I Have To Find Better Things To Do With My Time.

It’s a busy Monday morning at the Starbucks in the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. As I wait in line to order my cup of tea I ponder things.

How many wombats can you fit in a wheelbarrow? Is Freud’s theory of personality still relevant? Should I get a DoG?

Observing the young lady strolling past the food court, I wonder about girls who wear teeny short cut off jeans and big tall leather boots: Is that a thing?




I looked it up, and I guess it is.

For narrative purposes, I’ll say I had this thought, too: That squirrel I watched in my back yard, eating cream cheese off a fork — was that the cutest thing or what?




Point is, I had plenty of time to think there at the Starbucks. But I snapped to attention when I saw that I had shuffled to the head of the line and I was on deck to place my order. When one of the two baristas on duty called out, “Can I help the next guest?” (they don’t just yell NEXT at Starbucks), I walked right up to the counter and spoke up, loud and clear: Small English breakfast tea, please fill it only 2/3rd full, and one croissant you don’t have to heat it up thank you.”

Then the other barista called for the next guest, and the next guest/woman behind me seemed to be very surprised to find herself on line at Starbucks. Oh! “the next guest” exclaimed, Oh! Um, hmmm…um…what I want…um…hmmmmmm…. And she frantically scanned the menu board above.

Wow, I thought to myself: You’ve been standing on line for 7 minutes and you don’t know what you want??? Are you always an asshole or is this a special occasion? Because, as we all know, it should come as no surprise that when you stand on line at Starbucks, sooner or later you’re going to have to order.

But then I decide to give humanity the benefit of the doubt:

She’s having a real hard time spitting it out, I think. WOW! Her order must be very complicated — one of those secret off-the-menu S’mores frappacino/non-dairy foam from Jupiter/ wave a degree from Cornell over it things that I’ve heard about. 

I eagerly awaited her choice. And then, after lengthy hesitation, she, the next guest/ Starbucks customer, finally summoned the language she needed to ask for:

An iced coffee.


These days, I’ve been wondering how I can fill all the hours that used to be taken up by book-writing, now that these days, there isn’t a book that needs me to write it. I have very few options.

I can not do customer service because, present company excluded, I hate “customers” (see: Starbucks story above). I can’t do reality TV because I don’t want to frighten the cats by having a film crew stomping around my house. I can’t be Susan Branch because I’m waaaaay too damn cranky.

And it seems that there is no money in collecting Blue Jay feathers, which is really all I want to do these days.

By the way, on a day when I was not looking for Blue Jay feathers I had 3 feathers delivered to me, such as like this:




Sadly, the only thing I’m half good at is watching paint dry:




I’m painting a large (or should I say, Venti) view of the Chelsea Physic Garden. In my world, that’s 8 inches x 10 inches. But I got as far as this foreground bush (above) when I messed it up. It’s too dark — that’s a problem I often have: I load on the color too much, and I like it when the watercolor has a lot of water in it. I tried to rescue it by painting a layer of white goauche over it:


But that looked really stupid. So I started over, this time from the background:









And then I forgot to take in progress photos until the end:

P1080567 (2)

It’s all about the crop. This:

Chelsea Physic Garden London

Or this:

London Chelsea Physic Garden

That’s it, my Dear Readers, that’s all I got this week. Well, that’s almost it:

Thank you for the love you gave my girl, Dame Helen Mirren, last week. I liked how I was close enough to get the spill-over! THANK YOU!

And, to follow up on having my article on my Top Ten Garden Books published by The Guardian last week, I got some push-back by a Commentor there who did not like my criticism of John Muir’s writing and wrote:

How appalling to open by denigrating John Muir who did more for the world than you surely will ever do. He helped found the first national park system which spread worldwide and caused more good in the world than any other conservation measure. You say you thrill like one of the bloggers to Marvell’s work; hard to believe. Muir is a beautiful writer who saw interconnection in all things. That vision remains desperately undernourished and misunderstood today.

Write your own books, fine, but think about the cost of rubbishing a fine thinker.

I wrote back a message that told her, in effect, that she should go soak her head, and she responded:

Nice person! True colours at last.

Try reading, thinking, understanding rather than resort to crudity. That is the last resort of the weak minded. Also, I don’t think you should be paid for writing this kind of language. It is appalling.

Ha! I wrote back: If you think I’m forfeiting the million dollars that The Guardian paid me to write this article…I’m laughing all the way to the bank!

I really can’t stand people.

So that’s what I was doing in Atlantic City this past Monday:I was looking to invest my windfall (journalism is so lucrative!) in property and I’d always fancied owning a casino. But since the Borgata. . .


. . . isn’t for sale, I had to search for other investment opportunities. I settled on buying the sunset:


So, appalled Guardian Commentor, if it’s twilight where you are and the sun is setting, don’t look at it. It’s mine.

Here’s the latest portrait of Dennis Whiskabottoms, with his newly-tipped ear:


See you all here next week, my Wonder Ones, with more stories from Down Time on the Isle of Long.

10 Comments, RSS

  1. Megan

    Well I love it! Only one wombat in a wheelbarrow they are big creatures. Too many of them legs in the air along the highway here, very sad, rather lovely gentle creatures. OMG shorts and ugg boots are the things that get me, either it is summer or winter, how hot are your feet in uggs if it is shorts weather? I identify with starbucks procrastinator. I do know my order mostly but I have a partner, strong double shot flat white but only three quarter fill the cup… so it is a tongue twister. I always want to say with a tvist of lemon but don’t. Nice small coffee with lots of flavour, my friend buys a venti and my partner says a bucket’o coffee. As with sizes of coffee you are entitled to your opinion so I guess if you don’t like the views of the blog… so read Susan Branch she is so chipper, just love her. However as a misanthropist I really don’t like people at times, maybe I’ll be a cat in my next life, aloof but cute like Taffy. How is Taffy, knocked of his pedestal by Dennis or Steve?

  2. Leslie

    Dear Vivian, At the risk of annoying your angst, I want you to know that I feel your pain. Not that I share it, I have my own angst to bear. I feel it, as I felt your delight and whimsy in “When Wanderers Cease to Roam”. I recognize it as I recognized you happiness on your honeymoon with your traveling companion. Now here you are, skinny, married, three successful published works. What’s next? What happened to Giverny? Would chocolate help? Fashion? I always enjoy your fashion comments and fashion art. With Bill Cunningham gone… Just so happens that I drove through Roslyn last week. So beautiful. And charming. Obviously, I only know what you have written in your books and on your blog, but I want to encourage you to soldier on through this episode and have faith. Remember, there are millions of ways to be a person. Peace and love.

  3. Patricia

    People waiting in line at the check stand that don’t even start looking for their money until everything’s been bagged and the cashier and the rest of us in line are waiting. What? Did you think they were just going to GIVE you your groceries for free? Even worse, they start digging thru giant size purses for their checkbook. Luckily I don’t have the ability to administer electric shocks with my eyeballs or a few people would be in a lot of pain…

    I do agree about the importance of the crop. With photographs it can turn a crap shot into something really cool.

    Clothing-wise, what gets me are people wearing flipflops on icy cold winter days. And I’m not talking about people who can’t afford real shoes…

  4. Thea

    My goddess, we are so judgey, we the people. I do wear summer flip-flops (thongs, we here on the beach call them); winter Ugg boots as do all the surfer twidgets; tall boots, although not yet fashion thigh-high. So what. Bird feathers to look for.

    I read your Commenter on John Muir, and thought, “tightly wound.” Then I read last week’s icon-bashing article on John Muir – dash it, can’t remember particulars – and wondered how low to the ground in humility your Commenter will hug when she reads it. Or maybe puff up in the same ridiculous posture she first held. Who knows with the tightly wound.

    Your watercolor of Chelsea Physic Garden is the way I remember it from in my afternoons on a bench contemplating that view, ensorcelled. I surely love me some languid posing Dennis Whiskabottoms. And, yes, get yourself a DoGster, as sterling and comic as our Petey and Shredder, current two in a long line. Endless hours of fun, and, yes, hilarity ensues.

    Your project will appear to you. Although I still invite you to Coronado; you know, the view bicoastal.

  5. OY ! I recently went to dinner with someone who announced that they had reviewed the menu online, then spent many minutes studying the menu at the restaurant, yet when the server asked what if he was ready to order, announced he needed “a few more minutes”. Weird control issues plus the always attractive , “aren’t I special” behavior that just gets me. I laughed out loud at your question – “are you always an asshole or is this a special occasion”. You are sooooo funny.

    Sorry about the rude commenter – what is it about the internet that brings out the need to be so awful? There’s a saying in the south , “You chopped down my tree to make yours look taller”. Sad way to go through life.

  6. Leslie

    P.S. I was watching a You Tube today about Don Cornelius and Soul Train, and guess what several ladies were wearing? Short shorts and knee high boots…including the immortal Tina Turner. So, yes it is a thing, and it’s not so much a new thing.

  7. Kirra

    Vivian you are such a good painter, I love this week’s flower beds. Thank you for so eloquently expressing the annoyance we all have with the shorts and boots thing and the slow ordering coffee lady!!
    Those comments from The Guardian article rather miss the point, but I do love your reply. People really……..at least you have some sensible cats to keep you company 🙂

  8. The tall boots I get. I mean, _I_ wouldn’t do it because I’d look deranged, but it has a certain sexiness, a certain “look at me quality” that must be heady for those who can pull it off. BUT, what I do NOT understand are the ankle boots with skirts. It’s one of those things that in a few years, fashion “experts”–those folks who must have encouraged it recently, based on how much I am seeing it– will roll their eyes and tell the mere mortals of us who have finally succumbed to the trend that it’s a terrible idea because it breaks up the line of the leg. I always love that, on shows like “What Not to Wear” (is that still a thing?) when someone is ridiculed for doing something that was a GREAT idea a few years ago but is now passe’.

    We all have opinions, I guess.

    For instance, I’ve spent the last 15 minutes wondering what the cat rescuers could do to alert the world to the feral cat’s new reproductively neutral state without wrecking ear symmetry. (Until I started seeing your photos, I had no idea how much feline ear symmetry matters to me aesthetically.) I got hung up on an elaborate plan to use sort of cat-sized pirate earrings, but then worried about them getting stuck on bushes and so have to go back to the drawing board.

    Your posts, as always, make my day.

  9. Being bookless sounds sheer torment – though the watercolor seems to be going well.
    You can always come into the city and drink stuff with me.
    Alcoholic or otherwise.
    A dog would be a splendid plan. I still ache for dear Buster.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *