Thursday, May 26, 2016

California, here we come

General Sherman tree looking up.jpg
When I was a teenager, there was this beautiful magnolia tree in our backyard. It was tall and healthy, with extremely glossy leaves and plump, creamy blossoms. I spent many evenings sitting on the back step and crying my eyes out over some  bit of adolescent angst or the other, but looking at that beautiful tree made me at least a little happy. 

And as I grew up I came to realize I love all trees, but especially big ones. Of course it would make sense then, that J would take me to the biggest tree in our entire world. We spent a few hours just staring at it, and the day was misty so the top of it seemed to disappear entirely, the effect being to make it appear still larger. I was even reminded of a story from my childhood called The Faraway Tree, in which there was a certain magical tree that had at its top, in the clouds, a different magical land each week. 

We also found a very jolly river running just outside our room, with boulders and rapids and little perfect places to sit on. There too we spent a few hours just gawking. Thankfully J is as averse to social media as I am (trust me to find the one other iconoclast in this world), and there was simply no need for anything else. 

But the need to see, and see, and see, is so intense that but naturally tomorrow we are off to a lake named after a Big Bear. Wonders never cease in California, it seems. Just drive out of town, and there you are. I wonder how long I lived here before I lived here. It feels like I was born here, then. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A guide to the birds of L.A.

Carpodacus mexicanus -Madison, Wisconsin, USA-8.jpg

Continuing on the theme of Springtime, one of its great delights in these parts has been the twice-daily visit of a certain very happy bird. Or at least he sounds happy. He sits somewhere just out of sight and delivers the most marvelous series of chirps and warbles I've ever heard. It's as though the news is simply astounding and he's so bursting with it that he lets it all out and then heaves a sigh of relief. Very rarely have I spotted the actual bird; it's a fat, small thing with an appealing orange breast. 

And then one day quite by accident, I found out the name: the House Finch! I was delighted at this discovery because with my sorry knowledge of birds and their names, I was sure to spend the rest of my dotage just calling it "the Broadcaster" as I've been doing in my ignorance.On looking it up, I find the true scientific name is not quite so delightful: Haemorhous mexicanus. Hmm. Poor Broadcaster. I'm sure he doesn't approve, but never mind. Even if he is envious of the rather pretty-sounding one for our local hummingbirds (Calypte anna) it doesn't appear to have dimmed his zeal. 

Speaking of hummingbirds, where are they? This time last year our balcony was swarming with them. Owing to poor J's fear of attracting bees, we don't have a bird feeder. Maybe the hummingbirds got tired of waiting for one? There's another possibility. We also have a large and ill-tempered giant crow who's been terrorizing the other local fauna around here. Perhaps he, Oldie, as I have imaginatively named him because he's unmistakably old and curmudgeonly, is the real culprit. Now if only I weren't so afraid of him, I could have spoken to the hummingbirds and persuaded them back. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Springtime, France, birthdays

Alors! It is Roland Garros time again. But to my horror, I have just found that today is DAY THREE. What on earth has gone wrong with my brain? Did it go into some sort of Springtime idiocy mode? Anyhow, disaster has been averted because I am now fully clued in.

And what a marvelous piece of news I have just received- my dearest friend in the whole wide world has made it into the second round! How the mighty have fallen, though. Even though R.Nadal is still the nine-time champion here, this year I am ecstatic at his very first victory. Still, it was done in style. His opponent, one Sam Groth ranked 100, really got it in the neck. The score? 6-1, 6-1, 6-1. Ouch! Quelle horror for the poor Groth. At one point, after a particularly superb shot from Rafa, Groth burst out in his thick Aussie accent, "Oh get out of town, mate!"

That wasn't all. Rafa also executed a perfectly unbelievable return from between his knees, with his back to his opponent. As a headline somewhere on the Internet trilled, "Quel coup de genie de Rafa". I agree, whatever that means.

And so we progress. Of course I'm not much interested in tomorrow's play, since Rafa plays only on Thursday. But, inexplicably, these local sports channels don't seem to be covering the early rounds. Gah! Still, there's live streaming these days, I'm told. I'll have to resort to that, especially if the Rafster makes it to the third round. Allez, Rafa!

On a side note, how painful is it, you want to know, to be in love with someone you cannot have? To that I answer, "Extremely." Still, maybe I will get to see if they bake him a birthday cake this time too- his birthday falls smack in the middle of the tournament. Ha. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Readings: Johannes Cabal the Necromancer


Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan…

Necromancy:  the practice of talking to the spirits of dead people; the use of magic powers especially for evil purposes. 

Dead people, magic powers, evil purposes. With that as the background for his trade, you know this Johannes Cabal is going to be a rather grim type. And he is that, but in a sort of endearing, sarcastic, scientific-minded, socially inept and imperious way. He begins by making a deal with Satan himself: Johannes, having signed his soul over to Satan years before, now needs it back in order to carry on with his experiments. Satan proposes a wager- Cabal needs to get Satan a hundred souls at the end of a year, and all will be well. Helpfully, he even provides Cabal with the bones (he he he!) of a traveling carnival (of the undead, of course) who will be his staff, as it were, to help in the mission.

The opening chapter is worth its weight in gold. Hell, as described here, is quite literally familiar to anyone who's stood in line trying to get the paperwork done in any government office in India. Arthur Trubshaw, the head clerk, is shatteringly familiar also. And Satan is bored and marvelous.

Cabal enlists his own brother to help inject the charisma needed to attract the public to his carnival. But said brother has been imprisoned in a family crypt- he's a sort of vampire, you see- and Cabal is responsible. We don't know the back story, and are never told. The brother, Horst, still agrees to help and the carnival gets underway. But it's Satan at the other end of the deal. We know all is not going to go well.

Suffice to say, the plot meanders a bit along the way, but the writing was engaging enough. Cabal's impatience and dry wit somehow endear him to you, at least they did to me. The plot doesn't follow the imagined route; in fact about 2/3rds of the way the tone of the story changes and there are real questions about moral choices and the simple distinction between good and bad.

I loved the characters: Bones the undead carnival helper, that smug crow who only says "Kronk", Satan himself, Mimble the evil imp who makes a brief appearance, and Horst who is sauve and has a great head on his shoulders. Literally and morally. Johannes Cabal himself is a classic example of a Rational type, if anyone is familiar with the MBTI. Sigh. I have entirely too much free time if I'm able to see that, eh?

Now to the uncomfortable part. I did not understand the ending. At all. Sigh. It's really inconvenient to be daft right at the climax of a jolly good book. Maybe I should write to the author and he'll explain?

And more importantly, what happens to us after we die? The book I'm on right now is about a hospice nurse and her patient. So there...the Big Sleep is rather fascinating and has always been, to me. I understand Cabal's single-minded quest to study the only Unknown in human existence. Heck, I would've probably been a necromancer myself if I'd thought about it earlier. Maybe it's not too late... I shan't be as funny as Cabal, but maybe someone will give me Bones and the carnival train. And Horst. And Satan won't enter the picture at all and I can do my necromancy in peace and quiet. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Letter

I’m not feeling strong yet, but I am taking
good care of myself. The weather is perfect.
I read and walk all day and then walk to the sea.
I expect to swim soon. For now I am content.
I am not sure what I hope for. I feel I am
doing my best. It reminds me of when I was
sixteen dreaming of Lorca, the gentle trees outside
and the creek. Perhaps poetry replaces something
in me that others receive more naturally.
Perhaps my happiness proves a weakness in my life.
Even my failures in poetry please me.
Time is very different here. It is very good
to be away from public ambition.
I sweep and wash, cook and shop.
Sometimes I go into town in the evening
and have pastry with custard. Sometimes I sit
at a table by the harbor and drink half a beer.


~Linda Gregg

Friday, July 11, 2014

Untitled

Today it has been eight months since they buried you. I hope you have chocolate where you are.

We think about you every day.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

And then there were enchilladas

When J first came to this city a little more than seven years ago, Mexican food was the great divider. Part of it of course, was a simple craving; having been a California boy for all his adult years it was natural that Mexican food would be such a part of his habits that he couldn’t quite fathom going weeks and months without it. But partly it was just another way in which he, adventurer, follower of his heart, global enthusiast and fearless romantic, would be reminded that well, Bangalore was simply not home.

And yet, was that not part of its charm? Indeed it was. In those early days, he was taken up by everything he saw and experienced because it was a long way both physically and spiritually from the pounding surf of California. Also, our story was then still being written; even though we acknowledged an all-consuming and mystical attraction to each other, we didn’t know if the legal knots presented by his foreign citizenship would be too much to fight against.

So it went. There was this girl he had his heart set on, but meanwhile each day was a fresh circus of delights in this teeming city of ours. Graceful trumpet trees would catch his eye one moment, and life-threatening traffic would sap his energy the next. He met people who asked him the most inane questions (“do you find the culture different?”) but also formed long-lasting relationships with colleagues and friends. He went to weddings and participated in our festivals. He ate Indian food…and that’s where we can now hear the sound of a metaphorical squeal of the brakes.

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