Archive for January, 2012

Jan 31 2012


Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Family

The other night, Megan and Rob were fast asleep. It was, after all, 1 am, a perfectly reasonable hour to be doing so. In fact, most of us expect most of us to be doing just that.

They were yanked out of sleep by Star barking her head off. Now, neither of their dogs are barkers. Megan has put a lot of effort into making sure of this. I used to laugh at how she’d sneak out of sight when she left them in the car and then come back to admonish them if they barked, but now that I’m in town a lot more, I really appreciate this. Not a day goes by without senselessly barking dogs.

It turns out that Star had every reason to bark. Rob opened the little purple door to reveal a strange man standing on the porch. And I do mean strange. He told Rob some tale about his father and a gun and a few other things, then asked for a cigarette.

Rob cheerfully lied that there were no smokes on the premises, and then suggested that the guy call the cops. He mumbled something and shuffled off into the darkness, with both Rob and Megan wondering a) What the hell just happened here? and 2) Hope he doesn’t head to Suzy’s place.

He didn’t; or at least he chose not to come in any of the five unlocked doors at his disposal. Of course, cats don’t bark, so I can’t be sure, but I don’t think we had any midnight visitors.

The whole thing is really odd, though. We live more than five miles down a narrow, rough, barely paved road from a town where the latest thing open is the store, which closes at 6 in the winter. There are no bars or nightclubs within dozens of miles (or more). There are no streetlights. He would have had to go all that way down the road, and then choose our driveway, which is nothing but a dirt/mud track with giant rocks filling the potholes (Mark’s latest repair effort).

He had to pass the front house, which is usually unoccupied, though huge, and nearly always has a light on, and then pick the little offshoot that leads to Megan and Rob’s place. Theirs is the only house which isn’t on the main driveway, which makes the whole thing even odder. Mine is the most obvious after the front house, and I always have a light on at night. Megan and Rob don’t.

Go figure.

They say this has never happened to them in the many years they have lived here, and our brother says the same. I don’t think it will happen again, and in any case, nothing really did happen. I’m not going to fit locks to my doors (or, more likely, have Rob do it). But it’s certainly a mystery, country-style.

5 responses so far

Jan 28 2012

One Man’s Trash…

Published by under Family,Garden,Weather

Last week’s storm brought us 7.25 inches of rain in three days, along with the second power outage of the season. It’s hard to believe now, with the sun shining brightly and not a cloud in the sky. It looks like I may have to start watering the garden again soon.

Watering will be easier now, since Rob the genie granted my wish. I happened to mention that I wished I had a hose reel. I hate the way the hose looks, lying all over the garden when not in use, but hose reels turn out to be surprisingly expensive, like fencing of any kind.

About three days later, Rob turned up with a hose reel:

which he had found at “the mall”, aka the dump. He hooked it up and it works just fine. How’s that for granting a wish?

A few days ago, he appeared with a lovely metal candleholder in hand, which he had also found at the mall:

It seems to be in perfect shape. I can’t imagine why anyone would throw it out. It will be a nice addition to the tall yellow candelabras and the table-top one, though now I’m thinking I should spray paint the table top one to match the new one. I’m looking forward to sitting outside by candlelight this spring and summer.

There are already signs of spring as we slide into February. The tulips – the same bulbs from last year’s Christmas stocking – are poking hopefully through the soil:

And the orchids both have flower spikes (on the right):

Hope springs eternal in a garden.

4 responses so far

Jan 23 2012

Covet: Splendid Shoes

Published by under Covet: A Series

The last couple of “Vogues” had some amazing shoes, especially if money is no object and you mostly travel by limo or taxi.

In the December issue, these plaid Rochas beauties ($980):

Amusingly, they were in the “gifts for country girls” section, along with a lavender chicken who lays multi-colored eggs. As I observed on Facebook, I wish country life were really the way “Vogue” envisions it. Somehow, I can’t imagine myself prancing through the mud puddles on my driveway in peeptoe slingbacks. Sadly.

Equally impractical, yet equally fabulous, are these curlicue heeled platforms from Charlotte Olympia*:

I had to wonder if the designer was inspired by the Beverly Hills Hotel’s famous banana leaf wallpaper, not to mention the vintage 1940s white wrought-iron bar stools in the coffee shop:

Look no further than the fabulous finned cars of the 1950s for the inspiration for Prada’s gorgeous, limited edition ($1,450) shoes embellished with a crystal rose on the toes:

That’s about the average price of a new car in 1950.

*Vogue claims you can find them at, but I couldn’t. So the price remains mysterious.

6 responses so far

Jan 21 2012

Out & In

Sorry, poodles, I was swept away in a tsunami of work, rain, and power outages. But I’m back!

I missed you, too.

Since we last saw our heroine, she has both recovered her beloved MacBook and acquired a brand-new Pee Cee. This seems very appropriate for a Gemini, and in fact it is completely in keeping with the way things have always been with me computer-wise: PC for work, Mac at home (or Real Life).

Why the Pee Cee, you ask? Are you mad?! It’s like having a small Egyptian curse in the house! This is true, but here’s the problem. The Powers That Be at the firm who maintain our database on line from the traffic wilds of Atlanta saw fit to “upgrade” the system so it only runs on Explorer, which does not run on Mac.

Has upgrading ever made things better?

So my hands were tied with respect to work until I got the Pee Cee. The delivery was complicated by the fact that the FedEx truck broke down on the Ridge about three miles from my house. Since I had already observed the only tow truck going the other way with a trashed white car on my way home, I knew the delivery would be late.

Fortunately, I had already put a note on the door of the shed where FedEx and UPS deliver to our property, so even though I was supposed to sign for it, I didn’t have to, which was good, since it was about 9:00 pm by the time it got here.

Now all I have to do is transfer the files from the Mac and catch up on all the work I have not been able to do over the past week due to technical difficulties.

As for the Mac, I picked it up from the nice local computer fixers embarrassingly cleaned up and working just fine. We bonded over our shared affection for Buffalo, with its splendid Victorians, Frederick Law Olmstead-designed parks, and actual record stores.

The next day, the rain started in earnest, and I do mean earnest. We have received four inches (or more than 10 centimeters) in the past two days, and are slated to get more over the weekend. Don’t get me wrong: we need it, but does it have to be so hard and heavy? It’s so loud in my wood and tarpaper shack that I can barely hear the cats complaining about being stuck inside. There’s something about the curved shape of the roof/walls that seems to enhance the sound. It’s kind of like being assaulted, with the wind howling and the rain smashing and battering against the house.

Needless to say, the power went out, and of course it went out when I was finally done with a long series of conference calls that had started at 6 am. I speed dialed PG&E, only to be greeted with a gloomy recording saying that there were widespread power outages and power could be out for extended periods of time.

Fortunately, it wasn’t out that long, though the house was instantly cold and dark. My brother called a few hours later to ask if the power was still out – his never goes out, since he has solar and wind power – so he could walk me through getting the generator he gave me going. I thought that was really nice of him. It also reminded me that I should get a big can of gas and gas stabilizer, just in case.

I’m pretty sure there are more outages in my future.

5 responses so far

Jan 17 2012

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Published by under Cats,Country Life,Weather

Also inside. Let’s put it this way: when I got up this morning, Audrey leapt gracefully on top of the propane heater instead of madly clawing at the door to go out.

The propane heater has a thermostat, which tells you how warm it thinks the room is and also how warm it has (supposedly) heated it to. There’s also a little thermometer on the barometer by the front door. Both agreed that it was a very chilly 40 in the house.

After putting on coffee and the heat, I grabbed a flashlight and ventured outside to check the thermometer there, which read a somewhat shocking 25 degrees. This may be the coldest I have ever experienced here in Hooterville.

I’m glad I left my tap dripping last night, and so were the cats – they wasted no time in drinking from it, even though there is fresh water for them daily inside and outside.

The long string of sunny days and freezing nights is coming to an end, though. We are slated to get at least eight days of rain, possibly heavy, which means there may well be landslides and flooding, the banes of a Californian’s winter existence. At least it will be warmer, as it always is when it rains, the clouds providing much-needed insulation. The high today is supposed to be 40. The low tomorrow, after the rains start, is supposed to be 43.

We haven’t had any significant rain since Thanksgiving, and I read an article in the San Francisco paper which said that this was the third driest winter since 1850. Also that there is more snow in Texas than there is on Donner Summit in the Sierras, a place notorious for snow and requiring chains to drive on in the winter.

Seems the weather is mixed up everywhere, doesn’t it?

2 responses so far

Jan 16 2012

Where You Lead

Published by under Family,Memories

Heading to aquafit on a chilly, dark winter morning, I thought about how our brother inspired Megan and me to start swimming again last year. And I realized how strongly he has influenced our lives, without appearing to do so. In a way, we’ve been following his lead.

Our parents separated when Jonathan was 18. He decided to head out to California, where he stayed with a family friend while he got on his feet. He arrived in San Francisco with his cat and $100 in his pocket, and never looked back.

I visited him every year, or more often if I could, and it got harder and harder to leave. Eventually Dad retired back to his native England, leaving Megan and me on our own, so we decided to follow Jonathan and move to San Francisco.

Megan moved into a boat near his on Pier 39 and married Rob. I found an apartment on land near by, and fixed it up while John drove our stuff, and our beloved cat Buddy, to our new home, arriving in time for our wedding anniversary in December.

One day, Jonathan witnessed a man being stabbed to death at Pier 39. He decided that the time had come to leave the city. A good friend of his was from the Hooterville area, and Jonathan had spent a lot of time visiting, as Bay Area people tend to do. It seemed like a good place to start a new life.

So he did, and it was. After a few years, Megan and Rob decided to follow him there. It was hard at first, but of course having our brother there made it easier and better.

Having most of my family living in a place only accessible by car inspired me to finally learn how to drive so I could visit. In my 30s. I do not recommend this. Parents: don’t let this happen to your kids! They’ll think driving means freedom, when what it really means is driving to work, running errands, and traffic jams.

As usual, I’m an Awful Warning.

As you all know, after several years and several changes of venue, I, too ended up in Hooterville, living a few yards from my sister and about a quarter mile from my brother. In fact, the house he used to live in is on the same property, and it’s still kind of weird for me that he no longer lives there. I still think of it as his house, and so does everyone else. Mark calls it “Jonathan’s house”.

Jonathan started swimming over a year ago, working up to his present ability to swim for 45 minutes without stopping four times a week. He loved it so much that he kept trying to convince his sisters to go, and eventually, he persuaded us. As our mother used to say, he could sell refrigerators to Eskimos (are you allowed to say “Eskimos” now? I always thought the spelling “Esquimaux” was more elegant, anyway). And we love it, too.

The next time I see him, I’m going to thank him for being such a great leader. And the best brother a girl could ask for. Or follow around.

One response so far

Jan 14 2012


Published by under Country Life,Family

My brother’s gate

The other day on my way to work, I decided to drop off some curried chickpeas with spinach and Season 6 of “Dexter” (what a cliffhanger!) at my brother’s place.

I always look to see that his gate is closed when I drive by. It’s a habit left over from the bad old days when he first bought the property but didn’t live on it, and a local villain preyed on the redwoods. He and his good time buddies used to knock down the fences and/or gates we put up in order to steal the trees, mill them, and sell them.

It was hard to catch him, but everyone knew who it was. Jonathan called the sheriff several times, but they couldn’t catch him. Rob confronted the miscreant at the store, and eventually the thievery stopped, though he left us with a lovely parting gift of epoxy gluing the $100 lock we used to keep him out. The gate you see above was villain-proof, once we got the locksmith out here to hack off the glued lock and put on a new one.

So whenever I see the gate open, especially if I’m going to the pool early in the morning, I stop and close and lock it, just in case. Once I locked Rob in there, but he got out anyway. I’ll have try harder next time.

As I pulled up to the gate, I wondered why there was a pine cone on it. Closer inspection revealed that it was one of Rob’s finishing touches: a ceramic sculpture he made which looks like a pine cone, cemented to the gate post to make it look nicer. Rob is a man who appreciates the finer things in life.

I made my way slowly down the magnificent driveway, which has excellent drainage and no potholes or mud, making it approximately 1,000% nicer to look at and drive on than mine. Arriving at my brother’s little enclave, I noticed the frost on the hay bales:

and the huckleberry bushes:

My brother works overnight shifts three days in a row, so he was really, really happy to come home to dinner and a movie. Almost as happy as I was to give it to him.

2 responses so far

Jan 11 2012

What a Difference a Day Makes

Published by under Country Life,Technology

Diagnosis: my iBook (or MacBook) needs a new inverter cable. Apparently years of opening and closing the lid have worn the cable, so a new one is required. The good news is that this was the cheaper of the two repair scenarios. The bad news is that it will take three to five days to get said part. However, once it arrives, it will take about half an hour to install, so that’s good.

I repo’d my computer so I can use it at a bizarre angle with accompanying screen blackouts. Better than nothing, right?

When I got home yesterday, I found that the new router had arrived. I also found that there were three missed calls from Megan, so I called her back right away, knowing that she only had a few minutes before taking off for work. “Come over,” she said, and hung up.

I went over there, and she handed me a letter. The letter said that Rob finally has a hearing date for his disability claim. It’s February 17. We are excited, but scared. If they deny the claim, I think we can appeal it, but it kind of feels like the end of the line.

I can’t believe that anyone could look at him and think he could work, but you never know. As with most things, there are so many dishonest people ruining it for the honest ones. I’m actually thinking of password protecting my blog, in case the powers that be read it and think he’s fine, even though it’s unlikely that they have time to surf the web or would know who he is in relation to me.

Back at home, I installed the router without incident (!), and sure enough, the Kindle connected right away. So once the computer is up and running again, it will be all systems go at Chez Suzy.

Things are looking up!

One response so far

Jan 10 2012

Wait & See

Published by under Bullshit,Technology

Also in the Not Working department is the Kindle Fire I received for Christmas. Sort of.

The device itself, as you can see, works fine. The problem is that my router is incapable of getting along with it. I tried to persuade it to see the error of its selfish ways, but to no avail.

A call to the Kindle customer service people revealed that this is a common problem with Kndles, even for people who live in civilization. As Meryl Streep said after swallowing the magic potion in “Death Becomes Her” – “NOW a warning?!”

I tried it out at Mark’s place and it connected instantly. Same goes for a cafe in the Hooterville Flats. So I gave in and ordered the router. Now to wait for it to be delivered…

But since waiting and patience are not in my nature, I took the Kindle to the jobette yesterday (where, yes, it felt an immediate connection to our router), and downloaded both of the Michael Connelly ebooks (well, estories) that are not available in any other form.

Once I get the new and hopefully improved router and get it set up, the hard part will begin: learning how to use it. Wish me luck!

2 responses so far

Jan 09 2012


Published by under Bullshit,Technology

And not the good kind…

Recently, my little iBook (or maybe MacBook, I was unable to answer that question and a host of others) has acquired the bad habit of blacking out suddenly, preferably when I’m in the middle of working or typing. Then I have to close the lid and reopen it, trying increasingly awkward angles until the screen appears.

For example, I can’t really see what I’m writing now.

On Saturday, it appeared to black out for good (or bad, because I had work due today), so I took it to the one repair place in the Big Town. They had a look and said it was one of two things, but they’d have to open it up and look around. Unfortunately, they were about to close, and today they already had five patients booked, so I will have to bring it in tomorrow and hope that it won’t require an expensive part being shipped here from civilization, or an overnight hospital stay.

So far, the theme of the new year seems to be “nothing works”. Let’s hope it makes some new ones and mends its wayward ways soon.

One response so far

Jan 07 2012

It’s a Gas

Published by under Bullshit,Country Life

I can’t tell you how happy I was to see the Amerigas truck lurching its way slowly down the muddy, rutted dirt road that I joltingly call my driveway, heralded by Luna’s barking. “Hello, this is Luna*, your doorman.”

Normally, I’m not all that excited, especially because propane is one of, if not the only, utility you have to pay for ahead of time. They fill it up, charge you hundreds and hundreds of dollars, and you use it up at your convenience. Yes, they’ll let you pay off the exorbitant fee over a couple of months, but if you need another fill up before you’re done paying it off, you have to sell your soul or your jewelry or both to pay it off before they’ll even consider touching your tank. No matter how nice the landscaping is.

But, considering the fact that I’ve been trying to get Amerigas to get off their Ameriass since December 15, you’ll understand why their arrival about three weeks and a dozen phone calls later was a cause for joy in Hooterville.

The tank was at 40% then, and thinking ahead to the cooking marathons of Christmas, in addition to heating up my hippie hovel against the 32/0 degree cold, making hot water for washing dishes and Self, and the dryer for Jarrett’s five loads of laundry, I thought it would be good to stock up before the holidays.

Amerigas pointed out that I still owed them $165. I paid it on line the same day, and called them the next day to schedule a delivery. “The payment hasn’t posted yet, “ they said. “Well, it’s come out of my bank account,” I said. They suggested I call back that afternoon, which I did. Nope. Nothing posted. This time, the helpful person said that it could take five days on their end. Five business days. Try back next week!

So I did, armed with an email confirmation from Amerigas themselves saying they had received my hard-earned money. They still claimed they hadn’t received it yet, which was annoying, especially since I might have wanted to actually use my soul sometime. You never know.

I kept calling them, and finally we got to the stage in our relationship where they lied to me to keep me happy. “We’ll have someone out there this week.” “In a couple of days.” “Call me if he doesn’t turn up.” “He didn’t turn up?” Let’s put it this way: I no longer had to spell my last name.

While all this was going on, the propane level was, not surprisingly, dropping every day. Keep in mind that if the level falls below 20%, they have to pressure test the tank and yes, you have to pay for that too, even if it’s their fault for not coming the first 50 times you asked them.

Kids: this is what adult life is really like. You have been warned.

So, instead of having to pay for 40% of the tank’s capacity, I’ll have to pay for 60 or 65%, and considering that the last time I paid $425 for 40%, I’m afraid of what I’m going to have to pay this time.

Not the best way to start the new year, is it?

*Mark says I’m the only person Luna never barks at. I think it’s because I always pet her and fuss over her whenever I see her. It’s kind of like tipping her for her doorman services.

3 responses so far

Jan 03 2012

It’s the Little Things

Published by under Bullshit

This year (well, last year), I seriously considered not sending out Christmas cards. I still haven’t reconstituted my lost address book, unless you count scraps of paper and flagged emails. I can’t really explain my reluctance to do so, other than innate slothitude and all the names I can no longer put in it.

In the end, I sent them out unfashionably late, spending about a zillion dollars on postage. It’s close to a dollar a pop for anywhere other than the US of A, and it adds up quickly.

Imagine my surprise and horror when they started to be returned. Well, the Canadian ones, anyway. They bore a sad red stamp telling me that the cards, at about 3.25 inches, were too small to be processed by Canada Post. Though apparently they were not too small to be sent back by the same means. Go figure.

Characteristically, the US approach was to hold the card hostage until the recipient paid a 20 cent ransom/extortion fee to redeem it. The cards are too small to go through the machine, so they have to be done by hand. Apparently American posties’ time is worth about 20 cents a second. Not for the first time, I think I’m in the wrong job.

So if any of you did not receive a Christmas card from me, it’s either being returned or being held in an undisclosed location. Maybe it’s a sign that I should just give up on the whole thing.

2 responses so far

Jan 01 2012


Published by under Cats,Sports

New Year’s Palms

It is January, right? New Year’s Day? Because it’s 60 sunny degrees out. I actually have the sliding glass doors open! The boys are outside playing, Audrey is napping under the Christmas tree like the little gift she is:

Here’s a close-up of her Christmassy cuteness:

And there are flies buzzing around like it’s summer. It’s a little confusing.

I’m also confused by the fact that the Winter Classic, the outdoor hockey game which is always played on New Year’s Day, is being played tomorrow, when I’ll be at work. Before I learned that the game would be played on Monday, I was annoyed that the two teams involved were boring ones (New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers). Then when I couldn’t watch the game, I got bitter about that.

If I ran the hockey world, things would be different, I tell you what.

  1. No corporate name arenas. Maple Leaf Gardens? Yes. Rogers Arena? No, no, and no. Sure, Rogers can sponsor the team or own the park, but they’d have to do the classy thing and keep their name and logo out of it.
  2. No ads on the boards or in the ice. Just the team logos in the ice, and nice, clean white boards. No distractions from the play.
  3. Same goes for “Coors Play of the Game” and “Molson Canadian Three Stars of the Game”. You see where I’m going with this.
  4. For the love of Don Cherry, no more stupid team names (Atlanta Thrashers and Nashville Predators, I’m looking at you). And certainly no team names that have anything to do with movies or cartoons. Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks, I’m looking at you.
  5. Better uniforms for everyone! We’ll start with the egregiously hideous, like the Minnesota Wild, and take it from there. Also retro jerseys would be worn at least once a month. It’s unfortunate that Mr. Blackwell is dead. He would have been a lot of help with this project. I’d settle for Erica and Tim Gunn, though.
  6. The original “Hockey Night In Canada” theme is back. I don’t care how much it costs or how much you have to apologize. Just do it. And reinstate the fabulous animation that went with it, too.

  7. The cheesy organ music is back, baby! No more snippets of Queen or Journey or creepy pedophile Gary Glitter. If possible, there would be a live organist.
  8. The national anthems are out. The teams come out, skate around, and the puck drops. This would enable games to start on time at 7:00, instead of 7:10. The whole anthem thing takes up too much time, especially when you have to suffer through both the US and Canada’s. At least the Canadian anthem is singable and makes sense (Canada is great! We love our country!), whereas the American one is impossible for mere mortals to sing and is about an obscure incident in a mostly forgotten war. Shouldn’t it be “America the Beautiful” or something instead?

    But I digress.

  9. Every team would have Ice Girls, like the New York Islanders do. They would make the game so much cuter!
  10. People who pound on the glass would be turfed out of the game. Why do they do this? To get the attention of the players? ‘Cause if they’re paying attention to you, they’re not paying attention to the game. And no, they aren’t going to become your buddy and hang out with you after the game if they notice you through the glass. Face it and sit down.
  11. People who have the insanely expensive luxury seats, especially at Maple Leafs home games, but can’t be bothered to get their sorry butts back in them by the time the period starts after intermission will just have to wait in the hallway until the next intermission. It’s disrespectful to the players to value your overpriced beer more than the game you have come to see.

I think the world would be better if it were a Suzy-er place.

Suzy Hockey League. Not to be confused with the National Hockey League, its much less attractive cousin.

2 responses so far