Thursday, March 31, 2011


It's been almost 19 years since we've been to Termessos, a city of ruins just west of Antalya in Mediterranean Turkey. Why I should dream about it last night is beyond my understanding, and, in fact, it was such a surprise that I'm sure it was why I woke up! And although you are going to be spared the contents of the dream, I will share Termessos with you, because it was really something special to see.

Tom Brosnahan's "Lonely Planet Travel Survival Guide to Turkey" told us that "Termessos was once a Pisidian city of a war-like people. They lived in their impregnable fortress city and guarded their independence fiercely. Alexander the Great did not attack them, and the Romans accepted them as allies, not as a subject people." It sounded intriguing, so Jerry and I signed up for a local tour and the driver deposited us at the bottom of a huge hill that seemed to be covered with large stones. The guide indicated that we would climb that hill.

That was when I learned that my husband in his other life had been a mountain goat! I puffed and panted about every 50 steps, as I labored my poor self up and over the rocks. It was horrible. All I saw of Jerry was his dust! Luckily I did not hold up the rest of the tourists. They just left me. I finally made it to the ruins of the theater and found Jerry waiting for me.

Although there are a few recognizable sections of "buildings" left, most of what we saw were graves that because of both earthquakes and grave-robbers had tumbled down the hill from the necropolis at the top of the city. It was a stunning sight; literally thousands of stone sarcophagi lying a-jumble everywhere.

It was hard to know what to take a picture of. Everything was on such a huge scale. A wide angle lens took in the mass of things but they appeared way too small for what they really were. And if I used a telephoto lens, the item focused on seemed totally irrelevant. It was just too much for my mind to take in.

Finally we made it up to the top, the site of the famous "necropolis." Seeing it just left us thunderstuck. How could those people have done all this? It was just beyond our understanding.

Returning to our tour bus was a much easier trip. We were mostly silent, not only because we had to be very careful not to tumble down like the tombs did, but also because it seems we all were busy trying to process what we had just seen.

You know, Jerry and I are both native Californians, and for us, the California history we learn really starts with the Spanish missionaries coming in the 1700s to build the Missions in California. So we are always awed by really "old, old" history. But I think the biggest surprise to us, not knowing a whole lot about Turkey before we arrived there, was to read signs that said, "Hannibal's grave," "Alexander the Great," "Third Ecumenical Council met here" -- and even noting that in approaching little villages in the central part of Turkey, the signs pointing to the town all say "Centrum."

It was our good fortune to live in Turkey for almost two years, rather than to experience it on a short-term visit. Luckily I picked up enough Turkish that I could make myself understood, which held us in good stead many times. And made us brave enough to try some things that otherwise we might have foregone. But imagine, having a dream about something in Turkey after 19 years! Amazing!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


This is a painting by surrealist artist Yves Tanguy.

I don't know very much about surrealism. I don't really care for Salvador Dali's paintings, mostly I suppose because I don't understand them. I always think that the deficit is mine, not the artist's, when I come upon a painting that "turns me off." If there is a dramatic element to a painting, I tend to look at it a little longer and try to understand it. Mostly I still feel the same way about it -- I just don't "get it."

But back in the early 1980s I saw this painting in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and it brought me to a sudden halt. I knew inside, at a very deep level, that I understood this painting. And I was shocked at my own visceral reaction to it.

The artist called it "Multiplication of the arcs." I don't know what that meant but I can tell you that it looks exactly like what my world looked like after my divorce in 1971. That sounds funny, I know, but when I saw this picture I saw the meaning: that I didn't understand anything in front of me. Whereas I used to get up in the morning and know what was ahead for me each day, after my divorce everything I ever knew was changed. I didn't know where to put my feet anymore. I didn't know what I was stepping out on. Nothing was where I expected it to be, and I had no assurance that what I chose would hold me if I did step on it. No matter which direction I turned, things were strange now. I had nothing to base my decisions on, because I couldn't count on anything. I was totally lost in an environment I didn't understand.

I can't imagine what was in Tanguy's mind when he painted this picture. But if his intent was to capture someone's attention, he sure got mine in a hurry! And the crazy thing is that knowing he did that painting for himself but that I recognized a meaning in it for myself surely has to be an example of the power of art. In this case, my feeling was very specific.

I never laid eyes on this painting again, but I also never have forgotten it. Recently I was reading something online about "surrealism" and I wondered if I could find this picture online - or if I would actually really be able to recognize it.

I did find it and recognized it immediately. My divorce happened 40 years ago, and finding that picture now was like meeting an old friend. All the uncertainty and pain I had felt so long ago was hidden somewhere inside this jumble of a picture, I suppose. This time I could look at it and not invest it with any emotions from that time so long ago when life changed directions on me. The picture was the same, but now I don't feel a connection to it. I still don't understand surrealism, and Tanguy's "Multiplication of the arcs" picture seems as weird to me as Dali's clock paintings.

I have always maintained that artists need appreciators. I don't have an artistic bone in my body, but I count myself among the necessary appreciators. If I can understand paintings, all the better!

Monday, March 28, 2011


If meatloaf isn't a comfort food, I don't know what is. I never make it the same way twice, because I don't follow a recipe. A long time ago I think it was Martha Stewart who had one with lots of vegetables in it. My mother's secret was to use one pound of ground beef and one-half pound of sausage. I've tried them all.

Recently I have been using Panko in my cooking. In case you don't know what Panko is, basically it is the Japanese version of bread crumbs. Panko tend to be lighter, crispier, and crunchier than Western bread crumbs. They are excellent for breadings, and make an excellent filler in things like crab cakes. It used to be that one had to go to an oriental market to find them, but now the boxes appear on the shelves of most every supermarket chain. In fact, the last time I looked there were boxes of "Italian-flavored Panko" on the shelves, and the Panko had been moved from the Oriental section to wherever the Shake and Bake items were -- I can't offhand remember the section, as my store changes the location of everything at least once a month!

Anyway, I'm going to give you a recipe here for a really tasty meatloaf that uses Panko. You'll notice in the top photo there is a reddish topping on the slices. That comes from an entirely different recipe and for the life of me I can't remember where it came from.


1# ground beef, preferably 20% fat.
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
3/4 cup finely minced onion
1/2 cup ketchup
1 T Lawry's seasoning salt
1 tsp ground sage
1 tsp dried oregano leaves

Mix ingredients well. Form loaf in baking dish or meatloaf pan. Flatten top.


Blend together:
1/2 cup ketcup
3 T brown sugar
1/4 t nutmeg
2 t dry mustard.

Spread topping on meatloaf before baking. Bake uncovered for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

A number of years ago Jerry found this very novel meatloaf pan, I think in the Walter Drake catalog. The uncooked meatloaf is placed in the smaller pan, which is then set into the larger pan. Those holes let the grease drop away from the meatloaf. It's a nifty set-up, for sure!

I was pleasantly surprised at the texture of the meatloaf when I used Panko. I have used soda crackers, bread, dry oatmeal and rice at other times, but this recent meatloaf has topped them all!

And just in case you are wondering what those little white things surrounding the meatloaf slices are, they are Spaetzel!

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Chickens! Oh, how I love Chickens! Not that I've ever had any, except for a tiny little yellow chickie that came in an Easter basket when I was about 8 years old and that lived long enough for my mother to trade him (or her) to the local butcher for a good piece of beef -- at least I think that is what eventually happened to "Peeper."

So it was natural that my eye would be caught by a column called "Innovations" in the LA Times this morning that told about a new chicken-sitting service available to urban LA farmers. It's called Easy Acres Chicken Sitting and has a website by that name. The service "provides peace of mind to the owners of said chickens while on holiday, business or adventure."

The lady who provides the service is a hen owner, a Master Gardener, and has a small gardening business in Los Angeles as well. Sounds to me like she's pinpointed a need and been smart enough to fill it herself! The article notes that her services include "Feeding, watering, coop cleaning and egg collection." If chickens are "range free" she'll let them out in the morning and collect them back in the coop in the evening. (Makes me wonder if hawks watch for range-free chickens? I'll bet the Cooper's Hawk that harasses my little house finches and sparrows would.)

I wanted a hen in the worst way when we owned our home in Orange. I had what I thought was the ideal place for a hen coop. I promised Jerry I would learn how to recycle the waste and use it for fertilizer. I'd keep him in scrambled eggs every time she laid one... but all that was to no avail. He thought one dog, three cats, one bird, two teenagers and a wife was plenty. NO HENS! he said. Not even banties.

I have a friend who all her life had pet chickens and I always envied her. She's retired now in Sedona, and she and her husband have foregone chickens for Javalinas. But I always remember how cute her chickens were.

In thinking about chickens for this blog, I found a nice website called HENDERSON'S CHICKEN BREED CHART, and this fellow shows all manners of breeds and very interesting information about them. He also is honest about his feelings toward certain breeds, noting about one, "Our Birds, received as adults, never fit in well with the rest of the flock & were nervous all the time. Our one cock crowed louder than any other we've ever had. We've been hesitant to try them again, but we might, since they are such beautiful birds." If I were lucky enough to get a chicken now in my twilight years, I would certainly ask this honest man about my choice of breed. His chart makes for very interesting reading. He even tells about a hen that laid 364 eggs in one year's time. (I think I know how that hen felt, as I had 4 children in the space of 4-1/2 years.)

Sadly, I figure that a chicken is not in my future, except as it fits in a frying pan. I have to content myself with doing them in counted cross stitch.

Several years ago I decided to find the perfect hen to do in cross-stitch. You'd think that would have been an easy job, but I bought about four patterns before I just found the right one. And that is my own hen at the top of this blog. My oldest daughter watched her come into being and put her dibs on it before it was ever half-done.

I know that's the closest I'll ever come to having my own chicken. And if the urge ever hits again, I've still got those other chicken patterns in the chest of drawers where my "to do" and "unfinished projects" reside, waiting for me.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Rumination: My mother was a reader. I can’t think about my childhood without there being a mental image in it of my mother sitting on the couch reading a book. I don’t remember what kind of books she read; for all I know they could have been romance novels. However, the only book I know she read – and that was because she recommended it to me - was Thomas Tryon’s book “The Twin.” If you knew my mother, you would hardly believe that this kind, loving, gentle woman would go for grisly horror stories, so I’m thinking that romance novels were not exactly her cup of tea. Strange that even after I grew up we never talked about what books we were reading.

Rumination: My sis and I did talk about books whenever we chatted on the phone or later communicated by e-mail. She was eclectic in her interests and the bulk of her reading material was way beyond my idea of interesting. However, we met at a few levels. It was she who put me on to “Esperanza’s Box of Saints” by Maria Amparo Escandon; I in turn provided her with “Walking the Bible” by Bruce Feiler – so we did have some common meeting places over books.

Rumination: Unlike my little granddaughter above who is shown reading to her pre-school friends, when I was a kid reading was not taught in school until first grade – when we were handed the ubiquitous “Dick and Jane” readers. Mother read to us all the time, and our library habits were solidified while we were still of a pre-school age. (No pre-schools at that time, either). We were not expected to know how to read any earlier, and my folks made no push in that direction, though now that I have seen my own little granddaughters reading and comprehending what they read at age 4, I see that my sis and I certainly could have learned. But it was enough to have mother read to us – not only stories but poetry. My father, whose education ended in the eighth grade, limited his reading to newspapers, but every Sunday he called my sis and me to sit down beside him while he read the comics to us. We called them funny papers, not comics. For some strange reason my sis and I especially remember “Moon Mullins” – so go figure that one out!

Rumination: We walked to and from school each day, except in inclement weather, when our dad took us. We lived in the city, and I’d guess our school was probably a mile east of where we lived. Our walk was along fairly busy 10th street, and both sis and I mostly read while we walked, the book in one hand and the little metal lunch pails in the other. The other day I was using Google Earth to find an apartment on 10th street that I used to live in as a newly-wed when I came upon a startling sight: a Church on the corner of 10th and Gladys and a telephone pole on the sidewalk in front of it, the very pole that I walked into and smacked my head when I was in the 4th grade. (See photo below) I was very engrossed in the book and just walked full bore into that pole, raising a bump on my forehead that shortly caused my teacher to send me to the nurse’s office. To find that church and that pole via Google Earth still in place gave me a good laugh. That jolt certainly imprinted itself in my mind!

Rumination: In the 1980s when I started into genealogy I began going to flea markets looking for items from my childhood. What started it was seeing some Storybook Dolls on sale in an antique shop for beaucoup bucks – and thinking back to the big Storybook Doll collection I had as a child. The dolls were long gone by the time I decided to do the big lady’s version of “trash digging” (another delight that my sister and I shared as little kids) and scope out the flea markets. I never found much, but amazingly in a single year I found two copies of the childhood book that was our favorite: “Raggedy Ann and Andy and the Camel With the Rumpled Knees.” I sent one copy to my sis, and later we agreed that it was hard to figure out why we were so enamored of the book as little kids. As grownups we didn’t feel that way about any of R. L. Stevenson’s poetry in “A Child’s Garden of Verses” but we admitted to a little disappointment that our favorite book hadn’t stood up as well as we remembered it.

Rumination: I am surprised that although my own kids had the same pattern (of a reading mother) that I had, only one of them turned out to be what I would call a “reader.” They all read, of course, but don’t find reading books to be the imperative that I have always felt. My son and I began reading each other’s library books probably about the time he went into 8th grade. We’d get books from the library and after we had read our own choices, we’d start in on each other’s books. Now e-mails fly back and forth as we exchange book reviews.

Why all this today? Ruminations don’t need reasons for their existence, so there is really no point to this at all -- other than to say that if you are a “reader” you will understand. And likely will have some ruminations of your own.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I suppose you expected to see a bathtub when you saw the heading on today's blog. Well, in a sense you ARE seeing it, although until the rain starts pouring down, you'll just have to imagine it.

My mother always said there is more than one way to skin a cat (a horrible saying, if I do say so myself.) But in this case, the adage is illustrative of what we do since we no longer have any outside water available to us via a faucet for things like watering our flowers, our lawn, cleaning off the porch or washing the dust off the plastic porch furniture. Rain is due any minute, so I quickly placed the furniture in our front yard, where Mother Nature hopefully will do a good job on it.

In spite of having had such a rainy winter California still is in drought mode. Eighteen months or so ago the distributor of water to this part of Riverside County told our apartment complex that if water usage wasn't cut down to a certain level a large monthly fine would be levied. Now we have about 90 some buildings on the property and about 1200 residents. Water is one of the utilities that is included in our monthly rent. We have laundromats scattered throughout the complex and a golf course that must be kept green, so managment, knowing that there was no way to enforce residents to cut back on water voluntarily, told us then that in lieu of raising rents to cover the fine for using too much water, they were going cut down the usage by capping all the outside water faucets.

People didn't like the plan, but they had options: 1) move (some did); 2) let their plants die (some did); 3) buy hoses and run them from the kitchen faucet through the house and into the yards (some did); and carry buckets of water from the bathtub faucet to the yard to save the plants (we did.) Because we have a street close by our apartment which tends to create lots of dirt on our porch furniture, during the winter we place the chairs out own the lawn when it rains to let nature do its thing. At the end of the first half hour of rain, we turn the furniture upside down to wash away the spiders that like to make their homes inside the chair legs. After an hour's rain, we bring them onto the porch and wipe them down with a damp cloth. Voila' We've skinned a cat! Our only other option besides letting them stay dirty is carting everything into the bathtub to clean it there.

We've been watching for the rain since late last evening, after the big moon show. Nothing has happened yet, although I watched a bit of the Los Angeles Marathon this morning on TV and it has been and still is raining there. Jerry is on the golf course in San Bernardino, and since he hasn't come home yet (he had a 6:50 a.m. tee time) it must not be raining there yet. But it is getting steadily darker and gloomier, so I suspect we don't have to wait much longer.

Southern Californians don't really do well in the rain; we tend to tuck ourselves away where it is warm and stay off the roads. If we do get on the roads we tend to drive too fast and have more accidents than usual. One of the biggest surprises we had when we moved to Istanbul was to learn that the rest of the world just goes on about their business when it rain. Here, people cancel plans, skip meetings, and gripe about the rain, even when we need it so badly. Jer should be home around noon, and we have to be back in San Bernardino at a ostomy support group at 2 p.m. I can assure you that only half the usual attendees will be there today.

Hmmmm. I just looked out the window and it seems to be clearing up a bit. I hope I don't have to lug dirty furniture back onto the porch.

Friday, March 18, 2011


I am thinking this photo was taken while we were still in elementary school - probably 6th grade (1946-47) - but its setting was at an area-wide PTA meeting held at Hamilton Junior High School. The photo itself has been in my possession since then, but seeing it again this morning made me laugh.

In the fifth grade a new Girl Scout troop (Troop 28) was formed at Whittier Elementary School in Long Beach. Mrs. Frances Allen, mother of Dorothy, became the scout leader, a job she held officially until we all graduated from Poly High School in June of 1953...and unofficially through many years of reunions until she died some years ago. "MizAllen" as we called her was like a mother bear with her bear cubs. She nurtured us until we were old enough to set out on our own, and each of us attributes some of our success in life to her loving care.

She was bold and brave. I look at this picture and can hear her telling us to make sure we didn't hold the flags in front of our faces. Rosalie Lorenzen is holding the flag on the right. Her flag cleared not only her face but also that of Frances Benjamin. I, then Barbara Dobbins, am holding the American Flag and it cleared both my face and that of Carol Smith. As an obedient child I did what she asked, but to the detriment of the little Cub Scout standing on my right. I can imagine his mother was pretty darn put out when she got her copy of this picture.

I don't remember the names of the Cub Scouts, except for Chuckie Newmyer, who is holding the American Flag for his group. He went all the way through school with the four of us girls, and to my knowledge he is still alive and kicking somewhere in California. Fran, Ro and I are still Californians, and Carol is in Sierra Vista, Arizona.

I love this picture -- not only because it brings back such good memories of my friends and our scouting days but because it reminds me of a joke that pops into my mind whenever I see it. It goes like this:

Marianne decides to go to the beach to show off her new bikini bathing suit. She invites a new friend to go with her, and as they strip down to their bathing suits at the beach, the new friend points at Marianne's navel and says, "What on earth happened to your belly-button? It's huge!" Marianne calmly replies, "When I was in Girl Scouts I always was the one who carried the flag in the parades."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I love to discover things I never knew about, and today LA Times photographer Lawrence K. Ho gave me a wonderful start to the day by taking a most unique picture of a horse. The newspaper printed this picture in black and white, so it was even a more wonderful surprise to find it online in full, glorious color.

In black and white it was pretty hard to figure out what that horse (or most probably, those horses) were wearing for protection. In color, there it is, a contraption befitting the steed of a knight of 2011. The police officers on horseback were keeping an eye on protesters in LA. It is my understanding that these officers and those horses are doing a great job and I admire them for it. However, I have to admit laughing at the contraption the horses wear, although I am sure the horses are thinking I can laugh all I want as long as they don't have to worry about being clonked on the head with a rock or sprayed in the face with pepperspray or worse. Not knowing much about horses, I suppose the white drool from the horse's mouth is just because of the heat, or the tension or whatever. Anyway, I was delighted to see that they are being protected from injury, and really, I'm not laughing at them, I'm laughing with them.

And that reminds me of an earlier blog I wrote several years ago that featured an invention by a lady in Norco, which is near us and calls itself the Horse Capital of the World, or something like that.

This lady took a lot of evening horse rides and was concerned that although people in Norco, being horsepeople mostly, are very aware of the possibility of finding horses on the road, it might be helpful to have headlights for them, not only so oncoming traffic could be forewarned of the equine traffic but also so the horses might see better where they are going. Horses apparently don't have a whole lot of trouble seeing at night, but since I am starting to experience a decline in my night vision, I can attest to the fact that if I just happened to drive in Norco at night it would be helpful for me to have the horses with their own headlights, as long as they aren't those horrible halogen lights! I do think this photo of the headlights on horses is worth a laugh too, but a good laugh, not a poking-fun kind of laugh.

In that earlier blog I also noted that it might be a good idea to design a red rear light attachable to the horses' rumps. If it helps to see them coming, surely seeing them going would be equally as valuable. But today I discovered in an old 1925 issue of Popular Mechanics a drawing of something already thought of so long ago, a rear light but not worn by the horse. No, the rider was the one who got to be the red-light bearer, by a contraption strapped around his or her chest that sat on his back and showed the world where the horse and rider were. I didn't read enough of the article to see if this had been invented or just proposed as a good idea. I was just a teeny bit disappointed because when I wrote that earlier blog and included the part about the red tail light, I thought I was suggesting a wonderful new invention. Alas, I was 80 years too late. And that made me laugh too.

In case you have a horse and would like to try out headlights for your evening rides, you can find the inventor at ://

Sunday, March 13, 2011


I saw a funny thing the other day. I was on one of our rural highways in the early afternoon and traffic was light. Ahead I saw a county maintenance truck driving exceptionally slowly in the outside lane with two yellow caution lights flashing above the cab. As I got closer I could see it was the second of two country trucks. The lead truck was a flatbed. A man holding a shovel was sitting on the back edge of the truck with his legs hanging down toward the road. As the truck slowly crept past small potholes, the man tossed a shovel-full of asphalt into the pothole and the tires of the second truck rolled over it to flatten it out.

I could hardly believe my eyes. Granted they weren’t huge potholes but that was certainly the lazy man’s way of doing a little repair work. It made me think that maybe this blasé attitude toward road maintenance was the reason why the electorate voted this past week to become a city. Perhaps the 3,000 or so people who voted for cityhood – which won, incidentally – figured they’d had enough of the county’s attitude toward our distant corner of the county and decided to become a city to finally get some good repairs on the totally disreputable roads in this laid-back area.

Now is not the time to disparage anything Japanese, but I found a recent article in the LA Times of such interest that I just have to pass it on here. There is an older man in Tokyo – 76 years old to be exact – whose profession has always been in the travel promotion industry. In the course of checking out hotels he discovered the porn film industry. The upshot of the matter is that he took on a second job and became a porn star without his family knowing about it. He went off to work every day…and none were the wiser. His roles, “in films playing upon well-documented Japanese male fantasies” has him playing “a gray-haired master of sex who teaches his ways to an assortment of young nurses and secretaries. Whips and sex aids often factor into the plotlines.”

His family discovered his second life when his adult daughter intercepted a fax offering him a juicy role. The daughter was pretty put out about it, but his wife was mainly concerned "that it might be too strenuous for him at his age.” So not to get overtired, he retired from the travel group and now has added posing for posters that say things like “Don’t be Ashamed of Getting Old” and “Lust is Good Medicine.”

The money appears to be pretty good. Seems to me that some of the retired geezers around our complex might make different use of their time in such a venture instead of sitting around drinking beer and complaining about the apartment’s management.


In sorting through my photos for yesterday’s cat pictures I was reminded of Peanuts, my daughter’s darling Wheaten Terrier. I had never seen one of this breed in “person” – only in pictures. She was a darling puppy, all soft and fuzzy, and as she grew she just kept her charming looks and sweet disposition.

However, when the summer heat came the kids had her shaved down, since she spent quite a bit of time outdoors. It was surprising to find that she had an almost perfectly white undercoat. She looked like an entirely different dog. It took her a long time to get her disposition back. She wasn’t sure who she was, and furthermore she was truly embarrassed to be caught by my camera.

In an earlier blog I mentioned that I got a portable CD player with earbuds so I could help myself drift off to sleep (hopefully) by listening to Faure’s Requiem. So far it has relaxed me, but I still tend to listen until the last chord has faded. It’s not quite accomplished what I wanted it to, but it has provided one spot of amusement, or better said, chagrin.

Last night I put my head on the pillow, nestled the little earbuds into my auditory canals, turned the player on and adjusted the volume. I seem to have a little difficulty seating them in a way that holds them in securely (it’s probably that I have weird shaped ears), and promptly the right bud fell out. With music playing away, I thought maybe the bud in my left ear might be shaped a little better for the right ear, so I switched it. But no matter how I put it in, I just could barely hear the music. Uh-Oh, I thought. I’ve got a failing earbud. To make sure, I tried both the right and the left earbuds in the right ear, one after another, and discovered that it is not the earbud that is failing.

And finally, I bought a card for my cousin, a cat lover like myself, at Border’s going-out-of-business sale that only a cat-lover would appreciate. So begging your indulgence one last time, I’ll share its cover with you because I think it is pretty true and pretty funny.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


My dad always wore a hat. He grew up in a generation where men wore hats both summer and winter. In the winter it was for warmth; in the summer it was for shade. But I think it was a bit more than merely functional for my dad. He was very conscious of his image. He wanted to look like a successful businessman, and in his eyes the hat made the man.

The picture above was taken in the early 1930s. His work during that time, which encompassed the depression years, was always in “outside sales” – selling (or trying to sell) tap dancing lessons door to door, Wearever aluminum pots and pans to groups of people who all met together for a dinner he cooked in their homes, or American Alabaster home décor items made in Colorado to big department stores. To be successful, he felt he needed to look nifty; the hat was part and parcel of his look.

And by the mid 1940s he was on his way as a successful business owner of a smallish major appliance store, and he met the customers with his dapper suits and hats. Life was good for him and the family until the early 1960s when he became caught up in drink and began a downward course that ended with him in an alcoholic ward at a hospital in the early 1970s, close to death. He did not die, but slowly recovered enough to go into a board and care home for a number of years while he regained enough sense to function on his own. Next he spent a number of years living in a small studio apartment in a poor part of town about 60 miles from where I lived. The amazing thing is that through all these years his favorite hat had followed him -- into the hospital, into the board and care home and was still intact when he moved into that apartment, although by that time it had truly seen better days.

In the meantime, my mother had died and as the oldest of his three children I assumed the shepherding responsibility for him. The years of drink rendered him stubborn and difficult to care for. He refused to move near me, even though I was working full time and could not move closer to him. He insisted on doing everything his way; his physical living conditions deteriorated but he balked at offers of help. He was well enough to care for himself, although not in a way that was satisfying to his children. But our hands were tied, as he was too competent to cart off to a care facility.

Through all this he loved his old hat, which had become really tacky over the years. Often he would ask me to buy him a new hat, but when I did he never liked it and told me to take it back. He knew his hat needed replacing but he wanted a replica of his 1930s hat and nothing of the 1990s satisfied him. He lived for 20 years after my mother died. He never replaced the hat and wore it, beat up and dirty, every day of those 20 years.

As he neared 90, he began having health problems that necessitated occasional hospital care. He was an obnoxious patient, pulling out Foley catheters, refusing to eat, and sometimes discharging himself against medical advice. The hospital had a social worker who helped me through this awful time, and it was only because of her help that I was able to visit my father without crying for hours afterwards. At one point I told her how distressed I had been over the constant buying and returning of a hat and she said that perhaps I needed to simply tell him that I would not be doing that anymore. She noted that maybe I needed to take the hat away when he wasn’t looking and get rid of it, forcing him to get a new one. She said sometimes family had to do that to old people when they stopped thinking straight. I thought it over, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. As mad as he made me, I still felt bound by the parent-child ties and for as long as I could, I wanted to let him call the shots on his own life.

He finally went into an assisted living home near my home, and life became a little easier for all of us. One day I went to visit him and he asked me to take him to the grocery store. As we headed out the door of his room, he stopped and then stepped back into his room. He looked into a mirror over his dresser and adjusted his poor shapeless hat to a different angle. “You know, Tibby” he said to me, using his pet word for me, “I always thought I looked a little like Frank Sinatra in this hat.” And with that, he assumed a jaunty little hitch in his step and off we went.

When he died at 93 after a week in hospice care, he still had his hat on the bed with him. I couldn’t help but think how much he loved that hat and how relieved I was that I hadn’t taken it away from him like the social worker suggested.

What I had seen that day in the mirror was an old man getting pretty darn senile, but what he had seen was an old man who still, because of the hat, reminded him of Frank Sinatra.

Friday, March 11, 2011


...You'll be missing something good!

This is Squeaky, which some of you already know. She was a "rescued" cat and purchased by my friend Joan in 2004. At that time the vet estimated her to be a year old. Good medicine and good care turned her into a darling kitty. When Joan had to move into an apartment that wouldn't take cats, Jerry and and I took her into our home and our hearts in April of 2006. Now eight years old, she has given us lots of fun, lots of laughs and only a tiny bit of exasperation.

She was called "Trixie" when she came to live with us, but because she squeaked instead of meowed, probably due to some damage done in her early life, we called her Squeaky and the name stuck.

She likes to be where the action is, and if she sees me with a camera she seems to know that I'm after her. She poses pretty!

When I am at the computer she wants to be right in front of the screen, watching the cursor. But I usually manage to talk her into taking a nap in the box lid I've put on the desk extension, right beside my chair. Yes, I could use the space in a better way, but as cat people know, whatever the cat wants, the cat gets.

An open drawer or an open cupboard acts like a magnet. It generally draws her inside, but sometimes she has to think about it before she makes the move.

The higher, the better. Now please understand, we don't let her into the cupboards, but she always manages to find that split second where we open the cupboard door and turn away for a minute...and then voila', there she is!

Every morning she gets two "doses" of PetroMalt for her digestive/elimination system to work properly and then her reward is to watch the toast pop up in the toaster. It's her favorite way to start the day.

Just as an open cupboard calls to her, an empty box is just too enticing to pass up, especially if it has a handle for her to investigate.

It something can possibly be laid upon, she will make it happen. There is nothing that makes her happier than to lie on my old hat, which is so old that there is no way she could crumple it up any further.

The other day she figured she could hide behind the computer monitor and I wouldn't know she was there. At first there were just little paws poking in and out from under the screen, but tiring of that, she decided to just watch for a while.

Squeaky is a sweet faced, good dispositioned, happy little kitty. We have always had cats in our lives, and we are so glad we were available to take Squeaky when Joan needed a new home for her. She has given us many hours of pleasure and lots of laughs. (As well as lots of photos, as you can see.)

And if you don't like cats, all I can say is that you would like THIS one!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Today's the day our part of the county votes on whether or not it wants to become a city. It has tried before and failed. The measure may win this time. But then again it may not.

Did I vote? No. Do I care? No. I have absolutely no vested interest in the area and it will make no difference to me what the outcome is. I rent my tiny apartment in a part of this area that is within spitting distance of another county, and although I have been following all the pros and cons, my position is to let the people who DO have a vested interest chose. (Realizing of course that my not voting is like tossing a "no" vote into the ballot box.)

The pictures in this blog show you some of what I see as I drive around the area. Believe me, it does NOT look city-like.

The impetus this time for cityhood seems to be that a different area, but still nearby and made up nearly 100% of tract housing and a large developing big-box type shopping area, has recently become a city, and our residents locally feel that the new city is going to gobble up every piece of profitable land to enhance themselves. Our area, primarily rural (with lots of horses, cows, pigs, goats, bulls, etc.) but not farmland, is fearful of losing its right to have animals on their property and having to have sidewalks and having to clean up the junkyards on their property.

The last census figured out there are about 90,000 people in this 50+ square mile area that will be included in the city. Of that 90,000, some 30,000 are registered voters. There is one fairly large enclave of "more expensive" houses with a couple of golf/country clubs nearby, but for the most part "rural" is the operative word.

The city will also incorporate some pretty nasty gangs that have moved out here from the Los Angeles area. Also included will be a number of rural strip malls, and a high concentration of very old and bedraggled trailer parks.

Those who live in the boonies live there because they like that lifestyle. They don't like the idea of anybody telling them what to do or how and when to do it. And the proponents of cityhood are swearing on a stack of bibles that they won't make them toe any lines.

This proposed city will integrate 5 or 6 little areas that always have had names they were called by - Glen Avon, Pedley, Mira Loma, Belltown, Rubidoux, etc. - but they all carried a "Riverside" mailing address. If cityhood proponents win, the whole area will become "City of Jurupa Valley." I won't mention what I think of THAT name, since it is immaterial. I just have a hard time imagining this area as a viable city. Smarter men/women than I have determined that it will be, so let the balloting begin.

If I had to guess as to an outcome, I'd guess the poor economic condition of the state and the country right now will cause a few more "no" votes to be cast and send the measure down to defeat.

In the six years we've lived here, this is the most exciting thing to happen in the area -- well, except for a new school board member filing suit because the other members refused to address her in meetings as "Captain So and So." (She's retired military). Now THAT was exciting. Measure A is second most exciting!

Sunday, March 6, 2011


One doesn’t hear the words “general factotum” much any more. I don’t know how it was that I became familiar with them; to me it seems like something I’ve always known, but if I had to guess, they were probably more in use in my folks’ generation and I picked them up there -- or possibly in my reading. And of course I doubt very much if I’ve ever had the need to use them. But I did know what they meant.

And lest I give a too-narrow explanation of them, I’ll just say that a factotum is a person having many diverse activities or responsibilities. It might be a hired servant, a jack-of-all-trades employee or a valued assistant to an important personage. The common denominator is that whatever this person did was of immense value to “the boss.”

Recently in my genealogical research I came into possession of a 1941 newspaper article from Belvidere, Illinois, that pertained to a distant relative and the article mentioned a general factotum. The relative was William J Hurlbut, a screenwriter in Hollywood whose claim to fame was that he wrote the screenplay for “The Bride of Frankenstein” in 1935. And “distant” means that he was my grandma Jessie’s second cousin. I don’t think she knew about him, as his folks lived in Illinois and her parents in Kansas. Nevertheless, in genealogy we researchers are always busy looking for someone interesting in our family. And Hurlbut was interesting.

He started out in New York City as a magazine illustrator and then switched to a playwright. After a decade of success on Broadway, he moved to Hollywood in the early 1930s. The newspaper article itself was interesting:

He (William) has built a most attractive home in the center of a movie colony just three blocks from the Hollywood bowl in the swanky suburb, Whitley Heights…. An oriental servant serves him as a general factotum in his home and garden, which is formally laid out and artistically fenced to provide privacy….
As I was nosing around the internet looking for more information on factotums, I came upon an interesting item about Bram Stoker, the author of “Dracula.” It says:
Abraham or 'Bram' Stoker is best known today for being the author of the classic horror novel Dracula (1897). The story of a vampire struggling to catch victims in his native superstition-ridden Transylvania who relocates to England in search of less wary prey.

However, in his heyday of late Victorian England, Stoker was more famous as the Business Manager and general factotum of the actor Henry Irving at London’s Lyceum Theatre. Stoker held this position for over twenty years and despite a heavy work schedule, which sometimes lasted up to eighteen hours a day, managed to write seventeen books including twelve novels.

I suspect that Hurlbut’s general factotum was more in the way of a “Man Friday” type of fellow, running the household (since Hurlbut never married) and the grounds. Bram Stoker was definitely a big step up above this!

Now why do I have this interest in general factotums?

I sometimes have this vague feeling that in my life I myself have pretty much been a general factotum of one kind or another, both at home and at work. I don’t think I did it intentionally, but it seems to me that it has played out that way, not having a profession or a calling or whatever else it was that the Feminine Mystique was trying to tell us women of the ‘50s.

I think I had a pattern imprinted on me early on for what women did, and I did it. I met my family’s expectations and did my jobs well. That I didn’t meet all my own internal expectations is no one’s fault but my own, and I refuse to mope about them.

However, I’m not done yet; I’ve got some time left to take on a myriad of things that are clamoring for attention.

General factotum aside, there's nothing that bucks me up more than finding and taking on a new project. So I'm looking....

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Nosiree! Not MY birds!

There seems to be no way to provide seeds for little birds - mainly house finches and sparrows - without also providing meals for the resident hawk. I just hate that hawk.

Yes, I know he/she is one of God's creatures and deserves a meal now and then, but NOT MY LITTLE BIRDS! The hawk is brazen. At the front of my apartment is an inset porch about 10'x10.' On one side is the outer wall of the bedroom, the sliding doors (through which this picture was taken) separates our tiny living room from the porch, and on the left side is a bougainvillea on a lattice. So the porch is sheltered. This hawk likes to fly into the little alcove, sit on one of our porch chairs or our little fountain and read the menu. I call that brazen.

Yes, I am fascinated that he is so close, although to get a clear picture from inside the house is just not possible what with all the obstructions like aluminum slats purporting to be window shades and then the glass itself. And I know that hawks catching food is nothing more than nature in the raw. But there's nothing that says I have to like it.

And actually, there isn't much I can do about it if I want to feed the little LBJs. (LBJ is bird talk for "little brown jobs" - those nondescript and plentiful little guys who except for the white crowned sparrows are pretty boring to look at.) So my approach when the hawk shows up is to run out on the porch waving my hands at it and yelling "Not MY birds!" Yes, I probably appear like a demented old soul to anyone who doesn't know me, and to those who do know me, I've made clear that I am not demented but just can't stand to think of the hawk feeding on my LBJs. (Or worse yet, my setting them up for easy hawk pickin's).

Luckily the hawk has a lot of territory to canvass for his meals. This complex where we live has many, many acres of lawn and trees, with a 9-hole golf course going across it. The hawk doesn't limit him/herself to only my restaurant. He comes about once a week or so, and I'm sure by this time he's got the picture that I'll come flapping out at him, hopefully before he snatches breakfast or lunch.

I have a cat also, who likes to watch the LBJs and have a drool or two. But she's an inside cat so she can look all she wants. I don't normally feed the birds the way I've depicted in the photo below. The plate of seed actually sat on a box that was suspended from a wrought-iron staff in our yard. But the chain had broken, and while it was being repaired by Jerry I set the breakfast table on the sidewalk for a few minutes. I manned the camera and the view, ready to go flap at the hawk if it arrived. It didn't, thank goodness, and soon the plate was back in the air where it belonged.

Now, in re-reading this, it sounds like I might have a screw loose. I don't, really. I just have lots of interest in birds and I try to protect those interests with some possibly misplaced efforts! Shooing away a hungry hawk is like trying to shore up a dike with finger, I think.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

NO WAY, JOSE! just reported that U. S. Customs officers at the point of entry between Laredo, Texas and Mexico discovered two ice-chests containing 58 pounds of iguana meat mixed with masa flour belonging to a middle-aged Mexican woman. The CNN article stated "Two ingredients were missing this weekend when a mix probably meant for tamales was seized at the Texas-Mexico border: corn husks and a permit to import iguana meat."

There exists a "Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora" and also the Lacey Act, which also restricts importation of wildlife, fish and plants. Both export and import permits are required. The woman had no permits, and now the U.S. hopefully has no iguana meat.

Take a look at that iguana? Does it look edible to you? Even stripped of its skin? No way, Jose. Possibly it is an acquired taste, but I am not going to acquire it. I do love tamales, but to think of eating an iguana tamale is enough to cause one's gag reflex to work overtime.

I admit to being a very cautious eater, and the possibility of ingesting an iguana tamale, or a tongue taco, or something else of that nature is enough to make me swear off all meat. Better safe than sorry, I believe.

I feel the same way about snails. Call them escargot if you want; to me a snail is a snail is a snail. People who eat them swear by them and gush over the garlicky sauce surrounding them. I have a granddaughter who as a little kid wouldn't let an olive or mayonnaise touch her mouth, but she now at age 35 eats snails without batting an eyelash. I just don't get it. How can she? Didn't she pour salt on snail bodies when she was a kid to see them bubble and froth? And now she eats them? No, no. NO SNAILS and NO IGUANAS.

Living in Turkey was a cause for seeing all kinds of strange edible things, such as this display of skinned sheep heads that I met in an Izmir market. Now I understand that other cultures use various parts of animals in culinary ways that are foreign to us middle-of-the road American housewives, and it's just because we don't usually see them in the markets that it seems so gross. Nevertheless, you're not going to catch me eating heads of anything.

I won't eat iguana, snails, sheep heads, sheep eyes, monkey brains, blood pudding, raw oysters, haggis, steak and kidney pie, prawn heads, crabs' dead men fingers, bull fries, turkey fries, alligator, crab legs or ..... well, I'm close to talking myself into being a vegetarian, but probaby for all the wrong reasons.

How can people eat these kinds of things, moral issues aside? It's enough to make an ordinary person hurl.