I dare you to be unhappy in a garden where sunflowers grow.
This year’s garden has been a huge improvement over last year’s first effort. There is a saying, “Garden as though you will live forever”, but the realists among us know better. When you start gardening late in the game, it’s more like “garden like there’s no tomorrow” since we can’t be callow in assuming endless springs and summers to hone our craft.
I almost gave up last year when two months of work yielded only a paltry handful of tomatoes. But instead, I tripled down on the tomato plants this year, and we are definitely seeing red, in a good way!
The snap peas, like last year, have been a big success. It finally occurred to me to plant a second crop and keep it going – snap peas eaten off the vine are divine!
We’ve had peaches,
We’ve had plums,
And we’re even beginning to get some early potatoes. I planted Yukon Gems this year:
Last year’s basil crop was a disappointment but for some reason this year it has thrived.
And the Little Gem lettuce I planted is likewise flourishing.
I cannot explain the pure joy of stepping out to the garden to thin the lettuce and then making a salad from the tender cast-off plants, along with some snips of dill, a few cherry tomatoes and crisp snap peas. Yes, I am easily amused, but I also know how precious and rare those moments are when one wants for nothing. Gardens are good for the soul.
If you remain doubtful, I wish you could get a whiff of my sweet peas. They smell delicious!
At the end of the day, I realize I never left the house…and couldn’t be happier. So grateful for the garden!
Wishing everyone a happy 4th of July…the dahlias are from our garden, of course!
I’ve never doubted the power of books to transport the soul. But time travel, that’s something new. A few weeks back I started listening to Sylvie Simmons’ I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen and at about a third of the way through I realize I am currently trapped in the late 1960’s.
I’m not all that big on celebrities- you won’t find me clicking on anything Kardashian – but Leonard Cohen is more icon than celebrity, so I’ve taken the deep dive. I’ve had “Suzanne”on repeat in my head now for at least ten days. Skip the ad and prepare to be gobsmacked:
In the late fifties and early sixties, Cohen was an emerging Canadian poet and novelist of middling note. Then he got serious with his guitar with the encouragement of Judy Collins and others, and the rest is musical history.
I hadn’t realized that Leonard Cohen was part of the Andy Warhol/Patti Smith/Lou Reed scene at the Chelsea Hotel because I was a very young twelve in 1967 and not yet listening to songs like “Chelsea Hotel #2” where Cohen famously celebrated his one-night stand with Janis Joplin. Should you foolishly think it’s no longer relevant, Lana Del Rey did a cover of it in 2014:
And everything old is new again anyway. The Chelsea Hotel – which variously sheltered Iggy Pop, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Edith Piaf, Sid Vicious (he stabbed his girlfriend Nancy there), Robert Mapplethorpe and, more recently, Madonna – has recently re-opened for business. Not sure I could sleep there with all the ghosts, but it’s an option for those less faint of heart. By the way, Patti Smith’s autobiography Just Kids is a magnificent survey of the heyday of the Chelsea Hotel.
Musically, we all seem strangely locked in our own generation. Just as I was never to appreciate the “big band” music of my parents’ era, I got a blank stare from a 20-something when I mentioned Leonard Cohen the other day. I should have thought to ask what music she listens to. I know she will remember every word of every song when she’s 70 and no one younger than her has ever heard of her favorite singers.
There’s actually a name for it: “neural nostalgia”. As Mark Joseph Stern wrote in Slate magazine (August 12, 2014) “researchers have uncovered evidence that suggests our brains bind us to the music we heard as teenagers more tightly than anything we’ll hear as adults.” Musical nostalgia, he explains, “isn’t just a cultural phenomenon: It’s a neuronic command.”
So, when I hear Leonard Cohen sing about Suzanne feeding him “tea and oranges that come all the way from China”, I get a surge of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and other neurochemicals that transcend the discovery in the book that what the real Suzanne was “feeding” him was a cup of Constant Comment tea. (This also, by the way, explains why certain members of our family have an affection for Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler that borders on obsession 😉 …but I digress…)
For me, the dopest dopamine comes when Joni Mitchell steps on stage, and discovering that she and Leonard Cohen had a thing in the late 60’s is a rush of pleasure, indeed.
If, like me (come on, there must be at least three or four of us weirdos out there…) you’ve memorized every early Joni Mitchell lyric, you’ll remember her lyric in the song “A Case of You”
“I drew a map of Canada,
With your face sketched on it twice…”
Guess who’s face she sketched? Yup, Leonard Cohen’s.
And, mystery solved, Leonard Cohen is also the subject of Mitchell’s melodic “Rainy Night House”
Leonard Cohen died in 2016, but of course his music lives on. In fact, even the 20-somethings probably hear it without realizing whose it was – I was standing in an elevator the other day when a Muzak version of Cohen’s “Hallelujah” snaked through the speakers. Maybe not the legacy he would have hoped for, but Leonard, you still give me that dopamine rush and I’m grateful for it.
I like the Jeff Buckley version of it:
I’m afraid I’ve fallen hopelessly back into the late ’60’s. Don’t help me out just yet – I’m enjoying it immensely!
If all Junes are like this June, then I always want to be here in June! What a gift it has been for us – a second glorious week in the city.
Yes, we are dodging the seemingly murderous e-bike and scooter riders who routinely plow through red lights and terrify unsuspecting pedestrians, but walking the city still seems safer than riding the subway, which even some longtime New Yorkers are currently avoiding. There’s work to be done here, but it feels generally safer than the headlines would suggest, and there is (finally!) a joyful buzz to the city.
Five reasons I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it:
1) The light! Okay, maybe it’s not Paris, but there is something about the summer sky in NYC that I cannot resist.
2) The Met! You have until July 11 to see the Winslow Homer “Crosscurrents” exhibit, called “wondrous” by The New York Times and “a knockout” by The Washington Post. I call it positively sublime and not to be missed.
The exhibit and the narrative are organized around Homer’s iconic “Gulf Stream” painting (pictured above), although I was more drawn in by the 1895 “Northeaster”…
and especially “Fox Hunt”, Homer’s single largest format work:
There are seventy-seven paintings in all, so it bears seeing and seeing again. Almost too much to take in in one pass.
3) Also in the “almost too much to take in” category is the signature cheese soufflé at La Grenouille. The dining in general has been superb but this was a special meal in a very special setting. If you go between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. it only costs half a fortune instead of a full fortune. And that soufflé – well, there’s nothing like it anywhere else.
If only we could have smuggled out the peonies…
Arguably the prettiest restaurant in the city…
4) The ABT! June is ballet month and how lucky we were to attend a presentation of “Don Quixote”. So great to be back at Lincoln Center (albeit with masks and vaccination status checks). Such a special evening.
5) And, of course, The Park. Always and forever, in any season but so lush and lovely right now.
Where else can you happen upon something like this on your morning walk?
And then head over to the Boathouse for lunch…
We’ve had a magical time. And hopefully many more going forward…
When you lived your entire childhood in the same house in the same sleepy town with the same boring parents, you can’t wait to move several time zones and a myriad of zip codes away.
But after finishing college and starting a career and then watching the world get turned upside down and inside out by a wannabe plague, heading back west and switching out those 10000 zip codes for the sunny 90000’s doesn’t seem like the worst idea.
In fact, what the heck, maybe bringing friends to visit at home for a weekend could actually be fun! The house is the same except for older and shabbier, and the parents – well, they’re really old and shabby, but even they look better when you get a relaxing, sunny 80-degree weekend. With apologies to Thomas Wolfe, it turns out you actually can go home again.
First stop is always the chicken yard, so everyone figures out right away that they’re not dealing with sophisticated folk here.
“Just us chickens”, says Lily.
Friends Wilson and Will had never been to Santa Barbara before so the challenge was on to compete with Brooklyn and Columbus. Brunch at Scarlett Begonia got us all off to a good start.
And we were joined by very special guests Victoria and Marie-Christine!
Our pool was the place to be that afternoon:
Freddy hung out with Lily…
and with Victoria…
Daniel and Wilson…
And even Peter managed to show up for a cameo appearance:
They tried out some of the new restaurants in town
And Daniel enjoyed a visit with Granny.
And since Daniel will be ten or twelve time zones away for his birthday, we squeezed in an early celebration:
I think they all had a good time…especially Lily, of course!
If one must be aged, every birthday should be one for the ages, right? This one most certainly was, with not one, but two most memorable lunch events.
The first one was positively sublime. When that divine, almost-secret garden Lotusland announced a book launch event scheduled ever so conveniently near my birthday, I instantly snagged a table for ten. This year, instead of my friends taking me out for birthday lunches, I took them to one!
It began with the ever magical walk through the garden, which the occasional opera singer and frequent bride (married six times!) Madame Ganna Walska created on her 37-acre Montecito estate.
The lotus are not quite yet in bloom, but lovely even so.
Yes, it is sobering to realize I might be even older than this redwood…
But never mind. We were there to enjoy. And yes, we wore hats!
The walk leads to the upper lawn, where luncheon was served.
The actress Jane Seymour gave a lovely speech but I forgot to take a photo of her because I was focused instead on this cake:
Hey, it was my birthday! I had to eat it!
While lunch number one was positively sublime, lunch number two was ever so slightly ridiculous, because the CE’s and my party guest was none other than Lily. I challenge you to name a place more dog-friendly than Montecito’s lovely Rosewood Miramar!
And while our crew might not be quite as debonair and dapper as the Miramar’s owner Rick Caruso and his pup…
I still think they’re keepers!
Lily ordered steak and eggs from the “Pampered Pet” menu. For $15, I’m going to ask for that next time!
Here she is being a very good girl and waiting for the CE’s signal to dive in:
My lunch was more expensive than hers, but it did come with a knife and fork…
Two absolutely perfect days made it (almost) worth adding another year. Judging from these festivities, if I’ve done nothing else with all these decades, at least I’m learning how to celebrate 🙂
Remember when you were young and giddily counted the days until your birthday?
As the years pass, so, it seems does the giddiness. After packing on several more decades, I’ve begun dragging my feet toward that inevitable day in May.
However – whine and carry on as I might, the day still comes. And this year, it finally occurred to me that while I may look far too old to keep having birthdays, it’s actually kind of wonderful that they’re still rolling around.
And rolling in with style! A pre-birthday trip to Kauai…
…and a festive sunset harbor cruise under a full moon with so many dear friends.
The jacarandas are all dressed up for my birthday:
And yesterday there was even a chicken parade!
My big present came early. And I do mean BIG present. I’m the first to agree that good things come in small packages but with economy tanking it’s clear this is not a year for sweet surprises in small jewelry boxes.
So instead, the biggest present I’ve ever gotten.
Bigger than a breadbox, that’s for sure!
The CE had the most gorgeous planter built for my garden!
Isn’t it amazing?
So instead of sulking and hiding from mirrors this birthday, I will be elbows deep in the dirt and joyfully planting. Maybe, at the last possible moment, I’m finally figuring this birthday stuff out…
It happens every time. Our bodies are technically back in California but I can’t quite leave Hawaii behind. It’s not jet lag. It’s the sense that I had a glimpse of Paradise (because I just know heaven will be a 5-star hotel in someplace very much like Hawaii!) and I just want to stay and stay!
Hey, you say, I happen to know you’ve been to Hawaii more times than you can count.
We went when the kids were young:
We went when the grandkids were little:
And when the littlest grandkid was really little!
And we go whenever we can. But there is never enough Hawaii for us. On this trip, the CE even saw the light and said “We have to come back every year!”
What is it about Hawaii? It’s everything. The air, the flowers, the trade wind breeze…every moment is infused with beauty.
And when we are there, no matter what else is going on, we are happy.
Please don’t ask the hard questions, like “Well, what do you actually do there?
I could tell you there are many things to do. Snorkeling tours, helicopter tours, jaunts around the islands, etc. etc. etc. Of course, we don’t do any of them. What do we do when we’re there?
A lot of not very much. But we have so much fun doing it!
I can still vividly remember my first moments in Hawaii, which were spent, like this trip, on the island of Kauai.
We’ve been here more times than I can count but we’ve never had a room with this view before:
So here we are, a million miles from everyday life. But at least one thing remains exactly the same: our morning walk. We’re lucky to see the ocean every morning on our walk at home, but not like this!
Oh, what a walk this is! We go two miles every morning and part of the fun is that much of the path goes through a residential area
so we get to meet the locals:
Almost like home, right?
We’ve also made friends with the pair of corgis that rule the neighborhood. Don’t tell Lily that we’re cheating on her!
And, speaking of cheating on our pets, on our first morning walk this visit we came to a place on the path that sparked a memory.
“Just past here is where we saw the cat!” I reminded the CE.
Each morning on our visit three years ago we were graced with a a greeting from a black and white kitty that seemed to wait for us to show up and say aloha. All he needed was a lei and some sway to be the perfect hula kitty.
Would he, could he, be waiting for us again?
We paused on the path, searching for him. No sign of a cat. We peered in the bushes. We dallied, hoping against hope. But no, no kitty. Well, it’s been three years plus a pandemic, we said. A lot of things could change.
Next morning we set out on walk number two.
Rolling waves, check.
Rooster and family, check.
We told ourselves not to hope for the cat, but we couldn’t help but slow on the path and look around. Sadly, neither hide nor hair of him.
But just as we turned to head back, I glanced to the side, and there, resting in a perfect meat loaf pose, he was! And, as if he had spent the last three years waiting just for us, these silly old haoles, he hula’d right over to hop into the CE’s lap:
Most people come to Hawaii to spend a vacation that’s as different from home as possible. Somehow we end up making ours as much the same as at home, where it’s all about the animals: chickens, dogs and a cat.
Ah what simple creatures of habit we are. Guess I’d better order a mai tai or two to mix things up a bit!