Copacabana Beach

The beach stretches a mile and along its mosaic sidewalks the famed Girl from Ipanema used to sashay. That song is still my favorite. Then her daughter took up the tradition, wearing, of course, a bikini as substantial as dental floss.

The length of the beach has the Copacabana Palace as its grand hotel, restaurants fill in the rest, and the one Renato and I frequented one day stood at one end. Our host, a hearty Brazilian man, promised us fresh-caught lobster. From the deck of the restaurant we watched the fishing boat come in, grind onto the sand, and a haul of lobsters taken inside. Our host went into the kitchen and brought out a lobster for us to admire. Here’s your lunch, Lucille, he said, beaming.

At this moment the lobster writhed out of his grip and fell to the floor, whence it scrabbled under the table. A waiter got down on his knees and tried to grab it but failed. Our host joined him there and amid much huffing and puffing and laughter, emerged with the frantic lobster in his hand, so back it went to the kitchen.

When my meal was finally served, steaming and with butter on the side, my stomach clenched and I had only to look at Renato, who swiftly traded his steak for my lobster. I noticed he didn’t eat much of it.


Goodbye, Bijou

He had pulled an all-nighter before so I did not panic, but by the afternoon I was frantic. My next-door neighbor Gigi heard me calling and said from her side of the fence that she was coming over. She told me she had seen a black cat lying on the side of Skyline Blvd the day before. I’ll take you there, she said. Gigi had not made the connection to me when she spotted the cat but now realized it could have been Bijou.

But Bijou’s body was gone from the spot where she had seen it. We searched the area, then I came home and posted a message on our neighborhood network,, asking if anyone had noticed a black cat’s body and to please contact me if so.

At least five responses came back, and one of them was specific. Yes, the jogger had seen the body, and he would have brought it to me had he known my location. His conjecture that a vulture might have taken the body or that it may have been dragged off by another animal could have been omitted. I did not need to think of that, though I would have on my own anyway. And he must have been hit by a car.

So that’s it. No more sweet Bijou, whose little face I kissed whenever I picked him up to cuddle. He loved to travel, that one. I could no more have kept him locked inside the house than I could have kept a soul trapped in a box.


The TV series of “Outlander”

Having read all seven hefty volumes of Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series, a fascinating historical treatment of time travel in Scotland, I was happy as a child when the ice cream truck arrived in my neighborhood, said truck being the TV rendition of the story of Jamie Fraser and Claire Randall.

Each Saturday evening I settled down to an hour of their adventures, which would lead to the life-defining battle of Culloden Field between the Scots and the English. The production is a stupendous, utterly impressive delivery of conditions in 1745. The Scottish characters are as real as one’s next-door neighbors, and when the protagonists journeyed to France, the accoutrements of the French royal court were stunning in their detail. I enjoyed Louis XV and the foppish Prince Charles, he of “Bonnie Prince Charles” legend. The costumes of the courtiers left nothing out (so far as I know).

Jamie and Claire are at court in an attempt to derail the coming battle, to somehow wrench the fated defeat at Culloden Field away from happening, because Claire, having traveled back 200 years through the standing stones to 1745, knows the Scottish rebellion will fail.

But that event will have to wait until the Fall season, as we leave Jamie and Claire on the cusp of the battle. Jamie, by the way, is the Scot Claire falls in love with and marries, which is somewhat complicating as she left a perfectly good English husband in 1945.

N.B. the photo you see is of Renato and me at a cocktail party in Rio de Janeiro. Finding a picture appropriate for Culloden Field proved impossible. Renato and I are at right.


Days in Rio de Janeiro

Some drivers threw away their car mufflers so that they sounded big and muscle-y. We were able to enjoy these booming roars at our address, a little old villa, Avenida Epitacio Pessoa, 864, night and day. Our home faced the lake Lagoa Freitas where pedal boats moved about calmly. And beyond the lake towered Corcovado, the Christ the Redeemer figure. Renato, on coming home from work, liked to look out to the statue and say he was getting his daily rental money’s worth.

We had Jeff, our Doberman pinscher, whose official name was Mongol de Leimar. Jeff always followed Renato upstairs where he shucked his office clothes and began their game, snapping his necktie at Jeff and going “Heeeyah!” and other such noises, which set Jeff to a high-pitched barking and scampering about. Jeff was a luvverly dog and if he didn’t perform so well in the dog show, as written up in “The Carioca Dobie Derby,” it was our fault, not his.

Those were good years, and my job at the American School of Rio de Janeiro enhanced them. I joined the American Little Theater where I produced a play and was cast in “Kiss Me Kate” as a courtier. My Brazilian tailor could not quite believe the tall conical headgear that went with my gown was not a joke, but he fabricated it. I don’t remember how I made it stay on my head.

Those were the days…..


Word from Rio on the Olympics

Rio de Janeiro was always, to me, a bustling, hustling city in love with their samba music and Carnaval. That was when the crowds turned out to celebrate with drums and sinuous, half-nude women for three days and nights. Renato and I mostly watched all of it on TV.

My friend Ana reports from Rio that the mayor has lost his mind while trying to prepare for the Olympics. He ordered all feral cats rounded up and killed, at the same time making ineffectual dabs at cleaning up the trash-filled surf at Copacabana Beach. Inflation has topped 200%; the poor, who lived on rice and beans, now eat only rice. Their president, Dilma Rousseff, has been impeached.

And now, Zika. Their mosquitos already transmitted Chagas disease, especially to animals.

I am so sorry, sorry, sorry.

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Cats are little hoomans

I think of Pinky, the tortoiseshell who lived next door and came around to visit every day and night for a month. Evenings, she called at the patio door until I let her in. I was puzzled, of course. Why me and not her own home? It became obvious then that the two noisy dogs there and the fact of the homeowners being out all day had much to do with her preference for my home.

I came to yearn for her company; she acted as though she belonged, and I wished she did. One night it was raining, and she hesitated at the door before going home for her supper. This was it! I opened a can of cat food I had kept on hand, and offered it to her. We both understood this was a turning point. Pinky packed up her belongings, in a manner of speaking, and moved in. How we enjoyed each other!

I wrote “Meow’s Way” starring Pinky and other cats and critters, including a little skunk who toddled in everyday to eat cat chow. The book won in the Animals Animals Animals Book Awards. The editor mentioned that my description of the game Pinky and I played (and which she invented) made him laugh so hard he had a coughing fit.

And, incidentally, Pinky’s sister, whom I named Loaner because I wasn’t sure she would stay, and brother Tango crossed over. Loaner is still with me. She is 13 years old now, and is big sister to 11-month-old Bijou, a little imp who loves the outdoors.

Saying that I miss Pinky is inadequate for how I really feel. She was special.