A SOLITARY MAN


I’m sure I would never have made the acquaintence of Percy Shelley, William Butler Yeats or any of the English poets if it hadn’t been for Mr. Lorimer’s second period English class. I was assigned to a front row seat, not because of any favoritism, but because of my nearsigtedness, for which I refused to wear my glasses.

We memorized and read aloud, then memorized some more, thus giving Mr. Lorimer spare time to correct papers, read, or play the stock market, while keeping at least part of the class occupied.

Franklin Lorimer was a small, grey, self-contained man, whose general detachment made you feel that perhaps he had not had enough sleep the night before. He dressed soberly and properly, in what I assumed was a rather English manner. You could pass him in the hall, or on the street, and never be sure you had seen him, he blended so well with the crowd.

If anyone gave him a thought outside of school hours, you never imagined that he had another life except for English class. But, in actuality, he lived in our house.

We lived in my family home, built by my Great-Grandfather, and owned then by my Great-Aunt Helen. The house had been converted into apartments, with Aunt Helen living on the ground floor, the second floor made into two apartments, and the third floor attic converted into a snug three room apartment. My mother and I occupied the third floor while my father was gone during the War, and my husband and I continued to live there for three more years after we married. For this we paid a walloping $30 per month.

My father’s cousin Raima and her husband lived in one second floor apartment, and Franklin Lorimer in the other. He had been the college roommate of another cousin, which might have made you think he may have shown me special interest when making out his report cards. However well I did, I had to do it on my own, since I don’t remember ever having a conversation with him or seeing him at any place outside of school. He was a quiet tenant, and I don’t think I ever passed him in the hallway while climbing the stairway into our attic. I never saw him go out, nor anyone visit in the five years I lived there.

His sole discretion came at precisely 10:30 each school day, when I was instructed to get him a paper cup of water, which he took to the open window and carefully poured out, hoping to hit the janitor, whose daily route took him under our window at just that time. I don’t know if he ever hit his target, or what he had against the poor janitor, but at least he had the possibility each day.

I pass the old house, now in other hands, and I frequently pass the school. I look up at the second floor window, and wonder what ever happened to Mr. Lorimer, and if he ever hit his target.

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THE STRANGE POWER OF DREAMS


Henry_Meynell_Rheam_-_Sleeping_Beauty We all dream, whether we remember them or not. Most are pleasant, others sometimes not so pleasant. Some dreams remain with us for years, still with the power to please or to frighten. But what triggers dreams?

A true nightmare sometimes causes us to cry aloud, and prevent resuming a quiet night’s rest. A sexual dream can be disappointing if, upon awakening, the dream prince or princess is not a reality.
But what triggers a dream? There have been numerous studies made of our nightime experiences, but it’s still a mystery.

I can still remember a dream I had when I was 11 years old, which encouraged me to jump off the roof with the expectation of flight. Flight dreams are really pretty common, and given our prehistoric beginnings when we either fought or fled, are understandable, but disturbing in a child for obvious reasons.

A long-standing dream of mine which I file under the title “Dog Dreams” in my memory file, was one where I had been kidnapped, and actually turned into a dog who bit my kidnapper, complete with snarling et al. I had this same dream repeatedly for several years. I’m not proud of it, but that’s the way it is.

In a too-vivid dream I had when my youngest daughter was a toddler, she climbed up onto the railing of a bridge in Ireland, and tumbled off before I could catch and save her. At that time, we had never been to Ireland, with no expectation of ever going there. When we eventually did go, I found myself on the very same bridge I had dreamed. It was a terrifying deja vu moment, though my daughter at that time was grown and married.

Another vivid dream which turned out to be delusory, involved two paintings of mine which I hung on someone’s wall, I don’t know whose. I felt they were some of my best work. I actually searched for those two paintings for days before I was convinced that they had merely been a colorful dream. I sometimes think I may find them again.

Are our dreams just the result of a vivid imagination? I doubt that the mystery will ever be solved, but in the meantime, “pleasant dreams”.

A PERFECT CHEESE SOUFFLE


CHEESE SOUFFLE Do you know someone who does everything perfectly, and do you still like them? Seriously, sometimes the perfect people like to assure you of their superior perfectness. But not my friend Maryanne.

Maryanne is a dignified English woman, living single in a charming little condo which she has equipped with every imaginable convenience, making her fortunate guests eager for the next invitation. Along with our mutual friend, another single woman of an interesting age, after I meet up with them I feel buzzed. People like that, with interests ranging from politics to cooking and in between, are a like a jolt of caffeine putting your brain in gear for days afterward.

Maryanne is famous for her cheese souffles, as well as turning out a remarkable roast chicken. I know, in these days of Costco rotisserie chicken, why would anyone actually go to the trouble? Believe me, it’s worth it, and it really isn’t any trouble. Not to say yours or mine might turn out as well as hers.

At a luncheon the other day, she presented us with a perfect cheese souffle, and if I hadn’t seen the dessert brought by my other friend I might have begged seconds. I know you are probably asking what I contributed to the repast. I blushingly admit that I only brought a small hostess gift, but I am currently planning what I will tender next time we meet.

You may remember the sad obituary of my 45 year old stove in a previous post necessitating the purchase of a new, modern, electronic, and also very beautiful, new one. The evening of the cheese souffle I decided to surprise the nice Dr. with a cheese souffle of my own. Now, I have to remind you that I have been cooking for many years, (too many to count) and have served up quite a few souffles, including chocolate, which is my favorite.

Having mixed up the ridiculously few ingredients, and scraping them into my very English souffle bowl, I placed it into the new oven, which had never been used by me or anyone else. I had actually only made oatmeal and warmed up some soup on the top of the stove. I got the “Bake, temperature” thing right on the shiny new dial, but when it came to setting the timer, I must have been stymied, because 45 minutes later, it looked the same as it did when it went in.

Dr. Advice being such an accomodating soul, opened up a can of beans and called it dinner. I think I may have the timer figured out now.

THE ‘ROSE’ THAT WEIGHED A TON


Jay De FeoHow does a museum display a piece of art weighing in over a ton? One which would easily overpower a small gallery if it could even get through the door. How do the art handlers involved in transporting it handle it? Rather carefully!

The difficulty of displaying “The Rose”, a 3,000 pound work by artist Jay DeFeo, has long fueled its allure.

Jay DeFeo created the piece between 1958 and 1966. In a 1974 conservation effort it was covered with plaster and other stabilizers. Sitting in a conference room at the San Francisco Art Institute it faded into the background. People carved their initials into its thick protective layer of plaster or stabbed their cigarettes out on it. The Institue eventually built a false wall and hid the work behind it. The “Rose” went unseen for more than 20 years before its first show at the Whitney in 1995.

Ms. DeFeo who died in 1989 at the age of 60, was convinced that the methods she had used creating the “Rose” had harmed her health. She had added layer upon layer of paint–the work is oil with wood and mica on canvas–until it was 11 inches thick in places.

Then she carved and sanded the surface, filling the room with plaster dust. It grew until it filled an entire wall and blocked out a large window which had let in the sun. With 2 small windows on either side however, it gave light enough for her to determine its shading and sculpted surface, visually creating a previously unseen surface.

The Whitney museum is trying to replicate those lighting conditions for its current show, with shafts of light illuminating either side of the work in a darkened gallery. For the first time, curator Dana Miller said that “The Rose” will appear the way the artist wanted it seen. DeFeo would be pleased.

A VALENTINE FOR MY HUSBAND


lovebirds“How do I love thee let me count the ways” Robert Browning wrote these words to Elizabeth Barrett early in the 19th century.

Have you ever sat and listed the many ways and reasons you love someone? It’s quite difficult isn’t it? It keeps changing day by day and as more and more time goes by, you find more and more ways and reasons to care for someone. The reasons won’t be the same as when you were in the first heat of competition for his affections.

I love you for your kindness, and for the way you remember and celebrate each and every tiny holiday. I love you for knowing that people would rather receive a present than a gift card at Christmas, even if it is a very small package. (Of course, diamonds don’t take up much room.)

I love you for caring how I feel, and insisting upon carting me to every appointment even when I would rather drive myself, when I’m shopping for groceries, (even Nordstrom) and waiting patiently till I complete my mission without hanging over my shoulder.

I love you for being cheerful, even if it is too early for me to wake up and I just wish the world would go away.

I love you for writing real paper & pen letters to all the kids and grandkids instead of e-mail. (You have been told that you may alone in doing this.)

I love you for seeing a problem and insisting on fixing it immediately, even if I might wait and think about it. ( Another large tree came out today and two new ones will go in this week. I would probably have waited a bit longer to remove that lovely plum tree.)

I love you for admitting when you don’t know something. (I don’t always do this).

I love you for realizing we are different and not caring.

I love you for proving that right and left brain people can live happily together without killing each other.

I love you for loving me.

The first Valentine I received from you was when I was sixteen. I had just memorized Robert Browning’s poem in Mr. Cummings second period English class, and fresh in the throes of first love. This will be the 68th Valentine, and those ‘fresh throes” are stronger than yesterday. Happy Valentine’s Day Dr. Advice.

“At the end of the day, only kindness matters.”

A VISIT WITH AN OLD FRIEND, DP Challenge


I hadn’t actually visited with him for some time. Oh sure, I see him a couple of times a day, maybe more, but that’s not the same thing as an actual dig-down-deeply visit. But surprisingly he has been a loyal friend for many years.

He’s tall but not too tall. A little taller than I, with an upright and outgoing personality. Blond, but showing definite signs of aging. I find him quite cold toward me at times, icy even.

Definitely a mind of his own, but I don’t know what I would do without him. He’s quite good at handling daily problems for me, and I know I never give him enough credit. He rattles on a bit, but I guess that is standard for his type. Mind you, I’m not complaining, because he is my friend.

He had been collecting quite a lot of baggage, which I never even noticed, what with the holidays and all. He has another friend who lives nearby, and they do share a lot of the everyday load. His friend is also tall and blond, but not as willing to handle some of the jobs I need done. Frankly, I’m not as fond of him as I should be.

Anyway, today we got right down to it. I literally tore him apart, and I think he is happier for it. I know I am, even if it is so tiring to clear out all the garbage he’s been collecting. I don’t feel the need to do that again for awhile.

It’s been a good day.

FRIDGE FRONT

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BETTE DAVIS?


Navajo Grandmother

Navajo Grandmother”, original watercolor painting, Kayti Sweetland Rasmussen

I met an young man of 17 today who made me realize how far out of the loop I really am.

He acts in his school plays wants to be a character actor, not a leading man, because they are more interesting to portray. We talked about movies, and I, an inveterate movie lover, had no idea what he was talking about! Apparently zombies are pretty big in the movies today, and his excitement in telling about these films was infectious. Out of the fullness of my ignorance I tried to enter into the conversation and tell him about movies I have liked in the past, but he had never heard of them. Incredible!

I began to realize that what the younger generation likes abut films today is more about special effects than story line. It took me a minute to appreciate his thinking. It was also more about looking at the film with actor’s eyes, and he’s right—seen in that aspect, they do deliver more punch.

When teaching at the college level, I used to feel part of the chatter, but the kids of today have jumped ahead at the same pace technology has moved.
Nothing lasts, and what a shame that is. Or maybe it is just that it make us antiques feel redundant. But if we are the “beta” generation, there is the realization that today’s kids will take their preordained place in line as well.

Where do all the yesterdays go? Tangled up in a heap in a memory folder. But tomorrows are filed under Hope.

Get back in the groove, Grandma!