Suzy Says

Radio Nowhere

   Jul 18

Aching

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

Quilted

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

Unknown

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 Ancestry.com 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

Grateful

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

Ailments

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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   Jun 11

Hidden Treasures

I’m finally beginning to feel human again, though the Time Off Malaise made me miss a delightful BBQ with our friend Lu and the last ballet of the season. Of course I am well enough to go to work. But I’m also well enough to finally get around to recording more of our recent-ish adventures.

Rumor had it that the elegant Café Beaujolais, widely considered one of the best – or possibly the best – restaurants in the Village was selling wood-fired pizzas on certain days at certain times. Fortunately for Megan and me, we found ourselves in the Village at one of the designated times.

It took a little searching, but we finally found the pizza purveyors:

nestled in a lovely garden:

They were friendly and charming, and we were glad to wait for our pizzas in the beautiful garden. They were worth the wait:

Beautifully blistered, airy crust, topped with fennel sausage, red onions, fresh oregano, brine-cured olives, and Marzano tomatoes. Yum!

We stowed them in Megan’s little red car and then made our way to the beautiful Kelley House. I have never seen the Village so crowded. So many cars and so many zombies meandering all over the streets without looking for cars. Megan wisely drove behind the Kelley House, rightly guessing that there would be nowhere to park for blocks in front of the house.

The latest exhibit was of treasures found in the Kelley House pond when it was drained and restored. There were many beautiful bottles:

This one says “My Wife’s Salad Dressing, Chicago” on it:

The items included several small china dolls known as Frozen Charlottes (left):

Apparently a modish young lady refused to cover her elegant gown when driving to town for a New Year’s dance with her beau, and was DOA at the dance. I found it a little weird that this legend caused a doll craze instead of creeping everyone out. But then a lot of fairytales are creepy and horrifying.

We both enjoyed the exhibit and some new local history. Not to mention the pizza!

A YEAR AGO: A perfect day.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Birthday love

FIVE YEARS AGO: Henry and I get closer. I still miss that tough little kitty.

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   Jun 07

Math

Despite spending much of my working life in finance, math and I are not close friends. And you will not be surprised to hear that logic and I are but distant acquaintances. However, no matter how slow on the uptake I may be and the fact that I still don’t know all my times tables (and at this point, I think it’s safe to say I never will), it has become abundantly clear to me that:

Suzy takes time off = Something bad happens

Let’s review, shall we?

The last time I took time off and had the temerity to venture over the county line, I got the flu from hell which took forever to recover from.

The time before that, it was the Worst Long Weekend Ever, with day after day of blistering temperatures, inside and out, after a summer of working six days a week.

This time, I took two days off in honor of my birthday and ended up with the flu. At least it’s not as bad as last time, but come on! That was a mere six months ago.

I felt so horrible I couldn’t sleep, and texted with Megan, who is up and on duty at 2 am. She stopped by on her way home from work with Pringles, ginger ale, Sudafed, and Afrin. I spent the day on the couch and hopefully tomorrow will be back at work. I wish I didn’t feel so guilty about missing work and letting my boss down. Maybe it really is three strikes and you’re out, and next time I take time off it will actually be fun.

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   Jun 04

Un-Birthday

With all the tragedies lately, I am not feeling it for my birthday this year. Yesterday was the memorial service for Erica’s mother, which she handled with grace and fabulous make-up. Arriving home from the service, I discovered I had lost my diamond bracelet, which I really liked. I must have fastened the clasp incorrectly.

It’s Erica’s birthday tomorrow, and she too is planning to skip it, much like Megan did. There will be no Junapalooza this year.

No birthday cards so far, and it’s hotter than I’d like, but at least I took today and tomorrow off. Plans are to drink pink champagne and watch the hockey play-offs tonight and hopefully hang out with the kitties.

UPDATE: Megan found my bracelet:

And as if that weren’t enough, she gave me a sparkly pair of earrings I admired during our tour of village shops a couple of months ago but considered too expensive:

So things are looking up, and they’re also looking sparkly.

A YEAR AGO: Things were much more festive.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Heading to San Francisco for a birthday baseball game, among other things.

TEN YEARS AGO: The curse of the coffee maker.

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   May 31

Delightful

I continued my course of therapeutic frivolity by leaving work early the Friday before the long Memorial Day weekend and heading to Angelika’s little salon in the big woods:

To be fair, I had planned the haircut long before the tragedies hit, but the timing could not have been better. I was surprised to see that Angelika had cut her long blonde hair to a cut similar to Robin Wright’s in House of Cards. It looked great on Angelika, very stylish and pretty.

I was very happy to see her dog Anasazi, too. When I last saw Angelika in March, she was planning to put Ana to sleep due to her issues with her hips and balance at the age of 13. When the vet came to do the deed, she said that Ana was not yet ready to start her next adventure, so hopefully Ana will be with us through the summer and maybe beyond.

It was nice to get such happy news, and to watch a Steller’s Jay taking an enthusiastic bath in the bird bath outside the salon window. Angelika’s garden was full of blooms, from the rhododendrons you can see peeking through the windows to the irises outside the salon:

It was a relaxing and rejuvenating to spend time with Angelika. She sent me on my way with a hug and birthday gifts for both Megan (whose birthday it was) and me.

Since it was Megan’s birthday, my new haircut and I met her at our favorite seaside bar, where our favorite bartender started us off with free glasses of birthday champagne, which I think we all can agree is the best kind, to inspire us while we decided on the next drink.

It turned out to be a Lemon Drop:

and it was delicious. It was great to chat with the bartender and enjoy our drinks despite the cloudy weather. Later we moved the party to my house, where we stayed up later and possibly enjoyed more adult beverages than we should have, but after all, it was a special occasion.

A YEAR AGO: Celebrating Megan’s birthday on the family estate.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Megan’s birthday was both festive and eventful.

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   May 26

Lovely

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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   May 22

Gone


Pete

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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   May 15

Road Trip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: A surprisingly life-affirming flat tire

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

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

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   May 06

Evening Out

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

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

We followed a very pretty gardeny path to the restaurant:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After dinner, we made our way to the theater:

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIVE YEARS AGO: The birth of an orchard.

TEN YEARS AGO: Ugh. What a horrible trip.

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   May 06

Bookish

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

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

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: Of time and place.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A graveyard stroll.

TEN YEARS AGO: Stuck in the airport.

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   May 01

Trafficking


Public Service Announcement

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

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

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

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

There’s non-human traffic, too:

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

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

Forewarned is forearmed.

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

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

Wonder if aliens fly really slow?

A brief, but sincere, cri de coeur:

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

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

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

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

From: s——-@mcn.org
Subject: Susan N—–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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   Apr 27

A Birthday to Remember


Birthday Girl

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

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

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

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

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

Megan and I started with the delicious French onion soup:

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

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

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: Taking a day off.

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

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

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   Apr 23

Cheers

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

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

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

Our shopping was supervised by The Great Catsby himself:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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