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What Is an Intellectual?

I’ve always voraciously consumed the news, but I’m checking out during Les Folies Trump. As I drove home from visiting a hospice patient yesterday, I listened to KUSC instead tuning in to “All Things Considered.” After “The William Tell Overture,” which I turned up to a deafening level and thoroughly enjoyed, the announcer asked, “What is an intellectual?”  He answered his own question: “Someone who can listen to ‘The William Tell Overture’ without thinking of ‘The Lone Ranger.’” That made me laugh out loud, and despite the hazy, grief-stricken pall of the day, I felt a small spark of joy.

As we do every four years, we invited the neighbors in to watch the returns Tuesday night.  I chose these wines both facetiously and with an undercurrent of nervousness.

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As you can see, they remain unopened because the gathering went quiet pretty quickly and the crowd dispersed without partying much.

I won’t be able to bear reading or hearing about the Donald and his Super Model, so in the coming months I’ll pass my free time reading, writing, and listening to music instead. I’m going to start with the work of Irish poet Michael Longley:

The Design

Sometimes the quilts were white for weddings, the

design

Made up of stitches, and the shadows cast by stitches.

And the quilts for funerals? How do you sew the

night?

The sky may indeed be falling, but at least for awhile, I’m going to pretend not to know about it.

Party Politics

Like the swells that we are, David and I hobnobbed with Michelle Obama and Donald Trump this weekend.

On Saturday morning, we went to the dedication and ribbon cutting at the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library on Atlantic Avenue in North Long Beach. The First Lady wasn’t there, but even without her presence the community turned out in force, all dressed up for the occasion.

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The site of the new library was once a movie theater, built in 1941. The building has been completely refurbished, but the original spire that glowed atop the theater to lure the crowds was preserved.

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dsc_0073The throngs who turned out for the opening, cheered enthusiastically and streamed into the new facility outnumbered the few haters in the community who opposed naming the library after Mrs. Obama, an effort spearheaded by Jordan High School students who successfully petitioned the Long Beach City Council to vote unanimously in favor of the name. Hundreds of people filled out applications for library cards, which was great to see.

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The space will be a vital place to gather, read, and learn.  Or perhaps even worship.

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As for the other party, we picked up our piñata from Fiesta Piñatas on Friday. We ordered it quite some time ago, but heard nothing. When David called to inquire, he learned that there had been an accident. The first one’s head was damaged in transport, so they were making another one for us.

Because we didn’t know quite what we were getting when we ordered this, sight unseen, both of us laughed when we saw it.  It doesn’t bear quite the resemblance we expected.  Maybe the (yet undamaged) head isn’t yuuuuuge enough?

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Done All Right for a Girl

I fall into that sad category of “too young for Woodstock and too old for Coachella.”  So while at age 12 I missed Melanie at Woodstock, I did see her in summer 1974 at the Schaefer Music Festival in Central Park, shelling out a meager $2 for that privilege. I’ve always loved her — her surprisingly big voice with its occasional slight rasp, the way she stood up on stage with just her guitar.

Melanie performed last night at a house concert in Claremont, an intimate gathering of about 30 people. Before I went, I fished out my Melanie songbook and remembered my insufficient attempts to strum “Peace Will Come” or “Candles in the Rain.”

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It was sad and slightly shocking to see that the years haven’t been kind to her. I anticipated a silver-haired version of the Melanie I’d seen 42 years ago, and winced guiltily when she recited a monologue from her 2012 musical, “Melanie and the Record Man,” in which she admonishes her audience for expecting her to remain frozen as that sylphlike, iconic version of herself.

Melanie

She looks to be in poor health, helped on and off stage by her son Beau, whose solicitousness of his mother was touching. She spoke with a hint of wistfulness about performing for 500,000 people at Woodstock. Still obviously grieving her husband of 45 years who died in 2010, she mentions that he “took care of everything” and said that until recently, she’d been drifting on her own.  I suspect that she struggles financially now despite two gold albums, a gold single and a Billboard award for Top Female Vocalist.

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When she developed a tickle in her throat during her set of old and new songs last night, an obliging fan jumped up, dashed out to his car and retrieved a half-empty bottle of tequila. A shot was sloshed into a coffee mug and downed by the singer. “Did you drink the other half on the way in the car?” she asked her impromptu voice doctor, and the audience laughed.

Although “Brand New Key” sold 3 million copies worldwide, Melanie described coming to loathe it for years as a “silly” song that branded her as “cute.” She’s come back around now to appreciate the hit again, she said. It wasn’t the song’s then-risque sexual double-entendre that made it revolutionary, or even the supposedly sinister reference to “key” for kilo of drugs. When she sang, “Some people say I done all right for a girl,” that bit of social commentary went unnoticed in 1972.

The evening left me thinking about how fleeting the time seems, the nature of success, and girls who have done all right despite setbacks, sudden losses and things that can’t be helped.

 

 

 

 

Eating the Sun

 

We’re overrun with Lemon Boy tomatoes, the yellow variety with a slight tang that makes them delicious.  My favorite way to eat them is Harriet the Spy style, on wheat bread with a thin scrim of mayo.

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Did you read Harriet the Spy as a child?  If so, you’ll recall that she ate nothing but tomato sandwiches.  I credit Harriet with my desire to become a writer. She spied on people around her, recording her deadly observations about them in her composition book.

Harriet the Spy

While pregnant with Christopher 21 years ago this summer, I ate Lemon Boy tomatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  When he was little, he was a regular in our backyard garden, uprooting a carrot, onion, or “garlics” as he called them.  I used to tell him that eating so many Lemon Boys while I was expecting him was the reason he was such a sweet, nice boy — it was like eating the sun.

Christopher with onion

Christopher is visiting us for a couple of days this weekend, on a short break from his summer jobs in San Diego.  Here he is with his cousin Savannah, at our impromptu dinner party last night.

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Ironically, he loathes tomatoes, carefully picking them out of the salad and scraping them from his slice of pizza.  He wouldn’t eat a Lemon Boy if you paid him. Despite that aversion, having him around even for a short time is like sunshine in our lives.

Dalai Lama in the Campsite

This advice from the Dalai Lama was on a magnetic sign stuck to a bear box in the backpackers’ campsite in Tuolumne Meadows, where David and I stayed the night before we set out on the trail for Clouds Rest.

Be Stoked

It was a long and beautiful climb, with a slightly nerve-wracking bit at the end described as a “knife edge.” It wasn’t quite that perilous, but I didn’t look down on that part of the trail.

A Long Way Down CR

I loved that this hiker made tea at the top, setting out these festive red cups.  At 9,926 feet, this nicety seemed especially pleasing.

Time for Tea

The day was glorious and clear, so we had the full 360 degree view from the summit. Evidently, on some days the clouds do indeed rest on the top of the mountain and obscure everything, so we were lucky.

Not for Nothing Do They Call It

On our last backpacking trip to Ten Lakes I loaded up my pack with too much food and clothing. My determination not to make the same mistake meant that I was hungry and cold some of the time, but that was better than staggering under the weight of a too-heavy pack.

We laughed at the campers pictured on this dehydrated meal package—so clean and jolly!

Dried Food Must Be Good

These ginger candies are said to help prevent altitude sickness. Both of us had slight bouts of nausea, headache, and light-headedness, but not too bad.

Gin Gins

We didn’t encounter a single bear on the trail or in our campsites, even though the ranger warned us before we set out that the trail to Clouds Rest is “an active bear corridor.” However, after four days when we got back down to the trailhead, we saw that a bear had investigated our car. No doubt, he or she was looking for eats but thankfully went on without breaking in.

Bear Wants Into the Prius

Running water, clean clothes, and a comfortable bed are always a welcome part of getting back to civilization. Not so the barrage of terrible news after a week of a complete media blackout. To “be stoked” in such discouraging times, I’ll create a haven in my mind with the memory of this alpine meadow.

Gorgeous Stream

 

 

 

 

A Few Things to Be Glad About

As the name of this blog implies, any day on the green side of the grass is a reason to be glad. Here are a few more for today.

The frilly elegance of this volunteer gladiolus that appeared in the yard. We have no idea how the lone stalk got there, because neither of us remembers planting any glad bulbs. Nevertheless, we’ll welcome its showy presence.

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Volunteer on the Moccasin Trail in a shocking pink helmet. His fashion serves as a festive tribute to the fact that seven years after the devastating Station Fire, the area is slowly healing.

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Good health except for poodle dog bush rash. The deceptively pretty poodle dog bush blooms only after a fire, and causes severe dermatitis. It’s akin to poison oak but ratcheted up a few. I must have brushed up against some of it Saturday, because my left leg is a bubbly, itchy mess. However, on the scale of possible health problems this is very small indeed, so I’ve decided to be glad about that.

Poodle dog bush

 

Who’s Not Calling, Please?

After one look at the bill from Frontier Communications, which recently took over for Verizon in our area, David called and canceled our landline and TV service. We had one of those “bundled” packages, the cost of which had soared. Grimly resolute, David waited on hold for more than an hour, but finally got through to break the deal. One second after the call, the phone was dead and the TV blank and inoperative.

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I won’t miss the TV because I never watched it, something I say cautiously because that statement can have a ring of snobbery.  It’s not as if I’m reading Proust in the original or writing a novel  instead of tuning in to Game of Thrones; it just never occurs to me to turn the TV on. And now I can’t.

I pity all those telemarketers and robocallers who won’t be able to reach us today on the home phone. No more home security pitches, threats of a warrant for my arrest from fake IRS agents, or chirpy recorded voices promising lower credit card interest rates.

I’m also nostalgic for those old, heavy Bakelite telephones, and calls that might bring an invitation or a connection with a relative or friend who’d been out of touch.  I’m remembering having to ration and keep long distance calls short, always made on Sundays after 5 p.m. when rates were lowest. And running to answer the phone, wondering who was calling. I also wouldn’t mind a day with a slow enough pace that I could actually take the seeming infinity to call someone by dialing a number on a rotary phone.

And while I’m at it pining for things that are no more, I wish I had the brain and memory I once did, with the long-gone ability to store and rattle off phone numbers at will.

What phone call from the past are you remembering today?