Stories from my molehill life.

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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.

 

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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

Princeton lawn party 2015

Princeton lawn party 2015

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.

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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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I never thought I’d be saying this, but NPR and I are getting a divorce. And it’s all because of  vocal fry. For those of you Dear Readers who are not familiar with this monstrously annoying affectation in the speech pattern of American youth, this short viddie will explain (guess who just figured out how to embed You Tube!):

For years vocal fry has been seeping into the news and entertainment shows that are broadcast by National Public Radio (AKA: NPR).  I loathe it, of course, and in hindsight I can see that NPR and I were already on a camel/straw footing, but the straw that broke this camel’s back was when Ira Glass, American public radio personality and NPR-ish producer of This American Life, set out to defend vocal fry from grouches like me in the most deliberately insulting way.  On his program o/a January 23, 2015, he put it this way:

Listeners have always complained about young women reporting on our show. They used to complain about reporters using the word like and about upspeak, which is when you put a question mark at the end of a sentence and talk like this? But we don’t get many emails like that anymore. People who don’t like listening to young women on the radio have moved on to vocal fry.

And then he said that if vocal fry drives people like me crazy, it’s because:

1. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like listening to young women on the radio anyway (see: above) because I’m too stuck in the past times (that is, indoctrinated by the patriarchy).

2. I’m too OLD to get with it and know that that’s just the way that young folk “naturally” speak these-a-days.

His advice to haters of vocal fry?  Get over it.

Well, ha ha, Ira Glass, guess wha —wait just a sec, tho. This actually does make me laugh:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHeecOiWHyM

(Are embedded viddies annoying or not? Opinions, please.)

So anyway, Ira Glass, ha ha. The same people who can’t stand vocal fry are the same people who have enough disposable income (because they are OLD) to give to NPR  so, as I cancel my monthly-sustainer membership (because I’m OLD), see how you like it when you have to rely on vocal-fried hipster not-OLD people to pitch in to pay for your radio program, OKaaaaaaaaaaay?

Because we are through.

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Wiping out vocal fry, one membership dollar at a time. Ah…that feels good. Because I’m OLD.

(I’m not really listening to NPR all that much anyway these days, what with me turing the radio OFF as soon as one of their new hires goes into vocal fry mode.)

But it’s not just vocal fry that gets me riled up. Last week a dental hygienist also really pissed me off.

Well, thank DoG that I live in the era of Yelp, an interwebs site that publishes crowd-sourced reviews about local businesses. Yelp is my dream come true.

I would show their trademark, but people these days are very litigious about using copyrighted stuff and I don’t have time to get Yelp‘s written permission to use their logo in my blog post, but the logo is very colorful.

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As colorful as the picture I took of a rainbow over Nashville — V. Swift copyright.

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As colorful as the picture I took of a strange, mauve beam of light on my patio one December morning, my copyright.

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As colorful as the picture I took of a field of cosmos somewhere along the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey, yep: V. Swift copyright.

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As colorful as the picture I took of me painting a nifty oak leaf — my damn copyright.

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As colorful as the picture that Top Cat took of his Texas Hold ‘Em stack in Las Vegas, copyright gifted to v. Swift because I’m Mrs. Top Cat.

P.S. If anyone wants to use any of my rightfully copyrighted pix, be my guest. I’m not like  some grubby, third-rate, low-rent, entrapment sue-happy copyright-holders lurking out there in the inter webs.

Note: One of the things I did on my year off from blogging was get sued for copyright infringement. I’ll have to tell you that story some time.

Anyway, thank DoG there is Yelp

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A very colorful picture I took of my neighbor’s secret garden. As far as I know, I own the copyright.

…because Yelp gives disgruntled customers a place to diss. So last week, after my tiff with the dental hygienist, I hastened over to Yelp to get myself registered and then I put in writing my disgruntlement with a certain dental practice.

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SCreen shot of Yelp. I hope I’m not infringemenig on anyone’s copyright.

You can read it here.

So now that I have a platform, disgruntlers everywhere should watch their step when conducting business with one Vivian Swift. It’s the fact that I don’t crave the approval of strangers that makes me so dangerous.

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(Courtesy of www.Keep Calm O Matic.co.uk , a great website that lets you create your very own Keep Calm poster. The funny thing is, I did not make this one (above) — it was already in the ether. I wish I could be best friends with whoever thought up this poster.)

As much as I can’t stand vocal fry, I am also annoyed that the way people  (even OLD ones) these-a-days try to sound smart is by using the word “prior” when they mean “previous” (THERE’S A DIFFERENCE!!!!).

Destination weddings; and the smell, texture, and taste of cucumbers — can’t stand either of them.

I’m so over Rock Operas, Rock Operas based on the Book of Revelations, and the Book of Revelations.

Love locks on the Pont des Arts, dreadlocks on white people, and co-workers who tell you they are too smart to be working here — they should all be outlawed. Or punched in the face.

I can’t stand people like me, who do not know how to “nest” their replies to Comments on their WordPress blog; but I figured it out yesterday and all my replies to your lovely Boogie Girl comments are properly nested and now I don’t hate myself any more.

But don’t get me started on the way the morning news will break your heart six times before breakfast,  or the fact that Giselle Bundchen makes 47 million dollars a year for parading in her undies while a  park ranger in Virunga  makes 47 dollars a year for saving the mountain gorilla from extinction. (Hey! I just figured out where all my NPR money will go now!)

I also despise Auto Correct.

Retail shop assistants who tell me If you have any questions, just ask me drive me nuts. Do they think I’d be confused about where to go if I had a question about the item on the middle shelf? Do they think I’d wander across the street to ask the deli guy? Do they think I’d end up standing in the middle of the shop having a nervous breakdown because I had questions, O, so many questions, and had no idea where to go to find answers??? I mean, really: Who the hell else am I going to ask?  Dear Abby?

Also on my Shit List is the way people to whom I’ve just told that I have eight cats will then tell me every last reason why they hate cats; ditto being a Bruce Springsteen fan, watching Judge Judy every day, and joining the Peace Corps to go to West Africa. ( I’ve been holding onto that last one for quite a while. The guy I told it to came right back with: I’ve never traveled outside the United States but if I did, I wouldn’t go to Africa. I still hate that guy with all my heart.)

There now.

I think I’ve proved my point.

I am not the nicest person in the world.

But I’m OK with that.

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Since I only bake one cake a year I insist on making it the time-honored olde-fashioned way, same way my ancestors did back in the Olde Country, when we lived in harmony with nature down on the  Olde Estate, down the road from the 7-11 just off Pennsylvania Turnpike exit 8. Here’s how I do it:P1000028

Life is like a bowl of cake batter, and blue food coloring is Science:

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Behold :

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I leave you to come to your own conclusions:

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Pour batter into cake pans, put pans in oven.

Remove pans from oven when batter has finished reincarnating as solid food:

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Yes, Dear Readers, I use a colander as my cake pan cooler because one day I will have reached the Nirvana of Ultimate De-Clutter when I own only 100 pieces of stuff and everything I has to do double-duty.  In the case of the colander, it triples as holy headgear, for Lo, I am a member of the world’s fastest growing carbohydrate based religion, Pastafarianism.

Cooking Tip Most Likely to Make You Go Doh!: The fastest way to bring a stick of frozen butter to “room temperature” is to grate it:

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Life is a like a bowl of butter cream icing, and blue food coloring is all our wishes that eating butter cream icing would be one third of the food pyramid:

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Now, that’s what I call Magical Thinking:

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Pre-cake plate:

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Bottom layer of icing:

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This is the first year that I completely gave up trying to make a decent cake, given that all the blue cakes in my past have turned out hideously. So of course, this happens:

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I know there’s a Life Lesson in there somewhere.  But don’t ask me for it — do I look like Oprah?

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And the champagne wasn’t the least bit like a Slurpee:

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Here it is,  your 2015 Champagne-O-Meter!

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Yeah, I know; you expected a bang and all you got was this whimper. And the total re-design of my blog isn’t ready, either. Sorry, but we have to put up with sans-serif font for just a little while longer.

Luckily, after a week of 20 degree weather here on the shores of the Long Island Sound, you know our bubbly will be nice and popsicle-y for when we pop it open for our annual Ugly Cake Contest later today.

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In the meantime, I want to welcome myself back to the interwebworld! I’ve missed you!  And I want to thank all youse who have stopped by to pay a visit! I could use some cheering up!

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I’ve had a terrible, terrible streak of everything-should-revolve-around-me-level of bad luck this year so yesterday, when the Customer Service guy at Staples (His name tag said “Awesome”. Really, it did. ) replied to my customer serve issue with a smile, and says, as if to gladden my day,

“C’est la vie”

something in me snapped.

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Being mistaken for the kind of emotionally well-balanced and friendly person who finds it endearing when some self-appointed Buddha decides that the Customer Service Desk at Staples is the perfect place to be the beacon that shines a little light on my path to enlightenment, well, that does NOT bring out the best in me.

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And After All, I’m Only Sleeping.

One of the things I did, on my year off from blogging, was get a solid “C” in my Anger Management course so, no, the…uh… conversation did not end up the way it usually does, with the guy from Staples threatening to call the cops. But I made sure that the next time he tells a customer “C’est le vie”,  he better be prepared for an ear beating in very loud, at least 70% correctly conjugated, don’t-fuck-with-me French.

Yesterday, the day I wanted to make something special for this Re-Boot Post, things got so bad that I ate cake batter for lunch.

But then, later that evening, when I saw the carrier of the Last Straw heading my way, I made the conscious decision that at that point, all I could do was laugh. That’s how I ended up, doubled over in my driveway at 7:30 PM in the sub-freezing cold, laughing and laughing and laughing about how I had just spent a half hour in the dark and freezing cold FOR NO REASON AT ALL (long story, the LIRR was running late, that kind of thing), laughing and laughing. Seriously. I could not keep a straight face at that point.

Then I went into the house, poured me a glass of wine, and laughed and laughed and laughed some more. That was dinner.

Upshot is: Give me until cocktail hour tea time to do today what I tried, oh, how I tried, to do for you yesterday.

And then we will get the party started!

P.S. HA ha ha ha hahahahahahaha.  The Comments on this post are CLOSED (I closed them when the blog went floringe in 2013) and I can’t OPEN them!!!  Don’t ask me why/how, but whacking the side of my computer doesn’t help.  I would love to hear from you — I’m at vivianswift at yahoo dot com.

 

 

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Dear Readers, it’s Tuesday, a day of the week that is worth celebrating. Because if you are like me and see no reason to celebrate End-of-Weekend Sunday or Back-To-The-Grind Monday, then you know how very ready you are to praise the Wine Gods by Tuesday.

Dang. I forgot to put the bubbly in the fridge last night. “Whatever shall I do for a quick chill to ease my desperate  thirst?” I ask myself, since I like my gratification to be as immediate as possible…

This is the snow in my backyard:

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***

This is my Tuesday happiness:

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 This is my Tuesday happiness fixing to make me much, much happier, in the snow in my backyard:

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Yeah. It’s been a long, long Winter.

Thank you, Dear Readers one and all, for stopping by my hibernating blog. We’re closing up shop this year, but keep tuning in for a fabulous upcoming announcement!

 

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If it’s January 17, it must be left-over birthday cake:

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As you Dear Readers may know, every January 16 I make a blue cake, which I wrote about last year in the post called

Blue in a Good Way:

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This is my winning entry in the Ugly Cake Contest of 2013.

And I wrote about in 2011 in the post called

Born at the Right Time:

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If you want, you can click onto the links which are highlighted in *blue* to read the entire posts of which I speak.

And in 2010 I put in the post called

The Breakfast of Champions:

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This year I made my bluest cake ever…

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…thanks to the vat of precious blue food coloring that my dear Top Cat found on the inter webs. And, thanks to Dear Readers Maryanne and Jeanie, this year I also got a shot of my all-important Vitamin C[hampagne] in blue. (People, this stuff came all the way from Reims, France!) BTW, Penelope wants to thank you, Maryanne and Jeanie, too, for her collateral gift:

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That is, she thanks you for the box that the champagne came in.

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Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who sent birthday wishes.

Yes, me and this blog are still in hibernation, but please feel free to hang out and browse the archives.

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It is December, 1966. I am ten years old and in sixth grade at North Willow Grove Elementary School. In a parallel universe there is a girl my age with perfect hair walking to school with her little sister:

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In this parallel universe this girl’s name is Elizabeth Terry (although it appears that we use the same Lennes Arithmetic book):

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(N. J.Lennes was the chairman of the mathematics dept. at The University of Montana, a fact that I was not aware of until I googled it five minutes ago.) Yes, I drew this picture when I was ten years old in December 1966 (I dated the pic on the back). From the same year I also have two short stories that I wrote and illustrated, both with a main character named Peggy Anne who lives in Oklahoma and made friends with a new girl who had just moved from Canada.

When I was ten years old I thought Oklahoma was the coolest state in the union but I don’t remember why. I am not showing you those two short stories, which I made into chapbooks, because it creeps me out: I have to tell you that it does not give me any pleasure to look at this old stuff. Me and Johnny Rotten both agree (and if you have not read Johnny Rotten’s memoir, titled Rotten, you are missing out on a memoir that speaks to my heart and soul): we hated being children.

However, in spite of the fact that it floods me with memories of a terrible time of my life, I can look at that drawing of mine from 1966  and see that I had pretty good draftsmanship for a ten year old. Yes, I always knew I could draw. Yes, I used to amaze the dim wits in my elementary school  that I could draw FREEHAND, especially since I’m a leftie. No, I do not remember deriving any particular satisfaction from the fact that I could draw well.

Which brings me to the Thought Of The Day.

Drawing well is the worst thing that can happen to an artist.

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Thomas Kinkade, the so-called Painter of Light, whose over-priced mass-produced “art” hangs on the wall of one in 20 American households, could draw.

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I’m picking on him because he is dead and I do not want to call a living artist (oh, honey, I could name names…) banal … but sadly, that’s the trap of being able to draw well. It’s like being born beautiful. Pretty girls don’t have to dig deep to find a personality or an I.Q.; good draftsmen don’t have to dig deep to find their own unique style. Pretty girls and good draw-ers tend to be bo-o-o-o-o-o-o-ring.

Claude Monet couldn’t draw…that’s why he invented impressionism:

A Bend in the Epte Giverny by Monet

Edward Gorey himself said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, March 2, 1986…

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“Sometimes I think my life would have been completely different id I had ever learned to draw.”

Edward Gory: All his people look the same, he draws them wearing fur coats and in profile so he doesn’t have to bother with clothes or faces, his “settings” are rudimentary…and yet, his work oozes with portent and depth and connotations…

So, if you can not draw as well as the ten year old me (see above), STOP TRYING. And start looking at what you can do well, what you can do  really, really well — color, subject matter,composition, point of view,  etc. — and let that be your springboard to make the art that only YOU can do.

Meanwhile, here’s what I did this past week to make my art a little less banal:

I’m working on a memory of a Brazilian garden for my Damn Garden Book. At first, I painted  it like this:

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But this did not seem true to my memory of it. So I hit upon the idea to represent it more like a true memory:

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Yes, I sliced it. (Truth to tell, I sliced it and then painted over bits of it, and then re-constructed it whole for the blog — which is why there are some subject matter discrepancies in the “before” shot, if you know what I mean.) Now the image looks more memory-like and the text will look interesting on the page.

So, until we meet again next Friday, I hope you’re all hanging out in the back yard and enjoying these last wonderful Summer days.

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Date night, July, Manhattan:
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Last Friday evening Top Cat swept me off to the Big City.

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Fun Time Wedding Shower Takes to the Streets: The Bachelorette-of-Honor posing with New York’s Finest.

It was a beautiful time of day to be in the East Village.

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I remember when I had a boyfriend who in the East Village it was a dump…now it’s almost as chic as the Upper West Side:

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There’s even a touch of New Orleans in the neighborhood!:

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But this I remember from the ’80s — traffic light art installations:

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The guy on the left, with the bulging pants pockets: NOW I get why they call them CARGO PANTS!!

I love Manhattan. People live out loud in Manhattan — right on the streets:

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I love the flow of humanity, at all hours:

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Skateboarders in the flow of traffic:

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And this warmed my heart — a young girl reading a book, a real BOOK, while on the go:

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Top Cat took me to a sidewalk cafe for a glass (two) of wine, and then we hoofed down to 6th Street for a wonderful Indian dinner.

Scene in an Indian Restaurant, July 26, 2013

Couple in their late 30s, an empty bottle of wine between them. He is going on and on about the injustice of the US government’s persecution of NSA-leaker Edward Snowden. She, who seems to have drunk the greater part of that bottle of wine, has had enough when she lifts her empty wine glass and waves it in front of her, merrily announcing: “And you say J’accuse!

At 8:30 on a heartbreakingly beautiful Sumer evening we made our way to Webster Hall:

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I don’t know if you can read the marquee, but that’s PAUL WELLER! My sweet Top Cat tok me to see my Punk Rock crush!! (I haven’t been to a rock concert (excluding Paul Weller in New York three times, Los Angeles once, London twice) in, oh…ten years. And it’s still as exciting as the first time — Stephen Stills and Manassas at the Philadelphia Spectrum in 1971.)

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Oh, lordy, I loves me Paul Weller. It was standing room only in Webster Hall, so I insinuated myself to the front lines:

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You remember Paul Weller, right? He’s huge in the UK but known as a “cult” figure here in America so he does very few gigs in the States — six sows in NY, boston, and D.C. this time ’round.

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I screamed, and po-go’ed, and hollered the words when he did That’s Entertainment and completely lost it when he did a hard-rock version of my favorite song of all time , My Ever-Changing Moods. I could hardly move or speak when it was over. Good times.

I respect Paul Weller for still rocking the same Mod look that he had when he fronted the Jam in 1979, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE him for rocking the grey hair.

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I’ve never been a Stones fan because Mick Jagger makes my skin crawl, all the more so when I see his 70-year old brunette locks. Grey hair is so hard core!

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Top Cat loves my grey hair and I love that Top Cat surprises me with tickets to go see Paul Weller’s silver locks. My husband gets me, and my rock and roll crushes. In return, he has my permission to go for it if Nicole Kidman ever requests a late-night back rub from the one and only T.C.

The other exciting news this week is that I got my Majorelle Bleu paint:

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I had to get a shot of it in daylight on the glass-topped patio table with my new lanterns.

(Tea bag for scale.)  This is the quantity you can order (250 mlk) for $48. It comes from Switzerland, and for all I know the good people at the Majorelle Garden in Marrakech order it from the same factory whenever they have to re-paint the landmarks this distinctive, saturated, intense color:

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Just to remind you why it’s called “Majorelle Bleu” — photo taken on my visit to the garden in Marrakech May 2013.

Just for comparison, here are color swatches from my bluest Grumbacher paints (in the little pan-thingy) and my Windsor Newton Artists’s watercolors (in the tube):

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I used the tube watercolors straight, no diluting with water.

And then I went outside and photographed the colors in the full sunlight at 3 o’clock Wednesday afternoon for you:

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Majorelle Triscuit winner, Bev, has been waiting for this moment. I wanted to dab on the true Majorelle Bleu before I sent her the Tirscuit she won:

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I just put this Triscuit in the mail today so Bev, thank you for your patience and I love going to the post office to mail Triscuits to AUSTRALIA!!!

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And now, as promised, off we go to my Writing Room.

Truth to tell, it’s not so much a “room” as a corner of a really big den. Yes, that’s a wheel chair. When I had knee surgery last Fall I got a wheelchair and it’s the most comfortable writing chair I’ve ever owned…so I’m still using it.

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The floor of our den is black slate, so the wheelchair’s wheels don’t mark it up like the old desk chairs all did. I hardly even think of it as a wheel chair these days; it’s just my writing chair with the handy foot rests.

I have a trash can propping open the door and to my right is a small table with the manuscript on it, where I can lay out pages and measure each for text (see: last week’s post re: what the manuscript of a professional illustrated travel memoirist looks like.).

This is my desk top:

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A long time ago I read that it’s best to write facing a blank wall (Annie Dillard says so), so yes, that’s a blank wall in front of me. And that’s a Spode tea cup that is a permanent fixture…

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….because it’s where I unload the Smarties, this writer’s preferred Brain Food (duh)Smartie’s are imported from Canada, so they’re gourmet. (Thank you, GG, for the Turkish tile photo to inspire me with another shade of blue!)

And meet the  facilitators of my writing life. First there’s Cindy:

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And then there’s Penelope:

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However, the most dangerous cat in the whole herd is a certain indoor/outdoor cat, who was born feral but has discovered that with a cute face like his a cat can get unlimited door service at our house, giving him free access to all the comforts of home-living while maintaining his independence and his fierce, wild, savage ways. I’m just telling you, so you know what I’m dealing with, that Lickety is one scary, ferocious, desperado.

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Don’t be fooled by the beached-whale pose. Lickety is gangsta.

So you can see how frightening it is when Lickety decides to supervise the writing process, up close and personal:

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And the way he just makes himself at home…

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…sometimes even getting his reprobate brother Taffy in on it…

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…oh, the horror.

 

 

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