Tuesday, October 14, 2014


So, I have very little time since I'm going to lunch with Elsa Dorfman and have to stop at FedEx to mail a box, but here I am, trying to add to the blog which is tucked so far in the back of my mind that I hardly remember it.

But, I stayed in the house, thanks to Genevra, who agreed not to force me to sell because I'd signed papers agreeing to do that. And I spent money on it for the first time.  Oh, I'd put on two roofs and replaced an oil burner and fixed the downstairs bathroom and had my bathroom floor repaired when the toilet threatened to fall into the apartment below…

But I hadn't done anything else. I hadn't decided that this is my house, even though I've lived here for 30 years. It was still temporary with all my collapsable furniture and clutter.

But Elsa suggested Delson, the most magnificent contractor imaginable. I didn't imagine that I could afford him. But he's reasonable and has lovely Brazilians working for him -- his son-in-law, two nephews and various assorted others who he's hired. The first photo show the remains of the porch that he thought he'd just have to repair, but that I knew was in dire shape.

For years, Joe and Pam lived next door with his parents. Pam did a lot of work on the garden, in the yard, which was undone by the folks who bought it. They even took down a pine tree taller than the house that his mother had planted when he brought it home in a styrofoam cup from kindergarten. Pam has volunteer petunias and offered me some, but I somehow never got around to take them. But here's one that was growing by the sidewalk and I dug it up with a spoon, at night..   There was another one, but two days later, all of that was clipped. The folks next door like everything clipped.  So, here is the petunia in a tiny garden that I started in all the madness of having done nothing, nothing, nothing to the back yard when the house was supposedly going to be bought as was.

And this is the phlox that's growing wild back there. I fell down the backstairs on my way to transplant it…madness of madness. Why?

I ended up as a pretzel with my legs lodged above my head in the twist of the stairway. I am lucky to have only gotten a swollen ankle and a limp for a few weeks. Needless to say, I didn't transplant it, them, anything.

I had imagined that it wasn't going to be an easy job. The railings had not been up to code and I thought that a family with a young boy was going to stay in that apartment and wanted that fixed. This is what it led to, a very elegant downstairs porch. Nicely stained.

And then the upstairs porch was stained, in the nick of time, because the pressure treated wood was parched and starting to crack.
An agency for Massachusetts was giving trees, planting them, with just the stipulation that I water them every week for a year.

I wasn't pleased with this particular one which looks half dead, but she assured me that it will be fine in spring. They put in five, including this one. I wanted to replace the lovely cherry that finally gave up, two cherries to be exact. One used to hang over the driveway next door and Joe's father used to pick cherries to put in brandy. No such luck now because they had no actual fruit trees and I wouldn't have bought one because I can no longer dig a sufficiently large hole and dump in humus.

The new double pane windows might save me from paying $700 a month (or more) for heat in this little apartment. At any rate, they look gorgeous, though the photograph doesn't show them..that's just the covering of the outer sills..which took Alex days to cut and bend and fit into place...the windows were inserted after that was done and then there was caulking.

I felt terrible when the guys left, as if they were leaving home. They had a strange sweetness, as if they weren't judging me or my house, just trying to make it better.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

New Hobby

 In order to keep myself totally distracted so that I accomplish something, I start endless projects. This is the new one and it involves going to the MFA for two hours on Sunday morning…getting there before there's no parking on the street, just as it opens, wandering with my camera…you are allowed to take pictures anywhere as long as you don't use flash or a tripod. (Well, maybe not everywhere…) And I'm collecting images. Usually I collect sculpture. And have even, get this, used raw for the digital camera (but not today) so that I'll get the maximum details for whatever I don't do with these.

And the don't doing is fine. I start enough that it's alright that I don't finish everything.

Actually I am in the process of putting up a new website…www.pennyanteproductions.com for the long, long, long interviews with folks who work at the backside of the track. And a wonderful editor, Maia Lynch, is working on an inter-active documentary site. So, I'm not lying in bed eating chocolates, much as I'd like to be.  When I do lie in bed, I'm rereading Kitchen Confidential and wishing I'd had some experience of that wild life which was, let's be honest, pretty much only available to men.                                                                                                                                                                 Today, I went to the Shinique Smith show, new… as you will see by the photo below which isn't really representative of her painting, though they also use cloth. And then took an hour tour, wandering around after a woman named Mead who spoke nicely about Copley.

This was in the Egyptian area which has, basically moved, from the upstairs. A lot has been changed as the museum was tarted up. I suppose that's a good thing, larger, fancier, more glistening, etc., etc.

And on Saturday, I had the delicious time with the great-grandbaby of Arlene and George Brown while we watched the races in the grandstands. George won one out of two races…and I had this freedom to take image after image of Colin. I am deeply obsessed with taking photographs and wouldn't know what to do with myself if I just had to sit there since I know too little about the finer points of Thoroughbred racing.

This is the house that I still have after all the chaos I caused by thinking I should sell it. Instead I'm putting in new windows, insulation upstairs,  and also fixing the back porch and who knows what else. As Susan said, "Why haven't you ever done anything to it?" That was a great question. I'd put on two roofs and put in one new oil burner, but nothing else that might have made life easier, improved the climate inside during the winter and saved on the oil bill.
                                                                    If you should go to that new site, which isn't entirely finished, you will find videos of Lee Loebelenz and the Irish Wolf Hound puppies…they are listed under Lion Spring Farm. I'm not entirely finished editing them or editing the site, as I said, but at least it's up. I'm quite pleased by that, though I have many, many more interviews to add. It will be a reference point for those interested in the stories of folks who work with Thoroughbreds and about Thoroughbreds which go on to have new tasks, new lives once they leave racing and then there are the Wolf Hound pups…going from what look like tiny pit bulls, to real long-nosed dogs...

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Big Time Catch-Up

A lot has happened.

As a friend said, remember you'e an alcoholic, given to precipitous decisions … and regrets.  Technically, I'm an adult child of an alcoholic, but what the hell, it's all the same.  I leap, then look, there's no ground, I've almost sold my little two family, almost bought a condo, but…

I want to go backwards.

I'm not ready to leave the little two family and all the light and all the problems, yet…maybe in another couple of years. By the skin of my teeth and much gnashing, I extracted myself from the sale (that's to a very, very kind buyer…) and got out of the purchase (thanks to a very nice relator) and am still here in a big mess that definitely needed a shop vac which Bogie and I bought today.

He wasn't entirely happy riding in the cart, shivering with dismay, and he definitely must have considered the advice by three young girls that it would be better to have him in a stroller, close to the ground, to be a good thought…

I had considered myself very clever to have gone on-line to find a filter for my 30 year old stop vac, but it had no umph… the new one does, except that I had it hooked up to blow, not suck, so you can imagine the dust of the ages blown around in that attic.

Ann-Marie came to help for a week, when I still thought I'd sell it, a great deal of sorting, carting, looking through…it's an endless amount of work, was, is, will be…don't worry, of course I'm making a video about the process, my grim face as I survey the wreckage…..    whatever is gone is gone and whatever is going will get out there, including the old shop vac…

The inspector from MASS Saves comes in the middle of the month and I'll find out about windows and insulation, etc….and whether they sponsor a loan…            so, that's good… interesting. Why, as S. asked, have I never done any of this before?  Good question. Excellent question. I wasn't ready? I didn't know how? I didn't think about it? This winter was so awful I had to move or face it? I'm have the duck-and-cover tendencies of an alcoholic?

Who knows…………..

In the beginning of all of this, I paid to enter a show…and was sort of chosen to be part of it, relieved to finally exhibit this landscape work…………took endless effort, carting it downstairs, all those boxes, setting it up, wrapping it again, taking it………….    

and the show is terrible, horrible, ghastly, worthless…
a mass of work from an endless amount of people, everyone it looked like, who sent in checks.
I'm so sorry I did it and now this is in the never-again-category that another friend often reminds me of….  

but it was nice to see it set up downstairs…the insane installations I made at Feet of Clay in Brookline without ever thinking about what I'd do with them, how I'd show them…

The good thing is that I decided that the blobs, otherwise known as "For No Earthly Reason" which were on my regular website…could be given away for donations at the community garden during the Art Walk…        and they went like hotcakes, 8 or nine boxes of them…money tucked into a jar…

I still have ten or twelve tucked into my own garden…and they are sort of friends, and the rest have tiny cacti growing in them or serve as decorations…can you imagine…

Now I have to figure out what to do with the porcelain boxes and the 1,000 little figures of nude ladies...

this is back to the landscape…
670 something little formations from different types of clay, different uses of slip and glazes..

crazy…what do I do with them now?
wait until next year and the Art Walk??

Anyway, I'm grateful still to be in the wreck of a house and to have had such success with the physical therapy…………  I will do the exercises, faithfully…

please do look at
Susan Landry's on-line journal about memoir.
I like Alan Helms reply to my questions and think his book is extremely important….for many reasons….


Friday, March 28, 2014

Physical therapy & horses

 Since shoveling twice, the sciatic nerve called a halt…and I got another prescription for physical therapy. But first, a week earlier, I tried the advice of a friend and went to the Russian bath house, Dillons, here in Chelsea.What an amazing place. Women's night is Monday, 4-9, and one woman told me she's been going for 20 years, with the exception of an illness, brings her dinner, leaves with her pajamas on when it closes. Quite an amazing place. $23 to get in and use the sauna and steam, neither of which are to my rase, and $45 for an hour massage (plus tip,) four women in a narrow dark room, new age music. My woman had fingers of steal and I could straighten up the next day. Quite amazing. What would my feelings for this little city be if I'd started doing this twenty years ago?

We'll see if the physical therapy works. It did last time, six years ago. But I haven't made much progress so far, one visit only… and an hour drive to the drawing class and too long spent bending my neck over to complete a curious exercise in redrawing into a failed drawing and continuing to work on it. The class is designed for folks who are painters, so I'm a bit lost, but I've watched the bit kids long enough to have learned a few tricks so I knew I could use charcoal, and ink and scissors..all sorts of tools that I could never have imagined using. If I'd been able to stand up and do more than hobble afterwards, it would have been totally successful. I'm so type A that I get furious if I'm impaired, as I often am, by some ache or another.
I've had a lot of chances to take photos of Lee's chickens and Seamus, her Irish Wolf Hound. Now I'm making weekly visits to photograph the puppies that Goose had via c-section. Lee was lent this huge dog to whelp the puppies, a task which is, probably, a good deal harder than helping Thoroughbred mares. She's virtually watched them, except for four hours a night, since the five of them were brought home from the vet, each just about a pound. To me they look like pit bull puppies… or little rats. Highly unimaginable that they will become huge shaggy dogs that lope along agreeably.

The first time I drove to Lee's farm, Lion Spring, it took three hours and many questions to strangers. Now it takes about an hour and 15 minutes. And she's great company, a exuberant talker, my favorite kind of person.
This is my experiment, whether it's possible to link a vimeo video to the blog because I need to make one for the Chelsea Community Garden….
so, hopefully, if anyone gets to watch this video about the puppies, I'll know that my next task, or is it the one after the next task, will be possible.
Lee Lobelentz, Goose & 5 puppies+
And I've been working on a project with Linda Hart-Buuck about her Thoroughbred, Layla…video taping as she moved from the racetrack to her next career, whatever that turns out to be. Recently, we went out to the barn, another very long drive, and I had the chance to photograph this horse which is a special something or other breed, not a Thoroughbred, but special none-the-less for some reason or another…I don't like horses, actually, they are too big and, to me, unpredictable, especially Thoroughbreds. So I maintain a level of fear about them, but this horse is such a beautify with those gorgeous eyes. The owner has two others and seems to collect them…

So, it's one foot-after-the-other, though I can't keep thinking about discomfort and aging and sorrow. A dear friend died not that long ago, unimaginable. I think about those early days in New York, sharing the kids, all the help she gave me, her laughing nature and sheer practicality. She was the only person I knew who had a similar career as a photographer and teacher, though she worked far harder than I have, and was a far better academic who took all that very seriously. I'm so sorry she's gone.

But it's still one-foot-after-another to accomplish what I can before I can't.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

By request….after a long pause

 I had just about given up on blogging, but I had a request by email yesterday so here's one. I've drowned in video, endless video about Thoroughbreds. The problem has been learning to edit the new final cut pro X…or one problem…which has been solved by weekly appointments with the endlessly patient and informative Tommy…though he firmly believes that a program should be learned before you start to use it, he's been gracious enough to accept that I'm not going to do that and am in the middle of a huge mess of information that I want to get into some order…not only an interactive documentary, but a new blog which I'm working on.

The dogs have gone to L.A. for a long vacation. Bogie, my dog, isn't unhappy. Unfortunately, I found out that he has kidney problems recently so I've taken to feeding him with a spoon. Oh, I hope his former trainer doesn't read that because she told us that some dog had trained his owner to get down on the kitchen floor and feed him with a spoon. I sit on a stool.

I bought this feeder for five dollars and let it hang around for years. But now it's in good use.

This is the 16th cat that my daughter rescued from the back yard. He is one of two that she called big heads and spent weeks in the basement after he was neutered and before he went off to become acclimated to humans and then to find a new home. Last night, after my one-to-one lesson, when my brain had absorbed as much new information as possible, I found another cat in a cat on the back porch. K. had left notes on how to find the two folks who come pick up the cats so I frantically called one and by 7 or 8, a fellow came to pick up the other extremely angry big head. He will be fixed on Friday and then will cool down and hopefully go off to a better life than scrambling around in the cold looking for food.
The very good thing that happened after this cat was taken away was that I called the Verizon help line and was walked through putting in my wifi connection. Another very pleasant fellow patiently took me through the very long process so that I can continue to rescue myself by watching Netflix. I got from Thanksgiving through New Years and then on until now by watching BBC mysteries using some else's  wifi. Now I am on a Canadian program, not nearly as good, but I'm still hooked, Murdoch Mysteries. I'd prefer to be looking at Midsomer Murders. I saw 81. But I think it's too soon to start again.

If you got this far, thank you.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Cataract Surgery....it's easy and painless....

 The day before cataract surgery, I couldn’t remember my phone number and realized that I was nervous. That’s like the story someone told me about going to a medical conference and hearing a speaker say, “I must be nervous. I just took a valium.” I’m like that in the slow-reaction department. Why bother to feel anything since it’s just going to get worse. But I hadn’t bothered to feel anything before the operation since it wouldn’t do any good…

It was getting dark in here and a bit smudgy. I could no longer drive legally at night and it was inevitable. James, who I never manage to correspond with, much as I want to, said to do it five or six months ago. That was when the optometrist suggested that it was time to introduce me to a surgeon. But I wasn't ready.

The operating room was cold, but the process was interesting and the surgeon was willing to describe what I might be seeing…caused by the intensity of the light. I saw three small pink circles in a field of changing color, orange, lavender, green, orange again. Sometimes the dots moved, revealing black as if there was a mask underneath them. Later, when he was taking out the actual cataract, the field was pale gray with white crackles…and I knew when he was putting in the lens because of the extremely narrow lines of white light… 

The nurse had spoken to her supervisor and I had to delete all the photographs I took that included any patients or staff…she stood behind me after the operation and watched, to make sure. But I kept a few blue elbows, which didn’t seem to bother her.

Waiting with all the other people waiting, some older than me, some a bit younger, men and women, the men looking more sprightly, strange as that seems, took far longer than the operation did……….a long time sitting there, trying to write about years ago when I had my toe nail taken off and was in a New York hospital near women with serious problems…a mastectomy, an amputation. And was certain I’d die from the anesthesia. I didn’t. I’ve heard so many stories about how easy this cataract experience is and that when it’s over, it’s over. Never again in that eye. Cataracts don’t redevelop.

I must have been nervous, though, in spite of what I thought because I went to the wrong office for my next morning after-inspection. You are not allowed to make any important decisions for 24 hours after the surgery. This wasn’t a decision and not all that different in terms of mistakes than I do make – arriving an hour too early or too late or on the wrong day. But it was a first for a wrong office, the one in Boston rather than Cambridge.   Oh, well. The surgeon, an incredibly pleasant man, didn’t mind my taking photographs. Many eye doctors are also photographers, though of a very refined and classical bent. Landscapes that are perfectly in focus and beautifully printed.

Now my left eye sees everything in a heavy tinge of light. Whites are really white. My right eye still gives a yellow tinge. Yesterday when I visited friends, their house was yellow when seen with one eye and a very pale, pale yellow, verging on white, when seen with the new lens. I can’t imagine how awful all the photographs I’ve lightened recently must look….  oh, well…

I have to go back next Thursday. And it is difficult to be on the backside with the left eye protected by gauze. I have to find another solution by the time Layla Jane gets taken to her new home on Friday.

Friday, August 23, 2013

 I should, there is that word, should, get up and go to the garden, water the spinach I planted a week or more ago...but that means getting in the car for the umpteenth time today. So, I didn't and remembered that I actually have a blog which I've paid absolutely no attention to since April....

But here's Dolly. She's been Shirley's project and is coming along nicely, thank you. So, she's gone from a pet who I actually enjoyed...to approaching the status of a racehorse which is not as friendly a creature. But she's still gorgeous. I wish she was her old flopping self and hadn't improved so nicely into the profession she was born to...but there you go, that's what happens when a good trainer gets going.

The good accident is happening upon a woman who has  just purchased a Thoroughbred who she will take into her next life and I've been able to video the process of them getting acquainted before the horse leaves the stalls and takes off to a more elegant life. This filly has always been treated gorgeously, so the new owner is not getting a problem horse who needs a lot of work until she becomes secure.

It was rather an accident that I ended up video taping the folks who breed and buy the horses, but I feel into two interesting projects last summer...and here I am, drowning in material.   It's exciting. And I'm glad. But I bought a new video camera. And that meant a new editing program. And that's connected to my new computer, a desktop that I bought almost a year ago, but still don't know how to use properly. Besides, it has it's own technical problems that have been fixed once.   Etc.   I've got great new material and a mountain of technical information to absorb.    

A good space to be in.
And a bad one that just means I have to put one foot in front of the other and get to it.

I'm certain that if I were at the garden, I wouldn't have another squash that's been eaten by what most people seem to think is a woodchuck. My squash plant, singular, probably will decide not to have any more zuchs. My tomatoes, though they are sickly looking, are still prolific and I would have liked to have a couple with my pita and hummus. But, there you go...they are there and I am here.

I've done most of the dishes. And could vacuum. And do more sorting because the decluttering will start again in the fall when it's not so hot upstairs and the track is close to closing for the season and I've had my eyes fixed so that it's not so dark inside my head and I can drive again at night....