Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ethnically incorrect artistic assumptions

I recently had an appraisal by a bank loan officer.  His name, given to me beforehand,  was recognizably Japanese.  So, in addition to trying to 'unclutter' every room and make sure the surroundings looked spacious as possible, I polished my three tansus, pulled out additional Japanese artifacts, and awaited favorable comment.  (I even stuffed several large dog beds into my car, front and back, because there was no other place to get them out of the way.)

Lesson learned.  After entering my "Japanese" bedroom, and getting no response.  I pointed out one of the tansus.  "Oh, I thought it might be Craftsman," was the reply.  I nodded at another tansu and the pottery tanuki on top, adding "they're vintage Japanese." All I got was a puzzled shrug.

Then my visitor told me all about a home he appraised in Pasadena which was electronically wired against intrusion because the owner had an entire wall of valuable Japanese paintings.  "They must have been old woodblock prints," I suggested.

Later, when he referred to "those block pictures," and told me that the Mexican food in Sedona was the best he had ever had, it became clear that a Japanese heritage does not mean either an appreciation of, or an interest in things decidedly "of a place."

The same must hold true of any culturally-specific artifact, or food, or clothing -  not necessarily appreciated nor recognized by someone from the culture.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

More on Sierra Madre's new Farmer's Market

A few weeks ago I blogged in dismay about the reopening of the farmer's market in Sierra Madre.
Location much improved - tree-lined street, easy access.  But, only a four or five farms with produce, the rest - prepared foods, and predictable clothing.

Things have picked up.  More farms, fresh bread, baked goods, fresh fish, and variety of merchants.
Still a 'work in progress' but obvious improvement.

Fingers crossed that it survives, and thrives.

Monday, July 25, 2011

More about children and dogs

Two little boys, aged three and five, approached us on our daily walk, with the proper greeting, "May we pet your dogs?"

Then the older surprised me by asking if MaeRose had fangs (at first I thought he said 'stains') -
and then he asked me if she was a vampire.  The final question, which he posed seriously, pointing to Darby, "Can I pull his tail?"

That is the first time a child has asked that.  We have met literally hundreds of young children with our volunteer activities for the Pasadena Humane Society - all ages from infancy to teenaged.  Even tho' some are afraid of dogs, none has asked about vampires, or permission to pull a tail.  There is always a first.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Another morning in Sierra Madre and surroundings

This morning a large coyote raced past me and my two dogs  - on a tree-lined residential street - another ho hum moment for seasoned residents.  I wonder where it was going in such a hurry.  Or where it hides out in these many blocks of homes and commercial buildings.

In 1984, months prior to the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.  newscasters, newspapers (yes, there were several) and local pundits predicted a massive traffic jam from the beaches to the foothills.  Warnings, alternate route directions, stay at home pleas, overwhelmed.  And, then the two weeks arrived - to the joy and wonderment of those of us who traveled everywhere by automobile - blissfully enjoying clogless freeways, and the cachet of bragging about getting from Pasadena to Santa Monica in less than 30 minutes.

And now, July 2011, comes a repeat - carmageddon, cartastrophe, carmania - all because for a weekend the 405 Freeway is going to be closed for a ten mile stretch.  For weeks we have been promised round the clock news coverage, traffic officers working triple overtime, speculations of major never before seen bumper to bumper jams - interviews with brides choosing alternate routes for wedding guests, interviews with families fleeing on vacation, interviews with construction crews threatened with $72000 an hour fines for every hour past the deadline for freeway reopening.

Next week we will know - another 1984 summer?  Who knows?

Yesterday the new Sierra Madre Farmer's Market opened - what a disappointment - two vendors with vegetables, two with fruit, one with fish, one with almonds (expensive!) two ethnic food stalls, four booths with limp unappealing flea-market style clothing, one with pseudo-vintage pillow covers and frayed straw hats.

All the pre-opening publicity led me to expect much more. I will, instead, join the throngs at the Saturday market in Pasadena.

Guess you can tell this is a morning of partial venting.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Another dog tale - two living happily in a truck cab

An enormous shiny red Volvo truck cab minus its trailer parked outside the Pasadena Dog Park last week.

It is state of the art - no manually shifted gears, just an automatic shift resembling a small baseball bat with a selection knob on top.

Traveling cross country from Colorado to southern California every week  were the the two drivers (man and wife), and their two larger-than-average-size dogs - a Sharpei named Winston and an Italian mastiff named Paolo.  Their first stop in Pasadena is at the dog park, where the four-legged occupants romp happily and the two-legged drivers stretch their legs before heading to 24-hour Fitness - part of their regular routine.

The two truckers share the 17 hour drive to Breckenridge and back  - each driving halfway.  They recently acquired the mastiff - a replacement for one who died a few months ago.  The Sharpei looks old and a little weather-beaten.  Paolo, on the other hand, has a long way to grow into his extremely floppy loose skin.  He flops around, skin sagging and drooping from chin, chest, hindquarters.  When it's time to get back in the cab, he puts his paws on the first step, and gets lifted up and shoved in.

Everyone seemed to be enjoying their 'life on the road' - the dogs sleep, the drivers drive, the products get delivered.

Summertime and the fruit is tasty

The Saturday morning Farmer's Market in Pasadena draws enormous crowds, especially during summer months. Every third or fourth vendor offers strawberries - very much in season, and all advertised unashamedly as 'the sweetest.'  Stone fruits, berries, even a few apples - along with a glum-faced farmer whose booth promises that his hydroponically grown tomatoes are 'like a tomato should taste.' When I saw this legend on a banner over his booth I started to laugh.  I have yet to find a really good tomato (other than from a backyard garden) in any grocery, high-priced or tumble-down, anywhere on the west coast.

The beefsteak tomatoes grown in the southeast are beyond compare.

Haven't tasted the tomatoes I purchased from the cheerless farmer yet.  I'm counting on them having a happy taste - despite his gloom.

A year or two ago the parking lot at the market was redesigned.  Apparently in order to make every driver crazed.  Bumper cars in a maze.  Each entrance overflowing with long lines led by a gas-guzzling vehicle, blinker on, unmoving - waiting forever to squeeze into a too-small space.  Exiting is as difficult. Every driver in a moving car maneuvers triumphantly down a single lane,  while all the other lanes merge to a standstill.

Post script - the tomatoes did not 'taste like a tomato should' - no big surprise.  The next time I went to the market the crowds were as big, and the drivers were just as impatient.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

He's in the dryer

Rose, our mobile groomer, knocked on the door to pick up MaeRose.  I asked where Darby was -
the response - "He's in the dryer, and he really seems to like it."

For the next hour I sat and giggled at the idea of Darby being 'in the dryer.'  Sort of like imagining him in the oven, or the dishwasher.

Of course, I had to see for myself.  The dryer is a large glass enclosed rectangle, with sliding doors -
which wafts a gentle breeze.  Much nicer than a loud electric blower.

Stroll in Sierra Madre Part Two

Friday morning in Sierra Madre - white-bearded man crouched on curb -a pug  on each side - one yapping as ferociously as only a pug can.  Across the street a young man pushing an acoustic lawnmower.
Where do they find someone to sharpen this relic?

At the crossroads - ginormous black mastiff-like dog, large black poodle, various others of lesser identity.

Several loose cats - MaeRose at leash-end tugging till her collar strangles. If she were a few pounds heavier, she and I would tumble.  I have put the gentle lead back on Darby to slow him down - he is not lured by cats, just too eager to dash down the street at walk's onset.

Sierra Madre neighborhood walk - again

Walking through the park this morning we saw a neatly dressed gray-haired man with two young girls by his side.  Both girls chorused  "May we pet your dogs, may we pet your dogs?" They ran up telling me
"we've been trying to get the those men over there to stop fightingtheeyllls. "  After they had repeated "fightingtheeylis" and I asked if they were talking about "owls," their companion (father? grandfather?)
translated "fighting Israelis."  Rather startling comment from the under-five set. Another notch in my belief that adults mold and children are pliable.

Later we met one of the first-grade classes from Sierra Madre School, lined up along a wall outside Bean Town, slurping ice cream from cone and bowl.  "MaeRose, MaeRose," greeted Charlotte, jumping down to meet us. (Charlotte and her sister Madeline are among the faithful readers we meet for our monthly Barks and Books visit to the Sierra Madre Library.) We were soon surrounded by a swarm of children
patting every inch of Darby and MaeRose front to back, top to bottom.  Their teacher promised to visit us next time Barks and Books meets.


Beverly Cleary - on the occasion of her 95th birthday

The first time we read a Henry Huggins book my sons were four, six, seven and eight. They, and I,  were so enchanted by Henry's adventures, that I wrote Beverly Cleary a thank you note - for writing stories which rambunctious young boys found laugh-out-loudable .  About that time I also wrote a fan letter to Bob Keeshan - aka Captain Kangaroo.

Dare I say that was 48 years ago?  I received  a reply from each.  Wish I had saved them.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dog tumor adventure

In December two weeks before the date scheduled for tumor removal, 

I discovered that MaeRose had gnawed into the tumor on her right front leg,  and split it open.  We rushed to Dr. Watanabe's, had a long wait, and when he saw her he said that I should keep it uncovered over the weekend so it could scab over before Monday's surgery - which would be squeezed in ahead of schedule.  

The weekend was dreadful.  I bought a new expensive Comfy Cone, which MR managed to drag across the tumor - leaving a trail of blood in her effort to get at it -
so I put her back into the plastic cone from the vet's.  

That first night I tired shutting her up in the kitchen, hoping to keep the rest of the house gore-free.  When she realized that Darby and I had gone to bed she went through several stages: 
1. Barking  
2. Barking louder
3. Barking woefully and even louder
4.and two hours later, managing to knock down the gate and drag herself up the stairs - open plastic cone dangling from her collar.

Saturday -
Rain, rain, rain.  The dogs don't like going out in the rain, and MR was even more reluctant than ever.  
All day long I cut the toes out of old socks  to cover her tumor, the only thing Dr. Watanabe said I might do - he had absolutely refused to bandage it.  MR gnawed, slurped, nibbled -
anything she could think of to get at the tumor, dragging the edge of the plastic  cone over it - ick.  More blood - and soggy soggy pieces of sock.

Sunday  - the same - the day seemed endless.

Monday morning - arrived at Dr. W's. to find that they had a very busy schedule.  Everyone was horrified when they saw what MR had managed to do - at least half of the tumor was gone - looked like a torn tennis ball with jagged edges - I guessed she had decided to do her own surgery.

Late Monday - $933 bill (teeth cleaning included) - nice green bandage, plastic cone secure.  Dr. W. said that she had used her teeth to push some of the tumor down into tendons, and that he had ordered another pathology ($175) - I'm a little uncertain about the details of his reasoning - one of those end of the day somewhat rushed conversations.

MR settled into her new cone-head routine beautifully.  Every now and then she came up to me and looked wistfully - "What in the world is this thing on my head?" I cleared paths inside and out - but she had no  trouble eating, drinking, jumping on my bed, into the car (for little trips) - and you can see from these photos - she squished herself onto a stool so that she could look out the window.  

Couldn't wait  for the bandage and the cone to come off.  There was no scar or something which she could chew on, just a little row of white thread - to mark the top of the incision against her black fur.

All this time Darby did  not get much exercise - and let me know it.  He opened drawers, knocked over wastebaskets, and tried staring me down with a baleful look.  I'm not sure who won.  

When the second pathology report came, it indicated that the tumor had been cancerous.  Next step was a chemo pill - so potent that I was instructed to wear rubber gloves when handling it.  

And, now, in April when I am finally posting this, the tumor has not returned.  But, then there was the husky attack - five of them - 

to be continued.

More grammar woes - grammar snob am I

I can't stop getting uptight, annoyed, grinding my teeth, wondering if I am out of the loop -
it's all about the universal misuse of pronouns.  Are we heading toward the day when sentences such as "Sonja and him make a great pair," "My coach and me went to the finals," "Her and my mom are best friends"are standard English?

I could fill page after page after page with quotes from the media - among them, yesterday's from Luann, one of the New York housewives, and a "Countess" who has written an etiquette book.  She is responsible for the first of the quotes above.

Will the day arrive when English handbooks accept the objective pronoun as the subjective one?
Usage, so they say, is fluent and subject to change.  My mother used to insist on the proper use of "whom" rather than "who."  When I hear it used correctly nowadays, it sounds quite stilted.

Do teachers even bother to correct their students, or are they setting the example? When I was calling on college professors, representing a major educational textbook publisher, I met many who taught essay writing but admitted that they did not correct students' grammar  - implying it would inhibit creativity.

Which leads to more than one generation of graduates and post-graduates who mangle the language blissfully - and us older fuddy-duddies whose numbers grow smaller every day.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Gum Chewing in public appearances and the anatomy of a cow

Showing my age, attitude, disdain - so what?

Just saw an interview with Jamie Oliver, Food Revolution guru, about his appearance at the Los Angeles
Unified School District Board.  He offered to visit their schools to offer alternatives to the food choices currently provided to the students.  His mission is to instruct, encourage healthy eating, and to change the obsession with junk food among the majority of today's school children.

The camera panned across the faces of the School Board members - impassively listening, many barely paying attention, not a glimmer of encouragement - but what struck me enough to write this blog entry was that several of them were chewing gum - at least I imagine it was gum - what else do people chew nonstop nowadays?

Needless to say, Oliver's request was turned down, and some of the Board continued contentedly munching their "cuds."

The next televised segment showed Oliver visiting a school leading a cow to a pile of hay.  The cow's hide was chalked into sections - to show various parts of its body.

I wonder how many of the School Board members know anything about the anatomy of a cow.
Do they know that it has four stomachs (accurately, "chambers")- or what cud chewing really is?

Interested in public school education? Take a look sometime at the televised meetings of the LAUSD Board -

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Copyright ownership - whose is it?

At a recent gathering of children's writers a question about posting on blogs came up. One participant insisted that Google owns the copyright of anything posted on blogspot - but the Google website covering blogger and blogspot seems to contradict, and to a certain legalese extent, clarify it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dog and people strolling in Sierra Madre, CA

Temperature in the mid-70's -  brilliant blue cloudless sky - helicopter circling foothills - day workers slumped hopefully on park benches - mothers and grandparents pushing strollers - (lots of infant twins in this town) - and dogs large and small trotting down the boulevard.

Along comes a plump woman, short in stature, zealous in wardrobe - snug cap, winter coat,  dress striped and polkadotted, white furry boots, rouged cheeks, penciled eyebrows, with a comment: "I need a dog to walk in this town."

I'm wearing shorts, the doodles are thirsty - no time to stop to see Neil the pig.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Soloing - at the movies and in the sky

More years ago than I can recall, I was the only passenger in a two engine commercial plane on a flight from San Francisco to Monterey, California.  Long ago enough that I was met at the gate by an attendant who escorted me to an exit, down a flight of stairs, across the tarmac to the plane. (no security screening, no shoe removing, no patting down)  Outnumbered by the crew of three, I enjoyed luxuriating in the fantasy of owning my own jet during the short, low altitude flight.  Landing in Monterey, alighting with no passengers following me down the steps, walking to the terminal to meet a childhood friend hosting a long-anticipated reunion - all in the lap of pseudo luxury.

And, yesterday I had another almost-solo experience - at the movies.  I decided it was time to remove my name from the few who had not yet seen "The King's Speech." I chose the 11:20am screening at the Krikorian in Monrovia, where, in magnificent stadium seating, I sat alone - wondering momentarily just how safe it was to be all by myself -  when two more people entered the vacuum.  But, three we were - and only three, for the entire time - trailers, ads, and the feature.  I found the film enjoyable, but with almost too many closeups of Colin Firth aka George VI trying his best to release words stuck firmly in his mouth.  I enjoyed the aging of his wife - creatively stuffed bosom as she aged.  Helena Bonham Carter is a force unto herself - as always,  terrific!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

British accents and BBC attitudes

I've been a subscriber to Netflix for almost as many years as its existence. However, I am not finding as many new Hollywood releases with the appeal of previous years.  Instead, I have enjoyed a host of foreign films, British comedies and dramas, and lately some British action series - among them several seasons of MI-5 -the British equivalent of our CIA.

The MI-5 portrayal of the CIA is amusingly lopsided.  Gum-chewing top-level administrators, agents with jarring fake American accents, and almost always a mole or traitor in their midst.

It's the accents I have the most issue with (or should I write "with which I have the most issue"?)
Seems that when some British actors try to create a genu-ine American accent it will sound nasal, stilted and stiff.  Just can't overcome the high-falutin' English upper class tongue.  Not to mention some of the dialogue written for the Americans!  Do our lovers nowadays call each other "honey"?

Some British actors can create a standard American accent without flaw - witness Matthew Rhys in the series "Brothers and Sisters" or Australian Rachel Griffiths in the same series.

Note: in the interest of accuracy - the reference to "American" in this post refers to so-called standard non-regional English spoken in the United States.  This used to be the only speech permitted on radio and television - nothing with even a tinge of southern, accented, slangy.

Lisa See -author with a terrific sense of humor

On Saturday, February 12, Friends of the Sierra Madre Library sponsored a talk by Lisa See, author of On Gold Mountain, our one-book one-city selection for 2011.  Terrific turnout, delightful speaker, with a wicked sense of humor.  On Gold Mountain was published 15 years ago, and remains a perennial favorite.

Winner of several awards, writer of best-sellers, and member of the famous Chinese family of multiple Sees, which includes her mother, the author Carolyn See, Lisa See exhibited standup comedic skills.
Among her topics: her great grandparents' manufacture and sale of crotchless panties for brothels,
her grandfather's fondness for pornography, the eccentricities of her always-barefoot anthropologist father, the whispers about ancestral polygamy.

An audience question led to observations about the Chinese antique shop Suie One, on Colorado Blvd.
in Pasadena - filled with enormous idols, furniture, temples in their entirety, which the proprietors  make certain are never  purchased-- by keeping the shop closed most of the time.  Many of the pieces are more than one hundred years old, imported en masse from China by See ancestors with an acquisitive eye, but no plan to sell.

More than twenty years ago I stepped into the cavernous musty interior of Suie One,  where I was met by two women dressed in long, loose-fitting dark clothing, tall and vaguely disinterested in having to deal with a 'customer.'  Now that I know the back story, I understand.

There were no price tags on any of the merchandise.  A 'if you have to ask,  it's not for sale' contrarian attitude. One of the women told me that most of the artifacts were for loan to movie studios, and never for sale.  I inquired about a small paper-covered decorative chest, and was told that I could telephone in a day or two to find out if it was available, and what the price would be.   There was an excuse about its being on hold for someone, and my follow-up led nowhere, as I recall.  That was during my Asian-artifact phase.  Around that time I attended my first-ever auction, where I bid on a Japanese tansu, lost to a higher bidder, and then bid on and won another.  When I learned that my first bid had been against a dealer I was impressed with my discerning eye, disappointed in not going higher.

After hearing Lisa See, and enjoying an audio version of Shanghai Girls (sequel coming in May, 2011 -Dreams of Joy) I read  Carolyn See's book on writing, which contained a tip mentioned by Lisa -
write 1,000 words a day - just four pages, but five days a week - always.

I am about to decide that blogging will be my daily stint.  

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Uganda marathoner, Kenya Peace Corps, Trader Joe's and a scuba shop

This morning,  in line to check out at Trader Joe's in Hastings Ranch, Pasadena, I had a hard time not staring at a stunning intense-black woman whose poise, posture, trim legs in shorts,  spoke "athlete," "native African" and whose brilliant smile spoke silent volumes.  She and the clerk chatted about Kenya, and their respective children. The clerk, name-tagged "Scuba" (a nickname from the 14 years he owned a SCUBA gear shop) willingly shared details about the departing woman.  She was from Uganda, an Olympic track medalist, astonishingly 57 years old, now living in Pasadena.  I would love to know more. I don't know her name, so can't check the Olympic medal attribution. She certainly looks the part.

I also learned that the clerk had been in the Peace Corps, spends time in Kenya frequently, speaks Swahili, and is married to a Kenyan.
All this while paying for two-buck chuck, crackers, cookies, protein bars, Charlie Bears - filling two heavy bags full of impulse buys - the usual overdoing at TJ's.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cursive writing - down with the pencil - off with the grammatical head

A few weeks ago I blogged about the way handwriting evolves to become individual enough for experts to identify.  This morning I heard a news bite which makes my curiosity both pertinent, and obsolete.

Apparently the state of Georgia has decided to remove cursive writing from school curriculums (or is it curricula?) - replacing it with instruction on computer skills.  And so it goes.  From scratching on cave walls, wax tablets with styli, slates and chalk, moveable type, Number Two pencils, pink rubber erasers and paper, and a big leap to tweeting and texting -

As for spelling, and using correct grammar (what at one time was considered a sign of a good education) -
nothing but a downhill road.

I started making a note every time I heard someone on television or the radio saying "him and me went"
"Her and I dined" "me and my mom are ..." - and I soon had a tablet filled with these stumblers.

I will have to find something more earth-shattering to fuss about.

What do these have in common?

Entire loaf of whole wheat bread and wrapper, bar of glycerin soap, plastic comb, bottle of blood pressure medicine, slice of eggplant, pumpkin cheesecake slab, cube of butter, crabmeat crepe, slice of poundcake, rubber stamp, lead pencil, tube of dog toothpaste, numerous sandwich top slices,
rat poison cube, pot holder, velcro hair curler, slice of ham surrounded by the broken bowl it was snatched from, entire seven inch long chicken and liver dog treat sausage roll - three inches wide,  carcass of a baby bird, dead rat. wing-flapping hummingbird ...

Somewhat gruesome list - maybe some of it is a 'giveaway.'

Over an eight year span - consumed in whole or in part, or captured,  by the doodles - Darby and MaeRose

Monday, January 17, 2011

Saturday morning in Sierra Madre

What a delightful Saturday morning walk in Sierra Madre.  My friend Michelle,
my labradoodles Darby and MaeRose,  and I,  in just the span of four blocks met a couple who live on the grounds of the Huntington Library - and who, among other dogs, own two young Australian labradoodles; a flirtatious Italian-expatriate local property owner, and a cyclist who is the CFO of a neighboring community and former college water polo player.

From the doodles owners, outdoor breakfasting at one of Sierra Madre's landmarks,  we learned about a local breeder of the authentic Australian labradoodle,  and received an open invitation to visit the Huntington and to join them at the next doodle romp.

From the flirty Italian we received an invitation to ride on his exotic two-front-wheel Vespa.

From the former water poloist we learned that the best way to float in water with no fear of drowning is to 'play dead' - leaning forward like a floating body.

Michelle works seriously toward becoming an accomplished swimmer.  I work seriously at overcoming fear of sinking in deep water.

We both love the Huntington.

I love my dogs.  I have never ridden on a motor scooter.