Well, my fabulous week continues!

I was woken up by a power outage at 3:30 am. You may ask yourselves how a power outage can wake up someone who sleeps with ear plugs and a mask in the depths of the country, and it’s a good question. I’m assuming it’s a combo platter of my family’s innate inability to sleep through the night, the hum of the appliances turning off, and the crazy gene. Maybe even in your sleep you know things have changed?

Also the kitties were clearly confused and running around.

Fortunately, I had the flashlight by my bed (and another one downstairs), the emergency buckets were full outside, and there was a full Brita pitcher of well water as well as several bottles of water. I found my cheap plastic travel alarm, replaced the battery, and set the alarm. Also a little bit of coffee left over from yesterday. Hallelujah!

I could see my breath in the house, it was so cold. The heater needs electricity to turn on and off, though it runs on platinum propane. So it, like my computer, was a big pointless plastic box at this point.

I called the PG&E outage line – sadly, it’s programmed into my cell phone – and the recording said that it should be fixed by 1:00 in the afternoon. Not much help to me.

To further complicate things, I had a conference call scheduled for 6:30 am. Originally my boss was supposed to join me, but last night he called to say he couldn’t, but would email me the materials for the call. He didn’t send them by the time I went to bed, so I had to wing it on the call, which I did by the light of a flashlight, huddled in a blanket while desperately hoping my cell phone battery would last.

I tried to go back to sleep between 4:00 and 6:00, but it was hopeless. So I got up, heated up the remaining puddle of coffee on my gas stove, and did the call. Megan came by to see if the call was over so we could go to aquafit, so I rushed around in the dark, grabbing my swimming things and getting dressed. On our way down the Ridge, we could see PG&E hard at work on the downed power lines near the firehouse.

On the way to class, Megan told me that Monica invited me via early morning text to an emergency Daisy Davis meeting at 5:00 this evening. I finish work at 4:00, so it’s going to be a long day. It actually already is.

Megan dropped me at work and will pick me up tonight so we can go to the meeting together. I’m sure we can find a way to kill an hour. Maybe some Christmas shopping?


It’s not even 7:00 am and it’s already been a really excellent day so far.

My excellent day started last night, with a triple feature of nightmares. Have you ever noticed that when you’re having a great dream and get woken up from it, you can never get back into it when you go to sleep, but if it’s a bad one, no problemo?

Rob says that dreams come from things you see during the day, but these were: a tsunami where I was in the Fontana Towers* in San Francisco; a repeat, where I was climbing to the top of a building in Chinatown via fire escape to escape tsunami re-run; and being trapped in a high school with a bunch of other people.

Sometimes I really worry about that crazy gene.

I woke up to the alarm clock flashing and could not believe it was time to get up and masquerade as a responsible adult after that marathon of terror and weirdness.

I went grumpily downstairs to find the boys hunting a mouse. Not even a mouse hunt could stop Audrey from catapulting out the front door into the darkness, and as I put the outside lights on, I saw that it’s very foggy out. Great. Worst. Driving. Ever.

Back in the house, I made coffee and the boys caught the poor mouse. I opened all the doors and tried to shoo them outside. Eventually they went out, at which point the coffee was hardly necessary.

It’s going to be a great day!

*Home of Eddie Fisher. John worked with a guy who met him in the elevator and invited him to a party, but the guy didn’t go. Talk about a missed opportunity! Worth it for the Liz Taylor gossip alone.

Post T-Day

Audrey relaxing

It’s a beautiful, sunny day here in Hooterville. Audrey is basking on the back porch – surely a grandiose name for a bunch of unfinished wood slats nailed together over the dirt – in the sunlight. No-one knows how to relax like Audrey. And look good doing it.

We all had a good Thanksgiving, even the kitties. It already seems so long ago, even though this morning, I was using up leftover cranberries by making cranberry mustard (excellent for turkey sandwiches).

Jarrett arrived on Thanksgiving afternoon. One of the great things about traveling on Thanksgiving Day itself is the fact that almost everyone else is already where they’re supposed to be, already in a turkey-induced stupor. We eat dinner at a civilized hour, holidays or not, so we were still conscious and happy to see Jarrett when he arrived.

Dinner turned out great, though, as usual, I didn’t want to eat it once the time came.It must be smelling it all day that puts a girl off. However, the boys pitched in to make up for that, and I did try everything. The beans were good, though it made me laugh to think that we took the only healthy thing on the menu and fried it. The batter was really light and crispy, and I’m already thinking of other things to fry in it (Zucchini! Shrimp!).

There wasn’t even a mess to face the next day. My kitchen is so small that you pretty much have to clean up as you go along. I have seen New York City apartment kitchens that are bigger. So we all piled into Miss Scarlett and headed out to the annual craft fair in the Village. We did our best to support the local economy and get a jump on Christmas shopping.

We persuaded Jarrett to stay one more night, so we happily ate leftovers after the craft fair and he headed back home on Saturday morning. It was great to see him, and he’s planning to come back for Christmas. It should be a good one!

T Day Afternoon

Cranberry relish in my grandmother’s dish

Well, it’s late afternoon, and the turkey breast is in the oven, the green beans are prepped, ditto the Yukon Gold potatoes. Megan volunteered to make the two pumpkin pies. I made about 5,000 pounds of stuffing this morning, regretting my choice of chestnuts about ten minutes after starting the interminable peeling process. Hopefully, it will be worth it!

The house is about as clean as it gets during the muddy winter, the cats are out playing in the sunshine, and best of all, Jarrett’s on his way from Eureka and should be here at any minute. Huzzah!

In the meantime, here’s the recipe for my famous Cranberry Bourbon Relish, with apologies to Alison, who lives in real bourbon country. The only other option was Makers Mark, and it seemed like a waste to use that. Though, come to think of it, if the alcohol burns off and all you’re left with is the flavor, shouldn’t you use the best booze to cook with?

Cranberry Bourbon Relish

1 cup bourbon (I admit it: I used Jack Daniel’s!)
1/4 cup minced shallots
Grated zest of an orange (I used two tangerines instead)
One 12 ounce package of fresh cranberries
One cup of sugar (I used slightly less)
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine bourbon, zest and shallots in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, then simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a syrupy glaze, about 10 minutes.

Add the sugar and cranberries, stirring well until sugar dissolves. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, until most of the cranberries have burst, about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in pepper to taste. Allow to cool before serving.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. I am thankful to all of you for being my friends and always encouraging me, no matter what. I hope those of you who are celebrating the holiday are doing so with your family and loved ones around you.

Thanksgiving Eve

Well, things are pretty much under control here at Thanksgiving Central. Over the years, I have learned that the key to surviving the holidays is to do as much ahead of the Big Day as possible. Which is why I was repulsing myself with the smell of Jack Daniel’s at 9:30 this morning.

The smell of alcohol is as undelightful in the morning as it is delightful in the evening. Not for the first time, I marvelled at serious drinkers like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Patricia Highsmith, who were able to merrily imbibe from the morning onwards. And write some pretty good stories in between shots.

In my case, it was to make my famous Cranberry Bourbon Relish while Pie One (non-traditional cherry, for my non-traditional brother, who does not enjoy pumpkin pie, despite the fact that my mother used to insist every year that he did) was baking. Unfortunately, Pie One will never win a Beautiful Pie Contest. And I had the tiara all picked out, too. But I tore the crust while rolling it out and had to do a patch job.

As the house filled with the conflicting aromas of pie crust and Old Number Seven, I started to mix together the pumpkin pie filling. As I shudderingly opened the second can of evaporated milk (and re-re checked* the recipe to make sure you really need two), I thought that it looked like a lot of filling. The small print on the can of pumpkin says “Makes two pies”.

Well, it was too late by then. Also? You can’t really use half a can of pumpkin and keep the rest for later. It’s the kind of absurd supermarket math that decrees that hotdogs and buns be sold in unmatching, pre-packaged quantities.

Tomorrow, I’ll just have to roast the turkey breast, mash the potatoes, and maybe make stuffing. I’m also attempting a recipe Megan found in Sunset for fried green beans with shallots.

It will be a quiet-ish dinner, since Lichen is braving his crazy Mormon family in SoCal, Jarrett has other plans in Eureka, and Erica and Jessica have decamped to Portland, leaving the fabulous quotient of Hooterville and environs seriously depleted. But E&J (who is now fascinated by Indiah and learning Hindi) will be here for Christmas, and our good friend Paul will be here between Christmas and New Year’s, so there’s a lot to look forward to. And a lot to be thankful for.

*I hope I’m not getting obsessive-compulsive disorder or something. Lately I keep checking a million times to make sure that I have my keys and the oven is off and things like that. Surely I’m too young to be a crazy old lady!

Shining Star

Star showing off her skills

I’m pleased to announce that Star passed her American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizenship test. With flying colors! On her first try! It’s all the more impressive considering her past. Sometimes I’m still amazed by what a happy, loving dog she is after all she went through, and how much she has changed in the year and a half since Megan and I rescued her one beautiful spring day.

Megan has worked really hard with Star, including the eight week class that led up to the test. The test is given nationally, so every dog in the country who passes has met the same standard. You can read more about the CGC program here.

If/when Megan gets a new (to her) car, she’ll sign Star up for advanced classes, but for now, it’s enough to have the yellow bandanna and the accreditation. A gold Star for our Star!

In other dog-related news, Megan and Monica were on the radio last Thursday morning, talking about their work with Daisy Davis Pit Bull Rescue. The radio station doesn’t stream on computers – what else do you expect in a place with no cell phone service? – so Rob and I huddled in the car with the radio on and listened together.

The girls did great, both sounding calm and assured, a real feat for poor Megan, who had just finished the last of four consecutive 12 hour shifts in the ER and showed up at the radio station in her scrubs. “I just hope no-one bleeds on me tonight,” she said to me the night before.

The DJs were so impressed that they invited them back, and, best of all, gave them a check for $150, inviting listeners to match the donation. I am so proud of Monica, Megan, and Star.


The enemy

I thought I had cured my life-long fear of the dark at Phobia Boot Camp, aka living in a tent in my sister’s garden for six weeks while helping to take care of our slowly dying mother. Being in total darkness once you turn off the flashlight and hearing the various animals sneaking around in said darkness all night is like those immersion classes where you learn a new language by being surrounded by it and unable to escape.

Eventually, I got used to it, and now am practically like our father, who had to sleep in total darkness after years of blackouts during WWII in London. Even here in Hooterville, it’s earplugs and sleep mask for me. The light from the clocks, etc. bothers me.

So I figured I was over the fear of the dark thing. But it turns out that I’m really only over the fear of the inside dark thing. The outside is another matter.

It’s hard to explain how dark it is in Hooterville at night unless you’ve actually experienced it. There is no ambient light and no streetlights. Sure, it makes it possible to see millions or even zillions of stars, but it also makes it challenging to drive or walk in. At least, for me. Even with high beams on, you’re driving in a little puddle of light with blackness pressing in on you from all sides. And if it’s foggy, you can’t even use the high beams, since it just reflects back the fog.

“High beams” have been the biggest disappointment in my adult life since the discovery that painkillers do not kill pain.

Also? The moon can be incredibly bright in the sky, but no help at all.

So Megan decided to help me with remedial darkness driving. Knowing her sister as well as she does, there was a carrot at the end of the stick: the lesson ended with a drink at the Little River Inn’s bar. As I drove slowly through the darkness, it occurred to me that much of my life is remedial these days: swimming lessons, driving lessons. Will I ever be a real grown-up?

Home Again

The trip ended as it began – with work.

Right before I left, I got an emergency call from my boss/partner to set up a conference call for 6 am on Monday morning (there goes aquafit). As I stood by the car in the motel parking lot, the wild parrots flew overhead, calling out farewell and waving their wings goodbye.

After the traditional Extreme Takeout stops (Bob’s Doughnuts; Victor’s PIzza), I headed for Best Buy to buy a new printer. Mine is on its last legs and I figured I might as well replace it while I was in civilization.

I arrived at the Best Buy mall, but couldn’t find the Best Buy itself. I ended up at Office Depot, where I found the printer I wanted and a couple of other work-related things, like paper and labels. It’s going to be quite the expense report.

After I loaded up the car, I tried to go to the Legion of Honor. I did. But even with the GPS, I got lost. On the other hand, I noticed a Trader Joe’s, which I had no idea was even there. I managed to get in the crowded parking lot – they actually had a guy whose entire job was to wave in cars when other cars left – and fought my way through the maddening crowds. By the time I finally got out of there, I was sure of two things:

1. I am no longer used to crowds and traffic; and

2. I was not going anywhere else except home that day.

So I headed for the Bridge, got stalled in traffic in Petaluma and Santa Rosa, and thanked my lucky getting lost skills for not having to stop again in Santa Rosa.

All was well when I finally arrived at my little house. Rob had watered the garden and the ficus, tied up the passion flower vine and the trellis with the potato vine, taken the recycling to the dump, and, amazingly, re-hung (again!) the painting which Clyde knocked down about six weeks ago for probably the sixth time.

It was lovely to be greeted with the sight of the City after leaving it earlier that day.

He also cleverly attached the shelf (which he had removed to try and keep Clyde out of the painting) to the lower part of the frame to block Clyde from getting in:

So far, so good.

The kitties had managed to break one of their bowls, and after I swept that up, I fed them and petted them. They were far more interested in the food than they were in me, but I was glad to be home anyway.

Pancakes & Parrots

Guerilla gardening

Yesterday dawned bright and clear. Polker’s was calling my name, and I answered happily by sitting at an outside table. It was delightful to sit in the fall sunshine and watch the people walking by, when I wasn’t flipping through Vogue’s Best Dressed issue or eating pancakes with pecan butter and drinking freshly-squeezed orange juice.

The green and red wild parrots flashed their wings in the sun, calling out a raucous hello to me as they flew overhead, a familiar sight and sound from the days when I lived here.

After dawdling over breakfast, I stopped in at Russian Hill Books, one of my favorite stores in the old neighborhood. I picked up a fabulous Film Noir calendar for the rapidly approaching new year, and it reminded me that the Film Noir Festival is also rapidly approaching. I hope I’ll be able to attend – and do a better job of picking the dates than I did this year.

I stopped in at the cheap and cheerful nail salon, where I was warmly greeted as always, relaxing in an overstuffed chair with my hands soaking in warm water with fresh mint and flowers in it. I was thinking of doing a French manicure with gold polish and glitter tips, but decided on just gold instead:

In the evening, it looked almost bronze. I really like it.

Today, I’m planning to pick up some Victor’s pizza to take home with me, and stop by the Pissarro exhibit at the Legion of Honor, possibly my favorite museum in the city, before heading back to Hooterville.

Well Met

Yesterday’s meetingfest started downtown on Market Street, which is San Francisco’s Main Street. My firm rents office space from a firm called Regus, which has offices all over the world. You just let them know you’re coming, and you have access to conference rooms and all the other office-y things you need whenever you need them.

At the security desk, I told Guard One “I have an appointment with Regus.” Guard Two got really excited and exclaimed, “Regis? REGIS?! Regis got an office here?” Clearly he felt that someone had been holding out on him. Guard One was laughing too hard to speak and wordlessly waved me through to the elevator bank. As the car arrived, I heard him explaining the much duller truth to his co-worker.

I was a few minutes early, so I had time to take a picture of the view for you:

I could see ferries and sailboats on the Bay under the Bay Bridge (which actually celebrates its 75th birthday today), and, even on the 22nd floor, I could hear buoy bells, the rumble of the historic F Market streetcars, car horns, construction…the hum of the city, its pulse always beating.

The last meeting of the day was at the gracious oasis of the Four Seasons, which is oddly located near discount clothing outlets and drugstores. I enjoyed the graciousness of the doorman and the concierge, who helped me to locate the event I was attending. A girl could get used to this.

I couldn’t help noticing the view from the deck outside the Four Seasons conference room:

The orange building on the left is the Museum of Modern Art, and in the background to the right, you can just see the home of the formerly world champion, currently heart-breaking Giants.

It was probably already on Page Six, but after the meetingpalooza was finally over, I was actually too tired to shop at Sephora, which may well be a first. I even walked right by it on my way to get a taxi at the St. Francis – back where I started the night before.

Meeting Under the Clock

Union Square palm tree in its holiday finery

I’m coming to you from my usual modest motel in my old neighborhood in San Francisco. It’s a sunny day, and I’ve already gone out to get bagels and coffee from the handy Notes from Underground. In a few minutes, I have to get dressed up to look like a responsible adult and head downtown for meetings.

At least I get to say one of my favorite words: Taxi!

Last night, I had a meeting at the Clock Bar in the historic Westin St. Francis Hotel, the grande dame of Union Square which survived the both the ’06 earthquake and the Fatty Arbuckle scandal. To this day, it employs a coin washer, a tradition dating back to the 1930s when most things – lunch, a drink, taxis, tips – cost a coin or two. The St. Francis’ concierge noticed that these coins soiled ladies’ gloves, and a delightful, civilized tradition was born.

Nothing takes the sting out of a business meeting like a cocktail or two in elegant surroundings. If only work was always like this.

After the meeting, I stopped in at the conveniently nearby Lush store, where I meant to just run in and get one thing – the Whoosh shower jelly that actually does wake me up in the dark, early morning hours – but of course I ended up with a couple of extra things, including a limited edition eucalyptus sugar scrub and a bath bomb in the shape of a golden gift which rattles alluringly, as all good gifts should.

As usual, the staff was wonderful and helpful. I love being surrounded by fabulous gay men with cool hair and fab manicures and joie de vivre, who make me feel as fabulous as one of the Sex and the City girls. There’s a serious shortage of them in Hooterville.

Also of delivery food, so as soon as I got back to the motel, it was time to call my friends at Lemongrass and enjoy the central heating and lack of sweaters, not to mention the blazing fast interwebs. Ah, civilization – how I have missed you!


Sure, there are some drawbacks to taking the truck to town. It’s a gas guzzler, for one thing, but the gauge doesn’t work properly, so it’s like it has an eating disorder, secretly consuming huge amounts of gas without your knowing.

Also, you can’t open the doors from the inside. You have to roll down the windows and open the doors from the outside, much like British trains of the past. The kind with compartments which can be found in old movies, or the memories of vintage girls. But if you roll the truck windows down too far, they get stuck there. No bueno.

And then there’s the minor annoyance of the windshield wipers just being there for show.

But it’s fun to be up high, and you can see so much further. And it really makes us feel like country bumpkins going to the big town. I practically feel like I have straw in my hair.

Going to swimming lessons and then the library on a Saturday morning reminded me of being a kid again, when these activities occurred almost every weekend. I was lucky that the libraries of my youth were so wonderful: the historic Southworth Library, recently renovated, during the school year, and the elegant Jesup Library in the summer. I can still remember the wonderful library smell and the echo in the hallway, especially at Jesup, where you entered a little marble floored rotunda before arriving at the galleried main room. I still find walking up those spiral staircases magical. And looking back in the golden haze of nostalgia, I feel lucky to have grown up when and where I did.

Storm Cooking

Fall Colors

When I got home on Wednesday evening, it was so warm that I was just wearing a t-shirt and had the car windows open. The sky was a clear blue. But the whethermen were predicting rain starting at 11:00 that night, so I persuaded Megan to take Miss Scarlett to work instead of Rob’s truck, which has non-operational windshield wipers.

It was a good thing she did, because it was still raining when she brought the car back on Thursday morning. It was also surprisingly cold. Usually when it’s rainy here, it’s a little warmer because the clouds act as insulation.

Something about rainy days – and cold ones – seems to inspire me to cook. I decided to make Dad’s famous honey-mustard chicken for dinner, and while assembling the ingredients, realized that it was just as easy to make enough for Megan and Rob while I was at it. I have fallen out of the habit of making Thursday night dinner for my hard-working sis – maybe that should be a new year’s resolution for next year.

While putting the casserole together, I noticed two aging bananas in the fruit bowl and decided to make banana bread. I lit the oven* and went to get the pantry ingredients – add to my wish list a pantry that’s actually in the kitchen – and remembered that I had lent Megan the sugar.

A dilemma! I didn’t want to wake her up, but I had everything else and the oven was already heating up. I decided to risk it. I sneaked in through her garden and went in the back door to her pantry (also not in her kitchen**) and grabbed the sugar. I sneaked away unobserved by dogs or humans, no small feat.

The banana bread safely in the oven, I dished up some turkey chili for my brother. When the banana bread was ready, I took a couple of slices and the chili over to surprise him. He’s been having a bad time lately, between losing the fabulous pool and politics and drama at the firehouse, so it was nice to surprise him. “I don’t know what I’d do without you,” he said, hugging me. “You’ll never find out,” I answered.

Later I called Megan to tell her that dinner would be served around 6:30. She was surprised and delighted in a way that warmed my heart. I put on my hat from the County Fair and grabbed a flashlight. As I walked back from her house, Clyde came bouncing out of the woods and accompanied me home, like a little dog. As we went into our cozy little house together, I realized that I had fed my whole family that day. It made me happy. I have to do it more often.

*My wishes seem to have become more modest over time. Now all I want is an oven that lights without matches; a bathtub of any kind; and a hose reel. How the glamorous have fallen!

**Can you tell our houses were designed and built by a guy? Erica calls my place “the man-cave”>

Swimming Lessens

Public Libraries: the Roots of Democracy!

In keeping with the cloud in the silver lining of my life, the quite splendid pool where aquafit and swimming lessons take place is experiencing serious financial difficulties.

At first, the Powers that Be said it was going to close completely. Then, not. The whole thing dragged on for months, in the way things do when they are being run by a committee, without any decisions being made.

Now, it appears that they have decided to close the warmer, shallower pool – the one with the lazy river and the water slide – and keep the lap pool open at severely limited times. Our brother, who swims four days a week and inspired us to start swimming again, can no longer go due to the irreconcilable differences between his schedule and the pool’s.

Aquafit at least has been spared for now.

Our swimming class, formerly on Saturday mornings*, may or may not be on a Thursday morning two weeks from now. Megan gets home from the last of her 12 hour night shifts on Thursday morning, so there’s no way she can go. I could go, though the thought of driving to the Big Town for a fourth day in a row is less than appealing, and I don’t want to go without my sister. We’ll have to see if we can work something out.

*It was the perfect Saturday morning: going to swimming lessons and then to the library, which is now only open three days a week. When we took Rob’s truck, we felt like the bumpkin girls going to town.