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!

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Drying Out

It's a bit early for the leaves to start falling, but I'm already finding some interesting ones on my walk to work. At least, they're interesting to me!

Yesterday I had to race home in the middle of the day to meet with the contractor who's supposed to finish our bathroom/hallway renovation work. You may remember we had much of our bathroom replaced this summer, which fixed an internal leak in our shower. Since then we've been waiting for the hallway wall to dry out so it can be painted. (It's a very dense wall. I think it's plaster and lathe, but there seem to be bricks involved too, so I'm not sure of its construction.)

I went to work in the morning, because I had a noon appointment with the guy. Or so I thought until I checked my old e-mails at 11:30 and realized I was supposed to be home to meet him RIGHT THEN! How did I screw that up? I have no idea. But I raced out of there like a jackrabbit on bennies and/or dexies, and still managed to get home before the contractor, who fortunately was running late himself.

He used his little moisture-measuring gizmo to determine that although the wall is slowly drying, it's still too damp to paint. "It must have been absolutely saturated," he said. He's going to recommend scraping off the old plaster to give the wall more breathing ability, and they'll re-skim it before painting.

Meanwhile they're coming next week to look at the gutters and eaves around our patio. It's always something. At least I'm not paying for any of it (well, except through the rent).

I've been cutting back on my alcohol consumption for a while now. Not that I was ever a huge drinker, but at one point I was having a gin & tonic and/or a glass or two of wine almost every night, which really did feel like too much. I was modeling that behavior on my dad, who had a cocktail and wine each evening in his later life, but I've stopped the gin (except on Fridays!) and now I'm going for several weeknights each week with no wine either.

One thing I've noticed is that it seems to make a big difference in my sleep patterns. If I drink nothing, I sleep much more soundly and often through the night with no interruption. That doesn't seem to be the case after just a glass or two of wine.

Anyway, I feel better and I'm sure it's the right thing to do. Especially since Dave no longer drinks, having given it up because of his Crohn's disease. Wine used to be something we could enjoy together with dinner, and it went hand-in-hand with Dave's culinary training, but now it seems a little desperate for me to drink alone. (Dave actually encourages it, saying he's living vicariously through me. I tell him he's like the Bad Idea Bears from "Avenue Q.")

Last night I made a reservation for a little getaway during our October break. We'll be staying in a grand country house outside London, Olga in tow. It's good to have an escape to look forward to!

Speaking of Olga, I finally had to throw away her Union Jack dog bed. We've had it for about ten years, and it was quite faded, but after it recently developed a couple of huge holes I decided enough was enough. Olga has a replacement bed but she doesn't seem to like it as much. Perhaps she misses that connection with her sense of British patriotism.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Can Pilot

The apple-tree-in-a-bag is looking grim these days, and we haven't even had a very dry summer. I guess the fact that it's managed to survive almost four years should be impressive enough -- certainly longer than I ever expected.  I don't think it gets much care, beyond the owners adding soil to the bag over time. I would still love to know how it got there in the first place. What possessed someone with no yard to try to grow a mature apple tree on their second-floor patio -- in a bag?

I wish I could snap my fingers and magically transplant it to an orchard somewhere. When it finally does die, it's going to be a pain to discard.

I called the dentist yesterday about my broken tooth. I can't get in to see her until Friday morning. I think this is partly because she only works part time. At any rate, that's fine -- I'm not in any pain so I don't mind waiting. I have a sinking feeling that she's going to want to do some elaborate repair job.

I came across this interesting cream soda can while walking Olga on Sunday morning. Who is that, I wondered? Charles Lindbergh? Sir Edmund Hillary? No, it turns out to be someone named Mike Miller-Smith, whose dreams of being a commercial pilot were sidelined by muscular dystrophy. Miller-Smith went on to found an organization that allows disabled people to experience flying. Apparently the brand Soda Folk recognizes various everyday "heroes" on their colorful cans.

I've mentioned before that my brother and I used to collect beverage cans when we were kids. We would have loved these!

Monday, September 18, 2023

Rainy Day Reading

I took this photo in the tube last Wednesday, when I made my trip to the embassy. Remember the screaming hand of Santa Cruz skateboards? I was surprised to see it turn up in such a commercial location, but I'm not sure why. I guess it's a brand like any other.

I'm happy to say I plowed through the remainder of "Demon Copperhead" yesterday. (And yes, I did mistakenly call it "Demon Copperfield" in yesterday's post, until an astute reader pointed out my error, which I have corrected! Like The New York Times, I acknowledge my screw-ups.)

It turned out to be a good day for reading. The morning was gray and rather forbidding. Olga and I took an early walk down to the high street but that's basically just around the block, to the extent that there even are blocks in London. (Funny how "around the block" seems like such a natural expression, and yet vast numbers of people -- possibly most people -- don't live in places with actual blocks.)

I saw the immediate aftermath of some kind of urban conflict but I wasn't sure what happened. A person walking with a bag, a kid on a bicycle, his face covered by a balaclava. The person with the bag was yelling and cursing, I believe at the kid, who I immediately suspected of being up to no good. Anyone wearing a balaclava on a relatively warm day is suspicious, in my book. Olga wouldn't do a lick of good if I were robbed on the street but I do think having her beside me makes me less of a target. Then again, I wouldn't even have been out there if not for her.

I cleaned the house and cared for all the indoor plants. And then, in the afternoon, we got a pounding rain shower.

This looks like pretty much every other rain video I've ever uploaded, so don't feel obligated to watch it. I made it mainly because I like going back later and seeing what the garden looked like at different times and in different years. I'm thinking it may be time to crank up the dehumidifier again. Our flat always starts feeling so damp in the fall.

In the afternoon I tried to walk Olga during a break in the rain, but she was having none of it. She was content to curl up on the couch. When I think of how that dog would drag me all over Hampstead Heath not that long ago, it seems astonishing that now it can be hard to get her out the front door! Especially if the sky is looking gloomy. She's smart -- she knows what a grey sky means.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Lifting the Bluebeard

Yesterday morning turned into a gardening blitz. I hadn't done much in the garden for a week or two, so things were getting a little overgrown out there. I started trimming here and there and before I knew it I'd filled three yard waste bags.

The flower above is called a bluebeard (Caryopteris). We have two of them, and one has been slowly swallowed up by the out-of-control English ivy that grows beneath our Philadelphus. (This ivy is a scourge.) So yesterday I cut all the ivy out of the bluebeard and lifted the rather scraggly looking bush onto a support to get it off the ground. I've been meaning to do it for ages so now I'm glad to have it done.

I also trimmed the neighbor's rose overhanging our patio, aka "the monster," and trimmed the buddleia near our garden steps -- it's done blooming now and I want more light to reach the potted plants beneath it. And I cut down our cardoon, which had died back for the season (a bit early, it seems to me).

Anyway, I don't need to run through every single thing I did, but suffice to say I was out there several hours and I topped off the day by mowing the lawn.

Olga seemed happy with the results.

Meanwhile, on the front porch, the gazanias are looking a little peaked, but they're still blooming.

I spent the afternoon reading "Demon Copperhead." I'm enjoying it but I feel like I lost momentum last week, when I got so busy at work. I didn't even pick it up for about five days. You know that terrible feeling when you're about halfway through a huge book and you feel like you're losing your grip on the plot, because you haven't been able to read in a while? I hate that. Anyway, I'm hoping to plow through the remainder, or at least a chunk of it, today. I have about 150 pages left.

(Edited to correct the title of the book!)