Fight Club.

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

All the smart kitties are conserving energy any way they can.

This is Steve, of course, cooling it on the front stoop.

Here are more of my kitties showing their genius at not getting their dander up when it’s 95 degrees and 78% humidity outside:

They are snoozing in the pretend shade of the coilus bush.

And this is our neighbor’s cat, Dennis, keeping it chill as seen from my kitchen window:

Denis is smart enough to snooze in the real shade of a real tree.

And this is what Top Cat and I are doing during this atrocious heat wave:

We are not as smart as the cats. Nope: We are expending a lot of energy getting all het up. What has got our blood boiling is, about once a year, my husband and I have a really big scorching fight, and this year’s blow-out coincides with actual, real-world sizzling temperatures.

Would it surprise you to know that I am not the kind of person who “lets things slide”? I am not the person you want around when you want to take out your frustrations with, say– as a totally random example — your bumpkin relatives who made you drive to New Jersey and back, on a week night, in rush hour traffic. Nope, the girl who is going to let that slide is not me. When it comes to debating the merits of you complaining about my keeping you waiting 5-minutes on a Sunday afternoon against you speaking nary a word against those who forced you to take a mid-week trek to Outer Bug Fuck, NJ, I will fiercely demand, “What’s up with that shit?”

In fact, I’m so fierce, I play tag with airplanes:

This picture is not Photoshopped. This is actually how close you can get to planes as they come in for a landing at National Airport in Washington, DC. This is easily the most fun thing I’ve ever done in DC,  our nation’s capital, and I have a lot to compare it to: I’ve been to Union Market and had the world’s most outstanding grilled cheese sandwich (caramelized opinions, gruyere, extra-toasty sourdough bread), and I’ve played the How Many Toys Can We Throw Over The Baby Fence with an extra-cute one-year old. So:

To play Tag the Airliner game, all you have to do is [have someone who has the app] check to see if the air traffic to National Airport is being routed from the north (the planes follow the curve of the Potomac River); if yes, then find a way to get to Gravelly Point (spoiler: It’s not easy), and then stand there. Every 90 seconds a plane will roar down on you, so close you can smell the diesel. It’s awesome.

OK, I admit that for the first few — or 20 — planes, I might have lost my nerve a bit:

Because planes are big, and loud, and shouldn’t be in the air in the first place.

This trip to DC, our nation’s capital, was so I could visit my sister and her family, which includes the afore-mentioned Extra Cute One-Year Old. My sister is 18 years younger than I, so it’s natural that when we are together with the Extra Cute One-Year Old that strangers would assume that I was the grandmother. We were sitting in a cafe at the excellent new Southwest Waterfront (DC’s hottest new development). . .

. . .  and a young/middle aged stopped by to admire the Extra Cute One-Year Old in his super-cool hi-teck  backpack/carrier. “That’s some special contraption,” he says.


Then he says to me, “Remember when we did it?”  [No, do I look like a grandmother??? but because I’m a wonderful human being I’ll play along and not take offense.]

I chuckled and said, “Right, all we had was a canvas sling.” Ha ha. That “we” cracks me up. As. If.

The next day I headed to the National Archives on my own to have a look around, and was going through the security check point when a young/middle aged officer said to me, “You can put your bag right here, young lady.”

Whoa. Do I look old enough that oldish guys are calling me that”young lady” thing that old and young-ish guys do to old ladies because they think it is charming for us old bats to be patronized that way?? And I was wearing skinny jeans!!

I’m seriously thinking of getting my hair dyed some flattering shade of honey blonde, like they do in France. Also, I should learn how to accessorize.

Next, we all met at the United States Botanic Garden not far from theArchives, and me, my sister, and the Extra Cute One-Year Old wandered into a greenhouse that featured small fake dinosaurs. “Hey!” I said to my sister, “If this is all about multi-million-year-old plants from the time of the dinosaurs (I know how to take a clue), maybe we could find a Wollemi Pine here!” Then I glanced at the ugly green thing that was growing in the exhibit right in front of me.

“It kind of looks like this,” I said.

Then I bent to read the label that was sticking up out of the ground in the display right in front of me.

For those of you reading along, I first got excited about the Wollemi Pine in the Key West chapter of my book, Gardens of Awe and Folly:

No, those aren’t illustrations of Wollemi Pines (above), but they are illustrations of another Australian pine that I love, called the Australian Pine. The Wollemi Pine under discussion is a 40-million year old plant that was presumed extinct until 1994 when a small clutch of 100 trees were discovered in a remote forest in New South Wales. The discovery sent shock waves of euphoria through the botanical community (such as it is) and propagations of the tree, which are most highly prized, have been sent around the world. (In Florida, the other Australian pine, the Australian Pine, is considered a pest, and outlawed from private and public gardens, except in Key West. Long story, full of injustice. It’s in the book. I do mention the Wollemi Pine in the Key West chapter, too, because Florida is a very good and legal place to grow Wollemi Pines. Go figure.)

I’ve only seen one other Wollemi Pine, a scraggly specimen in a corner of the Chelsea Physic Garden in London.

So I was really excited to see this Wollemi Pine here in DC, our nation’s capital!

Then we moseyed through the rest of the greenhouses, and I saw several more Wollemi Pines. By your fifth or sixth Wollemi Pine, you’ve pretty much seen enough of the Wollemi Pine. It’s not a particularly attractive plant.

Fun Fact: The Latin name for the Wollemi Pine is Wollemia noblis because it was discovered in the Wollemi National Park, and because the last name of the guy who discovered it was Nobel (David Nobel). How lucky is that!?

Other Fun Fact: Neither the Wollemi Pine nor the Australian Pine are”pines”.

One last FunFact: Traveling to DC, our nation’s capital, from New York City is tons of fun except when the train engineers can’t find an engine for train and it takes three hours to find one. I left DC, our nation’s capital, on such a train and by the time I was allowed to board I was in a tizzy. Luckily, I got a place in the Cafe Car, and I got myself a nice cold snack:

 And I wasn’t sharing.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers. Yes, it’s hot, and there’s a vacancy on the Supreme Court, and we are very near the collapse of our democracy, but to cheer you up I’m going to show you the front page of the New York Daily News from July 4:

Keep Calm and Fight On.


31 Comments, RSS

  1. Kirra

    I looked up how how 95 degrees is in celsius and that is hot with 78% humidity, good luck keeping cool! I’m with the cats, lie in the shade and try not to move.

    Playing tag with planes is very brave but also looks kind of fun. Does sound like a fun trip to the capital, which sounds a bit like the Australian capital too, not quite a main city but does have some interesting places. Thanks for sharing the rare Aussie tree, I loved your chapter in your book about them in Key West. It is funny as we don’t call them pines as far as I know.

    Nice headline, I’m still enjoying the fact that they got permission to fly the blow up baby Trump in London when he’s visiting! Ha ha!

    • Vivian

      Hi Kirra! Did you miss your Fourth of July fireworks this year? 2018 was just as hot as 2017, but America missed you and Neil!

  2. Casey

    I laughed out loud at this one! I know what you mean about learning to accessorize. It makes any grandma look like a glamazon.

    I want to catch planes too, and lay eyes on a Wollemi pine. I also loved your Key West chapter because I know Key West a little but I’m going to Fort Zach beach on your recommendation the next time I visit.

    Stay cool with those kitties, and I hope you and Top Cat reach a peace settlement that is a win/win for you both.

    • Vivian

      You will love Fort Zach beach. The shade and hush of those gorgeous Australian Pines will spoil you for every other beach in the world.

  3. Megan

    The cats are adorable, mine can’t get hot enough I keep expecting him to spontaneously combust, thank heavens it hasn’t happened. The supreme court appointment may have long reaching consequences, good luck.

    • Vivian

      How convenient is it that AFTER he prosecuted Bill Clinton, Kavannaugh decides that indicting a sitting president is bad for the country? Oh, wait…he figured out that payback would involve a Republican president, which he had to protect. The guy is a political hack.

  4. Lizzie is adopting the position of your gang. She will move to eat. Maybe. It’s bloody hot here but today is easing up. We’re waiting for Molly’s baby to be born so we can go to the lake. So far we’ve waited a full week since due date. Home has no air. Usually, I don’t need it. This year, I’d kill for it.

    DC sounds great — a spot I’ve never been. Now I have a list! Did you see the Trump balloon (a diapered baby) in London (or going up when he arrives). Bravo, Brits!

    • Vivian

      DC is a trip, seeing all those iconic buildings. This is the first time I ever remember seeing the Supreme Court building, which is only a hop and a skip from the Capitol building itself. And the archives are down the block. It’s a very compact place.

      We do not have AC either so when it’s over 90 degrees outside, I take a 10-second shower about 5 times a day…just enough to soak me down. I wear a little sun dress into the shower and while it dries off I stay nice and cool.

  5. Dani

    I am rereading Le Road Trip and I had to laugh at the fight you and your husband had in some small town in France with a castle, you sound exactly like me and my husband. The people we love the most can be very annoying. Now I see those gorgeous paintings in your garden book and I have to get it.

    Didn’t you want to flop down in the middle of your gang of kittens? One thing cats know is comfort. I would take my cue from them.

    Great newspaper cover. To Jeanie, I did see the Trump balloon that the Londoners have ready for his presence. I repeat, Bravo.

  6. I recently met a woman in her early seventies who had put stripes of magenta and purple in her silver-gray hair. She looked fabulous.

    I have carefully and calculatedly cultivated a no-contact policy with my bumpkin relatives for so many decades now that I’m not sure they know I exist. This pleases me greatly.

    It was 60 degrees (F) for most of the past week here in the Great Pacific Great Northwest. I had to turn the heat back on in my house in the morning. Then one day it hit 80 and I had to drag the fans out. Then it went down to 70 and nobody knew what to do or how to dress anymore. I saw folks in sleeveless tops and shorts and sandals during the 60-degree days, and people wearing all-black outfits with hooded fleece jackets on the 80-degree days. Clearly Seattle is not the fashion plate of the world.

    Stay cool, be cool, and fight on!

    • Vivian

      HEAT? Did you say you turned the HEAT on? Now that the temps are back into the mid-80s here on the north shore of Long Island, I have forgotten how suffocating the 90s can be, which is why we ever get around to putting in an AC unit.

      I don’t think I can pull off a fancy hair color. I think you need really good check bones to do that, and I have a mushy WASPy face.

  7. Barbara Marie

    Will you be going to London to celebrate the launch of the Trump Baby Balloon? I expect it to be a high point in the annals of the resistance.

  8. Susan

    The heat seems never ending! Tough on all our fur babies. For indoor comfort, I have to recommend Fujitsu heat pumps for cooling and supplemental heating in winter. They are fabulous. They also eliminate humidity. Even better they are energy efficient and cost effective. Like you, I have no patients for incidence (e.g., traffic jams) that cause me unnecessary hardship/inconvenience. (Next time, I’d say, to said cousin,
    “Hire yourself a limo.”) Ageists are everywhere and they speak without thinking. (Often somewhat offensive.) For example, occasionally, a complete stranger will say, “Have a nice day “honey”.” This never happened in my 40’s. Today, I respond, “Thank you darling.” They have a double-take and I have a good laugh.. BTW – the plane picture is amazing.

    • Vivian

      Not long before he died, Leonard Cohen was doing a concert and he talked about getting old. He said that as a young man, he was used to being noticed and being part of a constant flow of sexual drama. Then he got middle aged, and he became invisible. THEN, he got even older, and it got worse: he became “cute”. Ugh. I never want to be CUTE.

      I want to get myself a T-shirt to wear every day, that says: Still Bad to the Bone.

  9. Patricia Hall

    I hope Giant Trump Baby (with tiny hands) gets major air time when tRUMP (the t is silent in my mind) visits. Bless the Brits for taking the piss out.

  10. Thea

    I’d say watch yourself, you have at least one reader who is part of the “the botanical community (such as it is),” but given your penchant for making fabulous fun of yourself I will accept “(such as it is)” as a due. I too have been known to order two sparklings and Not Share, and not even under such provocation as you suffered. I live for each year’s story of your Annual Fight as I love the notion. My husband fights not at all, ever, and I fight about all the time. The kitties are divine, as ever. Stay cool.

    • Vivian

      Ooopss…I wrote “such as it is” because I wasn’t even sure there WAS a “botanical community”. I knew that the Wollemi Pine got coverage in the National Geographic but I did to know if there was much excitement generated among home gardeners. I thought maybe I ad overstated the case; good to know that there is such a thing as a community of botanically-inclined people.

      The thing to remember in fights with your spouse is, the thing you’re fighting about is not the thing you’re fighting about, and sometimes it takes a while to agree on what IS the thing you are fighting about.

  11. I think I will join those cats. Not as hot here though. Sorry you are having hot and humid.
    For 30 of years of marriage I would let things slide and then one day I woke up and said that is enough. My husband doesn’t like it, but I do.
    And that clown, please let’s let him go bye-bye. I can’t take much more of him.

    • Vivian

      Good for you! After 30 years of marriage, it takes guts to re-draw the parameters of your relationship, and I am not surprised that you’ve caught your husband by surprise. Men, in general, don’t like change.

  12. It looks as if your cats are melting. Or at least they think they are. A cat thinking it’s melting is a very dramatic event.

    Wouldn’t it be fun if there was a post somewhere online of someone taking a picture from a plane of you reaching up?

    I like that backpack because it has “keep your filthy stranger hands off my baby wrap around protective plastic”. Ugh. I know there should be dashes between all those words butt that would take me another hour or two.

    • Vivian

      Actually, I’ve seen my cats go spineless for hours and hours at a time even in the dead of Winter. And one of my cats slept in a sunbeam when it was 95 degrees outside. I’ve read that a cat’s brain is the size of a walnut…and I have begun to suspect that my cats have brains the size of peas.

  13. I love those cat photos. Hard to believe just a few months ago (three? four?) you were worrying about how to keep the snow off Steve!

    I love DC, and I’m glad you enjoyed your visit. I think I can skip that airplane thing, though.

    In Florida, as you mentioned, “Australian pine” is a dirty word. (Words, I suppose.) They are also called casuarina trees, which avoids the false “pine” label. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a Wollemi pine, though I remember reading about them.

    • Vivian

      Yeah, that is crazy — and already I am planing ahead o how to keep Steve warm and dry when the snow falls. I have plans to up-grade his Winter quarters and there is not time like the present to get his house in order.

      I know you’re a Florida native and you know about the casuarina, but have you ever been to a hot sandy beach that is shaded by a grove of Australian Pines?? Oh, it’s the best! Palm trees have thick, rackety fonds that clack in the wind, but the Australian Pines is like a giant feather that rustles soothingly in every breeze, and it is wonderful.

  14. The word for what used to be called “accessorizing” is now “styling.” I learned this from my granddaughters. In a store where I go only with them (my role involves paying for things and waiting while they send trying-on selfies to their friends), the sales person remarked that a particular “top” could be “styled” in various ways. And I understood her because my granddaughter had already told me I was good at styling. This probably won’t help with how we older young ladies are treated by random authority figures.

    best… mae at

    • Vivian

      Thank you! From ow on I will STYLE myself, as son as I can remember to add something to my uniform of top and jeans. And to have a granddaughter tell you that you are good at styling must be the highest praise…have you thought of offering tips to the readers of your blog??

  15. Linda June of Seattle

    Oh, Vivian, you are so informative and SO funny! Irreverent at times, but funny! I love the grilled “opinions” on your sandwich. A typo? We all need typos to make us laugh. Many decades ago, I was taking shorthand dictation from my attorney boss (see what I mean–many decades ago!) and he was saying that attorneys had a perennial problem, and I gave it back to him with the spelling “perineal problem.” He laughed so hard, and I was so embarrassed, not knowing what I had done. He went on to tell me that he took it home to his wife, and they both had a good laugh. When you are young like I was, you almost die. Okay, this is a wrap. Keep up the great blogs!

    • Vivian

      I am a lousy proof-reader. I missed that “opinions”, and I am sure the carmalized onions tasted much better. My opinions are always scorching hot.

      When I was in my 20s an older co-worker once said that she had to “shuffle off to Buffalo”, and I was amazed that she was going to travel hours and hours after a log days’ work. And when she and others laughed, I was mad that my parents had never told me about “shuffling off to Buffalo” so I could have avoided this embarrassment.

  16. Becky

    The kitties look exactly how I feel on this hot humid days. Love the pictures.
    The only thing funnier than the Daily News front page is the baby drumpf blimp…..go Brits!!!

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