Archive for February, 2012

Feb 26 2012

Surprise Wedding

Wow – it’s a chilly one this morning, both inside (44F) and out (29F). Good thing I left the tap dripping – to the kitties’ delight – and brought the orchids inside. Still, I shouldn’t complain, considering that a year ago today, I woke up to a blanket of snow.

One thing I will complain about is how Le Bug has managed to totally de-rail my so-called life.

I had to take an entire week off from the jobette, and in my case, no work means no pay, which also means no play. I can’t afford to take more time off this week to go to the City and see the Cult of Beauty exhibit at the Legion of Honor and the Walker Evans exhibit at Stanford. Hopefully I can still go before the exhibits end. I’m really feeling the need for a dose of civilization lately.

Last week was one of surprising phone calls. There was the Rob surprise – the biggest of all – and the next day, a call from my neighbor Catrin (who is Rose’s younger daughter) to say that she and her boyfriend Zach were getting married. On Wednesday.

I figured this gave me at least two shopping days while in town at the jobette, but alas – I was too sick to shop, or drive, or work, or do anything other than drink ginger ale and cough. (I’m still coughing (or barking) and blowing my nose, by the way. I’m going to feel like Typhoid Mary at the jobette tomorrow.)

The wedding day dawned bright and sunny, and was in the 60s in the Hooterville and about 80 at the County seat, which is inland and also where the ceremony took place. The wedding party arrived at Mark and Citlali’s for the wedding party early in the evening, and I dragged my formerly fabulous self out of bed to go and congratulate the happy couple.

It occurred to me how lucky it was that they could have an outdoor party on a February evening, especially considering that it was snowy about a year before. But Catrin thought the date of 2/22/12 was a lucky one, especially since her mother’s birthday was the 22nd (of October), and I guess she was right.

Here are some pictures from the party:

Just married!

Balloons and streamers.

The table, with fresh-picked daffodils and votive candles.

The bouquet.

The bride and groom.

5 responses so far

Feb 24 2012

So Far…

Published by under Calamity Suzy

Well, Le Bug is making its majestic (and satanic) progress.

The chills and fever have abated, but the deep, wracking cough refuses to leave. Every time I breathe, the ripping lace sound and feeling is still there, and it’s been added to and amplified by a Philip Glass symphony of weird sounds. They are as annoying and hard to ignore as a particularly bad-tempered two year old, making it equally hard to sleep and sleep in.

The coughing is the worst part, though. My stomach is killing me from coughing so much. I feel like I’ve done a million crunches (I wonder if coughing is good for one’s abs?), and I wouldn’t be surprised if I re-broke the ribs I broke when they broke my fall a couple of years ago, or if I have broken capillaries in the whites of my eyes like a strangulation victim.

I sound like the sea lions at Pier 39. I used to be able to hear them from my first San Francisco apartment on Jackson Street, a few miles away. Now, they can probably hear me.

Frankly, all this coughing is way too much work.

Maybe it’s the coughing and its aftermath, or just Le Bug in general, but ever since it struck a week ago, I have had a complete and uncharacteristic lack of interest in both food and adult beverages. It’s been gallons of ginger ale and Oliver Twist-sized portions of canned soup, and that’s it. How sad is that?

Also? There appears to be no limit to the number of times you can blow your nose in one day. Just ask the red, raw, Sephora-defying remains of mine. If I’d known, I’d have bought stock* in Kleenex, Canada Dry, and Progresso before this thing started. I’d be rich enough to go and recover at the Golden Door.

*I recently learned that the average length of time a stock is held is now…24 SECONDS.

One response so far

Feb 23 2012

The Auddity

Published by under Cats,Country Life

Oh, that Audrey. The most stubborn cat in Hooterville. Or any other ville, for that matter.

Ever since Le Bug descended upon me and I more or less moved into my bed full-time, Audrey has been keeping Megan hours. And keeping me company.

She curls up neatly on the bed and naps all day. I don’t think anyone, cat or otherwise, can look quite so cozy as Audrey as does when she’s asleep. You can tell she really enjoys that beauty rest. When I pet her, she makes little bird-like noises and sometimes stretches, but that’s it.

At first, I was flattered by this. But I soon realized it had its down side, which is that she wants to go out at night and stay out, which is against company policy. All cats have to be inside, present and accounted for, before I go to bed.

But after sleeping all day, Audrey wants to go out and play all night. And since she is the most stubborn cat in the world, she refuses to come when she’s called, and of course, she totally disdains treats, as you would expect from her supermodel figure.

So for the past few nights, I’ve had to go outside repeatedly, shivering in the darkness and coughing up a storm until she appears. My paranoia has not been assisted by reports of mountain lion sightings in Hooterville, though Megan assures me that they are pretty much always around. Either way, I want my kitties inside at night.

Eventually, Audrey shows up, and trots gracefully inside. When she’s good and ready. It’s the Audrey way.

Update: I actually put her outside, in the 65 degree sunshine, a couple of times. She complained bitterly about being picked up – Audrey hates the indignity of being picked up at the best of times, and in the middle of a nap definitely doesn’t qualify – and then came back in about half an hour later and resumed her interrupted program.

5 responses so far

Feb 22 2012

One of Them

Published by under Calamity Suzy,Family

Generally, we like to think that we are a little better than the common man. We aren’t the Ugly American tourists giving our great country a bad name. We aren’t tourists at all! We are citizens of the world. But sometimes, we have to face the fact that we are, in fact, the Ugly American tourist, fanny pack and all, speaking English loudly and slowly enough* for those silly foreigners to get it**.

Yesterday, I had to face the fact that I am One of Them.

One of the many, uh, challenges Megan faces at work in the ER is people who come in saying they’ve had back pain or whatever for a month, but they need treatment NOW. Yes, they’ve had it for weeks and could have gone to the clinic or seen their doctor, but instead chose to go to the Emergency Room at night and get in the way of traffic accident victims and people having babies or heart attacks.

The ER staff does not look kindly upon such individuals.

Yesterday, my fever and chills were so bad that I called Megan at work, thoughtfully placing the call about five minutes after her shift started. She calmed me down and said she’d tell Rob what to bring me.

Rob appeared with Tylenol with codeine (later, I noticed that it had been prescribed for one of my mother’s dogs, who died a couple of years ago), cough syrup, and ibuprophen. He also thoughtfully brought their coffeemaker, which he will repo later on today when Megan wakes up.

I took all these things and shiveringly watched “Pan Am” until Megan called to check up on me. This morning, I feel a little better – though not enough to go to work – and as I came downstairs, Megan arrived, bearing ginger ale and soup and hugs. I may be sick, but I’m still lucky.

*My father believed that there was absolutely no point in speaking a foreign language abroad unless you were fluent in it, since offering a word or two in the other person’s native language simply unleashed a flood of it which you couldn’t understand, thus creating a conversational impasse.

**I always loved that line in “Big Trouble in Little China” (filmed in San Francisco!) where James Hong says, “Shut up! You are not brought upon this world to get it! “

One response so far

Feb 21 2012

Le Bug

Published by under Calamity Suzy

Hot (or cold, depending) on the heels of Friday’s triumph came the flu from hell. It started off with a tickle in my throat, and then escalated into fits of the chills so bad that my teeth were chattering, followed by burning up with fever bad enough to sweat through my PJs. Add in a deep, wracking cough (you’d think I was the one smoking two packs a day), endless nose-blowing, and a strange sound like tearing lace every time I breathe, and you have a sick little Suzy on your hands.

The flu persisted through the weekend and into the work week. I can’t remember the last time I was this sick. My ribs and stomach ache from coughing, and not for the first time, I wish I could soak in a nice, hot bath. I have never missed my gracious San Francisco bathroom

quite so much as I have over the past few days.

I’m hoping to head back to the jobette tomorrow, but I fear that my much-anticipated trip to the City next week will have to be put off until later, since I can’t afford to miss two days this week and two days next week.

2 responses so far

Feb 19 2012


Published by under Family,Friends

The phone rang at almost exactly 2:00 on Friday afternoon. I knew the appointment with the judge was at 1:30 (the meeting with the lawyer was at 1:00), so I didn’t think it could be Megan.

But it was.

Me: “Hello?”

Megan: “It’s over! We won!”

Me: “What?!”

It was almost the same kind of stunned feeling I had when she called me to say Dad was dead. I heard the words, but there seemed to be a disconnect between my ears and my brain.

Eventually I learned that they had gotten a really nice judge, and that their lawyer had read all 600 pages of Rob’s medical records and condensed them down into two pages of notes. She had every fact about Rob’s medical condition at her fingertips.

The lawyer led with the three spinal surgeries, the last of which has failed and must be repaired within 6 months. The judge asked Rob a couple of questions, and then made a bench decision, granting him permanent disability payments, as well as back pay – this process has been dragging on for four years. He should start receiving payments as early as next month.

This will enable Megan and Rob to move onto the property with Jonathan. We are hoping that Jonathan can start working a little less once the money starts coming in. He works 60 hours a week to keep the mortgage paid, and lives on $200 a month in a 29 foot trailer, with water from the well he dug and electricity from solar panels he bought and bartered and installed. There aren’t too many people who could or would live so austerely, all in order to save the family land.

On the way home, Rob confessed that it was a little painful to be officially disabled, instead of unofficially, even though it didn’t really change a thing about his physical condition. Still, it’s a little hard to celebrate being officially too damaged to work ever again, when you are still in your 40s.

Still, the relief of the long ordeal finally concluding in the best possible way overcame the sadness, and it happened that the Vintzes, who are buying the property with my siblings, and Jonathan’s old friend Carrie happened to be here that day, so we all gathered at Megan and Rob’s little house, where so many celebrations were held in the past; where Mom lived out her final illness; where Dad visited and Jarrett lived for a while – so many happy and sad memories in one little place. We toasted the future in Champagne, and while remembering the past, looked joyfully toward the future. Together.

7 responses so far

Feb 17 2012


Published by under Country Life,Family

Christopher Hayden: Thought our stomachs should start adjusting to French cuisine so I got us croissants and cafe au lait.

Lorelai Gilmore: I thought cafe au lait was Spanish.

Christopher Hayden: No, it’s French for coffee and milk. “Lait” is milk.

Lorelai Gilmore: Really? I thought it was cafe olé! Like ‘coffee, all right!’

— Gilmore Girls, 2006

Yesterday, I turned on the coffeemaker and the heater (in that order; it’s been cold enough to have the orchids in the house at night so the frost doesn’t ruin their budding blooms), and then went to feed the kitties. Arriving back in the kitchen, I checked on the coffee’s progress.

The light was on, but no-one, or at least no coffee, was home.

I peeked inside, wondering if I had forgotten to put water in. Nope. Water and coffee grounds were present and accounted for, but no hopeful brewing sounds were forthcoming.

I went back to the pantry/laundry room/cat dining room area and dug around in the cupboards, looking for the French press. No luck, though I discovered that I had coconut milk, which I had forgotten about, and found the silver polish.

I put shoes on and went over to Megan’s. I knew she would be home from work by then, but I was desperate enough to risk her wrath if I woke her up while stealing some of yesterday’s coffee.

I sneaked in, and was pleasantly surprised to find that there was a full pot of fresh coffee. Olé! I filled up a cup and was preparing to creep out when I heard Rob’s voice. Then Megan’s. Uh-oh.

It turned out that she had taken the night off, so they had just made coffee and were planning to drink it. So I stayed and we had coffee together, which was really nice – I can’t remember the last time we did that. It was a nice way to start the day.

Today is Rob’s permanent disability hearing in San Rafael. As I write, they are heading down the highway toward their 1:00 pm appointment. Apparently the judge has up to three months to make his or her ruling, so we almost certainly will not know today whether Rob will get his very modest monthly payments. But it still feels momentous.

Cross your fingers for us. I have to say I feel like we are due for a change in our luck, after the decade of bad luck and bad times that we have endured since our father’s death. Here’s hoping.

3 responses so far

Feb 15 2012


Published by under Family,Memories

Ernest Raymond, my mother’s father, was not a mystery to me, or anyone who knew him. He was a charmer until his dying day. When he was in his 80s, more or less blind and bald, my grandmother would leave him sitting on a bench outside when we went shopping. Almost every single time, we’d come back to find him surrounded by young women who were laughing at his stories. Nana used to grab his hand and tell him it was time to go. “You’re tired, Ernest”, she’d say briskly. “No, I’m not”, he’d protest as he was led away to the car.

Like me (and Mom), he had green eyes and crooked pinkie fingers, and I have to keep reminding myself that he wasn’t my blood, being my mother’s adopted father. But just as she always regarded her parents as simply her parents*, I regarded them as my grandparents.

Ernest Raymond was born on May 11, 1896, so he was a mere 18 years old when the Great War started. He was also a naive farm boy from New York state, unlike my urban paternal grandfather from the slums of London.

But both Ernests were stationed in France**. My mother’s father told me that his feet literally rotted in the trenches, and he saw his boyhood friends blown to pieces in front of his eyes. He was the only survivor of his unit, simply because he caught the measles and was in the infirmary when everyone else was being blown to pieces.

After the war was over, he had a week in Paris before being shipped back to the farm. That was it. Obviously it’s not as bad as the jeering and harassment that my friend Paul and other Vietnam veterans received on coming home, but Ernest didn’t get any help readjusting to civilian life, or dealing with the horrors he saw in battle.

He grew up to become a teacher, and then a high school principal (unfortunately for my mother, of the high school she attended, since it was the only one in her small town). He and my grandmother were married for more than half a century, and like Ernest Victor, he and his wife adored each other until the end of their days.

I used to sleep on a cot in my grandparents’ room when we visited my mother’s parents, and I know for a fact that my grandfather suffered from nightmares nearly every night. In some ways, I think veterans are always fighting a battle, even if we can’t see it.

*Mom was about three when they adopted her. They always told her, “We chose you out of all the children in all the world. Other parents just have to take what they get.” No wonder she never cared about her biological parents, or felt stigmatized by being adopted.

**I recently came across his infantry drill book from the war, with his own notes in it.

3 responses so far

Feb 13 2012


Published by under Family,TV

Like the rest of the world, I have fallen in love. Hard. With “Downton Abbey”. “Obsessed” is probably not too strong a word.

Sure, I love the fabulous costumes. The gorgeous settings (Highclere Castle is now a Destination for the Devoted). The wonderful ensemble cast (though I fear the next season appearance of the dreaded Shirley MacLaine, who has not yet learned to be more than mediocre or less than tiresome despite her multiple lives). The scandals and melodramas.

It is the Suzy-est thing EVAR.

But watching Season Two and the Christmas Special made me think less about these frivolous (yet delightful) things, and more about my grandfathers, Ernest and Ernest.

Ernest Victor, named for the Queen, was born in 1893 in Southwark. It was, and remains, a not-lovely part of London. It was bombed heavily during WWII – the war both my Ernest grandfathers fought in not turning out to be as advertised “The War to End All Wars” – and when I went to visit the site of his birth in 1993, the only thing left of that century was the long disused railroad stable, with the fading painted sign on the brickwork.

I only learned afterwards that the day I chose to go – and my father to accompany me, despite his lack of interest in geneology – was in fact Ernest Victor’s 100th birthday: October 13, 1993.

And it was much later that I started to piece together things about him that were odd. His mother registered his birth, a month after the fact, in a time when men almost always did these things. He was barely 21 when war broke out and he signed up.

He went to France and saw unimaginable horrors. He was gassed. He suffered from what I now realize was PTSD, called “shell shock” then. It has lately been acknowledged that most, or perhaps all of the painfully young men who were shot at dawn for desertion suffered from what we now call post traumatic stress disorder – the same thing that haunts every day and night of my friend Paul’s life after what he saw and did in the Vietnam War. The same that woke Ernest Raymond, my mother’s father, screaming, just as it does Paul.

I learned that all 306 young men shot at dawn for cowardice were posthumously pardoned – in 2006.

Ernest Victor never spoke to anyone in his family again after he returned from France, other than his sister Elsie, who in turn would become my father’s confidante.

He was a big shot in international banking at Lloyd’s, an incredible achievement for a man of his background. He never once told his only son he loved him. That was, my father said, understood. But my father’s last words to me were, at the end of a routine phone call, “Love you lots.”

Ernest Victor, for all I loved him, is a mystery to me.

3 responses so far

Feb 10 2012

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Published by under Family

Yesterday, Megan and Rob made the long trek to Civilization (and back) to see the surgeon who worked on Rob’s neck last summer.

The news was not good. The repair is basically collapsing, partly because they used cadaver bone instead of Rob’s own bone, and partly, the surgeon says, because Rob is such a heavy smoker and apparently this thins the bone along with all the other bad side effects.

The doctor says he can’t operate on Rob until he quits smoking, which will be a difficult endeavor for someone who smokes two packs a day and can’t do much to distract himself from the horrors of quitting. It’s not like he can play video games or go bike riding or something like that to keep his mind occupied.

Also it looks like another vertebra will need to be fixed soon.

On the other hand, I can’t believe that anyone can think that Rob can work at this point. He’s had three surgeries in four years and is facing more. He can’t sit, stand, walk, or even lie down for long periods of time. His left hand doesn’t work too well. He can’t really move his head from side to side or drive more than 5 miles. He walks like Frankenstein’s monster. So hopefully this bad news will help at the disability hearing next week. Maybe something good will come out of something really bad.

I was glad that I reinstated Thursday night dinners last month, since they came home to dinner being ready after a long, stressful day. And Megan was happy to discover that I left her a much-needed cocktail in the refrigerator. Sometimes it really is the little things that count.

6 responses so far

Feb 07 2012

vvvvvvvvvvvvv cccccccc

Published by under Cats,Country Life,Family,Weather

You can thank Roscoe for the title. He just walked across the keyboard. Pretty good for someone who isn’t two years old yet, though his spelling does leave something to be desired.

It’s also what I was thinking last night when the power went out. I was afraid that it was going to happen after hearing the reports of 25-30 mile an hour winds as well as rain. The windchimes, always a cheery harbinger of the outage, were ringing merrily when I got home last night.

I was concerned enough to set the alarm for 5:30 am on the battered old travel alarm clock that usually lives in my bedside table’s drawer, but too optimistic to make coffee.

When darkness fell both inside as well as out, I regretted this foolish hopefulness. Who needs a glass that’s half full when you really need a coffee pot that’s half empty?

As I pondered these dark thoughts in the darkness, Rob appeared, with his headlamp on, and helped me to haul the generator so kindly donated by the Generator Fairy last fall outside. I paused partway through the process to capture the curious cats and strand them in the bathroom. The thought of them vanishing into the darkness scared me more than the darkness itself.

Rob got it going, showed me the on/off switch, and plugged a giant extension cord in. After we got the thing going, I immediately realized that it was a predator repellent. Even with the door closed and inside, it was LOUD. I later learned that sleeping with a generator on, even with earplugs firmly installed and a feather pillow over my head, is a near-impossibility.

Why do these things always happen when I have to get up early and work, pretending to be a responsible adult?

At least I could make coffee.

The cats cuddled up with me, probably thinking “Things are weird. We’d better stick together.” When I called PG&E, I was the first one to report the outage, news which saddened me, since I knew that it would be ages until a crew could get there and start working on whatever downed tree/power line was the problem.

Sometimes being first isn’t good.

2 responses so far

Feb 03 2012


Sorry to scare you all with the tale of things that go bump in the night. If we’re not worried, you shouldn’t be! There are still no locks on any of our doors, and so far, we haven’t had any more late night visitors. I still feel about a zillion times safer here than when I lived in Oakhampton. I have yet to come home to police cars in front of the house, or neighbors holding them off with a rifle, as I did there.

Not that it’s a cop-free zone. When I arrived at the jobette on Wednesday, one of my coworkers had just had a close encounter. As he pulled up in front of the office, two cop cars were upon him, blazing with lights and sirens, to inform him that one of his brake lights was out. Oh, the humanity!

It also turned out that his registration had lapsed the day before, so that lengthened the ordeal. As he sat, marooned in his car by a third of the local police force, our co-worker slunk by, pretending not to know him. After all, why get involved? Especially when there was no-one else to answer the phones.

He tried to pay the ticket and registration at lunch, only to be told they weren’t in the system yet. After he went through the metal detector and waited in line. Even small towns are not immune from bureaucracy.

My sister and I encountered the highway patrol and the fire department on our way home from the movies* on Sunday evening. We were in the truck, bumpkins that we are, and we were a little worried about running out of gas, since we were so busy talking about the movie that we completely forgot to get gas when we were in town, and the local store was closed.

We were stopped by guys with signs and flares in the road about a mile from the turnoff to the Ridge. It turned out that some guy had driven off the road – the curve there is sharper than it appears, as are many around here – and when passing motorists tried to help him, he repaid their Good Samaritan-ness by punching them and yelling at them.

He told the officers who responded to the call that men in fiber optic suits had jumped on his car, causing him to drive off the road. Oh, and he hadn’t slept in 30 hours. The car itself was so stuffed with things and stuff that there was barely enough room for the guy to sit in there and drive.

He was wearing a backpack with $20,000 in it.

He was released and sent on his way. The gas held out and we made it home. All’s well that ends well.

*It was “One for the Money”, based on the first Stephanie Plum novel by Janet Evanovich. Megan introduced me to them. They are fun fluff about a bounty hunter in New Jersey. I was concerned about Katherine Heigl playing Stephanie, but she was great and the movie was really fun.

3 responses so far