31 Years – The Gift

Endgame Photo
L to R: Alice Drummond (Nell), James Greene (Nag), Alvin Epstein (Hamm), Peter Evans (Clov)

My husband and I celebrated our 31st anniversary on 9/1. Yep, 31 years ago, we tied the not in a small Episcopal church on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. Our lives then, as now, revolved around the theatre. At the time of our marriage, Jimmie was performing the role of Nag in a production of “Endgame” at the Samuel Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row with Alvin Epstein  (Hamm and also Director), Peter Evans (Clov) and Alice Drummond (Nell). This production subsequently toured to Israel where we had a free honeymoon, staying at The Diplomat Hotel in Jerusalem. The hotel had a bar with a piano where, I kid you not, the piano player sang “Where it’s at, at the Diplomat!” There, in the bar,  they served martinis consisting of about a thimble full of gin, a lot of ice, a twist of lemon and two of the smallest olives you ever saw. We were still drinking then, a habit which I shed shortly after our return from Israel, and Jimmie, about a year later.

A successful marriage of over thirty years is marked by many changes, involving mutual growth  as well as personal.

If you read my blog about our 30th anniversary, and the romantic weekend getaway at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, you can see that this year was going to be hard to top. 30 Years, 30 Memories

So I started to think about the gift as a dramatic story; the kernel of the story coincided with something inexplicable that I have been thinking about over the past three weeks. You may think less of me, or perhaps more after you learn that I have been thinking hard about getting a tattoo. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s my midlife crisis kicking in. I’m hardly the family’s first. Our son, Chris, has entire sleeves of elaborate tattoos on both arms, which, if the truth be told, I’ve given him a great deal of grief about.

My thought process in the past week got more focussed, as the timeline shortened, and I found the image I wanted while cleaning off my desk, an unopened box of Crane’s stationery.  The notecards are adorned with a single, colorful hummingbird hovering over a frond of Indian paintbrush,  a vibrant red flower stem that matches the bird’s ruby throat.

Our Anniversary Dinner at the Perch Restaurant (before the dramatic reveal)

We’ve become obsessed with hummingbirds, starting from when Jimmie and I decorated our patio two years ago with furniture and two hummingbird feeders. Each day, from 7am to about 8pm, we have from 10-15 hummingbirds darting back and forth between the feeders, sparring for access. They are enormously entertaining to watch. Frankly, I don’t know why it took me so long to choose the image for the tattoo, but once I had, it was just a matter of working up my courage and finding the time to do it.

My online search for LA Tattoo parlors was brief; I quickly selected the one from Yelp with the most stars that was closest to Downtown LA, Alchemy Tattoo. I pored over their site, looking for similar images, and learning a little about flash, catalogue frames of tattoo art that is displayed in a parlor to give those with the urge but not the clarity some ideas.

This was supposed to be a surprise, of course. I figured there was nothing that would surprise my husband more than my getting a tattoo. It wasn’t just the shock value, which I hoped he could handle, but it was the (hopefully) romantic statement that I would go through a lot of pain and suffering for him, decorate my body with an image that had profound meaning to both of us and to our lives together. So, for the purposes of maintaining my cover, I told him that I had to go do some shopping for our anniversary, and after breakfast, I headed out the door with my hummingbird notecard and the best intentions.

Just before leaving, I texted a photo of the card to Chris, asking him for a sanity check. He approved (duh, Mom) and off I went. I pulled up in front of Alchemy Tattoo, which is on Sunset Blvd in Silver Lake.  It was about 11:45AM on Sunday, and the security doors were not quite open, but I pushed my way in, heart pounding. FullSizeRender 9It was empty! Great news. Chris had warned me that I should be prepared to discuss my project with someone, but not get in, because usually walk-ins would be given second priority to those who had larger ongoing projects. But, he had said, you might get lucky.

Jake, one of the artists, greeted me with the news that the place didn’t open until 12, but in spite of that, he came over to listen about my project. He told me all work was paid in cash, which caused me to sag for a moment, until he referred me to the liquor store next door where he said the owner would give me cash back on a purchase. I went over and bought a water and got some cash, returning to Alchemy. By now, Jake had surveyed the other artists and determined that none of the ones present were available – they were working on larger work with more organized clients than myself. But Josh was on his way in, had no appointments, and could help me with my project.

IMG_4980I sat self consciously, in the front of the store, the only person in a 3 block radius with no ink, and did my crossword puzzle, in ink, while I listened intently to the culture of the shop. There was a lightness and ease in the room, aside from my own terror, as people dropped in, dogs in tow,  to share their tats with the artists there. I watched as a young red head came in to continue work on his left arm, and he was asked to show his completed work to the staff; they audibly appreciated it.

Then something happened. I had no idea how it was going to feel to get a tattoo, and that worried me, but the process of planning, designing the art work was one that was so familiar, that I instantly relaxed. I watched as Jake worked with the young man who was adding a dagger to his arm, listened as they discussed the shape, size, color and placement of the new tattoo among his existing art. They moved around the shop, looking at the art on the walls and describing how his idea of the dagger might differ from the options there. It was the theatrical design process in microcosm.

When Josh arrived, he and I looked at the image of the hummingbird and he discussed how the tiny (less than 1″ square) image would not translate well, and he threw it into the copier there and blew it up to about 2x the size. We discussed the flowers and I said I might like a different flower, and he showed me some cherry blossoms which he then went away and sketched into the picture. While he did that, I continued to try to finish my crossword puzzle and calm my nerves.

Soon we were solving the fact that I’d worn a pretty inappropriate blouse – I turned it around so the buttons ran down the back and Josh began to do the tattoo. Just like the dentist, the noise of the gun was worse than the pain.  It was not nearly as painful as I thought it would be. Jake, at the next station over, was working on the red head’s knife, and when I asked how it was looking to Josh, piped up with

That pentagram is looking pretty good.

FullSizeRender 8
Selfie with Joshua Jimenez, my hummingbird artist @joshuajimenez_tattoo

Tattoo humor. Who knew.  I laughed and continued yoga breaths to get through the discomfort. I told them about my earlier trip, (only about 38 years ago) to a tattoo parlor in San Francisco, with a calendar-sized picture of a red footed booby. How the artist there had turned me away because I didn’t have the exact size artwork, and how relieved I had been. More jokes about the Red footed and other types of boobies that they had done. Throughout the process, I wanted to see what was happening, but of course, that wasn’t possible. As we neared the end, I asked Josh if I could take a selfie for the record and he agreed. See, I’m smiling, probably from relief that it was over.

On my way home, I stopped at Macy’s to buy the package that I could carry into the apartment to justify my 3 hour absence.   And after two days of hiding my tattoo from Jimmie, on our 31st anniversary I will show him the gift that signifies we are bonded forever. Our little hummingbird. IMG_5014 IMG_5012IMG_4984

New plantings in the garden


Having passed through the festive Commencement arch a few weeks ago, I was beginning to feel the summer months approaching. I guess the 95+ temperatures in the week before Commencement should have clued me in, but with the grading and final committee meetings, portfolio reviews, awards banquets, and final exams, there just wasn’t time to get over to Home Despot to buy the plants to fill the planters on our balcony, which have sat empty of color and filled only with dessicated and dead soil.

That weekend marked the first time in a while that I didn’t have something else on my plate that I should have been doing, and so I jumped in the car and drove over to see what they had in the nursery at Home Depot.

I’m always looking for Hummingbird-compatible flowers for the boxes, but that seems less important since the feeders have satisfied them of late. I have always relied on the sales birds at Home Despot to guide me to the flowers that will interest  them. The real sales people are probably made nervous by my quiet observation of the nursery both inside and outside. That day, the birds were not in evidence, so I selected four small containers of Fuschia flowers, four small containers of lavender plants, and some lovely white daisies with blue centers for borders.

Came home and launched into the reno of the patio, tossing old dried up pots and augmenting the existing soil with a new layer of fresh potting soil. The flowers look great, and I am waiting for the birds to discover them.

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The Hummingbird Chronicles- Torpor

This morning I awoke before it was light out. I have been attending a spin class three times a week, at 7:15 and I wake up early enough to read the papers and have a pot of tea before I trudge to the gym.

Last night, I had filled the feeder at the far end of the balcony with all that was left of the sugar water, then I had made some more before going to bed. So this morning I dashed outside to get the feeder to refill it while the kettle heated and was startled to see a hummingbird sleeping on the rail of the feeder. His bill was pointed upward, his neck had retreated into his body, the shape of a cotton ball with a toothpick pointing straight up. I had read about the state of torpor that the hummingbirds, but had never witnessed it first hand. It was thrilling, and I moved to within about a foot of the feeder, watching his tiny chest heaving up and down.

Ten minutes or so later when the light was brighter outside, I peeked out and saw that he had woken and gone.

The building rises steadily outside of our window. Our view of the Los Angeles skyline has always featured the US bank building but now just the crest of the building is still visible, and probably only for another week or so until they add the next floor.

I did make it to the class at 7:15, but was overcome with such torpor that my little legs weren’t getting me up the hills or over the jumps or even through the sprints. In my mind I was crouched on the railing of the feeder, like a little cotton ball bird.  Well, hopefully I will do better on Wednesday!

The Hummingbird Chronicles – Part 4

Well, it’s been a while since I let you know how our avian paradise was going. Now in January, with temperatures in the high 70s, hot for even Los Angeles at this time of year, our balcony is still aswarm with Hummingbirds. There has been a persistent bully bird, feeding at the far right feeder and sitting perched on the vine, which has grown in recent months,  loose tendrils of vine branching out into the airspace around the balcony rail – begging to be guided to the rail to grab onto it. If only I knew where to tell it to grow to next, I would do so, but to guide the tendrils back to the wall of the apartment building would commit me to going to Home Desperate to buy some kind of trellis, which seems unlikely, since I don’t know how to get it to stay up. Sigh.

The apartment building opposite our windows is growing faster than the vine’s tendrils. It now spans 14 floors above the bottom 4 which look to be parking floors. I have so many questions about the construction and no one to ask – if they say the building is supposed to be 22 stories, does that include the parking floors? View from the balcony

Just found the picture of the building and an article online which answered a number of my own questions, though not all. You see, we are trying to determine whether we will lose our view of the US Bank building in its entirety or not.


But the hummingbirds are oblivious to the noise of the construction, and the fascinated onlookers who sit on the balcony mid day to watch them and the building as continues its rise.

We recently had visitors, and I can safely say we indoctrinated them with the same obsession we have about the birds. Sally, my Dad’s wife, sat on the balcony every afternoon, and read all three hummingbird books while she was here. There is something very zen about spending time with them. They are little reminders of nature for us urbanites. It is a little like have miniature aerealists performing just for you. Makes you feel very special.

The Hummingbird Chronicles, Part 3

August 27, 2013

Things in the hummingbird kingdom are puttering along. The birds now favor the left feeder to the point that they are emptying it within two days to the four it takes for the right feeder to be emptied. IMG_2552

The other day I saw an oversized hourglass filled with sand over at Surplus Sales. I made a remark to the guy at the counter that it must be disturbing to have such a reminder constantly of one’s mortality. Do you remember the Days of Our Lives top of show intro?days-of-our-lives

“As the sands through the hourglass, so run the days of our lives.” This reference went nowhere with the guy, and he looked at me like I was crazy. But once I got home that afternoon and saw that the hummingbird feeders were both empty, I realized that Jimmie and I now had our own little hourglass of sorts. And we are the proud caretakers to about a dozen hummingbirds. They are dependent on us to provide the sugar water and they are drinking it faster and faster each time we put it out. They are voracious little suckers.

Good news – Marcus and Suzy have moved in next door, so I guess if we are to go away for the weekend or something, we could ask them to come fill our feeders, and leave some liquid in the fridge for just that event.IMG_2554

The most active time of the day seems to be about 3:30PM. Jimmie takes his waterglass out and watches them girate and frolic. He loves to watch them as they assemble on the feeder’s tiny red rail – two at a time, then a third, then a fourth, all adjusting the way you instinctively do in an elevator as more people board the elevator – allowing as much space between you as is possible. But the hummingbirds can reach only about 5 before the delicate relationship crumbles. Along comes a high-strung bird who hovers just above their shoulders and then dives in, scattering all the birds to the winds.

They also seem to work in twos, Jimmie noted. One will hover over the shoulder so that the seated bird swivels his head around and then the second bird swoops in and sits down on the rail. The original bird is then startled into a fight with the hoverer and the second bird takes the rail and begins to drink.

There is something so soothing about coming home from a stressful day and sitting and watching the birds. Nothing to do about them, just to enjoy them. Now that my hours are longer and techs will keep me at work long after dark, I am greedy for the time in the morning with my tea and the newspaper and the birds.

Life is good.

The Hummingbird Chronicles, part 2

August 3, 2013

After three days of just sporadic glimpses  of the birds, I decided it was time to return to HD to get a replacement fuschia, what seemed to be the only solution to regaining hold of our birds. We had observed the flight patterns of the birds in the recent days and saw that they were diagonally charted from above us to the left, to below us to the right. When I leaned my head over the balcony rail, I could see them stopping at a balcony about two over and two up from us. Someone had stolen our hummingbirds. I think that was when I decided we didn’t have to wait for the fuschia to recover and begin blooming again- we could start afresh with a new plant, bountifully draped in the luscious purple lobed flowers. I announced to Jimmie that we would go to HD after lunch and at about 1:30, we got into the car and drove to the HD nursery. I strode purposefully into the garden area, Jimmie following as quickly as he could. I wanted to dash in and out with our purchase to get back to the viewing platform as quickly as possible. I turned the corner and went to the fuschia area where I had bought the last plant, and much to my horror, the plants were gone, replaced by some ferns and other flower bearing plants. I sought it a young man to help me. I said, do you still have fuschias? No, he said, we are out of the season for fuschias. My face must have revealed my disappointment; Jimmie was standing there patiently waiting and I was loathe to tell him that we were out of luck. I plowed on. “You see”, I said, to the two young men who were now helping me, “we have had hummingbirds visiting our balcony and the fuschia plant, and we went away, and when we returned, the plant had died. Now the hummingbirds have left.”  The eager young man on the left visibly brightened and jumped into action. “Oh, I just took a picture of the hummingbird this morning over near the bougainvillea. And I also noticed a tag on some of the plants just outside that said hummingbird on them. Here, let me show you.” We trotted outside, leaving Jimmie to follow and join us. The young man took me to a table with lantana and some other low flowering plants and gestured over the table like a psychic over a crystal ball. “It was somewhere on this table that I saw the tag on the pot. Or,” he said, moving to his right to a low pallet on the ground filled with lavender flowered drought resistant plants, “somewhere over here. Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

“No,” I said, “this has been very helpful. I will continue to look at these two tables.”

As the young man walked back into the garden cage, I looked over the table and pallet, and picked up the lantana. I figured the bright orange and red flowers would at least visually draw the birds to our balcony. As I made my way back into the garden cage area, after telling Jimmie to go back to the car to wait for me- standing a long time is difficult for him,  froze in my tracks. There at the pallet was a hummingbird energetically and methodically sipping from the hundreds of pink flowers on the status-like purple flowered plant, as well as at the neighboring red flowered plant, similar in type – both looked like they were from the same genus as the Lavender plants we used to have in our back yard in Van Nuys.

August 7, 2013

This morning beginning at 6:45 AM there was a positive frenzy of activity at the feeder. Originally, when I had installed the birdfeeder to the railing of the balcony, I had used metal straps and after attaching the bracket to the banister, there was a 6 inch extra piece of metal that jutted out into the open air be on the balcony. At the time, I thought I should perhaps cut that off because it sticks out and it might catch someone’s attention to the balcony. But as our building ages and the time of its keep painting approaches, I thought I might want to leave that extra hanging there so it’s easier to remove this when the time comes to paint the building. And so I left it. In the past few days, that metal extra piece has become the perch with a male hummingbird who is trying to assert his dominion over the hummingbird guards will sit. With his neck cocked at a 90° angle to his body, he searches the sky for other approaching hummingbirds who might trespass in his domain. His angry cheeps match almost exactly the call that I found on Google when I searched for hummingbird calls. Yes, I did that, too.  And this morning the activity around the bush was extraordinary. One bird would arrive and feed intently at the blossoms of the bush. The second bird would arrive and sit at the feeder and suddenly the first bird would back up from the bush and the second bird at the feeder would back up from the feeder and a dog fight would ensue in the airspace directly parallel to the balcony. The winner of this dogfight would then retreat to the perch and sit there cheeping his success. The other interesting behavior which I observed in this morning was the bird who would come and sit on the balcony and try to feed from the blossoms without flapping his wings. Alas, he found that the blossoms were just out of reach and so he had to begin flapping again from the bush. This thrilling display of avian pride and aptitude is distracting, when you’re trying to read both the New York Times and the LA Times and do the LA Times crossword puzzle before going to work. I’m getting nothing done. It’s become an obsession. And you know what, it’s okay with me.

Saturday, August 10

Yesterday, late in the day, our planters arrived that we had ordered from Home Despot. I had stopped by Home Despot on my way home from work yesterday, only to discover yet again that the plants that I was looking for had already passed out of the season. Again I was pretty unprepared, and so I chose two plants that had bright orange trumpet flowers and some gardenias which I thought would be appealing to the birds. I brought them home and I put them out on the balcony while I took the cart back downstairs and when I came back Jimmie said that none of the birds had gone near the plants. So I figured that I would just take them back the next day to Home Despot. Which is what I did. This morning, I went to Home Despot And lingered in the garden area, looking to see if the hummingbirds would visit any of the plants. And sure enough, the hummingbird salesperson who had helped me the previous week went feeding at the  salvia plants, and also near some  purple plants with heads like Queen Anne’s lace. I put them in the cart and found a hibiscus plant with an orange flower and planter for that plant and went home. My stomach, was growling by the time I got home.  After breakfast I started with the planting process laying them out in the planters and then filling the planters with the soil. I used to do a lot of gardening, when Jimmie and I had first moved out to Los Angeles and purchased our starter home in North Hollywood. The backyard of the house was a vast expanse of concrete. It has little corralled areas which were full of sand and ultimately full of sand and cat poop once our cats have gone in the backyard and anointed the areas. We hired a man whose name was Jack and he came in with a sledgehammer he broke out all of the concrete in the backyard. A friend of ours, had arranged for him to come and we paid him and now I’m thinking seemingly small amount of money to do this incredibly difficult job. I think Jack ultimately died, which put a pallor on the garden. Hopefully not because of our garden project, but uncomfortably close to the conclusion of it. Anyway, that garden and the subsequent garden on our old street have been entertaining to me and also very satisfying. However when I begin working in south Los Angeles and driving back and forth to the valley I no longer had time for gardening, and so I turn the gardening over to professionals. Five years ago, when we move downtown to our apartment on the 11th floor facing the north we gave up our gardeners and pool man and the huge water bill that we paid every other month in the Valley. I think our water bill was more frequently than not in the $675 range. So now I think nothing of dropping 50 bucks at Home Depot for plants to go in the planter and I think nothing of the time that it takes to honeypots some plants and make the garden beautiful. It is a manageable space for me, financially, emotionally and physically.

So this morning, the only problem with my garden project was that the birds were very frantic  when I begin filling the planters  with soil and plants because I was standing directly under the feeder. I could hear their frenzied  chirps as they urged me to hurry to finish my planting.

August 13, 2013

I downloaded the video footage that I took the other morning at 6 AM when the hummingbirds were just beginning to rally. There are images of one and two and three and finally for hummingbirds darting around in the space of the viewfinder. What I realize now two is that my footage hummingbirds sometimes blurry and sometimes clear. I think this might be a result the fact that there is active construction going on but large 22 story building just beyond our balcony. The camera lens doesn’t know whether to focus on that movement or on the hummingbird movement. As result, occasionally I have very sharp images of the birds and sometimes I have blurry images of the bird and sharper images of the construction maybe it’s because of my advancing age, but I seem to be able to see every observation as a metaphor something larger. The footage of the hummingbirds, is a minute examination of a shared hobby with Jimmie. It represents something that is brought us together to experience the sheer and now in a very visceral and satisfying way. We truly take delight in reporting to each other as our attentions turned from the feeder to the newspaper in the morning, that oh, there is one there now. Or here comes Sheriff Sam,  the bully bird that sits on the perch and fights the  others off. The blurry construction in the background, represents a project that may or may not be finished in Jimmie’s lifetime. This is difficult for me to grapple with as I look out the window. It makes our appreciation of the feeder all that more poignant for me. And the images that my amateur camera is able to capture, become a talisman that we can share even after the sun has set and the birds have gone to roost in the trees. When I go off to work in the morning, when I return from work conversation naturally wanders to the success or failure of the future to draw the birds that day. Yesterday I came home from work, and when asking Jimmie when he did that day, he said I didn’t go to the park today. I didn’t want to leave the birds. And I understand that completely.

Meanwhile, the rest of our life proceeds apace. Jimmy goes off to the dentist to get his permanent crown. I go shopping for Chris’s 24th birthday presents. We plan a visit for next June with our dear friend Susan from South Africa. We think about whether to buy Red Sox dodger tickets next week. We watch a series of poor to middling Netflix movies on our new TV. But each day, I get up at six or 6:30, and set my sights on watching out the window for the inevitable return the hummingbirds.

The Hummingbird Chronicles

The Hummingbird Chronicles

Some recent more or less daily meditations on the hummingbirds who visit our urban balcony.

June 15, 2013 or thereabouts- after five years of living in an apartment on the 11th floor of a downtown condominium dwelling, my husband and I decided to get some patio furniture and try to create a garden for hummingbirds. On the north side of our building, we overlook the distinctly urban core of downtown LA. So where did this ludicrous  idea come from?

We have friends in the building who lived on the south or garden/pool side of our building on the 6th floor, their balcony surrounded by the tall trees that frame the back of the building and shade at least the first seven floors of the building.  They purchased a hanging metal bracket and a small feeder, which they filled with their homemade nectar of four cups water to one cup sugar boiled and then cooled before pouring it into the feeder. When we visited them, we watched as two or more hummingbirds cavorted at the feeder, eagerly sipping from the gaudy plastic flowers on the feeder. My husband and I were rapt by their tiny frantic beating of the wings, their tail feathers  fanning as they screeched into the feeder. It became a case of pure jealousy and greed- greed for the idea that we too might have visitors of such exquisite size and comportment right outside our living room on the 11th floor on the opposite side of the building.

All of our building’s balconies are large by urban apartment standards, opened onto by two sliding glass doors- one from our son’s room, which opens onto a stretch about two feet from glass to balcony wall, and one from the living room, to a more ample space abut five feet by 12 feet in length.

After returning one evening from Marcus and Suzy’s hummingbird kingdom, we began to discuss seriously to create such an area on our balcony. We discussed getting patio furniture that was high enough to see over the 30″ high solid wall that is topped with a 6″ diameter green metal railing. I measured the area we had available for the furniture and began scouring the Internet for cafe tables and chairs and found a lovely dark metal set with a glass table and comfortable looking seat cushions. I ordered it to be delivered from Home Despot and then we waited for it to arrive. That is one of the wonderful advantages to living in a downtown building with full time security. You can trundle off to work in the morning (on the bus) and come home to pick up your packages that have arrived in your absence.

So, several days later, our furniture arrived and I began to put it together, the reviews on line said that it took about two hours to assemble, and I thought I was better equipped than the average bear. I had borrowed an electric drill with a key attachment so that I would not have to manually tighten the screws. Even with my superior skill set (ha) and tools, it took me over two hours to assemble, but unlike most of my home improvement projects, I didn’t end up with extra pieces when I was done, and didn’t resort to using band aids so I figured I was ahead of the curve.

My husband Jimmie and I ate out the next three nights, enjoying the summer evenings outside on our balcony and waiting for the Saturday to arrive to put our Hbird plan into action.

Saturday arrived and I went to the closest Home Depot where I perused the feeder options. I was going to try the homemade nectar as well and figured I would find a classy, glass feeder with a metal base rather than the big red plastic variety which, frankly, to my eye, looked tacky.

I also had researched possible attractive plants for hbirds, and bought a large fuschia plant in a white pot and a plastic saucer to put underneath. The plant was about three feet tall, and was heavily laden with the purple and red bells-the plant is sometimes called the “earring plant” because of the pretty dangling flowers.

Fushia plant

I got some metal straps to attach the metal hook to the balcony upright to the far right end of the balcony area. I boiled the syrup per the instructions I found on the Internet, and waited impatiently for the juice to cool, filled up the feeder, and placed it on the hook. We sat there like kids on Christmas morning, waiting to see the splendor of our new pets. And we waited and we waited.

Nothing. So, I went back to the computer and researched what other type of plants I could get for the patio. I enlisted my Facebook friends with the challenge of luring hummingbirds to the 11th floor and was instantly gratified by their recommendations.

Back to HD and I succumbed to the lurid plastic red feeder. Life is short and I wanted some action on the balcony.

I had, by now, spent $650. On the furniture, the pole, the plant and the feeder. I couldn’t help it. Over that first weekend, I sat reveling in the birds’ very sporadic visits and amortizing the cost of each bird visit – oh, that was the $650.00 visit. Here comes the $325.00 visit, etc. by the end of Sunday, we had $35.00 birds coming. But they refused to drink from the feeder. They loved the fuschia plant and would come and sip at each flower, staying for abut 10-15 seconds each visit. We were in heaven.

I began to read more about the hummingbirds. I saddened when the evening gloam arrived, and leapt out of bed in the morning at 6:30 to see what the new day would bring. When I went off reluctantly to work, I made Jimmie promise that he would give me the bird report when I got home after work, and he did. It varied from day to day, and our moods mirrored the success of our balcony to draw the birds or not. Our couch sits perpendicular to the sliding glass doors and my spot is closer to the window, and I developed a kink in my neck from looking to the right so much to check the feeder.

We noted that a particularly busy time of the day was the time between 6:00 and 7:30PM. The balcony gets the morning sun, and infrequent sightings. In the evening, we could dine at the dining room table and see the visitors as they came and went.

We had scheduled our summer vacation to Cape Cod for July 5-25,with a five day visit to Williamstown included in the time. I was worried that the fuschia plant, which seemed extremely thirsty, would die within days of our departure and so fretted about our little friends not having the necessary sustenance to keep coming.

I hoped they they would resort to the feeder, and right before we set off, I changed the juice- yes, by now I had gone to the luridly red bottled “perky pet” brand from Home Depot. I bought some glass globes which are used to water your plants while you are away, and put all four of them in the dirt around the stem of the fuschia plant, with the hopes that the plant would be kept alive.

The almost three weeks we were away was magical, and only occasionally did I worry that the birds would go away while we were gone. At the end of this first week, our son was due to come back to our apartment for a few days and I urged him to water the plants and change the juice in the feeder, which he did. Alas, the fuschia was almost completely dead when we returned on the 25th. It’s crumbled leaf carcasses were strewn about the balcony floor and what remained of the fuschia bush was a bedraggled specter of its former self. In addition to the death of the bush (and presumably our opportunities to view the hummingbirds until it had been replaced) our TV had also sizzled itself into the hereafter; reports of its passing chronicled to us via cell phone during our week in Williamstown, by our son, Chris, who had returned from the Cape to spend some time in the apartment before heading back north to San Francisco where he works as a salmon fisherman and lives on the Autumn Gale, my brother’s 40′ fishing boat which is docked at Fisherman’s wharf. While we were staying in Williamstown, I sent a panoramic video shot of our fairly lavish hotel suite to Chris and said we were having a great time. He sent back a brief, deafeningly loud video surveillance of his current boat’s hold, which included the legs and torso of his captain, Goat, and the ceaseless din of the boat’s motor. I appreciated the importance of a few days in our urban aerie and its restorative value, and so the news of the death of the TV was made more poignant because it impacted Chris’ comfort.