Archive for April, 2010

Apr 29 2010

Chilly Blossoms

Published by under Cats,Country Life,Weather

Which is more wrong: being up at 5:30, or it being 34 degrees outside?

Toss up, I’d say.

I forgot to put the heat on last night, so it was 46 in the house when I got up. For me, it’s a two sweater morning, whereas for June and Audrey, it’s just another mouse-hunting day.

Hurry up, coffee maker!

While I’m waiting for the coffee, wondering why on earth I keep getting up so damn early, and why it’s still winter when the calendar clearly says it’s nearly May, you can enjoy some pictures I took of Megan’s garden last week on one of those days which actually seemed spring-like. Maybe they’ll cheer me up.

lilacs

Lilacs in bloom. My favorite flower.

heather

Heather.

maple

Japanese maple.

willow

Curly willow (so sci-fi!), setting sun.

4 responses so far

Apr 28 2010

Author, Author!

Published by under Country Life,Dogs

Honestly, for a writer, you’d think I’d write more.

I seem to be reverting to my old habit of posting a couple of times a week. Maybe I’m running out of things to say after nine years of slingin’ nonsense. Maybe my capricious muselette is taking the vacation I can’t afford. Maybe I’m using all three brain cells on writing I get paid for.

Actually, it seems to be true that if I have writing assignments, I write less on my blog. Also that the more often I write my blog, the more often I write it. It’s like going to the gym: if you skip a couple of days, it’s easy to keep on skipping and finding excuses not to go.

All this is a long way of bragging that I have another article published in a magazine, though it’s not on-line yet. I really do find it thrilling to see my name in print.

I may be seeing my name in print again soon. I pitched the idea of writing a story about Star for the local paper, which also reported the sudden death of Star’s former owner. Amazingly, I heard back from the editor within half an hour, loving the idea. I told Monica about it, and within the hour, she had lined up an extremely talented photographer and artist to take pictures for the (as yet unwritten) article. So as soon as Star is ready for adoption, we’ll have a great audience for potential new homes.

I also pitched three ideas for web articles which were approved, so I’m feeling pretty good.

The good feeling inspired me to write a letter to P, who used to live on this property until her life got derailed a couple of years ago. My sister and I have heard news of her through the grapevine, and when we drove to Colusa, we saw a group of prisoners working by the side of the highway to clear up brush and other fire hazards. We both waved at the men, and they waved back. We agreed that it was a win-win, good for the men and for the state, since every Californian fears wildfires. Meg observed that P was part of one of these programs now, and we talked about her and promised each other we’d get back in touch. I hope she’ll be glad to hear from us.

5 responses so far

Apr 27 2010

Early Morning Update

It’s 4:30 in the morning.

Do you know where your Suzy is?

Sitting by the heater with the radio on, blogging and wondering if the rain is ever going to stop. Not when, if. I passed when sometime in March. It’s not supposed to be raining this time of year, and we’ve had nearly 50 inches so far. Enough already. Is there some way to evict the weather and send it where it belongs? Say, Seattle or London? There are lots of destinations more exciting than Hooterville, my little low pressure system. Surely you’ve seen all the sights here by now.

I woke up about an hour ago and lay there for a while, listening to the rain slash the roof/walls and the wind howl through the trees, thinking how you’re supposed to find it all soothing and ponder the beauties of nature. But it makes me think unromantically about trees coming down and the power going out. Just the thought of the cold, dark boredom was enough to get me out of bed, especially since my brother had to repo the generator when his blew up. Might as well enjoy the warmth and light while I can.

We did have a break from the rain this weekend to celebrate Miss Jessica’s birthday en famille. I was once again the hostess with the leastest. Erica turned up with lasagna and a three layer cake. Not to mention decorations, a string of paper fairies wearing tulle skirts, which we fastened across the sliding glass doors. My brother turned up with little buns sporting chocolate icing faces. At least I had a present for Jessica, though (as usual) it was totally trumped by my sister’s.

Mark and his family came by for cake – Jessica loves playing with his daughters – and we all sang “Happy birthday” to her. I can’t believe she’s seven years old!

5 responses so far

Apr 24 2010

The Great Dog Rescue Adventure

Published by under Country Life,Dogs

star1The Star of the show

It was a beautiful, sunny day as Megan and I set off on our long journey.

First we drove to town, and then took Highway 20 for what seemed like the rest of our lives. For those of you who have never had the pleasure, it’s a road as curvacious as Jayne Mansfield, with the highs and lows of Judy Garland. You can’t drive fast on a road like that. It crests at 3,000 feet, which is why it can get snow and black ice during the winter. The view from the top is quite spectacular, though.

The road winds through farmland, with sheep and cows dotting the steep hills. There are groves of almond trees with wildflowers carpeting the grass so it looks like drifts of snow. Fields of mustard blaze beside snow-capped mountains, tended by weary migrant workers. Orange poppies and blue lupines grow wild by the side of the road.

mustardMustard fields and snowy mountains

We passed through several little towns on the shore of Clear Lake, which is the oldest lake in the entire US of A. Mount Kenocti, an extinct (let’s hope!) volcano presides over its 100 mile shoreline:

clearlake

My favorite town was Lucerne. I’d love to rent one of the little old fashioned cottages on the lake for a weekend.

lucerneLucerne

We were trapped behind a truck for 50 miles or so. It was amazing to me that a professional driver wouldn’t pull over for a caravan of cars behind him, considering there were multiple signs saying that slower traffic must pull over and plenty of pullouts for him to use. He was just a jackass. When we finally reached a place we could pass him, I flipped him off as we zoomed past. I know you think of me as a refined, gently-bred lady, but it had to be done. It was that, or a drive-by shooting.

Needless to say, this made us late for meeting Ray, and in the usual way of local highways (two lane roads) around here, there was no cell service, so we couldn’t call him. When we finally got to Colusa, it was about noon, and we had left the house at 8:30.

Colusa is a lovely town, settled in 1850, with charming Victorian houses, tree-lined streets, a historic courthouse (built in 1861 and the oldest remaining in the Sacramento Valley), a Carnegie Library dating to 1905, and cute shops. It has a very southern feel to it, and I would like to have explored it more.

We met up with Ray outside the cafe. He was quite the character: enormous, with a ZZ Top beard and long grey hair straggling from the lower half of his bald head. He had two tiny brown teeth left, one up and one down, and it was hard for this refined, gently-bred lady not to stare. Shaving was very optional for him. Hygiene….not his forte. He managed to extract himself from the car and lumber over to a nearby park with Star.

We had been told that Star was nervous, shy, and afraid of the outside. She happily went with Meg on the leash, bounded all over the grass, and licked our faces. During the walk, it became clear that she has never been trained and has no manners at all. But she’s the total opposite of her description. When the time came, she jumped right into our car and settled down on the blanket.

All was peaceful on the long ride home until we stopped at the lights in Willits. Two boys went by on skateboards, and she went bananas, barking her head off. We hastily closed all the windows, but the kids didn’t seem to notice. Note to self: Star is not a big fan of skateboards. Good thing there are no sidewalks in Hooterville.

Hooterville had never looked so beautiful to either of us as it did that evening. We both sighed with happiness as we crossed the wooden bridge and caught sight of the village. Amazingly, we saw no fewer than eight CHP officers, but didn’t get a ticket. I credit Megan’s incredible ability to spot them, which may be related to her astonishing ability to flag down a cab anywhere, any time.

We reluctantly met Rob and Schatzi at the family property, so the two dogs could meet on neutral territory. It went pretty well, but Schatzi does not enjoy being bounced at or the crazy puppy energy, both of which Star has in spades. We’ll see if it works out for Meg to foster this dog long-term.

We finally got home at 6:30 that evening, 10 hours after we left. That was a lot of driving.

Fortunately, I had made chili the day before and always have Jiffy corn muffin mix on hand. We were exhausted, but it was fun to see a new part of this great state. And I always have fun with my sister.

2 responses so far

Apr 22 2010

Blown Away

Published by under Country Life,Family,Schatzi,Weather

The wind was howling yesterday as I drove into town for some errands. I felt as if it were trying to blow me off the road, and I wasn’t surprised to hear on the radio that there was a wind advisory in effect. With a haul of library books, groceries, and a tank full of gas for today’s dog rescue adventure, I headed home.

As I turned onto the Ridge, I thought “I bet I’ll get home and find the power’s out.”

This is one case where I wish I hadn’t been right. I unloaded the groceries in the cold, sunny house and plugged in the emergency phone. My brother called to say that the outage was caused by a downed line on the Ridge. This was good news, because a) it wasn’t a whole pole which would have to be replaced; and 2) it was local, so we wouldn’t have to wait for the higher-ranking towns and villages to be restored before ours. Our turn is always last.

Meg, Rob, and Schatzi came over to sit by the heater and eat frozen pizza with me until the power came back on. I was very thankful for Rob and his generator-generating abilities, and for Jonathan, keeping me posted in his official capacity as fireman and unofficial capacity as brother.

Today dawned sunny and only slightly breezy. I know, because I was there to see it. I woke up before the alarm went off, and lay there considering whether to try and get back to sleep for half an hour, or just deal with it and get up like a grown-up. You will be pleased to hear that I chose the latter, so maybe I’m actually maturing. Just really, really slowly.

Meg should be here any minute. We’re taking my car, since it has about half the mileage that hers does, and it doesn’t make a slightly alarming metallic whine, either. We’re meeting Star at 11:00 or so at the Twisted River Cafe in Colusa. Stay tuned for details!

3 responses so far

Apr 21 2010

The Accidental Activist

Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Schatzi

daisiesToday’s daisies

Somehow I seem to have drifted into a certain level of activism. These things can be catching.

Monica, Megan’s partner in pit bulls, contacted me about a sensationalized story in the Ukiah Daily Journal with the headline “Pit Bulls Attack Officers, One Shot”. I posted my thoughts in the comments section, a panoply of spelling and grammar errors along with a level of ignorance which made me picture Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel tapping away at a borrowed laptop. I also wrote an email to the editor and helped Monica with her own email to the editor, asking for a follow up story which presents the facts. They probably won’t do it, but at least we tried.

I also emailed the judge who is to sentence Aaron Vargas, asking him to sentence Aaron to time served. Aaron is a local man who was sexually and psychologically abused by a neighbor, starting at age 11 and continuing into his adulthood. Unfortunately, Aaron was far from the only victim. When the neighbor threatened to do the same to Aaron’s young child, Aaron killed him. This story has been featured on the Today show and received a fair amount of coverage nationwide for something that happened in a small town in an obscure corner of Northern California. Usually the stories marvel at how the town has rallied around Aaron, but that’s the sense of community up here and I don’t find it surprising. I just hope the judge listens and returns Aaron to his family so he can finally live in peace.

Another local sensation lately was a woman who fell to her death from the headlands while chasing her dog, Star, watched by her horrified and helpless nine year old son. The dog survived, but is in desperate need of a foster home. Guess who stepped in to help, since Megan walks the walk as well as talks the talk? After all, she drove eight hours in one day to protest Michael Vick for two hours.

So tomorrow morning, we’re driving three hours to Colusa (wherever that is), picking up a frightened dog, and driving right back. Though I’m not a total stranger to this kind of thing, it’s been a while. Megan and Rob will foster her until a permanent home can be found, and Schatzi will have a new (temporary) playmate.

Speaking of Schatzi: I decided that she rates her own category. I was amused to see that my earliest post about her dates all the way back to 2002.

3 responses so far

Apr 20 2010

Number Nine

Published by under Special Occasions

For some people, it’s children that make them realize the inexorable passage of time. Just yesterday, little Timmy was a teeny baby, and now he’s a sullen teenager working at the 7-11 and refusing to go to college. My, how time flies, honey!

For me, it’s my blog. Today marks the 9th year I have been blogging. Incredible, isn’t it? Never has so little been said by such a featherhead for so long.

For my birthday this year, I’d like you to leave a comment, even if it’s just “Hello” or “Happy birthday” or “I’m sending you a million dollars.” You know you want to.

11 responses so far

Apr 18 2010

Balanced

Published by under Cats,Country Life,Dogs,Family,Schatzi

You know, cleaning is bad enough. But cleaning for three hours only to have your hippie hovel still look like crap explains why I don’t clean more often. Dreams of cleaning ladies danced in my head as I abandoned the whole thing to do laundry in my clothes-eating washer*. I was reminded of the anecdote about Churchill, in which a women’s temperance member held her hand above her head against his office wall and said, “Mr. Prime Minister, if all the brandy you had swilled was poured into this room, it would reach to here!” Churchill gazed from the floor to the ceiling, and then commented sadly, “So little done, so much to do.”

Nothing like housework to make a girl crabbier than thou.

Yesterday, on the other hand, was great. Megan and I took Schatzi for a walk at Big River in the spring sunshine. It was so warm that none of us wore sweaters. Schatzi even took a wallow in the abandoned quarry which doubles as a pond in the winter and spring. It was full of tadpoles gadding about. Schatzi paddled cautiously. She’s not much of a water dog, but we’re trying to improve her confidence.

As we headed back to the car, Meg said, “Hey! Let’s go to Frankie’s for an ice-cream cone!” It seemed like the best idea ever. We couldn’t remember the last time we had an ice-cream cone. In a cup, at Erica’s store, yes. In a cone, no. And to think Megan and Rob used to live at Pier 39 for years, where the whole place smells like waffle cones, year-round.

At Frankie’s, I picked mocha almond fudge and Meg had pear sorbet, thereby negating the entire walk. It’s all about balance for me. All the ice cream is made locally and it was fabulous. We sat in the sun, people-watched, and speculated on what it would be like to live in the water tower that was for rent.

After that, we stopped by Mendosa’s for a few things, and then did a quick investigation of the hardware store that just opened next door. It’s so new that they were still stocking the shelves. Our tour revealed that they have almost as much stuff as they do at Rossi’s in town, but much closer. The boys will be glad to hear that.

Speaking of glad: my brother’s one remaining cat went on vacation for almost a week without telling anyone. We had all kind of given up on his safe return when he reappeared as if nothing had happened. I was so relieved to hear that. For both of us to lose cats in two weeks would be too much, even for our family curse. Also Jinx has been spotted in the woods and seems to be eating the food my brother leaves for him.

So it’s been a mixture of good and bad around here lately. It’s all about balance.

*Rob has appointed himself my agent. He’s already spoken to Mark about replacing the washer, and yesterday asked him to get the junk out of my yard sooner rather than later. I said thank you, and he said, “Well, were you ever going to do it?” and I had to agree that my habitual tardiness with the rent has made me a little reluctant to demand anything. I love Rob.

2 responses so far

Apr 17 2010

Point Taken

fenceNature always wins in the end

Yesterday, Megan and I took Schatzi for a stroll on the headlands at Navarro Point. As soon as we turned left onto Highway One, she perked up. Left is lacking in the boredom potential of right, which can mean getting stuck in the Safeway parking lot or going to the bank instead of doing something fun.

At the Point, there were signs of spring: wild irises, tiny violets, starry daisies, red clover, frothy Queen Anne’s Lace. Another sign of spring was deep mud and marshy grass. Apparently I still haven’t figured out the correct footwear for country occasions. While Megan splashed happily through the muck in her trusty Red Wing boots*, I ended up with soaked and muddy sneakers, socks, and pants.

The Point is a nature preserve, so there are signs warning visitors to stay on the paths, stay off the peninsula, and keep away from the crumbling cliff edge, warning that it’s unstable. Just like Me!

You’d think that people would have the sense not to litter in a place like that. But you’d be wrong. We picked up candy wrappers, cigarette butts, and other debris on our way back to the car. We put it in one of the beverage holders until we got to the store and could throw it out.

Arriving at the store, I scooped the garbage out of the holder. A surprise spider dangled from it, so I screamed and threw the stuff away from me. In the process, I managed to scare my sister; get dirt all over her pants; and distribute the trash throughout the car. In just seconds! Megan laughed at her silly sister as she collected it.

I still don’t know what happened to the spider.

Megan sent a package UPS by placing it next to a weeping flowering cherry tree outside the hardware store. Then we went to the store for necessities like PopTarts and SweetTarts. Because we’re girls. Behind us in line was a guy buying beer and pork rinds. Because he’s a boy.

The mail was more interesting than usual. I received the Dogs In Canada issue with my very first ever printed article** in it! I’m even listed on the “Contributors” page! For some reason, this is much more exciting than the pieces I’ve published on their website. We stopped off at the property, where Rob was building a cover for the water tank, and showed it to him. He was excited, too, or pretended to be.

He gave me a box from Bed Bath & Beyond, saying that he almost opened it, since he figured whatever was in it was a project for him. Fortunately, it’s only pillowcases to replace a pair of old, torn ones. But I’m sure I can come up with some kind of project for him…

*She told me later that her entire shoe wardrobe consists of those boots, a pair of Keen sandals, and the bee boots.
**Yes, I do realize how ironic it is that the article is about cleaning, I don’t have a dog, or live in Canada.

3 responses so far

Apr 16 2010

Scofflaw

Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Henry,Schatzi,Weather

loggingroadThe scene of the crime

When it’s cold here, it’s usually clear, and as you can see in the picture above, that was the case yesterday (can you spot the Schatz?). I surprised Schatzi in her sunny patch, where she was catching some rays and some z’s (girls are all about the multi-tasking, you see). I let her jump around when she saw the leash, instead of taking the opportunity to make her behave the way my sister would have. There are perks to being an aunt, whether it’s to a kid or a dog.

When we got to the logging road, I let her off the leash and off she went to explore. I love seeing just her tail moving along above the scrubby huckleberry bushes, like a shark’s fin in the ocean.

She always trots ahead of me. You’d think I was the old lady here, though I’m a mere thirty-seventeen to Schatzi’s thirty-forty. But she is very lean, muscled, and strong, and looks and acts about half her age. Kind of like Me. At one point, she turned around to see where I was, and I told her I was coming. She came bouncing up to me and pushed her head against my hand, the universal dog sign for “pet me”.

I did, petting her and talking to her in the crazy lady way I always do when we take a walk (I’m sorry to report that after a recent viewing of the delightful “Top Hat” I was also inspired to sing). She looked up at me with her big brown eyes and I realized that this was the best possibly therapy for a Henry-broken heart. I was so touched that Schatzi actually came to be petted instead of exploring. It had never happened before, and when I told my sister about it, she said that Schatzi had never done it with her, either. I think she knew I was sad and was trying to comfort me.

Off she went again, and I trailed behind her in my official lady-in-waiting capacity, enjoying the unusual sun and blue skies. Coming around a bend, I came across a truck.

Schatzi was past the truck, and I called her. She came running like a racehorse and I clipped her leash on before approaching the truck. Its occupant had a barky dog, but Schatzi didn’t bark. She also sat like a good dog. I was really proud of her.

It turns out that the truck driver is the security guard for the lumber company which owns the logging road and the surrounding land. Rent-a-cops look a little different in the country. I explained that my brother has lived here for 15 years and my sister for 10, and we never knew it was wrong to walk on the road.

He took my name, address, and phone number (I only had to give him the last four digits, since all local phone numbers start with the same three), and gave me his card. He wrote another guy’s contact info on the card and told me to call him to get a permit to walk on the property. Apparently it’s basically a waiver of liability, which I can understand. We shook hands and he went on his way. Schatzi and I headed home. Even though I knew the guy was gone, I felt weird about continuing to walk down the road once I knew I shouldn’t.

When I got home, I dutifully called and left a message. I was rewarded by a phone call at 7:30 this morning, when I was dreaming of not marrying a handsome prince (even when I’m asleep, I never accept the rich guy’s proposal). I took off my sleep mask and ear plugs, picked up the phone, and stared at it for a ring or two. What am I supposed to do again? Eventually I figured it out and I’ll get my dog walking permit in the mail, so Schatzi and I can pick up where we left off.

One response so far

Apr 15 2010

Lucky Number Seven

Published by under Cats,Jessica,Weather

I woke up around 5:00 this morning. I tried to get back to sleep, but going back to sleep is not one of my fortes, so I decided to embrace the inevitable and just get up.

June and I came downstairs together, me in two sweaters and June in her always elegant (and not politically incorrect) fur coat, to find the heater already on, trying to keep the room at 52 degrees. As I write, June is sleeping on top of the heater and Audrey is still outside, getting into trouble somewhere. I turned the heater up and checked the temperature outside. It was 35 degrees and there is a frost warning until 9:00 this morning. Apparently, I put my orchid back outside a little soon.

It is April 15, isn’t it? The most important day of the year? I have a feeling I’m not the only one around here who was up early this morning.

Today, Miss Jessica turns seven, though you’d be forgiven for thinking she was about 30 if you went only by what I’ve written about her. It’s rare for a child to be precocious without being annoying, but she is a rare person. To celebrate this special occasion, she and her mother are going to San Francisco, where they will visit Lush and the Exploratorium and other cultural attractions before going out to dinner and spending the night at Jessica’s favorite hotel.

She’s a girl after my own heart.

4 responses so far

Apr 14 2010

Rambling

Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Schatzi,Weather

I woke up yesterday morning to a bluish sky through the skylight. Encouraged, I got out of bed to start the day. By the time I made coffee and was settled on the couch reading my fan mail, the sky had clouded over and gloom reigned once more. At this rate, I’m going to become like an English person and start saying it’s a lovely day if it’s not actually raining.

Or not.

A glance at the weather-tossed (sometimes literally) thermometer on the back porch revealed that the needle had once again failed to reach the 40 degree mark by noon. I can’t get over how different the weather is from San Francisco, a mere 150 miles away. There, other than seasonal fog, the weather you wake up with is pretty much the weather you’re going to get that day. Here it’s like a severely under-medicated manic-depressive. And 40 degrees was reserved for a shivering overnight low, not a mocking daytime high.

I went over to my sleeping sister’s house, threading my way through the rain-filled potholes. As I sneaked in the front door, my wet sneakers squeaked on the floor and I could hear myself breathing. The air smelled faintly of woodsmoke from the ghost of last night’s fire.

Schatzi was not on her chair, so I retraced my steps and went into the garden, calling her softly. It’s always a dilemma, since I want Schatzi to hear me, but I don’t want Megan to hear me. Fortunately, the Schatz heard me and came running. She bounced around with joy as I put the leash on and led her to the logging road.

There I took the leash off and followed her as she trotted down the muddy road, with detours into the brush for scent adventures. I could hear water running far below, and she was interested in exploring, but there was no way I was letting her climb down the steep cliff to check it out. The best case scenario would mean calling the fire department (aka my brother) to rescue her if she lost her footing. The worst case scenario involved leaving the country immediately under an assumed name. Fortunately, she obediently came away when I called her, and we went on our way.

The walk was Luna-free until the very end. Luna was between Schatzi and me, and Schatzi wasn’t too happy about this. But I was pleased that she ran to me for protection. I put her leash back on and took her home. She trotted off, looking for water or gophers in her garden, so I was spared the Sad Eyes* and could simply enjoy having made her happy.

I hadn’t noticed the grey skies at all.

*Schatzi has a highly developed talent for looking incredibly sad when you leave her behind. Which is why we hardly ever do. She has us well-trained.

2 responses so far

Apr 13 2010

The Story of Henry

Published by under Henry

henry1The first picture I ever took of Henry, May 9, 2008

You might have noticed that there’s a new category. Much as I did when I heard the news of Rita Belle’s death, I decided to pay tribute to my beloved Henry Etta James with her own category. You can follow all our adventures there.

In going through my archives, I see that my earliest mention of Henry was shortly after I moved to Oakland, as a beat-up stray cat who hung out on my garage roof (I thought she was a boy until this past December. I have a history of not being able to tell boy cats from girl cats). A few months later, there was the first of many heat waves, and I was inspired to give the stray cat cool water.

It was the thin edge of the wedge. If I was giving her water, why not food? And as my attachment to her grew, I bought her a little tent which I set under the rosebush, so she had shelter from the sun and a defense against other cats. That led to the comfy bed under the porch in the summer and the couch with a blanket on the porch in the winter.

About a year after I started taking care of her, I was able to pet her. And when I moved from Oakland to the country, I brought her with me. I still think she knew I was leaving and wanted to make sure she came, too.

In reading over my many entries about her, I am struck by how our relationship proceeded cautiously at first, but speeded up dramatically after we moved. It’s as if she knew she didn’t have much time left and wanted to pack in as much as she could, sitting on my lap, being petted, feeling safe and warm at last. Sometimes I think that she had fought so long and so hard to survive that now she didn’t have to anymore, it all caught up with her and that’s what carried her off on that early spring night.

Now when I crinkle plastic bags in the kitchen, she doesn’t come running, meowing and getting under my feet. I still look at the floor whenever I’m in the kitchen or near the heater, making sure I don’t step on a little grey cat who is no longer there. When I go into the pantry/laundry room several times a day, she doesn’t follow me asking me for food, even when there’s food in her dish. Now that she’s gone, the girls have reverted to their pre-Henry positions of Audrey eating from the bowl on the left and June on the right. I still haven’t had the heart to empty out the litter box or wash her bed, which I don’t know what to do with.

I never imagined when I first brought water to that little stray cat that she would give me so much love. And that I would love her so much in return.

One response so far

Apr 12 2010

Gloomy

Published by under Cats,Henry,Weather

audreycouchCozy Audrey

It rained all day yesterday. In San Francisco, the Giants game had to be postponed for four hours, something which is practically unheard of there. Here the power flickered but stayed on, and the needle on the thermometer hovered dispiritedly at 40 before giving up completely and creeping down into the 30s again around 3:00 in the afternoon. Four weeks into spring, I can’t say that I’m overly impressed with its performance so far.

Audrey drove me nuts yesterday by demanding to go out in the torrential rain, then noticing the torrential rain, and then demanding to be let back in again. She did this five or six times in half an hour, clearly thinking that the rain had gone away each time. Megan says that her dog Jesse used to go out the front door in bad weather, then come back in and go out the back door, just in case the weather was better back there.

So you can see that my job as doorman remains secure. I think the cats think that the cat flap is for nighttime use only, just like the slightly open balcony door used to be. I have yet to see them use it in the daytime, and they will come downstairs and ask to be let out. I wonder if they used the cat flap while I was in the city, or just waited for the substitute doormen to come by. The idea of their changing their habits or being that patient are equally unlikely to me.

Maybe it’s the cold and rain, but the girls have been spending more time with me in the evenings than they used to. Audrey’s been sitting next to me on the couch, as you can see above, for the past three. I wonder if it’s because Henry is no longer here to claim that spot, or because she can tell I’m sad. I have yet to go a day without crying, sometimes at inopportune moments (fleeing to the ladies’ room in the Four Seasons springs to mind, where I startled and slightly alarmed the hapless cleaning lady), and I miss that tiny little cat more than I ever imagined.

Rose’s daughter Catrin brought me a red candle in a glass votive holder to honor Henry Etta. I’ve been burning it every night in Henry’s memory, and when I blow it out, I say goodnight to her. I say it again when I go to bed, looking down on where her bed used to be from the stairs, just as I used to every night. Some habits are hard to break.

I feel like there’s some lesson to be learned from having Henry so briefly in my life, but I have no idea what it is. All I know is I love her and miss her. My little love.

5 responses so far

Apr 11 2010

Scandalous

Published by under Movies,Weather

It’s a good thing we enjoyed Friday so much. It’s been pouring ever since. Yesterday the weather was so depressing that I bagged on going to town with my sister and ate Pop Tarts and watched “Gilmore Girls” instead, occasionally interrupted by Mark chain sawing falling or fallen trees.

You’d think it was February around here.

As you must have noticed by now, dark and stormy weather calls for dark and stormy movies. Last night’s double feature featured two ladies who were more scandalous in real life than any character they played on screen.
Barbara_Payton_1Barbara Payton

First up was “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” (1950), starring Jimmy Cagney and Barbara Payton. Cagney plays a – wait for it – gangster recently escaped from prison. In doing so, he kills off the lovely Barbara’s brother, one of his aiders and abettors, though he understandably fails to mention this minor fact after he gets a look at her.

There’s a breathtaking scene where Cagney beats Payton in the face with, oddly, a bath towel, she swoons into his arms in masochistic bliss, and they share a passionate kiss. No wonder the film was banned in Ohio. That scene still shocks more than all the murders in the rest of the film, and there’s no shortage.

I was surprised by the power of Cagney’s personality. He’s a short, funny-looking guy, but with such intensity and charisma that you can’t stop watching him whenever he’s on screen. He personally selected the 23 year old Barbara Payton to be his co-star, and her sultry beauty just glows. White heat indeed.

A year after this movie was made, Barbara was engaged to Franchot Tone, one of Joan Crawford’s many exes, but was also carrying on an affair with actor Tom Neal, a former college boxing champion. The two men brawled over Barbara, and Tone ended up in a coma. When he recovered, he and Barbara got married, but she left him a few weeks later for…Tom Neal. That lasted a whole four years, much longer than Neal’s two wives (or any of Barbara’s four marriages). One died of cancer a year after giving birth to his son, and Neal shot the other in the head, ultimately serving ten years for manslaughter. He died a year after being released from prison.

In the meantime, Barbara’s life was in a downward spiral. Just five years after making “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye”, she was arrested for a string of offenses: passing bad checks, public drunkenness, drug abuse, and prostitution. She died of liver and heart failure at the age of 39.

20070301233122-gloria-grahameGloria Grahame

Next up was “The Big Heat” (1953), directed by Fritz Lang and starring Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame. Ford plays a detective trying to shut down the mob who killed his wife (played by Jocelyn Brando, sister of Marlon, who managed to have a long and happy life in real life). Grahame plays the head gangster’s moll, hard-drinking, tough-talking, dripping furs and jewels. When the virtuous Ford points out that these things are the proceeds of crime, she says, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Believe me, rich is better.”

Grahame becomes a witness against her lover eventually, and in keeping with our sado-masochistic theme, he scalds her face with hot coffee, fortunately off-screen, though the damage is later revealed in all its horror.

This role was just one in a series of sexy, troubled roles Grahame played, starting with town sweetheart Violet in “It’s a Wonderful Life”, and these roles weren’t much of a stretch for Grahame, who specialized in stormy romances and failed marriages in real life, too. While married to director Nicholas Ray, she had an affair with his then thirteen year old son, whom she later married. She had children by both men, making them…cousins and half brothers?

This scandal took a toll on the Oscar-winning actress’ career, as did some unsuccessful plastic surgery which caused scarring and nerve damage. She died of cancer at the age of 57, after refusing surgery.

Life really can be stranger – and more tragic – than fiction.

2 responses so far

Apr 10 2010

Of Dogs and Daisies

Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Schatzi

bigriverapril
Big River, Friday afternoon

I jumped right back into country life. Allergies back in full force, sleeping with a sweater on, cold mornings.

Amazingly, I actually unpacked on Thursday afternoon. I think my crabbiness gave me extra energy, since my usual method is to leave the suitcase open in the living room, taking things out of it as needed for oh, say, about a week, and wondering why it doesn’t unpack itself.

So I was ready to get up and go when Megan asked me if I’d like to join her and Lu in walking the dogs at Big River on Friday. The whole day turned into more of a marathon than we expected, as you shall see.

We were trapped in Little River, near the scenic cemetery, by roadwork. There’s no cell service there – the dead have no need to call anyone – so we couldn’t tell Lu we’d be late. While we waited, Megan said that the seasons here are waiting for rain, rain, waiting for rain to stop, and construction. We must be somewhere between the last two.

We finally got to our destination, where Lu was waiting for us with her two beautiful dogs, Harlow (right) and Marco:

HarlowMarko

Schatzi was happy to see her friends:

schatzibigriver

We set off down the path beside the river:

path

The tree was felled by the winter storms.

There were wildflowers everywhere, craggy cliffs of daisies:

daisies

Somehow, we spent two hours walking the dogs without quite realizing it. We parted ways in the parking lot, Lu returning home and Megan and I heading into nearby Mendocino to buy provisions for dinner. We had decided to make some new Indian recipes: poppadums, chicken tikka masala, and naan. We struck out on the lentil flour for the poppadums, so they were 86’d from the menu at the last minute. We still hope to find it online, though.

Returning home, we had to hurry to get the chicken marinating and the naan rising. Making the chicken was a leap of faith for both of us, since we are horrified by yogurt. We kept telling ourselves that this is the way they make it in restaurants. I heroically cleaned up all the yogurt-related dishes. If that isn’t love, what is? We laughed at the fact that Megan can scrape up brains off the highway, but can’t touch yogurt.

We barbecued the chicken, then put it in the sauce to simmer while Megan cooked the naan on the barbcue. She also made some dipping sauce for the naan: olive oil, slightly crushed Egyptian caraway seeds, and coarse sea salt. We had dinner in the garden as the light slowly faded.

It was a good day.

2 responses so far

Apr 08 2010

Returned

Well, I’m back in Hooterville.

I couldn’t afford to stay in the city today, or even pick up a pizza on my way to the Golden Gate Bridge, which made me a crabby little crabcake, I can tell you. Especially after discovering that gas is $3.17 there instead of the $3.03 it is up here. Still better than the $3.35 I noticed as I passed the Navarro Store. Yikes.

It was a postcard perfect day as I drove crankily across the bridge. Sailing ships and merchant ships were tootling around on the blue water, the city sparkled in its pastel glory, and Alcatraz looked like an incongruous resort. The city didn’t seem to be at all sorry to see me leave, though I felt the usual pang crossing into Marin, putting San Francisco behind me.

I had the Oakland A’s game on the radio to keep me company. Amazingly, I got reception all the way to Yorkville, when it finally faded at the top of the 8th inning, with Oakland ahead 4-0 (for those who are interested, they won 6-2 to sweep Seattle). By then, I could receive the Coast, which saw me all the way to the local store, where I stopped off to check the mail and get a bottle of wine.

It was so windy at the store that I could barely get the car door open, but bright and sunny.

All was well at my Henry-less hippie hovel. I wish June and Audrey were as excited to see me as I am to see them (Henry Etta was always happy to see me, and ran to the door to be petted). I always miss them when I go away, no matter how short the trip. And this was too short.

2 responses so far

Apr 07 2010

Grown-Ups on Parade

Published by under San Francisco

marketst
Market Street, San Francisco

Yesterday I had a few errands to take care of in town before setting off for San Francisco to attend an annual conference. Since I was already in town, I took Highway 20 instead of 128. I’m not sure if I’ve ever driven it before, but it’s as least as curvaceous as 128, and much hillier. When I arrived at Willits (home of Seabiscuit and not much else), I could see snow-capped mountains. I couldn’t help thinking of the time that Megan had to drive the ambulance, with a patient inside, through blinding snow on Highway 20. No snow tires, either. No wonder my sister is my hero.

It was the first sunny day in nine days. The ditches along the Ridge were actually flooded in places. It was good to have a change of weather and change of scene after the past few traumatic days. I checked into my usual modest motel in my former ‘hood, had Thai food delivered, and relaxed.

This morning, I dressed up, applying perfume and diamonds – a nice change from my usual ensemble of sweaters and sneakers. I enjoyed flagging down a taxi, especially since I can expense it. It was really too warm for a jacket, but it was a key part of my grown-up façade. A girl must keep up appearances. As the cab climbed Nob Hill, I noticed a man walking his teeny toy dog was allowing it to pee on the coat-covered head of a sleeping (or otherwise unconscious) homeless person.

Welcome to San Francisco.

At the Four Seasons, the doorman ushered me into the hushed splendor of the lobby. I felt the usual pang of jealousy at the discreet sign for the Residences. In the conference room, there was a sea of dark suits under heavy crystal chandeliers. I occupied myself with stealing the pen and stationery provided and making notes of conferencespeak. These are actual quotes from today’s session:

  • “Inordinately impactful”
  • “We sourced and due diligenced it thoroughly”
  • Vertically integrated”
    And my personal favorite:

  • “Bigger disparancy”

Is that a combo of discrepancy and transparency?

During the break, I enjoyed the view from the outdoor deck, and so can you:

viewdeck

And enjoyed eavesdropping even more:

“It’s not my fault. I was over-served.” (I’m storing that one up for future use.)

“I used to weigh 300 pounds. My Dad died in Redwood City and never saw me thin.” I don’t know what’s sadder, really: dying in Redwood City, or reacting to a parent’s death with utter vanity.

I played a few hands of business card poker and was out of there.

All in all, it was a pretty successful event.

3 responses so far

Apr 06 2010

Final Farewell

Published by under Cats,Henry

henrytree
The memorial tree

On Friday morning, I turned off the outside lights and stopped to pet Henry on my way to the kitchen. She was lying on her side, paws relaxed, and fast asleep. The room temperature on the heater read 60, which pleased me, thinking that Henry Etta had been warm all night. Lately I’ve left the heat up higher at night for her comfort.

As soon as I touched her, I knew something was wrong. She was cold and stiff. I felt her nose for breath, put my ear to her side to listen for that brave little heart, but all was silent.

I called Megan and wailed the news into the phone. “I’ll be right over,” she said, and she was. By the time she got there, I was kneeling by Henry Etta’s bed, petting her scruffy fur and sobbing “My little love, my little love” over and over again. June and Audrey were uninterested in the drama, wandering in and out of the house and following their own agendas. I kept asking Meg to check if Henry was really gone, even though it was obvious that my courageous little cat had breathed her last.

It looked like she died in her sleep. That last night, I had her up on the couch with me again, petting her and telling her I loved her. I put her in her bed myself before I went up to bed that night. She looked very peaceful.

We wrapped her in a soft, thick blue towel and drove to the property. Jonathan was on his way to work, but he started digging the grave for us. Like many seemingly simple tasks, there is a technique to this. Pick axe first, then shovel. It was pouring, and the heavy soil clayey and sandy. It took a while to dig deep enough to make sure that no animals would disturb her. By the time we finished, we were wet and filthy.

I took Henry from the car and walked her slowly to the tree, talking to her all the way, telling her about her new neighbors, Jed and Bear, dogs who loved cats, and Luna, a cat almost as small as Henry Etta herself. She’s in good company there. I kissed her goodbye and thanked her for her gift of love, for coming into my life. Megan laid her gently in her resting place, and allowed me to start replacing the soil before joining in to help. She apologized for tamping down the soil, but I preferred to think of it as tucking her in and keeping her safe.

I placed driftwood on her grave before we left, and yesterday I added some yellow daisies from my garden:

henrygrave

We’ll plant something permanent there soon.

On the short drive home, I told Meg that I think there’s something therapeutic about digging the grave, getting dirty, wrapping up your loved one, and laying him or her to their final rest with your own hands, instead of distancing yourself from death the way society generally does. And I’m glad I can visit her.

Oddly, she died on the very day she was to go to the vet. Megan called Dr. Karen, and she said that although she could have given Henry Etta antibiotics for the eye infection, whatever she died of was beyond antibiotics or anything else Dr. Karen could have done. She was, after all, a very old cat, and had fought so long and so bravely. Dr. Karen sent me a kiss and a hug, and called later to check up on me.

I’m glad Henry Etta was spared that last trip to the vet, and that she died peacefully in her sleep, safe and warm, knowing that she was so loved. The hard part is going on without her.

My little love.

8 responses so far

Apr 02 2010

Goodbye

Published by under Henry

I found Henry Etta dead in her little bed by the heater this morning.

She looked so peaceful.

It’s amazing what a huge hole a four and a half pound cat can leave in your house, your life, and your heart.

I can’t write any more now. Thanks to all of you who followed her adventures and cared about her.

9 responses so far

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