Suzy Says

Textbook Ephemeral

   May 26

Lovely

I decided to try some of my own frivolous medicine to help me deal with the recent losses in my life. If it worked for Erica and John, maybe it would work for me, too. I started by indulging in the Royal Wedding, which I had recorded on BBC America so I could merrily fast forward through the hours of boring stuff, like endless speculation on the dress and man in the street interviews. I started watching when Meghan’s car left the hotel.

It was a beautiful day, and I have to say that there is nowhere lovelier than England on a fine spring or summer day. I was glad to see the flawless blue sky and the sun shining down on Windsor. The flowers wreathed around the chapel door were just breathtaking, as were the flowers inside. Harry’s nervousness and William’s joking with him to calm him were charming to see, as was the deep bond between the two of them. I think their mother would have been proud and pleased and I am sure she was in their thoughts.

Meghan looked stunning. I didn’t love her dress, but I did love the train and veil, thoughtfully embroidered with flowers representing every country in the Commonwealth, and the fabulous accessories, from the Cartier bracelet to Queen Mary’s tiara. I couldn’t help but wonder what that formidable queen would have thought of her descendant marrying an American divorcée.

I wish that Meghan had just walked the whole way to the altar by herself instead of just halfway. To me, either she should have been escorted the whole way or been alone the whole way. Her mother certainly looked lonely in her little corner, the only representative of Meghan’s family. I have to give grudging respect to Prince Charles for how he looked after the mother of the bride after the ceremony.

The service itself was the perfect blend of English and American, though perhaps I think that because I myself am the perfect blend of English and American. Reverend Curry stole the show with his uplifting and passionate sermon, the likes of which I am sure has never been heard before at any English wedding, let alone a royal one. The Queen, looking magnificent as always, took it all in stride.

Harry and Meghan’s kiss on the steps of the chapel, under the gorgeous flower arch, was perfection. They are such a beautiful couple, and so clearly in love. The way they looked at each other as they made their vows was a joy to behold. And as they rode through the streets in an open carriage, waving to the ecstatic crowd, it was hard not to feel that a new chapter had started, both in their lives and the Royal Family’s.

A YEAR AGO: The landline ringing was once again bad news: Star had a seizure. She recovered and is fine, though!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Goodbye, disused, decayed and dangerous hot tub! I think I’ll miss you least of all!

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   May 22

Gone


Pete

Well, guys, I got hit by a one-two punch of tragedy, and I’m still reeling from it.

I was driving home after a 12 hour day at work when I heard my sparkly pink phone blowing up. The long drive home gave plenty of time for plenty of texts, and as I walked in the door, the landline was ringing. Is it ever good news when the landline* is ringing?

It certainly wasn’t this time. I was told that Erica’s mother had perished, both horrifyingly and suddenly. I will not go into details, but will just say that there may be and should be criminal charges pressed against the person who caused her untimely and dreadful death.

Erica and Jessica are both safe, though their house has been without power or water ever since the tragedy struck, and they were almost immediately embroiled in drama and unpleasantness, which I am sorry to say is more often the case than not. Death seems to turn a lot of people into total asshats really, really fast.

Just a few days later, I got an email from my ex husband John telling me that his best friend Pete, who had been the best man at our wedding, had died in a car accident. I was shocked, not just because he was younger than we are, but because he was always an excellent driver. I learned later that he hit an unexpected patch of gravel and lost control of the car, hitting a power pole. John said he was killed instantly.

Much like Erica’s experience, it took about a nanosecond for drama to rear its ugly head. Pete was in the process of getting divorced after a very unhappy marriage, and was living very happily with someone else and her two children, who adored him as well. The woman who is still technically his wife filed for his pension, insurance and other benefits immediately. And I’m afraid she will get them and the woman he loved will get nothing.

Oddly, I had just been thinking about Pete that very day on my way to work, having no idea he was already gone. I was thinking about how I used to ride on his motorcycle with him and he always said I was a natural. I was thinking of how much he’d enjoy riding the curves around here. About an hour after I arrived at work, I got the email from John telling me about his death.

John is just devastated, as is Erica. I think it’s harder to watch those you love in pain than to suffer yourself. Oddly, they have both told me that my frivolity has helped both of them the most as they walk the long, lonely path of grief. I’m glad to have helped them with their staggering burdens of grief, even in a small way.

*I still remember my father getting the phone call on Christmas Eve telling him that his father was dead. He slid down the wall with the receiver in his hand, sitting on the floor, stunned. Then he began to cry. It was the first time in my life I had ever seen him cry, and I was fifteen. It was almost more shocking than the news itself.

A YEAR AGO: Enjoying the ride in Erica’s new car, not to mention Clayton’s visit and a delightful dinner.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A wonderful time with the inimitable Miss Janice. I love that lady!

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   May 15

Road Trip

Megan mentioned on a Friday evening that she was planning to go to the thriving metropolis of Willits on Saturday to get pepper plants and tomato plants for the greenhouse the boys just built:

Willits is 30 miles inland from the Big Town (though it takes a good hour to drive those 30 miles*), making it much warmer in the summer (and colder in the winter), so they have a wider variety of heat-loving starts for sale there.
I decided that I would go with her, a decision that seemed reasonable after a couple of adult beverages on Friday night, but a less attractive prospect on the following day. I did manage to get up, though later than intended, and threw together pineapple salsa to go with the chicken enchiladas I did not have time to make before heading out the door.

We made our way past the ocean and the mighty redwoods, the road curving around and around, climbing up and back down again. It’s such a beautiful time of year, with the fields full of wildflowers in every color and baby calves, lambs, and foals. The steep, rolling hills are still green from the winter rains, and pooled with the deep shade of gnarled live oaks. Grapes are putting out their transparent green leaves on the dark vines.

At the garden center, we loaded up on practical greenhouse plants for Megan and pretty flowers for me. There was hardly room for us in the car, so it was a good thing we hadn’t brought the dogs this time, even though it was Star’s 10th birthday. Happy birthday, Star (seen here exploring the greenhouse):

To be fair, Megan did buy special birthday treats for Star to share with her BFF Stella (seen here lounging in their garden beds):

so it’s not like we didn’t celebrate this auspicious occasion.

We picked up some extreme takeout at El Mexicano and headed home. It was a good day.

*We recently had some folks coming to the Big Town from Sacramento for a meeting. Needless to say, the drive took much longer than they expected. When they texted that they were just leaving Willits and would be there in half an hour, we all laughed uproariously. It took them nearly an hour and a half. It takes me about an hour.

A YEAR AGO: A surprisingly life-affirming flat tire

FIVE YEARS AGO: A less than delightful Monday the 13th.

TEN YEARS AGO: How to turn $20 into crack.

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   May 06

Evening Out

It had been far too long since we had eaten at Luna Trattoria, and far too long since we had seen a play in the Village. We set out to remedy both of those omissions on the same night.

Our multi-tasking was made easier by the fact that Luna had moved to the Village from the Big Town. Megan’s parking luck held as we pulled up right outside:

We followed a very pretty gardeny path to the restaurant:

where we were greeted by both Lu and a mob of people. The restaurant does not take reservations except for large parties, and the place was jam packed. We went to wait in the little garden outside.

It was the first time I had seen Lu since the first grandchild arrived about three weeks earlier, so we had lots of catching up to do. It is somewhat alarming when your friends start becoming grandparents. The baby himself is lovely:

He is a happy baby and despite his impressive size (nearly 10 pounds at birth), is as relaxed as his début, where his mother slept through labor and it took a mere 20 minutes for Dean to arrive in the world. Can’t ask for better than that.

When our table was ready, we went upstairs, past the singer who had also sung at Lu and Rik’s wonderful wedding. It was less hectic up there:

and we had time to drink some wine and nibble on bruschetta while we decided what to have for dinner:

Lu had lasagna, Megan had pasta sangiovese, and I had penne alla vodka:

It was delicious. You can tell that they make their own pasta and it is really good. It was so nice to enjoy our dinner and each other’s company.

After dinner, we made our way to the theater:

where Megan again parked right out front. Inside, we discovered that the lobby had become more elegant:

The bar, and more importantly, the bartender were the same. In honor of the play we were about to see, Blackbird, he concocted a black cocktail with blue curaçao, vodka, lime, and cranberry juice, garnished with blueberries:

It turned out to be better than the play. From the description:

“He moves to another town. He changes his name. But now she finds him and confronts him about a 15 year old crime – a crime for which he’s been to prison. This hauntingly poetic play by one of Scotland’s most notable playwrights will challenge audience members to question their perceptions.”

we thought it would be a mystery, but it turned out to be about a victim of statutory rape (then aged 12) hunting down and confronting her rapist years later. It was pretty upsetting stuff. The acting was really good, but it wasn’t quite the fun night out we were expecting. At least dinner and the company were wonderful!

A YEAR AGO: A fun day at the bookstore. Is there any other kind?

FIVE YEARS AGO: The birth of an orchard.

TEN YEARS AGO: Ugh. What a horrible trip.

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   May 06

Bookish

Our county is big – the size of two small states, blended up and garnished with hippies, intellectuals, rednecks, and artists with a bottle of wine and a joint on the side – but the population is small. Its nearly 4,000 square miles is home to a mere 86,000 people, or about 23 people per square mile (less if you live in Hooterville). So the pool of people, whether it’s for dating or jobs or pretty much anything else, is limited.

It’s also not the wealthiest place, so everyone from the volunteer fire departments (thank you, guys!) to my workplace are always holding fundraisers. Sometimes it seems that half the county is selling stuff to the other half. Having had to deal with the nightmare of the annual work fundraiser and the difficulty of finding and keeping Board members at work made me sympathetic to a plea from our local library to attend one of their Board meetings with a view to possibly becoming a Board member.

Although this is a shockingly adult thing to contemplate, I went to the meeting on a sunny Friday morning. The library Board meetings are held at a civilized 10:00 am rather than the depressing 5:00 pm of the monthly work Board meetings.

They are usually held in the community room rather than in the library proper, but it was a staff training day, so the staff was using that room. It also meant that although I was in the library and equipped with my card – acquiring which, you may remember, was about the first thing I did when I moved here – I was unable to actually pick up the books which were waiting for me, since the staff was otherwise occupied.

I perched on a pouf and observed the proceedings. It’s safe to say that I was the youngest person there, possibly by decades. It’s nice to feel youthful as time marches on in its inexorable way. They seemed like a nice bunch of people and there was a pleasing lack of drama.

The library is looking to expand and it would be interesting to be part of that. I love the library and our community so perhaps getting involved this way would be a good thing. My boss has no problem with my taking a very early lunch one day a month (it certainly makes the afternoon long, though). I am planning to attend the next meeting and make a decision from there.

A YEAR AGO: Of time and place.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A graveyard stroll.

TEN YEARS AGO: Stuck in the airport.

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   May 01

Trafficking


Public Service Announcement

Tourist season is upon us. The dreaded out of state plates are popping up all over, and their driving 15-20 miles an hour below the speed limit gives us plenty of time to read them (and weep). They are accompanied by their equally despised brethren, the lumbering RV, all of them merrily sparkling with brake lights at every curve. It’s festive, you know.

It reminds me of the seasonal change from the speed of hockey to the majesty of baseball. At this time of year, the hockey playoffs overlap with the start of the baseball season, and you can practically get whiplash shifting gears from the nearly nonstop action of hockey to the relative stillness of baseball. Sure, they run around the bases and in the outfield, but a lot of it is standing there. Not to mention 9 innings versus 3 periods. When the seasons change again, hockey will seem super fast and baseball will seem normal. It’s all about perception, right?

On the message boards, the advent of tourist season is heralded by the announcement that the 2 hour parking downtown will actually be enforced for the next few months. It’s always the law, but disregarded most of the year.

Summer Enforcement of 2 Hour Parking in Downtown is starting! Parking Enforcement Attendant, Valerie T will be touring the downtown areas, chalking tires and issuing parking citations when necessary. So say hello to Valerie, before she says hello to you.

There’s non-human traffic, too:

From: n——-@earthlink.net
Subject: llama loose on lansing at 3:40pm

Heading north in a hurry. black head/cream colored body.

Forewarned is forearmed.

We aren’t merely concerned with traffic on earth, though. Some of us are reporting possible alien visitors:

*National UFO Reporting Center*
Sighting Report
Occurred : 12/31/2017 20:00 (Entered as : 12/31/2017 20:00)
Reported: 12/31/2017 8:36:32 PM 20:36
Posted: 1/18/2018
Location: Fort Bragg, CA
Shape:
Duration:3 minutes
3 orbs with red lights all were moving one in middle stopped then vanished.
Then other two orbs stopped and vanished. The orbs were traveling from
south to north.

Wonder if aliens fly really slow?

A brief, but sincere, cri de coeur:

From: P M buddhaman420@gmail.com
Subject: Weed

Left my bag in your ride. Where are you guys?

I guess the guy’s email address tells you all you need to know. And we are famous for weed around here.

The message board are useful for locating, or attempting to locate, people as well as bags of weed:

From: s——-@mcn.org
Subject: Susan N—–

Is she on here??? Susan!!! I have some donkey pics to send u…

Who wouldn’t want donkey pics? Or maybe who would?

The last storm was a doozy and there was much comparison of rainfall at various locations and questioning about road closures. These caused something of a dilemma for one of my neighbors:

For yesterday and today I have 5.7″ on my glass gauge and 5.61″ on the digital as of 8 pm. Has anyone traveled Flynn Creek Road and Comptche Ukiah to hiway 128? Got a friend with a 90th birthday in Santa Rosa tomorrow. I am wavering between love and stupidity, but not as far as insanity.

When you’re done, you’re done. This delightfully named gentleman may be the original Grumpy Old Man:

Merlin Tinker announces his Retirement. I’ve repaired Sewing Machines and Clocks on the Coast for 48 years.That’s more than enough. I quit. I retire.

Please don’t ask if I can refer someone to take my place. No, I’m
retired. I’ve done enough. Find your own someone.

I turn 80 this year. I should have retired at 65, but kept responding
to calls.

Maybe close to half a century of repairing other people’s stuff will do that to you.

And perhaps Monkey can pick up Merlin’s discarded magic wand:

From: b——@gmail.com
Subject: ISO Monkey, the Electrician

Have small electrical upgrade job for him at Be Kind Farm.

Maybe Monkey can take some donkey pics while he’s there?

A YEAR AGO: Oh, Blake. We still miss you. It was so hard to say goodbye.

FIVE YEARS AGO: An early (and unpleasant) heat wave.

TEN YEARS AGO: An early appearance of the cat who would become my dear Henry Etta, here known as Grey Cat. I am so glad I brought her with me when I escaped from Oakhampton!

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   Apr 27

A Birthday to Remember


Birthday Girl

It was a postcard day as Megan and I headed to the beautiful Valley to pick up the equally beautiful Jessica for her birthday dinner. It had been a long time since we had driven in that part of the county, so we took our time admiring the springtime scenery. The rolling hills were still green with the winter’s rains, and wildflowers were everywhere: frilly pink rhododendrons, fiery orange California poppies, waxy white calla lilies, and lavender lilacs. The air was bright with birdsong and the vines hazed with new green leaves. Baby lambs and calves played in the meadows. Spring is a beautiful time of year here.

The destination for our somewhat belated celebration of Jessica’s 15th birthday was a charming inn perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean, allowing for spectacular views:

The restaurant itself is in a little corner of the inn’s lobby, overlooking the sea:

It is called Chez Marie, and you truly feel that you are chez Marie. Marie does the cooking and also acts as hostess, so you feel as if you are visiting her home. She is from Normandy, and her cooking shows her origins in the most delightful way.

I like how the menu tells you that they do not accommodate vegans (“sad rabbit food”, according to Jessica), gluten-free or other crazy diets. The gluten free loons would be missing out here, since freshly baked bread arrived at our table still hot, accompanied by fresh butter.

Megan and I started with the delicious French onion soup:

followed by delectable pork tenderloin in sauce Normandie, which included Calvados:

I have never had such tender pork. The sauce was delicious and not at all heavy. Marie says it’s because she doesn’t use flour. Jessica was delighted with her duck leg confit accompanied by cassoulet.

Marie gave us a dish of escargots in delicate phyllo cups in honor of Jessica’s birthday:

Both Jessica and Megan had never had escargots before, and both agreed that this was the perfect place to try them. They were replete with butter and garlic, and the correct texture and size. So often they are huge and rubbery. The phyllo cups were positively lacy.

All this was accompanied by what the menu calls two glasses of local wine, but which was really the server pouring wine all through the meal as soon as our glasses got a little low. Megan had to cut them off since she was driving. Jessica had apple cider instead, Marie observing that in France Jessica would have wine, but here…

We finished this memorable meal with profiteroles, Jessica’s adorned with a lit birthday candle. She considered her wish very carefully before blowing it out. If her wish was to return to Chez Marie on her next birthday, I’m pretty sure it will come true.

A YEAR AGO: Taking a day off.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A delightful day in the Village, followed by a delightful evening at the theater.

TEN YEARS AGO: Apparently I was being coerced to go to Florida.

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   Apr 23

Cheers

Replete with local history, we headed to the bookstore, where rumor had it that there had been an expansion. The building looked the same from the outside, but on the inside, we discovered some new rooms:

It was nice to have a little more room to move around, though it’s also nice to have the mild complaint that your local bookshop tends to be crowded.

We did some shopping for Jessica’s birthday, even though we knew we wouldn’t see her until after the great day itself. Erica has picked up a cooking gig that requires her attendance on weekends, and between that and the busy schedules of my siblings, there was no family party this year. I hasten to add that Jessica’s auntourage is taking her out to a fancy French dinner which will be followed by silly movies and a sleepover, and that there will be presents.

Our shopping was supervised by The Great Catsby himself:

The Great Catsby is approaching the venerable stage in his life, but like many of us in that situation, he still considers himself to be a kid, at least inside. And cats hide their age remarkably well. I have never seen one in need of Botox or plastic surgery.

After the bookstore, we looked around in the Village shops, getting some cute socks for Jessica (and me), and a beautiful bracelet for Megan. I valiantly resisted this set of champagne flutes:

even though they are the Suziest thing ever, and also some sparkly earrings. My birthday is coming up, though, and Megan can hook you up if you’re in a giving mood.

By then, it just happened to be opening time at our favorite seaside bar, conveniently located close to home. The drink du jour was berry vodka Collins:

It consisted of fresh strawberries muddled by the best mixologist in the world, blueberry vodka from a Van Gogh decorated bottle, some lemon-lime, a spritz of soda water, and ice. It’s springtime in a glass!

We toasted our happy day and the successful adjustment of my attitude, along with our little corner of the world and how lucky we are to live in it.

A YEAR AGO: Insomnia and extra work. For the first time in years, I am officially not working on Saturdays this summer.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A very welcome welcome home. I am often very thankful for that screen door!

TEN YEARS AGO: Reading over a slice of life in downtown Oakhampton, I have to wonder what the hell I was thinking when I moved there. Decision making is really not my strong suit.

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   Apr 20

Happy Birthday

Happy birthday to my blog! It turns 17 today. Kind of hard to believe I’ve been writing it that long.

Things have certainly changed since I first started. Back then, I lived in beautiful San Francisco, I was married, I owned a lovely apartment in the best neighborhood in town, and both of my parents were alive. I went to Europe at least once a year and had what is known of as “disposable income.” 17 years ago appears to have been the good old days.

Now none of those things is true and my life is very different. But I still have my siblings and I still have my blog. Thanks for coming along for the ride so far and sharing all the changes and surprises with me along this journey.

Here’s to the next year!

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   Apr 17

What’s Cookin’?

I was in dire need of an attitude adjustment. And some sister time.

Fortunately for me, the sun was shining after some late season rain, and Megan was available for an adventure. The ocean was sparkly and beautiful, accessorized with frilly white waves, and everything was swept clean by the recent storms. Rhododendrons were flaunting their pink and red blossoms, lilacs waved their heavy heads, and trees were hazed with new, translucent green leaves. Wildflowers drifted through the grass in the springtime sunshine.

The parking gods were smiling on Megan as they often do, and she pulled up right in front of the beautiful Kelley House:

There was a pop up exhibit of cookbooks, for that weekend only, and we were delighted to be able to see it. They ranged from the vintage:

to the modern:

I was entertained by the title of this one:

Megan pointed out that in those days, cookbooks also informed women how to run their households and treat illnesses. They had the cure for the common cold back then. You hold your feet to the fire. “If done soon enough, this will prevent any cold.” Good to know.

For those who didn’t get to the fire soon enough, or had more exotic ailments, there were more exotic remedies:

Many of these included delightful ingredients like morphine and cocaine. The docent, Ray, mentioned that his family owned the apothecary in town when the Kelley House was built. Some of the bottles (and the remedies themselves) came from his family’s shop.

Ray told us that Dick’s, the bar on Main Street right near the Kelley House, is the oldest continuously operating bar on the West Coast. He said others are older, but they shut down during Prohibition. Dick’s* stayed open, serving cough syrup that was 40% alcohol and supplied by Ray’s helpful ancestors.

Megan and I were enraptured by Ray’s tales of the past, which is his family’s history, too. His forefathers were original settlers, along with the Kelleys, and his family has lived here ever since, a rare distinction.

He told us that the beautiful Daisy Kelley, whose cookbook is seen above and whose gorgeous nearby home is now a lovely inn, was the first non-Asian woman to set foot in Japan. She inconveniently fell in love with her father’s bookkeeper, who, as a tradesman, was not considered a suitable spouse for her. So her parents shipped her off on a round the world tour, where she was allowed to visit the closed country of Japan.

The Kelley family was no stranger to scandalous marriages, their son having married one of the maids. Surprisingly, the fact that she was Irish and Catholic was more objectionable to his parents than the fact that she was a) the help; and 2) already pregnant.

On her return home, the headstrong Daisy married her bookkeeper, and they had a long and happy marriage. At home, Daisy taught women to read and write in the Women’s Study Club (still in existence today!), and abroad, she was present at the opening of King Tut’s tomb. For all her travels, Daisy always returned here, “the most beautiful spot on God’s green earth”. She should know!

*That same day, Dick’s was also the venue for an informal wake for the wonderful Marty Simpson, who passed away recently at an unseemly age. He led us on a memorable cemetery tour recently as JD Johnson, the Victorian contractor (and undertaker) and was a treasure house of local knowledge and lore. A real loss for our little community.

A YEAR AGO: Celebrating our beloved Jessica’s birthday.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Some ups and downs in San Francisco.

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   Apr 13

Finally

I am pleased to report that the mattress nightmare is finally over!

Like particularly capricious dates, they kept standing me up at the last minute. This happened twice. The day and time was set, and then the night before, I’d get a call saying something had come up and they couldn’t make it after all. Each time, they would defer the fictitious pick up to the following week.

The first time this happened, I was annoyed. The second time it happened, I was enraged. Like the great Ramona Quimby*, I made a great big noisy fuss (though unlike Ramona, I did it via email rather than in person). I didn’t expect anything to come of it other than relieving my feelings, so imagine my surprise when they contacted me to tell me that the pick up was going to theoretically happen a mere two days after it was supposed to, instead of ten days. They also refunded all the money on the spot, which may have been the most surprising thing of all.

The date selected was Saturday, which also happened to be the day after the giant storm, or “atmospheric river”, as the weather men call it. So that made me even more dubious that they would show up.

I went about my regularly scheduled cooking marathon (braised chicken with goguchang; smothered pork chops; curried chickpeas), and much like lighting a cigarette at a bus stop, they turned up in the midst of it all, announced by Mark’s herd of canine doormen. Once again I had to convince the delivery men that the dogs were all bark and no bite.

It didn’t take them long to remove the mattress and be on their rainy way. I felt like a curse had been lifted from the house. I temporarily abandoned cooking operations and went upstairs to unfurl the new and hopefully improved mattress and leave it to puff up and recover while I finished the cooking.

Later, I went back upstairs and made the bed. I discovered that what I thought was a pair of pillow shams was in fact only one, so I ordered another one and used the old ones for now. I also discovered that they new sheets I ordered were not quite the same green as the new comforter set, but that’s the hazard of ordering online. They are 800 thread count, so they feel great, and with the bed all made up, you can’t really tell that they aren’t the right shade:

The new mattress also feels great, being a pillow top memory foam. It has the cloud of bliss feeling I was looking for. Thanks to all of you who recommended memory foam. I should have asked you in the first place, instead of relying on my ever unreliable judgment. It does make me wonder, though, how one mattress can possibly be worth about a billion dollars more than another. In this case, the cheap one felt a billion times better than the super expensive one. Maybe I’m just a cheap date.

*I am delighted to note that Ramona’s creator, Beverly Cleary, just turned 102 yesterday!

A YEAR AGO: A rather wintery spring.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A busy but happy Saturday.

TEN YEARS AGO: Meetings and music.

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   Apr 09

Le Deluge

The calendar may say April, but the weather says otherwise. On Friday, I made my way to work through the government-mandated darkness in what was probably the worst storm of the season. The car-eating ditches bordering the Ridge had long since flooded the roadway, so I drove at an extremely sedate pace down the middle.

Visibility was pretty poor, so I kept to a snail’s pace even after reaching the highway. This turned out to be a good decision, since I came around one of the many curves to find a rock slide and what appeared to be the root end of part or all of a tree in the road. Some of the rocks were positively boulder-sized.

It didn’t take long for the Road to Civilization to flood and close. No more tourists for a while!

The local message boards were abuzz with rainfall totals over the 24 hour period, ranging from 5.5 to more than 6 inches. And it just kept coming. My hippie hovel sprang a couple of new leaks, and the Lone Tulip of the Apocalypse was unable to weather the storm:

I can’t remember the last time it rained this hard for this long, especially so late in the season. Surprisingly, the power has not gone out at home all winter (though it did at work, and if I had to pick, that would be my choice). I also can’t remember the last time that happened, if it ever did.

We are slated to get still more rain this week. It seems the Groundhog was correct and then some!

A YEAR AGO: Family dinner with a special guest star.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Something beautiful for everyone.

TEN YEARS AGO: Musical legends and legendary friends.

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   Apr 03

Sprung

Spring has definitely sprung. The overachiever is flaunting what is probably its final flower of the season:

as the outdoor garden tries to catch up. I noticed that the jasmine is budding, if not blooming just yet, and that the peony bush is making an appearance. I should probably get out there and do some fertilizing and maybe even some watering, though we are due for rain later this week. I guess I can’t always rely on the Almighty to do my chores for me.

There have been a couple of warm days already, including a couple where the temperatures were in the 70s when I got home, so they were probably around 80 degrees during the day. I had the balcony door open on those nights, and on one of them, I must not have closed it completely, since I woke up to a suspiciously quiet house.

The unusual quiet was due to the house being temporarily cat-less. They had sneaked out at some point during the night. When I turned on the back porch lights, there they were. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to see them, especially Clyde. Though Audrey is the undisputed winner of Survivor: Hooterville, I will likely never get over the loss of Clyde’s brother Roscoe and I never want to go through that again.

My recent carelessness was not limited to the home front. At work, I went to put my library book* in the car. I tossed my bag onto the passenger seat and closed the door, leaving me holding the book and realizing that I had locked my handbag in the car, since my habit is to press the door button rather than the zillion dollar key fob in the hopes of not having to replace it.

So there I was, holding the book instead of the bag.

Fortunately for me, EMS is always close at hand. Even more fortunately, EMS was at our friend Lu’s nearby house, hanging out before her night shift. She was kind enough to bring me a spare key. I was on a conference call, and Megan dropped the key on my desk, observing, “Dork”, before getting back to her regularly scheduled life.

Sad, but true. It may or may not be a coincidence that I drove the 30 year old heap today. Even I can’t lock the keys in it, since it needs a key to lock the door from the outside. Sometimes you have to Suzy-proof your life.

*I have been asked to attend the next library Board meeting with a view to joining the Board. They seem to be fooled by my faux adult exterior, at least so far.

A YEAR AGO: Remembering Mom on her 85th birthday. Miss you, Mom!

FIVE YEARS AGO: A delightful breakfast at Queenie’s. There is no other kind.

TEN YEARS AGO: Yet another Calamity Suzy day. This year’s looks pretty good by comparison, actually. At least I no longer have to wear nylons.

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   Mar 31

Ins & Outs

The outdoor flowers may be underperforming, but the indoor amaryllis has been picking up its slack.

The overachiever amaryllis has a third bloom on it, whereas the underachiever managed one blossom and was long ago put away to rest and recuperate and hopefully bloom next year. In its defense, though, it did jump off the shelf in despair – or was it pushed? – and that affected both the lifespan and overall jauntiness. I’m sure being right next to the overachiever, flaunting its seemingly endless and giant flowers, didn’t help either.

The line between indoors and outdoors is always somewhat blurred at Stately Suzy Manor, which is one of the reasons that Mark was performing surgery on the somewhat odd kitchen sink drainage system one sunny afternoon.

My house was hand built by a hippie back in the day. He was an artist and eccentric, who bent all the redwood himself by hand to create its characteristic upside down rowboat shape:

So you will probably not be surprised to hear that the kitchen sink drains into a sort of cement pan under what I rather optimistically call the back porch, though it is in fact just some wooden slats hammered together, seen here being modeled by our lovely spokescat, the Adorable Audrey Grey:

The outside shower also drains into this, and then into a pipe that snakes its way invisibly (which is somewhat surprising) to the nearby woods, where it empties into a ditch. I am guessing that the indoor shower might also hook up to the exit pipe at some point, though I’m not sure. The indoor bathroom was a later addition after the house’s architect went to the great drafting board in the sky.

So occasionally the pipe gets plugged and backs up into the cement pan, which in turn smells less than delightful. Mark basically snaked out the exit pipe and dug the ditch a little longer and deeper and everything was back to what passes for normal around here after he sluiced out the cement pan.

Needless to say, the dogs were extremely interested in the grossness of it all, as dogs are. They spend a fair amount of time at my house, greeting me when I come home from work and cruising by for petting when the mood strikes them, and I have gotten quite attached to whole herd of them, from the grande dame Luna to giant puppy Kovu.

While Mark was working on the drainage system and shooing the dogs away (or attempting to), he told me that he is planning to move to Southern California. He has a thriving business selling succulents on the interwebs, and says the plants will do better in a warmer climate. He is hoping I can take over responding to customer emails and maybe write a blog for him.

I’m happy to do that, but I am really sad to lose Mark and his family:

as my neighbors. I love knowing we are there for each other. Mark’s sister-in-law and her husband will still live here, but it won’t be the same. I will really miss the dogs, too. The thought of their not being there to greet me – and to keep the property safe from monsters, as they do with their patrolling – makes me sad.

I guess we’ll see what happens. In the meantime, I will enjoy my neighbors’ friendship and pet the dogs as much as I can.

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   Mar 27

Flowering

As March draws to a close, it continues its wintry ways, with late-season rain – though probably not enough for a Miracle March this year – and chilly temperatures. It’s been frosty, even at the coast, and the last storm we got was the stormiest of the season. Maybe it’s a last hurrah and I will wake up one day to find it’s 80 degrees out.

I took advantage of a break between the storms to have a look around the garden.

The many tulips I planted so hopefully last Thanksgiving have dashed those hopes. It’s nearly April and so far I have one, rather mutated tulip:

which I have been calling The Lone Tulip of the Apocalypse. The other plants haven’t budded at all, though they have stunted leaves. Something clearly went wrong, though I don’t know what. What I do know is that I did not get the flowers and color I hoped for in February, when you really need it.

The usually reliable orchids have barely begun to bud:

Normally, they flower in February and look beautiful for several weeks.

The red camellia bush has finally produced two very shy blossoms:

but that’s it so far.

The volunteers, however, are doing just fine. These pretty blue flowers just appeared under the Japanese maple. They may be hyacinths:

They certainly smell wonderful.

And these pale little daffodils, or possibly narcissus, have been blooming for several years in the wine barrel that also houses the jasmine vine:

I am pleased to report that the purple honeysuckle is very happy in its present location, right beside the jasmine. They have exhibited exemplary teamwork, with the jasmine climbing up to cover the balcony railings, and the honeysuckle slowly spreading across the lattice to hide the garbage and recycling bins from sight, if not from bears and dogs. So at least one of my garden dreams more or less came true.

A YEAR AGO: A lovely visit to the South Coast.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Ugh. Divorce paperwork.

TEN YEARS AGO: A book report.

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   Mar 22

Limbo

It was a long and nervewracking drive to work this morning in the stormy darkness (thank you, Daylight Savings Time!). The rain was sluicing down and it was super windy, so the roads were littered with branches and the Ridge was semi flooded with its deep ditches overflowing across the road. I pulled over at the firehouse, about three miles from my house, since I could barely see the road and it was like driving through a waterfall. I waited until it slowed down enough to see the road, and then went slowly on my way. There was a big slide at Dark Gulch, with rocks strewn all over the road. It’s more like winter three days into “spring” than it was in actual winter.

The mattress saga continues. If I ever tell you I’m getting a new one ever again, I expect you to stage an intervention for my own good.

I decided to send back the new mattress, since its enjoyability did not even come close to matching its staggering sticker price. But I had to find another one to replace it before I could send it back, which required more research and decision-making, which is clearly not one of my few and trivial talents.

I chose one which has a pillow top and memory foam, showing that my dream of cloud-like comfort has not completely vanished. It arrived quickly, but did not fit into Wednesday’s trunk or back seat. So I heaved it onto the roof of the car and drove very slowly down the potholed and puddly driveway. Arriving home, the herd of Mark’s dogs came to inspect the new arrival, but declined to lend a paw in getting it into the house.

Audrey and Clyde greeted the arrival of a new box with the joy it deserves. I don’t think there is a cat anywhere who does not enjoy a good box.

I set about trying to return the new, now demoted to old, mattress. Of course this was harder than I anticipated, and I have yet to try out the new and hopefully improved mattress. Supposedly the old one will be picked up next Friday, which seems like a very long time from now. And since it took so long to even arrange the pick up, I will have to make a payment for something I am returning, even though I will (allegedly) get the payment back once the old mattress is deported.

I feel that I should have learned a valuable lesson or three from this, but all it has really done is highlight my utter lack of decision making ability and remind me of how very faux an adult I am. Maybe I should only spend that kind of money on things that sparkle.

A YEAR AGO: Some happy surprises came my way.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Country roads, take me home…

TEN YEARS AGO: A really good mail day.

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   Mar 19

Birthday Party

It may be appropriate that the days leading up to Dad’s birthday had such English weather, raining like crazy one minute, sunny the next, then hailing. Inland, there was snow, and it seems that all this late season precipitation may help to keep us from drought status.

Fortunately, the sun was peeking through the clouds when Megan and I arrived at our favorite seaside bar, which had been closed for nearly a month to repair its floors and opened just in time for Dad’s birthday eve. Strawberry margaritas were the special of the day, and what could be more festive than that? Especially since they were the size of young swimming pools:

Dad’s birthday fell on a Saturday this year, the perfect day for family dinner. I seemed to be feeling the occasion this year, since I polished the silver napkins which are engraved either “Madame” or “Monsieur”, and Megan hauled down both the big chest of Grammie’s ivory-handled silver and the little chest containing the ivory-handled fish set. The fish set was presented to Grammie by Daddy’s Daddy on the Christmas before their wedding. There is a little slip of paper inside which reads, “To Marjory, from her loving fiancé Ernest. Christmas, 1923”. I treasure that little piece of paper*.

I put all this, the grocery shopping I had done for dinner, and the first two seasons of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” into a box to bring over to Rio’s place, where the party would be held. Jonathan really wanted to watch the Hitchcocks on the Predicta after dinner. We made our way through the winding woods to Rio’s place, where I set to work as Jonathan and Megan fetched home-made cider.

Here is the menu.

Not listed, but still appreciated, were the tarts Jonathan and Rio made from the peaches we grew and froze last year:

They were as delicious as they look.

Rio’s kitchen is much more reasonable than mine, and although it was unfamiliar, it was pretty easy to make dinner there. Also, the kitchen is open to the living and dining areas of the house, so we could chat as I cooked and asked where things were as Gilbert & Sullivan played cheerfully in the background. Dad loved G&S, and used to sing it merrily despite being tone deaf and having a singing voice to match. He was actually removed from music class at school and sent to learn woodworking, which was more useful to him (and us), since he built bookshelves in every house we ever lived in.

Here’s the salad, with a fork from Grammie’s fish set, along with the napkin rings and the regular silver:

And here is the pilau, in progress on the stove:

It was a good dinner. I was glad to cook from Dad’s cookbook and to enjoy the company of my much-loved family while reminiscing about Daddy. The old man wasn’t so bad!

*When Dad and I were in Russia in 1992, his wallet was stolen. Dad kept all of his money in his money in a money belt when traveling abroad, so the thieves only got a credit card which Dad promptly canceled before they could use it**. But the wallet did contain a little hand-written prayer that his mother had given him on the day he went off to university, and that he had carried with him ever since. That was all he cared about.

**He once had a credit card stolen and waited a few weeks to report it, since the thief was spending less than my mother did.

A YEAR AGO: Celebrating Dad’s birthday in many different ways.

FIVE YEARS AGO: An early start to Dad’s birthday. And some cooking, of course.

TEN YEARS AGO: A menu meal for Dad’s birthday.

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   Mar 16

Once (or Twice) Upon a Mattress

Decision-making is not my forte. I tend to wait until a course of action becomes inevitable and then just go along with it, like the artist Edgar Degas, who believed we were all just “corks* in a stream” and that life was just a random series of events.

If I do make a decision, it almost always turns out to be the wrong one. You know, like getting married. And selling my apartment for a pittance just a few years before it was worth well over a million dollars. And moving to Oaktown. I could go on, but you get the gist. What was I thinking?

Maybe it’s only having two brain cells.

In my finite wisdom, I decided that it was time to replace my ancient Ikea mattress. In my defense, I have had it well over a decade, which is past the normal lifespan of a mattress, and resorted to mattress pads and a featherbed to make it more comfortable. I did a fair amount of research and settled on one that had new technology and rave reviews. I confirmed that they would deliver to what my beloved stepmother used to call “the back of beyond” and that they understood how long it would actually take to drive here from the Bay Area.

It also cost about a billion of my hard-earned dollars, but I had decided – there’s that word again! – that it was an investment in better sleep and hopefully an at least marginally improved Suzy.

So I was pretty excited.

Delivery Day arrived, and the truck pulled up within its delivery window. Its arrival also released the hounds, and it took some persuading to get the delivery guys to get out of the truck and into the midst of Mark’s flock of enthusiastic and enthusiastically barking dogs. The dogs failed to eat the delivery guys, living up to my claim that while there was considerable bark, there would be no bite.

They dragged the heavy new mattress upstairs, removed the old one, and went on their dog-free way back to Civilization.

I couldn’t wait to make up the new bed with the new comforter set I had bought for the occasion, which as you can see got the Audrey seal of approval:

Audrey’s opinion is always important, but since she spends most of the day on the bed getting her beauty sleep, it’s especially important when it comes to new bedding.

With promises of fabulousness dancing in my head, I got into bed under the Audrey-approved covers, and…meh. Rather than the cloud of blissful comfort I expected for the exorbitant price, it was unyielding and implacable, much like Audrey herself. I did not wake up notably more refreshed, or wake up less, either. Nor was it a haven of bliss.

I have to admit I was pretty disappointed. Yes, it met my usual goal of less crappy. It is much less crappy than a decade old Ikea mattress. But it also cost about 100 times as much, and is not 100 times better. And I spent a bunch of money on something that is not wonderful. I steeled myself to spend the money to indulge myself in a luxury, and it’s not. All that money and no enjoyment.

I have 100 days to return it, but now my decision deficient mind has to decide whether to keep the horribly overpriced yet utterly underwhelming mattress, ort search for another one when I have lost what little faith I ever had in my mattress buying acumen.

The entire process is additionally hampered by the fact that the delivery guys took away the old mattress, so if I do get another one, I have to do it before I convince the delivery guys to risk life and limb to come back and pick up the expensive mattress. No matter what I do, it’s going to be a hassle. And whatever I decide will undoubtedly be the wrong thing. Maybe I should be like George on Seinfeld and do the opposite of my instincts, and everything will turn out fine.

As so often happens in life, none of these options are appealing. What do you think? Some of you must be better decision makers than I am!

*It turns out Degas was something of a cork expert, or at least a cork aficionado, since he stuffed his statues with used wine corks.

A YEAR AGO: The local message boards were all aflutter about birds.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Almost time for Dad’s birthday. I still miss him so much, even after 17 years!

TEN YEARS AGO: It looks like I was counting down to the Sex & the City movie, but the post is having technical errors.

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   Mar 12

Dark & Light

Zombie Monday wasn’t as bad as I had feared, at least physically. I felt fine, despite getting up at 4:00 am, disguised as 5:00 am, and hating the fact that I was plunged back into darkness on my way to work, yet again needing a flashlight to get to the car and high beams once I was in it.

The animals in Hooterville apparently did not get the memo that the humans were doing something stupid again, since the skunks, deer, and rabbits were going about their usual business by the side of the road as I drove by and startled them. I will never understand why we put up with this craziness twice a year.

Work has been crazy, too, with more drama than my two brain cells can comfortably handle, and winter is trying to make up for skipping most of the season by jamming all the rain into two weeks, the rain version of summer school.

So it’s pretty much been gloomy inside and out, which made it the perfect time to go and see Angelika and get both the inner and outer Me looking and feeling brighter.

I dashed into her little salon in the big woods, where everything smelled like soothing lavender and there was soft music and a smiling Angelika. This time, we decided to go a little lighter, and thanks to Megan putting 100 “Angelika Bucks” in my stocking, my wallet was not lighter.

My spirits were, though. Angelika is such a wonderful, positive person and being around her always makes me happy.

On my way home, I was behind the school bus on the rainy Ridge, and I saw a little girl get off the bus. She was quite small and wearing a little white wool cap. Her father met her at the foot of their driveway, and enfolded her little body into a big hug. I could see her hugging back and their dog bouncing around joyously, wagging his tail. How’s that for a welcome home?

Back home, I discovered a formerly festive red skirt lying forlornly in the yard:

Sometimes I wonder what goes on around here when I’m at work. Mark’s herd of dogs gave me my own enthusiastic and muddy greeting, so there were at least two happy girls on the Ridge that afternoon.

A YEAR AGO: Of cats and dogs.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Trying to get divorced.

TEN YEARS AGO: Nothing worked, except me, of course.

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   Mar 08

Leaps & Bounds

It’s been chilly lately, the grass by the side of the road furred with frost most mornings. In the winter, I only use hot water in the shower, since the well water is so cold and the flash heater, positioned outside the house instead of inside, where it belongs, can only get the water so hot. It’s been months of barely acceptable showers, bordering on the intolerable, which made the truly hot shower at the hotel last week so enjoyable (though I kept burning myself on the hot water any time I used it, being used to water that needs to run for a while to even get warm. You know you’re a bumpkin when….).

We got a few inches of rain over the past few days, and some hail, too. We are slated to get more rain on and off over the next two weeks. It’s like winter finally realized that time was running out and it had better get going before it was too late. We’ve gotten about a third of the rain this year that we did last year, and the Sierra snowpack, which provides much of the water in northern California, is way below expectations. Anyway, we all know that March is the secret winter month no-one talks about.

We were getting a break from the rain on Sunday, when Megan, Rio, and I headed to the beautiful South Coast to see the ballet. Not having to drive allowed me to enjoy the passing scenery as well as our conversation. The ocean was calm and deep blue, birch trees were hazed with new leaves and the rolling hills and grass beside the road were winter green. Fields blazed with blooming mustard plants and cows showed off their new spring babies under the witchy, wind-swept cypress trees.

We skipped our usual pilgrimage to Anchor Bay Thai Kitchen, since a Facebook post had alerted us to the fact that they were unexpectedly closed that day, to our disappointment. The next ballet is the last of the season and is during my birthday week in June, so I have decided to attempt making my own. I have tamarind paste and curry paste, so look out!

We had our favorite balcony seats to enjoy the Bolshoi Ballet’s Flames of Paris being streamed from Moscow to the little Art Deco theater in Point Arena. The ballet was wonderful and dramatic, the story of two sets of lovers set against the backdrop of the French Revolution. There was a scene set in the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, which included a ballet within a ballet and breathtaking costumes on the royal couple and courtiers, particularly the men’s embroidered coats.

It was originally written in the late ‘20s, and I think they were quite inspired by a monarchy being toppled by a republic at that time, since Russians had recently done the same thing. My favorite male dancer, Igor Tsvirko, was absolutely magnificent and gravity-defying, and the pas de deux were stunning. We had a wonderful time, but we were all shocked by the ending*.The last ballet of the season is Coppélia on June 10, my birthday week. Later that month is Macbeth, streamed from the National Theatre in London. Lots to look forward to!

*The lovely aristocrat Adeline is guillotined, and her head dropped in the lap of her lover Jérôme. How’s that for an ending – for Adeline and the ballet?

A YEAR AGO: I was sick and being shunned by the cats. What’s not to hate? Oh, and it was raining then, too. A lot.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Taking our beloved Schatzi to the vet for a check-up. I still miss that wonderful girl, and her boyfriend Yellow Dog still trots by my house, looking for her. She was remarkable.

TEN YEARS AGO: Politics were annoying me. They still are. It seems that not much has changed in the past year, five years, or decade.

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