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Chinatown July 23, 2014

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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The first time I saw Chinatown, I was a seventeen-year-old kid passing through Camden, Maine, on vacation with my best friend’s family—in a motorhome. We had traveled from Maryland to Boston, to Cape Cod (taking in a play at Falmouth, I believe); taken a ferry (sans motorhome) to Martha’s Vineyard and back; then headed up the coast of Maine, getting as far north as Camden.

Sue and I were ready to be on our own, away from her parents and an accompanying couple. There was a movie theater in town, kind of art-housey, I guess, because they were showing Chinatown, and this was five years after its initial release. Could we go? Sure, Mary Helen said. Get a cab out to the campground after. Off they drove to the outskirts. Somewhere.

So we saw Chinatown. (“She’s my sister and…!”) Then, in the dark Camden evening, we found a phone booth (remember those?) and scanned the phone book for a cab service.

There was none.

Sue and I grew up in a small town. It’s not so small anymore, but it was then. In that small town, there were cabs to be called. A complete lack of cabs hadn’t occurred to any of us.

We didn’t know where the campground was or how to get there or how far a walk out of town it might be. There was no way to contact our peeps and have them disconnect all their hookups, leave their campsite, and come get us.

So we walked to the police station.

It turned out that despite our having always been told how helpful the police could be, these particular police were not very sympathetic to our predicament. They sat us down on a bench with other teenage hoodlums and made us wait. And wait. For what, I’m not sure. It seemed that there were more cops than hoodlums and perhaps we might be helped more quickly. Clearly, no one wanted to lower himself to cab service.

“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”

Perhaps an hour later, figuring we had suffered enough, someone loaded us into the back of a police car and drove us to the campground, several miles out.

That night, that station, that car—that’s what I think about when anyone mentions Chinatown. I remember very little of the movie.

But another Sue—one who has never seen the film and has had a DVD copy forced upon her by a mutual, well-meaning Faye Dunaway–freak friend (“What? You’ve never seen Chinatown?”)—plans to drop over this evening, right after she gets her hair done, and watch it on my big-ass TV screen. I haven’t seen Chinatown in thirty-five years. No doubt the police in this film will prove to be very helpful people. Right?

 

The Fifth of July July 5, 2014

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Derek, 15 March 1972–5 July 2012

Cheryl, 2 May 1961–5 July 2013

 

3BY2: Quarterly Report July 1, 2014

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Eastern phoebe, common merganser, song sparrow, wood duck, common loon, common eider, osprey, black-backed gull, double-crested cormorant, northern flicker, chimney swift, rose-breasted grosbeak, tree swallow, yellow-bellied sapsucker, barn swallow, indigo bunting, Baltimore oriole, warbling vireo, yellow-throated vireo, ovenbird, eastern towhee, gray catbird, yellow warbler, American redstart, field sparrow, chipping sparrow, white-throated sparrow, black-billed magpie, pinyon jay, ash-throated flycatcher, black-throated sparrow, violet-green swallow, lark sparrow, blue-gray gnatcatcher, lazuli bunting, black-headed grosbeak, Eurasian collared dove, white-crowned sparrow, Bullock’s oriole, spotted towhee, juniper titmouse, yellow-rumped warbler, western kingbird, bank swallow, Wilson’s warbler, black-chinned hummingbird, spotted sandpiper, white-throated swift, green towhee, brown-headed cowbird, western meadowlark, common yellowthroat, brown thrasher, bobolink, veery, hermit thrush, killdeer, eastern meadowlark, ruby-throated hummingbird, wood thrush, black and white warbler, eastern wood peewee, house wren, green heron, cedar waxwing, prairie warbler, northern waterthrush, ruffed grouse. (Bringing 2014 total thus far to 108. 2012: 102. 2013: 162.)

I admit to being a lazy birder. It’s like I’m barely trying. Our biggest day since March was adding a dozen species on an early-May walk on the rail trail. We added two dozen on our Utah trip, which is pretty good, I guess, but pales in comparison with Arizona’s 73 (of course, we’d hired a guide).

I can’t believe I haven’t seen a scarlet tanager yet. My neighbor across the street took a photo of one in her yard, for cryin’ out loud!

 

A Letter to My Niece at Camp June 30, 2014

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Dear Teresa:

I hear you’re at camp again and I’m pretty envious of that, and I don’t really have a lot of time to write, maybe just one sentence, so here is the sentence, we’re already in it (the sentence), as you can see, and I’ve been really really busy with spring/summer chores, including the annual window washing, which is a huge job because there are so many windows, plus all the blinds to dust, but yesterday I finally finished that job, and I’m getting ready to have company for four days, my friend Esther from Bloomington, Indiana, the one I worked with more than 20 years ago in DC, she’s finally going to come visit me over the fourth of July, and on the fourth a bunch of neighbors are coming over, and Esther and I have plans to go to a play and just hang out and maybe get to the swimming hole if the weather’s OK, although I have to say I’m not really liking what I’m seeing in the weather forecast right now, but anyway, it will feel a little vacationlike, which is a good thing because I don’t have a real vacation this summer, things are just too busy for Tim at work, but I do get to go to Portland, Maine, for a week with him next month while he works a photo shoot and I’ll work in the hotel room and we’ll visit friends and eat fabulous food at night, so there’s that, which helps, and we did get to go to Utah in May and visit friends and see Arches and Canyonlands and it really was incredibly beautiful, it’s just starting to seem a long time ago now that I am seeing everyone’s beach pictures online and I don’t have another great vacation with Tim planned, although I do have a couple of quick NYC trips coming up, one to Brooklyn for a few days, one to NJ and my friend and I will drive into the city see a musical review that a friend is putting together of his father’s work, which maybe someday will go further and maybe many people will get to see it, so that’s exciting, and a friend is getting married in Nags Head in September, so that could be an interesting trip for me, but none of these are a nice long week away with Tim, which is my favorite thing, of course, and I really miss the days that we went to the same Adirondack camp every summer (before it closed down), because what’s better than being in the woods on the water and canoeing and fishing and hiking and being fed breakfast and dinner and seeing the same friends every year and making some new ones, like you are probably doing right now, not much is better than that, and I miss it, and I miss you, and I hope it won’t be too long before we see each other again, and it’s sad that it’s so hard to get together when some people are in Pennsylvania and some people are in Vermont, but someday it will happen, and who knows, maybe we’ll even play Twister.

Have a great week!

 

Utah June 26, 2014

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It’s been more than a month since we’ve returned from our Utah vacation. I still miss my friends and the landscape.

I could talk about our brief overnight in Salt Lake City before hitting the road to Moab and Castle Valley (especially hanging with that Aussie in the bar). I could tell you about the two vastly different dinner events our friends took us to: the secret café fundraiser dinner at an activist’s unassuming fenced-in backyard and the LDS church neighborhood potluck.

secret cafe

I could tell you about the amazing hikes I took in Arches, Canyonlands, and (I’m not kidding, it’s still called) Negro Bill Canyon. But maybe I’ll tell you about the hours I spent by myself near the end of the week. Well, almost by myself.

Tim and Bill had gotten up predawn to head out to photograph some mountains. Susan was having people over to the house for a meeting. I needed some exercise, and there was gorgeousness all around me. So Susan drew me a map.

It was a great map.

I started out from their house

house

and headed this way:

view from house 2

Susan was sending me on a walk that could take me to the base of Castle Rock, eventually, although there wasn’t really a trail there. Her map took me from the driveway, to a right on Shafer Lane. I crossed Castle Valley Drive (paved), then continued along Shafer.

Before I got to the more potentially complicated parts of the walk, a yellow dog joined me.

By joining me, I mean she walked with me, but much farther ahead. Occasionally she’d look back to see where I was.

I got to the dry creek (drawn on the map!). I think it was there I decided I had to pee. The dog came back to watch me, from a distance.

I squeezed through the pedestrian passage by the gate (drawn on the map!), the end of the public road. Private property, but permission for walkers and bikers. I got to the fire station (map!) and the gate (map!) that I had to open myself. I did, and I let the dog through with me. She’d been waiting for me there. I closed the gate behind us.

Soon we got to the far paved road, where we crossed into the trailless land. Susan told me to find the dry creek bed and walk up that.

Easy enough.

Walking up the creek bed looked like this:

creek bed early

It was a lovely hike, and this is about as close as I got to Castle Rock:

creek bed 3

The dog was around, but she’d gotten pretty far ahead of me. I was ready to turn back. I called to her. Nothing. I whistled. Nothing.

I began to worry that this was not my dog, and I’d let her through a gate.

I began to reassure myself that this dog, whom I watched squeeze through other fences and find wide openings in barbed wire, could go anywhere she wanted and did.

Still. I’d let her through that gate, and now I wanted to go home, and where was she?

I started heading back. I called a little. I figured she’d turn up. I had to pee again. I found a place to do that.

And then there she was. How predictable.

She passed me, turned around, sat a respectful distance away, and watched.

“Almost done,” I said to her. “You can pee over this if you want.”

And when I got up and walked away, she did just that.

Proud of herself. I let her dominate. It is her territory, after all.

She crossed the road with me, back through the gate. She chased and dug for small mammals:

digging

She was usually way ahead of me and looked like this:

way home

She passed wherever it was that she joined me and stayed with me all the way home. The last stretch looked like this:

last stretch

We got to the cool shade of the front porch. Susan’s meeting was still going on. Tim and Bill were back. Tim was napping. I went inside to get a bowl of water for the panting dog.

“There’s a dog that’s been with me all day,” I told Bill. “I gotta give her some water. You don’t mind, do you? I doubt she’ll stay.”

“You mean Ginger?” said Bill.

Everyone knows Ginger. She gets around.

We sat on the porch together for a spell. Shady. I planked, nose to nose with her. When I did, I noticed the staples above her left front paw, the slightly shaved patch. Didn’t seem to be hurting her any.

She rested a bit.

ginger

She stayed long enough to be polite. And then she took off.

 

 

Skyping Sergio June 5, 2014

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Fairly recently, I broke down and bundled my phone service with my Internet and cable TV. In doing so, I learned that there was a problem in at least one—maybe two—of the physical phone lines that come into my house. I could pay to have them fixed, or I could just plug directly into the modem. I decided to go the modem route for awhile. See how that goes.

But by abandoning the physical lines, I abandoned my old answering/fax machine. It cannot function under the new system. Still, I haven’t unplugged it. This has everything to do with my emotional attachments to certain older gentlemen.

There are ten messages on that machine that I have never erased. I am afraid to lose the sound of those voices. (Frankly, I thought it was more than ten messages. Apparently I let a few of them go.)

Two are men I know through my work as an editor. One I’ve known for nearly 20 years. He’s been threatening to die since the day I met him and now, at 88, he’s fighting a real illness. (A message that still resides on my machine includes the phrase I’ll try to get you anon.) The other is a man whose father was a songwriter whose work I admire. I’ve found that over the years, as we discover tastes and opinions we have in common, I’ve become rather fond of this person. I was able to show him off to a BFF in New York some weeks back, and her to him.

But the voice I can’t bear the thought of erasing belongs to Sergio. Seven of those ten messages are his.

Back in the late nineties/early aughts, Tim would go to Verona twice a year to check color separation for the catalog. I got to go with him four times. We would fly into Milan, and Pier, one of the partners of the business, would pick us up. We’d go out for lunch, then he’d deliver us to Verona, where Sergio, the other partner, would host us.

Tim would work with Sergio and his staff all day while I wandered the streets of Verona. Many times we would be dinner guests in his home. Sergio would translate conversation between us and his wife, Anna.

I met two of his three daughters: Nadia, who was married and had twin girls, and Laura. I never met Barbara, the middle daughter, but Tim did.

After technological advances and the resulting economics brought our Italy trips to a halt, both Sergio and Pier made a point to call us every Christmas. When we traveled for the holidays, I would fret about missing those calls—Sergio’s especially.

And that is what those messages are: missed Christmas calls.

Tim and [Indigo]: Sergio speaking. I would like to say you Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I want to keep in touch with you. I wish you all the best. . . . Ciao ciao.

Tim and [Indigo]: I would like to say you hello. I will try again.

Often we would try to call back. Usually we would manage to talk once a year.

But then one year, Sergio didn’t call.

Through Facebook, Tim became friends with Sergio’s daughter Laura. Through Laura, we found out that Barbara had died of breast cancer. She left two young sons.

Sergio’s heart was broken.

No one should have to go through that.

I believe we managed to talk with him once since then.

Recently, though, Laura sent word that Sergio wanted to set up a Skype session. It took awhile for us to get our schedules to coordinate. Plus, we’d never used Skype, and up until a couple of hours before the call, we were still fiddling with it to make sure it would work.

And then, it did.

For the first time in years, there was Sergio’s face, alongside that of Laura, his technical guru and fluent English speaker.

It was wonderful and emotional and there was tearing up. Sergio and Tim really love each other, and Sergio talked about that last day when he dropped us off at the train station, and how emotional he got (we did too) because we might never see each other again. And we haven’t—until the Skype call. (May we somehow see each other in person again!) He says we got on that train in 2002. How can that be?

He and Anna are very involved in taking care of their grandsons after school, etc. It is clear how much he misses Barbara and how much he loves her boys.

Pier has also died. The last we talked to him, several years ago, he was quite ill. Tim said he had heard about Pier, but I’m not sure I did. Did I not hear? Did I choose not to remember?

I tried to tell Sergio about his voice on my answering machine, but I think it got lost in translation.

Where does love come from? Why does a natural joy spring forth between certain people (but not others)?

Why is life so busy? Why is travel so expensive? Why is it hard to spend time with so many of the people we love?

At least this Christmas, we can Skype with Sergio again.

Still, I need to figure out how to save those voice messages on my old answering machine. And maybe get back to Italy.

Denial May 30, 2014

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Ed was leaving the gym yesterday as I was getting there and I asked “Is this the last time?” and he said that it was, and I told him I was still in denial, and he told me to come visit, which I would love to do, because Ed and Lali are moving to a beautiful spot near way more Culture and Things to Do, but even though I don’t see them often, it’s hard when someone leaves the neighborhood and you know that they aren’t there anymore, and it’s hard to not be the ones buying their house even though it isn’t the right thing for us to attempt at the moment, I mean, what a beautiful spot they have, really, how can they leave?, and it’s been hard for everyone to watch them go when they seem way too young to be heading off to a community like this, even though they are smarter than the average bear for dealing with it while they are still young enough to do it well, and it’s been uncomfortable for many of us to be forced to think about these things in relation to ourselves, not because Ed and Lali care whether we think about it, but seeing them do this we can’t help but think about it, and it’s uncomfortable on many levels, not the least of which is wondering if I will ever be able to afford to retire or take care of myself in any way ever in my old age and I’m not even technically a poverty-stricken individual so how does anyone manage anything and why couldn’t my parents have done something like this years ago and what a mess it’s all going to be when my parents die, but anyway Paul had a lovely going-away party for Lali and Ed on Sunday and the weather was beautiful and his screened-in porch was blissful and Tim’s recorder group played and we had drinks and appetizers and enjoyed the company and the temperatures and the sunshine and the hummingbirds and the thrushsong and some people played croquet and it didn’t really feel like they were leaving at all and Paul had wanted to give them something small and packable that signified Parts West and he gave them a signature Roy Egg chicken head and I brought them a roof slate that came off my house when the ice pans went on because the town of Parts West exists because of slate and my artist friend Diane had flipped out when she saw these weathered slates in my barn attic and she took a bunch of them to use in her work and ordered more from my roofer guy so maybe Lali can use a slate in her artwork, or maybe it can hang out in their new garden or somewhere where she and Ed can look at it and fondly think of their (how-can-it-be-10) years here and the people who loved that there were here, and even after all this I am still in denial and have my hands over my ears and am singing la la la I’m not listening.

 

A Series of Things: The Dragon Stick May 22, 2014

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The morning after our once-a-month housekeeper was here, Tim noticed that the dragon stick was on his dresser. For years it has hung above the closet door in our bedroom.

I guess V dusted it, and it fell. The skinny nails had come out of the wall and were still hanging from the dragon stick by the fishing line we’d used to fasten it. I can understand why maybe V didn’t want to deal with it further.

My friend Dewey carved the dragon stick on a camping trip with his sons, whittling away by the fire. Being the bawdy individual I am, I always admired the dragon stick and would ask to see it when I was at his house.

And when I left DC, now almost 19 years ago, he gave it to me.

It means a lot to me. It looks like this:

dragon1

and also like this, if you flip it over:

dragon2

and here are details of either end:

dragondetail1

dragondetail4

dragondetail2

dragondetail3

I have been away on vacation. Before that, I was getting ready for vacation. Now that I’m back, I’m trying to catch up from vacation.

The dragon stick is still not back on the wall. Because I’m busy with work and chores! Jeez, people.

Food Stuff: Chicken/Egg April 30, 2014

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Everyone has food issues. Some people don’t have enough food. Some have too much food. Some have the wrong food. Some are allergic to food. Some have strong opinions about what they should eat. Some have strong opinions about what others should eat. Some people feel personally threatened/ offended by what other people eat and do not eat.

I eat a lot, and I could talk about food a lot. I might.

I can tell you that lately my biggest issue in major grocery stores has been buying chicken.

Usually, I stand in front of the prepackaged meat, look at the chicken for five minutes, panic, and walk away.

Everything I read about the industry is scary. And who knows what organic and free-range mean anymore? If it’s in the grocery store, it’s probably not good for me.

About once a month, I buy a chicken from a farmer at the market. A chicken that grew up within a few miles of me. We roast it. Tim makes chicken stock. It’s wonderful.

But here’s what I miss: Packages of thighs. Packages of breasts.

Sometimes I just want a bunch of thighs or breasts for a stir fry or simmer. (Sounds sexy, doesn’t it?)

And so I stare. And sometimes I buy. But it’s getting harder.

As for eggs? I usually buy them from the same guy who sells me his chickens. I go through a dozen slowly, but sometimes I run out at an inconvenient time and have to buy eggs at the grocery store. This scenario doesn’t thrill me, but I get past it a little faster than the chicken problem for some reason. Probably no good reason. Surely those layers aren’t getting any better treatment.

Of course, I worry about turning into these people:

Hypographia April 23, 2014

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Is it writer’s block? Or just craziness? I dream of being hypergraphic, like Bridgett.

Last week we were in Portland (Tim on business) for the first time in 2½ years. I always think that this is how my Portland days will unfold:

Croissant and coffee
Write
Work
Exercise (maybe a walk on the prom)
Lunch
Maybe one city errand
Work
Evening with Tim

In a way, that’s not too far off from what does happen. It’s just that we get up later than at home, it takes more time to get food, there are always rush jobs taking over my day, there are some friends I can see only for lunch (so suddenly this becomes a 2-hour [not ½-hour] ordeal), there is a movie theatre within walking distance, there are birthday presents that must be found because birthdays are happening now and I am physically near actual retail opportunities—so the one thing I do not do is write.

That was last week. I am away again, thanks to unfortunate (but manageable) scheduling. I scrawl these few words from my friend’s home office in New Jersey. I will work two mornings. We will see Broadway shows two nights.

I will drool over Neil Patrick Harris and Dulé Hill. Perhaps that’s all that will need to be said about that.

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