Friday, November 9, 2012

PATTY--I MISS YOU ALREADY


A late 40-something birthday of mine celebrated at Patty's New York apartment, and 
my favorite picture of us over the years.  

2012 has been my own personal annus horribilis.  On a recent Saturday, my friend Pat Reshen's step-daughter called with the terrible news that she had suffered a massive heart attack and died instantly at home. It was also something of a blessing; she went so fast with virtually no pain and with great speed.  I've now lost Lonnie Robbins, Arlene Friedman and Pat Reshen --all close friends--in the space of seven months. It is too cruel to lose loved ones in such a short span of time. Ironically and exactly as with Lonnie, I spoke with Pat the night before. She called me from home to check in. We have spoken often since I left New York in June, 2009. She was full of news about a spectacular new black shearling coat she had just purchased and was looking forward to the cold weather to wear it in. I was telling her all the good news about the sales of my cookbook, and asked her if she wanted to come for Thanksgiving. She was excited by the possibility and told me she would check in on airfares to see if she could find a reasonably priced flight.

Because of a new job, Pat had missed coming out for her annual Labor Day visit. She had come every Labor Day since I have moved to Portland. She wasn't sick, or at least wasn't sounding sick on the phone. In fact she seemed more chipper than I had heard her in months.  We rang off with her usual "I  love you." When I got home from the ballet on Friday night, she had written me two e-mails, one saying she was beginning to search for flights and the other to praise me for my latest blog post. The next morning, she was gone.

Her daughter, Amber was in Europe, and Pat's step-daughter was frantically trying to reach her. She had stepped off the plane at JFK and her iPhone lit up. It is a wrenching thing to hear after you've been away on a pleasurable vacation. I received a lovely call from Amber this afternoon, but more on that later.

I met Pat through her ex-husband, Neil, an agent, financial manager, and consultant to the publishing industry. I had been hired to do the public relations promotion on a rather difficult book based on Nascar statistics, written and compiled by one of Neil's authors. I can't remember how I came to be recommended. Neil and his daughter and I hit it off right away, and Neil had been urging me to come up to Danbury for a visit at the family's compound there for months. One gray Saturday, I made the trip. He told me his wife would be on the same train, but we would connect once we got to Danbury. A tall blonde woman in her 50s, all in black was at the train exit when we arrived. I had a premonition that was Pat. Indeed, I was correct. We started talking immediately and there was an instant bond between us. She was friendly, a little sassy and a little bawdy. I liked her right away.

Neil picked us up at the station, and in no time, he realized Pat and I would be talking out heads off to each other and he would be kinda left out. It didn't completely turn out that way, but it was clear, Pat and I were to be friends. She lived in the city and commuted to Neil's home where he lived alone on the weekends (the weekdays, the big Tudor house was the office for his business). We had a casual lunch in the living room on trays and talked about publishing, the authors I worked with, Neil's clients, and Patty's website design business. By two PM, it was declared cocktail time. Patty poured me a big tumbler of Dewars and water and in two hours, I was a big cock-eyed. It was time for me to leave. I had to be back in the city and get on a train to Westchester for dinner out with my boss and his wife in the burbs. The train that would take me closest to their home wasn't working and so I took an expensive car service to Larchmont. Just as I was ready to leave, Patty came out of the house with a large traveling cup and when I rolled the window down, she handed me a "roadie" of more Dewars and water. We promised to call each other in the city and meet for dinner. Once the car was out of sight, I opened the window and drained the glass. I was already crocked, and didn't need anymore stimulation.

In the coming months, Patty and I went out to dinner often. She would read about a new restaurant she was dying to try and off we'd go. Patty loved to eat and drink and smoke. We would often go to Raoul's, the standard-bearer of French bistros in Soho.  Patty loved steak, pork, lamb--any red meat with a bone on it. She loved marrow bones, and she loved red wine. She could sit for hours over a steak and potato. She didn't much care for vegetables though she always ate salads. We would talk about movies, new books (she as a voracious reader of popular fiction) she was reading, the difficulty of family, her worries about one of her employees who had AIDS. He was a close friend, and she moved him into her two-bedroom apartment during a particularly dark period of his health problems. Pat was a very generous friend, who often came to the aid of friends in need. She was also the patron saint of no-longer-wanted house plants. I would have to be careful if I intended to toss out an old and tired looking orchid, or other living houseplant. She would rescue it and bring it home with her and nurse it back to health or bloom.  She was every dog's champion. We once found a dog in the back of an open cab of a truck in Soho. The dog was barking and making a nuisance of itself. Suddenly Pat was walking into every bar within a five-block radius to find the owner of the dog. She didn't mind the dog's barking, but she was concerned that someone might call the police and report the dog. Finally, I convinced her to stop and we jumped into a cab and headed home. My stop was first, but I knew she was going to turn the cab right around and look for that dog's master the minute I left the cab, which is precisely what she did.

At some point, both Pat and I were experiencing financial difficulties. But I didn't want to stop our dinners, so I began to invite her to my home for supper. We'd rent a movie, or just have dinner and talk. She was over the moon about my French bulldog, Beau, and sat on the floor of the living room, just outside of the kitchen and play with Beau while I cooked and we caught up.  There were two things I usually had difficulties convincing Patty to love:  vegetables and fish. She liked roasted cauliflower, or roasted Brussels sprouts, and asparagus was always welcomed on her plate, but not much of any other sort of vegetable appealed to her, and if it didn't she would move it around her plate and then ignore it. The same with fish though she would eat Salmon and I gave up trying to convince her veggies and seafood were good for her heart. One recipe in particular was a favorite--a sauté of sweet Italian sausages with red grapes, a little balsamic vinegar and red wine. She constantly asked me to make it for her.

Patty was the only person I let smoke in my house. She was so addicted that it was pointless to lecture to her about it. She had surgery on both carotid arteries, and suffered considerable heart disease. I learned to live her her constantly leaving the table in a restaurant or in my apartment to go have a cigarette. I finally relented. As a former smoker, I felt sorry for her habit. She was never going to quit. After surgery last year, she told me she was quitting. She would brag how well she was dong for weeks after her surgery, but stopped talking about it. I finally said, "are you smoking again?"  I don't know what I asked. I knew the answer.

Patty didn't' much care for politics and had no head for it. She aped the Republican views of Neil, and when we were by ourselves, I would give her hell about it. I often harangued Neil about his silly politics. He didn't seem to be very good at political argument at all. But he clearly held sway over Pat about hers, and she remained a staunch Republican until Barak Obama's first term in office, and she finally admitted that she liked his positions on health care, the economy, Medicare, and the Middle East.

Neil and Patty divorced when their daughter was still very young. Patty moved Amber into the city, enrolling her in school.  At some point, Amber moved to Danbury and lived with her father before she graduated from high school.  Pat had a wonderful relationship with her daughter and they were very close. Amber managed her mother's web-design business. After Pat closed her web business, Amber went to work with one of the big insurers, and was the person in charge at the company's World Trade Center branch in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.  When Amber announced she and her husband were moving to Vancouver, British Columbia, Pat was devastated, but understanding.

About the time I was leaving New York, Neil started suffering from severe signs of dementia and the beginning of Alzheimer's disease. Unable to take care of himself, Neil was moved into a nursing facility in the Bronx.  Patty faithfully took a cabs to the nursing home, took him out for lunch or dinner and a haircut or a manicure, bought him clothes, and took care of his needs. Because of his slipping memory he began to regard her as his jailer, which caused her much pain. Whenever she was in Portland or in Vancouver visiting her daughter, Patty spent most of her time on the phone with family and Neil, always with the thought of making him as comfortable as possible. Several months ago, Neil's memory no longer worked. He couldn't recognize Patty at all. Still she selflessly visited him every weekend, bringing him food, reading to him, and watching TV with him, sometimes, just staying there while he slept. She was determined to preserve whatever shred of dignity he had in the world his mind had escaped into.

When Patty lost her job, I said to her, "Okay, we've talked about this. You said you're want to downsize to nothing. Come out here and share the house with me. She loved the idea and we talked about it in great detail, but in the end, she couldn't abandon Neil, even though he would not be conscious of her being there or leaving. This kind of loyalty was very touching.

A year ago or so ago, I began to make friends with a squirrel in my back yard. He would walk up to me bold as brass, and take peanuts out of my hand. I named him Cooper and began to take photos of him. I saw him just about every day, and I loved that he had made a nest in my cedar tree.  Then one day when friends were over in the back yard, one of my guests noticed that Cooper was near the fountain I have over on the fence wall. We noticed he wasn't moving, and I went over to investigate. I saw blood right away and it was evident he had sustained some sort of wound. It looked bad, and indeed, thirty minutes later, Cooper was dead. Patty had been following the course of our friendship, and had met him in my back yard the previous Labor Day holiday. The next time we talked, she was very upset to learn he had died. A week or so later, a package arrived, and upon opening it, I saw it was a plaque with Cooper's name, and the date of his death. I told Patty that I buried in him in the dog run on the side of the house, and she ordered a plaque so I wouldn't forget my departed friend. That was the kind of caring person Patty was.

Amber called me a day after she returned home to say she was taking care of the arrangements to have her mother buried. But she called to let me know that her mother "adored you." I was very touched by that. I bought Patty an amber bracelet with some turquoise stones from a trip to Santa Fe, and sent it to her when I got home. She called me a few days later all emotional about the gift. She insisted it had magical properties and would bring her good luck. For the rest of her life, she would tell me all her good news, always followed by the idea that the bracelet had been responsible.  Patty had a strong will which she used for good things, and most of us were powerless against it. She will be missed.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

THE OREGONIAN COOKBOOK IS A WONDERFUL SUCCESS


It was determined that my little idea--a cookbook based on recipes from The Oregonian's Foodday section, published on October 1st--is going back to press. We are now completely sold out of the small hardcover edition and nearly through the trade paperback print run. So a second printing of 15,000 copies and I'm still concerned we'll be out of stock before Christmas. This is a good problem to have, sorta.  Still it is music to my ears to hear that Costco, Powell's, Amazon.com, and other big retail outlets are out of stock. Kitchen Kaboodle, a popular, local culinary equipment chain of five stores was sold out before Katherine Miller's autograph session in the NW 23rd Street location on Saturday. We brought sixty more copies with us, and they have reordered more copies. And the Lake Oswego New Seasons market asked us to confirm we could ship them a reorder because, "We CANNOT keep this book on the shelves!!"

http://www.kink.fm/09/26/12/READ-The-Oregonian-Cookbook/landing_music_discovery.html?blockID=635361&feedID=9695

Powell's lead our kick-off on President Obama's disastrous debate against Mitt Romney, who seemed resurgent at the expense of the truth. Still we managed to attract an audience of sixty five readers. I put six current and past Foodday editors and contributors through their paces talking about Portland's current emergence as a major culinary destination. And they delivered a lively hour and a half of talk about the excellence of our locally produced foods, our top chefs, and the general high quality of food here. Lots of my friends showed up and bought books. I've done a few interviews, one of KINK-FM that I'm very proud of. 




The Oregonian's Foodday Panel at Powell's City of Books for THE OREGONIAN COOKBOOK,
Portland, October 3, 2012

The book will be advertised every week on The Oregonian through the end of January. So I think once Thanksgiving arrives, we'll be inundated with sales for the holidays.  Foodday editor, Katherine Miller will be showing up at Costco, Fred Meyer, Safeway, and New Season's markets, the Beaverton Farmers Market, the Oregon Historical Society's annual book fair event, and Made in Oregon, signing copies through mid-December.


Both of these long-stem beauties came from a single stem. 

The garden is now winding up its long growing season. We had a bit more than three and a half months of dry, sunshine weather, highly unusual here these days. We had a very long and rainy winter/spring so when the sun finally arrived around July 4th weekend, it seemed as if every day offered Portlanders the opportunity to go to the beach, or hike in the mountains, or tend their gardens, or lay in a meadow in one of the city's many parks. I used my central air for about twelve days--a long time here. Most nights, I used a fan, and the door to my bedroom balcony was always opened. Archie got to the dog run park nearly every day, socializing with lots of dogs as they kicked up every bit of available dry dust which flew everywhere for lack of rain to keep it earthbound. While I had lots of roses, I didn't feed them much. The hydrangeas were very showy this summer, but sunlight burned them as well.  My hostas grew like weeds and my pear tree produced fruit for the first time in two years. I got lots of figs, but they refused to ripen. I suspect they will be finally producing fruit next summer. The lilies have matured and bloomed all summer long. But the big news in my garden were the grape and cherry tomatoes. The vines just grew like Jack-in-the-beanstalk, virtually taking over my entire vegetable garden and producing the sweetest tomatoes that got thrown into virtually everything. I just put up two batches of tomato sauce for pasta later on this weekend. We had radiatore pasta with cherry tomato sauce with onions, fresh oregano and bacon last night. I chopped them up for salsa, Deb (my housemate) stirred them into her morning eggs. Every place I could add tomatoes, I did. I gave away batches (they were like unwanted Zucchini at one point). Now they are fewer and once the rains arrive, will be done for the season. Time to think about cutting the vines down. I also have to dry sage, oregano, and rosemary; and harvest fresh bay leaves. We've got six new jars of fig jam and I'll make Seville orange marmalade in the next two weeks.


The back yard cedar tree with it's new haircut. You couldn't see my neighbor's garden shed 
because of the all cedar's lower branches blocked out sunlight, and the view. 

I have two cedar trees, one in the front yard, which is an eyesore. The backyard Cedar is quite beautiful, but both of them needed pruning badly and the front yard tree had a branch that was threatening my cable/phone/internet wire. So they got haircuts and the difference is astonishing,  particularly the backyard where there is about one third more sunshine.  Now I plan to rethink my plantings for next summer.  The dahlias were so showy and now that they have their own bed and even more sunlight, I may add more. And I've finally worked up the courage to have my holly tree removed. It has gotten over-grown, makes a mess my dumping holly leaves onto my backyard side garden and patio, requiring too frequent sweepings. And I bought new patio chairs to replace the old and ugly and uncomfortable Adirondak chairs. I shopped for them and the prices were sky high--as much as $1,200 for two chairs!!! But I found two really good-looking faux-wicker chairs in a second hand shop for $45--BOTH CHAIRS. I have this great fabric that I bought in New York. It's French and brilliantly stripped. It's used for outdoor umbrellas, espadrilles, and cloth tote bags. I'll have cushions for the new chairs made from this fabric.  I'm already planning next summer!



Archie and Bit are becoming closer. Most of the time, when they are not sleeping, they are chasing each other all throughout the house. They provide endless entertainment. Like Beau, Archie's cuteness makes him a magnet for people who wonder what his breed is, and when I tell them Dachshund and Sharpei, the laugh at the incongruity of his mix. Here they are on a lazy summer afternoon soaking up late summer rays in front of the kitchen door.


Another quiet moment with Archie and Bit--this time just before lights out!


Chrstine Goerke in the title role of Richard Strauss's Epic opera, ELEKTRA

My good friend, Christine Goerke made a remarkable debut last Saturday night at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in the title role of Strauss' monumental ELEKTRA. On stage for the full amount of the 100-minute work, Christine (who first sang the demanding role in Madrid last October) rocked the house, singing with piercing dramatic acuity while pouring out an avalanche of dramatic soprano tone. She was rewarded with a standing ovation at her first curtain call, and a universally ecstatic critcal reception from the national, local and international critics in attendance. It was a long overdue acknowledgement of a great singer at the peak of her powers and she set the house afire.  Here's a promo prepared by the the CLO for YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dN_qcCXYrFY

I get to see the final performance on the run on October 30th. I've been waiting for years to hear her sing this part. I have separate audio and video performances of her Madrid stint and I think she's the most sensational Elektra that I've heard since Nilsson and the underrated Oliva Stapp sang the role in performances I saw in the 70s.  She's singing her first WALKURE Brunnhilde later this year in Berlin, and starts the new year with her first performance of the Dyer's wife in Strauss's DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN in Amsterdam. This is a prelude to her return to the Met in New York in 2014 for the same role. She's also due to sing her first complete Ring cycle over the next few years in Houston. But watch her profile rise in the next few months. With this Chicago success, Christine Goerke now joins the ranks of the best operas singers in the world.


Christine Goerke during one of many highly emotional moments in 
Strauss' ELEKTRA at the Chicago Lyric Opera

My good friend, Elizabeth and Erin Manwaring, closed their gorgeous boutique, Ste. Maine at the end of September after five years.  Theirs was an upscale shop carrying luxurious home decorative furniture, tabletop accessories, mirrors, bedding and towels, pillows and art. They were among my first friends in the city when I moved here three years ago.  I bought six porcelain shallow bowls, ideal for soup or pasta in a more formal setting. I also bought books, because both ladies loved those big and lavishly illustrated decorating and garden books that you find in upscale homes. They also did very well selling cookbooks and I was delighted when they asked for my opinion on the best of each season's most beautiful and well-written cookbooks to sell. Sellwood is a good neighborhood for antiques, but Ste. Maine was more appropriate for spender Pearl district.  I'm sorry they have closed. In the meantime, Elizabeth and Erin always sold the classiest holiday ornaments and this year's Halloween offerings were really beautiful. I found a stunning mirrored glass pumpkin and these two mirrored "skull" candle holders.  Happy Halloween!


If Cinderella can have a glass slipper, I think I can have a glass pumpkin!


A little ghoulish candlelight for those discerningly formal Halloween sit-down dinners!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

ARLENE--A CAREER MENTOR HAS DIED


Arlene Friedman and me at a Fawcett sales conference in Scottsdale Arizona, November 1981

I just received the sad news from my friend, Belle Newton, that our former colleague--Arlene Friedman died last Sunday. I had been expecting it. Arlene had barely survived the death of her husband when she learned she had cancer again. She had struggled with this last bout for quite some time.

Arlene Shepherd, which was her married name, and her preferred way of being known since her retirement from publishing, left the business as President and Publisher of Doubleday. She had held previous editorial positions at Macmillan, Crown and Fawcett Books, where she was editor-in-chief when I joined the company. A little background...

After kicking around the publishing business in my youth for some six years, I found myself in January, 1977 starting my career in earnest. I had fooled myself into believing that I should be an editor. Silly me. I had no talent or the attention span required to find and usher a book through the publishing process. It was way too slow a discipline for me. But in 1977 I got an offer to join Fawcett Books, a successful publisher of mass market paperbacks, as a publicist. I had some previous experience having worked as a freelance publicity assistant for a small PR firm that specialized in promoting books. Actually I didn't have all that much experience. I didn't get to pitch authors to TV producers, magazine and newspaper editors. Nor did I get the opportunity to write press releases--the bread and butter of the publicist's daily grind. I mostly stuffed jiffy bags with paperback novels and press kits for mailing, answered the phone, and refereed the growing animosity between my two bosses as their partnership unraveled. But I did pay attention to what was going on, listened to them pitch story ideas to editors and producers, and observed as they created campaigns for their authors.  One of their biggest clients was Avon Books, a popular paperback publisher and home to Rosemary Rogers, who was enjoying enormous success as a writer of steamy historical romances--those potboilers that showed a muscled man of action aboard a ship, or standing on the hilltop of his great spread of land, in some sort of absurdly romantic clinch with a woman of heaving bosom and flying red or raven hair. Ms. Rogers popularity was such that she would be sent out to meet her public in various cities all around the country. It was our job to make sure her itinerary was filled with local interviews and events where she would meet her fans and generate lots of sales.

Predictably the partnership of this agency went up in flames one morning. I arrived at the office to find that one of the ladies had actually punched her partner. One of them departed. The other asked me to stay and take on more responsibility at no extra pay. Since she was the person I liked least in the partnership, I decided to leave. A few days later the partner I liked best, called to say there was a job opening in the publicity department of Fawcett Books, one of Avon's chief rival paperback houses. Avon's publicity director had liked me and recommended me for the job. I was sent to interview with Belle, who was the newly promoted publicity director. I liked her immediately. She asked me to write a press release, and gave me a novel by Phyllis Whitney to test my writing skills. I left a little apprehensively. I had never written a press release before. Belle also gave me a few of their press releases to show the department's style.

Fortunately my mother's bookshelves were loaded with many books published by Fawcett: Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt and prophetically Anya Seton, a popular novelist of historical fiction. I had read many of them as a teenager. I breezed through the book and then agonized over the construction of the press release. I'm sure were I to read it today, it would embarrass me hugely (fortunately this was the pre-computer era). But eventually I submitted it and waited. I heard nothing. October, November, December all passed by without any word from Belle. I called her in January, intent on demanding the return of my written samples. Belle was very glad to hear from me. Could I come in for one more interview with Leona Nevler, Fawcett's publisher? This seemed to be the break I had been looking for. We set the time and on the appointed day I arrived and was ushered into Leona's large, light-filled office. Her desk was piled high with manuscripts to the point where I couldn't see her behind the precariously stacked debris that threatened to collapse. Leona was a tiny, tightly wound woman with dark hair and sad eyes. She came around to the front of my desk and shook my hand wanly and offered me one of the two seats. Taking the other chair, she asked me why I wanted the job. To this day, I don't understand how I managed to respond the way I did, which went something like this:  "I've read James Michener and Victoria Holt from my mother's library. I'm more than familiar with the works of Phyllis Whitney, Taylor Caldwell and Mary Stewart. But most of all Katherine (written by Anya Seton) was one of my favorite books as a teenager (it truly was). I'd like to work for the publisher of all these wonderful books." Leona's eyes lit up. Right away I knew she would always be a supportive colleague if I was lucky enough to land this position. She thanked me for coming and by the time I had ambled back to Belle's office, I had a job.

Those first few months at Fawcett were hell. I was anxious that I would be discovered as a fraud with no talent for publicity. The day I started, CBS bought the company (which included a magazine division with Woman's Day as a flagship publication). I spent an awful lot of time in meetings with the editorial group and then with sales. I was handed lots of writing assignments which jangled my already frayed nerves. But Belle was encouraging and after a few months I discovered I truly did have an aptitude for the job. It suited my short attention-span well. I could interact with every department in the company from production and art departm to permissions. I enjoyed talking with TV producers, travel agents, magazine and newspaper editors, and most of all to the authors themselves.  It was also the first time I realized that I could write competently, my publishing future seemed settled, and I was no longer some one's assistant. 

Most of these meetings were dominated by a flame-haired woman of generous proportions named Arlene Friedman. She was the editor-in-chief and was possessed of a huge personality. Diane von Furstenberg's famous wrap dress was all the rage in those days, and Arlene owned a closet-full of them. She was the first female executive in clubby publishing world that I can remember who dressed flamboyantly. She even wore open-toed high heels. Her nails were always bright red and her hair was always BIG! I would later discover the technique she used to make her hair look so voluminous. Before leaving her office, Arlene would bend over in her chair and brush her hair forward--at least ten strokes. She would flip her head back, look at the make-up mirror she always kept at her desk and then spray her hair into place. That red hair of hers had a life of its own. In that first year, I got to know Arlene very well. She seemed to like me and I certainly liked her. She was down-to-earth, salty, loved a lewd joke, and spent a lot of time on the phone talking in her high pitched and nasal voice with hardcover editors and sub-rights people and agents, who were her pipeline to finding the best and most successful books for reprinting in paperback. People liked Arlene--a lot. You would go to lunch with her and find that her relationships with these people had gone on for years.

Arlene had worked at William Morris after she graduated from Katherine Gibbs School where she learned shorthand and typing. She did not go to college. She joined Fawcett about twelve years before I got there, beginning as Leona's assistant. Arlene's other skill was that she was a passionate and quick reader. She simply gobbled up book after book. Her reading was prodigious. She would read anything--potboilers, thrillers, literary fiction, crime, romances (historical, contemporary, romantic suspense), tons of non-fiction from politics and biography to how-to, true crime, exposes, and cookbooks. Arlene had an infallible sense a book's commercial viability. She could also negotiate and because of her skills, she was promoted over and over again, finally achieving the title of editor-in-chief.

Arlene's opinion and judgement were front and center of every meeting. She projected confidence and knowledge. She was always prepared. She didn't mince words, and she was impatient with people who wasted her time. She could keep a meeting focused and where others could get side-tracked, Arlene had her eye on the ball and moved it along. Initially she got on well with the CBS executives, even the less-than-experienced management the company installed to run the publisher. Leona would be stubbornly resistant, but Arlene was a negotiator and could almost always work around her bosses. She smiled, kept it civil and business-like and then when it was time to relax, she could be the heart of the party--and it worked for a long time.

I got myself into trouble with Arlene once. We were in a promotion meeting and one of the sales reps was being difficult about the ambitious sales goals of a first-time author's historical romance Leona and Arlene were high on. The book was called THE FRENCH PASSION. Don't know why I remember this title after all these years. I had read the manuscript the night before and was quite taken with it. The sales rep said this particular category didn't work in his territory, and didn't agree with any of the promotion plans set forth. He also hadn't read the book, and despite every one's enthusiasm, still resisted. I piped up without thinking that perhaps I should read it to him, if necessary, and then he might see what all the enthusiasm was about.

A few hours later, Arlene's assistant called me and said Arlene needed to see me.  I grabbed a cigarette (we smoked in those days) and headed over to what I thought would be one of our regular cozy chats. I should have known something was up when Aileen, pointed me over to Arlene's desk and told me to sit while she was winding up a call. Then she left and closed the door behind her. WhenArlene hung up the phone, she lit into me in her most imperious tone. " Greg--if you ever do something like that in a meeting again, I promised to embarrass you in front of the entire group. What the hell were you thinking about? Your comment to that sales rep was counter productive, and absurd. Don't ever do that again.  Now get out of here, I'm busy."  At first I went completely white and then my face turned absolutely fire-engine red. I was mortified. Of course she was right and I felt the complete fool. I fled back to my office and finally took a breath and calmed down. Arlene never mentioned the incident again, and I made sure I never caused her to be that upset with me again. Unlike many others I've encountered throughout my business life, you always knew where you stood with Arlene. There was never any subterfuge. She called it as she saw it. The next day, she was back to her old sassy self, the previous day's unpleasantness forgotten. 

We once had to meet with Pierre Franey, the famous French chef to discuss the promotion of his book, The 60-Minute Gourmet. Pierre decided we would lunch at the very fashionable (at the time) Le Cirque (where he had been co-founding chef). Three of us were attending from the publisher and as we looked over the menu, Arlene whispered to me, "what's Poussin?" "Fish," I incorrectly replied with my bad high school French. She was surprised, but I think relieved when a grilled baby chicken arrived on her plate. We had a good laugh about it in the taxi going back to the office.

My favorite memories of Arlene were at the annual American Booksellers Convention or at sales conferences. I was always kept busy at these conventions, planning parties, dinners, lunches, author signings, and various public relations duties. On free nights, we would go a terrific restaurant where Arlene would be at her most relaxed. She loved to dance in those days, and she was an outrageous gossip. She knew about every body's business.  She was never mean or cruel about someone unless they were truly awful. She was a favorite of every hardcover house's sub-rights director--the folks charged with selling her the paperback rights to their top-selling books. In addition to all the bestselling romance fiction,  Fawcett also published other big-name authors:  John Updike, Art Buchwald, Thomas Tryon, John D. MacDonald, Jeffrey Archer, Charles Schultz, and many others. At these industry gatherings, Arlene was good company. She'd glad-hand anyone who came up to say hello. Her generous spirit insured that anyone around her would have a good time. 

I've written before about Arlene's long marriage to Harold Shepherd. I often had dinner with them, and during the holidays, I always joined them for their annual Christmas Day party, where I usually supplied dessert. One year Arlene, who was a pretty good cook, was upset about a chocolate dessert she had made. It had been in the oven for far longer than the recipe indicated and she couldn't figure out why it seemed so under-done. She called ahead to warn me there might be a problem and then read me the recipe. Nothing seemed out of order and when I arrived, she pulled it out of the refrigerator. I asked to see the recipe again. Still nothing seemed amiss. For some reason, I asked her how much heavy cream she had used. A light bulb went off in her head as she showed me the container. She had used a whole pint rather than the eight ounces the recipe called for. The cake managed to hold together, but it was fragile looking. I helped her cut it in the kitchen before bringing the plates out to guests at the table. Of course it was delicious and following Julia Child's maxim of never explain, never complain, we never acknowledged the error.  Nobody was the wiser.

Arlene and I worked together for five and a half years.  But the paperback industry was already having troubles, and CBS was not happy with the company's financial performance. The last year was very tough, with Leona being sacked because she had resisted every change the corporation tried to impose on us. Arlene took over Leona's responsibilities, and she found herself depressed that this happy career she had so long enjoyed was falling apart. I had become publicity director by then, but it was clear our days were numbered. CBS eventually sold Fawcett to Ballantine Books. Most of the staff didn't join the new company (ironically Leona would end her publishing days at Fawcett, Ballantine having re-hired her). Arlene and I were given our departure dates. Betty Prashker, an old publishing friend, asked her to join the team at Crown Books where she got me involved in a bad plan to have Outlet, a Crown subsidiary that specialized in remainders and reprints of older picture books and reference, join in a partnership with Waldenbooks (the forerunner of Borders) for a line of paperback originals called Pageant. It was doomed from the beginning, but it did give me a chance to work with Arlene again, if only for a little while. Eventually Arlene decamped for the chance to run the Literary Guild in its last profitable years. She ended her career as president of Doubleday before retiring. Quite a resume for a lady who had gone no further in her education than secretarial school. I wound up at Wm. Morrow before leaving the corporate publishing world three years later to go out on my own as a freelancer.

We stayed in touch, though not as often as we used to. Arlene kept herself busy between homes in Manhattan and East Hampton, where her husband owned a very successful real estate business. She kept up her reading, gobbling up books faster than anyone I knew could possibly read. She was also a huge movie fan, and could be seen at screenings of new movies all over town. When I decided to move to Portland, Oregon in 2009, one of the last lunches I had in Manhattan was with Arlene and Belle. Arlene looked ill. She was moving slowly, though she was immaculately groomed, her red hair still a thing of wonder, her nails a gleaming red. She still had that naughty glint in her eye, but she also looked sad. Shep was failing--both had been dealing with illness.  We stayed in touch and I often sent her jokes, links to my blog about life here, and the occasional phone call. I wrote her a very nice note of remembrance when Shep died, and she called to say how touched she was. In the last year or so, she would send a note telling me she was hoping to come out to Portland for a visit. That would have been something to anticipate. I would have loved squiring my mentor around town, showing her the beauties of Portland, and taking her to some of our fine restaurants.

Arlene will be mourned and missed by her many friends and colleagues in the publishing business. She came of age when books still meant something as a cultural entity--as important as movies or television. At the peak of the mass market paperback business, millions of copies of a popular novel were routinely published in paperback, and many of them back listed for years and years. Today the escalating cost of the average paperback is too expensive. People can download books on their tablets and e-readers. The Internet has cut into the time people used for reading (such as this blog).  I know it sounds hopelessly old-school, but in Arlene's era, there were big personalities in the publishing world and it was a smaller universe, most of it concentrated in New York. It was easy to know everybody and Arlene Friedman made it her business to do just that.

Arlene was a good colleague, mentor and friend. She was a kick to know--memorable in every way and I will miss her terribly.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

OREGON STATE FAIR


Two rather large pigs NOT doing what you think they are doing!


A black cow being readied for display. This was had the shiniest coat, and when I petted her, I understood why.  She had been given a coat of some sort of oil to give her a shine.  


Two very sweet Nubian goats. If I had my druthers, I'd raise a goat in my back yard.  Very gentle creatures. 


A very large boar prancing around the judges. He was huge!


Meet Bubba, a friendly Clydesdale. This horse was very tall and beautifully proportioned. 

As a young teenager, I have fond memories of going to the Sacramento State Fair with a friend of my family.  Si would gather his daughter-in-law, Shirley, and her two children, and me and my three brothers, and head north from San Francisco to Sacramento.  Si would happily spend the day at the racetrack, away from his nagging wife who was always on him about gambling, while Shirley and I would ride herd on the kids, taking them on all the rides, visiting in the livestock, admiring the 4-H exhibits and drooling over the ribbon-winning cakes, breads, jams, and pickles. We would plow through the honkey-tonk of all those carney games of chance and skill--skeet ball, tossing a ball at a tower of faux-milk bottles, sinking basketballs in a net with the prize being a junky stuffed toy you'd be embarrassed to give your friend's kid. We would meet Si in time for the last race, then drive back, stopping in Santa Rosa for a swell dinner. It was just the kind of family outings we so rarely did as kids, and it left an enduring impression.

Forty-some years later, The Oregon State Fair is just winding up it's annual two-week stint in Salem, and I talked my friend, John Baker into a visit.  He'd never been to a state fair before.  We chose Friday feeling there might be less people to encounter over the busy Labor Day weekend. Good decision. We drove down to Salem around 9:30 am and arrived at the fair an hour later. It was still cool under a blue, cloudless sky and didn't get any higher than comfortable for the five hours we were there.


The variety of the goat's coats was fascinating. These gentle creatures are curious an friendly.


I want to make a home for her in my back yard. I wonder what Archie would think of her?


These two seemed very adept at posing for the camera



The first stop was to check out the animals--cows, pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens, guinea pigs. Row upon row of these creatures, most of them seemed happy to be well-fed, well-groomed and well-loved. Mostly tended to by teenagers, we'd get into a leisurely talk with a young man or woman and it was wonderful how well informed they were about their ranching lives. They could answer just about anything you could think of about the animal's well-being. I was astounded at the range of chickens, goats and rabbits. The goats were particularly fun to be around, especially a long-eared breed called Nubian.


This rooster had magnificent coloring on his feathers


I tried, but this magnificently plumed rooster resisted my every effort to get him to pose

The chickens were also fun with some very exotic varieties on view. It's a shame they weren't in pens rather than cages. The photos don't do them justice. Lots of people are raising chickens in their back yards in Portland. There are restrictions on the number of chickens you can have.  But they are messy and require lots of maintenance.  Maybe when I retired for good, but not now. But who wouldn't want fresh eggs on a regular basis. 


This is the evil ride that John talked me into. My stomach was turned inside out.

After more than an hour with livestock, we headed over to the carney section of the fair.  So many silly games of chance and skill to separate you from your money. I won't play because the prizes are so awful--mostly stuffed toys in garish colors. Or a plastic, air filled hammer, or some other junky nonsense. We didn't spend much time there for rides were on our minds. I wanted to do the Ferris Wheel and bumper cars. We did the Ferris Wheel (at a steep $4.50 for about five complete turns!). The average age of the kids on the bumper cars was about six, so I changed my mind. John got an evil glint in his eye and suggested this insane ride. A large merry-go-round-type of ride with swing-seats attached to chains that go up to the ceiling. You are locked into one of these seats and it raises and begins to spin, gathering speed. Suddenly you are thrown out sideways in circle after blurry circle of of spins while your chair whooshes and your turn and dip in a stomach-churning rotation that left me very queasy. I was grateful when it ended. And by the way, it cost $4.50 for that nausea-inducing ride!


The views from the relative calm of the far more civilized Ferris Wheel, were enjoyable instead the 
blur as seen from the precarious seat of the above mentioned ride. 
 


We went in search of a snack. John chose something called an elephant ear--a large, flat, fried piece of dough with cinnamon sugar sprinkled with a heavy hand as it cools--$5. It couldn't have cost 30 cents to make. I had forgotten State Fairs are a legal way of separating you from your money.  We walked through a garden, which was a riot of color, especially the lowly coleus plant that has the most spectacular display of colored leaves.  We walked through an artist gallery of pottery, jewelry, carved wood, and other crafts. I found a lovely wind chime of vertigreed copper with a humming bird. We stumbled upon an outdoor wine shop, where we tasted a pretty good glass of domestic Oregon rose made from Spanish Temperanillo grapes.  Most domestic rose is a bit too sweet, lacking that crisp and lean taste of the more famous Provencal rose. We sat at a shady table and just enjoyed the day as we sipped out wine.


The quilt-maker's art as stunningly realized here. How I would love to own this.

We then went to see crafts that were judged at the Fair. I wasn't too impressed with the cakes and breads that were on display. The cakes in particular lacked imagination and some looked like bad entries in a Food Channel cake-baking competition.  I was more interested in hooked rugs, and the quilts. Here are two spectacular hand-made quilts that have nothing to do with grandma's handiwork. These were sophisticated examples that begged to be hung on display in a family room.


Or this subtle beauty. Can you imagine the hours spent creating this masterful quilt?

At this point, we were ready for lunch. We didn't want pizza, a hot dog (or a corn dog), or any of the other junk on display. We stopped at a barbecue place and selected smoked sausage on a rather overly large and soft bun that dwarfed the sausage. John had mustard with his while I chose barbecue sauce. Again, we found a shady spot without having to fight the crowds for a seat. Tonight the hoards would be come to see live bands perform. For now, the fair had a manageable number of attendees--nobody was running over your feet with a baby stroller. Nice.

It was time to take a look at the 4-H entries. I'm always astonished at the talent of young people. The art and photography exhibit was prodigious in its entrants. Who knew kids could have such compositional eyes at this tender young age. The baked goods were far more impressive than the adult entries. As we  moved our way through the exhibit, you couldn't fail to not be impressed with the science projects, books, furniture, sewing samples, and other craft work on display. Made me wonder why more kids aren't raised on farms.

The only low-point was a large area devoted to modern amenities and products such as mattresses, hoses, mops, cleaning products, cookware and other house-hold products. What made it unpleasant was the sight of a George Romney for President recruitment booth, and right next to it, some "right-to-life" booth with plastic representations of fetus' at various stages of growth. It was offensive and out-of-place in a state fair, which should not be used for making political statements. But I forget it is Salem, Oregon, which is not only the state capital, but a hotbed of Republican thinking. In fact most of the state is very, very conservative, and were it not for more left-leaning Ashland, the college towns of Eugene and Corvallis, and the big-city progressive-thinking Portland, Oregon would be a tea party state, through and through. I forget we live in a bubble here in Portland.


The ponies are well-cared for and very shy.



Our final destination was the horses. We had seen a few Clydesdales in the morning, but there were ponies, an quarter horses to view. We got to a competition area where we admired Clydesdales in surreys, looking resplendent in their finery. Most were black or dark brown but I found one tan Clydesdale who stood out from the pack. The ponies were adorable, and I might have tried to get a ride on a pony-riding group, but I feared my weight would be onerous.



Coleus in all their summer glory

The Oregon State Fair is smaller than its California counterpart. I wish in a state that prides itself on the quality of its food, there had been more representative vegetables on display or a more creative way to showcase them other than behind hot display cases that made everything look a bit wilted. Vegetables were particularly affected with wrinkled skins. Why isn't there a farmers market attached where people could bring home the bounty of the canner's art such as preserves and jellies, pickles and other vegetables, whole fruits in syrup? With all this baking, why not carry home a pie or a fine loaf of bread? Or a bucket of peaches? Isn't there a way to gently combine commerce and state pride, reduce the number of junk food stands and sell real food? 

Even without a racetrack, it was wonderful to see kids engaged with their animals, which to me, is the highlight of any state fair. The livestock just fascinate and captivate people. They linger to pet a gentle lamb or giggle at either the laziness or rambunctious activities of the pigs. Best of all, the Fair mostly met the nostalgic pictures in my head from my youth. I won't do it every year, but if you haven't taken in a state fair, it's a very pleasant way to spend a few hours on a lazy summer weekday. 


Two teenagers grooming a lamb


No this isn't Uncle Barney's abandoned toupee--it's a Guinea Pig!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

SAY HELLO TO ARCHIE


Here's Archie, who appears to be a lot larger than he actually is because his face is larger than his body. 

It took only a month to get a new dog. It happened so fast I still can't believe it. Beau must think that I didn't love him--replaced before the body was even cold! Not really. My friend, Carol, has been sending me dog photos from the Oregon Humane Society.  I figured when I was ready, I would just show up and see what they had. But I didn't go. Then on an aimless and hot Sunday afternoon, I decided to check out Family Dogs/New Life, a no-kill shelter not too far from my house. It was supposed to be a a simple "go-see" where I could see other dogs, but not make a decision. Little did I realize that finding a new pet isn't like sorting through a rack of shirts at Nordstrums.  

The tiny shelter didn't look promising. These wonderful, selfless people operate on a shoestring. It's a no-frills sort of place. I walked in and was handed a book of adoptable dogs. When the time came, I had promised myself, there would be no more purebred dogs in my future. I wanted a mutt, an amiable companion like Beau who wasn't susceptible to infections and illness, a dog with an iron stomach and no allergies. Beau was the most wonderful dog in the world, but his vet bills were higher than my medical bills. As I poured through the book of photos, I didn't see any dog that had instant appeal to me. "Too big," I reasoned while flipping the pages. "Tool old. Too big. Too small." This was good I thought. I'm not leaping into this. And just when I was reasonably sure there wasn't an appealing dog for me to look at, my eye fell on a small black puppy. "Oh no you don't," I said aloud. Puppies? House-breaking, teaching good behavior, hiding the shoes, and typing down anything that was within his reach. None of this had any appeal to me. Well he is ten months old, after all, and those soft brown eyes   seem awfully sweet to me. Well maybe a quick look...

The puppy they brought to me in a waiting room was a shy little guy, very calm, and in no hurry to make nice with a stranger. The lady advised me to just stay put. I watched the little guy move under a bench, and sit down. He stayed there. I had some time to size him up. Shorty (for that was his awful name) was an adorable mutt--an improbable mix of dachshund and sharpei. "Let's throw a little pit bull or lab into the mix," I said. Shorty was built low to the ground and from the neck down, he was pure dachshund, barely  a foot high with turned out front paws that gave him the elegance of a ballet dancer. He had the wrinkled forehead of a sharpie, but his muzzle was either pit bull or labrador retriever. Weighing in at a slight twenty-four pounds, and measuring at twenty-seven inches in length, Shorty seemed to be the idea size for me--small but not dainty. At ten months of age, Shorty was somewhat house-broken, and I might be able to communicate with him more effectively than a three-month-old. 


Archie's first foray into the back yard. He liked it. Lots of mischief to get into. 

I was given a few treats, and staying in the same spot, and by staying quiet, and not pushing him, I managed to entice Shorty over to me for a treat. He took the biscuit from my hand in the most eloquently gentle way. He sat down in front of me and considered me with his soft gaze. I offered another treat, which he also took as gently as the first time. His calmness reminded me of Beau and that's when I rashly decided on the spot to adopt him. The lady looked a bit startled, but rushed to get me the proper paperwork to fill out.  Within ten minutes, Shorty was mine. They only took cash (a $225 adoption fee), so I had to drive to the nearest cash machine. You would have thought that would give me a bit more time to reconsider my decision. But I could only think that I needed food, and a crate to keep him in at night or when I was away from the house. He was already neutered about 10 days before. When I returned with the money, I was handed a file with all the background information on him. Seems he was picked up as a stray in Yakima. He was covered in ticks, which he had been treated for. There was a troubling inflammation on his left side, which I was told was a hematoma, the result of a larger dog crashing into him at playtime. Still it would require a vet's investigation. Shorty was lacking only a few more shots, which the vet could administer during an exam.  I made mental note to call the vet in the morning. I paid the adoption fee and was handed a small bag of food, a leash and collar, some toys, treats, and his file.  In under an hour, I was headed home with a new dog. 


Bit didn't like the idea of some upstart challenging his role as alpha-pet in my house. The first four days
Bit hissed and spat at Archie, trying his best to ignore him otherwise. It didn't work. Archie would not be ignored.

Oops--what is Bit going to make of this new intruder?  Bit was my other pet--a cat I had inherited when his master left my house, leaving behind all of his belongings. When Bit arrived at my house, he was an experienced traveler having been schlepped back and forth between the east coast and west, up to New York and down to Tucson. He was a strikingly handsome feline, with luxurious, thick, and long mostly white with black and gray fur. He had gorgeous blue eyes. But he was rendered comic looking by the addition of a large, black spot which mostly covered his nose and part of his muzzle. Though he had travelled often, Bit was an indoor cat and he was skittish and shy. It took months for him to finally let me pet him and a few more until he would jump up in bed for a cuddle. He loved to be petted, but tolerated it for only so much time. I had become adept in sensing when it was time to stop before he swatted me with a open claw. There are parts of Bit's body that area no-no to touch and he will lash out if he thinks your hands are near that 'no touch' zone. He's fearful of the vacuum, people when they show up at the door. Eventually Bit will re-emerge, but he remains aloof. 


Week two:  This is about as close as Bit would let Archie come, and only because he had the higher ground. 

Bit got along well with Beau in a formal sort of way. Both would pass each other nodding as old-time bankers do when they pass each other on the street. There was respect between them, but little affection. Occasionally they would deign to take a quick sniff at each other, but best friends they would never be. 

The second Shorty entered my home, Bit stopped in his tracks. His eyes got huge in horror and he immediately issued a terrifying hiss at the new intruder. Shorty went flying over to make his acquaintance, and Bit fled for cover. I didn't' see him again until bedtime, when he came to give me holy hell about letting that creature into his domain. He seemed to be saying, "I no sooner rid myself of that previous beast, when you bring home another one! And here I was enjoying my new status as Alpha cat in the house.  How could you? Once his scolding was over, Bit departed, not to be seen for a few days, except in fleeting visits for food and refreshment. 

Shorty didn't mind and wasted no time getting relaxed and settled into his new home. He liked the decor. He liked his new water dish and blanket. I had washed Beau's daybed, and Shorty was now ensconced in it when he wasn't following me all over the house. For the first three days, he never let me out of his sight. But he was fascinated with Bit, and ran over to him every chance he got. "They might just become friends," I said to my housemate, Deb. Bit isn't running for a hiding spot anymore," I noticed after the third day.  

The first thing I did was establish a regular walk, and then I launched a contest to give him a new name.  I got some great ideas, and Gus was one of my own suggestions that I considered.  In the end, the name Archie struck me as a perfect name, and so Archie he's become. Shorty has been consigned to the dump heap of really bad dog names. 

Archie aced his visit with the vet, charming everyone there, and submitting to shots and body inspection with good humor and affection. The vet took a sample of the hematoma and said it would take months for it to subside, but assured me it was nothing to worry about. Once that was past, I set about introducing Archie to friends and family. The transition has been smooth, and he's winning everyone over immediately. It helps that he's not only cute, but a handsome little guy and he enjoys meeting people and being fussed over.  We even scheduled a playmate with Porter, my friends, Trish and David's Everready Bunny of a French Bulldog. Porter doesn't understand the meaning of behave. He simply charges at anything and everything. He's a tough little guy.  Beau never really made friends with Porter. Usually he would put up with Porter's hectoring until he would lose patience, and really give him a scolding. Porter would always back down and peace would be restored. It took peace forever to finally make an appearance during their first playmate. Porter spent the first half hour clearly the winner, harassing and bullying Archie, while the adults sat out on the terrace of Trish and David's beautiful garden and watched the proceedings.  Archie was relentless. After a time, we simply ignored them and got on with our adult conversation.  About a half hour later, we hard this low rumble in Archie's throat which became a rather large and intimidating growl. The next thing you saw was the sight of two dogs chasing each other very aggressively all over their terrace. I had no idea Archie was that fast. Every once in a while, Porter would just give out, dragging himself to his doggie pool and getting himself a cool dunk while regrouping for the next round. This went on for more than an hour. Porter finally gave up, collapsing in a heap on the porch and taking a well-deserved rest. Archie had won. As Porter's eye rolled around in his head and his tongue lay hanging, he rested to get his wind back and decided the test would be taken up on another day.  Score one for Archie. 



Archie is the handsome boyo on the right with the dancer's feet. Porter, the tiny terror is my friend's French Bulldog. A bit of Churchill, and all manic personality. They had a memorable play date where Archie gave as good as he got!



For a time there, it didn't look good for Archie. 


I didn't take long for Archie to come in bed. Once he was groomed, his coat regained it's sheen. The tick scars were gone, and he made a fast recovery. He's got a good appetite, and for nearly three weeks now, there have been no accidents in the house. I just may take up the plastic painter's drop that I put over my living room rug to protect it.  Archie is now accompanying me when I can take him out to a friend's home, and he made a successful appearance at Papa Haydn's a popular local restaurant here with a beautiful garden that allows for dogs.  He has anxiety when I leave him to run an errand or have a meeting or go out for lunch and dinner. I keep him in his crate for these excursions, but we have to work on making him for comfortable when I'm not around. 

We also did a day trip to Astoria and Archie is a good traveler who didn't get car sick. It was a beastly hot day and we went to the beach near Astoria (a historic town that separates Washington state from Oregon at the mouth of the Columbia River). The sand on the beach was so hot, I had to carry Archie to the shore because it burned his paws. He didn't much care for the water. But it think it's a matter of his getting used to it. Wonder who he will fare with the rain of Portland this winter. 



I'm been trying to get a good photo of them at play for weeks now. This is the closest I've come to a 
live action shot of them.

Bit is thawing. Now he just falls to the floor whenever Archie is in hot pursuit. You'd think I had a gay-for-cats dog! Archie is winning him over, though he still loves to torture him by being elusive. They do this Mexican stand-off thing with both of them on the floor, their legs underneath them, practically nose-to-nose. Archie's tail is ram-rod straight and sticking out at a 50%-angle; Bit's is slowly moving horizontally back and forth (it's like watching a slo-mo rally of tennis players with the ball going back and forth oner the net). They stare at each other. The object is to see which one will blink first. Bit is the master of this game, because he's much older and far wiser, and he never loses. Archie brings his head down on his paws and starts a low growl and then a whine. He'll either suddenly jump up and bark at Bit, or back away whining like the little weenie he is. I swear, you can see Bit laughing his head off.  Their byplay is hilarious.





A rare moment of repose with his favorite toy--a string of hotdogs on a rope. Needless to say, Archie has separated the links and they have been scattered all over the house.

Archie is enjoying the park, but I'm keeping him on a tight leash until he learns to complete stay with me. I want to take him to a park with a fenced in play area so he can really run. I'm really encouraged that he's taken to well to living with me. He's been with me to a couple of dinner parties, where he has made friends and is complimented on his good manners. Most importantly, Archie has certainly eased my sorrow over losing Beau.  That has been huge and I'm grateful for this sweet puppy for this. So stay tuned. More Archie stories will be coming. 



Now tell me Archie isn't a handsome fellow!

Friday, August 17, 2012

GOODBYE LITTLE FRIEND


Beau posing for the camera a few weeks after he arrived in 2007

I thought I was too old to have my heart broken, but on July 9th, 2012 Beau, my little French Bulldog, died in my lap. I've already written to friends, posted the news on Facebook, so I won't detail the events that led me to make the decision to put Beau down.  I want this to be a celebration of a remarkable companion.

Beau was remarkable. I adopted him at the age of four from a breeder in Connecticut. I found him on a website while I was searching around for a French Bulldog puppy. I saw this beautiful brindled Frenchie with expressive eyes, a Winston Churchill countenance, with Yoda ears. I wondered what his story was.  The woman I talked to said Beau came from a breeder in Oklahoma and she acquired him as a "back-up" stud dog. Frenchie females have a difficult time conceiving, and most have to be either helped or artificially inseminated. Beau had proven to be a disappointment as a stud, and because she had too many dogs, she had come to the difficult conclusion that he would be adopted out. She told me Beau had one of the sweetest temperaments she had ever encountered in the breed, and would be very sorry to see him go. How could I fail to not swallow that story hook, line and sinker. I immediately told her I wanted him. We agreed that he should be neutered by her local vet and I could pick him up in two weeks.

My friend, Joan, was in town and when I told her about Beau, she immediately volunteered to drive me up from New York City to collect him.  I hadn't had a dog since my early teens, and I soon realized I was hardly equipped or had sufficient knowledge of dogs in general to take such a step.  I had always wanted a dog, but I worked full time and hated the idea of abandoning a dog to an empty apartment while I went off to work.  By 2007 I had moved my consulting business to my apartment, and had the time to devote to a dog.


Joan, Beau's godmother, and her daughter Lily in New York, where Lily is first introduced to Beau.

We drove up to Connecticut on a hot morning in early June, which coincided with Beau's fourth birthday. Because he had stitches and lived in a kennel, Beau was a stinky, unpresentable mess when we first met, but the breeder brought him to me, and I knelt down to meet him eye-to-eye. Beau came over to me immediately and licked my face. Though my nose wrinkled in disgust at the smell of him, I fell in love immediately.  Joan had a old quilt throw and with Beau wrapped up and on my lap, we drove to Greenwich, where Joan dropped me off at the train station for final leg of the journey to Manhattan. I had no idea you couldn't bring a dog on a train, and thank God, the conductor didn't protest.

We arrived at Grand Central Station and Beau was immediately plunged into the bewildering world of non-stop motion. We waited in the wilting heat for a taxi, and some drivers refused to allow us a ride. I finally got Beau home, and in the cool confines of my apartment. It was time for water and his first feeding, which went smoothly. The next step was his first walk in the big city.  Out on the street, we headed for the dog-run in Union Square Park, one block away.  About one third of the way down, Beau began to pant. Frenchies are very much affected by hot weather and it was beastly hot that day. I was alarmed at the effort it took for him to breath, and picked up him and carried him the rest of the way. A twenty-one-and-a-half-pound Frenchie is all muscle and dead weight. I was sweating profusely by the time we got into the dog run. Once safely behind the gate, I took off Beau's leash and looked for a shady place to cool off.  Beau sat down in the middle of the run, and stared in the distance as dogs whizzed passed him, chasing balls, Frisbees, and each other. In the middle of that canine maelstrom, Beau serenely contemplated his place in the world, Suddenly people came over to me and started to comment on "that amazingly calm little dog." Beau quietly ignored the dogs surrounding him, remaining aloof to others who ventured close enough to give him a good sniff. Eventually, he walked over to the side to do his business. He walked over to me, as if to announce it was time to go. This time he walked back on his leash.



Beau meets with Joan's young daughter, Lily. They got along famously.


Karole always commented on what an exemplary gentleman Beau was.


On Dyanne's terrace trying to cool off on a hot summer's night. 


Dyanne and Beau were pals who shared a special bond. 


Beau's animal rug imitation. 


Beau could be serious...


Or silly.

I told everyone rather grandly that I wasn't going to allow my dog to sleep in my bed. That lasted as long as four days when Beau was introduced to his new vet who removed the stitches from his operation. I took him home and put him into the kitchen sink to bath him. It did not go to well. Beau didn't want to be shampooed and fidgeted, making numerous attempts to escape. He was strong and stubborn and resisted. I finally got him rinsed off and into a towel, making a mental note that in the future, he would be groomed professionally. I didn't have the patience for it.


Until surgery corrected the problem, Beau suffered from a cyst in his paw, 
requiring daily soaks in Epsom salts. He would get bored and sit down. One my
 my favorite of his many photos. 

Once he was clean, I couldn't ignore the fact that Beau would wake me up, put his paws on the edge of the bed frame and stare at me in the dark as he had the previous nights. With no excuses left, I pulled him up in bed with me. He did a few circles, pawed the blanket into some semblance of a nest, and plopped down, arranging his entire length against the side of my back. It would be his preferred method of sleeping for the next five years.


Beau, subjected to the kiddie swing in the park across the street from my Portland home. 
He was always a patient,  good sport.

I thought Beau would be a jaunty little guy, walking me everywhere. I reasoned he would be good exercise.  That didn't turn out as I envisioned it. Beau was a start and stop kind of fellow. He loved to sniff everything, constantly alert for anything he could eat. And if he couldn't eat it, he loved to pee on it. My heart rate never accelerated walking Beau. When he dove for something tidbit on the street to consume, I learned to drive my hand into his mouth and down his throat to retrieve it.  He was very particular about where he would do his business and the first three weeks were hell as I waited patiently for him to make up his mind.


Laurele didn't love having her photo taken, and I usually contrived to get her with hiding behind something, resulting in a series of lovely photos. This time, she used Beau, and they are adorable together.

Most of the time, Beau was the center attraction wherever we ventured. My friends took to his charms easily. Karole, Laurele, Carl, Jeannie, Alison, James, Joe, Wilma, Trisha, Dyanne, Joyce--it didn't matter. Beau was invited into all my friend's homes, praised for his manners and utter adorability. It was frustrating owning a dog in New York. You could never eat, even in an outdoor cafe, where dogs were required to be leashed on the outer side of a fence. Of course, this never worked, and one would have to spend their entire time trying to keep the dog from jumping the barrier to get to you.  Cabs often refused to pick us up, rudely driving past, the minute they saw a dog. Dogs are not allowed on subways or buses in New York City, so you had to plan carefully.

Beau hated jackets or sweaters in the winter. Maryann bought him this very nice coat for Christmas. We put it on and the result was one miserable looking dog.


Clothing was not for him. Beau preferred to go naked even when the temperature outside was below freezing!


Like most Frenchies, Beau hated the water, though he liked to come with me on a motor boat on a large 
body of water. He just didn't like the life-preserver that went with the journey.

We settled into a nice routine.  When people came to the apartment, I would wait until their elevator arrived on my floor, then open the door. Beau would come flying down the hallway to greet the arriving goes, which always charmed them. My friend Trish actually believed I only did this trick with Beau for her benefit.

Marcos, my favorite doorman was besotted by Beau and the two of them got along famously. He would lift Beau up, and scratch his chest and talk nonsense to Beau while he gave him a massage. Beau would aways smile. Marcos was his pal. Monroe, one of the retired co-op owners in the building frequently sat in the lobby to talk with friends, always had a treat for Beau.  He was one of the first Frenchies in the building, but not for long. The breed became very popular. For the next two years, we settled into a pleasing routine, meeting new friends at the dog run each morning. The local hairdresser always enjoyed giving Beau a pat. He new most of the dogs and their owners in the neighborhood. He was a regular visitor to the Union Square farmers market on Wednesday, Fridays and Saturdays, and enjoyed the sea of humanity pouring into the area on shopping days. We took long walks then--to Washington Square, or up to Madison Park on 23rd Street.  Beau knew many of the shop owners in the area, and the Chase branch at 14th & Fifth was always a good place for doggie treat.


Marcos kept treats for Beau in his bag.


They were pals and Marcos could always get Beau to play--something he never did with me.

As news began to gather momentum about the coming financial meltdown, I decided the time had come to leave New York. After nearly four decades, I wanted space, a more relaxed life-style, and a backyard for my dog. I began to formulate a plan for selling my apartment and moving to Portland, Oregon. I was sure Beau would like the change. No more freezing mornings, and steaming hot summers, which made breathing difficult. The day the apartment was listed, The New York Times announced the worst financial downturn since the Great Depression. It would take eight months and a great reduction on the selling price, but in April, 2009, I got an offer I thought I could live with and made the rest of my moving plans.


My friend Kent, decided to use Beau as a chick magnet to resuscitate his love-life 
following his divorce. Beau didn't mind posing, as long as it wasn't too strenuous.
Beau automatically drew strangers. Women thought he was adorable and men thought
thought he was a little toughie (so not true).

It is not easy transporting a dog via plane. The restrictions are really tough. Most airlines will not allow a Frenchie, a Pug, a Boxer, or any other dog with a squished-in nose to fly in the luggage area and certainly not in the summer. Beau was now 23 pounds. The limit to bring him into the cabin was 20 pounds and a signed note about Beau's health by a vet was required. I was told by friends that the airlines didn't weigh the dogs. Beau was also a little short for a Frenchie. I found a soft carrier, and on June 26th, having said goodbye to all of my friends, Beau and I made it to the airport. I kept him out of the carrier until we were in line. To my relief, Beau didn't put up a struggle. We got through check-in and security and were off to the gate. On-board, Beau fit right under the seat in front of me. Still I was was worried how he would handle the small confines of the carrier. Dogs are not allowed in laps or out of their carriers in-cabin. I did not drug Beau, but he was calm and behaved beautifully. I would put my hand in the carrier every so often and would be rewarded with a lick. I managed to give him a few treats to ward off hunger.


Beau visiting Sara and her mother while I was out of town. He always knows how to pose for the camera.

As anyone who has read my blog knows, I found an adorable Cape Cod-style house in the SE section of Portland.  Beau and I now had nearly three times the space of New York to stretch out in.  We quickly established ourselves in the neighborhood with Beau making friends everywhere. Beau and I were seen all over town together. During the first summer, which was spectacular, he often came with me to outdoor restaurants, street fairs--even the farmer's market where dogs are not allowed. I would carry him (heavy) or wheel him around in a carrier with mesh top and sides so he could see outside and be seen. Part of the pleasure of Beau was the reaction his comic appearance. People were always drawn to that cute little dog.


Summers in Portland meant a nap in the sun.

Life was good for an indulged little guy, who had daybeds in practically every room in the house. And then we got a puppy...


Walden, the cutie pie with psychotic edge


Beau and Walden during a quiet interlude


Beau seeking refuge from Walden in Walden's crate. 

Walden was an insanely peppy little black dog who looked adorable but acted like a baby Cujo. He chewed on my baseboards, tore up Beau's day bed, jumped all over everybody, particularly Beau, with whom he was trying to bond.  Beau wasn't having it. He was a puppy, a nuisance, a rude disruption around Beau's very ordered day. Walden would get into Beau's food, or take over his daybed in the dining room.  Beau even escaped into Walden's crate. I had made a promise to the woman we adopted Walden from--Beau had to be happy or Walden would have to be returned. Beau nearly had a nervous breakdown over that little dog. For five weeks the house was under siege. I kept Walden crated in my bathroom with the door closed at night. He would violently scratch at the door and squeal his head off, until I relented and opened the door. He would be confined to the crate, otherwise, we would never sleep. Because he was in he middle of house-training, I kept him confined to the kitchen with gates. The day he chewed through the baseboard (still visible) and ripped up the thin padded mattress in his crate, I knew Walden had to go.  Neither one of us could cope with puppies. Within days of Walden's exit, Beau's appetite returned.  So did the bounce in his step.  We were back to being a team again, with no immature interlopers to get in the way.

Bit arrived with Kyle, a young man my brother, Doug, sent to me to help on projects on my house. Bit was a long-haired cat, a skittish guy with a comic black dot on his nose and the most beautiful color of blue eyes you ever saw. Kyle and found him abandoned as a kitten, and adopted him. Bit was dragged all over the country has Kyle moved from place to place. By the time he arrived at my house in Portland, Bit was terrified of nearly everyone and kept to himself in my basement. He was welcome upstairs but it took a long time for him to feel confident around others. Beau and Bit never became bosom buddies, but I think Bit appreciated Beau's keeping his distance, allowing Bit to make peace between themselves. They got along and occasionally even chased each other around, as long as Beau's interest, which was minimal, kept the game going. They were best photographed in repose.  


Beau and Bit: peaceful co-existence


Sometimes they feigned interest in one another.

Beau's aloofness with dogs always puzzled me.  The only dog Beau ever showed any evidence of enjoying as a companion was my friend, Darrin's chocolate lab, Penny.  Early one we were out with John Baker  at various outdoor events on a weekend, and people would always stop and stare at Beau, want to pet him, while ignoring Penny.  Darrin finally said to one admiring person, my dog is a lovely purebred dog, just like Beau.  "Yes, but it's a common breed that everyone has," I shot back at him. It was a mean thing to say.  Penny is beautiful girl with soft brown eyes, and the kind of white teeth starlets spend a fortune emulating.  She's a happy dog and Beau endured her tail banging against him. He liked her and they were pals.  He didn't have that kind of relationship with any other dog. He was totally content to say as glued to my side as possible. Sometimes other dogs annoyed Beau. My friends Trish and David have a spark plug of Frenchie named Porter. Porter loved to terrorize Beau. When we went to visit, Porter charged at Beau immediately. Beau would try to ignore Porter who would not be ignored. This would go on until Beau lost his temper and then he would get right in Porter's face and read him the riot act. I'd never seen Beau snarl.  Eventually Frenchies lose energy or interest and simply fall asleep. But it was always fun to watch Beau lose his composure, which was rare.


Proof positive of Beau's slacker credentials. He could fall asleep in my lap
in a nanosecond.


My friend Jay had a special rapport with Beau and he now has his own dog--Bella!

Beau made it his business to follow me all through the house. If I was upstairs working in my office, then he was in office daybed. If I was making my bed, Beau would be in his bedroom day bed. If I went downstairs--even for a minute--Beau would follow.  He didn't always like being walked by someone else, and had no problem putting on the breaks if someone were to hold his leash. Handing it back to me always got Beau to move. Otherwise, he would sit. The bulldog in Beau would come out during our walks. He would constantly put on the breaks, making me stop dead in my tracks. If he wanted to go in another direction, he would pull me towards the direction he was interested in exploring. If he tired during a long walk, he would simply sit down and not budge. Sometimes I felt smothered with love, but who could complain?

It is common for animal lovers to extol the virtues of their pets and I'm no exception. Beau rarely tried my patience. He didn't jump on furniture, in fact he preferred to look at me from the floor until I relented and brought him up on the couch for a nap while I watched TV.  He didn't dig holes in my back yard. Or chew on my shoes. He didn't climb into garbage cans looking for food scraps. But he also never played fetch, or tug of war with me, or chased a Frisbee.  Beau was more likely to simply lay down and take a nap. No dog and master were as perfectly suited as we were.





Beau in Trish and David Hamilton's kitchen, begging me to get him away from 
Porter, their over-active Frenchie. 

In some ways the last two weeks with Beau were some of the most memorable. We took a drive up to Seattle for a weekend to spend July 4th with my friend, and colleague, Gypsy, her husband Steve and their adorable toddler, Hickory. They have a young Frenchie named Crumpet with whom Beau played with in New York. Now living and working in Seattle, it was the first time we had seen each other in quite awhile. Beau wrote shotgun in the front seat next to me. He was always a good traveler. I only wish we had done more car trips--such as the long drive to San Francisco, where he pretty much slept in the back seat for most of the 12-hour drive. The last day in Seattle, we attended a street fair near Gypsy and Steve's home. As usual, Beau was a rock star, attracting all sorts of attention. Most were charmed by his presence, asking what sort of dog he was. Beau was always good for a lick and a warm greeting. When Hickory refused to stay in his stroller, Beau obligingly took his place, and Gypsy got the shot on her iPhone. This is the last photo taken of Beau.


Beau loved being wheeled around. Before I got a car, I dragged him everywhere in 
a cart with wheels, and a mesh top and sides he could look through.  Then I could bring 
him into supermarkets, and other places where dogs are not allowed. Beau was never
tied outside of a store or restaurant. I was terrified he'd be kidnapped. 

These memories of Beau have been in my computer for weeks now, stubbornly refusing to be released. As most pet lovers know, it is terrible to lose a beloved pet.  And as always, I rambled on and on, but I do understand that bond and am reminded of the dog food commercial where the master denies he is obsessed with his pooch, despite the fact there is a wall-to-wall oil painting of his favorite in a noble pose behind him in the shot. I refused to have a dog until I had the time to devote to one. I was always working in an office and I saw the anguish so many friends had leaving their pets alone all day long in solitude, waiting for the master of the house to return. So when I found myself working from home, I now had the time to devote to a dog.


If Beau didn't want to follow, he simply put on the breaks and held his ground. 
He often did this with friends, who took care of him in my absense.  He was a
truly a one-man dog. 

The end arrived without much warning and he was gone so swiftly. I hardly had a chance to absorb it all. They say losing a beloved pet is difficult, and I'll vouch for that--it was just terrible. We had each other in our sights for five wonderful years. I couldn't have asked for a better companion. His essential sweetness and affection never ceased to amaze me.  I loved how obstinate he could be. Beau was always dignified, even when passing gas (a Frenchie habit), never acknowledging any loss of dignity even as my eyes teared from the stench. Beau didn't care much for kids, but was patient with them. He knew how to charm, just by standing in front of someone, waiting to be noticed. I'm convinced he managed to endear himself to my friend, Lynne, who has bad knees and is more than a little scared of dogs, having been bitten as a child. One night at a gathering of friends, Lynne was sitting on the couch and Beau came over to her and put his paws on the edge of the couch. Lynne eyed him with suspicion. I went over to her and said, "the only thing Beau wants to do is lay down beside you and go to sleep, I promise." I then put Beau up on the couch and he lined his body up against her side and as she petted him, his eyes closed and he began to snore. Lynne was amazed. She melted and from then on, was always happy to see him. My last conversation with Beau (of course I talked to him all the time), was to thank him for his loving companionship and tell him I was so grateful for everything he had given to me. The richness of his presence and the powerful connection he made with me will never be forgotten. More than anything, I loved how much joy Beau gave to everyone he encountered. His spirit lingers here. He was a dear friend.


This spot not the stairs gave Beau a vantage point. He could see who 
was at the door, and it was wide and comfy enough for a nap site.