Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Cask of Amontillado meets the Black Cat or how Laverne got stuck in the bathroom wall.


I was on my mini-holiday in Hamburg with my sister when I got a WhatsApp from Bill that he had driven home from work early (he commutes for four days a week to Chicago) bc Laverne had been/was stuck in the bathroom wall—our lovely neighbor had messaged him.

He mentioned that she had posted something on Facebook so I went to take a peak: about 50 different messages had been exchanged on Oxford page re: “cat stuck in wall, what should I do?”

So, this is what had happened: our/my bathroom was being beautifully remodeled and so far, everything was going to plan. The cats were being taken care of by Bill when he was home and lovely neighbor in his absence. During the day when the remodeler was doing his work they kept a low profile.

Everything was in place for the new mirror/cabinet to be attached above the sink.  I think he left for a couple of hours leaving that part of the wall open. So along comes Laverne: who is, it must be said, a vexing combination of curious and clumsy, who must have jumped up onto the new sink to see what was in the hole and then, we surmise, must have fallen down into the wall. Plonk.
The remodeler returns and oblivious to Laverne’s plight (because Laverne was too scared to make a noise) proceeds to attach the mirror to the wall, thus encasing poor Laverne completely inside the bathroom wall. And off he goes.

Lovely neighbor realizes pretty soon that something is up: she has not seen Laverne, and the other cats -bless their hearts- seem upset too and are not eating.  Esp her darling sister Shirley who keeps sitting by the sink cabinet and meowing—trying to do her best Lassie impression: “LAVERNE IS STUCK IN THE WALL, PLS GET HELP!!”

At some point lovely neighbor actually hears Laverne meowing—at that point she steps fully into action: posting for help on Facebook, trying to get in touch with the contractors and also texting Bill—she got him on the phone and apparently Bill heard Laverne screeching while on the call—that is what set him off to come home from Chicago early.

Meanwhile lots of “helpful” suggestions have come in on the Oxford Facebook page along the line of “smash the wall in” etc. An employee of the local donut shop comes over to assess the situation and I think he detached the mirror. The problem was that Laverne would not make any noise when a strange man was there, so the employee had to believe lovely neighbor without actually any sounds coming from the wall.

Eventually the contractor did come over (this is probably about 8:30 pm or maybe 9?) and he made a small hole near the floor next to the sink. Even with the hole poor freaked Laverne would not come out. So lovely neighbor left food and water and left. Bill came home and went into the bathroom and she came out almost immediately and apparently not much the worse for wear, although she did keep close to Bill.  

All the kitties were relieved and assumed their normal “we’re so spoilt” cat existences.

Shirley, in the back, reunited with her sister Laverne. 


Sunday, December 17, 2017

When Marion Zimmer Bradley came to stay. (Nothing bad happened, but she seemed an odd person).

In the early eighties we sometimes had writers and sci-fi fans stay with us in Germany.  My mother always felt bit isolated as a writer and so cherished these opportunities to discuss all kinds of issues related to the world of sci-fiction and writing in general. She was also always an outgoing and sociable person who loved telling jokes and simply having a good time with people she liked and found interesting. For someone who was a writer, she always seemed quite extroverted, at least to my more introverted self.

One of the people who stayed with us on at least a couple of occasions was Marion Zimmer Bradley. Because of recent revelations I’ve been racking my brain a bit to remember the times she came to stay in greater detail.

I do remember a certain amount of eye-rolling taking place when my sister and I were told that people were coming to stay, and this was especially the case with MZB. To my teenage-self MZB seemed a profoundly odd person. Not creepy or sinister in any way- just- well- odd. (And not particularly nice or friendly).

When we first moved to Germany, after living with my dad’s brother and his family for some time, we moved into a modestly sized flat in our middle-sized German town to the south of Frankfurt.  MZB came to our town at least twice, and I’m fairly certain she did stay with us on at least one occasion but on the other occasion she stayed in a small hotel down the street. Even when she did not stay at our place she spent a great deal of time there with my mother in particular and witnessed a fair amount of our everyday comings and goings.

The things we found odd about her (and this included to a certain extent our mom, who was also flattered to be on quite friendly terms with this successful writer) were:

Her odd, frumpy-looking appearance and her complete lack of interest in her appearance or her clothes. I’m pretty sure mum lent her some of her own clothes to sort of “spruce her up” for the book fare appearance.

Her outspokenness to the point of rudeness (typical to our minds of the cliche of the “loud American”) and her self-centeredness. 

In connection with the lack of interest in appearance was a certain frugality/stinginess, which my mother felt somewhat odd, considering she must have been doing quite well, at the time, thanks to “The Mists of Avalon”.  (which back then I felt guilty for not having read, now not so much).

Another thing I remember mom talking about and being confounded by was her lack of understanding of, or interest in, more intellectual writers such as Virginia Woolf or Henry James. I remember mum talking about how she had tried but failed to get Marion interested in such authors.

It did appear that they got along well though and had good talks.

Not at any point did she come across as sinister or manipulative, although as already noted she did come across as odd. I do remember her sort watching our family life and sometimes commenting on it: it made me think her life must be quite different. Once I heard her mention to my mother the fact that I often hummed or sang songs to myself as I went about the house, and how that must have meant I was happy (which I suppose it did, it was just something we all did quite a bit) and I realized she was observing us/me in the context of our everyday family life.
Not exactly sure why I’m posting this now—probably as some sort of reckoning with the past.


Monday, July 24, 2017

Summer music

Summer of music: have discovered a lot of bands/musicians I like – Father John Misty, Whitney, Grizzly Bear,  Marco Benvento, The Maccabees, Julia Byrne, Avec pas d'casque, James Elkington/Nathan Salsburg  “chillhop” artists on soundcloud: Simon Eng, Julian G. Avila – I found out about these folks often because I’m addicted to this youtube channel:rainbowholic  Also oldies but greaties like Steely Dan, Talking Heads (Remain in Light, Fear of Music), Tangerine Dream

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Update on Bartle Teeling, husband of my first cousin three times removed.

Valerio was kind enough to send me this lovely picture of Bartle Teeling's tombstone. He is buried in the Campo Verano cemetary in Rome, a city that I really must visit at some point.

Thank you Valerio!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Quick update on the rest of the first season of "High Maintenance"

Well now we've watched the whole season and I either got used to the slightly different tone or the tone changed a bit from the first two episodes. I got used to the way the characters weaved in and out of each other's story lines. My favorite episodes were the one focused on a dog: Grandpa, and the one about the recluse with a penchant for "LaCroix"  sparkling water in cans.


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Thoughts on the HBO show "High Maintenance"

So we watched the first two full length episodes of "High Maintenance" last night and while it's still good, the tone of the show has changed. People seem more duplicitous and out to get each other. The pot guy gets picked on more. And it has definitely been "HBO-ified", i.e. it's quite a bit more sexually explicit than it was as a web series, which I found jarring.

There was a laid-back sweetness (sometimes sadness) to the interactions in the web series that is missing in the first of these two full-length episodes. People bicker more and are just more annoying - and  - to be honest less interesting (to me at least). 

We'll see in what directions the new episodes go. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Late August update


Late August always tends to be a wistful time around here—the students moving back conjures up feelings of panic (because the pace of life is inevitably about to quicken) AND excitement—there’s definitely a buzz in the air.
I like to make the last few days before the semester starts as slow and contemplative as possible.
Long breakfasts with reading and pleasant music and lots of backyard bird watching. Also I’m trying to get some house-cleaning done and figuring out a schedule for it during the semester.
Actually figuring out when to do things takes up a lot of my time.
As does figuring out a way to rein in my internet time—I’m as susceptible to the time-suck as many people more than half my age….(yes I even “tumblr” on occasion…) I find dipping in to various of the internet subcultures quite interesting: the bullet journal subculture, the studytumblr subculture, “booktube”—people who post videos book reviews on youtube, etc
Over the summer I also had fun with duolingo--the language learning app.
Here’s a list of books I’ve been reading this summer:
Pema Chodron: When Things Fall Apart - have always loved dipping into her works.
The first volume of Karl-Ove Knausgaard My Struggle—sometimes I don’t have the patience for
Gretchen Rubin’s Better than Before: The reliance on anecdotes often from her own life slightly irritates me, even though though she has some good life-hacks in there. 
Elizabeth Gilbert’s: Big Magic: another vexing mix of helpful/inspiring/uplifting and annoying.
Lynda Barry: What It Is: I find her work oddly moving—it swirls something up inside me—probably to do with fear/lack of self-confidence—but also oddly inspiring and uplifting—have been sketching (badly) because of her! Really want to get her “Syllabus” book.
A fantastic article about Annie Dillard by William Dersiewicz (after reading up on Dillard I found out she is married to Robert D. Richardson, whose wonderful book on Ralph Waldo Emerson: Mind on Fire I really want to go back to.)

And finally Marilynne Robinson. Have started Gilead and am enjoying it immensely. Was pleasantly surprised (but then not) that Obama is a fan. She reminds me a little of a more? religious American George Eliot. I can’t wait to read her other works esp. Housekeeping. 


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Random thoughts on Masterpiece's Endeavour


The weakest part of the show Endeavour are often the crime cases themselves—silly, contrived etc.
What keeps me coming back, beside the lovely images of Oxford or the many shots of a pensive and brooding Endeavour chewing on his pencil while listening to what are often my own fave pieces of classical music, are the little quotidian interactions between Endeavor and Thursday, or the glimpses we get into Thursday’s family-life: the sandwich toppings, or when he looks disappointingly into the chocolate box and proclaims who ate the Savoy truffle?  (A quick google brings to light a new-to-me Beatles song of the same name AND the fact that it’s one of the chocs inside of a specific assortment of Mackintosh chocolates.
The references to bloater paste in this last episode had both Bill and I running to our Kindles. I knew it was probably some sort of weird fishy thing.  
One last cultural reference—his name always reminds me of growing up in Australia, where we were told again and again about Captain Cook and how he commanded the HMS Endeavour on his first voyage of discovery to Terra Australis


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Norway: where dinner is lunch and lunch is LUNSJ.....

A confounding moment for me as a German speaker is the Norwegian word for "dinner" as in evening meal: it's middag. Now "Mittag" means midday in German and "Mittagessen" is lunch....so basically the Norwegian word for dinner is midday/lunch. And the Norwegian word for lunch? LUNSJ.....Don't the Norwegians find it confusing that their word for evening meal is basically midday? Do they all eat dinner early? Does it have something to do with the long days of Norwegian summer?  Is there another word for supper/dinner that duolingo is not telling me about?