Monday, May 31, 2021

growing (Japanese) peppers

Early this summer - on one of our very first post-vaccination outings - we went to a nursery to buy plants, and I purchased a whole lot of different kinds of pepper.  I wish I could remember what this are - beyond the fact that they're Japanese, and hence to my mind a tribute, at the very least, to the long-standing connection between the Japanese and horticulture in Los Angeles.  All along Los Feliz Boulevard there were Japanese-run market gardens and nurseries; and when one looks at the histories of numerous longstanding nurseries, there's a strong Japanese history - albeit one disrupted by internment.  Lincoln Avenue Nursery, where these came from, was founded in 1904 by Germans, however - and then bought in 1923 by the Takemura family, who ran it until 2003 - that is, apart from the two years that they spent in the camps, during which time it was looked after by a neighborhood couple.  

Maybe I can find a plant label?  I'm sure I would have kept it ... then I'll know when they're ripe.

In LucyFur news: she had a veterinary hospital check up - and as we could have told them, she's not doing as well as they'd hoped.  Of course, with 150 ml. of electrolyte filled fluids in her, she's returned like a refurbished cat.  But unless there's a miracle (and we'll know more when her specialist-lab blood work comes back tomorrow or the next day), the outlook - well, could be a lot better.


Sunday, May 30, 2021

cat floating on desk

LucyFur has been very quiet today, and has spent much of it asleep on a cushion on my desk.  She's now on the sofa with me, asleep in the crook of my arm as I type one-handed.


Saturday, May 29, 2021

other people choose their house paint color

I guess it's going to change from a darkish grey to a lighter grey, or maybe cream, or maybe white.  They don't exactly seem able to make up their mind (also, it's not a very prepossessing house in the first place - I doubt that whatever color they choose will make much difference).  Every house in the neighborhood seems to be having work done: we play our favorite game of "I wonder if it's going on the market?"

LucyFur: another better day, so far (last night, after I'd posted something relatively upbeat, she threw up all over the bed ...).  She ate one or two mouthfuls of food on her own, which was encouraging - tiny mouthfuls, but still.  I'm beginning to think I could write a book on Tips for Feeding Your Cat Through an Esophagostomy Tube and Giving Her Seven Different Types of Medicine, Too - certainly, in the amount of time that it takes I could be writing something.  But she's a wonderful tabby, and I don't begrudge a second spent slowly, slowly, slowly squeezing very expensive hyper-allergenic, nutri-bullet blended, sieved cat food into her through a syringe ...


Friday, May 28, 2021

bird/squirrel watching

I honestly wasn't at all confident, yesterday, that LucyFur would make it through the night.  I woke up around 1 a.m., and couldn't see her on the scratch pad where I'd left her sleeping.  Nor was she on the bed; nor by the (closed) bedroom door.  I thought she'd probably slunk quietly under the bed, to a safe dark space.

Then at 6 I was wakened by the thud of her jumping off the chair next to the bed (where she'd been presumably sleeping); using her litter box; and then clambering up onto the kitty palace to look at whatever there was to be seen.  One day at a time - but today, so far, has been a better one for her, and I'm very thankful for it.


Thursday, May 27, 2021


I'm under no illusion that LucyFur has turned any corners: she seems to be getting progressively weaker, despite the meds and the feedings.  But she's still very much herself, much of the time, and has enjoyed seeking out some patches of sun, and meditating.


Wednesday, May 26, 2021

the wasteland of DTLA

An early morning trip to the Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles (to get a stamp on my passport that will allow me to travel even though my new Green Card hasn't arrived yet - not that I'm planning on traveling while I would still have to spend 10 days quarantining in England, but it's better to be prepared).  Presumably new apartments or new City buildings or or or will be going up here - one very much doubts that such a prime sight on N. Los Angeles Street will be affordable housing.  There are many, many tents in this area - although it looked as though there's some real effort being made to provide facilities for trash disposal - everything seemed unusually tidy and organized.  Maybe it was the effect of the strange curdled light.

For those looking for a LucyFur update: she didn't have a good day.  No eating on her own; and during her morning tube feed she threw up, copiously, and was very weak for much of the rest of the day - until strangely rallying, and demanding to go upstairs in the late afternoon.  She's hanging on in there, certainly - but not really recovering, despite all the meds.  The vet rang to say that her liver values were improving - which is good to know - but ... So I've sat on the floor by her side all day once I returned from my errand, doing admin, and admiring her sweet tabbiness.


Tuesday, May 25, 2021

poodle paws

when you've spent as much time in kitty hospital as LucyFur has done over the past two weeks, you end up with forepaws that are more elegantly shaved and shaped than our own ragged post-pandemic, post-a-hairdresser-who-was-concerted-to-QAnon-during-the-pandemic locks.  She'd been bird watching here; was just jumping down for some water - hence the meditative look. She's been fed entirely down her tube today - not interested in the real stuff you have to chew - so that will mean staying up until nearly midnight for her third feed of the day.  I am sure the human race has evolved so that it's hard wired to do this with babies ... In any case, for the most part, she's been quite a bit more cheerful today ... so long as her days are good from her point of view, I'll take one at a time ...


Monday, May 24, 2021

dietes bicolor

Dietes bicolor - or African Iris - not a native plant (except, that is, to South Africa), but one that's extremely pretty at this time of the year, and I can feel an itch to plant some, native or not ... here benefiting from someone's sprinkler.

As for LucyFur - sleeping on the sofa next to me, and despite another trip to the hospital, much more like her old self - still sleepy, still clearly a poorly cat, but above all, still here.  This time yesterday I wasn't sure.  She had to go into the hospital not because of anything intrinsically worrying, but her feeding tube was backing up weirdly, and kept slipping around - and was held in place by a rather makeshift set of bandages.  I think that must have been the result of the surgery being done at the weekend - now she's wearing a rather fetching commercial collar that also holds the tube fairly flatly in place with velcro when she's not using it, rather than it sticking up like a snorkel, waiting to catch on things.  And they ordered a whole lot of specially compounded medicines for her from NY (!) which can slip down it, which will be a relief after the twice daily struggle with various white pills.  I'm not kidding myself that we're out of the woods - far from it - but today gave grounds for some hope ...


Sunday, May 23, 2021

hoping to turn a corner

... which is, of course, a metaphor.  The best news about LucyFur is that she's eaten quite a significant amount today, on her own, without the need of a feeding tube - though I've kept sending her antibiotics (and lots of warm water) down there.  But she's still a very sick cat, sleeping a lot, and certainly feeling discomfort when she moves.  We've been keeping her company, and giving her all the comfort we can all day (except for going out on very necessary walks - this is from up the road and round several corners).  Either she'll make something of a turn overnight, I think - or she won't.  We'll see.  One more feed to go, tonight.


Saturday, May 22, 2021

home again! and fighting on

Back from the hospital - with a feeding tube in her esophagus.  And although she's tired, LucyFur seems much more like her old self than earlier in the week - I hope I'm not kidding myself.  The feeding tube looks dramatic - and of course is something of a last-ditch measure.  So ... since she came round from the anaesthetic yesterday, and then throughout the day, and when she was being discharged, and again this evening, she's eaten just fine.  By mouth.  She's always had a contrarian streak to her ... To be sure, we'll use the feeding tube if, tomorrow, she's not eating enough, and it may be a useful device through which to deliver her many meds (by now - anti nausea; anti-biotics; a steroid; and others besides).  She's now curled up beside me in a little snoring ball.  Who knows whether this will be successful or not? - it's an incredibly intense and complicated regimen, and we suddenly find ourselves in the role of veterinary nurses.  But right now, for this moment, she's home and seems happy.


Friday, May 21, 2021

geraniums (and the latest LucyFur update)

Geraniums in the front yard, in the gathering dusk ... not a day in which my mind was really on taking photographs.  When I spoke to the vet this morning, she was anxious to get a whole set of test results before proceeding with any surgery on LucyFur.  So I waited, and waited, and waited - and about 4.20 she called, and said that the good news was that there was no sign of any cancer.  So the diagnosis is IBD, and triaditis (inflammation of the intestine, pancreas and liver all at once) - which may be controllable.  So Fur has had a feeding tube fitted this evening; and when the vet called once again, she was coming round from the anesthetic - so tomorrow she can start to have nourishment, and meds, going straight to her stomach.  The tube will stay there until she feels up to eating on her own again - could be weeks, could be months ... but it may buy her some more good time, so long as the cocktail of medications, plus special diet food, calms all of this inflammation. So that's rather changed the shape of this summer ... on the other hand, for a lot of today we were thinking that we might very well never see our tabby again.  Keep her in your thoughts ...


in which LucyFur heads back to hospital

alas, LucyFur is back in kitty hospital tonight - a 9.30 p.m. bulletin said she was "snoozing comfortably" - which is all she's done all day.  The crucial thing, though, is that she didn't eat yesterday; didn't eat today - apart from a sip or two of broth - even though we tried tempting her with all kind of things that she normally can't resist.  There still aren't enough results back from the labs that have been sent out to be sure what's at the root of her problems - but they are, obviously, pretty serious.  So tomorrow she gets fitted with a feeding tube ... and we'll see where we go from there ... 


Wednesday, May 19, 2021

my favorite birdwatcher

Here's LucyFur on a cushion on my desk, looking down at some finches and the occasional squirrel.  If she'd been at all interested in food today, I would have said that she was feeling a little better - but she's unable to eat again, despite the appetite stimulant drugs, so she may have to go back to hospital tomorrow for some sustenance.  Let's just say that the syringe full of beef bone broth wasn't a huge success, although some went down her.  I've been spending all the quality time I can with her: she's not been much help when it comes to sorting out things like next semester's TA assignments, though - clearly she's using her very limited reserves very wisely.


Tuesday, May 18, 2021

lichenous fence

Here's some rather fetching lichen, growing on a fence in the back yard - a fence that has appreciated (for lichen growing purposes) a bit of local moisture from a leaking irrigation pipe (now fixed).  It's here celebrating the arrival, this morning, of the page proofs for my article on "Ruskin and Lichen," coming out soon in a book called Ruskin's Ecologies - watch this space!  The production is absolutely beautiful.

A LucyFur update: she's still not a well cat.  She ate a decent breakfast, but little after that - possibly as a result of us pumping her full of anti-biotics, and anti-bile pills - although this evening we smeared some appetite stimulant on her inner ear, so we'll see.  Much of the time she still looks rather huddled and miserable, which is hard to witness - though she certainly has moments when she perks up.  Test results should start to come through tomorrow, and then perhaps we'll soon have a better idea what's causing all her woes.


Monday, May 17, 2021

she's home!

She's home!  Albeit a little dazed, still, after her third anaesthetic in three days - this one after an endoscopy - but home, and eating - and accompanied by a big bag of medications.  I can't say enough good things about VCA Animal Specialty Group Glendale - they took the greatest care of her.  They still (despite xrays, an ultrasound, the endoscopy) don't know what's causing her inflamed insides - but they've sent samples off to a whole range of specialist labs, and hope for some answers during the next week.  At least there are no obvious big cancers or strange obstructions - and above all, she got to come home!  By Saturday morning I was pretty convinced that she'd used up at least eight and a half of her nine lives.


Sunday, May 16, 2021

rose identification?

Does anyone have any idea what kind of rose this is, tumbling down in front of a neighbor's house?  I'm sure it's a climbing rose, even if in point of fact it's a falling rose.  The buds are a deep orange, but as they age and unfurl everything turns pink; it's lightly scented, and it's truly beautiful.

And for those of you looking for a LucyFur update ... She's still in hospital, but the good news is that she ate something last night - a quarter of a can - after she came round from her anaesthetic: as well as rehydration, she's also getting anti-nausea meds.  It would be so wonderful if she can avoid going on a feeding tube.  She had an ultrasound today, and the current diagnosis is that she has Triaditis - a condition unique to cats, because of the construction of their insides.  This means that she has, basically, simultaneous inflammation of the pancreas, liver, and the intestines - which may all come from IBD.  The good news is that there are no apparent tumors or blockages.  So this can't be cured, but it can be managed, with careful diet and drugs.  But they still aren't sure what's causing it, so she may have an endoscopy to look more carefully at her intestines tomorrow ... if she's still as stable in the morning ...and she's having various samples sent out to specialist labs, to try and pinpoint even more precisely what kind of enzymes are doing what.  I have to say - I am super-impressed by her hospital (and also super-glad that our tax refund money should come through tomorrow ...).  So she may not be back until Tuesday, but I will be very glad that she's under careful monitoring and observation - and, above all, that they are talking about her coming home ...

Spot the remnants of the girl who really, really wanted to be a vet - until Mr Symons, the veterinarian who worked for our stables, and was very involved with the Pony Club in southwest London, told me that this wouldn't be possible, because girls weren't strong enough.


Saturday, May 15, 2021

look, a party! (with goat)

... but first, for anyone looking for an update on LucyFur: she wasn't at all interested in any food this morning.  So I took her to the VCA Animal Specialty emergency hospital in Glendale, who have been wonderfully kind and helpful throughout today - they did tests, and gave her an X-ray.  The X-ray showed nothing; the tests suggest that the problem may be with her liver.  Tomorrow she gets an ultra-sound: tonight she's hospitalized, being given fluids and being fed through a tube.  I'm still hoping for an update this evening - her doctor said she'd call before she went home - but by now I'm just trusting that no news is good news (because, frankly, worrying otherwise is too much).

Hard to think about anything other than Lucy on our evening walk, of course - but down on Griffith Park Road we found a party going on!  With food, and drink, and a bouncy castle - and celebratory Mingling!  I think it was in part a graduation party, but above all, a huge celebration of relief at being able to socialize, and many people feeling that they could do so maskless.  I'm not sure who brought a young goat along, but that certainly added to the occasion.


Friday, May 14, 2021


Our LucyFur hasn't been feeling too well this week: please send all good thoughts in her direction.  She has a vet's appointment on Monday morning - we'll take her in to an emergency hospital if she gets worse before then.  For about nine months she's seemed to have a very sensitive stomach, although the vet in Santa Fe (and blood tests) can't find any reason for this.  The last few days she's eaten increasingly less - really, today, hardly anything, despite my tempting her with tuna, fresh chicken minced into broth - really, anything that she might fancy.  So there's clearly something very wrong - and we're worried about her ...



It's annual brush-clearance day for us - which means that an army of workers descends and trims all the overhanging foliage, and clears away all the dead grass and brush at the back of the house, and thins the big trees - not visible here - and generally makes the place Safe and Presentable prior to its annual fire safety inspection.  This year, they also took down the mesquite tree that was growing - growing incredibly quickly - in this corner, so that the roots were undermining the wall, and goodness knows what besides.  It was a pretty, feathery tree - maybe we should plant a successor in some far corner of the property? - they subsist on very little water, and one of the problems with this one is probably that it swallowed too much water, so grew tall and spindly.  It's a fascinating tree, with many indigenous uses (including making sewing needles from its leaves, and dyes, and gums, and medicine); and its wood is extraordinarily dense and hard (the roads leading up to the Alamo, in San Antonio, were originally paved with it) - I feel bad to see it go, but it was truly in the wrong place.


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

garden at night

A three second exposure ... not easy getting the dimly lit flowers to show in all their luminosity, without using flash and rendering them unpleasantly harsh (yes ... I might have written a book on flash, but it didn't ever succeed in making me like its effects, except as fill flash in photos taken in daylight ...).  But the front yard is doing very well, and so it's good to try and do it justice.


Tuesday, May 11, 2021


One Mexican striped nylon bag, hanging on the closet door on our landing, and catching the afternoon sunlight.  Or - think of it another way: "in the bag."  Today was my last department meeting as Chair - and although I have another 96 days to go until my contractual days are up - and who knows what they might bring - I sincerely hope that that is the last time that I'll formally have to juggle timekeeping, fairness, patience, tact, and a whole lot of suppressed thoughts and words.  I've been in a full time/tenured position for - ouch - forty one years, now, and eleven and a half of those years have been spent chairing departments (at Oxford, Rutgers, and USC).  That's over a quarter of my time - and for someone who truly enjoys teaching and writing more than chairing, that's rather too hefty a percentage, methinks.  Time to hang up my ... what?  I don't have a gavel.  Time to bin Roberts' Rules of Order?  - though I left my copy at Rutgers, to be honest, never thinking I'd be chairing again - insert, here, a hollow laugh... 

I'll give my father, via Zoom the other day, the last word: 
RF.  "You're chair of what, exactly?"  
KF.  "Art History."
RF.  "Oh. I see.  Each one to his own, I suppose."


Monday, May 10, 2021

wedgwood rose

As some of you know well - when this blog becomes determinedly local and floral, it often means that my life has been entirely taken over by admin, PhD defenses, grad examinations, and the like.  But I'm genuinely grateful to have distractions like this one outside the front door.  It's the first (and for all I know, only) bloom on my new David Austin rose - a Wedgwood Rose, and supposedly a climber, though I haven't yet decided where she's going to climb.  A couple of weeks after she came home, she was mercilessly chewed ragged (and indeed, one side hasn't recovered, at all) - together with the other casualties: Alice's lettuces (oh, and a red rose bush next door - where there were rose petals strewn all over their grass, like the work of some angry lover in a ballad).  I think I blame raccoons - deer are a very outside possibility, and probably aren't as fond of lettuce.  On the other hand - lettuce, rabbits ...


Sunday, May 9, 2021


I've been very struck by these particular petunias this year: an unusual shade, halfway between rather anemic fried eggs, and William Henry Hunt's painting of primroses - which these patently aren't, but look as though there attempting to be.  There are - because it's Mothers' Day here in the US - flowers for sale everywhere today, but I'm especially happy with what's blooming in our front yard.


Saturday, May 8, 2021

two leaves and a vase

Two leaves - gathered from our balcony from the Asian Pear - propped up against an orange vase from Seagrove in North Carolina - the center of a pottery tradition going back to the eighteenth century.  If one didn't know - and this is part of the beauty of the vase - one could think that all three items were organic; that the glaze of the vase was some freckled fruit skin.  


Friday, May 7, 2021

lizard lamp

I woke up with sore arms this morning - and then I remembered why.  Yesterday, when we were out on our evening walk, we came upon a wrought iron standard lamp that someone had put out on the curbside - a lamp with a very fetching lizard on its upright.  It looks rather like a primitive version of a stick insect in this image - I promise you that it's more lizard-like in real life.  So we looked it up and down, and then I carried it off.  It was about a half-mile walk home: it was a little ungainly and heavy, and I kept expecting a car to draw up and someone to say - WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THE LAMP?  Because even if Thursdays are trash days, and manifestly no one wanted this perfectly good piece of illumination (as you can see - with a shade, and in perfect working order), it still seemed inconceivable that someone would just discard it ... I'm so glad that we were able to give the lizard a new home.


Thursday, May 6, 2021


I was so excited when, on one of our first, nervous, fully vaccinated outings - back in early March - we went to a nursery and bought plants, including this fiddlehead fern.  It's started to produce coil after coil of fiddleheads, like tightly furled violin heads - and it seems to be a particularly hairy fern.  I look forward to its further flourishing ...


Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Benjamin on a billboard

"Q.  What is the program of the bourgeois parties? A.  A bad poem on springtime, filled to bursting with metaphors."  This isn't what I really expected to see emblazoned on a billboard, driving back from USC this afternoon.  It's Walter Benjamin, from his 1929 essay on "Surrealism: The Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia," a difficult essay (to put it mildly) in which he praises the surrealists for breaking down the distinction between body and image; in which he argues against words as consolation and a substitute for real, revolutionary action; in which he warns against an optimistic belief in the inevitability of progress, a teleological version of history - and much more besides.  Not, really, what one expects to see at the 7th Street/S. Rampart junction.

And beyond that, a ghost sign: under the thick whitewash is an advertisement for Furnished Apartments - at the edge of a brick terrace of what are still apartments - although almost certainly not furnished - in which lived (as I know from some previous digging around) the photographer Edward Curtis, in the 1920s, when he was struggling to make a living.  Somewhere, in this conjunction of decontextualized, unattributed quotation; quasi-obliterated advertising, and Curtis's own life at this point, there's a very different, unclichĂ©d metaphor hovering about: something to do with obscurity.


Tuesday, May 4, 2021

a rabbit

This is our neighbors' startlingly green non-Californian-native front lawn grass, and there, nibbling away, right up against our peeling yellow wall and railings, is a Rabbit.  Either that rabbit, or its brothers or sisters, have been hanging out in the street a lot this spring.  Quite apart from the danger posed by our local red tailed hawk - who prefers to sit in a tree in our back yard disembowelling mourning doves and scattering their feathers - these rabbits are surely horribly vulnerable to cars.  Yesterday I had to stop my car as I was driving off, and shoo one out of the road so that I didn't squash it myself.  I don't recollect seeing rabbits in the front like this any other year (they're always scampering around in the back, which, come to think of it, could bear some relation to the scantiness of the wildflower meadow ...).


Monday, May 3, 2021

peeling garlic

There was a lot of today, in a fragmented way.  This is doubtless metaphoric, although I haven't worked out how - but it provided an unexpected moment of beauty as I was assembling the latest load of beans for the Instant Pot (Rancho Gordo's cicerchia beans, since you asked ... with homemade chicken stock, fennel, onion, oregano and sage, and, yes, garlic).


Sunday, May 2, 2021

the disappointments of the wildflower meadow

It's been a very dry spring - so, ok, there may be nothing intrinsically disappointing about this flower, but it doesn't have very many others to keep it company.  In part, this is because the yard-mowers came at just the wrong time last year to make our back yard fit for fire-regulation inspection - right for the inspection, that is, but leaving deplorably little opportunity for self-seeding.  So last year's bumper bloom hasn't been replicated, despite my having sown a whole lot more seeds this year.  Maybe they'll germinate in some future damp spring.  Meanwhile, when we head back to New Mexico in a few more weeks, I'll try again - I have packets and packets of optimistic sunflower seeds, as well as morning glories ...


Saturday, May 1, 2021

taken a wrong turning?

I saw a number of somewhat unusual things on my way back to LA today.  There was a miniature donkey with a hat on in Kingman, who (plus its person) had stopped to talk to some people on the sidewalk outside a coffee stop.  I think it might have been on its way to a Vaccination Event in a park down the street, which had a number of village fĂȘte-like stalls as well as cars snaking round a whole lot of cones.  But there again, it might just have been out for a Saturday morning stroll.  Then there was the gas station half way down the Cajon Pass, where I stopped because the traffic was starting to back up, and I needed gas anyway: as soon as I pulled up I saw a man with a prosthetic leg walking across the forecourt.  Nothing strange in that.  But then another car pulled up - and out stepped another prosthetically-legged guy.  That seemed statistically - less likely.  And then, pulling away, the other side of the road was a bkack pick-up truck, with a man doing something to whatever was being carried in the truck bed.  He, too ...

But a Wilts-Dorset Routemaster bus, in Kingman, in a vehicle junk yard?  Why?  It's not as though it's a stylish old red London bus.  Someone went to the trouble and expense of importing this.  But Kingman?  Maybe it's destined to make trips to the Grand Canyon?  It's not as though there's a lot to tour around in Kingman, other than the Corner. 

I so love road trips.