Wednesday, September 14, 2016

I saw something in the woods


What I saw: the corner of a large, gray mattress, of custom dimensions similar to a full, with faint stains and white piping. Someone had driven a truck or van up our road, past the sign that says “NO LITTERING,” stopped, and thrown the mattress down an embankment into our woods.

Who went with me: the Bacon Provider was walking the dogs with me, his last day at home before heading out early for the first of twelve trips on his schedule between now and mid-December. I wished I found it alone, because he’s got enough to worry about.

What I did: when we got back, I called the local Bedhead Hills police non-emergency number. I spoke to a phone-answering marmalade cat, roused with a start from her early mid-afternoon nap, taking seriously her responsibility as the one who makes sure that real emergency calls go to 911. "I don't know if you're who I'm supposed to call," I said. Then I explained what I found.
"Hold on a moment," meowed the ginger cat.
It was more than a moment.
When she came back to the phone, she said, "You should call the Office of Gravel and Thoroughfares. When they open on Monday."
I asked for their number.

Things that were funny: on Monday, I had to wait until after Pilates to call. Then, I had to re-boot my phone because where we live in Bedhead Hills, we have little coverage mobile-phone-wise, so we use the wi-fi calling, and my mobile-phone company, being one of the last to add the feature of wi-fi, offers the most unreliable version of it. So then I called the Bedhead Hills Office of Gravel and Thoroughfares.
The phone was answered by a chipmunk.
"Bedhead Hills Office of Gravel and Thoroughfares, chipmunk speaking," she said, very high and very fast.
"Oh, hello," I said, stifling a yawn because Pilates is exhausting and I was not quite ready to talk on the sometimes-not-working phone to a chipmunk. "Hi, yes, ok, we found a mattress on our property yesterday. It wasn't there on Saturday, but then like I dunno someone must have thrown it out of their car and now it's there. I called the police and they said to call you?" I said it like that, asking, but not asking.
"Oh my gawd!" the chipmunk yelled before I finished talking, very loud and with great feeling. "What is it with people and the dumping!?" 

I said something to the effect that I don't know.
" Is it on the road?" asked the chipmunk.
"No, it's down the embankment, in our woods."
"Oh," said the chipmunk, "So here's the thing. If it's in the woods, I can't help you. But if it's on the road, I can send someone out today to get it. But I didn't tell you that. You never talked to me."
I forgot her name, thanked her, hung up, and changed my clothes.

What I wore: Asolo hiking boots that I bought to go to Italy in 2009 and had re-soled this past winter so they are both like-new and broken-in, heavy socks because my feet are long-suffering and weary, blue Ben Davis Union-made overalls that were a gift from my sister-in-law many years ago when we owned a farm in the San Juan Islands, an old and threadbare medium blue shirt from Barney's that was once the Bacon Provider's, work gloves. 

Why I saw this show: I pick up trash that people throw out the their cars onto my property as soon as I see it. 

How I got scratched: choosing between walking along the road and clambering down the embankment or bushwhacking through the dense, late-summer forest, I opted for the latter. It was harder to find than I thought it would be. The mattress was resting along the slope of the embankment. I tried to push it; an upholstered foam slab, it just sort of crumpled. I pinched the dingy white piping through my gloves and dragged it up behind me. It didn't smell as bad as I feared it would. 

Things that were not funny: had the litterbug left it on the shoulder of the road, they could have saved me the trouble. 

Things that were sad: having dragged it out of the woods, I saw that it left a wide area of crushed weeds. I did feel some of that satisfaction of doing something hard. Only later did I find the scratches on my arms.

Another thing that was funny: I tried to call the chipmunk at the Bedhead Hills Office of Gravel and Thoroughfares right away, but I had neither enough cell-phone bars from the sky-gods nor enough wi-fi signal from the house. So I walked back. Once at home I had to re-boot my phone again in order to make the call. My first attempt went to voice-mail. I was not leaving a message. 
I called again after changing out of the work clothes. 
The phone was answered by the chipmunk.

"Bedhead Hills Office of Gravel and Thoroughfares, Chipmunk speaking," she said, very high and very fast.
"Oh, hello," I said, with excitement. "Hi, yes, ok, I live in Bedhead Hills, and someone dumped like a mattress on our road. 
"Oh, I see," the chipmunk said, serious but with real feeling. "Where is it?" 
I described its location.

The chipmunk asked how big it was. 
I said it was similar to a full-sized mattress, adding, "It's not so heavy a 5'5" woman who's 53, but pretty strong because she does Pilates could lift it."
The chipmunk thought this was hilarious. 

What I didn't see: I went up to my sewing room, where I am working on a new quilt. I am listening to an audiobook, "The Feminine Mystique," by Betty Friedan, so I didn't hear when the truck came to take the mattress away. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

I went for a walk

What I saw: the woods of the Kitchawan Preserve, Ossining, New York

What I wore: tall black custom Vogel field boots, Prince of Wales spurs, light brown Pikeur full-seat breeches, lilac 3/4-sleeve L.L.Bean polo shirt, Charles Owen Ayr8 helmet, prescription sunglasses, black SSG® Soft Touch™ Riding Gloves. 

What I did beforehand: overslept

Who went with me: Remonta Hado, aged 15, also sometimes known as Hado or Brown or, even, Big Brown.

How I got here: a set of random, impulsive decisions that might be impossible to replicate.

Why I went for a walk: we have been working very hard and needed a break. It was a perfectly clear, bright, dry sunny day.

Where I sat: Devouxcoux mono-flap dressage saddle.

Things that were sad: you, my readers, won’t look at my last blog post

Things that were funny: there are signs posted in this park stating that dogs must be on leash, and also further stipulating that dogs must be on a leash up to six feet long. I do occasionally see people walking a dog on a leash here, but almost always see people with their dogs off leash. Walking a dog off-leash is a great pleasure, of course, for both the dog, that gets to explore its freedom, and the walker, who walks and indulges in the sight of their dog moving at liberty. But it all depends on an owner's ability to call the loose dog and leash it up again. I saw three dogs on this walk. The first was a black lab mix named Lola. Lola’s owners shouted “come” about eleven or twelve or eighty-one times before it occurred to them to turn around and walk the other way. Their apology was, “Oh, she’s never seen a horse before."

Things that were not funny: the next dogs I saw were a pair of merle Australian shepherds. Their owners were calling shrilly but fruitlessly, as well, perhaps unaware of the deer their dogs were presumably pursuing, when suddenly the dogs exploded from the dense brush, charged me and my quiet, motionless horse who retained all of his composure while the marauding, barking fluff-balls were re-captured. These owners shouted at me accusingly about how they hadn't any place to move off the trail (a statement so incomprehensible I am still mulling it over, days later), and flexed their muscles dragging off the canine ruffians by the neck and making no apology at all as we paraded sedately past them. 

What it is: the Kitchawan Preserve is a 208-acre natural area bordered by New York City reservoirs. It features reasonably well-maintained, wooded trails and a few open fields. It is lovely in all four seasons, though it can be very muddy after strong rains, and is heavily used by dog-walkers, particularly on weekends in fine weather. It was once a research facility of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. There are two horse farms abutting the preserve, though I rarely see other riders in the woods. 

Who should see it: didn’t Thoreau say, “Not till we are lost in the woods on horseback, out of the earshot of people and their dogs, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations?” 

What I saw on the way home: when we emerged from the woods and stepped back onto the mowed, grassy paths of the farm where Hado lives, we were again among Hado’s folk, the herd. Horses stood in paddocks alone and in pairs, heads bowed in worship of one of their gods, the late summer grass, and another of their gods, the sunshine.  Hado glanced in the direction of two of his equine brethren and compelled them to dance in his direction. He celebrated their greeting with a sequence of bounces, tossing his head and shoulders and laughing in his throaty bass-baritone. I gave him a kick, and directed him back to the barn.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

I saw "Marie and Rosetta"

What I saw: Marie and Rosetta" at the Linda Gross Theater of the Atlantic Theater Company, off-Broadway in Chelsea at 336 West 20th Street in New York City.

What I wore: striped Façonnable linen  blouse that I bought on sale at Nordstrom in Seattle at least ten years ago, white rag & bone jeans that now have a six inch long, faint brown stain on the right thigh, that new white belt I had made for horse showing, the new glasses that make me look so much like my mother people make fun of me for it, gray Puma sneakers, old tan Coach purse, mascara.

What I did beforehand: tapas, subway ride downtown E to 23rd Street, cappuccino at Grumpy's.

Who went with me: a grumpy Bacon Provider.

How I got tickets: I subscribed to the Atlantic Theater Company's new season of shows online.

Why I saw this show: I saw their productions of "Hold On to Me Darling" and "The Purple lights of Joppa Illinois" and both were excellent.

Where I sat: row E seat 8 

Things that were sad: some of you may not have ever heard of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and you should have. 

Things that were funny: a lot of things made me laugh.

Things that were not funny: sometimes I felt like I was the only person laughing.

What it is: an excellent musical, featuring the songs and life story of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, performed without intermission, lasting 90 minutes. 

Who should see it: lovers of gospel music, fans of the blues, students of American popular song, supporters of Black Lives Matter, people who liked "Hamilton," children of mothers, feminists, squirrels, women.

What I saw on the way home: we tried to catch an uptown C or E train at 23rd Street, but they weren't running. A pair of signs, one handwritten and the other printed held the confusing news that we should cross the street and take a downtown train to 14th Street and then catch an uptown A, which was running express to 42nd. We instead hailed a dented cab on 8th Avenue. Our manically cheerful driver kept us sitting in stunned and fearful silence as we bucketed up the 22 blocks, snaking westward on West 29th at alarming speed. 

To get back to Bedford Hills, we fetched the car from the garage at the apartment we moved out of this week, an event marking the end of another sad, weird chapter in our bad New York adventure. But anyway we have the garage spot for maybe three more days at the point so we used it. Up the Saw Mill Parkway, we listened to some of Tim O'Brien's Vietnam War memoir, "If I Die in a Combat Zone," which is peppy and irreverent and darkly funny, and when we got home and into bed we had no choice but to go online and read about Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Both the Bacon Provider and I stayed up way, way past our bedtime, until two or two-thirty, looking at YouTube videos of her, singing and playing guitar in her high heels and church lady dresses. My, oh, my.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

I did not scratch

What I did: Centerline Events at HITS on the Hudson 3, a benefit for the Mitchell Equine Retirement Farm

What I wore: Charles Owen Ayr-8 black micro-suede helmet, heavy-duty hairnet, rhinestone-decorated black crocheted hair-bun-cover, white Ariat or Goode Rider performance-fabric show shirt, stock-tie (not pre-tied), turquoise pin that had been my mother's or that antique blue glass horse pin that had been a gift from my mother, new navy Pikeur show jacket that I tried on at the show and when it fit me perfectly I had to buy it, white full-seat Pikeur breeches, new white leather belt that I had custom-made because even your grandpa doesn’t wear a white leather belt anymore, custom Vogel dress boots, Prince of Wales spurs with new straps because the old ones were about to break, sunscreen, no watch because it’s being repaired, and no glasses because I’ve misplaced the ones I normally wear to ride in and my new ones slide down my nose.

What I did beforehand: bought bagels so no one would starve in my absence, reassured my dog Captain because he really hates it when we get out a suitcase and start packing; fed the cat; downloaded Nell Irvin Painter’s “The History of White People” to my phone.

Who went with me: 269 other riders, and 359 horses (minus those horses who were scratched from the show at the last minute), including Hado. 

How I got there: in the fall of 1998, I decided to take care of some unfinished business. At the time, the plan was to learn to ride and get it out of my system. It isn't out of my system yet.

Why I went to this show: my brother (who plays at least two instruments serviceably well) once told me that when you start a new musical instrument, you are ready to play in front of people as soon as you know a song.

Where I sat: in a custom-embroidered black Sports Director Chair by Picnic Time from Wayfair dot com or on a black Devouxcoux single-flap dressage saddle.

Things that were sad: I was unexpectedly nervous. 

Things that were funny: this was my fourth rated dressage show with Hado, and I’m still tickled when other competitors wish me luck. I try to say, “Have fun!” more than, “Good luck!” Because I think the whole idea of luck is weird, and but so I can’t always control what comes flying out of my mouth at a show; after all, I’m on a horse, I'm on a real, live horse. I might say, “Have luck!” or “Good fun!” 

There’s a little bit of space around the outside of the show rings where you ride in and wait for the judges to ring a bell or blow a whistle letting you know they are ready for you. One of the rings at this show had to use an old fashioned horn, the kind where the judge or the scribe had to squeeze the bulb. To me, there is no better signal to Bring On The Clowns! 

Every horse is different; some are excited to be at a show, while others need to be inspired to temporarily abandon their general mega-chill attitude. Hado is usually of the latter category (although he has been known to spontaneously and without warning bounce up and down in the show ring). Despite his normally calm demeanor, Hado has a secret vice, which is to stand quietly and look completely mellow while invisibly persuading other horses to run and jump and leap into the air. Sometimes we walk around the paddocks at our home barn and one horse after another lifts its head and gallops towards us, while Hado walks along lazily, perhaps expressing some false-innocent surprise as a horse comes storming in and snorting at us. 

Our last class of the show, on Sunday, we were headed into the ring and passed the competitor who did her test before us just outside the ring. Her horse shot sideways, and Hado cantered off. Because he can be lazy, I decided to make him keep cantering all the way to the end before trotting. I was about to congratulate myself for being in charge of the situation when I met the competitor who did her test before us again, as she was exiting the ring a second time. They had, it seemed, shot sideways and jumped back into the show ring. 

Things that were not funny: she looked fairly irritated and understandably discombobulated, and I asked, “Did you just jump back in?” 
And she gave me a sharp, “Yes.”
I apologized. And I tried not to laugh.

What it is: a standard dressage arena at a competition in the United States is 20m by 60m, with a very low, white perimeter fence, and letters marking various spots 12m apart. A rider enters at A, and the judge typically sits at C. When I am going right in the ring, I can read my initials in order.  

Who should see it: we’d had a good round Sunday morning, and I thought about being finished at that point. Sunday afternoon at a three day show gets pretty quiet as competitors pack up and leave and tired riders scratch their last classes. I knew Hado was tired, and I was tired, but I also knew that we need the practice. So I did not scratch.

Thanks to Hado's enthusiasm about scaring another horse, we had an 8 for our entrance and opening halt at X and a 68% for the test. Maybe that sounds like a C- in school, but it was good enough for third place.

What I saw at home: the Bacon Provider was bottling our third batch of home-brewed beer (the first was a delicious success, the second a complete failure). We named it “Brexit,” in honor of recent events, and used an old English IPA recipe The Graduate unearthed. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

I saw "Hamilton"

What I saw: "Hamilton," a musical at the Richard Rodgers Theater, on West 46th between 7th and 8th Avenue.

What I wore: black Brooks Brothers no-iron cotton blouse with 3/4-length sleeves, stretch denim capri James jeans, black Puma suede sneakers, short black SmartWool socks, gold Victorian earrings I wore in my wedding, gold bead Tiffany necklace, my grandmother's square face Longines wristwatch, mascara, excited grin.

On the TV, Olympic swimming
What I did beforehand: dropped off my watch for repair, had lunch at Fig & Olive (where I complained they didn't serve eggs), watched the NYPD herding the excited and disappointed crowd at end of the live lottery in front of the theater, stopped for a pre-theater cocktail at the unexpectedly not inadequate Brasserie Athenée (corner of W 46th and 8th).

Who went with me: the Bacon Provider.

How I got tickets: though I half-heartedly played the Hamilton online lottery a few times, I bought these tickets online, through Ticketmaster's re-sale option, about a month ago; the  price printed on the tickets is $175 (each) for the seats plus $2 handling. I paid about $1100 (each) for the seats, with a $200 fee for handling the re-sale. 

Why I saw this show: because everyone made such a big deal about it. I even read Ron Chernow's book about Hamilton, which inspired the show. I found the book a good read, but ultimately depressing, because our founding fathers made terrible choices.

Where I sat: Front Row, Mezzanine, seat A 2. In my opinion the best place to see this show. (One of the reasons I was willing to spend soooo much money on this show was because these seats were available).

Don't worry about which cast you see.
The performers are all spectacularly talented.

Things that were sad: our founding fathers were petty, egotistical, adulterous nitwits with anger management issues.

Things that were funny: our founding fathers were petty, egotistical, adulterous nitwits with anger management issues.

Things that were not funny: the show is almost three hours, including a fifteen minute intermission. The Richard Rodgers Theater has narrow public areas that become very congested before and after and during intermission and has howlingly inadequate restrooms. People brought small children to this show, some dressed as horrifying, tiny, be-wigged, tricorned, enlightenment-era patriotic props, as if such cos-play might win a door prize.

What it is: the most important and acclaimed American musical of the past twenty-plus years. Yes, it is as good as they say. 

Who should see it: bastards, Americans, students of American history, sisters, fans of American musical theater, rappers, revolutionaries, Federalists, Jeffersonians, duelists. 

They put bee pollen on it.
What I saw on the way home: we got dinner at the Marshal, a tiny and bustling restaurant offering skillfully prepared, locally-sourced, delicious food on 10th Avenue, near West 45th (reservations recommended). Some of the staff consider us regulars, and when they saw the "Hamilton" programs in our hands, I told them we'd seen it to celebrate because, "We've been married 30 fucking years," which they thought was pretty awesome. So awesome, they surprised us with champagne and dessert at the end of our meal. We may have had the last word, though, with the tip. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

I was mad

Maybe this was a few days before
What I saw: it was thirty years ago the other night (if you know what I mean by that), and I had arrived at the wedding rehearsal at the church. I'm not sure who told me, though I assume it was my fiancĂ©, but neither his father nor one of his sisters were there for the rehearsal, and they weren't going to be coming to the wedding. 

What I wore: I don't remember. I know what I wore to our engagement party (a purple silk abstract floral dress with puffy sleeves and a dropped waist). I know what I wore to the wedding shower (a bright royal blue silk shift with pleats at the shoulders and cap sleeves). I know what I put on after I changed out of my wedding dress (a two-piece, abstract-striped tan, gray and dusky blue dress with long sleeves and a long, flowy skirt). Clothes were very important to me in those days, right up there with mathematics and smoking.

What I did beforehand: there was some excitement around which of our college friends showed up, and where they should stay, and I think other people handled it. I probably sat in the sun, snuck off for a drive and a smoke, and spent a long time drying my hair. Maybe I got my nails done; it was the first time I had gotten my nails done by someone else. I went with my mom. I thought it was weird. I didn't get my nails done again until New Year's Eve, ten years later.

Who went with me: my mother and father and brothers were there at the rehearsal, along with my two maids of honor and my fiancĂ©'s mother and the one of his sisters who came, and his brother, who was his best man. 

Why we got married: we were 23. I was in graduate school. I think we thought we would have been perfectly happy to keep living together, but once my boyfriend's mother suggested it, getting married became this new thing we talked about all the time. I remember going out to dinner and our decision to get engaged, and spending the rest of the evening planning our engagement, which was to occur formally on another night when we would go out to dinner. We had to budget for this.

Things that were sad: when I told my parents that we were getting married, they were probably on the verge of telling me they were getting divorced. They did not say anything about getting divorced until we returned from our honeymoon. They were married 26 years. 

Things that were funny: I knew, when I found out I was missing a bridesmaid, that this was going to be the Thing That Went Wrong at my wedding, because there was always a Thing That Went Wrong at every wedding.  I thought that worse things could go wrong at a wedding. So I accepted it. But I stayed mad.

Things that were not funny: I was pretty angry at my fiancé's family for not telling us sooner, or not trying harder to be there, and took it as a personal slight for many years. I do not know when I stopped being angry about it. Sometime between 1986 and now, definitely.

What it is: someone not showing up at your wedding is always their loss, and not yours.

Who should see it: If you are invited to a wedding, you should go. If you can't go, express your regrets in a note. If you know you're supposed to go,  but can't, say so. 

What I saw on the way home: at our wedding ceremony, the next day, I got dressed at the church because I guess it's easier to transport a big, fancy dress like that in a car and have it arrive looking perfect than it is to transport a woman wearing it. My grandmother made my dress for me, so it was new. (She also made the bridesmaid's dresses, including the one for the bridesmaid who didn't show up). She lent me an antique beaded purse for the day (old and borrowed), and gave me a blue-trimmed handkerchief to carry inside. One of the Church Ladies who helped with weddings did not approve of my choice of dusky mauve lipstick, and attacked me with frosty pink. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

I saw "Men on Boats"

What I saw:  "Men on Boats"  at the Playwright's Horizons Theater, off-Broadway on the south side of West 42nd Street, between 9th and 10th (not to be confused with the Signature Theater a closer to 10th Avenue on West 42nd on the same side of the street, where I showed up and confused the house manager, who had not even heard of "Men on Boats," but did encourage me to come back and see "Small Mouth Sounds," which I've read good things about but might not have time to see before it closes).

What I wore: stupid sleeves, white jeans, smirk, mascara, damp hair crammed into falling-down ponytail, Puma sneakers that are scuffed in a way that shows off my bunions, little purple Kate Spade purse for my glasses, wallet and keys, white cotton cabled poncho that I bought from a vendor at the horse show last weekend.

What I did beforehand: noodles and beer, cappuccino and cookie.

Who went with me: 127 strangers, who arrived after me, every one. 

How I got tickets: online for either $40 or $45 (when I got to will call, all they had under my name was a receipt for $40 and a receipt for $45 but no ticket, so they had to print one. And in my flusterment, I discovered that I what been walking around with the top button of my blouse undone, so, really, maybe it wasn't just the sleeves that were the embarrassment).

Why I saw this show: the cast's first names, in alphabetical order, are Birgit, Danaya, Danielle, Donetta, Elizabeth, Hannah, Jocelyn, Kelly, Kristen, and Layla. 

Where I sat: Row BB, seat 16 (second row, on the end). The theater was chilled to 2° K. Good thing I had my poncho!

Things that were sad: I try to see a show every week, and one of the arbitrary, unwritten rules I have for this regular undertaking is that I do not research things before I see them. I believe that art should always be self-explanatory. It means I sometimes see a play about Einstein, when I am totally done with Einstein-as-a-metaphor. However, when I sat down and discovered that this play is about John Wesley Powell and his exploration of the canyons of the American West, I realized that I should have invited The Graduate, who did a NOLS course canyoneering in the Rockies. Alas.

Things that were funny/not funny: I believe most Shakespeare productions would be improved as claymation movies, of course, just as operas should all be performed by marionettes, and while I enjoyed all the very funny female performers in this play, I longed to see it cast entirely with children. I would have even accepted the substitution of "Shoot!" for every one of the utterances of "Shit!"

What it is: A mostly funny play, in one act, about adventurers, with dialog that mixes contemporary vernacular with a smattering of the highfalutin lingua franca of the late 19th century white American explorer.

Who should see it: canyoneers, boaters, adventurers, fans of the recent Ghostbusters, Americans, and bacon lovers.

What I saw on the way home: three children, walking without an adult down West 42nd in the dark, clapping an improvised rhythm of their own invention.