Saturday, June 29, 2002

Besides paperwork and Everything Else, attending to Clutter is a priority. That pop-selfhelp guru, the FlyLady, touted by somebody-or-other may have the right idea about a clean sink, lace-up shoes, and 15 minutes of anticlutter work a day. A trip to OfficeMax is a must, because All This is consuming printer toner and number-ten envelopes at a rate beyond belief.

Friday, June 28, 2002

Going to the circus was the right thing to do, every though we're exhausted from All This. Last year the Big Show did not pass through Austin, probably because of booking disputes with UT. The circus-attendance measure of economic well-being shows that poor people with large families weren't able to see the circus this year. This show was pared down, but very snappy in costume, choreography, and general demeanor, and the band was augmented a bit and had great arrangements. As always, well worth it in time and money.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

When the call is made about picking up the package, we're told that the recipients, gracious to the end, have left it for two days out on their front porch, despite all. It will not fit in the trunk; it will not fit through the doors; we open it on the street in order to remove some or all of the contents. Styrofoam packing material does the usual. Despite the mistreatment received by this shipment at all stages along the way and the terribly crushed and rumpled look of the outer package, it was packed properly for shipping china, able to withstand being pitched around, left out in all weathers, and stood upsidedown, even though marked "fragile" and with "up" and "down" sides. We were down on our hands and knees recapturing escaped styrofoam peanuts. At last enough of the contents had been removed so that the remainder could be manipulate to fit in the car with the trunk open. On to the circus; maybe there'll be something to smile about for a change.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

So Vanguard turns its passengers loose with a telephone calling card with six minutes on it and otherwise people are pretty much on their own. Ah, the glories of Queens in the vicinity of LaGuardia! And just about 12 hours after the shipment in question was entered as "delivered" to the proper recipient, the "help" people at UPS are now able to report that it was given to "a man" at a location with the same street number but a completely different street address about a half mile away, up hill, down dale, and across a stream. Waiting as long as suspense will allow, and headless of the fact that the house can't be locked since there's a key broken off in the front door, you-know-who goes scampering off to catch whoever is at the location where the package is reported to have been left. You-know-who is relieved to find that the location is a house, not an apartment. The newspaper is on the ground, so people are either absent or not yet up. A knock on the door brings a grumpy-sounding response and a grudging look through the cartons and cartons in the front room, all delivered the preceding day by UPS. A package for us is at last located, but there's no kindly offer to ferry you-know-who and the waist-high package home. A telephone number is proffered. All must wait until Saturday. News of the Finding is shared. A kindly locksmith allocates the first call of the day to us, warning that there's really not much help for this old lock, that it was sold through Sears 30 years ago, was cheap in its day, and is no longer made.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

UPS has not shone during this interval. Evidently some drivers are faithful about entering the fate of packages into the tracking system while others delay for up to 24 hours. The web site offers no assistance in finding help. The local telephone directory does have an all-purpose 800 number. The call-center help desk is useless. The employees, no matter which pick up the telephone, can be heard chewing gum, otherwise talking with a full mouth, and rattling and crinkling food wrappers and bags. They sound bored and rude and are able to tell no more than what appears via the on-line tracking system. If, and that's a big one, the driver ever enters complete information, these people are able to say, if the caller furnishes the tracking number, to what address a shipment was delivered. UPS refuses to initiate a tracer, requiring it to be done through the original shipping point.

Monday, June 24, 2002

This is a true test of stamina. By the time it's all over, if it ever is, I won't ever want to see a piece of corrugated cardboard ever again, and the smell of cardboard is starting to get to me.

Sunday, June 23, 2002

It's a good thing that great-grandfather Bowes's drummer boy's drum and sword are not among the objects in contention. And at last the trombone will be making music again.

Saturday, June 22, 2002

Even when paperwork is all in order, people moving on from earthly life leave way, way, way too much of everything behind, including paperwork. I don't ever want to buy anything again that has a visible existence, other than books or music, but even in those cases severe and continuing editing is the best practice. That phase of our existence when it was impossible to buy anything even if you had money was the best; it certainly lowers the wardrobe expense when all wear nothing but the utilitarian, either homemade or chosen from the stylish items available in the Sears or Penney catalogues.

Friday, June 21, 2002

Ploughed through by the Insomniac Book Cloub have been "Spanish Leaves" (Honor Tracy), "Babel in Spain" (John Haycraft), "North of Naples, South of Rome" (Paolo Tullio), and "A House in Italy" (Daphne Phelps). All these were scooped at random from the upstairs shelves of the main library branch. Coincidentally, both "Spanish Leaves" and "Babel in Spain" are set in the waning days of Franco. Both have a distincly fifties-ish aura, and are no less interesting for that. "North of Naples, South of Rome" has not much of the author's personality in it. "A House in Sicily" has perhaps a bit too much, and not an engaging one, but there are some good character sketches, particulary of members of her household staff and of Henry Faulkner, of whom I'd never before heard. As always, now that I have, I'll find his name popping up everywhere.

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Sheet music is so memory-inducing. Every household used to have stacks and stacks of it, it seemed--some visible; some hidden inside piano benches. A composer's income used to derive more from sheet-music sales than from performance royalties. Then came "mechanicals." The jukebox had its day, of course. Music stores used to have so many spinners full of sheet music, for all instruments. I've been away so long from playing or singing that I probably can't even sight-read these days. It would be wonderful to find a copy of "Moon Moths." I liked the music, but the cover was even better. Even CCH and HHH would sit down on occasion and play Hungarian Dances and the like, four-hand version.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

What is this vogue for all-night spotlights that glare and cast harsh light hundreds of yards away? Sing-Sing and the Walls Unit Unit and Dannemora have nothing on some people's establishments. The resultant light pollution is curse that goes way beyond personal aesthetics. Orion is about all that can be seen around here these days.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Only those who in general cast a cold eye on human folly see and appreciate the true worth of kindness. Sheer, simple goodness and works of genuine charity performed joyfully are rare treasures indeed. People with these qualities are never without a sense of humor and never expect recompense.

Monday, June 17, 2002

So the mystery of the many varying dates of birth is now solved. I know so many people who find that the given names on the bith certificate do not even resemble the name they've gone by for as long as they can remember.

Sunday, June 16, 2002

No contempoary that I know well has a safety deposit box. Is that just another thing wrong with the post-WWII generation? For some reason, my mother seemed to have frequent recourse to hers when I was a kid. I remember going down into the bowels of the bank building, down the marble stairs, accompanied by an armed guard wearing a Sam Browne belt, who unlocked several successive sets of iron gates or grates before ushering us in through the last one, waiting discreetly outside that room for her to finish so he could escort us through tham all again and back to the stairs. I think he even relocked each one as we passed through. The old gas fixtures were still on the walls down there.

Saturday, June 15, 2002

Deliver me from tchotchkes!

Friday, June 14, 2002

Rummaging through and sorting the "treasures" of other people seems like the same sort of pointless labor as picking oakum. I still like Eva's practice of limiting herself to a finite number of possessions of any kind, including books and clothes, acquiring something new only when something old goes on the discard heap. All the "stuff" that clutters up a life, treated as though someday it'll go to Sotheby's and have an entire auction catalogue devoted to it. Even people who die and really do have their stuffola dispersed that way are ruthless in deaccessioning the mediocre and unnecessary.

Thursday, June 13, 2002

I really hate missing this year's Gilbert & Sullivan production. It'll just join the opera productions, and now probably the circus also, among the respites that we've been unable to enjoy this year.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

On the plus side of the ledger, all this means that there's a growing reservoir of reading material for if and when all returns to normal. In the ordinary course of daily living, we're always on the brink of running out, especially now that the Austin Public Library seems to acquire few books and is hard to find open. Last month I found a list of all the subscriptions that we had to change when we left New Mexico. At that time, we were receiving about four dozen magazines and other periodicals. It used to be that subs for incredibly long terms were available to be locked in--right up to "lifetime." But now, in this era of frequent rises in postage rates, a three-year term seems to be the longest offered, and many don't go beyond two. No wonder we see only about half as many. The difference between newstand and sub rates is not so great, either.

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

I'm just as bad as CCH for becoming a whirlwind when there's a lot of unhappy stuff going on. Tasks that didn't seem to need doing for decades now become a must; it's all obviously some kind of magical thinking and an attempt to ward off evil and disaster. There's one thing to be said for it: in the course of propitiating whatever's out there a lot of work is accomplished and the night's sleep is sound.

Monday, June 10, 2002

We had hours and hours of long-distance telephone credit for a long time, all because I had written a letter of protest somewhere along the line and therefore was included in a class-action settlement. All this recent stuff has wiped it all out.

When its loss was discovered, I forgot to note it down. Having retained a copy for many, many years, against all the odds, we no longer possess Steal This Book. It made it all the way to this house. I know on whom my suspicions fall.

Sunday, June 09, 2002

Say what you will about the Statesman, it still permits good, old-fashioned tributes to the dead. Some papers these days, even when the notice is paid, as most of them are now, adhere to a rigid format that's like a bad and sparse resume and gives no flavor of the family or the character or accomplishments of the deceased. If the person memorialized isn't known to the reader, the most interesting parts are where he or she was born and where the children now reside.

Saturday, June 08, 2002

In the wake of September 11, there was talk of shutting down flight-tracker sites. It's so wonderful that the trackers remains available, so there's no need to call the airport or airline to know whether a flight's late, and it's really neat to know that such-and-such a flight is at a certain altitude, moving at a certain rate, x miles in a certain direction from such-and-such a town.

Friday, June 07, 2002

There is nothing quite so wonderful as having a key break off in the lock when there's no time to spare and a cab is waiting at the curb.

Thursday, June 06, 2002

Que en paz descanse.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

Another part of the library haull is "One Man's Mexico," by John Lincoln. K. has been reading parts of it aloud. The chapter on his ingestion of psilocybin is featured on a site called flashbackbooks. Lincoln's account is one of the series published in England that contains one of my favorite personal accounts of travel and living in new places: "Life in Mexico during a Residence of Two years in that Country" Fanny Calderon de la Barca. The tone's so conversational that it's difficult to believe that this book was published in 1843. It's the reason that we'd like to check out Jalapa some day. Fanny's was among the books catalogued in the study, where I found among the travel books and accounts one given out free by somebody-or-other that's a Frommer's New York on $5 and $10 Dollars a Day! Needless to say, Tad's Steak House looms large. In this one room, the book count is approaching one thousand, but it's almost time to move on to the next room.

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Salome and El privilegio de amar are changing places in the schedule. Is Salome becoming tamer in its storyline and is Privilegio heating up? Later is usually hotter. Maybe our weekly novela pulps will clue us in. The New York Times just had a huge spread (big chunks of two pages) on Sabado Gigante, which I can't find on the WWW for free right now. No wonder this show seems to easy for Don Francisco; when he began, in Chile, the show was five hours long, if not seven!

Monday, June 03, 2002

Factoid of the day: the name of Cicero of akin to the word for chickpea--chicharro. This weekend the on-line catalogue was down at the main branch of the library, so we snagged a bunch of escape books, travel of all kinds. This factoid is from one of the ones by Honor Tracy, sketches from Spain. She was a neighbor in the 'sixties of the Gerald Brenan household. When I unearth my old lists of reading I'll be reminded of which of his stuff, if any, I read besides the autobiographical. I can actually remember reading some of these vignettes in issues of Aunt Hilda's Holiday magazine, decades ago..

Sunday, June 02, 2002

Spirits are lifted by sweet corn from the South Austin Farmers' Market. It's almost useless to try any from any of the markets. I hate that supersweet stuff! There's no corn taste at all. Why don't these people just go buy some candy? Last week we tried corn from Florida and corn from Georgia (both from Central Market, I think). K. has a theory that, of shipped-in corn, the farther north it's grown, the better it tastes. Certainly in this particular case the theory was not disproved.

Saturday, June 01, 2002

Mirabile dictu, H-E-B had everything we wanted in stock. We must have been there earlier than usual. But no NOKOA or Villager--or Arriba, for that matter. As soon as things are a bit less hectic, I gotta write that letter. You sure can't count on obtaining these at the library branches these days, since who can remember what branches are closed when?