Archive for August, 2010

Simmer Running
August 28, 2010

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun…                                                          – Shakespeare (Cymbelline 1609) 

Oops, that was a funny typo;  I meant to write “SUMMER Running”!  But on the other hand, the original version is a pretty fair description of  what running in a Houston August entails. 

Recently we went to San Francisco where it was MUCH cooler. But SF was too hilly for me, in spite of my shirt that reads, “Sea Level is for Sissies” (purchased in Colorado). So I wussed out and ran on the hotel treadmill, where I discovered that my speed has declined as my age has increased. Oh well, this tortoise always finishes the race, albeit slowly and steadily. 

Back to steamy Houston, where it is unbearable to run unless you do it first thing in the morning. For what it’s worth, here is how I survive running in Houston at this time of year… 

Tips for Summer Running:

  • start out early
  •  bring lots of water
  •  wear a wet bandana around your neck
  • wear a hat or visor to keep the sun off your face
  • stick to the shady side of the street
  •  run through sprinklers
  •  take a water break at the halfway mark and at subsequent stop signs
  • douse bandana with water and apply to face and neck
  •  pat all friendly dogs
  •  listen for bird calls 

(those last two tips apply year round) 

Of course, as soon as I wrote this, lo and behold, there was a hint of fall in the air this week! With the cooler, dry air and longer morning shadows, it’s actually been a pleasure to run these past few days. I know the heat and humidity will soon return, but just knowing that fall is around the corner brings respite to this weary tortoise. 

Today I went and bought a new pair of shoes, which always psyches me up and makes me fleeter of feet. I’ll need all the help I can get, as I am off to Choir Retreat next weekend, where running with teenagers means I will have to step up my pace! 

Happy running…

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Mr. Mozo Rising
August 21, 2010

What’s in a name?                                                                                          -William Shakespeare (1595) 

The next time I am called upon to name a dog or a cat or an automobile, it will be “Mozo”.  Or maybe that can be my grandmother name! Oh wait, Shannon has already threatened to call me “Grammar” (with the last name of “Police”). 

I met the real Mozo yesterday when he delivered our new washer and dryer, ordered a few weeks ago after I realized that our faithful dryer (20+ years old) was failing to do its job in a timely manner. Oh sure, I could run the clothes through several cycles, but what a waste of time and electricity! 

Of course, it goes without saying that if I needed a spiffy new dryer, I’d have to get a matching spiffy new washer to replace the vintage one that still worked, albeit very loudly and slowly. It was time. 

During the interim between the order and the delivery, we held our breath each time we turned on the dryer, and thankfully, I did not have to make any trips to a laundromat. 

On Wednesday, a Sears robocall let me know that the delivery time would be between 2:30 and 4:30 on Thursday, on which day, of course, I had a haircut scheduled at 3:30. Shannon was going to be my backup, but lo and behold, here came the Sears truck right at the stroke of 2:30! 

I had cleared things out of the laundry room (like the cat box) so that the guys had enough room to remove our faithful antique appliances, and Mozo made quick work of it. He had told me his name when he came to the door, but with his heavy Hispanic accent, I wasn’t quite certain of it. 

Mozo is built like a fireplug: short, compact and sturdy. He is as strong as a Coney Island weight lifter, and hefted our old washer and dryer out the door all by himself. 

In the meantime, all of our other workmen were doing their thing outside. Our general contractor, Gerardo asked what we were going to do with our old washer/dryer, and I said, “Oh, Gerardo, these are so old, nobody would want them!”

But he was interested. Not so much in the malfunctioning dryer, but he said he would like to take the washer to give to someone he knew who needed one. Cool. The only problem was that in our contract, it was stipulated that the delivery people would be taking both washer/dryer.

So Mozo had to make a call to the powers that be to let them know that he was only picking up the dryer and not the washer. I only heard his side of the conversation, but it became apparent that the Anglo woman on the other end of the line could not understand him. She must have questioned him too many times, because he finally shouted, “My name is MOZO! M- O -Z -O!”

It was only then that I understood how to pronounce his name. And I was grateful to affirm it, because I think it’s really important to be able to call someone by name. I then inquired if he wanted something to drink, and seriously, he was most appreciative to be acknowledged. 

He was rather frustrated by the inability of the woman to understand him, so he handed his phone to me to talk to her to affirm that it was only the dryer that would be hauled away. I was happy to do so. 

Mozo was and is one of those workers who does a good job and takes pride in it. After the new washer/dryer were installed, he rattled off the specs of them and pushed all the buttons for me. I have to admit, I nodded along, not understanding most of what he was telling me, but he was so earnest about it, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I had no idea what he was talking about.

 I figure I’ll just read the instructions. So far, so good. We love our new quiet washer/dryer; it’s almost fun to do the wash now! Especially because the cats are fascinated as they watch the wash go round and round in the front loading glass doors… (see the photo of Trixie).

Thank you, Mozo; I will not forget you.

Dateline San Francisco
August 13, 2010

The morning fog may chill the air
I don’t care!

– Tony Bennett  (“I Left My Heart in San Francisco”) 

That may be his opinion, but I cared! While in San Francisco last weekend, I felt as if I were in some strange time warp. It was so cold there that I found it difficult to recall what month it actually was. People were all bundled up in leather jackets, black hose, neck scarves and wool hats. Someone mentioned an upcoming fall event, and it gave me pause, as I thought to myself, “What month is this?” August, for pete’s sake!

Thankfully, I’ve been to SF enough that I had no need to ride the cable cars or go to Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz or the Golden Gate Bridge. Rather each time I am blessed to visit this iconic city, I now focus on art. 

SF is a destination city for artists, both visual and performing. The museums are fabulous as are the galleries. On Saturday, we went out to the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park (via a most amusing cab ride with a garrulous and glib cabbie) to see the “Birth of Impressionism” exhibit, a collection of masterpieces on loan from the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. As an art history major, I was thrilled to see these treasures in person. Prints or slides don’t do them justice. 

But for free, the street art is almost as much fun to watch; sometimes artists will ply their trade in organized outdoor exhibits, or just be creative on the spot.

Let’s talk about performing artists. Yes, some of these folks are jobless or  homeless, with many who perform for handouts. But I think those who are really creative about it add to the city’s personality. My favorite one this year was the perky accordion player at the place where the cable cars turn around; there is always a large crowd assembled there, and I imagine that she gets lots of tips!

Then there was the “Yoga for Hope” gathering in Union Square. I was thinking… what was the purpose of this exercise?  People watching in SF is always interesting. Joel said he was very hopeful after observing all these people doing yoga together (note the sarcasm).

The sights of SF are endlessly interesting around every corner, as the streets wind through the city’s storied hills. I love the variety of architecture, both old and new, and the public art that enhances the parks and plazas. In the summer, the flowers are gorgeous; I loved the purple flowering trees on the south side of Union Square, and wish I had taken a photo of them.  

When the sun burned off the ubiquitous fog, the weather was actually quite pleasant, the perfect mix of cool air and warm sun. But often that didn’t happen until late afternoon, which resulted in a gloomy morning chill. Add a brisk wind, and it was downright COLD. I finally went out and bought some black tights to cover my goose bumps. 

Did I mention the food? Oh my goodness, what good food and what a variety! I felt quite indulgent eating all meals out, and with all my walking about, I ate most heartily.

However, upon reflection, the thing I most enjoyed about our trip to SF was being with our friends from years ago, and also our more recent contacts through the ABA group.

Connecting with our SF friends whom we haven’t seen in years was such a treat; James and I go back to childhood days in New Orleans. I hadn’t seen him in decades, but our families are close, and we enjoyed catching up after way too long. We enjoyed lunch at a jewel of a French restaurant, and I loved getting to know his wife, Cinne, seeing their photos and laughing about days gone by. 

D’Ann met us for drinks at the bar atop our hotel, which had great views of the bay. She was a dear friend back in our high school days at Lamar, but has lived out in SF since early in her marriage. We also fell right back into easy conversation, shared photos of our families, and played the “whatever happened to…?” game. 

When it was time to leave, we hit the down button on the elevator (we were on the 36th floor), but nothing happened. Then we heard the ominous sound of the fire alarm; we were stuck until the “all clear” signal. Here came the firemen, all decked out in their smoky smelling coats! 

When we discovered that it might be 30 minutes before we could descend, we opted to walk down the stairs with some other folks. Happily, the all clear came when we hit the 22nd floor; walking downstairs in heels is not a very good idea, and my calf muscles were quite irritated with me. 

As for our ABA  friends, being with them was like being at a reunion.  Over the years we’ve been attending these meetings, we’ve made some very dear friends from all around the country, and it’s always special to spend time with them over a good meal and glasses of wine. Probably too much wine, but sometimes that’s what happens on vacation! 

All in all, it was a wonderful trip with just enough “forced idleness” to recharge my battery and planned activities to pique my interest. Add in some good nights of sleep, and I returned restored and ready to get back to work amidst the chaos that is my house being remodeled. 

A final postscript: after spending 4 days being a popsicle, I am actually enjoying being back where it is warm. At least for a few days, I am not going to complain about the heat; I just can’t imagine not having summer!