Monday, March 30, 2009

Black and White

As seen on a gray day.

B is for Black and White

For Moody Monday--Black and White.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Late Snowstorm

Step of Faith and the Broken Branch--sm

The snow fell fast and hard and chunks of ice were falling on my car making loud clunking noises. Now it is all gone.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Why Rats Were Added to the Chinese Zodiac--a Fable


(I was making a collage of some lines from old books, a Chinese envelope for money gifts and some Chinese lettering when I decided that I needed to stuff the envelope with a story that tied all the elements together. Here is what I came up with. I'll post the collage when it is finished. It isn't my usual sort of writing. Tell me what you think).

Once upon a time there was a family of rats that lived in Paris. At that time the cat population was particularly ferocious and the poor rats no longer dared to leave their holes. “Ooh, la la,” the rats said. “If we do not eat soon, we shall starve.” An old, wise rat told the younger rats to bide their time. “The cats have to sleep eventually,” he said. “Then we can get some food.” He cautioned them of the dangers of leaving Paris. “To the east, is the Wild Wood which has terrible dangers.” He told them of the owls, hawks, foxes and weasels which, he said, made the Parisian cats look tame. “Beyond the Wild Wood lies the Wide World, full of unspeakable dangers. There is no escape from Paris. We must stay here as best we may.”
One little rat, Valois, had a short attention span or perhaps he fell asleep. He missed the part about the Wide World. When the cats at last began their afternoon naps and the other rats were foraging for food, Valois climbed aboard a barge which was tied up on the banks of the Seine. He sniffed around and found a likely hiding place behind the bread box. After gorging on a crust of baguette, he slept.
A sharp nip to his left ear awakened him. He must have leapt six inches in the air, his legs and tail outstretched in all directions. There behind the bread box was another rat. “What’d you do that for?” Valois demanded.
“You ate my bread crust,” the other rat replied.
“Oh, sorry. I was starving.”
“Well there’s more where that came from,” she said, for one sniff had told Valois that she was a young female rat. “My name’s Colette.”
“I’m Valois,” he replied.
Suddenly Valois noticed that the counter he crouched on was swaying back and forth. “What is happening?” he asked, his hair standing on end.
“Haven’t you ever been on a boat before?”
“No, I have always lived in a hole next to a wine cellar.”
Colette tutted. “Well, you’re in for a surprise. We’re off to see the Wide World.”
“Is that safe?” he asked.
“Safe or dangerous, that’s where we are headed.”
. . . . . .

In the interest of time, I will not relate all the adventures of Colette and Valois. Suffice to say that their barge traveled the length of the Seine and, much later, the two rats were loaded onto a merchant ship, tucked in alongside a cask of dried meat and biscuits. Like rats will do, they matured quickly and Colette gave birth to many litters of ratlets. Grand children and great grandchildren followed. An entire dynasty of rats traveled the world until at long last the merchant ship docked at the port of Hong Kong. Colette and Valois sniffed the air and decided it was time to return to land.
Contrary to popular legend, China had never seen rats of this type before. The cats there were fat and lazy for the local mice were far too easy to catch. It took generations before the Chinese cats adapted to these meaner, overgrown mice, as they saw them. As the cats slowly wised up, the rats overran Hong Kong and from there the rest of China. After all, as we all know, rats breed like, um, rabbits. A time of human famine followed and the weary and hungry Chinese people added a new sign to their zodiac in the belief that this would appease the rats who were perhaps jealous of the ox, monkey and snake. Of course, what really happened was the cats finally learned to control the scourge of rats. But forever after, in the Chinese calendar, there will always be a Year of the Rat.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Barn shaped houses

901 N Keeler

A row of little barn-shaped houses, all different.
Seen on the west side of Chicago. I searched on the net but can't find what the architectural style is called. Not a bungalow, not a worker's cottage, help!!!
Built in 1914.

Houses on Keeler

925 N Keeler

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

More of Chicago--to the West

West side store fronts

A fairly typical main street Chicago view.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

For the Love of Books

Grampa in Oz

Someone gave me this great old book, sort of as a thank you for something I had done. It is a ratty old book but that is part of its charm. It is a 1924 edition of one of the Oz series books, not even by the original author. The front page illustration is captioned: Grampa was an old soldier who had fought in Nine Hundred and Eighty Battles. In the picture Grampa is frighteningly ugly.
I read a number of the Oz series as a kid. They were dated even in the 60's when I was reading them. I doubt many kids today even realize there were sequels to the Wizard of Oz (or maybe even a book at all behind the movie). When I was a kid, we used to get to stay up late to watch the Wizard of Oz when it came on our (black and white) TV once a year. Another thing my kids wouldn't get. What, no TIVO?
I picked this book to start the post because I found a new, old, used bookstore. It is one of a rare breed these days--a used bookstore full of piles of musty old books which are prone to falling over when you try to extricate the bottom one. The proprietor is clearly an eccentric. When I declined to have a bag for the books I bought he said to me: "Then everyone will know what you are into." It gave me pause since it wasn't as if I had bought pr-n or something!
He was talking to another customer about his experiences living in SRO apartments and various bits of other odd gossip. I couldn't help but overhear; it was such a small store. It was clear that all sorts of odd ducks frequent the store. He mentioned one older guy who came in all the time (sounded like one of those hoarder types) but hadn't lately. He was worried since the fellow hadn't shown up. Apparently this guy's job was working at an adult bookstore (speaking of pr-n). By the way, I'm intentionally misspelling a certain word to avoid a certain kind of Google search.
It made me wonder if I'm one of those eccentrics since I was in the store too after all. I picked up a couple of old books that had been discarded from a library. I want to play with the old print and illustrations. Not sure what for yet.
Everything in the store was dirt cheap and discounted from the price written in the jacket.
In contrast a few blocks away I had stumbled on another used bookstore. I walked in and started looking and the clerk asked me to check my purse. Now, I don't mind checking a backpack (except I don't like to check my camera) or shopping bag but a purse! In a used bookstore. I'm going to risk jail to shoplift a used paperback novel? I objected and she said I could put my wallet in my pocket. Well there is my big, fat wallet, my cell phone, my i-pod. I decided it wasn't worth it (or my pockets weren't big enough). I politely told the woman that they had just lost a customer and left. Who needs this? I'm sure if they are so worried about shoplifting that the books must have been overpriced anyway. I'll go to the musty, asthma-inducing, store instead. There is always a bargain to be had and some juicy gossip to eavesdrop in on. I'll be back at this store until it, inevitably, goes out of business.
Here's hoping you all have something good to read.

Monday, March 23, 2009

W is for What Great Awnings You Have

W is for What Great Awnings You Have

Did I tell you about my plan to find houses with awnings from A to Z? So far I am up to 16. For the rest of the houses (so far) check out my Flickr set--Alphabet of Awnings. I'm still looking for some rare letters.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

On Walking

Me with my grandparents
Sarala with her grandparents September 1961

I took another walk today and found 32 cents (a quarter, a nickel and two pennies). Added to yesterday’s 3 cents, I feel rich.
The walks reminded me of my grandfather. When he was in his 50’s and I was still in grade school, he had a massive heart attack. After his recovery, his doctor told him to walk daily which he took seriously. He walked for around a mile a day for the rest of his life. I believe the doctor’s recommendation worked for my grandfather for he lived for at least 20 more years in pretty good shape before he at last died of congestive heart failure.

Grandpa Al
Probably mid 1970's

My grandfather and I used to walk together on his morning rounds. He walked at a brisk pace and knew exactly how far he needed to go. We toured the mural on the local “wash”—a sort of concrete river they built in LA to control the occasional water run off. We visited the neighbor’s vicious monkey named Kong. He was fun to look at but bit so we were wary of getting too close. And we found stuff.
It was a casual competition we had going. My grandfather would seem quite proud of me if I found money or any other valuables. He used to teasingly call me “eagle eyes” when I found something good. In his years of walking he found a fair bit of cash and the occasional bit of jewelry. Once he found a gold coin.
Walking today with my found change in my purse I felt he would be congratulating me. Of course, if he knew how little a penny bought nowadays he’d be turning over in his grave.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Found Items

Found street junk

So if one were to try to make something out of found items, one would have to find them first. Here is what I found while strolling around my neighborhood today. No dumpster diving necessary. This was just street junk. I came out 3 cents ahead too.
It was sunny and tolerably warm today, around 45 degrees. I walked to my son's piano lesson, the used bookstore, the grocery store, the post office, my (new) Yoga class and the Starbucks. They are all located within an approximately one mile radius. It wasn't exactly tanning weather but it was great to get out.

Yellow Prairie Coneflowers


Seen in Iowa last summer. For Saturday Photohunt--yellow.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Unique Store Front

Dolla's Barbershop

For Wordless Wednesday.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Alien from outer space? Sea Monster?

What Am I?

Animal, Vegetable or Mineral?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dear Me!

Scanned images--Feb 2009 024

The prompt for today’s Sunday Scribblings is: Dear Past Me, Dear Future Me.

I joined Facebook a few months ago becoming part of a new demographic—middle aged people who are currently stealing Facebook from the young. I’m still not on twitter and hope not to find this necessary to my personal well-being.
Facebook has been an enormous time waster but has also had the delightful effect of connecting me with a few childhood friends. Speaking with them has brought back memories of that childhood.
Who was I, 40 years ago? 35 years ago? I was the shy, brainy, awkward kid. I was the shortest in my class for years (except for my equally tiny best friend from kindergarten who I’ve now reconnected with via Facebook).
If I were to write a letter to that long-ago self, I think I would say, don’t worry, a few bad times lie ahead but being an adult will allow you/me more power than just control of the car keys. You will take control not just of your circumstances but also of your self, not always, not perfectly but the changes of growing up will smooth off the rough edges and make life a bit easier.
As to my future self, what do I say? That I’ve already had a taste of the aches and pains that are to come with ageing and fear them getting worse. That I have a morbid dread of losing my mind with age. That I’m looking forward to grandchildren and the future they represent. That I am not particularly afraid of death, but I am afraid of loss and of the process of dying. That I hope that the wisdom of age is not overrated.
A couple of days ago, a patient told me that I “radiate calm.” I wanted to laugh but didn’t out of respect. The comment made me think, a lot. Could I possibly generate calm for other people even though at times I feel like a bundle of nerves?
As a 7 or 12 year old, people would have called me shy or moody, quiet or reserved. My grandmother (not the one I was closest to) accused me of being unfriendly because I was so reserved and didn’t look at her. Her unkind remark taught me that I had to make eye contact or people would dislike me for my social anxiety. As a 27 year old, people called me intense, which was true, and the opposite of calming.
If the “radiating calm” comment isn’t just a fiction, then I need to apply a new description to my personality, a new stereotype to the old me. I asked my secretary if she saw me as calm and she said I was. I asked a close friend and he laughed. I haven’t had the nerve to ask my kids or husband.
I am a bit of a chameleon. Growing up shared between two families (my parents divorced when I was 6) I learned to outwardly adapt, to be what the situation required me to be. I also learned to keep my feelings to myself and to be a good listener, useful skills in a future therapist. Conversely being a therapist has taught me to be more genuine, so if my patient says I’m calming, then I must be.
The other day a “real” artist called me an artist. People have called me a writer and a photographer. I never saw myself as any of these. So perhaps the letter to all my selves should say: embrace change, you have many past, present and future selves, all valid, all truthful. Your personality is not as linear as time, and perhaps time itself is not all that linear.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lovin Hands

Lovin Hands

I'd have to say that the most popular businesses in the poorer neighborhoods are:
Currency Exchanges
Day Care Centers
Fast Food
Convenience Stores
I'll leave it to you to decide what that means for our society.



For Thursday Photo Hunt. Glad is wasn't my car.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Aabal Heating

Aabal Heating

I like the way this small business adapted an old building. Seen in the south side of Chicago, Illinois.

Monday, March 09, 2009


Looking for a Good Home

I'm feeling as lost as this house. I've been fighting an infection for days--no I'm not ill, but my computer is. My son's computer was infested with Trojans and seems to have died, short of a trip to the Geek Squad. I thought it was because he was playing with animated screen savers. In a moment of stupid kindness I let him play his favorite on-line game on my computer. Within hours I was breeding Trojans like rabbits.
I'm hoping I've (mostly) solved the problem but in the meantime one of my networking software programs seems to have disappeared. Sigh. It took me months to get my networks working smoothly. Now it is back to the drawing board.
The moral of the story--don't share!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Wings of Faith are For Rent

Faith for Rent

For Wordless Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Interesting House

House with G

I needed something to post. This house has an interesting feature on its face--I would guess the owner's initial. I'm trying to imagine painting a giant K on the front of my house. I don't think it would improve the look. And what color would I pick?