My Neighbors, My Cell Phone and Me

Just got home from seeing my therapist.  Made and ate a peanut butter sandwich while sitting in front of my computer.  Thinking about the days ahead.  Decide to pimp my oldest son, now a New Yorker, and his wife, about how great the weather is here.  I would take a picture outside and e-mail it to them so they could see what they have to look forward to when they come to visit for a week on Thursday. Trying to recall where my camera  is.  Then I remember I have a hard time downloading pictures from the camera to the computer.  Decide to take the pic with my cell phone.  Looking outside and liking the clear view of the mountains.  Best way to get that shot is from our dog’s “poop” yard right outside our bedroom.  Got the cell phone and went outside.  Looking for a good shot.  Move closer to the neighbor’s wood fence.  Still not getting the shot I want.  Walking and looking into the phone at the same time in hopes of getting a good photo, finally extending my arms with the phone in my hands over the neighbor’s fence.  Hit the button to get the picture and in doing so, dropping the camera; over the fence and into the neighbor’s backyard. Neighbors who I have never met.  I didn’t know them and they wouldn’t know me. I realize I have a good sized, but manageable problem so I call Harry who tells me I have to go over to the neighbor’s house to retrieve my phone.

“Can I wait until you get home?”  I ask.

“Don’t be ridiculous, just go over there and get it!”

Silence

“Do you think I should drive?”
Just go,” says Harry.

Walk out of house and around the corner, past Dennis and Sandy’s’ house, and then two more houses after that. Pass the guy on the other side of the street we call the Sentinel.  He paces back and forth in his driveway holding a long stick and talking on his cell phone.  Wave.  He waves back.   Arrive at my destination: a house looking like it was kept up just enough to keep it functional.  There are four cars in the driveway, including a newer model BMW white sports car and another older model car with a license plate that reads “With U.”

Knock on the door.  A woman appearing to be the housekeeper answers.

“Jes?”

I explain what happened.

“Well, she says, “You can’t come in they are all sleeping.”

Look at my watch: 1:15 pm.  And I don’t know who “they” are.

“I can take you to the backyard, though.  But I’m not going up there with you.  I have seen the rats.”

I ponder the rat dilemma and decide I was going to get my phone anyway.

The good news is there was no rats.  The bad news is the phone is not in the backyard.

I would have to go one more house over. Not happy about this.

Hit the sidewalk again.  Walk to the house next door (on the east side).  Don’t really recognize this house, although I’ve driven 31 years down this street.  That’s a long time.  In fact it exceeds the time I spent growing up on the east coast.  Wondering if there is unwritten rule about how long you’ve lived in place and where you consider ‘home.”  I think about that and don’t come to any conclusion.  Anyway, I knock on the door.  Again, another house that would probably be a tear down if the property was ever sold. I turn around to see a car pulling up the driveway.  Could see in the window of the passenger side front seat.  And there is a man looking like he could be cast as extra in a Night of the Living Dead sequel.  I don’t know what happened to him.  He is the homeowner. I think. Bleeding slightly through a couple of bandages. Eye injury suggests perhaps a fall or a fall from a stroke. Head is weirdly skeleton- like on one side.   I estimate late 70’s to early 80’s.  Decide that he probably is too old to get the shit beaten out of him even though that’s how he looks.  Has a younger woman with him.  She identifies herself as the old man’s daughter and I identify myself as one of her father’s neighbors, tell her the story about my cell phone in her father’s yard. She is holding a clipboard and some papers. The daughter seems a little scared of me.  I am completely unarmed; no keys, no purse and of course, no cell phone.  The daughter spends a minute or two talking with me and decides I am “safe.” She lets me in the backyard.  I head for the spot in this neighbor’s yard where I know I will find my phone. Pick up the phone from the base of a tree.  Go past the daughter who is still leery of me.  Decide to do my “ditsy” Calabasas housewife routine and I channel my inner Hidden Hills self:

“I am so-o-o embarrassed.  I can’t believe that I dropped my cell phone in your Dad’s backyard.  I’m so-o-o sorry I had to bother you.  Look, I was holding the phone over the fence to take a picture of the mountains (Again…) I am so-o-o embarrassed”.

The stone-faced daughter is not buying it, even though it is my truth.

I proceed to tell her about how cold it is in New York and how I want to take a picture of beautiful Tarzana for my oldest son and his wife, ’cause they’ve been getting a lot of snow and they will be here on Thursday.

Stoneface says something to me that I can’t hear well enough to understand.  I apologize again. I resist the temptation to say, “Sending healing energy your way.”

Note to self:  Table the block party idea.

If It Is Friday, It Must Be Mexico

It all began with this morning’s walk with my husband.  The idea to try and increase my exercise came after that “Ah-Ha” moment when I realized, I mean really got, it that I am pretty overweight.  Now, when I shop at Macy’s I have to go to the “Women’s” (translation “Fat Ladies’) section located way in the back on 5th floor in the San Francisco store.  So-o-o on Tuesdays and Thursdays I work out with my great PT, Molly who fortunately for me was a therapist in her previous profession.  Good combo.  On the OTHER days I have made it a goal to walk with my husband in our neighborhood.  Enjoyable enough, it’s just that I have to get up earlier to do that.  Sort of conflicts with my “night person” rhythm.  Regardless, I am working on it.

This morning’s walk was different.  I made a personal observation that would have made my college Sociology professor proud.  Here goes:  So on this particular walk, we pounded the pavement to our nearest grocery store.  Harry needed to buy some coffee creamer, as we were dangerously low at home.  As we left with the purchase we passed by the fresh flower corner.  There were flowers on the wall in racks, in vases, and planters.   Roses, orchids, baby’s breath and many more types whose names I did not know (I grew up in apartment).  What caught my eyes today were the flower arrangements on display.  I was struck by how colorful they were.  Kind of reminded me of traditional Mexican furniture.  There were red flowers with bright yellow ones.  Purple with pink and orange with white.  I just happen to like bright colors and the lack of inhibition when used as decoration.  This is like the art of much of Mexico.  And there I was in a store in a suburb of Los Angeles.  What I saw was the influence of one culture on another.  The “art” of Mexico and many Central American countries was on display and I narrowly missed this observation because I was concentrating so hard on just completing my walk.  It made me excited because here I was experiencing Mexico in Tarzana.  However, being married to a scientist I knew I needed to come up with data to support my interpretation.  So, I waited to see who was working the counter.  Sure enough, the two women working with the flowers were speaking Spanish to each other.  I could be wrong, but this made me think they were probably Latina or Hispanic.

My observation is this:  often we are unaware of our cultural influences because we think we can only get to view Mexican art in a museum or eat authentic pasta in Italy (Pasta, BTW, because according to the ‘Macaroni Journal’ by the Association of Food Industries states that pasta was brought to Italy by Marco Polo via China. Polo ventured to China in the time of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and the Chinese had been consuming noodles as early as 3000 B.C. in the Qinghai province.

If you haven’t gotten the point of this post by now, you are in trouble.

And finally, as further evidence of subtle influences of various cultures, I must point out that I have to remove my shoes before entering the home of middle son and his wife.  Believe me, for better or worse, that was not a rule in the house he grew up in.  I’m gonna give this practice some thought.  Perhaps it will lead to good Karma.

It’s Only Rockin’ Roll

Went to a Dr. John and the Night Trippers concert a couple of weeks ago, at my favorite music venue in LA, UCLA’s Royce Hall.  If you have never heard of Dr. John, it wouldn’t surprise me.  He is one of the artists whose music could be heard on FM alternative rock radio stations, oh, around 40 years ago.  His most famous cross over song from Louisiana jazz to rock is the “Right Place, Wrong Time.”  If you listen to it on Dr. John’s “Best of…” 2 disc set, it is mixed in with the New Orleans stuff he mostly plays which I just started listening to on my IPOD today.  This is because my son, who has been promising for week, finally put the music on the damn Apple thing that has replaced, first my record player, then my stereo, than my cassettes followed by CDs.  Man, music technology has advanced (although some folks would disagree with the “advanced” term) exponentially these last four decades.

For me, I just like the way music makes me feel and I grew up in a time when our culture was DEFINED by the music we played.  At least that’s what I think.  Most of my generation has hung on to old rockin’ roll, like you do to the railing of a ship encountering a rogue wave.  Because let’s face it, these days there is not a whole lot we can count on.  We are sailing in rough seas.  So when I play “Layla,” I am able to remember lying on the beach in Ocean City, Maryland at age 13, my radio propped up in the sand lying on a towel next to my best friend Mary.  Even younger than that, I recall sitting in the backseat of Mary’s mother’s car, listening to the radio hoping to hear a Beatle’s song as we drove down Twinbrook Parkway, one rainy and cold winter evening.  So many of my memories are associated with music.  From the kids I hung out with when I was a teenager (will never forget the Allman Brothers concert in DC that I went to with Joey) to the profession I choose as a graduating senior from high school.  The plan then, was to be a music teacher.  At least that’s what they printed after my name in the school newspaper.

Music was my first love.  The first instrument I learned to play at age 5, and please don’t laugh when I tell you this, was an accordion, much to the delight of my maternal grandparents, who were both musicians; he a violinist, she a concert pianist. I never heard them play. After that, came the flute, followed by the guitar and my voice. I wanted to be Joni Mitchell.  But as much as I loved music, it did not turn out to be a career. However, all my kids, thanks to my music lessons (mostly pop quizzes) delivered in car trips, could easily ace The Beatles category on Jeopardy.  As a parent, I consider this one of my biggest accomplishments.

So now that my youngest is 20, the last of my kids left at home, I have returned to my roots.  Off with the TV set and on with music.  I had forgotten about how it makes me feel.  And as I settle into life near 60, I listen to my songs again and hear things, bass lines, drum beats, guitar riffs, that I didn’t hear so very long ago.  I now also listen to my music really loud, for two reasons: 1. I am hard of hearing and 2. I grew up in an apartment and my father made sure what I played in my room wouldn’t disturb the neighbors. This year, though, it’s “Merry Christmas to me.”  Because next week we are going to a Stevie Wonder concert (Bucket List Alert) and the set list includes music from one of his best albums, “Songs in the Key of Life.”  And the band at our wedding played “Isn’t She Lovely” for our first dance.  See what I mean?

Last but not least, after over 30 years of driving in LA, I got myself a personalized license plate for my car which says, 3ABBYRD.  It’s an address.  In London.  Look it up in Wikipedia.

And so this is Christmas
And what have we done

—-John Lennon

Thanksgiving Reflection

It is my observation that often the determining factor of what path people choose in this life is the direction one goes in the face of adversity.  To me adversity is a subjective word.   My personal definition of adversity is “that which is is difficult or painful for each individual.”  Therefore, it is not so much what happens to you that is the issue, it is how you deal with it.

For example, there are people that choose the path of making “lemonade from lemons.”  Just think of the wonderful organizations founded by folks who have lost loved ones to horrific diseases.  Then there are those born into poor or disadvantaged communities who decide to give back in gratitude for support received that enabled them to rise above their circumstances. More often than not, the situations or scenarios are much more complicated than those above, but I think the choice is pretty simple:  you either believe that life gave you a raw deal or you’re grateful for whatever it is you’ve got.

I sometimes watch the wonderful woman who comes to clean my house.  Among many other things, she scrubs my toilet, often whistling as she works.  And this same women, who has worked for me for 20 years, still thanks me from time to time for giving her work.  She is also the same person who hugs me when I am sad, and provides intelligent commentary on current events, and slips a $20 bill to my son on his birthday.

But then, there is someone else I know that was born into a loving and functional family, is financially well off, with several adorable grandchildren but who has experienced some setbacks.  Granted there is probably a lot I don’t know about what may or may not have happened to this person, but she lives a life full or regret, anger and bitterness.  For her, life sucks. While it is tempting for me pass judgment, I won’t.

The truth is, there isn’t a single person I know who has not faced something painful, horrifying or unpleasantly surprising.  It is, however, important how you react to those situations.  In another words, shit happens to everyone; it is up to you what you do about it.  It is also important to keep in mind that your reaction(s) affect those around you.  That’s because I believe we are all, whether we like it or not, connected.  The mere fact that one lives, gives you automatic inclusion to the tribe of humanity. Therefore, the path you choose affects others.

I hope you had Happy Thanksgiving. I did.

Just Because Yesterday Was Halloween

In light of the fact that yesterday was Halloween,  I tried to remember the scariest costume I had ever seen.  But the truth is I can’t ever remember being scared of someone dressed up for this occasion.  That doesn’t mean I haven’t found other things scary.

I remember as a kid I saw a movie called “The Bad Seed.”  Scared the shit out of me.  Just read the synopsis on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bad_Seed_(1956_film)

This was the first movie that me aware of psychopaths.  If you think about, that’s a lot for a young kid to handle, the idea that sometimes bad people appear to be good people.  Another movie prominent in my memory bank is called, “Night of the Living Dead”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_of_the_Living_Dead.  For some reason unknown to me, I used to worry, lying in bed late at night in the dark, that zombies would come out of my closet, so I always made sure the doors were closed.

Then when I was a teenager, my best friend and I would watch horror-gore movies.  In this genre, the movies are blood-filled, and violent, folks losing limbs and such, just downright gory.  For some reason these movies were campy to me because the violence was so over the top that they became funny.

Now, however, I avoid anything that tries to make me scared.  That’s because when you get to be my age, you’ve had the shit scarred of you for REAL, and probably on more than one occasion.  In addition, I know the older a person gets the more the chances increase that you can be scared to death.  Literally.  Like those folks that have heart attacks during earthquakes.  And you no quiero morir, muchos gracias, so I avoid watching TV news, hold on to my movie money for funny flicks with a happy ending and on occasion,  I’ve been known to hold my hands over my ears and loudly sing off-key, “La, la, la, la, la……at the sound of any conversation that seems to be going down a tragic path.    It is also unlikely that you will ever catch me on a roller coaster again as I don’t even like the anticipation of that feeling you get when you are at the top of the rails poised to speed down what appears to be a giant vertical drop.

Other things scare me too, in 2014, so I decided to make a very short list.  Here goes:

  1. Getting the stomach flu, especially when I am not a home.
  2. The sound of police helicopters hovering above or close to my house.
  3. The fear that I get robbed again, and have to replace my credit cards, cell phone and the locks on my house.
  4. Anyone in my family needing further medical tests.
  5. Driving with less than a quarter of tank of gas.

Overall, I find myself wondering about the authors of horror media.  I mean really, how can you make up some of the Steven King writes about?  I absolutely do not want to know how the criminal mind works.  For me, it is just plain TMI.

 

“Do You Feel Like We Do”

In late August, I dragged my husband to see Peter Frampton at the Hollywood Bowl.  Seeing him perform was a bucket list thing for me. I bought “Frampton Comes Alive” in 1976 because it was one of the first albums that I could afford that wasn’t by the Beatles.  I bought it at the University of Maryland (College Park) student store, located in those days, in a small basement of some building.  Think I paid around seven dollars (it was a double record set).  And I loved this record.  I think.  Looking back I’m not sure it was the music as much as the fact that I had a huge X-rated crush on Peter Frampton.  I would imagine the love songs he sang were to me.  I played the LPs on my stereo in my bedroom, often late at night.  Over and over again.  In those days, music was the center of my universe.  I listened to the radio in my car, and at home.  I remember listening to WHFS-FM, the alternative rock station that broadcast throughout the suburbs of Washington D.C.  The weekend mid-night DJ was Weasel.  I remember listening to songs by Leon Russell, Little Feat, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Brown and the Allman Brothers.  It felt like my own secret world and I found comfort in it.

I had seen a special segment on Peter Frampton on CBS Sunday Morning a couple of years ago.  And if you remember anything about the 60’s and 70’s having long hair, for both men and women was everything. Back in 1976, Peter had long, curly, flowing blond hair.  But on that CBS Sunday morning show he was bald.  I couldn’t believe it.  Talk about having your bubble burst.  My 18 year old self was horrified, but my 50 something self was like, “What did you expect?”  This is not to say that the Peter Frampton of 2014 is not a decent looking guy.  What you need to understand is that I remember him as someone I desperately wanted to reproduce with.  At 18 years old.

Now assuming that Peter has not changed ALL that much in the looks department, I gotta wonder about myself.  Meaning, that my reproductive clock is telling me I am not up to the challenge.  Actually, for me, that part was surgically terminated in 2005.  And I don’t miss “my friend” every month.  But none the less, I can’t go back, ever.  That is strange feeling:  to know that something you were able to do, you will never do again. This can leave a woman feeling melancholy (at one end of the continuum) or ecstatic (on the other end of the continuum),  depending on any number of factors.

However, one thing is for certain:  Frampton sounded great at the Hollywood Bowl and I am happy I went.

(I’ll be..) Sing’in in the Rain

I confess to being a weather junkie.  I grew-up, mostly in Maryland, a state with seasons and to a certain degree unpredictable weather patterns.  I remember, except for a few odd days here and there, that I could have certain expectations with regard to the weather.  This has not been my experience living in Southern California. Up until about a year ago, I would have said that here in LA we have two seasons: rain and no rain.  But we are currently in the midst of a record-breaking drought. Seems like every morning for a very long time, when I turn on the local news for MY weather report,  it is nearly identical to the conditions of the day before: hot (90’s), dry and no rain.  The relentlessness of the sunshine forces me to wake-up squinting my eyes.  That is why my sunglasses wait on the night stand next to my bed.

When I was very young, the first day of school was also the unofficial first day of fall.   On those days, I remember wearing a new outfit, mostly meant for much cooler weather, my anticipation usually outweighing my comfort. But I couldn’t wait for the much cooler weather, especially living in the suburbs of Washington D.C.  Urban lore has it that soldiers stationed in D.C. where given “jungle” pay, because of the stifling heat and humidity.  However, as a child, I took comfort on those unbearable days in knowing that after summer there would be fall and it would be cool and colorful again.  It meant wearing sweaters not coats, and being able to comfortably hike on wooded trails without breaking into a sweat.  I liked that the sun set earlier.  The change of seasons and the accompanying weather, for me, were the most concrete rituals of my childhood.

When I got married, my husband and I lived not too far from where I grew up.  As I recall, we had a good sized window that faced west in our living room.  I remember, in the summertime, especially in the late afternoon, I could watch storm clouds build through this window.  I remember the blue-black clouds becoming thicker and darker.  There was even a part of me that secretly wished to see a funnel cloud.  But like I said,  I am a weather junkie, so I like this kind of stuff.

But I now live in the land of coastal-eddy’s masquerading as possible rain showers.  And if memory serves, it smells differently outside when it rains, sort of sweet and damp.  When, (notice I didn’t say if) the rain comes to LA will it have been too long?  I like rain, but not floods.  However, how much longer can we go without precipitation?   After more than 30 years in LA, a couple of years ago,  I finally adjusted to having just two seasons.  But for too long it has been only one.  I think this situation is messing with my body clock. I no longer have the anticipation of change, even if that is only in reference to the weather.  One day seems to run into the other.

You would think that my interest in the weather would cause me to keep the Weather Channel on the TV, but it doesn’t.  I am just curious about my immediate surroundings, so the local news can easily give me a weather fix.   OR perhaps I need an intervention, after all, I keep turning on the news in hopes of seeing something different, but all I get is same forecast day after day after day.

However each and every time I turn on the tube I expect that Dallas Raines or Fritz Coleman is going to tell me for sure we are going to get some of the wet stuff. Soon.  I’ll even take low pressure system coming up from Mexico and through Nevada.  Sigh. There I go, doing the same thing every day but expecting different results.  I think there is a saying for that in 12-step programs.  Maybe I need to go to weather re-hab.  Do you think it is covered under Obama Care?

IT IS IMPORTANT TO WRITE A LIST OF POSITIVE THINGS ABOUT MY LIFE WHEN I AM FEELING DEPRESSED

1 To the best of my knowledge, I have not been in contact with anyone that has Ebola.
2 The dog is not dead yet.
3 I’m prepared for the big one.
4 My immediate family appears to be well.
5 The weather will be cooler next week.
6 My left foot doesn’t hurt.
7 I haven’t thrown up in over a month.
8 My husband promises me that he will never retire.
9 A certain person hasn’t called me in three days.
10 I was able to return all the shoes I bought on-line late at night to the mall today.

The Truth About The Altoids

It has been a very long time since I posted.  My temporary departure from my venue was a bit abrupt I know.  But sometimes, things just don’t go the way you think they will.  With that said, just know that I had a lot on plate, almost more than I could handle, but I guess I am stronger than I think. My priorities being what they are prevented me from writing.  Never mind, I take that back.  I had the time to write, I just didn’t feel like it.  And even though this decision not to write may have been like shooting myself in the foot, you need to understand that not posting was just about the only thing in my life I had control over.

OK, enough about me, because the truth is I absolutely hate (and I do mean hate!) writing about myself.  I am on-line memoir writing class drop-out, of late.  Liked the teacher, the people in my class seemed nice, but to tell you the truth I don’t want to read or write depressing shit any more.  For me, it is just enough to know that depressing, horrible shit exists.  I know I’ve seen it. In real life and on TV.  No mas.

This explains why CBS Sunday Morning is my favorite TV show.  I am not kidding.  It’s like electronic Valium for me.  One hour of funny, interesting stories that make you feel good ending with some nature scene with no sound, except the whoosh of running water over the rocks and down some stream in a wooded area or the flash-mob fluttering of bird wings.  I love this stuff.  I point this out only because I have decided I want to model THIS blog after that show.  I want you to feel good when you are done reading what I wrote, and among other things, renewing your faith in mankind.

So, future posts will be more journalistic in nature and hopefully you won’t feel depressed after reading them.  You might even learn something you didn’t know before.

Now that I have made that clear.  Here’s today’s story.  My husband loves licorice flavored Altoids.  They are mints that come packaged in a metal tin, but my husband has had trouble finding them in stores for some time now.  So, I turned to the place where I can find just about anything:  the internet.  If it exists, it’s on-line.  So Googled (I love that this is now a verb) the licorice Altoids and who had them? None other than Amazon.  They were selling a 12-pack.  Cost $143.  This is not a typo there are three numbers before the decimal point.  So I checked my Googled list to find another source, which I clicked on only to find out that licorice Altoids had been discontinued.  Given the price for the 12 pack on Amazon, I assumed they must have stopped manufacturing them some time ago. Couldn’t find an exact date, though.  Even went to the official Altoids website, where I learned the following, “Around the turn of the 19th century, during the reign of King George III, the recipe for Altoids® was perfected by Smith & Company, a London confectionary firm. Altoids® were then promoted for over a century as a “stomach calmative”.”  My husband can’t attest to their medicinal value.  He just says he is addicted to them.  And, I can assure you he won’t pay $143 to get licorice Altoids. I think he should start a letter (e-mail) campaign to bring them back.  You don’t know until you try.  I’ll keep you posted (no pun intended).

This Train

My father loved trains.

They were one of his passions.  My father died in September of 2009 from congestive heart failure.  I miss him.

The reason I bring this up is there was an article in the paper…wait minute, I mean on my Yahoo homepage, about how there is an effort being made to eliminate one of this country’s most famous trains, the Southwest Chief.

The Southwest Chief runs between Los Angeles and Chicago allowing riders to see some of the most beautiful parts of the US.

I read the Yahoo article because I too, like trains.  This is probably because of my father who used to take my sister and me, when we were little, to the train station on Sundays to get us out of the house so my mother could cook that day’s evening meal, which was kinda a big production.  We sat in the backseat of his car and waited for the trains.  I remember that the trains were very loud as they passed. I think I covered my ears back then, when I didn’t wear hearing aids.  And big, at least to a five year old.  I also remember eating M & M’s on those Sundays back when that candy was the best part of the experience.

Anyway, reading the article today about the Southwest Chief provided me with a goal, born out of affection for my father who himself loved his father, who just happened to have been a train conductor in New York, which is to ride that train before it ceases to run anymore.

Ideally I’d like for Harry and I to make a journey from Los Angeles to perhaps Arizona or New Mexico on the Chief.  Perhaps in the late fall.  I anticipate that such a trip would require a lot of research and planning.  That’s OK though, because I like to research and plan.

“The station master’s shuffling cards
Boxcars are banging in the yards “

—-Joni Mitchell

The truth is I probably won’t make the trip.  But it is fun to think about it and that’s OK. At least in my opinion.