Saturday, May 31, 2008


The backyard was landscaped after our remodel was done, and now everything is growing nicely. Including a lot of "volunteers", as Jennifer calls them, plants that we call weeds because they are growing where we don't want them. I spent a good part of the morning pulling things up, especially the pernicious little guy that sends out stalks in all directions, producing nasty little burrs as seed pods. There is plenty of clover-like stuff, that looks pretty this time of year, but I know it gets ugly later on. It's crowding out the pretty lavendar and other purple flowers that we'd rather have. The tiny-leaved elfin thyme that was planted among the flagstones is doing well, and has almost doubled in size. But there is still dirt between the plants, and in each little patch, something else tries to grow.

Today I lay down one extra flagstone by the gate, because Lola and other visiting dogs had taken to digging in that one vacant spot. Eventually they may have succeeded in going through to China, or at least under the fence.

Some neighbors were having a plant sale and we picked up a couple of caraval hollyhocks for a spot by the other fence, under a bird feeder. I hope I can keep their plot free of weeds long enough for them to get a good start.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bye Bye Bob

We lost our oldest brother this week. We were five, now we are four, yet diminished by more than one. Bob Brooks was
a good man
a punster
a practical joker
banjo picker
a lover of Sousa
computer pioneer
a wordsmith
a veteran
gentle lover of flowers
and father
a skeptic
he voted Obama
band member
Eagle Scout
my brother
we miss him
he's gone

Monday, May 12, 2008

Outside of time, in a foreign country

I am in Connecticut, a state which I always have to focus on while I type, to make sure I put the "connect" in it. I'm not sure why it's not pronounced "connect I cut", it would make it more fun to say, for sure. What I want to write about is how this state feels like a foreign country to Californians. Things are familiar, but just a little different. You know that's a house, but gee, it has three stories and a big porch and a $350,000 price.. so it can't be a house, it has to be a boarding house or B&B. That looks like a bridge but the date on it goes back to the 1600's. Incredible!

And the food is different, too. It seems closer to food that you'd get in Europe. The cheese is more authentic. The portions are huge. My theory is that the cook's grandparents are still living around here, and they are picky about the recipes being exactly like the one the brought from the old country. Either that or they are actually working in the kitchen. Out west, the cooks' parents split from their family and travelled out to see new places. They tasted a lot of different food and thought it might taste good if they mixed a little mexican pepper, say, in with the tomato sauce recipe that their italian grandma made. And grandma wasn't around to complain.

We are outside of time because we are spending time in a hospital, and that is innately a place with its own schedule and rotation. We aren't at work or doing our regular routines. We are living in motel and driving around on unfamiliar roads and making a lot of phone calls. We are thinking of time that we have not been together and trying to be "here" for each other now.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?

We drove somewhere in a car together, one day after he got out of college. My oldest brother, 21 years old, voting age (then), an adult, about to join, or in the army, and about to go off to fight in Vietnam. I was 11, colt legged, budding breasts and thick lenses, halfway between child and adolescent. Ten years apart, he was already in high school by the time I could remember anything, and so we may never have been alone together before. We had shared dinner tables and holidays, but never had intimate conversation. Perhaps I was now at an age where he saw me as no longer a "kid". At any rate it felt like I was being treated special, to ride with him.

It was the summer of 1966. The radio was on, of course, as it always was when we went anywhere in the car. He was kind of shy and I was too. I didn't really know what to talk about. A song came on that I liked, Lovin' Spoonful, I think, or Mama Cass. We talked about the music. One song after another, the hits just kept on comin'. I'm not sure who made the statement first, but we both agreed that this year, 1966, had to be the best year EVER for pop music. There was never a better year and might never be a better year. These are songs we will remember all of our lives. Any we have:

Some of the hits from 1966. The tunes start up in my head as I read the titles.

Cherish, Association
Monday, Monday, The Mama's and The Papa's
96 Tears, ? and The Mysterians
Reach Out I'll Be There, Four Tops
Summer In The City, Lovin' Spoonful
California Dreamin', The Mama's and The Papa's
You Can't Hurry Love, Supremes
We Can Work It Out, The Beatles
When A Man Loves A Woman, Percy Sledge
Good Lovin', Young Rascals
Paint It Black, Rolling Stones
Wild Thing, Troggs
Paperback Writer, The Beatles
Good Vibrations, Beach Boys
Red Rubber Ball, The Cyrkle
Walk Away Renee, Left Banke
Bus Stop, Hollies
Dirty Water, Standells
Crying Time, Ray Charles
Secret Agent Man, Johnny Rivers
The Sounds Of Silence, Simon and Garfunkel
Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?, Lovin' Spoonful
Homeward Bound, Simon and Garfunkel
Uptight (Everything's Alright), Stevie Wonder
Wipe Out, The Surfaris
Barbara Ann, Beach Boys
Black Is Black, Los Bravos
Nowhere Man, The Beatles

Thursday, May 01, 2008

More waxwing

When I got home the day I saw the waxwings in the morning, the holly tree was stripped of berries, except for the very bottom of the tree along one branch. The birds had returned during the day, Barb reported, but flew away when the dog approached. But just now, I heard the unusual whir of their call and saw the tree moving. More than 10 cedar waxwings sat high in the tree, sunning themselves in the last rays of the day. I grabbed the binoculars and watched their beauty. One grabbed a mosquito-eater bug out of the sky and gobbled it down.

When some neighbor banged a garbage can loudly, they flew in a great rush out of the tree and disappeared. The body is dun-colored around the "shoulders" and then transistions to yellow on the belly. The yellow is exactly the same yellow as some of the holly leaves, and so they blend in quite well. Except for the fact that they are very large birds, and have a dramatic crest and that they flair up, and look like they are wearing incredible eye makeup. They are Broadway birds..

Also, the peonies are blooming. They are such old-fashioned flowers. Something about their shape and delicate whiteness makes me think I am looking at a victorian painting of a flower, not a real flower.