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Look at my sweet Birdie.  Doesn’t she have a fine profile?  I love the curve of her nose, her enormous ears, and all that soft, silky fur.  She is a fine specimen indeed.  It’s funny, too, even after nearly fifteen years (her birthday is March 4th!), I never grow tired of watching her.  Playing, sleeping, running in the yard, it’s always a pleasure to see her happy.  Unhappy is quite another matter, but I won’t get into that!

In other bird watching news, I had the FINEST (all caps for serious emphasis) sighting from my back window this past Thursday afternoon.  I was walking by and saw something high in a treetop, a slight white glimmer of movement.  My heart leapt!  Could it be?  I turned back and stopped, focusing my eyes.  It sure looked like it.

I whooped and hollered down the stairs,  “Oh my goodness!  Oh my goodness!” I grabbed the phone and the binoculars as fast as humanly possible and bolted back up the stairs.  Imagine my excitement when I learned my hunch was absolutely correct.  There was indeed a Bald Eagle atop a tree, no more than a hundred yards from me.  I could see its regal gaze scanning the horizon, the beautiful white feathers, the golden beak, the lovely eyes.  I called the hubster, and I spent the next few minutes detailing the eagle’s every move.

“It’s turning his head, yikes almost 360 degrees!”

“It’s moving it’s wings.  Wow, it’s so big!”

“I think it’s looking right at me.”

“The crows are coming!  They’re cawing, but this guy isn’t paying one iota of attention to them, no matter how close they get!”

“Oh my goodness, Buddy, I’m watching a Bald Eagle from our back window!”

In all, I probably watched it for ten joyful minutes, repeating that last sentence about five times.  It then left it’s perch and flew right over our house, so close I could see individual feathers.  I’d like to think it was a “Hello Colleen, I saw you, too,” gesture.  Whatever it was, I could not have been happier (well, maybe if I could have taken a photo, but our camera cannot zoom like that), and I certainly won’t ever look at that tree in the same way again.

I am spelling out the following number for emphasis: Four thousand seven hundred eighty-two.  This set of digits is hardly impressive when one considers population, drops of rain on my red roof, or annual salaries in America.  However, when one ponders the fact that it is in relation to  how many works of art were amassed by Herb and Dorothy Vogel in their tiny New York apartment over the course of forty years, then it expands into something nearly unfathomable.  Holy smokes – 4,782!

The absolutely adorable couple (they still hold hands and find each other cute), a now retired librarian at the Brooklyn Library and a postal worker, began collecting in order to follow what was, at least initially, Herb’s passion.   He worked nights at the post office, would sleep a few hours, and then go to the library and read everything he could about art, as well as take a painting class or two.  Dorothy, wanting to share in her husband’s interest, decided she would paint, too.  Soon, the walls of their apartment were covered in their work, but then, in 1962, after realizing they could live humbly off of Dorothy’s salary and purchase art with Herb’s, they marched forth with gusto, visiting galleries and studios all over the city and purchasing inexpensive works by unknown artists.

Their criteria were simple – they must like the piece, be able to afford it, and it had to be carried via foot, bus, or taxi to fit in their apartment.  They weren’t looking to collect anything just for the sake of it; they had to love it as well, and love they did.  They covered every possible surface with art: walls, ceiling, floor, amassing piles and rows, squeezing it in among their fish, cats, and turtles, a wonder of physics if the truth be told.  Dorothy remarked, “Not even a toothpick could be squeezed into the apartment.”  She was right.

In a bold and quite generous move, the couple decided to donate their entire collection to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the site where it all began, the first museum they visited together as husband and wife.  Of all the museums clamoring for their collection, all of them willing to pay princely sums, I might add, the Vogel’s chose the National Gallery because quite simply, as Americans, it belongs to everyone.  The works will never be sold and anyone can visit, for free, furthering their belief that wonderful art can be both affordable and accessible, just as it was to them.

It is a marvelous portrait of love – for each other and modern art.  It made me weep at how having a benevolent spirit and following our passion is rarely about how much money we have but what we choose to do with it.


Two great movies for you today, gems received via our Netflix queue.  Oh heavens, please don’t you ever go away Netflix.  What on earth would these two Portland film addicts do without you?

Let’s start with fashion and the man who works magic with red, Valentino Garavani.  Forty-five years of gorgeous gowns with equally gorgeous women donning them.    While I hardly have enough moolah to be able to purchase a couture gown such as these (nor an occasion to which I’d wear it), it was a sheer delight to observe a bit of the process that brings them to life.  A dream in a man’s head, a sketch, and a klatch of women with talents I can only aspire to.  No sewing machines, no fancy equipment, just divine talent with a needle and thread.

Follow bits of Valentino’s life since launching his career in the 1960s: the bankruptcy, the huge success, the sale of his company in the 90s, the dresses (oh the dresses!), the pugs, the houses, and one very sweet, loving, and patient man with my favorite name in the Italian language, Giancarlo, Valentino’s partner for more than fifty years.

It is a love story about style, fabric, and men who share the same exquisite passion to make women feel a bit more beautiful and, of course, glamorous.  There are lots of surprises, and I shed a few tears, inspired by the drive and success of these lively and talented Italians.

And now for a little something from Italy’s neighbor, France.  It is quite a different story, yet it rings of the same truths, that passion, dedication, and perseverance bring sublime rewards.

It’s a story that begins in a dimly lit dentist’s waiting room, when a young man with an aching tooth spies, in a magazine, an advertisement for the yet to be built Twin Towers.  A tight rope walker, he decides, then and there, that he will walk between the towers, drawing, rather symbolically, a crisp line between the buildings.  Thus, he sets forth on a plan that will take him thousands of miles and hundreds of feet above New York city.

Though the fact that he walks the tightrope is a foregone conclusion, it is a delightful journey to follow the route to his achievement.  There’s footage of the preparations, including his victories over Notre Dame and the Sydney Harbor Bridge.  As well, we meet his accomplices, friends and protectors, eager and willing to pay the high price to accomplish one man’s dream.   Another joy to watch such determination and dedication to a particular and quite electrifying goal.

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A smile like that after a 6 hour surgery. Inspiring!

A smile like that after a 6 hour surgery. Inspiring!

For a rather verbose start as guest blogger here “Under a Red Roof”, until Colleen is back at the helm, I will just post some status on Colleen as she is easily my favorite topic.   I love her very much and am certainly inspired by her love of life.  As you can read from previous posts, Tuesday was a day of surgery for my wife Colleen.

The surgery started out as a laparoscopic procedure that would last about 3 hours or less.  As the Dr. was working it became apparent that there was going to be more to do and Colleen had to be opened up. I believe it became a laparotomic procedure with a single horizontal incision, but I can only play doctor so please forgive the terminology. It ended up being quite a long day with a surgery from about 10:00 am to 4:30 pm and then recovery until about 6:00 pm or so. Her doctor said that the reason a transfusion wasn’t necessary in surgery was, in large part, due to the good care Colleen has taken of her blood (which isn’t easy with the heavy monthly blood loss).

I am grateful that my best friend in the world was sleeping through this ordeal! I am also very grateful that the most excellent doctors took their time and patience to really do things correctly and safely.

Today, the day after the surgery, was a good day.   Colleen is in a good deal of pain but her vitals are good and her body is healthy.  Fluids are passing normally, lungs are clear, and there isn’t any blood loss.  Naturally I wish she was feeling better, but I am happy her body is working well!

Legacy Emanuel hospital in Portland Oregon has been absolutely wonderful.  The doctors are first class and the nurses are very capable and helpful.

I would like to also apologize if you feel slighted for not having been notified more personally.  Please feel free to give me a call or send an email as I’m trying to connect Colleen with the outside world as much as possible.  I think Colleen is remembering more than I am right now and I don’t even have any Dilaudid in me!  (The morphine didn’t do much for her.)

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Dilaudid or Drugstore Cowboy here’s a lighter view of the drug… Much lighter:

What is Dilaudid? (Warning: Rated R perhaps, take with grain of salt)

(PG-13 (PG-13 perhaps)perhaps)


We shall find peace. We shall hear angels. We shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.

Anton Checkov

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