Etc.


Hooterville Morning

I took this at the Hooterville post office this morning. I generally go to the post office on my way to work, long before it actually opens. For some reason, going to the post office after work feels like going out of my way. I retrieved my package from the parcel locker, and when I got back to the car, I was delighted by the dawn breaking over the Hooterville hills. That dot in the sky is a guest appearance by my friend the moon.

You can’t tell from this dawnscape, but it’s been really windy lately. I’m still wearing my coat and having the heat on in the car in the morning. Yesterday evening, the wind blew a tree down in a strategic spot and took out the power in the Big Town and environs, all the way to the Village. Fortunately (she said selfishly), my power stayed on, and it was restored to the temporarily powerless by 7:30 pm, so it was only out for about three hours. This morning, the Ridge was covered with fallen twigs and leaves, which looked odd on the dry road.

*****

A guy tried to pick me up at the gas station this morning, while I was in the midst of spending $61 on gas for Wednesday. My lipstick must be even more fabulous than I thought. He was a really nice guy named Lucio. As my 60th birthday approaches, I have to wonder if it’s the last time this will happen. It sent me on my way to work with a smile.

*****

Little Dodge has hurt his front right paw. He was fine when I left for work yesterday morning, but he was not putting weight on it when I came home that evening. He is still eating and drinking normally, and he is also jumping on and off the bed, table, and the heater where he likes to lounge:

He likes the warmth of the pilot light, pretty much year-round.

I checked the problem paw, and couldn’t see any wounds or foreign objects. I wonder if he sprained it jumping off furniture or playing with Clyde. I hope he recovers soon, and that I can avoid another gigantic vet bill. Fingers (and paws) crossed!

A YEAR AGO: The joys of spring.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A fabulous evening with family and friends.

TEN YEARS AGO: A really fun weekend.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A rainy start to the day.

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Rescue

A couple of weeks ago, John spotted a young cat who looked a lot like my boyfriend, Frank:

We called her Baby Frank, even though Frank is (thankfully) neutered, until John managed to capture her and named her Milou, the French name for Tintin’s faithful sidekick (the English version is Snowy). He contacted a nearby rescue, who were happy to take Milou, and in fact they had found a guy who wanted to adopt her before John could even bring Milou to the rescue.

The vet who examined Milou noted that she was near the end of lactation, so that meant she had kittens somewhere. Here’s John’s account of what happened next:

When I was feeding the colony the next day, the kittens tucked away in one area of the bushes went nuts when they heard my voice. I wasn’t really sure what to do but then I started thinking I can’t possibly leave them there another night because they sounded so damn hungry. So I was texting back-and-forth with the ladies in Mountain View asking should I grab them and they said yes.

As we’re all texting back-and-forth we suddenly realized that Milou had been discovered to be still lactating when she was taken to the vet after she left my house. Not only that, but this litter had two little white cats that were all white except for the faintest touch of color on their heads. I’ve never seen any all white cats at that colony in the years I’ve been feeding there. Milou was the very first one like that, so I scooped them all up and brought them home.

I got three of them easily because they were loud and very strong, and I was going to leave when I thought there had to be one more. Last year the three litters I pulled out of there were all four kittens each, and Willow had four kittens, even if two were stillborn.

I waited for a while for a lull in the traffic, because the freeway is right there, and then I started calling, and I heard the tiniest voice way back in the bushes. I climbed so far into those goddamn bushes that I literally couldn’t crawl out with just one hand, so when I grabbed the last kitten — I couldn’t see her so I was feeling around under the bushes and using my ears to guide me, and I grabbed her — I held her in my mouth just like a mom cat and then backed out on all fours. It was fucking ridiculous, but it worked.

While Barb, the elderly lady — why is it always older ladies doing this shit! — was driving here from Mountain View, I used cotton balls to stimulate the kittens to pee. They all had to pee really bad so I’m glad I did that. I also got between one and two syringes of formula into them, and once again thank God I always have a can of formula in the cupboard. Anyhow here are a few pictures. First is one of the kittens:

second is the kittens:

and last is a screenshot of a video showing how the evening ended:

All’s well that ends well!

A YEAR AGO: Adventures in baking.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A flat tire turned into a life-affirming experience.

TEN YEARS AGO: A trip to the DMV. Not as bad as you’d think.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Haha! This seems to be the season for getting a new computer!

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New

…and somewhat improved.

Faithful readers may recall that I recently had trackpad problems with my Macbook. “Problems” in the sense that it utterly refused to work.

So I ordered a previously enjoyed 2020 model. Needless to say, it was slated for arrival on the very day that I departed for the City. In fact, I passed the UPS truck on my way down the Ridge, and I thought, “I bet they’re delivering my MacBook”, and it turned out they were. It was still waiting for me on my front porch when I got home two days later. This is one of the benefits of living in the depths of the country, or, as my stepmother used to call it, “the back of beyond”.

As you know, I tend to be technology averse, using things until they no longer work, and there’s a good reason for this. New is rarely improved, and my ability to deal with new technology is as limited as my math skills (i.e., close to non-existent). So I approached the new silver machine with caution.

I was correct in this, since it turned out that the new computer did not have enough space to store all the things from the 10 year old one, which astonished me. I just figured the newer one would have more space. I should have read the fine print more carefully. Or, like, at all.

So I sent it back, and kept on using the old computer with a mouse. Using a mouse with a laptop is not fun. Eventually, I got the refund for New Computer I, and proceeded to order New Computer II, which I made sure had the same capacity as Old Computer.

Unfortunately for my aesthetic sense, New Computer II is a depressing, Stalinesque grey:

It was not possible to get one in shiny silver that had enough room to transfer everything, so I had to choose function over style, and you know how I hate that. I solved that by getting a sparkly, rose-pink cover:

though the inside remains resolutely ugly:

I really dislike the touchbar thing, and I am still trying to get more comfortable with the trackpad, despite adjusting the settings. I miss the light up apple on the front and the light up keys, too.

Also, it does not have USB ports, so I had to get an adapter in order to back up the computer or copy things to and from hard drives, for backing up, and more importantly, Girl Night(TM):

On the plus side, I really like how lightweight it is and how long the battery lasts, I think about 24 hours, and the touch to unlock feature, which seems like the future the Jetsons promised us*. Also? The trackpad works. At least for now.

*Where’s my robot maid and flying car?

A YEAR AGO: Little Dodge turned five.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Enjoying Bookstore Day with my sister.

TEN YEARS AGO: Lots of fun.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A noisy Mother’s Day.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A Mother’s Day mix-up.

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Queenie’s

Queenie’s opened a little late this year, at end of April instead of the middle of February. Usually, she opens her doors to her fans around Valentine’s Day, but this year, the Queen had broken her ankle and had her heart broken when she lost her sister in a tragic accident on my old Ridge. So she needed a little time to recover before she went back in the kitchen to work her magic.

I wasn’t the only one who sought an audience with the Queen on Opening Day, so I was lucky to get a seat at the bar. From there, one can peek into the behind the scenes action in the kitchen. I had never sat there before, and it was fun to see the staff at work in their small space, much like it is at Swan’s. Except Queenie’s is country and all female staff, and Swan’s is about as city as you can get and all male staff. Either way, it’s fun to watch while waiting for your fabulous food.

And fabulous it was:

Eggs Benedict with spinach and Canadian bacon on a freshly-baked herb biscuit. It was delicious, and it was so nice to be back at Queenie’s and see her once again in action.

Leaving the restaurant, I enjoyed the view:

It was a lovely drive home on a beautiful spring day. I love our little corner of the world.

A YEAR AGO: Remembering a long-ago visit to Florence. I still wonder how we got “Florence” out of “Firenze”, and how there can be alternate names for the same city. Shouldn’t it just be Firenze?

FIVE YEARS AGO: The power was out. No Derby for me!

TEN YEARS AGO: Clyde was feeling naughty. As his twelfth birthday approaches, he has not grown out of it.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Plumbing problems.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Getting a doctor’s appointment was much harder than it should have been, in my humble opinion.

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Fun

On a lovely spring day, I left work early and headed for the Village, where my first stop was the Brickery at Cafe Beaujolais:

where I ordered pizza and waited in the beautiful garden until it was ready:

This is the spicy salami pizza, with capers, olives, red onion, and Calabrian chilis. It is delicious.

Next, I headed to Angelika’s little studio in the big woods, to get my hair and my outlook brightened:

I hadn’t seen her since December, so it was great to catch up with each other’s news. I love spending the afternoon with Angelika, talking about everything under the sun. It’s almost like getting the amazing highlights and haircut are incidental to the fun of hanging out. Almost. We are hoping to meet up with Megan for a drink at Ledford House soon.

I took my newly shiny hair to Chez Megan, where there were magical cocktails in beautiful glasses awaiting:

They were basically Cosmos, but made with limoncello instead of triple sec. Yum!

We had the pizza, the cocktails, and watched our favorite movie, “Legally Blonde”. It was the perfect end to a really fun day. And the beginning of a summer of fun.

A YEAR AGO: Dodge’s secret nocturnal adventure shook us both up, at least temporarily.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Remembering the houses of my childhood. The house I grew up in now only exists in my memories.

TEN YEARS AGO: Getting a new couch. Well, new to me, anyway. I still like it.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: My beloved stepmother’s 80th birthday. She was a class act. I will always miss her.

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Patterns

The kitties’ birthdays are coming up. They go in inverse age order: Dodge on May 11, Clyde on June 8, and Audrey on July 2. Dodge will be around 6*, Clyde is turning 12, and Audrey is turning 15.

I would say that Dodge has become his ultimate self. His latest enthusiasm is going outside, which is only allowed during daylight hours. Oddly, he started his outdoor fanaticism when it was still raining and chilly, though this did not deter him. Like the late, lamented Roscoe, he loves being toweled off, purring loudly.

He has retained his adorable habit of jumping up while simultaneously rubbing up against my legs, as well as his sunny attitude. He is a happy ray of sunshine, and everything he does, he does 150%. It’s the Dodge way. He plays outside for hours, and will only come in when he’s ready, not a second before. He is his own man. Once he’s in for the night, he curls up and sleeps happily, either on a dining room chair in front of the heater, or between the pillows on the bed. He sleeps with the same enthusiasm with which he does everything. And though he may be from the mean streets of Fort Bragg, he will only eat treats from the table, like a gentleman. He always hops up on the table for his treats, even if he was relaxing on the heater just moments before.

He is quite the character. I’m so glad he decided to follow my colleague home that summer day.

Clyde would second that emotion. Dodge wasted no time in winning Clyde over, after taking one look at him and deciding that he was the coolest. Now Clyde seems to think that Dodge is the coolest, copying him in sleeping near the heater on the dining room chairs, sleeping in the coveted between the pillows spot when Dodge isn’t there, and using the opportunity of my being in the bathroom to rub up against me and ask for pets. You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but you can teach an old cat new tricks.

They enjoy playing together inside and out, sometimes just surveying their domain:

They often sleep together and give each other baths, which is so cute to see. Dodge has definitely made Clyde a happier and more relaxed cat. I know he still misses Roscoe, but Dodge’s happy, loving friendship has gone a long way toward making Clyde feel more secure and happy, and that makes me happy, too.

Audrey, on the other hand, includes the boys in her general disdain for everyone and everything. Being an old lady has not made her sweeter or kinder. She retains her resting bitchface and her svelte figure, and she still sits atop Mount Crumpet (aka the bathroom windowsill) hating the Whos (aka the boys). She will swat and growl if they dare to approach her majesty.

Yet she generally sits on me when I read in bed at night, and when I sit in bed on the weekends answering my fan mail and working on Wordle, she sits beside me, purring loudly. So she’s not all grump, all the time. Just most of it.

Here she is, getting her beauty sleep and dreaming of destruction:

She has also developed an interest in going outside now that spring is here, though she insists on going out of the front door, as befits an empress of her stature.

It’s so fun to see how the cats interact and their patterns of behavior. I feel lucky to share my life with them.

*The shelter guessed Dodge’s age when he was admitted there, and I gave him my American grandfather’s birthday, because they are so much alike and HoHo loved cats. Also Dodge just seems like a spring kitty.

A YEAR AGO: Remembering a long-ago trip to Amsterdam.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The pleasures of a day off.

TEN YEARS AGO: A fun sister day.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: I managed to avoid jury duty, though my computer was under the weather.

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Garden

I was glad to be back in Hooterville, where I was enthusiastically greeted by the cats. The thrill of me wore off pretty quickly, though, and was almost immediately replaced by the wish to go outside and play, which they did.

I stayed inside, to unpack my things and stuff before tackling the litter box and feeding and watering the cats. The litter box looked like the Andes after my two day absence.

Once everything was restored to order, I headed over to the family estate to say hi to Megan and Rob (Jonathan was off on an adventure). Things are rocking and rolling over there. There are new fruit trees, including a second cherry tree now sharing the net palace with the original cherry tree:

You can see the original cherry tree in the background here, behind the rows of raspberries:

Strawberries are on the way:

It was a beautiful day to wander around the growing orchard:

admiring the blossoms on the trees:

Megan picked a bouquet for me of my favorite lilacs and the sweet peas we grow every year for Dad. These are called April in Paris:

April in Hooterville is pretty good, too.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Some bad habits.

TEN YEARS AGO: The office cat at the jobette.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: The eternal debate of time vs. money.

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21

My blog turns 21 today! I guess that should mean it’s an adult now, ready to do responsible things, but like its author, I think my blog will never grow up. But at least we have a reason to celebrate!

A YEAR AGO Happy 20th!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sweet 16.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Then we were six.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: My blog’s very first birthday. Little did I suspect I’d still be doing this 20 years later.

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Swan’s

It had been 10 years since I last visited Swan Oyster Depot, which is about 10 years too long. The day after the memorable Lindsey Buckingham concert, I made my way to this culinary Mecca, prepared for the inevitable line and the inevitable wait.

On my walk down Polk Street, I noticed that Polkers, Le Petit Robert, the French lingerie store, and the Big Apple grocery store were all gone. Russian Hill Books, the Jug Shop, and Molte Cose survive, though they moved down the street. Thankfully, Victor’s Pizza and Bob’s Doughnuts remain open and in situ.

I noticed that many restaurants now have a sort of lean-to arrangement in front of their establishments, three-sided and open to the sidewalk, with roofs, housing tables and chairs and taking up scarce and valuable parking spaces on the street. Even when I lived there, long ago, it was difficult-to-impossible to find street parking in my neighborhood, even with a permit, which is why I ended up selling my beautiful 1966 Mustang convertible, Josephine.

Swan’s also has one of these serving sheds, but it was unpopular. Everyone, after the long wait in line, wants to have the full experience of being wedged into one of the few seats at the counter, where the brothers and cousins perform their ballet of serving and preparing the freshest seafood in town without missing a beat (or bumping into each other):

They now have classic rock playing outside to amuse the waiting customers, a new addition for me. They still serve wine or beer to those who wait, and they still only take cash.

I finally got my coveted seat, and learned that they had not gotten any crab that day. Perhaps just as well, given the price:

I settled on shrimp cocktail instead:

and settled in on my stool to enjoy the shrimp, the fresh, crusty sourdough bread, and watching the family effortlessly slice smoked salmon and bread and open oysters. Conversations swirled around me, people walked past on the street, and I was filled with memories. The City may change around them, but Swan’s remains the same, timeless.

A YEAR AGO Getting brighter hair and a brighter outlook.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Celebrating Jessica’s birthday. Cannot believe she is 19 now, in 2022. How did this happen?

TEN YEARS AGO: Jessica had a great 9th birthday.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Some puppy cuteness for you!

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Thoughts on the anniversary of the Great Quake.

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Show

I decanted the car contents into the motel room, and then ordered my very first Uber to take me to the Palace of Fine Arts Theater. Uber is magic. It showed up in about two minutes, swept me to my destination, and went away. It’s the next best thing to having a chauffeur at my beck and call. What’s not to love?

The theater looked beautiful in the evening light:

The line was long, and although vaccines were supposedly required, no one checked vaccine cards. They did, however, use one of those airport style wands on everyone and looked in everyone’s handbags, so go figure. I found it a little unnerving to be in the crowd, and claustrophobic to be in the middle of the theater, though the seats were great and so was the view of the star, Lindsey Buckingham:

He is a local (or at least local-ish, hailing from nearby Palo Alto, home of Stanford University), so it was a hometown crowd welcoming him home with great enthusiasm. The evening felt very intimate, since his band was so small and part of the show was just Lindsey and his guitar. He is so charming and unaffected, and his voice has not diminished at all over the years. I was happy that he played some songs from his new album, which I have been listening to and enjoying recently. It was a really special evening.

A YEAR AGO: Some animal updates.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Spring was pretty wintery.

TEN YEARS AGO: A busy day in the City.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: What I missed.

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City

I headed to San Francisco for the first time in a decade.

It was a beautiful drive through wine country. It’s beautiful any time of year, but it was lovely to see the little lambs frolicking in the green fields, the vines leafing out, and the drifts of wildflowers everywhere.

I was lucky with traffic, and it wasn’t long until the dreaming spires of San Francisco appeared:

Onto the Bridge:

And past the City and County of San Francisco sign:

I don’t know why, but I have always loved that sign. When I lived there, it always made me happy to see it.

I do not like the new and unimproved tunnel entrance to San Francisco:

It’s ugly, and it cuts off the view. Fortunately, it’s relatively short, so it wasn’t long until I emerged into the traffic on Lombard Street, heading for my usual modest motel, just around the corner from my fabulously expensive former abode. I was taken aback by the new building that had replaced the vacant lot on Van Ness and Union, and also by the red bus lane now running down the middle of Van Ness.

A lot can happen in a decade.

A YEAR AGO: A mystery. This Miss Marple was on the case.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A delightful family dinner.

TEN YEARS AGO: Setting off for San Francisco. Little did I knwo it would be another 10 years before I returned!

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: My beautiful Rita. I still miss her.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Sometimes my job included a trip to Symphony Hall.

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90


Mom

Today is my mother’s 90th birthday.

I think it’s still your birthday, even if you aren’t here to celebrate it. Looking back over these pages, I see that Mom was not here to see most of my entries about her birthday, since she died after a mere 73 years on the planet, after a long and courageous battle against breast cancer.

She was tough, and she was a survivor. Life dealt her a pretty rough hand from the get go. Her birth mother abandoned her on the orphanage steps as a newborn. She suffered from mental health issues her entire life and never got it under control. I think she had serious post-partum after my sister Megan was born. She spent the whole summer in bed, which at the time (I was 9 years old), I thought was what happened when you had a baby. Dad left her* after 25 or so years of marriage, and her second husband, a complete jerk who was about half her age, also left her after he spent all her money. She ended up on welfare, living in a trailer on my sister’s property.

I see a pattern of abandonment in her life which must have been really painful for her. I wonder if she had been born later if there would be better psych drugs and treatment available to her to make her life happier and healthier. Maybe she shouldn’t have had children or gotten married. Maybe she should have had more freedom in her life and her life choices.

We always had a complicated relationship. I don’t think she was that crazy about me, and I am OK with that. Like John always says, if you have one good parent, you’ll be OK. Now that I’m older, I understand that this was about her, not me. She always seemed kind of distant to me. If she was awake when we went to school, she was having black coffee and a cigarette. It was never suggested that she drive us to school or even to the school bus stop, a good half mile away, a long walk in the snow, when we would follow the path we had made the day before. Dad did the cooking, read to us, and took us grocery shopping and to the library on Saturdays. Mom was kind of a ghost in our house.

I wish she had experienced more joy in her life. I wish her death had not been so long and painful and terrible. I’m glad I took care of her at the end and did everything I could do for her. I do love her, and I do remember her smile, her love of music and appreciation for beauty. We share our green eyes. There are good memories, too.

Happy birthday, Mom. I wish you were here to celebrate with us.

*Fun, Jerry Springer style fact: he left my mother for my boyfriend’s mother. Extra credit: boyfriend’s mother is still alive and well at 90 years of age and we are good friends. We email each other often.

A YEAR AGO: My brother Jonathan’s road trip adventure.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Mom’s 85th birthday.

TEN YEARS AGO: Mom’s 80th birthday.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: I still hate the heat. Pretty sure I always will.

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Miscellaneous

It’s the last day of March. The month flew by quickly, and spring is making its presence known. Somehow, the bear-attracting apple tree has blossomed without my noticing the bud stage at all:

and the trees in the long curves at Caspar and Little River are misted with leaves of that heart-breaking, almost electric green that they only have when newborn.

******

When I leave for work in the morning, I give the cats treats to distract them, and before I go out the door, I always take a look back at the house:

It always seems like the most beautiful place when I’m about to venture out into the Wide World. And we all know no good ever comes of doing that.

******

I’m getting a new computer. My current model is from 2012. The trackpad no longer works, and the black plastic connecting the screen to the rest of it is badly frayed and missing entirely in some places.

I had trackpad problems a couple of years ago, which were expensively resolved. Or resolved-ish, since they have reared their ugly heads again. I brought the ailing laptop to someone else this time, and he said the battery was swollen and had to be replaced, and that the swelling was what made the trackpad refuse to click. He relieved me of $150 for taking the battery out of another laptop and putting it in mine.

When I got home, I discovered that not only did it not click, I couldn’t drag anything. I thought about getting another technician to look at it, but it’s 10 years old and I have already put more than enough money into it. It’s time to get a new to me laptop. And ask if I can give back the battery and get a refund.

******

I stopped at the post office on my way to work this morning, my usual time for this chore. I came across a young homeless guy in there, and he asked me if I knew what time it was. I didn’t, because I had left my phone in the car*, but I gave him my best guess, based on when I left the house. He said, “Thank you, sweetheart”. He was probably in his 20s, so I found it unusual that he would call me that, though I enjoyed it as much as I always do. He also asked me when the Gro opened, which I could tell him, and as I left the post office, he said cheerfully, “Have a good day, sweetheart!” It was a nice start to the day.

I seem to be encountering homeless guys a fair bit recently. There is one who often sleeps under the tent at work where we do COVID shots and testing. I say hello to him in the morning if he’s awake, and try not to wake him up if he’s not. He works at McDonalds, but still doesn’t have a place to live. I think we both like seeing each other in the morning. I’m hoping he can get back on his feet soon.

*My cute pink iPod died a few weeks ago, so I’m now using Apple Music. Still figuring it out. It has a lot of drawbacks compared to the iPod. I really am not a fan of change, especially in technology.

A YEAR AGO: My brother was off on an adventure

FIVE YEARS AGO: Enjoying the ballet.

TEN YEARS AGO: A surprise gift.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Some coincidences.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: My favorite flowers bring back some happy memories.

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Seasons


This year’s lilacs

Spring has definitely sprung in Hooterville. The air is softer and full of birdsong, and fruit trees are foamy with blossoms and buzzing with busy bees. Lilacs, irises, and California poppies are blooming. I am still wearing a coat to work, buttoned up in the morning and unbuttoned* in the evening, and in the mornings, I have the heat on in the car, while in the evenings, I have the car window open. Seasons here are a little more subtle than in most of the country.

I have found over the past few years that I appreciate spring more and more. At this point, I would rate the seasons from best to worst as: spring, fall, winter, and summer. If I still lived back East, I think fall would come out on top, because of the glorious leaf colors and the delightful, cool respite from the horror of summer, always my least favorite season. I hate the heat. I always have.

When I was a kid, we were lucky enough to escape the muggy and buggy summers in upstate New York by fleeing to Maine the minute the school year dragged to an end. There we enjoyed the cool, foggy summers, much like the summers in the Big Town on the Mendocino Coast. Very often, the Big Town is fogged in all of my working day, while back home in Hooterville, it is sunny and bright. The sunshine comes at a cost, though, making it up to 20 degrees warmer than it is on the foggy coast.

Fortunately, my current abode is insulated and less of an art project than my previous Hooterville home of many years, which was like living in a tent. It was freezing cold in the winter and boiling hot in the summer, especially up in the sleeping loft, where the heat went to party and after party. Despite the quirks of the house, and the beauty of the house I live in now, I still miss the old house. There were a lot of great memories there, and it was such a cool and unusual place.

I do enjoy the winter, with the sound of rain and peeping frogs and the bright breasts of robins, who winter here, and the dramatic spouts of passing whales. It’s nice to read with a cup of tea and a scented candle, cuddled up with the cats. I enjoy the coziness and feeling safe. When I was a child back East, I loved skiing and playing in the snow and the violet shadows of the trees on winter afternoons and the distinctive, white light in the house after a snowfall. I have always loved Christmas, with its sparkliness and joy.

As for summer…well, it’s something to be endured. I used to love the long summers in Maine when I was a kid, that glorious feeling of freedom with three school-free months stretching ahead. I’m glad I enjoyed those days when I had them. And I do still enjoy the changing seasons, no matter how subtle.

*Also the name of my current favorite lip gloss, which I’m wearing right now while eating Lifesavers for breakfast.

A YEAR AGO: Some updates.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Some happy encounters.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A bad mail day.

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Dark


Happy Solstice!

We are well and truly into the madness of the spring time change, aka the hard one, when they steal an hour of sleep from you and plunge you back into darkness, just when there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon in the morning. It makes me indignant every year, especially when facing the seemingly endless barrage of oncoming traffic, most of whom can’t seem to grasp the concept of turning off their high beams to avoid blinding other motorists.

A few years ago, Californians voted overwhelmingly in favor of stopping this senseless ritual. No one knows why it started or why it persists. Even if it’s entirely apocryphal, I love the story that Native Americans say, “Only the white man would cut a strip from the bottom of a blanket and sew it to the top of the blanket and think that makes it longer”, or something like that. But for some reason, the banishment of Daylight Saving Time has stalled somewhere in the lawmaking machinery, and we are stuck with the craziness and feeling jet lagged for days. Thanks, politicians!

The renewal of the morning darkness makes me appreciate even more the moonlight on the ocean, Venus beaming in the east, and the fact that Ledford House has kept an outside tree lit up long past the holiday season, where it can spark a little joy as I drive by on my way to work on a dark spring morning.

Little River Inn has kept its roofline lights aglow, a welcome sight as I crest the hill into Little River. And I look forward to the handful of scattered lights in the Village and the beams of light from the Point Cabrillo light station. Light in the darkness is especially beautiful this time of year.

A YEAR AGO: Jonathan and Rio’s desert adventures.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Remembering Dad.

TEN YEARS AGO: A look around my springtime garden.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Waiting for the cable guy. And waiting. And waiting…

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Brush with fame! A brief encounter with my former neighbor, Nicolas Cage.

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Remembering


Dad and Me

Dad’s birthday this year found me feeling sad. Some years, I remember all the happy times, and others, I feel sad or even angry at how long he’s been gone and how senseless his death was. Sometimes I think that he was spared the indignities of getting old and losing his intellectual abilities, which he prized so highly, or his physical abilities, and having to be vulnerable and helpless in front of others, whether they were us or paid help. That’s about the only positive thing I have been able to come up with in the nearly 21 years he has been gone, and it’s not much.

I soon learned after Dad died that most fathers were not like mine, and that most people were not close to their fathers. It made me feel even more alienated and alone in my grief, since nearly everyone I knew still had their fathers and most of them didn’t really want to hang out with them. Whereas for me, my trips to England to visit Dad were the high point of my life, and no one has ever known me or loved me like him. We knew all the worst things about each other and we loved each other anyway. That is a rare gift, and one I am grateful for when I am not mourning the loss of it. I don’t know if it’s worse to have it and lose it, or never have it at all.

I do know that I love my father as much now as when he was alive, and that I will miss him until I follow him into the darkness. I hope he’s wrong and he is there to greet me, reaching out to hug me on arrival, like he used to do at the airport.

A YEAR AGO: Dad’s 90th birthday.

TEN YEARS AGO: Dad’s 81st birthday.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Remembering Dad on his birthday.

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Anniversary


Our Beloved Star

A year ago, we lost our shining Star. The photo above was one of the last ever taken of her, just four days before her death. Doesn’t she look beautiful, shiny, and healthy? She always looked beautiful on the outside, whatever was happening on the inside.

Her death was expected, but unexpected, sudden, but a process. We knew she had cancer (though we did not know exactly where, and we will never know), and we knew her days were numbered, but we were still surprised when the day came. Maybe that’s the nature of death and how we humans deal with it.

On the last night of her life, Star seemed a little tired, but she was as overjoyed to see me as ever, and walked me to my car with Megan, where I watched them in my side mirror until they were out of sight, and they watched me.

Star died in the garden around 1:00 in the afternoon on the next day. It was swift and merciful for her. I don’t think she knew what happened. She was lying peacefully on the grass and in the sun, in a place she loved, with Stella close by and Rob working near her. She felt safe and happy and I bet the sun felt good on her fur. Stella started barking, Rob took a look at Star, saw the blood coming from her mouth, and ran for Megan, who was sleeping after her third 12 hour night shift of the week. By the time they returned to the garden, Star was gone.

Losing her was the most significant event of 2021 for me. A year after losing her, I am still a little surprised by how huge a hole she has left in our lives. I never realized quite how much she meant to me until she was gone. I took her beauty and love and joy in seeing me for granted. She was part of the fabric of my life, woven into the heart of it. I regret not appreciating her meaning in my life more while she was still here. She was the heart of Megan and Rob’s household, and it will never be the same. I think we will always miss Star’s presence. I still look for her to come running up to me joyfully when I visit. We were lucky to have her as long as we did.

Thankfully, we still have Stella, with her adorable goofiness, and Stella is very happy with her companion Millie, the playmate she always dreamed of. Millie is still nervous around humans other than Megan and Rob, but she has no reticence at all about playing with Stella or climbing all over her or sleeping with her, all of which Stella loves. Stella was so sad without Star that it was utterly heart-breaking to see, so it’s wonderful to see her so happy with Millie. They are a very cute matched set:

It’s so sweet to see them together and see them so happy.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Weather was variable.

TEN YEARS AGO: Miscellaneous news.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Escape from New York was not easy.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A day in my life in San Francisco.

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Soup

Our good friend Lu mentioned to Megan the other day that she was going to make “snowflake soup”. This delighted us both more than you would expect for such a simple phrase. It’s because it reminded us both of Dad, and also that Lu knew and loved Dad, too. She even wore his sweetpeas at her wedding, so he was there in a way.

Growing up in WWII London and living with rationed food from the age of 9 to the age of 23, Dad had a horror of wasting food, which he passed on to his children. It’s alive and well in us. One of his habits – and ours – was to use up vegetables and miscellaneous food in the refrigerator by making it into soup. Since the leftovers varied and two soups were ever the same, we called it “snowflake soup”. So it was fun to hear someone outside our family use that expression. As time goes by, I realize there are very few people left who remember my parents, so I really treasure it when I can share those memories.

As for me, I recently made an appropriately spring green, though non-snowflake, soup:

It’s chickpeas, spinach, shallots, garlic, and ginger whirled together with vegetable broth and garnished with a squeeze of fresh lime, a drizzle of curry oil, and a shower of fresh mint. Springtime in a bowl!

A YEAR AGO: The beginning of the end for our beloved Star. Her loss is a great one.

FIVE YEARS AGO: More news about cats and dogs.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A clean bill of health for our cats.

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Preserve

It had been a long time since I visited B. Bryan Preserve. Longer than I thought, since paging through my dusty archives revealed that it had in fact been 7 years, back when Jessica was a mere 12 years old. Now she is on the verge of 19. How did that happen? Especially since I myself have not aged a minute?

Visiting the Preserve has become even more popular than it was the last time I was there. There was quite a crowd, requiring three vehicles, and they have dispensed entirely with the educational session before boarding the vehicles. Frank the owner was nowhere to be seen, and I appeared to be 1) the only local on the tour; and 2. the only person who had visited before. I was more grateful than ever that Megan and I had had that magical one on one tour with Frank the owner almost 10 years ago. Those days are clearly over. While I am glad for their success, I do regret the loss of those special days.

And of course, the animals were as utterly magnificent as ever. We saw all three kinds of zebra: plains, mountain, and my personal favorite, the Grevy’s, with their round, fuzzy, teddy bear ears:

It is so amazing to see these beautiful, wild animals in real life. For those who worry about their feeling the chill of our foggy northern clime: they were born here, so in fact they would not be able to cope with the African climate. Like the rest of us fogeaters, they think it’s unbearably hot if it’s over 70 degrees.

Here are the Kudu, known as the Grey Ghost of Africa. They blend into their surroundings to avoid their predators:

Interestingly, they can jump really high, and if they wanted to, they could easily jump out of their enclosure. So they must be happy where they are, safe, admired, and fed well.

The roan antelope were feeling shy that day and just hung out by their barn. You can see them from afar:

As always, the giraffe were the highlight of the visit. They are no longer fed with acacia branches, but rather with lettuce. They are as weird and wonderful as ever, these 18 foot high, prehistoric-looking creatures:

swooping down to say hello and maybe give the tiny humans a kiss:

Seeing these beautiful creatures filled me with a child-like sense of awe and wonder. That is a wonderful gift. It was a special day.

A YEAR AGO: Some light-hearted fun from the local message boards.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A chilly Polar Plunge.

TEN YEARS AGO: Rob the handyman.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Sometimes, the city can seem like a small town.

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Hotel

It was time for a little adventure, so I headed to the beautiful south coast. I decided to stay at a hotel right on the ocean. It was beautiful, and I loved the room:

The floors had radiant heat, so it was quite lovely to walk on them. Also, my house tends to be chilly, which is great in the summer, but less than fabulous the rest of the year. It was nice not to be bundled up.

There was also a fireplace, but no log. The only thing missing from the lovely bathroom was soap:

There was a rainfall shower head, and also a handheld shower. I have often wished for both of those things.

When I went down to the office to notify them of these absences, they asked if anything else was missing. Like it was normal for things to be missing. At least I had the log so I could enjoy a fire later, which I did. There was a balcony overlooking the ocean, where I enjoyed the sunset, along with a glass or two of sparkling wine.

The light through the window as the sun set was really beautiful:

Another small pleasure was realizing that I had forgotten to bring a couple of things, and I could walk to the store next door to get them! It made me feel like I was in a city again, even though all I could hear was the roar of the ocean. The closest store to my house is more than 6 miles away, not exactly walking distance. So it was a super fun novelty. You’re probably laughing about how exciting I found this right about now. I can’t help it. I’m a hick!

In the morning, I had coffee overlooking the ocean, enjoying every moment before hitting the road for an adventure.

Up next: giraffes and zebras!

FIVE YEARS AGO: I was at church. Yes. Really.

TEN YEARS AGO: A surprise wedding. Not mine, I hasten to add.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A good year.

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