Thursday, April 30, 2015

Times and Trials

I remember my father talking of how times were different when he grew up and the miles he had to walk through snow and rain to school. He and my mother lived through WWII and the Great Depression. And if we whined about wanting something they could not afford in our youth he always said, "You do not know how good you have it."

But I remember the hard times too like when I was sent to the market with two dollars to buy bread and milk and lost it. Dad was away and payday was obviously not until he got home. We only had one car and Dad had it on the road. I was in the third grade and walked to school with Barbara and Janet who lived down the block. My brother was not in school yet and my sister not yet a thought as Dad would say.

That was El Paso, Texas, with its gas refineries spewing sulfur out of the stacks. We lived at the end of the runway of Ft. Bliss. Not my first airbase. But the first where houses were at the end of the runway instead of the side. The jets barely got their wheels up before our house and if they hadn't the house would be toast. The noise was so horrific we would squat on the sidewalk where we had been playing hopscotch and put our hands over our ears. Couldn't do that in the yard because of the goat heads.

That two years we lived there I remember most the crashes of the jets. We would jump on our bikes when we heard the crash and saw the smoke and speed away as if we could do something for the pilots. All the time my father had been with the Air Force and the Reserves I never worried about him crashing until then.

Sometimes it is good to not know everything. But being the oldest child I seldom had that grace. I was the one charged with my mother's secrets when Dad was away, the one responsible for not losing my bother. I heard all the fights at night over money, Mother's concerns I was such a strangling since Roswell, Dad losing again at poker.

Somehow all that didn't seem so good. It got better but it seemed no matter how much Dad made we spend more than we had. The days before credit cards. Gary, my brother, and I saved our allowance, and did odd jobs for the neighbors through much of our time at home, which ever home that was. And we stashed it. The dollars hidden in the encyclopedia seemed need to stave off disaster. If for no other reason than to loan them to Mom if she ran short before payday.

I think if I won the lottery I would stash cash around the house. I used to wonder when we moved if I had remembered where all my secret stashes were. Money makes me nervous because my parents grew up during the depression. Yes, we had it better but we inherited all the fears.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Travels with Charley - Part IV

Heading West

There comes a point in every journey where the conscious person realizes it is not about the destination. As we left Las Vegas bound to drop Barb-from-Santa-Barbara off in Barstow I felt like Alice Through the Looking Glass. Penny had shotgun and I tried to sleep. I had not slept since before my last final, four hours before our departure. The trip could no longer be counted in hours but in images and flashing across my memory like slides shown in the backyard.

Slides were after film and before digital. Dad was an avid recorder of our family adventures. He gave me a Kodak camera when I was eight and his Rolex when I went off to college. For some reason I left it back at the dorm as if this forbidden escape should not be recorded except in my mind. It it was. Each image recorded like a power point presentation with a caption.

"Why Barstow?", I asked Barb as we got her bags out of the trunk at the railroad station there. "Because we moved here."

So Barb was more like me than I wanted to admit. We were the homeless of college. Our parents lived in towns where we knew no one, but our parents expected us to visit. The college listed the strange town on our records.

"You going to see any of your friends in Santa Barbara?" I asked.

"Probably not," she said with a sadness I felt deeply. "It is over three hours from here."

My school friends were in the same town as the university but once I had moved into the dorm I no longer seemed to fit with them, the townies. I definitely did not fit in Denver. I resisted my father's efforts to switch to University of Colorado in Boulder. At that moment it seemed home was in the car with Charley. Penny at shotgun navigated us to Union Station in Los Angeles. Bunny, Penny and I waved as our chariot and driver took off to San Francisco with Penny's instructions.

"Damn," Penny said as we walked into the grand and cavernous space. "The train isn't due for two hours."

Penny's lie to her mother was that we had taken the train from Kingman. She was picking us up. Bunny was catching a commuter train to a town I forget. The timing was right for her. There was only time for a wave.

"Let's clean up," Penny said, as if she had done this a thousand times. But then a summer in Europe probably was like that. She was the first person I knew who was not in the military and carried a duffel bag. I had a Samsonite. But at least it was not pink. Mother always picked pink for me. "If we go to Europe this summer and do Vespas you will have to ditch that suitcase."

When I had returned to college after the summer I had started talking about never going home again. Penny, my roommate, had hatched the plan of touring Europe on Vespas. It sounded wonderful but since I was under 21 would require my parents sign off on it. A four day escape from their control was one thing. An entire summer quite another. I wanted to do it but did not know if I had the guts. Till that moment in the municipal public restroom at Grand Central Station.

Dressed in clothes I had not been in for what seemed weeks I felt more presentable even if they quite suddenly did not seem like mine. New suitcase and obviously new clothes. Madras was in at college. Wrinkled Madras. Buttoned shirts and wrap around skirts. I had sewed up a couple of those and made mother buy me Lady Arrow shirts over the summer. She put her foot down at Madras. My hair needed washed but I could not see myself doing that in a public restroom. But I did take a scissors out of my makeup case and whack away at my perfect pageboy. Penny stared at me as she washed her air.

Done with our petite toilette we wondered off to the gift shop across the empty marble lobby to kill time.

I was immediately drawn to the carousel paperback books. Right in front of me was Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck. I started to laugh, and elbowed Penney. The clerk looked at us rudely and suspiciously as if we were going to steal it. I picked it up and put it on the check out counter, adding a blank journal and Double Mint chewing gum to the pile. I pulled out a fifty to pay for it. It was hard to surprise Penny. I enjoyed it when I did.

"Let's say I won at slots. No worries about our trip back to college."

"You going back," she asked.

"For now. You?"

"For now."

As good a place as any to quit.

Note: Things and me were never quite the same. And immediately after finishing Travels With Charley I got a list of all of Steinbeck's books and started with his first. And that journal, called a blank diary then, was the first of a whole series of diaries which continued steadily till on line journals became popular. We call them blogs.

Penny and her Republican boyfriend hitched to Kingman at spring break to pick up the repaired Buick, and never returned to college. I called her mother, and my hostess for that trip to Laguna Beach but she had not heard from her either. They had her listed as a missing person.

I did get a post card from Charley. He went to work at the Van Yves plant in California.

I did go home the next summer but home by then was Dallas, Texas. And the last summer with family. You do not have to burn bridges to leave.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Travels With Charley -- Part III

Hoover Dam before 2010 and the bridge

I had never been further west on Route 66 than Flagstaff, Arizona the summer I graduated from high school. Dad took the family on the grand tour of National parks in the four corners area. All other vacations had been to visit family in Missouri at Christmas, or fishing trips in Colorado. Now I was hitch hiking with a Playboy bunny from Chicago and three other class mates who had been rewarded with summers in Europe after prep school graduation. I grabbed shotgun. And they climbed in the back to get some sleep.

Riding shotgun, my pilot father used to explain, is a lot like being co-pilot and navigator; duties I was more than willing to fill because I could see the entire panorama of the scenery before us. It also meant keeping the driver awake and engaged. So I knew more about Charley, our host, than the others by the time we got to Hoover Dam. Charley was the first man I had met outside my high school English teacher who did not look at me sexually. He didn't even look at Bunny that way.

I did not know about homosexuality. It was the 60's. We didn't talk about such things. I was riding in a just off the assembly line car which did not come with factory installed seat belts. Seat belts were only used in drag racers. Air bags were not yet invented. And the convertible did not have a row bar. The term serial killer was not coined until 1974. None of us were concerned about dying let alone rape and murder. It was a time of innocence. But I just knew my parents would not approve.

Charley was the only person besides my roommate from Clovis, New Mexico whose existence was more sheltered than mine. He was in his thirties and this was his first time ever out of Michigan. He didn't live with his mother but his mother lived with him. It was not my first time lying to my parents but this was probably the biggest lie. I technically was still a ward of my parents but I did not think I was ever going home. I considered calling my mother when we got somewhere with a phone, and elaborating on the lie to keep her from finding out I was riding west across the desert at 80 mph in a convertible with leather bucket seats.

Mother had fostered in me what I term the headline mentality. When I slipped off to Juarez with some college friends the year before the headline in my mind was "Coed thrown in Juarez Jail for Sex Trade in Mexico." This one would be "Four Coeds and Pimp Apprehended Crossing State Lines." There was always a sub-headline where my mother would swear I had always been a good girl. Frankly, that line always bothered me the most. In spite of always being a good girl the major headlines in my head always sounded sort of fun. But this time I was not going to let anything get in the way of the fun I was having. I drunk in the western badlands while chatting with Charlie about the process of designing car interiors. He had designed the one we were riding in. Who knew someone got paid to do padded dash panels?

I was enthralled with Hoover Dam. I was sent off to college to get my MRS degree. I returned my sophomore year because I wanted to be an engineer, or architect, or now car interior designer, or anything but a wife and mother. I was seriously, but unconsciously, looking for other female role models. While on the dam tour I watched Bunny work Charley and our guide. She was the only woman I knew in my brief history who was not afraid to be her sexual self. I also watched Penny be jealous over the attention Bunny gave all the men in the tour. Barb-from-Santa-Barbara saw nothing because she was irritated with everything and everyone one it seemed. She was expected home already, and we hours yet. She had a call with a lie to make for herself. Though hers was less a lie than mine because we did have car trouble. It just wasn't fixed.

Making our telephone calls would not happen until Las Vegas, Nevada. No calling cards then. Coins. Or collect in which case you got your first dime back. Collect was out because the operator would say, "Collect call from Jacqui in Las Vegas, Nevada." Yes, a real operator. Not voice activated machine. I gave Barb my change so she could make her call. I decided the less my parents knew the better. I had learned as a military brat, lies were easiest to keep, if they were very simple. And Dad always said it was easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. We were long past permission. I knew the bigger a lie got the more distance it put between you and those you lied too. But after the summer there was already a chasm between my family and myself.

Las Vegas Strip in the 1960's

As Barb and I left the phone booth, Charley handed us each two rolls of nickels for the slot machines. Yes, they took real coins in those days. I wanted to just pocket my $10 because I knew we were all short of funds to get home if the Buick wasn't fixed. Charley wanted to make us happy so we played. I loved the bells and whistles. The sounds of coins when someone won. I won a small jackpot on nickels. Cashed in for quarters and went quietly to the more expensive slots. Ultimately I cashed out with $250. Worries of how to get back to college were over. Barb's parents had believed her lie. Charley had won at Black Jack and wanted to buy us dinner. He was indeed thrilled to have company. We started with oysters on the half shell. Everything, in the words of e.e.cummings, was "puddle wonderful." Except the General Motors was still on strike.

To be continued

Side note: 96 workers died building Hoover Dam. None are buried in it. It was built by a consortium called Six Companies, Inc. And decades later I would work for one of those six, Morrison-Knudsen, as a cost engineer.

Seat belts would not be mandatory until January 1, 1968.

Legal age to gamble is 21. None of us but Charley were.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Travels With Charley - Part II

Welcome to Kingman
Get Your Kicks on Route 66

Actually to be precise the Buick did not blow up in Kingman, Arizona but outside of Kingman. That particular day we saw Kingman three times. When we drove into the town on Route 66 just before dawn the car was knocking, and we again needed gas. Fortunately this time a station was open. There was no self serve in those days except for illegally siphoning it. You pulled in, waited for a gas jockey to make it out to your car, said fill it up with regular, and check the oil. Then we all made a dash for the bathrooms. They were always gross. But in the Route 66 days there were no rest stops with or without facilities.

The attendant said the Buick was two quarts low. He added oil and some STP oil treatment stuff in case we had a crankshaft leak. The Buick was a year old and had just been serviced by the dealer in Albuquerque. We were all a bit road weary. Nobody questioned the information until the first long steep hill on the California bound side of Kingman when there was a big bang and then flames.

This was the 60's so there was also no cell phone. In this day and age with six coeds there would have been six cellphones. Out west there wasn't anything between towns and the towns were few and far between. No Google Maps, no roadside emergency telephones, no gps. But we were not worried about that just then. We were looking for anything to put out the flames. Oh, and no bottled water. In much of Arizona no water at all. You bought soda pop from the vending machines when you stopped for fuel.

There was a lot of sand. And any engine gloriously in flames would not be hurt by sand. So while Penny and I flung sand on the flames, and the others unloaded the trunk and car of our worldly possessions we didn't notice the pickup with the three men pull up. "You little ladies need any help there?" one asked. In 64 we were still fighting for civil rights for blacks (they were blacks then) and nobody had considered equal rights for women. When we heard the question we all stopped and noticed there was hardly an inch of the pickup which did not have an Elect Goldwater for President bumper sticker, so good we didn't argue the little lady comment. The passenger got out a fire extinguisher, and more effectively put out the fire. I quietly walked to the back bumper to peel off the Kennedy sticker (we had not yet replaced it with Johnson) to find it covered with a Goldwater sticker. 

Penny caught my eye about then and I shrugged and smiled. We did know one young Republican. In point of fact, Penny was dating him. We all stared in disbelief with our political conversion, but grateful, very grateful about then. Coats were surrendered to stupid but freezing college girls and our bags flung in the back of the pickup. And we climbed in on top. Except for Bunny and Penny who got to sit up front. Then back to Kingman to get the car towed. "It should be cooled down by now," we were informed by the pickup driver, who bought us good Republican ladies breakfast at the Frontier Cafe while we waited for the Buick dealership just down the block to open.

Seems like we spent a lot of time in the Frontier that morning waiting for an assessment by the mechanic, "It's toast. Your block is cracked. Threw a rod through the oil pan. Hence the flames." And the verdict. "No half blocks available. There's a strike on. Can't tell you when it would be fixed. There's a strike on."

We dumped all our money in the middle of the table. Funds were not equal but clearly we couldn't all catch the train. There was a Greyhound bus. We could afford that, but then have no money for our three days in Los Angeles let alone the trip back to school. We were all out of the dorm on a lie. Calling our parents was not an option unless we wanted to start putting ourselves through college.

The Princess, I really cannot remember her name, had the most money and obviously the most moxie because she called her parents and got money wired to her to catch a small commuter plane. To be fair she surrendered her extra funds to us so we could afford the train, but the next train was going back to college. It didn't leave until later in the day.

Throwing caution totally to the winds we decided to try our luck at hitchhiking. There were four of us after Marge chickened out. Marge, never one of us, said she was going to take her share of the joint funds, and take the bus back to Albuquerque. Omens were not good. The rest of us agreed we would try hitchhiking for two hours, and if we had not gotten a ride we would take the train back to UNM. And defeat.

But we figured our chances were good to get to California. We were after all not on a back road but Route 66. America's highway. We picked a sunny and well traveled spot. Made ourselves comfortable on our luggage and launched in to the first round of Get Your Kicks on Route 66

And that is when Charley, who worked for the Pontiac plant which was also on strike, cruised into our lives. He designed interiors for the luxury cars and was on his first ever vacation without mother. "I can take you to LA if you are willing to tour Hoover Dam and Las Vegas for a couple hours on the way."

He looked like he needed company so we said yes.

To be continued.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Travels with Charley Part I

Map of Steinbeck's Travels with Charley

After my father got out of the military we settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I can remember being really upset when after a couple of years there and we didn't move. Military children are used to moving. As I remember we lived in three different states in the second grade. One was a base in Roswell, New Mexico and my first look at mountains. Then it was Missouri again and El Paso, Texas. Most of my truest friends were dogs and books. And after leaving Roswell I missed the mountains more than my school mates.

So Albuquerque, I thought, would be just another temporary stop and I was quite upset when I was informed by my parents we were staying. I was a freshman in college before they moved again. And they left me behind in the dorm. Dad used to joke, after a couple drinks, that they could not get me to run away from home so they ran away from me. My family are elephants. They never forget what they think is an amusing story. I never found them that funny.

College, especially as an inmate with homey knowledge, was amusing. And it was freedom. The only time I went to visit my folks, then in Denver, was when the dorm closed and kicked us out like at Christmas and term break. Us underclassmen were suppose to go home. It took me only one horrific summer in Denver to know I didn't want to go home again for long. My dorm friend, Penny, a graduate of eastern prep schools was very experienced at ways around dorm hours and sign out rules. And semester break of my sophomore year I signed out to the house of a classmate from high school and hit the road with Penny and four other coeds for California.

Mother would have had kittens if she knew I was on the highway in the middle of the night through the mountains of Arizona in the beginning of winter with only girls, instead of safely with Mrs. Berry and her family in the valley. It was bitching, big word at the time. Bunny, a former Playboy Bunny, taught us how to remove our bras without taking off our sweatshirts or stopping the car. She even did it while taking her turn at the wheel. Barbie, from Santa Barbara, siphoned gas from a car at a dark house, when we ran out of gas in the middle of the night while we stood around shivering watching for the police.

Everyone but me was from big cities and crowded areas and didn't believe they closed filling stations and they were at least 300 miles apart.  We laughed and told jokes. Most of us had just been through finals and not had much sleep. And we had packed for California. Always sunny in California. The high deserts of Arizona were freezing cold at night. Six girls in a Buick Special was crowded.

 Then Penny's Buick blew up just outside Kingman, Arizona. Middle of the desert in the middle of the biggest General Motor's strike I can remember up till then. Just before dawn. Only thing hot was the engine.

(To be Continued on Sidetracked Charley)

Monday, April 20, 2015

I'm Not Sorry

I went through a major sea change in my mid forties. I think it was do that or die. And it was not one of those over night changes. But it began there in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on the eve of moving in with John. And it continued through my short marriage and long divorce from him, the death of my father, and then my mother. I had through this time a quote on my refrigerators, (there were several-a different frigs - one for each move):

If I don't manage to fly, someone else will. The spirit wants only that there be flying. As to who happens to do it, She has only a passing interest. Rainer Maria Rilke

In truth it was several prints of this quote because I kept wearing them out. But the computer had entered my life about the same time frame so I could always print another. It was an era of quotes for me. I noted them down in my journals, wrote them on my mirror with eyeliner pencil, pasted them on the dashboard of my car. But this was the one which was not a passing fancy; not merely an affirmation for the moment. I knew in my heart I wanted to fly (even took flying lessons) but I also knew I seemed hopelessly weighted down.

People now talk about uncluttering their lives but they are talking of things. I knew I had to unclutter my life of beliefs, habits, patterns, and even friends and husband. Put 60 people in a room and I will become fast friends with the five most warped and marry one of them. Looking back only the names change. Patterns long held told me I could never fly so impaired.

I was a guilt holder. It is a weighty job. Whatever happened in my family or my life or the lives of those around me, it was my fault. A stranger in the street cussed the rain and I would say, I'm sorry." And I really, really meant it. I would like to say the revelation was from one of the shrinks or one of my many 12 step meetings or group therapy but I think it was a book by John Irving, not that it matters. The writer (or one of his characters) advances the theory that we want to feel guilty as it gives us just a glimmer of power in a world where we feel hopelessly helpless. If it is our fault we can change it.

When I revealed this nugget to a friend in some group I attended she told me to say, Not my fault, anytime I wanted to say, I'm sorry. Act as if it was not my fault. Gradually realized most of what I apologized for wasn't my fault. I no longer say not my fault out loud or even to myself. But yesterday driving to Taos I found myself fabricating apologies. I say fabricating because I did not need to apologize. It was definitely not my fault. But sometimes the old sick thinking comes back and if the real person at fault has not apologized, I think I should, just to fill the void. But it would be a huge step back. It is not my fault.

I might be a bit sorry that things came to this point. It means change. Another step toward being free of what weighs my spirit down. In addition to not having to apologize for what I didn't do wrong I do not have to pick up the pieces.

Another quote but not on my wall was It is hard to soar with eagles when you are flocking with turkeys. It sticks in my mind because it was on the wall over my boss's head when I went to give notice I was quitting. If what I did was wrong why is it I feel so free?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Kittens, Kittens

Thicke and Quentin

A lot of people my age are shedding their pets or at a minimum not replacing them. Yes, they may well out live me but what would live be without them. And the good news is more people are adopting older pets. Cats and dogs whose owners moved on or just into a care facility. I imagine a time when senior homes are more open to letting pets come too. Admittedly not two dogs and three cats like at my house.

But when I look back over my pet history not many lived to the full extent of their lives. Yes, Mariah made it to 14. Which for a German Shepherd I full expected to die at nine was extraordinary. But her puppy, Maddy, developed a virulent and aggressive spinal cancer at five. It took me a month to come to terms with having to let her go. Other dogs fell from one cause or another around five to 8. But my standard poodle is now 15 and a half. The grand dame of canines. Magique, my labradoodle, is 11.  She will really miss Mardi and so in part the kittens are hers. Magique was always my pussy cat dog.

I have had a cat live to 17 before falling to kidney failure but generally my indoor/outdoor cats go amiss before then. I live in the country and they are in part for rodent control. I do not declaw them. And I do provide tons of hiding places and escape roots for them to protect themselves from owls and coyotes. I attempt to keep them in at night.

Recently I lost a cat to a neighbor's dog. I found out later that dog probably took out another cat of mine. I generally take in stray cats or barn cats from friends. Some choose to relocate. Sugar Boots is now living on the llama farm over the hill. The Darkness got trapped in a neighbors garage when they went away for a week. I found that out after they got home. Willow, my Calico has been through those losses and was deeply depressed which is why the kittens. Willow complained a bit but nothing like the howling after Scrappy was killed.

I didn't howl but I was very depressed. I love dogs and cats, but cats make me laugh. They are clowns. And Thicke and Quentin excel at that. Besides no side effects like with Prosac.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Pack Dynamic

Mardi Gras and Magique

Sometimes you do not know how out of balance your life is until you cannot stand it any more. It isn't always the big things. Sometimes it is an accumulation of a bunch of little things that do not get better. And sometimes it is us humans which are the last to see it.

Since I took Wolfie back to his house to care for him there an interesting change has come about in my household. First was that Willow immediately accepted the kittens. Two was that the kittens immediately expanded into the entire house and stopped hiding in the corner. And three was that Mardi got better.

Mardi is 15 and a half now. I have been treating her with vitamins for a liver ailment for a couple years, and the last couple of winters I have wondered if this will be her last. This one really felt like it. I had a difficult time getting her to join in with the morning walks. They were short walks because I was trying to teach Wolfie to walk right on a leash. Mardi always hung back as if she hadn't the strength but I knew she needed the exercise. So mornings were this tussle with getting the leash on Wolfie and Mardi out from under the library table or hunt her out in any of a couple hiding places.

Once I took Wolfie back to his yard I resumed the morning walks with Mardi and Magique only off in the country and not just down the road. Magique resumed her duties of keeping track of where the old lady was - me and Mardi - and I had my hands free for the camera and my attention back to taking pictures. Well, I also always watch for where my dogs are, but Magique knows she and her pal have to be within sight of me. And Mardi started prancing again. Joy returned to our morning walks.

I know my mood got better when I was able to take my morning walk with camera and friends. And when my attention at home could be on writing or painting or gardening instead of counting kittens and dogs. Ito had destroyed my faith in how my friend had raised her dogs. I was on edge with Wolfie around. But it was not just my fur pack which was out of sync.

This winter has shown me I was out of sync with the humans in my life. Since my neighbor has been gone I have gotten re-involved in the hood; back in touch with the movers and shakers in the art community. That dynamic has been out of whack for some time because of my dedication to helping my friend and neighbor through her despair following her husband's death. I was free to go with a whim of a day trip with camera or an extended business lunch because I did not have to worry.

I am free at last. I and my household are reclaiming balance. But I dread my neighbor and former friend's return. She has the power to suck me back into her pack dynamic. I do not want to go there even for coffee in the mornings.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Idle Thoughts on the Road Over the Mountain

Rural Route Boxes

When ski season is over there is something so absolutely wonderful about hitting the local routes. My favorite is down 434 to Las Vegas, the most meditative is 64 to Raton, but the most frequently taken is 64 to Taos. It is a winding path over Palo Fechado pass and I have taken it often enough I think I could do it in my sleep if it was not for all the crosses beside the road where someone tried that and failed. I do go on auto pilot.

Part of my mind is accessing the quality of light and whether it would benefit me to pull over and take the shot. Camera is almost always in the car. Part of me is making amendments to the shopping list and another coming up with posts for FaceBook if I dared text while driving. There is always the blog I will write when I get home. I think I was unduly influenced by And to Think I saw it All on Mulberry Street by Dr. Seuss first published in 1937 would you believe. Long before I was born and even longer before I started reading it to my sister.

I am not sure what was more harmful to my upbringing: the book, that we never lived on or near a Mulberry street, or that my parents never asked what I saw on my way home. But the tales I could have told.

Today it was idle thoughts. Disconnected thoughts. Watched the first episode of Wolf Hall this morning and was unduly (favorite word of the day) influenced by a dining scene where people, including Lord Cromwell, ate with their fingers. I am well aware the fork was invented in 400 A.D. but not introduced to the British until Henry I. Though for some reason I had connected it to Henry the VIII. So why then were these lords of the era of Cromwell eating with their fingers and not forks? I love catching our historical errors in popular entertainment.

But what most amazed me is how well and mannerly these diners were eating. A far cry from family hour at Denny's. As I was eating sushi while driving home, and of course sucking my fingers because I had again forgot to pick up napkins, I found myself adapting their very mannerly way of sucking their fingers in Wolf Hall. It really makes a lot of sense if we are already cutting out straws to reduce plastic ( I defy someone to drink ice tea without a straw while driving. On a curvy mountain road of course.

I also pondered shopping lists which are much like the Pirates' Code, merely guidelines. I had remembered the shopping list which in the past has proven to be merely a test of memory. The number one item, I had not picked up at all, four or five items I bought were not on the list, and one thing should have been on the list, but was not, and not only did I forget to put it on the list but I forgot to buy it.

One of the items for which the entire trip was planned was not on the list at all either, but by chance, I stopped in at Tuesday Morning looking for pasta bowls (which they again did not have and were not on the list), and in the bargain section found what should have been on the list at 70% off. Small rugs to use in my design and manufacture of a truly unique and wonderful kitten tower.

Remembering the white rugs in the jump seat of the pickup got me thinking about my design. I do this too with paintings. Should I get madly famous I will be a huge disappointment for auction houses because the vast majority of my designs and sketches are created and erased in my head.

Before I knew it I was home. Do not remember the last four miles of the pass because I confess I am in La Route des Villages Paris-Cannes road rally in my mind.

Regardless of all that I made it home, was not met by the butler, but unpacked my chariot anyway. And to think I saw it all on Palo Flechado Pass.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


April 4th Sunrise

My sister and I were chatting this morning about what Easter is to us. She was the last of the excessive real Easter Egg hunters. Dad said she wore the eggs wanting her older siblings to constantly hide them again and again. And then about a month later there was the tell tale odor of the missed egg. So more Easter bunny and eggs and parks than churches.

Spring was also the first camping and fishing trips because the ice had melted. And it was the sunrise camp services given at various state and national parks. And the one at Red Rocks in Colorado where the sun never showed while it snowed almost 18 inches. It was one of the first major snow storms I had ever driven through. Easter is sunrise and snow. My spiritual church is the outdoors. Those things men build are just ways to shut out my spiritual connection. So I decided today I would post some of the photographs from last year which mean renewal for me.

Last Easter I was facing blindness in my right eye, and a cataract surgery which could not come fast enough. But in a pure act of faith I ordered an new 70-300 mm zoom lens for my newest digital camera. Binford family leap of faith - when broke spend money.  April 2014 reinforced my beliefs by being spectacular. After a dry winter we got snow after snow after snow it seemed.

April 17, 2014 snow

Between the snow storms the ponds melted and the geese flew in to begin courtship (yes, they mate for life but they court their mates every spring)

Spring seemed on on again and off again affair. With one good eye and new camera equipment I had to be out and about recording everything as if I might not see it again.

I knew after the surgery I would not be able to do any heavy lifting for about three weeks. The snows had already put me behind on my plans for renovation of the polytunnel.

But the cows and calves were moving right ahead like the geese. And so was winter with yet another storm after a spring day. I love spring snows. They are heavy with moisture and melt quickly. And last year according to my photo files they continued well into May. May 13th in fact. I did not get to begin serious work on gardening until May 15th.

So when a friend expressed concern it was going to be a dry hot summer if we didn't get some rain this spring I had to chuckle. There is still time for more snow. Forty more days or so.

Happy spring renewal to all my friends. I do not think I will be inside much after the sun comes up.

Friday, April 3, 2015


Kittens on the window sill

Transitions are never easy in life. There is something about the human animal which is happiest when change is not required. Probably why people go to Florida where there are not even seasons to consider. I love spring generally but no sooner had Thicke and Quent come into my life and the weather turned awful. I could not even go out to the garden to escape their antics.

If, as an older person, you have no memory of kittens let me say they are educational and entertaining. I can now identify the sounds for approximately 100 different items being knocked over or pushed off of something. Including the television set. Which let to the new use for duck tape which comes in several colors and decorator patterns. Knowing what was pushed off helps you deduce what it was pushed off of.  I have decided kittens are a mental training program.

Latest technical upgrade also available for computer screens

Taking care of a friend's kitten led to the discovery of several varieties of catnip toys, which I put into play like new mothers do pacifiers with infants. Both have their flaws. And then there is bottled catnip scent which can be added to toys which have lost their smell before the kittens lost them. Obviously, however, they can smell the catnip through the glass bottle, and I did not store it well. The bottle was declared a toy and is now missing.

They also put catnip pockets in cat beds. Feeling like a drug pusher I figured it was time to toss out the bed Wee Willow had shared with Scrappy and previously the Darkness, who had shared it with her brother, the Ghost for a new catnip saturated bed. Wee Willow loves her new bed placed on the library table by my computer.

Wee Willow in her new bed

The kittens, however, alternate between sleeping in their bed and using it as a king sized toy. It is merely one of the numerous items impossible to keep in one place. Kittens being the #1 item on that list. No longer confined to a protected corner (as if that ever limited them at all) they now have roamed the vast majority of the house. Quent even came upstairs to my bedroom which Wee Willow thinks is her exclusive territory. Interested in seeing how long that lasts, but she won last night. The surprise, for me, was that it was Quent. He is the most loving but Thicke is usually first into any kind of trouble or adventure.

I am more than ready to introduce them to the great outdoors and the doggie door, but the weather has been nippy and windy; even I do not want to go outside. So for the moment they get their exercise doing laps around the living room and attempting to catch spring flies in the studio. Good thing most of my plants have thorns.