(Our contribution to Magpie Tales #16. The rest are here.)
The afternoon Nestor came home from his riding lesson to find those black slippers on the floor of the upstairs sitting room, he knew exactly what had happened. The order of the household had been disrupted, and his mother never would have left even the slightest detail in such disarray unless she had moved on to a new opportunity. He grabbed them before they might be discarded the same way he snatched his dead goldfish and dropped it in a match box for proper burial under the lilac bush.
When his father arrived, he offered no explanation, only that they would be living Montevideo for an assignment in Benares next month. Nestor knew precisely what had happened: his mother had run off with piano tuner Alfredo. His weekly visits to tune Erard were always suspect. His mother always asked him to leave the room, reminding him that even as a toddler she would complain about him clinging too much. She even scolded him for clinging to his stuffed toy monkey too much since it might mar the feathers inside. Nestor thought of the canned, clinging peaches he so greatly enjoyed and his mother despised, their cloyingly sweet syrup and sea of preservatives always sparked her disdain.
Years later, when Nestor found himself reading the farewell note from his latest fleeing partner, he pictured himself a pale, mustardly yellow peach sliding down the side of a bowl of his regret. Another pathetic loss and abandonment. At times like this he would retrieve the box with those long ago forlorn slippers, their occupant long ago departed from the piano tuner with a bandoneon player before she go danced off to a new adventure. So distant now, she rarely gave thought to him now except on rare instances when she caught the whiff of blossoming fruit tree on a humid night. Such overpowering sweetness drove her to some smokey dive, longing for the stench of the most foul cigar to scorch away the lingering remnants of memories that had the providence of chalk circles in the mist.
(Here is our contribution to Sepia Saturday. Check the others here.)
Memorial Day weekend and June herald the onslaught of family and high school reunions. I won't be attending any this year, but thought I'd feature this one from 1922 of the Biggs family. The older pair on the right are my great-grandparents, John and Mattie Biggs, visiting Oklahoma from Torrance, California. My grandparents, Acy and Cassie Biggs, are the man in the flat cap with the baby (my father who was born that February) and the dark-haired woman in the center with her head turned. I am fairly certain that the young woman in the white hat is my second cousin, Jewell Biggs Castle. I had never met her until last April when she shared her journal from the family's journey from Oklahoma to Los Angeles in 1920 when she was 12. It was a poetically vivid account filled with detailed descriptions of sunsets, the new Broadmoor Hotel where she saw a polo match and the first discovery of the West. She died two weeks later at the age of 98. I look at this photo and feel lucky to so recently had a new personal connection with this group, none of whom are living today but are vividly dancing in my heart and imagination this Memorial Day weekend.
While we humans spend billions a year on trying to get rid of wrinkles, we basenji folks regret that with the passage of time our basenjis typically become less wrinkly, at least on their forehead. It's a bit difficult to even see Bow's wrinkles, and while she will wrinkle her brow a bit when looking at food in my hand I had no luck today trying to get a shot of her motionless when her brow was wrinkled.
The shot below is not Bow but gives you an idea of what a young, beautifully wrinkled basenji looks like. Why can't we celebrate wrinkles the way we do in basenjis?
(Check out the other takes on wrinkles here on the Theme Thursday Mr. Linky page.)
(Here is this week's contribution to the Magpie Tales. You can see the others over here.)
"Hello, my name is Mabel Crohn, and I'd like to share my story."
Mabel walked from the podium and pulled something from her purple and saffron bag, placing a small offering in the open hands of each person in the front row. "Metallic minnows," grumbled the woman with thinning dirty blonde hair and a brooch in the shape of dragon covering its face with a jagged wing.
"Pepper Ridge Farms Goldfish," Mabel said. "They sound so benign, so 'legal' to a dieter. Yet for years they were my downfall. Now a person without eating disorders might have a handful every day or so. But let me tell you, you're looking at a six pack a day kind of gal. And that was on days when I wasn't binging."
Mabel adjusted her headset as she walked down the center aisle, ready to take her motivational talk to the next level.
"I'd delude myself, saying, 'How could Goldfish be fattening? They're so tiny, no larger than a grape. And all I have for lunch is romaine lettuce with half an ounce of no fat dressing.' Well, folks, I was swimming down the stream to a dam of obesity."
Mabel hung her head, her intense, steady breathing amplified loudly through the P.A. system as she milked the pause as every eye in the room focused in on her.
Then, as if she were holding back tears, Mabel triumphantly held her smiling face heavenward. "And that's when I had my epiphany. I didn't need to end my relationship with Pepper Ridge Farms Goldfish. I had to take control of it and transform it into something productive. It was that night in November three years ago that when my urges took me to a bag of Goldfish that I could not resist opening, instead of pouring them into my mouth I poured them into an urn of molten copper alloy. It was then that I realized that my relationship with Goldfish could transition from one of dependency to empowerment."
Mabel then shared other crafted food items she had created -- a Ben & Jerry's Cookie Dough container gilded in sterling silver, a gold leafed Denny's Grand Slam Breakfast Platter and bronzed bookends made from Jack in the Box tacos.
With her testimony complete, the plenary session adjourned as the participants went on their way to the various break out sessions at the conference center. Two of the bigger hits was the session on rug weaving using spaghetti and other pastas and a Powerpoint presentation on a bio diesel car made out of Twinkies and Little Debbie's oatmeal cookies with cream filling.
Famed architect Louis Sullivan has widened his circle of friends to deal with some "unresolved issues" that have been lingering since the beginning of the year. It's still not clear if this is a good idea. Please feel free to weigh in on the topic.
Here is our contribution to Theme Thursday. Check the rest here.
This week's theme is so big it's hard to wrap my head around it. I've had pets in my life except for a gap from around age 22 to 33, a time when I thought I was too cool for cats and dogs and was floundering through the least grounded decade of my life.
The past six weeks of dealing with Bow's likely brain tumor have brought a full gamut of emotions, and I greatly appreciate the support from bloggers, Facebookers and plain "non-virtual", in the flesh friends, neighbors, family and coworkers. Bow has been in thoughts and prayers (animist to devout Catholic) from points as distant as Manhattan, Seattle, St. Petersburg (Russia not Florida), Ontario (Canada not California), Orange County and right here in the Mission.
She completed her radiation therapy last week with the wonderful team at UC Davis. The photo above taken yesterday afternoon shows that she's as perky and happy as ever. There have been no obvious complications, and I remain optimistic but take nothing for granted.
When pets become ill or have a health crisis, it's so different than a family member or loved one who can tell you how they feel, their fears, their needs. Like all pets, Bow is a great teacher and reminds me to live in the moment. It's likely she's not stressing out with "Oh, my God, I have a brain tumor!" and is far more concerned with the fact that the bichon frises down the street are barking annoyingly or that a piece of gouda dropped on the kitchen floor. As one of my cousins commented, "Don't think about the destination, think about the journey." I know that intellectually but really have to strive to do it instinctively. It's Bow's instincts, not mine, that will ultimately help me through this journey. We might have to cross the rainbow bridge in a few weeks or in ten years. Trying to guess that will cause stress that will help neither of us.
What Bow, and all my pets, remind me is that the small, routine and tangible routines get us through the day, and I have become more aware of this as she greets each one with such enthusiasm as if nothing has changed. She looks forward to each walk, even if we go the same familiar blocks at 7:02 every morning, as a glorious adventure filled with things to sniff and look at. The same Greenie she gets at 9:35 and the Dingo rawhide at 2:13 are equally glorious, unexpected treats, as if she had never had them. Each day is a blank slate to be embraced with gusto, even if every routine is the same as it has been for the past 18 months. I've always enjoyed her routines and have found her enthusiasm heartening, but with the recent challenges I have come to embrace them with a joy that reflects hers. The immediate moment has never felt more profound and precious.
In my youth I found Walt Whitman to be a bit to "precious" in the worst sense of the word. Lately I have been returning to him, and Bow has taught me to celebrate myself and Whitman. The fact that the sun rose, that the earth and heavens did not shatter and that my basenji is happy and healthy and so filled with gratitude to be offered a walk this morning makes these words of Whitman finally make sense to me:
I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the beginning and the end;
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.
There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now;
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Quick, how many points along the Continental Divide can you list that are named after prominent Axis Power collaborators? Give up?
Well, I know of only one, Mount Pétain, on the borders of British Columbia and Alberta in the Canadian Rockies. Its namesake is Philippe Pétain, noted for his leadership in the Battle of Verdun during World War I and would go on, at the age of 84, to be the oldest head of state in the history of France. That would be reason enough to name a peak after him, wouldn't it, though you'd expect it in Quebec not in the Canadian West.
There is a small problem, however. Though a World War I military hero, in World War II, he would go on to head Vichy France. Vichy France has always fascinated me in much the same way that Manchukuo has, both puppet states of the Axis Powers. I wonder how many people in Canada even know this peak is named after the man happily shaking hands with Hitler? At the end of World War II he was sentenced to death by firing squad for treason against the state, but de Gaulle commuted his sentence to life imprisonment due to his age and service to France during the first world war.
It's a bit spooky that not only is there a museum (noted in the above link) complete with an online "boutique" and association to preserve his memory. Check out this story of the desk that his lackeys stole from a Jewish family who got it back after the war, and now it is going to the museum. Let us not forget, perhaps, but not memorialize.
Perhaps my favorite film of that era is Les Enfants des Paradis. Begun before the end of the war, the production had a weird mix of Vichy collaborators and underground resistance members working side by side. Its star, Arletty, was tried by the time the film premiered for having an affair with a German officer. She is credited with saying , "My heart is French but my ass is international." A quote I could live by.
(Our contribution to this week's Magpie Tales. Check out the rest here.)
Roodstrom Reign was noted for its lovely blue plates and Berenbauer Beige linen table cloths. The three flights of stairs down the side of Minnesota Point made it a bit of an obscure destination but one that rewarded visitors with breathtaking views of greater Duluth and Superior Bay. Two more flights down one could visit the Superior Cup where espresso machines and coffee grinders whirled in a steady rhythm. The source of the restaurant's name was long the source of legend in Duluth. The prevailing myth was that it was named in honor of Princess Supayaji, daughter of Thibaw Min, the last king of Burma. When the royal family went into exile, there had been speculation that Princess Supayaji had escaped to Vancouver, then traveled through Canada overland before crossing Lake Superior to settle in a safe house in the hills above Duluth. The eccentric chef who always had his head wrapped in ornate scarves and scowled while chopping scallions and spoke little English was rumored to be the son of the princess and rightful King of Burma should the monarchy ever be reinstated.
Whether or not the legend had any basis in fact, it permeated Roodstrom Reign, with many dishes named after deposed monarchs -- the Anastasia Anise Cakes, the King Juan Carlos Sesame Crab Stew, the Mohammad Reza Pahlavi Pumpkin Pancakes. Each recipe had a story behind it, and one never knew if that elegant woman wearing sable stole over her UMD Bulldogs jersey at the next table was Bernice Chattington from Ball Bluff or some incognito royal. Just in case, diners would pour their Pabst into elegant crystal goblets and lift their pinkies as they consumed it with saffron braised cucumbers in case they were suddenly asked to curtsy.
Some say the unofficial motto of Duluth is City of Rumor and Fanciful Fiction. Anyone who visited there after Thanksgiving could see why this was not madness but a wise coping mechanism far superior to the alternative of games involving vodka, pistols and spouse swapping that often lasted until the big thaw that sometimes did not come until mid-June.
Even the Duluth airport, where you could travel no further than St. Paul or Milwaukee, named its small restaurant in the terminal The Flight of Fancy.
In the 1970s when EST and other "truth seeking" movements came out of California and other places warm enough to afford such nonsense, they failed miserably in Duluth. In 1981, Werner Erhard was shocked when the crowd who came to his seminar at Fitgers' Inn went into a rage when he challenged them to "embrace bold honesty".
"How dare you take our lies and fantasies from us?" they shouted, many having suffered through the closing of the GM plant and the Yugo distribution facility that had once graced the harbor. "Dishonesty and myth are the only things we have left to hold on to!"
Once they had tarred and chased Erhard out of town, they converged in Canal Park, forming a stunning tableaux of the final days of the Hapsburg Court.
In 1992, Ed Granville of the Chicago Tribune came to Duluth intent on exposing the insanity surrounding Roodstrom Reign. When he questioned locals about the logic of a Burmese monarch living in Duluth, they would confidently reply, "If you were a royal from the Southeast Asian tropics needing to go under cover to save your life, what do you think is the last place people would look for you?" Granville's article was never published. Was it because he felt it would shatter the solitary, fragile pillar of stability that was the backbone of Duluth, or was it something else? Was it because he picked up a Burmese dictionary and discovered that the Burmese word for delusion is dooluth?
I was glad to have a chance to check out the Civic Center installation, Three Heads, Six Arms, today. Too bad that this work by Zhang Huan won't be a permanent part of our cityscape. This blog has a nice account of it being installed.
Sepia Saturday: Our House, Glenn Bennett's White Pants and Other Sepia Mysteries
Although they can be cheesy as all get out, I can enjoy PBS series such as Antiques Roadshow, Mysteries of the Dead and History Detectives. So I will borrow a bit from them this week for Sepia Saturday. As the custodian of our family's historic photographs, I have managed to sort out the bulk of them and have them fairly well identified. However, there are still a few that need some clarification. This collection comes from the Cain family, on my maternal grandmother's side.
Many are frustratingly and amusingly vague such as the one above whose sole caption is on the front of the photo with no clue as to who the "our" in question is nor where the house might be. Any guesses? At first glance, it looks like it could be in southern California, but I've seen similar styles elsewhere in the U.S. Now we're getting a little less vague, with this barn of my paternal great-great uncle and aunt, Cecil and Nannie Bennett in Brier, Kansas. And here is a nice photo of Cecil and Nannie's son, Glenn. Even more enjoyable is the caption on the back that informs us that what we are seeing is Glenn with his white pants. Were white pants something to shout about in Brier, Kansas? Now we get a bit more mysterious again with this pair identified simply as "G.C." They are a fetching pair, pleasantly casual and seem to have a great chemistry. But who are they?
This shot of them really thrills me since it's so different from anything else I've seen of late 19th or early 20th century portraits. So charming, and I am trying to figure out what he is pouring and the vessel to receive it is. Milk? Now we have a couple who are identified -- Perl and Tom Lokey. We have know Lokeys in our family tree, so I have no idea who they are -- neighbors, school chums, distant in-laws? They are a sporting pair whoever they are. Tom is rather handsome, and I love his fashion choices. Perl is no slouch herself, and I love that "just try to mess with me" smirk. Who do you think calls the shots in the Lokey House? The subject of this shot is pretty obvious if you look closely at the sign on the building on the right -- Tokyo P.X. -- suggesting occupied Japan in the late 1940s, though the street scene looks earlier. Any guesses? It especially mystifies me since I know of none of the Cains serving in or visiting Tokyo.
Bryce Digdug came over the other day for a record party. He had some real gems to share such as Dora Hall's version of "Satisfaction", the Swedish Airline Service/Mitch Miller collaboration "Let's Fly Up to Europe", Elvis' last live concert, The Ray Charles Singers (no, not that Ray Charles) and others.
Perhaps the weirdest was one from the series Winnetou and Old Shatterhand, from Karl May's series of the same name that was later made into the above film starring Lex Barker who was fluent in German, Italian and Spanish. Although I am vaguely aware of Karl May, I never knew this series which some credit as predating and predicting the Lone Ranger. May never visited the U.S. until after writing the series and never traveled west of Buffalo, so his perspective was, to put it kindly, a bit skewed. Although I've known Kafka's Amerika which has a similar perspective, this one is new to me an quite intriguing.
(This is our contribution to this week's edition of Theme Thursday. Check out the others here.)
While making a tour of Mesoamerica, Abraham Lincoln and Grace Slick stop for tea at the ruins of Copan, Honduras, with their tour guide Sherman. We encourage you to guess the mysterious dialog that ensues as they sip their perfectly brewed matcha while Sherman suggests that they try the local yerba mate.
Junk Thief is somewhat pleased to say that he is within an inch (we won't say which one) of the 1967 ideal male figure. Then look at the 2010 "manorexic" ideal. I'm sure some women will take some delight in seeing this as poetic justice.
Dimensions of Rootstein’s Male Mannequins: THE CLASSIC: 1967, 42” chest, 33” waist THE MUSCLEMAN: 1983, 41” chest, 31” waist THE SWIMMER: 1994, 38” chest, 28” waist THE ANDROGYNE (a.k.a. “Homme Nouveau”): 2010, 35” chest, 27” waist
We never acknowledged her lisp. Did it matter that Dr. Vonda struggled to enunciate her words? She was the first female ophthalmologist in our parish and so beloved. Her little shop at the corner of Beria and Grove had a dusky blue sign that announced: "The Courier of Site". As she guided our eyes with her tiny red light, she would assure us with "You're doing fine" even if she saw glaucoma or worse.
Why did she leave our village so soon, leaving behind that ceramic blue eye that stared at us as we passed by on our way to the muffin shop or tailor on the main square? Where did she go, and were the new eyes she doctored as worthy as ours. Dr. Victor soon bought her shop but shared no details of the transaction nor where and why his predecessor had gone. He did a worthy job and saved the Dorset twins from blindness by catching a nerve disorder just in time. But everyone agreed, even with the eye icon still on the square, the magic was gone.
(We've been away much of the past month with travels and issues of Bow's health. This update will appear Wednesday on the Basenji Rescue and Transport (BRAT) blog, but we thought we'd give you a preview.)
It might sound like a serious contradiction to say in the same sentence that my basenji girl has a brain tumor and that I am grateful and fortunate.After nearly a month of being on an emotional rollercoaster ride with this issue, I feel that we are incredibly fortunate as we face and address this traumatic issue.
In mid-April, I took Bow to our primary vet for follow up visit on her recent dental work and to have an abnormality in her right eye.The vet was concerned and said that there was a slim chance that it could be related to a tumor but to monitor it for a few days and recommended one of the top canine ophthalmologists in the Bay area.After seeing no progress and her eye lid drooping, I felt it could not wait and took her to the ophthalmologist who was deeply concerned when she saw muscle paralysis on several spots on the right side of her face.She recommended us to a neurologist who then sent us to have an MRI.There was a clear abnormality in her brain between the optic nerve and pituitary gland.There was the chance of it being a tumor, lymphoma or an nerve infection.Since a biopsy would be almost impossible except for permanently removing the eye, she suggested a spinal tap.Over the next few days we had to wait on the results.She shared the potential treatments which included chemo, radiation or letting things take their course and hope for the best and keep her comfortable. The possibility of the renowned UC Davis veterinary school was brought up as a possible resource.
In the meantime our primary vet recommended Dr. Michael Kent, an oncologist at UC Davis who has been doing work on canine cancer with stereotactic radiosurgery, a process that has been very successful with humans but is very new with animals.In fact there are only four or five places in the world that offer it, and UC Davis has only had it since November.
Last Monday we had our first visit with Dr. Kent and his team.To say that UC Davis feels like the Mayo Clinic for small animals is an understatement.After doing extensive research on Dr. Kent, I was convinced that he was brilliant and on the cutting edge of veterinary medicine.What I was not prepared for was that he is so personable and humble.I was hugely impressed that we were greeted in the lobby not by a technician or nurse but Dr. Kent who himself who introduced himself humbly as just “Michael”.He was able to explain the process, risks, side effects and potential benefits of the surgery. While the dogs that have been through it so far have done well, he qualified that they have only a few months of history.I have my qualms about exposing an otherwise happy and healthy dog to radiation and anesesthia, but not addressing it seems negligent.There is also the cost to be considered.At UC Davis, it costs around $6,000, not inexpensive, but most private clinics are charging $12,000 or more and would require flying or several days of driving to get there.
In short, and in my lay version of what happens with this therapy – we had a CT scan last week which will provide a map of where the radiation will hit her brain. Dr. Kent spent 12-15 hours after our visit preparing for the procedure.She will have three treatments this week as opposed to 12 or more treatments with traditional radiation.Because of the detailed map of the brain from the CT scan and the fewer number of treatments but at higher levels of radiation, it is considered to be more effective and less invasive.We will then monitor results, and she will return in three months for an MRI to see what has happened with the effected area.
There is still a great deal of uncertainty and concern in this process.She might suddenly go downhill, have a reaction, not respond to the radiation.She has had significant muscle wasting on the right side of her face that might be permanent, and she could go blind in her right eye or lose it.We are closely monitoring it and putting in artificial tears 3-4 times a day.On the other hand, there is reasonable hope that the radiation will cause the tumor to go into complete remission and that because optic nerves can be resilient, they might go back to their original capacity.
As I write this, we are just back from UC Davis where Bow had her first radiation treatment without any complication.She is enjoying her regular 4 – 6 p.m. sunbath in the front sitting room, albeit with an IV catheter.
There has been great support from the BRAT community, friends, family, coworkers and others.We appreciate the many kind and supportive words as we remain optimistic but realistic about the uncertainty of the days ahead.
Below is a video of Dr. Kent talking about his work and the Morris Animal Foundation.
(After a long absence, we're glad to be back with another Sepia Saturday contribution. Check out the others here.)
Of all the challenges of growing older, I think the most difficult and comforting is dealing with the memories of those we will never see again on this earth and how their memories and presence grows stronger.
It should be no surprise to focus on my mother this week for Sepia Saturday after several weeks "out of the game". The last Mother's Day I celebrated with her was in 2003. She died March 12, 2004.
This above picture of her is from around 1927 with my mother in the center, the "sullen" child as she would sometimes call herself and her younger sister Goldie in foreground on the left. They was barely 16 months between them, and my mother often said that they were the mirror opposites of the greater whole. My mother was the serious, cautious, protective, reflective one -- always calculating risk and potential hazards. Goldie was, quite literally, the Golden Child -- joyous, foolhardy, always running, never afraid, and always singing. Her golden locks brought her the name of her maternal aunt.
My grandfather was the conductor of the Alameda line street car in Kansas City at the time. Goldie and my mother would often ride with him. My mother would sit in an obscure corner with good light and read a book. Goldie would prance into the center of the car, delighting my grandfather -- a huge fan of jazz and the Charleston -- as she sang "Birmingham Bertha" or "Sweet Georgia Brown", hands on her hips and she did pelvic twists wise beyond her mere three years. Here we see Mother and Goldie in the spring of 1931. It was a rainy, sick season. Three weeks later Goldie died of rheumatic fever. The family never recovered on many levels. My grandfather invested hard earned Depression dollars on tap and voice lessons for my mother, who was clearly a book not stage person. They went to Shirley Temple movies at once uplifted and heart sick as the cheerful singing tot reminded them too much of Goldie. Years later, I remember my mother watching Paper Moon with me, but suddenly running out in tears as Tatum O'Neal's tough cookie preteen in a bowl cut reminded her too much of what her sister would have been at that age. This photo of my mother and her parents from 1937 was often called the "wave shot" for obvious reasons. There is poise and happiness in the three but I also see the pain in their faces from the loss of the fourth family member that should have been in the photo. A few months later, my mother's second sister, Barbara arrived. She was a beautiful woman on many levels but had a strained relationship with my mother and her parents from the start. My mother resented a baby coming into the house when she was about to enter her teens and felt she often played the role of the nanny. My grandparents groomed her from the start as the "new Goldie" instead of recognizing her unique, individual personality. She had an aptitude and competence in music, but it was always an uphill, deliberate skill for her. She feigned an effervescence, always cracking rather awkward jokes and laughing but never taking to it intuitively.
At the risk of this sounding like a morbid and downbeat Mother's Day post, I'll qualify why I have, with the passage of time, have come to love and appreciate my mother even more. Sometimes I think what drew my parents together was that both of them came from households that were tortured by the loss of a daughter at a young age. From the outset, they said that they would raise their children with no expectations of who or what they should be but honor their personalities. I can remember being taken aback in high school when my father told me, "You know, I've never raised a son before, so we're both sort of learning this as we go." As a tot, I had a reputation of breaking out in song at family gatherings or in shopping centers , hands on hips and gyrating as I got wrapped up in my own act. My parents -- and even my grandfather -- looked on with pleasure and no judgment, even if I was singing "The Man I Love" or "My Boyfriend's Back" at pitch volume at the Piggly Wiggly. A bit of Goldie did live on in the family, without pain, and I feel blessed to have parents and grandparents who could embrace it coming from the most unexpected of packages.
Location: San Francisco, California, United States
JunkThief is your typical Gallic Jew boy born on the Great Plains, went to Gotham and Ouagadougou and Kathmandu before settling in San Francisco's Mission District. Now he searches the dark alleys of that city to find good conversation, Weimar culture and (but of course) the perfect door knob.