4/4/04-Sun.-In the last few days, one thing after another has seemed to go wrong. These were not major fiascoes, just a series of frustrating developments, mostly to do with our sometimes endearing yet often patience-testing canine.
When we're fatigued and upset by even such little matters, it's too easy for Fran and me to resort to brief episodes of bickering, which then for awhile leave me close to despair. Surprisingly, the tiffs do not necessarily mean an end to our sex lives!
One occurrence, completely unrelated to problems with Puff, that might have been far worse, but instead turned out for the best, was that a quite large branch in one of our mature backyard live oak trees fell. It was big enough that it could have easily injured or even killed Fran, Puff, or me had we been under it when it came down. Or, had it swung a different way in its plunge, it might have gouged and scraped out a significant section of our house siding. As it was, though, it even missed several small plants Frances had been nurturing in a bed under it and did no damage at all.
Nearly as remarkable is that we were home, albeit inside the house, when it came down but noticed nothing, neither the initial crack of the limb's snap, which ought to have been quite loud, nor the crash as this ponderous mass of thick wood and branches hit the ground. Since we were not physically present outside when it happened, merely within earshot through our thin walls, I guess this answers the question about whether a tree that falls in the forest when nobody is there would make a sound? Clearly not!
I've now almost finished sawing it up and hope to complete that task today.
We're also in the last stages of cleaning up the bulk of the leaves accumulated in the lawn over the past several months. I expect to shred them and finish the first spring mowing early this evening.
Yesterday we learned the good news that our nephew, Jim, has been accepted into a masters music program at the Juilliard School, in NYC. Way cool! He'll finish his undergrad degree this May, then be in Houston for the summer. Frances and Jim share musical interests as well as high intelligence, and, naturally enough, they relate rather well. We may visit he and his mom, Mary, there before he heads off to The Big Apple.
Later. Have found a neat web site, The National Interest, a thinking person's journal of, despite the name, international issues and affairs. I believe there is a $26 price for a year's subscription, well worth it in my view. The articles and essays convey evidence that we've all succumbed to the old anonymous Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times!"
This afternoon I gave Frances her latest long massage, and we watched the hilarious movie, "Grosse Pointe Blank," as background to the physical ministrations.
A thunderstorm came through, putting off till tomorrow my intended mowing, but I at least got the big fallen limb cut up, then took a walk in the rain.
4/11/04-Easter Sun.-Time flies while we're having so much fun. Rains have continued, off and on. Once again, we could probably get a good crop of rice going in our yard, but, with all the shade from our mature or growing trees and a stream through the back when things are so wet, it's more like a bayou out there than a paddy.
Our weather is quite nice, cloudy, breezy, and with temperatures only in the fifties (F) both last night and throughout today. Frances was even complaining of being cold in the house, so I indulged in the luxury of turning on the heat for the first time in many weeks.
Puff is three and a half months old now and almost (we hope!) housebroken, but in most other ways still at times rather wild. Yet she's so cute and amusing that we forgive her for most of the little nips with her sharp baby teeth, jumps at us to get our attention, fresh holes in our yard (for which we scold her, but she ignores the corrections, of course, the next time she gets the urge to dig), or bursts of energy to race between our legs as we're trying to go out the door without her, resulting in our yelling and chasing like idiots after this imp of a creature, off like a shot without her leash.
She must have been a fish in her "past life," for she loves the water, often leaping into the tub so she can have a small bath, dunking her head and then the rest of her diminutive body right under the flowing faucet, and then lying down in the pool to get the full immersion effect. What she does in quest of adequate moisture out in the backyard is equally hysterical, for instance immediately diving into and submerging herself in the large pond when a low flying helicopter went by.
That pond is particularly goopy now as, following a couple nights of toad serenading, we have a new dispersion of slimy toad egg strings decorating the area on or just under its surface.
Yesterday, we got an early start and took advantage of the overcast skies (hence better photography and less threat to my skin of further sun exposure and cancer) to go down to Town Lake with our boats for some kayaking, Puff's first experience with this type outdoor adventure. Besides the often overwhelming challenge of staying in the craft, as opposed to on or beside it (in the water), the hyperactive little twit was at times quite exercised over close encounters of the fowl kind, especially as a haughty male swan protecting a nearby nest followed us about while beautifully fluffed up in his most threatening pose and, a little later, as a pair of geese honked loudly and repeatedly at me for being in their territory and angrily acted on these warnings by attacking me, my paddle, and the kayak with violent wing-beatings and beak bites.
Along and below the cliffs, the ferns, new pale green tree foliage, and blossoming plants of several colors were most pleasant. Between us, Fran and I also saw several kinds of herons (including a great blue heron eating a fish it had just caught), a pair of green kingfishers, a water snake, swallows, lots of green turtles, a snapping turtle, several common egrets, cattle egrets, cormorants, coots, vultures, and a woodpecker.
We had a good time, though Puff was so excited she didn't relax the whole time we were out.
Today, in honor of the holiday, she got an introduction to opening wrapped gifts, receiving a couple treats plus a very soft stuffed bunny. She liked the treats, but the rabbit apparently will be more an acquired taste.
I'm interested in a comprehensive (over 22,000 words!) new piece of investigative journalism on how we got into the present predicament in Iraq, "The Path to War," published in the May issue of the American "Vanity Fair" magazine, as previewed the other evening in an interview with its authors by Charlie Rose.
The film music course is turning out to be really good. The other people in the class are nice too. Brian Satterwhite is an excellent instructor. In the last few days I've watched "Alien" and "Dances with Wolves" again, each for the first time in many years, to notice particularly their scores and how these contribute to the effectiveness of the movies.
Am making plans to attend the college graduations of a couple of my nephews next month. Between now and the end of the summer sessions I'll be going to four such commencements, one for a niece, three for nephews.
For a retiree, Fran is more than normally occupied lately. In addition to her usual creative or musical projects, she's started working as a volunteer for the Prehistoric Garden at Zilker Park and on the design and maintenance of an Austin non-profit organization's web site.
When not interacting with Fran or Peri or watching videotapes, I've been busy researching potential investments and getting the next chapter in this journal's early year entries (from 1979) ready to be put online.
Puff surprised and pleased us today by whining at the back door to be let out whenever she needed to do her eliminative business. We rewarded her profusely with both praise and play each time afterward! There may be hope for that beast yet.
While she gave me a long massage this afternoon, Fran and I watched some nature documentaries, including a quite intriguing tape about previous periods of massive species extinction and the few kinds of creatures that survived through those earlier global traumas, including the then almost insignificant mammals, just after the destruction of the dinosaurs, that developed, branched out widely, and eventually evolved to became dominant (if one ignores microbes and insects).
4/19/04-Mon.-Fran, Puff, and I are back from a three-day stay with my mom in Waco.
Along with our visiting, we planted some annuals for Mom, did some weed-eating, out in the lot behind her place, and a couple other chores for her, had supper at Dock's, a greasy-spoon seafood eatery on the Brazos River, enjoyed good meals at Mom's, and watched several movies, some mentioned favorably in my film music classes, "Seven," "Patton," and "Big Fish," the first two seen on cable TV, the last in the theater. I'd never experienced "Big Fish" before. It was good (not excellent): funny, uplifting, touching, and sad all at once, plus having the Tim Burton (the director) style richness of imagery. Danny Elfman wrote the score.
It was quite a marathon movie weekend. After our return to Austin yesterday, we saw "The Road to Perdition" while I was giving Fran her long massage. Today, in fact, I've been viewing it (and listening to its score) again. It is that great. Sam Mendes directs. Thomas Newman is the composer.
Meanwhile, I've taken several walks, completed the essays for our next family newsletter issue, done some meditation, gotten caught up on our investments, shopped for groceries with the spouse, and helped look after our often problematic yet endearing puppy.
Tonight I have my next to last film music class.
4/22/04-Thurs.-Frances and I published our online monthly newsletter again yesterday. This was about the 57th issue. By now the archives are getting rather voluminous. In fact, we have been creating family-and-investment newsletters for eight years, but the first few of them were strictly postal mail-out versions.
This evening I have my last class in the film music community course I've been taking at the University of Texas. I'm hoping to follow up my interest in movies with more related activities. I've learned there is an Austin Film Society, for instance, that periodically has special showings. Austin has some neat film festivals too. Also, Alamo Draft House has frequent screenings of movies at low cost for both the showings and the associated food and beverages. I intend to check such these things out over the next several months and hope to add some to my regular routines.
Walking the Austin U.T. campus, from parking over near the music building and going to and from these classes (near the Main Building, the greenhouse, and the biology ponds), once more brings back many powerful memories and emotions. My first semester at U.T. began in late summer-early fall of 1961. I was seventeen.
When I came back from a morning walk yesterday, Puff was free in the house and, for the second time, as I started through the doorway and before I could stop her, darted outside. Of course, reveling in her freedom and completely ignoring my calls for her to "Come!" she raced off across the yard and into the road. She then circled, just out of reach, still in the street, enjoying the game, while I crouched down and frantically tried to coax her to me.
Frances became aware of the situation and thought to turn on the front hose, the noise of the water then gurgling and whooshing out a magnet for our aquatic beast, finally enticing her within Fran's pouncing and grabbing range. The incident came too close for comfort to having a more serious outcome.
Puff is not completely housebroken, but at least lately only has about one accident in the house a week. Of course, we are hoping that soon she'll be completely trained to just go outside for her "bathroom" needs.
The night before last, Fran and I went to a dinner party for a friend of ours who has had a recent birthday. We enjoyed ourselves with good food, conversation, jokes, and a little wine (Fran, as usual, not imbibing, but the rest of us having a glass each). The lady's husband was there as well. We have these small birthday parties for each in our little friendship group, plus occasionally one other man, about four or five times a year. We ate Thai food, which was delicious, but mine was very spicy hot!
Spring is in full bloom here now. The trees have their new leaves. Birds are noisily engaged in courtship or are beginning new families. Fran's gardens are filled with flowering plants.