La Soirée Enchantée

Nothing takes a girl’s mind off divorce paperwork and restraining orders like a drive down the coast to see a burlesque show, n’est-ce pas?

After work on Saturday, Miss Scarlett and I drove the serpentine road to the south coast. The scenery was breathtaking and I wished more than once that I didn’t have to keep my eyes on the hilly, curvy road. The ocean crashed against the rocky cliffs, and a migrating whale flipped a tail at me in greeting as I drove past. Fields were dotted with placid cows and swept with bright wildflowers. California poppies and wild mustard blazed in the green grass by the side of the road, and the trees, bent and twisted by decades of ocean winds, were positively Seussian.

I checked in at a little inn by the ocean and then made the short drive to the lovely Arts Center:

arriving just as the sun was setting. The room was set up like a nightclub, with little tables dressed in candles and black tablecloths. Red lanterns hung from the high ceilings, and the place was packed.

Soon, the show began, with Les Filles Rouges singing and dancing and making the audience laugh with delight. Unfortunately, photography was strictly forbidden, but you can get a little taste of the artistes’ playfully sassy style in this video (and see them both in the shop where Megan and I finally learned the truth about bra sizes, and sashaying down the street where the jobette is).

True to the famously eccentric nature of the County, the Filles were not your everyday ecdysiasts. Some were far thinner than most dancers, and some much curvier. One had blue hair, another was dramatically tattooed, and one was quite pregnant. She stole the show dancing to “Like a Virgin”, ending up with red, sequined, heart-shaped, tasseled pasties on her belly button as well as the usual places, which brought down the house.

It was a lot of fun and I don’t know who had a better time, the girls or the audience.

After the show, I made my way back to the inn, where I had a glass of wine by the fire and later fell asleep to the sound of the waves crashing and the frogs joyously greeting the gentle spring rain.


On Monday, I went to the courthouse at lunch to file the divorce papers.

I kept setting the metal detector off, but they must have deemed me non-threatening, since they let me in so I could get in line.

There were two women ahead of me in line. One of them was trying to get a restraining order, and the other one was trying to get a restraining order against her overturned. She apparently failed, since she raged away from the clerk’s window, spitting “I don’t think yelling and screaming constitutes a threat!”


When it was my turn, I handed the understandably embittered clerk my paperwork. While I did have two copies, I had left one (my copy) at home, and brought the original and John’s copy with me. Unfortunately, I needed the clerk to stamp and approve all three copies. It makes sense when you think about it, but as you know, logic and thinking about it are not my strong suit, just one of the reasons that made me end up in this situation.

I went back to the jobette, where E said, “That was fast!” I explained what had happened, and she told me to just make another copy and go back. I felt weird about using the office copier for my personal business, but she said that I needed to get it over with, so I did.

Back to the courthouse, where – stop me if you’ve heard this one before – the woman in front of me was, yes, getting a restraining order. Between the restraining orders and the people waiting outside the probation office, I began to have serious concerns about the entire “jury of your peers” concept*.

Finally, it was my turn, and this time the clerk was able to stamp and file my paperwork. Thirty days after John is served with the paperwork, I will go back to the clerk and request a summary judgment. I will give the clerk stamped, self-addressed envelopes so the court can mail the final decrees to John and me six months after that date.

She also gave me a summons to appear on August 16 – what is it with me and summons to appear in August? – but explained that it’s only in case I don’t file for the summary judgment. The court wants to make sure that the case is concluded one way or the other, and this is their way of making sure that the case isn’t just out there unresolved forever, like my nine year (unofficial) separation.

I then went to the post office and sent John’s paperwork to Deborah. By the time I got back to the jobette, it was long past the half hour allowed for lunch, which is why I’m lucky that my coworkers are so awesome.

While it’s good to get this dealt with, it’s still sad, and I can’t help feeling that Dad would be disappointed in me. When he died, I was still married, living in a beautiful apartment which we owned (and which sold last year for half a million dollars more than we paid for it – we should never have sold it) in the best neighborhood in the most beautiful city in the world, and had a good job which made good money. Now I’m living in a weird hippie house, barely scraping by, and struggling to pay my freakin’ divorce fees (it’s only fair to note that we split the costs 50/50), and don’t own anything other than a 16 year old car. Not exactly an improvement.

I told my boss/partner about this – he knew Dad well – and he said that Dad would be proud that we built our business together and we still have it, even though times have been hard. He said, “You’ve been through a lot, but you’re still out there swinging.”

Maybe that’s all any of us can do.

*I told Megan about this, and she said, “The ER and the ambulance did that for me a long time ago.”

Moving Ahead

I wish my days “off” were more like Ferris Bueller’s

On Friday, I got up early for a conference call, then did a load of laundry and hung it outside. First time this year!

Then I packed my dysfunctional vacuum cleaner into a huge, unwieldy box and stuffed it in the backseat of the car. The vacuum cleaner is still under warranty, so theoretically it will eventually be returned to me fixed or replaced.

Then I set off for the Big Town.

I pulled up in front of the courthouse and parked, went through the metal detector, and then waited. Despite all my practice at waiting, I am still no good at it, even though I had the latest Jo Nesbo to read.

After a couple of hours of waiting, a nice older woman named Deborah came and ushered me into a little room. I explained to her that I needed some help and advice with my divorce paperwork, and showed her the package I had received from LegalZoom.

She described LegalZoom as “bullshit” but noted that they do get most things right.

I could have filed that very day except LZ (note the appropriate initials) neglected to include copies of the documents and the courthouse (believe it or not) does not have a photocopier. So I will copy them and file on Monday. The good news is that I don’t have to go to the county seat to file (a 4 hour round trip drive), but the bad news is that it’s $435 to file.

Deborah said that I can mail her John’s copy and she will send it to him. I asked about the process server thing – the LZ paperwork says you have to have one – and she said that it just has to be a third party who sends the paperwork to John – Jonathan or Megan could do it – and John just has to mail Deborah the form stating that he received the paperwork and she will file it with the court. So at least we can save process server fees.

John has 31 days from the day he signs the paperwork to contest or respond, but if he does (which he won’t), he’ll have to pay yet another $435. Notice a theme here?

I think after the 31 days are up the judge will give us a temporary decree or whatever the actual term is – and then it becomes final 6 months from then. So we should be able to wrap it up by the end of this year.

I ended up talking to Deborah for about 15 minutes. This seems to be the way with waiting, whether it’s the airport or the doctor’s office.

After that, I went to the drugstore, the library, and the feed store (baby chicks peeping up a storm – happy spring!) before dropping off the giant unwieldy box at Fed Ex and finally heading home, where drink o’clock came a little early.


Big River

Usually, my idea of traffic is having to wait for two other cars to turn onto the highway from our rough country road – especially if they’re not related to me. Actually, the major annoyances for me when driving are people who drive below the speed limit and won’t pull over, and the people who jump out in front of me and then drive below the speed limit, usually when the road behind me is completely empty. Extra credit (or demerits) to the cars with “local” license plates frames who do all of the above and brake at every curve.

A few days ago, a cement truck overturned in the afternoon in what we call “Dark Gulch” – a low and curvaceous part of the two lane highway signposted at 15 miles an hour – and when I drove home more than four hours later, it was still a one lane road as they cleaned it up.

As you come out of Dark Gulch into the light, you now find signs warning of road work and flaggers. Only problem – at least for me – is that the actual road work is about two miles south of the signs, and more importantly, about a mile past my turn off. Those not in the know immediately start driving about 20 miles an hour in a 50 zone, annoying the Suzy who just wants to get home.

On the way to work on the same day as the cement truck spill, there was some kind of work going on at Big River bridge which required some kind of enormous drill looking thing and which also reduced traffic to one lane (the other side) or a total stop (Me). Not only did it make me worry about being late for work, it also deprived me of the not inconsiderable pleasure of sweeping across that curving bridge (see above) with the ocean on one side and the river on the other. In any weather, it lifts my spirit.

At the jobette, I learned that a movie will be filming on the notoriously zig zaggy roads around here in the first two weeks in April. The road to the city is a motorcyclist’s Mecca, and it just makes sense that it will be the filming location for Need for Speed, starring Aaron Paul, my crush from Breaking Bad. Oh, and Michael Keaton.

I was the only one who knew who Aaron Paul was, and although this was less shocking than the time that my boss brought in a Wines That Rock bottle with the iconic image from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and I was the only one who could actually identify the image (my favorite guess: “Is it some kind of gay pride thing?”), it was still a little surprising. Have none of you people seen Breaking Bad? And if not, why? Or more importantly, why?

Of course, I am scheduled to go to San Francisco on Jessica’s birthday, when filming is allegedly going to be complete, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it runs over, as filming is wont to do. Apparently the film crew will be equipped with helicopters to film the chase sequences, so maybe they’ll give me a lift if need be.


Yesterday was the first official day of spring, or the Vernal Equinox as the scientifically and paganly inclined would have it. Here in Hooterville, it looked a lot more like winter than spring, being rainy, windy, and cold-ish.

It’s been a strange winter. We were slammed with storms early in the season, racking up six power outages by the end of November and so much rain that I had to empty it out of the flooded containers in the garden. I got tired of picking up the purple honeysuckle by the side of the house and just let it lie there dejectedly, waiting for Spring.

January and February were the driest ever recorded in California, and then the first day of spring was heralded with a mini-storm. Maybe it’s all part of the joy of climate change.

The second day of spring looks a lot more like Spring than the first day, sunny and breezy.

The calla lily my neighbor Jim gave me last year is in bloom:

The orchid is just beginning to blossom, making me glad that I kept hauling it inside when the overnight temperatures dipped to the freezing point or lower, which happened a lot this winter. Sunny skies mean starry nights, and starry skies are always cold ones, without clouds for insulation.

Today the PG&E meter reader stopped to look at it and smell it (it doesn’t smell like anything, unfortunately).

I meant to dig up the tulip bulbs and plant new ones, but one way or another it didn’t happen. The tulips were undeterred by this neglect – and possibly enjoyed the cold temperatures – since they sprung up and bloomed anyway:

The persistence of tulips!

Birthday Dinner

On Dad’s birthday, I woke up in the 4:00 darkness. I tried to go back to sleep, but gave up around 5:00 and just got up. Sleeping is not something my family does well, and once we’re awake, that’s pretty much it. I was hoping to sleep in, since it was Sunday and one of the few days when I don’t have to get up in darkness and keep the fretful cats in until it’s light enough for the monsters to punch out and go home for the day, but it was not to be.

I used the extra time to do some cooking, which only seems right on Dad’s birthday. I made broth and then I made soup out of the broth, and also put together spaghetti sauce. I often make dishes on Sunday that I can just heat up during the week. For dinner that night, I made fresh snapper escabèche, a new recipe for me, but one I will definitely make again. Here it is:

Spiced Escabèche
(Sautéed Snapper in Citrus Vinaigrette)

For the sauce:

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1/4 cup olive oil
Zest and juice of a lime
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced
Cayenne pepper to taste

For the fish:

1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon chili powder
Cayenne pepper to taste
4 snapper fillets
5-6 tablespoons olive oil

Blend together ingredients for sauce and set aside.

Mix together flour, chili powder, and cayenne and place on large plate. Dredge fillets in flour mixture.

Heat oil in large, heavy skillet over moderately high high until hot but not smoking. Sauté fish until golden brown, about 5 minutes a side.

Arrange fillets on plate and pour sauce on top.

I had broccoli and pine nut couscous with it, not quite a menu meal, but I think Dad would have approved.

Dad’s Birthday

As always this time of year, Dad has been on my mind more than usual. Having said that, not a day goes by that I don’t think about him, and I don’t expect that to change.

On Thursday, Megan and I shared a glass of wine and toasted Dad: “Here’s to the Old Bear. He wasn’t so bad!” This was a joke Dad used to make – he said that he’d leave us his wine collection in his Will, and every year, we should drink some and toast him in this way. I think the wonderful Margaret inherited the wine – and I hope she drank it – but my siblings and I do toast Dad this way, more than once a year.

On Friday, Megan and I ran a few errands in town and then took Star for a walk on the headlands. It was a beautiful day:

Dad loved the ocean, and he loved to walk. And he loved to walk with dogs. I’m sure he would have appreciated how Megan rescued Star and how happy Star is now:

After all, his beloved dog Jesse was rescued* by Megan as well, and Dad adored that dog:

Not too many people would have paid a couple of thousand dollars to fly and quarantine a 9 year old mutt so he could live out his golden years in golden splendor in Wimbledon. But Dad was a special person.

We enjoyed the sunshine and each other’s company and the smell of the ocean. In a way, he was there with us. After all, he is always in our hearts.

*You can read about Jesse’s rescue here.

Try, Try Again

Even though it’s no longer the New Year – when does a year stop being new, anyway? – I’ve been trying to get the chaos of my life a little more in order. Or, you know, in order at all.

I started by collecting all the crap I need for taxes. Mine are kind of complicated, with the job and the jobette and my lack of any kind of math brain, so I have someone do them for me. Needless to say I forgot to include some things and then had to track them down, but in the end, I have a (very) modest refund coming my way.

The Tax Lady noted that if I were divorced, the refund would be less modest – it would be about four times what I am getting. Realizing that John would be in the same position, I emailed him to reopen the divorce discussion.

We tried to do this a somewhat embarrassing number of years ago (at the rate we’ve been going, we’ll be separated almost as long as we were married), but encountered technical difficulties. Neither of us could afford a lawyer, and there was no question of alimony or child custody or anything that tends to lead to acrimoniousness, so John just got the forms online and tried to file them after I signed.

The clerk at his courthouse said there was something missing, but wouldn’t tell John what it was, since he “couldn’t offer legal advice.” Since we couldn’t afford legal advice and neither of us was at all interested in getting married again (some things never change), we sort of dropped it.

There is a walk in family law clinic here later in the month, so I’m hoping to stop by and get them to look over the forms if I have them ready by then. You *have* to fill out the forms completely on line. I called the company and told them there was required info about John I didn’t have. They told me to put in 0s as a “placeholder” and then have John log in and fill it out.

I told John, and he tried to do that, but the website said it was under review and couldn’t be edited. I just checked again today and there is an alert saying that they need more information. What do you know? So clearly the entire placeholder thing is bogus.

Of course they’re only at work when you’re at work, so I’ll have to try and find time to call them on Monday. Presumably John will have to do the same thing. Oh, and did I mention that the online forms cost $300? And the $300 does not include the filing fees – who knows how much that will be. It’s no wonder it’s taken us so long to get around to this.

If I ran the world, it would be hard to get married and easy to get divorced. One thing I have (finally) learned is to follow your heart. I never wanted to get married. I think you should be together until you don’t want to be, instead of dragging the state and/or church and/or families and/or everyone else’s expectations into your relationship.

But it meant a lot to John, so I went along with it. Kids, this is not a good reason to get married. Having said that, we were happy together for many years, so I can’t exactly say I regret it. I don’t regret the time I spent with John, just the messiness of the ending.

Lesson learned.

A Check Up

At the vet’s

Megan and I took the 15 year old Miss Schatzi for a check-up last week. It’s been over a year since Dr. Carl alerted us to the Swiss Cheesiness of Schatzi’s bones, and five months since she last saw Dr. Karen, so it was time for a check-up.

When a dog gets to this age, a girl has to wonder how much time her dog has left. Dr. Karen did some blood tests, which revealed that Schatzi is perfect, other than her fragile bones, arthritis, and a little heart murmur which was noted on the last visit and which has not gotten worse. Basically the only thing that’s really wrong with her is what the ER staff around here call TMB (too many birthdays).

She prescribed some new meds for Schatzi’s dementia – apparently loss of calcium in the bones affects the brain as well, at least in dogs – and renewed the many other drugs which allow Schatzi to go prancing by my house every day. Megan is very dedicated and careful about Schatzi’s diet and pain management, and it has paid off.

Schatzi is still enjoying life, playing in the woods, sometimes with her boyfriend, Yellow Dog, napping in her hay bed, or basking in the sun and sniffing the smells. Dr. Karen is pretty sure that Schatzi will make it through the summer and we can revisit her situation then.

Dr. Karen said, “She’s a surprising animal.”

She doesn’t know how surprising, though. Last week, I was getting ready to leave for work when Megan called, saying that Schatzi had taken off on her. She’d been seeking her for half an hour with no luck. I hurried off and we met up over at our brother’s property, where Megan walks the dogs after getting home from work and before going to bed.

We split up and started looking for the missing dog. It’s hard to find a deaf dog in a densely wooded area. My hands were aching with clapping for her. We had been looking for about half an hour when I saw her trotting merrily down the driveway as if nothing had happened. I managed to get her in the car and then found Megan.

I was afraid that Schatzi would be sore from racing around so long, but she was fine. Surprising, indeed.

Technical Difficulties

The other day, I got up early, and reheated some leftover coffee instead of making new coffee. I know this unsavory practice horrifies many of you, and I will blame it on early indoctrination never to waste anything. When your father has been through World War II as a child and teenager, his experiences are passed on to you (sleeping in utter darkness; a horror of wasting food). Especially since he’s not here to say it’s just his daughter being a cheapskate. After all, he didn’t turn the heat off at night.

The leftover coffee proved to be insufficient to jumpstart my cold, dark heart, so I went to make more.

However, the coffee grinder did not agree with me. It had worked fine the day before – hence, the leftover coffee – but refused to budge this particular morning. I tried it in a couple of other outlets, to no avail.

I knew there was coffee at Megan’s house (and I learned later that there was actually pre-ground coffee* there – a rarity), but there was no way I was going to set off the Star alarm and wake up my seriously sleep-deprived sister. What to do?

It was Thursday morning, and I recently re-reinstated the Thursday night dinner tradition. My brother has fire training on Thursday nights, so it’s nice for him to come home to dinner already made, and Thursday marks the end of my sister’s long night shifts.

I packed up the chili I had made, some coffee beans, the errant grinder (in case my mechanically-minded brother could figure out what was wrong with it), and set off for my brother’s place. The gate was locked, and when I got to his place, I could see his car was gone. I went inside, put the chili in the refrigerator, wrote him a note, and went to grind the coffee.

Guess what? I couldn’t make his grinder work, either. I spent a few minutes struggling with the recalcitrant appliance, again trying different outlets, and finally gave up. I poured the remnants of his coffee into some Tupperware and went home.

When I got there, I discovered that the Tupperware had leaked into the shopping bag it was in and through it into the upholstery, which I had just had cleaned at the awesome car wash in San Francisco.

Thoughts were unprintable at that moment, but at least there was enough coffee still in the container to heat up again. Later, I got a coffee grinder at the hardware store, though on actually using it, I discovered that it is smaller than the old one, necessitating one and a half grinders’ worth for a pot of coffee, but I’m glad I have one that works. At least for now.

What is it with me and coffee appliances?!

*She bought a mocha at Starbucks and there was an incredibly good deal on a pound of pre-ground coffee to go with it. You never know when you – or your appliance-challenged sister – might need it.