Megan’s Birthday

If it’s Memorial Day weekend (and it is), I must be back at the jobette and it must be Megan’s birthday.

I started working Saturdays again yesterday. The many people who have worked there since I (more or less) left have changed things around a lot, so it looks very different while still being familiar. My old desk has been relocated to what used to be the conference room, so I sat at a different one so the visitors could find me. It was really nice to talk to them and hear how magical they find it here.

I did not find the holiday traffic magical, however. The sides of the highway were a parking lot and zombie-like abalone divers were meandering across the road in droves. Fortunately for them we were driving around 40 mph. I could drive faster on the Ridge than I could on the highway for the most part. I have never ever seen Van Damme beach so packed with cars.

Stopping at the Gro on my way home, I ran into Dave and Jennifer, my siblings’ land partners. Dave was going fishing and Jennifer was dropping him off. It’s been a while since I’ve seen them due to their having family situations to deal with, so it was great to catch up and part ways with a hug and a kiss.

Arriving at the property, the birthday girl took me for a tour of the garden. Peas, onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, and tomatillos are flourishing. As for the orchard, I’m sorry to say that the late rains, besides depressing the pants off us and flooding everything, knocked off a lot of the apple blossoms, so it’s not looking like a great apple year.

On the other hand, the peaches are peaching nicely:

and the pears are on their way:

The strawberries have both flowers and fruit on them:

The netting is almost done over the cherry tree. It is in the corner since cherry trees do not play well with others. It too has fruit appearing on it. The elaborate netting dome is to let the birds know it’s not an all you can eat buffet:

Also flourishing is Jessica, whose hat was made just for her by her ever-creative mother:

She was very nice about letting her aged auntie take her picture, especially after I told her how fun it is to look back to posts when she was just a little kid. We are plotting sleepovers and movies for the summer. Under consideration are “Auntie Mame”, “Desk Set”, and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”. I’m also thinking “Desperately Seeking Susan” and “Practical Magic”.

I forgot to take a picture of the amazing dessert Erica made. It was a napoleon with puff pastry made from scratch, strawberries, and home-made caramel drizzle. It was outstanding. It vanished too quickly for me to get a photo, though. We all sang happy birthday despite the lack of candles.

At the end of the evening, Jessica asked to “escort fair Suzy to her car” and took my arm. I do love this tradition. She enhanced the experience by curtseying at the end of it. I sure love that kid. And my family and family of friends.

A YEAR AGO: My, what an industrious day I had!

FIVE YEARS AGO: I was heading to San Francisco, and Rob was coming home after losing his Mother.

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The Star Patient


The patient in happier times (last week, in the garden)

I was just settling down to watch some playoff hockey* and eat dinner when the phone rang. It was Megan, telling me that Star had had a seizure and she wanted me to meet her at the vet’s office.

I changed out of my PJs and into a strange combo of work and play clothes, shoving my bare feet into a random pair of shoes (later I would regret not putting on a better pair after hours of standing) and set off for the Village.

On the way, I wondered why she had called me, since dealing with emergencies is her specialty and falling apart at emergencies is mine. I always say, Megan is the Schatzi (brave and bold) and I am the Star (worried and pretty sure the worst is going to happen).

Arriving at the vet’s office, I saw Megan’s little red car with the back door wide open, but no sign of dog or humans. I eventually located Megan, Dr. Karen, and Star in the surgery. They seemed to have it all pretty much in hand. They had shaved Star’s forepaw and inserted a catheter, through which they dosed her with enough drugs to drop a horse.

But Star’s Star-ness did not allow her to give into the drugs, so while being doped to the ears, she still fought it and was twitchy. If it comes to fight or flight, Star is going to fight to the death. I suggested that her inherent Star-ness would not allow her to give in to the drugs while still in an environment that made her fearful even with Megan there, but Dr. Karen and her assistant wanted to wait and see how she was doing. They ran every blood test, all of which came back normal. The general consensus seems to be that she ate something to cause the seizure, though the property has been investigated three times by Megan, Rob, and Jonathan without turning up the culprit.

After about three hours of doping and testing and IV hydration (them) and standing around (me), they rolled the patient up in a blanket and put her in Megan’s car to be transported home, along with a goodie bag of injectable drugs. Of course it was pitch black by then and so foggy that constant windshield wiping was required, just for extra fun.

I followed Megan and Star home, with the understanding that if something went wrong, she would pull over. We drove slowly, partly because of Star and partly because of the weather, and I stayed a respectful distance behind so my headlights wouldn’t bother Megan. Driving in the dark is the only time I dislike having a car behind me more than I dislike having one ahead of me.

Star was very glad to get home, and as I expected, she crashed and burned upon arrival in her safe place. She was probably exhausted from the seizure itself and the subsequent twitching, as well as the boatload of drugs, so she slept a lot the rest of that night and into the following day. She now seems to be just about back to normal, to the relief of all concerned. Let’s hope it stays that way. I still don’t think that I really helped or added much to the occasion, but Megan says she was glad I was there, and that’s all that really matters, besides Star being well again.

*I’m sorry to say Ottawa won. At this point, the best case scenario is Pittsburgh winning the Cup.

A YEAR AGO: Celebrating Megan’s birthday in style.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A really lousy birthday for my wonderful sis.

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Going In Style

I was chauffeured to the latest Predicta Party in the latest style. Erica and Jessica picked me up in their brand-new Hagmobile.

It was quite wonderful to relax in style in the new car smelling interior. Erica and Jessica later noted that I seemed to be enjoying myself, and also that being chauffeured (or chauffeused) seemed quite natural to me. I’m telling you, I should never have abandoned my original career aspiration of Idle Rich.

I can’t remember being in a brand new car before, unless it was my grandfather’s red Dodge Dart Swinger. I remember it was the last car he ever bought and he said he had always wanted a red car*. I was more interested in the candy he kept in his glove compartment than in the car itself, and some things never change.

Others do, though, and the Hagmobile is quite wonderful in its ability to keep you going at the same speed you were before you started driving downhill, somehow defying the laws of physics so you don’t accelerate as you go. And it has a way of lighting what is behind you on the screen in the console so you can back up in country darkness and see what you are backing into.

Arriving at Rio’s compound, we gave the girls a tour since they have never been there before. We ended at the studio/garage where we made the cider last fall, and Erica and Jessica promised to join us in cider making this fall.

Clayton arrived from San Francisco on his red motorcyle, his hair tangled by the ride and feeling chilled despite the heavy leather outerwear he (wisely) wears on the trek from the city. He settled by the fire and I poured him a glass of cider in the sun glass, the largest and warmest-looking one in the set of planet glasses I gave Jonathan for Christmas. I have to admit my favorite is the tiny (and now demoted) Pluto.

To go with our home-made cider, Erica brought home-made spice straws:

I later learned that they are pastry cut in strips and then rolled in seeds and spices. Whatever they are, they are delicious!

She also brought the pièce de résistance, pineapple upside down cake, a retro dessert for a retro evening:

It was, as you would expect, also delicious. I am looking forward to Megan’s birthday BBQ on Memorial Day weekend and Junapalooza in late June.

Jessica was thrilled with her Bookstore Day haul, and delighted by watching an ad for a 1959 Predicta on a 1959 Predicta (“TV Today from the World of Tomorrow!”). Also by Honey West and Bewitched, which she had never seen before. It’s so nice to share things you love with people you love.

*I’m glad he finally got his red car. Red was his favorite color, and I wore a red dress to his funeral just for him, despite the consternation of onlookers.

A YEAR AGO: It was hot and the power was out. What’s not to hate?

FIVE YEARS AGO: This Calamity Suzy thing is not new.

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Flat Out


It really does exist

I started the week with a bang – or at least, a flat and smoking tire.

As I left the Big Town, I noticed that Wednesday was not handling the way I was used to. I thought maybe it was the wind, but as time progressed, it became clear that it was more than that.

The “low tire pressure” light came on, but being the genius that I am, I did not make the connection between that and the increasingly rough ride, despite my brother’s exasperated observation of “Suz, those lights on your dashboard aren’t just there to be pretty.” In my defense, though, that light has been known to come on when only the minorest of tweaks was actually necessary. It’s the little light that cried wolf. Unfortunately, this time it wasn’t kidding, and was, in fact, a little too understated.

I finally realized that I had to pull over, and did so just south of Road 409 near the next town. A sheriff’s car with lights blazing pulled up right behind me. Does this count as being pulled over? If so, it’s the first time in my life. I also noticed that my back tire was smoking, and not in a good way.

Getting out of the car, even I could see that my low profile tire was so low that it was, in fact, flat. Also unfixable. Being a faux adult, I didn’t know what to do, so the sheriff said to call the emergency number on the back of my insurance card, which I did. The person answering the phone either could not or would not understand that there was no cross street. He could not locate Road 409 or its alter ego Point Cabrillo Drive, and disclaimed all knowledge of mile markers. He was probably in Kansas or something.

The sheriff took the phone from me and assured the Kansas guy that the tow truck driver would know where mile marker 53.34 was. Mr. Kansas texted me the name, phone number and ETA of the tow truck, which was an entire discouraging hour away.

The sheriff saw me back to my car, told me to put on the hazards, and went on his way. I felt so lucky that he was right there when I needed him. I felt less lucky that I had, possibly for the first time in my life, forgotten to bring a book with me.

It was nerve-wracking feeling my car, otherwise immobile, rocking as cars fully equipped with four working tires swept past me. Not everyone passed by, however. Two friends stopped to check on me, as did a total stranger and the UPS guy from the jobette. It warmed my marooned heart to know that even strangers in our little corner of the world care enough to try and help someone with car trouble.

Eventually, the tow truck appeared. It was manned by an outsized guy who looked like he had recently escaped from ZZ Top without having time to shower or brush his quite remarkable beard. Star would not have enjoyed his look. He told me that the job right before mine was on the mythical Point Cabrillo Drive, so all the time I was waiting for him, he was practically there. Much like the time I required roadside assistance in Florida, after a lengthy wait it took ZZ Top about 30 seconds to change out the utterly destroyed tire for the spare one.

He warned me seriously that I could not drive above 50 miles an hour and that I could not drive far on it, though he added darkly that there were idiots who did and paid the price for their folly. I observed that my fellow drivers would object to such a majestic pace on the highway, and he thrust the middle finger of his meaty paw toward the road and exclaimed, “Fuck ‘em! It’s your life!” He then gave me a shoulder hug, saw me back to my car, and said he would watch my back and tell me when it was safe to pull out, which he did.

As I made my leisurely way home, I was thankful for ZZ Top and his rough concern, the kindness of the sheriff, and the caring of friends and strangers. Also for the 30 year old beater car which got me to work today with its assorted collection of rattles and hums, all in one piece.

A YEAR AGO: A wonderful weekend.

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

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Bookstore Day

It was a beautiful day to go to the bookstore, which is located right across from the street from the ocean. It has its own webcam, in case you want to see what I’m seeing.

The bookstore was celebrating Independent Bookstore Day, so we were greeted by people making stencils and selling cupcakes outside. Inside, a staff person handed us a scavenger hunt list:

and we were off!

The first and most important thing was to get the new Neil Gaiman book about Norse Mythology with the special, limited edition Bookstore Day cover for Jessica. Jessica wrote a fan letter to Neil Gaiman when she was five years old, and he sent her a handwritten letter in response, and Erica and Jessica basically ARE Norse myths. Erica recently did genetic testing and it turns out that she and Jessica are essentially Laplanders, Sami people, with a dash of other Scandinavian thrown in. So that book was the perfect gift for the kidlet.

Megan and I had a lot of fun with the scavenger hunt. Megan thought it would be fun if we chose a book blind date for each other:

The proceeds go to the local children’s fund, so it’s a win for everyone.

The prevalence of selfies had led me to believe it was an easy thing to do. It would also give me the unprecedented ability to take a photo of myself with the Great Catsby, who is usually looking down on his adoring public, both literally and figuratively.

While it was easy to find the giant Catsby:

it was less so to take the selfie, making me wonder about the popularity of these. Does everyone else have arms that are five feet long? Or is it just my usual lack of techspertise? Either way, I gave up on it after several attempts to get both Self and Catsby in the same photo. Megan offered to take it for me, but I thought that was cheating, since it was supposed to be a selfie.

We had the hardest time finding poems to read to each other and a book about our hero(ine). I finally tracked down a little volume of Zen poetry, and it was surprisingly nice to read poems to each other in a sunny bookstore. I thought I would feel like an idiot, but I actually enjoyed the words. As for heroes, we decided on a book about Winston Churchill. You may remember he has been my hero before, and of course our father pretty much worshipped him, as I imagine most boys growing up in WWII London did. I think this may still be my favorite Churchill anecdote.

We dropped off our completed scavenger lists and selected packets of mini crayons as our prize. Megan took them to work with her, since crayons have a way of disappearing from the Emergency Room waiting room. Yet another mystery. And yet another delightful outing with my sister.

A YEAR AGO: The Mystery Cat.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A busy and happy weekend.

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Out & About

If you think May is too late in the year for power outages, I agree with you. But we would both be wrong.

Derby Day dawned bright and sunny, but it also dawned crazy windy. It should have dawned on me that the power might go out, but it didn’t. Imagine my surprise when I was plunged into powerlessness less than an hour before the Derby festivities. No hats, no (muddy) walk across the field, no singing of “My Old Kentucky Home”, no exciting call of “Riders, up!”, and worst of all, no race. It was enough to make a girl make a consolation julep.

Even if I could have located a sports bar that was showing the race, I couldn’t have gotten there. Reports reached me that there was a power line down on the Ridge, so I couldn’t have made it to the highway. Even if I did, I would have had to turn back to the impasse on the Ridge, because other downed power lines had caused a fire in the next town north of Hooterville and the highway was closed.

A call to our friends at PG&E told me, and stop me if you’ve heard this one before, that there were widespread outages and that they had no estimated time of restoration. The sunny skies seemed to be mocking me as I regretted my optimistic folly of emptying out the emergency water buckets a couple of weeks earlier, foolishly thinking that I would not be needing them anymore, especially since they were now breeding mosquitoes. Fortunately, I did have a few bottles of drinking water left over from the seemingly endless winter, and I had already done the dishes.

I went to bed that night with earplugs in my ears and two pillows over my head to muffle the racket of Mark’s generator, seemingly racketier than ever, but maybe that was just my envy. The power came on again about 12 hours too late for the Derby, but at least it came on again.

A YEAR AGO: A wonderful family dinner.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Clyde was feeling naughty.

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A Sense of Place

Margaret: It makes one feel so unstable, impermanent, with all the houses being torn down on all sides. Including, in the foreseeable future, ours.

Ruth: Are you having to leave Wickham Place?

Margaret: Yes. In 18 months when the lease expires.

Ruth: Have you been there long?

Margaret: All our lives. We were born there.

Ruth: That is monstrous! I pity you from the bottom of my heart…

Margaret: Of course, we are fond of the house. But it is an ordinary London house. We shall easily find another.

Ruth: No, not in this world. Not the house you were born in. You’ll never find that again.

Howards End, 1992

A friend of mine recently learned that her childhood home is slated for demolition. Although she no longer lives in the house, she and her sister are devastated at the thought of its being devastated. She wrote a very eloquent and emotional letter in protest, which you can read here. It is probably a vain hope, since not one home has been saved from destruction in the name of Progress in that area, no matter how many people objected, but at least she was able to express her feelings. She makes some wonderful points about how heritage buildings should not survive in a vacuum, museum pieces to be looked at and forgotten about, but rather be part of the fabric of our everyday lives, a connection to the past that lives on.

It made me think about how the places we live shape us and become part of who we are, even after we leave them.

The house I grew up in predates the Civil War, and its stone foundations are much older than that. The cellar used to flood every spring as the snow melted, so Dad built a sort of raised walkway so we could avoid being soaked while walking around down there. The cellar still had the slanted doors where coal was delivered long ago.

The house was called Fox Hill, named for the foxes who lived in the wooded hills around our house. Legend had it that the five acre parcel our house was set in was payment to a Revolutionary War soldier for his service. I don’t know if that’s true, but I have many happy memories of growing up in that old house, and although I have not been there for decades, I can still walk through it in my mind, from the red front door to the fireplace in the living room, the stairs where our dog Ginger slept on the landing when Dad was home (and across the front door when he wasn’t), to my room under the eaves with the window seat Dad built.

I have equally treasured memories of my grandparents’ house, about an hour and a half’s drive from Fox Hill. It was a grand home, built by the town sheriff for his daughter when she married. The windows on the ground floor were seven feet high and the ceilings twelve feet. I made the mistake of stalking the house online and was appalled by how it was changed. The barn is unrecognizable inside, and a hideous deck has been added off the kitchen, which is as unrecognizable and ugly as the barn is now. The stained glass windows are missing, though thankfully the built-ins, fireplaces, and wraparound porch remain. Maybe it’s better not to go back.

My current house is quirky to say the least, and its faults, like my own, are neither small nor few, but I never want to leave it or this area. I have grown to love our little community and how we look out for one another. At Fox Hill, our driveway was unpaved and about a quarter of a mile long. We were often snowed in during the winter, and our nearest neighbors were farmers and their homes could not be seen from our house. I still can’t see my closest neighbors, my driveway is still long and unpaved, and we are often cut off from civilization when the road to the city floods. So in a way, I have come full circle, from one side of the country to the other. I have come home.

A YEAR AGO: Finding beauty in the Village.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Miscellaneous.

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Farewell

Blake

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks. I don’t usually write here about dark things, since this place is my refuge and I can banish the unpleasantness of the outside world from here, but as you know, from time to time, these things have to be faced. Fortunately, I have my brother and sister to face things with me, and we faced the memorial service for Blake together.

Blake and his father have been guests at our family gatherings, and we were all shocked and saddened to learn that Blake had died at the age of 20.

The day of the memorial service dawned bright and beautiful, a spring day when everything is coming back to life, with flowers blooming and birds singing as they build their nests and their families, fresh leaves bursting forth from the trees. It seemed so wrong to be commemorating the terrible loss of someone so young, who was himself only in the spring of his short life.

Blake’s parents belong to an evangelical religion which was started the same year my brother was born. I have to admit I was hoping that at least there would be tradition and ceremony to bring us some comfort, as there was at the long-ago and very moving bar mitzvah I attended. However, that was not the case. This particular religion is pretty adamant that if you don’t belong to it, you are going to hell, and that is that. I have never heard the word “wretch” so often in such a short time, and I am sorry to tell y’all that those of us who are not born again are “down in the mud with the pigs.” The service – for this lovely boy who died so young – concluded with the preacher trying to get extra converts to their religion and inviting us to consult with him about joining their cult after the service. Maybe it’s being brought up by atheist parents, but I found this unseemly, especially after being berated about my sinfulness. Weren’t we supposed to be remembering Blake?

Despite these religious oddities, there were some really nice moments. There was a montage of photos of Blake’s life, and a charming video of his catching a fish almost as large as he was when he was a young boy (and then releasing it). His two best friends, who had known Blake all his life, gave touching speeches. The chapel was full, with hundreds of people in attendance. I wonder if he would have been surprised to know how loved he is. I hope he knows he is.

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Freedom Friday


A beautiful day on the coast

One good thing about my current inability to sleep is that it gave me an extra long Freedom Friday last week. I had time to cook, do laundry, vacuum, wash the sheets and hang them out in the sunshine. Sheets that have been washed in Caldrea’s neroli and sea salt laundry soap and dried in the some of the cleanest air in the nation smell fantastic. Maybe that will help me sleep. One of these nights.

With the house in order, I hopped into Wednesday’s gangsta dark interior, put on some Tito Puente (including my favorite Ran Kan Kan), and set off for the beautiful South Coast, stopping at the Hooterville post office on the way. I was rewarded by a surprise magazine and card from a dear friend in Alabama, a sweet card from Lu*, and a brand new driver’s license.

The ocean was at its prettiest, turquoise and active, and the hills and trees are still lushly green. They are so green it’s almost loud. Not the slightest hint of the “golden”, and there are carpets of wildflowers everywhere, our very own super bloom. The river is full, and I saw a couple of young whales playing where the river meets the ocean. It was so nice to finally see the sun after all the rain we’ve been having.

I arrived at Queenie’s, a former garage turned deliciousness emporium:

It’s “open daily”, other than Tuesday and Wednesday. I found the dining room lightly populated, and settled in with the New York Times to await brunch, which arrived much more quickly than I anticipated, especially since it took about 40 minutes to get breakfast on my last visit. I had freshly squeezed orange juice and an omelette with broccoli, caramelized balsamic onions, chicken-apple sausage, and sharp white Cheddar. It was delicious!

Arriving home, I found Audrey relaxing in the sun on the back “porch”:

Nothing looks cozier than a cat in the sun. Clyde came running out to meet me, as he often does, and it was good to be home, especially on a week day. Ah, the joys of a day off!

*I love how she sends cards for no reason. This one said, Thank you for including me in sister nights at the theater. ♥ I love hanging out with you and enjoying fun times. ♥ Love you very much my friend. ♥

A YEAR AGO: Jessica’s 13th birthday. Our kidlet is a teenager!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sob!

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The Bad Habit

Well, this is becoming a bad habit. Get up early, go to sleep late, have a series of nightmares that wake me up throughout the night. On Thursday, I got up at 4:30 am, when Clyde joyfully leaped onto my unsuspecting stomach. It is a very effective wake up call, though more enjoyable for the leaper than the landing pad.

Since I took Friday off as a mental health day, I had an adult beverage or two after work on Thursday night while watching playoff hockey and staying up until 11:00 pm, fueled by fantasies of the Maple Leafs David beating the Goliath Washington Capitals. I know all the odds are against it, but a girl can hope.

I figured I’d sleep in until it was light outside on Freedom Friday, but I was as wrong about that as I probably am about the Maple Leafs. After a restless night of bad dreams, I finally gave up on the whole thing before 5:00 am.

After the requisite caffeination and cat duties, I threw in a load of laundry and did some cooking for during the week, including this delicious recipe. I left out the cilantro, upped the ginger, and used half sweet paprika and half smoked paprika, and threw the olives in near the end of the cooking instead of boiling them separately (Why? Why?). While things were cooking and cleaning, I finished a data entry project for my friends at the former jobette and emailed it over to them.

The jobette may not be so former after all. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but I am once again considering working Saturdays this summer.

You may recall that after a change in leadership at the jobette last year, the New Guy decided to close on Saturdays, among other unpopular decisions that ended up costing him his entire staff. After wreaking havoc in just a few short months, he quit and went back from whence he came, to the relief of all.

The current CEO seems very nice. We had a good meeting where he asked if I would consider doing data entry, blog writing, and working on Saturdays. He is willing to pay me more than I make at my real job, so it’s hard to say no, though I am a little worried about getting burned out. Decision-making, as you know, is not among my few talents. Maybe if/when I make a decision, I can finally start sleeping better.

A YEAR AGO: It was an internet-free zone at stately Suzy Manor. And there was quite the liestorm to go with it.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Meet the jobette’s newest employee, the office cat!

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Jessica’s Birthday


Birthday Girl

In keeping with our Endless Winter theme* (always winter and never Christmas!), Jessica’s 14th birthday dawned chilly. A committee of my siblings decided that it was too cold to celebrate at the family estate, instead relocating the festivities to stately Suzy Manor.

I was less than delighted by the implementation of Plan B, partly because I had had a pretty bad week at work and did not feel very hostessy, and partly because my desire to clean up the house was why they invented negative numbers. In the end, I didn’t bother cleaning up the house and I don’t think anyone noticed or cared. Sorry, Martha Stewart!

Erica and Jessica turned up in a fancy new car:


It’s not just new to them, it is utterly new. It has new car smell and is luxurious inside. It is like Wednesday’s more glamorous cousin:


You can’t tell from the picture, but Erica’s car has secret plum sparkles in the black paint which are revealed on the rare occasions when the sun shines. She wants to get personalized plates that read HAGMOBILE. Ha!

Of course Erica had made a spectacular cake:

The buttercream icing is vanilla and both flavored and colored with raspberries. I love the ombre effect. But wait, there’s more! The icing on the inside has chopped up dark chocolate with dried raspberries in it:

Jessica blew out all her candles with one mighty breath, and we decided to have dinner backwards, starting with dessert. After the cake, Jessica opened her gifts, delighting in each one. She is such a wonderful kid.

While all this was going on, Megan was making pulled pork in her instant pot. She is obsessed with the instant pot. We had the pulled pork with fresh tortillas which Megan cooked on her cast iron griddle, along with black beans, salsa, cheese, and fresh lime wedges. It was delicious!

We invited Erica and Jessica to the next Predicta Party, which will be in mid May. We will let Jessica choose the shows for that night, though we also want to introduce her to the joys of Honey West, which we are sure she will love.

And I sure love that kidlet.

*At this point, I’m pretty sure we are just going to go from rain and cold to 80 degrees, transforming my hippie hovel into an oven. I’m sure I will miss winter then.

A YEAR AGO: Audrey the alarm clock. All part of the service!

FIVE YEARS AGO: The kidlet turned nine. I was thinking pink.

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Tire-d

Dear Winter,
How can I miss you when you won’t go away?
Love,
Suzy

It seems that I was overly optimistic about the arrival of spring and the departure of winter. Lilacs notwithstanding, the weather has been doing a pretty good imitation of winter. It was 38F outside and 46F inside this past weekend, and we had a strong storm with high winds and heavy rains which led to me having to get out of the car three times on my way to work the following day to remove fallen branches on the drive way and the Ridge. The air smelled like Christmas trees and the roads were covered with twigs and needles as if it were December. So last season!

Spring being a tease and having to drive (again or still) in winter weather conditions makes me at least grudgingly glad that I invested my last paycheck in four new tires, an alignment, and an oil change for Wednesday. Unfortunately for both me and my modest paycheck, Wednesday requires low profile, high price tires, something of which I was unaware when picking her out at the car pound in faraway Modesto.

I bought two new tires on my really excellent birthday two years ago, and amused the mechanics when I asked if I could just buy four regular tires instead. To their credit (and my debit), they explained with a straight face that those pesky laws of physics don’t allow for that, regular tires being too fat or too high to fit in Wednesday’s sleek wheel wells. I guess two years is about all you can expect of your tires when you persist in driving them on unpaved and semi-paved roads which are usually accessorized with the latest in potholes and suffering from unbenign neglect when it comes to repairs.

I realize this means I have so far bought tires twice for a car which is not yet paid off.

In other winter news, it appears that all the rain has been wreaking havoc on our well. I came home one day this week to discover that the water coming out of the tap was a little more colorful than I would have liked. I asked Mark about it, and he hadn’t noticed (though you’d think at least one of three girls he lives with would have). He investigated, and said that all the rain had flushed the surrounding red clay (the red earth of Tara!) into the well and we would have to wait for it to settle down, which did not really settle me down at all. Nor did his cheerful assertion that it’s “clean” dirt, being natural instead of man-made and (presumably) not toxic.

Fortunately, I still have bottled water left over from the winter supply, but I am hoping that Mark can put a filter on the pipe that leads from the storage tank to the houses on the property to decruddify it sooner rather than later.

A YEAR AGO: Rob unveils his masterpiece.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Things were beautiful in San Francisco.

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Family Dinner

This month marked what is probably the last inside family dinner for a few months. We had it at Rio’s compound, and the weather was nice enough for us to sit on the front deck in the sunshine with a keg of the cider we made last fall, laughing and talking. Appropriately enough, we were joined by our fellow cider maker and good friend Clayton:

who had ridden his red motorcycle up from San Francisco to join us, across the Golden Gate Bridge, through the wine country and redwoods and beside the ocean. Over the ocean and through the woods to Rio’s house we go!

Rio had the door open so we could enjoy vinyl records played on her turntable inside the house. Some of the records had album covers designed by Rio’s father*, who was a quite celebrated album cover artist, designing for greats like Miles Davis and Billie Holiday.

We had lasagna for dinner, followed by chocolate ice cream with a warm cherry sauce made by my brother:

he also threw in a handful of M&Ms. Why not?

After dinner, we gathered around the Predicta:

to enjoy vintage television together. This evening’s entertainment had a beautiful blonde theme, starting off with an episode of “Bewitched”, starring the bewitchingly lovely Elizabeth Montgomery, followed by “Honey West”, with the equally lovely Anne Francis. Honey West featured an early cameo by Maureen McCormick, later and better known as Marcia Brady.

It was a delightful evening.

*Coincidentally, both of our fathers were named David.

A YEAR AGO: A road trip to Willits for us and one to Oregon for Rio and Jonathan.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Spring planting in the garden.

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Mom and her father

Today would have been my mother’s 85th birthday.

Sometimes I am surprised by how much time has gone by since we were orphaned. In some ways, it seems like it just happened, and in others that it was so long ago. With the unpredictable elasticity of grief, some anniversaries of births or deaths make you feel almost as bereft as you did when it first happened, and on others, you remember more happy memories. And it’s pretty much impossible to say why or know how you’ll feel until it happens.

My mother has not figured in these pages as much as my father. We did not always have the easiest relationship, and it is only now that I have begun to understand her better. She had a difficult life, there is no doubt about it. She was abandoned on the steps of an orphanage as a baby, my father left her, she married a man half her age who spent all her money and left her on welfare to fight a valiant battle against cancer. Hers was a long and terrible death, which she fought bravely to the end.

But she was also loved. Her parents adopted her when she was about three, picking her out at the orphanage like a puppy at the pound. We do not know anything about her birth parents, though there were rumors that her father was a doctor and her mother a patient. My mother didn’t care, though. Her parents told her that they chose her out of all the children in all the world, and other parents just have to take what they get.

Dad met Mom at a wedding and was charmed with her looks and joie de vivre. He was finishing his PhD in England and she lived in New York State. While he finished his degree, and when he took his round the world tour afterwards, he wrote her constantly, and I still have the wonderful love letters in their blue airmail envelopes, with drawings and photos and descriptions of the many wonders he had seen and how he missed her.

They definitely loved each other, though they were very different. Dad was scientific, Mom was artistic. She loved music, he was tone deaf. She was utterly American, he was English to the core. In retrospect, it’s probably not surprising that the marriage didn’t last, though like mine, it did last a long time.

I just wish Mom had found the happy ending Dad did. And I wish I could tell her that I love her and miss her. When I think of her, I think of her sparkling green eyes, beautiful, thick, golden-brown hair (which Megan inherited), her pleasure in beautiful things, from music to jewelry, her laugh. I think about sitting in bed with her – she was a night owl – watching “Saturday Night Live” back in the 1970s together. She was delighted by Devo’s avant garde version of “Satisfaction” on that show. I think of how she welcomed Gilbert, Dad’s graduate student from Tanzania, into our family for a few years when his family couldn’t get money out of the country to him. I think of her driving fast with music on loud in the car, the way I do now, the bracelets I now wear jingling on her wrist, shining in the sun.

She was strong. She was brave. She was unique. I am glad she was my mother.

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Sisters and Friends

The ballet season has ended, but the play season is just beginning.


The stage is set

Megan, our good friend Lu and I went to see a play at the local theater in the village on Saturday night. It was called “Morning’s at Seven”, and even knowing that the title comes from Robert Browning’s “Pippa Passes” doesn’t make the punctuation look any better to me. The play was written in the 1930s and is about four elderly sisters living in the mid west. This doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, but we spent the whole production either laughing or gasping in shock. It was very entertaining indeed.

The theater has a little bar in the lobby, and the bartender makes a special drink for each production. This one was called the Four Sisters, and was made of Four Roses bourbon, ginger ale, a dash of bitters, and a twist of lemon:


I’m not much of a bourbon drinker, but it was quite refreshing. The bartender confided that the four ingredients in the drink were inspired by the four sisters in the play, and invited me to guess which sister inspired which ingredient at the intermission. I only got half of them right, but it was still fun to guess.

After the play, we made our way to our cars and stood there chatting for a few minutes under a glittering blanket of stars. It was a great evening, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.

A YEAR AGO: My brother to Wednesday’s rescue. This year, she needs new tires. Sadly, none of these are April Fool’s Day jokes.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A late season storm. And a new (to Megan) car!

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The Arts

As winter (allegedly) comes to a close and (allegedly) makes way for spring*, so does the ballet season. Megan and I headed to the beautiful South Coast on a grey and overcast day. At least it wasn’t raining and none of the roads were closed or had closing potential, as they did the weekend we couldn’t get to see Sleeping Beauty, a regret that continues to haunt both of us.

As usual, our first stop was Anchor Bay Thai, where we were served by the charming owner. After the one disappointing dinner we had there, the owners have been especially solicitous when we come in, which is nice. I don’t know if I ever told you that the person who was responsible for the disappointing dinner was fired. I hasten to add that it wasn’t just because of my complaint. There has been several, and he also apparently had anger issues to the point that he fought with the owners about being fired. Ever since his departure, the food has been up to its exquisite standard, and I am pleased to report that this dinner was no exception.

With dinner stowed in the car, we headed to the Surf Market to pick up lunch. First things first. I always forget how to get into the market’s parking lot, and also how long it takes to get a sandwich there. This time, I noticed that you can text your order ahead, so assuming I can get service, I will try it next time.

After lunch, we went back to Point Arena, home of the historic Arena Theater which shows the ballets, and Franny’s Cup & Saucer, which is resolutely closed on Sundays, when the ballet is shown. We noticed that Franny produces a monthly brunch and dinner at the restaurant next door, so we will keep an eye open for those.

We were horrified to read in the program that the ballets are losing money and there may not be another season. Before the ballet started, a gentleman spoke to the audience and said they need help to keep the program going. The financial shortfall is a relatively modest $200-300, and they also need someone to choose the ballets! After I got home, I exchanged emails with the person in charge, offering to help. So Megan and I may be choosing the ballets later this year. Sleeping Beauty, here we come!

As for this last ballet of the season, it was too modern for our tastes. One of them was about insects and the other about the seasons, but I couldn’t tell what was going on or what they were supposed to be. We still enjoyed the artistry and strength of the dancers, though. It will be interesting to see what the next season brings – especially if it’s produced by us!

I still say March is the secret winter month no-one talks about. It may have the first day of spring in it, but it still looks (and feels) like winter, whatever coast you’re on.

A YEAR AGO: A day in town, featuring CPR, a bride, and a new (to Megan) stove. I see I have been at my “new” job for two years this week.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Screwing up in ways major and minor.

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Serendipity

All in all, it was a pretty good day.

‘Memba the giant bottle of cheap red wine that appeared at Thanksgiving? I used some of it to make black bean soup, but that barely put a dent in the ocean of inferior oenological product. I decided to leave it at the Gro, where I imagine some of the habitués (the kind Star doesn’t like) would greet it with enthusiasm, like an Easter bunny for winos. My good deed was rewarded by a snack-size bottle of good sparkling wine appearing on my desk that same morning, a reward from my wonderful boss for doing what I thought was just my job but was apparently a little above and beyond.

Also bringing some sparkle to my day was taking a break to meet Monica at the coastal trail for a walk and chat. She was accompanied by Stella’s son Joey, who has the most expressive ears. The only thing Stella about him is his joie de vivre and his enthusiasm for greeting me. Otherwise he looks like a German Shepherd with really long legs and goofy ears. If I didn’t know for a fact that Stella was his mother, I would never believe it. He doesn’t look a thing like her.

While Joey bounded around and sniffed things on his leash, Monica and I talked about my writing a blog for her store and working on a website for it, which I think will be a fun project. She wants to pay me for it, which makes me feel a little weird, but she says my time is valuable. We’ll see how it goes. It will be fun to start something new.

On my way home, a car pulled out from the Main Street exit of the village. I was pretty sure it was Erica, and closer inspection (of her One Bad Apple bumper sticker) showed that it was. I waved, but she was too busy driving, so as we approached the steep descent to the state beach, I honked and waved. She pulled over in the capacious turnout which is sadly underutilized by visitors who happen to be in my way, and I parked behind her.

Erica and Jessica (wearing, I was pleased to note, the Totoro shirt we gave her for her birthday last year) jumped out of their car and much hugging and squee-ing ensued. They were on their way to visit the yarn store, which apparently now resides in the quaint, family-owned inn where I have been known to enjoy the view and an adult beverage. Who knew?

They had been to Glass Beach that day and were taken aback by the number of tourists there, especially mid week. It seems a little early for the annual influx. As Jessica wondered, “If it’s tourist season, why can’t I shoot them?” I have often thought the same thing while creeping along behind the dreaded out of state plate.

Jessica’s birthday* – every April 15, as you know – falls conveniently on a Saturday, so she requested to spend it over at the family estate. We are still trying to come up with a theme for this year’s Junapalooza. We have had a cocktail party and a high tea. Jessica suggested that we set up a group board in Pinterest to find awesome party ideas. If nothing else, it will be fun. I think Erica is hoping to sneak in some Jell-O somewhere, probably spiked. And we are also plotting for another girl movie night this summer. So there’s a lot to look forward to.

We parted with hugs and I smiled the rest of the way home. I passed Megan as I neared our driveway, and we exchanged waves, which always makes me happy. Reaching the driveway, I was delighted to find that Mark had applied a layer of gravel over the enormous potholes and gigantic mud swamp the driveway had become this winter. Jonathan, who has 25 years’ worth of experience with this particular driveway, said he has never seen it in worse shape. Driving it at literally 2 miles an hour, I was still tossed around my car. So I was thrilled to whiz along serenely at a speedy 5 miles an hour.

*Megan and I were equally horrified to realize that Jessica is turning 14 this year. How is this possible?

A YEAR AGO: Getting the old grandfather clock running again.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A look around the garden. I see I was tired of the rain then, too. March really is the secret winter month no one talks about.

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Dad’s birthday dawned sunny and beautiful, but it was a sad one for me this year. Some years I am filled with how lucky I was to have such a wonderful father and friend, and other years it just makes me so sad he is gone. This was one of those years.

To make things worse, I ran over a dead deer on my way to work in the evil darkness that morning. I had no choice, since there was too much oncoming traffic for me to go around it by driving in the other lane of the two lane highway, and there was no shoulder of the road, either. I felt like a monster, since humans had already killed the poor creature and now I was desecrating its body.

I was relieved to notice that someone had removed the evidence of my callousness on my way home from work that day. I got changed and ready to go out again, since Megan and I had plans, but I was not feeling festive. I went out one door as she came in another, but we found each other and laughed. We jumped in her little red car and set off for the Village, passing the eternal Christmas tree where Dad’s bird ornament winked in the sun.

Unlike me, Megan was having a good Dad’s birthday. She had worked in the garden that day, honoring Dad’s legacy as an excellent gardener, restoring the sweetpeas we plant for him every year as well as fertilizing the fruit trees and caring for the lavender. And she was looking forward to our plans to celebrate Dad that evening.

The bookstore in the Village was having a sale, and that seemed like a perfect way to honor the man who read to us and gave us our love of reading. You can see the Great Catsby in his favorite spot:

Megan bought two instant pot cookbooks, even though she did not actually have an instant pot (she rectified this later by ordering one on her phone at my house, since she does not have internet at hers). I weirdly ended up getting deeply discounted but sparkly Christmas cards as well as some stocking stuffers. I got something for Erica’s stocking last month. I am unable to explain this extremely premature holiday shopping.

We then headed to the beautiful Ledford House, where the view was wonderful:

We toasted Dad with Red Queens, a divine concoction made of gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, and cranberry, garnished with a sugar rim with hibiscus and dark chocolate:

and swapped some of our favorite Dad stories over dinner. I think he would have liked that, and also approved of our choices, both of us ordering according to his rule of getting something you would not (or could not) make at home. Megan had incredibly light gnocchi with Gorgonzola and walnuts:

and I had petrale sole with passionfruit beurre blanc, served with mashed potatoes and asparagus with infused herb oil:

It was a good way to celebrate our father, and by the time we headed back home, I just felt glad we had him in our lives. He will always be in our hearts. We love you, Dad.

A YEAR AGO: Not a great start to the day.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A date with my family.

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Random Notes

I avoid the news now like the plague it is, but I keep abreast of important matters on the local message boards. We have had an avian theme lately:

Predators have reduced our small flock to one lonely hen. Anyone in a similar situation? You take my 2 year old hen into your flock, or I’ll adopt one or two hens you no longer want to keep her company?

There was a great deal of concern over an injured owl:

The Great Horned Owl reported by X was picked up by Fish & Wildlife and arrived at Woodlands Wildlife. A quick assessment shows no obvious broken wings or legs. It is semi-alert if disturbed, but quickly sits down and lapses into unconsciousness. Probably a concussion–which can cause the brain to swell for up to 48 hours, so the next few days are critical. He is very thin, so he will be force fed.

Normally, I do not go out and get things. Almost 100% of the time when I have done that in the past, the animal or bird has already left the scene, or the directions are wrong. It’s actually where the expression “wild goose chase” came from (hunters chasing after an injured but not dead goose). I’m at an age where I don’t go romping through meadows or clambering down rocky hillsides chasing things.

I am pleased to report that the owl recovered and was released back to the wild in the area he was found, flying off “strongly” as the sun set.

A resident pigeon was in a piteous plight:

I have a rock dove (aka Pigeon) that needs a better home than I can currently provide. I found him as a little pink squab in a construction site, and raised him to maturity by hand. I care for him deeply however since moving here I have to work everyday for long hours. I feel it isn’t fair to keep him caged up for that long. Before we moved here he was able to free fly and we had a suitable outdoor roost that he began to live in when he became mature. I really want better for my little friend. If anyone has a flock, or experience with bird keeping, or knows anyone who does please contact me!!!!

You will be relieved to hear that even the lowly pigeon found a happier life:

Woodlands Wildlife can prepare your pigeon for freedom and life as a normal bird. We would put it in a large aviary so it could exercise and build up its flight muscles, teach it what its normal food in the wild should be, and release it near other pigeons.

There’s a risk that it might not be able to learn all that, in which case we have a local man who has a large (40 feet) aviary of various pigeon types, and we often place non-releasable birds with him for long term care. I’ll be in the office after 10 tomorrow if you want to call and we can discuss it.

A newcomer to our community experienced a disastrous loss:

I lost approx $550 cash (mostly $100 bills) after registering my car at DMV around 2:40pm today. It’s my social security money my son and I need to live on this month. If found, please call R at [telephone number]. Offering $50 reward, plus a free conscience, if the cash is returned.

The cash wasn’t returned, but our community sprang into action, contributing small amounts until we raised enough to cover the missing money. Here is the response from the guy who lost the money:

Aloha and Mahalo to the Coast community- You have made us whole….and so much more!
We share a love of the ‘aina which connects us all to each other. *E ho‘omaika‘i ana no ke aloha kekahi i kekahi* – E and I are grateful for the love the members of this community have for one another.

I love our town.

A YEAR AGO: Victorian ziplining. Who knew?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Wild weather. And wildlife.

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