Archive for August, 2011

Aug 30 2011

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Family

Ready for fun. Or trouble. Whatever comes first.

I really thought I’d get more blogging material out of the trip to Napa. I guess that’s what happens when you plan a trip around an event, rather than a place. No wonder I’ve never done it that way before.

I find it interesting that I blogged more often when I spent most of my time in Hooterville. You wouldn’t think that much happened around here.

Here’s a couple of things you missed:

I am slowly learning the wily ways of wildlife. One day, I was driving down the Ridge in a fog (inside and out), and suddenly, a young deer loomed in the mist. I stopped, and it ran into the woods. I waited, because there’s never just one, and sure enough, its buddy came prancing out, stared at me in the regulation manner, and then took off.

Megan one-upped me as usual by telling me about the time she was stopped in her car at Point Cabrillo Lighthouse* and a deer ran into her. Literally. The deer’s head plunged into the car’s open window, its huge black eye just inches away from Megan’s own. It’s hard to say who was more startled. The deer ran away in horror, leaving no sign of what happened other than fur stuck to the car door.

Recently, Megan and I were walking Star on the property when she flushed some quail. Both Star and Schatzi love to chase quail. I called out, “You’ll never catch one, Star!”, but she surprised us both by doing just that. I told Megan that I thought Star had a quail. She went into the bushes and flushed Star, who had a strange look on her face. One wing tip was sticking out of her mouth.

Megan told Star to drop it, and she did, opening her mouth. The quail beetled away like a wind-up toy, and Star cocked her head to one side, looking at Megan as if to say, “Not good?”

*When you come to visit, I’ll take you there. Great whale watching place, and the setting is amazing.

2 responses so far

Aug 28 2011

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Published by under Special Occasions,Travel

Welcome to Napa

So I actually left the county for a couple of days. My passport remains dusty and sad in a drawer, wondering what happened to our relationship. “You used to take me out all the time – now we never go anywhere. I hardly ever see you!” it reproaches me. I think it expires next year, and for the first time in my life, I may not renew it. Why spend $100 on something I never use?

It’s a good thing I have a GPS*, since I’m geographically and map challenged. To me, it looked like you went to Healdsburg and took a left and that was it, whereas in reality you have to go south of Petaluma (about 40 minutes from San Francisco) and then take a labyrinthine highway, where there is road work (see above). It took almost as long to get there as it does to get to the city.

Also, for some reason I thought I was going to Sonoma, not Napa. Sonoma has the biggest public plaza in California and the northernmost Mission of the string founded in the early 1800s, like the one that starred in “Vertigo”. Napa seems to be nothing but wineries and overpriced antique stores. If you’re not into daytime drinking or overpriced antiques ($85 rusted metal garden chair, anyone?) or $25 plates of pasta, there’s not a whole lot to do there in the oppressive inland heat. Oh, and visitor guides cost $5.

However, all this was more than redeemed by the reason for the trip: seeing the legendary Brian Wilson in concert:

I happened to walk by the theater the morning of the show, and caught the roadies unloading the equipment for the show:

The concert was held in a beautiful old movie theater:

It was a great show. From the first notes of “California Girls”, the crowd was on its feet and Brian held us in his spell.

It was worth the drive.

*Jill, the GPS voice, does not enjoy those wacky foreign names. It’s hilarious to hear her pronounce things like “Carneros” and “Embarcadero”.

4 responses so far

Aug 23 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Published by under Country Life

Of course, the other problem with using the date as post titles is that it merely highlights how long it’s been since you last posted, much like that accusing bowl of cherry pits showing just how many you actually ate (instead of how many you’d like to think you ate).

It seems that there is just no good answer to this title conundrum. And as I always say, compromise means nobody’s happy.

One of the reasons that my blogging has become less frequent is because I’ve started going to aquafit class before work on Monday and Welcome Wednesday. I leave the house at 6:30 am for a 7:30 class. The class ends at 8:30, after which it’s a scramble to get dressed, made up, hair styled, and at my desk by 9:00.

I get home around 5:00, so it’s a long day, especially since I have to catch up on my other job when I get home, along with important duties like feeding the cats and making dinner. Answering emails and blogging have kind of gotten back-burnered. Maybe I’ll miraculously regain my long-lost efficiency, but I’m not holding my breath.

4 responses so far

Aug 20 2011

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Published by under Country Life,Family

Almost as disappointing as the discovery that painkillers do not in fact kill pain is the discovery that cars do not get fixed and stay that way. Also more expensive and inconvenient.

When I first got Miss Scarlett back in Oaktown, she was already vintage, but her previous charioteer had practically ignored her, only putting about 5,000 miles a year on the odometer in 11 years. So I figured that with such light use – before we moved to Hooterville and both of us were consigned to eternal dirt roads and rutted, rough, curvy paved ones, that is – that the car would stay in pretty good shape.

As usual, I was wrong, and things and stuff seem to have gone wrong quite a lot this year. Thankfully the boys have come to my rescue on these occasions. But there are some things, requiring specialized and pricy equipment, that they can’t do. Hence my maiden voyage into the world of Hooterville area mechanics.

Up first was the only transmission place in town. The transmission is slow to engage, though it’s usually fine by the time I get to the next driveway down the Ridge. The Transmission Guy did a test drive and then informed me that in order to figure out what was wrong, he’d have to pull it apart for a labor charge of $700, not including the actual fixing after pulling it apart.

Also? A new transmission is $2,500.

The whole car cost $3,500.

A survey of friends turned up Mike the Mechanic. He gave me directions to his place, north of the Big Town. When I got there, it was a metal shed behind some stores. Hmmm.

I asked in the store, and they said, yes, that’s Mike’s place. So I left the keys and the car there and hoped for the best.

Mike called me and said that he’d like to change the transmission fluid and filter and pour in some goop that would make the pumps work better. He figured this would cost between $120 and $160, so after conferring with the boys, I said OK.

When he called me to say it was ready and doing better, I asked how late he’d be there, since Megan was going to drop me off after we went to aquafit that evening. He said to just put the money in the cast-iron frog on his porch.

Small town.

It turned out that Mike was there, so we actually got to meet him and give him the money in person. It was $120. So far, Miss Scarlett seems to be doing fine as far as the transmission goes.

There is still the front end shimmy to deal with. The diagnostics place said that there were a couple of things that needed to be fixed before the alignment could take place. I brought the estimate ($407!) to my brother, who said that he could fix the two things and then I could have the alignment done for a mere $60.

Hopefully that will end the saga of car repairs for the rest of the year, though I have to buy two new tires to replace the two 8 year olds before the winter rains start…

2 responses so far

Aug 18 2011

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Published by under Family,Memories

One of my favorite pictures of my favorite person

One of the problems with flying in the face of convention and WordPress by freeing myself from the tyranny of the post title is that using the date really makes you think about the date. Especially when it’s the Evil Eighteenth, aka the most dreaded day of the year.

Here it is again, and this year marks the tenth anniversary of my father’s death. I can hardly believe it’s been an entire decade since his life ended and mine changed forever.

I still remember my sister’s voice when I picked up the phone early that morning – evening for her; she had already lived through a day of horror by then – sounding small and stricken.

I still remember my brother grabbing my hand painfully hard with his work-roughened one as we headed to the airport together, his blue eyes, so like Dad’s, gazing tear-filled into the horizon as he said, “Let’s do it.”

I still remember wanting to run down the street screaming outside Dad’s funeral,and how seeing the resplendent Indian wedding across the street – something he would have loved, he who loved beauty (and India) so much -somehow gave me the strength to go in there.

I still remember my sister and I holding hands across Dad’s coffin before it vanished into the flames, the pallbearers holding their top hats over their hearts and bowing.

But I also remember waiting for him to come home from working at the lab when I was a little girl, the familiar chemical smell of his white lab coat as he swept me up into his arms asking, “How is my pixie today?”

And I remember riding on his shoulders through the woods in springtime, while Dad called the birds and they answered him. He knew all their names. And he could make clouds disappear, mostly on days with a breeze in the air…

And I remember coming icy-cold out of the chilly summer waters of the Atlantic and lying down on his sun-warmed back as he read the New York Times on a beach in Maine.

He never complained.

He was the best father and friend a girl could ever have. I was lucky to have him. Though the grief is the price of the love, it has also given me the strength to get through this first decade without him, as I’m sure it will in the decades to come. As time passes, I spend more time thinking of the happy memories of my father and less time thinking of the sadness of losing him. I think that would make him happy.

I love you, Dad. Always.

5 responses so far

Aug 14 2011

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Published by under Cats,Country Life

Am I the only one who is sick and tired of trying to come up with a title for each post? Sometimes it’s harder than writing the post itself. Or balancing a checkbook. Or opening a jar if there’s no boy handy. I always leave it until last. Why can’t I just use the date? Maybe I will, and strike a blow for freedom.

We’re stuck with the twice yearly madness of the time change, but this I can do. Take that, powers that be!

Sometimes three times isn’t the charm. For example, seeing your cats with the third bird they have caught in one day. The last of the series was still peeping horribly as they ran off into the woods with it. I know my stepmother always said in her rich, plummy voice that “Nature is red in tooth and claw”, but I practically cried. I hate it when they kill birds. Mice? Fine. Feel free to rid the house of vermin. But birds? Those hollow-boned beauties who give us nothing but pleasure, in plumage and voice? No way.

Old habits can be hard to break, especially when you’re emerging from kittenhood to catness, the way Clyde is. You may remember that when I removed the litter box from the house, he expressed his displeasure by peeing on the bed. I thought I shouldn’t confuse him by bringing the box back in, so I let it go, being careful to bring him in after 9:30 at night. I figured he’d be OK until 6:00 or so.

But for the past couple of days, he’s mewed at the door and clawed at it Audrey-style, so I’ve let him (and Audrey) out at 3:30 or 4:00 am, which I do not enjoy, and hoped for the best.

Nothing has happened yet, but I figure it’s crazy to let something happen to Clyde because I don’t feel like cleaning out the box every day. Better safe than sorry. So I reinstated it this evening, and Clyde wasted no time reuniting with his old friend. He even sat by it afterwards, basking in the glow of once again having an indoor bathroom. I can’t say as I blame him.

2 responses so far

Aug 12 2011

Update: The Garden Department (Part II)

Published by under Country Life

When we used to go Maine every summer, it was long enough ago that there will still some remnants of the grand old days when the Island was populated by Vanderbilts and Rockefellers and others of their ilk in the summer months. My parents met a gentleman who used to be a butler for the Vanderbilts, and he said that they would have party favors which involved giving each guest a miniature silver bucket and spade with which to dig out jewels from a box of white sand.

Though that sounds pretty good, which really struck me as a kid was the story of how Mrs. V tossed a priceless Oriental rug onto the lawn and told the gardener to duplicate it in flowers. In retrospect, I suspect that her maid did the tossing, but I love the image. I also love her gardening style, which would be mine if I were a V instead of a P.

I do have help, however. Last weekend, Megan turned up with a bunch of good soil in Rob’s truck, which she proceeded to shovel onto my gardening mistakes (the big pots needed more soil) and then onto a tarp she borrowed from our brother. How’s that for service? Very nearly V.

Rob came over yesterday evening and added some plants to the pink jasmine planted by the garbage bins. The idea is that the jasmine will cover up the lattice and shield my delicate eyes from the unsightly sight of the garbage cans, but apparently this will take years. In the meantime, it looks like this:

I also planted a potato vine:

by the slightly sagging trellis near the shed:

I have to get some twine to fasten it to the trees, since trees sway a lot, especially in the winter. Again with the trying to prettify things. Sometimes it feels like an uphill battle. I’m still trying to figure out a way to camouflage the trailer with Rose’s pottery stuff in it which hulks beside the house.

I bought this red bush for some color, especially in winter. Those of you in northern climes will find this next remark ridiculous, but you get kind of tired of all green, all the time. This should stay red year-round.

This hosta seems pretty happy here. I like the variegated foliage, and I think it elevates the rusted old stove from junk to garden art. At least, I hope so.

The passion flowers are in bloom, giving an outer space look to this garden of earthly delights:

This is a volunteer plant, one that planted itself here. Apparently it is an Egyptian lily, which makes me wonder how it has survived in the hard pan and gravel so long. I have been rewarding its persistence with water lately.

I rewarded the fuchsia with fertilizer this year, and it repaid me with dozens of buds and flowers. Fuchsias are the Suzys of the plant world: shade-loving and showy.

Last but not least, check out the mini carpet of wildflowers that have grown from the seeds in the birthday card Monica gave me this year. Here you see Clyde doing an inspection:

Not a priceless Oriental, but a priceless gift from a priceless friend.

One response so far

Aug 09 2011

Addressing the Issue

Published by under Family,Friends

Another thing I never told you about the Surgical Mystery Tour in San Francisco was that I lost my address book. I still have no idea where. But it’s gone.

As people often say in these situations, it was old and the time had come. But it had also been given to me by my father, who has been gone for ten years this month. A decade!

It was from the National Gallery in London, blue and patterned with Raphael’s drawings of clouds. It was held together by a rubber band at this point in its long life, and it was full of Post-Its and scribbles and dead people.

I delayed getting a new one, since I wouldn’t be able to write Dad’s name in it, or my stepmother’s, for that matter, and the thought made me sad. I guess it’s always hard to face the truth, or reality, or whatever you want to call the unpleasant facts of life. And I am an excellent procrastinator.

But the time has come, the Walrus said, for you to email me your addresses and phone numbers, so I can send you Christmas cards and random postcards, as inspired by the lovely and creative Lisa*. It’s sjpeakall AT gmail DOT com. Don’t forget the J!

To further complicate this address book revamp, I just got my own post office box last week. Sharing one with the sibs was getting too crowded, and stressing out our ever-crabby postmistress**. So I got my own, a bigger one, too, with a wet bar and a pool. And it’s even in the same neighborhood.

My new PO box is 128 instead of 61. Everything else is the same. Make a note, and try not to lose it!

*I use it for a bookmark, so it makes me smile every day.

**But we bonded during the PO box rental experience, because she had her dog there, which I recognized as a pit bull mix. We happily talked about what great dogs they are as I filled out the paperwork, and I told her that my sister does pit bull rescue and activism, so hopefully she’ll get some of the new and improved attitude, too!

2 responses so far

Aug 06 2011

The Trouble with Clyde

Published by under Cats

Taking a break from troublemaking

Q: It’s 5 am. Do you know where your cats are?
A: Not really.

Clyde woke me up early this morning by clawing at the bedspread. It wasn’t so much the clawing that was the problem, as it was his trying (unsuccessfully) to cover up his pee, which was merrily sinking into (and stinking up) the quilt.

I opened the balcony door, put him outside, and put on the balcony light. The rest of the outdoor lights were already on, since Audrey had demanded to go outside about an hour before.

I dragged the quilt* and its cover off the bed and headed to the laundry room. On the way, I opened the sliding glass doors, since Clyde hasn’t figured out how to get back on the balcony once he gets to the ground. This is a trick only Audrey seems to know. At least so far.

I poured detergent, stain remover, and Nature’s Miracle into the washer and hoped for the best. Then I stumbled into the kitchen and made coffee, though it was hardly necessary at this point, after the pee horror and the worry about the boys being out in the pre-dawn darkness.

And then there’s the tragic loss of beauty sleep.

About a week ago, I decided to try again to wean Clyde off the litter box. Roscoe figured out months ago that the world is his bathroom, if not his oyster, but Clyde couldn’t seem to get the concept. I put the box out on the porch, then moved it closer to the woods each day. I even put dirt and pine needles in it, hint, hint.

Finally I emptied it out, bleached it, and leaned it against the shed so Clyde would know it was no longer available. Yesterday, I saw Roscoe dig a little hole to pee in. Clyde watched him, then helped his brother to cover it up. Then they ran off together to play in the woods. I figured Clyde finally got it, but apparently not.

Should I reinstate the indoor bathroom? Or hope that this is just a fluke? Maybe there’s some kind of remedial summer camp I can send Clyde to.

*Since it’s summer, I have switched out the feather duvet for a thinner quilt. Thankfully. I have learned the hard way that it’s hard to get cat pee out of feathers.

2 responses so far

Aug 05 2011

Driving Me Crazy

Published by under Country Life

Well, the oil change was $50. When I told Jonathan and Rob about it, they were horrified, mixed with surprise. My thought was that they had enough to do working on the brakes and not much time – my brother works 52 hours a week – and Rob is still recovering from people rummaging around in his spine. Jonathan suggested that next time, he’ll do the oil change and I can put $40 towards the property’s mortgage.

It turned out that the brakes are A-OK and not the cause of the roughness/wiggle (which my brother describes as a “front end shimmy” – sounds to me like a dance from the 1920s). It will require professional diagnostics, which are free at the tire store*. Hopefully once we know what the problem is, my brother can fix it.

Also, when he was test driving the car after putting it back together – he always does this when he works on his sisters’ cars – it dropped out of gear. It went back in after he revved it a bit, but now I have to take it to the one transmission place in town and get it looked at on Monday morning. And they will have to fix whatever is wrong with it. Here’s hoping it’s not too expensive.

I guess it’s not all that surprising, considering the car is 14 years old and gets routinely driven on rough, potholed roads, but I can’t help but feel that cars are just holes you pour money into. I hate spending money on things that aren’t fun. Or at least sparkly.

*Amazingly, two of the car’s tires are 8 years old! I’ll probably have to replace them before the winter rains set in.

2 responses so far

Aug 03 2011

Update: The Automotive Department

Published by under Country Life,Family

The cause of all the trouble. Seen here in the surprise snowfall in February.

As I mentioned, my hard-working and long-suffering brother was not able to attend the social event of the season, aka Erica’s and Jessica’s farewell barbecue, which also marked the first time in months that I hadn’t pulled up to his place only be told that there was something tragically wrong with my car.

But I was not to escape so easily…

When Megan, Rob, and I went to see the Harry Potter movie last week, we took my car, partly because it has more room than their Saturn, and we had two propane tanks to fill and Star with us, and partly because their trunk has been on strike for a couple of years, and we were getting two households’ worth of groceries.

Needless to say, I let Megan drive (Rob is still on restricted driving), and she noticed that Miss Scarlett’s brakes are not all they should be – not something a girl wants to hear when she drives serpentine local roads three days a week or more.

I don’t think I ever told you that when we were in San Francisco for Rob’s surgery, we drove some of the steepest hills in the city, with a post-surgical Rob in the car. My brother inspected the brake fluid after we got home and found it was low, apparently something that should never happen. This discovery left Miss Scarlett marooned at his house until I could buy and apply brake fluid.

I tried not to think about what could have happened in the city. And I’ve been checking all the fluids every two weeks ever since. I even have an oil change lined up for this afternoon.

After I get home, I’ll take the car over to my brother’s, Rob following in the truck. I’ll leave the car at Jonathan’s place, and then drive home with Rob in the truck. Jonathan will then install the $169 worth of brake parts which I bought yesterday on my way to work, list in hand. I could even answer the questions they asked at the car parts store. Admittedly, only the make and number of doors, but still!

I’m so lucky to have the boys around to fix things. I can’t imagine what a mechanic would have charged for fixing my brakes.

Well, actually, I can.

2 responses so far

Aug 02 2011

Update: The Garden Department (Part I)

Published by under Country Life

Gardening is really not a suitable occupation for Self. It’s boring, it’s dirty, and it causes sweat, all extremely un-Suzy things. Also, the gratification is far from instant, and even instant gratification isn’t fast enough for me. I don’t want to watch things grow. I want them to look nice now. Preferably without any effort on my part.

Come to think of it, that’s pretty much how I feel about everything, especially housework.

I should have thought of that before I made fixing up the outdoor space (can you call it a garden when it’s basically huckleberry bushes, pine trees, gravel, and rhododendrons?) one of my resolutions for this now middle-aged year. I wish whoever my windowbox fairy was back when I lived in the T* made housecalls to Hooterville. Overnight gardening: that’s Suzy style!

With no fairy to be had, I’ve had to put on my lavender gardening gloves and get grimy and annoyed. But things do look better, and when I look back at pictures from last year, I can see, for example, that the honeysuckle has definitely grown:



Here you see an attempt to disguise the hideousness of the propane tank. I had originally thought of having a sort of hedge around it, but was dissuaded by the reality of having to bring in truckloads of dirt and having to wait years for it grow enough to provide the desired camouflage. Reality bites.

From the house:

From the driveway:

I think it looks better. Also I’m pretty sure the propane delivery guy (who waved at me from his truck in town last week) can still access it, though I’m hoping not to see him in his professional capacity until sometime this fall. I might ask Mark if I could paint it, too. Every little bit helps.

*Now, I realize, the Good Old Days. I never did find out who the fairy was, either.

2 responses so far