Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Lovers of Liberty

Let's all take a tiny break from reading and thinking about all the ugliness happening in our government these days. Let's look at some flowers. Then we can go back to worrying, signing petitions, subscribing to fact-based news sites, and calling our representatives.

Betsy DeVos? Are you kidding me?????


Scandal is one of our guilty pleasures, although we missed the season premiere last week and will watch it on iTunes. Kerry Washington's outfits alone make it entertaining, but there are a few other characters who steal scenes whenever they open their mouths. For some reason, I've thinking a lately about my one of my favorites, Sally Langston, talk-show host and ex-vice president. She is played to drawling, colorful perfection by Kate Burton, Sir Richard's daughter. Sally is a southern conservative, a Christian fundamentalist, and a classic pro-lifer. So, naturally, she helped her pregnant teenage daughter have an abortion. Years later, while running for president, she murdered her husband for having an affair with a man. Then she went bonkers from guilt. This took the form of confessional ravings that were almost Shakespearean in their language and looniness.

Oh, for the days when we had such experienced, decent people running our government.

Now, where were we? Oh yes — as Sally Langston always addresses her TV talk show audience: "Lovers of Liberty!"

Let's look at this spring's Liberty Art Fabrics collection from J. Crew. You can find everything that is currently available in one place right here:

Right now, I'm surprised to see this Isborella print Perfect Shirt from last summer back in the sale section today. It sold out long ago, so these last few strays won't last long. After admiring it at full price ($98) for many months and stalking the sale section for a new weeks, I was happy to get one in my size for $42.

And, of course, as soon as I had my new Liberty shirt, J. Crew came out with this spring's model, which has a navy background and a Japanese-y wildflower print that looks great over a navy-striped sailor tee. (I have too many of those.)

I took this screenshot a few days ago and I'm glad I did — this shirt is already gone, sold out. It will probably be restocked in days or weeks. Liberty Perfect Shirts are popular because they are indeed pretty perfect. I predict that this one will go on sale late in the summer; I'm a patient person. By then, my striped tees will be faded wrecks.

There are other J. Crew Liberty print shirts for women, but they tend to be "popovers" that only button at the top or have tiny ruffles and so on rather than "perfect" button-downs. Nevertheless they are beautiful.

If you have a little girl in your life, I don't see how you can resist this dress:

I have just one little boy in my life, and he's not even a year old. However, he already has more sartorial attitude (and accessories) than I've ever had, thanks to his mothers. He has already outgrown his tuxedo! Maybe I can get maternal approval to give him this Liberty tie down the road. It is sized for bigger little boys who can talk, walk, ride a bike, and code:
Back to us grownups: how about a headband in William Morris's "Strawberry Thief" fabric? It's pretty but I'm still kicking myself for missing out on J. Crew's "Strawberry Thief" baseball cap, which appeared briefly a few years ago. This is cute but it will never fill that sorrowful abyss of missed opportunity.

There's also a "Strawberry Thief" peasant blouse that looks like a strangely cute child's dress on the hanger . . .

 but like this on a model who has been expertly half-tucked:

Then there are cropped pajamas in Edenham floral — another print I've always liked. They are showing the top worn as a blouse, so perhaps that will help you justify shelling out $148 for the set. (Liberty items are usually excluded from the various sales and promotions J. Crew runs almost continuously.) 

If the pajamas are not for you, maybe this bandana is ($22.50). I'm a sucker for bandanas but I have three, so I'd better pass. . . until it goes on sale.

I'm curious to see of Liberty and Uniqlo will collaborate again this spring. If we're not in the midst of a coup or civil war by then, and if we're still allowed to have the Internet, I'll keep you posted on that. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Annals of Real Estate: Keep Your Head Down

For your delectation, I present a property at 52 Austin Street in the Hyde Park section of Boston. (I've never been there because the trolley doesn't go there, only buses.) This a small, reasonably priced house from 1910 with a big yard. It is listed by Salustia Ortiz at Dreamcatcher Investment Group, and the credit for these photos belongs to her and her company.

I'm still trying to figure out who, or what, took these photos. Given the strange, unhelpful vantage point, my theory is that they were taken by a very small child or an exceptionally tiny adult.  Or another creature of in the range of three feet high. I'm thinking a dog, or maybe a turkey wearing a videocamera. Because these photos remind me of stills from a "cat cam," a tiny videocamera attached to a cat's collar to record its outdoor travels. A cat's-neck view is a little closer to the ground than you'll see in these photos, but not by much.

Take a look and see what you think. 

As you can see, our focus is firmly on the ground. Are we hunting for bugs, or what?

The photos, which I found on Redfin.com, appear in an odd, vertical format that doesn't lend itself to real-estate photography. In fact, on Redfin, each of these narrow images is framed by black borders on each side because their template clearly uses a landscape format. Like this:

As you can see, those black bars don't do the photos any favors. But nothing can do much for a photo like this:

Listen: if you are going to go all Old Spanish Grandee in your bathroom, with drapery tassels for your shower curtain, a matching sling for your hand towel, and wrought-iron cages for your toilet paper, bath towels and — what are those? — croquet balls, PLEASE go the distance and put the toilet seat AND lid down before you take the picture.

A dog or a turkey wouldn't know that, but even a little kid might. I rest my case.

Shall we continue the tour? Here's a hazy view of the exterior: The black line on the left means I did a sloppy cropping job.

Inside, we are fascinated by the floor again. And we are afraid of that hairdryer so we are keeping our distance. The furniture in this room is very clever — it looks exactly like a couple of packed suitcases.

Below is the parlor (it can only be called a "parlor"). Continuing in the Spanish Grandee style, it features more drapery and croquet balls (don't ask me, I'm Italian), and it almost makes me wish the photographer's focus was back on the floor.

Yes, it is impossible to satisfy me. And what are all those things on the wall? And is that a damask tablecloth on the floor?

Below is another slightly more normal view, this time of the Spanish Grandee's dining room, with wrought-iron ceiling light and wrought-iron doorway trim. I don't remember seeing this view, or the one of the parlor, when I first looked at this listing. I am willing to bet that these photos were added later by an adult. Perhaps a slightly tipsy one, judging from the angles.

This room has a rug on the floor and the tablecloth where it belongs. The wall-mounted television depresses the heck out of me. I only see them in hospital rooms, restaurants and waiting rooms, and I always wish they were turned off in all three. It seems that the Spanish Grandee's family doesn't value quiet conversation around the dinner table. Oh, well. And are those more croquet balls in the centerpiece?

This picture seems to be about the fence keeping the Christmas tree and its fake snow from escaping. But look closer and you will see it is an office:

Two wrought-iron bar stools stand in front of a bureau or tiny bar, which is being used as a partners' desk. A wrought-iron firewood holder seems to be holding papers. 

At least the tree fence is not wrought-iron. (And most tree fences are.)

Let's go outside and look at the ground some more. 

I'm not sure what those things are in the little white rectangle between the yard and the driveway. Tiny shrubberies?

Here's the deck, looking very decky:

Lots of leaves:

Here's a close-up of that:

Here's the final photo, which is reminiscent of the first one we saw. It seems like that was ages ago, doesn't it? This house has been on the market for 65 days, which is a long time for Boston real estate. I wonder why.

Let's go home.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The White Squirrel in the Public Garden

As I walked into the Public Garden on Thursday, I remembered seeing photos of the white squirrel that's been living there. The squirrel has been around for at least a year, but I've never spotted it, and I wanted to. So I looked around and saw a ghostly-looking squirrel right nearby:

He/she is very pretty, with dark eyes and hints of tan coloring in the tail.

I managed to get reasonably close but I still had trouble taking photos because the squirrel was so busy running around and being squirrelly. Lots of my photos look like this:

Finally he/she sat still for a second:

Then he/she started chasing and being chased by other squirrels, went up a tree and that was that:

I have to go to Beacon Hill on Monday so I will keep an eye out for a blur of white fur.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

We Marched in Boston

When I first heard about the Women's March in Washington, I decided that I had to go. But when I heard that a march was being organized in Boston, a mile from our apartment, I decided it was even more important to make a statement here. The Revolution started here. The Sons of Liberty.  The Boston Tea Party. When we protest, we do it right. 

I bought poster board, fat markers, and glitter stars the night before the march, but I had no idea what I wanted my sign to say. I was a little too young to protest in the '60s and '70s, and hadn't done any civic actions besides some very uneventful support for for gay marriage at the State House. So it's high time I got my feet wet.

Googling around, I finally found a slogan that hit me, and my husband thought it was good. Now I just had to make the thing. It was only 10 pm — plenty of time. 

My last poster moment was probably in high school, in the pre-computer era. For weeks I'd been dreading the sad, clumsy lettering I'd draw by hand. Then it occurred to me: we have a tabloid-size printer I laid out one word per page in a display font, and taped the pages to the board. Instant poster:

I wanted to play with my new markers so I added red outlines, and then all of the glitter stars. I turned the sign upside-down on the table so Harris couldn't eat the stars. And went to bed. 

Pink pussy hats were fine for others, but I planned to dress in black. The march struck me as a serious event, given the horror show in Washington. (I keep waiting for Charles Manson to be offered a cabinet post.) For me, a cute pink hat didn't feel right. But as I was dressing, I pulled out a hanger that held a sober dark skirt and another one made of lace tiers in shades from red at the top to burgundy above my ankles. It matched my sign so I wore it. My husband wore a dress coat and fedora. 

We got to Boston Common just ahead of the speeches. It was mobbed but also serene. I avoid crowds; they make me uncomfortable, but we were now in the biggest crowd I'd ever seen. A sea of people as far as I could see:

I felt great in that crowd. We talked to a few people around us and everyone was nice, friendly, and in solidarity. We maneuvered to a better spot to see the jumbotron, and cheered as our senators, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, said all the right things, followed by Mayor Walsh. There were songs and more speeches. And more speeches, and more.

We got restless and moved again, this time toward where we thought the march would start. We found that no one was sure about where that was, not even the cops and march volunteers. Finally the march began, and we were in a good spot to get moving. We took turns holding up the sign and kept to the edges of the crowd.

On Commonwealth Avenue we stopped marching to greet some friends watching from the sidewalk. I decided to park myself on a wall and join them to just watch for a while. I held up my poster as a steady river of people passed me, chanting and walking in unity, holding every kind of message for every liberal cause under the sun. Some memorable ones: "Angry Librarian." "Not Really a Sign Guy, But Jeez." "Now You've Pissed Off Grandma."

It felt wonderful to drink it all in, like a tonic. Or some clean mountain air. It was therapeutic. Optimistic. Hopeful. I felt better than I had since November. I still do.

These two women in black coats were complimenting my sign:

I don't know why. I was surprised at the number of marchers who admired it and signaled agreement or stopped to say nice things. I said nice things back. I was photographed dozens of times. (I tried to hide behind the sign if I could.) But the my message was hardly unique; I spotted four or five other people holding the same message. And we all bonded the moment we spotted each other.

Here's another favorite:

I never finished the march, but I didn't mind. It felt better to witness it. And as I watched, I had scores of interactions with people, and joined in one chant after another. 

"Show me what Democracy LOOKS like!" "THIS is what Democracy looks like!"

For a couple of hours I watched an endless stream of marchers. It was heartening to see our numbers. It will be a while before I walk those blocks again without remembering them packed with people.

After 4 o'clock, the last marchers passed, followed by a squad of police on bikes. We shouted our thanks and headed home.  

I'm going to keep the sign on the back of our front door for a while. It's a souvenir, a reminder to keep busy, and an inspiration.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Good Lord

I almost just deleted my entire Google account, including this blog, when I thought I was merely deleting a silly Gmail address I've never used.

Gmail thoughtfully provides a small window of time where one can realize, panic, and restore everything. I was shaking as I did so. My blood pressure is still not back to normal.

I must learn never to do anything that could have any potential repercussions before 9 am.

Cup of tea.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Recent Adorableness: Lion

This was Lion's bed when he first came to us, but then he moved on to sleeping on our velvet chair and never looked back. So I put the bed away. I got it out the other day, thinking someone might like it  since Possum had been feeling poorly last week and Harris and Toffee are still not quite back to normal after from their dental surgeries. But it was Lion who curled up in it to recover after his own terribly traumatic vet exam — where he was admired, weighed, gently checked over, petted, and declared healthy. Then he was given a rabies shot in his tail, which I don't think he noticed.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Dentistry Was Done

It's been a busy week: Lion went for his checkup on Wednesday, and Harris and Toffee had some teeth removed yesterday. Lion hates being in the carrier and rubbed his nose so hard against its mesh windows that it is red and sore. He got a clean bill of health and then didn't want to eat for 36 hours, partly because Harris and Toffee weren't around for most of that.

Those two were diagnosed with tooth resorption three weeks ago, to our horror. Here we've been brushing their teeth every other night and never noticed that each cat had two tiny lower teeth that were deteriorated to the point where the enamel was gone and the pulp exposed — certainly painful. Our vet told us that brushing doesn't prevent tooth resorption; it has nothing to do with dental hygiene and no one knows what causes it. We were eager to get them scheduled for surgery (about $800 per cat) but our hospital was booked until March. We were added to the cancellation list.

I hated the idea of having to wait more than two months to remove those painful teeth. So I called Angell to see if they could do the surgery sooner, but they were booked into March, too. They recommended an animal dentistry center 45 minutes away, in Boxborough. I called; they sounded great, and they were able to schedule us in early February. . . and then they told me it would cost $2,200 per cat.

I wish.

I had begun noticing that both cats were eating more slowly than they used to. Toffee seemed to eat "carefully" and sometimes didn't finish his food. He was also having trouble eating treats, as was Harris. It was so hard to watch and wait, so I kept finding weekly excuses to call the cat hospital and ask about the cancellation list. It was such a relief to take them there yesterday.

It was too quiet in the house yesterday. Even though Harris and Toffee sleep a lot during the day, their absence was powerful. Since Lion and Wendy hide during the day, we looked and felt like a one-cat household. It was weird: I'd put something down somewhere, and it would stay there — Harris wasn't there to knock it on the floor for me.

Possum had missed the ordeal of our stuffing his brothers into carriers early in the morning. When we returned, he was waiting. And wondering. When I went to put something away under the bed, he joined me, clearly hoping his boys were hiding under there behind the storage tubs. I waited while he checked. Then I watched him walk around, looking for them, and tried to tell him they were gone but would be back. He gave me a look that said he was trusting me, and settled down for a nap.

They were dazed and tired when they came last night. Whenever anyone goes to the vet, I always ask her for a paper towel sprayed with cat pheromones (Feliway or whatever). When we get home, I have to rub it all over all the cats AND me several times, so we all smell like each other and not like the vet.

Even so, when Lion came home and I did the paper-towel thing, Harris wouldn't stop hissing at me. I'm pretty sure he thinks of me as a big, ugly cat, so it's kind of cool as well as upsetting when he hisses at me. (I should mention that Possum never hisses at anyone. He likes cats no matter what they smell like.)

Last night, Harris and Toffee were not interested in hissing or in food. They were wobbly and dazed. We gave them antibiotics and painkillers, and they settled in to sleep. This afternoon they were finally more like themselves and ate well. Harris rolled around and purred as I stroked him between naps. Toffee wanted to play with a new pole toy and I was thrilled when he grabbed the little furry critter in his mouth and sat with it, refusing to let go. It had been a long time since I'd seen a toy in his mouth. It must mean he is already feeling better, in less pain. But it's interesting that I hadn't noticed their tooth problems until they were pointed out to me by our vet.

Take your cats to your vet for checkups even if they seem fine. Go once a year if they are young and twice a year or more as they get older. Get their teeth checked. Tooth resorption is extremely common and it's got to hurt, not that your cat will ever tell.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Being Like Possum

 Classic Possum

I've decided that one way to get through the next four years is to be more like Possum. As I've written before, Possum thinks that President Obama's campaign motto, "Vero Possumus," is Latin for "Hey, Let's All Be Like Possum." Others translate it as "Yes, We Can," and I see their point. But Possum says I can keep two ideas in my head at the same time. So when I'm not following Mr. Obama's instructions from his final speech, I'm going to follow Possum's example.

That means I'll be spending much of my free time hanging around with cats, napping, thinking deep thoughts, and reading. Cats can absorb knowledge by having physical contact with reading matter, a phenomenon I call "literary osmosis." It's unfair that we have to stay awake and turn pages.

(By the way, it is still October 24 in Old New Yorker Land. I'm reading a short summary of conservative thought and it's a better sleeping pill than the article about Marx was.)

Possum puts a lot of store in grooming and always looks his best, so I will have to make more of an effort. He is always giving me disbelieving or disapproving looks, and suggestions that indicate that he thinks I need improvement work in this area. 

It's important to note, though, that cats never care a whit about other cats' fur color or other traits, including weight, size, age, gender, disabilities, income, background, or orientation. They judge each other by other criteria, such as manners and fragrance, which are harder to argue with. We can all follow this example. Possum doesn't care if I'm young, old, fat, skinny, plain, or beautiful. He just wants me to be the best "me" I can be (and to not smell like the vet). 

So I suppose I need to Do Something About My Hair, since combing it is not enough. And invest in some night cream since I'm not going to wash my face with my own saliva, as he does. And he wants me to get over my antipathy toward exercise, not that he's setting much of an example. 

When I pointed out how lazy he is, he told me there are intense exercise routines, similar to interval training, that produce big results with just a few minutes of effort. He says he does them when I'm not looking. I'm going to get a spy cam.

But I'm not getting a fur coat, so instead I got these soft pointelle long johns from Boden for lounging around the house:

They are striped and so it Possum. And they are so comfortable that they really are the cat's pajamas

These have navy stripes, like many of my favorite tees, but they are outlined with a fine metallic gold thread for a slightly sparkly effect — cats also shimmer. I could have ordered gray and white with silver thread, but I don't want to be mistaken for Possum. I can imitate but I can't duplicate; I won't be using a litter box or eating in a bowl on the floor, either. However, I plan to agitate for treats every chance I get.

I ordered a second pair of PJs, in pink, when they went on sale, and they are now on clearance, so you can be Vero Possumus, too, for about $26.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Take Time to Eat the Roses

First Harris pretended to be napping.

But these roses smelled really good.

He had to sniff them.

Then he wanted to eat them. The whole time, I kept saying, "No! Stop that! Don't eat the flowers! We talked about this! No, Harris!"

Harris doesn't like to be bossed. Look at this face:

But I kept at it. It wasn't just to save the roses. Roses can make cats sick. (I learned this the hard way about 30 years ago, when I had an indoor rosebush, a severely ill cat, and a vet who was baffled by Truffalo's seemingly incurable diarrhea.)

I told Harris it was for his own good. He still wasn't happy.

But he prides himself on being our most perfect cat. So he settled down.