?`s and ANNEswers

Ten minutes to write. Less time to read.


To follow up on yesterday’s blog, I’m studying the condo rules and regulations where I live to be up-to-speed on what is and is not allowable in terms of “personalizing” the outdoor space around our respective homes.

Truth be told, I’ve taken liberties to the fullest in the firm conviction that my tastes in flowers and flower beds is beyond reproach.  However, the condo docs say I am in violation of the following restrictions:

I have trellises; not sure they’re allowed. We have attached sensor lights to our gutters and a keyless garage door entry to our wall.  Currently neither is allowed. We have one birdbath; not allowed. One yard art animal named “Rusty” given to Earl by his daughter.  Not allowed. There are almost 30 pots with flowers; not one is allowed. We’ve carpeted the patio. Don’t know if this is acceptable. Planted perennials: rose bushes, daisies, black eyed Susans, Easter lilies. Only annuals are allowed. And, yes, my garden hose is buried in the mulch to make for easier use.  It’s supposed to be hiding in our garage.

The next meeting of our committee is two days from now.  At our home.  I haven’t decided if I should resign from the committee or offer myself up as an example of someone who will comply with the new regulations.  Any recommendation may be sent to anne@annebrandt.com.

Till then, I’ll enjoy this wonderful summer of flowers, made especially poignant because it could be my last.

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Condo Living

We all know one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. This is one reason garage sales proliferate. Why resale shops endure. But when you live in a condo community, this adage becomes problematic.

Usually the master condo documents lay out in detail what the owners can and cannot do to the exteriors of their homes. This is because in such a development the exterior is considered common property.

The thing is that in a single family dwelling, I can claim that inflatable airplanes are yard art; and no neighbors can dispute me. It doesn’t matter if my neighbor likes the planes or not. But in a condo development, the rules and regulations lay out what residents are allowed to do to personalize the outside of their dwellings.

Many condo residents come from single family homes and are not used to the idea that they can do whatever they want on the inside of their living quarters while being restricted on the outside. In addition, sales agents – eager to make a sale – are not always forthcoming about such restrictions. And often condo associations don’t even follow the rules they’ve created, letting homeowners do what they want until the property looks like a carnival of windsocks, bird feeders, artificial flowers, metal sculptures, and strobe lights.

Which is why I am currently on a committee in the condo development where I live to determine what is trash and what is treasure in terms of the outside appearance of the various units. Since we’ve had restrictions in place from the beginning – restrictions that have all but been ignored – we’re in the unenviable position of being persona non grata before this is over.

That’s Latin for “chump.” It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it before our development looks like Coney Island on steroids.

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Richard Russo

The Olympic Games are over. One recent political cartoon expressed my sentiments about that: It said, “For two weeks we saw the best of the best. For the next two months we have the worst of the worst.” And this wasn’t referring to other sporting events either.

So I have buried my head in books. It’s easy to do when one of your favorite authors has a new one, and it’s a sequel to one of his you haven’t read yet. I’m taking about Richard Russo’s Everybody’s Fool, recently released as a follow up to Nobody’s Fool, published in 1993 and made into a movie starring Paul Neuman shortly thereafter. I haven’t seen the movie, but I know that Neuman was the perfect choice to play Donald Sullivan.

Russo’s books are dense and the real time story usually takes a week or so in the lives of his characters who inhabit a down-on-its-luck upstate New York town. Along the way you learn the back story of every significant character, every building in the town, and every historical event. If Russo’s town were Samuel Johnson, he would be its Boswell.

Each book is approximately five hundred pages, as are others in the Russo collection. Empire Falls, which won the Pulitzer, and Bridge of Sighs come to mind. Other of his works are shorter; but, honestly, they don’t compare in the nitty-gritty category. They’re good, but not the stuff that ignoring the presidential election is made of.

Richard Russo’s longer works definitely are. In fact, sometimes I had to work hard to remember who is running. Donald Sullivan deserves kudos for that.

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Design Guy

Today is Design Guy’s birthday. From what he told me in our last chat, he and his partner are taking twenty-four hours and getting off the grid. Going to a small resort in an upstate New York meadow. Probably having a great meal together. And time out.

Then he’s back to his current creative endeavor: an over-the-top exercise class with black lights and neon and probably loud music and rad moves. Because rad moves are what Design Guy does best.

DG is one of a kind. Pretty calm on the outside; pretty deep and passionate on the inside. A human iceberg. As in, don’t underestimate what you see. Beneath the surface lurks art, design, dance, writing, cooking, painting, you name it. DG has done it, or at least considered it.

Most recently, he brought together my words and Annie Poon’s illustrations in a little book called Philip & Phoebe. As the designer, he decided how to put the words and pictures on a page in a way they merged together. It’s a small thing, for example, but he thought we needed the ampersand in the title instead of the written word. That’s the attention to detail that DG has instinctively.

I’ve known DG for years, seen him through various developmental periods. And always marveled that he emerges even more creative than before.  So I want to wish him a Happy Birthday today.

Happy birthday, Keith, and many, many more.

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Olympic Musings

As the 2016 Olympic Games finish with the closing ceremony tomorrow evening, I have a few random thoughts.

I lost interest in the broadcasts once the gymnasts – both male and female – completed their competitions.  I like track and field, diving, and even table tennis; but they didn’t draw me to the television. Not sure why. Maybe it was the bait and switch approach to the coverage that NBC used on its nightly recap.

I never understood what such “newsmen” as Lester Holt and Peter Alexander were doing there in the first place.  They’re not sportscasters; they’re supposed to relay the important international and national news of the day. And when they spent most of their broadcasts talking about children in Syria and Zika in South Beach, I wondered why they had to do that from a beach in Rio.

And Ryan Lochte! What can I say? Such an embarrassment. I don’t think his medal should be taken from him, since he won it before the gas station incident.  But I do think he should be banned from future competition. I’m just grateful that Michael Phelps wasn’t involved and hasn’t been heard from.

I’m also grateful that Simone Biles is carrying the flag for our country in the closing ceremony.

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Second Chance

Most often, second chances are given to romantic relationships or teenager indiscretions or BFFs. They’re a way to give the people involved another opportunity to correct some problem and reconnect. I’m all for it. But in this case, second chance refers to returning to a new restaurant for a second helping when the first was less than filling.

I wouldn’t even have mentioned that I’d been to the café in question back in May when the server stood at our table.  But my friend told her that I’d had a most unimpressive experience when the restaurant first opened and that I hadn’t planned to return. But said friend had eaten there a week ago and gave glowing reports. Which is why I agreed to a second chance.

How did it turn out? Not badly.  The server was most accommodating once she learned I was a reluctant diner; she offered more than one apology and thanked me for returning.  I gave all the credit to my friend; because if she hadn’t chosen this place, it would still be on my short list.

Our food was excellent, although a little slow in arriving. But once it came we dove in and enjoyed every bite. For the finale, one of the restaurant’s owners graced us with two desserts to take home because she’d learned that I’d had a bad experience.  All in all, Full Circle Café in Stevensville did a yeoman’s job of earning a second chance.

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Goose Update

Unless you’ve chased geese, researched their habits to learn how to dissuade them, and had to purchase a new broom with which to fend them off, you have no idea how wonderful this current summer is. It’s the first one in four years where Canada’s contribution to the goose species hasn’t been a nuisance where I live. And this newly found tranquility is wonderful.

This past spring, the condo association where I live approved monies to erect an attractive fence around the perimeter of the pond that is part of our property and that of a dozen or so other families. The object was to keep the geese away by creating a barrier between the water and our lawns, so that the geese would not have easy access back and forth.

We are now into the middle of August, and I’m thrilled to say that after a few encounters early-on the geese have decided to abandon their territory for somewhere else.  May it only be far away!

I think about this regularly as I deadhead flowers, water plants, or just sit on my glider. I can walk barefoot in my lawn without stepping in “goose gifts.” I can sleep in without hearing honks before daylight. And I can use my broom for what it was originally intended. How could summer be any better?

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Last Stop on Market Street

Tonight my book club meets to discuss Last Stop on Market Street. It sounds as if it’s a murder mystery or possibly a case of amnesia. Maybe it’s about time travel or a farmer’s market.

But I’m hosting the discussion, and I can tell you it’s not about any of those themes. It’s the 2016 Newbery Award winner, and it’s a gentle children’s book.  The Newbery is usually given to a middle grade novel or a young adult book.  But this year, Matt de la Pena became the first Hispanic author to win for a children’s story.

Given that I’ve just published a children’s book, I’m thrilled. And given that children’s literature is seeing a Renaissance only heightens my excitement. It gives me hope that my own Philip & Phoebe is in a good place.

I’ve followed children’s literature closely over the years.  From E.B. White to Dr. Seuss to Lois Lowery, it’s a trove of excellent writing that explores a multitude of topics and themes. If you don’t believe me, read Number the Stars or Johnny Tremain; and you’ll become a convert.  Which is what I hope to accomplish tonight during our book discussion.

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Still Loving the Olympics . . . But

We are one week into the 2016 Summer Olympics.  The gymnasts have left the building and the track and field stars have taken their place. The swimming competition is winding down with Michael Phelps looking forward to his final swim in the relay. And the Americans have done a yeoman’s job of standing on the podium.  I’ve loved it all.

But I must say I’m becoming disgruntled with NBC’s presentation of the Games. Frankly, it seems sexist. There has been more coverage of the men’s events, even though American men have taken a back seat to American women – Michael Phelps excepted. There have been comments about the men’s athleticism while the women have been described by their clothing and their beauty.  Simone Biles, for instance, has been called the next Usain Bolt or the next Michael Phelps.  To which she replied, “I’m the first Simone Biles.”

I get what NBC was saying, that Ms. Biles is in the company of Bolt and Phelps.  But it could have said just that, acknowledging her singularity without being sexist. Still, Trump and Clinton have to compete with athletes for national attention for another week. So I’ll take it.

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I Love the Olympics

The 2016 Olympics in Rio have been in full swing for three days, and I’m loving it even though I haven’t seen all of the coverage.  My favorite events are swimming, gymnastics, high diving, and track and field. But I’m still thankful for volleyball, table tennis, bicycling, and basketball.

It isn’t that I’m such a great sports buff. What I like most is that every four years the Summer Olympics give Americans a two-week respite from the presidential election campaign that runs simultaneously.  This year’s race has been particularly vitriolic, so I’m more than willing to see some cooperation among countries on the playing field.

Sure there are the doping accusations and the banning of various teams and team members. Sure the Williams sisters were upset in their quest for tennis gold. And sure Bob Costa’s close-ups are belying his age. But the real pleasure is in subduing the constant back and forth between Candidate Clinton and Candidate Trump (Listed here alphabetically. Don’t read anything into this.) and the constant media coverage of it.

The Olympics always offer tender moments that cross country lines and philosophies.  Take the selfie of a North Korean athlete and a South Korean athlete that’s gone viral. In the real world, this would never have happened. And, yet, isn’t that part of the Olympic tradition? That people from all countries come together to compete, not in a political arena, but in one where physical ability is honored.

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