Friday, August 12, 2016

Owning An Old House, Writ Small



Isn't this light switch gross? It needs to be replaced. But how?


I know! I will educate myself on how to replace a light switch using The Internets!

The first step is to buy a new one at the hardware store. Hmmm, this one says "Lighted Switch." I guess that's because it is cheap and was made overseas. I am sure it will do.


Damn it. It is a "lighted switch," like one of those ones old people have in their bathrooms. I hate this. I guess I have to undo it it all, take it back to the hardware store and buy a normal one.

Okay I did all that and now...


...I screwed it in too tightly and cracked the light switch plate.

If you need me, I am going to go lie down in a darkened room for awhile and think about why my life is the way it is.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Update From A Late-Summer Garden

You guys, I grew these. All of them! Really!

You've missed my garden updates, haven't you? (Say you have! Say you have!)

Now that it's August, a lot of spring annuals are history and summer perennials are starting to fade. Zinnia and dahlia season is still ahead, but even so, I think it's time for an update of what has worked well and what hasn't.

Rudbeckia: I bought several of these at Ace Hardware because...I don't remember why, actually. I think I was just on a plant-buying spree and wanted to keep going. They turned out to be some of the best purchases I made. Black-Eyed Susans need almost no attention, produce all kinds of blossoms and keep their flowers for weeks. That's my kind of plant.

Echinacea: The only reason I like these less than rudbeckia is that I see them everywhere in my neighborhood, so I feel like having them in your garden is sort of obligatory. They share quite a few characteristics with rudbeckia - low maintenance, profuse and long-lasting. I planted white, red, orange, yellow and several shades of pink (which, to me, looked like they were all the same color - pink).

Dianthus: I think if I had expected less of these stalwart little plants, I would have been more pleased with them. I was impressed by how deadheading only made them come back stronger, but none of them actually grew, as in got wider or bigger. They seemed to stay the same size all spring and summer. I like these - I just think I should have planted them somewhere where they would have been less likely to get shown up by other flowers.

Asiatic Lilies: When these are in bloom, they're beautiful, The downside is they last under a week, and then are just a stalk for months and months. I planted several of these and I have a hunch I might remove a few next summer. A small garden doesn't leave a lot of room for underperformers.

Coreopsis "Sun Up": This is the only flower I planted and didn't like. I should be grateful to it, because it bloomed early in the season and spread and grew and made the garden look a little less bare, but I just didn't like the color. I think it might be what you'd call"chrome yellow" - sort of a muddy orange-yellow. Blegh.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

"Disgraced"



Am I being fair for not liking "Disgraced"? I'm afraid to pose that question to myself because I worry the answer might be "no."

Praised as a "searing" and "controversial" racial drama, "Disgraced" is a 90-minute one act play centered around  Amir Kapoor, a high-profile Pakistani-American attorney whose carefully concealed past comes to light, much to his chagrin. As his career and life begin a tailspin, Amir's white wife, Emily, begins to irritate him with her high-minded and privileged views of race and social justice. Things come to head at a fateful dinner party Amir and Emily host for Isaac (Emily's former boyfriend) and his present girlfriend Jory, who now works at Amir's law firm.

Part of my problem with "Disgraced" is that it didn't feel specific enough to the Pakistani-American or Muslim-American experience. Elements of its felt fairly generic. I don't know if that's a fair criticism, though, because I can't come up with ways for it to have been more focused, and there are many genres (murder mysteries and romantic comedies, for example) where originality and freshness isn't the point.

Another reaction I had was that the script seemed to call for Adit Dileep, who played Amir, to hit the gas pedal too hard. His performance began at 60 mph; the audience wasn't really eased into it and didn't get to know him as much of anything other than a panicky nervous wreck. For a lot of the play, Caroline Kaplan's Emily really irritated me as an impossibly beautiful, impossibly benevolent artist. Luckily, that only lasted for about half the play. When Kaplan actually got something to do besides sit around and be a decorative object, I enjoyed her much more. The real standout here was Austene Van as Jory, Amir's law firm friend-turned-rival. The statuesque Van is a commanding presence in a tasteful but pointedly dramatic costume, and her delivery and presence commanded the stage. I found myself wishing she had appeared earlier than the play's two-thirds mark,

Monday, August 8, 2016

Goodbye Is Never Easy

I don't know how your memory works, but mine is a haphazard patchwork with some pieces more vivid than others. In the swirling darkness, some stars burn more brightly, impervious to time and distance.. Real or only real to me, some recollections just won't fade.

I heard this song recently. It reminded me of the scene below, because it was playing when we were in the store. I used to not mind this song. Now, I can hardly stand it.

***

My boyfriend and I had flown to San Francisco. My ticket was round-trip, his was one-way.

I was happy for and proud of him. He was excited about his new job and looking forward to life in a new city.

Inside, though, I was aching.

We had begun dating only a few months prior, after a long stretch in which I had pined for him. Something I had wanted for so long was mine, but would be so only briefly before it would be taken away. That pain, of being outwardly supportive and encouraging so the move would be easier for him, but really wincing on the inside, was piercing in a newly agonizing way.

My boyfriend had moved in to his apartment and we had some time to kill before my flight back, so we were in a store. We weren't really looking for anything, just idly flipping through things and pretending the moment where I'd take a train back to the airport and he wouldn't wasn't coming.

A sales clerk came up to us. He was cute, with blond hair and an elfin face. As if I weren't standing there, he smiled coyly at my boyfriend. He put out his hand "My name's Tyler, by the way." My boyfriend smiled and said it was nice to meet Tyler. I did not get introduced to me.

I remember the feeling of him slipping away. I remember the feeling that I was clinging harder than he was. I remember the feeling that the writing was on the wall and I was just refusing to read it.

That boyfriend and I didn't last too long. Six months after he moved, I think. He has since moved again and has been dating someone else for a long time. I don't think about him much, but this scene still does flicker across my mind - not often, but more often than I'd like it to.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

"South Pacific"



I always say "I don't like musicals," and then go see the Guthrie Theater's annual Big Summer Musical, usually more than once.

This year, I saw "South Pacific" three times. Yup, three. That's more because several different friends asked me to go and less because I was that excited about it, but let's put it this way -- even by the third time around, I wasn't dragging my feet on my way into the theater.

"South Pacific" debuted as a Broadway musical in 1949. Some of its themes of racial understanding were pretty controversial at the time. (That felt a little hard to believe when there was a Tonkinese character on stage chattering in pidgin English, but...)

Since its message seems to have faded with the passage of 67 years, I felt free to concentrate on whether "South Pacific" was bright, colorful and pleasant - and it was. The Guthrie usually goes all out on its summer musical and the lavish set proved "South Pacific" would be no different. Rodgers and Hammerstein's songs for this play are an equally measured collection of haunting "(Bali Ha'i"), hard to forget ("I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair") and comical ("Bloody Mary").

As for the acting. there were times when Nellie Forbush (Erin Mackey) got a little shrill for my ears, but her rendition of "I'm In Love With A Wonderful Guy" dispelled any doubts about whether she has talent.

All in all, I don't think I needed to see "South Pacific" three times, but I would have gone to see it twice with no complaints.


Monday, May 30, 2016

The Name Game

I don't get too much credit for this, because it's so new it's probably still feeding off whatever freaky hormones the nursery pumped into it, but still. It's pretty and rewarding. This is Rosa "Champagne Wishes," which apparently was named after a stripper.

One of the reasons I haven't been writing on here much is that I've been spending just about every minute I can gardening.

I love gardening. Love it. It's peaceful, an excellent way to spend time outdoors and you get F L O W E R S, which are one of nature's greatest things (and, I guess, vegetables, but if you focus on those before you focus on flowers, then you are boring). I really like seeing all the butterflies, bees and various little winged things I can't identify coming to visit my flowerbeds.

One thing I have noticed over the past few weekends of dirty hands and nursery visits is that names are important to me. Very important.

Evidence:

  • I think this Dahlia is pretty, but there is just no way I can have something called "Cutie Patootie" in my garden. Nope. Not happening. Just can't do it. 
    • Same thing for Echinacea "Tomato Soup." I like that shade of red, but I don't like tomato soup, so I won't be growing this. Every time I looked at it, I would be reminded of the overly sweet, sort of tinny flavor of Campbell's tomato soup. Blegh.
  • A lot of plants have female names. This has resulted in my buying flowers  because they share names with women I like. I don't need another coneflower, but Echinacea "Kim's Knee-High" had to happen because it reminds me of a friend I've had since second grade. Magnolia "Jane" is a risk, because it's a little out of my growing zone, but it reminds me of my brother's mother-in-law. On the opposite side of that coin, there's a plant I like but can't get because it shares a name with a woman I dated briefly and a woman I went to school with and didn't care for too much. Thanks for ruining that plant for me, ladies.
    • There are fewer plants with male names. I wish I liked this species of Dianthus, for obvious reasons, but I don't. Botanists, please give this name to something else, like a tulip or something. 
  • If a plant has sort of a dramatic or poetic name, I am into it. It almost doesn't matter what it looks like. 
    • I don't have a place for nasturtiums, but I bought a few because they were called "Empress of India." I will make room for something with a such a poetic, exotic name.
    • I don't have a vegetable garden yet, but when I do, "Bull's Blood" beets and "Dragon's Tongue" beans will definitely be in there. I don't know if I will even like those vegetables. I am just attracted to the names. 
    • I actually think Liatris spicata is ugly, but then I learned that one common name for it is "Kobold," which I gather is some sort of spite or imp from German floklore, and another name is "Blazing Star." Since I like mischievious little German things and blazing stars, I got some. 
  • I ordered a plant called Helianthus "Lemon Queen" for a spot in my garden where I need something tall. The nursery from which I ordered it says it's going to look like this (to me, that looks a lot like what I have always called a Jerusalem Artichoke). However, if you look at other sites, Helianthus "Lemon Queen" looks more like a traditional sunflower. Who's right? Who's wrong? What kind of flower will I have? Can I handle all this excitement? I don't know!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

In The Garden of Know-It-Alls


I like to garden. I do not like to talk to other gardeners about gardening.

I don't know what it is. Maybe people think a new homeowner knows nothing about gardening. Maybe people think a single, younger-ish man knows nothing about gardening. Maybe people think a single, younger-ish man with a new house really knows nothing about gardening.

Whatever the case may be, any conversation I have about gardening quickly turns into an unsolicited lesson heavily flavored with the speaker being more than a little patronizing.

After planting two small forsythia bushes flanking my walkway, I stepped back to admire my work. A woman walking her dog stopped, looked at them and said "You know those are going to get really big, right?"

When I mentioned I was going to naturalize some daffodils, a coworker looked at me and said, "You know those are only a spring flower, right?"

A neighbor walked through our alley when I was watering a small magnolia tree I had planted in my backyard. "Those need a lot of sun," he called from the alley.

You people. You are are joy-killers. Every last one of you.

(And, really, Who doesn't know daffodils are only a spring flower? Come on, now.)