Saturday, May 26, 2012

More Stuff

My friend, former boss, and loyal blog follower, Tim C, sent me the link to this hilarious George Carlin clip (everything George Carlin did was hilarious) as his comment on my last blog post.  It's too funny not to share and makes an excellent follow-up to my post on Stuff.


I’ve always thought that one can never have too many shoes, but having too much stuff is a different matter.  Anyone who has ever moved house will likely say that they had too much stuff.  Spring housecleaning might be another such time, but I couldn’t say from personal experience.  However, now that I am organizing my belongings for my upcoming move, I’m thinking that I may have too much stuff.

There is stuff piled around that is still in the cardboard boxes I had packed it into when we were in Barcelona getting ready to move to Tarragona.  This stuff has not seen the light of day for over six years.  When it comes to clothes, with few exceptions, I adhere to the rule that if I haven’t worn it in the last year, it needs to go.  But that doesn’t necessarily hold true for stuff.

You see, those cardboard boxes mostly contain my good, Desert Rose dishes and a few other special treasures.  For one reason or another, renting my house out to tourists every summer so that treasures would not be safe being one of them, they remained packed up, safe and sound for several years.

Good dishes and other breakable treasures, however, are not the beginning and end of my collection of stuff.  I have lots of books.  Until two weeks ago, most of them were stored in the basement at Manel's house.  I am only keeping those that I haven’t yet read or that I have read but that are my favorites and that I may want to read again some day.  I give away books as I go, only keeping those I really like.  In the last few weeks I have done an even more thorough weeding out.  I buy almost all the books I read, and my friends rarely lend me books, so rereading my own saves money.  Since I tend to read, enjoy, and forget, I can happily reread a book, even a mystery, a year after the first read and rarely remember who did it.  Besides, it’s interesting to see, sometimes, how a book improves with age (my age) or how I can wonder why I ever liked it in the first place.  And, who knows, maybe in my next location I will make friends with someone who has good reading taste and who will share their books with me.

But finally there is all the stuff some people would call useless.  Not me, of course.  For me this stuff is valuable: it brings beauty into my life at home, gives me continual pleasure, evokes memories, and feeds my soul.  This is beautiful stuff, decorative stuff, stuff I’ve been given, bought in shops, or accumulated over the years at garage sales, antique markets, and travels.  It’s unlikely that my new apartment will provide enough space to display it all.  But I look forward to moving in, unpacking, and seeing how much of it I can display.  But even before I get started, I know that there won’t be too much stuff because whatever doesn’t fit on display can be tucked away for later.

There’s a lovely book about the value of stuff.  Still Life with Osyters and Lemons by Mark Doty sings the praises of all those beautiful things we like to collect and live with, stuff that enriches our lives.  It’s one of the books I’m taking with me.   

Friday, May 18, 2012

Apartment Meditation

Sitting down to meditate this evening I got to thinking.  I know you’re not supposed to be thinking, you’re supposed to be hearing your mantra and sending thoughts, if they come, softly away.  It’s Transcendental Meditation that I do, and I do it thanks to Joe, my second husband.  (I’ve had three husbands, an alarming number that I am not particularly proud of.)

I think that my meditation has helped me stay much calmer than I would otherwise have been these last few years during which I’ve been beset with woes and worries.  So I started thinking about Joe and how I grateful I am that he introduced me to TM.

Then I started thinking about a road trip he and I took across the US.  Driving through the Nevada desert, I was one of those people who thought that there was nothing there, there.  But not Joe.  He saw beauty in the desert when others, like me, saw only emptiness.  But of course he was right.  The desert isn’t empty, and there is a lot there, if you just settle down and take a look.

What does TM and the desert and Joe have to do with the apartment I’m buying?  Probably nothing.

Today I received the contract I signed two days ago returned to me, signed by the buyer.  In the contract my future home is described as an apartment comprised of a living room, kitchen, three bedrooms, bathroom, and a terrace-laundry.  It is typical that the washing machine is placed on a small outdoor space adjacent to the kitchen.  But the apartment has only two bedrooms not three.  The present owner tore out walls to eliminate the smallest bedroom and thus enlarge the living/dining room.  The result is lovely.  I am told this discrepancy is no problem. 

I will soon be living in sixty-six square meters (almost half the area of the house I live in now) with an additional few meters of terrace/laundry on one side and a balcony on the other, looking out over a large area of people’s small garden/patios.  It will be smaller, but I think I will be much more comfortable and hopefully much happier.  I can’t wait to move in, except that I must wait until late June (date yet to be determined).  TM twice a day will help me wait, so you see, there is a connection.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Most people probably never heard of Figueres.  Those who have know it is where the Salvador Dalí Museum is located.  The Dalí Museum was the reason Manel and I went there many years ago, when we were visiting his sister Pepita on the Costa Brava, before we came to live in Spain.  I don’t like Dalí.  The man may have been a genius, but my overwhelming impression on visiting his museum (that he designed himself) was not that I was seeing art created by a genius but rather, that I was experiencing the manifestation of the world’s biggest ego.

The museum brings lots of tourists to the town.  Not being on the sea, not being a resort, and not having any other major attraction apart from Dalí, Figueres is just the sort of place I was looking for to set up my next home.  A big town/small city that is more or less normal – that is to say not flooded with visitors in July and August and then dead the rest of the year.

I had hoped to move to France once I sold my house, but there were too many legal difficulties and I finally gave up on that dream.  So instead, I focused on Figueres – only about 20 kilometers from the French border -- even though I didn’t really know the place, thinking it was well situated and fitted much of my criteria.  I want to be further north where it is greener.  I already own rain boots and an umbrella.  From Figueres it is easy to visit Girona, Barcelona, or the south of France by train.  Soon it will have high speed train service to Paris (not that I will have enough of a discretionary budget in the future to visit Paris).  The existing train and bus service means I can easily take day outings to places that interest me and won’t have the expense of having to keep a car in the future.  Living in a city means I do can do my daily life by foot.

So this week I drove up to Figueres to see if the reality matched my expectations.  It did.  I found Figueres to be a pretty town, I found excellent restaurants that were not expensive (better and cheaper than anything around here), I found a town with cultural life, and I also found an apartment to make an offer on.  We have not yet signed a contract, so hopefully some good news about that next time.  Tune in next week!  

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Beautiful Ugly Duckling

Danny Kaye has been one of my favorite people since I was a little girl.  I don’t know exactly why that is except to say that some people just strike you as being good.  There were other actors who were more handsome, or who had better singing voices, but I never felt the same affection for them as I did for Danny Kaye.  As talented as he was, he may not have been the best singer or actor, but he always seemed to me to be the sweetest. 

Maybe I thought he was so wonderful because when I was about five years old he starred in the film Hans Christian Andersen. I loved the stories and I loved that film.  He portrayed a very sweet and gentle Hans Christian Andersen.  My parents bought me the record which I listened to over and over again.  I knew all the songs – still do.  “Oh, Thumbelina, Thumbelina, tiny little thing.  Thumbelina dance, Thumbelina sing.  Oh Thumbelina what’s the difference if you’re very small?  When your heart is full of love you’re nine feet tall.”  The man who sang that looked to me to be full of love himself.

In addition to being an excellent actor, singer, dancer, and comedian, Kaye was the first ambassador-at-large for UNICEF, an organization he assisted for many years.  Although he never won an Oscar for a performance, he did win the Academy’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.  I have always thought of him as a humanitarian.

I hadn’t heard Kaye singing any of the songs from the film for probably 55 years when all of a sudden one day last week a TV commercial came on and I instantly recognized him singing The Ugly Duckling.  I couldn’t believe it.  That commercial has come on twice now but I couldn’t tell you what product it is advertising.  Each time I’ve been totally wrapped up in Danny Kaye’s singing that short clip.

Now I wanted to hear more – the whole song at least, and others too.  So I got on the internet and found a video of the performance and thought I’d share it with you.  If you’re my age maybe you have the same fond memories of Danny Kaye that I have.  If you’re much younger and are not familiar with him, here’s a chance to make the acquaintance of a fabulous entertainer and a wonderful human being. 

Danny Kaye and The Ugly Duckling

Danny Kaye isn’t the only wonderful entertainer out there.  Here’s a video of two of the greatest singing together.  Both these men emanate warmth and kindness -- real gentlemen.

 As far as I can tell, they don’t make them like that any more.

Photo from Wikipedia.