Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Time Out

In a few minutes this whole computer set-up will be unplugged. We are having the computer room floors re-finished, the ceiling fixed, the walls and woodwork painted and the whole place spiffed up. From time to time I hope to be able to get to the library or borrow an Internet connection. That will work for e-mail, but isn't an ideal solution for posting to a blog.

Then comes the problem of plugging it all in again (including two printers, a scanner, a Picturemate and a Dymo.) I may have to send my brother a transatlantic plane ticket.

Hope to be back soon.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

In Memory of Joe

One of my dearest friends in Los Angeles was Joe Margon. He was a fellow teaching assistant, but his journey to that place was very different from the norm. He was in his forties and had left an interesting life and career (he evaluated books and plays for Warner Brothers to see if they would translate into movies) to become a lowly graduate student with the aim of eventually teaching classics in a university. How he did this with a wife and two children, I never knew. I wish I had a photo of him. I can see his face with its big grin clearly in my mind’s eye, and remember the general impression he gave—a grey, rumpled teddy bear. I loved spending time with him and he was a valuable window for me, young and English as I was, into the life and culture of America. His was the rarified air of the arts. After all, his wife, Saritha, was an artist and his best friend, Howard, was married to a woman who had been married to Mel Ferrer before—or was it after?—he was married to Audrey Hepburn. (That’s about the closest I got to Hollywood.) Joe was serious in his pursuit of a degree. We kept in touch for a while and later I heard he had accepted a position at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I heard about him from time to time from mutual friends, eventually hearing of his death. No surprise that he was as much loved in Santa Barbara as he had been in LA.

So why do I always remember Joe at this time of year? Well, Joe loved baseball and part of my introduction to life in the USA was Joe’s paean to the national sport. He loved baseball intellectually and aesthetically, as perhaps only a son of Brooklyn can. He talked of timing and the chess-like machinations of the runners and the coaches. I tried, Joe, I really tried, but I couldn’t quite get there. But every year as we get to the play-offs and the World Series, I watch baseball, hoping I’ll get to see the interesting innings and that some of your enthusiasm will finally rub off.

And if the Tigers ever get their act together again I’ll work on understanding baseball with all the zeal we used to put into those Greek prose compositions.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Brief Encounter

She dropped something on the floor of Krogers in the Village. I heard the sound of her exasperation, and recognized on her face a look which probably mirrored my own expression, “Here I am for the three thousandth time buying pork chops and paper towel and milk and carrots, while I would much rather be anywhere else.” I made a comment in commiseration, and when she responded, I heard the distinctive Scottish accent in her words. She pegged me immediately too. So we started to chat. “Where are you from?”—safe beginning. The answer, in her case, was Edinburgh. We talked about Inspector Rebus and Irn-Bru, and moved on. “How long have you been here?” Me somewhat longer than she. How often do you go home?

The subjects came thick and fast. Do you have family there? Too bad British Airways no longer flies Detroit to London. Wouldn’t it be nice to go back, rent a place and spend some time? We were both aware, I think, that the Britain of today is not the Britain we remember, that life is not the same, we are not the same.

We mentioned our current homes—she in the City on Dodge Place (nice, that) and me in the Park. But we never exchanged names. She seemed like a very nice person, but we are not destined to be friends, just to remind each other in a brief encounter of other days in other places, of what has been and what might have been.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Linus Is Two

Look at this adorable photo: I hope to take some more this month when we go to DC to check on affairs there, but until then everyone who has suffered through photos of tongues hanging out and fingers making gestures over someone's head will know the score. Then there's his yellow duck—no security blanket for this Linus. Look at the bandaid on the toe. I can't wait to kiss it better. Finally the baseball themed outfit. Er, sorry about the Yankees, Marcie.

OK, Linus, get ready to tell me what it is like being a big brother.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Me Too!

I borrowed this cartoon from Aenodia. It kind of speaks for itself.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Here It Is, Folks!

I have already e-mailed this photo to most of the friends and family who have watched this creation from its inception, through its birthpangs to the final delivery. This was Ernie's chef-d'oeuvre of the summer and my pride and joy. I had always wanted an arbor to lead from the main garden through to the vegetable garden and Ernie designed, made and erected this beauty. The project involved digging down the existing paths and carting over four tons of the white crushed rock you see there. That's a purple clematis to the left and with any luck it will grow up next summer to crown the arbor.

I think a tasteful champagne launch is in order.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

On the Horns of a Dilemma

At the stroke of midnight on October 1, the hospital we had frequented for over forty years with our broken bones and gory abrasions, always known as Bon Secours, became Beaumont, Grosse Pointe. And, with my customary sense of occasion, I was there. Literally. In a bed. I certainly hadn’t intended it. I swear that when I had pneumonia seven years ago and they gave me a shot, they told me I would never get it again. But, apparently, it’s only good for five years and I fell victim to pneumonia for a second time. This time with pleurisy. So after several X-rays and a CT scan, I found myself admitted to the hospital. And that’s where my problems began.

I was wheeled into my room sometime after midnight and the first thing I noticed was that the television next to the other bed in the room was blaring away. The nurse kindly turned it off, noting that my roommate was sleeping. But, at 6:00 a.m. that television came on and was not switched off until I left, thirty-four hours later. Have you any idea what shows are on at 6:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning? Her visitors came and went. My visitors came and went. Meals came and went (very fancy now, you pick up the phone and order what you want. Unless it is something not on your allotted diet and then they tell you that you can’t have it.) Quiz shows, soap operas (her stories), movies, the Home Shopping Network— I was forced to listen to it all, whether I wanted to sleep or not.

I could, I suppose, have told her to turn it down/off. Or could I? What is the definition of “reasonable noise?” It made her happy and I was forced to ask myself where her rights ended and mine began. If the hospital provides the television, it is with the expectancy that patients watch it and the sound is collateral damage. It wasn’t her fault that I like complete silence or my fault that she likes noise. I vented my feelings on the pad of paper provided by the nice lady from “Guest Services” (don’t you love it?) and I am about to write a letter to the honcho in charge. The only reasonable suggestion I have is earphones and they would probably get mixed up with the oxygen thingies we had in our noses.

I am glad I am home.

Theodore is Four

It seems like only yesterday I was on my way to DC to take care of Liesl while Theodore was born. What a difference four years makes! Here he is on his first day of pre-school looking pleased as punch. There will be a party for him today, together with his brother Linus, who will be two in a few days, but when I heard from Marcie last night, she was afraid Theodore was coming down with an ear infection. He's an adorable kid and I am working hard to make sure that the Peter Pan costume he requested for Halloween lives up to his specifications (tho' the hat looks like it is meant to be balanced as carefully on the head as any book in a runway walking competition.)

Happy Birthday, Boots.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Decision Time

John Copeland usually has something to say about the absurdities of life in “Lax Britannica”—a country of which he is really rather fond. Last week he referenced an article in The Sunday Times of September 23 detailing the prohibition on emergency services against saving lives.

Officers like Sergeant Craig Lippitt, who attempted to rescue Jordon by stripping off and diving in of his own volition, were acting against instructions, although they would not be disciplined for rescuing someone, the spokeswoman said.

Firefighters who attempt the same are not necessarily so fortunate. In March a 42-year-old firefighter, Tam Brown, saved a woman in the River Tay. He was later informed he could face disciplinary action.
Read the article: see what you think. John’s verdict? “Presumably the day is not so very far away when the Health & Safety Executive comes up with an edict that soldiers must not fire bullets in case they hurt themselves. I really do live in a daft country.”

Thursday, October 04, 2007


“Why,” you may ask,“ did you not go apple picking with your family in Canada"? The answer is simple—my “green” card expired. Note the apostrophes, real ones, exactly as used by the United States Government. The “green” card is actually salmon pink, but since it was historically green, the INS had to reconcile history and fact and that’s how they did it.

Here’s the back-story. I received my green card in 1964, thanks to a letter from my chair at Southern Cal indicating he couldn’t find an American to do my job and promising I would not be a financial burden for at least a couple of years. I remember going down to Long Beach to go through the process. I also remember that at that time I had to report myself and my current address every January. After a while that was no longer necessary, but I do recall phoning the INS and asking if I should get a new card since I had changed my name. I was told that neither a new card nor a new photo was required. So life went on uneventfully until about 10 years ago when I began to hear rumblings that the green card was to become obsolete. I eventually got a new card, but what a business that was. Telephone trees that never delivered an actual person, a visit to the immigration office to be fingerprinted, less than friendly personnel and a photo with an ear prominently displayed. That last requirement was the source of much consternation to the mother of a friend who wanted to keep her ears to herself, thank you.

Fast-forward to this year when I happened to look at the card and realized it had an expiration date in September of this year. No-one had warned me this was a 10-year card, and indeed an Australian neighbor, a very well-organized person, found herself in Ireland with an expired “green” card, so I expect many of us have been caught short. Times have changed: there is now an efficient web-site. Efficient, but hardly user friendly for a permanent resident struggling with English. Then there is the cost. $290! In the post 9/11 world, I suppose that is a small price to help put together a comprehensive data base, so I am not complaining. The forms now come from the Office of Homeland Security. But since I had needed my card to cross over to Canada a couple of weeks ago, I did not have the replacement in time for our annual trip to Theissens nursery.

That should be the end of the story. I am one of the lucky ones. Every so often we hear heartbreaking stories of families being broken up as a father or mother is deported for residency violations and someone will justify the resulting tragedy by pointing to the absolute nature of law. Allow me to introduce you to Roy M. Bailey of Romulus, who was acting field office director for detention and removal operations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Detroit, and who is charged with accepting bribes, conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit extortion, conspiracy to defraud the federal government, and failing to report a felony. I am not quite sure why this story was tucked away on page 3B of today’s Detroit News, or why he is on paid administrative leave.

I hate to say, “Only in Detroit”, but in this instance, I hope it is the case.

Another Birthday

These three hunt in a pack. The one in the middle is Elizabeth, and today she is thirty-eight. Get her together with her sisters, and the stories come spilling out. For a large portion of her teenage years she wanted to be Olivia Newton John, but I guess those days are over. She actually underwent several metamorphoses, calling herself at times Beth, Ellie and Liz. By the time she decided she really wanted to be known as Elizabeth, it was too late for many people to adjust. Jeff, well he often calls her “Lil.” And there are four cute kids who know her only as mom.

Happy Birthday, Elizabeth.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Danny is Six

Today is Daniel's sixth birthday He celebrated with his cousin, Benjamin, who is six days older at the family apple picking in Canada. I didn't get to go and as it turned out, it was just as well. I'll explain later, but for now I want to make sure I commemorate this day for Danny. I had hoped to get a photo of Benjamin and Daniel from Saturday, but it didn't work out, so I leave you with a photo from the summer of Danny and a collection of worms from the compost.

Now is is chilly and rainy and I am off to snuggle down in bed.