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It’s hot here on the north shore of Long Island. HOT.

And it’s the Fourth of July, and we have a four-day holiday weekend, and I am feeling lazy.

So let’s all take a day off and let’s all soak in the Summer and let’s all laugh at the little man in the White House who has to throw himself a big parade.

I’ll see you here in one week!

 

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This is a photo of the charity shop that I co-manage here on the north shore of Long Island, selling used books for the benefit of our local library. It is a one-room, 300-sq. foot parlor of a house built in 1820, and it’s operated under the aegis of The Friends of the Library. We are open 18 hours a week, from Tuesday to Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday.

Oh, lordy, you cannot believe the drama.

To catch you up with as few words as possible, my co-manger and I told our Wednesday volunteer that we had replaced her with a new Wednesday volunteer who was more reliable and much, much less creepy.

Old Wednesday volunteer did not take it well. First, she tried to arrange a meeting between us, the president of the Friends of the Library, and the Director of the library. I have quoted her hilariously illiterate email in my blog of May 2, I Got Cat Class and I Got Cat Style. Since I and my co-manager both refused to attend this pow-wow, she cancelled the meeting in a huff and called me, among other things, “delusional”.

It seems that, since then, Old Wednesday volunteer has been stewing about the situation because last week she sent an email to every board member of The Friends of the Library, to the Director and head librarians of the Library, AND to the Board of Trustees of the Library, proposing an amendment to the by-laws of the Friends of the Library. This is a paste and copy of her email:

Any grievance by any volunteer or library personnel 

Should be brought before the main board of directors or the friends of the library.No volunteers or employee has the right to make a decision that ultimately falls under the jurisdiction of the main board or The Friends of the Bryant Library.

Disregarding the weirdness of her random punctuation, arbitrary capitalizations, misuse of legalistic jargon, and imprecise wording (who/what the hell is “the main board of directors”??), Old Wednesday volunteer does not understand that the business of The Friends of the Library has nothing to do with the library itself or its trustees. Likewise, The Friends have no business making policy that involves the library itself or its trustees.

The purpose of Old Wednesday volunteer’s amendment, obviously, is for her to institute a process whereby the decision to fire her from the used book store can be overturned by a “grievance” process that involves the full membership of the Friends of the Library and, apparently, the library staff and its trustees.

*Sigh* Dealing with this kind of stupidity is like punching a tar baby.

Nevertheless, I punched back any way, and wrote a rebuttal and sent it Reply To All. Everyone in The Friends, the library staff, and the trustees got it. I won’t quote it here — it’s rather wordy — but I will  cut and paste it to the bottom of this post if you want to read it.

Naturally, heated opinions of this amendment, of me, and of Old Wednesday volunteer, are flying back and forth amongst the Friends; the poor folks in the library and the innocent trustees are staying out of it, as they should since they were dragged into it only by the idiocy of Old Wednesday volunteer in the first place.

The show down comes at the next Friends meeting on June 4.

There Will Be Blood. I hope.

Back at the used book store, where I report on the oddities that come our way from the donations that we receive from the community, we got this last week:

The book on the left was a donation. The book on the right is my own copy of the authorized Potter publication.

Beatrix Potter’s stories are all in the public domain so it’s OK to re-print the text. It is not, however, OK to use her illustrations, so this “new” version copied the Beatrix Potter’s original illustrations.

This is the strangest thing.

Beatrix Potter’s original The Tale of Benjamin Bunny had 27 illustrations. The “new” version has only 7, but they are, as you can see, a stroke-by-stroke knock off.

This got me thinking about art. It’s obvious, looking at this pitiful illustrations and any place else where you find art that has been knocked-off/copied/re-hashed/derived by a second-rate hacks that the original stuff has a luminosity and soul that can not be replicated.

I think it’s a necessary step in one’s artistic development to copy the genius work that went before, but only as instruction, only as a way to educate one’s self of the “tricks” and quirks and untouchable brilliance of the Greats.

But here, in this re-print of Benjamin Bunny, I don’t understand the point. We already have the superb original illustrations for sale, easy to find in any bookstore. Why would any one want to buy the knock-off? Why would any one want to look at the haggard, pale, bloodless, puny reflection of the original?

Why would you listen to a Beatle tribute band when you can easily listen to real Beatles records? Why would you go to a store to look at a Thomas Kinkade painting when you can go to a museum and look at a Vermeer? Why would you eat Taco Bell when there’s a taqueria down the street?

Life is mysterious.

We also got this in:
It’s not a good book. But it’s interesting to me because of the note that I found, written on the inside cover:

If you want to read it you can click onto the photo to enlarge it…but I don’t recommend it. It is very rambling (People! Do a rough draft before you commit your words to a book!!) and repetitive, but it’s alive note to Amy from her husband of one year, Adam. Adam loves Amy; or, at least Adam loved Amy as of their first wedding anniversary on Sept. 1, 2002.

These were also tucked inside the book:

Amy gave Adam three cards on their first wedding anniversary, and she wrote the usual pitter patter about how happy she is that Adam is her husband yadda yadda yadda.

Did Amy or Adam ever think that, a mere 18 years later, their notes professing undying love would be dropped off — tossed, like; dumped — so unceremoniously at a used book store? Poor kids. I hope nothing really terrible happened to them, and that they just grew apart, like people do, and found that their true selves did not mesh after all and Adam is now following his passion as a civil war re-enactor and Amy is pursuing her calling as a dog food taster. I wish them the best.

There must have been something in the ether this week because in another donation of books, I found this:

I found this card inside what I assume was the wedding gift: a facsimile of The Book of Kells.

For those who don’t know, The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels of the New Testament from approx. 800 CE, hand-painted by monks in Britain or Ireland. It is on display in Dublin, in a very dreary corner of Trinity College. I would show you the photo I took of the book, but for some reason my computer has crapped out and I can’t fetch any more pix from iPhoto. But The Book of Kells is creepy.

The note inside the facsimile of The Book of Kells, signed by the same hand that signed the wedding card, alerted the newlyweds of the high quality of the reproductions in this faux The Book of Kells, and advised them that some of the larger repros can be removed from the book and would look very nice framed and hung on living room walls.

Yeah, I thought the same thing: Weird.

The task of sorting through great quantities of second-hand books can get depressing, so every once in a while I try to lift my spirits above the waste and sadness of this world’s ample supply of dreadful, ugly, battered, unwanted and unloved books. I do this by selecting, from an almost unlimited choice, the week’s Most Boring Book.

And here, for you, Dear Readers, is this week’s Most Boring Book:

For the coffee table, this book is 255 pages, weighs 4 pounds, was published in 1991, and cost $46 when it was new. As the title so eloquently hints, it’s about beds.

I think the technical term for this kind of book is vanity project. The proof is in the author photo:

Trust me on this. The world did not need a book about beds in 1991, or ever.

The writing, O, lordy, the writing. . .

I have a friend who can’t find a publisher for his fabulous book about the 20 years he has been a regular at his Paris cafe, but a book about beds did?!?!

That’s all I got for you this week, Dear Ones. My answer to the odious Wednesday volunteer’s email (at the top of this blog post) follows, but feel free to end our weekly visit here, taking with you my wishes for an authentically happy weekend. May all your Benjamin Bunnies, all your love letters, all your hopes and dreams and tacos be the real thing.

XXOO

****

Reply to the odious Wednesday volunteer and everyone else on her extensive email list.

Hi Everyone –

Concerning this proposal to include a  “grievance” process in the new by-laws of The Friends of Bryant Library, I would like to respond.

“Grievance” is a legal term requiring specific formalities and obligations re: civil or criminal procedures between litigants.

Judging by the subsequent language in this text that refers to “library personnel”;  “employee”; and “jurisdiction”, I assume that the term “grievance” is, here, being used legalistically (as noted above), specifically in relation to issues between employers and employees;  I also assume that the term “the main board of directors” refers to the Board of Trustees of the Bryant Library (the text is very imprecise so I’m doing my best to deduce meaning).

I would like to remind the Friends that The Bryant Library and the Board of Trustees of The Bryant Library are separate entities, and each is distinct and apart from each other, and apart and distinct from The Friends of Bryant Library.  Thus, any “grievance” issues regarding the employees, trustees, volunteers, board members, and/or administrators (“library personnel”) of The Bryant Library and/or its Board of Trustees, have nothing whatsoever to do with The Friends of Bryant Library. And, vice-versa: There is nothing that The Bryant Library and/or its Board of Trustees can do to effect any policy or action within the functions of The Friends of Bryant Library. In fact, to have presumed otherwise shows a shocking ignorance of the mission, purpose, and basic regulatory and juridical constraints of The Friends of Bryant Library.

Thus, it would be inappropriate and certainly illegal for The Friends of Bryant Library to insert themselves into any “grievance” process regarding the employees, trustees, volunteers, board members, and/or administrators (“library personnel”) under the “jurisdiction” of The Bryant Library or its Board of Trustees.  It would also be ridiculous to involve any employee, trustee, volunteer, board member, and/or administrator (“library personnel”) of The Bryant Library and/or its Board of Trustees with a “grievance” within The Friends of Bryant Library.

But perhaps I am being too persnickety in my interpretation of this missive. It is, as you can see, an incoherent document. Maybe “grievance” is, here, being used in its quotidian context, as merely the complaint of a real or imagined slight.

If so, it is my opinion that creating a formal process for airing personality clashes among various volunteers of The Friends of Bryant Library is too petty and tedious a process to be included in this organization’s by-laws or functions.

However, should there be a Friend of Bryant Library who is frothing at the mouth to settle trivial scores, I can recommend a tried-and-true arena: Thunderdome.

In conclusion:

Having shown that The Friends of Bryant Library 501 ( c ) (3) is under no obligation (indeed, is prohibitedfrom doing so) to address any “grievance” within The Bryant Library  and/or The Board of Trustees of The Bryant Library; and vice-versa; and having stated my objections to The Friends of Bryant Library creating a process for addressing any “grievance”( in its frivolous “hurt feelings” definition), I recommend that no such language in any form be included in the by-laws of the Friends of Bryant Library.

Respectfully,

Vivian Swift

 

 

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I took this picture of Dennis (below) and Taffy (above) on January 4:

Dennis looked like his usual self, tubby and content, but little did we know that he was, in fact, getting very sick.

When he took a nap on one of our dining room chairs later that month, on January 22, I had no reason to believe that he was not the healthy, dreamy kitty he’s always been in the three years that I have known him. Look at his body language! Everything about him says I’m happy and relaxed and do you have any turkey-flavored treats you want to give me?:

On February 1, he was napping in his favorite sunbeam in the hutch in our backyard and I called him, over and over, Dennis, Come inside, Dennis, It’s too cold for kittens, Dennis!

And he calmly blinked back at me,giving me that look that said Why is she yelling, and who is this Dennis?

He could always make me laugh.

I came home from my travels late on February 14 and I picked up Dennis to give him a hug and I was shocked. He had suddenly become very thin! This is always worrying. Then I remembered that his appetite had seemed to drop off in the past two weeks, but I assumed it was because his parents next door were feeding him something he liked better (and that’s what they thought, too, when he became a picky eater over at their house).

Dennis’ parents were away on a week-long trip to Florida, so I took him to the vet the next day, a Friday. The vet felt his tummy and could tell that his kidneys were enlarged and she also felt “a mass”. She took blood and gave me the results the next day.

Dennis is in kidney failure. He needs a sonogram to confirm our worst fears about that “mass”, so I got him the first available appointment with a specialist at the animal hospital, on Monday.

Late Sunday night, his parents came home from their own travels. I saw them Monday morning to tell them about our sick kitty, and this news stunned them for the same reasons it gob-smacked Top Cat and me — Dennis seemed so normal and healthy, all the way up until the time that his situation became catastrophic overnight.

We all went to the specialist together.

The specialist confirmed the worst. Dennis has lymphoma, a cancer that begins in the lymph nodes and spreads to other organs. In this case, Dennis’ kidneys are affected. The specialist told us that further  treatment (chemotherapy) is not recommended due to the severity of Dennis’ cancer and the damage done to his kidneys. Dennis’ prognosis is very poor. It’s a matter of days.

I have kissed him a hundred times, and told him how much I love him, and he is home now with his parents and his favorite blankets and toys. Although he is not in pain, he probably feels queasy due to the toxins that are building up in his body  due to his malfunctioning kidneys. He is being kept comfortable. We’ll know when it’s time to bundle him up and take him back to the vet, for the last time.

Dennis is seven years old. We had to chose a birthday for his hospital records, so I picked February 14, 2012. He’ll always be my Valentine.

May 12, 2016. The first photo of the new kitty in my backyard.

 

May 21, 2016. I think this new kitty is sizing us up.

 

June 23, 2016. Sure. Make yourself at home. My garden shed is your garden shed, stranger.

 

July 21, 2016. I think this one is a keeper. I better get my TNR ready.

 

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This is the actual flight tracker on Delta Airlines (seat 20C) from my flight home yesterday:

There is more to the story, but I’ll have to tell you all about it next Friday.

I am jet-lagged today and Dennis is doing poorly so first things first: a trip to the vet and then, a nice long nap.

See you here on the 22nd.

In the meantime, have a great weekend. Hakuna matata y’all.

 

 

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First we were rained out, then we had too many parties to go to, and then it was one thing after another…it was Christmas Eve when we finally  packed up the champagne and the plastic beach glasses to go to our special spot on the north shore of Long Island, by the water’s edge of the Long Island Sound, to celebrate the Winter Solstice. It was cold and windy. We weren’t even sure there would be much of a sun set, it being so cloudy.

But we waited anyway. . .

. . . and at 4:33 PM the Earth and the Sun managed to put on a show of light that felt almost holy, and made us happy to be alive on this marvelous and mysterious planet. Isn’t that what every great sun set does? (That’s the skyline of Manhattan in the way back.)

And then the neighbor’s cat, Dennis, came through the hole in the fence and he didn’t see his shadow, so that means we have 12 more weeks of keeping Dennis warm when he does his mind-meld from the backyard to let us know that he wants to take a Winter’s nap in our house.

Remember back, on November 2, when we set the clocks back to Winter Time and I wrote a check list called Preparation and Dread: Winter is Coming?

Item 8:

Volunteer for a social project. This year, I am starting a new fund-raising event for the library and I hope to raise big bucks but first, I have to change the by-laws so we can have an open bar in the reference section (for just one night! Not for all time!). You can throw all the kids’ events you want, but it’s the grown-ups who have spending money and they won’t come to your dinky library gala if there is no booze.

I still haven’t been able to get the library to lighten up on its tea-total ways, but I have started work on my Winter Sanity Project.

I am organizing the fund raising for a miniature golfing event at our local library, the William Cullen Bryant Library in Roslyn, NY.

We will be setting up an 18-hole miniature golf course INSIDE the library, and bringing in kids and teenagers and adults to play while the library is open, on Saturday April 6, 9 AM – 5 PM.

We have a very generous Title Sponsor in Fidelity Investments — they came through for us like champs. Fidelity is the best. They have been awesome.

And now I am asking businesses in our community for money…you can imagine the endless fun that is. One by one, I am getting Hole Sponsors for the 18 holes but it’s not easy. I am beginning to wonder why the library has not made itself more beloved in the community, because I have seen this mini-golf thing go over huge in other similarly-size towns and in Roslyn it’s mano-a-mano. Without going into details (and I have a lot of details) for now, towns half our size put us to shame when it comes to fund raising for the library. This is a topic I will be happy to bitch about discuss at a later date, but let’s get to happier business for today.

For the month before our mini-golf event, that is, all of March 2019, I will be doing PR to get everyone all fired up to come and play at the Bryant Library. One thing I am doing is making more Book Art, because there’s got to be something in it for me since I don’t play golf and I don’t have kids.

I’m going to make a miniature Miniature Golf course, with our favorite childrens’ book characters as the golfers.

Naturally, I started with this guy:

I made his tree out of plain white bond paper, and then I covered it with strips of text from a paperback copy of  The House At Pooh Corner from 1928, by A. A. Milne with original illustrations by E. H. Shephard.

I used the Pooh Bear from Disney because he’s in color, but don’t fear; I also have Shephard’s wonderful original characters on site, too.

I also used this Disney illustration as a reference:

I really wanted to make one of these holes. I can’t think of what to call them — don’t they have a name?

Luckily, I had made my Pooh tree with different sized tubes of paper (which I rolled myself) so, as most of the tree is hollow, it was easy to stab a hole into the fat tree limb:

I used my trusty scalpel to dig out a nice-sized hole:

This is hard to photograph: I stuffed a cup-shaped disk of dark print into the hole. . .

. . . and then I flattened the edges of the disk around the hole. So, yes, there is actually an interior to this hole:

I glued graduated layers of text into several  O-rings and, while the whole thing was still damp with loads of Elmer’s glue, I shaped it to fit the limb, and set aside to dry:

It mounted onto the tree limb like it was custom-made, which of course it was.

You can see that I have put various characters from The House At Pooh Corner up into the tree — there’s Eeyore, Piglet, Christopher Robin, and Rabbit (above). I put the original Pooh in here on four or five leaves, in homage to the great E. H. Shephard drawings that we all love.

Tigger is on the tree limb on the right.

I will add a golf club to Pooh — I see him carrying it over his shoulder as he gets directions from Gopher to the first tee.

I found several books in the used book store that had green bindings, so I’m using them as “greens” for the miniature miniature golf game that will be played. I also found books that have green end papers:

I have the next “green” lined up. These end papers will give me a nice space to make Farmer MacGregor’s garden for Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny, and maybe have room left over for some Wind in the Willows.

I’m also working on a castle with a dragon from a YA fantasy series, and a formal garden with topiary for the Cat in the Hat.

The miniature miniature golf corse will go on display on March 1, in the same case where the castles are (see: Dec. 7, Somebody in Leicestershire Likes Me).

People are going to be sick of seeing my book art.

One last panic note: My feral indoor cat, Candy, mama to Lickety and Taffy (this is Candy and Taffy, below):

. . . has been very quiet lately. She’s been sleeping a lot, and today she stopped coming ’round to the buffet for breakfast and lunch. So somehow, I got to get close to her to inspect the situation, and now I know why she’s feeling poorly and I am FREAKED OUT.

She has an in-grown claw that, as far as I can see, has curled around and is piercing her pad, and it is inflamed. I did that running around thing you do when you know your sweet kitty (who can’t stand me, BTW) is hurt, flapping my hands, my heart pounding, trying not to faint, trying to remember the phone number to the vet, then resorting to looking it up in my phone book with shaking hands…

In the 11 years that we have known each other, Candy has never let me touch her. But she’s feeling so bad today that I know I can grab her and stuff her into a carrier, my one and only chance to get her to the vet. She has an appointment for 9 AM tomorrow morning (Friday) and I’m sure she will have to be sedated to get her to submit for a nail clipping so I can’t feed her after 8 PM tonight, no problem since she has stopped eating.

I am feeling terrible. And scared. I will have ONE SHOT at getting this cat in a career and THAT’s IT for the rest of my life.

Fuck it. I’m going to make myself a V&T to calm down***, and I’m publishing this on Thursday afternoon, at 2:40 PM, so I hope you Dear Readers who report a ten hour time lag will get this to pop up on your screen in time for me to let you all know how our Friday morning at the vet went.

Dear Readers, please send Candy some vibes to make her relax and accept help from me.

I will post a follow up tomorrow.

See you here in about 20 hours from now.

 

*** I didn’t have that V&T. I took a few drops of CBD oil, and it worked a charm.  Later that night, I had a few too many V&Ts, but only after 5 o’clock, and then I fell asleep on the couch in the den during the last minutes of Jeopardy!, like civilized people do.

UPDATE:  It’s 1:08 PM Friday afternoon and Candy is home from the vet’s. She was sedated so the vet could pull out a very in-grown claw — it was the worst that the vat had ever seen. She saved the claw for me, but I don’t want to showy because I don’t want you all to think I’m a bad kitty mom. Candy also had an ear infection, and she got a huge dose on antibiotics for that.

I was terrified absit handling Candy this morning. I looked up videos on YouTube about handling a wild cat and I got excellent its, which I used to great effect. I got Candy in the carrier with only one stab wound from her, but I have to tell you that my hands were shaking for half an hour afterwards. I knew that if I didn’t get her in the career this morning that she would NEVER let me near her for a second try.

But all’s well. I had a second cup of tea to calm down, and now Candy is  home and sleeping off the last of the Happy Gas.

Thank you for your good vibes for our girl.

Have a splendid New Year, Dear Ones.

 

 

 

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It’s weird to see my castles out in public:

They’ve been my personal property for months, and now they are hanging out at the Bryant Library on the north shore of Long Island for all the world (or the tens of library patrons) to see:

People who know where to find me (hint: in the used book store on Fridays from noon – 3pm, and on Saturdays from 1 – 4pm) have asked me about certain aspects of their construction and I honestly can’t remember a lot of the details of making these things.

I also have to think hard to remember the order in which I made them. That’s my first castle on the left, and my second castle on the right:

There was a time when I wanted to give each castle a name and a back-story, but I like this austere display better. This floor-to-ceiling case is very modern and uncluttered, and it leaves each viewer free to make their own interpretations.

Speaking of interpretations, when I was in Las Vegas in October, I crossed paths with an interesting cake display in the pastry shop at the Aria casino:

Now I know the size and shape of my next castles.

Five feet tall, with tiers.

And I have to make two, of course. One with colors, and one in monochrome (because I can’t decide which I like better).

What is up with all the hoopla about Bush 41? I do not remember him being such a beloved figure during his presidency, which gave us the first bullshit Gulf War and then he left Saddam Hussein in power so he could kill a million Iraqi and Kurdish civilians, and he continued Ronnie Reagan’s apathy towards the AIDS epidemic, and then he gave us Bush 43 and don’t get me started on that.

Let’s remember that Bush 41 was a mean, lying, race-baiting (Willie Horton) Republican who puked into the lap of the Japanese Prime minister at a state dinner (January 8, 1992).  I don’t care that when he became decrepit he was a nice old fart who wore zippy socks. He’s still a creep in my book.

This just in: LinkedIn, the website where everybody is a CEO of something, and they brag their “dynamic” leadership and how they went to Harvard because they took a three-hour seminar at the Kennedy School; yeah, that LinkedIn…anyway, I got an email from LikedIn this morning telling me that my resume/profile was searched three times yesterday.

Naturally, I had to click. Were the people at the MacArthur Fellowship looking for me so they could finally give me my big fat Genius Award?? I mean, have you SEEN my castles???

Well, no, it wasn’t a $625,000 payday for me.

It was the Leicestershire (England) Police. They searched my LinkedIn profile three times yesterday.

So I googled Leicestershire News and did not find out that there has been a multitude of unsolved outbreaks of genius in the East Midlands and the authorities are looking for a really hot 62-year-old American with a knack for making paper castles.

I found this.

If this isn’t proof that mirrors don’t work in the UK or else that lady would never go out in public with hair like that, then, maybe she’s a vampire.

I’m sorry that today’s post lacks the usual amount of cute kitty porn  photos of my cats  being hilarious  napping. It’s a good thing that I had pre-loaded photos of my castles a few days ago because Lo, when I sat down to type today I discovered that the WordPress elves have fucked with the editing interface and all the pedals and levers and cog wheels that I use behind the scenes to bring you this MacArthur Genius-quality  blog have disappeared, and in their place there is a baffling new array of counter-intuitive buttons that I have no idea how to work.

You know how our favorite thing in the world is to learn new technology, especially when it means that we have to first un-learn the old new technology that we learned, like, last week?

Yeah. That’s where I am today. I’m so fed up with this pace of learning and un-learning that I could puke in a Japanese Prime Minister’s lap.

Have a great weekend, everyone. I will figure this shit out and see you back here next Friday with  cute kitty porn  cat pix and uplifting tales from my molehill life.

XXOO

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We set the clocks back one hour this weekend and, as Daylight Savings goes, so does my heart and all the joy that comes naturally with every Summer dawn. Time to prepare for Winter.

So here’s my check list:

One: Tabulate the annual Blessings of the Blue Jay Feathers:

An even dozen gorgeous Blue Jay feathers found during the Summer of ’18, with one Cardinal feather as a lagniappe.

Two: Get Steve’s shelter set up for his warmth and comfort from snow, hail, rain, and sleet from now until May.

No, that’s not Steve, and that’s not his shelter. This is Lickety, on Halloween, curled up in one of the cubbies I keep in the garage. He’s practicing for when it gets really cold out there. I put all new straw in all the cat shelters (I have four, in total; two cubbies in the garage, a rabbit hutch insulated with two down-filled sleeping bags and lots of straw in the backyard . . .

Last Winter

. . . and Steve’s space-age bachelor pad acrylic house with heating pad by the front stoop for the one cat who never, ever comes in the house no matter how brutal the weather gets, the one cat who keeps me awake at night if I think he’s not warm, and dry, and safe:

Three: Put in 32 storm windows. This is a very vexing task. I live in a handmade, 100-year old house on the North Shore of Long Island. Each window is slightly different, and none of them are standard. We never think to label the storm windows when we take them out in the Spring, so we always dread putting them back in in the Fall. And by “we”, I mean Top Cat.

Four: Dig out the special light I bought four years ago to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder, the one I forgot to use the past two years because I bought a Himalayan Rock Salt lamp for the Winter of 2016 (when it was all the rage) that worked liked a dream but that I forgot to turn on for all of Winter 2017 (too distracted by the horror of American politics). I think I’ll need a double dose of light and vibes to deal with whatever crap der Drumpf is going to unload on us this coming year, when he fights off the Blue Wave (Vote Vote Vote).

Five: Commit to a mind-enhancing project. Something to challenge my way of thinking about the world and get me out of the house. I started taking American Sign Language classes a year and a half ago with a free class at the library, and then I took two semesters at a local college. I think I’ll stick with that.

Six:  Put a big quality-of-life-improvement project on the schedule. We still need to de-clutter our house, and Top Cat has never liked our round kitchen table and blonde wood Windsor chairs. Time to spruce up and simplify.

Seven: Togs. I want a new Winter sweater that keeps me warm and happy, or at least less miserable, at 15 togs. Basically, I want to feel as if I am wearing a duvet wherever I go. I don’t care what I look like. I just can’t stand being cold. I need extra-heavy-duty fleece.

Eight: Volunteer for a social project. This year, I am starting a new fund-raising event for the library and I hope to raise big buck but first, I have to change the by-laws so we can have an open bar in the reference section (for just one night! Not for all time!). You can throw all the kids’ events you want, but it’s the grown-ups who have spending money and they won’t come to your dinky library gala if there is no booze.

Nine: Dig into a new creative project. Something that will take all Winter. And months afterwards. Something that fires you up with a mission, something that makes you feel that what you are doing will make a difference and enhance other peoples’ lives. It’s time to write a new damn book.

Ten: Go say Hi to Orion, the one thing that makes us here in the Northern Hemisphere feel god about Fall. (I meant to type “feel good about Fall”…but I like the “feed god about Fall”, which  makes sense, when you look out at the universe on a crisp, clear Fall night.)

Last week, Top Cat woke me up at 4 o’clock in the morning, just after the meeting of the full moon, so we could put on our coats and go outside to see Orion in his rightful place among the brilliant stars of the Milky Way. It was cold, and ever so clear, and while we were staring at Rigel and Betelgeuse a shooting star arced across Orion’s belt. That must be a good omen for Winter of ’19. Vote Vote Vote.

We happened to have got such a good look at the heavens because we were here:

After spending three days in southern California we drove out to Searles Valley, in the middle of nowhere, 170miles east of Los Angeles. Top Cat wanted to see the Trona Pinnacles:

The Trona Pinnacle consist of more than 500 calcium carbonate spires (porous rock formed under water ), some as high as 140 feet (43 m), rising from the dry bed of Searle Lake, formed when this was an inland sea about 100,000 years ago.  The pinnacles vary in size and shape from short and squat to tall and thin, and they now sit isolated and slowly crumbling away near the south end of the valley, surrounded by many square miles of flat, dried mud and with stark mountain ranges at either side.

We came to watch the sunset . . .

. . . and lo, on the other side of the valley, we also got to watch the moon rise:

We stayed in an AirBnB in the small town of Trona:

The next day we drove into Death Valley.

You all know Badwater Spring, the lowest point in the continental U.S., 279 feet below sea level (that’s 85 meters, in souless metric-talk).

But do you know Dante’s View:

Dante’s View is where you can climb 5,476 feet (1,669 meters) above sea level to look down at 279 feet below sea level. There is a whole lot to see in between, but rest assured that I will not bore you will holiday snaps except for this:

We turned off the main road for a side trip to go see an abandoned borax mine because I said I wanted to get a photo of the most boring thing in Death Valley. I mean, who on Earth wants to go see an abandoned borax mine? Its not like it’s prehistoric: it was abandoned only in 1888…what’s the big deal? If I wanted to see hundred-year-old bricks I could have stayed home.

Well, it was a good thing that we took this little detour because, when we pulled the rental car back onto the main road, our timing was such that we made a fine rendezvous with a coyote! Luckily, I had my camera handy as we watched him saunter across the desert towards the chaparral:

I had forgotten to pack a hat and shorts for this trip, so this was my hiking outfit:

When I’m not stuffing the hems into my socks so I don’t trip over them as I climb on my hands and knees up rock faces in Natural Bridge Canyon, for example, those pants are really cute.

Fun fact: The most common language spoken in Death Valley is French. French tourists love Death Valley. The place was packed with les Francaises. As I was coming down from Zabriskie Point, I passed a young mother trudging upwards to the look-out platform, towing a whining 10-year-old daughter who had clearly had enough of the heat and the boring scenery, and she said: Arrête, tu es comme une grand-mère! (Stop that, you’re like an old lady!)

The next day we drove to Las Vegas, but we had some marijuana edibles in the car (it’s legal in Nevada) and I had the bright idea “Let’s try some of that chocolate bar!”, under the assumption that eating marijuana makes it less potent than if you smoke it. I was wrong.

Eating marijuana means that it just takes a little longer to feel the effects, like, a half hour after ingestion before I felt the first part of my brain-pan lifting off from its moorings. From there, I was on a slow but steady glide into outer space. It was only an hour’s drive to Vegas. When we arrived, my mind was no where in sight, and I had to hold onto the walls of the hotel lobby to keep myself upright.

I never want to eat marijuana again, no thank you.

Happily, I was fine the next day, and I walked on the Strip with Top Cat, and happily I did not run into this lady while I was somewhere over the rainbow or else I would have been sure I was hallucinating:

Dear Reader/Commentor Elaine Holmes was right: where does that lady think she is? Walmart?

So I’m back home, where I want to be, prepping for Winter, counting the days until I can get out and Vote.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones, and Vote as if our democracy depends on it, because it does.

XXOO

 

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I’m trying to find a way to sell more used books. While we are making more money than we made last year at the used book store that I co-manage to benefit our local library (Bryant Library in Roslyn, Long Island, New York), I want to “grow” the business because I’ve promised myself a case of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc the first time we hit the outrageous monthly goal of $500.00. And I really like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and I like to drink it knowing that it’s for a good cause.

So I’ve started to make structures out of the books that no one wants. The castle (above) is my first attempt to make something enticing.

There’s an empty room at our library, a “Maker Space” for “teens”, that I’d like to fill with” teens” making Book Art. And I want these up-to-now-hypothetical “teens” to use our used book store as their art supply source.

BTW, when I was in that age bracket, I did not like being called a “teen”. I did not have a “teen” life, as was shown me by TV and LIFE magazine, and I hated every “teen” who did.

This was soooooo not me.

I am currently almost finished with my second structure, another castle made out of the classic illustrated YA novel, Half Magic.

It might surprise you that making Book Art is not nearly the dirty work that running a used book store is. Lately we have been receiving really filth donations — literally filthy. We get books that seem to have been stored in oily  garages for decades, we get books that have have been absorbing years and years of cigarette smoke, we get books that come from damp basements, we get books that have been pried out of dusty bookcases from the 1960s (we can tell because they are all Book of the Month Club sections, none more recent than 1972), we get books that have been colonized by spiders. Cobwebs are the worst.

This week we got a very nice donation from an SUV that had been caught in a sand storm. I unpacked the cartons in the hall way of our historic house, and had to wipe down every book cover to remove a fine layer of grit:

After wiping them down with a damp paper towel, every book had to dry off. And although this was a rather good donation, it also contained a book about how to manage your bowl disease. Really? You think a used book store would want that??

My favorite book of the week, however, is this one:

It was printed in 1962 and, I suppose, acquired that same year by Mill Lane Junior High School in Farmingdale, Long Island, New York. But as you can see, this book was never checked out, not once, in its lifetime:

For 56 years, this book has waited for someone to care. But alas, its Due Date was never stamped.

That’s an ugly cover, but the title is killer, if you ask me. Uses of Infinity: I can picture a great fantasy novel with that title, or a moving memoir of loss and recovery.

Hoping to find something the lived up to its first impressions, I peered into its pristine pages:

Without actually reading the book, which I don’t have the energy or the smarts to do, I have surmised that Infinity is something that you can graph, which means that Infinity is something that you can quantify, or present in an arcane visual language. Who knew?

Some of the sub-heading are as good as poetry:

Wait. This book was purchased for junior high school kids?? No wonder it was never checked out.

THIS BOOK MUST BE MINE.

At first, I wanted to bring it home so I could cut it up and make mysteriously inspiriting collages out of it, but more and more I have the feeling that this book is an artifact of the colossal curiosity of its author, Leo Zipkin, and all kindred souls who find beauty and meaning in higher mathematics. Now I don’t have the heart to destroy it.

One of our volunteer book sellers was working last Friday and she left a note that one of the library workers had come into the book store and taken 8 novels “on loan”. She said that she wanted to read the cover copy to a house-bound friend, get her selection, and return the books she didn’t want.

All our novels, hard cover and paperback, cost 50 cents. 50 CENTS.

I put my foot down and wrote down our store policy for all future cases of such entitlement and cheapskatedness. We do not  “loan” books. WE ARE NOT A LIBRARY.

People are amazing, are they not?

Then again, we’re talking about people, and there are still people who love Donald Trump, despite the clear Helsinki-adjacent evidence that he and the Republican party are determined to destroy our democracy through alignment with Russia.

I get stomach cramps just thinking about it. The times are desperate, Dear Readers, and it makes me crazy. So I bring you stories of paper castles and equations for infinity because we all need to think about something else, now and then, other than the pure venality of the right wing, or we will go insane.

I also have kitty cats:

And I forgot to tell you that when I was in Washington D.C., our nation’s capital, three weeks ago, I had the opportunity to check in with Mr. Fluffy, the horribly mangy, filthy, smelly, scraggly, skinny, sickly cat who I rescued from the streets in ’17, who now looks like this:

He’s gorgeous and he doesn’t know it. He’s a very sweet kitty. You can pick him up and smooch him, he doesn’t mind.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. Our country still has the chance to redeem itself.

And if you want to read up on the latest in the resistance led by two smart and smart-ass women of spirit and gumption and righteousness, click here:

JackieSue, Yellow Dog Granny

Juanita Jean, The World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Salon

XXOO, Y’all.

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Me, somewhere in Tel Aviv, in 1988.

In the late 1980s I was a part-time gemology student (diamond grading, colored stone ID, appraising, etc.) and a full-time salesperson in a jewelry store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. The job, like every other job in retail, sucked, because people suck, especially people who have nothing better to do than shop for jewelry.

Every morning, we sales “associates” had to come in early to pull all the gems from the vault to set them up in showcases. One morning I was setting up a showcase full of diamond jewelry when a security guard strolled by.

“Ah,” he said; “Diamonds, one of the gems from the Bible.”

Right: this security guard was an evangelical Christian, who walked around with a smile on his face because he was certain that the Rapture was coming any day now and all us non-believers were going to have to watch him be seated on the right hand of the Lord while we were thrown into pits of hell fire. He was inclined to drop Biblical musings into his conversation so this observation of his did not surprise me much. He also wore crappy three-piece suits with cowboy boots in Manhattan. He was supremely annoying in almost every way. I usually ignored him, but not this time.

You see, I was a totally obsessive gemology student, and diamonds were (and still are) a favorite stone, and I was also making frequent trips to Israel, so I didn’t even look up from my work  when I said, “You mean יהלום, Yahalom, as described in breast plate of the high priest in Exodus? Actually it wasn’t a diamond in the breastplate, I think you must have read a bad translation, because there were no diamonds in the Holy Land, so the word most likely refers a clear quartz rather than an actual diamond. Some scholars also think it might have been a jasper.”

Breastplates, and high priests, have long gone out of style in Judaism; since about 2500 years ago.

Truthfully, I was just being a know-it-all. I wasn’t trying to shame the guy for his naïveté. So, having finished showing off, I faced the jewelry store cowboy, and I will never forget the look on his face. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen someone look stunned.

I think this was the first time he’d ever considered that the Bible was not originally written in English. And, thus, several other sneaking suspicions might have crept into his brain-pan: That the Bible that he conspicuously read in the break room every day could not be quoted randomly as the word-for-word  capital “T” Truth; that this book of his required a lot of critical thinking, as opposed to blind faith; and maybe he’s not as superior as he thought he was.

After a moment of silence, he nodded and backed away.

I think about this guy in the jewelry store every time I hear radical Christians hauling out the Bible for a good thumping in order support their opinion about Right and Wrong.

It’s been another wearying couple of weeks in America. Melanoma Drumpf has proved to be every bit the shit heel as every other Drumpf; the conservative-packed Supreme Court upholds gerrymandering to sideline minority and Democratic voters; Jeff Sessions is still AG, little kids might never be returned to their parents, and der Drumpf is still picking on Canada.

At a campaign ally in South Carolina on Monday, June 25, der Drumpf was speaking in support of the GOP nominee for governor, and as the Toronto Star reported:

“Trump’s speech was rambling even by his own rally standards: it involved extended criticism of three late-night television hosts, musings on his hair, an unprompted denial that his wife recently had a facelift, an accusation that the news media is “the enemy of the people,” numerous boasts and false claims, and another recounting of his triumphant performance in the 2016 campaign.

When Trump eventually got around to Canada, he began by saying “Canada” in a loud, exaggerated voice.

Canada. You know, Canada: nice guy, nice guy,” he said, extending his arms in a kind of conciliatory gesture. “Prime minister. Justin. I said, ‘Justin, what’s your problem, Justin?’ So: Canada. O Canada. I love their national anthem. O Canada. I like ours better, however. So. No, Canada’s great, I love Canada.”

There could still be a happy ending to the tale of the miserable pile of Drumpfs and their idiot Drumpf-dom. After all, once I got my gemology degree I moved on to Christie’s auction house heading up the Faberge department, and then I started to freelance as a feature writer, and then books. See? Happy Ending.

So let’s bring this blog post to a happy ending by checking in with the cat herd here in Vivian World. I took this photo at 9:30 last Sunday morning, after Top Cat and I had finished reading our New York Times and had given over the new couches to Candy, Bibs, and Taffy:

Bibs was the very picture of Happy Dreaming:

And this was the gang four hours later:

Have a great weekend, everyone. May America’s tolerance for vile stupidity reach its tipping point very soon, and may hordes of decent citizens rid us of the plague called Drumpf.

 

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