Archive for April, 2014

Apr 30 2014

Happy Summer?

Published by under Cats,Country Life,Weather,Work

Rhododendrons in my garden this evening

The calendar may say April – just – but summer has come to Hooterville.

In the usual way of summer, it made a dramatic entrance, hitting its unsuspecting audience over the head with a sledgehammer of heat while giggling wickedly. When I came home from the cool climes of the jobette yesterday evening, I was surprised to discover that it was 80 degrees both inside and outside my house.

Before removing work wear, accessories and make-up, usually the first things I do, I dragged out all the fans – the upstairs, the downstairs, and the portable one which can be positioned to blow air directly on Self – and placed them throughout the house, as well as turning on the ceiling fan, even though it’s really more of a whisk stirring the hot air around than anything else. As usual, the outside cooled down long before the inside, and I slept with the balcony door open and the screen door closed, sadly coated in a sheet and dreaming of blankets.

That was once I got to bed, though. On the first warm night of the year, Roscoe was scarce. I kept calling him, even though I knew it to be pointless. He finally swanned in just after midnight, had a fashionably late dinner, and then went to bed.

We were all awakened at 6:30 by Mark’s rooster crowing loudly and repeatedly. I gave up and got up, releasing the cats into the garden, not to appear again until dinner time.

I had quarterly calls scheduled all day today (and tomorrow, and all of Friday morning), and I did them in the shady parts of the garden, moving my chair as the sun shifted. It gave me time to notice the damage done by Mark’s rabbit, Changa (it means “monkey”) on her frequent visits. It occurred to me that the rabbit ornament on my “front” door may in fact be a secret sign to rabbits everywhere that there’s an all you can eat buffet on the premises, much as hobos used to leave coded symbols scratched on people’s front doors during the Great Depression.

So really, I may have brought it on myself.

4 responses so far

Apr 29 2014


Take that, 11!

Something about working on Saturday always makes me feel like I’m being punished. It’s like detention. No one else has to work but you! No wonder I love The Breakfast Club so much. Though it does beg the question of whether we really ever get out of high school.

Even though Friday’s fun factor has decreased precipitously now that work looms on Saturday, last Friday was a good one indeed – we celebrated Jessica’s 11th birthday three days after the actual event.

We all gathered at the family property, where I caught up on what was happening in the garden. The peach trees are covered in little peachlets, fuzzy little signs of pies to come:

Strawberries are beginning to blush from their beds at the foot of the fruit trees:

Our state flower, the California poppy, blazed in the afternoon sun:

Scout, Jonathan’s epically skittish mini-cat (she’s still about the size of a nine month old kitten), was brave enough to join the festivities:

You can only pet her inside Jonathan’s place, but actually hanging around the people was a pretty big step forward for her. We also got to watch her (unsuccessfully) stalking a quail, which was amusing for us, if not for Scout. She got a pulled pork consolation prize, though.

Lichen joined us for a delicious dinner ordered by the birthday girl: pulled pork with grilled onions and peppers, home-made salsa, black beans, and tortillas, followed by German chocolate cupcakes made by Erica and served in little pink fairy cups:

She caramelized the coconut in some kind of Indian sugar, as well as using chunks of pecans. it was amazing, like everything Erica makes – including Jessica. Erica collapsed in laughter when I said that Jessica was the logical outcome of Erica’s love of extreme crafting: “I’m going to make an entire human being! And she’s going to be awesome!” We all agreed that she is.

Jessica was delighted with her gifts: a chemistry set, the sequel to the Miss Peregrine book we gave her at Christmas, but best of all, the next book in Rick Riordan’s Olympus series, which doesn’t come out until October. Still, she is clearly enjoying the anticipation:

It seems that the BBQ season is officially open around here. We have Megan’s birthday coming up over Memorial Day weekend, and we will also have a June-a-palooza at some point since my birthday, Erica’s, Lu’s and Monica’s are all in that merry month. Lots to look forward to!

2 responses so far

Apr 26 2014

Cat Conspiracy

Published by under Cats,Country Life,Family

Garden Audrey

I’m back home in Hooterville. The cats definitely missed me. Both boys sat on me simultaneously on Thursday night while I watched the hockey playoffs – which did not end satisfactorily – and Audrey sat on my lap when I went to bed to read. Both she and Roscoe slept with me, though the baby boy was up in his club house (my grandiose name for the storage space over the bathroom). That’s been his favorite spot lately.

It’s funny how different they all are, and how unpredictable. Clyde is the mama’s boy, yet he’s been sleeping in his own room lately. Roscoe is independent and dignified, yet he almost always sleeps with me. Audrey is…well, Audrey. Difficult, demanding, horrified if you dare to pick her up, but when she wants to be petted, she wants to be petted. Or is it worshiped? They are all such characters.

Megan was less than charmed by them while I was away, since they decided to drive her crazy in turns. I told her that they are often in the house when I get home from work, even though the door is open, so it might be easier for her to shut them in and feed them before she goes to work at 5:00 in the afternoon.

Needless to say, it did not work out this way. At all. They were nowhere to be seen, and in the end, Rob had to come over about a million times to find them all and get them in, leading to this text exchange between Megan and me:

Megan: What was that about them being in the house in the afternoon?

Me: I’m sorry.

Megan: I think they’re bored when you’re gone so they amuse themselves by torturing me.

Me: It’s entirely possible.

Megan: They’re in the woods snickering.

Me: Plotting how to drive you crazy tomorrow.

Megan: I don’t doubt it.

One response so far

Apr 24 2014

Museum Musings

Published by under San Francisco

View from the museum: palm tree and Sutro Tower

After the conference yesterday, Wednesday and I headed out to the De Young Museum. It was her first visit, and I figured it was high time that young lady got some culture under her formerly shiny hood*.

The big draw this time, like Hockney last time, was the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit, focusing on her paintings made at Lake George in New York, the state of my long-ago birth. I liked some of them, but they were not really my thing. I was interested to note that the crowd consisted almost entirely of women of a certain age and upwards – I believe the artist is considered something of a feminist icon. I appreciate that she was taking something dainty and feminine (gardens, flowers, leaves) and making it epic and arresting.

I preferred the exhibits of abstract art and the creation of the Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate’s older and less glamorous sibling. Peter Stackpole, a 21 year old San Francisco native, started documenting the bridge building in 1935. His photos of the dramatic shapes, dangerous building process, and the men who made this amazing structure are fascinating and moving. I love the abstraction and strength of this one:

This photo shows men being sent home early after a fatality at the building site:

You can see the grief behind the stoic faces of these hard-working men who have just lost one of their own. 8,300 men worked on the bridge, and 28 of them died on the job. The bridge opened on November 12, 1936, and more than 150,000 cars crossed the bridge in its first 36 hours.

Peter Stackpole’s work earned him a one man show at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art in 1936, its inaugural year, and also a place on Life magazine’s founding staff of photographers.

Across the hall from the bridge exhibit was one of abstract art. I was a bad citizen and sneaked some photos on my phone while the guards were distracted by gossip and last night’s basketball scores.

This suite of square abstractions is by Frederick Hammersley, from the late 1940s:

I love the precision and beauty of the lines.

Morris Louis painted this one, called Number 11:

The colors are so dynamic and give it such movement. The artist was a pioneer in this type of painting, starting in the 1950s.

The most moving piece was this one, called Anti-Mass, made in 2005 by Cornelia Parker, who I was suprised to learn is an English artist:

The piece is made from pieces of an African-American church in Kentucky, which had been destroyed by arsonists. It seems to float, yet has a powerful physical and emotional impact on the viewer.

On my way out of the museum, this glass vase by Dan Chihuly caught my eye:

It’s beautiful in and of itself, but its placement beside one of the many windows showcasing the interior gardens and copper clad walls of the museum was particularly striking. Here’s another of those windows:

As for today: it’s time to pack up and head back to Hooterville, where Megan is no doubt rejoicing at being relieved of kitty duty.

*She has the dusty country look now. When I checked in at the motel, the clerk thought she was grey instead of black. Wish I had time to visit the car salon. Maybe next time.

2 responses so far

Apr 22 2014


Published by under San Francisco,Work

I’m coming to you from the modest motel that is my home away from home in San Francisco, just three blocks away from my former, immodest home*. I still feel comfortable in my old ‘hood. I have the door open, to admit sunshine and breezes, and the Detroit-Boston playoffs game on. The heart I left in San Francisco is currently being broken by the 2-0 lead held by Boston.

Today was Day One of the conference. I suited up in faux adult togs, added some accessories and heels, and called my friends at City Wide Dispatch. I have known and loved them since I was a San Franciscan. They are a network of independent cabs – their dispatch radios out your location, and the nearest cab comes to your rescue. Often they call you to tell you that your knight in metered armor is drawing nigh.

At the conference hotel, the doorman opened the taxi door and helped me alight, as well as opening the door for me. I love, love, love doormen. Also taxis.

Inside, it soon became apparent that the conference was prom queen popular. After being equipped with my label and welcome packet, I repaired to the meeting room only to be greeted by a sea of faces and no obviously empty chairs. I felt like I was late for class. One of the conference usherettes (it seems to be staffed entirely by young lovelies with enviable manicures) found a seat for me, and while I was getting settled, someone whispered “Hey, Susan!”

I turned to my left, and there was none other than my host at the fabulous birthday ballgame. How’s that for a small world? At the break, we caught up on each other’s news while enjoying fresh fruit and the view from the deck of the hotel:

That’s the Museum of Modern Art on the left – closed for renovations – and the Yerba Buena Center for the arts right in front. Yerba Buena was the original name of San Francisco, which was founded in 1776 – the year America became a country – at what is now the Presidio. While no longer a military base, it remains the place I learned how to drive.

When the conference was over, the doorman ensconced me in a cab, which dropped me off a few blocks from the modest motel, giving me the opportunity to stop in at the cheap and cheerful nail salon, enjoying the orchids, fountains, and soaking my nails in warm water with fresh mint leaves. The owner recently acquired a young Siberian Husky named Kodiak, who accompanies her to work every day and supervises:

You have to love a salon with a resident dog. And coral nails to go with your Hello Kitty pen:

That should make tomorrow’s session a little more fun!

*Current estimated value: $1.2 million. Or more than a million more than I paid for it.

3 responses so far

Apr 20 2014


Published by under Special Occasions

Happy birthday to my blog! It’s a sullen thirteen years old today! Tomorrow I’m off to San Francisco, where my blog was born, which seems appropriate. First visit to the City this year – clearly I will not keep up with last year’s record-setting pace of nine trips in twelve months.

At least I remembered this all-important day this year, unlike last year. And for the first time, I realized that my blogaversary falls on 420, the day that celebrates all things marijuana. It’s especially funny since I live in Weed Central. According to the webmaster at the jobette, about 75% of Twitter posts and webs searches about our county are pot-related. For added amusement, I can’t stand the stuff ( I really dislike the smell) and would prefer a cocktail any day or night of the week. I’m old school like that.

In some ways, just having a blog seems to be old school in the light of Twitter, Secret and things like that. Maybe technology years are even more than dog years and my blog is teetering on the brink of antiquity, along with its writer.

Oh, well. New isn’t always improved. Thanks for coming along for the ride so far, and here’s to the next thirteen years! Toast with your intoxicant of choice! 🙂

3 responses so far

Apr 18 2014

No Fun*

Published by under Bullshit,Cats,Country Life,Family

I stayed up late on Wednesday night and was rewarded by a midnight power outage.

I was mystified by this, since it wasn’t rainy or windy, and annoyed by this, since I love the accoutrements and comforts of civilization.

Fortunately, I still had a flashlight by my bed, and headed downstairs to call my buddies at PG&E. As usual, I was the first one to alert them to the situation, so I resigned myself to a long night. I had a hard time sleeping, especially after an update informed me at about 2 am that the power would be out until 2 pm.

I texted Megan and she was the coffee fairy, with room service, no less. She also had the news that someone had driven into a power pole on the Ridge (apparently, it is not the first time this has happened, and when I drove by the location later, I could see why. It is located right near a curve, and I can see that someone could easily miss it in the foggy, inky, midnight blackness.) and supposedly been arrested, though no one came to visit Megan in the ER that night, so the driver must have been unscathed.

It was foggy and grey out, so the house was dark and freezing. Although the heater burns propane, it needs electricity to turn it on, thus rendering it a useless plastic box during power outages, which only occur during the cold months.

Of course.

Unfortunately for all concerned, I was slated to take Rob to the Big Town for dental surgery that day, when I was both sleep-deprived and cranky. It took both of my brain cells to get us there in one piece. I dropped him off at the dentist’s office, wished him luck, and headed to the grocery store for a few last minute items for Jessica’s birthday party this afternoon.

After that, I went to the library for the usual book exchange and to attempt to deal with my work emails, which rapidly overload my inbox if not handled quickly. I couldn’t make the wifi work on my creaking, aged MacBook, though I could on my iPhone. Go figure. I packed up all my stuff and headed to the Company Store, where I was able to access the wifi and deal with the most urgent work things, though by then I was in an even less lovely mood.

I was still having a better time than Rob was. Arriving at the office more than two hours after dropping him off, they were still working on him. I settled in to wait with my new library book, a fascinating read about the Kitty Genovese case. About an hour later, there was a loud noise, and it appeared that the huge aquarium in the waiting room had developed a fatal flaw in the glass. It began leaking with increasing rapidity, and the nurses and receptionists applied towels and called for reinforcements in the shape of boyfriends, who appeared with a ShopVac.

The fish were relocated to a bucket, but not before the exiting water shorted out a fuse, taking the computers with it and flushing the dentist out from wherever he was torturing Rob. Inspection from across the room revealed no dripping blood on his hands, which I took to be a good sign. He was not pleased with the destruction of his office decor, however, including the new laminate flooring, or the patient who asked if she could post about it on Facebook.

Eventually, the remains of Rob appeared, semi-frozen and even less chatty than usual, about four hours after I left him there. We were both glad to get home, though my happiness was tempered not only by Rob’s discomfort, but by the sight of a slim black cat leaping from the Ridge to the haul road which runs behind my house.

At my house, I saw Clyde, but Roscoe didn’t appear until several minutes later, so he might have been the cat I saw. The thought of my cats playing on the road fills me with horror, though they may have been doing it for years without my knowledge. Ignorance really is bliss.

In decanting the groceries from the car, I discovered that the six pack of Strongbow cider** I had bought for today’s gala was missing in action. It was listed on the receipt, so I must have left it in the cart in my sleep-deprived haze. I hope one of those poor schmos who keep rounding up the carts from all over the parking lot find it and enjoy it after a long day of thankless tasks.

At least the power was – and is – back on.

*To quote the great Iggy Pop. You can enjoy the fun version of No Fun here.

**I always enjoyed drinking cider at the pub with my Dad, and trying out the artisan ones when we were in places like Somerset and Herefordshire. I was looking forward to that Strongbow!

One response so far

Apr 12 2014

On the Beach

Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Family

Navarro Beach

When work permits, I’ve been going for walks with Megan and Stella on Thursday afternoons.

When Megan wakes up after the last of her long night shifts, she gets caffeinated and calls me when she’s ready to deal with the Stellanator. Stella is a lot of dog, and not just because she weighs 65 pounds (Megan is working on refining this). Everything she does, she does 150%, whether it’s running, eating, or jumping for joy. Even just walking by you, she can body check you with an elan that an NHL player would be proud of. As Megan says, she’s a pit bull in a china shop.

We were trying to think of a different place to take her last week. Stella is a city girl who loves to window shop and meet new friends, but this requires beng on a leash. She is welcomed by most of the shopkeepers in the Village, though Catsby, the book store cat, looks at her with complete disgust as the booksellers fawn over Stella and give her treats. You can’t please all the people all the time, and you can almost never please cats.

We wanted to find a place where we could let her off leash to run around, but it had to be: close by; not overly populated with other people and dogs; not open ended so she couldn’t run off somewhere. Megan is still working on Stella’s recall skills, though they – and all her other skills and manners – have improved hugely in the four months Megan has been fostering her.

We decided on Navarro Beach, which is at the mouth of the Navarro River. We were the only ones there on a windy Thursday afternoon:

We let Stella off the leash, and she ran joyfully across the wet sand, exploring the cold ocean water, which made her run to Megan in alarm. She looked like a pretty happy dog:

Stella burned off some of her apparently boundless energy, and we walked the beach and talked. I picked up some smooth stones to add to the collection in the honeysuckle planter outside the kitchen door, which is already leafed out and will bloom soon.

Eventually, we headed home up the hilly, curvy road:

I think we’ll be back soon!

2 responses so far

Apr 08 2014

Play Date

Published by under Car,Family,Friends,Special Occasions

If it’s Friday, it must be play day…

Last Friday, I thoroughly enjoyed a teenage production of The Breakfast Club, and this Friday, Megan, Rob and I attended a performance of the play Other Desert Cities. Daughter Brooke, a Democrat, author, and survivor of a nervous breakdown (not necessarily in that order) returns home to Palm Springs for Christmas with her parents, former Hollywood royalty and current Republicans (pretty much in that order). During the course of the visit, a long-held family secret is shockingly revealed.

During intermission, we were surprised and delighted to see our former swimming teacher, Sallie. Her hair was longer and her smile and hugs as wonderful as ever. I wish I could resume swimming lessons on Saturdays, but unfortunately, I am resuming work at the jobette on Saturdays instead, just in time to miss the Kentucky Derby, my favorite sporting event of the year. Adult swim classes are now at 11:30 and I have to start work at 10. Maybe Megan and Rob can fit it in, but there’s a lot going on over the garden in the spring and the summer. We’ll see.

We took Wednesday for our evening out, and amazingly, it was the first time Megan had driven her! Megan thought it handled well and is pretty good overall, though like me she finds it a little on the fancy side. She’s less horrified by the gangster dark tinting than I am, so I may be overreacting as per usual. I haven’t had it removed yet and maybe I’ll just let it be.

We had a wonderful time, and we’re looking forward to the rest of the theater’s season!

3 responses so far

Apr 04 2014

Bureaucratic Hell(s)

Published by under Bullshit

I was supposed to have jury duty in the Big Town on the day of Deputy Del Fiorentino’s service. Little did I imagine when I got the summons the month before that it would be one of the saddest days in the County’s history. Needless to say, all trials were cancelled for that day, but I’m not sure that my service was, so I may find another summons in my mailbox sooner rather than later.

No wonder I only check the mail about once a week.

In addition to the jury summons (at least it wasn’t a subpoena – so far, my goal of being subpoena free this year is on track), I had a letter from the DMV and one from Covered California, each with their own particular brand of bureaucratic bullshit.

The DMV informed me that they were planning to suspend my registration since they had no record of Wednesday being insured, despite the fact that I had called the insurance guy and set it up before driving the long way home from Modesto on the day I bought her. In December. Not to mention paid for it every month since.

I called the insurance guy to confirm and he verified that Wednesday was and is insured. He emailed me documents to this effect, which I printed out and took with me to the jobette, adding the DMV visit to the lunch time errands of the day.

At lunch, I headed to the DMV and was sorry to see that there were about ten people ahead of me. To those of you in civilization, that probably seems like a good thing, and it definitely is compared to the horrors of the Oaktown DMV. I wished I’d gone to the library before the DMV, though.

When my number was called, I went to the desk and explained my problem. The clerk clacked away on her computer and handed me back the threatening letter. I asked if there was some kind of receipt or confirmation number, and she said no, it was fine. She added that the insurance people had not notified them of the coverage until March 20, which happened to be the day I called insurance guy to confirm the insurance. Hmmm. I hope this issue really is resolved.

As for healthcare, I got a letter from my friends at Covered CA claiming that I hadn’t chosen a plan. The letter was dated March 15 and said I had until March 15 to choose a plan and have to pay for it by…the day I received the letter. However, I needed a PIN – not included in this letter and still not received – in order to pay. They insist on being paid the first month’s premium before sending me the card to show I’m covered. When you try to call them, you just get lost in automated limbo and, amazingly, there’s no option to talk to an actual human (who may or may not know anything anyway).

I checked with Jarrett, my intrepid guide through the jungle of healthcare bureaucracy, and he said that I should get the PIN and everything else in time for the April 15 deadline so I will be covered on May 1. If not, I will let him know and he’ll…do something. Want to take bets on how this one plays out?

And then there’s the propane company. I fired the old one after endless frustration with trying to get them to show up and fill up. Things were OK with the new provider until I got a bill with a finance charge because the bill had not been paid within 20 days. I had paid earlier bills over two months and never had a finance charge.

When I first signed up, I called Provider 2 and asked them specifically if I could do this, since it’s the way I paid Provider 1 for years with no finance charges. They said yes, and if I couldn’t pay within 60 days, to give them a call and we could work out an arrangement. Fill ups cost between $300 and $400, in case you’re wondering.

When I called them today, the guy said everything is due within 20 DAYS! And that they would never have said that about 60 days. So I guess I imagined the whole conversation and/or am lying my ass off. He said lots of people pay $400 and $500 a month. Maybe businesses can easily do this, but not people I know who make $10 an hour, which is just about everyone, including me.

Their genius ideas for dealing with this include overpaying during the summer months, when both cost and demand are lower (coincidence?), or putting whatever I can’t afford to pay on a credit card. Because credit cards are an extension of your income, you know.

So now what? I guess I’m looking for Provider 3. And a bottle of wine. Or three.

One response so far

Apr 02 2014

The New Audrey

Published by under Cats

Clyde rests up from a day of naughtiness

No cold water was needed in the shower on this chilly morning. The water never gets that hot on cold days, since the flash heater is located outside rather than inside, as the manufacturer wisely suggests. Even Whoosh! couldn’t clear the cobwebs from my head (or the ones on the drafty window in the shower).

I blame Clyde. The new Audrey.

Lately my little outlaw has been waking me up around 4:00 am with his distinctive meowing coupled with walking (literally) all over me. The next move is to sit on my bedside table and start messing around with things – my latest library book, say, or the little bronze cat I brought back from Paris – while meowing. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Once I finally get up, Clyde still rushes to the food bowls (if there is a bare spot in any of them, he makes sure to bring it to my attention). He has yet to learn that milling around under my feel actually delays the feeding process and may lead to being stepped on by sleepy Staff.

As soon as he’s eaten, he races to the glass door and starts asking to be let out. He emphasizes his point by clawing at the drapes (which are only there to block drafts in the winter and the sun in the summer – the doors look out on the garden and endless trees). When that doesn’t work, it’s on to the sofa. I have had to take the screens off the speakers in the living room since he decided they looked like nothing so much as giant scratching posts.

Sound familiar? I’m not sure I can handle two out of three cats driving me crazy before coffee every day. it makes me appreciate Roscoe all the more. He comes in at night, slinks over to the food dishes, and then wends his way upstairs and goes to bed, where he stays until the heater goes on in the morning – assuming that the weather is up to his high standards. Then he goes outside and plays, including shocking athletic feats like jumping from the post* where the old hot tub used to be onto the roof. He does have a habit of collecting lizards, but that’s about the worst I can say about him. I hope he’s not the next one to start breaking bad!
*Yes, it’s still there.

3 responses so far