Monday, October 25, 2021

Not Hiking

The local Cornell Club had an outing on Saturday.  Eighteen intrepid souls met early n the morning for conversation at the Visitor Center at Sabino Canyon Recreation Area.

That sounds like a venue for ball fields and playground equipment.  It's not.  It's part of the Coronado National Forest; the activities are in those you can do in the great outdoors.  And this is The Great Outdoors.  The mountains loom overhead. The boulders and the cacti and the trees and the water are all the enticements you need.  

There are two options - hiking or riding.  

There's a shuttle to the top of the developed area.  For $12 you get your own brand new earbuds - just like the ones you buy at CVS when  you're on the way to the gym and realize you've left yours at home - and a seat on the open-air tram car.  The narration is in English and Spanish; it hits the right note between nerd and knowledge.  

FDR is responsible for a lot of the comforts along the main road - restrooms and picnic tables and benches and beaches and bridges were all created by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration in the aftermath of the Depression.  The narrator pointed them out, along with the black gneiss and the tumbled boulders and the remains of the last wildfire.  

The shuttle allows riders to get off and re-board at any of the 9 stops along the way.  I rode it all the way up and all the way down, watching sorrowfully as we passed members of our Club hiking up, and then more sorrowfully as many of those who'd ridden to the top opted to hike their way down.

I was wearing my hiking boots - that was as close to meandering on my own two feet as I got.  I sat with Taos Bubbe, which made all the difference to my heart, but my head was busy contemplating how to gear up for being more of an active participant next year.

I loved hiking.  I loved the scenery and the smells and the tiredness in my feet and legs at the end of a long day.  I liked the silence.  I enjoyed the company of like-minded friends.  I was happy using my muscles for fun, rather than for exercise.  

Watching others do what I can't wasn't easy.  It was motivating, though. Now that the weather has cooled down to the mid-80's, perhaps I can start to walk the neighborhood again.  If only JannyLou weren't moving I'd get her to commit to walking with me - I do better with a companion and a commitment.  But it is what it is and she's leaving, so I'll have to be my own source of inspiration.

Writing it down is the first step.  Thanks for reading - you're now part of the plan.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Road Trip

Scarlet's dog needs surgery.  I'll spare you the details, but the best surgeon for her is in Scottsdale.  Scarlet made an appointment and immediately texted me.

Until she moved to Florida to help her ailing, aging mother, Scarlet had lived in a Manhattan apartment for 40 years.  She (like most denizens of The City) walked to most destinations, taking a cab home if it was dark or she was tired.  A car in Manhattan is a luxury reserved for the very rich (or those with elderly parents just outside the reach of public transportation).  

She drove when visiting her parents in Florida, but being behind the wheel is not her favorite place to be.  Scottsdale is 120 miles away; 99% of her trip would be on the highway.  It's mostly 2, recently paved, lanes separated by a wide, grassy ditch.  The speed limit is 75, but that's more of a suggestion than an imperative.  

Hence, her text - was I free for a road trip on Thursday?  

She had other options, including going alone, but she'd really like my company.   I could drive her car.  She'd provide snacks and drinks and lunch or breakfast if I needed it.  She would navigate and provide scintillating conversation there and back.  

How could I refuse?

She pulled into our driveway at 7am.  There was a full tank of gas in a very clean car.  I spent a few moments adjusting and admiring and then, about two hours later, we were sitting outside at Starbucks, having a snack.  Naturally, being who we are, we were an hour early for the appointment.

We dined al fresco, then  I dropped them off at the vet,  parked her surprisingly lovely Camry under a tree in the parking lot, lowered the windows, and took a little nap.  

I watched a Safelite guy replace a windshield.  I read the WaPo and NYT on my phone.  Less than an hour later, they were back.  

We weren't hungry.  We had the dog.  An ultrasound would have given us a window without the pup, a time frame for The Heard Museum or shopping or eating someplace special, but it's still Pandemica and Scarlet's not comfortable being inside.  She declined the offer;  we turned right around and drove home.  

We're driving back next week for the surgery.  In the Before Times, we'd have stayed overnight someplace fabulous, gotten massages, eaten interesting food, visited the Musical Instrument Museum, heard some music, and picked up the dog after her overnight with the vet.  

Instead, we'll drop her off in the morning and right turn around.  

We did decide to add in an adventure on the way home - IKEA .

Scarlet wants a cabinet for her garage.  I will try to spend nothing.... and I will fail.  The big open spaces and our arrival as the store opens gives Scarlet an extra measure of security.  She'll still take precautions above and beyond, and that's okay because the most vulnerable and the most cautious always set the tone these days.  

We'll browse and imagine and judge and fill out those little white cards, trying to spell the unfamiliar names with tiny pencils.  She'll get her cabinet and we'll be doing something different and for a while it will feel normal.

This is what counts as a road trip in these times.  

Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Man With One Clock

My phone says it is 88o.   My laptop tells me it's only 80.

The clocks on the microwave and the oven are right above one another.  They are 30 seconds apart, and resetting them has only led to frustration.

They are also a few minutes slower than the clock on the cable box in the living room.  Moving between the kitchen and the couch while cooking is an interesting experience, especially when you're timing something you've just put in the oven.  5:37 in one place is not the same as 5:37 in the other.  It's confusing.

The clock in the Uv used to be perfectly aligned with my phone.  That is no longer the case.  I don't know why the phone is faster than the car, but it is.  I think I'm early but I'm really just on time.  Sometimes I'm even late - and I'm never late.

When TBG was able to handle the noise of the pendulum swinging and the chimes chiming, his grandfather's grandfather's clock kept us on our toes.  The Early American mantel clock I took from G'ma and Daddooooo's house did the Big Ben chimes every quarter hour.  There were no portable phones telling us the exact time - the chimes were a lovely substitute to wearing a watch.

Back then, maybe because I was young, the exact minutes were less important than they seem to be today.  Then again, how can I be sure what the exact minutes are?

The only person who really knows the time is the man with one watch.

I'm sure there's a deeper meaning to that, but for now, it works for me.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Colin Powell and The Ballerina

She grew up in Arkansas in the 1950's and '60's.  When they integrated her high school, there were two proms - one Black, one White.  The White families migrated to a Whiter neighborhood with Whiter schools.  She wasn't paying much attention to what the Black families were doing.

She spent no time with people who didn't look like her.  No one did.  There were passing acquaintances and superficial relationships, but nothing that anyone would call friendship.  It just wasn't done.  

Fast forward several decades, and find her sitting next to me at the Marin Speakers' Series in the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Civic Center.  We were comfortably ensconced in the middle, several rows from the back.  High enough to see everything, center stage so we didn't get stiff necks, surrounded by a mostly White and wealthy audience - it was Marin in the early 1990's, and that was who we were.

The Speakers' Series was a long running program bringing world leaders to our little corner of the world.  Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachov (through a translator; it was beyond dull), Garrison Keillor, Margaret Thatcher (standing at the podium in spike heels, refusing to stop taking questions "because this is the fun part!") - TBG and I saw them all.  This time, I took The Ballerina to hear Colin Powell speak.

It was just after he announced that he would not be running for national office; his wife, Alma, was afraid he would be assassinated, he didn't like campaigning, he just wasn't going to do it, though he was grateful that we were all sighing and moaning noooooo as he revealed his lack of interest in the most powerful office in the land.  

He spoke eloquently about Iraq and about CCNY and about learning Yiddish while working in Sickser's Everything for the Baby store.  He addressed racism and militarism and love.  He told funny stories and sad stories and powerful stories.  He reviewed the past and expressed hope for the future.

At the end, he received only the 2nd standing ovation I'd ever seen at the Speakers' Series (Maggie Thatcher was the other one - impressing that decidedly left leaning audience to everyone's surprise).

People were clapping madly, many were teary, including The Ballerina.  She stood next to me, wet eyes and a bemused look on her face.  She was shaking her head when, through a tiny smile, she turned to me and said I can't believe I am standing here applauding for a Black man.

She went on - her parents would not know what to make of it all, this upended her views on so many things, she believed in equality and hated discrimination of any kind, but this was different.  This was an actual human being speaking directly to her soul.  He was right there in front of her and all her upbringing, all her separate from The Other childhood, all of that was put to the test by the distinguished soldier and statesman on the stage that night.  The tropes that filled her youth were banished in a single night.  It was transformative.

It's decades later, but we still remember.  We went out for a snack afterwards; there was so much emotion that food was not a priority.  We sipped wine and she talked... and talked... and talked.

Flags are flying at half staff this week to honor General Powell.  For me, his memory is forever intertwined with The Ballerina.  He made an impact in so many, many ways.

The world is a lesser place without him.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Again ?????

I needed gas and milk and other basic supplies, so I headed to Costco.  I haven't been in the store very often, preferring to pay someone else to lift flats of sparkling water and giant jugs of laundry detergent into a cart then a vehicle then my garage.  That used to be a good workout.  Post-perforation, it's my least favorite activity.  But today, I felt the urge.

The lines for gas stretched into the entry lane.  I found a close spot and decided to shop first and feed the Uv after.  I cruise the perimeter of the store, rarely venturing down any of the aisles.  All my needs are met on the most trafficked spaces, which makes managing the huge store a manageable activity.

Queen T went to Costco before Saturday's Pumpkin Carving Party and Big Cuter was quite taken with the rain proof jacket and comfy long sleeve pullover she bought for him - and which I saw today on the tables as I walked toward the back of the store.  I picked up some holiday gifts (along the lines of socks and underwear and comfy, hang-out clothes) in that same area, and some protein from the cold cases.  There were melons to be ripened and apples to be peeled and put into pie snuggled next to the berries and celery and then the milk.

After the dairy room, the outer pathway leads to the paper goods - paper towels and toilet paper stacked deep and wide, covering a quarter of the back of the store...... except today, when there was nothing there at all.

No Bounty.  No Kirkland.  No Viva.  No Charmin of any variety.

If Costco can't keep its shelves stocked, how can the smaller merchants survive?  We aren't importing this stuff, are we?  Or is it the influx of snowbirds, which all of us who live here year round have suddenly noticed?  Are reports of issues with the supply chain igniting another frenzy?  

I understand that toys from abroad may be delayed or unavailable, but I've heard no mention of a toilet paper shortage.  

We're down to our last 6 pack.  We're hosting friends over Halloween weekend.  I really hope that Target or the grocery stores aren't similarly denuded.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Bubbe's Bagels

JannyLou saw the review in her inbox.  A New York transplant's search for a real bagel in Tucson led to the creation of a new shop - Bubbe's Bagels.  It's on the other side of town, but, as she said, Sunday morning is a good time for a drive - so off we went.

Bubbe is Yiddish for Grandma; it's what Taos Bubbe's grandkids call her and what I adapted for her blogonym.  The shop definitely channels a Bubbe like mine.  On a shelf in the storefront was a red and white plaid Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, a paperback Hadassah recipe collection, silver Shabbat candles and a wine cup for Elijah, as well as small coffee cups labeled shuguh and cawfee..... just like we said it in New York.  There are no personal touches in the chain bagel emporia.  This felt special.

The line was out the door at 8:45 this morning, but it was moving fast.  There were pretty yellow cafe tables and chairs in the small courtyard just outside the bagels.  JannyLou and TBG sat and rested their achy bones while Fast Eddie and I stood in line to order.  

We got bagels to go and sandwiches to eat there and when we went to pay I saw a bag with Taos Bubbe's name on it.  There aren't that many people with her exact name, and she lives in that neighborhood; Fast Eddie and the cashier and I had a fine time speculating about it.

I waited for the food, looking at the shelf and listening with half an ear to the cashier as she engaged each and every customer in a quick conversation..... and then I heard her say somewhere on Long Island.... I think he's from..... Oceanside?

I grew up in Oceanside, home to some of the finest bagels in the land.  I shared my surprise with the general public; the cashier apologized that he wasn't there.

It didn't matter.  I had a smile on my face before I took a bite of food.  

Fifteen minutes later,  as we chewed our way through bagels and lox and cream cheese with thinly sliced onions and tomato and a smattering of capers, there was Taos Bubbe, saying Hi! and pulling up another yellow chair, because that is what old friends do when they randomly run into one another.  

There were introductions and conversations and then she went her way, with her bag of bagels and white fish instead of lox, and we went ours, with our bags of bagels (and no fish).  

I'm trying to think of the descriptor for how I felt.  Hamish* comes closest.  The bagels had character, weren't doughy or crusty, had the little holes that three days of fermentation creates - they felt right.  Sitting with our friends, running into a friend, eating what I always ate on Sunday mornings - that felt right, too.

For sure, I'll go back.... if only to meet the man who created the space which brought the joy.  After all, we're lantzmen.**


*homelike, in Yiddish, connoting warmth and ease and familial comforts 

**from the same town, in Yiddish


Friday, October 15, 2021

Getting Away

Does it seem like we were gone for a long time or for no time at all? he asked me after we returned from our overnight at The Boulders.  We were gone for 24 hours.  Our minds tracked it as a very long time away from home.

Everything was different.  The bed was higher. The pillows were bigger.  The view out the window displayed big boulders and spiky trees, not Safford Peak and the sweet acacia.  There were people to carry our bags (not really necessary) and to answer our questions (very necessary) and to serve us food we didn't have to cook ourselves.

Vacation .... aside from visiting children and grandchildren we have done none of it for a very long time.  Our friends' invitation to join them for a night on their week long sojourn in Scottsdale was just the impetus we needed to get out of the house.  TBG is not big on travel, but a 2 hour car ride didn't bother him at all.  

The fact that there were good friends at the end of the drive helped a lot, too.

We were startled to realize that we hadn't visited since Little Cuter and SIR were married.  It didn't feel like that big a break; we email and she's still on Facebook so keeps up with the kids' activities.  Our children have had children and presents were sent and discussed.  Illnesses and accidents required attention.  But we'd not laid eyes on them for a decade.

We fixed that on Monday.  It was as if no time at all had passed.  Everyone looked the same (my hair is longer, but otherwise.....).  There were no awkward pauses, no delicate moments.  We've been friends for 40 years.  Our rich history and overlapping friendship circles coupled with individual adventures and stories and gripes and pronouncements and giggles.... the day flew by.

Neither Carefree nor Cave Creek had an open store - everyone was celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day, it seemed, and no one was shopping.  We drove through two ghost towns and returned to the resort.  There was no reason to leave.  Everything we wanted was right there - 2 dear friends who kept us laughing and feeling all the feelings.

We were home the next afternoon.  We have new thoughts to think and new memories to keep us connected.  There are lots of destinations within driving distance - we are definitely doing this again!

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Happy Birthday, Daddooooo

You weren't easy, but you were mine.

You knew more about so many things than anyone I knew.  Not all of it was true, but all of it was interesting.  You knew the details about the cobblestones on certain Manhattan streets, about who lived in which apartment in The Dakota, about who built which building where.

You took classes until you couldn't drive to Queens College any more.  You took copious notes and left them on scraps of paper in The Collected Works of Shakepeare, in Gilbert and Sullivan's Collected Works, in letters you sent my way.  I treasure them all.

You listed all the words you did not know, and put their definitions beside them.  

You were an ice skater and a skier until your body said No More.  You pulled our sleds up hills and ran behind us as we learned to ride a two wheeler.  There was always a kite and a swim suit in the trunk of your car.

You talked to everyone.... whether they wanted to talk to you or not.

You made an impression.... even when fading into the background would have been more appropriate.

You loved your grandchildren and they loved you.  

You were misunderstood (on the spectrum, in retrospect, undiagnosed).  

You've left a giant hole in the world.  

I'm going to get soft serve ice cream today (if only there were a Carvel stand in Tucson... alas) and stir it into soup before I eat it, just as you did.  I'll carry you around in my head and my heart, sharing my day with you.  

I miss you, Daddy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Butterflies are Back

Taos Bubbe and I went to the Tucson Botanical Garden last Friday.  She's new to town and I've made it my business to show her the sights.  These gardens are just the right size for the two hours allotted to our tickets purchased in advance, wear a mask inside visit.  We were greeted by painted horses, commemorating Tucson.  We are definitely house proud.

We admired the plant on the way to breakfast at Edna's Cafe, where our serverbrought the garden and citrus salad in a plastic martini shaker.  It was a delightful and semi-ridiculous presentation.
After breakfast, it was time for the Butterfly Exhibit.  
They hide in plain sight.
Did you notice these below in the photo above?  
How about this one:
The glasswork is as beautiful as the butterflies munching on oranges and bananas with their front feelers.
We admired them for as long as we could stand the humidity beneath our masks, then walked to the exit (a 2 stage process - through one door, check to be sure no butterflies were clinging to our clothes, the out the 2nd door) accompanied by this saucy wench:
She liked it so much she brought her family back over the weekend.
The server told her that the martini shaker salad is no more - the top flew off once.... and that was it.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Going on Vacation

We traveled everywhere with them - Puerto Vallarta and Palm Springs and Marin and Los Angeles and Laguna and La Jolla among others.  First with our 2 and then all 4 of our children, spaced bracketing each other so everyone got along, we ate and swam and laughed.

Mostly, we laughed.

They're world travelers hemmed in by Covid.  In an all too familiar story, they are flying only to visit their children and grandchildren.  Next week, though, they are venturing to Scottsdale, Arizona for a week of golf and sunshine and having someone else make the bed.  

We're driving up today and coming back tomorrow.  It's because of this trip that TBG and I got our booster shots.  We'll do a rapid test before we leave the house, and be sure our friends are disease free (at least as far as can be detected this way) too.  

After that, we're going to pretend that it's The Before Times.   

I'll take pictures and have stories to tell, I'm sure.  I'm taking tonight off from posting, just so that it feels like a real vacation.  I'll be back on Wednesday.