Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Say What

Words. If I’m not saying them, I’m listening to them. Well, maybe not listening to them, but hearing that little humming noise they make in the background as I wait for my turn to talk.

Which brings us to the most annoying words and phrases of 2010. I have no quarrel with any of the candidates because they are part of my daily vocabulary. “Whatever,” for example, is surely better than the alternative: Thus it was and thus it ever shall be. And “Actually” and “Like?” Why not take "You Know" away and be done with it. Then I can just sit in a corner, rocking.

This attempt to rid our vocabulary of certain words is surely taking the English language in the wrong direction. We need more words, not fewer.

For example, we need a word for a woman who stands on her doorstep screaming at her kids. The Danes have one, it’s “Kaelling.”

Or what about a word for someone who attends a funeral just for the free refreshments. The Portuguese call him Pesamenteiro.

How about “Gamadj” from the Obibway tribe, which means to dance with a scalp in one’s hands in order to receive presents. Believe me, I’ve been to that Christmas party.

Once you get started admiring other cultures, it’s hard to stop. “Buffona” is Italian for an attractive woman with a mustache. And “Rhwe” is South African for sleeping on the floor without your mat while drunk and naked.

As far as I know, no other country has yet nailed a few concepts that would be handy in my daily life. Such as:

Unreasonable anger when neighbor always parks in front of your house and there’s plenty of room in front of his.

…Oh wait a minute, I think I found something in Croatian.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Train: Final Stop

Home, at last. Me, I'll spend the next two days heating up a traditional Christmas dinner. What about some of the rest of you...

"We celebrate ancestral traditions," Bellis, Pasadena

"My husband and I spend a quiet day at home, surrounded by those we love." Shell Sherree, Brisbane

"I like to dress up to match my sidedishes," Katie, Berkeley.

"I like to dress up to match my kitchen appliances," Marion, Chicago.

"I have some girlfriends over and we stage a Heidi re-enactment." Brenda, AZ

"I spend the day in a state of geographical denial." Pierre, AZ

"Any excuse to barbeque. Face it, when you're married to an Argentinian, it's all about the meat." Christina, Altadena

"Waiting for escrow to close." Susan Campisi, The Dena's

"My husband stays in the kitchen. I take care of a thing or two around the house." Trish, No Cal

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It's True, the sky is falling

I'm surprised my house isn't half way to Santa Monica by now. Last evening, a friend and I took a short walk around Devil's Gate Dam and talked to one of the guys in the tower. Their main concern was whether the water would jump the dam, because if it did, there would be serious flooding in Pasadena (and good luck with that Rose Bowl thingie you out-of-towners seem to like).

They were about to get in a boat and move the floats to try to hold back some of the fire debris that's still pouring from the mountains. That part sounded like fun.

New piece on Patch about water. And you can't talk about water around here without talking about Haha.

(I don't know why these pictures are all blue. Maybe because we were so cold.)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Picking brains

I heard a story on NPR the other day. It inspired me. A doctor in India saved many lives during a flu epidemic by using water and a bit of inexpensive tubing to replicate the action of a respirator.

“I believe we can solve anything,” the Indian doctor had said. All it takes is thought and creativity.

I created something yesterday.

My rain gutters were overflowing and water was seeping through the window.

I just kept remembering what my Indian mentor said, "God gave us the brain."

I figured this particular problem I could lay at the feet of my god-given brain, as it hadn't thought to have the gutters cleaned in the first place. But as they say, barn door, horse, open, gone. But even at this critical stage, the brain didn’t seem overly anxious to kick into high gear. I couldn't tear it away from a Gary Cooper movie and a box of Triscuits.

Brains, and I can only speak for the one I know on an intimate basis, are flighty things; inconvenient, and without much conscience or compassion. But can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.

Brains are also insomniacs. At about 2 a.m., it had an idea. Maybe, just maybe ...

Bring me some tape, it said, any kind you've got, and be quick about it, girl. Then we need a long straight stick, and what have you got in the way of a four inch hook ...

No instrument is humble, if it works.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Christmas Train continues

Ok, did you remember your toothbrush? Because we don't have a lot of time. Linda, our Canadian cattle rancher, has been expecting us.

She told her Bossman and his foreman not to wait up.

Because she would be joining us at Marjie's.

Marjie needed cheering up. Only half her kids were dropping by for Christmas dinner.

We jumped the pond, because Sara, newly ensconced in Belgium, has a bit of a fashion crisis. Oh, she's all down with the Euro trash scarf look, but the devil's in the details.

Back stateside, we sampled Terri's Arkansas.

Bayside and Paula of Florida wanted to pay tribute to the assistance they've been receiving from BP.

Virg couldn't make it and begged for forgiveness. She was otherwise engaged.

So it's on to Arizona. And Australia, of course.

(My new pet post at Patch. Catch the blond.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

The truth is, I said to a friend of mine, as we walked around my less-than-acreage, I used to be able to guide people away from the crap parts and over to some nice little spots. But now it all looks like crap, and don’t tell me otherwise.

I won’t, he said.

So what am I going to do about it? The current gardeners will do anything for me, anything except bend, stretch or reach. They’re gardeners in name only; they don’t even own gardening gloves. Yes, that should have been the tip off. That and their perfectly white and unblemished, uncalloused hands. My hands don’t look so bad either, given the amount I have to do in the yard, just maybe like I give them a good scrubbing with broken glass now and again, if I wash them at all.

My three horticulturalists prefer to get all their mileage out of the weedwacker, although that’s something else in name only. It’s a bushwacker, a lawnwacker, a treewacker, but it’s leaving the weeds very much to their own devices.

I asked The Fat One, the head of this landscape architecture firm, if he didn’t have a lawn mower. “What,” he said, looking rather puzzled. “You want me to mow the grass?” If you wouldn’t mind, I told him. He half shook his head to show the world he thought this very ill-advised, but anything to make me happy.

In addition to the weedwacker, they have a great fondness for the leaf blower. Not to blow the leaves out of the yard, just deeper into it. For awhile I thought they were actually collecting the leaves and putting them in the compost pile, as I didn’t see great piles hiding behind trees. But then, after the last rain when my French drain overflowed, I found their secret hiding place.

So I talked to The Fat One again, and asked that they blow leaves out of the beds, and most specifically not into the drain. “What,” he said, “Not in but out?” And this time he looked rather interested, as though I might actually have an idea. Perhaps not a particularly good idea, but one that hadn’t occurred to them before.

The only good thing is, with past gardeners, if I left my own tools lying around the yard they would surely disappear – rakes, clippers, shovels. Even a bag of fertilizer once. But with the current crop, if my stuff doesn’t blow or whack, then it simply can’t get mixed up with their stuff. They’d just as soon lift up my rake as build a second story on my house.

So next month, I’m going to do nothing, nothing but get this place back into shape again. I’m going to fire these gardeners, even though every set seems so much worse than whatever came before. So now I’m almost fascinated to consider what could possibly be next.

Maybe I’ll cut to the chase and hire the very worst one of all: me.

(Two new pieces over at Patch and Animal Magnetism.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Round Two: Christmas Smackdown

A couple of friends of mine are in the doldrums. The quiet before the Christmas storm. Thought a little road trip could clear the air.

Sure, we all dressed up, but Janey, PA, and Jean put us to shame. I guess you have to be born with it...

Lots of significant as well as insignificant others joined us. Even the boys had to admit, Vic was most definitely among the significant.

Kathy and the Chief have acclimatized quickly to the temperatures of Mammoth. I think headgear helps.

The Chiefs put us up for the night, and Susan cried a little. She left an escrow recently, for very good reasons, but this was a cruel reminder of what she hoped to have for Christmas.

This is me and Laurie. If we look a little weary, it's because...

I don't know how many times we have to tell Petrea, "yes, you're a hipster."

and so is John.

On to Canada. Carolynn met us at the station. (She spent autumn in New Mexico, and I'm sure we haven't heard the end of that.)

More Canada, then eastern seaboard, the south, Belgium, Japan, and oh yes, oooooh yes, Australia.

(Here's latest dog column over at Patch.)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Round One: Annual Christmas Smackdown

A party kicks off the holiday season.

Fabrizio is a godsend, and helped me with my make-up.

The boys came by -- Banjo, Ron, Kenny Mac, and Bandit.

The girls were almost ready. (Paula was all dramatic about something or other.)

Dez's Barry wanted to join us, but he was working.

The first stop was Kev's. He knows how to please the ladies.

We tried to text Laurie and Jon, but they were otherwise engaged.

Dez brought some hors d'Ĺ“uvres.

Margaret killed herself making the sausage and bacon platter.

We heard Terry whisper (when Marion was in the next room), "So many chicks, so little time..." DB said amen to that.

And we've got three parties to go! Oh yes, I've got every one of you. Carolynn, Marjie, Susan, Kathy ...

Since you're in the neighborhood, visit my new piece on Patch.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Excellent Adventure

Bellis, Petrea, and Karin met up in Old Town Pasadena today. We were game for anything.

Hey look, I'm doing a Kenny Mac.

A Virg, the Mechanical Years.

This is my Laurie.


We met Pasadena Fire Captain, Myron L. Cooper, Station 33.

And nice as he was, we are, after all, jounalists, and were thus compelled to ask the probing questions. “Can I ring the bell,” for example, and, “Where's the Dalmation?”

The fire station brass pole is still the quickest way to get from the living quarters to the first floor. We had an actual demonstration. He was really fast -- faster than my Canon SO1100 IS Powershot, if you can believe that.

Later we joined up for a group photo and when I downloaded, imagine my surprise. Who gets a shoulder hug, like she’s the firefighter’s best friend? I never heard this particular pose was an option for the rest of us.

But you know what pleases me about this? You can tell I'm way taller.

(By popular request, the Petrea)