Tuesday, March 31, 2020

“My Crickets: A Little Decameron #3”

The cricket I wrote about on March 20th is still here, in my bathroom, and has been joined by another cricket. I feed them fruit at night. And they've gotten so used to my comings and goings that they don't stop their rubbings anymore when I enter in the middle of their nocturnal paradise.
      In fact, one actually ventured out from under the shower last night. I think they're taking the “shelter in place” rule with us. For a while the new one was in Howard's bathroom, but now they have moved in together.
      A dear friend replied that they might be mother and son. But only male crickets rub their legs in this manner as a mating call. And when I entered my bathroom the other night, both seemed to be chirruping away, a boisterous noise that uplifted my spirits immensely, particularly after falling twice upon concrete as I went across the street in an attempt to return my Netflix movie in what I have always perceived as an empty mailroom. No one was there anymore to help me to even stand up. And the building itself was closed without a proper statement of admittance.
      Since they both seem to be cricketing, rubbing their legs together, I believe them to both be males. A funny coincidence, two gay crickets in a gay house. Since all of our windows have been closed, how did they even enter?
     Last night bananas, tonight maybe mashed blueberries. Alas, I ate the apricots. They were so delicious.
     Actually, I fed them two plates, one consisting of a bit a leftover meatloaf, the other of mashed blueberries.
     In the morning when I take the dishes away, I can’t even tell if they dined upon dinner plates. Tonight, I’ll offer a ramekin of water. They have become my saints.
     As my Italian friend Monica Gazzo, wrote on my Facebook site: Two Grilli Parlanti‼ Double good luck‼
      I think we might need it in these Coronavirus days. They might live, so I read, for several weeks or months. May we also live as long.

March 30, 2020-March 31, 2020
Reprinted from Green Integer Review (March 2020).

Friday, March 20, 2020

“My Crickets: A Little Decameron #2”

For the last week, a cricket has entered our house and rubbed his legs together endlessly. I love him as he moves from my bathroom to the living room and kitchen and back into the bathroom again. He's even grown a bit used to me; at first he'd stop his cricketing when I entered the bathroom in the middle of the night, but soon he realized that I meant him no harm. I now know even where he hides under my shower, and I encourage him to continue his leg thrashing, which he somewhat reluctantly does.
      Although Howard is terrified of the small, not-very-good-looking insect (no cricket ever looked like the Walt Disney Jiminy Cricket) I do think our visitor now realizes we are benign. I've always loved crickets, and won't allow Howard to kill him, even though today Howard announced the cricket had nearly accosted him at 2:00 am. We're very early risers.
      All of California, as you may have heard, is now in a kind of lockdown, the only exceptions being grocery stores, gas stations, banks, hospitals, and a few other community-based activities. Howard's doctor is doing a telephone conference with him today. And wonders of wonders, Howard is reading Moby-Dick.
      I've never heard the large and bustling combination of Los Angeles communities—in total larger than even New York City—so very quiet. I can't even hear the subway construction under our feet, nor the new museum building that will soon approach our doorway. The newspaper and e-mail announcements now consist mostly about closings.
     Silence. Silence. Thanks, little cricket, for bringing some noise back into our lives. He doesn't even seem to mind my endless background reportage of CNN.
      I hope my cricket friend will accompany me today while I finish my taxes. But he seems to sleep throughout the day. Crickets are nocturnal creatures.

March 20, 2020
Reprinted from Green Integer Review (March 2020).

“My Crickets: A Little Decameron #1”

For the last two days the lovely Ukrainian elderly couple who daily swim in our pool were shamed for simply swimming there. I was shocked and called them over yesterday to ask if they truly were abused, on the first day, by the woman I perceived was shouting at them. They were, and we again bonded. They snuck back into the pool later. But the next day, with another fascist neighbor it happened again. They're such sweet folks, and I felt so embarrassed that our neighbors were decrying their simply daily, quite healthy bathing.  
      Today they didn't appear. So sad, so very sad. Please, I want to cry out, come back and splash in our now very cold pool! They are not spreading germs, but the people screaming at them are.
     An update on my lovely Ukrainian friends: they were back today in our lovely pool, splashing away. But they told me that the pool was soon going to close because the pool guy would no longer be able to care for it! I waved them a lovely farewell and felt a deep sense of loss for their delightful plashing. What is happening to us. I kissed them as a symbolic good-bye. We so very much need one another these days. I'll try to find their names and share with them the article I wrote about them. So glad to see them again, perhaps for a long time in the future, lovingly swimming.
      And delightfully, they have returned several times since that original event. They keep healthy in a time in which the world cannot.

Los Angeles, March 18, 2020-March 20, 2020
Reprinted from Facebook (March 2020).

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

"My Last Restaurant Lunch"

my last restaurant lunch

My last dining experience with other people was just the past Thursday, March 12. We had joined friends Carol Travis and Audrey Stein for a visit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to the Luchita Hurtado show (more about which I will soon write). It was raining heavily, and despite out intention of traveling a bit further to one or another of my favorite restaurants—Mandarette or Matsumoto—we decided on LACMA’s excellent, if somewhat pricey, Ray’s. It was the better choice certainly given the heavy downpours, and the fact that neither Carol nor Audrey have ever eaten there. It is one of my favorites, and the waiters, the maĆ®tre-des know me well.

     I’m not here, necessarily, to talk about the food. It was as good as always, with Howard ordering up their famous Margherita pizza, and Carol and Audrey requesting their over-sized, but delicious salads. Feeling a bit like we were at the edge of The Decameron, I ordered the far more expensive combination of a gin and tonic and their famed Agnolotti, which consists of toasted pine nuts, mascarpone, fried rosemary, brown butter, parmigiano-reggiano, and pumpkin seeds—a truly delicious pasta that I simply couldn’t resist, particularly given what I internally predicted, that it would soon be closed.
     After a quick, laughingly elbow greeting we all enjoyed our pleasant lunch, talking about the show we’d just seen, Carol’s husband Case—who I was shocked to be told had died 8 years earlier, in my mind it might have been just a couple of years ago—and sharing Audrey’s experiences of other shows, one of which was Howard’s remarkable “Paper Show” at the Craft Contemporary museum (formerly the Craft and Folk Museum).

     To compensate for my far more expensive and expansive meal, I determined to pay for the check. But I just couldn’t regret ordering the more lavish lunch meal. A day or two later, the museum and restaurant closed until the end of March—which I can only imagine will be much longer of a time. People are nervous: when I offered my fellow diners a bite of my so very delicious Agnolotti, they quickly refused, while Howard’s offering up of pizza slices was easily accepted. Slices are more easily separated, surely, than a fork-based dish into my tongue had been wandering. I comprehended it without comment.
      People in the elevators these days look suspiciously at one another. A neighborly friend, wrapped in three bright red scarves, told me how nervous she was about the events of the novel coronavirus: after all we are both in our 70s. And all of us have now been told to stay in-doors for weeks. Even the art of conversation is now perceived as dangerous, let alone the lovely afternoon luncheon which Howard and I had experienced with dear friends.
      My close-friends Martin Nakell and his wife Rebecca have reported that they are now teaching on-line from home—individuals with whom, over long years, I have had so many breakfasts, luncheons, and dinners in the US and the now plagued Italy. I expressed my feelings, given my long years of teaching, about the difficulties of reaching out to students through a computer. Yet, I admitted, perhaps I had been long doing that already on my several blogs.
      All restaurants and bars have now been closed in Italy, France, and in most major US cities, including New York and Los Angeles. Social life has come to an end just when we most need it. That beautiful elderly friend in her three red scarves stood at the other end of the elevator which we shared, clearly a bit afraid of any plague I might be breeding. “We’re all terrified,” she whispered.
     Yes, we all are terrified, but perhaps we should and could be less so just by sharing with one another. I’m glad to have ordered that Agnolotti, and truly wish the others in our small, last time party—at least for a while—might have tasted it.
     At 72, with a long history of respiratory diseases (a childhood of Bronchitis, and two cases of Pneumonia, as well as an autoimmune response of Psoriasis), I too am a bit scared. But no one can ever take that afternoon luncheon joy away. The company, the food, the rain were just perfect. Howard joked that we were going to “swim home” in the downpour to our condominium across the street. I enjoyed the rain pounding my head like another kind of bathing we all need to share.

Los Angeles, March 17, 2020
Reprinted from Green Integer Review (March 2020).