Thursday, February 26, 2009

There Is No Mechanical Chicken

As children, my brother and sister and I often were assured by my father (a master of deadpan delivery) that a mechanical chicken lived in the attic. The mechanical chicken was the explanation for any unusual noises we heard. It was the reason we could not play in the attic. Can't disturb the mechanical chicken.

(Oddly enough, there was no prohibition on our playing in the basement or the garage, both of which were filled with dangerous tools and household chemicals. Hm.)

Of course, we knew he was kidding. At least, we were pretty sure. Regardless, it was enough to keep me out of the attic for next forty-odd years.

But finally, a couple of months ago we decided to have the attic insulated, get some flooring put in, and install a nice sturdy pull-down ladder. It's still an unfinished space, but now we can store all kinds of stuff in it we can't bear to part with, but don't want underfoot. On top of that, we're setting the thermostate four degrees lower at night, and we're still warm.

On the downside, it was confirmed that no, there is not now, and probably never was, a mechanical chicken.

However, there were a couple of interesting things I never knew were there, sitting patiently in the dark for half a century or more. First, this 18" by 39" pastel painting, here taken out of its ornate (and utterly filthy) gilt frame:

It's in great shape for something that was done on cardboard. Signed "Phillips." A family member? A friend? The visible pencil lines on the ice suggest an amateur effort. Sadly, we'll likely never know who the artist was, as anyone who might be able to tell us is gone.

Then, there was this perfectly lovely kerosene lamp, which is back on the main floor of the house now. (Well, on a table, not on the floor as you see here.)

I imagine it might have been used regularly long ago, when my grandparents first moved into this house around 1924. Electrical outlets were fewer and much farther between than today's code requires.

And now, the attic once again holds old furniture and stuff for others to find...but no chickens.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bad Idea Number Two

A Wednesday night about 8:30, there's a little boy, no more than 4 or 5, wandering around near my desk. He appears to be alone. This, in itself, is unremarkable. His parentorguardian could be nearby. A security guard asks him "are you here alone? where's your momma?" The boy says "over there," waving vaguely. The guard starts to walk around with him, the boy sees his mother and runs to her, and she acts surprised to see him. Guess what the woman says to the child.
Remember, it's Jamaica, Queens, at 8:30 on a dark January night.
The child is no more than 5, if that.

The woman says to her child, "I told you to stay in the car!"

Sunday, February 22, 2009

No Weapons, Please

A college student at the desk: "Do you have this book it's called Branded?"
Me: "There's a few different books with that you know the author?"
College student (shuffles through her papers) "Wait, I have the ICBM..."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bad Idea Number One

A woman came up to the desk pushing an infant in a stroller and asked for a recently released title.
"Sure," I tell her, pointing waaay across the room, "…there should be a couple on those display tables over there, in front of the elevators."
"Oh, okay," she said, and looked in that direction to the display, which was some forty feet away, past pillars and shelving and desks and kiosks.
She turned back to me, nodded at the baby in the stroller and said,“I’m just gonna leave him here.”

Sunday, February 15, 2009

We're Back

As time goes by, everything naturally goes....south. And so do we, every so often.
We took a few days last week to visit friends and family in southeast Florida. Here's Olivia enjoying the ocean breezes. It was her first visit to the Sunshine State, and she made the most of it, insisting on a visit to the beach despite the cool temps and overcast skies. Although a few hardy tourist-types braved the waves in swimsuits, we kept our black-leather New York uniforms on and just enjoyed the wildlife.

The egrets danced along the edge of the water:
And the blue heron stalked, elegant, with now and then a sudden down-and-up swoop, like an erratic sewing-machine bobbin, catching tiny creatures swept in by the waves:

The white ibis preferred the inland waterways, nearer the hotels. This photo was taken by Ken during a morning run around the commercial district:Another highlight of the trip (at least as far as I was concerned) was this - a mall wall! I'd scrambled over a small share of the Shawangunks, albeit in a most casual manner, sans equipment, in my college days, but since then I've always wanted to essay one of these faux rock walls.

Here was my chance to do it! Here was my chance to climb *almost* to the top, turn around, and shout out to those below, "Does this harness make my butt look fat?!"

How could I resist?I can't understand why nobody else wanted to try. Oh well. (Photo by DH)

The church named after me was still in business:

The bougainvilla was in bloom:
And we saw signspinners on the drive from Cooper City to West Palm Beach.

On the way home, we noticed the Southwest Airlines Gate at Palm Beach International Airport had gone all out for Valentine's Day:

Friends and family: well and happy. Who could ask for more?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Change Comes To The Car Wash

Good news! We will no longer be washing your car with long-handled push-brooms!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Juniper Bush Is A Mantis Nursery

I'm keeping an eye on this through the winter. Can you see it up there, right in the middle of the juniper bush up top? There are praying-mantis eggs in there. I'm hoping I'll be around when the nymphs hatch in the spring. It seems impossible the thing remains viable through the winter, but there you are. Right out in the open, about a foot from the ground, just an inch and a half from top to bottom. It was covered in snow for days at one point, and it's open to the west wind now. But on it hangs, tenacious as a plastic grocery bag in a tree. Remarkable.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bright Spot

I have to give a shoutout to this hardy little cyclamen that's been brightening up the porch. I got this on November 11th, 2008 at a farm on the east end, in full bloom, and it's been in full bloom since then. And still looks like this, with new buds coming up. I think I'm lucky to be able to give it what it wants: Really bright but indirect light and very cool temps, fifty to sixty-five degrees. (The porch is cold in the winter.) Four bucks for this longlasting shot of color; I wish I remembered the name of the place. It was a farm, and they were selling cyclamen and poinsettias inside large temporary greenhouses. Gonna look for it next year.
As a matter of fact, I also bought a poinsettia there and that is also still blooming even though it was brought into the office, a fairly ghastly environment.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Design Worth A Look

Take two minutes to visit the product page of Hema, a Dutch department store. Just go to the page and wait four or five seconds. You don't have to click anything. Just go, wait, smile, laugh, and remember this guy.