Stories from my molehill life.

August is my favorite month of the year.

So I make it a point to take long slow walks on August mornings, getting a good long look at what I’ll miss most when it’s Winter.

I promise you that none of these photos were staged. But they do look too perfect to be true, don’t they?

Even the pillows look like props.

Another perfect front porch. Does the family ever come out here and set in the wicker furniture and tell tales about Summers past?

it’s got, for when Ma sets in this here rocker , a handy place to set her Long Island Iced Tea.

Two things I love about this photo:

First of all, is this not an adorable little parcel on the door step? I love brown-paper boxes with collage-like mailing bits arranged like a work of art.

And secondly, who can notbe compelled by the disinterested gaze of the house’s watchcat?

And as I stood there, snapping my photo of this doorstep, I noticed out of my peripheral vision that I had attracted the attention of another member of the household:

Yes, that’s a real cat. I know! Everything in my village is all too twee!

A Wrap around front porch:

I  want to puke from the overdose of perfection:

Yeah. Life isn’t really like this, is it?

BAtthe end of my first August Walk, I came home to find a pretty-near perfect situation going on in my backyard.

This is Blackie and Duds  fretting over Standard and Poor’s downgrading of the United States’ credit rating, so I don’t have to.

In fact, I think I need another long August walk if only to keep my mind off the economic apocalypse.

What are you doing these days to ward off the pointlessness of existence?

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I looked out of the picture in my den and I called out to Top Cat, “Come see this! The mortal enemies have called a truce!”

Usually, these two cats can’t stand the sight of each other. For two years they have been skirmishing out in the backyard, squabblingover who’s going to be head honcho, call the shots over the breakfast buffet and get first dibs on every body’s favorite door mat on the back door steps (the dry spot ,under the eaves, when it rains).

Top Cat takes a look at this scene and he shrugs, and says to me, “I can’t tell who that is.”

Can’t tell who that is???

How can that be? We only have four black cats for DoG’s sake, and they are all so very different from one another that it’s the easiest thing in the world to tell them apart!

See for yourself –here’s Timmy:

And here’s Blackie:

This is Dudley:

And this is Cindy…

…who is an indoor cat and not really part of this Black Cat Mystery but I wanted to show her to you to prove how very dissimilar all our black cats are, in appearance, attitude, body language, etc.

Right? You see it, right?

So now you tell me: who is on the stone wall?

And everyone who gets it right will receive in the mail a special print of a Vivian Swift cat painting along with a certificate for Superior Achievement in Catology.

Deadline for this contest is noon, Eastern Standard Time, on Saturday July 30.

Please leave your two names (either Timmy, Blackie, and/or Dudley) in the Comments below and if you are correct I will contact you for your home address so I can send you your prestigious credential, suitable for framing.

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Some of us think Summer is the time to slack off.

Some of us think it’s a great time to go to an air-conditioned thrift shop!

Today I took a trek into the village to check out the Junior League Thrift Shop. I live in a fancy town. IThere might be an unnoticed Dior or St. Laurent hanging here.

Or not.

But I can’t resist old LPs. I have a weakness for great album cover art of the 40s, 50s, and 60s.

(Those records are a mobile hanging from the ceiling, made of one 45, one 75, and one 33 RPM piece of plastic. Cool, huh? )

And I think I discovered here the Most Boring Album Cover in the World:

Some Big Band recorded a live album in Puerto Rico in the 1950s. LPs cost 25 cents each…I actually debated about whether or not I should buy this. I don’t know what gets into me sometimes. I bought it.

I loved these chairs, though, but I didn’t buy them.

I almost didn’t go look at the books because  lordy, I Do Not Need More Books.

Especially a book that looks a dull as this one:

My first impression of this book, judging it by its cover, was that this was an old guide book from the early 1980s to some Eastern European country. It looks totally un-enticing and I would have let it remain in the Bargain Bin of 20 cent hardback books…but I noticed that there was a little Union Jack flag on the bottom corner , meaning that this had an English translation inside.

The title of this book is: A Dream Journey Through Sweden.

Dromresan. Means Dream Journey in Swedish.

Good to know.

So I picked up the book and flipped through it. And a card fell out.

BTW, that’s a European butterfly hovering over that weird green cake, called a Peacock, le Paon-du-jour (Peacock of the Day) in French. Now that you know it’s name, you’ll see it in a lot of it in European art.

It’s been a long time since something spiffy fell out of a book for me. And a Swedish Birthday Card is what I call a JACKPOT.

Thank you, Universe; Thank you.

 

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One thing I liked about Seattle is that it shares my feelings about the magnitude of a good cup of tea (left) in relation to a cup of coffee (right). Here’s what  tea-drinking heaven looks like:

You never know, in Seattle, where the perfect gustatory experience will reveal itself. Top Cat and I walked all over our University Park area on our first morning of the Great Pacific Great Northwest Tour and we could not find one single cute quaint achingly chic hipster-Seattle breakfast experience. Hunger got the better of us so we stopped in at (what I thought was) a one-off neighborhood establishment called Burger Master. (Turns out it’s a local chain.)

The place was clean, well-lighted, and full of regulars that looked like truck driving college professors. And the best thing was that if you order tea, they give you a choice of half a dozen black, green, and herbal teas. AND THEN THEY GIVE YOU A BACK UP TEA BAG.

Burger Master is the ONLY PLACE ON EARTH where that happens.

“We’re coming here every morning,” I told Top Cat.

And we did.

Here’s what the best breakfast place in all of Seattle looks like.

Although Burger Master is totally 100% my kind of place, you know that Top Cat, like most grown-ups, is much more demanding when it comes to cuisine. So he dragged me to a couple of fine dining experiences.

First, there was Elliot’s on the warf there, underneath the Pike Place Market.

The Copper River salmon had just that morning arrived from Alaska, an event that is as ballyhoo’d in Seattle as the Nouveau Beaujolais is in France.

This (above)  is what a $35 piece of fish looks like at Elliot’s. Top Cat said it was worth every farthing. ( had a $6 Caesar salad and couldn’t wait until it would be time for breakfast again.

The next night we drove across the West Seattle Bridge across the Puget Sound to go to Alkai Beach, to Salty’s restaurant, where we could dine while gazing at the Seattle skyline. Also, out in the middle of the bay there’s a float on which huge fat sea lions pile and bark their constant complaints that there are too many huge fat sea lion asses on this damn float.

This (above) is what a $50 piece of Copper River salmon looks like at Salty’s. Top Cat said it was worth every half-farthing.

My fish-n-chips were pretty good too.

The next day we headed to Edmunds.

Edmonds is a lovely town, as we walked around and poked into a few other book shops and Top Cat discovered that the wine shop there stocks a little-known Bordeaux that we discovered in the Cotes de Castillon— Chateau Robin — and he also found out that the wine we paid $40 for at Salty’s costs $14 out in the real world. It’s called 14 Hands and you will not regret spending $40 on it if you have to.

So we got a bottle of 14 Hands and drove to have a look at the coastal town of Mukilteo.

We had heard that Mulkiteo is a fine place to watch the sunset.

It was a tiny bit chilly, slightly colder than usual for May, and windy, and we had an open bottle of wine, so we sat in the car and opened a small bag of pretzels that Top Cat had been carrying in his jacket pocket for four days, and I opened the doggy-bag (Styrofoam box) that I’d got for the half sandwich I couldn’t finish at lunch, and we hunkered down for the view.

The light got dimmer, the wind got colder, it began to rain, the seagulls called one another, and we kept toasting our luck in being together in a rented car with left overs on the edge of the beautiful Puget Sound.

Here’s what a priceless dining experience in the Great Pacific Northwest looks like.

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Overheard at the Commerce Bank

the scene:  A mother and her teenage daughter were on their way out.

The daughter , wearing very short cut off jeans,  had long glossy hair like you only get with an expensive hair salon blow out.

She was scowling at what looked like a deposit, or a withdrawal slip.

The mother looked exasperated, and as they passed me I heard the mother say to the girl (in a half-lecturing, half-annoyed tone of voice, clearly rebutting something the daughter had said shortly before):

“We are not poor.”

I let my eyes follow them out to the parking lot,  to see what kind of ride the “poor” kid had.

It was a white Mercedes SUV.

Then I went home and called to  order the Long Island Iced Tea Appreciation Society.

Although I was not drinking iced tea. It was just  a gin and tonic — but it was in a tea cup.

OK.

When I was a kid, it took me a long time  to figure out whether I was born rich, or not. Doesn’t every kid, at one point, ask their parents, “Are we rich?”

I know what answer I got. It was something along the lines, “We’re not rich and we’re not poor. Son’t worry about it.”

It didn’t take me long to figure out that my parents were smoothing over the fact that we were well on the poor side of a Mercedes SUV.

But I can honestly say that today, I am awfully rich. This is a picture of me, proof of how very rich I am these days.

And that’s only the 25% of it.

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Because Real Life is so cool.

I journeyed to upstate New York this weekend, to attend  the East Meredith Presbyterian Church for the Third Annual Pie Auction to raise money for the East Meredith Historical Society.

All the pies are home-made by local pie-making geniuses.

The bidding started at $10. (The highest-priced pie was a Lemon Meringue that went for $65.00.)

The auctioneer was a profesional — he knew how to keep the action fun, but truth to tell: people knew this was a fund-raiser and they were ready to spend money. I love these people.  (I’m related to that lady in the apron, by the way.)

But I really wanted the Lemon Cloud pie and I was sure that the winning $55.00 bid was with me (as we used to say at Christie’s, when I was in the Faberge auction biz) but when the hammer came down it turned out that the winning $55.00 bid was with someone else. Bummer.

The guy in the green shirt is my own Top Cat.

Top Cat bagged an Apple-Plum pie for us, for $45.00.

All told, the pie auction of 40 pies raised $1,155.00 for the Historical Society. That’s what I call baking!

Well, fast forward to Sunday, when we took a walk in the country. We had a good old DoG named Malcolm with us, a rescue DoG from the Heart of the Catskills Animal Shelter.

Malcom was all DoG joy leaps and bounds, soaring in happiness. It’s  a good day to be a DoG! It’s always a good day to be a DoG!!

I waded into the swamp marsh that is, for the moment, high and dry. In a month this will all be overgrown and hidden, so I had to take advantage: I was looking for birds’ nests.

I found two beautifully preserved nests in the thicket. One was so very, very delicately woven onto its perch on a low bush (above). The other one was smaller, and perfectly balanced in a teeny tiny sapling. It looks like just a random clump of dead mush…

…but on a closer look, you can see how marvellously it’s been engineered:

And then it was time to head back to Long Island. But we had to make a pit stop: to the local Dutch (from Holland Dutch) general store to buy  home-made almond cookies.

I bought all the cookies our Mr. Dutchman had . And then he kindly showed us some more Dutch specialties that he had on the shelves:

It seems that the Dutch are very fond of licorice — there are several different kinds for sale in the worm/bait/Dutch Deli in Meridale, NY.

I would like to sit here one day, with a Dutch almond cookie and a cup of tea, and watch life inMeridale come and go. (The wife brought the oil-cloth all the way from Holland. So: Holland people like table cloths that look like Delft tiles, with pictures of Dutch scenes on them! Nice!)

And this is my haul of Dutch treats:

No doubt about it. I have a facsinating life.

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How was your first week of Spring?

On Monday, we couldn’t believe our eyes. Color in the landscape!

On Tuesday, here at Chateau du Chat, we dared to feel a little enlivened by the sun, even a little spiffy.

On Wednesday, the temperature soared into the high 60’s. Made us feel frisky.

Made us want to get all toesy.

Made us want to shake of Winter’s hoary pall.

 

Made us want to cloak ourselves in the meadow’s joyous abundance and stuff.

And then it was Thursday, and we said the hell with it.

 

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Last week I went to the Morgan Library to see an exhibit called The Diary, Three Centuries of Private Lives. It was all about diaries, some of them 300 years old.

You can’t take photos in the exhibit, except for sneaking a shot under the radar of the security guards.

 

The exhibit was exciting in that it had some fine examples of the art of keeping a diary. From Henry David Thoreau:

From the wife of Nathaniel Hawthorne:

From Paul Horgan (1903 – 1994) who carried notebooks with him wherever he went to allow him to capture ideas at the moment they arose. “Some of the notes are productive,” he later explained, “developing organically in a wonderful way. Others die and you don’t know why. They all seem fascinating at the moment.”

And Elizabeth Morgan, who kept her homemade diaries from 1818 to 1843, noting the small domestic details of her daily life as a genteel spinster in New England.

But the exhibit was drearily “interpreted” by a curator who felt the need to categorize the diaries — under such lumpen rubrics as War Diaries, Road Diaries, Shared Diaries, Spiritual Diaries, 1960s [???] Diaries — and, when those categories broke down (from their own reductivity (sp?)), she tossed in facsimiles, in the form of reproductions or published books(which, to me, shattered the whole immediacy of looking at a diary, the unmediated un-edited first-hand report of a life).

And, for some (or not) reason, the diaries of Charlotte Bronte and  Albert Einstein were left floating on their own, about which our docent-of-the-day was able to state the stunningly obvious: “Charlotte’s handwriting is minuscule“, and “Any mathematician today can read the equations that Einstein jotted down in his journal.”

Dear Readers, I am a connoisseur of The Diary. And  I  have just the diary for you. Meet me here next week.

 

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The elderly guy who lived two houses down (for the last 45 years) passed away two weeks ago.

His grown children have been emptying the old homestead for the past week. See that Santa? I saw that Santa on the old guy’s front lawn every December. I’m surprised that the kids don’t treat this Santa like an heirloom — it’s vintage! And your dad loved that damn Santa!!

Just goes to show you. Everybody you know secretly hates your stuff.

Which brings me to the philosophical question of the day: What makes an heirloom for chrissake? What makes the cut when you’re sorting out your treasures?

In my on-going quest to de-clutter my life, and beat my non-existent heirs to the punch, these are some of the heirloom-quality objects did not make the cut:

Let’s start with the Blue Jay:

From my shrine to my favorite bird: a Blue Jay planter that I got ten years ago — it’s a PARMA by AAI Made in Japan,  c. 1960 and the cool thing is that it’s life size.

OUT.

Now, to the horse:

In the late 1980s there used to be a shop off Fifth Ave in New York where Nelson Rockefeller sold reproductions of his prized porcelains. I remember the day I bought this horsey knick-knack. I don’t know why, but paying what was then (and still is) a significant chunk of money (if I remember right, it was $70) to buy this reproduction of a Chinese export horse from the Chien Lung Period (1736 – 1796) made in Portugal by the famous Mottahedeh factory made me feel like an heiress; as if merely by the act of buying this object I had acquired something that gave me class.

It’s always had pride of place on my bookshelf. I want to give it a good home before one of my cats finally knocks it off  and I have to see it smashed to bits.

OUT.

This Peace Corps souvenir:

I paid, maybe, $5.00 for it, in Niger, and since 1982 it’s mostly been stashed away in closets (when it wasn’t packed away in a box in my mother’s basement). It’s never hung on any wall in any place that I’ve ever lived in. I’m not the kind of person who has to display  tchochkahs acquired in foreign lands.

OUT.

Now, this interesting objet:

This is one of the neatest things I’ve ever found in a thrift shop. It’s a hand-made wooden box that I found in the mid-1990s at my local Salvation Army Thrift Shop. It’s about the size of a shoe box, and it has ten little doors on it, each one fastened with a different kind of brass latch, hook, snap, or clasp. I call it The Buckle Box. I have no idea what it was meant to do.

OUT.

This is the difference between Junk and Clutter.

Junk is stuff that nobodyhas any use for (a broken Walkman, very old ice skates,  rusty metal filing cabinets, Hartmann luggage from the ’80s).

Clutter is stuff that has immense, abiding sentimental significance to a person you no longer want to be.

Just thought you’d like to know.

This is what has made the cut:

A set of stainless steel cocktail forks from the ’50s that has Niagara Falls printed on each little bitty plastic handle.

Now, who doesn’t have room in their h ouse, or heart, for these???

 

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Because in a crowd this big, sanity is contagious. That’s me, in the 2,912,537th row from the back.

How big was Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity on Saturday in Washington, D.C.?

It was so big that Fox News had to pretend that it didn’t exist. It was so bigthat I’m already getting spam about the lies on crowd size (CBS News hired the same aerial demographers who did the Glen Beck rally who estimated the Stewart rally at 215,000 to Beck’s 87,000 — it’s all liberal media lies!!!!). It was so big that even at 6 o’clock in the evening, three hours after the rally ended, there were still hordes of people streaming down the streets of D.C. heading for Georgetown.

We were hanging around our hotel on Saturday morning, thinking of moseying out to the Mall around noon-ish, when we ran into four ladies who had come in from Chicago for the rally. It was 9 o’clock in the AM and they were heading out already.

Then we gazed out of our hotel room window and noticed the steady stream of people making their way across town. It dawned on us that for a festival-type gathering of hundreds of thousandsof people, one does not wait until noonish to get one’s ass in gear. So we gathered up own signs and hot-footed it to the Sparkling Plain. (Refudiate Truthiness was rather the theme for the day.)

The Mall was already so packed with people that we were waaaaaaay in the back. Because the original rally permit was only for 60,000 people, the Parks Service had only opened up about half the lawns on the Mall. So for the first few hours there were vast green acres of grass that were fenced off and the crowd was forced to line up on the edges of the center space — it was images of those “empty” lawns that Fox broadcast (as if to show sparse turn out). Later, though, those fields were opened up and masses of people moved in.

Still, even with the extra lawns opened up, there were so many people who couldn’t get close to the action that all the museums that face the Mall (the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of Natural History, The National Gallery of Art, The American Indian Museum, the Air and Space Museum, the Smithsonian Castle, the Freer) all had thousands of people sitting on their front steps and picnicing on their lawns — it was wall to wall humanity. We saw this cheery family (above) sitting at the Hirshhorn. They were my second favorite Sanity Rally Muslims — my favorite Sanity Rally Muslim was a guy with a sign that said

My Wife Is Muslim.

She Is Not A Terrorist.

But I’m Still Afraid Of Her.

 

 

Meta, man.

People were chatting with one another, taking pictures of each other, laughing at the clever signs, swapping stories about how far they’d driven to be here, getting all the jokes. And except for that big bore Guido Sarducci (boy, do I hate Saturday Night Live from the ’70s. I was not high in the ’70s, and always thought Saturday Night Live was profoundly un-funny in the ’70s. Don’t get me started with Gilda Radnor…) the entertainment was delightful…mostly.

How was it?

How was it to be around so many people practically frantic with sanity? How was it to stand shoulder to shoulder with people almost hysterically rational? How was it that as far as the eye could see, there were people raging to be fair, civil, open-minded, and tolerant?

Pretty freaking awesome.

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