Sunday, April 29, 2012

Boats, Bok Choy, and Berries

"Wanna go for a boat ride?" My real estate agent rang my doorbell and caught me having a beer and carrots and hummus lunch. I was pretty much done with the food so I grabbed the beer, found the key to my boat dock, and we stood in the sunshine waiting for her friend to pick us up. But the friend got anxious steering the boat in the wind in the narrow channel, so we dashed through the neighborhood to another boat dock where a friend of the friend was waiting to pilot us through the wind.

This was a preview, I think, of what owning a boat could be like for me. I'm going to have to practice. Maybe a lot. There's that part when you're coming in, and you get close to the dock, and you have to jump out with the line in your hand, and then tie the boat up before it scoots away. I saw a lady on a giant tricycle today with a dog in its wicker basket. I need the giant tricycle of the boat world.

The boat ride was wonderful though. We saw seals playing in the harbor. If you have a boat, you can take your boat to the Sunday farmer's market. (You can take your boat to the Vons, and to restaurants.)

I had already gone to the farmer's market earlier by car, so I rode on with the nervous friend and her friend, got out at a boat dock in an adjoining neighborhood, and had a nice long walk back to my place. I'm figuring out the lay of the land--or the marina, actually.

This evening I walked to the beach. It's amazing how few people there are on the beach here--compared to, say, Santa Monica. There were a couple of joggers who plodded by, but otherwise it was me and a lonely blue bucket, which I picked up and carried away so it doesn't end up in the The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Oh--and the seagulls picnicking on a small sea lion or seal carcass. I startled them when I approached. "It's all yours," I said. I'd already feasted on baby bok choy, shrimp, and berries and ice cream.

I'm lonely here though. As lonely as an abandoned blue bucket.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


There was a 4.1 earthquake here a few moments ago. My windows rattled, something or another thumped, and my heart did its panic dance. Ooooh noooo, earthquake, I said, even though there's no one here with me. But before I could do anything other that hold onto the edge of my desk, it was over.

In the aftermath of the December windstorm I was so rattled I lost my keys, my cell phone, the saw, and the pruning shears, and whatever else I needed a dozen times. I decided the most important emergency item I need is a waist pack so I can keep track of the essentials while my brain drowns in adrenaline.

C. made fun of me. She's at her best when there's some adrenaline around. She said I never would have survived in primitive times. "Help! Here comes a mastodon! Help! Has anyone seen my spear?!!!?" would have been the last words I spoke.

I have an emergency backpack. I have two of them. I have battery lanterns and a battery cell phone charger. But now that my house is scraped to the bone, polished, and ready for its anorexic glamor days on the real estate market, I don't know where my emergency backpacks are.

Help. Has anyone seen my emergency backpack?

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Hollywood Complex

We are all waiting for our moment of stardom here in the City of Angels. People, houses, cats, dogs. I wanted to be a star once. Well. At least a working actor. That's what I wanted. And I was. I put Mr. Ex through law school on the money I made acting. He didn't have to work a single minute of his academic life as a law student. No, he did not.

And the last house we lived in together had its moment. It was in a TV show. They used the front hallway and the living room and the exterior of the house. I think we made three or four grand just for that one day, and when her dad got home that night, the younger daughter told him the front door made more than he did.

So. My townhouse survived its photo shoot. Me running around like a maniac gardener this morning sweeping, raking, hosing grevelia leaves from the patio, juggling artwork around with my real estate agent, turning all the lights on, changing this bowl for that bowl on the dining room table, removing the dish towels from the kitchen, and stowing Piper the cat's sleeping bag (don't ask) and her bowl of Catsure from the living room end table. The fancy embroidered towels were out strutting their stuff, and the perfumed soaps were shaking their little French asses in all the bathroom soap dishes.

You wanna be a star? You wanna be famous? You wanna make the big bucks? Let me tell you what you have to do.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ready for My Close-Up

The real estate agents just stopped by. There's still a tweak or two to be done. Some artwork to be changed out. A new orchid for the dining room table now that the one I bought at Trader Joe's for my New Year's Eve Party has decided to crap out. But I've done well, they say, despite the fact that the powder room is still turquoise, and my big antique armoires are still taking up space, sucking a little too much oxygen out of the air. But the photo shoot for tomorrow morning is on.

How did this all start? Staging. For real estate. Do they do this shit in Iowa? Nebraska? I want to know.

So the upshot is--I don't really live here anymore. Some alternate me lives here. Some uberhyperneatnik that has embroidered towels, perfumed soap, and only the most tasteful arrangement of books on her bookshelves lives here. How about that, daughters?!?! Could your mother get any scarier? I am now truly your worst neat-freak nightmare.

Maybe I'll sleep in the garage. With my stuff.
Oh. And, um, now is not a good time to visit.

Is that a poem in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?

It's Poem in Your Pocket Day. Carry one. You might need it.

I have no idea if this poem by Rumi is a good translation. And maybe it's a better choice for Poem in Your Pocket Night. (There's an idea. Run with it.)  But that's how I'm feeling this morning.

If anyone asks you
how the perfect satisfaction
of all our sexual wanting
will look, lift your face
and say,
Like this.
When someone mentions the gracefulness
of the nightsky, climb up on the roof
and dance and say,
Like this.
If anyone wants to know what "spirit" is,
or what "God’s fragrance" means,
lean your head toward him or her.
Keep your face there close.
Like this.
When someone quotes the old poetic image
about clouds gradually uncovering the moon,
slowly loosen knot by knot the strings
of your robe.
Like this.
If anyone wonders how Jesus raised the dead,
don’t try to explain the miracle.
Kiss me on the lips.
Like this. Like this.
When someone asks what it means
to "die for love," point
If someone asks how tall I am, frown
and measure with your fingers the space
between the creases on your forehead.
This tall.
The soul sometimes leaves the body, then returns.
When someone doesn’t believe that,
walk back into my house.
Like this.
When lovers moan,
they’re telling our story.
Like this.
I am a sky where spirits live.
Stare into this deepening blue,
while the breeze says a secret.
Like this.
When someone asks what there is to do,
light the candle in his hand.

Like this.
How did Joseph’s scent come to Jacob?
How did Jacob’s sight return?
A little wind cleans the eyes.
Like this.
When Shams comes back from Tabriz,
he’ll put just his head around the edge
of the door to surprise us
Like this.

photo credit: the Man Who Loves Me

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How to Move: Part 4

I'm sitting on my couch with two bottles of vodka I pulled from my freezer nestled into the small of my back. The ice packs, it seems, have already moved to the new place. But the bottles of vodka are performing their job just fine, and if I want a swig, I can just reach behind me, right?

Moving is hard work. My master bedroom closet looks like an ad from one of those closet places, and the bedroom itself is whispering. Buy me. Buy this place, and your life will become as serene as this room. My study is another story. It is the epicenter of the next de-cluttering war. But the war is on hiatus. A truce. Something to do with vodka. Yes, I'm going to have to drink the vodka because the lovely glass of water I poured myself is now being drunk by the cat, and I am just too tired to get up.

Disclosure re the photo: That's not my cat or my glass of water. As stated above, I can't get up.

Leaving the City of Angels

It's stalking me, this feeling. This feeling that leaving L. A. is bigger and wider than I want to admit. The city where I've spent nearly two-thirds of my life is about to become a pinpoint of the map of my past.

It was sweltering the day I arrived, sweating in the passenger seat of a 1966 Dodge Coronet. No one would recognize either of us now--the lanky blond boy that became my husband a year later, or the round-cheeked girl with dark hair falling to her waist. They inhabit the past, too.

And they inhabit the present.

Last night I thought about the way things end. How, in my choking grief after he left me, I told everyone I was already over it and moving on. It wasn't a lie. It wasn't the truth. "I'm over it," I'd say, sometimes laughing. Sometimes weeping.

I'll drive out of the City of Angels alone. I know I'll look back. There's a lot to see. But I'll be looking forward, too.

Here's what I saw from my patio last night:

Monday, April 23, 2012

Birds and Their Figures of Speech

Last night there was a great blue heron on my boat dock. It walked from one end to the other on those implausible legs, and then bent to water, stretching its neck like a magic trick. For a minute, it looked as though it was thinking about walking up the ramp to my patio. It would have been tall enough to lift the latch on the gate with its beak.

I've seen pelicans swoop low over the marina, too--and egrets, cloud white above the blue water.

I have a pigeon nesting on my balcony--which, I suppose is not a good thing if you subscribe to the theory that pigeons are just rats with wings. While I don't especially like huge flocks of pigeons, I'm okay with one nest. The cooing is a sweet sound. No wonder we refer to love talk as cooing.

There are lots of figures of speech that relate to birds:
Fly the coop.
Birds of a feather flock together. --one of my Dad's favorite cautionary sayings.
What's good for the goose is good for the gander.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Feel free to add to the list.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

How to Move: Part 3

On the Friday before the Sunday you plan to drive another carload to the new house, have friends over for dinner. Eat and talk, and talk some more until almost midnight. Take your time getting out of bed in the morning. Lie next to the person who loves you, and listen to the birds calling to their mates. A little later, have coffee and toast. Then drive to your mentor's house on the beach. Sit in a cool white-walled room, and write in the company of other writers. Have lunch with these interesting people. Then buy a dozen boxes, and begin to pack like packing is a form of exercise. Feel the burn.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Secret Life of Furniture

Couches hide things. Cellphones. Notes with mysterious names and phone numbers. Unidentified pharmaceuticals. Crumbs from chips and pastries you didn't know were in the house. And couches never talk. Was there a kiss exchanged as the person on one cushion leaned toward the person on another? Maybe. Maybe not.

My blue nylon camp chairs have apparently been out on the town. An arcade? A street fair? When I unfolded them at the new house, a clutch of tickets was nestled in one of the seats. I hope a fabulous time was had by all. I hope there was a ticket that won the raffle.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dear Blogosphere

I've been lonesome for you, my flock of bloggers who I love to read. I've been lonesome for my comfy bed because my "campsite" is rather sterile.

The last few days have been solitary. But I can't complain, when my evening walks take me here.

Here's a preview of the new location--what I saw as I returned from my evening stroll to the beach in my new neighborhood.

Really, I'm kinda speechless about the whole thing.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

How to Move: Part 2

The first car load is ready to head north. Cleaning potions. A mop. A vacuum. Wine, coffee, tea. Yes, I remembered the corkscrew. Two wine glasses, two plates, two bowls, two sets of silverware.  I'm taking an air bed and linens. A little portable radiator. Beach towels. The rest of the packing is not so well thought out. I'm under strict instructions from my trusted and savvy real estate agent to de-clutter here at what will soon (I hope!) become my former home.

I bought this place where I currently live at the absolute teetering peak of the market and will not be able sell it for what I paid for it. Not even close. But we're going out with guns blazing. A website with the real estate equivalent of glamor shots. A holding period after it's put on the market after which sealed bids will be accepted and opened on a scheduled date. Maybe they'll serve caviar and Vueve Clicquot at the open houses?

No paperback books, family mementos or photos are to remain here on my shelves. The dog bed which has become a napping cushion since the deaths of Lola and Layla must go. My desk will be cleared and polished. The art rearranged by a more discerning eye.

So the rest of what I'm pitching into my car has nothing to do with what I'll need to spend a day or so at the new house. It's a matter of,  where in the hell am I going to put this--oh!--the car, yes, let's drive it to the new house! Oh!--yes, I think this will fit, too. And that! It's a jumble. It makes no sense. But it's all going north. And, oh, I mustn't forget the blue camp chairs so I have something to sit on up there. 

Those blue camp chairs were the only living room furniture I had when I moved here after the divorce. There was a pile of sand, remnants from some beach trip, in one of them, and at least a week went by before I had the wherewithal to clean it out. Someone would come to the house--the cable TV guy, or the phone guy, or someone delivering something. "Have a seat," I'd say to whomever was gripping his clipboard looking for a place to sit. "It's okay," I'd say. "I'll take the chair with the sand,"as if having a nylon camp chair with a pile of sand in it in the middle of the living room was the most normal thing in the world.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

My Favorite Hillary Meme

Of course my take on it is a bit different than originally intended.

If you've been in a coma, and haven't seen all of these, take a look.

And while I'm at it, I'll laugh at myself, too. I made the meme below a couple of months ago. Apologies to those of you who've already seen it.

My divorce lawyers have four boxes of documents they want me to pick up. Anyone got a hand truck?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Hand, the Planets, and the Fickle Finger

Sometimes I love how the universefategod messes with me. Like when I made the final drive north determined to buy my new house where my mom and I will live together. The phone rang when C & I were almost there. It was my brother telling me that my mom didn't feel well. She couldn't/wouldn't get out of bed. Everything hurt, she said. Take nothing for granted, the voice inside my head said. Plan, but plans are not stone. Plans are made of sand.

My mom went to the hospital by ambulance that morning. She had pneumonia. She recovered. We're still planning on moving in together.

Yesterday, after signing the loan papers, I went to the bank to arrange the wire transfer for the down payment. Hooray! I'll take myself out for a glass of iced tea at my favorite little cafe, I thought. I'll sit on their patio and flip through the lovely pile of magazines on design and decorating that they have there. I was doing just that when my phone rang. The name on the screen was the name of the law firm that represented me in the divorce. Oh no, I thought. I just bought a house I won't be able to make the mortgage payments on because The Someone is dragging me back into court. Oh no, what can I do? Whom should I call? I couldn't take another sip of the tea and hopped up to rush home. As I raced down the sidewalk, I heard the phone signal that I had a voicemail. The law firm has four  boxes of documents that they want me to pick up, the message said. That's all.

But it's good to be reminded how how the tide can turn and wash everything away.

Today I counted my blessings over and over again.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Damn you, Paperwork. You're poo, I tell you. Poo!

How many emails does it take to buy a house? 183. This does not include the numerous emails exchanged in the house hunting process.

How many pieces of paper did I sign or initial in the process of applying for the loan and closing the deal on the house? 51.

How many pieces of documentation did I provide to my mortgage broker? 43. Pieces. Not pages. The page count is probably four times that.

How many pieces of paper did I have to sign, initial, and "read" at the escrow office yesterday? 78.

How many more pieces of paper has the escrow office emailed for me to sign and return subsequently? So far, two.

How many trips does it take to Bank of America for them to successfully complete a wire transfer? Two. They just called. While they have assured me that my down payment has "gone out," they forgot to have me sign something and need me to return tomorrow.

How many seagulls sit on your parked car in Margaritaville? One or two. Or an entire flock. It's up to the seagulls. They call the shots.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Eggplant Instead of Eggs or How Not to Eat a Ham

I'm a vegetarian, so the Easter ham is out. I do eat eggs, but when you're going to an Easter potluck brunch, you don't want to be the third or fourth guest to arrive with a platter of deviled eggs, right?

Hence, eggplant instead of eggs

3 or four shallots
a cup of sliced mushrooms
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded
Fine sea salt
1/2 tsp sugar
another 1/2 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 pounds fresh firm eggplant, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1/2 inches slices
2 to 3 Tbsp good olive oil
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves

1.  Combine the tomatoes, salt, sugar and vinegar and transfer to a fine sieve set over a bowl.  Allow to drain for an hour.
2. Carmelize the shallots, then add the mushrooms and cook for 5 more minutes
3.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
4.  Brush the eggplant slices generously on both sides with the olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and bake in the bottom third of the oven until they are golden on one side--about 10 minutes.  Turn the slices, sprinkle with more salt and return to the oven until golden and tender.  This will take an additional 8 to 10 minutes more.
5.  Arrange the eggplant slices on a baking platter or pie plate. Top with shallots and mushrooms and return to oven for 5 minutes.
6. Remove from oven. Top with the tomato sauce and garnish with the basil leaves. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

Note that the above image is of an ornamental eggplant (according to I used the regular aubergine-colored eggplants for the above recipe.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Mortgage Wolf

I couldn't do it. Standing in my garage clutching my car keys, none of it made sense. The final walkthrough of the house was scheduled for Monday or Tuesday. No one had given me any instructions about the cashier's check. I hadn't seen a final draft of the loan documents. I'd just gotten an email from the real estate agent that I didn't understand. And wait, the voice inside my head said, you're almost 60, and shouldn't you be downsizing? And my, that's a mighty big loan, my dear--you'll never live to pay that off. Debt opened its maw like a fairy tale wolf, and its big bad teeth were aimed at my throat. No one's got my back, I thought. So I cancelled my appointment with the escrow company.

Oh, I'm still going through with the deal. But I'm going to do the final walkthrough of the house before I sign the loan papers. And instead of rushing downtown to sign loan papers and rushing back, I had a  leisurely four-hour meeting with my financial adviser planning for this and that. Afterwards, I crawled in bed with the heating pad, music on my laptop, both phones, and Adrienne Rich's book of poems, "Diving into the Wreck." And despite the angst, one of the thoughts I didn't have was that it would have been worth it to stay married. Nope. It's better to take out a giant loan all by myself. It's better to know what it feels like to be loved. It's a joy to buy a big house where there's room for my family, and in a couple of months when I'm walking down to my boat dock about to paddle off in my kayak, if I feel the eyes of some monster on the back of my neck, that monster won't be my signature on a piece of paper, it'll be the shadow of a man who barely tolerated me. I'll dip my paddle into the water. I won't look back.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Secret World of the Pedestrian

I walk. I walk to the bank, the pharmacy, and the grocery store. I walk  to buy shoes, batteries, and presents. I walk to coffee places and restaurants. I walk to the occasional pedicure and massage. I walk to the train. Today I walked 1.3 miles each way to get my hair cut. I walked along a busy street that is frequently a route I drive to travel longer distances. You can drive down a street a hundred times, and you will not see what you can't help noticing as a pedestrian.
Like a cement chair.

I'm a fan of public art. It was very warm today, and it might have been a lovely day to sit in a cement chair in the shade and listen to poetry. The poetry, however, would have to be blasted at Rolling Stones-concert-volume in order to be heard over the traffic.

It seems there's a tradition of stone chairs in my neighborhood. The walk revealed this trio of seats in a sort of no-man's land practically under the freeway.

And this--which I believe is a bus shelter from the WPA era. I have noticed this one while driving by, but I've never really looked inside.

It's roomy. The columns on each side are impressive.

When I returned home, I lay in bed on the heating pad to deliver a bit of therapy to my always-aching neck. The moon was rising outside my window. It looked as cold and hard as stone.

Monday, April 2, 2012

It's time to say, "Thank You."

Thank you, dear readers, for your many comments of late. You are inspiring, informative, supportive, smart, generous, and sometimes you even make me laugh out loud.

I appreciate each and every one of you.

photo credit:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

How to Move

There's a giant cardboard box in my study with my ex-husband's new wife's name on it. Her name is crossed out. My older daughter C's name is written underneath it. Soon I will cross out C's name and write, "linens and towels/my horse collection" on it. I can see that the box will be perfect--padded on the top and the bottom with sheets and towels, my vintage TV cowboys and their mounts nestled safely between. This move is a ripple from the giant stone hurled into the almost-five-years-ago waters when my husband told me our marriage was over.

First I moved my things out of our bedroom into our guest room where I had a lock installed on the door. Then I went traveling, visiting anyone who would have me. Four months later, I bought a townhouse ten miles away from my old house. I made temporary living room furniture from my moving boxes. A wall unit for my books and the stereo. Doubled-up cardboard boxes strong enough to hold lamps served as my end tables. In my old house, the new wife emptied her boxes and arranged her things in the furniture I'd left behind.

The old house where I'd raised my daughters was a sliced-open wound whenever I thought of it back then. It was good I wasn't there to see their things stuffed into boxes and hauled from their rooms to make way for new children. Last week those boxes journeyed down the freeway in C's car to my townhouse so we could sort through them in preparation for the move to my new place. The place we call "The Beach House!"--though it's on the marina, not on the sand. Yesterday C and I skyped with her sister M--I held up each shirt, each sports jersey, each bracelet, each pair of earrings, CDs, and photos and let her say "yes" or "no." Afterwards C and I   filled my car with bag after bag (saving the boxes for my next move) and roared off to Goodwill.

In a few days C will load a couple of those salvaged boxes with her modest amount of worldly possessions, pile them into her car--or give them to me to save for her--and head to a new job on her next ship.

Meanwhile the leftover tower of empty boxes sits next to my desk, each marked with its own history, ready to be filled and marked again. New names. New places. The boxes tell the story.