Song of My Selfie

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‘A Whitman’s Sampler’

“I am large, I contain multitudes.” So sayeth the Internet, no doubt referring to those self-portraits otherwise known as “selfies”. Now I should point out, before I get too carried away with my mangling of Leaves of Grass, that the portrait at the top of this post is not actually a selfie. It may be difficult to imagine in this age of the ubiquitous hand-held device, but there were no cellphones in Seventeenth Century Holland. Though it sure looks as though those burghers are hamming it up for Instagram, doesn’t it?

Twenty-First Century Burgher Selfie. As you can see, I am not immune to the lure of the self-portrait. Even when being run down by a bike messenger

Speaking of hamming it up, I’ve been known to indulge in the odd selfie. In fact, I’ll be peppering this post with a few of my favorites — because why not?

Central-Park Selfie. Note how the young white blossoms complement my old white head

Now to be sure, those of you who read my rantings regularly (bless your hearts) know that there are times — usually when traipsing through jungles and rainforests on the prowl for exotic birds — when I am, as they say, offline. As in away from the internet, off the grid, incommunicado. And (mostly) unable to self-snap.

Hot (as in “temperature”; calm down) Birder Selfie. Somewhere on a river in Uganda. Note how Guide Man is making that Selfie Face

In fact, on this last trip — the one to the Uplands and Lowlands of Western Panama — my iPhone met some water it didn’t like. And died. It was old and tired and kind of on its last legs anyway, so it wasn’t the end of the world. But it’s amazing how you don’t realize how dependent you are on those darned things until you don’t have one.

Panama Selfie. The last selfie before the Drowning of The Phone

On these trips I mostly use my phone to take pictures, and not just selfies either. But it can be a good thing to commune with nature without documenting each and every cool tall tree or crazy-shaped rock or even cloud-filled sky by planting A Dude in front of it.

I am particularly partial to documenting wacky signs. As long as I plant A Dude alongside. Check out the last line on this sign in Uganda

While I was phoneless, I had time not only to take in my surroundings, but to read a New Yorker article by Oliver Sacks called The Machine Stops where he says he “cannot get used to seeing myriads of people in the street peering into little boxes or holding them in front of their faces, walking blithely in the path of moving traffic, totally out of touch with their surroundings.” Oliver Sacks, in case you need reminding, was a famous neurologist and the author of the best-titled book on the planet, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.

Hat Selfie. Or Wife Selfie?

Oliver goes on to bemoan the fact that, for many people nowadays, “every minute, every second, has to be spent with one’s device clutched in one’s hand. Those trapped in this virtual world are never alone, never able to concentrate and appreciate in their own way, silently. They have given up, to a great extent, the amenities and achievements of civilization: solitude and leisure, the sanction to be oneself, truly absorbed, whether in contemplating a work of art, a scientific theory, a sunset, or the face of one’s beloved.”

My Beloved Dude contemplates a waterfall while I contemplate him

Well. After reading that I was almost grateful that my phone was now a soggy paperweight. I felt lighter, cleaner, more virtuous even, without it “clutched” in my hand.

Of course, the moment I got my clutches on an internet-connected device I ordered myself a new phone just like the one that died. And there it was, all fresh and new in its itty-bitty white box, ready and waiting for me to fire it up the second I got home.

Itty-Bitty Selfie. Well, technically not. But it is a darned cute photo, so what the heck

New York City. March 2019

Driving the Unicorn

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‘I’ve never bought a car. Not a new one, anyway.’

A couple of weeks ago I revealed to all and sundry that I have never, in all my grownup life, bought a couch. (See the aptly-named “I have never bought a couch” for deets.) Not buying a couch, I mused, meant that I’m probably not really a grownup.

Well, today I’m going to admit that I have never bought a car, either. Well, I have bought a car — an old Austin America, which I’ll tell you about in a sec — but I’ve never bought a new car. Where you go in a showroom and talk to a car dealer. You know, like that guy Jerry Lundegaard in “Fargo”.

I remember going to the showroom with my whole family to buy this Ford station wagon. It was brown and cream and smelled amazing

I got to thinking about this whole new-car thing because we just got back from our annual Best-Friends-in-the-Catskills Visit. (See “Take me home, Country Road” for a nice tale about them.) Said Best Friends always have a new car — they lease a brand-new Mercedes every year. (Something to do with business or some such.) Continue reading

The Coat of Many Stories

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‘Ratty and faded, but I just can’t bear to part with it’

I can understand why some people might be into the so-called “life-changing magic of tidying up”. But I’m no Marie Kondo. Not when it comes to discarding certain tattered treasures in my closet, at any rate.

Take this coat. Please. I bought it at the Gap, along with a teensy matching version, way back when The Child was actually a child. As you can see, we had a kind of Mother/Daughter Thing going on.

Two peas in their pods. Er, bright, shiny, new, and very red coats

Well, time went by and The Child grew out of hers. I’m sure we “handed it on” to some even-smaller child somewhere. So we never got a chance to see it get faded and tattered. But mine?

The Child, still childlike here, has outgrown and passed on her coat. Not me. Not sure if Middle Younger Brother Roger and gorgeous Nobody-Doesn’t-Like-Jen still sport those snappy jackets

Why do I stubbornly hang on to this coat? Is it because it’s…red? I ask this because I have another article of clothing I can’t bear to part with which happens to share the same hue — as well as some of the same history. Continue reading

Gorilla My Dreams

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‘The Silverback makes my previous Ape Alpha Male look like Chimp Change’

You may recall my relatively-recent story about that Playboy Monkey the Alpha Male Chimp. (It’s called ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do’.) Mr. Alpha was one fascinating fellow; he postured, he posed, and he made satisfyingly movie-sound-track-like crazy chimp sounds as he ran around slapping tree trunks to show off his chimp cojones.

One of our merry Birding and Chimp-Tracking band made a little movie on his iPhone and was just about to play it back when the leader of our Primate Patrol cautioned him against doing so. The crazy chimp squeals on the soundtrack would cause Said Alpha to attack us. Oh.

But intimidating as he was, Mr. Head Chimp was an organ-grinder’s sidekick compared to the Silverback. Who is Head Dude of the gorillas, and well, a whole different animal. (The ‘gorilla’ featured in the picture at the top of this post is about as real as a unicorn. Though we did get to see Real Gorillas. And we were much much closer to them than we were to that silly gorilla statue.)

No, we weren’t camping. Nor were we in ‘executive budget rooms’. But we did find us some gorillas

This get-to-know gorillas experience occurred when we were in the Buhoma area of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda. Our tour company, the inestimable Field Guides, had warned us that the Mountain Gorillas were hard to find, even though they were “habituated”. Which meant that they were (sort of) used to people. We could spend an hour with a gorilla troupe, provided we could find one, and, um, provided with suitable protection.

No, she is not a guerrilla leader — she was our gorilla leader. And yes that is a machete she’s holding

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The A-Hole Car

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‘Dealing with a gang of turkeys on Amtrak’

Actually, I wasn’t sure what to call that bunch of turkeys. Except not to call them for dinner (ba-da-bum). So I checked good ole Google. Turns out there are a variety of terms: ‘muster’, ‘posse’, ‘rafter’ being among them. The only one I decided against was ‘school’, since the ‘gang’ I’m going to describe seemed decidedly uneducated. At least in the mores and folkways of polite train-riding.

The story I’m going to tell happened when Dude and I were Amtraking our way home after spending a most delightful day and a half with The Child up in the Boston/Cambridge area where she lives and works. Continue reading

The Process of Elimination

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‘What to do when the blog clock is ticking’

People sometimes ask if I have trouble thinking of things to write about. Nope, I have the opposite problem — too many random ideas doing battle in my brain. Usually I look through photos to help me decide. But today that only made things worse. I kept finding photos I’d wished I’d used in previous posts. Like, here’s one that would have been perfect for last week, when I wrote about good times in and on the Lake of My Youth:

Look! I found a photo of the front of Sir Launch-A-Lot, complete with sign. That’s Gramma Henry, flanked by Only Sister Laura and Only Mom, um, Mom

Oh, and here’s one that would have been dandy to include in my riff on weddings (“I do, I do. I really do like weddings”)

Looking “back” on my first, “Polio-Shot” wedding. This was the rehearsal. But I guess you could say that about the whole marriage: that it was a “rehearsal”

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Yup. Even Slackers get the Labor Day Blues

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‘Summer, I miss you already’

I know, I know. Summer isn’t officially over till, like, September 21. But even if yesterday wasn’t Labor Day, I say that if I have to grill my burgers by flashlight it’s Autumn. Okay? And today it’s back to Reality (and the Big City), since even sporadically-employed freelancers like me have obligations and responsibilities. (See ‘I love the smell of SoftScrub in the morning’ for envy-inducing examples.)

But before I go, I’d like to recall a few of the summery things I miss already, along with those white bucks I never got a chance to wear:

Glam home upgrades. Look out. If the Southampton Hospital Designer Showhouse Committee gets wind of our new propane tank, they’re sure to come calling.

Nope. It's not the Oscar Meyer WeinerMobile. It's our snappy new propane tank. Now everybody's gonna want one.

Nope. It’s not the Oscar Meyer WeinerMobile. It’s our snappy new propane tank. Now everybody’s gonna want one.

Newsy neighbors. Due to an amazing stroke of parental luck (The Dude’s Dad had many famous–and grateful–patients*), we live in a neighborhood of BoldFace Names. One of our neighbors was recently on the front page of the Post for erecting an electric fence to protect the ‘Hillary for Prison’ signs he put up in his yard. Another, Jerry Seinfeld, was in the East Hampton Star’s Crime Log for running an illegal lemonade stand: Continue reading

I love the smell of Soft Scrub in the morning

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‘An Advertising Executive cleans up’

To be honest, not having been raised with ‘Help’ (Hah! If anything, my sibs and I were the ‘Help’), I am a tad uncomfortable with same. For one thing, I never know where to go when the Cleaning Person is there. I feel a little odd going out for coffee all morning.

And there is that Lutheran Guilt Thing. If I’m not working (as in Earning Money), I feel funny not cleaning. (Though I don’t seem to have a problem spending The Dude’s hard-earned money on Starbucks lattes.)

Besides, I have a dirty little secret: I’m really really good at cleaning. And I kind of like the fact that when you’re done, everything looks gorgeous and smells good. Totally different from advertising.

In fact, I’m so good at cleaning, that one time, when I was ‘between jobs’, I toyed with the idea of starting my own cleaning business.

I have no idea what this sign was referring to. But Mom instilled in us all a strong (house)work ethic

Looks like Mom had my business idea even before I did.

Continue reading

‘Is it safe?’

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‘Mommy hit me with a plate’ and other dental tales

So. I was toying with an idea for a post involving Helen Mirren, whom I adore. But I’m smack-dab in the middle of getting a crown (and I don’t mean the royal kind), and dentistry is, understandably, on my mind. So Helen will just have to keep. Shouldn’t be a problem. She’s done very nicely so far (see awesome photo for proof):Helen Mirren, looking fantastic (of course)

Too bad we can’t see her teeth.

Speaking of which.  Continue reading

Auld Lang Sally

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‘A very Harry New Year to you and yours’

The Dude and I rarely venture out on New Year’s Eve (‘Amateur Night’, he calls it. Though I think it’s really because it’s impossible to get a cab.) You can see from the rather undignified photo at the top of this post that this was not always the case. (If it looks a little blurry, that’s because it is. Unless, of course, you’ve already started celebrating. In which case, it’s really blurry.)

Instead, we like to stay in and drink champagne and watch movies then drink more champagne and watch more movies. Though one year we did drink champagne and build a paper model of the Empire State Building on the coffee table. I think watching the movies is marginally more exciting.

Speaking of which, the movie to watch on New Year’s Eve is, in my humble opinion, ‘When Harry Met Sally’. It’s one of Nora Ephron’s funniest scripts and a much more successful directorial effort on Rob Reiner’s part than Continue reading