The Art of Living

I just adore a bookstore view*

Amazingly for someone who has been reading since the age of three, I had never attended a reading** at a bookstore before this week. It was at the lovely bookstore in the village:

which not only boasts the view you see above, but has a resident cat, Catsby, and a staff who adore Miss Stella (unlike Catsby). They served nibbles and local wine as we joined the standing room only crowd in the back room, usually devoted to children’s books.

The lecture was given by Lloyd Kahn, an expert on tiny and alternative homes. Interestingly, he actually published his first book on this subject more than forty years ago, but it is now becoming a hot topic, partly because of people’s desire for “green” living, and – I’m guessing – partly because of the challenging economic times.

There was a slideshow with various small homes, ranging from gypsy caravans to converted school buses and collapsible homes that can be carried on a pick up truck. They ranged from the very basic to the very fancy (radiant heated floors and granite counter tops). It was fascinating to see how creative people are, and we learned that if you are going to live in a very small space, it’s important to have the windows at eye level to avoid feeling claustrophobic. Curved ceilings (though not as curved as mine) also help with this. We’ll have to keep all this in mind if/when we build over at the family property.

On our way back to the car, we noticed that several buildings in the Village were wrapped with felting:

And even quilts:

I later learned that this is called “yarnbombing” and is a form of graffiti or street art, in that it’s not a permanent art installation. This installation was done with the permission of the businesses involved, but often installations are not, and those are considered guerilla art. These particular pieces are mostly hand woven and hand dyed, as well as hand knitted or felted. Truly amazing! You just never know what you’ll find in this little corner of the world.

*Imagine Eva Gabor in “Green Acres” saying this.

**Due to my work schedule, I was unable to attend the reading by Damien Echols at the Ferry Building in San Francisco last night. He is the author of the one of the most moving and amazing books I have ever read, Life After Death, and was wrongly sentenced to death at the age of 18, spending nearly 20 years on Death Row before finally being freed.


Perfect Poppy

On summer solstice Sunday, Megan and I headed to the Big Town to say farewell to my late friend Joel. Not far from the same place traffic ground to a halt this winter, Megan and I actually witnessed an accident as it occurred.

A guy in a white truck came around the corner, hit a telephone pole, snapping it off, and then hit a power pole, where the truck (a) came to a halt; (2) had its hood peeled open like a sardine can, right in front of our eyes. Megan pulled into a driveway across the highway from the accident and grabbed her EMT kit from the trunk. She went over to check on the passengers as gas poured from the totaled truck.

I stayed where I was, since I knew from my siblings’ years of EMS that unnecessary observers are not welcome on scene, and there was nothing I could do to help. Megan later told me that the passengers were fine, not intoxicated, and that something just failed in the truck, making the driver lose control as he came around one of the many curves.

Everyone was fine, and someone had called 911 and started controlling traffic by the time we got back on the road, passing the ambulance, sheriff, and highway patrol cars racing to the scene. On our way home, they were still on scene.

Arriving at Joel’s service, however, everything was serene. The Botanical Gardens donated the use of one of the gardens in honor of his status as a Master Gardener. It was a beautiful day, and friends and family gathered among the blooms and fruit trees to remember Joel: his humor, his gift for writing, his compassion and activism in working with homeless youth, the great love he and his husband Jim shared, and how their marriage just made their love stronger and deeper. Jim now wears both wedding rings and feels that Joel is still with him. There were tears, but there was also love and laughter, and that’s the way Joel would have wanted it.

Adventures in Transportation

Hello, I love you – won’t you tell me your name?

I left Wednesday at the jobette on Saturday, after notifying our alley neighbor that I was doing so and asking him to keep an eye on her. I figured it made more sense to just leave the car there, rather than get a jump to drive it home and again to drive it back to the car doctor on Monday.

Megan and Stella (seen smiling above) spent six hours in the sun on Saturday, looking for potential adopters for Stella. Stella loved all the attention, the cars, the people, the kids – she is definitely not a bumpkin! After the event, they came to pick me up at the jobette. Due to the car show, they had to park four blocks away. On our way to the car, we turned onto a street where there were two surfer dudes hanging out on a bench.

They noticed Stella right away, and when we reached them, they reached to pet Stella. She responded by joyously flinging her arms around one of their necks and cuddling her big head against his blonde dreads. They both laughed with joy. That’s the way Stella rolls: 150%, 150% of the time. The dude said that if he didn’t already have two dogs…

On Monday, my wonderful colleague Erin gave me a ride to work. I really enjoyed carpooling with her – maybe we should do it when I don’t have a car emergency sometime (assuming that time ever comes). I’m so lucky to work with such great people who care so much about each other.

I called the car doctor and asked them to send the SWAT team to get Wednesday started and drivable to the garage. I was delighted that they sent two girls (complete with sparkly manicures) to do the deed. I handed over the keys and hoped for the best.

They called me later to say that the battery needed replacing. They had one in stock, and when I went to get Wednesday from car daycare, learned that they hadn’t charged me for the diagnosis and had discounted the labor and the battery in recognition of all the time and money I have spent there (undoubtedly in the hope that I will keep doing just that).

I drove home without incident, and without any lights appearing on the dashboard. I am now phobic about dashboard messages and lights- I wonder if there is a psychiatric condition associated with this? Waking up to another day and having the car both start and keep going is about all I ask for now. Maybe lower expectations = more happiness?

Sunny Sunday

Sleeping It Off

Well, here’s what’s happening around my house on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Roscoe is sleeping off his late night* on top of the armoire, a favored place among the cats. It is equipped with a quilt for their napping pleasure, and is the highest point in the house, so whoever is up there can keep an eye on what’s going on, as well as looking down on the Staff, as cats do. And there’s a breeze from the balcony – you can even get a glimpse of the beautiful pottery bird Rob hung up for me.

Speaking of Rob, he is working in the bathroom, installing two found light fixtures – both a huge improvement over the previous bare bulbs. The first one is made of copper, already patinaed:

The second one looks like an old schoolhouse light. I like the pull chain:

He has also found a glass towel bar which he is planning to fit up with copper ends to match the shower rod. Up next after that is the floor. No more electric lime green plywood! Woo hoo!

My brother just called to check on on Wednesday’s physical health and my mental health. Without looking at the car and just hearing symptoms, he thinks it’s probably the alternator and that it shouldn’t be too expensive to fix. Stay tuned.

As for me, I’m on my fourth load of laundry. The electrical system at Megan and Rob’s house doesn’t support a washer or dryer (or even a hair dryer, for that matter), so they do their laundry over here. Megan is working hard in the family garden (as I observed to her yesterday, her days “off” are what other people consider to be hard labor) and Rob is working hard in my bathroom, so I figure doing their laundry is the least I can do. It may also be the most! 🙂

*He came home at 1 am this morning. This is getting to be a bad habit. I’m trying to make my peace with it.

Same As It Ever Was

Maybe I’ll pick up one of these…

It’s been a delightful day so far.

I had a work call this morning (yes, on a Saturday) before heading to the jobette. I was planning to leave early, since I knew the annual Car Show was today (and I remembered what a hassle it was parking and getting to the jobette from last year), but Wednesday had other plans.

She decided that she’d rather stay home – and I understand that emotion – but I vetoed her with a jump start from Mark, who was on his way to Lake Pillsbury for his annual vacation with his family. Once I was up and going, they headed on their way and I headed to the car doctor, where they may well start charging me rent since I’m there so often. Like the Wednesday power outage, the Monday mechanic visit is getting a little old. And eerie. Is Stephen King scripting my life?

I pulled in to the car place and discovered that both the shop and the car rental parts of its trifold business (the third part being car sales) were closed on Saturday. My plan was to leave Wednesday there and get a rental, but alas, it was not to be. I noticed that the airbag light was on, but surely that can’t be enough to drain the battery overnight? The headlights were off and the stereo turns off when you open the car door, so it can’t be that, either. I’m hoping whatever it is, is (a) simple and (2) easy to fix.

I’ve gone out and started Wednesday up a couple of times since I got to the jobette, walking past the lovely old cars you see above. Wednesday started up, but I’m still concerned. Fortunately, Megan is in town today for an adoption event – still hoping to find the perfect home for Stella – and she said she will stand by to give me a ride or a jump start if needed.

What would I do without my family?

Bathroom Update

Woke up to yet another Wednesday power outage. At least it wasn’t in the middle of the night. What’s up with these out of season power outages? Maybe there’s a quota to fill, and since we hardly had any over the winter, now’s the time?

You’re probably wondering how the bathroom fix up is coming along. Anyone who has been through any kind of renovation or watched even a couple of hours of HGTV will not be surprised hear that it can be summed up in a word: slowly.

It’s partly because of the general Jamesian qualities of the room (all 7 feet by 5 feet of it), showcasing his inventive and carefree building practices, which have caused a few complications and will undoubtedly cause more, and partly because Rob’s been busy helping out over at the property where he can.

Still, a lot has happened since you last checked in with our heroine’s sanitary arrangements. Back then, Rob had just installed the shower pan, using found materials and creativity to make it straight, carefully sealed and glued in tight.

Up next were the faux tiles. It was slightly alarming to note that the little shavings Rob took off to make them meet properly were basically cardboard, but as he said, this is what they’re made for, so hopefully they will be OK. They have to be better than the mold-happy plastic stuff that was in there before. Right?

Here the first sheet of tiles has been applied and is being held into position while it dries. You can also see the sheetrock covering the cancelled window:

Here both sheets of tile are up:

Rob and I looked on line for a shower rod that would follow the lines of the shower pan, but they varied between $129 and $300, which equaled no for our non-budget. It seems a little odd to me that you can buy the shower pan standard but not the rod, though maybe they expect you to put in glass doors or something.

So Rob came up with something that was not only cooler, but basically free, since he found all the parts and then soldered them together. He added a support beam, so the rod isn’t supporting the entire weight of the shower curtain, especially when it’s being pulled aside:

It’s made out of copper, and I think it’s beautiful. Here’s a close-up, so you can admire Rob’s artistry:

I got some copper finish curtain rings and a copper finish shower caddy (note to Self: some editing of shower products is in order). Here you see Supervisor Clyde melted beside the shower, since we are in Day Three of the third heat wave in six weeks. That’s not math I enjoy.

After almost a month, I had kind of forgotten about taking a shower inside, though I was glad it was summer while showering out on the back porch. Rob took out the water flow restrictor before reinstalling the showerhead (don’t tell Big Brother; I think it’s illegal), thus rendering the shower fabulous. I’m not saying it can clear the cobwebs out of my head early in the morning*, but it feels awesome.

*Not even atomic café can do that.

Birthday Eve

I was once again rewarded with a midnight power outage for staying up late on my birthday. Again, it was a Wednesday night, but fortunately, this one only lasted a few hours, rather than the fourteen hours the other one did. Exchanging texts with Megan in the dark and silent depths of the night, I learned that no accidents had been reported, so maybe it was a wayward tree versus a power line.

These out of season, mid-week, midnight power outages are getting a little strange.

I spent my birthday eve proving that I may be older, but I’m not wiser. I left home early, planning to drop Wednesday off at what is rapidly becoming her daycare, or possibly private school, in time to get to the jobette. I went to the gas station ($50!) and then Safeway, where I chose a mid-price bottle of sparkling wine and a Vogue magazine about the Met Gala.

At the check out, I discovered that I had left my wallet in the car. I left my embarrassing at 8 am purchases with the clerk and went back to the car, where I noticed that I had left the gas cap off. Fortunately, it’s attached by a plastic thingie, like mittens with strings for cars (or Suzies, as the case may be). I closed the gas cap and went back to the store, where I told the clerk what happened. She laughed and said that at least I’d gotten all the mistakes out of the way early in the day, so I was good to go!

I laughed my way to the car and drove the short distance to the car place, which is a used car lot, garage, and the only rental car place in town all rolled into one. As I rolled down the window, opened the door from the outside, propping it open with my knee while I rolled the window up again (this has become my signature move over the past couple of months), I was approached by one of the car salesmen.

It turned out that he was a Ford salesman in Santa Rosa for many years, and, like me, has only ever owned Fords. He told me that Wednesday was in fact the Car of the Year in the year she was born (2008), so he was kind of surprised by the issues I was already having after such a short time in our relationship. Maybe I really am cursed. He further suggested that I might want to consider trading Wednesday in for a less temperamental model and gave me his card.

At the end of the day, I picked Wednesday up* after they had repaired the door so I could now open it from the inside as well as the outside. I went home without any nagging on Wednesday’s part, though a couple of days later, I noticed that the windshield fluid refused to squirt, so – stop me if you’ve heard this before – I’m going to drop her off and get what I hope is the final detail taken care of on my way to the jobette tomorrow. I have to wonder why there wasn’t an error message to alert me to this problem – Wednesday never fails to tell me that the door is ajar when doing my signature move, or that the trunk is open when I just popped it and am safely parked, but cars are designed by men, after all.

Here’s hoping that Wednesday and I both stay out of the shop for the rest of the year.

*On the bright side, they washed and vacuumed her and she looks fabulous.

Birthday Girl

Birthday Garden

As you can see, my birthday dawned bright and beautiful. All the doors are open, and scent from the honeysuckle bush is wafting in. There seem to be more flowers than ever this year, and the hummingbirds are buzzing around it all day.

Yellow Dog came by, still looking for Schatzi after nearly a year. I wish I could tell him that his friend is no longer here to play with him. I should try and find his continued visits comforting rather than sad. I didn’t realize what an integral part of my day seeing Schatzi was until she was gone. She would trot by a few times a day, never coming in the house but always nearby. I could always count on seeing her smile and her distinctive prance. We all miss her so much.

Speaking of coming in the house, Yellow Cat just came a few steps into the hallway by the “front” door. It’s lucky for him that Audrey is Elsewhere. He certainly is a handsome boy. Even though I don’t live in Michigan, where they are considering a limit on the number of pets per household, I think I’ll self-impose a three cat limit for this household. I’m sure part-time cat staff Rob and Megan would agree.

While coffee perked, I waited for the ever-slow satellite interwebs to download my email, which was taking longer than usual. I was horrified by the number of messages until I realized that about 99% were birthday, not work, related. Huzzah! There was a really nice one from John and a text from my brother saying, “I’m so glad you were born. When do you want your party?”

I’m looking forward to champagne (already chilling) and Season Two of Orange Is the New Black, which will be released on Friday. It used to be that Sex & the City started their new seasons near my birthday, so OITNB is my new birthday present. I’m looking forward to watching it with my fellow fan Megan.

Thanks for all the birthday wishes! It’s lovely to be loved!