Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Slippage

Slippage.  That is my new favourite word to describe an ongoing fear since David died.  It goes something like this:  if I don't make my bed in the morning, I will in short order be living in a pig sty.  If I don't get the dishes in the dishwasher, I'll be living with cockroaches in my stove.  If I don't obsessively prune my belongings, I will soon be a hoarder, barely able to negotiate through my stuff.  And don't forget the ten cats.  (I got the name, although not the idea, from a short story in the New Yorker.)   Seriously, if I start getting like that, somebody please just take me to the vet!!!

No, no slippage yet.

Went to a play last week at the local repertory theater.  It is called White, written by James IJames (yes, that is how it is spelled), It was an odd play; the premise was that a white (gay) artist was refused representation in a prestigious gallery show because he was white, and diversity was the thing.  He hired a black (woman) friend to pretend she had painted his pictures, to make the obvious point.  I thought it was dreadful - luckily there was no intermission so I couldn't walk out - although the premise is probably real enough.  Anyway, that's the thing about live theater - sometimes it hits the mark, and sometimes it doesn't.

I don't think I have told you about my classes this semester:

The first, and probably the most interesting, is called Evil and the Devil in Literature and Film.  The instructor was a philosophy professor in a past life, and one of the books is Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative  Theory of Philosophy, by Susan Neiman.  I have to tell you that this stuff is way above my head - I probably understand every fifth concept - but it does have me thinking about things I have not thought about before.

Next up is a course on Shakespeare.  It is called The Henriad, and is, unsurprisingly, about the history plays.  I have seen some of the plays - by no means all - and was interested in the background.  The book on tap is Stories from Shakespeare by Marchette Chute.  I really quite like it.  It's the Coles Notes version of the plays, including an explanation of the characters and plot, historical background, etc.  Those of you who know me know that I am wild about Shakespeare, and between the book, the lectures, and the movies snippets - well, I am enjoying the classes immensely.

Last, but not least, is the course on Its The Economy, Stupid.  (That's not really its name, but you get the idea).  We are taking two issue, health care (The Healing of America, by T.R.Reid) and Immigration (Melting Pot or Civil War:  A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case against Open Borders).  The whole point is to have a civil discourse on matters of interest to the polity.  So far - in a class of 120 people with significantly different viewpoints - we are succeeding.  I feel like I am on a high every time I leave the course.  And the conversation continues via email.

As you can tell, I am really stoked by the whole thing.  So much to learn, so little time.  I don't really know how much sticks in my pea brain, but, well, it can't hurt!!

Other books recently completed:

Crashed:  How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World, by Adam Tooze.  It ties together the economic, political and international events of the past decade since the 2008 crash.  The author is a historian as well as an economist, and this 600 page book was literally a page turner for me.  Because of my connection with banking and Wall Street, I knew a lot of the domestic ramifications, but was not so clear about Russia (and the Ukraine), the crash of the emerging markets, China, and, of course, Europe.  Fascinating.  I highly recommend it.

On a lighter note, I whipped through Alexander McCall Smith's newest addition to the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency novels, The Colors of All The Cattle.  These are such charming books - uplifting, even - that emphasize the goodness of human nature (although certainly acknowledging the bad - I just love them.

Finally, I am reading Anne Hillerman Cave of Bones.  Her father Tony, now deceased, wrote a series of books which take place among the Navajo in the South West.  I have never read any of his books, but I understand they are terrific.  Her's certainly is.  I don't know very much of anything about the native belief system, and without being preachy, the book takes me there through the day to day of, of course, a police investigation.  It is certainly written from a sympathetic point of view, but also shows warts and all.  I will certainly seek out her other books, and those of her father.  Two new authors!  I am excited!

Had dinner with (still grieving) friend John - I am trying in a small way to fill the hole that is left when you lose your bridge partner, your best friend and your life partner, which, as noted, he did in December.  We had Indian food, a small local place called India Oven.  I ate there a number of years ago, and was again pleasantly surprised.

And, to close,


....my buddies Desi and Lucy (little Rickie comes by too).  I love these guys....

So add all this to zumba, the gym, and lots of bridge - well, I am blissfully happy.

And although I wouldn't mind a valentine, I seem to be muddling through pretty well without one....
  

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Yahrzeit

The year has rolled around again,  February 6.  The anniversary of David's death, and time for the annual dinner with my husband.  I always go to Billie Reed's, for prime rib and bourbon (Makers Mark, to be specific) and prime rib, David's two favourite food groups.  (It was actually the last meal of substance before he died.  I hadn't really thought about before....

February is also Hank's birthday, so thoughts naturally turned to him too, not to mention Art (died three years ago, and friend Jim who died in December.  I short, I am melancholy (partly a function of all that, and partly a function of the bourbon I'm sure - I am not used to drinking any more).  But I did promise my husband that I would try to be a nicer person, as I always tried to be for him...

Nothing much else to report.  Went to the Pacific Symphony - I'm a little slow, just discovered it - for a wonderful Russian music program (keeping with the Russian theme), and saw Carmen at the Met in the Movies showing last week. It must be 25 years since I saw Carmen last - I know it was pre super-titles - and it was actually a wonderful production.

Lost of books to report - but I'm not in the mood today...


Sunday, January 27, 2019

There's free food everywhere...

Have I mentioned there is free food everywhere here?  Everyone has more oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes and grapefruits than they can eat, so there are bags of them for the taking everywhere I go.  Panera, the local coffee shop, brings day old - but perfectly good - breads of all sorts to the senior center where I go for zumba.  At a local community center the other day, pounds of cheese - they had been given an over supply - was being given to all comers.  And, of course, there is the Seniors Farmers Market every Thursday, where all the produce is free to seniors.  (If this happens in Vancouver, I haven't discovered it yet!)

What else can I tell you?  The Metropolitan Opera in the Movies (as I call it) was showing Adriana Lecouvreur by Cilea, an opera - and a composer - which I had heard of but not seen.  It had a stellar cast that only the Met can deliver (Anna Netrebko, Anita Rachvelishvili, Piotr Bczala) and wonderful staging and conducting.  A great hit, and I am happy to say I have found a pal who will go to these events with me.  I am good going by myself, and (this being America) lots of fellow audience members to talk with who don't think you are a crazy old lady for talking to strangers, but still, it's nice to have company.  I met Sue at bridge - another snowbird, from Michigan - and we have already made arrangements to go to LA to see the LA PHIL in March, to go to a local philharmonic concert next week, and of course Carmen, the next Met offering.  I'm actually quite excited to have a fellow traveler, so to speak.

Classes started as well, just a few one-off - and free- teasers.  One, called Where Does the Dough Go? - was by one of my favourite instructors (in spite of his former occupation as an economic adviser st Goldman Sachs). It was about the Federal government, where it get's its money and where it goes. I'm taking a six week course from the same instructor starting next week, as well as a course on Shakespeare, a philosophy course on the devil in history, and a film course.  And people wonder what I do in the desert!!!!

But back to the present.  I added a new restaurant to my repertoire - it is called simply Michael's, and is a local brunch place quite near my house.  I went with John, my friend who recently lost his partner.  It was the first time he had been there - where he and Jim had been regulars - since Jim died in December,, and it was hard to watch him tear up when asked where Jim was (it happened at bridge also...).  So sad.  However, a great diner-type place, where I will definitely go again.

The 21st of January was friend  and bridge partner Alex's 80th birthday.  There was a party, to which his son and daughter-in-law from Spain came, as did his daughter - from somewhere - and ex-wife - as well as a number of friends.  Wish I had had my camera to the ready - Alex doesn't look anywhere near 80.  (But then, I don't feel like I look 72 either....)

Back on the cultural front, I went to the art museum again on Thursday, for a lecture, part of the Architecture and Design Series, entitled The Third Los Angeles.  Aside from the joys of the museum at night...



... the lecture was fascinating as well, about the architectural and transportation plans for the next LA.

What else?  Lots of bridge - and I am on a winning streak, scoring master points on 5 out of 6 outings.  (I am sorry to say that the streak was broken yesterday - Alex and I were abysmal - but there is always tomorrow.)

Books.  I finished Dorfman's Darwin's Ghost.  It really was a fascinating book, a dark fantasy based on the premise that a native - captured, taken abroad and abused hundreds of years ago - came back to haunt a current day progeny of two of the past abusers.  It left one thinking about the ramifications of abuses such as those perpetrated on previous generations. I take it back - Dorfman is every bit as good as Mario Vargas Llosa and Gabriel Marquez.  Dorfman's play, Death and the Maiden is next up on my nighttable.   I rejected Lenin's Kisses by Yan Lianke - I thought it would be a Chinese The Master and Margarita, but no such luck.  Francis Duncan's Murder for Christmas was as good as his previous two, formerly mentioned.  Alan Holinghurst, on the other hand, I don't need to read any more.  I finished The Line of Beauty, which won the Man Booker prize, and an earlier book, The Swimming Pool Library. The Swimming Pool Library was interesting as a view of gay life in England pre-Aids, a life that will never be lived that unthinkingly again.  The Line of Beauty, on the other hand, was set in the 80s, in Thatcher's England, and reflected that and the Aids crisis as well as anything I have read.  On the other hand, that gay life was depicted as shallow and brutish - I wasn't much enamored with it, much as I espouse everyone's right to have the sex life of their choice!

Well, I'm off to cook up some of that free food!  More anon!!




Sunday, January 13, 2019

2019 begins with a whirl.....

The day after I wrote last, friend Paul arrived for his first visit to Palm Springs.  That is, his first visit to my place; he had actually visited the city some years before.

He was impressed with the view....




....and the juke box....



(Okay, I give up.   I thought I had done so well, moving these pictures that Paul took from my email to somewhere I could actually pick them up for the blog. I thought I had flipped these pictures.  Apparently not, and I can't do it on this page.  Turn your heads, would you?  There are actually some good pictures of me, for a change.)

We went everywhere.  Down town, where I actually haven't been yet this season....


....to the art museum in Palm Desert.....



.....to El Paseo......



......and to the Thursday night market, passing these guys along the way.  (We both loved the image of them looking as though they were playing in a sandbox.)


....and went to the Palm Springs Art Museum while we were down there as well.  (Paul was suitably impressed.)


Not pictured are the market at College of the Desert on Sunday, or the two dinner and bridge evenings at home.  Paul is re-learning bridge after many years of hiatus, and kitchen bridge is a great way to do that.  I don't think I've converted him to duplicate (he says he doesn't have time for another addiction).

And, finally, a new addition to my touring repertoire:  the Art Crawl.  It happens on the first Wednesday of every month from 5 - 7 P.M., actually not too far from my place.  A bunch of artists have set up studios in a light industrial area (behind the car dealerships, actually; Palm Springs doesn't have an industrial area, as far as I can tell), and hold an open house at the aforementioned time, including wine, and nibblies, and some interesting art.  We quite enjoyed it - Paul is an artist himself, and provided some interesting insights.

Another new discovery  - this is why we have visitors, isn't it - was  the Tommy Bahamas bar downtown.  It is attached to the new (beautiful) Rowan Hotel downtown.  It is outdoors (with sufficient heat lamps for the evening chill), with a generous pour and great happy hour prices for both drinks and food.  Ask for it when you come!

And a new restaurant to add to the list.  I actually haven't gone out to eat much this year - no particular reason, really - but we were wandering along El Paseo, looking at the galleries and cruising the shops (Paul's quite the shopper; it's actually fun to do this with a shopper, which I am not), and needed a place to stop and rest and grab a bite to eat.  The Beaux Artes Cafe had been recommended to me, and it presented itself to us, so we tried it.  Obviously, a popular spot - crowded even well past the normal lunch hour - but the service and food were both excellent, and the prices were quite reasonable.  Andrew, Elaine, why didn't you guys tell me about this place before?

Paul also took advantage of the hot tub every day (another thing I haven't done yet this season), and, in general, seemed to have a good time while he was here.  I enjoyed having him as well, although the longer I live alone, the harder it is for me to accommodate living with someone else.  I find that distressing, really.  I pride myself on being opening and welcoming and generous with my friends.  I really don't want to turn into a crabby, pinched, crotchety old lady.  Just shoot me, someone, when you start seeing the signs.....

Paul left on Tuesday, but even starting on Monday, the week was nothing but bridge.  On Monday, I played with John.  He's the one who lost his partner (life as well as bridge) to COPD a few weeks ago, and I wanted to make sure he was going out and playing (he was included in one of the dinner and bridge events the week before).  Tuesday, I played with regular (and favourite) partner Alex, and Wednesday with Robin (we started playing in law school, why give up now?).  And Thursday through Saturday was yet another tournament, this one the Non-Life Masters tournament.  Played on Thursday with friend Sue, and Friday and Saturday with Alex again.  And, believe it or not, I will be playing again later today with a new partner (Bob approached me at the tournament and asked it I wanted to play) at a new venue.

Yes, you read it right, that's seven times in seven days.  I know, it's too much; my latest analogy is that we are a bunch of adults working towards merit badges (otherwise known as points) - and paying money for the privilege.  I console myself by saying that this is an anomaly (and it is), and that, starting at the end of the month, I will only be playing three days a week - I am taking four academic courses this winter (more on those in due course), and that will be all I can manage.  I must say, though, it has been a great week.  The hands were interesting, the people were great, and even though we didn't make much in the way of points, a good time was had by all.

What's left to report?  My reading list and my mood, I guess.I don't know whether I mentioned The Wagners, by Nike Wagner (the great grand-daughter of the man himself, and the great great grand-daughter, of course, of Franz Lizt)?  It is a strange sort of book, part autobiography, part essays on the operas themselves and Bayreuth, and part her take on the succession battles in which she took part.  The book was probably a couple of steps above my pay grade, but I muddled through it, and am very glad I did.  (I read just about anything that comes about about Wagner or Shakespeare - I am fascinated by them both, and, as obsessions go, there could be worse.)

Sidebar:  Peter left me the book, which he got used.  It was full of underling and notes, which neither Peter nor I could read - and we were both tantalized by what a previous reader - with perhaps more insight that we - might have thought.

And yes, I had time to read more.  Michael Lewis has a new book out, called the Fifth Risk, about the beginning of the Trump reign, what government does, and how Trump and his acolytes really don't care. This was recommended to me by a friend - I wasn't even aware of it - and I have been anxiously awaiting it from the library, where two previous readers had it on hold.

(Michael Lewis, for those of you who don't remember, was the one who wrote Liar's Poker, and Moneyball, and The Big Short, and Flash Boys).  It is not one of his better efforts, from a literary point of view, but (because of its subject matter) fascinating nonetheless.  Just one example:

Here is where the Trump administration's willful ignorance plays a role.  If your ambition is to maximize short-term gain without regard to the long-term cost, you are better off now knowing the cost.  If you want to preserve your personal immunity to the hard problems, it's better never to really understand those problems.  And there is an upside to ignorance, and a downside to knowledge.  Knowledge makes life messier.  It makes it a bit more difficult for a person who wishes to shrink the world to a worldview..

Well worth the read.  On a lighter note, I found a new mystery writer, Francis Duncan.  Not new, really, he apparently wrote in the 30s and 40s, but is currently being reissued.  Sidebar; the name was a pseudonym, and no one had been able to figure out who wrote these very popular books.  However, on the reissue, a woman saw them in a bookstore and said, Hey, those were written by my father....  I think that's a great story, very much enjoyed the two that I read, Murder has a Motive, and So Pretty a Problem, and am looking forward to more.  (It's so great finding a new author, and anticipating many more hours of reading pleasure...)

Finally, I am now reading a book called Darwin's Ghosts (attracted by the name, I guess), by Ariel Dorfman (another apparently famous author with whom I was unfamiliar).  They compare him to Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa, both authors with whom I am familiar and like very much.  I am not quite sure he is that good, but I am certainly liking it well enough to keep reading until the very end, and to get his other books as well.  

Sigh.  So many books, so little time.  (Oh, have I said that before?)

Finally, my mood.  I am amazingly content.  I don't want to be anyone else, or to be anywhere else, or to be doing anything else.  And I, somehow, have been able to shed the Jewish thing of, when things are going well, wondering when the other shoe is going to drop.  When it does, I'll deal with it....

Ta ta, for now.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

.....and closing out the year......

I haven't written for while, thinking that there was nothing of interest to report.  Turns out, I have done quite a bit.

First, as a reminder of why I am here.....










Now that the grapefruit are ripe, I have a glass every day....


.....picked fresh from my bush....


.....The inside is pretty nice too, but I don't sit here very much....


Lot's of culture this month too.  Anthony and Cleopatra at the National Theater Live.  I have never been very much taken with this play, but Ralph Feines was fabulous as Anthony, as was the young black women (whose name escapes me, which is a pity, because she is going places) as Cleopatra.  I was actually moved to tears, which doesn't happen to me often.

The Met did a new production of Traviata.  I wasn't going to go (I have seen enough Traviatas to last a lifetime, I thought), but everyone raved about it, so I caught the encore performance.  It was, I think, the best Traviata I have ever seen - singing, acting, staging, costumes, directing, the whole package was terrific.

Even got to the movies with Peter (see below), to see The Favourite, a strange and beautiful and, apparently, quite accurate, historical period piece about Queen Anne.

And, to get all the "culture" out of the way, I read Circe, a new take on the old myths (the first thing Peter said when he saw what I was reading was "Oh, yes, she has been getting a feminist makeover recently".  It's true, but I hate it that he always knows everything before I do...  (I actually don't hate it at all, it is rather neat that we twig on the same things, I don't have too many people I can say that about.)

Also just re-read The Master and Margarita, by Bulgakov, the first on my extended reading list left over from Russia.  I loved it even more this time, as Moscow unfolded before my eyes again.  (It was even more special to remember that Violetta, our tour guide, had read the book in Samizdat, as it had been banned in Russia when it first came out.)

Also read 1492, by Barnet Litvinoff.  It has been around - and on my night table - for a while, but just now got around to it.  It takes the titled year as a divide between the middle ages and the renaissance, in the arts, exploration, religion and social life.  A different take on things, always good to be exposed to, but a difficult read.

Finally, I read Educated, by Tara Westover.  It was recommended to me, and I wanted to like it, but it was too painful.  She was raised as a Mormon, home schooled, and totally brutalized by her family, until, through a hard won education (she had been home schooled before going off to college), she was liberated.  Her liberation, though, came at the cost of her roots.  The book brought out the worst in me - I wanted to kill her father and brothers, and her mother for being too weak to support her daughter.  I didn't want father and mother to be successful, as they were.  I wanted the whole thing to stop.....

Looking at what I have written, it seems as if I have been quite emotionally labile, not like me a bit.  Who knows what is going on with my psyche???  And more emotional stuff to follow.

But there was respite at the Palm Springs Regional Bridge Tournament, held in early December.  My dance card was full - I played two sessions every day for seven days, with different partners almost every day.  People seem to like to play with me.  It must be my charming personality; it certainly isn't my sterling bridge playing ..... (although it was a very successful tournament for me)

We played at the Westin Mission Hills, a lovely venue, all decked out for Christmas...


On a sadder note, friend Jim died.  He has been sick for a while - COPD - but has been getting worse in recent months (oxygen at the ready, and several visits to the emergency room).  He and his partner John played bridge on the first Monday of the tournament; by Friday he was dead, the third of my friends in recent years to die of smoking.

John will need - and have - my support.

Peter paid his usual Christmas visit, with the usual round of museums (see below)....




.....movies, good food (we reprised the Schnitzel House and Sherman's Deli, and I introduced him to Mamma Gina's); we cooked, too, which is always fun with Peter, and, of course, lot's of sitting on the patio watching the wildlife.

And so, the year draws to a close.  All in all, it has been a good year, and I am looking forward to the one to come.  Hope you all are too - see previous good wishes.... and will, I hope, be able to share my ongoing adventures.

Ta ta for now...

Monday, December 24, 2018

Happy Non-Denominational Holiday

As those of you who know me are aware, I gave up my religious card a long time ago.  But the end of the year is as good a time for reflection as any.  Although my friends are succumbing to disease and death at an alarming rate, I am blessed with good health, more good luck than good management, but still appreciated.  I am blessed with my (remaining) friends.  I am blessed with a bad memory; bad seems to disappear, only the good remains.  And I am blessed with a nature (for which I take absolutely no credit) which sees the glass half full rather than the glass half empty.

I wish all of you your hearts' desires for the new year.  And, my favourite toast: health, wealth and love, and the time to enjoy them.

Til next year, then. 

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Well, surprise, surprise. My windshield wipers work....

......which is my way of telling you that it actually rained today.  A bit.  More like what they call Irish mist in Ireland, but it happens so seldom here that everyone makes a fuss!!

Thanksgiving has come and gone, without incident, that is, I did not mention that I was upset at being unable to bring my friends.  It was actually a lovely evening; everyone loved my turkey (and stuffing and gravy and cranberry sauce), evidenced by the fact that they gobbled it up.  That, of course, made me happy.  I love people eating well, especially food I have cooked.  I don't know why I don't invite people over more often.  Partially, of course, its because it is not as much fun when you are alone.  David and I used to collaborate on the guest list and the menu, and although he wasn't the best of cooks, he was the best of hosts.  I have pretty much steeled myself not to miss that, but every once in a while...

Anyway, the guests were lovely, great conversation, altogether a nice evening.

And, about the only thing that happened all week, except for the usual round of activities already mentioned. More books, of course.  One, called the Sherlock Holmes Book, was actually a page turner, a precis of all the stories, with sidebars about Victorian London, the development of Holmes and Watson and all the other characters, and literary and film offshoots.  (The authors were very much taken with the most recent iteration by Bennedict Cumberbach.)  I dipped in and out of it for a while, then read it cover to cover.

And another new addition to my repertoire, Karen Bender.  I read a collection of her short stories called The New Order,   She is obviously very much troubled by the lack of civility in our new world order (as, of course, are we all), and the stories all address that in various ways.  It spoke to me.

And now, on a different tack altogether, I am reading The Court Dancer, a novel by Kyung-Sook Shin, apparently a very famous Korean author.  As always, when reading about India or Egypt of Japan or China or, now, Korea, I feel as though I were being transported to a different world.  To me, this is what reading is about.  I feel sorry for those who don't - or can't - read.  It gives me so much joy.

And - mostly - keeps loneliness from my door.

Hard to believe I have been here a month.  But, for sure man, for sure, there is no place else I would rather be.....