make spring happen

New town logo and slogan
I'd like to make it happen there. Spring, that is. If spring could happen there, I could be happening there, too. I could, like, turn on the water, vacuum up the spidies and roly polies and horseflies and daddy longlegses. I could really happen! But, like, if spring doesn't happen, I'm so not happening either. And it seems like you can't really make it happen. The snow has to stop happening first. The temps have to happen above, like, 33 degrees. I mean consistently happen. And then maybe the whole spring thing could, like, happen. And me too. Happen there, I mean, in West Plains, Mo. Until then I'm, like,  hapless. I mean, seriously!


the family hams

Sara Dowling

Ben Dowling
My niece was auditioning for the London Academy of Musical and Dramatic Arts this weekend, and she and my brother flew in from L.A. It went well. They asked her if she had an extra monologue and she did and she nailed it. And then on the way out, Sara informed her father that this was only the first audition, and that the second one is in London. At 6'4"  he doesn't find these long distance flights all that comfortable. However, he is used to them since his day job is playing keyboards with the Al McKay Allstars, an Earth Wind Fire funk group that mainly plays in Europe and Asia. And really, all for art, dudes.


when the center does not hold

My neighbor.
"Mass Murder in a Missouri Town!"
 The heart of the country has been hollowed out. Not too many people are left in rural America.  Mostly the aging, the poor, the drug seekers and the hopeless.  And in the hills and hollers of the Ozarks, things have gotten really grim.  
    I should know. I was raised in the Ozarks until the age of eight. Then I moved to New York, where I became a writer for Life and People magazines. But when Life folded, I was drawn back to the area to write a story about white supremacists for the short-lived George magazine. The Ozarks felt like home. I still live in New York City, but I spend months at my disused gas station in Thomasville, Missouri, about an hour south of Tyrone. As in Tyrone, the gas station is gone, the post office is gone, the grocery store is gone, the bank is gone, the school is gone, the beer store is gone, the people are gone. There are only about 70 inhabitants left  in my town. They run a few cattle, cut a few trees, collect disability and social security and worry about Obama taking their guns.
   I wonder whether the folks in Tyrone wish somebody had taken Joe Aldridge’s gun before he shot seven of his kinfolk and himself on February 26. I wonder how people keep from going crazy in isolated places with no jobs and no future. My neighbor across the street in Missouri, who calls himself a hillbilly,  has never seen the sea or been in any state other than Arkansas, 20 miles away. He cannot read. Lately, he has begun to believe that I am controlling him with my computer. He lives on corn meal mush and venison from deer he poaches. He is a good shot.
    I wonder how it is that a sprinkling of desperate people in rural areas of the South and Midwest and West have become so important in national elections.  I wonder what is going to happen to Tyrone, when even in a small town in the middle of the Lord’s nowhere you have to lock your doors against your family members.
    I would like to go to Tyrone, just a few hundred miles from the geographic center of the continental U.S., and find out what is happening to rural America. I would wait until the TV trucks leave and the newspaper reporters have filed their stories, and the townfolk are alone again. I would like to understand this man, this family, these murders, this place, these United States.


mid century modernity

The Noguchi coffee table

The Eames chair
 The Design Not Within Reach catalogue appeared on my doormat again. I don't usually look at it, because the prices piss me off. But I decided to page through. I paused at the Noguchi coffee table to read the SALE! price. @$1700 Same coffee table that was thrown out  I took from the basement in NYC to Hannah's Hideaway in Block Island. Oh, and there were the Eames chairs. I've got several originals (vintage!) that are falling apart. I keep moving them from house to house. Then there was Chris's grandmother's Saarinen dining table, Hannah's grandmother's Corbusier chaise longue and the chairs I remember from my Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired childhood in Arkansas. Thank goodness we already have this shit, because who could afford it now that it's become really, really popular, per this NYT article!

The childhood memory


it's spring somewhere

Somewhere there is color. Somewhere the air is soft and green. Somewhere people's skin is not flaking off. Somewhere people are wearing bikinis. Somewhere life is stirring.
But not here, by God!


party animal

Comrade O'Barnes
A friend whose taste ordinarily runs more to serial killers and zombies got hooked on a show called The Americans,  which is apparently about a bunch of Russian agents posing as a normal American family next door. Okay, it was CBA. She decided to become a Communist. Code name: Comrade Mink. She sought out our local expert, and sent the following request:
"Da. Tovarishch Barnes: I would like your aid in designing successful symbol of my movement within this country. A blend please of fighting Irish and the Mother Country.  I suggest a clover with hammer and sickle superimposed.  thnak vas."
Comrade O'Barnes was happy to welcome Comrade Mink, and sent her a welcome note. The Comrade's accent occasionally devolves into an Indian rather than Russian or Irish one, but the recruitment message is stirring.  Please destroy after listening.


winter blues

Ice floats in the Hudson River. View of New Jersey from the front of the building.

Indoor activities seem preferable to those outdoors.
Getting antsy. Ready for spring. I guess I'm not the only one. My spring fever takes the form of home improvement. I'm thinking about the three houses that have to be opened up—the railings that need to be repaired, the plumbing fixed, the floors polyurethaned. Obviously, I've been balked at the starting gate. So I began urethaning here in New York. The weather was mild enough yesterday that I could leave the windows open. But today: Back into the freezer.


why i limp

The X-ray waiting room at the Hospital for Special Surgery on the Upper East Side.

Supposed to be space between bones.

Model of partial knee replacement.
People have been hocking me about limping for about five years now, but it wasn't til I came back to New York this fall and started walking a lot that it really hurt bad. So yesterday I went to the orthopaedist, got a shot of cortisone, got fitted for a a nice "unloaded brace," prescribed physical therapy and recommended for a partial knee replacement. Apparently my right leg is 6 percent off true, and I am bowlegged. Fortunately I thought to record what the surgeon said, since I only saw Himself for about five minutes.



 Happy New Year, Goats or Sheep or whatever! We celebrated with fireworks in NYC (above). Faithful readers may recollect my nostalgic post about my pal's daughter staying with my Chinese sister's friends in Taiwan. Well here they are (below), celebrating New Year's. Wish I'd had that dinner! Also in Taiwan: Chien-Chi.
Note bene: The new moon, Chinese New Year's and Lent all began yesterday. Not coincidence. Venus, Mars and the moon are all in Aries. Great time to take action. What do you want of yourself?
Elizabeth is now the third generation of connection between the Beauchamps, the Changs and me.


curiosity killed the carpet

One of the Miscreants
Dear Madam,
 It is I, Nose Bite Kitty, Esq., AdvoCat with the French firm, Les Felins por la Justice.  It has been brought to my attention that you, or rather, a member of your household has been the victim of abuse. The victim, your carpet, has reached out to our firm seeking justice.
Rest assured we have the four miscreants in custody. They would like to know how they can make amends to you for the grievous harm they so thoughtlessly perpetrated during their visit to your lovely home.
We await your response.
Sincerely, Nose Bite Kitty, Esquire

Dear Nose Bite Kitty, Esq.,
Not to worry. We have no need of legal services.  No redress is required. The four presumed feline felons actually have done me a huge favor. Their frantic attempts to claw their way to a Certain Party's sleeping quarters has FINALLY pushed me to begin the project of re-doing the Wing.  Because of their actions I now will change the GLOOMY wall color and remove the HORRID grey carpeting that I always have hated from the first day I saw it.  I'll get a new floor in its place and it will be cat- and dog-proof.  If the four hadn't tried to claw beneath the door, I'd probably not have begun the job.
   I have begun to cover the green walls of the CAT DUNGEON room with Kilz.  Once the walls are white (I'm trying Alabaster from Sherwin-Williams) in the whole wing, the carpeting can come up and be hauled away and out of our lives forever and ever.
Sincerely, Owner of the Injured Party (i.e. Carpet)


i don't wanna

Baby, it's cold
Some days—maybe every day this week, the way it looks—it's better just to stay inside and read and write if you can.
Things of interest:
The post-valentine roundup from Time: An absolutely hilarious review of the book Fifty Shades of Grey from Dave Barry. And views of real-life BDSM from photographers including our own Donna Ferrato, the dominatrix of Love and Lust.
For those of you who got a kick out of the 36 questions that can make you fall in love in the NYT, there is a mobile app  ( http://nyti.ms/1CnN2i6 ), too, in case you meet an intriguing stranger on the fly. And then there was the hilarious To Fall Out of Love, Do This in the New Yorker.
Milena Pastreich, stepsister of my stepson (can you follow this?) has her short film, coming-of-age story I Feel Stupid on line right now. It's about love, too. Watch and comment. NO BDSM.
Would be interesting to see the following map of the hardest places to live in the U.S. (uh oh Ozarks) combined with the geography of the $90 million weekend opening of Fifty Shades. I'm guessing escapism would be key in Mississippi.
As it is here in New York. And, I guess, everywhere.
 Especially everywhere it's freezing out.


everywhere a sign

Well, if Obama sleeps over he can have Hannah's room.

Apparently, even pets begin to feel a little housebound. And wonder why.
So, at sub-zero temps, what better to do than go out to buy ice cream and bring it home to eat in my overheated apartment? I am thinking of a picnic of egg salad or chicken salad today. Ice tea. Maybe some watermelon. Having my iced coffee now. I would be wearing shorts, but the apartment is not quite that overheated.
FYI, due to Popular Request (yes, that's you, Dianne), I have posted another bit of Gather Ye Rosebuds, starring The President of the Garden Club herself.