Miscellaneous

It’s the last day of March. The month flew by quickly, and spring is making its presence known. Somehow, the bear-attracting apple tree has blossomed without my noticing the bud stage at all:

and the trees in the long curves at Caspar and Little River are misted with leaves of that heart-breaking, almost electric green that they only have when newborn.

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When I leave for work in the morning, I give the cats treats to distract them, and before I go out the door, I always take a look back at the house:

It always seems like the most beautiful place when I’m about to venture out into the Wide World. And we all know no good ever comes of doing that.

******

I’m getting a new computer. My current model is from 2012. The trackpad no longer works, and the black plastic connecting the screen to the rest of it is badly frayed and missing entirely in some places.

I had trackpad problems a couple of years ago, which were expensively resolved. Or resolved-ish, since they have reared their ugly heads again. I brought the ailing laptop to someone else this time, and he said the battery was swollen and had to be replaced, and that the swelling was what made the trackpad refuse to click. He relieved me of $150 for taking the battery out of another laptop and putting it in mine.

When I got home, I discovered that not only did it not click, I couldn’t drag anything. I thought about getting another technician to look at it, but it’s 10 years old and I have already put more than enough money into it. It’s time to get a new to me laptop. And ask if I can give back the battery and get a refund.

******

I stopped at the post office on my way to work this morning, my usual time for this chore. I came across a young homeless guy in there, and he asked me if I knew what time it was. I didn’t, because I had left my phone in the car*, but I gave him my best guess, based on when I left the house. He said, “Thank you, sweetheart”. He was probably in his 20s, so I found it unusual that he would call me that, though I enjoyed it as much as I always do. He also asked me when the Gro opened, which I could tell him, and as I left the post office, he said cheerfully, “Have a good day, sweetheart!” It was a nice start to the day.

I seem to be encountering homeless guys a fair bit recently. There is one who often sleeps under the tent at work where we do COVID shots and testing. I say hello to him in the morning if he’s awake, and try not to wake him up if he’s not. He works at McDonalds, but still doesn’t have a place to live. I think we both like seeing each other in the morning. I’m hoping he can get back on his feet soon.

*My cute pink iPod died a few weeks ago, so I’m now using Apple Music. Still figuring it out. It has a lot of drawbacks compared to the iPod. I really am not a fan of change, especially in technology.

A YEAR AGO: My brother was off on an adventure

FIVE YEARS AGO: Enjoying the ballet.

TEN YEARS AGO: A surprise gift.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Some coincidences.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: My favorite flowers bring back some happy memories.

Seasons


This year’s lilacs

Spring has definitely sprung in Hooterville. The air is softer and full of birdsong, and fruit trees are foamy with blossoms and buzzing with busy bees. Lilacs, irises, and California poppies are blooming. I am still wearing a coat to work, buttoned up in the morning and unbuttoned* in the evening, and in the mornings, I have the heat on in the car, while in the evenings, I have the car window open. Seasons here are a little more subtle than in most of the country.

I have found over the past few years that I appreciate spring more and more. At this point, I would rate the seasons from best to worst as: spring, fall, winter, and summer. If I still lived back East, I think fall would come out on top, because of the glorious leaf colors and the delightful, cool respite from the horror of summer, always my least favorite season. I hate the heat. I always have.

When I was a kid, we were lucky enough to escape the muggy and buggy summers in upstate New York by fleeing to Maine the minute the school year dragged to an end. There we enjoyed the cool, foggy summers, much like the summers in the Big Town on the Mendocino Coast. Very often, the Big Town is fogged in all of my working day, while back home in Hooterville, it is sunny and bright. The sunshine comes at a cost, though, making it up to 20 degrees warmer than it is on the foggy coast.

Fortunately, my current abode is insulated and less of an art project than my previous Hooterville home of many years, which was like living in a tent. It was freezing cold in the winter and boiling hot in the summer, especially up in the sleeping loft, where the heat went to party and after party. Despite the quirks of the house, and the beauty of the house I live in now, I still miss the old house. There were a lot of great memories there, and it was such a cool and unusual place.

I do enjoy the winter, with the sound of rain and peeping frogs and the bright breasts of robins, who winter here, and the dramatic spouts of passing whales. It’s nice to read with a cup of tea and a scented candle, cuddled up with the cats. I enjoy the coziness and feeling safe. When I was a child back East, I loved skiing and playing in the snow and the violet shadows of the trees on winter afternoons and the distinctive, white light in the house after a snowfall. I have always loved Christmas, with its sparkliness and joy.

As for summer…well, it’s something to be endured. I used to love the long summers in Maine when I was a kid, that glorious feeling of freedom with three school-free months stretching ahead. I’m glad I enjoyed those days when I had them. And I do still enjoy the changing seasons, no matter how subtle.

*Also the name of my current favorite lip gloss, which I’m wearing right now while eating Lifesavers for breakfast.

A YEAR AGO: Some updates.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Some happy encounters.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A bad mail day.

Dark


Happy Solstice!

We are well and truly into the madness of the spring time change, aka the hard one, when they steal an hour of sleep from you and plunge you back into darkness, just when there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon in the morning. It makes me indignant every year, especially when facing the seemingly endless barrage of oncoming traffic, most of whom can’t seem to grasp the concept of turning off their high beams to avoid blinding other motorists.

A few years ago, Californians voted overwhelmingly in favor of stopping this senseless ritual. No one knows why it started or why it persists. Even if it’s entirely apocryphal, I love the story that Native Americans say, “Only the white man would cut a strip from the bottom of a blanket and sew it to the top of the blanket and think that makes it longer”, or something like that. But for some reason, the banishment of Daylight Saving Time has stalled somewhere in the lawmaking machinery, and we are stuck with the craziness and feeling jet lagged for days. Thanks, politicians!

The renewal of the morning darkness makes me appreciate even more the moonlight on the ocean, Venus beaming in the east, and the fact that Ledford House has kept an outside tree lit up long past the holiday season, where it can spark a little joy as I drive by on my way to work on a dark spring morning.

Little River Inn has kept its roofline lights aglow, a welcome sight as I crest the hill into Little River. And I look forward to the handful of scattered lights in the Village and the beams of light from the Point Cabrillo light station. Light in the darkness is especially beautiful this time of year.

A YEAR AGO: Jonathan and Rio’s desert adventures.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Remembering Dad.

TEN YEARS AGO: A look around my springtime garden.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Waiting for the cable guy. And waiting. And waiting…

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Brush with fame! A brief encounter with my former neighbor, Nicolas Cage.

2021

This was a year of milestones. Jessica turned 18; Jarrett turned 40; my blog turned 20; Megan turned 50; she and Rob celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary, and we mourned the 20th anniversary of our father’s death.

We also mourned the devastating loss of Megan and Rob’s beloved dog, Star. We knew she was sick, but the end was sudden. She has left a huge hole in their household, and we still miss her. But a new dog, Millie, brought joy to our lives in late summer, especially to Stella, who was missing Star much more than we expected. Stella and Millie love playing together, and it’s heart-warming to see how happy they are together.

I read 110 books this year, an improvement over last year’s paltry 86 (assuming my record-keeping was accurate that year), but falling short of the record high of 118 in 2010. I seem to have developed a love for Canadian graphic novels. I devoured all of “Clyde Fans” and every Michel Rabagliati book I could get my hands on.

This was also a year of successful culinary experimentation, in which I learned how to make my own Canelés de Bordeaux, Chinese BBQ pork, lemon chicken, har gao (shrimp dumplings), and pork and chive crystal dumplings.

Here’s all the news I saw fit to print this year:

January: The New Year begins. Come along on my commute. It’s a pretty one. I stepped down from my high office (or possibly my high horse) as the library board Chair, though I remain on the Board. High office is not for the likes of me. Also, it was completely perk-free, as far as I could see. I might be persuaded to try it again if a tiara and a limo were involved. Getting to work was an adventure. Swooning over Frank from afar, and remembering the inimitable Buddy, my first cat love. Frank is still doing well and is his fighty and adorable self. A magical encounter on my way to work. A friend told me that she thinks it was Dad checking in with me. I hope she’s right. And I hope he’s wrong and I see him again one day.

February: John’s rescued kittens. My proudest achievement. Thinking about love. Such an unusual thing to do around Valentine’s Day! A fun trip to the South Coast. I always love it there.

March: The heart-breaking news of our beloved Star’s terminal illness. Jonathan and Rio were off having adventures. When I heard how long they were going to be gone, I knew they would not be here to say goodbye to Star. Unfortunately, I was correct in this. Despite knowing she was ill, her death was sudden, merciful for our darling Star, but hard for those she left behind, including Stella. I still miss our beautiful Star. Megan’s place is not the same without her. I had not realized that she was the heart of their household until she was gone. Dad’s 90th birthday came on the heels of Star’s death.

April: Kitty updates. Getting my hair done and getting an Easter basket cheered me up. My blog turned 20! Can you believe it? And Jessica turned 18! Can you believe that, too? Remembering a wonderful visit with my beloved friend A at her home in Amsterdam in 1994. This month’s theme seems to be the swift passage of time and what we lose along the way.

May: Things were a little too exciting for Dodge. But it didn’t stop him from enjoying his 5th birthday. Making Tourtière from a friend’s family recipe. The joys of a beautiful spring. Megan turned 50, a reason to celebrate! A lot of milestones this year.

June: Enjoying some time off. An excellent birthday, including getting my hair cut and colored and a little trip to the beautiful South Coast. I looked around the small, but scenic, cemetery while I was in Anchor Bay. Summer crowds were out in force in the Village. An expensive flat tire. A lovely, but hot, trip to the beautiful Valley.

July: Orange is the new pink at my house. I love my house. The always amazing Flynn Creek Circus. Another milestone on this milestone-studded year: Megan and Rob’s 30th anniversary! A visit to the Valley, where you can taste cider under the very trees the cider apples grew on. A trip to Bodega Bay, to scope out locations from “The Birds” and remember family Christmases there with Dad. A glamorous stay at the Flamingo in Santa Rosa. The joy of a concert at the Music Festival.

August: My first attempt at making Canelés de Bordeaux was surprisingly successful. I fell i love with a giant ceramic apple (yes, you read that right!) and bought it for the garden. I love it. Some extreme (and extreemly delicious) take-out. Conventional wisdom seems to be wrong when it comes to my unconventional cats. A new deck and a new dog at Megan and Rob’s place! Remembering our much-loved father 20 years after his sudden and untimely death. I will never stop loving and missing him. Ever. Getting contact lenses again. Checking out some beautiful artwork around town.

September: Another successful cooking experiment: Chinese BBQ pork. Meet Millie, Megan and Rob’s new dog! She and Stella are so happy together! I seem to have been out of control with the make your own delicacies. This time: dim sum! A really fun family dinner in the garden. A horrifying (and horrifying expensive) root canal. Just one little thing can make a big difference in a room.

October: I admit it. I’m a scented candle addict. Rainy day baking. Some mid-week sparkles with a friend, and end of week Eggs Benedict at the amazing Queenie’s. Some small-town crimes, a little too close to home for comfort. And in the miscellaneous department…

November: John stepped up his rescue activities with caring for a batch of abandoned, newborn kittens. He had to get up every two hours to feed them for weeks. I am pleased to say they all made it and were safely given to a local rescue for adoption. Yay, John! He’s my hero. Redbeard was finally caught! And Suzy’s Dim Sum Palace was open for business. Yet another crown for my collection, and not the fun, sparkly kind, either. A drink with a side of view. A quietly thankful Thanksgiving.

December: A quiet, but delicious Thanksgiving dinner. The incredible sparkly beauty of the Festival of Lights. In which I learn to make my own lemon chicken while the Chinese restaurant is closed, and enjoy a drink or two with my sister at our local bar. Finally tackling the Closet of Doom. Putting up the Christmas tree. An unnerving earthquake on Solstice Eve. A pretty Christmas Eve and a quiet Christmas Day. Having fun watching Emily in Paris with my sister.

I have no idea what next year will bring, but as this year ends, I am grateful for my family, my friends, my cats, my health, my lovely house, my meaningful work, the beautiful place I live, and the small, special moments in life that are there every day.

A YEAR AGO: A look back at 2020.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Reviewing 2016.

TEN YEARS AGO: What happened in 2011.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: The year of the dog.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: The last day of the last year of my father’s life.

The Death Days of August

That’s what they should call it, instead of the dog days. I don’t know who started the trend of checking out in August, but it’s certainly popular:

5: Marilyn Monroe

6: The odd couple of Rick James and Harry Reasoner

7: Peter Jennings

8: Fay Wray

9: Sharon Tate & baby & unfortunate houseguests, Gregory Hines, Jerry Garcia

10: My mother

13: Julia Child

14: William Randolph Hearst

16: Two American icons: Elvis Presley and Babe Ruth

18: My father

25: Aaliyah

26. Lon Chaney

27: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Gracie Allen, Confucius (also born August 27)

28: John Huston

29: Ingrid Bergman

30: Two Charleses, Coburn and Bronson. Also, Cleopatra.

31: Diana, Princess of Wales

So I’m not a big fan of August. It’s a bit much when both your parents die in the same month. I hope I buck the trend and die another month, and I’m going to try not to write another funereal line for the next 30 days. Can she do it?!

Line dynamics

I will never understand line dynamics. Not the math kind, or the geometry kind, or the late unlamented dance craze now moldering wherever dance crazes du jour go before being recycled into yet another one, but why lines of people are the way they are.

When we were in line to get tickets for “Road to Perdition” on Saturday, there were only 4 or 5 people ahead of us in line, but it took nearly 15 minutes for us to get to the window, where we paid with exact change and were out of there in seconds. Why does it take other people 10 times as long to buy a movie ticket?

I have observed the same thing in post offices, grocery stores, and airports. In the post office, you wait in line while time seems to stop, as the people ahead of you mail large, untidily wrapped packages of what appear to be body parts to countries with unpronounceable names, and without the correct paperwork or actual money.

The use of actual money is so unusual in this country that I wonder if they aren’t going to do away with it altogether and just implant chips in our hands to access our bank accounts and credit cards. A couple of weeks ago, I let a guy go ahead of me in the express line at the grocery store, because he only had one item. He thanked me and said, “And I’m even going to pay cash.” I joked, “Isn’t that positively un-American?” His response: “I’m Canadian, so I think it’s OK.”

Honestly, though, non-Canadians seem to think nothing of writing checks for $5 or using their ATM card for amounts almost as small. And in the express line, too. If you know you’re going grocery shopping – and how many of us do so on an impulse? – get the money first. Or get it at the ATM with which nearly every store is equipped. Your fellow Americans will thank you. Or at least not openly glare at you while cursing you and generations of your family.

As for airports, even if I’m going to Europe for three weeks, I never have more than carry-on. Bring outfits you like, about 5, and mix and match, doing laundry where necessary. Wear the one good outfit, fit for going out to dinner or to the theater. Bonus: airline staff, on the ground and on the plane, tend to be nicer to you if you’re dressed well, even if you’re flying cattle class. By limiting your baggage to carry-on, it’s a faster check-in. I also always book my seat ahead, which not only makes sure I get what I want (my main goal in life), but also makes check-in faster. But even assuming you haven’t done these things, why does it seem to take so long for people to check in? I’m not talking post-9/11 security measures, I’m talking standing at the counter for 15 or 20 minutes before finally finishing the checking in process. What could possibly take so long? Enquiring minds want to know. Well, not really. I just don’t want you ahead of me in line.

Mechanics & Mustangs

I think it’s a fairly well-known fact that mechanics of the male persuasion tend to pad their bills, overcharge, and/or flat out lie to their female clients. In the short time that I have owned a car, the only honest mechanic I have met is my brother.

Starting from my first personal encounter with a mechanic named Snake when my car broke down on one of the major artery roads through the city and had to be towed on a Sunday afternoon to Snake’s lair in the Haight on down, it hasn’t been good. It might be because I am a very silly girl who doesn’t know the first thing about cars, other than how to put in gas and change the oil (and I have been known to forget to screw the gas cap back on, too. Good thing it’s permanently affixed to the car with a sort of wire thing, so it doesn’t get lost completely). It might be because my car is a 1966 Mustang convertible, which can have strange effects on people, ranging from envy to the person who keyed the hood after it had a brand-new paint job to the uncontrollable urge to pass me when I’m driving it just to say they can. Or it might be a combination of such a fine ride being wasted on one so very ignorant. But for whatever reason, this has been my personal experience, and one I have heard from many other women, including smart, non-Mustang owning ones.

I was discussing this phenomenon with a screenwriter (for Paramount) at a party recently, and his theory is that men, including but not limited to mechanics, are actually afraid of women. In the wild, the frightened animal puffs himself up and tries to appear bigger than he really is to intimidate whatever is frightening him. The screenwriter thinks the mechanic’s bill padding is the same thing, translated into an urban (or suburban) setting. I think he gets points for creativity and charm on this one, but that’s it.

Any thoughts?

Earthquake

96 years ago, the buildings I live and work in hadn’t been built yet. On this day in 1906, the city was awakened at 5:12 a.m. by an earthquake that measured 8.25 on the modern Richter scale (compared to 6.70 for the 1989 quake). Three thousand people were killed, 225,000 were injured, and most of the city burned. Though the quake itself lasted only a minute, it is still considered one of the worst natural disasters of our time.

Here’s how the Financial District, where I work, looked after the quake.
I would have been a little luckier in where I live: the great mansions on my street, particularly the Haas-Lilienthal House, three blocks away, survived. Legend has it that the H-L house’s inhabitants stood on their balcony and watched the city burn. The house preserves a crack in the wall from that disastrous Spring day almost a century ago.

People who don’t live here often ask how we can, when there have been the two “Big Ones” in the past 100 years, countless little ones, and more to come. I wonder the same thing about people who live in places that are routinely flooded, or destroyed by hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards. I guess the answer is that you live with the natural disaster you can handle.

I don’t worry every day about the big quake that is supposed to send California back into the ocean from whence it came, though I know there’s the possibility. We keep a good supply of bottled water, candles, canned food on hand at home, and have a plan for what to do if it strikes while we’re at work.

So while we know it could happen, it’s at the back of our minds, not the front. For us, it’s worth the small risk to live in such a beautiful, temperate, tolerant place, where 96 years later, it looks like this at the dawn of a new Spring day.

Sleep Mysteries

Why doesn’t snoring wake up the person who’s doing the snoring? I mean, it’s right by their ears and you’d think it would be louder there at the epicenter than just in the neighborhood. But it never does as far as I can tell.

And why can I always sleep when the alarm goes off, even if I have been awake for hours at other times during the night? Maybe if I set my alarm for 1 a.m. or something I’ll be able to go back to sleep. I can get to sleep OK, I just can’t stay there.

When Buddy was still alive, he used to sleep on my pillow every night. When I was ready to go to bed, I’d say, “It’s sleep time”, and Buddy would pad majestically into the bedroom and jump up on my pillow. So I’d fall asleep listening to his deep, rumbling purr. If I woke up in the night, I’d just cuddle up to his soft fur and listen to him purring and I’d go right back to sleep.

But Buddy is gone and so is my father. The world has gone crazy, and it’s no wonder I can’t sleep. My world is a mess because of Dad’s sudden death. I hadn’t even begun to cope with that when last Tuesday’s disaster hit, so the entire country and in fact the entire civilized world is now a strange and frightening place. In addition, two of our consultants have quit in the past month and one is on maternity leave, so things are weird and chaotic at work too. No peace to be found anywhere. The really amazing thing is that only last month, in the beginning of August, we were fully staffed at work, the World Trade Center Towers were still standing, and my Dad was going to cricket matches and gardening. All that was swept away forever in the space of a few short weeks.

Here’s my goal for 2002: a completely uneventful year. In particular, I’d like the Reaper to leave me the hell alone for at least one year. He’s been an annoyingly faithful visitor over the past three years, and I think it’s about time he picked on someone else for a change.

Mary & Rhoda

Remember that scene in “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” where the two title characters are arguing bitterly about which is the “Mary” (i.e. cute) and which is the “Rhoda” (i.e. less cute)? The argument gets so heated that they actually have to pull over, even though up to that point they were speeding along traffic-free freeways (which never happens to me).

Even when “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was in its heyday, I thought Rhoda, with her wisecracks and actual personal style — even when she was supposedly fat — was much more attractive than stick thin, uptight Mary with her matronly clothes and stiff, lacquered hair. The Mary of “Dick Van Dyke” was so much cuter and sexier in her little capri pants. What happened? The MTM Show Mary’s puritanical personality could and did rob even a miniskirt of its sex appeal, whereas you got the impression that Rhoda was much more, shall we say, warm-blooded. Plus she’d make you laugh afterwards, and possibly even during, which I consider to be a bonus.

And I gotta say, Rhoda has the last laugh. I saw a few seconds of a trailer for Mary’s latest TV movie, undoubtedly some form of tear-jerker, and she looked freakish and frightening. I don’t know if she’s the victim of platic surgery gone disastrously wrong, but she looks like a hard-faced creature from another planet. Valerie Harper, on the other hand, has made a couple of guest appearances lately looking fabulous — on “Sex & The City” and “That 70’s Show”. She’s still got wit and style and is undoubtedly still turning heads — and not because she looks like an alien. Maybe one day that scene in “Romy & Michele” will be funny because viewers will wonder why anyone wants to be the Mary.