Sunday, June 19, 2011


The other night we were sitting in the living room. The TV was on and Lee was lying on the couch, sleepily watching HGTV. He turns that channel on frequently, the better to indulge his home-renovation-dream-house-building fantasies. Harper and I were sitting in “my” chair, which has the best light, so that I could read or do embroidery, occasionally getting sucked into the HGTV story lines. I like Property Virgins because they make me feel house-savvy, and I like Mike Holmes because he is so indignant and self-righteous and the home owners he saves from disreputable contractors are so gullible.
Suddenly something seems to be flying around the living room ceiling. Neither Harper nor Lee reacts. “Lee,” I whisper urgently. “There’s a big bug flying around!” Lee opens one eye, and then another. “That’s no bug,” he says, “that’s a bat!”
Harper Doesn''t Care About Bats
I proceed to cower in my chair. Harper doesn’t move. It’s not a squirrel or a robin, so she’s not interested. Lee gets up and turns on more lights. The bat is now swooping around frantically. Lee opens the front door, and the bat flies outside. What a brilliant man!

Where did it come from? Our fireplace is gas and well-sealed. Lee has been doing a lot of work in our attic increasing the insulation, and hasn’t noticed any holes or gaps. We assume this must be a one-time oddity.
Sunny Living Room Where the Bat First Appeared

But one night just a day or two later, around 3 am, we hear a strange sound. One of the windows is open and to me it sounds like the window shade is flapping. I turn over and try to ignore it. My usual attitude when I’m awake at night is to pretend that I’m asleep. I never want to admit to myself that I’m actually awake. But the flapping sound continues and it becomes harder to ignore. Suddenly Lee gets out of bed. Lee has an amazing ability to go from a sound sleep to fully awake in a matter of seconds. This can be dangerous if the phone should happen to ring at night. He can leap out of bed and say hello before his body has actually fully awakened, causing object to cascade across night stands. 
Peaceful Bedroom - The Second Bat's Destination
This time he once again starts turning on all the lights. It is another bat! I bravely throw the blankets over my head and shut my eyes tightly, but my hero once again opens the front door and the bat flies right outside.
That does it, I announced. We’ve got to find out where these bats are coming from. I know bats can be very beneficial, and I’m happy they are outside eating up our mosquito hordes, but that’s where I want them, outside!

I find a company that will come and inspect our house, find out where the bats are gaining access, and then help prevent them from coming back inside. Lee goes up in the attic again and hunts for openings, or any signs of bat habitation, but doesn’t find anything. Then he inspects the outside of the house, and finds several places between the roof and the walls that look like this:


A pretty likely bat entryway, wouldn’t you say? We’re going ahead and having the bat-busters come and inspect the house, but hopefully the problems they find can be fixed by Lee. Apparently, making one’s house bat-proof can be a fairly expensive proposition. But I don’t like the thought of another bat getting inside when Lee is out of town. I suppose if I must I can be the one to turn on all the lights and open the front door, but the thought still gives me the creeps. All I know is that if what happened to a friend of mine happens to me, Harper and I will be checking into a hotel. Well, wait a minute, this happened to them IN a hotel…They had a bat in their hotel room. They chased it into the bathroom, but it got out. My friend woke up to see the bat crawling up the side of the bed, less than 10 feet from her head. Her husband got up, took the screen off the hotel room window, somehow got the bat to crawl onto the screen, and then threw the screen, with the bat still attached, out the window!  I don’t think they got a lot of sleep that night.

Friday, June 17, 2011

New Jersey

We’ve spent the past week in New Jersey. The headquarters for Lee’s new company are in Red Bank and he needs to visit them occasionally to get some “face time” with his new coworkers. Harper and I were happy to come along. Harper is always up to GO whatever that might entail, and I was ready for a break. There are so many things that need to be done around the house right now. By being somewhere else I could put them aside for a couple of days. They’ll still be there when I return.

Harper and I spent a couple of days exploring the Jersey Shore. It’s a very pretty area, very green, with cute small towns. The first day we drove to Monmouth State Park, because it was a beach that allowed dogs. I stopped to eat lunch at a place called Jersey Joes,, which sold genuine New Jersey hotdogs. That’s a hotdog or sausage on a large bun with peppers, onions and potatoes. Crazy! It was greasy and delicious, probably the unhealthiest thing I’ve eaten in years. The owner was eager to find out what I thought of their concoction. I could honestly tell him it was delicious, but I didn’t let him know that I felt very guilty eating it. I felt like I was probably clogging my arteries with every bite.

After lunch Harper and I tried to go for a walk on the beach. There was a long pier where people were fishing and you could see the New York City skyline far away in the distance. The beach itself was nasty, full of trash and seaweed. Harper of course thought it was great, but it starting raining so we headed back to the hotel.

The following day I had a day in New York City planned.  I didn’t want to take Harper with me; I wanted to be free to do whatever I wanted to do, dog-friendly or not. So before we left I hunted for a doggy daycare or other pet-sitting service in the area. I found a really unique business, Buddy’s Sleepovers and Playdates, They match you with an individual that will watch your dog for a day or even board it, if that’s what you want. They found a really wonderful match for Harper and I. Kathy was delighted to watch Harper for the day, and Harper had a blast playing with her neighbor’s dog and running around her backyard all day long.
I decided to take the ferry to the city. Although more expensive than the train, it took 40 minutes instead of an hour and a half. And it was fun, and beautiful. 

The ferry let me out at Pier 11, close to Greenwich Village. From there I needed to get to the Malaysian Consulate to hand in some paperwork for Lee. The Consulate is on East 43rd Street, up and across town from where I was, so I decided to take a taxi. I had a limited amount of time before I was supposed to meet a friend. Being stuck in New York City traffic always makes me anxious. Maybe I’ve watched too many episodes of Sex in the City, but I’m always afraid I’m going to be late….this was true in Hong Kong too, but I guess since I lived there I learned the best routes to take and what times to avoid. I don’t feel as competent in New York.
But the taxi driver got me to the Consulate without too much delay. Once inside, however, I felt like I was back in Asia. I knew, from the minute Lee asked me to perform this task for him, that the chances that something would go wrong were high. It seems to be impossible to do something related to bureaucracy with an Asian government in anything resembling an efficient manner. The first official I talked to insisted that they didn’t do what Lee needed done. This is after Lee talked to someone at this very Consulate twice to confirm the process! He finally went to find his supervisor, and after some discussion I was able to get half of what Lee needed accomplished. Lee had a copy of a verification form for his University degree that needed to be certified by the Consulate but this they refused to do. They want a copy of his actual diploma to certify. Oh well. Fortunately none of this will prevent Lee from working in Malaysia, at least for the time being. 
From the Consulate I headed downtown to my friend’s apartment on Park Avenue near 34th Street. It was a beautiful day in the city so I walked along, enjoying the sunshine and the people watching. I met my friend Katie in Hong Kong. We were in the needle arts group together, and left Hong Kong within a year of one another. We’ve shared the challenges of repatriation. Even living in New York, Katie still misses Hong Kong. I think we’ll always miss Hong Kong. It’s the price we have to pay for the gift of having the chance to live in such an amazing city.
We walked a short distance from Katie’s apartment to a rare musical instrument shop that holds lunchtime concerts. These concerts allow their rare instruments to be played regularly, and give young musicians a chance to play instruments to which they otherwise would not have access. You can learn more about these concerts at their website:
They played a couple of Brahms violin sonatas, a short piece by a Polish composer, Henryk  Wieniawski, and then a couple of pieces by a contemporary tango composer, A. Piazzolla. The final piece by Piazzolla, called Le Grand Tango, was downright thrilling! I wouldn’t mind finding a recording of some of his music.
After the concert it was time for lunch. We went around the corner, to Lexington Avenue, and found ourselves in an area that Katie informed me is known as Curry Hill. Indian food seemed to be the order of the day. We stopped at a place called Dhaba that had an excellent Indian buffet lunch. It was delicious; now I have to take Lee there sometime.
After lunch it was time for me to head back to the ferry. I wanted to get back to New Jersey fairly early, since I had to pick up Harper, take her back to the hotel, walk and feed her, and then pick up Lee and a coworker in time for dinner. Katie helped me figure out the best subway route to take to get me back down to the Village in time for the 3:35 ferry. My biggest problem when emerging from a subway system in an unfamiliar area is getting properly oriented. I started off walking in what I hoped was the right direction. Fortunately I happened to glance down a cross street and noticed that I was walking parallel to a large body of water. After I corrected my direction accordingly I made it back to the ferry with plenty of time to spare.
I sat down to wait for the ferry. The sign said the Belford Ferry would be leaving from slip 4. At 3:30 a ferry pulled up to slip 3. The sign said this was the ferry for Paulus Hook. So I watched calmly as the ferry arrived. As it started to pull away from the slip there was a garbled announcement that sounded like maybe the Belford Ferry was departing from slip 3!
I hurried up to the ticket counter and asked from which slip the Belford Ferry would depart. “The Belford Ferry just departed from slip 3,” the small man behind the counter said. “It’s a big ferry, so it always departs from slip 3”.
“But the sign says that it departs from slip 4,” I cried! I was furious. Of course it was stupid to lose my temper. It’s not like that little man was going to call the ferry back to pick up me and several other passengers that had just missed our boat. But when I lose my temper sometimes it takes me awhile before I can regain my equilibrium. I’d like to say that I was speechless with indignation. It would certainly have been more dignified. But no, I gave that smug little man a piece of my mind, but he just shrugged. I think he was used to that kind of abuse.
The next ferry wasn’t until 4:15. Now it was going to be even later before I could pick up Lee. When I calmed down enough to call him, we decided that it was best if he and his co-worker went to the restaurant without me and that I would join them when I could.
Once I finally got to New Jersey and picked up Harper, it turned out that she was so tired from playing all day that she didn’t really need a walk, so that saved me a little time. I got to the restaurant not too late after all, so everything worked out. I’d like to say that this experience taught me the fruitlessness of losing my temper, but I know it’s bound to happen again. I’m just a hot-blooded girl sometimes, even in my old age.
I have more New Jersey adventures to relate, but this post is long enough. Stay tuned!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Oh Paul!

I’ve just spent the past half hour trying to reconstruct a timeline for my relationship with Simon and Garfunkel, the 60’s folk-rock duo, but it’s hopeless. I thought surely somewhere on the internet there resides a article with all their touring dates, but so far I haven’t found it. I know I’ve seen Paul Simon five times now in concert in my lifetime, but I can’t be positive of the dates. This makes the 60’s seem like ancient history. Maybe someone will read this blog post and set me straight if there are any errors in this account. All I can say is I’ve tried my best to remember when things occurred.
Maybe the exact dates aren’t that important. When I try to accurately remember the concerts themselves, however, I’m not much more successful. What I can remember, of course, are the songs. Layered with the songs are feeling and emotions from over forty years ago. It’s more difficult that I thought it would be to put those old feelings into words.

The first time I saw them is actually the most vivid, although I don’t remember the concert itself. They performed at Graham Chapel at Washington University in St. Louis, probably sometime in 1966. I know I went to the concert with Cathy, Fran and Debbie. I know we were terribly excited, but we tended to get terribly excited about all kinds of things, especially various rock stars and TV personalities. 
What I remember most is the end of the concert. While waiting for which-ever parent was supposed to pick us up, we wandered around the auditorium. Graham Chapel is not that large, and it quickly became almost completely empty. We noticed a piece of paper onstage lying next to the stool they had used during the concert. In a fit of bravery one of us ran onstage and grabbed the paper. It had a phone number on it! Giddy with excitement, we ran out the back of the auditorium and down a hallway. As we slowed to a walk some people were coming down some stairs in front of us. In the group of three or four people stood Paul and Art!
Why we actually had their album with us (Sounds of Silence, of course) I will never know, but we got their autographs on our albums. They were nice-looking young men, new enough to fame to not mind stopping for three young girls. And of course it has to be said, Paul Simon is really, really short, Danny Devito short. He stood on the step above me, which made him barely come up to my 5’5” tall 8th grade head.
I saw them twice more in high school, and the main thing I remember is a very personal feeling of pride in their success, demonstrated by the increasing size of the auditoriums they were able to fill. The next time we saw them it was at the Kiel Opera House in St. Louis. Recently renovated and renamed the Peabody Opera House, this 3,500 seat theatre was a prominent step up from a college campus concert. I am going to guess that this concert was sometime in 1967, after Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme had come out. 
The last time I saw them as an adolescent they played at Kiel Auditorium, a much, much larger venue that used to be attached to the opera house, but has since been torn down. By the time of this concert they were big-time stars. I’m going to guess that this was in 1968, after their songs had been used as the soundtrack to the movie The Graduate.
Simon and Garfunkel were not the only rock and roll stars that I liked in high school, of course. In my agitated hormone-ridden state I could scream and cry with the best of the teeny-boppers over the likes of Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Monkees, The Stones, The Doors and yes, The Beatles. Mark Lindsay, Mick Jagger, Jim Morrison and John Lennon all made my heart beat faster. It’s confusing and not a little embarrassing to remember now, but really I have to consider that I was only 13 or 14 years old. Lusting after a cute boy in a rock band was actually a very safe outlet for the beginnings of those sexual feelings.
The saving grace in all that over-the-top behavior was the music. My actions and those of my friends were often silly, but the music was flat-out good, and there was a lot of it too. There was just a pent-up creative burst in the 1960’s and 70’s. As Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel ended their relationship as a singing duo, Simon branched out on his own. His solo albums in the 1970’s and 1980’s were not always good, but some of them, notably “Paul Simon”,  “There Goes Rhyming Simon” and “Graceland” were great. As a composer and an artist he branched out, incorporating world music and world-class musicians into his compositions.
In 1999 Paul Simon went on tour with Bob Dylan and came to Riverport Amphitheatre in St. Louis. By this time I was a grownup married lady with two preteen children, but even after thirty years, the thought of seeing Paul Simon in concert again made me tremble. I can actually remember this concert in some detail. The lights, the drums (there were at least two drum sets on the stage) and the diminutive singer with the amazing songs. When he walked out on stage I actually felt like screaming “OH PAUL”. I remember almost physically restraining myself. The old crazy excitement came back, if only for a moment.
My husband and I both agree that was the best rock concert we ever attended. He played for hours, each song better than the last; the crowd on its feet, dancing and singing along. And we promised ourselves that given half a chance we wouldn’t miss any future opportunities to hear him play. When he announced a concert tour for this year with a date in Boston, we knew where we would be on June 1st. I bought us tickets as soon as I could.
So a couple of days ago we went to see Paul Simon at the Wang Theatre in Boston. He has a new album out and its very good, one of the best ones in years. The Wang is not very large, so it was intimate in a raucous rock ‘n’ roll sort of way. The crowd was mixed, from middle-aged music lovers in their fifties, sixties and yes seventies, to younger people that probably grew up listening to their parent’s Simon and Garfunkel albums.
I surprised myself when he walked out on stage, as tears darted into my eyes. I didn’t feel like screaming, but vivid images of those teenage girls from forty years ago flickered in front of me. Snatches of songs drifted in and out of my consciousness. Before I knew it the concert had begun and I was back in the present, enjoying the music of a spectacular artist.

Oh yes, remember that phone number on that stool on a stage, many years ago? Well we called it when we got home. It was a taxi service. It’s probably just as well. If Paul or Art had answered the phone back then we probably would have passed out!


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