Odd Connections

I’ve decided to get solar panels installed on my roof.  I had been considering it, having received marketing calls and been intercepted in the local Ace Hardware by solar companies, but for one reason or another – primarily because I wasn’t in my house yet, but even after I got back in, although by that time I had completely run out of money – I never pursued it.

One day, a young man from Trinity Solar showed up at my house with a clipboard and a smile and basically talked me into a free consultation.  The gentleman that came for the consultation was named Dave Glicker.  He was about my age, and I can’t pinpoint how it happened, but we realized almost immediately that we had a shared love of music in general, but especially the music we had heard back in the 1980s on a radio station named WLIR.  For anyone who lived on Long Island during that time and was of an age to be appreciating music on the radio (this was even before MTV, mind you), WLIR was legendary for introducing an entire generation to post-punk “new wave” alternative music, mostly from England but also from hip cities in the U.S. (like Athens, Georgia, or NYC) and even Germany.

Dave told me that he was going to see the new documentary, “Dare to Be Different – WLIR:  The Voice of a Generation,” which was being screened at the local Gold Coast Film Festival being held in Port Washington, Long Island, New York, about a 45-minute drive north of where I live, in Long Beach.  I had actually heard of the film a while back, when someone (I can’t recall who) told me about it, and also that it was possible to listen to a revamped version of WLIR online (WLIR.COM).  I immediately started listening to it on those days when I was at work (I generally listen to WFUV when I’m working from home, which is what was on when Dave was here and what might have triggered our conversation about WLIR, but in the city WFUV gets buggy for some reason while WLIR Online does not).  Dave, who in his life pre-Trinity Solar was a bit of a music and restaurant entrepreneur and still knew a lot of folks in the industry, said he could get me on the guest list.  He actually ended up buying the tickets, which he said he would write off as a marketing expense, but either way, I would be the beneficiary of a free entertainment experience, in addition to my home-powering solar array.

[An aside:  My solar system (yes, I’m calling it that, just like I call Dave my “Solar Guy”) was surprisingly inexpensive, and will be paid for over 20 years at approximately $35 a month, with no prepayment penalty for when I win the lottery and can pay it off in full.  Plus, I will be getting state and federal tax credits for installing it – that is, if that lunatic Trump and his topsy-turvy cabinet doesn’t screw things up in the meantime.  According to Dave, there is evidently a push on to charge tariffs for installing home solar.  Can you believe how incredibly short-sighted and backwards that is?  Instead of ENCOURAGING the economically and environmentally sound conversion of home electric systems to solar power, they want to PENALIZE it.  Sad!]

Here’s where it gets a little weird.  In our discussions about WLIR and music and clubs back in our youth on Long Island, Dave had mentioned a guy named Eppy Epstein, who used to run a music venue in Roslyn, on the north shore of Long Island, called My Father’s Place.  I remember it for their erstwhile “house band,” the Good Rats, and also a weekly event they ran in conjunction with WLIR called the Punky Reggae Party (really the first introduction of reggae and ska and dance hall to Long Island teens).  My Father’s Place went out of business years ago, but Dave said that Eppy was going to reopen a new and improved version (The New My Father’s Place?  My Father’s New Place?), a 200-seat dining and music establishment.  Then Dave suggested that we actually get on the phone with Eppy, right there and then, which we did, throwing out some names of acts we’d like to see at the new My Father’s Place.  So I got my first introduction to Eppy, and I told him I would put together a list of acts old and new that I would pay good money and drive the almost-hour up to Roslyn to see.  So that was interesting.

That very day, one of my Facebook friends from high school posted an article from Newsday, the local paper, about Eppy and his efforts to open the new My Father’s Place. [Glenn Gamboa, “Legendary music venue My Father’s Place reopening on Long Island after 30 years,” Newsday, Nov. 13, 2017, https://www.newsday.com/entertainment/music/my-fathers-place-roslyn-reopening-1.14963599%5D.  I immediately replied to brag about having spoken to Eppy that very day about that very thing!  And that he had asked me personally to come up with some potential show subjects.  It just seemed like such an interesting coincidence.

My sister and I went to the film a few days later – we met Dave there and also Eppy himself, in person, a very distinctive-looking man who also appeared in the movie.  I also ran into yet another person I knew from high school, who I hadn’t seen in literally years.  [An aside:  While I haven’t seen her, I do follow her on Facebook, and was tickled to see that her son actually drove around for a time in the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile!].  We chatted about the film and Eppy and also a (slightly late) 40-year class reunion that another classmate has been organizing at his hotel in NYC called the French Quarters / Bourbon Street Bar and Restaurant.  (Yes, I know – 40 years out of high school is ridiculous and I cannot believe that so much time has passed in my life.)

“Dare to Be Different – WLIR:  The Voice of a Generation” was a true time capsule.  Directed by long-time fan Ellen Goldfarb and executive produced by the WLIR station manager from Day One, Denis McNamara, it featured talking head interviews about the history and music that influenced not only the kids on Long Island and NYC (If you happened to be lucky enough to pick up the sketchy signal) but succeeding generations of new music lovers.  There were precious videos and live performances of bands we loved back then:  Duran Duran, the Clash, the Cure, Depeche Mode, Erasure, Howard Jones  – the list goes on and on.  In many instances, you’d see the youthful, adorable, impossibly coiffed artist performing his or her song, which would be followed by an interview with the same artist in the present time.  Some aged better than others, as we all do (as my classmates will discover when I see them at the reunion – the years have not been kind to Nan!)  But they all, to a man (or woman), said how grateful they were for the exposure they got on WLIR, before anyone else ever gave them a shot.

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There was also a segment of the film that really resonated with my sister and me about the local clubs that used to be promoted on WLIR and often featured the DJs, like Larry the Duck, Malibu Sue and Donna Donna (Larry and Donna were actually on site to do a Q&A after the film, together with Goldfarb and McNamara):  places like Spit, Paris New York and our favorite, the Malibu, right here in my current home town of Long Beach.  WLIR came to prominence after I had graduated from college, but I would go clubbing with my sister when she came home for the summer.  [An aside:  A night at Malibu was the cause of my most mortifying drunk-driving experience, where I could barely see straight as I went through green light after green light on Park Avenue (which fortunately is a pretty straight shot), but that’s another story for another time.]

All in all, it was a fun couple of days, and to think it all started because I decided to take the leap into solarizing my newly raised home.  Odd connections, indeed!

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99 Problems (Minus 96 or So)

Generally speaking, my inability to make progress in life boils down to three chronic problems, all of which I have written about on this blog before:

Problem 1:  I spend money I don’t have. (See “Woe Is Money”, 11/3/16, and others.)  My current financial situation is dire because I was lazy all summer, and if I don’t put in the hours, I don’t make any money.  It’s as simple as that.  I’m always hounding Darian about making a budget and sticking to it, but clearly I need to follow my own advice.  Yes, I’m not an extravagant person, and I don’t usually go around willy-nilly buying unnecessary items I can’t afford, but I certainly don’t deny myself or my daughter anything.  I need to go on an austerity budget.  And while this problem is especially acute now, it is something I have struggled with all my life, even when I was making a healthy salary as a full-time (but thoroughly miserable) lawyer.

Problem 2:  Another lifelong problem of mine is that I eat what I should not eat, and way too much of it. (See “Weighty Management”, 3/1/17, among others).  The corollary to that problem is that I don’t move enough.  In recently months I have engaged in no substantive exercise whatsoever.  I take in too many calories and I don’t burn any, so I’m fat and staying that way.  It has health effects beyond just making me feel bloated and balloony.  The overeating and the lack of activity create a vicious cycle, because lethargy just feeds more lethargy.  Yes, there have been plenty of times in my life when I have been dedicated to movement – power-walking, yoga, even going to the gym when I had money and a gift certificate for six months of a personal trainer.  But the longer I go without exercise, the harder it is to get back on track.  Of course, even if I start exercising (and I will, I swear!  I honestly enjoy working up a sweat – when I can manage to get off my ass to do it!), I still need to make major changes in my eating habits.  I can’t help that I prefer sweet things like cookies and ice cream to, say, vegetables of any kind.  Thus it feels like I have to deprive myself of something I enjoy and force myself to endure something I find unpleasant.  Why does it have to be so difficult?  Why does taking care of my body feel like torture?  I have to boil it down to a pro-and-con situation:  Pro – I have a few moments of joy and deliciousness.  Con – I’m doing damage to my body, which needs to last a lifetime.

Problem 3:  My worst problem of all – the one that ties in to everything else – is my overwhelming tendency to procrastinate, in every sphere of my life, for big items and small. (See “Procrastination Station”, 10/14/15.)  I put off tasks and action items in the deluded hope that they will go away or miraculously resolve themselves.  But by procrastinating, I also potentially deprive myself of personal development, forward movement and perhaps even the chance to achieve something wonderful.  My procrastination has its roots in my utter lack of ambition, which (with few exceptions) has been a lifelong affliction.  No drive, no motivation, no PASSION.  This contributes to the procrastination in a major way because, if I could find something that I felt passionate about, I wouldn’t procrastinate.  Right?  For instance, I love hockey, so I never miss a hockey game.  If I must, I record it and watch it on delay but I will ALWAYS make time to watch it.  It’s the same with all my favorite shows.  I also make time for my pets (permanent and foster) and for volunteering at the shelter, even though every once in a while I just want to spend a lazy weekend holed up in my jammies and give the shelter a miss (but then I’d also miss out on spending quality cuddle time with my favorite “away” kitties).

Unfortunately, my procrastinating has gotten in the way of keeping up with my blog – hence, the lamentable three-week gap between posts – despite the fact that blogging is something I love to do.  I do blame work for some of that, because I’ve had to put in more billable hours in the past couple of months to make up for my “lazy grasshopper” summer.  If I didn’t have to worry so much about my next paycheck (which frankly is always already spent by the time it comes), I would write at great length every day, including more in-depth pieces for this blog rather than the quickie jobs I’ve been putting together just so I can keep up with my commitment (to myself) to post.

Where do I begin to fix this?  Well, for starters, I have to make a dent in the procrastination problem and “make it work”, like Tim Gunn says on Project Runway (which is one of my TV show passions that I never miss, especially this season with the adorable Brandon, who is destined to be a star; I only wish I’ll be able to afford his clothes when he becomes a famous designer).  I’ve just been to the doctor this week and, while she didn’t berate me for not losing any weight or bringing down my A1C, she easily could have.  I do enough berating for the both of us – often while I’m in the actual process of stuffing my face (“Nan, stop eating these candy corn!  Nan, don’t go back for another bowl of ice cream!  Nan, you will sorely regret eating this whole box of cookies as soon as the last one crosses your lips!”) – not that it does any good.  The doctor actually said something like “You’re not ready,” which is absolutely true, but also just another example of procrastination.  What am I waiting for??  A freakin’ heart attack?

On the money front, I should listen to my own advice and come up with a budget and then do my best to live within it.  I only have another six weeks or so to get my kid through college, and then she’ll come home and start earning her own money.  She is contemplating another field research program in Costa Rica for the summer and she has already been informed that, as much as the Board would like to support her higher education, the Bank of Mom is officially closed for business.  So that particular expense can be eliminated, although there will be a concomitant increase in the grocery and utility budgets now that she’ll be home full time.  I’m also going to have to increase my health insurance premiums because I’ll have to cover my kid as well as myself, and they’re discontinuing my current plan so I have to find a new (and inevitably more expensive) one in the limited 45-day window that the government has generously allotted for us to do so.  (I guess I should just be grateful that I still have the ability to buy insurance at all.)

I liken my cycle of self-destructive inactivity to the situation being experienced by the 2017-18 New York Rangers, ten games into the season.  They have been distinctly awful in spurts on defense and every mistake has cost them a goal.  On the offensive side of the puck, they do many good things but don’t get rewarded.  (Prime example:  Rick Nash alone has more shots on goal than almost everyone else in the league, with only one goal to show for it.)  So the frustration sets in and they try to do too much and end up doing themselves more harm than good.  It’s a vicious cycle that has resulted in a 2-6-2 record.  Eventually they will have to pull themselves out of this slump.  According to their coach, Alain Vigneault (who might be feeling a bit in the hot seat these days), the boys just have to take it one shift at a time, do the things they know they need to do, and trust that their efforts will pay off.  Then they can build on that.

That is certainly advice that I should take to heart.  One step in the right direction will lead to another, and so on and so on, and just keep on plowing forward till I get where I need to be.  Evidently, I get my best life counsel from Tim Gunn and AV:  Focus on doing the right things one shift at a time, and just make it work.  Ha!  That should be my actualization mantra!

P.S.  My permanent family has increased by one:  I have officially adopted Polly Wobbles as the newest member of the squad.  My foster kitten Gigi was adopted last weekend, and my other foster dog, the adorable Penny, blew up the Posh Pets website with applications for her adoption, so it is only a matter of time before we find the right fit for her.  After that, then maybe I’ll take a break from fostering – until the next one comes along, of course!

How Is It?

My friend Curtiss, when he greets me, always asks, “Nan, how is it?”  He did it back in our college days and he still does it every time he calls.  He’s got a certain way of saying it that is just so Curtiss.  There’s no other way to explain it.

But when you parse it out, it is an interesting question.  HOW IS IT?  Not “what” is it, which is easy to answer – it’s a THING, an object or a thought or a non-human creature (in the case of a HUMAN creature, of course, it would be “WHO is it,” which is an entirely different exploration) – but HOW.  In what manner is your life now proceeding?  It is going smoothly or roughly, well or badly?  What is your overriding mood?  Are you happy or sad, frustrated or excited?  It’s really the perfect question upon greeting an old friend.

So, if Curtiss asked me today, “How is it?” I’d have a multi-layered response.

(1)   I am angry and sad that 59 innocent people were robbed of their lives, and hundreds of people injured and permanently scarred, by a lunatic with many, many guns. I’ve written before how much I hate – DESPISE – guns and would like them removed en masse from the world.  (See “Frustration Overload”, 6/21/17.)  I know that is an impossible dream; I mean, despite the overwhelmingly positive results in Australia when the nation’s government paid their populace to give up their guns, even they couldn’t get rid of ALL of them.  And I am grudgingly respectful of people who grew up in a culture where killing wild creatures to eat is acceptable.  But why in the name of all that’s good do normal citizens need semi-automatic weapons?  Frankly, I don’t know much about guns (by choice), so I don’t know what type of gun it is that can shoot multiple rounds, one after the other, without reloading, that I could only imagine would be useful in a war.  And those types of guns may very well have limited use in military situations (I’ll leave my anti-war blog post for another day), but why does Joe Average Citizen need one?  Why does Joe Average Citizen need over a DOZEN when one is enough to kill the intruder from which you are supposedly defending yourself and your property?  I DON’T UNDERSTAND IT AND I NEVER WILL.

And then, of course, there is the ever-present dark cloud that is the Trump presidency, which I was sure would have ended by now.  I was certain the scales would fall from the eyes of the unfortunate folks who fell for his bamboozle-ry and they would kick his fat ass to the curb (and tell him to take his entitled spawn and spawn-in-law with him).  So on top of being angry and sad, all of that leaves me feeling frustrated and drained, because there is nothing I can do about any of it except worry and sign petitions and call my congresspeople and hopefully, in 2018, put Democrats back in the majority in Congress to stem the bleeding of our hallowed democracy, despite the institutional efforts to prevent that.  Consider how large a risk it is that the Supreme Court will find in favor of gerrymandered election maps in Wisconsin to preordain election results presumably forever.  (The ever-wise Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a great line about this case:  “It’s drawing a map so people think ‘Why bother voting? This is a secure Republican district or this is a secure Democratic district, so my vote doesn’t count.’ That’s not a good thing for democracy.”  Touché, Ruth.)

BUT

(2)  I also feel happy and optimistic, looking forward to some pleasant activities this week. Darian is coming home for the weekend, and the Rangers’ 2017-18 hockey season starts on Thursday.  I’m surrounded by furry affectionate beings who follow me around like I’m the Pied Piper, although they only listen to me when they want to.  Case in point:  Lately Munchie has been hiding under the bed when it’s time for walkies.  From all indications (other than this hiding-under-the-bed thing), Munchie seems to ENJOY walkies.  So why is he hiding under the bed?  More importantly, why does he refuse to come when I call him?  I’ve basically given up.  He’s the only one of the four pups currently at my house who only ever goes on the weewee pads or outside, so I don’t worry about him leaving me gifts where he shouldn’t.  And the cats are always up for a cuddle, except for my crazy foster kitten, Gigi, who would rather run wild in the “kitty playroom” (i.e., Darian’s room, which will be converted back into Darian’s room tomorrow, which will create an interesting dynamic since her cat, Jojo, is the undisputed queen of Darian’s room) than snuggle with me on the couch.

Another thing that excites and pleases me is getting my cash-back rewards in the form of a $25 iTunes card (“free” music!!) and $25 Amazon card (perhaps a nice book or CD??), so I can treat myself to some new tunes and/or reading material.  And something else happened today that left me feeling like the universe is looking out for me.  Unfortunately, I came in about $500 short on my bills this month (the punishment for enjoying a relatively lazy summer, workwise).  I was going to have to borrow some of Darian’s extra student loan proceeds that I’m holding for her in my savings account.  But lo and behold, today I received a surprise refund check from my health insurance company.  Huzzah!  It was in exactly the right amount to cover my shortfall!  I remember reading Lit by Mary Karr (2008) and being struck by her realization that, even though she struggled through some tough financial times, just the right amount of money would always show up when it needed to if she hoped for it hard enough.  I must confess that has happened to me a few times recently, which brings me to the last arm of my current “how” state, which is . . .

(3)  Grateful. I’m grateful that I have a roof over my head (almost half entirely owned by me!), a big-screen TV to watch my Ranger games, a comfy bed to share with some of my creatures (I’m down to two or, at most, three, if Savannah decides to join us, in my actual bed – everybody else is on their comfy little pillows scattered around my bedroom floor).  I’m grateful to have JUST ENOUGH money in the bank (although a little lottery win wouldn’t hurt!).  I’m grateful for my amazing human kid, who makes me so proud and who’s turning into quite an impressive adult who’s got her whole life ahead of her, and all my “fur babies.”  And I’m grateful that, even though I do have my health issues (obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and a weird seasonal allergy that I seem to have developed in my late forties), I am reasonably healthy.  This is especially the case because I’ve seen some of my friends suffering through life-or-death illnesses and conditions that leave me feeling sympathetic but impotent to help them, and yet secretly thankful that, so far in my life, I have been incredibly lucky with my health.  (Now if I would only take better care of myself, I might be able to improve that situation . . . )

So how is it?  It is MOSTLY pretty damn good.  Let’s leave it at that.

 

 

Living in the Moment

I’ve been trying very hard lately to stop and smell the roses.  I know, it’s one of the most trite clichés ever, but it’s true:  If your brain is always racing, worrying about the future and regretting the past, you’re not appreciating what is right in front of you, be it roses, or a hockey game, or a great book, or a sunset, or a new signature scent (YES!!  I bought the Penhaligon’s Empressa eau de toilette  – happy birthday to me!  It smells so damn good!  Even the box is luxe!) – whatever it might be that gives you, if only for a little while, a moment of peace and inner happiness, when the world stops whirling on its axis for few seconds and you can just take it all in.

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In general, these efforts have resulted in me feeling a lot calmer lately.  There’s so much less rushing around, fewer stress-inducing chicken-without-a-head situations.  Even on a day like yesterday, which was mildly chaotic, chock full of unplanned-for occurrences, I just worked through them, dealing quickly and efficiently with the inconveniences (multiple pet “accidents”, for example) and enjoying the pleasantries.  A friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while stopped by for a welcome visit, and my ex also came over to choose a hotel for our daughter’s graduation ceremony in December and also to beef about the New York Giants’ considerable lack of offense in another poor outing.  (Ian is one of the reasons I don’t really like football anymore.  See “Am I Ready for Some Football?”, 9/2/15).  In between were a quickie conversation with my sister and a call from a potential adopter for Polly Wobbles (who was wildly unsuitable as Polly’s future mom and clearly did not read her online bio).  At some point I realized that I hadn’t eaten all day, so I grabbed a yummy frozen dinner (a new discovery:  Devour™ meals, very tasty, especially the bacon-topped meatloaf with garlic mac and cheese; product’s genius tag line – “Food You Want to Fork”).  Sandwiched amid all the activity was the return of New York Rangers hockey, the team’s first 2017-18 pre-season game – hooray!  By this time, it was only nine o’clock but to me it felt like midnight.

It had been a long but satisfying day.  I went into the city to do my “9/11 day of service” (something my firm does to honor a fallen partner, also a volunteer firefighter, who ran toward the World Trade Center on that fateful day rather than away like everyone else) at God’s Love We Deliver, a non-profit organization that cooks and home-delivers nutritious, customized meals to people in the New York City metropolitan area living with severe illnesses.  I really enjoy doing that, even though I ended up with a blister on my knuckle from repeatedly handling a giant soup ladle.  There’s something about the assembly-line work and following explicit instructions (for example, swirl the soup in the plastic container before you put the lid on so it creates a bubble, and then the next guy on the line has to squeeze out the bubble so the contents are essentially vacuum packed and can be more effectively frozen) that I really enjoy and actually find rather calming.  It’s mindless work and yet I still feel like I’m doing something good, and I always leave there feeling a little better about the state of the human race.

Before leaving for the city on the 11:09 train, I had sent my secretary a few items I needed taken care of while I was away from my computer for most of the day.  I had evidently forgotten that she was going to be out of the office, so upon emerging from the God’s Love We Deliver kitchen at 4 p.m. after our food prep shift , I realized that NOTHING HAD BEEN DONE.  I had a brief panic attack, but fortunately, my friend and back-up secretary was able to do the work and soothed the temporarily rough waters of an otherwise smooth-sailing day.

Even just a few months ago, a day like yesterday would have brought on a tension headache and a bout of mental self-flagellation.  Not the new-and-improved Nan, who takes a few deep breaths and “makes it work,” in the immortal words of Project Runway’s Tim Gunn – who, by the way, was great on Real Time with Bill Maher last Friday and kind of put Bill in his place when Bill brought up the obesity epidemic in a way that made it seem like it was all the fat people’s fault, and letting the fat people have fashionable clothes is just giving them carte blanche to stay fat.  I find Bill Maher amusing and intelligent but he can also be a bit of a pig.  [An aside:  I am loving this season of Project Runway for a couple of reasons:  one, they’re using models of all shapes and sizes, which the designers find challenging but good for Heidi Klum and Tim that they’re addressing the body image issue, if even just superficially.  And second, one of the designers is just the cutest little Zen master fellow named Brandon who wears (and designs) baggy but intriguing tunics and shower shoes with socks.  All the models and designers have a little crush on him, so I’m just one among many (my sister likes him, too).  There’s something so sweet and gentle about him, with his an angelic face and round blue eyes, but he’s also really soothing in his manner, calm and patient, unlike some of the other contestants, two of whom – twins, remarkably – are so phony and affected that they kind of make you want to punch them in the face.]

I still write in my “joy book” every night about all those things that made me happy during the day, but my new focus is to feel the happiness as it happens, too.  I read a quote today attributed to Guillaume Apollinaire in my “Seeds 4 Life” daily affirmation blog that perfectly captures this new attitude:  “Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”  Take a bike ride, chat with a friend, walk the dog (or dogs, as the case may be – by the way, we have YET ANOTHER foster living with us, but she won’t be here for long because she’s an adorable year-old shih tzu who will get adopted as soon as her skin condition clears up and she gets spayed, probably next week), bake some cookies and make the whole house smell delicious.  Whatever you choose to do, just take that moment to appreciate what makes you content for as long as it lasts.  There’s just too much ugliness in the world, especially these days, to not enjoy a much-needed counterbalance.

The Hermit Emerges

Let me tell you, having a designated parking space has been a life-changing event – literally.  No longer do I have to limit my summer weekend travels to wherever I can bike to or late Sunday evenings on the off-chance that I just might find a spot when I get home with the exodus of the day-trippers.  Now I can freely leave my house for errands, pick-ups or even just on a whim.

As a result, I have actually managed to have some semblance of a social life this summer!!  Movies, concerts, visits with friends – soon the powers-that-be will have to revoke my “hermit card”!  (And I can no longer use “parking” as an excuse to avoid socializing!)

It’s especially great when I get to spend time with people whose company I really enjoy, and who I don’t get to see as often as I’d like.  Case in point was this past week, when my friend Wendy flew up from North Carolina and our mutual friend Sue came out for the day from New Jersey.  In this instance, it wasn’t lack of parking that had prevented our get-together:  it was distance and time – too much of one, not enough of the other.  Even while ostensibly enjoying a couple of days of relaxing conversation, all three of us managed to find some time to do work.  For Sue, it was trouble-shooting calls for the au pair agency for which she is a regional representative with over 70 families to coordinate and appease (very impressive).  For Wendy, it was catching up on some online college assignments as she pursues an advanced degree in nursing while regaining her strength and stamina after a long illness (also impressive).  For me, it was the same old nonsense, and even though it was the slowest week of the legal year (the last week of August before Labor Day), I still had a few cross-border emails to address.  But for the most part, we played with the animals (Sue brought her mini-poodle Leaf and I also picked up a tiny tortie kitten named Gigi to clear out a cage at the shelter to make room for the animals our shelter director was bringing back from Houston following Harvey), ate out and enjoyed some adult beverages, and mostly talked and talked and talked, catching up on years’ worth of each others’ lives.  I loved being with people I’ve known for decades, with whom I feel comfortable enough to discuss literally ANYTHING, with many shared memories and a shared political and ethical mindset.  As far as I was concerned, it was pure bliss and I only wish it could have lasted longer.

On Friday, Wendy and I went into the city to meet her mom Marilyn and walked around the 9/11 Memorial site, looking for people’s names engraved on the walls of the reflecting pools.  Wendy had actually been at work that dreadful day, in the World Financial Center, just a skybridge away from the World Trade Center, and she retold the harrowing tale of getting out of town that day, of seeing the towers fall and the horror of people jumping, billions of bits of paper filling the sky like toxic snow.  If I wasn’t with two such lovely people, such a discussion would have been a bit of a downer.  But it was a beautiful late-summer day, with signs of the city’s renewal all around us, and we ate lunch along the Hudson and talked about politics and TV shows and dogs and how the world manages to carry on despite disasters like 9/11 and Trump.

As we were getting ready to board the E train to take us to Penn Station and Port Authority Bus Terminal, respectively, to sadly go our separate ways, we happened to walk past a tiny shop in the brand new Oculus, the mall/transportation hub near the 9/11 Memorial.  It was called Penhaligon’s, a perfumery established in 1870 in London.  An impeccably dressed and well-spoken fellow named Anthony proceeded to ask us our favorite scents and matched each of us PERFECTLY with a particular perfume, tying a little silk square scarf doused with our selected fragrance around each of our wrists.  I have been searching for a signature scent for most of my life (Love’s Baby Soft, anyone?) and I think I have finally found it:  Penhaligon’s Empressa, a patchouli base with infusions of sandalwood, coconut and vanilla.  AND IT LASTED ALL DAY, which is the true test of a signature scent.  I have promised to buy it for myself for my birthday.  At $175 a bottle, it had better last a few years!!

So the hermit has officially emerged, and it turned out to be a fine summer, highlighted by a glorious couple of days with some of my best friends in the world.  I should really try it more often!

Fostering

This past weekend, I was enjoying the (relative) silence in my house.  My daughter and my last foster dog, Charley Girl, both left last Monday – my daughter to WVU for her last semester, Charley to her new home in Riverdale in the Bronx.  Since I moved back into my house in late March, I’ve been making up for lost time and fostering pretty much non-stop, one pup after another.

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Charley making friends with Aunt Sue

First it was Marco, an adorable but painfully shy “dorkie” (a silly name for a dachshund/yorkie mix).  At first he hid behind my couch any time someone came in, and he actually nipped my sister, but he eventually got more comfortable around strangers.  He also had never in his life been walked outside on a leash, so he had some housebreaking issues.  I even published some photos and video of him on Facebook so others could follow his progress.

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Marco

[An aside:  Frankly, I am not a very good trainer, despite the revolving cast of pooches over the past few years and time spent at the shelter observing how OTHER people train dogs.  I’m not consistent enough.  I learned this long ago with my dog Loki.  Even after paying money we didn’t have to a professional trainer (who reminded me of a young Phil Simms), I was unable to sustain the lessons Loki learned after the trainer was no longer around.  My dog Munchie, who we adopted back in October of 2010, right after my mother passed away, still does not come when called, which often turns into a battle of wills on those mornings when I neglect to close my bedroom door and he scoots under the bed and refuses to come out for walkies.]

We brought Marco to an Adopta-palooza event in Union Square in NYC, where we met a lovely family from Brooklyn who had come in specially to meet him.  The two kids were absolutely smitten, and the precious photos they sent me afterward made me glad that Marco had chosen them as his new family.

After Marco left, it wasn’t long before Wilson came into our lives.  Wilson was found wandering the streets of Bay Shore, a town in Suffolk where Posh Pets has a new “satellite site” (a house owned by Posh Pets shelter director and second-in-command Melissa).  Evidently he was having his way with the ladies in the neighborhood and had knocked up one of the local gals, and no one had any idea where he came from or who he belonged to:  no collar, no microchip, but fully intact in his maleness, if you know what I mean.  After a diligent but fruitless search, Mel decided she would just take him in and make him “posh” so he could be safe and his days as a “deadbeat dad” lothario would end.

Wilson and my daughter (who had just arrived home for the summer) developed a serious connection.  When a couple living in Long Beach fell in love and adopted him in short order, my daughter was FURIOUS at me for taking him to their house without her having a chance to say goodbye.  I offered to take her over there – they live only a few blocks away – so she could see him one last time, but she didn’t want to.  It turned out to not be the last we saw of him, though, because I told the couple I would dog sit if they ever went away (and I even volunteered my daughter to walk him, if they wanted).

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Wilson, literally underfoot

Sure enough, they took me up on my offer for a few days at the same time that Charley was here, which put me at maximum capacity of nine four-legged creatures plus two humans (four dogs, five cats).  It was a little hairy in the beginning, because Charley and Wilson DID NOT LIKE EACH OTHER and engaged in a couple of scary scraps.  We had to lock Charley away in my room for the first day.  We briefly considered bringing her back to the shelter, because we’d only had her for a couple of days and it had really been only a trial run, because Charley was a very high energy doggie who my daughter actually warned me against taking home.  But we figured it was better being locked in a bedroom with a big comfy bed than being at the shelter, with barking dogs and cement floors and cages, and after some tentative tête-à-têtes, the two became good buddies for the five days Wilson (now called Trey, short for “Sammy the Third”) was with us.  Plus my daughter got to say her official goodbyes.

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Charley and Wilson, finally buds

Between Wilson and Charley we had Baby Bella (in fact, Bella and Wilson were together for one remarkably calm night), a beautiful little Yorkie who was only with us for about a week before she was snatched up by a family from Connecticut.  They were smitten at first sight and I’m confident they’ll treat that sweetie like a queen.

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Bella (top) and Wilson (bottom)

That’s the thing about fostering:  People always ask me, “How can you give them up?  Doesn’t it break your heart?”  Actually, it doesn’t, because I believe they’re going to good homes where they will be loved.  I mean, there’s no guarantee – the folks at Posh Pets, who do a painstaking job of checking references and analyzing situations to find the best fit for their wards, still have animals returned to them, unfortunately.  But my sense, with every adopter of one of my fosters, is that they were going to a place where they would be loved and doted on and valued as a member of a family, which is all you ever want for an orphaned or abandoned animal.  The bonus is that every foster baby that gets adopted leaves an “opening” for me to take on another one.

Of course, I did fail once, with my precious nut-job Gizmo.  And I may very well fail again.  Yesterday, when I thought I might be foster free for a little while, finally able to give my guys a break from having to share my attention, Linda, Posh Pets’ founder and queen, called to ask if I could take on a special case:  little Polly, a female Shih-Tzu, about 6 or 7 years old, who had been adopted by a young woman from Linda years ago but who now was moving to California and couldn’t take Polly with her.  Then Linda thought she might have found an adoptive family, but they ended up keeping Polly for only one night before deciding she was more than they could handle.

Polly, you see, has some kind of neurological damage that makes it difficult for her to walk, although she does manage to do so, even though she looks a bit like a drunken sailor.  I’ve taken to calling her Polly Wobbles.  She’s very sweet but very confused, as you might imagine after being torn from the home (and thoroughly undeserving parent, if I may be a bit judgy) she has known for over five years.  She wouldn’t walk when we went out with the boys, which forced me to carry her, and when I brought her out separately, she didn’t walk then, either.  Linda assures me that she does walk; I haven’t seen it since she’s been here, but time will tell.

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Polly Wobbles (that face!)

I worry about who will adopt Polly.  There’s a couple we know, good friends of Posh Pets named Tom and Mary, who take on “special needs dogs” (including Little Miss Lexi, who is the most adorable little angel on wheels and has her own Facebook page), but they’re chock full at the moment.  I told Linda anyone who adopts her has to be very special, but she already knows that.  Which makes me think that Polly Wobbles might be here for a while.  But that’s okay with me, and Gizmo and Munchie (and even the cats) seem to like her okay.  Polly is my 12th foster dog (and 13th foster overall, if you count this precious kitten named Egypt who we had only long enough to give us all ringworm a couple of summers ago), so I guess I qualify as “experienced” now!  Keep ‘em coming!

Randomicity

Perhaps it’s the laziness borne of summer, or an overload of bad news on the political front, or even my daughter’s invasion of my physical and mental space these past few months.  But whatever the cause, I haven’t been able to string together sufficient cohesive paragraphs to produce a blog post since my last missive (which was a reflexive diatribe brought on by the aforementioned overload of bad news on the political front).  Regretfully, I haven’t been writing much in my journal – in fact, in a highly unusual circumstance for me, I’ve gone days without writing anything at all or, at most, a sentence saying how little I’ve been writing.

But occasionally I will have what I’ve been calling “common sense ideas,” which may ultimately end up turning into blog posts if I’m able to muster the sustained brain power.  For example, I think every publicly held company should include in every employee’s compensation package a share or number of shares of stock in the company, so employees become shareholders and literally have a vested interest in seeing their company succeed.  Those employees would care more about their jobs because the better they do, the better the company does, in a potentially endless cycle of success.

Another thought stream I’ve been entertaining (but I lack the capacity to get deep enough to write 500-1,000 words about it) is how I would fix the health care system in this country.  First, it should be mandated that all hospitals and all doctors have to take all insurances.  Second, all insurances should work the same way – same claims process, same reimbursement process, same referral process, etc.  This will cut down enormously on the administrative burden.  Third, the government should mandate that insurance companies cannot raise their rates every year, or ensure that any increases be linked to something like interest rates or cost-of-living.  Finally, as the process becomes more streamlined and the overhead and premium costs go down, then there would be no reason why larger employers couldn’t afford to insure even part-timers and the 30-hour minimum could be eliminated.

Here’s yet another recurring theme I keep returning to, in my head and my journal:  I don’t understand what the Republicans think will happen to the poor and the sick and the disabled and the elderly if they succeed in making Medicaid go away or cutting welfare and food stamps and school lunches, or when there’s no more funding for Section 8 public housing or public education.  (And of course, no abortions or contraception, so a ton of unwanted children adding to the already overburdened system.)  WHAT DO THEY THINK IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO ALL THESE PEOPLE IF THEIR LIFELINES ARE TAKEN AWAY??  If they thought the “great unwashed” were a burden before, what do they think they’ll be creating if Republicans are able to fulfill their dark and cruel desires?  Do they even care, as long as their own pockets are overflowing and they don’t have to actually SEE homeless or poor people?  It blows my mind.

And one more:  Elected representatives are supposed to do what their VOTERS want, not their DONORS.  Money for campaigns should be taken out of the equation entirely and people should be elected (or, more importantly, RE-elected) based on their record, not on how much money they’ve raised; on what they have DONE over what have they SAID (words are cheap, especially in the age of Trump).

* * *

So, those are some ways my mind has been wandering lately.  Which reminds me of the Beatles song, “I’m Fixing a Hole” (“to stop my mind from wandering / where it will go . . . “), which in turn reminds me of that post that was making its way around Facebook a few months ago about the 10 albums that most influenced you as a teenager.  A high school friend posted his list, and while I liked most of what he had included, my list would be ENTIRELY different even though it was from the same era.  My list of LPs on which I wore out the grooves in high school and early college is as follows (in no particular order):

  1. Bowie, “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”
  2. T. Rex, “Electric Warrior”
  3. Elton John, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”
  4. Leon Russell, “Carney” (one of the first albums I ever purchased with my own money, Elton John’s “Honky Chateau” being the other)
  5. Led Zeppelin, “Houses of the Holy”
  6. The Beatles, “White Album” (“Sgt. Pepper” was a close second, and I also loved “Rubber Soul”)
  7. “The Ramones”
  8. Jethro Tull, “Aqualung”
  9. Neil Young, “After the Gold Rush”
  10. Pink Floyd, “Wish You Were Here”

Honorable Mention:

Queen, “Night at the Opera” (although my favorite Queen song, and the one that was our “let’s get crazy tonight!” theme, was “Tie Your Mother Down”)

“Foreigner”

Fleetwood Mac, “Rumors”

Rolling Stones, “Hot Rocks”

* * *

Speaking of school, remember how every new unit in English and science and social studies would include a list of vocabulary words that would be featured in the unit, and the first assignment was to look them up and learn to use them?  Well, in all the brilliant political commentary I’ve been reading lately (Washington Post, NYT, New Yorker, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, Esquire [I especially like Charlie Pierce, who seems to come up with all these obscure terms to describe the “vulgar talking yam” and his minions], to name a few), I’ve come across a list of words that were either new to me or I’d seen them before but wasn’t sure what they meant (sometimes I like to guess and then see how close I am to the actual definition).  Some of those words (and their definitions, thanks to the Merriam Webster.com dictionary) are as follows:

sophistry:  subtly deceptive reasoning or argumentation.

mandarins (not the oranges or the Chinese):  a pedantic official; a bureaucrat.

mountebank:  a person who sells quack medicines from a platform;  a boastful unscrupulous pretender.  (See also:  Trump, Donald)

anthropocene:  the period of time during which human activities have had an environmental impact on the Earth regarded as constituting a distinct geological age.  (An aside:  I actually came across the word “anthrocene” in a song by Nick Cave, which may be a made-up word or a bastardization of “anthropocene”.  Actually, the well-read Mr. Cave probably got it from the science writer Andrew Revkin, who used the term “anthrocene” in his book Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast to describe a new geological era dominated by the actions of humans.)

wry:  bent, twisted, or turned, usually abnormally to one side; made by a deliberate distortion of the facial muscles, often to express irony or mockery; wrongheaded; cleverly and often ironically or grimly humorous.

redoubtable:  causing fear or alarm; or, alternatively, worthy of respect.

mondegreen:  a word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something said or sung (e.g., “Hold me closer, Tony Danza”).

shebeen:  an unlicensed or illegally operated drinking establishment.

oleaginous:  I initially thought it meant oily, and I was right, but it also means marked by an offensively ingratiating manner or quality.  (See also:  Trump Cabinet meeting)

opéra bouffe:  satirical comic opera.

numinous:  filled with a sense of the presence of divinity; appealing to the higher emotions or to the aesthetic sense.

imperious:  befitting or characteristic of one of eminent rank or attainments; commanding, dominant, domineering; marked by arrogant assurance.

I now challenge myself to use at least one of my new vocabulary words in my next blog post!