Monday, April 17, 2017

Bunnies, Inner Peace, and Murder

          Spring must even come to Florida, the land of perpetual summer. 
        Squirrels are everywhere, a different crop of flowers is appearing and Mamie and I are seeing bunnies in abundance, augmenting the aerobic portion of my walks with her as I’m suddenly dragged by ten pounds of determination into the shrubbery. As it turns out, this quiet little lap dog has discovered her inner hunter. 


This spring has also sprouted progeny of a different sort. Big Red, How I Learned Simplicity from a Suitcase, a memoir by my friend Ellie Dias, is now available at Amazon. It’s a chronicle of the mishaps and detours on her solo trek through the Himalayas. Just to give you a taste :

     When I received the three separate ten-page documents about what to expect and what to bring on my adventure in Bhutan, Nepal, and Tibet, I had my work cut out for me. I approached this trip with a level of preparation appropriate for taking the bar exam. . . . . .
    It didn’t register that I somehow missed the essence of the minimalist nature of Buddhism. In hindsight, I became an oxymoron of sorts—some would say leave the oxy out. I was intent on packing and carting all my must haves while forgetting the purpose of my journey: to free myself from my Western attached way of being. I neglected to practice what the Buddha meant about clinging and attachment as an impediment to spiritual freedom. If I had, I might have packed a hell of a lot lighter.


        And my time here in Florida hasn’t been all sloth and margaritas (although I’ve learned that I excel at both). Well Murdered, a mystery and my second book set in the small town of Calvin, Massachusetts, is also newly available at Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions. Here’s a sampling:

The door chimes in My Irish Rose sounded and Cate MacLeod looked up from her laptop. Two women in their seventies entered, their eyes lighting up at the cute-as-a-bug kitchen signs, the claddagh rings, and the endless array of merchandise festooned with shamrocks.
            Cate was filling in that morning while her mother was out tracking down a delayed shipment of woolen shawls. She could think of any number of places she’d rather be on a Friday morning, but then graduate school didn’t come free. With the smile she’d developed for customers, she said, "Good morning, ladies. Let me know if I can help you find anything."
            She was answered with delighted nods, smiles, and thank yous. They burrowed into the tight aisles, calling to each other to see this or admire that, their white hair bobbing behind the shelves. It would be at least another twenty minutes before they came up for air, but their arrival provided an excuse to postpone that paper she’d been writing for class. She stowed her laptop beneath the counter and pulled out the inventory sheet for the jewelry that had come in earlier in the week. 
            The ladies, whom Cate learned were Esther and Pauline from their calls and responses through the store, finally made it back to the register. They continued chatting happily as she bagged a plaque proclaiming “Sometimes I Laugh So Hard, Tears Run Down My Leg” and then rang up a replica of a castle that twirled, lit up, and played a tinny version of “Danny Boy.”
            ". . .and Barbara will just love this place, won't she? We'll have to call her. You must really, really enjoy working here!"
            Cate realized that Esther – or was it Pauline? – must have been speaking to her and was twinkling at her expectantly. She looked up from her wrapping and again trotted out her customer smile, saying, “What? Oh, yes, absolutely. I’m one lucky girl!” She finished boxing Esther/Pauline’s purchase and said, “Thank you so much! Be sure to tell your friend!”
            “Oh, yes, indeed we will, won’t we, Pauline?” Aha, thought Cate, the one in the World’s Best Nana sweatshirt was Esther, and Pauline had on the purple top with the bedazzled face of a terrier on the front. Oh, and even better, when Pauline turned to leave, Cate was treated to the bedazzled back end of a terrier. Nothing like the suburbs for those fashion-forward styles.  She could feel her old life in the city receding that much faster into the distance.
            She called out, “Have a good day, ladies!” and dropped onto the tall stool behind the counter, thinking not for the first time that it was patently unfair to have a bar stool and no bar.

Be the first in your neighborhood to leave a review at Amazon. 
The prize will be a deeply grateful author!



Friday, April 14, 2017

Familiar Faces

          I’ve grown resigned to the wonky knee, the shock of seeing my mother in an unexpected glimpse of a store mirror, and the difficulty of staying out and awake past 10 at night.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Claim to Fame

I checked in on Going Gently, my favorite blog in the ENTIRE WORLD (and judging by the numbers of comments, the favorite of the entire world) and was intrigued by his topic for today.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Gray Rush

         One of the things that most amazes me about Florida is the huge expanse of undeveloped land interspersed with cattle ranches.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Age and Trust

          So the other day at the pool a neighbor whom I barely know turned to me and inquired whether I had a doctor locally.

Friday, March 31, 2017

The EGGs meet Venice

Looking for shark teeth, one of Venice's claims to fame.

          So, yes, you can fit seven people into a two-bedroom condo. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Condo Etiquette


     Some adjustment is inevitable when you switch from living in a free-standing house on over an acre of land to a condo sandwiched between three other condos and topped by more above.

Friday, March 17, 2017

A slice of the olde world

      Here in the US, today is a day for some to celebrate their heritage, or just borrow it long enough to lift a few green beers. My errand today, though, took me in another direction.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Florida Factoids

          One good reason to open your home to company is that it will spur you to get up out of that armchair and actually go out and see the sights where you live.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Public (and Publix) appearance

     Late in the afternoon I made a dash to the grocery store to pick up a rotisserie chicken (how, or how did I survive before they came on the scene?) to make a salad for incoming company.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Broadway on the Gulf

We’ve been meaning to get to the Venice Theatre, one of the largest community theatres in the country. Last night we saw Crazy for You, “a madcap story with the Gershwin brothers’ musical magic.”

Monday, March 6, 2017

Power to the People

The first skirmish I noticed here at the commune was the monthly ladies’ luncheon. These are at a different restaurant each time and should draw a big crowd, considering there are 130 units here in our complex but that day there were only about 10 people. In a world full of retired people you’d have we would have filled the place.
          And there are the bi-weekly cocktail Thursdays by the pool. Again, perhaps 15 or 20 at most showed up.
          But I hadn’t yet learned about the power plays going on behind the scenes.
          My next door neighbor, M, who organized the Thursdays, never goes to the luncheons, and B, who organized the luncheons, won’t attend the cocktail Thursdays. Hmmm.
And then there’s C, the head of the social committee, reportedly as difficult to unseat as the Pope and who keeps an iron control over the pot lucks.
Who knew Shangri-La would be so riddled with power struggles?
Our condo board takes this to a whole other level. At least here the politics are about things that matter, like water bills and maintenance.
We’re still the newbies here, but even we have figured out that our complex is in need of change. Our complex is governed by a board of 5, and the place is overseen by a management company that deals with the day to day administration.
Our current board president – S - has dug into her position like a tic on a hound dog and seems to have forgotten that this isn’t a life-time term.  She also doesn’t realize that the management company actually works for us, not the other way around and so we’ve received pretty lackluster service. Painting is flaking on one of the older buildings and the landscape company hasn’t fertilized the grass for over a year.
I’ll give S credit though – in spite of being 80, you’ll see her everywhere, on the job. However, people who have been to her unit on the third floor of her building report that she also keeps a pair of binoculars on the ready. Her place overlooks the pool and heaven help the person who puts a float in the water or who stops by to chat for a moment with their dog.

   The good news is we’ve just elected two new members to the board and S is due for re-election next year. I see a coup in the making.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Me and the Monster

I’m one of baseball’s unlikeliest fans. I certainly didn’t have a sports-filled childhood. My parents’ idea of a leisure activity was a spirited dinner argument over how to pronounce ‘medieval’, reading the latest New Yorker, and building a better cocktail.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Spa Girl to Biker Chick

     A few weeks ago, our first attempt with a Florida dog groomer was not an encouraging experience. It was off-putting enough to find hair on the floor, dogs barking, and the owner making conversation as she trimmed a dog.  And the girl checking us in kept referring to Mamie cloyingly as “Baby.”

Friday, February 24, 2017

Shirking my Duty

 I’ve made an executive decision. It happened at the time of day that life-altering epiphanies usually arrive – when I was lying in bed unable to sleep.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mystery Solved

. . . . goulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night. . .

          We’re still adjusting to life here in the commune. After years and years and years of living in a house, we’re used to hearing water run and knowing who flushed. Now we have two floors above us, and in spite of having two feet of concrete between us and our neighbors, sound still manages to travel. 
          One night last week I woke at 3:30 a.m. to Mamie, usually the most silent dog on the planet, barking her head off. This was immediately followed by pounding feet running upstairs.  I made it to a front window just in time to see a car in front of the building, motor running, passenger door open, and a young woman sprinting toward it.
          Robbery? Family drama?
          The next morning I asked the woman on one side of us if she’d heard anything. Nope.
          I asked the woman two doors down if she’d heard anything. Nope.
          Later in the day I asked the neighbor next door if he’d heard anything. Nope. But as a year-round resident he’s also sort of the mayor of our building and has keys to many of our places so he can check to make sure we don’t come back to ugly surprises. Nobody had arrived yet at the units above us so he said he’d go upstairs and take a look.
          When I saw him the next day he said the doors had been locked and nothing looked disturbed.
          Huh. The next night I thought twice about leaving our window unlocked, but I slept soundly, undisturbed.  
          Days went by and the upstairs neighbors arrived, followed by their three granddaughters in the 7 to 13 age range. In person they look sedate enough, but once in their grandparents’ condo they must strap on hobnail boots and while away the hours moving furniture. The first night they were there I woke again to running footsteps at 3:30, but attributed it to the heavy-hoofed kids above us.
The soundproofing between units is excellent, but our concrete block and iron buildings carry percussive sounds so effectively they’d be perfect should we ever find ourselves duck-taped by evil-dooers and forced to tap out a cry for help in Morse code.
Yesterday we had our annual condo meeting, and after discussions about landscaping, building color, water bills, and non-working street lights, the grandfather from upstairs raised a tentative hand.
He asked, “Has anyone else heard running at 3 in the morning?”
He was answered by puzzled and affirmative head-noddings.
So, I thought, that latest pre-dawn clomping hadn’t come from his family after all. .
Then from in the back of the room someone called out, “Oh, that’s the paper delivery.”

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Obstinence and Triumph

     My Uncle Sam had polio as a child and was bedridden with it for several years. After several operations and lots of physical therapy he eventually walked, but it was probably during those years that he became such a proficient knitter – what could you do with a kid in bed in the thirties with no TV? – and all that reading paved the way for him becoming a distinguished and published English professor.

          Putting on new sheets today reminded me of how adept Mama said Granny became at changing the bed with Uncle Sam still in it. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

On a Happier Note

(Taking a page from Steve at Shadows and Light, here's a snapshot from my travels in Sarasota. )

     We went to the Sarasota outdoor arts showcase yesterday and wandered around from booth to booth admiring things we'd never considering buying, let alone bringing into our house, and others that we'd love, love to have but could never afford. We came away empty-handed, but got a nice lunch out of the day.

     We exited the restaurant at the same time as a woman who'd been sitting nearby with the fluffiest dog I'd ever seen. You could have attached a broom handle to it and cleared out every dust bunny in your house.  Curious, we asked what kind of breed it was and were dumbfounded to learn that it was a Coton de Tulear, the same breed as our dog. 


     Mamie's family tree is documented back to both sets of grandparents, but I don't think she'll ever look this aristocratic - mainly because I don't intend to spend every waking hour with a dog brush in my hand.
    It was comforting to see that this meticulously groomed dog had the same grubby whiskers as my own little snuffler. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Jan 1948 - 2017

Four years ago, I was semi-newly retired and still sorting through what to do now that I was no longer starting my day at 6:45 in a high school classroom.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Not-so-parallel universes

I knew that being in Florida would feel very different from slogging through the winter in Massachusetts. This weekend, though, I passed through so many alternate dimensions I might as well have been in an old episode of Star Trek.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Fear and (Self) Loathing

The excuse I give anyone who will listen is that I just learned how to play golf. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it – even though in reality I took lessons at least four years ago.

Thursday, February 2, 2017


     In Venice this weekend an entire street closed, tents went up, and crafters and artists set out their wares. People strolled by with giant bags of kettle corn and others struggled through the crowds with metal sculptures or topiaries made of shells.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Phlorida Phenomenon

Hon, we’re not in Massachusetts anymore:

-         There’s a remarkable availability of wine and beer – now I can stop by CVS for face cream, Neosporin, and Merlot.
-         With day after day of 75 degrees, it’s tricky remembering what month we’re in, but we can always tell it’s Sunday by the number of stores with their doors locked up tight.
-         I’m finding empty shelves that should have been filled with boxes of my shade of hair color (L'Oreal's Excellence Golden Blonde). Apparently, store inventories are challenged in this land of perpetually blond women.
-         Instead of the sweet elixir from our well at home, I’m buying bottled water and making heavy use of our Brita water pitcher. How can a state so inundated with water have such bad tasting H2O?
-         The preponderance of little white dogs – under patio tables at restaurants, trotting on leashes at Home Depot and Home Goods, riding in bike baskets, and pushed in dog strollers down city sidewalks.
-         On the plus side, there’s no end of dining opportunities:

Friday, January 27, 2017

Trial Run

     My morning was spent running errands, to include a trip to the pet food place to replenish our dog food and treat supply.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Tuesday travels

Yesterday I started my day at a core and balance class. It held a surprising number of men, which took a little getting used to.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Walking, Talking and Art

Some people use their blogs as daily diaries, and so I thought I’d give that a try and cover today’s events, not that anything of any great import occurred. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Florida, flab, and fish

We’re slowly trying to build a routine here, activities for day-to-day in between sightseeing and getting to know the area.