Saturday, February 8, 2020

Harold and Maude: A love story about two newts

Liz has two newts named Harold and Maude. They used to belong to a guy she liked, but she agreed to take them when he moved to Seattle in 1994.

Yes: 26 years later, Liz is still taking care of those newts.

That is cool.

"The Argentine horned frog and the Corn snake, they lived normal lifespans," Liz said. "But these newts ... they must be the longest living newts ever!" 

Now, newts aren't exactly interactive pets. They can't fill your lap with warm, purring fur. They can't happily join you for walks. They can't even perch on your finger and nuzzle you with their beak. In fact, to her newts, Liz is at best furniture that moves. Furniture that only one of them seems to notice.

"Maude acts like I'm not there, while Harold reacts every time like I'm the most amazing thing he's every seen," she said with a laugh.

Her newts, Japanese fire-bellied newts to be exact, might not give a lot, but they don't need a lot, either. Just a small tank with water and some fish food flakes every few days. The only time they were high-maintenance, she said, was when she drove them across several states.

"I drove soooo carefully," she recalls of her move to Arizona. "I couldn't make any sudden turns or their poor fragile bodies would go sloshing back and forth in their travel tank."

But as bad as she felt moving the newts, she was never going to leave them behind.

"We're pretty much bonded at this point," she said of the creatures who have stuck around while several human partners, cats and even goldfish have come and gone. "Never once have I thought to try to ... not have them anymore. They are so helpless and it's not like I could just give them to a pet store, and I'd certainly never release them. I think if I ever couldn't take care of them, I'd have to give them to someone who I know would take good care of them."  

Because, she admits, they feel like her children now.

In case you don't recognize them, the newts' names are from the title characters in the 1971 movie Harold and Maude, about a young man and a much older woman who fall in love.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

My Grandmother's Journals: February, 1995

Yvonne in the 1960s.
Every day my grandmother wrote down what time she woke up, where she ate breakfast, what movie she went to see, what mail and phone calls she received, then what she read and what she watched on TV before going to sleep.

In 1995, she was 79 years old and living alone in a mobile home park. I wouldn't describe her as lonely; she was an extremely independent and persnickety woman whom I never knew to live with another person or even a pet.
 (I wrote more about her life in this earlier blog post.)

A short walk from her home in Santa Cruz, Calif., was the famous surfing spot called Pleasure Point. One of her favorite things to do was to walk along the cliffs above the waves and watch the surfers. When she died at 97 in 2013, I took her ashes to Pleasure Point with a friend of hers and we each dropped some at the shore. A moment after I dropped mine, a surfer emerged from the water where I stood.

That was cool. 

In February of 1995, my grandmother was watching the O.J. Simpson trial, studying French before her next trip to Paris in April, and seemed very concerned about the landscaping being properly maintained at her mobile home park.

Wednesday, Feb. 1, 1995
Up at 9 a.m. Breakfast at Jack's. Library, got tapes of French.
Saw movie "Before Sunrise," enjoyed.
Sunny day, some weed work. 
Papers, French. Bio of Sammy Davis. Bed 10 p.m.
No sleep til 3 a.m. Up, took aspirin.
Wake 8:20 a.m., noted dog droppings in yard.

Thursday, Feb. 2, 1995
Up 8:20. Mark cutting grass. Breakfast McDonald's. Trader Joe's.
Home 10. Some weeding. Watched trial.
Mail 12:45 p.m. 1099s, report on pension fund. Worked on girls' accounts {by girls she means me and my sister} and taxes. 
Watched trial, news, Mad About You. Bed, news. 82 degrees! Warm.

Friday, Feb. 3, 1995
Warm. Up 9 a.m. Breakfast Burger King. Albertsons.
Worked in yard. Weeds, got avocado out, (Larry helped), put dirt in brown tub.
Mark cut grass, terrible!
To Kmart, got Boxwood bush, Xmas plant, garden gloves.
Trial, Denise Brown. Cried. 
To masonry place, got .75 sand. Back 4 p.m.
Planted Boxwood. Transplanted noble plant, dead?
Watched X-Files, Homicide, Taped Under Suspicion and Picket Fences.
Bed 11 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 7, 1995
Up 8:30 a.m. Breakfast at McDonald's. Service terrible! 
New employees, back-ups, no coffee on stand.
To bank, got balance.
Home, called Pro Cuts, haircut. Home 11:45 a.m.
Some yard work in back, read. Some trial, news, French.
Good program "Cracker" on A&E. Watched Frasier, bed after news.
Read Casanova a bit, cold in night.

Wednesday, Feb. 8, 1995
Up 9:30. Breakfast Carl's Jr. French toast! 
Walked in mall, looked for pink turtleneck. Lane Bryant has one, $9.99. 
Read paper, book til 2 p.m.
Read at library until 4:20 p.m. Got muffin at Rebecca's, juice at Trader Joe's.
Movie: "Madness of King George."
Mail: Receipt from elder hostel.

Monday, Feb. 13, 1995
Mary and I had breakfast at Kmart.
Home. Yard work. Larry cut, doesn't sweep.
Wrote Mercury News regarding left to right?
To mailbox, Mary says Larry gave two-weeks notice. He finally swept back walk in front.

Tuesday, Feb. 14, 1995
Cold in night. Mary called, go to Live Oak for Valentine's Meal.
Breakfast at Lyon's, no gas. Went to Longs, walked Capitola.
Home 12:30 p.m., read papers. To Live Oak for dinner.
Songs, chicken, talked to some ladies. Alice Campbell died.
Home 4:40 p.m. Watched news, Frost Mystery, French 1 hour. Frasier, NYPD Blue.
Bed, news. Tired.

Thursday, Feb. 16, 1995
Awake 12 a.m., 2 a.m., 4 a.m. and 9 a.m. Breakfast at Burger King. 
To Kmart, got sunblock. 30 SPF. Bank, home 12 p.m.
Watched some trial, French. Read papers. Watched Morse, ER, Mad About You.
Mail, letter from Carla.

Saturday. Feb. 18, 1995
Up 9 a.m. Breakfast at donut shop. Got Lotto ticket.
Drove {Highway} 17 to San Jose, bought salmon t-shirt. Macy's for cologne, Estee Lauder.
Got gas, fast food. 
Home 2:30 p.m. Watched figure skating. Bed, read.

Sunday. Feb. 19, 1995.
Up 9:30 a.m. Mall for coffee + muffin. Lilli there, talked. She has a daughter and son. He is Mormon, has seven children in Boise, Idaho. She is going to Hawaii in April.
Went to show, "Hoop Dreams." Good, sad.
Lucky, home. Called regarding bank account. 
Watched Murder She Wrote, taped Voyager and Silence of the Lambs.

Tuesday, Feb. 21, 1995
Couldn't sleep, took aspirin. Up 9:45 a.m. Breakfast Carl's Jr.
Went to mall, looked at Mervyn's, Ross, JCP. Got gloves at JCP for $21.11. 
Gave young man $1.
Longs, home. Called bank. Watched O.J. trial.
Owners cut grass, swept and watered lawns, raked and swept.
Watched Morse. Carol called, talked 1 hour.
Watched Mad About You, Frasier, NYPD, Morse again.

March entries. 

January entries.