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Posts Tagged ‘reading weather’

I spent four delightfully rainy days in early January thoroughly absorbed in Christopher Isherwood’s Diaries, volume one–900 small print pages followed by an ever so useful glossary of all the characters and of the many terms unfamiliar to me from his years in the Ramakrishna faith. I wish that all books with a multitude of characters, fiction or non fiction, had a glossary!

The diaries begin right after his 1930s experiences in Berlin, described in the memoir Christopher and His Kind. I haven’t read that book yet so am glad we had just seen a film of it. The Berlin experiences eventually became the famous musical, Caberet..

During World War II, Christopher had moved to the United States and spend a year living with a Quaker group helping refugees from Germany. The rest of the diaries, except for some traveling, take place in California.

I’ve already shared the following passage from near the beginning, the moment where I fell in love with these diaries. Gerald is the friend who introduced Christopher to the ways of Ramakrishna, which Christopher studied for his whole life.

More descriptive writing:

…..

Here are some more of the bits that spoke to me, which is to say they reminded me of my life….and I found it comforting that someone in such a different world (the world of Hollywood in the forties and fifties) had some similar thoughts and experiences.

Christopher had a tribulation that I shared (from 1994 through 2003, culminating in divorce):

(Asit was one of the monk initiates who noisily lived in the room next to Christopher in the Ramakrishna house, described in an earlier part of the diaries.)

…..

…..

Like my sleep deprived relationship, Christopher’s ended in separation.

Even into his fifties, he agonized about and analyzed his friendships.

“What I really want is solitude in the midst of snugness,” he wrote. I found it most endearing that he complained when company came to stay and longed for solitude, and yet went out to dinner and parties what seemed like several times a week.

In his fifties, he wrote often of aging. (His partner, Don, was much younger.)

….

That was just in his fifties! I can’t wait (but must wait) to read about how he felt in his 60s, in the 1960s. He wrote of a friend who turned 65: “Billy in tears, drunk and lonely–and pitiful in a way that a woman of sixty-five is pitiful–her life over. But Billy’s life is by no means over. It may even be really beginning.” That’s good to hear, as I will soon turn sixty-five.

I loved his descriptions of his home throughout the years. He always included the addresses, so I was able to google them and sometimes see inside.

In the late fifties, he and his longtime partner, artist Don Bachardy, bought the house that they would live in till Christopher died, and in which Don still lives.

I was thrilled to find on google street view some photos of the garden along that block today.

Christopher had a garden problem that I could well relate to.

(He had some close women friends, including, to my delight, Dodie Smith, author of I Capture the Castle, one of my favourite books–and 1001 Dalmatians.)

Another close friend, Igor Stravinsky, was not bothered by garden incursions.

I was so pleased to be able to get from Netflix the documentary about Chris and Don…

…which had special features at the end with Don, now an old and accomplished man himself, taking the filmmakers on an inside tour around that very house. So when I read the next two volumes (I am waiting so impatiently for an interlibrary loan of the 1960s diaries!) I will be able to visualize the inside, where Don painted and Chris happily puttered with his houseplants.

Despite the weight and size of the 1000 page tome, Jazmin managed to read part of it with me.

Speaking of solitude, I am finally achieving the non-peopling days of rainy reading that my sanity (and disposition) requires. It was hard to emerge from the diaries and read other books while waiting for the next volume.

Isherwood’s mention of Anais Nin’s diaries–“seventy volumes already”–reminded me that I had read most of them in 1980-ish. I became disillusioned when, as she aged, Nin kept rhapsodizing about how much she wanted to be around young people. Even at age thirty, I thought that was just silliness. Despite the age difference between Christopher and Don, Christopher appreciated the company of friends his own age. Maybe my exasperation with Anais Nin is why memoirs did not become my favourite genre till I discovered May Sarton and Doris Grumbach in the late 1990s.

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Read on 4 December 2019

Long ago, I read and loved Carolyn Heilbrun’s Kate Fansler mystery series and her non-fiction book Writing a Woman’s Life. I had completely missed her memoir about aging until recently, when I learned of it and placed an interlibrary loan.

Here are a multitude of take-aways from what is, so far, my favourite book of my 2019 reading year.

In Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir, I was struck by no mention of some of my favourite memoirists, including May Sarton and Doris Grumbach. I was so pleased to see Doris mentioned early on in Last Gift.

And then May Sarton herself appeared at the end of this paragraph about Grumbach.

I knew I was in for a heavenly read.

The subject matter of life over 60 is significant to me because I will soon turn 65.

Heilbrun quotes from a poem by Marilyn Hacker, called Against Elegies.

Soon came the story about one of my favorite things in a memoir, buying a house, coupled with another favorite thing, the joy of solitude.

…..

The idea that something can be happening for the last time is even more poignant to me as I reread this next takeaway a week after an old friend, who wanted to live to be 100, died with no warning, in his sleep, at age just barely 67.

Part of a chapter is devoted to the joys of email (in 1996) and to Heilbrun’s extensive correspondence through that medium. I wonder what she would have thought of the social internet?

Next, I found a whole chapter about May Sarton. What bliss. I once read a disappointing and cruel biography about Sarton which criticized and excoriated her difficult personality. In contrast, her friend Carolyn wrote of her with sympathetic and understanding honesty.

……..

A friend who knew May Sarton and was smitten with her told me a story about being invited over and then being told to go away, because May was in the midst of a writing inspiration. I think it was in her memoirs that I learned the phrase “a person from Porlock”.

I still have these books but must have lent out my two favourites, Plant Dreaming Deep and Journal of a Solitude.

I thought nothing could make me happier than a whole chapter about May Sarton, until turning the page brought me to a chapter about England.

…..

…..

And yet, and yet, something of that first fascination with writings by the English remained, like the aroma of a lost love, pure, fabricated, and enchanting.

…….

I had to look that up.

The chapter goes on with the joys of visiting the home of English friends. Every paragraph is perfection and way too big of a takeaway to share here. Just a glimpse or two:

….

The chapter ends with this delightful quotation about friendship.

…..

On memoirs in general, with reference to a memoirist named Maxine Kumin, whom I have not read.

…..

….

………

More on aging:

….

Below: I remember as a child taking drives out of Seattle with my parents and being in the countryside in twenty minutes, with pastures and cows and horses and barns.

And I know that nostalgia for the past is a privilege.

…..

On reading as an Anglophile:

…..

The passage below is just how I feel about death. Perhaps if Carolyn Heilbrun were still alive, I could contact her on her Facebook page and we could share thoughts about it.

I am reminded of my favourite song, which I would want sung at my funeral, if I wanted a funeral, which I don’t:

Love It Like a Fool by Malvina Reynolds

Baby, I ain’t afraid to die,
It’s just that I hate to say good-bye to this world,
This world, this world.
This old world is mean and cruel,
But still I love it like a fool, this world,
This world, this world.
I’d rather go to the corner store
Than sing hosannah on that golden shore,
I’d rather live on Parker Street
Than fly around where the angels meet.
Oh, this old world is all I know,
It’s dust to dust when I have to go from this world,
This world, this world.
Somebody else will take my place,
Some other hands, some other face,
Some other eyes will look around
And find the things I’ve never found.
Don’t weep for me when I am gone,
Just keep this old world rolling on, this world,
This world, this world.
As Carolyn Heilbrun says…
….which is ironic, because my next post will go as far back as 1982.
My last takeaway to share :
It bothers me no end that Carolyn committed suicide at age 77, only a few years after this book was published. She had planned to do so at age 70 but had found life to be enjoyable after all. No one among her family and friends knows why she did it. The clue to why she did it that I might understand is that “she didn’t want to be a useless person.”
I left out of this long post a few paragraphs about her decision, in her 60s, to get a dog, even though she did not like the idea of getting up early to let the dog out. (I was so lucky that my dog, Bertie Woofter, liked to sleep late as much as I do.) She loved her dog. I wonder if her dog was still alive when Carolyn decided to depart? That seems a significant point that no one mentions. You can read more about it here, including a mention of how much she loved dogs up to her last day on earth. I am sad and mystified. I wish that she had continued to love now and had lived to write another memoir about being in her 80s.

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Although staycation proper doesn’t really begin until I have some steady uninterrupted time at home, I managed, among assorted holiday outings, to get started on my staycation reading. Here are some takeaways.

Toil and Trouble by Augusten Burroughs

In Burroughs’ new memoir about being a witch, I appreciate and relate to all of his words about his chronic anxiety.

and

and

I identify more with his husband, Christopher, when it comes to material possessions.

While describing a book about magick, Burroughs has this to say:

And this is an excellent way to navigate the world:

Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith

Listening to the album Horses, which I checked out of the library when I was 22 years old, changed the course of my 20s and 30s by setting me on a trajectory toward punk rock. If not for Patti, I might not have met pretty much everyone I knew between age 25 and 35.

Her personal story continues with her third memoir, this one written as she is about to turn 70.

……

When I started following Patti’s Instagram, I was pleased to see her still wearing clothing with raggedy sleeves.

I think if her every time I wear my favourite long back sweater with raveled sleeves out of the house to public events.

What she wrote about libraries reminded me of the forty block round trip that I used to walk from my childhood home to the Green Lake branch of the Seattle Public Library.

……

The prevailing theme of the book was the death of two friends, one of them also an ex-lover. I did not know that within a week, I would hear of the death of an old friend and lover of mine. I sort of wish I had read this book right afterward. Clearly, because I saved takeaways on the subject of loss, the subject already spoke to me…a function of age. I knew that fairly soon I would reach the age where friends were dying. I already knew of two, but had not yet lost an old friend whose death sent me reeling. Now I have, but to write about that here would be getting ahead of the narrative flow.

I still keep thinking something wonderful is about to happen.”

Here is an image to keep ourselves hoping, about having seen a performance by Belinda Carlisle (of The Go-Gos) on a telly show.

Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister

I read this excellent history book between memoirs.

Something both discouraging and hopeful in our times:

It’s one of the better political books I have read; I recommend it.

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

Memoirs have become my favourite genre. I haven’t read any of Mary Karr’s, but I will after this book. The Liar’s Club is now on my table in my stack of library books.

One of Karr’s main themes is how to tell the truth. I’m disappointed to read this about Vivian Gornick. I loved her memoir The Odd Woman and the City.

…..

I want the truth. When I write a blog post, I don’t even like to switch the order of daily jobs to improve the narrative.

But memories are tricky.

One of my first memories is standing in the arched doorway between my grandma’s kitchen and breakfast nook while my step-grandfather, whom I loved and called “Bumpy” for some reason, tried to make my grandmother take a handgun from him. He shouted, “Just take it! Just shoot me!” and I cried, “Bumpy, stop! no!” I see it so clearly…but do I remember it or did Gram tell me about it? My next memory, though, is crystal clear: I am at my uncle’s house, where Bumpy was staying. I was watching him in the mirror while he shaved with tears running down his face through the shaving foam. Later, I understood the story behind the events: he had come home drunk from a fishing trip and had hit her, and she had told him to leave.

On telling the whole painful truth:

On why memoirs are so mesmerizing:

……

Mary Karr has excellent advice on how to use language that gets one as close to the truth as possible, especially when remembering long ago conversations.

Next, and coincidentally related to Patti Smith’s book, a memoir about life after 60.

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There will be a book with gardening lore after two books about life on the internet!

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Last week and this week, I read two books by Siva Vaidhyanathan.

The first, about Google, was written almost a decade ago and still pertinent.

I had no idea that Google owns Blogger (home of blogspot.com blogs).

I find the author’s politics most agreeable:

Fascinating technology:

I followed the book about Google with one about Facebook.

Anti-Social Media is only a couple of years old and thoroughly gripping.

Mr. Vaidyanathan writes at the end that he has no intention of leaving Facebook—or Instagram, where he has an account for his dog (which I long to find but have failed to do so thus far).

One of my favourite non fiction authors has this blurb on the back cover.

During an airplane flight:

I can’t judge anyone for a Facebook addiction, because my own addiction to it runs deep.

I finished Anti-Social Media on the evening of November 16th.  It delves deep into the influence Facebook has on news, journalism, and politics.  I recommend it.



Sunday, 17 November 2019

Today we had reading weather all day long.  What bliss!

from the kitchen window

from the front porch

paperwhites on the kitchen window sill

I sped through the brief (disappointingly brief) newest book by a favourite author.

The repartee between a couple who have entered marriage counseling is miles wittier than any I have ever had in any relationship.

Here comes the book with gardening lore. One of the joys of Facebook is that I have gotten to be Facebook friends with a couple of my favourite mystery writers, Susan Conant (The Dog Lovers’ Mysteries) and

 

Somehow I had fallen behind on the latest two books of the China Bayles series, one of my favourite cozy mysteries.

Every chapter starts with some horticultural lore:

Because I am a stick in the mud, I always like to have all the action in the China Bayles series take place in the fictional Texas town of Pecan Springs.  Each book re-introduces us to China’s herbal shop.

That is where I want to stay.  But the author takes us away to a different location every few books, thus avoiding falling into the Inspector Morse/Midsomer Murders trap of having far too many crimes take place in a small area.

So we left Pecan Springs.  I had never been at all interested in Texas till reading (especially in her memoirs) Susan Wittig Albert’s descriptions of the hill country.

Mama is the big van that China and her friend Ruby use for their business.  As they drove to give a seminar at an olive ranch, I learned that our raccoons, deer, and bears crossing the road are not bad in comparison to…

Pretty much every locaton that Wittig Albert creates makes me wish I could visit.  I don’t mean the hogs, I mean the café at the olive ranch.

Their host at the olive ranch…

If you like a good cozy that is not too safe and confined and that has herbal lore (and some recipes at the end), I’d advise reading the China Bayles series, in order and from the beginning.

Frosty loves reading weather.

After my mystery, I started a young adult novel that I had come upon while ordering Rachel Maddow’s latest book.

I do love a good YA novel as I find they often go deep into issues that people my age could barely touch on when we were in high school. When in my 20s, I noticed this phenomenon, and a lovely librarian at my local branch would find me the best YA novels to read.

The author really does know her Rachel.

By bedtime, I was so involved with the story that I stayed up till three AM to finish it.  (The joys of reading weather!)



Monday, 18 November 2019

With torrential rain (1.15 inch in all) for the entire day, I read another high school book.  It was coincidence that they were back to back.  I’d read a good review of High School by Sara and Tegan Quinn.  I must confess I had never heard of the sisterly musical duo Tegan and Sara. Nowadays I like listening to silence best of all so am out of touch with popular music. Even though once upon a time I would have said my life was saved by rock and roll.

Both the high school books, first the novel and now this memoir, had so much drug use (which most of the characters real and imagined eventually moved past).  I was such a goodie goodie in high school.  A reclusive goodie goodie, much less social than Brynn, Tegan, or Sara.  Sometimes when I think of reincarnation, I realize that even for another chance at life, I would not want to go through high school again.

………….

I remembered at age 25, I wanted to go to my first punk rock show.  But I was so worried because I had heard that the audience jumped up and down and hit each other on the head.

I went to many many shows after my first one and never once did anyone hit me on the head, not even in the mosh pit.

on the cusp of punkdom

I remember seeing the Ramones in LA when I was 26. (Montana Mary drove us there; she had other sights to see there than the Ramones.)  I had my fingers hooked over the plywood barrier right in the front of the standing audience.  When the band came on stage I put my arms up (I loved Joey ever so much) and the surge of the audience behind me slammed the plywood into the metal frame behind it.  I sometimes remember that moment and think that in an alternate timeline I could have lost my fingers.  The crowd was so tight that I could not get my arms down for the rest of the show and by the end, my clothes were drenched to the skin.  I was so thirsty that I walked straight back to our motel (at night, in LA, in the Hollywood district) and got a can of pop from the machine and drank it straight down. What a remarkable event it was.

I enjoyed every bit of Tegan and Sara’s journey to their adult musical career…

…and I have gotten around to listening to three songs of theirs, all of which impressed me.  I intend to listen to them all.

Finally, I closed my three day reading session with two books by David Sedaris.  I feel almost sure that I have read both before and forgotten to note them down.

I loathed the truly mean stories in Barrel Fever and read less than half of the stories.  It is his first (?) book.  If it were the first I had ever read, I’d have skipped all of his subsequent memoirs.  (The essays at the end were better.)

I did enjoy a passage in the Santa Land essay about how people say the same thing and think they are witty and original.

In my world, the most common saying is “You can come to my garden next!”

Fortunately for my reading day, Dress Your Family … is one of his almost completely delightful memoirs.

My favourite line, about his mother at the beach:

I had been aching and longing for reading weather.  Two days had been satiating enough that I felt fine about getting back to work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Monday, 22 April 2019

We were out the door to go to work, not relishing the cold air, when the rain began.  I happily retreated to my comfy chair and a book that Allan had checked out for me from the library.  It had been recommended to him by a book site while he ordered other British books. “If you like that, you’ll also like this.”

watching the weather

 A paragraph in the introduction, by Nigel Slater, had me thinking about how timid I am about what I choose to share in this blog.  I write an awful lot that I then delete, although WordPress preserves it all in the various drafts of each post (along with all the typos and mistakes that get corrected):

I am aware my writing has taken on a melancholic turn,” the author writes much later into the book, “so perhaps it is time to share a sunnier story.”  So even he pulled back from revelation for a moment.

And even later:

This was the perfect time to read a book by someone brave enough to dig deep, even though he is a well known writer in the UK and now people will know his secrets and pain.  How does he feel about that, and how can he stand the exposure? I ask that of almost every memoir I read, while at the same time being grateful for the writer’s transparency. (It is ironic that I just deleted two lines from this very paragraph.)

It had taken me a long time today to settle down and actually set all other materials aside and apply myself to reading.  Then the first page mentioned snails eating baby beans.

I had to get up again, go outside, and apply Sluggo to my baby sweet peas.

The table I painted yesterday looked wonderful in the rain.

Allan’s photos

Plot 29 goes back and forth between the present day and the author’s childhood and his search for answers about his parentage.

Well, now, this is just how I felt about several gardens I have gone in to rescue over the past 25 years…

I was excited to see a mention, all in one paragraph, of Monty Don AND one of my favourite gardening books, the book that inspired me most about seaside gardening, Derek Jarman’s Garden.

On the appearance of a gardener:

Jenkens and his allotment companions use the principles of “Biodynamic gardening” and stir up various potions.

At bedtime, I am reading chapters of Linda Chalker-Scott’s The Informed Gardener books, one chapter thoroughly debunking Biodynamics.  Oh dear.  Sometimes I am not sure what to think of all the debunking, since further scientific studies often contradict the first studies, etc.

I can tell biodynamics is just not something I would have the energy or belief to try.

Oh!  The author writes about driving: “I have only once been behind the wheel.” I am thrilled.

On his three gardens, one at a small summer cabin in Denmark, one a rooftop garden outside his London flat, and the allotment patch:

As regular readers know, once I began to read Plot 29 I could not stop to do anything until I had finished.  I so appreciate Allan finding it for me.  Locals can order it from the Timberland Regional Library.

Mr Tootlepedal had asked if I had seen any of a gardening show called The Beechgrove Garden.  I had not.  It is a Scottish gardening show, rather like Gardeners’ World, and I I was delighted to find some episodes online.  I watched one episode and will watch as many as I can find.  Down the rabbit hole!  It has been on telly since the 1970s.  Fortunately for my getting things done, all the shows are not online.

I also found in the past few days a Gardeners. World Road Show from 2005 in which the hosts go on tour to a city, visit many gardens, and have a plant swap.

They may be too big of celebrities now to do that anymore.  Perhaps a viewer over there can tell me if they still have a roadshow special each year.

 

 

 

 

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Friday, 22 March 2019

I resisted the lure of watching Gardeners’ World on Inside Outside TV in order to have the joy of reading Christine Walkden’s memoir in one sitting.

I had become smitten with her when I saw her on The Great British Garden Revival and then watched as many episodes as I could find (less than half, I am sorry to say) of Christine’s Garden.

I loved her memoir even more than I thought I would.

“I eat, dream, and breathe gardening.  I would not want to do anything else.  I am incredibly lucky.”

I appreciated her honesty and emotion about the making of her garden programme:

Later….she writes of “losing interest and getting irritated…”

When asked to stay in her pyjamas and dressing gown for her first look around the garden she “…was not at all happy with the thought that viewers were going to see me.”

When the crew filmed the rooms inside her house and photographs on her wall, it upset her terribly.  She wanted to do a proper gardening show, and they wanted insight into her feeling and emotions, her “very soul!”

She told them, in tears, that she was a private person.  I cannot even imagine being in such a pickle!  Finally, the camera crew won her trust and she writes that she knows she is “not the easiest person.”  How I loved her for all of this!

After the show broadcast, a friend said, “I thought you were going to talk about potatoes and you talked about the soul.”

This is what makes the tracking down of the episodes of the show or ordering this book from the UK well worth while.

I had wondered if she had gotten picked on for her looks, looks which I adore, of course.

Later, she was asked to wear make up and have a hair stylist for a cover of the book.  She did not.

Christine is also a teacher with a solid education behind her and years of experience.  I wish I could have learned from her; I wouldn’t be an amateur with imposter syndrome.

The memoir is sprinkled with gardening advice.  I was especially inspired by the parts about compost (of course).  She has four assorted bins…

I concluded that I am still not mixing my compost together well enough.

I worry about how I will find enough compost material after we partially retire.  I will be scavenger like Christine (as I used to be for my small Seattle garden):

It was a treat to read about her various gardening jobs.

In the course of work and garden visits to friends, she mentions some shrubs that I often do not see mentioned in print (Stachyurus praecox and Escallonia iveyi!).

A running theme is her gardening neighbours (an enviable situation), especially Reg.

Another theme that deeply affected me was her thoughts about her 14 year old dog.

I know that Tara is gone by now.  I do hope Christine found another dog as fine.

Another of Christine’s traits with which I strongly identify:

And she loves books and has hundreds (or was it thousands?) in her house.

This is so very British:

She lecture-tours all over the country.  Her discourse on hotels is the way I feel and is one of the reasons I am not going to Hardy Plant study weekend this year.

(One of the other two main reasons is the expense.)

I wish to make an alpine trough that uses exactly the same plants as Christine’s.  Then I would feel a connection to her every time I admired it.

Christine’s appreciation of other gardeners:

Sometimes, rarely, I find a book that I want to carry around in a hug after I have read it.  Christine’s memoir made me feel that way.  I want to be her friend.  If I could afford to buy a house on her block, I would be wistfully lurking around her vicinity hoping that she would take me in to her circle of gardening neighbours.

Christine Walkden is, I think, obscure on this side of the pond.  Her shows and her books will repay your for the effort of finding them.  Even though I cannot find an official source for videos of her show, you can find some of Christine’s Garden on YouTube and a complete set of her Glorious Gardens from Above garden tour show can also be found on Tubi.

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Thursday, 14 February 2019

When I looked out of my window this morning, I had the sudden urge to expand the east side of the small pond into a narrow garden bed. Only cold weather and all day rain stopped me. I managed only to get out for long enough to transplant a few small grasses to soften one corner.

 

Then my hands were too cold and I retreated. Allan went hunting and gathering for groceries over the river while I watched many the episode of Love Your Garden.

I had to tear myself away from gardening shows to finish an excellent book by Dominick Tyler that is almost overdue.

I recommend it to any Britophile or lover of the natural landscape.

I know at least one reader might be interested in this passage about hair ice.

Each short essay is based on a word or phrase describing anything from ice to mud to the habits of birds and fish and is faced with a full page photograph.

Some more of my favourites:

I had no idea that the bumblebee was originally a humblebee.

…………

Below are all sorts of wonderful names for what I have heard called sun showers.

Saltings is the perfect name for the mudflats around our Willapa Bay.

Clart is exactly the quality of mud in our old garden and our former gardening job at Discovery Heights.

I now have added several books to my list of must reads, all of which are likely to increase my feeling that I was born in the wrong country. Here is the entire bibliography.

Locals can check the book out of the Timberland Library system.

The problem is, as another friend commented, I might as well make end tables out of my piles of books to read because I cannot stop watching British gardening shows.

Even though we don’t celebrate Valentines Day, Allan brought a pleasing treat home from his excursion. I told him that I must get a pug dog to go with it.

He described the huddle of anxious looking men huddled over the card section in Fred Meyer, a phenomenon that he used to witness annually when he worked at assorted such stores as a bicycle and exercise equipment and furniture assembler.

Tomorrow, brief sun, perhaps the monkey’s wedding variety, may return and allow some more ponding.

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