Saturday, July 31, 2010

Let's sit on the front porch

A perfect day to sit on the porch and contemplate the meaning of life. Tom Powers worked hard all his life and is now enjoying just being alive. His wife Althea was a crackerjack stenographer in her day. Gregg shorthand. I also did Gregg and still use some of it when I take notes. When you put a period after a shorthand character it means "ing."

Althea asked me how I met her son Johnny.

At a bar, I joked. She shook her head in disapproval.

Then I asked her husband how he met Althea.

"Taproom," he said.

Johnny Powers is a sharp dresser. You can barely see him but he's wearing one of his fine shirts, this one from a thrift shop, he got for only 50 cents.

Johnny and his dad have the same clear blue eyes. They are both serene individuals.

Now in their early 90s, the Powers are cared for by their son who devotes his days to their wellbeing. The house is a veritable nursing home of accouterments for the elderly. John was trained in how to do everything.

Bottom line: his parents are happy. And John is happy caring for them. He's close with his sister Annie, an air force nurse who lives in CA. A brother lives in the Lonestar State. They all speak often.

I got a new lifetime wardrobe from my sister Donna. Here I am in my new Jimi Hendrix shirt. Are you experienced?

You know what I just discovered? The vastness of the human population. It's unfathomable, really, how many people there are. Literary agents, for example. Thousands upon thousands of them. When you read the Times like I do every 20 minutes, you only hear about people who make the news. What about the rest of us? We're here, Dear Lord! Can you see me waving from my desk chair?

I was gonna try to pray for strength last nite. I do this on a regular basis, but the words won't come. I'm a 99 percent Unbeliever.

But, as I was looking at the sleeping Scott next to me, his muscular back, he's a weighlifter, remember, I thought, how many millions of years went by to produce a specimen like this fine man. That, in itself, is a miracle. But must we attribute it to God? I think not. To Natural Laws, certainly, Laws beyond all understanding and worthy of great praise and awe.

Wherever I go, I get lost. I expect to get lost. Now that I have my trusty camera I can pretend that I wanted to get lost so I can take photos like this old barn.

Was trying to get to Chestnut Hill to visit John and his folks. Any normal person can do it. I was so close, so very very close, when something went very wrong and I ended up in Fort Washington.

Going home? Same thing. I'd like to thank the following:

Schoolbus driver Donna, who dropped kids off at Sandy Run Middle School. I said to myself, So this is where that school is! She radioed someone to give me directions to get home to Willow Grove, PA.

The fellow in the Upper Dublin truck I met in a shopping center 10 minutes later. Very nice young man.

A waitress taking a smoke break who told me to make a right turn.

By now, I was nursing my cup of ice water Johnny gave me for my ride home.

Playground next to my Family Doctor's office

Young Dr Fox was happy I made an appt to discuss end of life matters with him. He was actually familiar w/the New Yorker writer & surgeon, Atul Gawande, who wrote the article that led me to make the appt.

He was totally understanding about my hesitation to go on dialysis and reiterated it was my decision alone. Whenever I bring up the subject with friends, no one wants to talk about it.

As you see from the above Mr Powers, this man is used to machines saving his life. His urine comes out thru a catheter and hangs in a bag next to him. He's got a new knee and god knows what else inside him. He has taken the steps to have artificial means prolong his life.

For him, dialysis would be yet another intrusion into his life that he would accept.

Not so for me. The intrusion would be major. Surgery would be necessary to build a series of hideous looking veins to receive the dialysis portal. This aspect alone, the ugly factor of rendering your body a freak, is never discussed. I totally opened up my family doctor's eyes to this.

I told him that Scott and I were at the shore and I saw a man in a wheelchair. He had no legs and fistulas on his left arm. Diabetes, I said to Fox, diabetes that led to kidney failure. His wife pushed him along the street.

There is debate about everything. The more docs you see, the less consensus you get. My neff (short for nephrologist) believes in getting the patient on dialysis early, while their body is still strong. My family doctor just read a journal article to the opposite - delay as long as possible.

And then there's me...delay forever and die a natural death of kidney failure. This is easy to say NOW b/c I'm not sick. In fact, I just ate a huge bowl of Rainier cherries, another bowl of sunflower seeds, and some crackers...a well-balanced "meal" according to my beloved nutritionist. I also did an hour's worth of yard work this morning, the laundry, you know how it is, and did a phone interview for the first article in the new Compass.

If I were a praying gal, I'd pray for my kidneys to continue working at their 12% normal capacity. But, honestly, what good would it do?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Obama's stimulus program comes to my street

Critics may say what they will about the stimulus program but today, right on time, Thomas of Cadcom, came out to audit my house for energy conservation. Here he is putting a sheath on my front door to seal off air and measure how much air is leaking into my house.

Not good. Insulation will be installed within a month and my home will be more energy efficient.

Thomas and I chatted while he used his amazing technology that measured all the air leaks in the house and the efficiency of my 3-yr-old furnace (only 85%). He told me something I never knew about windows. No matter how much you pay, they still do a lousy job of keeping the outside air out of your house. Windows, he said, are the most expensive thing to replace.

Update on the birdfeeder. This morning Mr. Cardinal discovered it. It was a thrill to see him fluttering about. I'll report my findings to Scott who should be awakening around now.

Dying in America

Read this important article in the New Yorker. I'm gonna make an appt w/my family doctor to talk about these end-of-life matters while I'm still relatively healthy.

Two-thirds of patients undergo treatments they don't want -- for me that would be dialysis -- due to family pressure.

Meantime I shall be a hedonist to the end, ah, remember that little girl that was me sitting on the porch steps at Uncle Marv's, reading, away from my noisy family, just sitting quietly on the steps reading the great Russian novels.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Well, at least I'm honest

So I'm sitting at my computer here in the dining room and a couple of kids cut across my lawn and knock on the door.

May I have a couple moments of your time, asks the tall one.

Probably not, I say, swiveling my head toward the door.

First, says the tall one, I wanna tell you I like your bay windows.

Thank you, I say. What are you selling?

They're going for a $500 college scholarship if I'll subscribe to the Willow Grove Guide. He asks if I'm familiar with it.

Yes, I say, not mentioning I write for the Guide and other local papers.

I'm not interested, guys, but I wanna tell you, you gave a first-class presentation and I wish you a lotta luck.

Scott and I bought this squirrel-proof birdfeeder at Pennypack Trust and filled it with their birdseed. Wait till word gets out, said Scott. Sure enuf, this morning the sparrows were crunching on the seeds.

I'm the only one on the block with a filled birdbath. So the birds'll get thirsty from the seeds and then fly over here for a drink and a nice fluffing of feathers.

My old orange hazard cone faded away so I bought a new one. I use it as a beacon so my clients and I can find our way to my house.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Once again Cape May Enjay

Tornado warnings from 4:05 pm to 4:56 pm in two counties including Cape May county. Fortunately a cooling hour-long rain cut thru the 103-degree heat and insufferable humidity.

To get a shot of the foam, I had to push the button before the wave crashed. Oh, what I do for you, Dear Reader!

Sunset over the Atlantic Ocean

Say hello to Farmer Les Rea whose farm market was a mile from our motel. His pa bought the farm when Les was a year old. Then Les farmed it. At 75, he believes he has 5 more years left in him to run the farm. He's married to a good woman and showed me pictures of all his grandchildren. No one wants to carry on the farm tradition. We bought some peaches, tomatoes, and cherries and stuck em in our room fridge for when we got hungry after gorging ourselves on $100 meals. We coulda gone to a Sestak for Pennsylvania Senate dinner party instead of just thinking about our own futures.

Painted door of the Whimsical Mermaid. Steve didn't want me to photograph him but I did anyway. The photo didn't come out.

One of our favorite restaurants right across from the main beach. Every spare minute my nose was stuck in a Jack Reacher novel that was extraordinarily violent. Some scenes took place in Afghan'n. I urged Scott to begin the book the moment I finished -- it's his book -- but he said he hadda finish his Sinclair Lewis novel first, which he can't get into.

He asked me why I thought he was so rigid and couldn't make a simple change like giving up the Lewis book and reading the Lee Child book.

B/c, I said, you think your life will be out of control if you deviate from habit.

Great gift shop owned by Steve Riesman who used to be in the apparral biz like mine own dear dad. He was surprised to find out Scott and I were Jewish and said the Jews usually go to Margate and Wildwood.

We'll never eat here again. We forgot to ask the price of their signature dish or the fish of the day. Our bill for two was over $100. Our waiter Peter was from Bulgaria. Our water bearer Joe gets a free meal on his b'day August 3. He did a spectacular job filling up our waters, so I guess the meal was worth it. From our window seat, we saw a burgundy Maserati pull out of the driveway, a blimplike shape.

Crashing waves. "Sophocles saw it on the Aegean," I said to Scott, quoting Dover Beach.

Scott and I headed out to the cove to watch for dolphins at sundown. We stood there for ten long minutes and then a small dark shape popped out of the water. Followed by more and more. I got my wish: dolphins.

Okay, okay, so we go on vacation and watch TV. I saw one of the best shows ever: Charlie Rose interviewed John Sexton, president of NYU, where my boy went. Sexton is an idea man. For the umpteenth time I thought, Where can I go for a little intelligent conversation? Sexton, born in 1942, led the school to unprecedented growth during his tenure. Oh, what big words he used! I'm gonna listen to the program online so I can get a little intelligent thought into my brain. Sexton was in the middle of writing a speech on immortality when he walked into his kitchen and found his wife, dead. He was taught by the inquiring minds of the Jesuits, just like my dead Simon.

Nice logo, ad company. Ever see the logo for Fios? Take a look next time the truck pulls up in your neighborhood. Back to the drawing board boys. The Tyler Art students could do a better job.

The shimmering pool in Cape May NJ. With hundred-degree plus temperatures during our three-day stay, we submerged ourselves in the pool and stayed there an hour, talking to everyone we met.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Little Girl Lost

I've only read one Stephen King novel...about a 14-yr-old girl who was lost in a forest after getting separated from her family on a camping trip.

In retrospect, that was who I was last nite at 8:30 p.m., lost in the little woods behind my house, an adventurous 14-yr-old who could not find her way home.

At 8 pm I told Scott I'd walk him to the train station, a short 18-minute jaunt down Davisville Road. To get there, we cut thru the little woods in my backyard, then thru the parking lot of Keystone Screw, then the driveway that houses several huge office bldgs and warehouses and on out onto Davisville.

See the moon? Scott pointed out onto the left. I nodded at the three-quarter moon, high in the darkening sky.

He asked if I'd need to borrow his flashlite when I was coming home thru the woods.

No, I said, wondering vaguely if I'd remember where 'the path' was that led to my backyard. The path was quite overgrown and filled with hazardous poison ivy and tree roots that were easy to trip over even for an adventurous 14-year-old.

I'd suited up in my jeans and wore a long-sleeve shirt against the mosquitoes but was now busy unwrapping the shirt and tying it round my waist, as I huffed and puffed due to the extreme heat and humidity and steepness of the hills.

Are you all right? Scott asked as we marched up the sidewalk of Davisville Road toward the faraway train station.

Yes, I said. Do you always walk this fast?

But I kept up with him as we walked past the under-construction Settlement Music School and noticed the workmen had replaced the beautiful blue insulation with gray tiles. Should be stunning, I thought, except it was so close to the street we lacked a commanding view.

Two other people waited at the train station, each seated on their own bench, a young bored-looking woman who looked down at the palm of her hand where she held her digital apparatus, and a man in an animated phone conversation in another language.

Scott and I paced back n forth while waiting for his train.

Clang! clang! clang! The crossing-gates lowered themselves with a red flurry of excitement and the train came toward us. I knew that tonite was Scott's Friday, as he calls it, the last workday of the week. On Friday, the two of us would head for the shore.

After we kissed goodbye, I took the hill back up to Davisville Road. How nice it would be to stop in the cool A/C Kremp's Florist. I could thank them again for the delicious choc-covered pretzels and candy I'd bought for our guest speaker. I only had one piece myself, the speaker would never know, and I followed the piece of chocolate caramel, tiny, I must say, by eating a fresh apricot from Solebury Orchards.

But I was in a hurry to get home. Darkness was coming on and I wanted to reach the little woods before the mosquitoes ate me alive and before I sweated to death. My jeans were tight and hot.

I marveled again how much fun it is walking. You see so much. You can think. And simply the motion of walking, swinging your arms, is one of the greatest feelings in the world.

Now I was ascending the hill of Elmar Blinds and Keystone Screw, a really tough hill when you're already tired, but it's the hill that means Home. Darkness has fallen swiftly but I can still make everything out. In some latitudes, I've read, darkness falls within seconds. Not here. We have plenty of time for our eyes and spirits to adjust.

Now I'm walking back and forth in the parking lot behind the little woods looking for the path that will lead directly to my house. Darn! Where is that path? I'd just been down it 20 minutes ago and I can't find it.

The underbrush was so thick I couldn't even see the strip of five or six houses on my block that usually gave me my bearings. I did see houses, but they all looked the same.

You will just have to plunge in, I told myself...walk thru the thick foliage until you stumble upon the path. Shouldn't be that hard. Just...step...into...the woods.

Well, of course it was quite a tangle. I selected a pile of sticks to walk on. Someone had dumped their yard debris there but it looked safe and dry so I stepped on it and walked forward, my long-sleeve shirt protecting my arms from the brambles that were now attacking me.

Still, there was no path to be found.

Suddenly, I saw a house straight ahead. I don't care whose yard I'm gonna trespass in, I thought, I've gotta get out of here. By now I was walking in knee-high grass, ducking low to avoid brambles, and simply heading for the house where no lights shown.

The weeds were now waist-high. It was not exactly the Amazon jungle but it was not comfortable. You took one step and you disturbed bugs who came out -- not a lot of them, I don't wanna exaggerate -- but it was unexpected and it was not pleasant.

Heading toward the house, I saw that the owners had erected a small fence as a barricade against the forest. I laffed silently as I noticed the power of the forest against the tiny manmade fence that it clambered over. Fortunately the fence was low enuf so I could step over it.

The topography was very strange. Completely hilly. Up and down. Up and down. Now I'm trespassing thru their backyard. But no one's home. Where am I? Is this the house with the Autism Awareness sign on the car? No. It's the home where the For Sale sign went up two months ago.

They left their BBQ grill there and some kids' toys. The yard was totally fenced in and overgrown with weeds. This is the jungle that all our yards revert to when man has gone.

A latched gate would let me out but I squeeze thru a narrow opening so I won't have to unlatch it. Sweat is pouring off me and I can't wait to drink a glass of iced-cold water and to hit the cooling shower.

I also can't wait to tell Scott about my adventure. Not only will he be shocked, but he will tell me what landmark I missed when I was trying to find the path.

My dahlias were waiting for me this morning.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Walk in Nature Boosts our Immune System

Who knew? Read this NY Times article. Five minutes from home, down Pennypack Road, is one of the trails of Pennypack Trust of Huntingdon Valley. There are many tributaries of the Pennypack Creek, named after the Penny-packa indians who once lived around here before European invaders chased them off their lands.

When Scott and I entered the forest shortly after 12 noon, the temp was close to 90. The cooling effect of the trees was immediate...and then it got cooler still, as the creek pulled up to join us. Fortunately, Pennypack has preserved 900 acres so we don't have to worry about shopping malls destroying our nature's heritage or the little creatures who live there.

Look down in the forest and you'll find moss somewhere. It's fun to feel its furry softness. There are over 12,000 species of moss. I wonder if that includes my friend Lillian Moss?

Writer's Group at Weinrich's Coffeeshop, downtown Willow Grove PA

Bob, who was this month's leader, read the next chapter of his children's book, a charming tale about a whale and an ant. Can you see Beatriz in the photo to Bob's left? Originally from Argentina, she's a retired biologist who shared work about the hummingbird moth, which masquerades as a hummingbird, down to the buzz it makes with its wings. Here's her blog.

Newcomer Carly Brown is on Bob's left. She had to hand-write her poem cuz her computer knew she wanted to make a good impression at her debut yesterday so it froze up. I B Singer used to talk about demons who attacked his writing. He won the Nobel about shtetls in Eastern Europe. Nice to outwit your demons.

Mary is making notes with her portable Braille writer. Her exquisite poem on a trip to the beach with her dad and brother took place when she was very young and could see. She has no vision today and couldn't see when I flashed the photo her way.

Donna read a stunning poem about her bipolar disorder. She's collecting her work into a book. She wore gorgeous silver nails which I asked her to display.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Dinner and movies

Nicole and Dan nursed this cat back to health. He's still on meds to combat whatever ailed him. A mystery.

Nicole has only a month to go before Grace Catherine enters the world. The baby weighs 6 pounds.

Remember my tiny cucumber I brought to mom's? Here's the famous sweet n sour salad she's been making since we were kids in Cleveland.

After dinner we watched the new Swedish cliffhanger murder mystery The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Five stars out of five.

Off to the Orchards lickity split

Summertime is Solebury Orchards time. Located outside New Hope PA, it's open Thursday thru Sunday.

I bought a bottle of their ice-cold apple juice w/the sediment on the bottom. Scrumptious!

For breakfast this morning I had their blackberries and blueberries. So delicious! No comparison w/bought fruit. Sorry, Giant.

Rows and rows of blueberry bushes covered with netting so the birds won't get in.

My sister Ellen and I drove 45 minutes to the orchard. We each picked about a pint of blueberries. What a thrill! Dyou remember picking fruit as a kid? Try it sometime. Marcy picks lemons from her lemon tree.

Blueberries grow in sprigs like this.

Manager Freya prepares a batch of apple cider ice in the back. She says they don't have to advertise. They're always busy. Moms and kids were there. When I went to Dan's for dinner I asked if he remembered when I used to take my kids to pick strawberries. He did.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Identity crisis: she thinks she's Bill Hess / Tarp poem

Nice symmetry, Patrick, on your Legos palace. I asked my 6-yo grand-nephew what he likes to be called since there are so many names for him. "Patrick" he answered. No one calls him that. His family calls him Paddy and his teacher calls him Pat.

If I were Bill Hess, I thought, I'd photograph this. Originally there was a second-story on this house on Terwood Road but the builders removed it. Since no one was behind me on this busy street, I stopped and photo'd it thru my window. Note the blue tarp. I'll print my Tarp poem at blog's end if I can find it.

I always have ice-cold water in my car.

When I got home the sun was reflected in the window. Snap! I don't know about you, but I have a special relationship w/the sun. During my second manic-psychotic episode when I was 38 yrs old, I stared at the sun and it gave me messages. Then I asked my then-boyfriend Russell to drive me to the Abington hospital ER. I met a terrific psychiatrist there, a man from Turkey, who I wrote about in the Compass magazine. He gave me some nice little white pills to "cool the fires" as he called it in my brain. He was the only psychiatrist I'd ever met who had respect for the manic-psychotic episode.


Feather-light folds.
Beating back rain and
Knots tied by quiet hands.
Open at the bottom like a
flapping tent, sucking the
wind with bluejay plumes.

Nearly every neighborhood its tarp.
Blue tarps, black tarps,
Wide-shouldered silver tarps
to catch the falling snow.
A little wind, and puff -
the snow rides the wind.

Tarps confer a gritty grandeur
to our block: Porch furniture shrouded in blue,
ornamental trees trussed and pinioned;
boats, marvelous boats, like airplanes, docked,
and blanketed in the rain-soaked yard.

A bedroom, aloft during an
autumn facelift, got stuck with its walls wide open.
A mirrored closet reflects
The roofs of houses, silver maples
caught in the mirror, while
a kneeling man in work gloves
knots the tarp before winter comes.

From my warm bed, I hear them all,
All the tarps in the neighborhood,
flapping in the night air:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Heart appt / 2 poems / Clan of Spiders

This morning I had an appt w/my cardiologist to see if my heart can withstand a kidney transplant. I wanted to take a photo of my doctor for my blog but he wouldn't let me. "My picture is on the Internet," he said. "But I wanna take it myself," I said holding up my camera. He shook his head no.

As a consolation I went back in the exam room and shot this horrid picture of some sterile instruments.

And then, still seething w/disapptment, I photographed the hideous parking lot below

Fortunately the human organism is resilient (the new buzz word, for about 3 yrs) so I came back to life and asked the doctor if I have to see him again.

No, he said.

The service I got from Einstein Hospital was so poor that you can only wonder -- and wonder you must -- what would happen if I get a kidney transplant from these people.

My cardiologist complained to me that his department's medical charts were all scattered. I had assiduously forwarded all records to his office and they weren't in my chart. He had to go fetch them manually.

I wanted to photograf him -- b/c of his commanding presence. Possibly he is the strangest looking doctor I've ever had. Unforgettable. Darn, I wanted to photograf him soooo bad.

Yet, I would have married him had he proposed. And our children would have been darling, the little future doctors n scientists, coo-chee coo-chee coo!

I married my dead husband for his brains first and his looks second. I forgot to check for his personality and tender qualities.

The cardiologist said my heart was in great shape. And you know what? If, god forbid, I'd ever need a heart doctor I'd go back to him and that depressing office at Einstein where people hobble in, doubled over from not exercising, for sitting in their office chairs at 10:12 p.m. blogging inane stuff instead of exercising their vital limbs and neck and eyebrows.

Oh! How could I forget. I had two poems published in the Tookany Review. I sent Bill Kulik the requested five and he chose two: Shaker Furniture and Bach or Faure.

I sent the link to a million people I was so prouda the poems -- they're quite good -- I haven't written a really good poem in five years -- unfortunately true -- and I even posted it on Facebook.

On Facebook there are leaders and there are followers. Followers stay mute but read what other people write. Followers suck. Yours truly is a follower. My dtr/law Nicole is a leader. She writes something and a million people applaud by sending out little signals.

I decided to unmute myself and sent three messages today as a leader. I did it unselfconsciously, just to see if I'd pass out and fall on the floor. Nuffin happened.

Will I do it again? I'm betting I will not. Why? I don't wanna be a sheep on Facebook doing what everyone else does. I'm too weird. You'll like these poems. For some reason, Kulik didn't post our bios. People think I'm selfless and a helpful person. Au contraire. I did not even peek at the other poets poems. I couldn't give a FF about what they wrote. All I care about is that Kulik published my two. Click on my name on the Left.

On the way home from the cardio's, I stopped at mom's to give her the above cucumber I cut off the vine. It's not quite big enuf but I wanted her to make her famous sweet n sour cucumbers with vinegar. Dyou believe I didn't tell her -- or my sister -- that I just came from a doctor's appt? At her age, all she talks about is body parts.

One of the folks I mailed my poems to is Rod Crawford who works at a Spider Museum at University of Washington in Seattle. He sent me his updated website -- which I commend you to -- we all have intense relationships with spiders -- click right her.

I met Rod years ago when I emailed him a spider question.

In fact, I just emailed Rod a question: "Should I feel guilty when I kill spiders in my downstairs bathroom? Is there a little prayer I should say when I kill them, or, more accurately, put them outdoors."

He wrote back, Why kill them, they're so helpful! Plus, indoor spiders live indoors while outdoor spiders like the outdoors. In fact, here's a poem I wrote about outdoor spiders.


The early morning
boy and dog
step lightly through the dawn
breaking through the quiet clatter of webs
wrought through the starless night:
lace curtains - feathery fences
they shine with dew
then break
only to be
knit again
by the clan of spiders
when darkness comes.

TV photos

This woman follows me wherever I go.

Keir Dullea, now 74, discussing his role in Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece Space Odyssey: 2001 The film will be aired next week. I think I've seen it six times.

Final scene in Fear Strike Out as Jimmy goes back on the ball field after having ECT and psychotherapy. Scott and I watched this film at dinnertime. He said it was tough to watch cuz it was about Jim's mental breakdown. My favorite line took place in the psych ward. The shrink asked Jim to talk about his dad, who we witness is very tough on Jim, driving him very hard. Nothing is ever good enuf for ole dad, played to perfection by Karl Malden.

I owe my dad everything, said Jim, played by the tall lanky Tony Perkins. I owe him everything...look where I am today. He had just had ECT for his catatonic depression.

Fear Strikes Out by Jimmy Pearsall. Scott was surprised I knew so much about Piersall. Wait a minute, I said, running upstairs, checking my email, getting some ice water, and then running up to the top shelf in my bedroom.

I plopped the book in front of Scott. "You own this?" he said. "Yeah, I bought it as a teenager."