Category Archives: Rainy State of Mind

Summer – The End

It’s the end of October, but the weather is still holding up.   Cold in the morning and at night, but during the day the temperature holds at solid sixties.   After a few days of nasty, chilly rain the sun finally came out again.   It feels like fall and looks like fall. The thick layer of colorful leaves covers my whole front yard, the roses turn into buds, and the daisies start to dry out.  The autumn melancholy is slowly taking over.   The backyard is still green, but covered with the greenish-blackish balls from the only remaining tree left after my husband got rid of all others.   After one of our biggest trees destroyed our neighbor’s roof during Sandy, he decided that the risk was too high.  I suspect it is some kind of nut, because there is a hard shell inside looking like a hazelnut.   This year has been especially fruitful, since the amount of “nuts” falling from the tree exceeds anything we’ve seen before.   The patio sits right under the tree, and we have to make sure that the umbrella is open when we have a meal outside to protect us from the potential head injuries.  We call it our “air defense system”.    We are used to the sound of something falling on our roof by now – does not scare us anymore.

This year was the first year I’ve decided to plant a garden.   We’ve tried before with mixed results, mostly because we had a lot of trees that prevented the sun from reaching the plants.  Now we had sun, and lots of it.  I recruited my husband to do a hard labor.  We’ve separated two triangular areas: the smaller one for the herb garden, the bigger one for the vegetables.    The water hose was used as a ruler to mark the planting area.   The lines on the ground were painted by the yellow spray, which was later used for putting all kind of messages on the fence, like who was there, when, and how we felt about each other.  The first round of digging was done by a machine rented from Home Depot for a day.  My herb garden was separated from the rest of the backyard by the heavy wooden border.    The garden or rather the surface without the grass was starting to shape up.  The rest of the digging was done by my son – the manpower with much better quality and price than the machine. 

The herb garden was a success except for basil, which died out within the three days.  But mint and rosemary compensated for the loss by taking all the available space in the garden.  The dill and the parsley followed along filling up every spare inch.   I dried out most of the mint to use for an herbal tea by putting it in the small bouquets then hanging them on the linen rope in the garage.   The refreshing smell spread over and even got into the house.  The benefits of aromatherapy did not go unnoticed since the house got a lot quieter for a couple of days.

The downside is that half the bowl of every salad I make is parsley.  I love parsley, and hate wasting good food, so my family is forced to eat it no matter if they want it or not.   They also had to eat the massive amounts of cucumbers and tomatoes, as well as zucchini and peppers.  We gave away some, and pickled some, but still had leftovers.   Even though the size and the shape of the vegetables were much different from the ones sold in the store, the smell and the taste compensated for slightly weird looks.

Strawberries did not start to bloom until the middle of the summer, when the official strawberry season was already over.   Plus most of the crop was eaten by the squirrels before it turned red.   But the strawberry bushes propagated and became stronger, so I have big hopes for the next year.

This weekend we started to clean up.  It is much easier to plant then to clean up.  To clean up is to accept that this is the end, that nothing else would grow and then deliciously melt in your mouth, that the outdoors would be limited to a few hours per day if you are not too lazy to put on layers of clothing, that there would be no more breakfasts on the patio enjoying the delicate morning sun.  I put on gloves and old sneakers and organized the crew.   We worked in silence.  We raked the leaves, gathered “the nuts”, removed the dried plants, and filled in the black bags with the remains of the summer.

The Rain by Simon Van Booy

A few  quotes by Simon Van Booy.  His writing is beautiful and mesmerizing, just a pure joy .

“When small drops began to fall and darken the world in penny-shaped circles, no one arround him scurried for cover.  For lonely people, rain is a chance to be touched.”

“It had rained, she said, and I imagined the beads of small water on the windshield like a thousand eyes, or each drop a small imperfect reflection of a perfect moment.”

“Rain says everything we cannot say to one another.  It is an ancient sound that willed all life into being, but fell so long upon nothing.”



The Puzzle

I got an unexpected gift last week -a 500-piece puzzle for $14.99.  It was not purchased for me personally; my husband stepped by FAO Schwaz Toy store on his way from work, and, since everybody walked out with the nice bag, decided that he wanted one too.  He liked the picture and the price, so he walked out with the puzzle.  Nobody wanted it, so I claimed it and, despite my better judgment, jumped right in.

I liked the picture too -an oil painting of a Parisian street with the cozy, cobble-stoned street lined up with the trees turning yellow, an outdoor café with the menu handwritten on the blackboard next to the entrance, buildings  with flowers on the windows, the stand with movie posters and the sky to die for.   I opened the plastic bag with the pieces and tried to strategize.  I would do the borders first, then fill in the middle.    My younger son came to help.  We went through the content of the bag trying to find anything with the flat side and to figure out where it belonged on the picture.  The task was tedious, required concentration and attention to details, but pieces fell together eventually, and that was very rewarding.  I tried to put my son to bed, but he did not want to leave.  I let him skip his before bed reading and stay longer.

The puzzle felt like an unfinished business.  It called my name from the farthest room in the house,  attracting me like a magnet.  I kept coming back to find one more piece, and staying for hours.  I abandoned the housework, watching TV, reading; I had to make all the pieces fall into place.   At times it looked like the piece matched perfectly – the shape and the colors, but it won’t go in.  So I tried another one and another one, until I just gave up, cursed myself for wasting all this time, and promised myself to throw the stupid puzzle in the garbage, so that I won’t see it ever again.   Half an hour later I was looking for a piece again, convinced that now it would somehow work.  And sure enough, one piece fell into place, and then, before I knew it, the building was complete, than the movie poster stand, and I felt that I was getting somewhere, and the life was worth living.

At some point I realized that it was not about the puzzle anymore.  I needed a reassurance that if I tried long and hard, looked for the clues, changed strategy, accepted the failure and started over again, eventually, I would find what I was looking for and make it work.  I had to see the piece to fit into the spot, making the image emerge.  I could not stop until it happened.

It is a miniature version of a life-cycle of a human.    You have this picture in you head of how you want your life to look like.  You take the steps to get it accomplished.   You go to school, work like a slave, save money, try to please everyone.  You think you are doing everything right – the way described in books and shown in the movies, the way your parents taught you, and your friends advised.   You see you life starting to shape up, but the last, the crucial piece is still missing.  How many wrong pieces you would have to try before it finally falls into place?  Will it ever happen?  And the picture you so are desperately trying to complete, is that what you truly want?  Are you willing to settle for less?  Is the end result what really matters?

The Rain

An excerpt from “Between Friends” by Amos Oz, an amazing Israeli writer.  This short story, taken place in the kibbutz and set to the rain from start to finish, is about a devoted father who fails to challenge his 17-year-old daughter’s lover, an old friend, a man his own age.

“In the early hours, the first rain of the season began to fall on the kibbutz houses, its fields and orchards.  The fresh smell of damp earth and clean leaves filled the air.  The rain rattled along the gutters and washed the dust off the red roofs and tin sheds.  At dawn, a gentle mist enveloped the buildings, and the flowers in the gardens sparkled with beads of water.  A redundant lawn sprinkler continued its sputtering.  A child’s wet red tricycle stood diagonally across a path.  From the treetops came the sharp, astonished cries of birds.

The rain woke Nahum Asherov from a fitful sleep.  For several moments after waking, he heard tapping on the shutters as if someone had come to tell him something.  He sat up in his bed and listened intently until he realized that the first rain had come.  Today, he’d go there, sit Edna down, look her directly in the eyes, and speak to her.  About everything.  And to David Dagan, too.  He couldn’t just let it pass.”

Summer New York

photo 2 - CopyThe City used to be a big part of my life.  Going to college in the downtown, than working all over the Big Apple, the subway felt like the second home, and jay walking and running in-between the honking taxi cabs, maneuvering through the crowd was a normal part of my day.    The lunch hour was used for relaxing in the park with the food picked up in the nearby deli or a small restaurant, then checking out the shops.  The weekend was reserved for more time-consuming activities like visiting the museums, the concerts, etc.   I felt the pulse of the City, its energy, its vibe.  I’ve always worked with a diverse crowd.  Being different was like being like everybody else.    Having unique style, speaking with an accent, sharing your traditions and cultural preferences made you accepted.  I was looking forward to dressing up for work, checking out new places, talking to my co-workers.

Going to the Billy Joel’s concert in the Garden brought back a lot of memories. The fellow Long Islander told stories about his first gig and how he wrote “Big Man on Mulberry Street”, made fun of his age, and took some major notes that he warned us he most likely would not take.  The crowd went wild and refused to leave.  So “the piano man” came back and rocked the Garden for another half hour.   Nobody sat down for the rest of the show.   The whole Garden was dancing and singing, as the maestro was putting the mic for the audience to sing, taking pictures with the fans, and throwing the mic stand into the band, where the other musicians caught it like some circus performers.

The trip also demonstrated the difference between the person used to the City (myself) versus the person who grew up on Long Island (my son).  We almost missed the 11:40pm train home, because he was standing in the middle of the thousands-of-people crowd coming out of the concert, rushing to the train, waiting for them to part, so that he would walk to the train freely, while maintaining his personal space.  At that time of the day, when the suburbs were long asleep, New York was as busy as the morning rush hour.

Living and working in Long Island for the past decade, I have to have a special occasion to go to the City.  Soho is never on the list since the kids are not interested in the shopping and the art galleries; they want entertainment.   My husband works in the area and has been bragging about how much the area changed since the last time (years) I’ve been there.  So, with my younger son being away in a sleep-away camp, I’ve decided to use this opportunity to go.   We took a train to Penn Station, then A train to Canal Street.  There we were supposed to meet up with my husband, who was finishing up his client’s meeting.

The first store we entered was quite fruitful.  Being slow on making clothing purchasing decisions, I bought a long coral skirt to go with the grey top I bought a few months ago, and white skinny jeans with scarf-type belt.  I have no clue when I would wear these jeans.  They seem the best fit for an Italy of Greece trip, or some fancy party on the beach or a yacht.  Can somebody invite me?   I also bought a black dress and a chain with a pink pendant to go with my new coral skirt in Top Shop.   My son kept whining (that was not his idea of having fun) until he found a store with skeletons and dried insects.   The assortment of scalps could make anyone’s day brighter, isn’t it?

We could not settle on the place for lunch, because based on my son, every restaurant we picked into was either too fancy or too small.   I had to put my foot down on the issue.  The small Italian place started us with the bread fresh- warm from the oven with the most delicious crust, and slightly salty butter.  We swallowed it in no time, washing it off with the mineral water, then asked for more.  We were full even before our entrees came out of the kitchen.   Not a good idea, but we don’t really have a will-power when it comes to good bread.

The warm summer rain started and stopped while we checked out a couple of art galleries before splitting up.  I went shoe shopping, while the men decided to hit Swiss Army and Leica stores.    We drove home reminiscing about my first job on Union Square, and the places in the City we wanted to visit next.

The latest “rain” findings from Topshop in Soho.

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Summer Before…

When I was a student the school year ended on May 25th. The last bell rang in the morning as all school in our official “white aprons” uniforms gathered on the courtyard for an official ceremony.  A few people said their “motivational” speeches, and we presented our teachers with tulips and peonies as a sign of our deep appreciation of torturing us all year long.  The teachers, dressed in their “holiday” clothing, with curled hair and freshly applied lipstick put all the flowers in the buckets with water, and tried to find somebody to help them get all these beautiful, delicious-smelling blooms home, where they would successfully die a few days later.  The final exams ended about 2 weeks later; then off till September.

There were no computers, video games, smart phones or tablets. A few hours of programming on TV per day, and an occasional visit to a movie theater was our idea of hi-tech entertainment.  What were we doing all summer?  I honestly don’t remember.  When I was younger I went to a sleep-away camp for a month, then to visit my grandma.   She lived two hours away on a train in a small, but lovely town. I was assigned a bed and a shelf in the closet that came with unlimited outdoor space, marvelous weather and a complete freedom.  I had a bunch of friends that also came to visit their grandmas – we had a solid crew of teenage vacationers.   I woke up usually around noon, buried myself in a book, an adventure novel taken from the local library, than gathered with my friends to figure out what we were going to do next.  Sometimes figuring it out took us longer than the activity itself; but we had time on our hands, so no rush.

We went to the beach on the river that you could easily swim across in about 10 minutes.  The water was warm and calm; the sun was pleasant and not too strong- just the right amount for the perfect tan.  We lay on the blanket, scanning the crowd for the new pray.   Some regular visitors, like a bunch of local boys, were also the object of our attention.  One of them, the tall, muscled guy, looked exactly like the leader of the popular band; we even thought he was him for a few days.   We never thought of approaching them (not in our league); saying nasty things gave us much more satisfaction.  So why did we need to know if they had girlfriends – just curiosity, more objects to trash, or something else?  Years later, I realized that he was not tall, not muscled, and far from handsome.  In fact, were I to meet him now, I would consider him fat, with a face lacking any signs of intellect whatsoever.   My 9-year-old son could play guitar better than he did, and his voice was hideous.   But back then, I was not sure what I would do if he approached me; melt or ran away – thanks God he never did.

Every few days we checked out several stores for the signs of new merchandise, which came about once a month.  Then we hang out in the two recently opened cafes.  Both of them offered two choices of ice-cream –vanilla and coffee, and two syrups-strawberry and blueberry.   Three kinds of juices, and four different pastries were also on the menu – which made it the best assortment in town.  We gossiped while slowly consuming the ice cream, taking apart each word, move and look our other friends made, trying to assign a hidden meaning to the totally meaningless things- “the real housewives” syndrome, only without 10 people TV crew.

The only movie theater showed mostly Indian movies – one per week.  We laughed and cried with the beautiful girl in a colorful sari, desperately trying to reunite with the handsome, tanned boy she loved against her or his family wishes.   That was how I knew that if you sing and dance long enough, doing the smooth, sexy moves with your hands and belly, the love would overcome any boundaries, and the drop-dead gorgeous guy would be yours forever.   I never learned how to do it, so no wonder that I did not end up with a drop-dead gorgeous, but with a regular guy.  “Don’t confuse causation with correlation”, as my son would say. The joyful tunes of “Jimmy Jimmy, Acha, Acha” was sounding in my head well into the next school year.

We played monopoly for hours, selling and buying the factories, plants and railroads with the fake money, increasing our imaginary capital through the roof, just to declare bankruptcies minutes later.   Cards games taught us to strategize, analyze, memorize and count, but most importantly to put it in the loser’s face with the meanest smile one could master and the most offensive comments that came to mind.    We could not deny ourselves such a pleasure, so we just kept on playing until the hunger or thirst became unbearable.

The main, dirt road outside the fence was used for practicing badminton.  We never got bored striking the shuttlecock, and considered it a personal failure when it finally fell on the ground.   The occasional passing cars and motorcycles did not interrupt the game, just made us move closer to the wooden fence, while exchanging the shuttlecock in the air.  The ping-pong was another part of our daily exercise routine.  The old table in the yard in-between the strings attached to the trees with the fresh laundry hanged to dry and the barn was a treasured possession.  I don’t remember where it came from, but it was truly multifunctional.  From its original purpose, it would easily turn into ping-pong table when net was installed, and the hanging out “lounge”, when the game finally ceased due to the inability to see the ball in the dark.  Then we talked; or rather boys were telling jokes and the girls were laughing.  Most jokes were not that funny, plus the supply was limited.   There was no internet, social media or a comedy channel, and a teenager with a good sense of humor and a feel for comedy was as a rare species as a Sumatran Orangutan.  However, this activity was a good way to identify who liked who, and how to proceed based on this invaluable knowledge.

The interactions between teenagers were not easy to read.  They were full of clues and unsaid, but clearly communicated signals.  The teenagers didn’t usually know how to talk to the opposite gender, except for the homework and jokes.  Any words that didn’t fall into these categories were considered super deep and super intense, and a prelude to something big and significant, a little scary, but so worth to explore.  Smiling at the girl or touching her hand was an act of an ultimate intimacy.  At least that’s how it was in my day, when kids did not know that 16 was a cut off age for having sex.

There was this one guy in our group.  He was a year older, had a tanned skin and bright green eyes.    We did not really communicate much, or engaged as partners in any gaming activities, but I’ve convinced myself that his green eyes were talking to me.  I did not give him any reason to believe that I was attracted to him.  I did not even laugh at his jokes.  But he continued staring at me with this meaningful gaze, like there was something more that words could say (even though he did not say any words on the matter).     So I’ve decided to give him a call, which for me was the equivalent of death, because I never, ever, would make a first move.  For a few days I kept convincing myself that I, in fact, was not making any moves; I was just trying to get to the bottom of things.  What bottom of what things was not clear.  Then I came with the wording and rehearsed my completely neutral and matter-of-fact speech in my head.  However, when I finally dialed the number, my vocal cords betrayed me.  As soon as I said: “Hi. How are you?” they went on strike, and remained there until he said:”See you later.”  Until the end of the summer we both kept thinking that there was something between us, except it was invisible to the human eye.   Few years ago I found a picture of him on the social media, and was very happy that it did not go any further.   He looked old, with a beer belly and an ugly wife.  I am starting to appreciate my husband more and more.

We did nothing all summer; we killed time – the concept I’ve abandoned decades ago.  At the end of August we promised to write each other letters, and we did, at least for a few months.   We met up the next year, like we’ve never departed, and continued exactly where we stopped the last summer.

My Last Book by James Patterson

Yesterday I finished the book “Don’t Blink” by James Patterson.  The raves for the book on the second page include “The man is a master of his genre” by Larry King, and “When it comes to constructing a harrowing plot, author James Patterson can turn a screw all right” by New York Daily News.  Millions of copies sold worldwide, dozens of his books are filling up the libraries’ shelves at any given time.  Yet, I vowed not to read another James Patterson masterpiece ever again.   I am not going to be joining an expanding army of fans and admirers of an acclaimed author. I am not going to be contributing to his over $300M empire.

Nick is a great guy, a talented journalist, single, but hopelessly in love with his boss, who has chosen to marry the uber wealthy guy instead.  But he loves her anyway, because she is his best friend, gorgeous, and deserves to be happy.  Nick is handsome, brave, ready to threw a punch or two if necessary,  has a dry sense of humor, and a kind heart.  He  can also escape a bullet shot at a close range, jump from the speeding train while holding 14 year old girl in his arms, and run with a super speed among many other things that none of us -average folks- should ever “try at home”.  His brain is so sharp, that he would outsmart any enemy, including two mobsters and a professional killer.  As people around him meet their cruel and untimely deaths he would not give in to sadness; he has a mission to accomplish, since nobody but him could stand up to evil.  He would crack a charming smile while spitting buckets of blood, because the delicate lady’s hand caressing the fresh wound works better then any painkiller.  He is sensitive, yet tough; vulnerable, yet brutal.  He is the men every woman would follow to the end of the world and back.  Of course, he would end up making a good income while doing what he loves, but that’s just how the life usually goes, doesn’t it?

You would think that the men like that is hard to find.  Not if you read James Patterson novels.  All of his protagonists are like that – comes with the job description.   Then they finally conquer the women of their dreams, start making an obscene amount of money, and help every single friend or a family member to obtain a suitable life partner along the way.   The fairy tale for adults, in which the adjectives are scarce, the chapters are short and the moral of the story is absent is called “commercial fiction”.  I did not know this term until yesterday when I was curious to find out the secret to James Patterson’s success.

I also found out that he published about 10 books last year, and were planning on another 9-13 this year.   His productivity is even more impressive than his main characters’ survival skills, since many amazing authors publish that many books in the course of their whole careers. Are they lazy, don’t like storytelling as much, or are not interesting in making money?  Why does it take them years to write a book while James Patterson is doing it in a month?   What’s the secret?

The secret is that Mr. Patterson is writing an outline, then he hires others to do the rest.  He reviews the copy and makes corrections while his publisher is waiting anxiously to bring the next bestseller to the store near you.  Can you imagine Lev Tolstoy or Hemingway doing that?  Can you imagine an artist doing the basic sketch and hiring another painter to do the oil part?

James Patterson is not in a business of touching people’s souls,  he is in a business of increasing his bottom line.   He is a Wal-Mart of literature, a one-night stand, a “made in China”.  And even though the demand for it is huge, and it works quite well for many, it is what it is – the low quality product.   His books are a good way to kill time, and there is nothing wrong with that.  However, he is not an author or a writer, and everybody who says otherwise is engaged in a false advertising.