing that I have the BEST readers out there: it makes me happy to read all your Comments, especially because you have moose walking up to your front porch ,  and have entertained at the USO, and had a childhood in Africa, and you have the Rocky Mountains in your backyard, and you live in England .

(Remind me again: Why am I writing about me when I’m clearly about the least interesting person reading this blog??)

It’s been a GREAT 2009 (for me) because of youse.

Thank You, everyone who Comments. And Thank You everyone who reads and don’t remind me that I am the least interesting person etc.

I am always trying to make my blog better and for 2010 I have a few ideas that I’ll be throwing up for discussion. But that’s for future posts (suggestions are welcomed)– for today I am leaving you with this picture of the front of my house the morning after the Great Blizzard of ’09 because it makes me happy that Top Cat painted the whole shebang this Summer to make one of my life’s dearest wishes come true: I now live in my own yellow house.

With coral-tone shutters and lime green doors (the house has two front doors: this is the old one , which came with the original front porch 100 years ago) because I’ve also always wanted to live in a house that has New Orleans colors.

P.S. I live on a street with a lot of 100-year old houses. Those lime-green doors didn’t go over all that well with the neighbors.

Sazeracs for everyone!

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Some things just go together.

Milk and cookies, pretzels and mustard, cream cheese and celery, Lennon and McCartney, butter and biscuits, etc.

Yes, some things just go together: gin and tonic, Currier and Ives, shoes and socks, Sodom and Gomorrah, baseball and apple pie, marshmallows and camp fires, Hershey and kisses, end-of-the-year holidays and unresolved personal issues.

And, then, there’s Cute and My Cat, Butter :

That’s Butter. Chasing imaginary birdies in the snow.

 

Have a great weekend, everyone. See you Monday.

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Are We There Yet

Angus, the Airedale in the middle (above), lives on a 70-acre estate [old farmland with woods and a pond] in upstate New York. He has been waging a valiant battle to recover from injuries that he sustained three weeks ago, probably from a hunter’s high powered rifle — it took Angus three days to crawl home, wounded as he was. He has been undergoing treatment from the finest vets in the county and recuperating at home in the care and love of his beloved human companion and his “pack”, Malcom and Lily (above). Back in the vet’s office for follow-up care, while being administered routine anesthesia for more surgery, Angus’s heart, as big and as brave as it was, just gave out; he died yesterday afternoon.

We all who knew Angus and knew his fearless, hardy, adventuresome, and loving spirit, and all of us who had been in awe of his stout-heartedness and serenity during these past few weeks, all of us who were inspired and comforted by his determination to remain the leader and soul of his pack, are devasted.  He was a good dog. He was family.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.”

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“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.”

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

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

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“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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drain

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:

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The Moves.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

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Summer

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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