Megan’s Birthday

If it’s Memorial Day weekend (and it is), I must be back at the jobette and it must be Megan’s birthday.

I started working Saturdays again yesterday. The many people who have worked there since I (more or less) left have changed things around a lot, so it looks very different while still being familiar. My old desk has been relocated to what used to be the conference room, so I sat at a different one so the visitors could find me. It was really nice to talk to them and hear how magical they find it here.

I did not find the holiday traffic magical, however. The sides of the highway were a parking lot and zombie-like abalone divers were meandering across the road in droves. Fortunately for them we were driving around 40 mph. I could drive faster on the Ridge than I could on the highway for the most part. I have never ever seen Van Damme beach so packed with cars.

Stopping at the Gro on my way home, I ran into Dave and Jennifer, my siblings’ land partners. Dave was going fishing and Jennifer was dropping him off. It’s been a while since I’ve seen them due to their having family situations to deal with, so it was great to catch up and part ways with a hug and a kiss.

Arriving at the property, the birthday girl took me for a tour of the garden. Peas, onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, and tomatillos are flourishing. As for the orchard, I’m sorry to say that the late rains, besides depressing the pants off us and flooding everything, knocked off a lot of the apple blossoms, so it’s not looking like a great apple year.

On the other hand, the peaches are peaching nicely:

and the pears are on their way:

The strawberries have both flowers and fruit on them:

The netting is almost done over the cherry tree. It is in the corner since cherry trees do not play well with others. It too has fruit appearing on it. The elaborate netting dome is to let the birds know it’s not an all you can eat buffet:

Also flourishing is Jessica, whose hat was made just for her by her ever-creative mother:

She was very nice about letting her aged auntie take her picture, especially after I told her how fun it is to look back to posts when she was just a little kid. We are plotting sleepovers and movies for the summer. Under consideration are “Auntie Mame”, “Desk Set”, and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”. I’m also thinking “Desperately Seeking Susan” and “Practical Magic”.

I forgot to take a picture of the amazing dessert Erica made. It was a napoleon with puff pastry made from scratch, strawberries, and home-made caramel drizzle. It was outstanding. It vanished too quickly for me to get a photo, though. We all sang happy birthday despite the lack of candles.

At the end of the evening, Jessica asked to “escort fair Suzy to her car” and took my arm. I do love this tradition. She enhanced the experience by curtseying at the end of it. I sure love that kid. And my family and family of friends.

A YEAR AGO: My, what an industrious day I had!

FIVE YEARS AGO: I was heading to San Francisco, and Rob was coming home after losing his Mother.

The Star Patient


The patient in happier times (last week, in the garden)

I was just settling down to watch some playoff hockey* and eat dinner when the phone rang. It was Megan, telling me that Star had had a seizure and she wanted me to meet her at the vet’s office.

I changed out of my PJs and into a strange combo of work and play clothes, shoving my bare feet into a random pair of shoes (later I would regret not putting on a better pair after hours of standing) and set off for the Village.

On the way, I wondered why she had called me, since dealing with emergencies is her specialty and falling apart at emergencies is mine. I always say, Megan is the Schatzi (brave and bold) and I am the Star (worried and pretty sure the worst is going to happen).

Arriving at the vet’s office, I saw Megan’s little red car with the back door wide open, but no sign of dog or humans. I eventually located Megan, Dr. Karen, and Star in the surgery. They seemed to have it all pretty much in hand. They had shaved Star’s forepaw and inserted a catheter, through which they dosed her with enough drugs to drop a horse.

But Star’s Star-ness did not allow her to give into the drugs, so while being doped to the ears, she still fought it and was twitchy. If it comes to fight or flight, Star is going to fight to the death. I suggested that her inherent Star-ness would not allow her to give in to the drugs while still in an environment that made her fearful even with Megan there, but Dr. Karen and her assistant wanted to wait and see how she was doing. They ran every blood test, all of which came back normal. The general consensus seems to be that she ate something to cause the seizure, though the property has been investigated three times by Megan, Rob, and Jonathan without turning up the culprit.

After about three hours of doping and testing and IV hydration (them) and standing around (me), they rolled the patient up in a blanket and put her in Megan’s car to be transported home, along with a goodie bag of injectable drugs. Of course it was pitch black by then and so foggy that constant windshield wiping was required, just for extra fun.

I followed Megan and Star home, with the understanding that if something went wrong, she would pull over. We drove slowly, partly because of Star and partly because of the weather, and I stayed a respectful distance behind so my headlights wouldn’t bother Megan. Driving in the dark is the only time I dislike having a car behind me more than I dislike having one ahead of me.

Star was very glad to get home, and as I expected, she crashed and burned upon arrival in her safe place. She was probably exhausted from the seizure itself and the subsequent twitching, as well as the boatload of drugs, so she slept a lot the rest of that night and into the following day. She now seems to be just about back to normal, to the relief of all concerned. Let’s hope it stays that way. I still don’t think that I really helped or added much to the occasion, but Megan says she was glad I was there, and that’s all that really matters, besides Star being well again.

*I’m sorry to say Ottawa won. At this point, the best case scenario is Pittsburgh winning the Cup.

A YEAR AGO: Celebrating Megan’s birthday in style.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A really lousy birthday for my wonderful sis.

Going In Style

I was chauffeured to the latest Predicta Party in the latest style. Erica and Jessica picked me up in their brand-new Hagmobile.

It was quite wonderful to relax in style in the new car smelling interior. Erica and Jessica later noted that I seemed to be enjoying myself, and also that being chauffeured (or chauffeused) seemed quite natural to me. I’m telling you, I should never have abandoned my original career aspiration of Idle Rich.

I can’t remember being in a brand new car before, unless it was my grandfather’s red Dodge Dart Swinger. I remember it was the last car he ever bought and he said he had always wanted a red car*. I was more interested in the candy he kept in his glove compartment than in the car itself, and some things never change.

Others do, though, and the Hagmobile is quite wonderful in its ability to keep you going at the same speed you were before you started driving downhill, somehow defying the laws of physics so you don’t accelerate as you go. And it has a way of lighting what is behind you on the screen in the console so you can back up in country darkness and see what you are backing into.

Arriving at Rio’s compound, we gave the girls a tour since they have never been there before. We ended at the studio/garage where we made the cider last fall, and Erica and Jessica promised to join us in cider making this fall.

Clayton arrived from San Francisco on his red motorcyle, his hair tangled by the ride and feeling chilled despite the heavy leather outerwear he (wisely) wears on the trek from the city. He settled by the fire and I poured him a glass of cider in the sun glass, the largest and warmest-looking one in the set of planet glasses I gave Jonathan for Christmas. I have to admit my favorite is the tiny (and now demoted) Pluto.

To go with our home-made cider, Erica brought home-made spice straws:

I later learned that they are pastry cut in strips and then rolled in seeds and spices. Whatever they are, they are delicious!

She also brought the pièce de résistance, pineapple upside down cake, a retro dessert for a retro evening:

It was, as you would expect, also delicious. I am looking forward to Megan’s birthday BBQ on Memorial Day weekend and Junapalooza in late June.

Jessica was thrilled with her Bookstore Day haul, and delighted by watching an ad for a 1959 Predicta on a 1959 Predicta (“TV Today from the World of Tomorrow!”). Also by Honey West and Bewitched, which she had never seen before. It’s so nice to share things you love with people you love.

*I’m glad he finally got his red car. Red was his favorite color, and I wore a red dress to his funeral just for him, despite the consternation of onlookers.

A YEAR AGO: It was hot and the power was out. What’s not to hate?

FIVE YEARS AGO: This Calamity Suzy thing is not new.

Flat Out


It really does exist

I started the week with a bang – or at least, a flat and smoking tire.

As I left the Big Town, I noticed that Wednesday was not handling the way I was used to. I thought maybe it was the wind, but as time progressed, it became clear that it was more than that.

The “low tire pressure” light came on, but being the genius that I am, I did not make the connection between that and the increasingly rough ride, despite my brother’s exasperated observation of “Suz, those lights on your dashboard aren’t just there to be pretty.” In my defense, though, that light has been known to come on when only the minorest of tweaks was actually necessary. It’s the little light that cried wolf. Unfortunately, this time it wasn’t kidding, and was, in fact, a little too understated.

I finally realized that I had to pull over, and did so just south of Road 409 near the next town. A sheriff’s car with lights blazing pulled up right behind me. Does this count as being pulled over? If so, it’s the first time in my life. I also noticed that my back tire was smoking, and not in a good way.

Getting out of the car, even I could see that my low profile tire was so low that it was, in fact, flat. Also unfixable. Being a faux adult, I didn’t know what to do, so the sheriff said to call the emergency number on the back of my insurance card, which I did. The person answering the phone either could not or would not understand that there was no cross street. He could not locate Road 409 or its alter ego Point Cabrillo Drive, and disclaimed all knowledge of mile markers. He was probably in Kansas or something.

The sheriff took the phone from me and assured the Kansas guy that the tow truck driver would know where mile marker 53.34 was. Mr. Kansas texted me the name, phone number and ETA of the tow truck, which was an entire discouraging hour away.

The sheriff saw me back to my car, told me to put on the hazards, and went on his way. I felt so lucky that he was right there when I needed him. I felt less lucky that I had, possibly for the first time in my life, forgotten to bring a book with me.

It was nerve-wracking feeling my car, otherwise immobile, rocking as cars fully equipped with four working tires swept past me. Not everyone passed by, however. Two friends stopped to check on me, as did a total stranger and the UPS guy from the jobette. It warmed my marooned heart to know that even strangers in our little corner of the world care enough to try and help someone with car trouble.

Eventually, the tow truck appeared. It was manned by an outsized guy who looked like he had recently escaped from ZZ Top without having time to shower or brush his quite remarkable beard. Star would not have enjoyed his look. He told me that the job right before mine was on the mythical Point Cabrillo Drive, so all the time I was waiting for him, he was practically there. Much like the time I required roadside assistance in Florida, after a lengthy wait it took ZZ Top about 30 seconds to change out the utterly destroyed tire for the spare one.

He warned me seriously that I could not drive above 50 miles an hour and that I could not drive far on it, though he added darkly that there were idiots who did and paid the price for their folly. I observed that my fellow drivers would object to such a majestic pace on the highway, and he thrust the middle finger of his meaty paw toward the road and exclaimed, “Fuck ‘em! It’s your life!” He then gave me a shoulder hug, saw me back to my car, and said he would watch my back and tell me when it was safe to pull out, which he did.

As I made my leisurely way home, I was thankful for ZZ Top and his rough concern, the kindness of the sheriff, and the caring of friends and strangers. Also for the 30 year old beater car which got me to work today with its assorted collection of rattles and hums, all in one piece.

A YEAR AGO: A wonderful weekend.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A trip to the DMV. Not as bad as you’d think.

Bookstore Day

It was a beautiful day to go to the bookstore, which is located right across from the street from the ocean. It has its own webcam, in case you want to see what I’m seeing.

The bookstore was celebrating Independent Bookstore Day, so we were greeted by people making stencils and selling cupcakes outside. Inside, a staff person handed us a scavenger hunt list:

and we were off!

The first and most important thing was to get the new Neil Gaiman book about Norse Mythology with the special, limited edition Bookstore Day cover for Jessica. Jessica wrote a fan letter to Neil Gaiman when she was five years old, and he sent her a handwritten letter in response, and Erica and Jessica basically ARE Norse myths. Erica recently did genetic testing and it turns out that she and Jessica are essentially Laplanders, Sami people, with a dash of other Scandinavian thrown in. So that book was the perfect gift for the kidlet.

Megan and I had a lot of fun with the scavenger hunt. Megan thought it would be fun if we chose a book blind date for each other:

The proceeds go to the local children’s fund, so it’s a win for everyone.

The prevalence of selfies had led me to believe it was an easy thing to do. It would also give me the unprecedented ability to take a photo of myself with the Great Catsby, who is usually looking down on his adoring public, both literally and figuratively.

While it was easy to find the giant Catsby:

it was less so to take the selfie, making me wonder about the popularity of these. Does everyone else have arms that are five feet long? Or is it just my usual lack of techspertise? Either way, I gave up on it after several attempts to get both Self and Catsby in the same photo. Megan offered to take it for me, but I thought that was cheating, since it was supposed to be a selfie.

We had the hardest time finding poems to read to each other and a book about our hero(ine). I finally tracked down a little volume of Zen poetry, and it was surprisingly nice to read poems to each other in a sunny bookstore. I thought I would feel like an idiot, but I actually enjoyed the words. As for heroes, we decided on a book about Winston Churchill. You may remember he has been my hero before, and of course our father pretty much worshipped him, as I imagine most boys growing up in WWII London did. I think this may still be my favorite Churchill anecdote.

We dropped off our completed scavenger lists and selected packets of mini crayons as our prize. Megan took them to work with her, since crayons have a way of disappearing from the Emergency Room waiting room. Yet another mystery. And yet another delightful outing with my sister.

A YEAR AGO: The Mystery Cat.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A busy and happy weekend.

Out & About

If you think May is too late in the year for power outages, I agree with you. But we would both be wrong.

Derby Day dawned bright and sunny, but it also dawned crazy windy. It should have dawned on me that the power might go out, but it didn’t. Imagine my surprise when I was plunged into powerlessness less than an hour before the Derby festivities. No hats, no (muddy) walk across the field, no singing of “My Old Kentucky Home”, no exciting call of “Riders, up!”, and worst of all, no race. It was enough to make a girl make a consolation julep.

Even if I could have located a sports bar that was showing the race, I couldn’t have gotten there. Reports reached me that there was a power line down on the Ridge, so I couldn’t have made it to the highway. Even if I did, I would have had to turn back to the impasse on the Ridge, because other downed power lines had caused a fire in the next town north of Hooterville and the highway was closed.

A call to our friends at PG&E told me, and stop me if you’ve heard this one before, that there were widespread outages and that they had no estimated time of restoration. The sunny skies seemed to be mocking me as I regretted my optimistic folly of emptying out the emergency water buckets a couple of weeks earlier, foolishly thinking that I would not be needing them anymore, especially since they were now breeding mosquitoes. Fortunately, I did have a few bottles of drinking water left over from the seemingly endless winter, and I had already done the dishes.

I went to bed that night with earplugs in my ears and two pillows over my head to muffle the racket of Mark’s generator, seemingly racketier than ever, but maybe that was just my envy. The power came on again about 12 hours too late for the Derby, but at least it came on again.

A YEAR AGO: A wonderful family dinner.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Clyde was feeling naughty.

A Sense of Place

Margaret: It makes one feel so unstable, impermanent, with all the houses being torn down on all sides. Including, in the foreseeable future, ours.

Ruth: Are you having to leave Wickham Place?

Margaret: Yes. In 18 months when the lease expires.

Ruth: Have you been there long?

Margaret: All our lives. We were born there.

Ruth: That is monstrous! I pity you from the bottom of my heart…

Margaret: Of course, we are fond of the house. But it is an ordinary London house. We shall easily find another.

Ruth: No, not in this world. Not the house you were born in. You’ll never find that again.

Howards End, 1992

A friend of mine recently learned that her childhood home is slated for demolition. Although she no longer lives in the house, she and her sister are devastated at the thought of its being devastated. She wrote a very eloquent and emotional letter in protest, which you can read here. It is probably a vain hope, since not one home has been saved from destruction in the name of Progress in that area, no matter how many people objected, but at least she was able to express her feelings. She makes some wonderful points about how heritage buildings should not survive in a vacuum, museum pieces to be looked at and forgotten about, but rather be part of the fabric of our everyday lives, a connection to the past that lives on.

It made me think about how the places we live shape us and become part of who we are, even after we leave them.

The house I grew up in predates the Civil War, and its stone foundations are much older than that. The cellar used to flood every spring as the snow melted, so Dad built a sort of raised walkway so we could avoid being soaked while walking around down there. The cellar still had the slanted doors where coal was delivered long ago.

The house was called Fox Hill, named for the foxes who lived in the wooded hills around our house. Legend had it that the five acre parcel our house was set in was payment to a Revolutionary War soldier for his service. I don’t know if that’s true, but I have many happy memories of growing up in that old house, and although I have not been there for decades, I can still walk through it in my mind, from the red front door to the fireplace in the living room, the stairs where our dog Ginger slept on the landing when Dad was home (and across the front door when he wasn’t), to my room under the eaves with the window seat Dad built.

I have equally treasured memories of my grandparents’ house, about an hour and a half’s drive from Fox Hill. It was a grand home, built by the town sheriff for his daughter when she married. The windows on the ground floor were seven feet high and the ceilings twelve feet. I made the mistake of stalking the house online and was appalled by how it was changed. The barn is unrecognizable inside, and a hideous deck has been added off the kitchen, which is as unrecognizable and ugly as the barn is now. The stained glass windows are missing, though thankfully the built-ins, fireplaces, and wraparound porch remain. Maybe it’s better not to go back.

My current house is quirky to say the least, and its faults, like my own, are neither small nor few, but I never want to leave it or this area. I have grown to love our little community and how we look out for one another. At Fox Hill, our driveway was unpaved and about a quarter of a mile long. We were often snowed in during the winter, and our nearest neighbors were farmers and their homes could not be seen from our house. I still can’t see my closest neighbors, my driveway is still long and unpaved, and we are often cut off from civilization when the road to the city floods. So in a way, I have come full circle, from one side of the country to the other. I have come home.

A YEAR AGO: Finding beauty in the Village.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Miscellaneous.

Farewell

Blake

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks. I don’t usually write here about dark things, since this place is my refuge and I can banish the unpleasantness of the outside world from here, but as you know, from time to time, these things have to be faced. Fortunately, I have my brother and sister to face things with me, and we faced the memorial service for Blake together.

Blake and his father have been guests at our family gatherings, and we were all shocked and saddened to learn that Blake had died at the age of 20.

The day of the memorial service dawned bright and beautiful, a spring day when everything is coming back to life, with flowers blooming and birds singing as they build their nests and their families, fresh leaves bursting forth from the trees. It seemed so wrong to be commemorating the terrible loss of someone so young, who was himself only in the spring of his short life.

Blake’s parents belong to an evangelical religion which was started the same year my brother was born. I have to admit I was hoping that at least there would be tradition and ceremony to bring us some comfort, as there was at the long-ago and very moving bar mitzvah I attended. However, that was not the case. This particular religion is pretty adamant that if you don’t belong to it, you are going to hell, and that is that. I have never heard the word “wretch” so often in such a short time, and I am sorry to tell y’all that those of us who are not born again are “down in the mud with the pigs.” The service – for this lovely boy who died so young – concluded with the preacher trying to get extra converts to their religion and inviting us to consult with him about joining their cult after the service. Maybe it’s being brought up by atheist parents, but I found this unseemly, especially after being berated about my sinfulness. Weren’t we supposed to be remembering Blake?

Despite these religious oddities, there were some really nice moments. There was a montage of photos of Blake’s life, and a charming video of his catching a fish almost as large as he was when he was a young boy (and then releasing it). His two best friends, who had known Blake all his life, gave touching speeches. The chapel was full, with hundreds of people in attendance. I wonder if he would have been surprised to know how loved he is. I hope he knows he is.