Playful

set
The Stage Is Set

I ended my sunny Saturday by meeting Megan and Lu in the Village for dinner and a play.

Megan and Lu were already at the table by the time I arrived. We had a simple, salad-y dinner while we caught up on each other’s news. Lu was just back from a wonderful trip to Alaska, full of its breathtaking beauty and wildness.

After dinner, we stopped by the oceanfront bookstore, where we were greeted by this beautiful sunset:

sunset

Inside the bookstore, we were greeted by the Great Catsby, strolling majestically through his empire and making sure that all was as it should be and that no mice had somehow sneaked in on his watch.

After the bookstore, we headed to the theater, where the mixologist’s special cocktail for that night’s performance was a delicious libation called a Purple Finch:

bar

It was a winning combination of vodka, Chambord, triple sec, and lemon. As we exclaimed over its deliciousness, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was my dear friend Erin, stunning in a red dress and heels. Her handsome husband Jaime had surprised her with dinner and a play for their 12th wedding anniversary that evening. They both looked gorgeous and happy. It was so nice to run into them!

The play was called “The Dining Room”. As you might guess, it is set in a room of the same name, and re-enacts scenes that had taken place in the room over the years, in the past and the present, and sometimes at the same time. A grandmother at Thanksgiving doesn’t recognize her own children seated at the table with her; a father details his funeral plans to his shocked son; a daughter asks to come home after her marriage broke up; a great-aunt proudly displays her family china, crystal and silver to be photographed at the table until she learns that the article is about obscure eating habits of the past. It was moving and funny and we all enjoyed it.

Now & Then

img_3256
Saturday Morning

Alert the media, y’all! I slept in until it was sunny out on Saturday morning!

It is amazing how a good night’s sleep can improve a girl’s outlook. I slept badly during the recent audit ordeals, despite logging long hours under a lot of pressure, and I think it all finally caught up with me. Hopefully I am now back to new, or new-ish. There’s still a lot of clean-up to do in the wake of the audits, but there’s more time, too.

It was a successful morning of drinking coffee, cuddling with Clyde, and doing a little on line Christmas stocking shopping, because it’s never too early for that. Eventually, I faced the inevitable and did some cooking and laundry to prepare for the week that now looms ahead, but it was nice to enjoy cats, caffeine, and the sun in the garden.

Enquiring minds may wonder why I was not doing my modest preparations for the jobette, which do not include putting on make-up or dressy clothes. The answer is that I lost the jobette recently in an overthrow change of leadership.

The CEO who hired me years ago moved on to greener pastures, and a New Guy was recently hired. In his infinite wisdom, the New Guy has decided to close the office on Saturdays, which is when visitors are here and need information, and stop participating in First Friday, when shops are open late, art is displayed, and wine and nibbles are enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. He also wants to eliminate selling souvenirs of any kind.

Both of the people hired since I left have also left, including one who quit with no notice on the day a new person was supposed to start. The golden days of the jobette are definitely over, when I used to feel like I was being paid to hang out with my friends and share my love of this beautiful corner of the world with the visitors.

My only regret is the money, which I currently have no way of replacing.

I see that a year ago, I thought that I was truly finished working at the jobette, though it turned out I was wrong about that, as I am about so many things. The person who was supposed to work Tuesday to Saturday never did, so I ended up filling in again this year. I wonder why I am the only person who doesn’t find working on Saturdays to be unconscionable?

It will be nice to have a little more time, even if it means less money.

Fair Thee Well

fair
At the Fair

If it’s the middle of September, it’s time for the County Fair!

It was a Magical Microclimate Tour as Megan and I drove from the chilly, foggy Coast through the redwood forests to the golden Valley, where it was about a million degrees and achingly sunny. Megan’s parking karma held true as she parked about a block from the the Fair – in the shade! – and as we stepped out of her little red car, she asked me if I was wearing sunscreen. I was, but only on my face, so she gave me some for my hands and suddenly exposed arms. I thanked her later.

The first thing we did upon admittance was buy a hat for me:

hat

It is so pink and so Suzy, while also actually being useful, a rare combination indeed. Then we looked unsuccessfully for the slushie vendor. It seems that my blue raspberry slushie dreams are as doomed to unfulfillment as my dreams of being Idle Rich. We settled for frozen lemonade and went in search of Erica.

Unsurprisingly, we found her in the Fiber building. Surprisingly, she had not entered a single thing this year. I imagine there was much rejoicing in the Valley over that one, since her absence would allow someone else to win a prize or two for a change.

Erica said that Jessica was hanging out with her friends on the Midway, and suggested that we go and surprise her there, adding that Jessica now has her own phone and giving us the number*. Erica stayed in the Fiber building to covet spindles and wool and we went to find Jessica.

She greeted us with hugging and excitement despite the presence of her friends, and I felt a spark of hope that her auntourage would not become entirely obsolete. I took this stealth photo of her so as not to embarrass her in front of her crew:

jessicafair

That’s her equally precocious BFF Bella at her side.

We watched the kids ride the rides – I was pleased that Jessica waved at us from the giddy heights – and went to reclaim Erica and meander through the rest of the Fair.

The theme in the Garden building was “Fairy Tales”, and my favorite was this Cinderella themed exhibit:

cinderella

I also loved this glamorous use of twigs and mirrors:

mirrors

The goat who loved me! He kept bumping his head against me and kissing my nose:

goat

I love this beautiful bunny’s attitude. It’s like he’s saying, “You lookin’ at me?”

bunny

My favorite quilt was this one, showing fog through the redwoods, a sight I love:

quilt

I also liked this kind of op art piece. So unusual:

quilt2

And this one, which looks like washing on a line:

quilt3

When it was time to go, we hugged our girls goodbye with a promise to get together soon. I am still plotting a sleepover where we will share movies and giggles. Stay tuned!

*I thought that was a horrifying sign of Jessica’s hurtling into adulthood until I learned that she has friends with driver’s licenses. How did this happen?

A YEAR AGO: Hello, darkness, my old enemy.

Birthday, Barfing, and Bureaucracy

First things first: it’s Rob’s birthday! As soon as it’s a reasonable hour by Rob standards, I will wish him happy birthday and remind him of how happy I am he was born. His Rob-ness never ceases to delight me, from his view that the dump is a two way street to his wry sense of humor to the way he puts his head to one side when he’s listening to you. And he really listens.

Not to mention that my entire house is Brought to Me by Rob(TM) and that he makes all our lives better and happier. I love you, little big brother!

As for me, the full moon is blasting like a spotlight outside and I am attempting to improve my own outside after a grueling week. I have GlamGlow applied to my eyes and Fresh Vitamin Nectar mask on the rest of my face. Radiance, y’all! Clyde, however, has other ideas and has chosen to barf on the carpet, ruining the relaxing mood. Why do cats always throw up on the carpet instead of the wood floor?

It’s all in keeping with this week, though, which featured the second of back to back audits. Like most sequels, Part 2 was worse than Part 1.

The first one was the audit which is done every year. I thought that was a hassle until the Feds descended on us in all their glory. I had prepared (I thought) for this by creating a nearly 1,000 page binder and putting it on a flash drive for their inquisition convenience. Like the great Iggy Pop, however, they needed more, so I was running around collecting the required documents every day this week.

Perhaps this is a special skill honed by the Feds, but they also had an unerring ability to request supposedly random files that were incomplete, including the file of a doctor who works for the clinic as a contractor. Repeated phone calls and emails to him of increasing desperation were unreturned, so our new Operations Director went to beard him in his lair. They must have just missed each other, because a few minutes after she departed on her mission, he arrived, slouching Spicoli-like into my office in sweats, clutching a Starbucks cup, wearing shades, and saying, “What the fuck, dude?”

I explained that the fuck in this particular case was that his contract expired last year and the Feds looked askance at his treating our patients with no contract. He signed a new one while grumbling that he needed a raise, and headed off to catch a wave. I clearly harshed his buzz.

This was a joy compared to the complexities of providing lunch. At first they asked for sandwiches, so I got Deli A to fax me a menu. Then they wanted salads, and very customized ones at that. I called the deli and was told that it was prêt-à-porter or nothing, since two people had called in sick that day, making bespoke salads impossible. Back to the drawing board. I got the menu from Deli B, printed it, and presented it for consideration. They wanted to know what the soup du jour was, so I called and asked (the winning answer: vegetable beef). Needless to say, none of them got the soup.

Also, for fear of bribery with soup and salads, they paid for their own lunches, meaning three separate checks and lot of change. Why not?

The Feds judge every health center in America on 19 elements. They told us that the average across the country is 5-7 “not met”, or fails. They further clarified that they do not round up, and 98% is still “not met”, aka a fail. Our report card was 6 “not mets”, making us entirely average, while yet feeling that we had been called to the principal’s office and/or were getting detention.

When they finally left on Thursday afternoon, my boss sent me home, a welcome gesture since the shortest day I have logged in the past two weeks was 11 hours and the longest 14. I was just settling down to read Kate Summerscale’s “The Wicked Boy”, a relaxing read about a 19th century boy murderer, when my 21st century phone buzzed with a text from my boss. There had been some attempted fraudulent use of her company credit card, so the bank canceled it, and now all of the travel booked on it has to be re-done with the new card. By me. My estimate is something like 20 reservations. You know what I’ll be doing this week. At least the federal government isn’t involved.

A YEAR AGO: At the fabulous Fair with my fabulous sister and our equally fabulous friend.

Goodbye, and Good Luck

I woke up early on Sunday and crept downstairs to make coffee (and more importantly, let Her Majesty outside). It made my heart smile to see Ben sleeping peacefully under Nana’s quilt. I really grew to love that kid in the short time he spent here.

After we had coffee together, he packed up his few belongings, to which I added jars of peach preserves with lemon thyme; blackberry jam made from the wild berries my siblings picked; salsa verde; and relish, so he will have a little taste of Hooterville when he is back home.

We headed back to the property so my brother could give Ben’s car a quick once over before he started home. You may remember that my brother installed a nice cement mechanic’s pit in the carport which houses the washer, dryer, and body size freezer. Definitely a step up from groveling under cars in muddy ditches. He topped up the fluids and opined that the car needs an oil change. Also that whatever is going on with the engine (beyond my limited ability to understand) may cause the head gasket to blow. I do know that blown head gasket = having to buy another car. I’d say Ben has gotten his $500 out of this car, though. He put more than 6,000 miles on it on this trip alone.

One of Rio’s children lives in Portland, so she drives there fairly often. She pulled out some maps and showed Ben the best route to take and warned of a tricky intersection.

After our unpaid mechanic finished working on his car, Ben picked a few apples to take with him. Then, with hugs all around, he drove off as we waved and watched him out of sight, our family tradition. I have to say, his visit was a real joy, all the more for being unexpected, and I will treasure those memories as I do those of his brother’s Bar Mitzvah.

Ben has been texting me from the road, which has been fun. He made it to Portland in about 12 hours and was glad for Rio’s advice, especially at that tricky intersection. His route took him through the magical Lost Coast, then to Portland, then Seattle. After that, it was Vancouver, then Calgary, and then Saskatoon, where he took a break from his 12-14 hour days to rest up before the final push to Manitoba. So far the car is holding up, but Ben thinks that Jonathan is right and its days may be numbered.

He is already talking about coming back next year with his girlfriend, a fellow engineer who has wanted to visit San Francisco her whole life. Here’s to Ben’s safe return home, and his return to Hooterville!

A YEAR AGO: The absurdity of dental insurance. You can’t make this up!

BBQ Party

garden
The Orchard

After the delights of the circus, we headed over to show Ben the delights of the family estate.

As an engineer, he was fascinated with the solar arrays, batteries to store the power, and all the other intricacies of the system as well as the fact that the entire place is powered only by solar, entirely off the grid. My brother is exempt from the power outages that plague his sisters.

Megan gave Ben a tour of the garden and the orchard. The garden is beginning to wind down for the season, but there is a plot afoot to plant a winter garden of garlic and other hardy crops. There is also a plan to make hard cider this year. I think this plan is likely to become a reality, because they already have the cider press and have staked out space in the studio for it to ferment. It might even be ready to drink at Christmas!

There were chips and two different kinds of salsa made from garden produce: salsa verde made from tomatillos, and regular tomato salsa:

salsa

We had a simple, but delicious dinner of burgers made from beef for red meat eaters and turkey for the rest of us, topped with pepper jack cheese. Even though it was my brother’s birthday, he still manned the grill as always, noting that he never finds cooking to be a chore.

I reminded him that he was promoted to being my big brother last year, when he turned 50. Megan asked if she would ever be my big sister (she is nine years and nine days younger than I am), and I said, yes, when she turns 50. It might be hard for me to pass myself off as her younger sister when I am 60, but hope springs eternal. Maybe I need to consider botox.

We toasted my big brother’s birthday and Ben’s epic journey with fizzy local-ish wine (from neighboring Sonoma County). His road trip from the wilds of Manitoba included New Mexico, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills of South Dakota, Death Valley (where he pulled over with an overheating engine to find the coolant bubbling in the 112 F degree heat), and Las Vegas. It was the trip of a lifetime.

As we ate tarts my brother made from raspberries he picked that day, we sat by the fire and watched the stars come out. The Milky Way was so intense that it blurred over some of the other stars in the clear, black sky. It was such a joy to be there with people I love.

A YEAR AGO: My big brother’s 50th birthday.

Circus, Circus

I am pleased to announce that Ben was able to stay!

We met up after I finished work on Saturday and headed for the inimitable Flynn Creek Circus, its distinctive red and white tent flapping in the evening breeze.

Inside, we perched on ornate, wrought iron benches and watched the antics of a very determined gopher, who was completely unperturbed by the humans in his territory. He kept popping out of his hole, shoveling more and more dirt as more and more people watched him. Once the show started, I forgot about the industrious little rodent, and I’m sure everyone else did, too.

As always, the show was filled with breathtaking aerial acts:

circus1

and astonishing acrobatics, including a lovely young lady who was able to spin six hula hoops on her svelte figure, including her neck, arms, and legs, and a man who was able to do amazing things in a giant hula hoop, spinning around inside it, jumping, and otherwise defying gravity and the evidence of our own eyes.

The hula hoop girl was also able to spin objects with her feet:

circus2

and she could even juggle five or six aqua basketballs with her hands and feet. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it. Add in a knife-throwing act, and you have yourself a circus:

circus3

Ben was equally entranced, and it was so nice to share this experience with him.

A YEAR AGO: Cars, past and present. I see I still haven’t removed Wednesday’s tinting. Let’s guess I never will!

A Visitor

You guys, there is a young man sleeping in my house!

Two, if you count Clyde, cuddled up next to me on this foggy morning.

Ben, the first one, is sleeping peacefully on the couch under Nana’s restored quilt. I have to say that quilt has been getting a lot of use since Erica and Megan restored it.

Long time readers may remember an incredibly beautiful and moving Bar Mitzvah I attended several years ago. Ben is the older brother of the boy from that Bar Mitzvah. I hadn’t seen him since then, so in my head – always an odd place – he remained the same age. Time being the inexorable thing it is, though, he grew up in that time and is now an engineer for an oil company in the wilds of Manitoba (and I do mean wilds – it’s an eight hour drive from Winnipeg). He is quite a delightful grown-up.

Ben has been on an epic road trip in a car he bought for $500. The main event of the journey was to attend the wedding of a college friend in New Mexico. The groom is of Afghani heritage and the bride’s family is from India, so it was a wonderful, days-long extravaganza. Ben said it was a very beautiful ceremony and he loved being part of it.

On his way out of town, his car broke down, which is only to be expected on an epic road trip. It was fixed well enough to get him to Las Vegas, where the car needed a little more attention. By Thursday night, he was in Oakland, and I confidently expected him to be here before I got home from work on Friday.

However, I got a text late in the afternoon saying he was in Jenner, which is on the Sonoma coast, which meant he somehow took legendary Highway One instead of 101. I later learned that the traffic on 101 near Petaluma was so horrible that he bailed out and headed for One. It took longer, but it is a spectacular drive, so he got here via the magical South Coast.

I hit traffic of my own coming home late after an eleven hour day, waiting for six cars to turn off the highway onto the Ridge. I have never experienced that before. It’s a traffic jam, Hooterville style!

Passing the farm across from the Gro, I saw a car pulled over, and a closer look showed Manitoba plates. I pulled over myself and sure enough, it was Ben, consulting my directions on his phone. After we finished hugging and being excited, we convoyed home, where we made Dad’s paella for dinner and caught up on the last few years. It was a great evening.

He may have to hit the road again today in order to get home in time. I hope not, since today is my brother’s birthday and there is a BBQ planned at the family estate after work. And I would like to spend more time with Ben and introduce him to my family.

A YEAR AGO: A dinner and a play with Megan and Lu. I notice in the post that I refer to Lu’s then boyfriend Rik, who became her husband at their beautiful and moving wedding this summer, another memory I will always treasure.