Wednesday, June 30, 2021


Four different parts of the same cholla cactus, growing just outside our back gate, and - like so many chollas here, suddenly - blooming.  The richness of the pollen is spectacular, although I don't see it, currently, being bombarded with bees: there are, however, variegated ants exploring the plant.


Tuesday, June 29, 2021

when old friends pass through Santa Fe ...

One of the great things about Santa Fe is that if one's friends don't already live here, sooner or later they pass through ... on an uncharacteristically wet day, Kim and her son were in town and we had lunch at La Choza (always my top choice for New Mexican food ...).  We've known each other ... gosh, since 1996, I think ... although we're now are on different coasts, since she teaches at the U of Maryland and lives in DC (because America is such a small country, about a mile away from where Alice grew up).  It's so good when - despite not having seen someone for a shockingly long time - there's a feeling that we're just picking up conversation where we left off.


Monday, June 28, 2021

more monsoon skies (and Mexican Hats)

Barely any blue sky to be seen, today - just curdled greyness, and chilly temperatures.  I was glad to find the time to head out for two walks: in a day that began with a meeting - on UK time - that started at 3 a.m. here, and that contained various further meetings with graduates, and an unnaturally intense (for mid June) amount of departmental admin, I was so grateful for a whiff of outdoors.  The Mexican Hats are really coming into their own, and I saw my first sunflower today!  And that's about it, given that there's another early start tomorrow ...


Sunday, June 27, 2021

monsoon clouds

Fingers crossed, but the monsoon has arrived, and it's early this year: wisdom has it that this may mean a long monsoon season (since one barely noticed it last summer, that would be wonderful).  This morning's rain wasn't spectacular, but certainly provided a decent soaking for the sunflower and morning glory seeds that I optimistically planted first thing.  Last summer's morning glory seeds - some self-seeded, some gather and planted by me last week - are already shooting up in an encouraging way.  The clouds (and rain) were very notable, too, as we drove down to Albuquerque for me to retrieve my car from the airport, although this particular formation was above our heads this evening, at the end of our driveway.  


Saturday, June 26, 2021

Happy Pride, Santa Fe!

Three dancers, and my favorite dog.  Somehow all the floats didn't make for the best images - although there was a great assemblage, from veterans to rodeo riders to law enforcement to health workers to the O'Keeffe museum to car dealerships to the Audubon society: they had a huge hummingbird on top.

It's 27 years this week since I first came to Santa Fe, and 27 years since my first Pride on the Plaza - this time round seemed a great deal more flamboyant.  I certainly don't remember any stilt dancers or hummingbirds.  But there again - pre Covid, there was a march, not, so far as I remember, a procession of decorated cars (with, indeed, vintage cars and low riders among them).  An awful lot has happened to me in those last 27 years ...


Friday, June 25, 2021

we got here!

and were treated to a wonderful sunset from our front door.  That was quite some week of travel - but we made it.  That's more than can be said for Alice's rat-nibbled car, which will be Ontario, CA for a couple of weeks - and somehow we'll have to get it here, whether that means having to fly back and drive it here (again); or have it shipped; or ...?  (and no, this won't be covered by insurance, unlike the rental car itself).  I think this isn't a problem with which we feel like grappling today.


Thursday, June 24, 2021

on the road again (again)

[guest photographer: Alice Echols - though commissioned by me! - I was driving]. ... somewhere between Kingman and Flagstaff.  

So we've made it to Winslow!  I put my foot down hard; drove at 90 much of the way once I'd taken over the driving somewhere early on I-40 - Alice having got us valiantly to Ontario and out again - so that we got here at 8 p.m. (last dinner orders 8.15 - shame that I sent mine back for being inappropriately cold - and it came out cold, again, so I had to steal A's dinner once I'd returned that).  We are in a rental car - our own has not only got a dead fan for the hybrid battery, but the wires that connect the car's computer system have been Chewed by Rodents.  That ivy clearance a couple of weeks back?  Alice saw a rat scampering up the steps afterwards - so guess where it must have taken up retaliatory residence.  Don't even get me going on the amount of luggage transference involved in our travels today, nor the care that we took in keeping the bewildered Moth as happy and calm as possible. Oh, and then there was the monsoon downpour,, and the forest fires near Flagstaff, and and and ...

But we made it out of LA!  


Wednesday, June 23, 2021

prehistoric plant

This is a flowering sago palm - cycas revoluta - which isn't actually a palm at all, despite those feathery leaves, but a cycad.  Cycads have been around for a very, very long time - fossil records take us back to the early Permian period, 280 million years ago.  That's before dinosaurs, by a long way: there were starting to be land creatures like small lizards, and insects and beetles began.  Most of the cycads today are species that came into being a mere 12 million years ago, however, in the Mesozoic era, which is very much when dinosaurs were romping around - so this would be their backdrop.  This is a female flower head - compact and roundish - the male flowers are unarguably phallic.

So that (apart from all the building work going on in the neighborhood, providing daily changes to speculate about) was today's distraction.  Somewhere in Ontario our car is still sitting.  Supposedly, its necessary part has turned up - but all of yesterday's fervent promises have melted away with the fact that it was "our" service manager's day off; promised phone call to keep us up to date never happened, and so on.  We are grinding our teeth in frustration; we bought Moth a catnip banana and other treats (including a new, un-peed-in carrier), and wish that Lexus would do the same for us.


Tuesday, June 22, 2021

travel woes

Yes, this is Alice in the back of a tow truck's cab, being driven from Barstow to the nearest Lexus garage, in Ontario (Ontario, California, that is ...).  And yes, that's a kitty carrier, containing Moth.  Our car is somewhere behind us, on a flat bed.  When we were nearly in Barstow - the temperature in the high 90s - the warning light came on, with the admonition to Check the Hybrid System.  A call to Lexus service said, basically, don't drive it; call AAA and get it checked at a Lexus garage.  

So back 70 miles the way we'd come (the driver was training a younger guy, and I actually learned a good deal about truck driving; how responders in the cab work, etc); and after an hour or so we were told that the fan that keeps the hybrid battery cool was defunct.  The car is now in Ontario, till Thursday morning.  We have a loaner.  And I wouldn't even say that the drive home was uneventful, since Moth peed on the way back and, cleaning it up once back, I managed to lock myself in the rear seat because of the childproof locks.  This summer could be going better.


Monday, June 21, 2021

garden work

It took me about eight hours to set up three separate drip watering systems for three separate areas of the garden - and to cluster plants and pots together: it's actually one of those tasks that gets easier and easier the more that one progresses, and falls into sensible ways of doing things.  But at first there was so much trial and error I thought that I might be out there all night as well as all day.  I should know in the morning if they really work: a manual run-through was successful enough.  With any luck, though, the gardenia (seen by day) should make it ... and the fuschia is dependent on the system that's already in place.  We'll see.


Sunday, June 20, 2021

yellow and red

Hibiscus and fuschia - very much like Edwardian wallpaper or upholstery, and quite startling at the side of our front door.  The hibiscus has been lurking, waiting to burst into flower for a few days - it's very impressive that it color-tones quite so neatly with the fuschia.  Tomorrow morning I embark on the fiddly, lengthy and probably patience-demanding process of trying to set up an automated watering system for all of our plants in pots - in three separate areas.  This may be an over-ambitious plan of hydraulic engineering on my part ...


Saturday, June 19, 2021

Moth, in meditative mood

This is a pensive, melancholy portrait in its own right.  But if I tell you that this padded laptop case hasn't had a laptop in it for a long. long time, because it was one of LucyFur's favorite places to sit, you'll appreciate quite how sad this is.  Will Moth appreciate kitten company?  We may well put this to the test once we're all in Santa Fe - but is she genuinely lonely for other feline companionship?  (she's never been a solo cat before in her whole life).  Or are we projecting onto her?  Does she miss Lucy specifically, and would she regard a small furry addition as something completely monstrous?  We can hardly take her with us to Santa Fe Animal Shelter - even if she's an alumna - and ask her to help choose ...


Friday, June 18, 2021

Breakfast at Harry's

Breakfast at Harry's Road House today - the first time back at our local since - since when? - probably January last year.  It was its usual excellent self - made the better by being in the company of dear friends Dennis and Morgan.  Harry's, though, is having the same problems of lack of staff that so many places in Santa Fe are - it's only open for breakfast, right now, on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, and is completely closed - this is quite shocking - on Mondays and Tuesdays.  And quite what will happen after July 1st, when restaurants can go back to 100% capacity, I don't know.  Here are all of us fully vaxxed people, excited to eat out again - and on the other hand, here are our favorite eateries really struggling to deliver.  I've never seen so many "now hiring" signs, ever - at all kinds of establishments.

And Harry's garden, too, is as ever spectacular and enviable.  It always looks as barren as ours in winter - I swear that I am going to haunt it daily, next spring, and see what's coming up from earlier years; what's planted afresh ... I'm intrigued by the nested-pyramid supports for the morning glories - but ours are only an inch high, whereas theirs are already blooming (ours are self-seeded).  And their hollyhocks are tall and flowering, whereas ours are six inches tall and rabbit-chewed.

The only thing that was wrong with lunch was that I was on my way down to ABQ airport (yes! a flight!) and am now back in LA ...


Thursday, June 17, 2021

a survivor!

One of last year's Pandemic Purchases - that is, it came in one of the horribly over-priced pre-planted bowls that one could, at least, pick up curbside, albeit in much apprehension - this has somehow made it through a cold winter and a dry, dry spring and early summer.  So did a couple of its friends, and a few other surprising brave bits of foliage (including oregano and thyme, and a white geranium that overwintered in the garage).  I'll water it again in the morning [water restrictions here - Mon/Wed/Fri schedule] and then trust it to hold on until we're back next week.  You can see how parched the ground is ...


Wednesday, June 16, 2021

early morning creek

My Airbnb in Sedona was an easy ten minutes walk from this - and by getting up very early, it wasn't an ordeal walking back up the hill afterwards.  And it was very peaceful, with swallows swooping in and catching flies just off the surface of the water.  Given how dry everything is, it was great to see wetness: the rest of Arizona, and New Mexico, is dessicated - with a fierce wind blowing when I turned up at our house, rolling tumbleweeds across our land.  Front of the house - smoke from the Rincon Fire in the Pecos Wilderness.  Back of the house - duststorms.  But the morning started off in a pretty idyllic way.


Tuesday, June 15, 2021


With temperatures of 108, there was never going to be much chance of me hiking, today - although I saw people not only hiking, but biking ...  So after waiting to have my patched tire completely replaced, I did a bit of exploring of downtown Sedona - which seemed either Cheap Tacky Touristy or Pricey Tacky Touristy, and despite the extreme beauty of the surroundings, to be avoided - although I did spot these extraordinary cactus cupcakes.  Quite the coolest place that I might want to be, it seemed to me, was inside my car - so I took myself off on a self-guided C19th history tour of Northern Arizona, including Camp Verde (established in 1865 to "help protect settlers" - i.e. persecute the Yavapai and Tonto Apache who lived there), and - below - Mormon Lake, which commemorates (you've guessed it) Mormon settlers in the 1870s, who set up a sawmill, a dairy, a tannery - and then moved on.  This is the largest natural lake in Northern Arizona, a stopping off point for migrating birds.  Wait, what?  This would be the largest natural lake ... if it had any water in it.  It's not only 108 degrees, but bone dry.


Monday, June 14, 2021

tire repair and equine dentistry

If I'd set out to find a tire repair shop that also offered a horse dental service, I suspect I couldn't have found one all that readily ... Driving out to New Mexico (for reasons to complicated to relate, but it's been a complicated summer) I'm taking my car out this week, and flying back ready to drive out again with Alice and Moth next week.  So - not having a cat to think about when it came to overnight accommodation, I decided to go the southern route, and stay in Sedona (the original plan was to do some hiking tomorrow, but since the temperature is due to be 108, I have my doubts ...).  Somewhere on I-10, about sixty miles from Phoenix, my Low Tire warning light came on.  It didn't feel funky, but I thought I'd better come off at the next gas station - which immediately appeared, together with the world's most unpromising looking tire repair outfit.  But I figured they could at least tell me what was wrong - and the answer was that the tire had been pierced by an inch and a half strip of thick, sharp, aluminum.  They patched it up (while I waited in 118 degree heat, with the fires the other side of Phoenix darkening the sky apocalyptically). I'll head and buy a new one in the morning, since they said it was such a big puncture it'd only last a week or two (and yes, as is always the case, these are quite new tires).

I didn't, however, have any need for the advertised horse dental services.


Sunday, June 13, 2021

other people's front yards

Just down the street - and a wonderful example of people who've managed to get the soil right, the planting right, the watering right - given these parts, this apparently effortless spread of wild garden is quite a careful construct.  My horticultural efforts today were largely restricted to drilling drainage holes in the bottoms of large pots that didn't already have them.  There's something peculiarly satisfying about drilling neat holes ...


Saturday, June 12, 2021

making a start

We're hoping that in six months' or so's time - well, maybe nine months - we will have a new back terrace or two.  When we bought the house, the details said "Backyard & patio is a blank palette waiting to be discovered & created" - which is of course realtor-speak for "an unholy mess."  So first step will be to get rid of the large, uneven concrete surface in the back yard, cracked and uneven from tree roots (and then water getting underneath).  But we weren't at all sure whether the wall that it sits on was in imminent danger of collapse, or just a bit rough, too, from wear and tear.  First step, therefore, was to remove forty years' growth of ivy.  I would love to boast that we did this ourselves, but it took a good day's work from our very strong gardener - and the good news is that the wall doesn't look nearly as bad as we'd feared (assessment of What Might Need Doing has ranged from extensive demolition and excavation and big metal pile driving to pretty much nothing - the most sensible voice was that of a contractor who (also an engineer) has said - let's take the ivy off, and see what's underneath.  Our realtors - for it is in the business of realtors to feed possible dreams of their clients - said that if we ever wanted to build a pool out here (and I should say - it's on a steep hillside) we could get equipment dropped off by helicopter.  We assured them that a pool would not ever be in our wildest plans - but even installing a substantial flat surface is going to be quite laborious, given that this land is behind a three storey house built into a hill.  Watch this space for our long, slow progress on this ...


Friday, June 11, 2021

clearing out drawers

... an annual ritual: clearing out old clothes, trying to match up stray socks, and the rest of it - something that's best done when one takes the drawers completely out.  This leaves room for a Moth, of course: what cat can resist a dark empty space?

This year's ritual was profoundly unsatisfying - it was only a couple of days since I took five bags and a couple of boxes from last year's clean-out to Out of the Closet.  And they were remarkably sniffy about my offerings, I might say, and indeed gave me a whole boxful back - which considering that it contained various things that I had been weighing up whether or not I could bear to part with or not was a little bit of a kick in the teeth.  I guess that my bric à brac (let alone sartorial cast offs) don't quite meet the standards of Atwater Village, whereas when I took some bags of stuff round to the charity store attached to Santa Fe Animal Center a few weeks back, they were full of gratitude - they even wanted the things still in the car that I'd thought of as pretty ratty, and had earmarked for Goodwill.  I suspect that there's been masses and masses of cleaning out of closets and, indeed, drawers during the pandemic, and that the used clothes, used everything market is saturated.  But still - I refuse to throw good stuff in the trash, if I can possibly help it, unless it really is trash ...

Thursday, June 10, 2021

floral tribute

We were touched, two days ago, to receive these flowers from the veterinary hospital in honor and memory of LucyFur.  To be sure, in the past, cards from one's vet have arrived, on similar sad occasions over the years - but they've always been from people who've known the cat over a span of years, not for three weeks.  Yes, I know - customer relations, and all that.  But it did reinforce the impression that VCA Animal Specialty Group were an especially kind group of professionals.  There is, of course, something very - well, floral tribute-y about these, and Lucy was never a cat who went much for pink.  All the same, it's a lovely gesture, and very much appreciated.


Wednesday, June 9, 2021

when dinner comes in a box

Inspired by Leo and Dorothy Braudy's pictures from sometime last week, and a piece I'd read earlier this summer, I decided it was time to go and get a bento box dinner from n/soto, down on W. Washington, and more or less (perhaps a bit less than more) on my way home from USC, where I'd been under-appreciating the lack of a/c in Taper Hall all day.  There's a little bottle of sake nestling in a bag on the seat, too; and a crispy rice cake and fish broth, and dessert, not visible ... Just about everything was utterly stunning (unlike a rather disappointing bento box from Morihiro in Atwater Village a month or so back, which was fine, but what one might buy in a Japanese railway station) - whereas this was exceptionally tasty and made and arranged with the greatest care, from the pickles onwards.  


Tuesday, June 8, 2021

But what IS going on?

Moth continues to be bewildered - here she is, hiding inside an empty produce box in the front hall.  We are trying to give her lots of extra play time, and much love and affection ... 


Monday, June 7, 2021

be kind

The YMCA in Glendale offers you your advice - or command - for the day: Be Kind.  Admittedly, its most immediate application might be to all those people trying to find a parking space in the Whole Foods carpark, which reminded me of some ferocious party game of musical chairs, without the music.  But in general ...

... thank you, kind people, for being so generously understanding about the still hard-to-process loss of our beloved LucyFur.  It's been a tough day of adjustments, not least for Moth, who can't work out what's happened.  


Sunday, June 6, 2021

you mean I'm cat #1?

What does a cat understand about another cat's disappearance?  Do they realize the difference between death, and a former companion going to live in another state?  Did Moth comprehend how ill LucyFur was? (I think so: she smelled different, surely; she kept going away to hospital, and coming back smelling worse; she had a feeding tube in her neck: I spent hours upon hours down in my study coaxing slimy pulverized cat food into her, washed down with seven different medications, at different times of the day - and then presumably I'd emerge smelling weird, too).

It's been a long, long day - and I thank all of you who've written so much for your condolences, your empathy, your understanding.  Losing a dear animal companion - and LucyFur was loved beyond dear - is terrible.  Born in a Silver Lake woodpile; menaced by coyotes when a kitten (and indeed, losing her sister in that way); rescued; driven to Flagstaff for a handoff in a Residence Inn, and us then driving back to Santa Fe wondering if she was still alive, she was so quiet; moving back to LA in that fall of 2007, and then in 2009-10 going to live in New Jersey; then back to two different houses in LA (Silver Lake, and then Los Feliz) and for the rest of her life shuttling between LA and Santa Fe, with nights en route spent at La Posada, in Winslow - she was a well-traveled cat, and expert at hiding behind motel sofas and bed frames.  She would, I'm sure, have said that the highlight of her life was catching a mouse in our living room in New Mexico (and she was humane enough to let it go, when we put the pair of them outside, and it scampered off ...); followed by the time she got out of our new house, here in Los Feliz, and went exploring for an hour or so, unseen by us.  She always enjoyed a little bit of time outdoors (under strict supervision) - reliving scents of the old woodpile.  She loved Emmett and Lola, her first two other cat companions; she was sniffily indifferent towards Bitzi (her sister, born a year later, now living in Connecticut with Alice's sister); she was very uncertain at first when we introduced Kittens.  Although she and Walter Gomez (now living in Minnesota, and adored) never hit it off, she slowly, slowly, made good friends with Moth.

And what will Moth do now?  We are bereft - but Mothy?  Will she relish being an Only Cat (for now)?  Or will she find this a hard readjustment?  Oh, gosh: what an awful day: it's been great to bury one's face in Moth's soft fur.


Saturday, June 5, 2021

an elliptical workout?

So there I am, chopping herbs with a mezzaluna - sage, fennel, rosemary, oregano, garlic ... left, right, left, right - and my wrist buzzes: my Apple Watch wants to suggest something to me.  "It looks like you're having an elliptical workout."  Well, not exactly ... Maybe it'll suggest that I've used up a whole lot of extra calories today ...

LF: not so good for much of today - but sitting on a cushion this evening, contemplating the world.


dinner time view

Not a bad view from our balcony, when we're having dinner ... that little Tuscan style building is actually the club house for the Marty Tregnan Junior Golf Academy - still not open, because of Covid restrictions, so we've been spared the sound of impassioned golf instruction aimed at small people (it's actually golf as social outreach, aiming to introduce the young to a sport that they might never otherwise have a chance of playing).

And we needed a good view to aid contemplation: the news on LucyFur wasn't good, today: her blood work up from last week shows her numbers going in the wrong directions, despite all the drugs and cosseting.  Another consultation on Sunday ...


Thursday, June 3, 2021

Jude the Obscure

This rose looks far too cheerful to be called Jude the Obscure - but David Austin Roses clearly weren't troubled by that.  I'm amused by the description on their website, which tells one that it "bears large flowers of an incurved chalice shape. They are apricot on the inside of the petals and paler apricot-yellow on the outside. It has a strong fruity fragrance, reminiscent of guava and sweet white wine, sometimes with a strong citrus bias" - which makes it sound as though these are wine tasting notes, not flower descriptions.  Nowhere does it say that it's a stunning deep apricot that then fades to yellow.

Staying here much longer than we thought that we would has meant that we've got to see it bloom, of course - which is great.  LucyFur?  Just getting on quietly with being a frail tabby cat, today - very much enjoying human company.


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

a sunny spot

Yesterday, it looked as though the owl in the tree was the closest thing possible to a feathered tabby cat.  Here is LucyFur doing her best to look like a furry bird.  She's had a brighter day, for the most part - and may be the only cat ever to have attended a REF meeting (via Zoom, in the UK at an early hour this morning) while being fed through a tube.  I trust that the whole enterprise (which takes about half an hour) didn't look too weird, and that my careful angling of the computer made it seem as though I was sitting on the floor in the early morning sunlight in a retro bohemian fashion, not wielding a plastic syringe of blended high protein cat food ...


Tuesday, June 1, 2021


We have had a very handsome Great Horned Owl in the Asian Pear outside the bedroom window today, allowing me to take the best owl photos that I've ever been lucky enough to capture.  Mr Owl has been rather a formidable and censorious presence, except when he closed his eyes - and even then, that was probably intended to deceive.  One squirrel was brave enough to challenge him, and tried to chase him up a branch, and received a lazy wing-flap by way of return.  

The morning started, in fact, not with Owl, but with a very angry Cooper's Hawk outside, making a raucous cackle of a nest-defending sound: I think we now know why.

LucyFur?  A rather lethargic morning; perked up some this afternoon.  It's like that.  Feeding a cat under the watchful eyes of this guy - for he was looking down from the tree and into my study, at one point - was not a little intimidating.  He might look like a huge feathered tabby cat, but definitely isn't.