Posted by: Catadromy | December 30, 2021

Sailing to Byzantium

That is no country for old men…

Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.

Along with everyone else, I now divide my life into the Before Times and After. After what? Before the ravages of corona virus. Before the isolation. Before the destruction of the economy. Before the nearly 5.5 million deaths worldwide. Before 822,000 deaths in the US. Before life was completely upended for everyone. Before businesses were forced to close—new businesses, long-established businesses, places you thought would always be part of the fabric of life—all gone. Some in a poof! Some after extended death rattles. But gone, nonetheless.

Thomas Wolfe was famous for saying, ‘You can’t go home again.’ I’m a New Yorker. I knew my city like the back of my hand. She was comforting and familiar. And exasperating. And irritating. And frustrating. And rewarding. And New York was home to me. In the words of Robert Frost, ‘Home is the place where, when you go there, they have to take you in.’

I always tried to get home with some frequency just for a visit. Sometimes to catch up with old friends, family, or just to catch an exhibit at the Met, a Broadway show, explore a restaurant—hang out, experience New York as it always was.

But now, there’s no going home. The virus has changed travel. The economic destruction wrought by the virus have so drastically changed the face of the city, that I don’t know what I will find even if I could travel there. I’ve lost my connection to home.

What will After be like? When I get back to New York, what will I find? What will I see? Will any of my favorite places still be there? What about the familiar ones? Will they be replaced by new places? Will the old places be reborn? Or just gone to dust and memory?

When I was a kid living in Brooklyn, I used to hang out at what we called a candy store. I guess today’s equivalent would be a bodega. Maybe not. Candy stores were sui generis. I don’t think there is an equivalent today. The candy store sold newspapers and magazines and comic books and penny candy and candy bars and loosies (individual cigarettes) and cold drinks—7 ounce bottles of Coca Cola for a nickel—and odds and ends like rubber bands and pencils and loose paper and Spauldeens and had a payphone or two. There was a small counter where you could get egg creams and ice cream sodas and cold sandwiches.

The floor was made out of raised wooden slats, I guess so the dirt and schmutz could fall through and the place didn’t have to be swept out every day. The candy store, my candy store, was on the corner of 13th Avenue and 50th Street and had a round red Coca Cola logo on its sign. But the thing I remember most about the candy store is the smell of it. A combination of tobacco, chocolate, newsprint and, for some reason, wax. The smell and taste of things, Proust wrote, hold in the “tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence the vast structure of recollection.”

The candy store is long gone, of course. As is the community in which I grew up. Always Orthodox Jewish, the ultra-Orthodox have moved in and upended my old neighborhood, brought it back to the late 19th century. Borough Park was never, is not and never will be hip, even though Brooklyn is now considered to be. When people say they’re from Brooklyn, it’s as if you have some sort of magical hipster cred bestowed on you. Even my Grandma, who lived in Bensonhurst, would qualify as cool. My aunt who lived on Ocean Parkway? Definitely cool. Borough Park? Not so much. But it was where I lived—home. Where I roller-skated along uneven sidewalks, the wheels of my skates going clackety-clack. These were skates that attached to your shoes and you tightened them on with a skate key, which you wore on a string around your neck.

Time was forever back then.

And now that I’m older, time is rushing by, like a current. Time condenses and expands, due in no small part to the pandemic. The once reliable milestones by which I could mark my calendar have gone; to be replaced by…what? Traditional holiday meals I can no longer share with family and friends because everyone’s leery of possible exposure, even though everyone is vaxxed, revaxxed and boosted? Vacations not taken because flying anywhere becomes enormously risky, even for a healthy older person. I take the necessary precautions, but there are simply too many people who refuse to.

I was contemplating a visit back to New York, only to learn that Broadway was shutting down, due to the latest variant sickening the casts of all the shows.

I’ve always had this philosophy of Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, but I’m constantly overwhelmed by this existential dread because this Thing just won’t end.

I read a piece recently about time in which the author discusses the concept of durée. She talks about durée as the disorganized time of memory and dreams. She writes: “Time loses recognizable geometric shape, failing to form a circle or a line. It drifts from the reliable rhythm of counting or dates. Durée was never meant to last so long.”

But it has. Coming up on two years now that we’ve been in a weird sort of suspended animation. Durée is thick, almost impenetrable; it’s molasses. We are trapped here, like a fly in amber, a relic of our former lives and of a former time—the Before Times.

Posted by: Catadromy | July 11, 2021

Flying In A Storm

Time was when flying was, well if not gracious, more than simply a means of getting from Point A to Point B. Nowadays, flying has become a full body contact sport, made only worse by the pandemic and the overall sense of entitlement that seems to have permeated society (or what passes for it lately).

I remember when getting on an airplane to go someplace was actually the point. People dressed up, it was glamorous, the flight attendants were literally all uniform and the epitomes of glamour. We, the passengers, had no idea of the abuse the FAs took from the airlines or the roles they were expected to play as ‘air hostesses’ all the while suffering extreme sexual harassment from male passengers and belittlement and disparagement from the female passengers (who largely treated the FAs as servants).

I only knew when I got on a plane, I was lifting off into a world far above the everyday, where everything was a fantasy and nothing was connected to what I was leaving behind.

Flash forward to today.

We’ve been dealing with the effects of terrorism since 2001. There have been periodic ‘embellishments’, such as the shoe bomber or the underwear bomber, which have only enhanced the flying experience. Fortunately, TSA Precheck and Global Entry have ameliorated some of that hassle. But then, I had both hips replaced in 2019 and had no occasion to get on an airplane before the pandemic set in and flying was virtually stopped.

This is not the place to discuss the Chicken Incident. That’s for another time.

I finally made my first round trip this past month and bravely took a vacation to my favorite island of Maui. Because it was Hawai’i, the state has been gradually reopening to visitors. There are rather strict requirements for testing and uploading the results of the tests and positive vaccines onto a website managed by the state, via the airlines. There is also a contact tracing app we had to download onto our phones.

I made sure we all had our tests done within the proper window and uploaded to the state website, that we all had proof of vaccination, that we had our contact tracing app on our phones and off we headed to the airport.

Success!  We checked in, made it to bag drop and received wristbands, indicating that we had successfully answered all the requirements for pretesting and had properly uploaded the results to the state of Hawaii’s website. We didn’t have to show anything else at the gate or anyplace else.

We headed for TSA checkin, got on the Precheck line. So far, so good. The guy directed me through the magnetometer, but I told him that I’d had both hips replaced, so he waved me over to what I refer to as ‘the rapey machine’. You know the one. Stand on the yellow shoes, assume the position, hands over your head. They asked if I had anything in my pockets. Nope. I know this drill. In fact, my entire outfit is specifically chosen for airline security. The pants are pull-ons, there are zippered pockets, but the zippers are non-reactive, my shoes are slip-ons, a plain white T, a hooded sweater.

The machine shows that I have metal on my hips. Well, duh. Titanium, my dudes. Empty my pockets. I open them to show that they are empty. I explain again about the new hips. Surely, I can’t be the first person they’ve seen with hip replacements. I would show them my scars, if it would help. I’m not shy that way.

They let me board.

Coming back, lather, rinse, repeat. Except this time, the machine goes nuts and shows a gigantic hunk of metal on the left hip, smaller alert on the right, something on the left shoulder…I’m a festival of yellow alerts. They bring over a female TSA officer. I explain about the new hips. I take out the tissues and my driver’s license that were in my pockets and back into the machine I go. No go. She’s going to have to pat me down.  Offers me a private room. Nope, I says. Here, with everyone watching. She was thorough. I haven’t even touched that intimately since I was at the gynecologist last. She swabs my hands. Negative, of course. I’m a semi-elderly middle-class white woman, who’s traveling with my family.  I hardly look the part of a terrorist. Not even a terrorist manqué. I just have two new hips.

Then. We get on the plane.

We had purchased premium seats in advance because we like aisles. And the extra legroom. As my child is getting settled in her aisle seat, this overbearing large…person asks her to move so that he can sit next to his child. I said to him that if he wanted to sit next to his child, then maybe he should have planned better. I said that I would like to sit next to my child, as well. Why should my kid have to give up her aisle seat because this guy was bullying her out of it?  By this time, she was cringing with embarrassment. So, I stopped. Had that been me who had been asked to move, I would have refused. The kid has two parents. Mom was in the other aisle seat and SHE could have been the one to sit next to him. This guy is my favorite ‘F’ word…Fascist. Not what you thought I’d say, is it?

So, my kid is now in his bulkhead seat, which is really OK, since she likes the bulkhead. And I’ve been staring daggers at his big, fat, entitled, dyed blond head (with a diamond earring) for most of the flight. I was ready to call over the FA (she looks like she’s about 6’2” and could handle him easily), but I don’t want to embarrass my kid any more than I already have.

My main problem with this is that people like him always get their way because no one ever tells them No. No, you can’t cut in front of me with your two items. No, you can’t park in the handicapped space because you’ll only be here ‘for a minute’. No, your dog can’t poop on my lawn. No, your kid can’t ride his skateboard down the middle of the mall escalator.

Well, I wanted to tell this guy No. But my kid told me not to. And she is the Higher Authority. What do I know? I’m just a street kid from Brooklyn. We fight back. Always.

Posted by: Catadromy | August 4, 2020

I Did It And I’m Glad

During the pandemic, I’ve begun watching a lot of old television. Most of the programming I usually watch is either off the air entirely or airing in reruns—most of which I’ve already seen, since these are shows I’ve already watched the first time around.

So, I’ve taken advantage of this horrible time to ‘rediscover’ some classics. Specifically, Columbo and Perry Mason. Not the Perry Mason that’s currently airing on HBO, but the classic television series from the ’50s and ’60s.

All the old familiar tropes are here. “Just one thing.” Columbo talking about his never-seen wife, but always referring to her only as ‘Mrs. Columbo.’ The raincoat, the ill-fitting clothes, the ancient Peugeot, the cigar, the sad-eyed, droopy-faced basset hound named Dog because Columbo couldn’t come up with a name, even though he asked for suggestions.

Columbo turned the police procedural on its head, by spending the first 30-45 minutes or so providing the set-up for the murder (it’s Lieutenant Columbo, homicide, after all) and showing us the actual killer. We get to watch as the murderer sets up what he or she believes to be the perfect crime, establishes an alibi, commits the crime and then covers any and all traces of their participation. Or so they think.

After watching several Columbos, it becomes possible to pinpoint the one fatal mistake the killer makes in the commission of the crime. Depending on how sympathetic the victim is, you hope Columbo won’t discover it or that the killer will realize what he’s (or she’s) done and manage to return to the scene of the crime and stage a surreptitious correction. But you will be wrong. Columbo, for all his dissembling and seemingly humble behavior, is one smart cookie. He is, most definitely, the sharpest knife in the drawer.

It’s fun to watch the net slowly closing around the killer, to watch as Columbo slowly circles around his victim—and to know that he has identified the guilty party almost immediately—and pulls the strings of the case tightly closed. From the beginning, when Columbo introduces himself to the killer, the viewer just knows he (or she) is going to get caught by the end of the show. All those little bits of evidence, the one crucial overlooked detail, the dissembling. The thrill in watching Columbo put all the pieces together; slowly, methodically, logically.

My only quibble is that at 2 hours, including commercials, the episodes are too long. They’re full of filler. The shows that clock in at 90 minutes, again including commercials, are much more tightly plotted and hold this viewer’s interest.

And now for Perry Mason. From the theme music that appears over the opening and closing credits to the spare black and white graphics to the dependability of the core cast—with one exception, more on that later—Perry Mason is like television comfort food. Perry never (well, almost never, and even when he loses, he ultimately wins) lost a case. Perry also had all the legal ethics of a junkyard dog. Side note: I was in court when the judge admonished the attorneys saying, ‘There will be no Perry Mason in my courtroom!’.  Where would we all be without legal shenanigans?

Raymond Burr was indelibly Perry Mason, with Barbara Hale as his secretary and amanuensis, Della Street. Della keeps Perry on focus, supplies him and his clients with all the coffee they can drink, takes notes, makes phone calls, supplies humor and sometimes acts as Mrs. Perry Mason, when it’s called for. William Hopper portrays Paul Drake, private detective extraordinaire. Paul seemingly has other clients. Seemingly. But drops whatever clients he does have for any assignments Perry has for him; cancels vacations and holiday plans if Perry calls him; Paul and Perry are frequently driving off to strange small towns in the far reaches of California to pursue leads or chartering planes to fly to Mexico or Las Vegas.

One thing we never see is anyone’s personal life. We have no idea if any of them are married (although Paul is quite the ladies’ man), have partners, children, parents, siblings, any home life at all. Rarely, we see Perry’s living room, but the shot is at a very tight angle.

On the other side, as it were, are Ray Collins as Lt. Tragg and William Talman as District Attorney Hamilton Burger. Imagine my surprise when, after weeks of watching, I learned that Tragg had a first name and that it wasn’t Lieutenant. It’s Arthur! Ray Collins is even billed as Lt. Tragg. He and Perry seem to have an avuncular relationship. Tragg invariably shows up, even before anyone knows a murder has happened. It’s like he has some sort of sixth sense about this stuff. He either pops up in Perry’s office as Perry is talking to his newest client or at the client’s home or place of business.

And now we come to Hamilton Burger, District Attorney of Los Angeles County, played by William Talman. Oddly enough, D.A. Burger seems to show up all over California, well away from Los Angeles county. I’m not certain how he manages to establish jurisdiction over cases so far away from home, only to lose, yet again, to Perry Mason. But he does lose, every damn time.

Sometime during Season Three, I noticed Hamilton Burger was missing from the prosecution table. There were several episodes with Perry and crew on the road, trying cases with small town D.A.s and judges wearing business suits, rather than robes, and when finally back in the Los Angeles courthouse…no Burger. William Talman had disappeared from the credits. Hmm, I sez. Must check this out.

It turns out that William Talman was fired from the show for parts of Seasons Three and Four for violating the morals clause in his contract with CBS. He was caught at a party in a private home that was raided for suspected marijuana use and was one of several guests who were either nude or semi-nude. Keep in mind this was 1960.

Hamilton Burger was a dirty stay out!

Talman was rehired after a massive letter-writing campaign by the viewers and at Raymond Burr’s insistence.

Even after watching all these episodes (in the middle of Season 4 now), I can’t figure out Tragg’s and Perry’s relationship. Tragg always comes in, all starchy and authoritarian, but he seems to have a twinkle in his eye, like ‘you know I’m only acting like this because it’s expected of me and we’re supposed to be adversaries, right?’

There are any number of scenes with Perry, Della, Paul, and Ham yukking it up after the conclusion of a case and making jokes about who is going to get stuck with the check for dinner.

But, boy oh boy, do they go at it in the courtroom. Snarling and shenanigans. My two favorite plot developments.

Posted by: Catadromy | June 29, 2020

I ♥ NY

Milton Glaser died recently. He was a well-known graphic designer, most famous for his design of I♥NY. He created this logo—possibly the first emoji—at a time when the city was at its lowest. We were living with white flight, urban decay, graffiti-drenched subways, garbage-strewn streets, landlords torching their own buildings to collect the insurance money, and New York teetering on the edge of bankruptcy—a situation epitomized by the headline in the New York Daily News: “Ford to City: Drop Dead.”

You gotta give the headline writers at the Daily News credit; they’ve come up with some beauts: “Pee Brain”, accompanied by a picture of Trump; “I’m With Stupid”, Trump and Sarah Palin; “Drop Dead, Ted”, featuring Ted Cruz; “Kicked In The Balls”, Tom Brady. But the best headline of all belongs to the New York Post: “Headless Body In Topless Bar.”

Two years later, in 1977, the city was plunged into darkness, courtesy of a blackout that lasted over a day on one of the hottest days (and nights) in memory. I watched as one apartment building after another went dark in a rolling wave and chaos descended. There was widespread mayhem and looting; many fires were set. The fear and violence were out of control. It was the final insult; a coup de grace.

But then, this:


But what does Glaser’s logo really mean? To me, it means that New York is forever eternal, forever here, forever my heart, forever my love. It’s easy to love New York when she’s doing well, when she’s booming, happy, one big loud party that everyone wants to be a guest at. But it’s not so easy to love her when she’s down and out. That’s what Glaser was getting at with this logo.

He created the logo in the back of a taxi, a few simple scratches on the back of an envelope (the envelope is now in MOMA’s permanent collection). He gave it away, because he thought it was ‘a little simple, nothing of an idea.’ How wrong he was.

Far from nothing, I♥NY has come to embody the very heart and soul of the city and those of us who love her.

It’s true that I no longer live in the city of my birth, but she will always be my home.

In the middle of a home renovation project, I purchased a lamp to go on the bedroom dresser. It’s mercury glass, with an Edison bulb and it’s paired with a large, round silver mesh shade. It’s beautiful and suits the décor in the room perfectly. My husband says that it serves no function, as it doesn’t cast sufficient light. I told him that it’s art and it’s beautiful and that art doesn’t necessarily have a function, other than its visual one, i.e., to delight the eye and stimulate the senses.

Why is art important? Humans are hardwired to decode and prioritize visual stimuli. What is important is that the viewer is receptive to the possibility of a response that will take them out of themselves into a whole new and unexpected place. All art does this.

As I see it, art may take seven different forms. There are sub-categories within these forms, but these are the ones I see:

  1. Architecture
  2. Film
  3. Literature
  4. Music
  5. Painting/Drawing
  6. Performing
  7. Sculpture

The question at hand is, which of these is animation closest to? Since there are no right or wrong answers, I’m going to crawl way, waaaaay far out on that limb and say all of them.  Ooh, a copout.

When it comes to Architecture, Louis Sullivan was famously quoted as saying, ‘form follows function’, which when talking about a building makes a good deal of sense. When it comes to animation, though, it’s a bit of a stretch. Still, going all the way back to the earliest beginnings of animation, it was all about form; the use of mechanical devices to simulate motion, such as the zoetrope, phenakistiscope, praxiniscope, zoopraxiniscope, and kinetoscope.

When discussing Film, the similarities are most obvious.   In the modern era of animation, the vast majority of output is viewed on film, rather than via a mechanical device. As animation has evolved and the techniques gotten more sophisticated and the use of CGI become more prevalent, animation has moved beyond its roots in hand-drawn, children’s entertainment to sophisticated multi-target appeal. CGI allows animation to create on film sequences and special effects that would be impossible and/or cost-prohibitive to film using live actors.

Literature tells a story. And every story that is told has a foundation and a structure. It may not be linear, as in; this is the starting point, this happened, and then it ended. The story may weave around, use flashbacks/flashforwards. But, eventually, it will get to the endpoint. Animation may be based on story and myth—fairy tales, epic adventures, classic literature. Or the story may be written just for the animation being created.

Not all animation tells a story, whether linear or non-linear, some of it just is. Some animation is used in documentaries as explanatory pieces to demonstrate timelines. Some animation is used in gaming. Some animation is used in local news for mapping and in weather forecasts.

To compare animation to Music, I look no further than An Optical Poem. This piece is music made visual, specifically, Liszt’s Second Hungarian Rhapsody. Each instrument is represented by a different series of shapes and colors and they way they react/interact on the screen. In Fantasia, each section is set to a different piece of classical, symphonic music to great effect. The animation style is matched to the musical style. The very beginnings of animation had a musical accompaniment, with a soundtrack added in later on, as technology permitted. Many of the songs written for animated features have gone on to become enormously popular and entrenched in pop culture.

Animation has its roots in Painting and Drawing, going back to simple line art sketching in black and white and moving through hand-drawn, full-color 2D cel animation in which the cels were painted by hand. Some of it was simple and some of it was incredibly complex and multi-layered, via the use of the multiplane camera.

If an animated piece is story-driven, then it is all about Performing. The characters are brought to life, via the animators’ art, given personalities and motives and set free to bring the story to the viewer, via their actions on the screen, just as if they were human actors. The primary difference, though, is that the animator is in total control of the performance, rather than the actor. The voice actors, in this case, are the real draw for the audience; think Tom Hanks and Tim Allen in Toy Story.

Yes, animation is even close to Sculpture. Modern CGI/3D animation creates a digital sculptural base and uses that to create an armature on which to build the characters and objects used in films and, especially, gaming today.

The task at hand was to compare animation to another art form. I chose to compare animation to seven different forms of art. If, as Bucchanieri said, “Art is in the eye of the beholder, and everyone will have their own interpretation”; then, to my eye, animation is all forms of art and cannot be broken out, one from the other.

Posted by: Catadromy | April 24, 2020

We’ll Always Have Paris

This year marks a milestone wedding anniversary. We had planned a trip to Europe, which was to culminate with a stay in Paris, complete with a grand celebratory dinner at a romantic restaurant (is there any other type of restaurant in the City of Light?) and then participating in the annual Bastille Day celebrations. In all our visits to Paris, we’ve never been there for Bastille Day.

Allons enfants de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé!
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L’étendard sanglant est levé!

I hear it’s glorious in Paris during the Bastille Day celebrations.

I have always loved Paris; it’s long been my favorite non-US city (New York, don’t worry. You’ll always be my Number One). From the very first visit in 1968 to my most recent time there in 2018, I always discover something wonderful and new. My goal in life (at least where Paris is concerned) is to be un flâneur. Someone who walks for the sake of walking, without aim or purpose. I suppose, technically, since I am a woman, I should describe myself as une flâneuse. Either way, this describes the bulk of my behavior when I’m in Paris. I walk and walk and walk, discovering new sights and vistas and shops along the way. I have no idea what this is but look how beautiful. Not me, the setting. Down some random alley that we saw somewhere near Le Marais.

Or sometimes, we sit at a café and take in the other flâneurs going about their walks. This was at a café in St. Germain.

I finally made it to Shakespeare & Co. and bought a book on…Walking by Rebecca Solnit. What other title would une flâneuse purchase?

Or this. Walking back from Ile de Cité one rainy afternoon, I ducked into a doorway, turned around, looked up and saw the name of this fleuriste. Rosebud! My nickname in college. I burst into the shop and told the owner of the shop all about it. She was nearly as excited as I was and furnished me with this business card.

My first visit, frankly, I was a bum. It was the tail end of a 3-month trip to Europe that began with a 6-week time in Israel and the Middle East. At that time, the Israelis would stamp your entrance visa on a separate piece of paper, so that you could go to Jordan or Lebanon or Egypt and not have an issue with the authorities. Ah, those were the days! Anyway, I worked my way west from Tel Aviv, landing in Athens, then Italy (many tales to be told about my time there, but for another time) then Switzerland, where I spent just about the last of my cash on a sweater because it was that cold; finally ending in Paris. If I hadn’t a pre-paid ticket back to JFK, I’d still be there, I think. Not that that would be a bad thing. I befriended a waiter in a café who gave me a place to stay and free meals. To occupy my days, I walked the city and got to know her. It was the beginning of my romance with the City of Light.

Even way back in the ‘70s on our first trip to Paris as a couple, the city was special. Most memorably for me, a woman came up to me in the street and asked for directions, in French, which she received from me—also in French. My husband, whose French consists of bad Charles Boyer impressions and asking for the check, was quite impressed. I studied the language in high school and had a French minor in college, so ce n’était pas un gros problème.

I am forever thankful that we managed to visit Notre Dame on our last visit. My heart broke when I watched her burn last year. Even though I am not a Catholic, to me, she represents the beating heart of Paris, of France. She is Mile Zéro for the French; the starting point for all distances in France.

There will be no trip to Europe or to Paris this year. Milestone anniversary or not, I will be missing Paris, as I do always.

A Bientôt, mon amour.

Posted by: Catadromy | May 19, 2019

Pain Is A Bear

Pain is a bear. A bear with yellow, fear-stained teeth and slashing, bloody claws that rip you open when you least expect. The bear could be a brown bear or black or even a grizzly bear. But the bear sneaks up on you and grabs you completely unaware. You’re in the bear’s clutches, trying to get free; yet, the more you struggle, the harder the grip.

The bear fights to pull you under and you try to fight back, strongly at first. Then, the bear tightens its grip and your resistance falters, weakens. You fight your way to the surface, grab a lungful of air and whirl around to do battle with the bear again. The bear never weakens, never loses focus. The bear knows what it wants. It wants—YOU. It wants to own you. It wants to possess you. It wants to subsume you—all of you.

But you gather yourself up and face the bear. You will win this fight, even if it takes every last bit of your remaining strength. You whirl around, pull yourself up to your full height and tell the bear, “Not today. Not now. You are not going to win this one.”

The bear, vanquished, turns away. But when he’s facing away from you, the corners of his mouth turn up in a knowing grin. He’ll be back, just when you least expect. And just when you’re not prepared. But he’ll be back, just the same.

Posted by: Catadromy | February 13, 2019

Blew By You

Recently, I saw an interview with Linda Ronstadt, whom I have loved for years. From afar, of course. Although I’ve been to her concerts and purchased her albums, we’ve never met. Love her, just the same.

She has Parkinson’s Disease and her crystal-clear soprano is stilled forever. She said in the interview that she can’t even sing in the shower. One other thing she said in the interview really stuck with me. The interviewer asked her if she was afraid to die. She replied that she wasn’t afraid of dying; she was afraid of suffering.

I am a devoted reader of the paid obituaries in the New York Times, as I’ve posted before. I take note of the ages of the ‘honorees’, read a few salient details of their lives and move on. Lately, though, I’ve noticed a very disturbing trend. I see the ages of the deceased (or figure them out, based on birth year) and realize they weren’t that much older than I am currently. I think, well, he was [this age], he had a good run. Then I do a bit of math and realize he was only 10 or 12 years older than I am now. Ten years is the blink of an eye to me now. The thought that I only have 10 years left on this earth is dismaying, to say the least. I still have goals, I have things I want to do, accomplish. I have a bucket list that’s not finished!

Time is a river—a metaphor that means time flows only forward. When I was younger, time stretched out before me in an endless stream, uninterrupted by any ordinary concerns. Marcel Proust famously insisted that the remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were. But I’m talking about the future and not the past, an appreciably foreshortened future from my perspective.

I’m facing major surgery next month. Perhaps that’s the reason for all this introspection. I’ve always lived too much of my life in my head; it’s not a healthy place to be most of the time. It’s crowded up there with regret, ghosts of memory and lists of things I always mean to do, but never seem to get around to actually doing.

“Do not fear death, but rather the unlived life. You don’t have to live forever. You just have to live.” — Natalie Babbitt

I have always tried to live my best life and to live so as to have no regrets.

As Old Lodge Skins (Chief Dan George’s character in Little Big Man) so memorably said, ‘Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn’t.’

Hocus Pocus.

Posted by: Catadromy | November 28, 2018

To Sleep, Perchance To Dream (with apologies to W. Shakespeare)

To the surprise of absolutely no one who really knows me, my passion is sleeping.  I believe sleeping to be vastly underrated. Did you know that a good night’s sleep can help you to improve your memory, curb inflammation, boost creativity, improve your grades, sharpen your attention, maintain a healthy weight, lower stress, avoid accidents and avoid depression?

There are two types of people, when it comes to sleeping habits—larks and night owls. Or morning people and night people. “Larks” are up and at it early in the morning and tend to hit the sack at a respectable evening hour; “owls” are most alert at night, and typically turn in long after dark. We’re really talking about a spectrum, rather than either/or and people may start out as one and become the other. Or, stay the same their entire lives.

Contrary to what Benjamin Franklin may have written, ‘early to bed and early to bed makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise’ hasn’t been proven via statistical research. What has been shown, is that night owls are, on the whole, a bit smarter. Researchers measured mechanical and electrical engineering knowledge, general math and reading ability, working memory and processing speed and concluded that night owls were smarter than larks. Night owls are also more prone to infidelity.

Night owls are partial to bad habits—namely smoking and drinking. Well, they stay up late, go out. What does one do when one goes out? One smokes and drinks, of course.

But larks are persistent, co-operative, agreeable, conscientious and proactive. Well, if you like that sort of thing.

Larks also procrastinate less. Hmm.

I proudly declare my membership in the night owl group. My daughter, as well. She is known around my house as the Vampire Princess.

Back to my passion for sleeping. I am extremely particular about my sleep environment. Even the smallest of elements must be just perfect. A few years ago, we were at the Hotel Jerome in Aspen, Colorado and had the best nights’ sleep imaginable. So, the final morning of our stay, I ripped off all the sheets and blankets and searched the mattress, looking for the name of the manufacturer. I found it and proceeded to search the internet for a retail store close to me. It took some time, but I found a store that sold the same type of mattress. The names on retail and hotel/commercial mattresses are a bit different. The day it was delivered and set up was a very memorable one.

This mattress is quite thick and I had to buy all new sheets. I only buy 100% Egyptian cotton sheets, minimum thread count of 600. The last time we were in Paris, we stayed at a 4-star hotel and the bedlinens were like sleeping on a cloud. Of course, I had turned the air conditioning down to 19° centigrade, so that might have had something to do with it. But the sheets were pure bliss. I located the name of the manufacturer and looked for them online, only to find out that they aren’t sold at retail…yet. So I wrote to them, asking when they might be available to consumers (instead of only to hotels) and was told that they are planning to open a storefront on Amazon and will let me know when they do.

I have a winter blanket and a summer blanket. The winter blanket is goose down and floats over me like a warm, fluffy cloud. The summer blanket is a cotton quilt and looks like it was made by someone’s grandmother. (Not mine, however.)

I have two pillows and they are identical. Both are king-size pillows, stuffed with the finest goose down. They are covered in pillow protectors and then pillow cases. One pillow goes under my arm and I wrap myself around the other one. I also have a third, smaller pillow that goes in-between my knees.

There is no light in the bedroom at all. The windows have blackout shades on each one. They were specially-made to not allow in any light. Even the lights on the cable box and the television are covered up. I also have a rule about no electronics in the bedroom at all. No iPad, phone or gaming devices.

There is also one window that is always open, because my bedroom must be cold or I cannot fall asleep. See earlier comment about Paris hotel room.

Once the conditions in the room are absolutely perfect, I snuggle under the blankets, arrange my pillows just so, close my eyes and drift off to sleep, only to wake up 7 hours later, fully refreshed and ready to begin another day.


Posted by: Catadromy | July 10, 2017

Sometimes, I Thinks and Sets. Sometimes, I Just Sets

There’s something so anodyne for me about being at the beach. I set up an encampment, complete with chair, beach blanket, water, spray bottle, music and a book (which I almost never open); settle in and watch the water lap the sand.

At times, the heat will get to me and I’ll go into the water, dodging the accumulation of small shells and bits of sharp coral that wash up in the unceasing waves. The first few steps into the water are always the hardest, especially when I’ve been sitting on the shore for a while and I’m overheated from the sun. Gradually I wade into the sea, until I gather up my courage and duck beneath the ocean. Emerging, I wipe the salt water from my eyes and begin to swim parallel to the shore, enjoying the cool water flowing along my sunburnt skin.

Out here, among the waves, it’s possible to be alone and away from the mundanities of the everyday. Nothing bothers me. There are no daily annoyances. No phone calls. No emails. Just me, the endless sky, the limitless Pacific Ocean.  I paddle back and forth, using a variety of strokes, sometimes on my back, sometimes not, always at one with the water and the sky.

Then I swim back to shore, go back to my encampment and the cycle begins anew.

My favorite time of day at the beach is around 4:30, when the beach empties, the air temperature drops a bit and the sun sparkles on the water.  Sometimes, a sailboat will run across the water, dodging in and out of the sparkles, creating an image in my mind’s eye that I carry with me.

There’s a cycle, a rhythm to being at the beach. People come, people go. The tide rolls in, the tide rolls out. The sun rises and sets. Sitting there, I feel at once a part of the Universe and entirely insignificant. I ponder the imponderable. I float high, among the clouds, soaring on an updraft, swimming through the air, as if it was the water beneath. I turn off my mind and just watch the water as it moves along the shoreline.

And I sit there on the sand and take it all in.

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