Bagels and donuts

It’s another monsoon-like early morning here in Berkeley and Larry and I went to our favorite local breakfast spot, Sunnyside Cafe (they’re an unpretentious place and don’t accent the “e”). Larry had the smoked salmon scramble. For toast, he asked if they had bagels. “No,” answered the waitress, “but we have English muffins. Same shape without the hole.” Pretty good for 8:30 on a Saturday morning.

While waiting for his English muffin, Larry asked me if I had ever heard the word bagel as baseball slang; I hadn’t. When a really good hitter has no hits against a pitcher, the pitcher has “dropped a bagel on him.” I thought of this visually, as in encircled the hitter’s arms so he couldn’t hit, but Larry says it’s just a big fat zero (and a donut is a round weight you put on your bat for practice swings.) I looked online for some bagel poems and found this. Which just goes to show…something, but I’m not sure what




Dreams of Kay Ryan

From time to time, poets make cameo appearances in my dreams. Last night it was Kay Ryan. We were at a party together, and I was trying to show her how to undress and change your outfit in the middle of a public space without anyone noticing.  The trick is to move very naturally, at an unhurried pace, and just keep interacting normally with the environment while you slip into something else. Unfortunately, I was wearing a starched shirt that crinkled like wrapping paper when it moved, which ruined the process. Kay was understanding.

I asked her if she ever felt trapped by her own style, if she ever got tired of writing “Kay Ryan poems.”  She didn’t seem to have a problem with that. I woke up with this poem:


How is it that
we recognize
with our sense
and with our eyes
that tall dogs,
short dogs,
fat and thin,
are all one species
from within?

Continue reading “Dreams of Kay Ryan”

Long marriage

“What one wants in the person one lives with is that they should keep one at one’s best,” says Clarissa Dalloway in The Voyage Out (see yesterday’s post–I really am having trouble getting places as I listen!). As Shakespeare does with Polonius, Virginia gives us a foolish character who occasionally says something intriguing. Clarissa’s is a very mixed portrait in this book, published 10 years before Mrs. Dalloway.

But this comment elucidates something that happens in a good long relationship of any kind–the other helps you to see and sometimes overcome your persistent flaws, doesn’t let you get away with your particular laziness or ignorance or… fill in your specific blanks, but does it while still loving you, still supporting what is the best in you.

And as I was beginning to write this last night, Larry walked in and read me an example of an exemplary sentence, from Thinking, Fast and Slow:

“The idea that the future is unpredictable is undermined every day by the ease with which the past is explained.”

Continue reading “Long marriage”

Virginia Woolf’s exemplary sentences

Yesterday I got tired of driving around to PBS, SIrius/XM, KCSM, and got several books on CD from the library. (I miss Henderson!) I started with The Voyage Out. I probably read this decades ago, but have no memory of it. That’s the good thing about memory loss, Larry might say, you can hide your own Easter eggs.

But in this case, the pleasure of rediscovery includes reacquaintance with Ms. Woolf’s sly, economical wit. Here are just a few of her gems:

“..she slipped into a fine analysis of him which is best represented by one word, “sentimental,” by which she meant that he was never simple and honest about his feelings.”

What a perfect definition of what’s wrong with sentimentality! Or this, about a man who spent his life contemplating a book he never wrote:

“There never will be a book…That’s what comes of putting things off, and collecting
fossils, and sticking Norman arches on one’s pigsties.”

That’s what gets in my way, dreaming of Norman arches for the chicken coop. Or about her children’s religious education.

“So far, owing to great care on my part, they think of God as a kind of walrus…”

And finally the first one that caught my attention and made me pull over and get out my notebook (the only problem with listening while you drive is it slows your progress):

Continue reading “Virginia Woolf’s exemplary sentences”

The morning after

Yesterday I posted David Tanis’ recipe for a gluten-free soufflé using mashed potatoes. We had a lot of leftover soufflé, and remembering what Chef Mahar did with the leftover risotto, I thought leftover soufflé was similar. So I put a little butter and some almond oil (I could have used olive oil, or canola, or any oil) in a pan and fried some slices of soufflé until they were crispy on two sides. Continue reading “The morning after”

The exemplary sentence and the elusive world

I realize I have collected a number of sentences about imagination vs. reality.

“What a gulf between the self which experiences and the self which describes experience.”  Edmund Wilson, I Thought of Daisy from the last one of these posts

“Life is not what we live; it is what we imagine we are living.”  Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon, from the one before

and this one:
“The world in out heads is not a precise replica of reality.” from Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, which Larry happens to be reading.

I’ve been pondering this idea a lot lately, the construct we carry in our heads as opposed to the world an infant experiences, for example, one without labels or words. Continue reading “The exemplary sentence and the elusive world”

Bouquets to Art

For one week in the spring, the De Young Museum is transformed into a unique floral event, one in which florists from the greater Bay Area are invited to represent a piece of art with a floral creation. Florists select their first, second and third choices, but may get a piece they didn’t bargain on–and then they try to capture something of the piece they are assigned with their floral creation.  Some mimic the art, some capture an image, and some just seem to be like a jazz riff.

There’s something magical about the pairing, although the art itself gets short shrift.The floral creations are the focus. And the show is so popular that it’s not a good time to wander the galleries and appreciate the collections. Continue reading “Bouquets to Art”

Mad as a wet hen

Actually, the hens don’t seem so much mad as unhappy. They huddle under their roof and don’t want to go out and scratch around. But the rain was a gift for Larry this morning, as he belongs to an over-60 softball league, the Creakers. You may remember them from an earlier post. And the photo I use of Larry is one in his Creaker’s outfit.

The Creakers are notorious (at least in my household) for playing in any kind of weather–like the mail, the game must go on. Had the rain been less decisive, Larry would have had to drive out early this morning for field prep. As it was, Evan Almdale, a whiz with photoshop, posted this on the Creaker website this morning.

So Larry can happily putter and stay dry.

You are what you read

Having a cup of tea early Saturday morning at a bakery in Venice (CA), a couple with a young son were sitting at the table next to me.  The parents were reading, the boy–maybe 5 or 7 years old–was playing a math game on a PDA.  I looked up when the boy was asking for help figuring out what 6 minus 2 was.  The father put down his magazine, and started working with the various cups and plates on the table to make the numbers real. I noticed that he was reading the very article in the New Yorker by Jonah Lehrer I had just finished the day before on the plane, about the Darwinian value of altruism. The article had a cartoon of leaf cutter ants and their bright green leaves across the two-page spread that made it recognizable from a distance, and he and his (I assume) wife discussed it once the mystery of 6-2 was resolved.

It made me reflect on how a certain number of people around the same period of time might be reading and thinking about the survival value of selflessness–and just what selfish and selfless might mean for us and for other species.  There’s a kind of awesome power in that, the ability of a well-written article in a popular medium to support a current of thought and discussion across a broad swath of disparate people. Continue reading “You are what you read”

Seedlings and a recipe


It’s full spring here in Northern California, with seedlings popping up on their own, seedlings planted for the garden, and a general rush of growth.  I went though the labyrinth and potted up a tray of small geraniums like this one that had self-seeded all over the paths, and took them along with some marigold and shiso seedlings to give away at the Kensington Farmers’ Market. They disappeared in about 20 minutes.

For my own garden I planted three kinds of carrots, and some early girl tomatoes in the ground, along with a tray of lettuce, coriander, spinach, squash, cucumbers, poppies and nasturtiums. The squash and spinach are almost ready to transplant.  The cucumbers and lettuce are a little slower, and the coriander and flowers haven’t really shown up yet.

Meanwhile, from Whole Foods I tried a package of “cheesy kale,” dried kale with a paste of cashews, red pepper, lemon juice and salt.  It was good, but pretty expensive.  I have a lot of kale in the garden, so decided to try to duplicate it.  I washed an dried the kale and spread it on a baking sheet, and blended about a cup of roasted cashews, 1/3 of a red pepper, juice of a lemon and a 1/2 teaspoon salt until it was a paste. I added about 1/4 cup of water along the way to help the process along. When it was smooth, I spread it over the kale: Continue reading “Seedlings and a recipe”

The exemplary sentence, take 3

Here are some notes from the little pad I keep inside my purse to capture the stray sentence or idea, or in Brenda Hillman’s words, to be a rancher of phrases. These are all the more pleasing to me because they are surrounded by directions, movie and book titles, stray phone numbers.

We got ready and showed our home.
The visitor thought: you live well.
The slum must be inside you.
…  Tomas Tranströmer, “The Scattered Congregation” (translated by Robert Bly)

Words make things happen. We must weigh them carefully.
…  Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon (see more of these)

Maybe he better get out of here
before it’s too late, but maybe too late
was what he wanted.
…  Philip Levine Continue reading “The exemplary sentence, take 3”