Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"Who's Robert?"

I went to a flea market today and came home with a tan coffee cup named Robert.
It cost 25 cents.

"Who's Robert?" my mate asked when he saw the cup.

I've known a few Roberts in my life but all of them were called Bob.
I have a cousin in Pittsburgh named Robert, but everybody calls him Bob.
So why did I buy a cup with the name Robert on it?
1. It was the perfect size.
And (B) I liked the color and feel of it.
Not too heavy, not too light, just right.

On the bottom it says "Kiln Craft, Stratfordshire, England."
(So it wasn't "Made in China" and you won't find one exactly like it in Dollarama)

I googled the name "Kiln Craft coffee mug" and wouldn't you know, about fifteen people are selling English Kiln Craft coffee mugs, where one of similar size and shape, used, was going for $29.00.
 None of them say "Robert", though.
I'd never sell my Robert mug.
 It'll replace the too-large tea cup that I usually use for morning coffee.
(That one is pink with a whimsical blue cat on the front.
 It's like a cartoon mug.
I kinda like the Robert one better.)

Anyway, that's my Robert cup, now enjoying his permanent place in the cupboard
beside the pink tea cup with the whimsical blue cartoon cat.
None of our coffee cups match, so this didn't upset the cupboardly arrangement.

I know I'm going to get that question again, though, when anyone sees it..

"Who's Robert?"


 * Anyone catch that (intentional) wacky sequence?  (1) (B) ...etc.  It reminds me sometimes of the "Now I'm going to illustrate three examples..." , and the speaker only gives you two.  Or how about this one:  "A, it's free; and (2), it won't cost you anything."  (What's your point? says the reader.  No point. Just a mini observation of little consciousness of how we sometimes sound.   It was a private joke that went south, real real quick. Delete.) 

That said, I don't know why they needed to repeat Robert's name four times.  Once would have been sufficient. 
Visually, it's almost like the  cup's silently calling his name, loudly at first, and then the voice kind of lapses into a whisper. 
ROBERT ROBERT ROBERT ROBERT.   ha ha.  (Deafening silence:  he doesn't answer.)  I also got three belts and a baseball cap at the flea market, plus a(nother!) French dictionary and someone's home-recorded CD of 17 Puccini opera arias. Why are there four separate tracks of "O Mio Babbino Caro?"  (according to the hand-written notepaper stuck inside).  I can't wait to listen to this.  A good afternoon, all in all.  And I'm now the proud owner of an imported ceramic Robert cup!  Woo hoo!

Monday, August 20, 2012

App'ed in, Tuned out

Sup? RU F2T?    ?4U
C my nu \=o-o=/'?

    -- OMG kewl.  $$$?

Brk the bk.  EOD.
 JK  :D
TMB m8, A3.

    --  K.  T2ul. KIT.


What's up? Are you free to talk?  I have a question for you.
See my new glasses?

     - Oh my God, cool!  Did they cost much?

Broke the bank. 
Just kidding.  (insert "Wicked Evil Grin" symbol). 
Got to go, bye for now.
Text me back, mate, anytime, anywhere, anyplace.

     -- Okay.  Talk to you later.  Keep in touch.

Social Engagement circa 2012

Dinner with friends

On a date, while waiting for dessert

At the Museum

Sports spectating, sort of

 A day at the beach

Let's do lunch

Two friends together, alone,
alone together

TM'ing at the traffic stop


A friend sent these photos to my m8--er, I mean mate.  I don't know who took them or where the pix (excuse me, pictures) were taken.  I'm not a Tweeter/Twitterer or on FB [Facebook] but I do try to keep up with trends in language/communication/symbology, etc.

Isn't it amazing that you can now reach anyone anywhere, have instant access to information, 24/7.   I'm such a dinosaur, ha ha.  I don't own a cell phone.   I still use a fountain pen.  I still use heavy, cast-iron cookware.  I even occasionally wash by hand.  Call me Time-stuck.  But it seems to me, in the rush to embrace the latest ultimate in communicability and entertainment, where you can text, email, watch videos, conduct live chats with someone an ocean away while waiting for a bus, film anything/upload to YouTube in minutes, archive hundreds of songs, photographs or documents, all thru handy, portable, increasingly smaller devices -- who else doesn't also imagine the eventual disappearance of telephone booths, movie theaters, post offices, libraries, or (gasp) printed books?  (First they came for the telephone booths.....  [insert theme music from the Twilight Zone]... 

In 100 years the way we talk or write or think may also verve toward untranslatability, the code long having been forgotten, or nearso.

 :(            [<--  my emoticonical-inspired response]

Nah.     :)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Winding down

My neighbor across the street, a retired man who was sitting in the dark out on his porch watching the thundery rainfall a few nights ago, has gone swimming in the river 53 times already this summer.  He rides out to the Ile-St. Quentin every day by bike.  The last time I swam in the St. Lawrence  the current was so swift and so strong it carried me farther faster than I thought possible and took every ounce of frantic treading to simply stay in place.  Its sheer, gripping force caught me by surprise, and was not a little frightening.

This has been a strange summer. I remember the end of last March looking out the window at the back yard still covered in snow, dreaming of when it'd all be gone so I could begin planning the planting of my garden. Seems like yesterday. Now we're getting chilly,  autumn-like mornings, it gets dark a bit earlier, the public pools have already all closed.  And the garden--last week we had four scorchingly hot days in a row followed by three consecutive days of rain.  I brought in three baskets-full of red-ripened tomatoes yesterday evening.

Earlier this summer
I have a 12' X 12' plot at the community garden a few blocks past the library where I'm growing chard, red cabbage, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets and celery.  This is such a great bargain for urban dwellers--you get the opportunity to rent a little mini-farm for only $12 a year.  They supply all the rakes, hoes, shovels, water barrels and hoses for watering, etc.  All you have to do is come plant the seeds;  weed and water as needed.

  I'd been away, traveling, for five days and when I returned and stopped by the garden I noticed several plots that seemed to have been abandoned: ripened tomatoes hadn't been picked, a massive amount of weeds had sprung up, leaves had yellowed, withered, or dried up, veggies lay rotting on the ground.  The three plots adjacent to mine showed serious signs of neglect.  There are enough vegetables (of every variety)  planted in these three plots to feed a family of four for the entire summer.  What happened here?  Why'd they just abandon it?  Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. One year the caretaker gave away bags-full of green peppers that had never been picked, the owner of the plot long absent.  The soup kitchen behind the garden benefits from these giveaways, so produce does not get wasted.  But it's still puzzling, the lack of interest in simple maintenance. 

I think I went overboard again this year.  I now have enough chard to feed an Army.  What was I thinking!? You rarely find Swiss chard in a grocery store here.  You can sometimes get kale (imported from California), but most of my fellow community gardeners here had never heard of Swiss chard.  I hadn't actually  eaten it either, until later in life.   It's so easy to grow, and so good for you!  It contains 13 polyphenol antioxidants and has betalains (which have an anti-inflammatory and detoxifying effect on the body), high amounts of fiber and protein (that stabilize blood sugar levels), and Vitamins A, C and K. 
My favorite Quick Chardy Lunch:

Heat a few teaspons olive oil in wok
Add: 2 garlic cloves (minced), small onion (diced), bunch of chard leaves (shredded) (they shrink a lot when cooking), fresh raw ginger  (size of half a finger),  handfull of cubed tofu (optional), salt, pepper, pinch of tumeric, cumin and/or curry, sprinkle with half handfull of unsalted peanuts, cook till chard softens, about 5 mins.  I prefer cooked chard to cooked spinach (less bitter, not as mushy).

Another way is to steam it, add a bit of salt, pepper & vinegar, then dab with melted butter.  (You can also make Swiss Chard Soup)

Anyway ...

It's already starting to be Goodbye, Summer--Hello, Fall.
My swimmer-biker neighbor across the street tells me he's a bit "summered out" now, more than ready for autumn.  Me, too!!

Friday, August 17, 2012


three slugs in a shrub
no one gives a fig, jpg
Gif me a nuther paintadoodle! No  don't!
what your brain does on netnoise

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Window Views

Am back from a family reunion in my home town in the Pennsylvania mountains.  It took 15 hours to get there via four buses and a car.  Some window shots taken, plus a few from the porch or riverbank: [Click on to enlarge]

At a cousin's house, Cheektowaga, NY, en route

At my sister's house, shadows on the Susquehanna River, early morning. 

Same river view, later morning

Evening, a little tree next door. (Reminds me of that short story by O'Henry, except O'Henry's story it was a single leaf on a brick wall.)

Early next morning again, a fog descends over the valley.  If you get out a magnifying glass you can see one little bird (to the left near the wall), on the wire.  Not many people up at that hour and the fog was much thicker and more widespread than evident here.

What you see when sitting on the front porch, looking west

What you see when sitting on the same porch, looking east.  The town is in a valley entirely surrounded by mountains.  Some people find this claustrophobic.  As a child I used to wonder what was on the other side of these mountains.  The answer is:  only more mountains!!  

A month or so ago my sister went to an estate auction and, by default, won a house located on a hill above this river.  The bidding started at $1.00.  Hers was the only bid.  She called me the next day to tell me she'd bought a house, "for $1.00!!!".  As is, sight unseen.    (It's part of a row of attached houses a few doors up from where this photo was taken.)  It has six bedrooms and a good-sized back yard.  Abandoned for five years, it's structurally sound but there's a big hole in the roof into which arrives rain--and occasionally small, furry animals.  It needs a lot of work to make it liveable--a "fixer-upper" that's going to require massive fixing up.  At first she was ecstatic. (The view!!!)  Planned to remodel the kitchen, add another bathroom downstairs, began upgrading the electricity and plumbing . . . and then reality set in.  It will end up costing far, far more than she anticipated or can presently afford.  A dream house suddenly becomes. . . . an albatross.

I noticed several neglected or abandoned houses on this side of town, including, sadly, my grandmother's old house, whose roof had collapsed into what once had been the kitchen and dining room.  Brambles and vines encase what was the back porch, the back yard now a strip of overgrown grass and junk.  I'm told someone has bought the property and plans to demolish it.  I remember every room in that old brick house and the happy times spent there as a child.  The next time I visit, it may be an empty lot, all trace of its former residents gone, except in memory.  Like the parochial school I went to, which no longer exists (it's now a parking lot).  Or the  town public high school, of which only the elaborate door-frame remains, in a sea of broken stone and debris surrounded by jungle-sized weeds and bushes in a vacant, fenced-in lot.

The river is low.  Heard grumblings while there about the fracking mess in the mountains, what it's doing to the river, livestock, roads,  environment and people's health.   There is only one grocery store left in town, which many find too expensive, and so they drive 28 miles down the road to buy groceries at Walmart or have it trucked in from Swann's (frozen food delivery).  Some Amish farmers come once a week to sell fresh produce and baked goods.  Two of my cousins have gardens and one gave me the largest zucchini I have ever seen.  It could be lethal if you bonked someone over the head with it.  Speaking of injuries, limited medical care is available in town (which doesn't include childbirth or surgery)--for emergencies you need to be taken by ambulance or helicoper to the nearest hospital some 30 miles away.  Cell-phone service has only recently become available and reception is sporadic (or non-existent), depending on where you're standing.  In its heyday, back in another century, this town boasted of not one, but two opera houses.  Now there's not even a movie theater, that one having been torn down decades ago.  A dying, once-booming  railroad town, nestled in this paradise of nature, of fishing streams and wildlife and mountain trails (locals call it "God's Country"), it loses its young people year by year because there are no jobs.

Bicyling down a familiar street, walking the alleyway back up, listening to the crickets at night on a cousin's porch, looking up at a star-studded night sky such as you will never see in any city, it was as if time had stopped.  I was so completely "back", the outside world did not exist anymore.  It was both nostalgic and unnerving.  Who might I be today had I remained there and not left at age 18 to go see what was beyond those mountains, had headed to the big city instead of being convinced by a cousin-priest to consider living in a college town instead ? How many times in my life had I had my heart set on one path, only to be diverted to another not anticipated or even wanted, which later proved beneficial, important or life changing?

I was ruminating on that early yesterday morning while stopping over in Toronto, a huge, bustling city of tall, seemingly identical glass buildings [they all seem to be made of glass!!], more and more going up every time I pass through  there.   I felt a bit lost, disoriented, wondering what it would be like to live in such a city, just as I wondered one day earlier, what it would be like to go back and live in my home town again.  Neither scenario seemed imaginable.   Made me think of transplanted beings in general, finding oneself in places you never thought you'd be, for whatever reason, having to make do, all the while yearning to be someplace else. (I have sad or frustrated friends now in that category.)  A wise person once told me, "Be where you are", meaning however long you're in a place, one week or fifteen years, while you're there, be totally there, i.e., not closing yourself off, unable to function.  Easier said than done sometimes, but in every place I've ever lived, I've found at least one like-minded soul, came to appreciate the place for what it was, found ways to adjust and still "be".  Though being who you are wherever you are is not all that easy sometimes.

Anyway, it was good to be back, if only for a brief few days.  The family reunion was a success, I saw cousins I hadn't seen in years, and heard anecdotes about my parents, cousins, aunts and uncles that I had not heard before, that helped to know them better.  We bandied about the idea of one of us collecting and preserving these passed-on stories, maybe putting them into a little booklet to be shared by all (the way some communities do family cookbooks).  No one has yet volunteered but at the reunion buffet one cousin was working on a gigantic (table-sized) "family tree",  updating it since the last reunion, penciling in new grandchildren names.  I'm not sure how that can be reproduced so that we'd all get a copy, though.  It looked to be at least 15 feet long   :)

 Back to the photos:

Susquehanna River

I loved swimming in these waters as a child!  We would sit on inner-tubes and float all the way downriver to the old bridge (which no longer exists).  The water was so clear you could see every minnow,  rock, fish hook, or pebble.  Upriver we'd cross the railroad tracks, climb onto the big rocks  and dive into the eddy which was deep and clear and wonderful.  I emphasize the 'clear' part because now the rocks are slippery, and mud-covered, and little bubbles of whitish-brown foam float past on the surface, and though people still swim in the river, it's just not the same experience anymore.

En route coming back:
View from the bus window, Mauricie region, Quebec. Not a hill in sight. Cornfields.

Playful clouds changing shape. The more north you go, the closer the sky, or so it seems.  Sometimes they feel close enough to touch.

In my absence many tomatoes arrived in the garden.  And the chard has quadrupled.  I'll be eating it until December!.