Amsterdam


Alice and me at her home in Amsterdam, 1991

I recently came across a box full of my travel diaries, including one with an account of a visit to my best friend, Alice, at her home in Amsterdam in 1991. It is shocking to think that this was 30 years ago. On the other hand, it’s delightful to know that we are still best friends and email each other pretty much every day. In fact, an email notification from her just flashed across my screen as I typed this.

So hop in the time machine and let’s go to Amsterdam, circa 1991!

March 22, 1991

I arrived at Gatwick at 11:10 and thought that I would have a lot of time to kill until the 12:15 boarding time [those were the days!], but by the time I had lined up for a boarding pass, passport control, and security, I had about 10 minutes to wait.

It was worthwhile getting a window seat, because I got to see a lot of England as we flew over – an impossible green divided by roads, hedges, and rivers – the Channel, and some of the Dutch coast and brilliantly blooming tulip fields. Met by Alice at the airport and we were so happy to see each other that we held hands all the way to the train station.

Alice and Claudie’s house is close to the central station in the old (that’s what the “O.Z.” stands for in their address) part of Amsterdam. It is also in the heart of the famous Red Light District, so I got a good view of the girls sitting in the windows.

The house’s foundation is from 1490, but the part where Alice and Claudie live is only from the 18th century. There are heavy wooden beams and many windows. Because of the height of the houses and the narrowness of the staircases, each house has a tall, wide window in front with a hook for a pulley, to lift furniture in and out of the house.

Alice and I went to the famous flower market and bought 40 beautiful tulips for about $9, lipstick pink at the ends and white near the stem. We went for dinner at a local bar and then drank and walked our way through downtown, a real walk on the wild side. We stayed up talking until 2 am. We are so very glad to see each other again!

March 23, 1991

Alice and I spent the day shopping and window shopping. We bought dinner ingredients and for the first time in our long friendship, we made dinner together. Alice was always so unapologetically undomestic when we were younger that it was odd to see her cook. [Now we are constantly exchanging recipes and she is an amazing cook and one of the top restaurant reviewers on London’s Zomato.] We made pasta with pesto and Thai beef salad.

Amsterdam is like a toy town, with narrow streets, sidewalks that are mere suggestions, tall, narrow buildings leaning at odd angles due to extreme age, canals everywhere.

March 24, 1991

Time to head back to London. At about 6:30, Alice suggested we check to see if my flight was on time. It was; I wasn’t. I was convinced for some reason that my flight was at 8:45 pm when it was actually at 7:45 pm. Panic!

We rushed to Central Station and caught the train for Schiphol [The name of the airport; it means “ship’s hold”. The airport is below sea level, at about the level of a sailing ship’s hold.]. Thankful for Dutch efficiency; imagine being in that situation in Italy!

So I did make my plane. I went through the “nothing to declare” line at Gatwick and was stopped. This guy looked through everything. He looked inside each blossom of my light up tulips, shredded a tampon, and noticed that my coat lining had been resewn (by Margaret [my stepmother], mending a tear in my coat before I left), asked where I stayed, how I met Alice, and examined my ticket. It was a really embarrassing experience and I actually felt guilty.

Margaret and Dad think it was because I was coming alone with just a carry on back from a weekend in the drug capital of Europe, but it was hard not to take it personally. I guess it’s all part of the experience.

A YEAR AGO: Weekend cooking.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Jessica became a teenager. It happens to the best of us. Still can’t believe she is now 18!

TEN YEARS AGO: An update on the kitties.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A little culinary showing off.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Sunday morning coffee on the roof deck of my building in San Francisco, overlooking the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Etc.

Not much to report these days. This morning, the moon was huge and orange, peeking coyly out from billowing lavender clouds as I drove to work. We got some much-needed rain this weekend. It poured for a short time. We need every drop we can get, with a total of a mere 20 inches for the season. We should get more like 50. When Jonathan first moved here – which I realize was nearly 30 years ago! – there used to be closer to 70 inches. Climate change is definitely real.

§§§

The search continues for a companion for Stella. It is the first time Megan has had to go out looking for a dog. Usually, they find her, like Star and Stella did, both what we affectionately call “foster fails”. I realized last week marked the day Megan and I took an all-day road trip to pick up Star. I think Star knew that day that she had found her forever home; it just took the humans a little while to figure it out. All our lives changed that day.

I hope we can find someone who makes Stella feel happy and keeps her company.

§§§

I was saddened to hear of Prince Philip’s death. I wish he had been able to make it to his 100th birthday and the Queen’s 95th. He was so close! I watched his service, on a glorious spring day at ancient Windsor Castle. I was moved by the beauty of the music he had chosen and the presence of the military to honor his lifetime of service, including active duty, and dedication to Queen and country.

It was touching to see his family accompanying him to the chapel, particularly Princess Anne, who was known to be his favorite and who shared his love of horses and strong sense of duty and integrity. In her face, I saw reflected the same grief I felt for my own father 20 years ago, and the determination of having to get through the ceremony and the lifetime of grief that follows.

When the Queen arrived at the chapel for the service, I could have sworn I saw her instinctively turn and look where Prince Philip should have been, as if seeking his reassurance before facing the ordeal ahead. She looked so small and alone. She has lost her beloved companion of 73 years, the last to call her Lilibet and to remember her as a young woman, to remember her parents. She has lost so much with losing him. My heart aches for the Queen, woman to woman and mourner to mourner.

§§§

Somehow, Jessica turned 18! I’m not sure how this happened, or how it happened so quickly. We sent her some gifts, which I hope she enjoyed. We have essentially been out of touch since she and Erica moved, though Erica and I text each other from time to time. I guess it was inevitable that Jessica would outgrow her auntourage. I hope that one day, we find our way back to each other. She will always have a special place in my heart.

A YEAR AGO: Weekend routine.

FIVE YEARS AGO: My house was an internet-free zone. It was harder than you would believe to get it repaired.

TEN YEARS AGO: A sad, but loving, farewell.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Just another morbid Wednesday.

20

Can you believe it? My blog is 20 years old on the 20th!

Little did I imagine when I first started writing it that I would still be doing so two decades later. Nor could I have envisaged how very different my life would be. I look back at that girl almost like she was another person. In a way, she was.

That girl had two living parents; was married; owned an apartment in Pacific Heights, arguably the best neighborhood in San Francisco; drove a silver blue 1966 Mustang convertible named Josephine; had a well-paying financial job; and traveled regularly.

This girl has been without her father for 20 years and without her mother for 16 years this August. She is divorced, though on good terms with her ex-husband. I try to stay on good terms with all my ex-husbands. I rent a little house in the deeply rural depths of Mendocino County. My City days are far behind me. I haven’t left said County in years and can’t remember the last time I flew anywhere. I’m back to the 5 day a week grind and am basically a secretary. My car is a 12 year old black Fusion named Wednesday.

Looking back, I do have some regrets, and I may have made other or better decisions if I were wiser or better equipped at the time. But I’m not sure about that. If I had stayed married, I wouldn’t live in this place I love. If I hadn’t lost Roscoe, I wouldn’t have Dodge. Who knows who I would be or where I would be if I had changed even one thing?

I’m happy to live in this beautiful place near my remaining family, to have a job which gives back to our community, and to still be learning and growing as the years go on. Thank you for coming along with me on this adventure. Here’s to the next 20 years!

Brighter

At our non-existent Christmas, Megan gave me a gift certificate to get my hair highlighted, and I finally got around to cashing it in.

It was a glorious spring day as Wednesday and I headed Angelika-ward. Lately, I seem to be enjoying spring more than usual, even though it means that summer and its attendant heat are on the way. The trees on the curves in Little River are sporting their new spring leaves, an almost achingly beautiful shade of transparent green they only have this time of year. I don’t know what these trees are, but I look forward to their showing off their spring finery every year. It’s our version of Fashion Week.

Cherry blossoms, camellias, daffodils and calla lilies are gone, replaced by bright flags of California poppies and the heady fragrance and exquisite blossoms of my favorite flowers, lilacs. The ocean was a deep, postcard blue, accented by lacy white caps as the water dashed eternally against the dark rocks of the shore. A raven’s dark wings glinted in the sun as he swooped over the Big River bridge, that mystical post where the river meets the sea.

Angelika greeted me with a hug, and we spent the next few hours with the door to her little salon:

open to her beautiful garden:

I brought Angelika a little succulent in a pink egg planter with a little silver bunny for Easter. It just looked so her. I am pleased to say she loved it, and it looked right at home right away:

Her neighbor’s dog Cookie came in for pets. She is white, but has the cutest light brown freckles on her ultra soft ears. It was fun to have her company while Angelika made my hair blonder and better. Maybe I always say this, but I think this was the best color ever. I always feel happier when my hair is brighter. And I always love spending time with Angelika. We have such great conversations, and being around her positive energy is healing to my soul. I will go back soon to get my hair cut.

I went on my way new and improved. My boss asked me to stop by work, and she admired my hair as soon as she saw me. She also gifted me with an adorable Easter basket. Haven’t I always said that grown ups should be the ones to get Easter baskets? It was so thoughtful of her. I am so lucky to have such an amazing boss and such good friends in my life.

A YEAR AGO: Enjoying the beauty around me.

FIVE YEARS AGO: And still more beauty, inside and out.

TEN YEARS AGO: The arrival of spring.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Even errands were more fun with the Lovely Rita by my side.

Animals

John’s kittens have been growing by leaps and bounds. They are now 6 months old, and were recently spayed. As might be expected, shy little Daisy was more horrified by the entire process than bold and brave Peach, but they both went running to Mom for comfort when they came home from the vet wearing mini cones of shame.

I have never had the experience of having a mother cat and her children in the same household. I think in the wild, the kids would be independent of Mom and possibly each other. But all living inside in the same house, they have stayed close and still cuddle. Willow still keeps a watchful eye on her progeny:

It must be so fun to see that dynamic. I hope it stays that way.

John and I disagree about whether they are still kittens. I say yes, and he says no. I think they are kittens until their first birthday. They are definitely looking more like cats than kittens these days, though.

As for my boyfriend Frank, he visits John daily. Their relationship has grown as fast as the kittens. At first, it was just for food, but now Frank lets John pet him. And gives him head butts, a sure sign of affection. He used to have sore eyes, which John has treated and improved, though he seems to get into fights occasionally, based on various wounds that have appeared from time to time. I think it’s all part of his rakish charm.

We don’t know where he sleeps, but even when it rains, he is dry when he turns up chez John for pets and food (now in that order). A happy Frank makes me happy, too.

Stella, on the other hand, is not happy. She misses Star so much. We all do. Stella did have a happy moment last week when a friend of Megan’s brought her dog Cooper over to play. Stella seemed like her old self again. It was really nice to see.

Megan is beginning to think that she needs to find a companion for Stella sooner rather than later, even though the humans in the house may not necessarily be ready. Megan has a line on a male foster dog who might be right for their household. You know how Stella loves the boys. Stay tuned!

A YEAR AGO: A well-traveled clock.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Nothing like having dinner made for you by someone else, I always say.

TEN YEARS AGO: A was recovering from her 3 month long hospital ordeal. She has never been the same, but I am still thankful that she is still with us. We email nearly every day.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: I still love this vase, made by the talented and handsome Aaron Oussoren. You can see more of his work here. As for the vase, it’s currently residing next to my TV, giving a welcome pop of color to the room.

Mystery

When I arrived at work yesterday, I was somewhat taken aback to see that the door was ajar. It was even more unnerving since Daylight Saving Time plunged us back into morning darkness, which we all know is entire evil point of it.

The door needs an ID badge to open, and opens and closes (at least, theoretically) automatically, with no human intervention needed, other than the application of the company-issued ID card (from the outside) or a sweep of the hand past the sensor (on the inside). It is supposed to be touchless.

The alarm is right inside the door, and it was turned off. You need a special assigned code to turn it off. Hmm.

I closed the door manually, and then called out for the coworker who often arrives around the same time I do, even though Wednesday was the only car in the parking lot. I walked through the clinic, but it was a human-free zone at that early hour. I was relieved that there were no unauthorized visitors wandering the halls, but I was also wondering, as Iggy Pop would put it, what the hell? What the heck?

I later learned that another colleague had arrived early that day, done a few critical things, and then gone to get coffee, setting the stage for the mystery. She thought the door had closed behind her, and maybe it had, and then popped open again. The doors were easier to deal with and rely on when they worked by hand instead of (allegedly) automatically, in my change-resistant opinion.

A YEAR AGO: Thinking about Mom.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A field trip to Willits.

TEN YEARS AGO: A different kind of mystery.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Come to Tuscany with me, circa 1984.

Ancient

A final entry in Jonathan’s epic road trip diary. I hope you have enjoyed his adventures as much as I do.

Dateline: Near Angel’s Peak, NM, coordinates 36.546576 / 107.863026, elevation 6,591′.

After our refreshing stay in a hotel we were ready to get back on the road. We stopped for fuel and groceries and then headed towards Chaco Canyon. I have heard so much about it that I hoped it would not disappoint.

The first bit of of a drive was quite easy, but as we got closer the road went to dirt. Not long afterwards it started in with washboard, the kind that will rattle the fillings out of your teeth and shake your vehicle to death. When confronted with washboard like that you have two choices: You can either crawl along very slowly or you can go faster and float over the top. I think you can guess which option I chose. The reason is that the average speed of a vehicle on the road determines how far apart the washboards are. If you go faster than average you go from the top of one washboard to the top of the next, skipping the trough. If you go slower you give your suspension a chance to react. But if you travel the average speed you will be visiting the dentist to get your fillings replaced.

Sadly, the visitors’ center was closed. Luckily, they had maps outside so Rio didn’t have to suffer from map deprivation. We scoped out the map and decided a plan of action to see as much as we could while we were there. We headed out for our first hike, which was close to the visitors center. A short walk and there were ruins right in front of us. I paused as I was about to duck through the doorway. There was something special and humbling to be the next in a long line of people to have passed through that doorway. I could imagine the pride and satisfaction with which the builder of this doorway must have felt when they went through it for the first time. I could image how grateful people felt going through that doorway when the weather was bad, so happy to be sheltered. And then how ordinary it became to do so over the centuries that followed.

The Anasazi who built these vast ruins did so over about 300 years, from 850 AD to around 1250 AD. At that time they inexplicably abandoned this center of spirituality, government and commerce. No-one knows why they disappeared or where they went or what happened to them. It must have been something they didn’t anticipate as you don’t build such a remarkable city with the intention of abandoning it.

As we continued to explore the ruins my respect and awe continued to build. The elaborate buildings built with such skill and engineering are a testament to the people that built them. They have far outlasted the modern construction of Fort Bowie which was built with modern tools and methods. The natives here knew how to use the materials around them to build something that would stand the test of time.

While we could have spent more time here it was getting late and we needed to find a place to land for the night. Here I have to give credit to an app called iOverlander. It showed a place not too far called Angel Peak. So we decided to go and give it a look. We found it easily and it was a short drive out a good gravel road. We found a nice little spot and parked Moby and went for a walk to see where we were.

In these reports I feel like I am running out of superlatives. Outstanding, beautiful, awesome, amazing, breath-taking, I feel like I have over used all of them in these reports. I can’t help it though as we are going through some very special places. As we walked up towards a little point I looked over at Angel Peak and was once again stunned and literally stopped in my tracks, struck dumb by the view before me. Off in the distance slightly above us was Angel Peak and about 1,500 feet below us were the most amazing badlands. Angel Peak actually looks more like a medieval fortress to me. It has towers and walls, what looks like a pyramid on one end and a set of stairs that a giant could have used. The badlands are impossible to describe, rough, tortured ground with some many bands of color and hills and washes that you really do just have to see them.

Until we meet again,

Jonathan