Thank you, Fiona Hill, Lt. Col. Vindman, Daid Hale, Gordon Sondland, Bill Taylor, George Kent, Jennifer Williams, and especially Ambassador Yovanovitch.
Thank you, Fiona Hill, Lt. Col. Vindman, Daid Hale, Gordon Sondland, Bill Taylor, George Kent, Jennifer Williams, and especially Ambassador Yovanovitch.
I’m so glad that so may of you Dear Readers liked the watercolor post I did a few weeks back.
This is also a painting post, but not that kind of painting post.
The story is, that with just a few days to go before Thanksgiving, I decided now was a dandy time to re-do our horrible, 100-year old staircase.
Thirty-fiveyears ago, when Top Cat bought the house here on the north shore of Long Island, he ripped up old olive green carpeting that was there and slapped a coat of white paint on the steps. What I’ve come to discover, from wear and tear and exploratory chipping away at the landing, is this:
The fine people on YouTube made it look so easy. Just buy “green” (organic) paint remover, go watch an episode of Property Brothers, and voila: your stairs are ready to be televised.
I have 12 stairs in my staircase that I need to strip down to wood. The first 4 stairs took me two days (two full work days) to do.
Then a voice, the mellifluous intonation of the Angel of Duh, spoke to me and yea, it said: Yo, Stupid, Let The Paint Stripper Do The Work.
So here’s how the next four stairs took me two hours to do:
First, squish a lot of Soy Gel, “green” paint remover made from 100% Aerican-grown soy beans so they say, onto the hideous 100-year old tread:
Soy Gel is not cheap but O-boy, is it effective if– you have patience. It’s organic, so you can use it indoors in Winter and you don’t have to rig up ventilation.
Then you take a “chip” brush that you will throw away when this adventure is over, and you spread the Soy Gel evenly over the despicable surface:
This is a trick I learned on the Advanced YouTube tutorial about not being dumb about removing paint:
You lay down a layer of cling wrap on top of the Soy Gel. You do this because you are going to let the Soy Gel do its thing for the next seven hours.
Meanwhile, if it’s OK with the Boss, you can put away the sander and clean up the mess that you made on the first four steps because you won’t need any of it (now that you know the trick with the Saran Wrap).
And, if it’s OK with the Boss, you can use brown paper to cover the previously stripped stairs so to keep them clean from the crud you will be excavating soon:
It’s 3 o’clock. Time to have fun!
This is SO COOL!
The Saran Wrap does all the work!
The remaining bits of paint can be scraped up with a minimum of cursing, and still provide you with a fine work-out for your trapezius and latissimus muscles:
Next comes the horrible part. What is left on your stairs now is a thickish layer of persistently clingy goo that has the consistency of the insides of a marshmallow.
So you need to buy the strongest “de-greaser” you can find. You spray it onto the stair, you let sit for a minute:
And then you get your wire brush and you warn your back and leg muscles that there’s some hurt coming soon. You crouch for leverage, and you put all your might into scouring away at the goo:
The crud wedges good and hard into the teeth of the wire brush every minute or so, so keep a bucket of water handy so you can dip the brush into it and take another instrument to gouge between the rows of wire and pry out the impacted crud. This, too, will require “effort”.
Repeat at least twice; three times if you’re really into punishing yourself for ever having started this stupid project in the first place, and then let dry.
This weekend I will be painting the stairs Espresso, because I read that dark-chocolate-colored treads are the hottest trend in staircases. I’ll be painting the trim and risers white, but I won’t strip them first since I don’t want to.
I did all this work all by myself because I got no help at all from The Rock, who was off gallivanting, as it’s been doing for over a month now, and now has made it all the way to the Great North Great West.
The Rock, from Stromness, Orkney, Scotland, is now in Washington (state).
In olden days, the Oregon Territory took up the whole huge NW corner of the continental United States. Nobody knows why it was called “Oregon”, but when that top northern bit broke away and its residents applied for statehood in the 1880s, they petitioned Congress to give them the name, “Washington, Not That Washington, The Other One.”
Then New York Congressman and general busy-body David Dudley Field went around bitching that the country already had a “Washington” (that “Washington, of D. C.”), and that a duplicate “Washington” was going to make life very difficult, especially for the U. S. Post Office. He wanted the new state to have a Native American name, and he suggested “Tacoma”.
I’m all for having a state called “Tacoma”. Is it too late?
Well, the residents of “Washington, Not That Washington, The Other One”, argued that the dunces at the U. S. Post Office should be able to deliver mail to the correct Washington by paying attention to context and they took advantage of the fact that nobody else in Congress gave a crap about having two Washington’s so they shortened their state name and their application for statehood as “Washington” was approved in 1889.
So, now you know where we are today.
We are in that Washington. Specifically, we are with Dear Reader Alexandra, in the fair city of Richland, located at the confluence of the Yakima and the Columbia Rivers. Richland is in the southeastern part of the state where, being on the dry side of the Cascade Mountains, the climate is desert-like. The area gets 7 inches of rain yearly (Seattle gets 39 inches) and there are dust storms in Summer.
Dust storms. In THE DESERT.
So, naturally, that’s where you can find The Rock hanging around the USS Triton Submarine Memorial Park:
All that is left of the historic USS Triton is its con-tower, sticking up out of the ground. Much like the history of the nomenclature of Washington the state, the sub is here in Richland because shut up, we want the damn submarine and Congress doesn’t care either way, so shut up.
They notified the U. S. Post Office that the sub’s new address is in THE DESERT, in that Washington.
Fun Fact: The USS Triton submarine was the first to circumnavigate around the world underwater, on its maiden voyage Feb 16 – May 11 1960, following Ferdinand Magellan’s first circumnavigation of 1519 – 1522. The con-tower stands tall at 26 feet high and 67 feet long. The sub has no logical connection to Washington, the state, but that has never stopped Washington, the state, from getting what it wants.
Here we are at the splendid used book store of the beautiful and gleaming Richland Public Library, where The Rock is trying to see if anyone will mistake him for a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and try to read him, and they can’t because he doesn’t have any pages because he’s a rock, and then he’ll laugh and laugh and make them feel stupid.
The Rock can be a little bit of an asshole sometimes.
Lunch time, and The Rock heads for The Emerald of Siam, Richland’s oldest Thai restaurant, located in the groovy Uptown Shopping Center:
FunFact: The Upland Shopping Center was designed in 1948 and its architecture epitomizes that brief but glorious style known as Atomic Age Aqua Everywhere.
Funner Fact: The shopping center was designed by by the Atomic Energy Commission of the United States.
Because it’s Washington, the state. Shit like that happens here.
And next The Rock went bowling. Because it’s a rolling stone. Get it?
The Rock wrongly thinks this is hilarious.
Most people call this next tourist attraction The Ginnko Petrified Forest State Park in Vantage, Wa. But The Rock calls it “Meeting the American Cousins.”
The rock drawings that are reserved here date from prehistoric (pre-white people, that is, because pre-white people there was no history) times. Carved by the Wanapum people, who lived along the Columbia River and welcomed Lewis and Clark to the neighborhood. The Wanapum lived here in peace until 1953, when newly-built dams on the river flooded the ancestral home.
Petrified wood was discovered here in the 1930s, which led to the creation of this 7,124-acre park.
The Rock ponders, “Is this petrified cottonwood, or redwood?”
There are over 50 species of trees that are petrified here. One of those species is the ginkgo. The forest dates from the Miocene Period, 5 – 12 million years ago.
You should know that dinosaur fossils have not been found in Washington, the state. The park’s velociraptor, small brontosaurus, and pterodactyl statues came from Arizona, where there are dinosaur fossils. So, in the end, it’s completely legit.
The Rock is at it again, trying to pass itself as something’s not, in this case, a gem:
You know what else moves rocks? Tourists fromLong Island, Aer Lingus, the U. S. Post Office, and the lovely volunteer tour guides who have given The Rock memories of a lifetime.
It’s a fossil, yes, but it’s a mammoth, still not a dinosaur:
Fun Fact: Columbian mammoths (mammuthus columbi) once roamed from Alaska to Mexico and are the most common species of mammoth fossil found in this part of Washington state—so common, in fact, that the Columbian mammoth is the Washington state fossil.
You will be happy to know that The Rock barely moved the needle of this geiger counter:
Why is there a geiger counter at The Ginko Petrified Forest State Park?
Least of all these guys:
Thank you for stopping by today and hanging out with me and The Rock.
Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. And if you check back later, I will have a slew of stuff to make your celebrations of the House Impeachment Hearings’ total indictment of Trump, Giuliani, and the Republicans just a little more fun. I have a lot to show you.
Oh, lordy, it was a good week to be an American, for once.
Dear Reader Jeanie was in charge of The Rock from Stromness (Orkney, Scotland) last month. GUESS WHERE Jeanie took our beloved rolling stone?
From its secret hiding place at The Orkney Fisherman’s Association last Summer, you Dear Readers have hosted The Rock through Massachusetts and Pennsylvania and, now, Ta-Da:
The Rock is in Michigan, The Great Lake State, the base from which the United States launched an invasion of Canada in 1813 which, sadly, we did not quite pull off. But that is why everyone agrees that Michigan is our most Canadian state, as reflected in its almost absurdly polite state motto: “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you”.
The Rock, being Scottish, needed refreshments of a liquid nature so Jeanie took it, first, to a cider mill/Tiki Bar:
And then to a wine tasting:
And then, because drinking makes the Rock very thirsty, they went to the famous Miller Brewery in Milwaukee:
Quick: What’s the capitol of Michigan?
It’s Lansing, where Jeanie gave The Rock to a group of very Michigan protestors gathered around the capitol building. They get together every Wednesday afternoon for a little political activism and then they go to Marge’s house for cherry pie. Because they are CanadiaMichiganders. And none of their signs say, Fuck Trump.
Michigan’s unofficial state food is cherry pie. Michigan would make cherry pie its official state food, but Michiganders don’t want to hurt the feelings of the state’s official state flower, the apple blossom.
Apple Blossom be all like, So, I’m good enough for the state flower but not good enough for the state food?? Apple pie, ever heard of it??? WTF?
No, CanadaMichiganders don’t want any hard feelings.
MSU is the nation’s pioneer land-grant university and has 50,000 students, known as Spartans. It is the biggest of The Big Ten universities, an athletic conference founded in 1895 which actually comprises 14 schools, mostly in the Mid-West. If you don’t like snowy winters or if you need an urban vibe for your college experience, do not go to a Big Ten university.
But if you like to be around people who know how to earn an A+ rating for their parties and academics, then you should put Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI at the top of your list.
Next, let’s go visit Lansing’s most famous native son:
Ransome Eli Olds was the son of a blacksmith and a dress-maker whose Curved Dash Oldsmobile (1901 – 1904) became the first mass-produced, low-priced American motor vehicle so take that, Henry Ford.
Fun Fact: Ransom Eli’s father was Pliny Fiske Olds; his his wife was Metta Ursula Woodward Olds. People had fabulous names back then. His gorgeous mansion, which had a turntable garage which allowed Mr. Olds to pull in at night and leave again the next morning without driving in reverse, was demolished in 1966 to make way for an interstate hi way. People had shit for brains in the 1960s.
R. E. Olds is dead, which is why The Rock is in a cemetery.
Oh, I forgot: while in Milwaukee, The Rock got to take a selfie with The Bronze Fonz:
Taking a selfie with the Bronz Fonz statue on the Milwaukee RiverWalk is practically a rite of passage for any visitor. As is a visit to the Harley Davidson HQ:
Motorcycling is very popular in Scotland and The Rock felt right at home in the gift shop:
And, lastly, The Rock had the good fortune to meet one of Michigan’s grandest dames, the lady Lizzie Cosette of the blog, The Marmalade Gypsy:
And that was Michigan.
Next stop for The Rock: Wisconsin.
Otherwise known as The State of Deja Vu:
Milwaukee is the largest city in the state of WISCONSIN. I can’t say that I had known that for sure before I got Dear Readers Susie and Tony’s photos, but I know now that I will always remember that MILWAUKEE is in WISCONSIN. Not Michigan. It’s never even been to Michigan.
Milwaukee is known for being the setting of the popular 1970s sit-com Happy Days. This explains why there’s a Bronze Fonz in MILWAUKEE, in WISCONSIN. Which is not Michigan.
And then, being that The Rock is a bit of a booze hound, it went back to the Miller Brewery, in MILWAUKEE, which is in WISCONSIN, a city that is famous for its many breweries.
Overlooking the Menomonee River, the Harley-Davidson Museum displays classic motorcycles, including one of Elvis Presley’s. The Rock also went back to the Harley Davidson museum, which I don’t have a picture of but I do have one of the stills — I mean brew kettles — at the Miller Brewery:
Fun Fact about MILWAUKEE: the city boasts a statue legendary Scots poet Robert Burns. As far as anyone knows, Burns never visited Milwaukee, mainly because Milwaukee didn’t exist in his lifetime.
But you know how it is when you’re in a foreign country and you come across a countryman and you’re all, “Hi an sin seann friend! Och, gabhamaid deoch! ” And then you’re stuck with your new best friend for the rest of the bus tour.
Fun Fact about the Saint Andrews Society of Milwaukee:
Every September they hold a Kilt Raffle.
Now, when I think of men in kilts, I think of this:
Actually, The Saint Andrews Society in Milwaukee is like this:
But let’s think a little bit longer about men in kilts, because that’s where The Rock has taken us (Thank you, Rock) :
Now, while The Rock did not don a kilt while it was in Milwaukee, it DID get to try on the famous WISCONSIN Cheese head:
WISCONSIN is known as The Cheese State because they make a lot of fondue there and because fans of its football team, the Green Bay Packers, wear bits of cheese on their heads. I think it’s because football is a dangerous game that causes concussion. Also, because of the long, hard Winters in WISCONSIN. People go a little crazy from concussion and the cold and nothing says “crazy” more than an inordinate love of cheese.
The capitol of WISCONSIN, America’s Dairyland, is Madison, where apparently The Rock got an Uber and hit the singles’ scene:
Fun Fact: I have no idea where The Rock is (below), but then, I don’t track The Rock’s every move and if it hooked up in Madison and woke up the next day in a strange town hey, it’s not for me to judge:
But The Rock isn’t as young as it used to be (it’s actually from the Devonian Age, about 400 million years ago) and hop boy, the Rock needed a bucket of coffee and lots of low light when it woke up the next day.
They say nature is the best cure for a hot night out in Madison WI and there is plenty of nature in the woods around Lake Michigan:
TREES. On Orkney, The Rock never sees trees because it’s treeless environment, being too cold and windy for them to grow there. So you can imagine how spectacular this landscape was, how overcome The Rock was to see such abundance of those little things, in the billions, those things called Leaves. So, so many leaves.
Majestic Lake Michigan, from a rock’s point of view:
Fun Fact: Lake Michigan gets its name from the Ojibwe native peoples’ word michi-gami, meaning “great water”. It is the second-largest of the Great Lakes by volume, and is 2/3 the size of Scotland. Scotland’s largest lake (or loch) is Loch Lomand, which is about the size of a Great Lake sneeze if Lake Michigan had a nose and a cold. (Loch Lomand is 71 square miles and Lake Michigan is 22,393 sq miles.)
So. Where is The Rock now?
For that, you’ll have to meet me here next week. Spoiler: The Rock turns out to be a real stoner.
Thank you Dear Jeanie, and Dears Susie and Tony, for showing us and The Rock such a great time.
And, oh yeah, Fuck trump.
As you know, my blog is not a place where I write about what I had for lunch. Lunch is a topic too mundane for my blog. No lunch here. Because my blog is all about the larger issues and the deep thoughts concerning art and life; it’s about the interpolation between fast-breaking trends in high fashion and low popular culture; it’s about being on the cutting — nay, the bleeding — edge of nuclear science and phenomenological philosophy.
Having said all that, I’m going to show you what I had for lunch last week:
This is bibimbap, a traditional Korean dish made with rice and kimchee and whatever else the chef wants to throw in there, topped with a fried egg and served with with a bowl of soy sauce and side dishes (in this case, potatoes, a veggie thing that looked suspiciously like a small slab of fish, and more kimchee). It is served sizzling hot, except for the side dishes, which are cold.
I didn’t much care for the bibimbap (sorry — I’m a very picky eater) but I was thrilled to have had Korean food for the first and probably last time in my life (sorry, kimchee) because of where I had my Korean lunch.
I was in thrilling Koreatown, in Los Angeles (California), at the thrillingly famous Koreatown Plaza’s thrilling Food Court.
Backstory: A few months ago, when my dear Top Cat told me that we were going to LA, I was not thrilled. I called up Delta Airlines to inquire what I needed to get a refund on my non-refundable plane ticket to LA and was told that either a Death Certificate or a note from a doctor on hospice letterhead would do. I was five minutes away from asking my mother to fake her own death for me.
I was ten minutes away from asking her to actually die for me. My mother is in her 80s and hasn’t been feeling all that well lately anyway.
I really did not want to go to LA.
But everything that I hated about going to LA changed when I became a pervert.
In a word, I became a K-Pop fan. Specifically (because K-Pop is weird this way) I became a Shawol. And from there it gets weirder: There are five sub-sets of Shawol and I’m the one that makes me a Blinger. I am not proud that I know this, and to me it sounds like coded language for something dirty, but I do give myself credit for finding a new hobby that isn’t about sticking pins into Republican voodoo dolls or self-harming by diving into a vat of white wine (because of Republicans).
K-Pop inspires me. I now take my iPad to the gym with me so I can watch Youtube videos while I’m on the treadmill and K-Pop makes me run 1/3 faster and 80% longer. That’s because K-Pop is has been intricately engineered to be extremely catchy and very pretty to look at. You can look it up. This stuff is made in laboratories. It is addictive. And plus, lagniappe, the boys are extraordinarily cute.
Then I found out that Los Angeles has the largest Korean population in America and that its hub is an happening place that is imaginatively called Koreatown, and I ditched all my thoughts of matricide and packed my bags.
(I also made a blog post and rescheduled it for Friday November 1, but it failed to publish on time. In case you missed it, it’s right behind this one, and it’s called As If These Were Normal Times.)
On our second day in LA I made my way to the Koreatown Plaza for lunch and a visit to one of the country’s best K-Pop music stores, where I bought authentic, imported from Korea, K-Pop CDs of my favorite group.
The CD came with a book about the group that, upon perusal, turns out to be lots of soft-focus photos of the boys laying atop rumpled sheets and lounging across velvet armchairs while shirtless. This was c. 2010, when one of these kids was only 16 years old and the oldest two were only 20. The vibe is definitely soft-core porn.
Indignant, I showed the book to Top Cat and yes, I actually said: Is this appropriate?? Would you want your teenage daughter or son looking at this?!? (Or, even worse, your wife???)
There are 370 K-Pop groups (someone actually counted them) and you are a knowledgable K-Pop fan if you can name 30 of them. I can name 5 and I have trouble keeping these 5 straight. K-Pop is complicated. And I just ordered another CD off amazon. I can’t quit it.
So, OK, I admit that it’s pervvy to workout to videos of 20-year old boy groups but in my defense two of my books were translated into Korean…
…so I think that mitigates my pervviness. Somewhat. Somehow. Because my esthetic is Korean-cute? I hope.
I was able to do a lot of other unusual things on my own in LA, including riding the subway:
I went for a 4-second ride on a glass slide on the outside of the tallest building in LA(the U. S. Bank tower), 1,00o feet up, from the 70th floor to the 69th floor:
Afterwards I admired the 360 degree views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Hills:
I went to a satellite version of Burning Man on Venice Beach:
Ah, Venice. Where things are always groovy:
We were not bothered by the fires burning a mere few miles north of us because for the most part the winds were blowing out to sea. All we got were spectacular sunsets:
There is so much to catch up on so be prepared for nest week, when the blog will be long-form re: The Stromness Rock’s visits with Dear Readers in Michigan and Wisconsin.
I will close now because my heart is a little sad these days. My 19-year old cat, Coco, two days after I got back from LA, and I am still seeing her shadows in every corner of the house. You know how it is.
Coco was never a “nice’ cat. She was, as Top Cat rightly said, “a pain in the ass.” She was aloof, mean to all the other cats, cranky, demanding, and had a way about her that took up a lot of room whenever she was around. I’ve had her since she was a kitten, trapped by me in a neighbor’s yard on November 3, 2000. She died on November 6, 2019.
In her honor, let’s do this:
Lickety is still with us, and he takes his daily sun bath in the back yard, bless his heart:
Have a great weekend, everyone. Thank you being here.
There’s an “app” called Waterlogue that will take your photographs and turn them into watercolors:
Photograph (taken by myself):
Watercolor by My Own Two Hands:
It’s been another terrible week in TrumpWorld and if I have to think another thought about the Republican shits who are trying to ID the Whistleblower because they are the shittiest shit stains to ever park their fat asses in Congress…I will go crazy. So let’s pretend that we live in normal times, and let’s look at how My Own Two Hands take photographs and turn them into watercolor illustrations.
Now I’ve got to run, because I’m on a secret mission to have a ton of fun in some place that is not the north shore of Long Island, and I will tell you all about it next week.
Meantime, Welcome back to Oz Kirra; thank you for all your input on the dangers of installing a new OS on an unsuspecting computer; and yeah, I think that post card from last week might have been — dare I say it — “art”.
Oh, and meantime, Fuck Trump and all his little and subsidiary Trumps.
Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. We will get through this. We will.
I’ve had a miserable week, Dear Readers. For three days in a row I have had to call the Apple “geniuses” to figure out why my iMac is possessed by demons. I’ve spent hours on the phone and all I know is that I now have, thanks to interventions with the “geniuses”, three Apple devices that do not sync with each other, or, for that matter, the real world.
From what the Apple “geniuses” tell me, because I bought my iMac in 2012, I might as well be typing on a Selectric. And since I got my iPad the same year, I might as well be trying to download the YouTube app on a frying pan. My iPhone hasn’t fucked up yet, but that’s because I mostly use it as a phone.
Remember when, if you learned to read a newspaper — say, The Sandusky Register — in 1819, you could still use the exact same newspaper reading skill 200 years later to read The New York Times? Those were the days. Now, the stuff you learn to do on your devices becomes outdated every six months.
The Stromness Rock had a grand time in eastern Michigan with Dear Reader Jeanie last week, but I have not been able to bring the photos down from the cloud because it’s as if I am trying to lure Copper River salmon with magnets. (My computer is a magnet in this analogy and Jeanie’s photos are the salmon. FYI: You can’t fish with magnets. I’m pretty sure.)
I will write this post, and then I will do the dreaded full-scale OS update. If you can’t find me here next week it will be because that operation didn’t go well and I am in a coma.
But let’s get to today’s deep thoughts about life and art.
Maybe you know the fabulous work of artist Anne Taintor:
Born August 16, 1953, Anne Taintor attended Harvard University, from which she graduated in 1977 with a degree in Visual and Environmental Studies.
She moved back to her native Maine, and bounced around in different jobs, including as a waitress and a seamstress, and as a cartographer drawing maps for state atlases, while also working her way through a divorce.
In 1985, while at a garage sale in South Portland, Maine, Taintor came across an old Ladies Home Journal, which prompted her to begin creating what would become her signature work.
She founded Anne Taintor, Inc., which celebrates its 35th anniversary in 2020. Taintor’s work is available on her personal website and in thousands of retail locations across 25 countries.
Isn’t her story interesting?
I had to look up what the hell Harvard was getting at in its Visual and Environmental Studies — spoiler alert; it’s “a broad range of studio and theoretical studies”. So, I guess she graduated as an artist, and yet she found her calling at a garage sale, in a Ladies Home Journal.
Now, would she have been prepared to make art with that old magazine if she had not been previously trained in hoity-toity visual and environmental studies? It took her 8 years to find that Ladies Home Journal…without Harvard, would it have taken her 12 years? Or 2? We’ll never know, but I wonder about stuff like this.
I was not familiar with Anne Taintor’s work until last week, when we got a donation of books at the used book store that I manage for the benefit of our local library here on the north shore of Long Island. Inside a copy of a Terry Pratchett mass market paperback (Maskerade), I found a rather striking Anne Taintor postcard; this one:
However, just as Anne Taintor manipulates “found” images to make sarcastic and ironic commentary on women’s secret lives, the postcard that I found in the Terry Pratchett novel had been manipulated into another very personal message:
On the back of it, there was more writing:
For most of the past 15 years, I’ve been happily married. So, have almost completely lost track of the person I was in my 20s when I could have written this myself — but I wouldn’t have, because I could never have been so raw and honest, so exposed, even to myself.
I wish I knew who previously owned this copy of Terry Pratchett’s Masquerade. I would take her out for a drink and assure her that things work out, they do. They might not work out the way you think they should, but they work out just fine all the same. We have all been there, caught breathless in this existential panic, but hold on: Find something you love to do and do it. Get a pet. Make art. Dance a lot. Stay away from vodka on weeknights.
This is the exact same advise I give to myself these days, in this epically sickening era of Trump. If I let myself take it all in, I would be writhing in a seething pile of red-hot hatred for all Republicans alternating with a dive deep into an ice-cold pit of fathomless despair for the future of our democracy. And there are Democrats still rooting for Bernie Fucking Fuckwad Sanders?!?!?!?!
So, I try to do something I love at least once a week (daily joy is way too hard, right?). I take care of my cats, who make me laugh most days. I make *cough* art-adjacent things. And I dance.
Well, more accurately, I pound out three miles at 4.0 mph on my morning treadmill at an insanely fast dance beat. By the end I am exhausted and exhilarated and ready to face another dismal and shitty day in Trump’s America.
And that, Dear Readers, is K-pop, which if we had had when we were in our teens, we would totally have taken Korean in high school instead of French.
Well, that’s it for this week, Dear Ones. Have a great weekend everyone, and remember:
And above all, Resist.
I am very bored these days.
Now, like you, I too have intermittent moments of grand fun and occasions of wild existential validation. Just this week, after pouring through family records, I made the phone call that helped a distant cousin conclude her five-year search to find her birth mother. It was very cool. And the next day, I saw someone trip and fall at the grocery store and had a right good laugh. Fun times.
But, at the end of the day, when the sun goes down on these dwindling hours of light and warmth and I’m being the most truthful with myself, I am bored, oh, so, so bored with myself.
It certainly doesn’t help that this country gets uglier, stupider, and trumpier every day. Every. Goddam. Day. Just ask the Kurds.
So I’ve been watching a lot of television lately, as that’s the place where I live my best life. I’m researching all the exciting television ways of not boring myself to death.
To start, from what I’ve watched on the teevee, life is more interesting if you are a genius. Plus, if you are a genius with a terrible personality, life practically throws itself at you and rolls over so you can tickle its belly, or vice-versa, I’m getting lost in the metaphor.
Fighting crime also seems to be a good way of keeping boredom at bay. My research indicates that if you’re an adrenalin junkie or you want to become one, you owe it to yourself to join a Homicide squad… people who kill people are terribly exciting to be around. As for fighting crime while you’re a genius. . .
or some kind of supernatural being?
Off the charts non-boredom.
Alternately, being a criminal mastermind is an equally good way of fighting ennui. White collar only.
I’ve observed that all lawyers lead non-stop eventful lives.
But not judges. Judge Judy looks awfully bored, every day.
One sure way of never being bored is to be a billionaire. Bonus: Being very, very rich appears to make you very witty, as well as bad. BI’m sure I don’t have to tell you that being bad is never boring.
Also, it seems that being royalty means you never have to lie in bed all day, staring at the ceiling, wondering Why? Why is the most interesting thing I have to do all day is laundry? (Because you don’t do laundry, you have subjects do your laundry.)
Being a beautiful 25-year old woman is a sure way to always have the most interesting things to do, places to go, people to meet, but I didn’t need TV to tell me that.
Lastly, the top way for having a life worth living is to do it in only 30 or 60-minute episodes.
So, what can I check off the TV Tips For Not Dying of Boredom List?
Well. I’m not a genius, and I don’t want to fight crime (because of the germs, but I might re- consider if there’s a guarantee of seeing ghosts).
I’m too tired to go to law school, and if I knew how to have a billion dollars I would have made it — or married it — by now. My only claim to royalty is through my next lifetime and I’m hoping for the House of Windsor but with my luck, I’ll probably be re-incarnated into the House of Saud. And it’s about 40 years too late for me to be a beautiful 25-year old.
Lastly, I honestly don’t know if, for at least one half hour episode a day, I can manage to find life — plain ordinary predictable full-laundry-hamper life — worth my time. I Am Capital-B Bored.
But there is an awful lot of outstanding teevee these days.
Such as, Tom Ellis getting out of a pool.
I’m so happy to be living in the era of 24/7 streaming.
You know, some days I start typing here and I have no idea where I’ll end up.
This train of thought started with a phone call I got on Monday from a resident of a town here on the north shore of Long Island. This woman had stopped in at the charity used-book store that I manage as a fund-raising endeavor for our local library and well, she had some ideas about how I could be doing a better job at it.
I have a new thing, now, when I get annoying phone calls from idiots: I yell at them for a minute or two and then I say, “This conversation is over” and I hang up.
On this day, however, in addition to being really pissed off by this caller, I found myself being equally pissed off by the poor quality of people I get to be pissed off at. If I had a more interesting life I would be yelling at much smarter people about things much more important than how to run a charity used-book store, for fuck’s sake.
I’ve been down in the dumps ever since.
I really, really need to find more interesting things to do with my life.
Oh, well. Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. May all your annoyances be the most interesting annoyances you’ve ever had.
Some times, when I look at the books that get donated to our charity used-book store here on the north shore of Long Island, I wonder why such a thing was ever published in the first place:
Well, color me stupid.
This is a first edition copy of a book that was re-issued in 2014 by NYRB Classics (that is, the hoity-toity New York Review Books). This book got a review on NPR (the same people who did a review of my first book in 2009 and saved my career) and here’s the last paragraph:
In many ways, On Being Blue is less a book to read than an experience to be had. It’s essentially a rant, a riff, poetry, music, art, all of that. But it isn’t apologetics. There’s no scientific argument, no clear-cut hypothesis to be found. It’s not a treatise on the nature of man and his place in the universe. Gass is more interested in getting across a passion for language, and the way the words look and sound on the page. Blue is life and love, it becomes quite easy to believe. But wait for it, because in the end, “everything is gray.”
Oh, sure, this is a book beloved by the intelligentsia, but lordy, if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a rant, a riff, poetry, music, art, all of that in book form. This book sounds tedious, and I have enough problems of my own, thank you, to have time for deep thoughts about the color blue.
We also got this:
It’s a big, coffee table-sized book and inside were pages and pages of wonderful illustrations:
In my favorite book about being a used-book seller, The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell, Bythell noted that books about trains — even vintage train schedules — sell very well in his store. Well, sure, I thought to myself, But Shaun’s in Scotland where transpotting is a national sport, but will this sell here on the north shore of Long Island?
I priced it at $2.00 and it sold in an hour.
This looked like a dreary children’s book with a message about life, and I loathe “message” books . . .
. . . but it was redeemed by this on the inside free end paper:
I wish I knew who this nephew was, so I could call him and tell him to treasure this note from his aunt.
Moving on: The only thing worse than actually being IN the Peace Corps. . .
. . . would be reading a book ABOUT the Peace Corps.
I flipped through this book and a chapter describing the application process caught my eye. I remember my application process, back in 1980, and my hour-long interview, and how ernest I was about doing my part to bring about world peace. I cringe to think that I was ever that naive.
In the 1960s, an applicant needed EIGHT references to attest to their worthiness to being Peace Corps Volunteers. “Generally,” the author notes, “they [the references] tend to be candid and reliable evaluations.”
Here’s a sample of what people had to say about possible future Peace Corps Volunteers:
“About emotion, he can take it or leave it.”
“If dropped into an alien culture, he [the applicant] would be accepted by the culture rather than eaten.”
“I have seen her react favorably when her hand was mashed in a car door.”
“Even patrolmen that have arrested him in the past years stated they liked him.”
Note to RPCV Steve: Did you know that Morocco was in the region that the Peace Corps called NANSEA? It’s the most diverse PC region, covering Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal, India, and Ceylon. What say you and me go back in time and volunteer for Afghanistan? Or Iran. Cool, huh?
Moving on. . .
I got complete bound copies of Gourmet Magazine for all of 1972, 1973, and 1974.
I thought they might have some interesting travel journalism in there along with icky recipes but they don’t, and there’s hardly any color photography (food magazines have come a loooong way since the ’70s). I don’t have any hopes that we have a customer for these, but I’ll give them a chance on our Odds and Ends shelf.
For the past two years, one of our most loyal customers buys coffee table art and photography books from us for his collage art, a hobby of his in retirement. Last Sunday he had an exhibit of his works at a library far up on the north shore of Long Island and I went to see it.
Each piece is a 12-inch x 12-inch square, the same size as an LP cover. That’s a shape that we Baby Boomers are very conversant with, and I think it’s a smart choice.
I was pleasantly surprised that his work (he had about 30 on view) were so formally composed because that’s not what I expect from collage but then, he has always struck me as a linear-thinking kind of guy. I think he might have been a math teacher, or an engineer.
I do like his work, but I think they would benefit from better titles. Something a little enigmatic, or hintingly narrative, or in juxtaposition, if you know what I mean.
Take this one, above. I like it a lot. the use of that copper-colored sky is very effective, and I like the coyote looking over his shoulder, and I even don’t mind the old people (altho, for the record, I’d rather not look at old people in art).
But wouldn’t it be a better piece if it had a different title? Like, for a random example, “A Slow Walk in the Forever Fields”?
Discuss amongst yourselves.
I happened to see the artist again at the bookstore today when he came in to look at the books I’ve been putting aside form all Summer. He sold two pieces on opening day of the exhibit, and he’s gotten calls about several others. (He bought 4 of the 5 books I’d set aside for him.)
I didn’t buy one of his work because they are outside my collecting parameters. I collect thrift shop art, and I’ve got some beauts.
This hangs above our fireplace in the living room. I got it 15 years ago. It’s large, 32 inches x 44 inches, and I think it’s the most wonderful painting in the world:
This was the first piece of thrift shop art that I ever bought, about 20 years ago, before I got married:
My heart pounded with joy when I came across these two, together, waiting for ME to give them a good home:
I love it that the person who did these paint-by-numbers pictures signed them.
Last week I was in our local Salvation Army thrift shop and I came across a canvas (16 x 20 inches) that I tried not to buy, because, well, look at it, but in the end I couldn’t leave the store without it:
And now I love it, and spend about fifteen minutes a day looking at it, happy that its weird exuberance and hauntingly inept draftsmanship are MINE. I have half a mind to call this one, On Being Blue.
And that brings us full circle, Dear Readers, for this week.
Have a splendid weekend, everyone. October is the Coyote Month, and this year the trickster has impeachment on his mind!
A college professor put this sign up on his office door as a warning to his students:
It made me think of this guy:
But let’s not let that be the last word, not when there’s this:
I’ve told this story before here on this blog but I’ll tell it again because it’s one of my favorites.
Many years ago now, I met a guy at a party, a low-key party in someone’s backyard, not a punk rock/dancing on the bar kind party that I was partial to back then. . .
. . . and he was telling me how life used to stress him out like crazy, which he illustrated with a story about a cross-country road trip he took, from Seattle to New York City.
From the time he got Puget Sound in the rearview mirror until he crossed the George Washington Bridge five or six days later, he was constantly worried, freaked out, even, because ALL he could think about was, Where am I going to park when I get home to Manhattan ?
By the end of that road trip, he knew he had to make some changes in his life to reduce the monkey chatter in his brain. So he quit drinking and took up meditation. Not in that order. And he’s been much happier ever since.
Since then, whenever I find myself metaphorically fretting about where I’m going to park my car next week, I remember that guy, and I calm down and look up meditation classes in my area. I haven’t gone to one yet, because meditation sounds hard and I’m never far away from a strong V&T, which I call Meditation in a Glass.
I’m telling this story today because I came across something on the inter webs this week, a post about how much happier we would all be if we could just live in the “Now”.
If you want to get on my last nerve, tell me to live in the “Now”.
This is the kind of pseudo-pith that commonly gets accepted as wisdom, when actually the words only sound as if they mean something. Which, sure, they do, but only if you’re a college freshman and you’re smoking pot for the first time.
This “Now” of which we are supposed to venerate lasts, at most, for 12 seconds (that’s a scientific fact). So, are we supposed to live in 12-second intervals? How is that done, exactly? Give me the details of this “Now”-living, second by second, and proof of its superiority to the past and future, or else shut the fuck up.
Now, there are destructive ways of living in the future (see: driving from Seattle to New York, above), and there are terrible ways of living in the past (see: The Republican party, USA), but those are not the only two ways of looking forwards and backwards.
Furthermore, since most of our lives are in the past (every 12 seconds, you generate a new “past”), and most of our finest thoughts and feelings (hope, for one) live in the future, I think it’s far better to train your mind to handle the past and future so that you get the most pleasure and joy from them.
I say, treasure your past, because without it you lose your soul-self (see: Alzheimer’s); and create the beautiful futures that you want to work towards to make real. If you do that, I think the “Now” will take care of itself.
In other news, I installed my Haunted Bookshop at the local library:
It’s centered around a beat-up copy of Christopher Morely’s book by that title (ours was printed in 1923) that we got in as a donation to the used-book store that I manage here on the north shore of Long Island.
I sent a press release, of sorts, to the local newspaper about this display:
Roslyn author Christopher Morley wrote The Haunted Bookshop in 1919 and the Bryant Library is offering a very early edition of the book for sale at its Roberta Balfus Bookstore, located in the historic Valentine House next door.
The Haunted Bookshop is part of a collection of over 30 books, each aged 100 years or more, which will go on sale on Tuesday, November 5.
The most notable book in this unusual collection is a book published in 1833 by J. & J. Harper, 82 Cliff Street, New-York, that comes from the personal library of Major General James Barnet Fry, the former Provost Marshal General of the Union Army during the Civil War who saw action at the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861 and at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862 (photo attached, from the Library of Congress, Matthew Brady photographer, c. 1861).
Currently, the books are on display at the Bryant Library as part of an installation called The Haunted Bookshop, on view until midnight, October 31.
(I included some photos of the display, along with a totally fake story that I wrote about the book store that inspired the exhibit.)
The totally fake ghost story of The Haunted Bookshop (the exhibit) is as follows:
Few people know that The Haunted Bookshop, written in 1919 by Roslyn author Christopher Morley, was based on a frightening experience the author had at the Valentine House while visiting it earlier that year.
Mr. Morley refused to discuss the incident in detail, saying only that, “There is something other-worldly, exceedingly inexplicable, in that house.”
He would never set foot inside the place for the remainder of his life.
The Roberta Balfus Book Store is located in the front parlor of the Valentine House, the very room where Mr. Morley’s faith in reason and appearances was shattered.
Rumor has it that there is a hidden dimension somewhere in this room, a “thin place” where time is diminished and reality is as sheer as tattered lace.
A warning: Stay far away from this thin place when its portal opens, once a century.
There is no way out when this fragile rift between worlds collapses in upon itself, without warning.
A reporter from the local newspaper contacted me, and she came to interview me and look at the store and our old books for a feature that is scheduled to go to print in their October 11 paper. If it is online sooner, I’ll link to it. She took a lot of photos of the installation but none of me, which is disappointing because I was have an unusually good hair day.
Here’s some close-ups of the creepiness:
Last Sunday, September 29, was the start of the Jewish New Year so Top Cat and I combined our Fall Solstice outing with a New Year’s Eve chance to make some goals for the future.
We usually do not see another soul on this stretch of Long Island Sound, but on this evening there was an interesting photo shoot going on down on the beach.
They left before the sun had gone down completely so we regained our exclusive use of the view. There’s a new graffiti on the porch where we sit:
And then it was suddenly Wednesday, and it was sunny and we got record-breaking 92 degrees, and then it was Thursday and it was 58 and rainy. I already forget how hot 92 degrees is, and I’m only OK about the 58 degrees because Fall jackets are my favorite kind of clothes.
P.S. to Dear Reader Sandra about last week’s photos of Jake Owen’s turquoise suit: Not only would I change may fashion sense for him, but I would also change my eye color and shoe size and left-handedness for him. . . if I were 30 years younger and had a shot.
Rickety handling the change in weather well:
Have a great weekend, everyone. Stay warm, or cool, depending, you know, on the situation.
The “Now” is terrible, but our bright and righteous hopes for the future will get us through, hour by hour, day by day.
Last June, for Pride Month, country singer Jake Owen googled gayest songs of all time, and he got . . . Cher. Specifically, he got her classic hit song from 1999 Believe.
He recorded a country version of Believe, writing on his website: “I believe #loveislove. Some of my closest friends and coworkers are part of the #lgbt community and I couldn’t be more happy for the progress they have made.”
This is where me, a couple glasses of pinot grigio, and a few minutes of unsupervised activity come into play. I liked what I heard of Jake Owen’s cover so, one night shortly after cocktail hour, I went to my computer and I googled jake owen tour and bought a ticket to see him in concert Atlantic City in September.
P.S. : I am not a country music fan.
And then September rolled around, and Top Cat and I go to Atlantic City, and while he heads to the poker room at The Borgata, I take my seat #16 in Row E at Ovation Hall in the Ocean Casino Resort. I have low expectations.
P.S.: Even though this took place in New Jersey, there are plenty of cowboy hats and boots in this Saturday night crowd. I am not a fan of country music fashions.
And then Jake Owen walks on stage. First of all, I thought Jake Owen looked like this:
In fact, Jake Owens looks like this:
He is, in fact, gorgeous.
And there I am, in the fifth row from the stage, dead center, and he is Right. There.
He does Believe half way through the two-hour show, and then he does a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Atlantic City, and they are the only two songs that I know.
I must say, it was a delightful concert and at the end, after he’d done a few encores including a cover of Snoop Dogg’s absolutely filthy hit from 1998, Gin and Juice (Jake Owens said that it was his favorite song in high school. P. S.: I was 42 in 1998), the young couple next to me asked, “Did you like the show?”
I said, “Oh, yes! I think he’s fantastic!”
The guy, who looked as if he was born in 1998, asked me, “So, are you a Jake Owens fan?”
I said, “Not at all — I didn’t know any of his music until tonight.”
He and his girlfriend looked puzzled, and she asked me, “Then why did you get a ticket to the show?”
(When you are buying tickets for a party of one, it’s rather easy to get a good seat. There was one single place left in this primo row.)
To answer her question, I lied through my teeth and said, “I like to try new things.”
We all know that I never like to try new things. I like routine and no surprises and staying nice and cozy well within my comfort zone. But in this case I am very glad that I went to a country music concert by myself on the last Saturday night of Summer 2019. Hoo boy, I love country music. As long as it’s by Jake Owens.
Happily, because Top Cat and I are Booming through our sixties, we were home from Atlantic City by Sunday afternoon so we could sit in our backyard and sip wine on the Final Summer Evening, with a few of our favorite drinking buddies:
We did not expect that Lickety would make it all the way through the Summer of 2019 but lo, he’s still here, and we make sure he gets loved every single day.
And then it was Monday and we woke up to Fall, although it was 90 degrees here on the north shore of Long Island and so, so far, Fall has been non-traumatic.
Friday, September 28 is when I install my Haunted Bookshop at the Bryant Library, the first Halloween decoration of the season here on the north shore of Long Island, and today I am going to give you a preview of a few pieces:
I cut out a shadow box on the cover, on the left, but it does not photograph well. I tried to tell a story in the shadowbox, about fleeing a haunted grave site with a mysterious staircase…the other side is just a collage of weirdness. I wanted to leave the title, Tales of Edgar Allen Poe, visible but if I have time, I’m going to knife it up some more.
To tell the truth, “scary” is not what I like to do. I prefer “enigmatic“.
I like it when something looks as if it is about something, but that something is mis-translated, or coming in at an unknown frequency, or seems to shimmer between meaning something and meaning nothing. (Joseph Cornell’s boxes and Richard Diebenkorn’s abstract paintings do that for me.).
And then I got me some Mod Podge and I Mod Podged a Book Club edition of The Gulag Archipelago (1974, 704 pages):
Having Mod Podged the outer pages, the book was solid enough for me to excavate its guts to make a shadow box:
Building from the back of the shadow box, I started to add layers:
There are seven layers in this shadow box college, not counting the butterflies, which are on four layers of their own:
I wonder if there will be butterflies 50 years from now. If miracles happen, and the climate catastrophe is only half as bad as it is now inevitable, and butterflies and polar bears still co-exisit on our planet, we will have the first President of the World to thank:
Greta Thunberg is my hero. In 50 years, I hope she is in charge of everything, and I hope that the word “trump” will have become the common generic term for “what a loaf of crap” in every language on the planet.
As in, “Damn, I just stepped into some trump and ruined my new shoes.”
As in, “Something stinks in here — who forgot to take out the trump?’
As in, “I was so drunk last night that I trumped my pants.”
By now you are probably thinking to yourself, Yadda Yadda Yadda this is all about you, Vivian, but what has The Stromness Rock been up to?
Well, of all things, I almost crossed paths with The Stromness Rock because of all places, The Rock has been to New Jersey!
Dear Reader Carol took The Rock to see famous author Alice Hoffman at the Tom’s River branch of the Ocean County Library:
The Rock was temporarily installed at this statue at the Ocean County Library:
The Rock knows a great PhotoOp when it sees it.
This is the one and only Jersey Shore (Long Beach Island):
If you know your Frankie Valli, you know Barnegat Beach. Here’s the Barnegat lighthouse:
Dedicated to lighthouse keepers everywhere:
And on to the Delaware River, where floats the world’s oldest and only in-tact square-rigged sailing vessel, the 1904 Moshulu. Having sailed around the world, the Moshulu is now a restaurant anchored at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia:
Sunset cruise with the Philadelphia skyline:
But, saving the best for last:
Can’t you hear The Rock’s purr?
See how I did that? I arranged for us to end today’s meeting of the minds with a photo of Carol’s Benjamin Bunny (those pink ears!) so we can dwell, for a moment or two, out of this world and inside this heart-warming/mind-soothing image of purity and loveliness.
Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. The truth will set us free, no matter whatever trump the Republicans will throw at us.