Go Go Grandparent

Unable to drive for three months because of a medical issue, I called up a ride service, Go Go Grandparent, yesterday. The voice on the phone gave me the car make and color and the driver’s name and said it would arrive in two minutes. And by golly it did.

What amused me was the slow, deliberate way the voice delivered the information. There must have been two seconds between each word. There was no way I could have misunderstood or forgotten the message. It’s an excellent service and engineered for convenience to the senior consumer. My credit card is registered with them and so no money need exchange hands. Furthermore — and I didn’t know this before hand — they reported the ride to my nephew as a precaution.
Precaution for what I don’t know.

Ah, America, always the entrepreneur.

The Girl from Ipanema

We lived two blocks from Ipanema Beach, which meant we were treated to acres of bikini-clad women baking in the hot sun. They seldom entered the surf but were content to stroll about or lie on their towels. The men were more energetic, playing volleyball or actually swimming.

The Girl from Ipanema was a real person, immortalized by composer Tom Jobim in the song. She swayed as she strutted and presumably the men swooned as she passed them. Years later her daughter took up the custom. And for all I know her granddaughter carried on for them.

There’s one huge difference between Brazilian men and Italian men when it comes to women passing in the street. Italian men in Italy tend to be vulgar and sometimes threatening, touching (if not actually touching) on parts of a woman’s anatomy in a rude manner. Brazilian men — ahhh, Brazilian men, understand the gift of a girl and will say gentle, complimentary things. Girls in bikinis are especially cherished, or sometimes the man will show he has style by not staring. Rio de Janeiro is a beach town and as such might drive an Italian man crazy, but Brazilian men know they have a gift of the girls in sun-drenched Rio. In Italy it’s a class thing; gentlemen in the upper class behave as such. They refrain from that game the other men play.

And, oh yes, some American dubbed the bikinis “dental floss.”

Animal footnotes

My husband, Renato, and I came back to California after a 15-year sojourn in Brazil, where he was occupied with a hydroelectric project. Our hunt for a house ranged from San Francisco to Oakland. Up and down the Oakland hills we went, bad enough without being sick to begin with, Renato with bronchitis and me with pneumonia. Sometimes I cried from fatigue and discouragement. I know Renato wanted to.

Eventually, we came upon a house on Wilton Drive, 1500 feet above Montclair Village, that suited our vague desires. We hadn’t known what we wanted until we saw the place that would become our home. There was a gently sloped backyard that stretched a hundred feet, culminating in city land toward a view encompassing both bridges as well as Oakland and San Francisco. Across the road from the front there were a few houses but for the most part a meadow that graduated into pine and redwood trees.

In the years to come, that newfound woody splendor was to gift us with sightings of wildlife. One night, driving home from Thanksgiving dinner, we rounded the curve on Wilton Drive and our headlights illuminated a large animal in the middle of the meadow. A cougar! Renato stopped, and we stared, barely breathing, at this wondrous sight. The cougar just sat. After a couple of minutes, it rose to its feet, turned and walked into the woods. On another night, our backyard was lit by a scream that could only have come from a cougar. Our neighbors told us later that they were chilled, but I was in bliss.

Once, while hiking the trail across the road we were joined by a pheasant that emerged from the brush but didn’t fly off. Instead, it walked alongside us for a few feet before disappearing into more brush.

After we acquired a cat and installed a pet door off the patio, we were honored to have a young skunk visit us in the house. Why did I think it was young? Well, it was awfully small. Each night it entered through the pet door, ambled past the dining room into the kitchen, and helped itself to our cat’s chow. We stood at a respectful distance until it had finished and strolled back out through the pet door.

Of course there were raccoons. I watched them seemingly dancing in the moonlight on the patio deck. I saw a blue jay with a rider on its back. The jay was hopping about and screeching madly trying to shake off its passenger, a rufous-sided towhee. How did this come about? Perhaps the jay had trespassed on the towhee’s nest and papa or mama towhee was not going to stand for it.
And once, there was a buck with a magnificent rack of horns. Does and fawns came to our yard in the spring and ate my roses but I didn’t mind.
Fine memories, all.

Excerpt from Meow’s Way

One warm afternoon in November I came into the house after pulling weeds for an
hour. A big tabby jumped down from the living room sofa and ran to me meowing.
Surprised, I bent down to stroke it and was met with a fierce show of affection. She
most probably a she – rubbed against my hand, all the while meowing in a sweet, high voice.She wound herself between my ankles, following me out to the patio, jumping upon the railing to rub against me, and purred and meowed without end. I didn’t know what todo with her and retreated to my husband’s den and lay down on the couch to read. The cat jumped up on my chest, at least twenty pounds of her. She rubbed against my face,my hand holding the book, my neck, my chin. I stroked and scratched. She kept up the attack.

I thought Help! but really was enjoying myself.After what seemed an hour, I put her outside and shut the door and fled back to the couch to think about what had happened. We had seen each other once or twice in my yard, nothing more.

She came almost every day after that, since the weather allowed me to leave the patio door open. I bought cat treats. Whenever I was not at the computer, fruitlessly trying to work on a book I had put aside for too long, then giving up, she joined me on the couch as I read or napped. If I awoke with a frightened start, she crept up to my chest and kneaded her paws as if to comfort me. I kept much to myself in those days.

She came in the evenings also and curled up on my lap as I watched television. Sometimes, following some internal timetable, she refused to nap and held my hand down with her paws so thatI couldn’t stroke her to sleep. I experimented with my other hand, which she also imprisoned. Her eyes glazed over and she actually nodded off twice before jerking awake. Apparently, she had something else to do than sleep, perhaps a rendezvous out in the woods across the road, a hunt laid on with other cats, or a visit on one of her rounds of homes.