Evening

We left the Fair as the sun began to set, casting a rosy golden glow over the Valley:

I love the look of the rolling golden hills, dotted with the deep pools of shade from gnarled live oaks, and the vines, still heavy with grapes at this time of year:

Soon the vine leaves will begin to turn scarlet and gold, which is our version of fall colors. There are almost a hundred vineyards in the beautiful Valley, most of them family owned and operated.

We wended our way through the redwoods to the ocean. We met up with Ben and Erica at the Gro* so we could guide them up and down the twisty roads to Rio’s compound.

Rio and Jonathan had just finished working on the interior of her guest cabin:

So Ben and Erica were the first guests to stay there in its finished state. Rio and Jonathan still have to build a little roof over the front door for the rainy season, and are planning to paint the outside, but it is more or less finished and it is just charming, so pretty and cozy inside. They could not have had a nicer place to stay while exploring our little corner of the world.

Rio had everything set up so we could make our own sandwiches after we arrived at her house, sliced chicken, cheese, and everything else you could think of to put on a variety of breads, including peach habanero jam, which was delicious. We ate our sandwiches while listening to vinyl records with covers designed by Rio’s father. He was a very well-known illustrator, and his work is in the Met and the Smithsonian, among others. He designed record covers for everyone from Miles Davis to Billie Holiday to Harry Belafonte, as well as Time magazine covers and Broadway posters.

Rio’s stepfather was an actor, starring in the Donna Reed Show and acting in many others, like Perry Mason and Mission Impossible. Rio said that her parents tried to keep her from being one of “those Hollywood kids” by not letting her go on set very often. On one of those rare occasions, her stepfather was shot with a blank and was injured, and that was the last time she went to a movie set. Her parents were close friends of Carroll O’Connor and his wife. You will be relieved to hear that he was nothing like Archie Bunker in real life, though he did have a big personality and tended to be the center of attention.

Dessert was a big bowl of strawberries from the family estate, which were something of a revelation to our visitors. There is nothing like strawberries you grow yourself. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful day.

*Big local news: Doug has sold the Gro! I am sad to see him go, but glad for him and his wife. They have been working 12-14 hours a day, 7 days a week, for way too long. Time for them to relax and enjoy themselves. I hope the new owners keep up their legacy and that the Gro remains the heart of our quirky little town.

A YEAR AGO: I may have lost the jobette, but I had a nice Saturday. And I did get the jobette back in the end, at least for the summer. You never know…

FIVE YEARS AGO: Thinking about the past and what might have been.

Near and Far

I met up with my former boss and a mutual friend at the bar of a historic oceanfront inn for a drink and to catch up on their traveling adventures. They had been as far away as New Zealand and Portugal, so it was nice to travel vicariously. No baggage fees or cramped seats for me!

The bar used to be the living room of the current innkeeper’s grandparents’ home, back in the days when there were no keys to any of the rooms and the inn had not yet expanded to its current size. The grandfather, Ole, eventually persuaded his wife to make the living room a bar, which has a spectacular view of the ocean and is a lovely place to perch at the bar with a glass of wine and watch the whales go by in season, which is why it is now called Ole’s Whale Watch Bar.

This isn’t whale watching season (that’s winter), but the current innkeeper was there with a hug and a smile. She is the fifth generation of her family to own and operate this historic inn. Now there are keys to all the rooms, a spa, restaurant, and golf course, but you can imagine that James Dean would still feel at home here, as he was during the filming of “East of Eden”.

He stayed at the inn during filming, and horrified Ole by wearing a t-shirt with no shirt over it, putting his boots up on the bar, and swearing. It was Dean’s first major film role, and the only one completed in his brief, bright lifetime, as well as the only one he ever saw in its entirety.

This time, our County stood in for Monterey rather than New England, as it usually does. Having been to Monterey again recently, I have to say that they do not look very much alike. But that’s Hollywood for you!

A YEAR AGO: A BBQ party at the property with Ben. We’re planning a repeat on Saturday!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Jobs of the present and the past.

Grilled

My (now older) brother’s birthday fell during the Worst Long Weekend Ever. His birthday, near or on Labor Day, (allegedly) ends the summer, and my sister’s, on or near Memorial Day, starts it, their birthdays bracketing the tourist season.

It was still about a zillion degrees as I headed to the family estate, driving really slowly so I could bask in Wednesday’s blasting air conditioning during the quarter mile drive. The canopies were up, but they were no match for the Evil Death Star. I packed my county fair straw hat with ice and put it on my head, but really, nothing could help.

As I write, it’s foggy but still not cool. Like 100+ degree temperatures, I have never experienced this before. I may have been scarred for life. I am still obsessively checking the weather forecast and am appalled to see that they are calling for highs of 76 on Sunday, which is probably code for 96. Why does it always have to be hot as hell on the weekends? And when is this heat going to go back to hell, where it belongs?

As for the party, it was well-attended, with its many guests spanning several generations. Even though it was his birthday, my brother still manned the grill, turning out turkey burgers, hamburgers, and sausages to go with garden salad:

Jessica and I took our plates to a shady spot, where we were joined by Scout, Jonathan’s mini cat:

You can gauge something of her diminutive size by comparing her to the folded napkin beside her. Here you see Jessica feeding Scout hamburger morsels, which may have had something to do with the world’s most skittish cat hanging out with us:

I also convinced Jessica to pose for a picture, wearing my ice-less hat:

I’m sure these days are rapidly coming to an end since she is 14, so we will have to enjoy them while we can.

While Jessica was visiting over the weekend, we hid in the relative cool of Megan’s house (it is so shaded by trees that it is always cool; nice during a heatwave, not so nice in the winter) and had a mini 80s movie festival, watching “Working Girl” and “Desperately Seeking Susan”. Jessica found the 80s fashions hilarious, though she loved Madonna’s style in “Susan” and pronounced her “super pretty”. I agree – that is my favorite era of Madonna’s looks. Jessica coveted the pyramid jacket while I still covet the skull hatbox/suitcase and the glittery boots. And we all sighed over Harrison Ford and Aidan Quinn.

All in all, it was a fun evening. Now if the weather would start behaving itself…

A YEAR AGO: At the circus.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The jobette moved uptown, among other things.

Delicious

I worked my last Saturday last week. It was nice to share the magic of this place with the visitors and make a little extra money, but I am glad to only have to drive to the Big Town for five days a week instead of 6.

I celebrated by heading over to Rio’s place with Megan for dinner. We were joined by a few other people, including Blake’s father Chris, who is still coming to terms with the tragic loss of his son just a few short months ago. He was in the mood to talk about Blake, so I just went along with it. I figure if he brings it up and wants to talk about it, then we should follow his lead. It seemed to help, though we all know it is a lengthy, day by day process. At least Chris knows we are there for him and he has the support of his friends.

On a brighter note, I heard all about the eclipse of the century from Jonathan and Rio, who actually saw it. They followed my friend C’s advice and just took along telescopes and binoculars and did not try to take photos. It sounds like it was an incredible experience. Rio did take this wonderful photo of Jonathan at the cedar creek near their campsite:

Does he look happy, or what?

We sat out on the deck and drank wine while the kids ran around. Dinner was made almost entirely from the family garden. Pasta with pesto made from garlic and basil we grew; a salad of garden goodness; and garlic bread made with our garlic:

It was delicious, and there is something satisfying about eating food you grew. Or that your siblings grew.

The pièce de la résistance was dessert, a flight of sorbets made from fruit either picked wild or grown on the family estate (Megan recently told me that the fenced in garden and orchard is now an entire acre). Clockwise from upper left: huckleberry, blackberry, raspberry, and peach:

I can recommend estate grown dessert, though I can’t tell you which sorbet was the best. The sorbet process seems to really intensify the fruit flavors. A perfect way to end the evening!

A YEAR AGO: A delightful visitor. I am pleased to say that he is making a return appearance later this month, and this time, he is bringing his girlfriend!

FIVE YEARS AGO: The money fairy stopped by. Much better than the tooth fairy!

Melting

Come back, Fogust!

Both of my brain cells may have melted yesterday. I didn’t dare to consult the thermometer outside, but it was still 86 in my house when I went to bed last night. My house is so unreasonable. Rob came by to correctly position my Junapalooza swamp cooler gift and attempt to explain the laws of physics to me. It sort of sounded like the Charlie Brown grownups to my non-sciency mind, though.

He turned off all the fans, closed up the house other than the screen door to the balcony in the sleeping loft, and placed the swamp cooler in the open door between the studio and the house, reasoning that blowing air from the coolest part of the house with a concrete floor would help to cool the rest of it. He added in stuff about air layers and other things I couldn’t get, but I was not put here on earth to get it.

I’m sorry to say that it is supposed to be hot’n’heinous™ for the rest of the week, so Rob is going to add attempted climate control duties to cat doorman duties, it now being too dark to leave the doors open for them when I go to work, with the arrival of high beams season. Somehow it seems spectacularly unfair that it’s both hot and dark.

Hope he is successful, especially since this heat wave is slated to go until Saturday or so.

[Later]

Hm. It was 78 in the house and about 80 outside when I got home, despite Rob’s ministrations. Yesterday it was about 90 outside and 86 in. Maybe the eccentricities of my house make the swamp cooler of limited effectiveness. It feels cooler outside than in, so I think I’ll turn off the swamp cooler, open the doors, and put on a couple of fans. Old school.

A YEAR AGO: Well, at least melting in the heat is better than an obnoxious mountain lion. Isn’t it?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Yet another car misadventure that ended up being more life-affirming than disastrous.

Eyewitness

I’m sorry to report that high beams* season is already upon us, as the encroaching darkness starts its long slide into winter, when I will be driving in darkness both ways, instead of just one. Months without driving in darkness (two?) are as short as a Canadian summer and just as welcome.

In addition to the unwelcome return of my perennial enemy, we have been experiencing a true Fogust this year. This is fine with me, but it did make viewing of the eclipse of the century impossible. We should have seen about 80% in the Big Town, but all I saw was a darker shade of pale.

Jonathan and Rio, on the other hand, left the Wednesday before to road trip to a secret spot where there was totality. I mentioned this to my friend C, who is a professional photographer, and this was his reply:

I just hope they are not going to spend those 2 or 3 minutes just to make photos or videos only and not experience the event really. The next day there will be a zillion of that stuff available online anyway. Copy and paste.

My advice: be somewhere where you can see it coming, this is very important, you have to be high up, facing the right direction, have your high quality glasses, and filters for binoculars/telescopes etc. Lie on your back and enjoy.

Make sure just to enjoy the event I would say, unless you work for the National Geographic or so.

He would approve of their methods, I think. They headed out to a secret spot in Oregon on the Wednesday before the eclipse. Not surprisingly for someone who restored a 1958 Predicta and hooked up a DVD player to it, he figured out a way to send emails through his ham radio to keep us apprised of what was happening:

August 19

Another lovely day here in the Aldrich Mountains. By watching the sun during the critical times here at camp we determined that we can see the entire eclipse right here from camp.

We took a hike through the Cedar Grove Botanical Area and found (you guessed it!) a small grove of cedars amidst all the fir and pine. At the center of the grove is a brook with cold, clear water cascading over small rocks, with a baby cedar tree growing right in the middle. We will be returning to that idyllic spot tomorrow with a picnic lunch, our water filter, and bathing items and we still have our sweet little spot to ourselves.

August 20

Well, just another day in paradise here. We hiked back to the creek we found yesterday to bathe and have lunch along the way. Yikes was it fuhreeeeezing! But it sure felt great to clean up after four days on the rough. Such a perfect little stream, with cedars and ferns growing in it and all sort of other wildflowers. Sadly, most of them are long done for the year but must be quite a sight in spring.

We have selected a spot to watch from and will be heading out early in the AM. There were some clouds today that were worrisome but the weather report is still promising clear skies and the smoke has cleared up completely.

So wish us clear skies! I can’t wait for the moment we can take OFF our eclipse glasses and gaze up into the dark skies during daytime. They say it will be a little darker than a bright full moonlight night. We can’t wait!

August 21

Well, the long awaited day and time finally arrived. The day was clear and the spot we were in was perfect. It is a cliché, but words truly do fail me to describe totality. Up until over 80% coverage very little change could be seen. One was sort of asking oneself “is it really getting dimmer or am I imagining it?”. Even at 95% it seemed to still be pretty bright out and it was dimming very slowly.

Then suddenly, in a rush, it got dark. The stars came out, we could see Jupiter and the summer triangle. There was a 360 degree sunset all around us. Light seemed to rise up from the horizon un-refracted. Above this band of brightness was a band of sunset color, and above that the sky was deep blue and purple.

We were in the moon’s shadow, but with a view so wide that we could see beyond the darkness.And the corona around the moon was spectacular! We were with a small group of folks and we were all whooping and exclaiming and pointing things out to each other. Then, as suddenly as it had darkened, day returned.

Wowser, truly amazing and I must say that if you saw even a 98% eclipse you still haven’t seen one. I can understand why some chase them around the globe and am already thinking about 2024!

I am so glad they had such an amazing experience and got to share it together. I am looking forward to hearing about at our next family dinner – maybe on Saturday!

*High beams, which are of limited help in inky black country darkness, are a major disappointment in my adult life, along with painkillers, which do not, as the name suggests, actually kill the pain. Why am I surprised? Adult life itself has been a major disappointment. While it’s true there is no homework, when you’ve said that, you’ve said it all.

A YEAR AGO: Friends, camping, pie. And yes, early morning darkness.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sigh. You can see the white heart on my beloved Roscoe’s chest. I miss you, my little wild one.

Sunset Slipper

A week of fog lifted, and Megan and I decided it was a good time to go to the Ledford House again. Although it is conveniently located right across the highway from beautiful downtown Hooterville, we don’t go as often as we should (or as we’d like).

We were warmly greeted by the beautiful and accomplished bartender, who made us each a beautiful and delicious drink:

Megan’s (left) was a nameless but delightful concoction of fresh raspberries, Limoncello, and sparkling wine, and mine was the charmingly named Sunset Slipper, made of Campari, fresh lemon and lime juice, and sparkling wine, finished with a twist of orange, its oils released into the rosy drink. Unlike me, Megan doesn’t like Campari, but she loved the Sunset Slipper. So did I.

We repaired to the sunny and deserted deck:

with its breathtaking view of the sunset:

where we enjoyed our libations with the attentions of the handsome restaurant cat:

He and his tortoiseshell sister just showed up one day, and the owners took them in. They appear to be quite well-fed on gourmet leftovers from the restaurant’s wonderful kitchen, and to be replete with attentions of the restaurant’s patrons. Of course, he spotted a sucker as soon as he saw one, and wasted no time ensconcing himself by my chair and graciously accepting my petting and compliments. Clearly he accurately assessed Megan as being a dog-lover.

Swallows had built a nest in the eaves of the building, and the parents fluttered back and forth, bringing food to the peeping young in the nest. An occasional raven swooped over the ocean. It was so nice to sit on the lovely deck, as the twinkle lights glowed brighter and the sun slipped into the sea. It is amazing how quickly it vanishes once it gets started. It was a lovely evening.

A YEAR AGO: An unexpected gift, and an unexpected curse.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Farewell to Digit, the adorable office cat. She is still being adored by her (no longer) new family. All’s well that ends well.

Teen Time

Our long-time friend Carrie came up to visit from Oakhampton, with her 15 year old daughter Miranda and Miranda’s posse of besties. I was pleased to learn that Carrie asked the kids where they wanted to go within driving distance, and they chose Hooterville.

They were rewarded with the kind of freedom we experienced as kids and which is no longer available to those growing up in cities. They swam at the swimming hole in the river, where there is a rope swing, and in the secret pond known only to locals. They helped Jonathan make adobe bricks from clay dug up on the family estate, destined to make an outdoor pizza oven. There is already water and power in the giant, fenced in garden, and the plan is to make an outdoor kitchen there one of these faraway days.

They hiked in the majestic redwoods and rode our friends David and Jennifer’s (my siblings’ land partners) horses Bella and Charlie, and got in some driving practice, since getting their licenses is not as far off on the horizon as making our outdoor kitchen. They were thrilled to pick berries, just as we had during those long-ago summers in Maine. I have never again had blueberries that tasted anything like those small, dark berries, warm from the sun. They learned to make huckleberry pie under Jonathan’s tutelage, in the pie pan Rob made for Rio’s birthday.

On the Friday night, we had dinner at Rio’s place, which has acquired the name of The Marches. Rio said it’s an old word for wilderness, though I think her compound is quite civilized. As Rio and Jonathan made dinner (Rio’s special deconstructed chile relleno casserole and chicken enchiladas made with onions and salsa grown at the property), my brother put on a record, observing that the young ones would not know what it was. He was wrong about this, since one of them correctly recognized it as Herb Alpert’s classic “Whipped Cream” after the first two notes, adding that she herself owned it, also on vinyl.

I thought that was surprising until these 21st century girls started singing as they did the dinner dishes. They sang John Denver’s “Country Roads” and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” perfectly. Clearly they have retro leanings. They were completely enthralled with the Predicta and with “Honey West”, with its glamorous costumes, cool cars, and beautiful, kickass heroine. I have to wonder why “Honey West” is not a cultural touchstone like “Bewitched” or “The Avengers”. Also, 1965, the year of my brother’s birth, was a pretty good one, since both “Honey West” and “Whipped Cream” made their debuts along with him.

On Saturday night, we had a BBQ over at the property, and on Sunday, our guests headed back to the city after a breakfast of huckleberry pancakes made on the outdoor gas hob. It was a good visit.

A YEAR AGO: A bad omen?

FIVE YEARS AGO: A good day at the pool.

You Win Some, You Lose Some

It’s been a less than stellar week in SuzyWorld™. To be fair, I did bring some of it on myself*, like scheduling the masochistic extravaganza of a dental cleaning and a TB test performed on my unsuspecting skin by a needle novice on the same day. The dental cleaning was as unpleasant and make-up destroying as you would expect, and the disfigurement theme continued as the needle novice caused bleeding, followed by bruising which made reading the test results challenging. For some reason, we have to have these TB tests every year**, though TB seems like a malady of the past, like smallpox. Erica tells me that they have squirrels in her ‘hood who carry the bubonic plague, so maybe it’s just as well. Come to Mendocino County! We know how to party like it’s 1299!

Other unpleasant activities this week included triaging the shopping for the dreaded Staff Day, which will inflict its loathsome self on me on Tuesday. Let’s hope we don’t experience another terrible tragedy like last year’s running out of ranch dressing. You probably saw it on the cover of the New York Post and lists of lesser disasters like the Titanic and the Hindenburg. In their infinite wisdom, the Powers That Be have decided that having ice cream sundaes is the perfect end to the perfect day. Who am I to disagree? I am, however, the person shopping like a junkie at 6:30 am, getting flats of ice cream, cans of spray whipped cream, and family sized bottles of sprinkles. Other than the still shrink-wrapped ice cream, everything was nicely distributed on the immaculate Safeway parking lot when the bag holding them broke.

I hope it’s not a sign.

I ended the week with the delightful early morning discovery that the flash heater had suddenly gone on strike in the manner of a French public servant. I took a flashlight outside and tried to persuade it to wake up, even if I couldn’t, but it stubbornly refused. There may have been a couple of snores coming out of the box around the flash heater, which is located outside rather than inside, against all common sense and manufacturer’s specification. But why bother with such details?

I alerted Megan by text – she was still at work at 5:30 am – and she said she would get Rob to fix it at a more civilized hour. I packed up the car with faux adult attire and beautification equipment and headed to the Starr Center, oddly attired in my kitty pajamas, work shoes, and a sweater. There was no way I was getting dressed twice in one morning. It appears that the lack of hot water at my house is the only reason I ever go to the gym.

At least there were no birds or unexpected appliances in the house this week, so I’m still ahead of the game.

*I hate it when I have no-one to blame but myself.

**They always try to make us have flu shots every year, despite the fact that they have a less than 10% efficacy rate. They aren’t mandatory yet, though they are at the hospital where my sister works. I am mystified as to why they have chosen to take a stand on such an ineffective vaccine for a non-fatal illness. Ah, bureaucracy!

A YEAR AGO: A day of dates.

FIVE YEARS AGO: And an unexpected guest.

The Intruder

When I go to work in the morning, I leave the doors open, since I am not available to be the cat doorperson while I’m out making money to keep my feline masters in fancy, grain-free cat food and Pretty Litter*. Where’s Carlton when you need him?

Sometimes this open door policy results in finding surprise presents on the kitchen table, and sometimes it has less delightful consequences, like the recent appearance of the giant, Stalinesque refrigerator which caused an impromptu kitchen redesign. My ideal refrigerator would look something like this:

To be fair, although I still hate the look and utility of the new and unimproved appliance, it did result in a much nicer shelf over the ugly refrigerator, thanks to my ever-resourceful brother-in-law. He must consider his wife’s overly adjacent sister the “for worse” part of the vows he took 26 years ago this month.

This week, I came home from a 13 hour day to find that my open door policy had once again resulted in something unexpected.

The kitties were waiting anxiously for treats, and then supper. At stately Suzy Manor, the cats get dessert before dinner. As I distributed the treats, I glanced up at the sleeping loft and saw a large bird clinging to the screen door.

I was surprised both by the avian intruder and the fact that the cats were uninterested in its presence. They trotted off to eat dinner as I went upstairs to deal with the uninvited guest.

I expected that it would fly away from me to a place where I couldn’t reach it, but it turned out that Mr. Woodpecker was stuck in the screen door to the balcony. I had never been so close to a woodpecker before. He seemed to be stunned or scared enough to let me detach him from the opened door, and once released, he rocketed away into the trees to the relief of all concerned.

After cleaning up the miscellaneous feathers and bird poop he left behind, I went back downstairs to start my own dinner and stepped in a mini mountain of ClydeBarf™.

Welcome home!

*I am a convert to this stuff. It’s very light, mailed right to your house, and makes your house scentless.

A YEAR AGO: Meeting Rio’s daughter and having a nice dinner at the family estate.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Home at last after surviving the horrible ordeal of the Grand Jury.

Junapalooza III

Junapalooza arrived on the heels of a week-long heat wave. I was glad that the temperature for our outdoor celebration was relatively humane, though I also wore my County Fair straw hat and hid under the canopy.

It was too hot to make future food on Friday, so I made my contribution to Junapalooza on Saturday morning before I headed off to the jobette. Our theme this year was bubbles, so I made spicy Korean meatballs with apricot-sriracha glaze. I used ground turkey instead of beef, and they were delicious. Erica suggested that we bring a couple of bags of Hawaiian rolls to transform the meatballs into sliders, which was a great idea. Erica’s meatballs were bathed in delectable barbecue sauce.

In addition to meat bubbles, we had various charcuterie and cheeses with blackberry-habanero preserves, made by Julie, who was there with her husband Darius and daughter Bella, who doubles as Jessica’s BFF. Julie also brought home-made bubble tea and home-made limoncello, along with Clyde May, the official whisky of Alabama.

Erica brought pink champagne, which I felt needed a pink straw:

and funfetti cupcakes topped with swirled caramel buttercream icing and sprinkles:

Because you always need sprinkles.

While the grown-ups chatted and drank various libations, the girls took a ride on the golf cart:

Erica took this photo and we all laughed so hard at their beautiful Addams Family faces. This is how they look when they are having fun!

Even Scout the mini cat ventured to the edges of the party:

Even though I always say Junapalooza is not about presents, somehow I still seem to get them, and very impressive ones at that. This year, my complaining about the undearly departed heatwave was rewarded by my siblings buying me a swamp cooler, which is supposed to arrive this week. It should make the sleeping loft bearable, or at least less crappy, when the next heat wave arrives. Less crappy is our goal!

As if this weren’t thoughtful enough, I was alerted to the gift via a card made by Rio:

Now, when I say “made by Rio”, I mean that she MADE THE PAPER and printed the picture on the front and her monogram on the back:

I asked her how she made the paper, completely stunned by the whole thing, and she was nonchalant but also cagy, not revealing the paper ingredients but admitting that the color of my card came from flower petals. How about that?

After dinner, we gathered around the fire pit to nibble our cupcakes and be serenaded by the girls:

who, like the rest of America, are addicted to Hamilton and are not afraid to share its joys with those of us who haven’t seen it.

Jessica once again escorted Fair Suzy to her car, and we agreed that next weekend would be the perfect time for our long-delayed sleepover. As I drove home in the gathering summer darkness, I had to agree with Erica when she leaned back on her hay bale and sighed, “This is perfection.”

When Worlds Collide

It was a wildlife extravaganza on my way to the jobette this morning.

Bunnies seemed to having a convention, hopping around and across the Ridge before vanishing into the bushes with a flick of white cotton tails. Quail twinkled across the road like the opening credits of the Partridge Family, and a pair of young stags strolled leisurely toward the firehouse, slowly enough that I could enjoy the sight of the velvet on their budding horns.

Arriving at the jobette, I discovered that the car show was once again in town, so the road was blocked off. I drove the wrong way down a one way alley to park in the alley beside the jobette, and then had to move three chairs which were firmly placed in front of the door so I could get in.

Whew.

One of the first visitors of the day was a doc from my real job. He was clearly surprised to see me out of context. The surprise wore off quickly, though, and he settled in and made himself at home on the couch, sharing videos of a clown singing Johnny Cash and the Who and sharing his unique world view with me, even as I answered the phone and talked to the visitors. He finally drifted off after an hour, and I am hoping this does not become a habit.

Later my boss and yet another co-worker stopped by to say hello. I began to wonder which Suzy I was.

My worlds are also colliding at my real job, since I basically got my sister a part-time job there. The clinic manager was saying she needed help dealing with patient charts, and I said I knew just the person. She and Megan had worked together at the hospital, so she jumped on it, called Megan, and the deal was done. So now Megan is at the clinic before she starts her night shift on Monday, and also for a few hours on Friday, doing mysterious things with charts that I do not and probably cannot understand. Sometimes she pops in on the weekend. She is doing a great job, is paid decently, appreciated by her boss, and doesn’t have to deal with patients, so it is made out of win.

It looks like she is going to guest star at the dreaded staff day next month. While I am running around setting it up, cleaning it up, and getting Ranch dressing, she will be doing practice codes with staff and showing them CPR and the joys of the crash cart. We recently had a situation where a patient collapsed and it became clear that staff did not know how to respond. The (admittedly temporary, but still) provider she had an appointment with was walking toward her, saying “I think she needs to see a real doctor.” So we need some training in emergency situations. And if we are paying someone to do it, they might as well be part of the family.

A YEAR AGO: A totally awesome Junapalooza. It’s coming up again next week!

FIVE YEARS AGO: My family’s epic garden was born! Let the parties begin!

By the Sea

After work on Saturday, I met Megan at the Gro. I got there first, so I checked my mailbox, where I discovered some late-breaking birthday cards. Yay!

I jumped into Megan’s car, noting that I may be the only person who can get a taxi in Hooterville. We set off southwards to catch the last hour of Navarro by the Sea Day, which was being held, according to the signs, “Come hell or high H20”. The H20 in the river remains high after all the rain we got all this season.

We made our way down the narrow road that leads to the Navarro Beach, where the dogs have played and where Captain Fletcher’s Inn still stands:

It was built around 1861 by Captain Fletcher, who was born on a schooner named the Wildcat and had salt water in his veins. Despite his seafaring origins, he really made his money on the mill that was then in Navarro.

I am always amazed by how there is no trace whatsoever of the bustling mills of the past. In Hooterville and Navarro, there were mills, housing, and stores to serve the hundreds of people who lived and worked there. So we are lucky to still have the historic inn, which housed millworkers, sailors dropping off logs to be milled, and some say, ladies of the evening. I guess wherever there are working men, there will be working girls.

Megan and I had peeked in the windows when we brought Star and Stella a couple of years ago, so it was really fun for us to finally see inside. There was a silent auction going on to fundraise for the inn, but you can still see the original fireplace with its original bricks and the “California closet”, which was an insulated pantry and a precursor to the icebox:

Up the steep staircase, there are twelve rooms in various states of disrepair. It is fascinating to see all the different layers of wallpaper. The rooms are very small:

but have lovely views:

We headed over to a lovely house which is probably the same size as the inn:

It was the mill superintendent’s house and is an impressive home. I wondered if it was part of the inducement to get someone to come out here to the wilds of California from civilization, the way Stanford built nice houses to get teachers to move to the Wild West 100 years ago.

I loved the windows in this house:

And this detail on a fireplace:

They are looking for someone to live there and renovate it. That would be a great job for a person with the talent and interest, though it would have its challenges.

As we walked back to the car, I looked up at the way we had come, down the steep, curvy road:

We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful place with such a rich history.

A YEAR AGO: Bee wrestling. And a Memorial Day BBQ.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Erica and Jessica moved back to California. Yay!

Perfect Day (Part II)

We hopped back into Megan’s little red car and continued south on Highway One, past meadows of wildflowers dotted with cows, sheep, and horses, tall, rolling hills, tunnels of windswept cypresses, and always, the blue Pacific, its waves crashing against the rocky shore.

We drove through Point Arena, where we will hopefully be seeing more ballets and plays this winter, and as we approached the little campground at Anchor Bay, Megan suggested that we stop in and check it out. Every time we drive by it, we think of doing this, and today was the day!

It’s a charming little campground, with some permanent residents:

And other spaces for RVs and tents. There is a little store, showers, and even a fish/abalone cleaning station. The very helpful gentleman in the office told us that it has been there since 1925. He also let us go and look at the beach without paying for a day pass, and it turned out to the most beautiful beach in the county:

It looks like a southern California beach! Beaches here tend to be rocky rather than sandy. It was a delightful discovery and we will definitely go back.

Just down the road, we picked up Thai food at the ever-delicious Thai Kitchen, now with extra sparkle:

After stowing our dinners in the trunk, we picked up sandwiches and ate them at a little picnic table. Then we headed back north to Manchester State Beach.

Their website says dogs are allowed on leash, but when we got there, we discovered signs showing that they are not allowed at all. Being the only people there, we decided to ignore the signs and plead ignorance if a park ranger turned up and yelled at us.

We took a sandy path:

Past wild lupines and California poppies, to find the sea:

And a huge, unpopulated beach:

It is supposed to be four miles long, and I can believe it. Continuing our scofflaw ways, we let the dogs off their leashes, and it was a pleasure to watch them racing joyfully around the beach in the sunshine, their coats gleaming and ears flying. I love seeing them so happy.

We made our way back to the car through the tall wildflowers and headed home for Thai food and champagne. It was a perfect day, and the perfect way to spend my birthday.

A YEAR AGO: My little guy turned six.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A surprise trip to Willits!

Perfect Day (Part 1)

The great lead up to the great day culminated in a perfect birthday.

It dawned bright and shiny, as seen from my balcony:

I Marilyned* my morning by lounging in bed with the kitties, drinking coffee, reading birthday emails, and feeling blonde all over. Eventually, I got up and headed over to Megan’s house, where Rob presented me with a hanging planter he had made for me. He is looking for a drapy kind of plant to put in it and copper wire to hang it by, so stay tuned.

No one is ever as happy to see me as Star, and Stella has decided that if Star is excited to see me, she should be, too, so I felt pretty special as they jumped around me for joy.

Star always wants to drive, but Megan never lets her.

We headed for the beautiful south coast, and it was a postcard day. The sky and ocean were dazzling blue, and it was warm, but not hot. The rolling hillsides were just beginning to turn from winter’s green to summer’s “gold”, and the wildflowers have reached new depths and heights from all the rain we got this season.

On our many south coast excursions, we have always wanted to check out the cemetery in Elk, where Druids mingle with Catholics:

I suggested that it should be our first stop, which Megan found humorous. “You want to go to a cemetery? On your birthday?” To which I replied, “I’m not there yet.” Those who are there have a stunning view for all eternity:

No matter which way you looked:

We noticed that many of the gravestones noted the owner’s origins, from England, Ireland, Italy, as far away as Australia (imagine getting here in the 1800s from Australia!) and as relatively close as New York:

Many of them also commemorated the months and days of the occupant’s life span, which we didn’t remember seeing before for adults. There were beautiful stones that still looked new after more than a century’s weather:

Hands were a recurring motif:

It is just a beautiful place, almost certainly the loveliest cemetery I have ever seen. It is still in use, with some recent burials, and I noticed that someone had placed flags on all the veterans’ graves for Memorial Day, which was nice to see.

On the way back to the car, I noticed this valiant little flower growing in a gnarled old cypress tree:

There is unexpected beauty everywhere.

Up next: Beaches and Thai food!

A YEAR AGO: A happily uneventful birthday with a surprising détente.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A wonderful milestone birthday with my friends at the jobette. Those were the days!

*Marilyn once confided her daily routine, including this: “I hate to do things in a hurried, tense atmosphere, and it is virtually impossible for me to spring out of bed in the morning. On Sunday, which is my one day of total leisure, I sometimes take two hours to wake up, luxuriating in every last moment of drowsiness.”

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?

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.

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.

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.