The Yellow Flag

There is a yellow flag flying from Derby Wharf in Salem. If you, like me, did not grow up on the water, you might miss it.

A sailor wouldn’t miss it. And neither would the rangers at the Salem Maritime National Site, who are raising the yellow flag each day during this health crisis.

There is a flag for every letter of the alphabet. A yellow flag represents the letter “Q” or, in this case, “Quarantine.” The meaning has evolved from a warning that the crew was ill to the current meaning, that it is save to approach.

Here are the flags for each letter of the alphabet:

Pull out the construction paper and have some fun with them. As for me, I’m going to look up some photos I took of the Tall Ships and finally decode the flags.


(This post originally appeared in the View From Our Windows blog that I write with a lot of help from my friends. I hope you’ll stop by.)

Remember me?

Hello, again.

The Big Red Dog has been gone for over a year and I didn’t think I would continue this blog. Although I never took it down, I never visited this site, either.

A few months ago, COVID-19 entered the stage and everything changed. I felt the urge to write again but this time I wanted more authors to record this moment in history. Six of my friends agreed to join the team to record our lives during this particular moment in history.

The blog is called View From our Windows and I hope you’ll visit it.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to fire up this blog again because, although I stopped writing blog posts, the traffic to this site continued.

Thank you to all the viewers and followers. It’s good to be back.


Life isn’t always fair

The Dog who Ate a Light Bulb

There he is: all grown up. The Dog Who Ate a Light Bulb, age 5. Digger of holes; shredder of dog toys; cuddlier in bed. Over-exuberant greeter of strangers and friends alike. Somehow, we’ve both survived the last five years.

As I write this, he is snoozing on the bed (my bed, not his personal LL Bean bed, which he does sleep in but prefers to hump it). He no longer counter surfs. Doesn’t steal a pint of cherry tomatoes off the counter and scarf them all down while I’m in bed. Still barks with authority at any squirrel, woodchuck, duck, or cat who crosses his path. Being the head of security at this house is hard work.

We spent a wonderful week in Vermont last fall, where he got to run off leash across fields and just be a dog. There may be nothing more beautiful to witness than someone – human or animal – run with abandon.


A few weeks ago, something just didn’t seem right. He was the same happy dog with the healthy appetite and love of playing tug with his toys.

I took him to the vet and she found a tumor. Advanced cancer. After long talks with her and an oncologist, I’ve elected palliative care.

As my mother always said, life isn’t always fair.

Mercury: a Novel by Margot Livesey

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I don’t often plug a book, but a friend of mine has a new novel coming out on September 27th. If you haven’t discovered the novelist Margot Livesey, I recommend that you check out her work. A review of her new novel will be forthcoming in the New York Times Book Review.

In 2000, I’d picked her as my fiction writing instructor at the Breadloaf Writer’s Conference. I had to cancel at the last minute, so we didn’t work together until a few years later at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. I spent a memorable week with her and a spirited group of fellow students in a writing workshop. If your ego tells you that you are a fiction writer, tell your ego to stay quiet until you’ve undergone some training by a talented, well-schooled instructor.

No two of her novels are alike. She is truly a master writer of literary fiction and someone whose work is worth exploring. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

— Kate


When your fortune cookie creeps you out

I’m getting ready for a weekend trip and, after dropping the Dog Who Ate a Lightbulb off at his favorite kennel for some very expensive playtime, I decided to stop in at my favorite Chinese restaurant to graze through their lunch buffet.

I have warm memories of this place. I used to work near it and one of my co-workers, a Jewish man, loved to gather a group of us together once a week to go to the buffet.

“Lunch?” he’d ask. “Chinese? It’s the food of my people.” (That always makes me smile, for some reason.)

I dined solo today, but I timed my lunch so that they would just be bringing out the first round of food. Fresh at this point, not soggy from having sat out too long. (I am not a fool when it comes to Chinese food, I know when to arrive at the buffet.)

And it was good!

They brought my check on a little tray with a fortune cookie, as usual. I dropped it in my purse, as I was in a bit of a rush.

I just read the fortune and it says:

“Tomorrow Morning, Take a left turn as soon as you leave home.”

Now, what the heck does that mean? I live on a one-way street and I’m not backed into the driveway at the moment, so I have to back out and go RIGHT in order to leave the house. Unless, of course, they meant to turn left when I got to the end of my street instead of my driveway. Could that be what they meant? If it is, I’m good, because I’m going to take a left at the end of my street tomorrow morning.

But if they meant I need to immediately take a left, then do I have to back into my driveway tonight in order to execute a good-luck left turn immediately? This is really more than I want to think about. I just need to get to the airport by 7am tomorrow.

So now I’ll probably be up all night trying to decide what to do. (Or I’ll just go to sleep as I usually do and get up at 5:00 in the morning and go to the shuttle parking lot.)

However, if you’ve read this far, I would like to thank you by giving you the lucky numbers printed on my fortune. They are: 38, 44, 41, 23, 28, and 33.

Knock yourself out.

Just what, exactly, am I paying for?

I love lazy Saturdays: a cup of coffee, the morning newspaper, my loyal dog by my side.

This morning was a tad off script: a leaking toilet and, alas, a backed-up kitchen sink. Not to worry, though. I go to my paid subscription to a referral service! (I won’t mention any names, but the namesake is a woman with very bad taste in clothes.)

They have a recommended plumber with an “A” rating!

There are eight reviews and three of them are very bad: two Fs and a C rating. I remember my grade school math and do the calculation. If A=5 and F=0, it averages out to a 3.6, which is hardly an A.

I go to the Comments page to leave a question that challenges their math and discover that on that page, the plumber has a “B” rating. Apparently, they’ve rounded up!

For $140, I think I’ll pass.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Rare

Manuscript (1)Les Boquinistes 01 (1)

Fifteenth century hand-illuminated page. I bought it from a Bouquinistes in Paris. I’ve never really translated it, but I do recognize the start of the Lord’s Prayer on the bottom two lines. The shame is that they were selling single pages from the original book.

For more interpretations of this theme, click here.

The great top sheet controversy.

Crystal Palace Paisley 300 Thread Count Cotton Sheet Set
Photo credit: (and I just may order these sheets)

Oh,  my. This disagreement has been lingering for almost 40 years.

My friend says that when you make a bed, the top sheet should be pattern-side up. I say it’s the opposite.

You lay it face down so that (1) the occupant is resting in a full-pattern atmosphere and (2) when you lay a blanket on top of the sheet, you can fold it back as far as you want and the pattern is still exposed.

What say you?