IF I GROW UP, I WILL NOT BE A BALLERINA

BaryshnikovWhen I was a girl, my mother took me to the ballet. Not the classic Nutcracker Suite that mommies take their little girls to see, but the New York City Ballet Company, with Balanchine still at the helm. I left the theater  feeling light as a snowflake, sure that I’d found my future … that all I needed were a few lessons, a pair of those cool ballet slippers and I could leap and twirl on my tippy toes just like the stars at the ballet.

bolshoiI had not accounted for the klutz factor. I was very young and sure that wanting it badly enough would make it happen.

But, I had no talent for dance. I tried everything from ballet, through tap, to jazz and belly dancing — with the same results. I survived the disappointment.

For anyone who likes dance … even if you don’t … check out the  delicious parody of classical ballet from the “Fantasia.” No matter how many times I see it, it always makes me laugh. You have to love hippos in tutus.

If this doesn’t make you laugh, maybe you were replaced by a pod while you slept.

CRAZY DOG LOVER – ELLIN CURLEY

OVER THE TOP DOG LOVER

I pride myself in being able to compose
Humorous verse (and sometimes comedic prose)
About any topic, esoteric or mundane,
Serious, frivolous, intellectual, inane.
However, I’ve found my literary Waterloo –
The one subject, though I try, I just can’t seem to do
With an interesting perspective or biting wit,
Sharp insight or even one cynical bit.
I’m too much of a crazy dog lover, I confess,
To see anything to ridicule, any excess,
In my relationship with my dogs, and theirs with me;
Not master/pet, but inter-species family.

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To me my dogs are interesting, fun and appealing.
It’s a challenge to guess what they’re thinking and feeling.
They’re endlessly entertaining and great company
And diminish the need for psychotherapy.
I love being greeted with hysterics at the door
(Not so much when they also pee on the floor).
Who doesn’t want to feel appreciated and missed;
To feel someone’s so grateful and happy you exist?
I don’t see begging when I’m stared at while I eat –
It’s a shared love of food, not just angling for a treat.
It makes me feel safe and secure in my house
When I’m warned, at top volume, if a raccoon or mouse,
A car, bike or neighbor gets dangerously near
Or if the Fed Ex man should suddenly appear.

I want my dogs ensconced on the sofa with me
When I settle down to read, nap or watch TV.
They are always content with the programs I choose
And at any time, will gladly join me for a snooze.
This is total and complete compatibility;
All that non-judgmental companionship should be.
I don’t mind being jumped on or licked in the face
I don’t have an issue with “invasion” of my “space”.
My dogs share my bed and I’d be in a muddle,
Unable to sleep without a dog to cuddle.
So what if I’m cramped and can’t stretch out at night?
You know, sprawling is not a constitutional right.
I love doggie spooning and nuzzling and feel
That tension evaporates and my mind starts to heal
The moment I stroke that soft body and those ears
And look in those adoring eyes – Nirvana appears.

When it comes to what dogs add to my existence
I’m not at all objective and have no resistance
To their warmth and “joie” and other endearing traits.
They give the best of what you get from friends and mates.
Most dogs are more humane than most people I know
And for loyalty and giving, they win, place, and show.
I’m mush when I talk about their attributes and charms
And sincerely hope I die with a dog in my arms.
If I continue to gush and praise them to the skies
I know I’ll never win any writing prize.
But please, if I’m reincarnated, just let me be
A dog with a human as besotted as me!

LIVING IN TWO PLACES

A Tale of Two Cities, by Rich Paschall

Recently The Daily Prompt asked this question: “If you could split your time evenly between two places, and two places only, which would these be?”  Normally I am not a Daily Prompt kind of guy.  I am on the subscriber list, but usually by the time I read the email notice, it is a day or two later and I just delete.  This one sounded rather intriguing, so I stashed it away for later use.

St Petersburg bridgeIf you have been visiting this space regularly, you may have noticed that Marilyn responded to the question when is was posted over a week ago.  If you read SERENDIPITY, her choices would not have been a surprise to you.  If you missed it, you can run right over there now and read her response.  You will find it here.  Don’t forget to come back!

What would you pick?  Would your home town be included?  Would your current residence be a choice?  Remember, in this scenario you can have any two cities.  Shall it be a northern city for summer and a warmer climate for winter?  I guess you can reverse that if you are in the Southern Hemisphere.  If you are close enough to the Equator, you have no need to move away from the cold.

Maybe you need somewhere exotic as one of your stops.  Fiji comes to my mind.  There must be somewhere in the South Pacific that is warm and inviting.  If you think we must be restricted to cities, then I will say that Nadi, Fiji has about 50,000 people so we will count it as a city rather than a village.  If your home is in Nadi, I guess you can still spend plenty of time on a beach on the other side of the island.

How about a European capital?  I have always found London inviting.  Author Samuel Johnson once famously stated, “…when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”  I guess that could be said of many of the great cities of the world.  I found Rome, Paris and Brussels all to be interesting and vibrant cities.  I have not been to other European capital cities.  Perhaps our choice of two cities should include one unknown and one known.

If you have not been to the other side of the world from where you are, would you chose a city solely on the recommendation of others?   Would you do an internet search of other places, or strictly stay with what you know?

When my father retired and moved from the cold of the Midwest to Florida, I began to understand the attraction of what they called “snowbirds” in the South.  These were the people who kept their homes in the north, but spent the winters in the south.  I loved Tampa, Clearwater, Sarasota and many of the Gulf cities.  I could see doing exactly that.  Perhaps your second city would be in another warm climate.  Arizona? Southern California? Hawaii?

Actually, it did not take me long to settle on two spots.  When I eliminated the fantasies and considered what is most important, I knew the answers.  First would be Chicago.  It is a world-class city with world-class attractions.  It has major sports teams and fine stadiums, old and new.  It has theater and concert venues and the major shows and Rock and Roll acts make it here when they tour.  There is a lakefront that stretches the entire east side of the city, with open parkland, beaches and museums.  Chicago Skyline

Al Capone does not live here.  We are not the murder capital of the country, we are not even in the top 10.  We do get a lot of publicity when there is crime.  Like every big city, we have big city problems.  I would say these problems are increased by the NRA suing the city over any attempt to keep guns away from gangs and criminals, but that is another column.  We have friendly people who celebrate diversity.

You may not have heard of my other choice.  I guess it is not really a city, but rather a small town of about 20,000 people.  It is in the beautiful Alsace region of France.  You will find small towns with ancient buildings sprinkled among the vineyards.  In the distance on top of some of the hills, you will find castles left from centuries ago.  If you say that this will not do, I must pick a larger “city,” I will move a short distance to the north and the lovely city of Strasbourg, capital of the European Union.

Why would I pick such completely different places on two different continents?  Why would I choose places that have  similar climates, where neither will escape the snow and cold?  How could I spend half a year in a big city and half in a small town which holds none of the major attractions?  The answer to me is quite simple.Selestat

The locale is no longer the most important consideration when deciding where to live.  At one time it may have been important.  When I am retired and tired of shoveling snow, maybe I would desire the warm weather locations.  Now it is about family and friends.  Aunts and cousins of various generations are here in Chicago.  Friends made recently and friends since childhood are here too.

In France is one of my best friends.  He spent a year here in 2009 and when he left we maintained our friendship through visits once or twice a year, here and in France.  When I go to France we always see things I have not seen before, so it is great adventure.  If he was somewhere else in France, then I would name that city instead.  Spending time with family and close friends, no matter where they reside, makes their locations the places I want to be.  For now my choices are Chicago, Illinois and Communauté de communes de Sélestat et environs.  Where are your two homes to be?

WORLD SHARING WEEK 47 – NEARING YEAR’S END!

SHARE YOUR WORLD – 2015 WEEK #47

In your native language which letter or character describes you best? Why?

I don’t know. I never thought about it. M because it’s my initial? Because while my last name has changed three times, “M” has followed me for my entire life, except for the years in Israel when it transformed into a “mem.”

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What is your greatest extravagance?

Cameras. Lenses. Software for processing pictures. Camera bags. Photographic accessories of every kind.

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Otherwise? Crystallized ginger. Can’t live without it!

Do you prefer exercising your mind or your body? How frequently do you do either?

My physical prowess up and fled long years since, so I practice mental gymnastics. I’m good at mental back flips. Actually, I’m ready for the marathon, as long as I can do it on the computer!

List at least 5 things that makes you laugh.

The dawgz.

dogs with bishop and gar

Witty dialogue, live or on television or movies. Sometimes, weird things pop into my head … and make me laugh at my own strangeness.

I won’t bore you with details, especially since these days, I can’t remember details.

MY PIES ARE NOT HUMBLE

The Daily Prompt wants to know when I last ate humble pie. Really, I don’t remember, nor am I sure what the ingredients are. We had a really good Dutch apple pie — and a yummy mince pie with dinner the other day. We still have some of both in the fridge.

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Are they humble? I chatted with them this morning.

ME: Are either of you a humble pie?

MINCE: Humble? I am a prince among pies. How dare you question me like this. Have I mentioned I go well with coffee?

ME: What about you, Sir Apple?

APPLE: Thank you for including my proper honorific. I’m proud to point out that I am the iconic American pie experience. You simply cannot celebrate any holiday in this nation without me. I am the top-selling pie of all time. I am the “it” pie. And I got even better with coffee than you-know-who does.

ME: And that’s the way it is, this morning, November 28, 2015. The pies are not humble. So I cannot eat any humble pie because I don’t have any. Sorry.

Please pass a piece of …

YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR – OR LESS

I bought my first media streaming device — the Roku HD Streaming Player, aka Roku 1 in January 2013. It was easy to set up and worked perfectly. Never hiccupped. Always connected to the WiFi and never faltered. I liked it so much, I bought another one for the bedroom a couple of months later. I wrote about it in “Roku – The Little Streaming WiFi Unit That Can” on December 18, 2013. By which time I’d had it for almost a year.

The only problem was the remote. It is line-of-sight. This technology works best in an uncluttered home with fewer dogs. So the remote worked, but it was like target shooting from a long distance with an inaccurate weapon.

FTVstickThis doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it’s the sort of thing that gets on your nerves over time. I replaced the living room remote with an upgraded version. A nominal improvement.

When Amazon came out with their bargain basement Amazon Fire Stick, I said “Oh, what the hell. Maybe the remote will work better,” and it did. Unfortunately, the stick didn’t. In fact, the stick hardly worked at all. As one reviewer succinctly put it, “You deserve better. Don’t do it.” He was right.

I had read the reviews, but I didn’t read all of them. I missed the ones that said the stick would lose the WiFi and sometimes, would never get it back.

From the beginning, it either couldn’t find our WiFi, or couldn’t hang on to the signal.  Even when it was connected, it was like watching a series of stills with sound. Like one of the strip films we watched in elementary school … a slide show with sound. I am told it’s an antenna problem, but whatever the reason, it stunk.

Roku 1

Last week, I gave up and bought the Roku 3 with the “point anywhere” remote. Which also, I’m told, responds to voice commands. We installed it today and it works. No stuttering, no faltering, no loading problems. Smooth as silk and you can point the remote at your own forehead and it will still work.

So, here’s the cost breakdown.

Roku 3 cost $49.00. Plus $4.20 for an HDMI cable. We got two years of service out of it, so it doesn’t owe us anything. And it still works, just not on this television.

The Amazon Fire Stick was a bust. It cost $39.00, was unsatisfactory for all 90 days of its service. The new, improved, wonderful Roku 3 Streaming Media Player (4230R) with Voice Search (2015 model) cost $96.04 (and if I’d waited a few days, would have cost $20 less), but really when you include the cost of the Fire Stick, it’s more like $140.

It reminds me of how I always used to buy the cheaper, less comfortable shoes. Eventually, when I couldn’t walk in the shoes I had bought, I ended up buying the more expensive ones, too.

roku 3

In total, I spent more than $200 on a streaming devices. If I had bought the Roku 3 in the first place, I would have spent half that.

The motto of the story is worth remembering. You aren’t saving money by buying shoes that you can’t wear. If your feet hurt, the movie won’t load, the remote control drives you bonkers? You haven’t saved money if you will have to buy it again.

It’s not cheap if it doesn’t do the job.

FIRST CLOSE ENCOUNTER OF THE EARLY KIND

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE EARLY KIND

photography BY BOB MIELKE

Garry was very gentle. He barely touched my shoulder. I was sleeping lightly … because I knew we had to get up early this morning.

Already dressed in black, Bonnie is ready to go.

A dawn encounter with a clogged toilet had seen to the light sleep, but also, we have a funeral to attend. A neighbor to see off into the next stop in the cycle … and we needed coffee first.

And had to give the dogs a little love before we go racing out of the house.

For once, it’s not a long journey. Just down the street. Don’t need a GPS or map. Show up looking reasonably put together. Merely a left out of the driveway, and keep going until we cross the rickety bridge into Rhode Island. Then look for the stone church on the right side with the white steeple.

Photo: Bob Mielke - Kaity dressed as ... ? Happy Bird Day!

My real morning encounter is Garry. Gently letting me know it’s time to get myself out of the warm huddle of blankets and dreams and hit the floor.

Garry and Bonnie "have a moment" while the turkey cooks

72-Kitchen-DoggiesGarry does this well. He is a very soft waker-upper. No loud noises, no rousing choruses of anything. So I do not leap from the bed and try to tear his throat out. Because I love him, though early in the morning, I generally do not love anyone until after coffee.

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Not him, not the dogs, not those endless telephone solicitors who seem to believe against all evidence to the contrary that they can actually sell me something before I’ve had my coffee.

Chef Owen, master of turkey

Chef Owen, master of turkey

Hello world. It’s black Friday, the day of the ultimate sales …and I’m done with my Christmas shopping. Except for the wrapping and some tree decorations. We’ve navigated Thanksgiving and the flow of life is rushing us to Christmas.

If we both keep body surfing the wave, I think we’ll make it. Time is rushing towards us and we merely have to stand still while it engulfs us.

BEING JEWISH AT CHRISTMAS – ELLIN CURLEY

Being Jewish during the Christmas season is like being a kid with your nose pressed up against the window of a candy store while all the other kids are inside eating candy. No matter how hard Jewish parents try to jazz up Hanukkah, eight candles can’t hold a candle to the sex appeal of corporate, commercial Christmas in America.

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Every year, for two months (or more), everything you see and hear glamorizes the season of joy and giving. It’s all lights and glitter. Since Jesus was Jewish too, maybe we could come up with a holiday celebrating his Bar Mitzvah? Even Bar Mitzvahs are tame and dowdy compared to the hype and excess of Christmas.

Cowboy and Menorah

But then I married a gentile! I could finally — legitimately — participate in Christmas!

The first thing my daughter and I did — a week after my wedding, as soon and as the Thanksgiving dishes were put away — was buy a gigantic, live tree. Then we hit every Christmas tree store in the county. We bought enough ornaments to decorate the tree in Rockefeller Center! We made sure to buy several Dreidels, Jewish stars, and Chai ornaments to remind our tree it was also Jewish.

almost christmas

My husband suggested I might want to join a 12-step program for ornament addicts, but even he had to admit, the result was spectacular. Our sun room is round, with windows on three sides. At night, when the tree was lit, it reflected sparkling colored lights for 180 degrees. It was fairyland.

We kept the tree up until March that first year.

After several years of holiday decorating orgies, the novelty began to wear thin. The effort required to transform the house into (and out of) a winter wonderland felt unreasonable. Unnecessary.

christmas wrapping paper

I began to feel pressured and overwhelmed, like most of my Gentile friends. I decided to go back to my Jewish roots and leave the Christmas responsibilities to my Methodist husband. We now have a small, fake tree that comes up from the basement every year, fully decorated, for 6 weeks of daylight in the kitchen.

Ironically, Hanukkah, in its present incarnation, was also created by Madison Avenue to give Jewish kids their own schtick around Christmas, and to give Jewish adults something to spend money on during the “holiday” season.

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These days, I happily light my Hanukkah candles and give, mostly small, gifts to my immediate family. I enjoy the festivities and fun of Christmas, but I’m at peace now with the simple, beautiful “Festival of Lights”.

Now that I’ve experienced how the other 90% live, I no longer covet my Christian neighbors’ holiday.

A NORMAN ROCKWELL THANKSGIVING

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For those of you who think Norman Rockwell only painted idealized images, he didn’t. His idealized images are the most popular, but he painted many other, hard-edged pictures. If you’re in the neighborhood of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, I recommend the Norman Rockwell Museum.

It’s a particularly American experience. I especially love this Thanksgiving cover for Life Magazine — reminding us that the Pilgrims were a humorless bunch. Not the kind of people I’d like to know.

Indian corn in kitchen window

They wouldn’t approve of our traditional Thanksgiving, not one little bit. I don’t think you’d want them at your table and they would not be thrilled to be there, either.

I enjoy Thanksgiving. The idea of it. It’s good there’s a day dedicated to gratitude. And eating too much, visiting with family and friends. But — you knew there was going to be a “but” didn’t you? — I am frequently reminded there are people who don’t have a family. Others who don’t have much to celebrate. And of course Native Americans, who on the whole, don’t find Thanksgiving a reason to rejoice.

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So, while we are consuming our dinners and enjoying our family, please give a thought to those who aren’t celebrating. Can’t celebrate. Are disinclined to celebrate. We do not all have to celebrate the same way.

Enjoy your holiday. Your way.

DIAGONAL LINES: CEE’S CCY CHALLENGE WEEK 8

CEE’S COMPOSE YOURSELF PHOTO CHALLENGE: WEEK #8 DIAGONAL LINES

compose-yourself-challenge2

One of the very first principles of composition I learned … maybe the only principle of composition I learned … was that a leading diagonal line give a picture “movement.”

 

Without some kind of angle to take the viewer’s eye into the picture, the scene tends to be static.

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That’s why pictures of horizons with sunsets are often pretty, but unexciting. Because there’s a flat horizon and nothing going on in the foreground. Does that make sense to anyone but me?

dawn on Misty beach Ogunquit

I’ll shut up now and just show some pictures!

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A few words about cropping:

Tight cropping often completely changes a picture and what it’s about. When the diagonal is part of the larger picture, it is drawing the viewer’s attention to something else — other than itself. When the diagonal is the picture, it’s about that wire, or that edge, or fence, or stream.

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There’s nothing wrong with it and it may be a more interesting picture … but it isn’t the same picture.

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When you crop, you need to decide not only what looks good, but what you want to say. In other words, what’s the picture about?

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And for extra credit, this from the leading lines challenge a few weeks ago, zig-zag fence in Vermont is about as diagonal as you can get.

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