I Miss My Saguaros!!!

The landscaping thing in Texas couldn’t be more opposite than it was in Scottsdale. Here you see grass, flowers and huge trees; things we rarely saw back home. I miss the desert landscape with its rocks and boulders, little slow growing trees, prickery shrubbery and my beloved majestic saguaros.

Saguaro Cactus in Fountain Hills, near Phoenix, Arizona.

My Texas landscaper Tim came over to fix some problems with the irrigation in the back yard. We have some very pretty vines with beautiful pink flowers on them. Most of them look stunning while one of them is hideous. I know perfectionism is a losing battle but I’m having a hard time letting go when it comes to my house and my yard.

“My landscapers in Scottsdale spent a lot time trying to convince me that landscaping is not an exact science but what’s wrong with that one vine, Tim?” I asked from a comfortable chair on my patio.

“Exact science….” Tim repeated under his breath and chuckled.

“It’s odd,” he went on, “the soil around this healthy one was very dry, and the soil around that ugly one was wet.” I didn’t say anything.

“I wonder if there is a leak in the water line somewhere,” he continued as he messed around in the mud. I still didn’t say anything.

“I could try putting some fertilizer on it and we could see if that does anything,” he said as he pulled some weeds from around the base of the vine. I was silent.

“It may not get the same kind of sun as the others,” he said. I still didn’t say anything.

He finally looked up at me and said, “These comments are my way of saying I don’t know.”

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Obscene Sizes!

We bought our house in Texas in one weekend when real estate inventory was limited. Steve’s promotion had been finalized and he was already commuting from Scottsdale to Dallas and our house in Scottsdale was in escrow so we needed to buy a house and buy it fast. I know what you are thinking, you should have rented first until you knew what was what! Yeah, but there were size-able financial motivations that made buying the smart thing to do.

Two weeks before I flew to Dallas to house hunt with Steve and our realtor, she sent me everything that was available in the area that would make sense for us. Over email, I immediately nixed anything over 5000 sq. ft. I mean, c’mon, it’s just two people and two golden retrievers! People aren’t joking when they say everything in Texas is huge. Everything is. Especially houses. So once I nixed, our fifteen choices fell to about five, maybe six. The house we chose is a 4800 sq. ft. house with 4 bedrooms, a huge media room, an office and 6 bathrooms. Six bathrooms?? It just doesn’t make sense. I do not GET Dallas.

Even in a city you know well there will always be unknowns when you buy a house. You have no way of knowing how noisy the neighbors are or if you will hear sirens at night. You will not know if there is a dog nearby who howls and barks at various times during the week. If you are looking at houses on weekends you have no way of knowing how much traffic is on your street or nearby streets and whether you will hear it on weekdays.

I think of the people who bought my gorgeous Scottsdale house right on the edge of the desert who would have no idea of the tremendous problem with bees gathering water from the pool when it’s hot to cool down their hives. (And, it’s hot A LOT in Scottsdale!) You cannot find a hive to destroy when there are 10 acres of desert in your backyard and you cannot go into your pool when there are swarms of African bees there. We said “yes” about “critters” in the seller’s disclosure but it didn’t ask for specifics.

Now, when you don’t know a city at all, especially when you are in a rush to buy, there are things you simply don’t even think of. It never occurred to me when we were looking at this house that my only access to my garage was a gross, sloppy alley. (See one of my first ever posts “These Darn Alleys”) We bought a new build and many new builds have front access to the garages but our lot wasn’t big enough for the builder to do that and I didn’t even notice.

We also had no idea that we would be living in a constant construction zone since older houses sell, builders snap them up, demolish them and build new. (We live in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Dallas…constant construction is just what it is to live here and everyone except me is used to it and lives peacefully with it!!)  We didn’t know Dallas is gloomy a lot and we chose a house, which is NOT the lightest, brightest house. I wake up every morning and turn on every, single light in the house, which annoyed my friend Richard to no end when he was here. He kept turning them off and I kept turning them back on. I told him it was cheaper than therapy.

Finally, how could we have known about an utterly obnoxious and decrepit 45-year old ice cream truck that roams the neighborhood playing eerie, distorted melodies every afternoon and gives me the total creeps.

Anyway, we got a smokin’ hot deal on this house probably because it is not light and bright and the market was slow when we bought. We’ve put it up for sale and we’ll make money on it.  Today, we made an offer on a house way farther North that backs to a golf course and has amazing, peaceful views. I am so excited!!

Sparkling Celebrities

OMG! Leonard Nimoy aka Dr. Spock just died. I was never a fan of Star Trek, in fact, I’m not sure I saw one episode. I’m not a TV watcher. I only watch SNL and tennis and they must be taped.  I hate complicated, computerized, bionic remotes and I hate commercials. I have my vices; TV is just not one of them, which is weird because my father was in TV.

I was raised in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California, my mom was a gorgeous model, my father, Robert “Bob” Miles was the stunt man for Michael Landon on Bonanza all those years and he continued working the few stunts necessary for “Little House on the Prairie.” Michael Landon and my father loved each other. Then sadly as we all know, Michael died of cancer.

My Father no the set of Bonanza

My Father on the set of Bonanza

My parents divorced when I was very young and I never got to know my father well. He had an exciting life with Hoss, Little Joe, Ben and Adam Cartwright and was into partying heavily with those guys when they got off set. They must have gone on benders because days would go by when we wouldn’t see my dad at all. He apparently had an IQ off the charts but wasn’t smart enough (or in control enough) to treat us well and his behavior when he did come home was scary and totally unpredictable. He slapped me around several times as a very young child, was drunk a lot of the time and was angry.

The Bonanza Cast

The Bonanza Cast

My oldest sister, Lisa kept tabs years later on him, bless her heart. She sent me documentation that my father is the one who taught pretty boy Landon how to fight. Really fight. Not just for the cameras. I’m not sure why my father thought Michael needed to know this but from what little I know of my father, he probably thought everyone needed to know how to fight. There had to be a reason for that and I suspect it stems back to his own parents, whom I know almost nothing about except that they were both stunt people in the very early stages of the industry. That takes tough, especially in those days. Like them, my father, an only child, was tough, rugged and one time punched the man hard right in the face he thought was stealing his family. I was probably 4 years old and I remember it like it was yesterday.

10 years ago by complete coincidence because of my husband’s job, we lived in Studio City, California for a short time like I did in my childhood. It brought back so many weird memories. It’s called Studio City because it’s where all the TV studios are (Duh to anyone from California but not Duh to people who aren’t) and so all the TV celebrities live there. We ran into Dr. Spock’s cohort William Shatner (among other TV celebs) rather regularly at restaurants and shopping malls. Shatner must have lived very near us. On one occasion my husband was out of town and I was dining alone at a restaurant near our house and I saw Shatner with a woman and a bald child and I heard the encouraging words Shatner was saying to them both. I’m pretty sure it was a “Make a Wish” Foundation meeting, which is utterly lovely.

To keep the yin and yang of life in perspective however, too often we would see him around town in a Jack LaLanne leisure suit. (See photo of LaLanne and note the belt! Look what he was telling people not to eat 50 years ago!!  He misspelled “Pastries”!  And even if he knew it, he probably didn’t care!  Look at at the motivational technique of his body language!  Talk about a guy ahead of his time!!)

The Amazing Jack LaLanne

The Amazing Jack LaLanne 50 Years Ago

Shatner would be drunk, belligerent, cruelly degrading service personnel, yelling at restaurant managers and just being an all around AH.  He was fat, red faced and hostile and he was a disgrace to himself. At this stage of my life, I am not one to judge people but he was SO mean to people.  A year or so later when I moved back to Scottsdale, I couldn’t figure out how they made him look as good as he did for the travel company commercials he was doing.

How He Looked in Person

How He Looks in Person

How They Make Him Look in Commercials

How They Make Him Look in Commercials

Leonard Nimoy was the opposite and may he rest in peace and have fun on the next journey.  I suppose William Shatner is doing the best he can like the rest of us but are certain celebrities exempt from behaving decently? Or do their accomplishments in one narrow field allow them to be the exception to decency?  Or do we reinforce the behavior by “letting them off the hook” more than we would others?


Zoo Sexuality

“Savuti is coming out of quarantine and will be in his habitat for the first time Wednesday and Thursday,” Tami, a primate keeper said to me. “I need a volunteer observer for Thursday,” she went on, “just to watch and report back what he is doing and if it seems to be going okay, can you do it?”

Many scientists, anthropologists and biologists believe there are 5 great apes; gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, bonobos and humans. In Texas there are four. Try to guess which one is missing in Texas and why. (Yeah, yeah, I’m messing with Texas.) There are also two lesser apes, gibbons and siamangs. They’re called great apes and lesser apes because the great apes are bigger and much more intelligent than the lesser apes. Still, I wish there was a different name for the lesser apes; like maybe “Smaller Apes” because while they may not be as intelligent as the Greats, they are very intelligent and in my humble opinion, not “less than” apes.

Humans and gorillas share 98.4% exactly the same DNA and with chimpanzees it’s right around 99%. The tiny difference in the apes DNA is significant because gorillas are extremely gentle and not at all aggressive where as chimps can and will be very aggressive; like humans. So we aren’t gorillas or chimpanzees and they aren’t human but we are very closely related.

The word “primate” refers to all monkeys and apes and if you want to know whether you are looking at a monkey or an ape just look to see if the dazzling creature has a tail. Monkeys have tails and apes do not. Some monkeys, like mandrills, have very short tails that almost look like a knob instead of a tail and even if you know the tail/no tail thing you could easily mistake a mandrill monkey for an ape because of that.

Mandrills are the planet’s largest monkeys with males weighing up to 70 pounds. People mistake them for baboons and while they are in the same family, they are much more colorful in the face and rump and are not baboons. At the Dallas zoo we have two adult female mandrills and an unbelievably energetic little baby boy named Obi who is so adorable it’s hard to fathom.

Obi with Mom, Saffron

Obi with Mom, Saffron

Obi freaking out Mommy

Obi freaking out Mommy

The only bad part about this charming scene is that Obi’s dad died of cancer about a month after he was born. The primate keepers knew he needed a male role model so he could properly learn to be a male mandrill so they reached out to zoos around the country, which is normal operating procedure for zoos nationally and internationally, to try and find a male to come live with us in Dallas, and they found Savuti.

Savuti is a very old mandrill at 22 years old; their life expectancy is around 25. When we get new animals at the zoo, they have to be quarantined for 30 days for medical testing and to get to know their new keeper/trainers.

“I’d love to observe the Mandrills for you, Tami.” I said, “I’ll be here. Will he be in the habitat with Obi and the females?” I asked.

“No,” she said, “he’s coming out of quarantine on Wednesday morning and we want him to be alone to get to know the habitat for a couple days without the added stress of being introduced to his new family. So Obi and the females will stay inside their bedrooms for a couple days while he adjusts.”

“Makes sense.” I said. “Gosh, Savuti has been inside for 30 days, he’ll probably be ecstatic to be outside.”

“Yes,” Tami said, “I’m sure he will!” She just didn’t know how ecstatic.

I arrived on Thursday morning to see Tami and another keeper in front of the mandrill habitat looking worried. As I approached, Tami called out, “You have any monkey shifting mojo? If so, we need it!”

All the primates have inside bedrooms where they sleep at night to protect them from the elements. Shifting means getting the animals to move from their bedrooms out into their habitat and back into their bedrooms again. The Dallas zoo is a positive reinforcement zoo so if the animals do what the keepers want them to do they are rewarded with treats. If the animals don’t do what the keepers want them to do, nothing happens.

“Whad’ya mean?” I responded.

“Oh my gosh,” she said, “We have tried everything and we cannot get Savuti to leave that rock! We let him out yesterday morning and he went right to that rock and hasn’t budged since. He’s so happy to be outside he hasn’t eaten or moved for 24 hours! He was out all night in the freezing temperatures!!”

Savuti on his Rock at Dusk

Savuti on his Rock at Dusk

Tami has been caring for Savuti for the 30 days he’s been in quarantine and she loves him. I know he loves her, too, because when he heard her voice, he looked up from his rock and made eye contact with her and grimaced which is a mandrill’s way of smiling and showing affection. Then when she walked away, he masturbated. When I later told Tami, she was flattered. Zoo people are passionate about animals and a curious crowd.

Beautiful Savuti

Beautiful Savuti

Grimacing at his Love, Tami

Grimacing at his Love, Tami

It’s Saturday Night Live!!!

I was young but I had to get out from under a man who hated me for my assertiveness and my fearlessness of him and my willingness to stand up to him. The minute I turned 16 I told my mother I had had it with my stepfather and I moved out.

Q. What do you do when you are on your own at 16?

A. Become a waitress and convince an apartment manager you are 18 and that you can handle the responsibility of renting.

Waitresses, especially when they are pretty, and I was, make a lot of money for a young person. I already had a jump on it because I had become a hostess at a restaurant when I turned 15, had my driver’s permit and had an old beat up Volkswagen. I’d proven my reliability and commitment so when it came time to start supporting myself I was able to convince the manager where I worked to promote me to waitress. Like the other nights, we would work hard, make our tips, clean up the restaurant but on Saturdays we would then congregate at someone’s apartment, smoke a joint and watch our beloved Saturday Night Live.

I just watched the 40 year reunion of Saturday Night Live the other night and I was close to tears. There are so many SNL actors who have died of diseases and overdoses and so many more who have gone on to be hugely successful in their acting and comedic careers. And I feel like I know them all. I’ve been watching for 40 years.

I feel like all the SNL people are my people. In the early days it was Gilda Radner, Garret Morris, Jane Curtain, Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Laraine Newman, Dan Akroid, Bill Murray and others.

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I’ve watched the creator and producer, Lorne Michaels, a gorgeous young, creative man with shiny black hair transition to a gray haired gentry gentleman.


I’ve seen the show go from funky cheap rented studio space where you could barely hear what Candice Bergen was saying to evil toy maker Dan Akroid, to the best in the business at Rockefeller Center in NYC. Now a-days Tina Fey, Amy Poelher, Jason Sedekis and Seth Myers recently moved on.

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I hear Lorne cries every time a beloved cast member leaves. He’s an emotional guy and his guts are invested in his people and his show. He’s a tough cookie to be sure and there are a lot of casualties who make it one or two seasons and then are booted by him, but he loves the ones he loves. And I love him for creating SNL.