Birthday Week


Good mail day

So far, I’m favorably impressed with the lead up to my birthday this year.

I’ve enough bad birthdays lately ($400 vet bill; 12 hour work day followed by fire-induced traffic stoppage on the way home from said 12 hour work day; power outage) to really appreciate a good one. Or even a good prequel.

A couple of days ago, I picked up the mail and was delighted to find that I had paid off Wednesday 7 months early! Not only that, I had overpaid, so a cashier’s check was included along with the beautiful pink title document. Mine, all mine!

As if that weren’t enough, there was also a check for website work and two early birthday cards from dear friends, one alerting me that a gift was on its way. I have the best friends ever!

I am coming to you from my bed at the outrageous hour of 8:00 am, with sunshine valiantly fighting its way through the fog to peer in the skylight and both kitties curled up and sleeping cutely. Is there anything cozier looking than a sleeping cat?

While still in my kitty PJs, I look pretty good, because I stopped by Angelika’s little salon in the big woods:

on my way home from work yesterday. She cut a couple of inches off my hair while we chatted and caught up. Being around Angelika is always inspiring, and I think she is as good for my spirit as she is for my hair. She also gave me a gift (unopened as yet), and a friend observed that there probably aren’t too many people who get presents from their hairdressers. But there also aren’t too many people like Angelika.

I had picked up dinner from Mayan Fusion on my way out of town last night, so dinner was ready when I got home. I have taken today and Monday off, so let the long birthday weekend begin!

A YEAR AGO: Playing post office.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A wonderful trip to the City. Chinese food, a new handbag, and the Beach Boys! What’s not to love?

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.

Tire-d

Dear Winter,
How can I miss you when you won’t go away?
Love,
Suzy

It seems that I was overly optimistic about the arrival of spring and the departure of winter. Lilacs notwithstanding, the weather has been doing a pretty good imitation of winter. It was 38F outside and 46F inside this past weekend, and we had a strong storm with high winds and heavy rains which led to me having to get out of the car three times on my way to work the following day to remove fallen branches on the drive way and the Ridge. The air smelled like Christmas trees and the roads were covered with twigs and needles as if it were December. So last season!

Spring being a tease and having to drive (again or still) in winter weather conditions makes me at least grudgingly glad that I invested my last paycheck in four new tires, an alignment, and an oil change for Wednesday. Unfortunately for both me and my modest paycheck, Wednesday requires low profile, high price tires, something of which I was unaware when picking her out at the car pound in faraway Modesto.

I bought two new tires on my really excellent birthday two years ago, and amused the mechanics when I asked if I could just buy four regular tires instead. To their credit (and my debit), they explained with a straight face that those pesky laws of physics don’t allow for that, regular tires being too fat or too high to fit in Wednesday’s sleek wheel wells. I guess two years is about all you can expect of your tires when you persist in driving them on unpaved and semi-paved roads which are usually accessorized with the latest in potholes and suffering from unbenign neglect when it comes to repairs.

I realize this means I have so far bought tires twice for a car which is not yet paid off.

In other winter news, it appears that all the rain has been wreaking havoc on our well. I came home one day this week to discover that the water coming out of the tap was a little more colorful than I would have liked. I asked Mark about it, and he hadn’t noticed (though you’d think at least one of three girls he lives with would have). He investigated, and said that all the rain had flushed the surrounding red clay (the red earth of Tara!) into the well and we would have to wait for it to settle down, which did not really settle me down at all. Nor did his cheerful assertion that it’s “clean” dirt, being natural instead of man-made and (presumably) not toxic.

Fortunately, I still have bottled water left over from the winter supply, but I am hoping that Mark can put a filter on the pipe that leads from the storage tank to the houses on the property to decruddify it sooner rather than later.

A YEAR AGO: Rob unveils his masterpiece.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Things were beautiful in San Francisco.

2016

The sadness of losing my much-loved Roscoe at the end of the old year carried into the new year. A year later, I still can’t believe that his remarkable presence has been extinguished and that I will never have the joy of sharing my life with him again. I have yet to wash or dispose of his dish. I just can’t. A little spark of hope deep in my heart will never truly be doused, no matter what Logic decrees. I have never been a fan of Logic.

But there was light as well as shadow this year. I attended a beautiful wedding, some of my friends bought homes, and an unexpected visitor brought a lot of happiness with him on his epic road trip. I made a couple of little road trips myself, one south and one north.

Rainfall for the 2015-16 season was 55 inches. Rain started early for the 2016-17 season, beginning in September with a storm that dropped two inches in four days. Maybe this is a good sign for a wet winter. We can use every drop, a fact I must remind myself of when driving through it, especially in the ubiquitous winter darkness. So far for the 2016-17 season, we have received 23.4 inches, a good start.

Somehow, I managed to read more books than I did last year (103 vs. 85), despite working six days a week for most of it. Standouts included Sweetbitter, Dodgers, The Curse of Beauty, Everybody’s Fool, The Wicked Boy, The Wrong Side of Goodbye, and The Harder They Come.

Power Outages: I think we had three, which seems to be par for the course, but they seemed to occur more in the summer than the winter. What’s up with that?

Other than that, here’s what happened to our heroine this year:

January: I started the year off on a tidy note. It didn’t take long for the first power outage of the year to rear its ugly head. Same goes for Wednesday’s engine light. Some delightful coincidences. And some (mis)adventures in cooking. Trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to get everything done at work.

February: The wonderful woodworking show. A little preview of spring. A delightful day on the South Coast, with ballet and other pleasures. The first theater reading I have ever attended, though hopefully not the last. Our heroine finally leaves the County after a year and a half, heading to beautiful Monterey, where I visited the breathtaking Aquarium. Also beaches and farm stands.

March: A peek at our (eccentric) little corner of the world. And a delightful peek into its past. Not the most enjoyable morning ever. Family dinner to celebrate Dad’s birthday. The boys get the old grandfather clock running. Saturdays past and present.

April: Wednesday’s successful surgery. Road trips for everyone! Beauty inside and out. An early wake up call. Having the internet out for over a week is not the most festive way of celebrating my blogs 15th anniversary. Especially since the technician failed to show up. Our beloved Jessica turns 13! The kidlet is now a teenager. How did that happen?

May: Quilts, books, cats and dogs – just a perfect day in the Village. Rob’s incredible masterpiece. The last family dinner at Suzy Manor before they move to the family estate for the summer. The mystery of the cat in the night. A busy, but delightful, weekend. Out of season power outage. Celebrating Megan’s birthday in style.

June: An uneventful birthday for our heroine. Better than an eventful one! And the baby boy turns six, all by himself. Memorial Day BBQ with a side of bees. The joys of Junapalooza, showcasing the talents of the amazing Erica.

July: The ninth anniversary of Audrey’s reign. Lu and Rik’s beautiful, moving, wonderful wedding. It was such a joy to share that day with them and my family. I will always treasure that memory. A BBQ at the family estate with our extended family. A magical visit to the Botanical Gardens.

August: A bad omen, perhaps? Farewell to Jack, who first appeared in these pages as a dollar bill sized kitten. She was almost 17 and the last of the cats John and I had together. Much like when we lost Schatzi, it felt like Mom was really gone, losing Jack made me feel like our marriage was really over. Told you Logic and I don’t see eye to eye. Celebrating summer’s bounty with jam and a BBQ. Marking the 15th anniversary of losing my father and best friend. I will always love you, Dad. Thank you for always loving me, no matter what. A visit from our dear friend Clayton, garnished with a power outage. The two events were not connected. An obnoxious mountain lion made things a little scary for a while. He has since moved on – permanently, we hope.

September: September kicked off with a surprise visit that turned out to be utterly delightful. We had a great time going to the circus together, and having a BBQ at my brother’s place on his birthday. We sent our visitor on his way after giving his car a quick check up. Here’s to many happy returns! An exhausting visit from the Feds at work was followed by a delightful day at the Fair. As the month drew to an end, so did my jobette, for real-real this time. Lu, Megan, and I enjoyed dinner and a play together.

October: A look around my rather neglected garden, which still looks surprisingly good despite my lack of attention. It was a banner year for real estate for several of my friends. Megan and I enjoyed a cemetery tour in the Village. ‘Tis the season for scariness, but thinking I had lost my beloved Clyde was a little too scary. Fortunately, I was wrong. I love being wrong sometimes. Enjoying the rare gift of a day off. And a road trip north to the Drive Thru Tree and the One Log House. It was short, but sweet.

November: A trip to the magical South Coast for a play and some delicacies. A happy (and terrifying) Halloween. Speaking of terrifying, I hit a dog with the car. For the rest of my life, I will be a dog maimer. At least I wasn’t a dog murderer. My victim is recovering well and due back home from rehab on January 1. Regrets. I’ve had a few. Let the countdown to T-Day begin! Thanksgiving started a little earlier than I would have liked, but it was wonderful.

December: The traditional post-Thanksgiving craft fair. Going from the beach to the redwoods in one day. A candlelight shopping trip. Time to put up the vintage faux tree again! Taking Jessica to the Festival of Lights at the Gardens for the first time, but not the last. Getting ready for the big day. A merry Christmas celebrated on Christmas Eve, followed by a quiet Christmas Day.

A YEAR AGO: Remembering 2015.

Car Surgery

‘Memba the cheerful orange engine light that appeared on Wednesday’s console, striking terror into my heart and bank account? My brother reset it, and I drove around engine light free for a couple of weeks, but it reared its alarming head again before I had even left the County on my way to Monterey (that’ll learn me for having the nerve to venture so far afield). I knew it wasn’t anything urgent, but it’s still concerning to keep seeing that engine light. Especially when you thought it had gone away for good.

When I got home – unscathed, thanks for asking – he took another look, groveling around in the cee-ment pit he and Rob built for this exact purpose when they put up the carport:

IMG_2380

It’s a huge improvement over groveling around in a muddy ditch with the car perched overhead. And there’s even room for a washer, dryer, and body-sized freezer, all solar powered, since my brother lives entirely off the grid.

garage2

My unpaid mechanic’s considered opinion was that the car needed a new thermostat. The engine has not been getting hot enough, which is better than it getting too hot, but is still not good over the long run. He called the parts store, and they needed Wednesday’s VIN to decide which part was needed. I texted the VIN to my brother, but they still couldn’t tell. The possibilities were Part A, at $160, and Part B, at $40. My brother suggested that we buy both and then take back the one we didn’t need, but the parts store owner said that Ford only buys parts back every three months from them, so it might be a while before we could get the money back. He then volunteered to call Ford himself to find out which was the winning part. I would have lost the bet, because it was the $40 part. Yay!

I dropped Wednesday off on Wednesday evening on my way home (how appropriate is that?) and my brother operated on Thursday while I drove The Beater to work, enjoying its Waltony rattles and hums. Hopefully the surgery will be successful AND the patient will survive.

Speaking of surviving: I’m lucky I survived the drive home the other night. I noticed headlights coming toward me – in my lane of the two lane highway. He was rocketing toward me, clearly trying to pass the RV and car ahead of him. In my opinion, there was not enough space between the RV and car for Mr. Maniac to slot in, so maybe his crazed plan was to pass both of them. I pulled over to the shoulder just in time as he jammed past me, making Wednesday and me rock like we were in an earthquake. I was thankful that the shoulder was there – many, many miles of Highway One do not have one – and that I got out of Mr. Maniac’s way in time. It was time for a glass of wine – or two – when I got home. At least I got there in one piece!

A YEAR AGO: All Suzy, all the time.

Ode to an Engine Light

I just wouldn’t be Me if there wasn’t something wrong with my car.

I was driving to work one morning, listening to Bobbie Gentry* and being blinded by oncoming traffic as usual when I noticed the bright orange engine light blink to life on the console. This did not console me. I still think that they should be little dollar signs instead of engines, maybe Michelin style with $ indicating a routine repair and $$$$ indicating one you have to mortgage your house for, or possibly your soul, assuming you have one.

I texted my brother Jonathan and asked him if I could stop by his place on my way home from work to avail myself of his unpaid mechanic services, and he said yes. He recently put up the car port that used to house my beautiful old Mustang Josephine:

josephine

and when he did, he poured a concrete foundation which included a mechanic’s pit so he can work on the family cars in relative comfort. He used to lie in a ditch to do this, so it’s a big step up. The car port also houses a solar powered washer and dryer along with a body-sized freezer. Just in case.

Jonathan read the code and then looked it up while I petted his mini cat Scout. She is about 2/3 the size of a regulation cat, but her purr is twice as loud as most cats’ and her fur is twice as soft.

The code means that the engine is not getting hot enough. Apparently this is not as bad as having your engine do the opposite, but it will have to be addressed. Jonathan checked the coolant level and the hoses and it seems they are not the cause of the excess coolness. I was once again chastised for not keeping a better eye on the gauges “They aren’t there just to be pretty, Suz”) and got into further trouble when it was revealed that I had failed to procure a Chilton repair manual.

In my defense, I thought I had, but when I went to look for it, it turned out that what I thought was the manual for the current car was the one for its predecessor** and of no use at all. I ordered a new one, which should be here soon, and the considered opinion of my unpaid mechanic is that all it will probably cost to make the engine light go out (for now, anyway – I’m sure it will rear its ugly head agin sometime in the future) is a $30 thermostat for the car and a batch of my world-famous cheese biscuits for the mechanic.

*She was gorgeous and the poignant song I was listening to, “Ode to Billie Joe”, knocked the Beatles out of first place on the charts in 1967. You know your life isn’t going well when you’re listening to a lot of country music. Some of my favorite lines recently are: “Tearstains on my pillow/bottles in the trash/I’m a little bit long on sorrow and a little bit short on cash.”

****Even though I have only ever owned Fords. If they were good enough for Clyde Barrow, they are good enough for me. You can read Clyde’s (alleged) letter to Mr. Ford here. And many other fascinating missives. You’re welcome.

A YEAR AGO: Visiting the ever-fabulous Erica and Jessica.

Past & Present

I lent Wednesday to a friend who was making the trek to Santa Rosa last week, so I drove the 30 year old Honda for a couple of days. It was a whole different experience from driving a seven year old car. You lock and unlock the car with an actual key, and you roll down the windows with that thing at the end of your arm – you know, your hand. So you can actually roll the window down (or up) with car off. Such freedom! I also enjoyed the total lack of tinting on the windows, allowing for the luxurious use of the rear-view mirror. I felt like I was driving around in a fishbowl. When driving Wednesday, I rely exclusively on the side mirrors. I keep meaning to get the tinting removed, but haven’t gotten around to it. I probably should before the darkness and rain of winter descend.

I definitely missed my Ford* when dragging my butt up steep, curving hills. The Honda can do it, but it lacks the power and strength of Wednesday. And it’s not as power assisted, either, though the boys recently spent way too much time tearing it apart and replacing the brakes, which are notably brakier. As my brother said, the most important thing is that a car can stop (I thought it was that it could go, but as so often happens, I was wrong).

This reminded me of my 1966 Mustang convertible, Josephine**. She was light metallic blue outside and blue inside, with a white top that was only up when it was actually raining. I’m sorry to say that I was guilty of driving with the heat on and the top down back when I lived in San Francisco. Josephine liked to go fast. You could tell that she was happiest when going 60 mph or more, and she had a very powerful engine. But she did not have power brakes or steering, so when stopping on the San Francisco hills, I would practically have to stand up to press the brake pedal hard enough not to slip backwards. And when I drove up here to visit my sibs, along the legendarily curving highway, it was a real workout going around the curves.

UPDATE: John’s pack rat-ness pays off again! Here’s a photo of Josephine (at the place I bought her in Southern California):

BLCONV~1

*I have only ever owned Fords. If they’re good enough for Clyde Barrow, they’re good enough for me.

**Named for my equally beautiful and equally long ago Siamese cat Josephine. Her eyes were the same color as the car (or vice versa). Oddly, I can’t find any pictures of the car, and all the links in my blog are broken, so you will have to use your imagination or the Google to see what the car looked like.

A YEAR AGO: At the theater with the girls, enjoying “The Graduate”.

Tired

One thing about Wednesday – and it’s not just Wednesday, it’s every new car, it seems – is the endless binging and bonging and nagging. Sometimes it’s useful (“Uh, Suz…you left the lights on”) and sometimes it’s just annoying (Yes, I realize that my seatbelt isn’t on. Because, you know, I didn’t put it on). And then there’s the autolock feature, snapping all the locks shut as if a horde of carjackers was attacking me as I lurch down the narrow dirt driveway at 5 miles an hour. I have tried to no avail to turn this off, and I can never quite get used to it.

I have also gotten to the point where I am phobic about warning lights on the dashboard, which seem to happen more often than I would like. The other day, the “low tire pressure” light came on, and it took a couple of days before I could get to the tire place. Once there, Rick the tire guy* informed me that the two front tires needed to be replaced. He said that I shouldn’t go out of town or anything, which I found alarming.

As usual when anything alarming happens to the car, I immediately thought of my brother, and on my way home that night, I stopped by his place. He took a look and noted that the tire on the passenger side was more worn than the one on the driver side. He said that if they both looked like the one on the driver’s side, he wouldn’t replace them, but when you do one, you have to do both.

He also said that low tire pressure is the main reason for wear like that (besides, of course, our rough and bumpy roads). I had been relying on the light telling me to get the tires checked rather than taking Wednesday to have Rick check her tires every couple of months as I did with Miss Scarlett. My general automotive ineptitude makes it impossible for me to put air in the tires, let alone read the pressure, and I’d much rather take it to the pros and get it done right and quickly. The problem is I haven’t been doing it enough.

Jonathan said I should just drive more slowly**(!) and replace them within the next month or so, since it’s not winter and I don’t have to worry about rain. He added that it might be worth just doing it now for the peace of mind, though the cost of two new tires is not conducive to peace of mind.

*He also told me that his wife, who used to work behind the counter and do the books, had died of lung cancer at Christmas, which I was very sorry to hear. He said he was working as much as possible to try and keep his mind off it, but he still looked stricken.

**No matter how I try, I am an impatient driver, which is not good, especially during tourist season. Jonathan pointed out that going 10 miles over the speed limit gets me to the Big Town about two minutes sooner and risks a ticket, though he added that when he’s driving long hauls, like between here and LA, it’s worth it, since he gets there about an hour and a half sooner. It’s all relative. Just ask my relative.

A YEAR AGO: Things were sad.

On My Way

Though I had a lovely dinner with my friends, I managed to spill some of the bouillabaisse I was bringing home with me in the car. It takes special skills, my friends. Or just a Suzy.

It was too dark to deal with at the time, but when I opened the car door the next day before heading to the jobette, it was quite horrifying. I scrubbed down the carpet where the spill had occurred, adding some Febreeze. When I went home that night, it was still scary, though not as bad. I had the heat on and the windows open, the way I used to when I drove my 1966 Mustang convertible. Unless it was actually raining, I always had the top down.

I scrubbed and Febreezed when I got home and again in the morning, and now the car’s interior is merely redolent of the ghost of bouillabaisse past.

It’s a good thing, because I’m heading to San Francisco today, and hours in a fish-scented car would make the trip even less enjoyable than it already is.

Of course, Roscoe took this opportunity to somehow injure himself. The fur is rubbed off above one eye, and it looked a little icky for a couple of days. I applied Vetericyn (every home should have some) and it looks better, but I have no idea how he did it. Dr. Megan says we never know what they do out there, we just have to try and fix it. She’ll keep an eye on it while I’m gone, as well as herding them in at night and feeding them. I hope they behave themselves and there are no all-nighters or late evenings.

As for me, it seems like there are a million things to do before I leave. Next week is Thanksgiving, and I haven’t ordered the turkey yet, partly because I’m not sure how many people are coming. I know Jarrett, Kalli and Paul can’t make it, but Dave and Jennifer may be here, and I’m hoping Lichen will at least stop by. I have a few errands I’d like to run while in the city, so I’m trying to get those set up, and have also been following up with the County job here and getting the runaround, as you would expect from bureaucracy. At least packing is easier, since I have no meetings other than my boss/partner/friend to discuss our future, if any. Stay tuned!

A YEAR AGO:

The Kitty Report.

Random Updates

You will be glad to hear that my back is back to its old and now much more appreciated self. I am still trying to remember to be nice to it to keep it in a good mood. A grumpy back is actually more fearsome than a grumpy Suzy. Imagine!

In addition to the temporary couch coma*, here’s what’s been going on around here:

  • So far, I have managed not to kill the new (to me) Japanese maple. I’ve been watering it every day for about three weeks, and so far, so good. It’s not showing any signs of trauma from being dug up, dragged here, and moved into a bag. I’m trying not to think about how sad it and the neighboring red Japanese maple will look in a couple of months when all the leaves fall off.
  • I had the bright idea of putting the cats’ dishes away when I went to the jobette or was otherwise out of the house all day. I’m sure this new policy was not popular with food fan Clyde, but I’m hoping it will be equally, or even more, unpopular with Yellow Cat. I figure if he slinks in there and finds it food free, he might cross us off his route. I think this evil plan has been somewhat successful, since on non jobette days over the past week, I’ve seen him only once, and he fled when he saw me. I kind of feel like a jerk, but I have a zero tolerance policy for bullying my kitties.
  • Wednesday had a vacation in Santa Rosa. The fix it lights came on yet again, and the car doctors here on the Coast judged the problem to be beyond their abilities. They recommended a place in Santa Rosa, where the mechanics not only figured out what was wrong with the car, but that the fix it was under warranty by Ford. So Wednesday got a whole new transmission on the house, saving me between $3-5,000 (not to mention $500 worth of rental car while Wednesday was in the shop). Apparently the problem is unusual so we should be good to go.

    Having said that though, today was the first time I had driven Wednesday around here since she got home from the Santa Rosa spa, and while enjoying the lack of lights on the dashboard and the ability to go around curves and uphill simultaneously without the engine jerk I had been suffering before the plastic surgery, I heard a loud BEEP and the low tire pressure notice and light came on.

    Sigh.

    I stopped in at the tire place on my way to work, and couldn’t get the key out of the ignition. The tire guy came over and I got out of the car and explained what was wrong. He reached in and took the key out. I asked him what he did, and he said that sometimes even when the car is in park, you have to push the gearshift forward a bit or the key is locked in the ignition. Apparently it’s a safety feature.

    Maybe I am as dumb as I am….

*While marooned on the couch, it occurred to me that I often wish I could just sit around on the couch all day when I have to go work and do other faux adult activities, and now when I could, all I wanted to do was…not. I guess part of it is my general perversity, and part of it is wanting to lounge when not drugged and damaged. Having wishes come true often seems to be more “Monkey’s Paw” than not.

Home Again


Sleeping Clyde

It was a good trip to the City. The drive home…not so much.

Along about Novato, the traffic slowed to an ooze, sometimes giving up on oozing to just sit there in the baking heat. I had the Blue Jays game on the stereo through my iPhone and the air conditioning blasting. It seems that Novato is the new Santa Rosa, where the traffic used to grind to a halt before they widened the highway there.

Later, I passed a CHP car with lights flashing, and a lot of broken glass by the side of the road, but otherwise no sign of a car accident. There were lighted signs on the highway telling me to conserve water* (though how, exactly, I was supposed to do this while in the car, I don’t know), but nothing warning me of delays of more than hour or incredibly slow traffic.

I finally got home close to 6:30, and Megan came by to pick up her pizza and help me unload the car, not necessarily in that order. She was amused when I told her that the counter guy at Victor’s – who is now used to my extreme take-out ways – told me that people from LA take Victor’s pizza home with them, too. So maybe I’m not that extreme after all.

The kitties were definitely happy to see me, and I was happy to see them. Also making me happy were: eating pizza while watching the final season of The Killing; sleeping in my own bed with the clean, country air pouring in the balcony door; kitties sleeping with me; waking up to the birds singing and a sunny Saturday.

It’s good to be home.

*There were billboards in San Francisco suggesting that we stop washing our cars to conserve water, so I drove my dusty, dirty car with pride on the hilly streets.

Lately

Well, it’s certainly been a skimpy month around here blog-wise. And you know what that means: I’ve been working a lot. Work is not only time-consuming, but it’s no fun to write about in the time that hasn’t been consumed, and the workosity drains the fun out of you and makes you just want to have an adult beverage and forget about work.

As Red Forman put it on That ’70s Show: “Work’s not about fun, it’s about work! It’s about seeing how much you can take…and then taking some more.”

I have to admit that I enjoy work the most when watching other people do it.

Speaking of work, Rob’s been hard at work on the extractor fan. It wasn’t as simple as just putting in the fan. He had to cut a hole in the loft and then the side of the house and add a Bender-like hose thing for the steam to exit the house. And being Rob, he also added a little copper shelter to the side of the house so it looks nice, too. ‘Cause that’s how he rolls.

While Rob is working on my house, Megan’s in the next county at the Reggae on the River Festival. She’s not so much getting her Marley on as she is helping out our dear friends Lu and Rik with their Emergency Medical Services endeavors at the festival. Lu and Rik intrepidly spend most of the summer providing medical services to festival goers. It’s about 104 F there (40 C), so Megan is maintaining her night shift hours and hiding on the shade during the daylight, like a vampire. To paraphrase Barbara Harris in Peggy Sue Got Married*: “Megan, you know what the sun is? Stay away from it!”

As soon as Megan gets back, I’m heading to San Francisco for some meetings. Well, two days later, but still. The trip is not made less stressful by the fact that Wednesday is acting up again. It seems to be the same problem as before, so it looks like there is more time and money in her future and mine. My brother is sure I can get to the city and back unscathed, since I probably do not have time to get it dealt with before, but I can’t say this makes me too happy.

To quote the immortal (and some would say, immoral) Scarlett O’Hara: “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

*Filmed not far away in Petaluma, like “American Graffiti”. Features a very early role by Jim Carrey. And Barbara Harris was quite wonderful in Hitchcock’s final film, Family Plot, filmed partly in San Francisco.

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?

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?

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.

Wednesday’s Woes

You know those people who can’t wear watches because their magnetic fields or something mess them up? I think I’m that way with cars.

The five year old car that I bought a mere five months ago is already having problems and costing me a fortune.

It all started when I drove home one day from the jobette and could not open the car door. At first, I reasonably assumed it was user error, as it often (always?) is in my case, but nope. Wednesday refused to open, so I rolled down the window and opened it from the outside. Jonathan thought he could eventually fix it, but it would mean taking the entire door apart (disassembly to repair almost anything appears to be a Ford specialty). Also he was in the middle of digging a well which was due to be inspected*, and wouldn’t have free time to fix it any time soon.

I got used to rolling down the window (at least it’s summer) and holding the door open with my knee while I rolled it back up again. But then more problems struck.

The engine light came on and the wrench light also. My opinion is that these lights should be replaced by dollar signs, since that’s what they really mean. My brother read the codes and it said it was the solenoid or similar. Unfortunately, he can’t fix transmission-related things, not having the specialized and expensive equipment for it, so it was time to go to the car doctor.

The car doctor said that he could diagnose and fix the solenoid thing à la carte, but that Wednesday was overdue for a 90,000 mile maintenance, and most likely the solenoid thing or whatever it is would be fixed by the zillion and one things included in the 90,000 mile maintenance procedure. Unfortunately, the maintenance procedure was $700.

It’s at times like this that I wish I were a real adult instead of the extremely faux one I am. Surely by the time a girl is more than half a century old, and with yet another birthday sparkling on the horizon, she ought to be able to make good decisions about things like this. Somehow I didn’t get the manual, or else I never read it, since we all know reading the manual is a last resort.

I decided to just do the maintenance and walked sadly to work, trying not to cry. It took two days to fix the car, and when I got it back, I learned that it would take a further $150 to get the part for the door and get it fixed, which I get to look forward to this week. Ever since I got the car back from the shop, I haven’t been able to make my iPod work with the car stereo, so it’s been long and silent drives to the jobette and back, alone with my deep thoughts.

When I put on my turn signal today to turn into the parking lot at the jobette, I got an error message saying “check turning lamp”. At least the other lights are off, right?

Maybe it’s just as well that I learned to drive so late in life. I may have saved a bundle!

*My siblings’ land partners have rented out their house in Grass Valley and are moving to the property to start building their house there. Since the house will have to be inspected, the well will, too, unlike the original one the boys dug a few yeas ago.

Play Date

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!

Report Card

Newsflash! I’m still blowing my nose about 500 times a day at a conservative estimate. Maybe you should just assume that I’m a snot monster until you hear otherwise.

~Sniffle~

Ironically, I went to the clinic yesterday for a check-up having nothing to do with my actual illness. It was just a routine check up. I had originally scheduled it for a couple of weeks ago at 8:00 am, when I would have been the first patient and I would have had a fighting chance of getting to work on time at 9:00. Of course, the clinic called to reschedule it for 11:30 today, making sure I’d have to take at least one unpaid hour off from work.

As usual, I waited for more than an hour and saw Dr. Sue for about 10 minutes. Poor Dr. Sue was totally overwhelmed with fellow flu sufferers. I don’t know how she works such long hours with sick people and is still so nice. She actually apologized for my waiting in a room full of germs. 🙂 In case you were wondering, I am perfect as always, other than the seemingly endless sniffles.

I ran into my brother in the waiting room. He was getting some paperwork done for continuing to be a fire fighter, and his next stop was the DMV for more fire fighting related bureaucracy, always fun after working a 48 hour shift.

I paid my usual $50 for the check up. I still haven’t availed myself of “affordable” healthcare. I need to research it more, but it appears that I will either have to pay $200 a month, which has a $4,000 deductible and requires $75 for a doctor visit, or $400 a month for a lower deductible and co pay. If I understand my insurance-ese correctly – and I should after the whole Miss Scarlett débâcle – this means that I will be paying $200 a month for nothing, since it will not go toward the massive $4,000 deductible, which will have to be met before any benefits kick in. This doesn’t strike me as exactly affordable.

Automotivated

There’s nothing like driving The Beater to motivate a girl to buy a real car.

After an exhaustive (and exhausting) search, I finally located a car that met my two criteria of a) less than ten thousand dollars and 2) less than one hundred thousand miles on it. You’d be amazed by how hard it is to find a car that is both of these things. I saw some that were two years old and had more than 100,000 miles on them. That takes some serious driving.

So did the trip to get the car. Rob and I went all the way to Modesto, in the Central Valley, and back in one day – a round trip of about 500 miles. We left home at 7 am and got home about twelve hours later. I don’t think I’ve ever been in the Central Valley before. It was interesting to see a different kind of farmland – almond trees and orange trees, heavy with bright fruit, instead of vineyards and sheep.

The car is a 2008 Ford Fusion, with about 85,000 miles on it. My record of only owning Fords remains intact. Hey, if they were good enough for Clyde Barrow, they’re good enough for me. It’s a lot fancier than I’m used to, and characteristically, it has opened a whole can of neuroses.

I have never had a car note before, and I woke up at 3:00 am the night after I bought it, thinking about owing the bank thousands of dollars and what if something happens to it before I pay it off? What if the insurance rates go up after The Incident which led to the untimely demise of Miss Scarlett? The Incident really shook me up, too, so I’m nervous about driving at all, let alone driving a car that makes me look like a tourist.

It’s a real grown-up car, with its leather interior and helpful little messages (“Tire pressure low”; “Low fuel”) and general gadgetry:

including one of those silly keys with a chip to lock and unlock the door which you cannot get copied at the hardware store, but rather, have to spend a bunch of money to get another one from an official source (but where?). A second key is a total necessity for a girl like I, who loses everything and has an advanced degree in screwing up.

In addition to it being so nice that I’m terrified to scratch it or dent it, it has gangster dark tinting on the back window and side rear windows, which is a necessity in the Central Valley, whee temperatures are routinely over 100F in the summer. However, it also makes it impossible to see anything in the rearview mirror, and thus it’s more likely that I will scratch or dent the car. I’m planning to get the tinting removed as soon as the holidays are over and just hope for the best in the meantime.

I felt kind of sorry for my new, as yet unnamed ride as we made our way down the rough, unpaved driveway. I imagined it thinking, “You’re kidding, right? You don’t expect me to live here?”

Totally

The insurance adjustor checked out Miss Scarlett yesterday, and as we expected, the news was not good.

The repairs needed to get her back on the road again exceeded her current street value, so they declared her a total loss. The adjustor asked if I could remove my personal items* from the car so they could tow it away, and even though it was the last thing I wanted to do, I got in The Beater and headed for the Big Town.

On the long and noisy drive, I wondered if I am supposed to learn something from all this, and if so, what it is. Everyone around me seems to feel that these things are just random events and that’s the way life is, but I’m not so sure. I wish I knew what, if anything, the lesson is. I’ve certainly been pushed outside my comfort zone, driving The Monster and The Beater. I’m grateful for the support of my family and even the kindness of the insurance folks.

When I spoke to the claims representative, just about the first thing she asked was whether I had been hurt, another car involved, the police, or the hospital, and when my answer to all of these things was no, she said that in that case, it was as good as it could be, and she was right. I’m glad that I wasn’t hurt and that I didn’t hurt anyone, and that I was able to get the car off the road. But I’m very anxious about the cost of another car, not to mention the hassle of finding one. I’ll almost certainly have to go to the Bay Area or Sacramento to find something. Also I’ve never had a car note in my life. Maybe all this is some kind of life lesson.

*This was a surprisingly upsetting experience. I have to admit that I patted her gently and gave her a little kiss goodbye. We’ve had a lot of adventures together, and I miss her already. I had to sit in The Beater and sob a little bit before I could move on.