Suzy Says

Radio Nowhere

   Sep 22


When we last saw our heroine, the right side of her formerly lovely face was swollen up like the Great Pumpkin. She figured she should give the antibiotics time to work, and the swelling would go away. As so often happens, she was wrong about this, because the swelling mutated overnight and started creeping under her lip.

Of course, it was a Friday, and rather than the prospect of the weekend being a happy one, it was a frightening abyss of no available dental services other than the dreaded and expensive ER. Dr. Megan nagged her resistant sister into going to the walk-in clinic at the clinic where she works. The doctor examined her with that fascinated look on his face that doctors get when something is really horrible*, and prescribed another antibiotic to join the first one. This is not the kind of cocktail our heroine enjoys. He left the room with the cheery news that the itchy indignity of a yeast infection would almost certainly ensue**.

Hoping that the pharmacy staff didn’t suspect her of having a particularly resistant STD, our heroine picked up the second antibiotic. The pharmacist suggested applying ibuprophen instead of ineffective opiates to attempt to dull the pain, and this suggestion was actually helpful in dealing with the astronomical pain, though taking 2 antibiotics and 4 ibuprophen every 6 hours is suboptimal and not without its unpleasant side effects.

On Thursday, the dreaded endodontist appointment rolled around, the fifth dental appointment in two weeks, a personal best (or worst). It was 96 degrees in the County seat, versus 63 at the coast. The endodontist’s office was quite fancy, and staffed by girls with giant false eyelashes***. Sadly for our heroine, the Valium she had taken did nothing to allay her quite reasonable fears. It was hard not to cry as the endodontist spoke cheerfully about opening up the tooth. Or the fact that the procedure would take about an hour or more.

Despite the application of nitrous oxide, our heroine remained inconsolable as the operation proceeded, with its alarming noises, smells, and the sight of smoke rising before her horrified eyes****. That horror, however, was nothing compared to the bill. The Eyelashed One expected nearly $700 to be paid immediately. She expressed surprise that no one had informed our hapless heroine of this term and condition.

The solution was to get Care Credit. The charges would go on that account and have to be paid off within a designated number of months in order to avoid the 30% interest that would ensue. Other unwelcome news was that a crown was required to cover the root canaled tooth, and I seem to remember from the last time that this was in the Beverly Hills neighborhood of $900. Oh, and this is WITH dental insurance. Though mathiness is not our heroine’s strong suit, this means that she has to come up with around $1,500 while spending half of her monthly pittance on rent. It’s hard to see how this is economically feasible. It is not surprising that the long withheld tears where finally indulged in once the sanctuary of the car was reached.

There are still at least two dental appointments to come, so it’s not over yet.

*I will never forget visiting my ex-boyfriend, who was hospitalized for a raging case of meningitis, and going up in the elevator with two doctors. One said to the other, “You have to check out that meningitis case. All the classic symptoms! You gotta see it before he dies.” He didn’t die, but it was close.

**So far, the plague has not descended. That’s something to be thankful for.

***What is it with dental assistants and their false eyelashes? They are sported to a cartoonish degree among the dental assistants and receptionists where I work, too.

****When I mentioned this to Megan, she said, “Yeah…I didn’t want to tell you about that.”

A YEAR AGO: At the County Fair with our beloved Ben.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A triumphant Fair for Erica.

TEN YEARS AGO: The thrill of the sheepdog trials at the County Fair.

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   Sep 14


I’m coming to you from Dental Hell. I’ve been here since Sunday, and I really don’t recommend it. Stay away if you can!

On Sunday, the right, lower side of my mouth was bothering me. This was the site of the last filling, which took an hour and a half to complete, and which I thought was bad until I arrived in Dental Hell. The filling was a mere preview. I was up all night with the incredible pain on Sunday night. On Monday, I went to the dentist. They did x-rays and various tests. Although they could see that a different filling had popped off, they could also see that it wasn’t infected and was innocent of decay. They opined that I was grinding my teeth in my sleep and that’s what caused the filling to pop off.

They made an appointment for me to get impressions done for the indignity of a mouth guard, an unwelcome return to the retainer of my youth, and another for the filling. I began to wonder if they were going to charge me rent on top of my ever-escalating dental bills. They also gave me a prescription for painkillers, even though one of my recent life lessons was that despite their name, they do not in fact kill pain.

By the time the first appointment rolled around on Wednesday, it was clear that something was really wrong. Not only did the pain laugh merrily at the application of its would-be assassins, it had escalated to the point of being totally unbearable. If I ever wondered about my ability to stand up to torture, I no longer do. The right side of my face is swollen up like a seasonable Halloween pumpkin. Trick or treat!

I kept the appointment for the impressions. It is proof of how dreadful the pain was that the gagging and grossosity of the impressions process just seemed like nothing compared to the agony of what I now know is an infected tooth. The dentist prescribed a strong antibiotic and is going to refer me to an endodontist, who is of course located in the County Seat, which is a three hour round trip drive. So I get to look forward to doing that at least twice, once for a consultation and once for – gulp! – a root canal. If I weren’t in so much pain, I’d be horrified.

A YEAR AGO: Being a cat servant can be challenging.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Giving away dear Schatzi’s things. I still miss her.

TEN YEARS AGO: Ah, the strange dreams swirling through my head!

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   Sep 10


There were some breakthroughs in Kitty World this weekend.

First of all, they were all on the bed at the same time on Sunday morning:

On the weekends, I like to take my laptop back to bed with my coffee, and the cats decided to join me. Of course, they only do this kind of cute thing when the bed isn’t made. During this temporary Sabbath détente, Dodge gave Clyde a bath. Well, he licked Clyde’s neck about three times and Clyde let him. Roscoe used to do this, and I always found it endearing. I wonder if Clyde was reminded of his long-lost brother or if cats just don’t think like that.

Lately I have been wondering what Clyde is thinking more than usual. A couple of weeks ago, a guy with a big, noisy truck came to take away scrap metal at Megan and Rob’s. It definitely made a racket, in addition to breaking the (old, disused, and graffiti-covered) water tower at the turn off to their house along with a couple of trees here and there.

Clyde was out playing at the time, and hours later, had not come home. Needless to say, I was panicking as darkness fell. I put on the outside lights and kept calling him, even though he knows perfectly well where his house is and calling him makes no difference. He showed up around 9:30, to my immense relief.

Ever since then, he has been pretty much uninterested in going outside. I am keeping Dodge in while he gets used to his new home*, but Audrey is being let in and out by doorman services. Clyde goes out and either turns right around and comes back in, or comes back in about 10 minutes later. He is hanging out in his clubhouse a lot (aka the storage space over the bathroom), but otherwise seems normal. I’d love to know if it’s because of the truck trauma or if he is trying to make a point of establishing his territory now that Dodge is in it. Maybe it’s something else entirely.

Whatever the reason, I think they were playing yesterday, chasing each other around the house. No growling, hissing, or spitting involved. Audrey does still growl at Dodge, but interestingly, he simply sits there peacefully and gazes at her with his big blue eyes. He doesn’t hiss or growl, but he doesn’t back down, either.

Dodge also learned how to use the cat door which separates the house from the studio/cat cafeteria/cat salle de bains. I’m pretty sure he had never seen one before and he definitely seemed to find it weird, but he figured it out. Such a clever boy! It seems the vet was right about him being smart and curious.

*This is a whole new worry: how and when to introduce Dodge to the Wide World. He is used to living on the streets in town, not in the woods. Part of me wishes I could just keep him in forever.

A YEAR AGO: A lovely evening at a historic inn, both past and present.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Nothing like having a subpoena home delivered. I’d rather have pizza, thanks.

TEN YEARS AGO: At the gym in unsuitable footwear. And on a stranger’s lap.

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   Sep 06


I took a couple of days off around the Labor Day weekend, and I am pleased to announce that nothing horrible happened for a change. Faithful readers may remember that when I took time off last Labor Day, it was about 5,000 degrees every day, and when I went to Eureka over the Christmas holidays to meet up with friends, I got the Flu from Hell.

So I was a little worried about what might happen on this long weekend – being a worrier – but nothing untoward occurred, unless you count going through the two blanket chests from Megan’s house which supposedly contained Depression glass, but in fact contained 100% junk. It reminded me of when my brother and I cleaned out Mom’s storage in Santa Rosa and found that it was mostly junk, including a phone book from 1982 and an empty answering machine box. It did not make me happy to know I had been paying for years to store Mom’s crap collection.

I have admit that I was hoping for some of Nana’s square, emerald green plates and dishes, like these:

And in my heart of hearts, I was also hoping that maybe, just maybe, there might be a couple of the miniature creamers decorated with rabbits which we used to pour milk on our cereal at her house. Even though I never use milk. Such is the triumph of nostalgia over practicality.

Megan and Rob are out of their house and into their new home. It’s still hard to believe that they aren’t just down the secret path through the woods and huckleberry bushes. They are now in the throes of figuring out where to put everything. Unpacking is almost as much fun as packing when it comes to moving.

Our friend Carrie came up for the weekend with her daughter Miranda. It had been a whole year since they were here last! Erica and Jessica came by for a BBQ one night, full of plans to sell their property and move to British Columbia as soon as possible. I will miss them if they do move. At least we’ll see them at the Fair in a couple of weeks.

Clyde and Audrey are coexisting with Dodge. I think Dodge would like to play with Clyde, but it’s going to take a little more time. Audrey will continue to disdain the interloper like she does everyone else. As long as there are no fights and the older cats are happy, I’m happy.

Included in the adoption fee was a free exam at any local vet, so Dodge got the once-over from Dr. Susan*, Dr. Karen’s partner. She said in 30 years of veterinary practice, she had never seen a cat with markings like Dodge’s. She believes he is a pure-bred Siamese, and that he is very smart and curious. Here he is, exploring his new home:

She was also impressed by how friendly and affectionate he is. So other than needing his fur to grow back and to put on weight, he is in good shape. She agrees that he is around two years old. I wonder what his story is. I guess we’ll never know, but it has a happy ending.

*He’s lucky he didn’t end up being a boy named Sue, considering all the Susans in his life: the one that found him, the one that adopted him, and the one who gave him a check-up.

A YEAR AGO: Having a great time with family and friends.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Lounging in the fabulous spa in Reno.

TEN YEARS AGO: Oh, Ray. I think I miss you most of all. In fact, you may be the only thing I miss about Oaktown.

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   Aug 29


I am pleased to announce there is a new member of the family. Meet Dodge!

A stray cat followed my coworker Susan* home from the Dodge dealership. He was so friendly that he chased after her like a dog, and she eventually picked up and carried him for a couple of blocks to her house. She couldn’t keep him, so she took him to the shelter.

At the shelter, they found that he had no microchip. He was skinny and starved, and had lost a lot of fur due to fleas and a violent, Audrey-style flea allergy, but was otherwise OK. They guessed he was about two years old.

I called them to let them know I was interested in meeting him. They told me that they had found his owner. I said I was glad for him, which I was, though I was also a little disappointed. I told myself that it wasn’t meant to be.

The shelter called back not 15 minutes later to tell me that they made a mistake and he was still available. I went to meet him, and after much debating with myself, I decided to adopt him. Mostly I was concerned about making eight year old Clyde and eleven year old imperious Audrey upset. Also, and I know this sounds a little crazy, it was like admitting that my adored Roscoe was really, truly gone. Putting out Roscoe’s old dish made me burst into tears unexpectedly.

While I was having my little meltdown, Dodge was hiding somewhere in the studio. But he didn’t hide for long. He is the most affectionate and friendly cat I have ever met. He has a way of jumping against you while rubbing against you that I find endearing. Here he is in the studio:

He now likes sleeping between the pillows and hanging out on the bed upstairs.
Audrey looks at him in disdain like she does everyone else. I am hopeful that Dodge and Clyde might be friends and playmates one day. They have touched noses and sniffed each other without hissing or growling. There’s still a long way to go, but I think it will work out in the end.

*There are a lot of us, but I have noticed that Susans tend to be what the French call “a certain age”. We are probably going extinct, since they aren’t making new ones.

A YEAR AGO: The horror of the worst heatwave ever.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Jim and Joel’s beautiful, inspiring wedding.

TEN YEARS AGO: Back from visiting my sister….where I now live.

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   Aug 22


The old man himself at Point Reyes, New year’s Day, 2000

I spent the morning of the Evil Eighteenth cooking, as I often do. Something about Dad’s birthday and deathday seem to inspire me to cook, wishing he was there with me. We never got in each other’s way in the kitchen, which is a rare gift. I always liked the fact that we knew where everything was in each other’s kitchens, and where to shop for dinner ingredients, whether in London or San Francisco.

That evening, Megan and I met Lu and her daughter at the theater to see “Becky’s New Car”. You may recall that our last outing was a little less than successful due to the rather unpleasant subject matter. I am pleased to report that this play was both funny and delightful, and that the cast was wonderful.

The special drink for this production was an unusual and delicious mixture of pomegranate schnapps, ginger bitters (both new ingredients to me), fresh orange juice, and champagne. We toasted Dad with this delightful confection, saying “The old man wasn’t so bad”. I think Dad would have approved of the way we spent that day and remembered him.

We had toasted the old man the evening before as well.

Megan’s new home arrived earlier than expected, and was moved to its permanent location after camping out on the (fortunately wide and capacious) driveway on the property for about a week. Our brother cobbled together enough electricity to pop out the pop outs and power the lights.

Megan also popped out the champagne – Roederer, no less – that evening when Lu and I arrived to toast her new home as well as the old man. The dogs are already feeling pretty much at home, though the household is in the awkward phase of being between here and there. Star and Stella were happy to flop on the couch:

Dad would be happy about that, too. Maybe we will start to think of this time of year being about happy new beginnings as well as sad endings. As the years go by, I feel less anger and sadness about losing Dad and more happiness that I had such a remarkable father who was also my best friend. The good memories tend to come to mind more than the sad ones. Though I will always miss him, I was lucky to have had him at all.

A YEAR AGO: Enjoying a drink and the view at my favorite seaside bar.

FIVE YEARS AGO: How to make the world’s most expensive peach pie.

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   Aug 17

One Week

Darkness is creeping back again. If it weren’t so foggy in the mornings this week, I would have put the high beams on. I am always glad to see the fog, though this summer, it hasn’t been as cool as I would like even when it is foggy. I can’t remember the last time I slept without the fans on. It’s not that it is exceptionally hot, just that it hasn’t been as cool as usual for the coast and never gets really cold at night the way it used to. Maybe it’s an anomaly and maybe it’s the new normal. Did you ever notice that anytime it’s a “new normal” it’s never good?

Hopefully this Fogust will not give way to a hellacious heat wave the way it did last year.

It’s been a long and dreary week for our heroine. It kicked off with a dental appointment, which is never a good way to start the week. No cavities this time, but unenjoyable nonetheless, especially since they insist on making an appointment for six months later before you leave, so you don’t even get to enjoy what Gilbert and Sullivan called “the gratifying feeling that our duty has been done.” It’s already hanging over you even though it’s next year, and you can’t really feel like you’ve checked it off your ever-expanding to do list.

Dental duty was followed by two long days. One had 4 hours of meetings in its 12 hours, and the other had setting up for and attending a work-related party/reception in its mere 10 hours. I’m not sure which of these was worse, but I do know when I got in the car 11 hours after I had gotten out of it, it all seemed a little too familiar.

Add in looking after my boss with some health issues and a Board meeting at the library and you have a week you are glad to see end.

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   Aug 13

Moving Along

As everyone who has ever moved knows, part of the whole lengthy and unpleasant process is going through all your stuff, discarding some and packing others. Megan and Rob are in the throes of this right now.

One of the things they no longer have space for is this charming tilt top table:

A friend of mine is a former antiques dealer (among other things; he also managed the households of the president of Princeton University and the American Embassy in Moscow), so I turned to him for help. He identified it as a reproduction of a Federal style of table, probably made in the late 1920s or early 1930s, used for playing cards or for a butler to serve tea in the glory days when one had a butler. He gave me a relatively modest value for it and agreed that the Kelley House Museum, where he volunteers, would likely be interested in taking it.

He connected me with the curator, and we agreed to meet at the Kelley House at 10:00 on Saturday morning. We arrived just about on time, but the Village was bustling with summer visitors, so Megan dropped me and the table off and went to park. I knocked on both the front and back doors, but got no response. We decided to wait with the table on the porch, admiring the view of the ocean, the pond, and the lovely gardens:

The museum opened at 11:00, and Megan asked the staff where we could find the curator. The answer was in the research office, the one door we had not knocked on. The curator emerged, saying “I thought you were sufficiently local to know I’d be in the research office.” Apparently I am below expectations in that regard, and likely many others. It’s probably in the public’s best interests that I no longer work at the local tourism board.

Megan got the tax receipt and we bid farewell to the little table. I hope we will see it again at an exhibit at the Kelley House. It is a lovely little piece, and a nice reminder of a more gracious and gentler time.

We took our insufficiently local selves to the bookstore, where The Great Catsby was taking a nap in the sun in one of the shop’s window seats. He now has a warning label*:

Catsby prefers the public’s adulation to be kept at a distance.

After the bookstore, we picked up some wood-fired pizzas, along with a delightful salad of local Baby Gem lettuce, wild blackberries, croutons, and shards of Parmesan with creamy garlic dressing. It was delicious and I am hoping to reproduce it at home.

Our next antique adventure will be unearthing our grandmother’s collection of Depression glass, currently stored in two blanket chests at Megan’s house. I suspect that it has been there since Nana died, 40 years ago. Stay tuned for the continuing adventures of Megan’s Big Move!

*It reads “Hi! I am a Grumpy Cat. Pet me at your own risk.” Maybe I should get one for my desk.

A YEAR AGO: Adventures in plumbing.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Spending some time with my sister’s beautiful dog Star. And missing the unforgettable Schatzi.

TEN YEARS AGO: Sneaking out of work to see a cool art exhibit.

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   Aug 08

Moving On

Every morning now I check the progress of the wildfires on the Cal Fire website. Overall, containment is up, but it seems that the Ranch part of the Mendocino Complex fire keeps losing containment. It’s down to 20% today. Overall, containment is at 46%. Full containment was originally projected for mid August but has been moved to September 1.

Today the air was smoky as well as foggy. Surprisingly, it’s the first time it’s been smoky since the wildfires began in late July. The forecast calls for a shift in the wind tomorrow to clear out the smoke. The Mendocino Complex is now the largest wildfire in recorded California history. My heart aches for our inland neighbors, going through this yet again after just a few short months.

So far, we are safe here on the coast. We are all working together to get Megan and Rob ready to move – next Saturday! Even though their current home is on the small side, there are many things that will not fit in their new abode and are being rehomed. One of these was a rather battered dresser which had been Megan’s since she was a kid:

It was worse enough for wear that she decided to give it away. I listed it on the local message boards and it was snapped up in about an hour by a guy who lived right down the Ridge. When he came to pick it up, he told me that he had helped James to bend the redwood to make my house’s distinctive shape.

Despite the diminutive size of Megan’s house, there seems to be a lot of stuff be sorted and disposed of. That’s what happens when you live in one place for 20 years. Megan observed that this is the only house she has lived in as an adult. She went from living with me during high school to living on a boat at Pier 39 to living in this house.

This is also the last of our homes where our parents spent any time. Dad visited there often, including the time he had a stroke between Megan’s house and what was then Jonathan’s house. He recovered, but died nine months later in London of medical malpractice. Megan’s house is where our mother spent the last few years of her courageous battle against breast cancer. We celebrated many Thanksgivings and Christmases there. When Megan closes that narrow front door for the last time, she will be closing the door on a long chapter of her life and many memories.

A YEAR AGO: A visit from our friend Carrie and a passel of quite excellent teens. They are coming back for Labor Day weekend!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Clyde’s encounter with the slobber monster. He seems to have avoided it ever since, and it had better stay that way. The fur where the injury was is notably white against his black fur.

TEN YEARS AGO: The walk in pharmacy and other Oaktown delights. I do miss Ray the Safeway guy, though.

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   Aug 04


Megan is moving! And she’s moving soon.

Our good friends and my siblings’ land partners, Dave and Jennifer, found a fabulous mobile home for sale down in the Bay Area, where Dave works during the week. They went to check it out with Megan and Rob one weekend and everyone liked what they saw. Dave, the expert negotiator, got a great deal on it which included delivery all the way to Hooterville.

However, delivery is slated for the 17th anniversary of Dad’s untimely death on August 18. This short time frame kicked preparations into high gear as Megan and Rob divest their tiny house of 20 years’ worth of things and stuff. Don’t forget that every time Rob went to the dump, he acquired a project or two, so that’s a lot of stuff over two decades. It is surprising how much stuff one little 450 square foot house can contain. Also how much you can get of rid of and still have more stuff to deal with. I think I noticed this same unlovely phenomenon when I escaped from Oakhampton several years ago.

It will all be worth it, though, since the new place is lovely. Here’s the living room:

And a peek at the kitchen:

Sadly, the kitchen is just about as low on counter space as their current home, but they are used to that and Rob has some clever ideas of how to work around it.

The bedroom has closets! I have heard of these mythical things, but my sister and brother-in-law will actually have one:

The bathroom even has a tub:

They may find they have a semi-permanent guest who lounges in their bathtub and luxuriates in the central heat and air conditioning. Air conditioning! My dream come true!

A YEAR AGO: Coming home to a couple of surprises.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A lovely day in the Village.

TEN YEARS AGO: Remembering wonderful summers in Maine. Those were the days!

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   Jul 29


It’s not looking good

It was a tough week. With prep for the annual staff day, the day itself, and the aftermath, I logged too many hours of overtime this week, all of it while still in the throes of my my aching back. I was very glad when Friday evening finally arrived. Just as I was settling down to watch Armored Car Robbery, starring the luckless William Talman*, my own luck ran out when the power did.

Usually the power goes out during winter storms, when wind and rain wreak havoc on power lines. But it was the dead of summer, with blue skies. Possibly an overserved driver had an unexpected meeting with a power pole. Whatever caused it, my admittedly modest plans for a fun Friday evening were cancelled.

I dug out one of the solar powered lanterns and immersed myself in Convenience Store Woman to wait it out. Erica texted me that the power was out from Yorkville to Albion, not a good sign. I was thrilled when the power came back on after a few hours, even though it was too late to watch the movie.

Imagine my surprise and displeasure when it went out again last night, waking me up shortly after I had drifted off to sleep. I called my buddies at PG&E’s outage line, and was unsurprised but still disheartened to learn that I was the first one to report it. Erica’s was out, too.

I slept fitfully, tossing and turning with the kind of dozing you do on planes, where you are aware of what’s going on around you. The power came back on after 3:00 am, and later I learned from the local message boards that “50,000 customers in Mendocino and Lake Counties were out of power beginning at about 10:30 Saturday night. The outage was caused by heavy smoke around transmission lines, such heavy smoke that it became a conductor of electricity, shorting out
transmission lines.”

Note that the entire population of Mendocino County is about 90,000. As you can see from the map above, California is basically on fire. We have two in our County, the River Fire and the Ranch Fire. They are each only about 5% contained and there have been evacuations. There are and have been a lot of fires this early in the season and it’s hard not to feel that climate change played a part. Also that as scary as it is now, it will only get scarier.

*Not only did Talman play the ever-losing Hamilton Burger on “Perry Mason”, he lost that job when police raided a drug-laden party at which Talman and the other guests were nude. He was also arrested as a teenager when he crashed a car he didn’t know was stolen, killing his passenger. Talman died of lung cancer at a mere 53 years old.

A YEAR AGO: Surviving the annual Hell Day at work. Now all I have to dread is the holiday party.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Helping Jim and Joel plan their wedding.

TEN YEARS AGO: Getting lost in the wilds of Berkeley.

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   Jul 23


Step right up!

I was glad to see the red and white striped tent appear in the Village, since it could only mean one thing: Flynn Creek Circus was back in town!

Megan and I had bought tickets well in advance, and when the day arrived, we were both in somewhat bad moods after a long week and unpleasant financial news for both of us (if you think you can’t be any more broke than you already are, surprise! You can!), so to tell the truth we didn’t really feel like going. But I’m glad we did, because the wonders of these artistes banished all our cares and blew what was left of our minds.

Megan’s parking karma held as we parked nearby in a location from which we would later make a quick getaway while others were struggling to make their way onto the highway. As an added bonus, her headlights worked, so we didn’t have to annoy our neighbors by driving home with high beams.

The tent was crowded, and in the way of small towns, one of my co-workers was sitting in front of us, and the latest in the long series of CEOs of the jobette was seated behind us. He didn’t know that I knew who he was. Unfortunately, he was with a posse of his rich, entitled friends, and they proceeded to talk through the entire performance, with Mr. CEO constantly screaming “Woo!” and “Yeah!” into my aching ear. If the show hadn’t been sold out, we would have moved to escape the endless audio onslaught.

Despite that annoyance, we focused on the show, a new one which took placed on a ship captained by a sparkly mermaid:

It started with graceful knife throwing and juggling, followed by a girl who balanced a hula hoop on her head while spinning others on her arms and body. It’s like the laws of gravity do not apply to Flynn Creek Circus.

The Daring Jones Duo did their amazing trapeze act:

If you’re wondering about the feathers, they were dressed as seabirds visiting the ship. And this sparkling artist performed aerial stunts far above us:

Possibly the most amazing part of all the amazing acts was the guy who was not content to merely walk a tightrope. He also did somersaults, flipped backwards, and spun in the air, then landed on the narrow rope. I found a brief video to give you an idea of the wonders.

There were also three gravity-defying artists who sort of bounced sideways off a rubber wall and landed on top of it, or seemed to sort of be suspended in space, or bounced mind-bogglingly high. It’s hard to explain but was enthralling to watch. You can see a little bit of that in the video, too.

When the magic was over, the artists formed a receiving line at the exit so we could shake their hands and tell them how amazing the show was. It was a nice personal touch. All in all, yet another wonderful evening at the unforgettable Flynn Creek Circus.

A YEAR AGO: A less than stellar day.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The results of Schatzi’s DNA test. 50% pit bull, 100% wonderful. I still miss that girl.

TEN YEARS AGO: The glamorous lives of the wealthy (in novels). Not me (in real life).

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   Jul 18


I am coming to you from my couch, instead of my office, where just this Monday I was surprised by the unexpected appearance of beach lavender in my sea urchin dish:

Beach lavender was a new flower to me. It’s like upscale baby’s breath, with little purple flowers. I also found a bag of still-warm chocolate chip cookies on my desk, so as Mondays go, not too bad.

Except for the horror of my lower back pain.

The LBP started on Sunday, when I was on the phone with our good friend Paul. You will be glad to hear that he is doing just fine, and that like every other summer for the past 20 years, this will be the last one he will work in the Hamptons. Suddenly, my lower back made its displeasure known, and after I said goodbye to Paul, I took to the couch with the heating pad.

On Monday, I went to work, even though getting dressed was an adventure and I kept praying that I wouldn’t have to brake, since lifting my leg to move it to the brake was so uncomfortable. I made my crab-like way through the day, but the back spasms were horrible by the time I got home.

It soon became clear that getting in and out of bed, not to mention turning over once I was in it, were no longer possibilities. So I have moved operations to the couch, where I have been ever since, equipped with heating pad, lots of pillows, the fascinating Victorians Undone, and the delightful reboot of Will & Grace, which thankfully undoes the egregious errors of the final seasons, so that Will and Grace are child-free and Stan is still around, though we still have to endure an appearance by the ever-awful Minnie Driver. But Karen is still rich, married to Stan, and gloriously Karen.

So I have missed two days of work due to illness, which makes me feel guilty, especially since I just had the horrible cold from hell about a month ago, and the worst flu in 20 years 6 months before that. I feel like I’m falling apart.

I have been keeping up with my emails, both work and personal, and thus learned of the loss of my former mother-in-law, Marj, seen here with John’s Dad Ed at their lovely home on Sharbot Lake:

Marj was 84. I was lucky that she and Ed were always so good to me, even after John and I split up. As Ed told me, “you will always have a place in our hearts,” and they will always have a place in mine, too.

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   Jul 17

The Play’s the Thing

A postcard day

It was a postcard day as Megan and I headed to Point Arena and points beyond. I’m always happy to be chauffeured by my little sister, especially since it gives me time to admire the passing scenery, which was definitely scenic. It was a beautiful day, like a postcard, the sea deep blue with lacy white waves. The fields were full of wildflowers, white, purple, pink, and orange, and wild pink roses tumbled over old wooden fences. The cows and sheep have babies. The hills have turned “golden” as we move into summer.

We went to Franny’s Cup & Saucer in Point Arena, about an hour’s drive from Albion. Franny’s is run by a former pastry chef from the famous Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse. As you would expect, they make wonderful confections:

As you would not expect, they also sell various cute things, which often end up in our Christmas stockings. I got a couple of cute things for Erica’s and Jessica’s stockings. I don’t really have anything for the stockings this year. Usually, I have a few things by now. I’m afraid I may have outdone myself last year and perhaps set the bar too high for any future stockings.

I also chose a wonderful piece of cake: dark chocolate cake, apricot jelly, sea salt caramel cream, and dark chocolate olive oil ganache. It was light as air and just divine. Megan and I both got mini pizzas with sausage, asparagus, red onion, and brine-cured olives to have for lunch at the play.

With our Franny’s provisions stowed in the car, we headed further down the south coast to Anchor Bay, where we got Thai food for dinner. Then we went back to Point Arena to see the National Theatre of London’s production of “Macbeth”. There was a short introduction by the director, who said that this version of the Scottish play was set in a place where there had been generations of civil war, which he felt made the characters’ motivations and actions more understandable. It was also set in a sort of dystopian semi-future, and I never respond well to that kind of thing. The sets were certainly cleverly done, but I found them and the costumes to be jarring, especially in contrast to the language. The acting was great, though. Megan did better with the innovations than I did, maybe because she’s younger.

When I was, say, 15 and she was 6, the age difference was huge. Megan would always say, “I’ll catch up you, you’ll see!” She certainly did.

A YEAR AGO: You never know what you’ll find at my house. Could be a giant, unexpected refrigerator. Or a woodpecker.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Remembrances of summers past

TEN YEARS AGO: The eternal glamor of Miss Audrey Hepburn.

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   Jul 11


It was time for the annual quilt show, something I look forward to each year. The exhibit is held in the elementary school in the Big Town. Even though school is out, and my school days are long behind me, there’s something about being in a school building that just takes you right back to those days. You practically expect to be taken to the principal’s office for walking the halls without a pass. When Megan lived with me during high school and I went to her parent-teacher meetings, I always felt like an imposter who would be told I was not a real grown up and be forced to go back to school. Fortunately, this waking nightmare never came true.

Once we got to the quilts, those thoughts vanished as we admired our neighbors’ handiwork. No matter how long I live here and how many exhibits I attend, I will never get over how many talented artists live here.

This clever quilt was shaped like a piece of honeycomb, and the bees sported glittery, transparent wings:

This one featured the Hooterville Bridge, accessorized with a glamorous wisp of silvery fog, which was unfortunately lacking on that scorching day, when it was 90 inside my house and was still 86 when I went to bed. Is it any wonder I start dreading summer in February?

This quilt celebrated the joys of winter weather, when a girl can sleep in comfort beneath a quilt and blankets. I like how the fabric looked like rain in the background, along with mushrooms, frogs, a cat looking out of the window, and rain boots. So cozy!

This barnyard scene was charming. I wish I had taken a better photo of it. There are actual tiny clothes flying from the clothesline!

This bright piece reminds me of Hawaii and the tropics. Each stripe is an individual piece of fabric.

This was a nice companion piece to the Hawaiian piece. I think it was called a dragonfish. I thought it was exotic looking and striking.

This cat quilt was clever, too. The cats were all cut out and pieced by hand. What could be cozier than cats and quilts?

We decided to stop in and see Monica at her beautiful shop. She was quite busy, but we managed to catch up with most of each other’s news between customers, and I also found time to shop, buying this lovely pillow:

It was on sale! And it looks very nice with the beaded pillows on the side. In real life, you can see the sheen of the beads. It is very comfortable as well for the rare times I lounge on the couch, and it has already received the kitty seal of approval.

On our way home, we stopped off to get more wood-fired pizzas in the Village, sitting at a little table in the shade while we waited and petting an adorable dog named Lola. It hasn’t taken us long to add the pizzeria to our favorite spots. When we got home, dinner was ready!

A YEAR AGO: Cherries from our tree!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Everyone was feeling better.

TEN YEARS AGO: Braving the traffic to see Stevie Wonder.

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   Jul 04


I am happy to report that I am sitting in bed with both cats at the luxurious hour of 8:00 am. There is no Evil Death Star blasting through the skylight and blinding me. Also I am actually wearing my bathrobe (the old red fleece one from the Gap that I have had since I lived in San Francisco, incredibly enough) and sitting under the comforter. Huzzah!

Last night it was a mere 70 degrees in my living room as I watched The Man Who Cheated Himself and drank lemonade with raspberry vodka. The movie was filmed on location in San Francisco in 1950, and it was fun to see my old hometown and guess at the locations, seeing what has changed and what hasn’t. I have to say that Lee J. Cobb made as unlikely a leading man as Jane Wyatt did a femme fatale, but it was still fun to watch.

Today I did a little gardening and a lot of cooking. When I was finished with these tasks and settled on the couch with a baseball game on, I got an email telling me that my DNA results were in.

Despite the tragedy that struck Erica, and the ensuing memorial service right before our birthdays, Erica bought me an DNA kit for my birthday. She knew that I have been wanting to do this for some time now, but found the cost prohibitive. She really is like another sister. I sent it in the day after I received it, and here’s what they say is my heritage:

It’s not very surprising, other than the high percentage of Iberian Peninsula. I wonder if that is on my mother’s side, since we know absolutely nothing about her birth parents or any of her ancestors. Mom never cared about who her birth parents were, feeling that her parents chose her out of all the kids in the world, and they were the ones to raise her and love her and travel through life’s journey with her.

I always accepted this, and I could not love my grandparents more, but over time I have come to wonder about the girl who gave birth to Mom and felt that she had no choice but to leave her on the steps of an orphanage one spring day in 1932. I now realize that she was most likely heart-broken, possibly in a really bad situation, and probably wondered for the rest of her life how her little girl was.

The DNA results also told me that I have very, very distant cousins who also sent in their DNA. I have to admit I was secretly hoping that Mom’s birth mother had other kids, and that they in turn had their own, and we would find each other and the mystery – or at least part of it – would be solved. I will just have to accept that I will never know.

A YEAR AGO: A blissful sleepover with Jessica. So much fun in such a short time! We are overdue for another one.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Man, everyone was sick! Megan had the flu, Clyde had a Mystery Illness, and Jessica broke her leg. What the hell? What the heck?

TEN YEARS AGO: Heat, miracles and wild, wild fires.

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   Jun 30

Hot Times

If it’s Saturday, it must be scorching…

The last two Saturdays in a row have been hot’n’heinous, reaching 90 in my bijou residence. And that’s downstairs, where the propane heater gives a readout of the room temperature. It was still 86 downstairs when I went to bed upstairs in the sleeping loft, cursing James’ genius idea of having the balcony door face west, where it can get as much sun for as long as possible, especially during the hottest part of the day. What else would you expect from the guy who put in light switches that say NO when you turn them on?

My survival plan now includes hanging a dark sheet up on the balcony door, white-trash style, in the hopes that it will give a little shade and maybe help with the heat party, with the hot air rising up to the pointy ceiling and hanging out there:

I am also leaving the sliding glass doors downstairs open with the screen closed to keep the kitties in but allow the mythical cross breeze to come in once I take the trashy sheet down at night.

Do I have to move to Alaska? Look out, Tim, you may have a new neighbor!

When I was a kid, Saturdays were for cartoons. Our parents severely limited our TV time, but I seem to remember being allowed to watch cartoons. Mom slept in, and Dad drank his black coffee, read the papers, and did some writing for work while the electronic babysitter kept us out of his thinning hair. I now realize that I pretty much do the same thing on weekends that Dad used to do, drinking my black coffee while reading and writing, awake but not doing anything yet, not wanting to talk to anyone as I slowly wake up.

Now I don’t watch cartoons, but sometimes the cartoons come to me, mostly courtesy of Clyde the little outlaw.

One weekend, he brought a bird into the house. I hate it when the cats* catch birds, and always interfere if I’m home. As always, he carried his prey up to sleeping loft (why?) and before I could get up the stairs, the bird managed to escape the jaws of death. Unfortunately for the bird, it flew into the wall above the kitchen sink, which it then fell into. Fortunately, it flew out of the sink and into the great outdoors, hotly pursued by Clyde as it vanished into the sky.

It really seemed like a cartoon: Zoom! Bang! Plop! Whir! And it all happened in seconds.

Moving up the food chain and out of season for Easter, Clyde’s next weekend import was a bunny. I managed to get the bunny away from Clyde, who I banished to the bathroom (aka the only room in the house with a door) while the bunny ran under the couch.

I had a hard time persuading the intruder to leave, possibly because Audrey was present, though she was completely uninterested in the whole thing, other than thinking that Clyde should always be shut in the bathroom. Eventually, the bunny hopped out from under the couch and out of the door, but he was much slower than I thought, which probably explains why Clyde was able to catch him in the first place.

Once again, it seemed like something out of a carton, and it all happened much more quickly than it took to tell you about it. Never a dull moment out here, I tell you!

As Audrey approaches her 11th birthday (!) next week, I realize that she no longer really hunts. I can’t remember the last time she imported wildlife into the house. Maybe it’s getting older, or maybe it’s just beneath her considerable dignity.

A YEAR AGO: Junapalooza! I miss you!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Getting divorced. I see it was hot then, too. Maybe the climate changed a long time ago and I didn’t notice?

TEN YEARS AGO: The horror of wildfires. And knowing my brother was out there fighting them.

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   Jun 24

Minor Mysteries

Early one morning, on my way to work, I turned onto the Ridge from the dusty, potholed driveway* and was astonished to see a highway patrol car stopped just a few feet away. I could see a guy beyond the car. I stopped to ask the officer what the problem was, and he claimed there was no problem. OK, then.

I went around the stopped CHP car and the guy I had noticed earlier waved me down. He said he needed a ride to his friend’s house since his car had run out of gas and the CHP officer was supposedly threatening to tow it. I was driving the Heap that day, so I looked even less rob-worthy than usual. According to my unexpected passenger, the CHP guy was there because a tree had fallen further down the Ridge. This made no sense to me, since a fallen tree would need CalTrans and maybe PG&E, but not the CHP. Nor did I see any sign of the out of gas car. I dropped him off at the place he requested, but I still kind of wonder what was going on there.

I will file it away in the dusty funhouse attic of my mind along with a couple of other recent Ridge-related mysteries.

Another morning, I was again making my semi-virtuous way to work when I passed a fully loaded logging truck headed east on the Ridge. For those not familiar with the inner workings of Hooterville back roads, the Ridge runs east (inland) to west (the ocean and the road to Civilization and the Big Town). The Ridge is about 10 miles long and it does end, so it’s not a through road. It would have made sense if the truck was headed that way empty, to load up with logs, say at the haul road behind my house. Or if it was headed west, toward the big lumber mill in Cloverdale. But as it was, it made no sense, at least to me.

Our friends at CalFire use prisoner crews to clear brush and do other fairly simple, safety-enhancing tasks outside. Before you start thinking about Cool Hand Luke style chain gangs, I will just say that it is a coveted assignment among prisoners, which I know from a former convict. It shows that they are responsible and gets them out in the fresh air. So I am always glad to see them. But other than this one mysterious occasion, they are unanimously heading back to prison at 4:30 in the afternoon, not heading east on the Ridge to nowhere. I followed them as far as my driveway, where I turned and they carried on further toward the end of the road.

There you have it: some small and local mysteries.

*Tis the season. Winter is muddy with giant holes.

A YEAR AGO: Rob the artist strikes again. What would I do without him?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Surprise intruders: hummingbirds and rain.

TEN YEARS AGO: The loss of my beloved and wonderful stepmother, the love of Dad’s life. She made his final years the happiest of his life.

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   Jun 19


Despite the recent minor health and car problems, I have been trying to focus on the many things I have to be grateful for. My sister coming to my rescue with cold remedies; my brothers coming to my rescue with car remedies; a few minutes to cuddle with Clyde before the alarm goes off; an empty stretch of highway; the golden morning light on the hills as they make their seasonal change from green to gold; the deep lavender of a fog bank floating over a slate-blue sea; Mark’s dogs running up to joyfully greet me as I arrive home from work.

Since the tragedies occurred last month, I have been more thankful than ever for the little surprise gifts from my co-workers. One colleague brought me a beautiful beaded bracelet from Mexico:

She told me that she had it blessed in a little chapel in her home town, and that it would protect me when I wore it, as I often do. I was touched that she thought of me when she was so far away.

One of the doctors used to be a professional chef (How’s that for a career change? Though perhaps the late, great Anthony Bourdain would not be surprised), and one day, she brought me a generous helping of a new recipe she had tried in her Instant Pot, which was both delicious and enough for two dinners which I did not have to make, which happens to be my favorite kind.

Another co-worker brought me a stunning little arrangement of a flower from her garden called Mock Orange, a new one on me.

It was so pretty and lasted all week, reminding me of how lucky I am to work with such kind people. Whether they knew it or not, they helped me through that dark time and I am grateful for that.

A YEAR AGO: Sorbet, cracksicles, camping, and sculpture. All in Hooterville!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Some wonderful quilts.

TEN YEARS AGO: The fate of my former home. Their fates are never good.

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   Jun 15


I’m sorry to say that after more than a week, The Crud still has me in its unpleasant grip. Repeated daily applications of Sudafed and Afrin seem to do little in the way of loosening its claws, and if I buy shares in Kleenex now, that would be perilously close to insider trading.

Maybe I need to take time off from work and follow a Victorian style regime of daily doses of champagne and perhaps a trip to Egypt or the French Riviera. It’s medicinal, you know.

I’m also sorry to report that Wednesday, too, is ailing slightly. I pulled up at my bijou residence one evening to discover that I could not open the car door despite repeated efforts. I rolled down the window and opened it from the outside, then rolled up the window again. Effective, but slightly annoying. The annoyingness, like many things, seems to increase the more I have to do it.

Another development is that the driver’s side door no longer locks. This is not a problem in Hooterville, but makes me uncomfortable when leaving Wednesday for many hours in the parking lot at work, which is sometimes frequented by sketchy characters, some of whom seem to live in the bushes surrounding it. When I left work after a 12 hour day this week, I actually looked in the back seat before I drove off in case someone was napping and/or had taken up (hopefully temporary) residence there. Fortunately, my neuroses and I were the only ones in the car. I have ordered a new door handle, which should arrive soon, and when the boys install it, that should take care of all of the car problems at once. If only there was as effective a remedy for whatever ails me…

Update: Rob very kindly installed the new door handle while I was at work. Hooray! Yay for Rob, door handles that open on the inside and outside of the car, and the Heap for getting me to work and back today.

Megan told me that when she woke up this morning, Rob was sleeping with his arm around Stella, who was wagging her tail in her sleep. How’s that for happy?

A YEAR AGO: A delightful day at Navarro-By-The-Sea.

FIVE YEARS AGO: An out of season power outage and an annoying day at the jobette.

TEN YEARS AGO: It was hard to say goodbye to the Lovely Rita. I will always love and miss you, darling girl.

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