Archive | October 2013

The Pitchfork


Sure, honey, we’re both smiling now . . . .

One blustery fall afternoon, when I was in high school, a fellow student with whom I worked at a local stable snuck up behind me in the barns, put his hands around my throat, and “strangled” me.  From his perspective it was a joke, and he may have even had a crush on me, so it may also have been a bid for my attention.

My attention he got.  I very nearly killed him with a pitchfork, but I realized at the last possible second he was friend not foe.  My pitchfork went instead into thick hay bale, right beside his bicep, stopping only as the tines hit the wall behind it with a violent thunk.

Needless to say, he ended up the more terrified of the two of us. He asked for my forgiveness. I slapped him so hard his glasses flew off.

We never really spoke after that incident. But, one never truly forgets the first man one slaps. So I think of him every October though, when people put out hay bales for Halloween as part of a “scary” tableux.

I’d like to say I’ve changed since high school. But I haven’t. It’s simply not possible.

It’s all down to my mum. She’s always been an exceptionally fearful person. By age three, I was so used to her being afraid over nothing, I lost the ability to be afraid. In place of fear, I experience rage.

Apparently, my subconscious mind is filled with anger toward people who try to instill fear in others because I’ve lived with the reality of a family member crippled by it. I’ve seen fear’s awful consequences. I’ve had my life impacted even by another’s fear. But what goes around, comes around.

When I greet you at the door dressed as the innocent farmer’s daughter and carrying a pitchfork, don’t be foolish. Choose to take the candy corn treat I offer. Otherwise . . . the trick will be on you, dearie.

Shades of grey, or is it gray?


I’ve been doing  research for a new book (non-fiction, art-related) which I hope to have out by December 1.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon the difference between grey and gray.

I know.

How could anyone be excited over a discovery like that?

Admittedly, it’s not a cure for cancer, but I always use gray and  get blasted for it by friends who are authors, editors, English professor and other types of pillock.

At any rate, I shall keep you in suspense no longer . . . .

  • Grey with an E is the mixing of black and white.
  • Gray with an A is the mixing of black, white, and a third color so that the resulting color is a tinted grey.

Now go forth and impress some word snob carrying a dictionary.

La Forza del Destino — Mercury in Retrograde


This is just a fair warning to everyone.

Even if you don’t believe in astrology, find an unsuspecting Virgo or Gemini and make the most of experimenting on him/her for the next few weeks as he/she will almost certainly be in borderline paranoid state anyway. (I’m kidding!)

Actually, retrograde mercury is considered a chance to take the universe up on a cosmic do-over. It’s the prefect time to re- . . . .

  • Reorganize or redecorate  your space — I painted my bedroom, so I had to vacate till the paint dried.
  • Revise plans — So I went to the university symphony concert to hear La Forza and other Romantic period pieces.
  • Reconnect with someone — where I ran into Fling and passed notes about the awful string section, the horrendous horns, and young violinist who was a dead ringer for Paganini.
  • Revisit former interests — Then we went out to our favorite Greek fish house
  • Rediscover yourself — where I was hit on by a waiter!  And Fling met up with his girlfriend!
  • Revive projects that were put on hold — The following day, I finally went to the zoological museum’s annual open house.
  • Redefine your goals  — where I realized I really should join the local Audubon chapter.
  • Review your finances — and invest in some better binoculars
  • Re-establish your priorities — because life’s too short not to really enjoy it
  • Research some unexpected opportunities — which is why, when Der showed up late last night,
  • Renew, regenerate, restore — we rebooted our relationship entirely .

Above all, remember that Mercury goes back to his old self Nov 10!  But that doesn’t mean you have to!

Adventures in irony


I came into possession of a Nook HD+ recently.  It was free, with ThankYou points.

I always buy a physical book — if I can get it. That said, I read an enormous amount of very old, out of print, and out of copyright books. These books, from the 1600s to the 1930s, are often only available electronically, from Google Books,  Internet Archive, Jstor, or other such sites.

So, for reading ancient tomes, I actually needed a modern e-reader / tablet. Ironic, no?

I chose the Nook HD+ with Google Play because the 9-inch screen makes PDF reading easy — and it was free.  I then upgraded the memory to a 64 GB chip.

The Nook works great right out of the box for a lot of people. But rooting it (so it’s an open Android tablet) is also an option. Rooting it makes the battery last longer, speeds it up, and keeps the processor from overheating. So I rooted mine, and then I loaded the Nook App back on to it –because I only really use it to read.

I know. Irony abounds.

Anyway, Christmas is coming and if  you’re looking for an good tablet to do most everything on (except take pictures — there’s no camera on a Nook) the Nook HD+ is a bargain. Buy it and run it as is or buy it and root it. Either way, you’ll have a great device and cash to spare.

Rooting is pretty easy. All you need is a blank chip, some free downloads, and the free CyanogenMod instructionsCyanogenMod‘s 10.1.3 (Jelly Bean 4.2.2) is what your putting on in place of the firmware.  I paid about $15 for step-by-step instructions (from the guy in this video below) because it saved time.

Non-geeks have options too. Android for Nook  sells pre-programmed 32GB Dual-Boot Micro SD Card– for $20.  Just slip in the chip and I can boot it up either as a Nook or as an Android tablet. RootMyNookHD and N2A Cards  are two other companies which also sell pre-programmed micro SD cards.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to read a scathing review of the 1883 Paris Salon and then discover the nautical adventures of Anton and Cecil, cats at sea.


The other night I found this on my phone.

Just this, nothing else.

Der Rosenkavalier had left it.

It’s funny how two people can have meaningful conversation without uttering a word.

This is one of my favorite pieces, Erik Satie’s Gnossienne No 1.

Satie was into gnosticism, an esoteric form of Christianity. Gnosis means knowing in a way that’s personal, not simply having knowledge of something.  It’s connaitre rather than savoir, or  kennen rather than wissen. It’s a distinction in many Continental languages that English lacks. 

Gnossienne is a word that Satie made up, but from the way its ending is written it implies that it’s a woman in the know.

This version is played French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet — one of my favorites.  He’s famous for wearing red socks and striped formal wear. He has a home in LA (as well as Paris) so he plays locally a few times a year. He’s coming back to LA in February 16, around Valentine’s Day, to play Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F.  Thibaudet, though French, is a great lover of Gershwin’s American music.

Trains are something Der and I had a conversation about. They are so much a part of European life that today they are regarded as utilitarian. In some ways, their association is more with work or school than travel. But to Americans, trains are still romantic travel. They represent adventure, possibilities, freedom — the very antithesis of a daily 9 to 5 slog.

So, too, we spoke of clouds. Here in California, clouds are more rare than gold. In Northern Europe, however, they are unremarkable. I told Der of how I always want window seat whenever I rode a train in Europe, not to see the scenery but the clouds. It was then, too, I admitted I was a the owner of several books by the  International Cloud Appreciation Society.

He laughed, but clouds became our shared secret after that. He’d say things such as “I saw a nimbostratus today and thought of you.”

How long it took him to find this video, I can only imagine. The emerald bracelet, a reference to how our relationship might be a beautiful but dangerous thing, was grand. But as grand gestures go, this video was surely the grandest yet. I would have thrown myself in his arms — had he not been 1300 miles away.

So  make what you will of this video’s meaning. For myself, I already know.

A whiter shade of pale


In what surely was the strangest doctor visit ever, my dermatologist sat me down, looked at me very seriously, and said,

“You should move.”


“Your skin is too fair this part of the country. If you stay, you’ll have to wear long sleeved clothing, hats, etc. Sunscreen isn’t enough. That or you’ll have to live indoors and only venture out between dusk and dawn.”

Really, I thought he was joking. I know I’m pale, but . . . .

“I’m serious.  With your genetic background and your family’s history (thanks mum) of melanoma, it’s too big a risk. Life in Southern California, even the Southwest, isn’t healthy for you. “

At some level, I knew this was coming. I’ve had all sorts of skin problems since I arrived here, up to and including a bout of pityriasis rosea and a staph infection that caused my hair to fall out (the cure was apple cider vinegar, African black soap, and monistat, but the hair grew back).

I love California, the people, the landscape, it’s a great place. But I’m just not genetically equipped to adapt to this climate successfully. I accept that.

I came here originally to help out with my grandfather, who has since passed. There was really no reason to stay on, other than I’d developed friends and grew close to my gran and some cousins. Maybe it’s time to move on? Maybe the Universe is saying, “Pack it in, my dear. Better days and greener grass ahead, but elsewhere.”

Perhaps I’ll migrate to the Pacific Northwest in the Spring?

Oh foolish heart


This is my favorite painting, White & Pink Mallows in a Vase, by Henri Fantin-Latour.  It’s not far away at the Norton Simon Museum.  In 1967 Mr Simon traded a five-story Upper East Side mansion on  East 79th for this painting.

The deal was actually for two paintings. But he only wanted the Latour and sold Renoir’s Woman with a Rose.  I love that he did that. A man unafraid to ditch a celebrated artist’s work because he didn’t like it is a man after my own heart.

But back to the mallows. Mallows are the last flowers of summer. If you cut the down, they reflower in the fall. I think Mr Simon must have known this and that knowing this made this painting even more precious to him in the years immediately following its acquisition.

In 1969, Mr Simon’s only child, Robert, committed suicide. The loss was devastating and he retired from active business. The following year, 1970, Norton decide to throw himself into politics, but lost his bid for state senator (running as a Republican tend to do that).  After the loss, Lucille divorced him.

I imagine Mr Simon looking at this painting, during those two years of loss after loss. I imagine him thinking, beauty endures. Yes, I was cut down in summer, but like the mallows I can flower again in the autumn of life. And so he did.

Mr Simon followed the light of his heart, art. He found restoration, love, and purpose, through the beauty of art. In 1971, Mr Simon married actress Jennifer Jones. And in 1972, he began to acquire a museum that would, eventually, by 1974, bear his name and pass on his collection to the world.

We’re kindred spirits, Mr Simon and I.  We love what we love.  We follow our heart. We don’t care about critics. And when we spot “the one,” we aren’t afraid to trade our mansion for it.

I keep a print of this painting in a place where I’ll see it first thing every morning and last thing every evening. Just to remind me, foolishly following one’s heart is often the wisest move of all.