Friday Five

1. After 9 million hours of media coverage, NYC survived its brush with Hurricane Irene. By the time she came ashore here, she’d been downgraded to a tropical storm. That didn’t stop my mom from calling every hour to update me on the progress of the impending Armageddon.

Despite the storm’s weakening it was important to be prepared. Last Friday I found myself at the grocery store with hundreds of other folks to stock up. (Note to the lady in line behind me: ice cream is not a non-perishable item.) Then I ran into a friend on the avenue who was desperately looking for a flashlight. Store shelves had been cleared of them since early Thursday. My neighbor in the basement apartment spent a lot of time shoring up her doorway with sandbags. In short, most people seemed to take the situation seriously. But once you’ve gassed up, stocked up and closed up, there’s really nothing more you can do. Why spend it in panic mode?

Watching all that news coverage only serves to raise your blood pressure and anxiety level. It certainly didn’t help those in upstate NY and Vermont who are now suffering though terrible flooding.What I mean is, being glued to The Weather Channel isn’t going to change the outcome. Finally I had to tell my mom to turn off the television and I think she felt better for doing so.

Were you affected by Irene? How did you prepare?

2. If there’s one thing I love, it’s guacamole. I could eat a bucketful in one sitting. Even as I’m licking the plate clean, I can’t stop myself. It’s sort of embarrassing. So, like an alcoholic might avoid bars to put temptation out of arm’s reach, I try to steer clear of Mexican restaurants. But this week I broke down and went to Dos Caminos for lunch with work pals. The specialty at Dos Caminos is…wait for it…guacamole. It took an incredible amount of willpower not to snarf the whole platter the instant the waitress set it on the table. Look at this modest portion. (Just between you and me, I ate 16 modest portions just like this one, but who’s counting?)

3. Reggie has two rituals upon entering the building. The following happens without fail:

First, he checks out the stroller. Our fourth floor neighbors have an 18-month-old girl. They leave her stroller in the lobby and just carry the essentials upstairs. (Can you imagine having to bring the stroller up and down every time?) Reggie may be attracted to the baby smells, but more likely he’s looking for the Cheerios the kid drops in the seat.

Any napkins in here?

Second, he looks out the window in the back door. About three years ago (no exaggeration), my neighbor’s cat, Bella, popped up on the other side of the door. That one glimpse was all it took. He was in love. So he always lingers, waiting for her to reappear. You would think that after all that time, he would give up or forget that he’d seen her at that particular spot. Nope. In fact, I have to encourage him to move along.

This week, his persistence and loyalty paid off. Suddenly, there she was and it was like no time at all had passed. He was so happy. His tail was wagging and he rushed to the door to get a closer look. She lingered for a moment, meowing and rubbing along the railing. I swear they touched noses through the glass like prison inmates. And then she vanished in that stealth-like way that cats have. So Reggie is back to watching and waiting. Little vixen.

Bella, where are you?

4. When was the last time you read a novel that you were sad to finish? The Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles was the first one to come along in quite a while that had me thinking about the characters long after the last page, wondering what might have happened to them, why they did what they did, and what they might be doing now.

Here we have the story of three twenty-somethings — boardinghouse roommates Katey Kontent and Eve Ross, and wealthy banker Tinker Grey, who they meet on New Year’s Eve 1937. That chance meeting and subsequent turn of events spotlight the theme of the novel: how most of us “have a few brief periods when we are offered a handful of discrete options” which will determine the course of the rest of our lives. The story spans the whole of the next year as they each reinvent themselves. The setting, New York in the late `30s, is so rich and evocative it is like another character. I wanted to pour myself a gin and tonic just to keep up. I’m not throwing these names around lightly when I say The Rules of Civility evokes Fitzgerald and Capote and Wharton all rolled into one.

Katey narrates the story from a retrospective point of view. She is so level headed and calm that when we reach the apex, we know the next scene is going to be gut-wrenching when she tells us, “As a quick aside, let me observe that in moments of high emotion — whether they’re triggered by anger or envy, humiliation or resentment — if the next thing you’re going to say makes you feel better, then it’s probably the wrong thing to say.” Boy, ain’t that the truth.

Here is a short video of the author describing what the novel is about.

5. While we’re on the subject of authors and books, September is Roald Dahl month. You may not know his name, but I’m sure you know some of his books: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach to name two. It was a coincidence that I came across a letter written to him by a young fan in 1989. The seven-year-old girl said that she’d drawn a picture of one of her dreams and put it into a bottle for him. Imagine how excited she must have been to get a response. He thanked her for the lovely gift of her dream and wrote, “Tonight I shall go down to the village and blow it through the bedroom window of some sleeping child and see if it works.”

Another letter from Letters of Note: came from Theodore Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss.  At the age of 13 in 1957, Howard wrote to Dr. Seuss to say that he’d decided he wanted to be an illustrator when he grew up and asked for some advice. Dr. Seuss replied with the most wonderful, inspirational words: (Doesn’t this just sound like Dr. Seuss? Bolded words are his.)

About giving you advice…pointers on how to properly write and illustrate a picture book…all I can say is this:This is a field in which no one can give you pointers but yourself.

The big successes in this field all succeeded because they wrote and they wrote and they drew and they drew. They studied what they’d drawn and they studied what they’d written each time asking themselves one question: How can I do it better, next time?

To develop an individual style of writing and drawing, always go to yourself for criticsm. If you ask advice from too many other people, then you no longer are yourself. 

The thing to do, and I am sure you will do it, is to keep up your enthusiasm! Every job is a lot of fun, no matter how much work it takes. If you’ll plug away and do exactly what you are doing, making it better and better every month and every year…then you CAN be successful.

The very best of luck to you!

Your friend,

(Signed, ‘Dr. Seuss’)

On that note, have a great weekend, everyone! 

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24 comments

  1. That’s such a cute story about Reggie and the cat. It seems as if there were far more dogs fond of cats that I thought. I went to the vet with one of mine today and in came a very old dog, super cute, deaf and blind but so cheerful. He sniffed the cat in her basket and was so excited. She didn’t flinch, she was too scared.
    I just got The Rules of Civility today. How good to hear that you liked it so much.
    I got an interesting book by Dahl but didn’t get a chance to read it yet. Going Solo, his memoir about his time as a fighter pilot in WWII.

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    1. Your poor cat. She was probably hoping this dog would just go away. I adopted Reggie, so I don’t know all of his history, but I wonder if he used to live with cats.

      I can’t wait to read your review of The Rules of Civility. I hope you liked it as much as I did. It’s such a great example of how a rich setting can become another character. I think you’ll enjoy Going Solo also. It’s one of his lesser known works, but well worth the read.

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  2. Great letters from those children. I just love it.

    And Reggie, I think we could learn a lot from him regarding faith. Such a cute story.

    As for Irene, I have heard little of it (haha), but it does get me thinking of other things… preparation, for example. My friend commented after she watched Cinderella Man, how quickly our nation could switch like that and the well-off would find themselves eating scraps and controlling portions. How does one prepare for a potential economical flat line? Definitely makes me think!

    Great FF!

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    1. It’s really hard, but I’m trying not to worry or fear things that haven’t happened yet. Man, it’s hard. In fact, I’ve scheduled a Shine post for later this month that touches on this a bit. Really interesting ideas.

      Reggie is one persistent guy. Looks like your Yorkie and kitty are BFFs. 🙂

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  3. Guacamole, rogue Cheerios and a kitty sighting (and a Reggie pic!)–that about makes for a perfect post in my book.

    Here’s hoping you guys can have a quiet weekend this time around–you deserve it. And Reggie really does prove the old adage that persistence pays–she’ll be back and he knows it;)

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    1. I try to counsel Reggie not to be so eager. The ladies like it when you play a little hard to get. But, he knows what he’s doing. No one can resist the Reginator.

      Hope you have a great weekend as well!

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  4. That plate of guacamole and chips is entirely too small to take seriously. I mean really.
    Reggie is a doll. Isn’t it funny how long pets will remember things? I think there’s a lot more going on in their heads than we silly humans realize.
    Rules of Civility sounds fun. Love that whole era.

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    1. That plate was actually my friend’s. I was hoping the photo would look dignified. I was actually hunkered over the serving bowl, licking it clean. Too embarrassing for words.

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  5. I agree with Erika: a perfect post! A great book suggestion, which I will definitely check out because, like you I LOVE guacamole and cute & sweet dogs like Reggie (and Abby, although she never chews anything up…anymore). So we must have similar tastes. However, I CAN outdo you in the upsetting mother stories…. my mother-in-LAW called me and advised me that since I wasn’t evacuating (MAINE, where mind you we only had a tropical storm) that I should write my name and next of kin name ON MY ARM IN PERMANENT MARKER so they’d know who to contact when they found my body. Incredible. I suggested she stop watching the weather channel and said a few more things to my husband when he came home from WORK. (p.s. how on earth have I never seen your blog before??? I love it!)

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    1. Welcome, Julia! I’m so glad you stopped by!

      LOVE the story about your mother-in-law. She gets points for originality in my book. In all of the hours of media coverage, no one mentioned that essential preparedness tip. The Weather Channel will just have to step up their game next time.

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  6. Love guacamole! I feel your pain when having to act civilised and share it with others. As for the storm, everywhere we went people were talking about it, it was on TV nonstop… as you say, this only incites fear and panic. I suppose at least the spring water and torch manufacturers profited from it all… Has Reggie met many cats before? How did he react?

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    1. How did you fare during your trip? Was your flight much delayed? I hope the storm didn’t put too much of a damper on the end of your visit!

      Reggie is very friendly with a stray cat in the neighborhood. She rubs up against him and does her little cat prance around him. He doesn’t mind at all. Now if that was another dog he would not have it at all. He would growl. He’s never growled at the cat. Isn’t that interesting? I wonder if he lived with a cat at some point before I adopted him.

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      1. Instead of leaving NY on the Saturday, we were able to fly out on Monday afternoon, so it wasn’t too bad. It actually meant we could stay in and relax before taking another plane somewhere, to be honest I was grateful for the rest!

        I can just imagine Reggie with the cat. As you say, sounds like he’s been around them before. It would be so interesting to know more about his past!

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      2. It all worked out in the end! So glad you didn’t have to wait too long for a return flight.

        Yes, some things I’ll never know about Reggie. For example, when we’re on our walks, why does he bark only at huskies? There are two we routinely see in my neighborhood. I have to cross the street because he’ll get very agitated even when we’re at least 20 feet away. Neither of them ever respond thankfully.

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  7. Love the story of Reggie and the cat.
    Oh, and I have been known to purchase ice cream before a storm. In fact, I bought two containers before TS Lee! Good thing the power wasn’t out for longer – I would have had to have an ice cream party! 😉
    And so funny, I just whipped up some guacamole. One avocado makes quite a bit, and it’s the “good” kind of fat, right? So I say we go for it – so yummy!

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    1. So funny about the ice cream! I should also mention that the woman in line at the store had a 6-pack of beer as well as the ice cream! She was definitely thinking party! (PS: not so funny about your refrigerator after Katrina. Ick!)
      That’s what I keep telling myself about avocado. It’s so good for me it would be bad for me NOT to eat it.

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