Wednesday, September 27, 2023


Here's another random street shot from one of my walking routes, along Fairhazel Gardens in South Hampstead. On the right you can see the kickboxing studio Gav the Champ, which I've photographed before. Right across the street used to be the dubiously named salon Ho Hair, though it's a coffee shop now. Farther along, with the red awning, is a wine bar called The Arches, which is a popular after-work spot for many of my colleagues. In fact, as I walked past right after taking this photo, I waved to four of them sitting out front.

I think this is a much more pleasant walk than Finchley Road. Some of you defended Finchley in yesterday's comments and said it wasn't as ugly as I was making it out to be. I think they key, for me, is the lack of trees. Trees make a street a million times more pleasant, and on Finchley there are virtually no trees and a lot of cars and buses. Plus the roadway has been built up above the sidewalk in places, so you feel like you're walking through a tunnel.

Anyway, I kind of like this challenge of taking a random street shot each day. Maybe I'll make a week of it.

Yesterday a workman came to inspect the gutters and do some repairs on the fascia board at the eaves, over our patio. Dave met him when he showed up first thing in the morning and then went to work, leaving the guy on his own to do the repairs. When we came home we found he'd apparently taken out some rotten wood and patched the sketchy spots (whether with new wood or some kind of filler I'm not sure).

I was annoyed, though, because the guy demolished a Hypericum bush we had growing next to the wall. Granted, it grew there of its own accord, in a crack in the pavement, and I'm sure he thought it was just a weed. But we left it on purpose and every year it blooms with big yellow flowers, and the bees love it. I guess it was in his way, and it looks like he literally just ripped it apart with his hands! I neatened it up with some secateurs and it will come back. But still -- for all he knew, that could have been my favorite bush in the whole world!

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Once...Maybe Twice

I tried another random street shot while walking home from work yesterday afternoon -- this time on Finchley Road, which has got to be the ugliest street for miles around. It's a busy six-lanes of stop-and-go traffic, overseen in this location by an electronic billboard advertising "The Kardashians" for Disney+. (The Kardashians don't seem very Disney, do they? What would Uncle Walt say?)

I blogged that white building on the right not quite a year ago. It still looks decrepit.

I don't have to walk on Finchley. There are two alternate routes to work, via Priory and Abbey roads or Fairhazel Gardens and Loudoun Road, that are much more pleasant. But Finchley Road is the shortest and most direct route, so I often walk it for the sake of expediency. Sometimes I get a bubble tea to make up for the visual brutality.

I called the vet yesterday and made an appointment for Olga's shots. They can't see her until Oct. 17, which is bewildering. Usually we get right in. Based on what the receptionist said, it seems they've started setting aside a certain proportion of their appointments for vaccinations and those fill up more quickly. Who knows what practice management technique is behind that decision. I'm sure it's economic!

Yesterday I mentioned one of my mom's favorite expressions, that everything has to be done at least twice.

That reminded me of an old t-shirt she used to have in the '70s with a different (but similar-sounding) phrase on it: "I'll try anything once...maybe twice."

My mom thought that shirt was hilarious. As a little kid I didn't understand it, and even now the vaguely risqué humor seems pretty subtle. She wore it for years.

Later on she had a much less subtle t-shirt from a furniture rental company that said, "I lease by the piece!"

Monday, September 25, 2023


Not a whole lot of news today, since I spent most of yesterday on the couch, reading. It was a great way to spend a Sunday, I'll say that much.

I've had vague ideas of taking a photo walk somewhere in town, but when it comes down to it I don't have the motivation to go. This is different from even five or ten years ago, when I struggled to stay home. What has happened? Is it age? The pandemic? I'm not sure. I just don't feel the same compulsion.

That's not to say I won't go again, but I have to psych myself up more.

I tried to call the vet to schedule a check-up and vaccinations for Olga, but our vet no longer keeps weekend hours, so I was routed to the sister clinic in Belsize Park -- and they can't make reservations for West Hampstead. So I'll call back today. As my mother used to say, everything has to be done at least twice.

Our sunflowers are continuing to open, as you can see in the top photo. Those are the ones on the patio. We also have a blooming primrose next to some asters that grew in a crack in the paving stones. (I should probably weed those pots -- but they're in keeping with our laissez-faire gardening style!)

Indoors, the new orchid (front) looks a lot like my favorite orchid (back). That's a pleasant surprise.

Speaking of orchids, one of the recently rescued orchids appears to be dying. The crown of the plant has gone soft. I don't know if it got damaged when it was thrown out or what, but losing one isn't terrible. The other four look fine.

Last night Dave and I started a show called "Minx," on Paramount+, about a woman launching a feminist porn magazine in the '70s. Historically dubious but kind of fun.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

The Dangling Cable

Yesterday morning the sun coming through the leaves of our spotted begonia turned them a fiery red. It's a beautiful plant. It probably needs to be trimmed -- it has several stalks that are about four feet long and they're a bit unwieldy. But I hate to cut it (even though I could root the cuttings).

I spent yesterday morning cleaning the house, changing the bed sheets, vacuuming, blah blah blah. Then I sat down with "Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow," which I have back from the library after surrendering it to that teacher who wanted to finish it. Since I'd only gotten about 20 pages into it on that earlier outing, I started from the beginning again and I'm well into it now. I'm really liking it.

Of course a day couldn't go by without the Russians presenting me with some sort of problem. I looked out our bathroom window and saw this white cable swaying in the breeze. It's coming from waaaaaaay up at the top of the house, where it was running along the gutter. I asked Mrs. Russia about it, and she said, "Oh, yes, it's an old unused cable so we just cut it."

I made plain that I didn't want it hanging down the side of the house and in front of our windows, so she agreed to lean out her window with some wire cutters and chop it off. It fell down into our side return and I put it in the trash. There's still a bit of it hanging up there but I don't see it so I can live with that.

Olga spent the morning on her new bed in the garden. She's adapting to it. As you can see, I was doing laundry too. A few more sunflowers have opened!

In the afternoon we took Olga to the cemetery. We hadn't been there in a while, and even Dave -- who thinks recreational walking is completely pointless -- came along. Olga chased her tennis ball and eyed squirrels with great hostility but couldn't quite bring herself to run after them.

We saw this very well-appointed grave. The red and pink flowers are cyclamens, and I believe that yellow bench is new, or at least newly painted. It's very colorful.

Speaking of colorful, last night we rented the movie "Barbie" from Amazon. I enjoyed it and I'm impressed that they (and when I say "they," I really mean Greta Gerwig) were able to take such potentially shallow source material and make a culturally relevant movie out of it. I've always thought of myself as a feminist but it made me consider ways that I perpetuate patriarchal ideas without meaning to do so. I think I'm more of an Allan than a Ken (if you've seen the movie you'll understand that) but I'm sure I benefit from maleness just as I benefit from whiteness -- in ways that are largely intangible to me but allow me to exist with a level of security that others don't share. Anyway, it was all very thought-provoking, and who expected a movie about Barbie to ever be that?

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Street Scene with Dental Filling

Last night Dave and I went with one of Dave's co-workers for a drink at our local pub. We decided afterwards that we no longer like this pub, which is a shame -- it used to be a good hangout but then they renovated and it now seems very soulless. It's also a ripoff. I spent £18 on a "black bean salad" that contained romaine lettuce, a scattering of kidney (not black) beans, some hot peppers and a few cubes of sweet potato -- maybe £3 worth of food. And I don't even like hot peppers so I pulled them off.

Anyway, I had a couple of glasses of wine to make it all palatable, and then on the walk home, while Dave ducked into the pharmacy, I snapped the photo above. I didn't have a specific subject -- just random street activity -- and wound up capturing three buses, a furry dog and a woman in a yellow-green coat. Life in West Hampstead.

I went back to the dentist yesterday. Remember my broken front tooth? Well, I showed it to the dentist and she examined it and kept exclaiming how "very bizarre" it was that it broke in the way it did. But fortunately the break was such that it was easily filled. I told her I wondered if it had something to do with my recent cleaning -- not in an accusatory way -- but she didn't cop to that. And indeed it may be completely unrelated. Who knows.

I'm just glad I can no longer feel that jagged absence with my tongue. It was driving me nuts.

As I wrote yesterday, the recent rain and wind has been battering our garden. I cut several stalks of the Alstroemeria (Peruvian lily) that were left dragging on the ground and brought them inside. Why give them to the slugs?

This morning, when I opened the back door to let Olga out, a chill hit me. I looked at the temperature and it's 48º F out there! (That's about 9º C.) And today is the Autumnal Equinox, so fall has officially arrived.

Friday, September 22, 2023


We've been having some gnarly weather here -- lots of wind and rain. My sunflowers are still standing but their stems have been tested! (I staked them up so they've had some help.) This is Olga on our walk yesterday morning, with a colorful arrangement of street gear.

I honestly don't have much to report, and I'm sure you're not interested in my reflections on Rupert Murdoch's retirement (my one-word summary: FINALLY!) or anything else in the news cycle. I have been listening to a fascinating podcast called "Q-Anon Anonymous," in which three regular hosts take a critical and humorous look at a lot of the weirdness in and around the Q-Anon movement. It's darned entertaining and my take-away, after hearing roughly seven one-hour episodes, is that there's a lot of undiagnosed mental illness out there.

Dave, meanwhile, has been watching YouTube. He looked up from his computer the other day and said, "A wuzzle is when same-sex dolphins get together for an orgy."

What did we ever do without the Internet? Honestly.

In the library, a child returned a book the other day that felt slightly lumpy beneath the dust jacket. (I handle so many library books I can immediately tell if something is off about one of them, just as I can immediately tell if a book is out of place on a shelf.) I peered beneath the dust jacket and found this:

So here's my helpful message to school children everywhere: PLEASE don't store your raisins in your library books.

(It's interesting to note that on the lower left flap of that raisin box is the date "Aug 22." I hope that's a date of production and not an expiration date. How long have those raisins been in that book?!)

Thursday, September 21, 2023

From Puppy to Peace Corps

Yes, that's me -- in 1975 or so, when my dad was building his new house after his divorce from my mom. My brother and I would visit him on weekends, and we'd often go to see the progress on the house. I'm holding Puppy, my favorite stuffed animal, a bedraggled dog with its tongue Scotch-taped to its face. My parents, like the Argentinian junta, eventually "disappeared" Puppy because they thought I was getting too old to be carrying around a stuffed dog, and they were probably right. (I was eight or nine.) Anyway, I've always liked this picture.

I came across this photo while looking for something else, which led to me combing through files and files of images. I thought, "Why not make this a blog post?" All photos were taken before 1993, and hopefully I haven't blogged any of them already!

This is me in 1984, when I was a senior in high school, with our two dogs, Herman (L) and Hoover. I've written about them before. That's our house in the background.

In 1989, when I was 22, I took a trip with my mom and brother to Glacier National Park in Montana. The Sydney shirt was sent to me by my Australian penpal, Narelle, when I was in college. Narelle and I wrote to each other for several years. She introduced me to the band Dead or Alive and was mildly offended when we exchanged cassette tapes and I told her she sounded British. "I don't think I sound like a Pom at all!" she said. I just never expected Australians to have accents. (Apparently I'd forgotten "Crocodile Dundee.")

This is me in about 1990, at a burned-out convenience store somewhere in Central Florida. You can't quite tell but I'm wearing a shirt celebrating banned books. It says "CENSORED" diagonally across a list of titles that had historically been controversial, like "The Catcher in the Rye" and "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich." I wish I still had that shirt!

In 1990 I went to San Francisco with my friend Arthur. That bag contained a loaf of sourdough that we ate for dinner -- and as I recall we ate ONLY the sourdough, and drank a bottle of red wine. Anyway, I was excited to be on Grant Avenue, which runs through Chinatown and is the title of a show tune from "Flower Drum Song" -- I had it on vinyl sung by Florence Henderson. (Yes, I had a Florence Henderson album. I know, SO GAY. I got it at a thrift store somewhere.)

That corner hasn't changed much. Here's a Google Street View image -- if you rotate it to the right you can see that signpost, still looking the same, as well as the fire hydrant. (The newspaper box is gone, though.)

This is me in Key West in the early '90s, in a truly ridiculous outfit. Those shorts had the Flintstones on them. Throwing my arms out is my standard method of trying to make a photo more exciting.

This old dead tree used to stand in a pasture not too far from our house in Florida. Again, I'm doing the arm thing, with a leg thrown in for good measure. I'm trying to imitate the outstretched pose of the tree. This was probably 1990 or so.

Here I am in 1991 outside the post office in Toast, North Carolina, which really is the name of a community near Mount Airy. I was with my friend Suzanne and we were greatly amused to find a town called Toast.

And finally, when I first went to Morocco in the Peace Corps in 1992, I stayed in a village near Essaouira on training. The guy in the red hat, Ali, was my host -- I slept at his house and he insisted that I ride his donkey to the training site. I was nearly as big as the donkey and after this first day I insisted on walking!