Tuesday, April 30, 2024

The Hardest Problem

I loved Lawrence of Arabia.  Not just the movie, but his whole story, right up to his fatal motorcycle accident.  Gertrude Bell, an archaeologist and Arabist and British diplomat, a woman who rode around Mesopotamia like it was Kansas, held my interest for quite a while.   

What no one told me was what those two were up to after WWI.  By the time the Western powers were finished divvying up the spoils, the groundwork was laid for disaster.

No one wanted the refugees created when Israel was formed.  

No one seems to want them now.

When I was in Hebrew school, twice a week from elementary through high school, I never heard anything about those displaced when Jews found a safe haven from the hate in the world.  The land was barren and empty until those hardworking Zionists came to town.  Suddenly, there was irrigation in the Negev and civilization from border to border.

Was there nothing there before?  It was certainly never mentioned.

And now all those displaced persons' descendants are once again unwanted.

And the Jews are unwanted, too, with antisemitism on the rise and now heightened by Bibi Netanyahu's absurd incursion into Gaza.  And yes, it is an absurd incursion.  If their special forces couldn't find the hostages then and can't find them now, then bombing the whole place to extinction is certainly not going to find them in the future.

It's possible to be Jewish and against all this, in Israel and in the US.  It's like loving America but despising what the Lying Liar did in our name.  It's loving America but despising LBJ's perpetuation of the Viet Nam War.  

The news of what's going on in Gaza has pierced the veil of TikTok videos and Instagram selfies on the phones of this generation of protesters.  That's a good thing.  People should be outraged.  Young people should sit in and march and share what they know and what they feel.

They should also be prepared to suffer the consequences.  Having an arrest record changed the course of a friend's life, and he was mad at the system.  But the system was what he was railing against; what did he expect?  

Having the courage of your convictions sometimes involves real courage.  As the police march onto campuses we will see just how deeply held those convictions are.  

I'm glad that the noise has been raised.  I'm glad that the issue made the front pages.  If I were paying for that education, I'd wonder what else they thought they'd accomplish.  Finish the degree.  Run for office.  Be the change.  It doesn't take much to get arrested, it seems.  The work of tikkun olam  - repairing the world through action - is much harder.  

Monday, April 29, 2024

Three More Weeks

It's not even May yet.  Three Mondays from now, the Prince scholars will be on their summer break.

Did I mention that it's still April?  

When I was a child, school went through the third week in June, usually coinciding with Brother's birthday.  May was for starting to work on your year end project.  May was not for summer vacation.

It definitely feels like summer, though.  It happened overnight, everyone agrees.  One day it was cool in the morning and the next we were sweating through our usual 9 am walk.  The container plants need watering twice a day.  

Shade is at a premium.  The principal's husband drilled a hole in the stump of our dear, departed tree and now Grandma's Garden has an umbrella. Parking spaces under trees are at a premium.  

My navy and black clothes, my long sleeve shirts, and all but one of my sweatshirts are comfortably ensconced in a clear plastic container, ready for TBG to lift them up on the shelf and out of the way. It's white pants and cotton skirts and sleeveless linen tank tops from now until Halloween.  

I have three weeks to gather my end of year treats for the teachers and staff and the garden leaders.  I have to figure out how to divvy up the plants in the garden.  Who will take home the blueberries?  The strawberries?  All those scallions attached to onions below?  

No more pot roast for a while.  Chicken salad and gazpacho are just more appealing as the temperatures edge up toward the 90's.  

The pool really doesn't need the heater.  Pulling weeds then jumping in the most water we've ever owned reminds me why I love living here..... even if it's likely to hit 100 before school is out in three weeks.

Three more weeks.... have I mentioned that it isn't even May yet? 

Friday, April 26, 2024

Beauty and The (Absent) Beasts

I thought I'd seen everything, until Sunday afternoon.  

TBG's spin class had a party in Doug's backyard, with its spacious grounds and fantastic views.  There were a few birders in the group, and they kept me amused by identifying the calls we were hearing. 

Then the host said he had something that someone could try.
It's a hummingbird hat, complete with nectar holders in front
and a strap in the back.  
Stability is probably important if the birds come calling.  That night, they were uninterested.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Ready for Some Comic Relief?

The Supreme Court dallies, the war against women continues, and the sun waited to come out from behind the low, light grey clouds until just after 5pm.  I was in need of a smile, and the talking heads on MSNBC were up to the challenge.


On March 25, Christina Bobb was named the Republican National Committee’s senior counsel for “election integrity .  

Today, less than a month later, she was indicted by Arizona's Attorney General for her role in the fake elector scheme to undermine the integrity of the 2020 election.   

I'm reveling in the irony.


For those not living in the weeds with me, here's Wikipedia's introduction to our next giggle: John Charles Eastman is an American lawyer and academic who has been criminally indicted and recommended for disbarment for attempting to keep then-president Donald Trump in office..  (emphasis added)

Joyce Vance, former US Attorney and current law professor and writer of a wonderful Substack, opined on the sad state of John Eastman's life with this:  Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.


And finally there was Joy Reid, contemplating the probability that one of the eighteen co-conspirators in Arizona's election interference case would flip on the others:  An indictment certainly clears the mind.


It feels good to laugh, doesn't it?

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

As If It Couldn't Get Worse

The first thing that happened wasn't a surprise.  The Supervisor rang our bell at 7:30 to share his plan for the day.  Once certain measurements were made and approved, his team would fill in the hole and be out of our way.  We were to expect him to be back around 10am.

10am came and went.  

At 11:06am, we had lost everything except electricity.  No internet.  No land line.  No television.  No wifi hot spot. 

After resetting the system with Xfinity's AI (shudder) didn't help, I wandered back to the burly young men in the ditch behind my home and asked if it might be possible that our problem began with them.

Much mumbling ensued.  Feet were objects of great interest.  When they realized I wasn't going away, one of them said something about maybe cutting a cable.  The Supervisor wasn't around.  I left them in the ditch.

Inside, I called Xfinity and explained the situation to a live human.  She bumped it up the food chain.  When I returned from lunch (a post to come) TBG met me in the hall.  They called with the worst possible news.  Xfinity won't come if there's an open hole and work in progress.  The guys say they won't be finished until Friday.  We have an appointment for next Monday.

No connectivity for a week was unacceptable to TBG, who watches the markets and Perry Mason and over-dressed humans talking about sports all the day long.  I wondered if Little Cuter remembered how to post here, to explain my absence.  

As TBG considered expensive solutions, I called the contractor.  The receptionist listened to my tale of woe and said the person I needed to speak to was gone for the day.  She did not realize to whom she was speaking.

I explained that her company had broken stuff, that we were unwilling to shoulder the burden of living without this stuff that they broke, that it seemed to me that they were going to be on the hook for our hotel bill... which reservation I couldn't make because I had no internet.  I needed help because this was an emergency, a disastrophe of their making.  I tried to sound as pitiful as I could.

She sent me to a voice mail but he'll be off the phone soon and call you, I  know he'll call you.  (He never called.)

The Supervisor rang the bell as TBG fumed.  He was perfect.  He'd fill in the hole and Xfinity would do their thing and all would be right with the world.

A delightful if somewhat talkative young man at Xfinity called a friend, if I would just hold on for a bit, and before I knew it I had an appointment later that afternoon.  

Things were looking up.  Then the doorbell rang.  We shared a look, I opened the door, and saw an Xfinity guy in a red polo shirt running to a white Xfinity repair truck while waving to me and saying You're good to go!

After calling into the house to share the good news with TBG, I walked out back to The Supervisor.  

Did you do that?  How did you do that?

I have friends in low places.

Best answer, ever.  

He laughed and told me about the status of the project, what to expect going forward, all the while smiling as I gazed upon him with admiration and respect and delight and profound pleasure in spending time with someone who is very good at all aspects of his job.  

And one who is willing to, as he told me, make calls to low places.

I hesitate to say the saga ends here........


Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Earth Day (Belated)

 (This is the 8th post I ever wrote, back in 2009.  I like it just as much today as I did then.  That must be true, since I have now posted it 14 times... even one day late, it still resonates.)

I like Earth Day. I was there at the start, after all.

Created in large part by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, in the world of 1970 it was a touchy-feely alternative to the harsher realities of the anti-Vietnam War protests. War was such an uncomfortable subject and arguing against it made your parents wonder why they were spending tuition dollars while you were telling the lawfully elected President of the United States of America that you knew more than he did. With your picture in the crowd on the front page of the NY Times. At 18 years of age, no less. 

But planting trees? Recycling newspaper? Not littering? And all this in service to Mother Earth. Who could be aggravated about supporting Mother Earth?

Earth Day had teach-in's. They were more fun than sit-in's, which invariably involved police and disciplinary action. They were less fun than be-in's, which owed more to Timothy Leary and The Grateful Dead than to anything political or practical. Teach-in's were earnest and had hand-outs and statistics and pictures of desolate landscapes ravaged by the cruelty of man. There was science and legislation and outrage and lots of tree give-aways.

Earth Day had no mandatory family gatherings. It required no gift giving, no card sending. You went outside and did something - cleaned a playground, weeded a median strip, planted one of those free trees. You felt good because you were doing good.

Now there is Earth Week and "We're greener than you are" tv networks. Were this still 1970, there would be protests about the idea being "co-opted by 'the man'". Instead, Sheryl Crow is designing re-useable grocery bags for Whole Foods and Wal-Mart is selling others next to the discounted paper towels.

And Mother Earth is grateful.

Monday, April 22, 2024

All Things Come To Those Who Wait - A Gardening Snippet

Sixteen years ago I planted two yellow Mexican birds of paradise, anchoring a corner of the front yard.  Their cousins, the reddish ones, have thrived over the years.

I transplanted one to a shadier spot a few years ago, on the theory of the right plant in the right place.  It died.

So imagine my surprise when I went to pick up the Sunday paper and saw this.

My patience with the scrawny bush has been rewarded.  It's finally joining the yellow season.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Summer is Coming

My bluebells are spent.  They now look red on the bottom and white on the top and scruffy all over. They really need to go.  The gardeners aren't coming for two more weeks and these guys will only get worse over time.  Obviously, it's a chore for me.

I started on it on Monday.  I filled a giant blue IKEA bag with plants I pulled from the ground.  They released quite easily, their root systems apparently designed for a short lived burst of color rather than as an anchor for a long and prosperous life.

Bending over wasn't difficult.  I started with the Nanny Pose, my mother-in-law's stiff legged, bent at the waist with arms dangling method.  TBG always described it with laughter.  I look at it as the first step in getting all the way down there.

I moved on to the Bent Knee Nanny, then took it to the ground.  On a foam kneeling pad, I sat in High Kneeling, letting my arms swing around me, grabbing what I could easily reach.  That devolved into sitting back on my heels, then cross legged on my butt, and then the bag was full.

Fifteen minutes and I was drenched in sweat.  

It was mid-afternoon, the temperatures were in the 70's, the sun was blazing, and the desert was reminding me that yard work starts at sun up these days.  I proved that to myself all week, as my calendar took me away from home every morning and deposited me in my driveway around noon.

Now, it's 6am, the sun just peeked over the Pusch Ridge, and there are shadows everywhere.  I'm off to pull more weeds.  I think I'll change out of my night shirt first.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

The Last One, I Promise

When push came to shove (oh, I cannot believe that not only did I type that but that I'm leaving it in) the decision was clear.  I was never going to walk outside and use the purple porta-potty.

Yes, upon closer inspection the thing is bright purple.
Turns out that the hand washing station is outside the business end of the situation.  This is important since I misunderstood the description of the disruption - nothing should go down any drain during their working hours.... showers and sinks as well as toilets.  

We wash our hands a lot in this house.  Hand sanitizer doesn't quite feel the same.  Washing while admiring the view feels like an acceptable sacrifice in the service of functioning waste disposal. 

Beyond that, we each have a designated bathroom far from the bedroom.  It's not ideal, but it's a lot. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

A Decision Has Been Made

There is a bright blue porta-potty sitting on my neighbors' driveway.

Next to it is a shiny silver sink and soap apparatus.  

I'm wondering if random unhoused people will see it and take advantage of the fact that it's neither locked nor hidden away.  

I debated walking over and checking it out for myself, but the thought of walking outside to do what must be done had pushed me to deciding that there is no way I'm going to be taking advantage of that clean and private space, provided by my County at no charge, for eight hours every day.

There are places I can go.  

Okay, I'm just leaving that there for a moment.  

I will spend some time at Prince and I'll go out for lunch.  Amster's house is always available.  It's only from 7:30 til 2:30; I think we'll survive.

Definitely a first world problem, and one that's bringing a murky problem into specific relief. (Kudos if you got the American President reference.)  There are women all over the under-developed world who go in pairs to the bushes to avoid being preyed upon when they are most vulnerable.  It feels kind of churlish to ignore the kindness of a personal potty right next door.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Damning With Faint Praise

I fell in love with John Grisham when I read The Firm.  In 1991 I was living in Chicago, with two kids, a wonderful sitter, and time to indulge myself.  I knew lots of Big Law lawyers like John Grisham.  I was impressed that a partner at a fancy, downtown law firm had the time to write a best seller.  And he wrote some good ones.  

I enjoyed The Pelican Brief and A Time to Kill and The Rainmaker.  The Runaway Jury told the best of all of those stories, and that's saying something.  Each one of them is memorable, decades later.  The names of the characters have escaped me, but their escapades are still kicking around in my deeper memory banks.  

Things happened in those books.  There were surprises.  You had to pay attention because not everything was what it seemed.  

That was not the case with his latest oeuvre.  The Exchange is a sequel to The Firm.  It's about gathering money to ransom a kidnapped lawyer.  The title was kind of a spoiler.  

If I cared about any of the characters, I might have been as insulted as they were that phone calls weren't returned in a timely fashion, that national governments were reluctant to negotiate on the main character's terms, that Big Law partners were greedy. 

But Grisham never expands on any of them beyond where they live and how much money they have.  For those without money, their descriptions lie within their rung on the corporate ladder.  The kidnapped woman cries a few times.  Her sick father is hospitalized a few times.  Told from a distance, that's about as emotional as the story gets.

When a serious bout of food poisoning - the who/why/how of which was a tantalizing storyline left disappointingly unexplored - is the most action packed sequence in the book, you can bet there is trouble ahead.  The kidnappers were never identified  Absolutely nothing unexpected happened, and what did happen was boring.

Flying on private planes sounds like fun.  Five star hotels and limousines and friends with secluded island retreats who would just love to have your twin boys and your in-laws drop in for a few weeks to hide from dangerous bad guys sounds like fun.  

It's too bad the book is no fun at all. 

I wish the words lived up to the quality of the paper they were printed on.  It was a pleasure to turn the pages; they were thick and the perfect shade of white and made a satisfying sound when grasped. 

It's pretty sad when the physical book outshines the content.  I can't recommend this one at all.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Casual Misogyny

It was a lovely funeral, celebrated for one of TBG's spin class buddies.  It was a two-fer; her sister died three weeks before she did.  They were both active in the church which hosted the service; their ashes were sprinkled on the grounds, beneath a cross, together forever.

The pastor knew them both quite well.  So did most of the attendees.  Stories were shared, praise was heaped, love was everywhere.... until it wasn't.

One of the stories revolved around a dance, referred to as a meet market. At least that was how I interpreted the sweet story to which it was attached, until mention was made of the meat and the heifers he saw there.  

I tried not to gasp too loudly.  The pastor smiled broadly, and repeated the tale, in all its cringe-worthiness, as he delivered the final Prayer for Peace.

I'd been able to find beauty in some of the passages he read.  I was impressed with his kindness to the congregation, most of whom he'd seen just three weeks before.  He was welcoming and thoughtful and his casual misogyny rankled all the more because of that.

This is why an 1864 law can be passed in modern day Arizona.  The disrespect, the obliviousness, the hurt that any woman who'd ever had that insult tossed her way, all this from the pulpit, from a man of God, an authority figure.... this normalizing of the indefensible is why we are where we are today, teetering on the edge of electing a sexual predator to the highest office in the land.

It's just not right. 

Friday, April 12, 2024

An Unfortunate Occurrence

Our Neighbors On The Other Side noticed effluence spewing from the backflow valve down in the open space between and behind our houses.

Pima County was quick to the rescue, sending a crew to survey the scene and plan for the repair.  Apparently, that repair requires shutting off our sewer service while the contractors fix the leak.  A lovely supervisor rang our bell and explained that they work from 7:30am until 2:30 or 3 in the afternoon, and that they'd probably be here for several days.  He encouraged us not to flush our toilets during that interval.

He offered us brand new, really clean, private Port-A-Potties to use for the duration.  One here... or over here... and one for them over on their side.

The situation offers many avenues to wander.  Do we visit friends for the day?  We have lots of bathrooms; do we not flush and bear the consequences? Do we let them install those celebrity portable toilets on our front yard?  Would we use them?  And how about the New Next Door Neighbors whose house is on the market for a sizeable sum?  Big, blue toilets don't add much to the ambience.

We will survive.  It's annoying but necessary.  I just wanted to share.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Sticker Shock

Have you rented a car lately?

TBG refuses to take two trains from the suburbs to the suburbs on our next vacation.  He wants to rent a car, even though it means he has to drive on a highway he detests.  He won't have to share his space with anyone but me.  He won't have to worry about the motorman's competence.  He will be master of his own fate.

I didn't think it was a bad idea to rent a car and make the 2 hour drive.  A one day rate wouldn't be terrible, and anything is better than a grouchy travel companion.  

Then I searched.  And I gasped. The least expensive day rate was $169.  

And then I looked at the public transportation options.  Amtrak for $130 and 5 hours.  Local trains, with a 38 minute lay over over a 4 plus hour trip, clocked in between $84 and $184.

And none of them were convenient.

So we'll bite the bullet and rent a car and recognize that while on paper Joe Biden is doing a great job with the economy and jobs an infrastructure, it now costs $200 to rent a car for a day.

Easy to see how inflation is still at the top of voters' minds.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

A Travel Day

Up before sunrise.

Refusing to pay $4.95 for a mini-muffin at SFO.

Saying Yes to the offer of a snack from the flight attendant, only to be handed a chocolate chia cookie.  

Planning to bake brownies to thank New Next Door Neighbors for keeping watch over the house but falling asleep for most of the afternoon.

And now I am staring at this screen with a brain reacting to the altitude.

I'll be back tomorrow with something more interesting.  

I'm going back to sleep.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

What Eclipse?

Here in Northern California,  Main County's eclipse experience was a non-event.

I made pinhole cameras for TBG and me out of Honey Bunny's smash cake box, cutting off the sides and using one for the pinhole and one for the display screen. 

Perhaps I failed in creating an acceptable hole in the tin foil, because all we saw was a square of light.  We were properly angled.  We were out at the right time.  And we saw nothing of note. 

Like the men's NCAA Final Four,  which was played in a football stadium,  the best seat in the house was in front of my tv.

Monday, April 8, 2024