Shopping List

The dear departed

My ring has finally sold. I have mixed emotions about it, even though I gave it up three months ago. I guess I could have changed my mind and gotten it back, but if you’re at a financial point in your life where you’re selling your jewelry, you don’t really have the luxury of exercising a woman’s prerogative. The money will definitely come in handy, and I’ll try not to think about how I received less than a quarter of the appraised value.

I’ve been thinking lately about how little I got for the things I’ve been forced to sell versus the appraised value, or the value I thought they had. The truth is that any object, from a house (the one I’m renting was bought about three years ago for $450,000, and is now worth around half that) to a used book, is only worth what someone’s willing to pay for it. And whoever bought my things isn’t going to be able to sell them for a huge profit any more than I could, at least not in the immediate future. And the immediate future is what I’m concerned with right now.

When I first received the news, I immediately thought about the things I’d buy with the money:

  • A new teapot to replace the one the kitties broke;
  • New socks! I have maybe one pair without holes in them;
  • A non-stick pan, since mine now sticks;
  • Tickets to the A’s game where Rickey Henderson’s jersey will be retired; and
  • Blinds and hanging plants for the porch.

Then I started laughing when I realized how modest these items are. It’s pretty funny to trade in a 2 carat diamond ring for some socks and a frying pan!

Garbage Wars

Though not suffering from a lengthy (and, I’m sure, in the hot’n’humid east coast summer) stinky strike like my friends in Toronto, there has been a certain level of garbage-related weirdness around here lately.

A bunch of kids play at the cul de sac end of my short street. Sometimes they play basketball – the hoop stays there all year round – sometimes it’s baseball, and often it’s skateboarding. It’s nice to see and hear the kids having so much fun, and I’ve gotten to know them enough that we greet each other as they run past. The day Michael Jackson* died, I saw one of these kids sitting on his basketball across the street with his head in his hands. I went over and asked if he was okay. He lifted his tear-stained young face to me and said, “Michael, man. Michael.” He bowed his head again and I respectfully left him to mourn his fallen idol.

A few days ago, a broken skateboard was left on the lawn of the people next door, the ones with the constantly barking dogs. I didn’t think anything of it until it appeared on my lawn, right next to the garbage can, which was sitting at the curb awaiting collection. I put it into the can and wondered what that was all about.

Last night, a woman was parked outside my house, casually dropping trash out of her windows. Fast food wrappers, bags, huge soda cups, a half-drunk Frappucino, and other detritus. There must have been a couple of pounds of it. I asked her what she thought she was doing, and she started yelling at me that she could do whatever she wanted and who did I think I was. I asked if she’d like it if someone threw garbage all over her street, and she got even angrier.

I gave up on the whole thing and walked back into the house, hearing her continued ranting behind me, including calling me a racist (she was African-American). She left soon after, but I actually worried for a couple of hours that she might come back with an irate boyfriend to continue the argument. Nothing happened, but it was pretty depressing. The truth is that I would have said the same thing to anyone who did that, regardless of race, but I guess you can never disregard race in America. I wonder if that day will ever come.

Not surprisingly, I had a hard time getting to sleep that night. I tossed and turned, finally giving in to the inevitable and reading Sag Harbor (in which race relations also play a role) into the cold light of dawn. As I finally drifted off to sleep, the garbage trucks began to roar up my street.

*I was intrigued by a quote in Joan Acocella’s recent essay in the “New Yorker”, where the great Fred Astaire, having been taught the Moonwalk by Michael Jackson, told the young star that they both danced out of anger.

Etsy Covets

Etsy has the most fabulous things. Here are some I’d snap up if money were no object:

A pencil urchin ($125). It would look so cute on my desk for the five seconds before the kittens knocked it to the ground and played with it into oblivion.

Florapalooza vase ($84). I have three vases from the wonderful Stonehouse Pottery on my mantel, and they’re Museum Waxed into place. We all know how the girls can’t resist shredding flowers, or the vases they’re in.

Tweed Boston bag with leather corsage ($89.90). Who knew tweed could be so frivolous?

“Koro” ($110): a modern light fixture/chandelier inspired by coral, but made to order of Japanese paper (along with, you know all the lights and wiring and things like that).

Who needs a little black dress when you can sport a summery little white dress ($254)? This has style to spare – I could see Mrs. O in this one.

Be your own Barbie* in a swimsuit ($110) modeled after the original 1959 Barbie’s (up to $8,000), back when she was a sassy brunette. You can finally wear doll clothes in real life!

*I never realized I before that I was so Barbie obsessed. I never had one as kid, or asked for one, but as an adult, I have visited the Barbie Hall of Fame in Palo Alto and totally covet the “The Birds” Barbie. Yet another mystery brought to you by the shallow eddies of Suzy’s frivolous mind.

The Belated Departed

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
— Albert Einstein

Well, I’m no Einstein, and color me crazy, ’cause I refused to admit that I couldn’t get the pictures from my aged camera. I kept trying, and voilà! Here are the cemetery photos I’ve been wanting to show you.

The sign reading “Little River Cemetery” is in the distance.

You can see the grass is golden, and it’s foggy – coastal summer!

The tall marker is for the five children lost by one family in the 1880s.

The forest behind the cemetery.

One side of the “bowl” in the woods.

Peeking through the trees behind the cemetery to the ocean.

The ocean behind the forest.

Home Again

The kittens’ mother, Quince

I couldn’t resist posting this photo of Quince yawning.

The girls were glad to see me when I got home. I could hear them galloping to the door when I put the key in the lock. They sniffed me and my baggage suspiciously, possibly smelling Other Cats, or just the country smells. Hours of fun! And an excuse not to unpack.

Before I hopped in a cold shower and enjoyed my new Lush gifts, I went out to see Henry. Usually, he’s grumpy when I get back – actually, he’s pretty much a grumpy old man all the time – but this time, he came running to see me, and even bumped his head against my hand when I bent down to pet him. Progress!

While I was away, I only checked my email once, when I ran that report for my boss. Like most people who take a break from the online world, I found I didn’t miss it at all, though I spend a lot of time in that realm when I’m at home. When I did check my email, I found a message from my landlords, saying they’d be by on Sunday to check on the lawn, though they didn’t say when.

You may recall that I’ve been trying to get them to do something about the grass corpse for several months. I was hoping we could talk about it and maybe get some native grasses or something more drought-tolerant than a resource-hogging lawn, but they either didn’t show up, or did an examination without me. Now I just have to wait for the diagnosis and prescription.

Sunday was the day of no-shows: my boss was also supposed to drop by, and he didn’t call or appear, either. I’m beginning to feel unpopular, even though I smell simply mahvellous.


As often happens in the summer, the Golden Gate Bridge was so fogged in that you couldn’t see most of the towers, let alone the ocean, the city, or the Bay. I was disappointed on Jessica’s behalf, since she was so looking forward to the view. I hope she got to see it on her way home.

By the time we passed the Presidio, we were out of the fog. No matter how long I live in or around San Francisco, the microclimates will never cease to amaze me.

Erica decided to drive down Union Street, a well-known and expensive shopping district near my former residence. I hadn’t been there in a while, being unable to support the economy in the style to which I used to be accustomed, and it was fun to see which stores were still there and which were different.

Erica noticed that there was actually a parking space in front of one of our favorite stores, Lush. Not only that, but there were 28 precious minutes left on the meter! It was too good to resist.

We drifted into the store on wafts of delicious fragrance, and were greeted by a charming French guy who spent the next half hour flirting with Erica as we sniffed and envied our way around. One of the great things about Lush is that you can try some of the products, so Jessica and I had fun trying things and splashing around in the basins provided. Somehow, we both ended up with glitter on our noses.

Erica told me to pick out something and she’d buy it for me. I was astonished – surely driving me home and letting me play with Jessica was enough for anyone! But she put her arm around me and said, “I know how much you miss shopping.” I was incredibly touched. In the end, she gave me all these things:

  • Sugar scrub (which I used to scrub off the country dirt when I got home, though my long-suffering sandals may never be the same);
  • A tiny pot of Potion solid perfume (spicy, delicious carnation scent);
  • Sexy Peel soap (selected by Jessica); and
  • Eau Roma water (get it?), which was perfect for a sunburned face.

When I thanked Erica, she said simply, “You needed some luxury,” and gave me a hug.

Homeward Bound

It was time to say good-bye. Along with my hay bale/Beverly Hills haircut, I brought a box of produce with me: tomatoes, almonds, peaches etc. from the Mendocino farmers’ market, tiny potatoes from my sister’s garden (she stores them in a pail of sand so they won’t go green or sprout; some of them were the size of a debutante’s pearls), and Betty eggs. Betty works at the hospital with my sis and brings in her extra eggs from her happy hens. You would not believe the difference between Betty eggs and Safeway eggs.

I went home by modern stage coach: my sis drove me to Boonville, where we planned to meet up with Erica and Jessica at Erica’s shop, Erica having kindly offered to chauffeur me the rest of the way. Megan and I were a bit early, a frequent family flaw, so we poked around the small farmers’ market for a few minutes.

There were books which were supposed to swapped, but having nothing to trade, we were allowed to take our selections for free. I scored a 1965 edition of James Beard’s Menus for Entertaining (which is, very) and Meg found a sci fi book for her husband, which it turned out he hadn’t read. I also got a Sunflower Soother lotion bar from MeadowSweet Soap, based in Ukiah. I am pleased to report that daily applications of it, besides smelling and feeling great, completely prevented my sunburn(s) from peeling.

We went across the street to the store, where Erica was loading up the car. She and Jessica were lucky golden ticket holders for Neil Gaiman’s signing in San Francisco the following day. Only 100 tickets were available, so they were very lucky to get them. And Mr. Gaiman was very lucky to meet his youngest fan in person.

It was a delightful drive. We ate brownies, giggled, and talked. The topic of Halloween costumes came up. Jessica is beginning to learn how to sew, and she wants to be the Oogie Boogie Man from The Nightmare Before Christmas this year. She observed that it would be easy to sew, and Erica agreed, saying it would be a fairly simple shape. She also suggested that Jessica might want to sew some decorations on her Christmas stocking, such as gingerbread men. Jessica said she’d like to put on candy canes, and I asked what was her favorite flavor (last year, we had cinnamon ones). She considered, and then said “I like the classic candy cane flavors, like peppermint.”

As we approached San Francisco, we saw a blimp flying lazily over head. I pointed it out to Jessica, and she said, “That’s an airship!” Later, I mentioned this to my sister, wondering how a six year old would know about airships. Megan said that lately Jessica’s been reading the dictionary in bed at night. One night, it was long after lights out and she didn’t want to stop reading. One of the things that makes Jessica such a charming child is her remarkable obedience about going to bed and staying there, so this was unusual. She explained to her mother, “I’m between diamonds and dinosurs and I just can’t stop!”

Of Barbecues and Bales

Backseat Bale

On our way home, we stopped off and bought a bale of straw. Little did I know that there is a difference between hay and straw, and that there would be a choice of straw. Whenever I run an errand for my brother, I’m always lacking an essential piece of information, so it’s good I had my little purple cell phone handy.

The winning straw was rice! Though fairly modest in size compared to some of the bales on offer, it refused to fit into the trunk of my sister’s trusty and dusty Saturn. But it did settle nicely into the back seat (see above). The straw seller kindly placed a sheet of paper on the seat before depositing the bale, but the car, our hair, and our clothes were soon as straw-strewn as the March Hare on a particularly maddening day.

If you’re wondering why our brother required a single, smallish straw bale, it’s because he’s planning to build a cob oven with the straw and the clay on the property. If you’re curious about these ovens, you can read all about them here.

We unloaded the straw and other BBQ fixin’s at his place, then went on to Megan’s. I stowed the groceries while she created the pie. She makes them so quickly it looks like a breeze. She does something with almond meal that makes the crust magically delicious. And with four pints of fresh local strawberries going into her pie, you can see that she doesn’t hold back.

Pie perched precariously on my lap, and Schatzi in the now vacant backseat, we made our way to our brother’s place. Friends gradually assembled, including Lichen, who brought Schatzi’s good friend Padawan. They play together at least once a week. Padawan is another terrifying breed, a Rottweiler who immediately cuddled up to me, then lay down and allowed me to rub his tummy until my arm felt like I’d pitched ten innings. I guess that’s the real danger!

As Padawan and Schatzi ran off to play, I perched on the straw bale while Lichen cut my hair. He had the cape and the fancy scissors and everything. It turns out that he used to be a stylist in Beverly Hills in a former life, working his magic on stars and starlets. I bet they never had their cut on a straw bale! He refused to let me pay him, even though my hair looks Hollywood fabulous.

In the meantime, my brother was barbecuing free range chicken breasts and farmers’ (thank you, Mike!) market corn, so dinner was ready. There was also salad and cheese buns which my brother had made earlier. For dessert, there was the pie.

As we sat around the dying flames of the barbecue, with the sun dipping lower in the sky, I thought how lucky I am to have such a wonderful family and friends.

To Market, to Market

The beautiful village of Mendocino

Still dog-dazzied, we headed to the Mendocino farmer’s market.

It’s hard to imagine a more idyllic setting. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this romantic village, it’s on a rocky headland, jutting out into the rocky Pacific ocean. The village was established in 1850, and if you look at the photo above, you will see that it hasn’t changed much over the years. All telephone wires are buried, and fast food stores and chain stores are banned. The Historical Society (or Hysterical Society, as some of the locals refer to it) is diligent about preserving the Victorian look of the town. It is generally considered one of the most beautiful towns in America, and frequently stands in for New England in movies and television shows, notably Murder, She Wrote.

The farmer’s market (I never know if it should be farmer’s or farmers’ – does anyone more grammatically correct know which is right?) takes place every Friday on one of the quaint streets overlooking the sea. With her big basket over her arm, my sister expertly steered me to the best vendors for strawberries (four pints, destined to become a pie), carrots, heirloom tomatoes, fresh spinach, spicy garlic, and my favorite soap from Lovers Lane Farm.

Megan asked the carrot vendor about “the fruit people”. He smiled and pointed across the road, and off we went. On the way across the street, my sister explained that farmer’s market politics had dictated that the Fruit People couldn’t be part of the regular market because they came all the way from Fresno. Her opinion was that if they wanted to drive a couple of hundred miles to sell their fruit, that was their business. Also Fresno is hotter and sunnier than the coast, so their peaches, etc. are much better quality.

The Fruit People were swarmed, locals welcoming them back. The other vendors had circulated a petition to ask for their return. Apparently they had the correct permits and all was well. We got both white and yellow peaches, fresh almonds, and some dried fruit. Everything was delicious. Our basket and my Chico bag were overflowing, so we headed back to the car to go home and get ready for that night’s barbecue.

Up next: the barbecue and the hay bale haircut!

Dangerously Darling Dogs

Schatzi enjoys her garden

Undaunted by the banana slug (well, slightly daunted), my sister and I made our way to the local shelter the following day.

Megan inherited her dog, Schatzi, from our mother. Mom was walking her other dogs (who have since passed away) one day when she still lived near San Diego when she heard a sound coming from a Dumpster. She investigated, and found Schatzi. The dog had clearly suffered a lot of ill-treatment, and had also recently had puppies, who were nowhere to be seen*.

Mom cleaned her up as much as she could and took her to the pound, since she already had two dogs. The pound informed her that Schatzi would be killed immediately, without even trying to find her a home. Why, you ask? Because she is a pit bull terrier. A 35 pound, brindled bundle of love, but still, a pit bull terrier.

Mom now had three dogs.

She named this one “Schatzi”, which is German for “sweetheart” or “treasure”, and she is both. And as as Mom said, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

Schatzi is definitely Megan’s treasure. She adores that little canine princess, and as her love for Schatzi has grown, so has her interest in Schatzi’s breed – possibly one of the most misunderstood breeds in the world. She is an ardent supporter of Bad Rap, an Oakland rescue and rehabilitation organization, and works at least one day a week to help train and socialize pit bulls at her local shelter.

This was one of those days, so I got to meet three of the PBs: Tulley, Davis, and Patch. Tulley’s baby, Echo, is deaf and is being fostered by a family who is teaching him sign language. The shelter is holding an adoption day in August, and the staff hopes that if the PBs are well-trained and friendly, they’ll find good homes.

All three were incredibly affectionate, kissing me, wagging their tails, and leaning against me and looking up at me with the heartbreaking affection only a dog can show. And I was a total stranger!

We walked the dusty, rocky roads for more than two hours. Tulley responded well to the clicker, and all the dogs did well, though their natural ebullience broke through the training from time to time.

I was sorry to see them go when it was time to return them to their kennels, but it was an honor and a privilege to work with and cuddle with these beautiful animals, even for a short time. The only reason to beware of these dogs is the serious danger of falling in love.

*Later, Mom learned that Schatzi had been seen around the neighborhood with her puppies, and the general consensus was that they had fallen prey to coyotes. Mom was astounded that not one person thought to help the dog and her babies.

The Attack of the Banana Slug

A combination of talent and necessity has made my sister an excellent cook. I complain about the lack of decent take out and delivery in Oakland, but she has no delivery at all, the nearest Pizza Hut being a 40 minute drive away, and no edible take-out if she did make the drive (Pizza Hut and Mickey D’s being pretty much the culinary limits, though there are really good sit-down restaurants). So whenever I’m there, the food is always great, and it’s all the better for not being made by Me.

When we got home from the cemetery, she made pizza dough and set it to rise in the sun in her garden. Of course, she had a supply of tomato sauce on hand, along with spicy garlic and lipstick peppers from last week’s farmer’s market, as well as locally made sausage. It seemed to take her no time at all to make calzones for dinner (and a few extra for her lunch during the week), along with baby lettuces and balsamic vinaigrette. Dinner was served, along with organic local wine. My brother-in-law did the dishes while we girls talked and giggled as only sisters can.

Late that night, I emerged from the bliss of quilts to offload some of the wine. At this point, I have to explain that to get to my sister’s bathroom, you go out the front door onto the porch, which has a roof (good in winter) and beautiful plants (good all year). Turn left, pass the Hippies Use Side Door sign, and you’re at the bathroom door. Inside, there’s a skylight over the shower, which is decorated with a unique and gorgeous mosaic pattern, along with the usual appointments.

Imagine my surprise when I grabbed the doorknob and found it to be slimy. And gushy. And gross. I pulled my hand away in horror and examined the doorknob. A banana slug was curled around it, minding its own business and completely grossing me out.


It was around 1 am. I seriously considered waking up my brother-in-law, but I knew that would wake up my sister, and neither of us would enjoy that. (Later my BIL admitted that he heard me squeal and just giggled and went back to sleep.) I finally decided that now was as good a time as any to act like a grown-up, so I got a wine bottle out of the recycling and used the neck to poke it off the doorknob. Ick.

However, I neglected to wipe off the doorknob before turning it, so I got slimed all over again. Beginning to see a theme here with the slow learning?

I had never encountered this particular form of wildlife before (nor do I hope to again), but apparently it’s so common that there is a Banana Slug for Peace float in the local Fourth of July Parade (thanks to Meloukhia for the visual). Trust me, they are much cuter in float form than wrapped around a doorknob late at night.

Scenic Cemetery

After lunch, my sister suggested that we take Schatzi and explore the Little River Cemetery. It’s a charming place, and though we’ve both driven by it many times, neither of us has ever stopped to pay our respects. I always enjoy walking around graveyards, especially very old ones in England or the fascinating Sleepy Hollow Cemetery which I visited* a couple of years ago.

Still in my unsensible sandals, but with the addition of sunscreen, we loaded the dog into the car and were on our way.

We crossed over the Albion Bridge (fun fact: it’s the only wooden bridge still in use on the entire 655 miles of Highway 1) and were soon at the cemetery. With Schatzi respectfully on her leash, we wandered the grounds. The graves date back to the 1800s, and the most recent we saw was from 2005. There was also one for a couple, with only the birth date for one spouse. That’s planning ahead.

An elaborate monument honors the brief lives of one family’s five children. I don’t know if any of the others grew up, but it must have been devastating. The twins who died a month apart at the age of four or so were heart-breaking, too.

Back then, the style was to say how many years, months and days old a person was, whether they were 6 or 60. Lambs were a popular motif for children; adults had clasped hands, roses, or weeping willows. I liked the epitaph “Lost from sight, but alive in memory”.

Again my footwear was problematic, since the area is apparently extremely popular among gophers. There were dusty holes all over, and once my foot even sank into the grass far enough to be disturbing.

You’d never guess it from the road, but behind the cemetery is a path which leads through the woods to the rocky cliffs overlooking the ocean. The path passes an intriguing sort of bowl, 80 feet deep or so. The bottom is sand, and you can see a cave or tunnel leading to the ocean and stained with salt water. You can also hear the ocean, but the water doesn’t seem to come in. Mysterious…

The forest is magical and hushed and you wouldn’t be surprised to see dinosaurs come crashing through it. Unfortunately, we had to keep to the path since it was poison oak central, but it was amazing. We could look through the clearing to the silvery ocean and its rough black rocks, the waves crashing and the wind blowing through the trees, bowed by decades of past storms.

You’re probably wondering where the visual aids are, and indeed, my ancient camera is full of photos which would show you what I mean. However, the camera is on strike, hopefully temporarily. I’m planning to take it to the Apple store and see if one of the Geniuses behind the Bar can manage to extract the photos for me. I’ll keep you posted (and keep posting) in the meantime.

*Cool photo, if I say so myself.

Silly Shoes and Sunburns

I’m back!! With a sunburn, assorted bug bites, a box of farm-fresh produce, a brand-new haircut, and a slightly better understanding of what constitutes sensible footwear. At least in the country.

Summer’s been showing me who’s boss for the past couple of weeks. No matter how much I tell it that it’s won, it won’t let up. It’s definitely one of your more stubborn seasons (winter being the other). So I’ve been keeping the blinds closed and wearing sandals every day for so long that I’ve stopped thinking about it. When I packed for my country visit, it never crossed my heat-struck mind to bring sneakers or boots.

I would soon realize my mistake. Others would follow…

My brother has moved onto the property he and our sister are buying, just down the road from her house. It’s thirty pristine acres, five miles from the coast, so it’s sunny there when it’s foggy by the ocean. He moved our mother’s trailer there, took out the carpeting and the old couch, replaced the floor, hooked up solar panels to power the generator so there’s electric light, the refrigerator runs, and even has internet access. My sister and I stopped by before taking her adorable and adored dog Schatzi for a walk/stroll/run (depending on participant) on the property.

I was multi-tasking, because I had to run a report for work. I hooked up my iBook to my brother’s satellite dish ethernet (don’t ask me how it works), started the report, and took off with Megan and the dog while it processed.

It soon became apparent that sandals were not the best choice for walking along a dusty, rocky, unpaved road. Later, it turned out that having your hair up in the blazing sun for over an hour makes you an instant redneck. Just add a beer and a tube top and you’re ready for NASCAR!

When we came back from the walk, the report was ready, and I emailed it to my boss. It’s kind of magical to be able to do that in the middle of nowhere. Shortly after that, he called my cellphone from Detroit, and I was thinking that you couldn’t get much different than each end of the phone: me in a meadow bordered by redwoods; my boss in downtown Detroit. Would have made for a great split screen in a movie.

Up next: cemetery stroll and the attack of the late night banana slug!


The last of the backyard plums, June 24.

Wow, guys. I can’t believe that not one of you wanted to trade with me, even for a weekend. And here I was, thinking I might have missed my calling by not becoming a professional writer of real estate ads.

See if this* changes your mind!

In the meantime, I’m going to visit my brother and sister for a few days, where the dogs don’t bark, the doors don’t lock, and you leave your car keys in the ignition, so you know where they are. It will be a budget adventure, since I’m catching a ride with one friend on the way up and one with Jessica and her mother on the way back. Plans include walking dogs at the local shelter and visiting the farmer’s market.

Maybe we’ll get lucky on the way up. When i think of how many times I’ve driven that stretch of road…

*I did find the pronunciation of “Oakland” pretty funny. Also it’s totally true about Zachary’s. People go nuts about it, yet I personally found it to be on the icky side. Actually, the whole movie is pretty much true – I laughed out loud when I watched it.

Voilà! Enfin! Enfants!

I finally managed to retrieve the photos from my ancient camera using a new cable. You can now enjoy a couple of pictures of Jessica from a couple of months ago.

One with a rose as big as her head:

And one with a friend and her little black kitten:

And of course, one of the kitten herself:

Life Swap

Since a summer vacation is out of the question, I thought I’d try a new concept: Life Swap. You get to be Me, and I get to be you. It’s a limited time offer, though I’m sorry to say you won’t get a free gift* if you call now.

Here’s what you’d get:

  • Bijou residence in East Oakhampton. Conveniently located near the BART station of death, Highland Hospital (last stop for most local gunshot victims), and popular homicide locale International Boulevard.
  • Three gas stations within one block. Only $40 to fill up a Ford Taurus at any given one of them! You can also buy milk there if you are so inclined.
  • Walking (or staggering) distance to the liquor store and cracketeria.
  • Friendly locals who come right up to your house and take that unwanted recycling or trash right out of your bins!
  • Other friendly locals who try to convert you to their extremely unusual religions.
  • Front row seat to minor crimes and misdemeanors, such as neighbors dousing themselves with gasoline and others burning stolen cars.
  • Convenient freeway underpass where old sofas and other refuse that doesn’t fit in the bins can be easily dumped.
  • None of that horrible, un-green air conditioning. “Awesome” cross breeze according to landlord, though so far, it seems as likely to appear as the Loch Ness Monster.
  • The world’s cutest and naughtiest kittens. Adorable and challenging! Also slightly grumpy, stray-ish outdoor cat who might possibly tolerate your presence as long as you bring him food and water once a day. Occasional treats are welcomed by all.
  • Unlimited trips to the library and the Safeway.
  • All the barking dogs your heart could ever desire.

Any takers?

*Because, you know, you usually have to pay for gifts. That’s why they call them “gifts”.

Yesterday’s Today

It must have been kind of weird for Canadians to celebrate Canada Day in the middle of the week. Have a day off, then go back to work! Don’t celebrate too enthusiastically or try and go anywhere too far away, and forget about that long weekend.

Here Independence Day is on Saturday, which is also kind of weird. Most off us have the day off anyway, and not everyone got Friday off (I know I didn’t). Garbage was collected (lucky us, compared to the striking Toronto), but there was no mail. The library is closed today, but I’m not sure yet if there will be mail. The air has been full of barbecue smoke for the past couple of days, and last night there were ad hoc and possibly illegal fireworks here in the ‘hood.

Back when fireworks were legal, the Glorious Fourth was celebrated with style at the Hellman family’s mansion (now known as Dunsmuir House), right here in Oaktown. In 1916, Mr. Hellman spent the equivalent of $2,300 in today’s dollars on fireworks, with the alluring names of Silver Fountains, Dragon Nests, and Diamond Mines. The family hosted their friends at a day-long party, culminating in a formal, candlelit dinner, the fabulous fireworks display, and a dance in the carriage house.

Those were indeed the days.

Eye of the Beholder

I stopped in at the (un)Lucky after depositing my paycheck at a nearby bank. It was around 6:00, so the lines were long. I should have known better, and I did, but I wanted to pick up a bottle of wine, and Lucky is less expensive than the liquor store and cracketeria (though no-one at Lucky has ever given me free incense).

As I waited my turn, I couldn’t help but notice that the guy in front of me was buying forty cans of cat food. Nothing else. I pondered his imminent purchase and whether he had a house full of cats or was, horror of horrors, planning to eat it himself. Later, I gave the girls and Henry some canned food for their birthday dinner (I decided Henry will celebrate his birthday along with the girls from now on, though I have no idea how old he is), and all I can say is, if he’s going to eat it, he’s a braver man than I’ll ever be. Just dishing it out for the girls and carrying it outside to Henry made me nauseous. ~shudder~

My thoughts drifted from the cat guy’s possible dietary habits to other aimless notions. Am I the only one who’s sick of hearing about Michael Jackson? Why did the Other SJP name one of her twins Marion when Marion Broderick is so clearly an old maid librarian name? Did Karl Malden ever read the fan letter I sent him? When’s the last time I actually left California?

It was finally my turn, and as I bought my wine, I thought that someone stocking up on food for his beloved cats might think a girl just buying wine was just a little odd.


Quince with two of her seven babies: Audrey (behind) and June (front)

The kittens turn Terrible Two today! They are two weeks old in this picture, and their mother was around nine months old. My neighbor, the wonderful and compassionate P, had finally managed to lure the cat close enough to cut off the flea collar which was nearly choking her. P had seen the young cat around all through the winter, but she had shied away. By the time P got the newly named Quince’s trust, the cat was already pregnant.

P valiantly looked after Quince and the kittens, who were born on her tax returns. All seven survived and found happy homes, ranging from a musician in a bohemian neighborhood to an adoring fashionista in a fancy one. Quince and P have been living happily ever after, and June and Audrey have been living naughtily ever after. For all my complaining about them, I don’t know what I’d do without my beautiful girls.

*Italian for “naughty”. The fact that it contains the word “cat” and mine have been so naughty lately made me think of it. My niece is celebrating her birthday today in Italy (not that she’s naughty, of course – she’s completely wonderful) and I’m reading Bill Buford’s delightful memoir “Heat”, which is set in Italian restaurants, so I kind of have Italy on my mind right now.