It was a perfect sunny day – the perfect day for a mini road trip. The sky was a cloudless, deep blue (I always think California skies have a certain depth and strength to their blueness that is special to the Golden State), with that clear, golden light of fall.

As I left the house, I noticed that Mr. Bear has a new technique:

He gets extra credit for creativity, but it’s less effective than his usual method. At least it left most of the trash in the can, instead of spread out everywhere. On the other hand (or paw), there is a bear-induced hole in the garbage can. I really thought he would have moved on by now, but some guys seem to find it hard to let go.

Putting ursine thoughts and destruction behind me, I made my way to the beautiful Valley through the ancient redwood trees. Sunlight filtered through the branches far above as I wended my way to wine country, where the vines were turning red, orange, and yellow, our version of fall color:

This time, I finally stopped to take a photo of this sign, which I have admired for years:

I don’t know who Art is or was, but I love his sign, which I consider to be art.

I headed to the General Store in Boonville, where I ordered a chicken salad sandwich and a lemonade and repaired to one of the wooden picnic tables overlooking the main drag:

I watched cars, people, and dogs go by in the balmy sunshine. It was probably around 80 degrees, a beautiful day to enjoy the warmth of a late fall day.

On my way home, I stopped in at Gowan’s farmstand:

It was brimming with pumpkins, apples, squashes, and other autumn produce:

I picked up some fresh walnuts, almonds, and sweet apple cider to take home with me and remind me of a perfect day in the beautiful Valley.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Oh, Roscoe. You were such a little rascal. I miss you every day.

Sunny Sunday

Sleeping It Off

Well, here’s what’s happening around my house on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Roscoe is sleeping off his late night* on top of the armoire, a favored place among the cats. It is equipped with a quilt for their napping pleasure, and is the highest point in the house, so whoever is up there can keep an eye on what’s going on, as well as looking down on the Staff, as cats do. And there’s a breeze from the balcony – you can even get a glimpse of the beautiful pottery bird Rob hung up for me.

Speaking of Rob, he is working in the bathroom, installing two found light fixtures – both a huge improvement over the previous bare bulbs. The first one is made of copper, already patinaed:

The second one looks like an old schoolhouse light. I like the pull chain:

He has also found a glass towel bar which he is planning to fit up with copper ends to match the shower rod. Up next after that is the floor. No more electric lime green plywood! Woo hoo!

My brother just called to check on on Wednesday’s physical health and my mental health. Without looking at the car and just hearing symptoms, he thinks it’s probably the alternator and that it shouldn’t be too expensive to fix. Stay tuned.

As for me, I’m on my fourth load of laundry. The electrical system at Megan and Rob’s house doesn’t support a washer or dryer (or even a hair dryer, for that matter), so they do their laundry over here. Megan is working hard in the family garden (as I observed to her yesterday, her days “off” are what other people consider to be hard labor) and Rob is working hard in my bathroom, so I figure doing their laundry is the least I can do. It may also be the most! 🙂

*He came home at 1 am this morning. This is getting to be a bad habit. I’m trying to make my peace with it.

Thanksgiving Roundup

Wow, I really have a lot of catching up to do! Today I’m getting ready for a quick and business-like trip to San Francisco, and I haven’t even told you about Thanksgiving yet.

In keeping with the the theme, I was clearly having too much fun at Thanksgiving to take pictures. I took pictures of the outdoor living room after I set it up for guests:

And the table indoors, with my American grandmother’s wineglasses (still unscathed!) and my English grandmother’s ivory-handled silver and Wedgwood:

But that was it. I didn’t even take a picture of Jessica!

It was a lovely, sunny day, as you can see in the outdoor picture, though it did get chilly once darkness fell. My brother brought over a load of firewood so people could (and did) sit outside. My little house was overflowing with friends, family, food, and good cheer.

The turkey, if I do say so myself, came out perfect, despite the challenges of my odd little oven. I simply did it Nana style (she of the wineglasses): rubbed with butter, dusted with sage, salt and pepper. I really think a free range, organic bird makes all the difference. With it, we had the stuffing Jonathan made, along with his excellent gravy and mashed Yukon Gold potatoes and my famous cranberry-bourbon relish. We also had a salad of bitter greens with roasted pears and fresh pomegranate, with a honey-shallot dressing.

Erica brought rolls made with delicata squash from the family garden. To go with them, she made a beurre composé with clementine zest, paprika, and Strega liqueur which was out of this world. She also brought Brussels sprouts made in a magical Erica way which vanished almost immediately, and THREE pies. Two were made of a special squash with home-made sea salted caramel (Erica is, after all, the girl who makes her own chocolate nib spiked marshmallows and graham crackers from scratch before making s’mores), and one was an apple pie for Jonathan, who famously dislikes pumpkin pie.

However, the squash pies won him over with their truffley goodness (or is it evilness?) and the apple pie was almost as unscathed as the wineglasses when the party was over.

We talked to our good friend Paul, who wasn’t able to be here and will also not make it for Christmas, though he is planning to visit in January. It looks like a quiet Christmas this year, since Jarrett has to work and I think Lichen said he was going to visit his birth family in SoCal this year. Lichen turned up for Thanksgiving bearing gifts: a sprig of blue hydrangea he had dried himself for Jessica (which just happened to match her Erica Original dress); shower gels for Megan and me; and the bottle of Strega for Erica, which was immediately put to good use in the beurre composé merveilleux. Only Lichen would bring gifts on a non gift holiday only days after his own birthday.

He was joined in his usual eating spot on the stairs by Audrey, who loves Lichen. She slunk around and allowed other people to admire her before hanging out with her buddy. Clyde was his charming party self, working the room for pets. I thought Roscoe was outside, but after everyone left, he appeared from upstairs, where he was likely hiding under the bed until the coast was clear.

It was an amazing Thanksgiving and I am incredibly grateful for my family, my friends, and my life in our little corner of the world.


When I arrived at work on Wednesday, my co-worker Erin told me that when she arrived at work that morning, she found both front doors unlocked. There’s a door that leads to the lobby, and another door that goes into the shop/office. Erin went in and called out, looking for intruders. Fortunately, no-one had decided to set up camp in our bathroom or steal our computers – or the many bottles of wine in the conference room – but we both found it unnerving.

We had left together with a couple of the guys still there the night before, and apparently they didn’t think to check the doors before they left by the back door that leads to the alley where we park our cars.

Speaking of the alley: when I went out at lunch, there was a police car in the alley, blocking my car with its lights on and windshield wipers going. A glance down the street revealed the police themselves trying to wrestle a screaming person to his or her feet outside of a bar. By the time I came back from bringing Monica glossy magazines and a bag of food for the rescue dogs, they were all gone. I was glad that Megan wasn’t at work, since I’m pretty sure they were headed to the ER.

Then I got the email from my boss telling me about the repeat performance in the city next week (though having said that, he still hasn’t made the appointment with the photographer and/or told me about it, so stay tuned).

All in all, a pretty weird day, all the way around.

The Snag

The house was a chilly 44 degrees this morning (that’s about 6 measly degrees for the non-Fahenheit among us, if my math is right. And that’s a big if) and barely 32/0 degrees outside.

I put on the heater before I even fed the cats or put on the coffee. I was just sipping my first little thimble of much-needed caffeine when the phone rang. It was 6:45 in the am, and it was my sister.

She was calling from the side of the road on a lonely stretch of Highway One in the chilly, pre-dawn darkness. It was lucky that she was in one of the few areas that actually gets cell phone service.

The truck’s tire had basically exploded, leaving her stranded. As you know, her car has been non-operational since September, so Rob needed to borrow my car to go and get the spare truck tire from Jonathan’s place (I don’t know why it was there) and then go and get Megan, who had 4 hours of sleep before her 12 hour shift and had 8 ambulance patients over that time period, one of whom didn’t make it. It had been a long night for her.

He dropped Megan off at home and picked me up, leaving me at the jobette while he went to have a rim applied to the spare tire. Apparently he had a hell of a time trying to make this happen, and ended up having to order something which should arrive tomorrow. In the meantime, he’s locked up the truck, put a note on the windshield, and is hoping that it won’t get towed away before he can get the tire fixed. There’s always something!

A Slight Change In Plans

Surprise! Rob’s surgery is no longer scheduled for Friday, June 24. It’s now scheduled for Wednesday, June 22, at 10:00 am.

UCSF called this morning and told them of the change of schedule. Megan found someone to substitute for her tonight (she had already taken Tuesday and Wednesday off), and went to the store to get milk for her coffee.

Or tried to. Her car died suddenly before she could even get out of the driveway. A house call from our brother revealed that things were very bad, but he had to scrub off the grease and get to his own 48 hour shift at work. If it needs a new transmission, Megan will have to buy a new car. When she gets back from Rob’s surgery in the city.

All this happened while I was at the jobette. I checked my messages at lunch, as I always do, and called Megan right away and got all the details. I told her she could take my car to the city, and when I got back to work, I told my boss about it. She immediately told me to take the rest of the week off and go home right away – Megan needed to take the dogs over to Lu’s house, since we’re leaving at 8:00 tomorrow to get to San Francisco in time for the pre-op festivities.

Think good thoughts for us. I’ll keep you posted.

Suzy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

Mike’s most recent post reminded me of a long-ago episode in the sitcom of my life, starring Dad, Self, and a cast of thousands. Spiders, that is.

I spent a summer brat-bashing on the French Riviera when I was in my teens. Despite the presence of, you know, children, it was pretty much the best job I ever had. I was paid to hang out on the beach, had a whole tower to myself, and if I had a license then, I would have had access to a white MG to drive à la Grace Kelly up and down the Corniches (though probably with the same results, so maybe it’s just as well).

When I came home, I went to sleep in my room and woke up in the wee hours, as the jet-lagged tend to do. Seeing a spider crawling toward me across my previously unsullied pillow made me scream and wake up simultaneously. I went racing to my parents’ room, where my light-sleeping father was already awake and annoyed.

I gabbled crazily about the spider invasion and the urgency of its immediate removal as he grumped toward my room. He suggested that we make sure the spider wasn’t merely the advance scout for an army of invaders, and pulled my bed away from the wall. There was, as he had predicted, an entire nest of the little monsters, all just waiting for me to go to sleep so they could attack me.

Grinning evilly, he scooped them up in his hand and chased me through the house with them. We all ended up outside on the dark,dew-soaked grass, me screaming, Dad laughing, and the spiders wondering what the hell was going on.

On Dad’s next trip to Sweden, he bought me a silver choker in the shape of a spider in its web. He thought it was hilarious.

He’d probably find it hilarious that one of the major house-keeping challenges (and I am not good at house-keeping of any kind, even in the Zsa Zsa sense) of my hippie hovel is spiders. They are everywhere, as are bugs, and they are constantly festooning everything with cobwebs. While they are slackers in bug catching, they are over-achievers in web spinning. No sooner do you remove one, whether web or spider, than another takes its place. It’s like an arachnid Sorcerer’s Apprentice around here.

A couple of days ago, I brushed every single cobweb from the balcony, a much bigger undertaking than it sounds. The very next morning, there was a giant, outsized spider web in the arch of the balcony, a spider “Screw you”.

Early Morning Update

It’s 4:30 in the morning.

Do you know where your Suzy is?

Sitting by the heater with the radio on, blogging and wondering if the rain is ever going to stop. Not when, if. I passed when sometime in March. It’s not supposed to be raining this time of year, and we’ve had nearly 50 inches so far. Enough already. Is there some way to evict the weather and send it where it belongs? Say, Seattle or London? There are lots of destinations more exciting than Hooterville, my little low pressure system. Surely you’ve seen all the sights here by now.

I woke up about an hour ago and lay there for a while, listening to the rain slash the roof/walls and the wind howl through the trees, thinking how you’re supposed to find it all soothing and ponder the beauties of nature. But it makes me think unromantically about trees coming down and the power going out. Just the thought of the cold, dark boredom was enough to get me out of bed, especially since my brother had to repo the generator when his blew up. Might as well enjoy the warmth and light while I can.

We did have a break from the rain this weekend to celebrate Miss Jessica’s birthday en famille. I was once again the hostess with the leastest. Erica turned up with lasagna and a three layer cake. Not to mention decorations, a string of paper fairies wearing tulle skirts, which we fastened across the sliding glass doors. My brother turned up with little buns sporting chocolate icing faces. At least I had a present for Jessica, though (as usual) it was totally trumped by my sister’s.

Mark and his family came by for cake – Jessica loves playing with his daughters – and we all sang “Happy birthday” to her. I can’t believe she’s seven years old!


I just had some really bad in-room coffee and burned my tongue. The beverage which I sort of enjoyed turned out to be extremely hot. Maybe I can sue the motel and stay somewhere better next time. Actually, the room is, as Jacques Pepin would say, pairfectly fine, and it is conveniently located within walking distance of last night’s party. It is also located in a strange convergence of sari shops, marijuana growing suppliers, and gas stations.

Yesterday afternoon Megan and I left our remarkable amount of stuff in the room and took off for Telegraph Avenue to do some shopping, mostly of the window variety. It’s full of students, hippies, and general weirdos there, so we fit right in. We also fulfilled one of Meg’s long-cherished dreams: getting a henna tattoo.

Megan’s dream comes true

The world being as miniature as it is often claimed to be, the artist who did our tattoos happened to be the very one whose work Meg was lusting after at last summer’s reggae festival. Megan and Lu go every year to work as medics at the festival, and didn’t have a chance to get their artwork. But this year, they’re going to meet up with the artist a day before the festival begins, and get artwork all down their arms. Yay! Megan picked out this design for me:

After that, we had some coffee at Peet’s and then put on some make-up and went to the BAD RAP party.

When we packed for the party, I laughingly set aside my Manolo Blahniks, but I both could have and should have worn them. You should have seen the girls there! Black stockings with rhinestone seams, the latest in handbags, shoes, and accessories – I loved the girl wearing a black and white dress with a red hem and red stiletttos, and the elderly grande dame with the fur-trimmed cashmere sweater and suede kitten heels – these women don’t just read “InStyle” and “Vogue”. they do something about it.

While I was admiring the fashionistas and considering that I had never considered pit bulls to be a fashionista cause, Megan managed meet the founders of BAD RAP and talk to them about her goals, and they were not only impressed, but willing to help. It was a win all the way around.

Today we might go to the city before heading back to Hooterville. It’s been a fun little break.


On Thursdays, it’s my turn to make dinner.

My sis is coming off three twelve hour night shifts, and is exhausted. I don’t know what she did before I lived here, but I’m glad to take that burden off her overburdened shoulders*.

This week was much worse than usual – she’s been having pain and complications following a routine dental filling replacement, and it’s made it impossible for her to sleep. In addition to that, the pain kicked into high gear when she was at work on Wednesday night.

If you’re going to be in sudden pain, the ER is a good place to be, but also means that your exhausted ass is going to be dopy on top of being worn to a frazzle. But she fought her way through it, slept for a couple of hours on Thursday, and then had to get up and go back to town.

Rob had an appointment with the constant glucometer doctor, and Meg had an appointment to see the dentist. Both went well, though the dentist still isn’t sure exactly what happened. While Meg was waiting for her prescription, she called me and told me they were on their way home.

It was about 6:00 in the evening, so I took my flashlight and the chicken stew I had made earlier in the day and headed over to her house. As I negotiated the puddles, I hoped that Santa will bring one of us a little red wagon, which we can use to haul things back and forth between our houses. Fun and cute.

Once I arrived, I put on the heat and lights, started warming up the stew, and assembled the ingredients for cornmeal dumplings. I noticed that the sink was full of dishes – one of Rob’s less endearing habits is that he saves the dishes for Megan to do – so I put away the clean ones and started washing the dirty ones. I reflected on how nice it is that we know our way so well around each other’s houses, and felt a little pang remembering how Dad’s kitchen used to be as familiar to me as my own (and vice versa).

Just as I put the last dish in the drainer, I saw the car’s headlights through the kitchen window. Megan and Rob were so happy to come home to a warm house, with the lights on and dinner nearly ready. And the bottle of wine I grabbed on my way out the door didn’t come amiss.

Both of them do so much for me, and I was so happy to be able to do a little something for them for a change.

*Despite being the youngest, she has somehow become the head of the family. When she was little, she used to tell me “I’ll catch up with you. You’ll see!” She not only caught up with me, she passed me!


This sleeping beauty was awakened with a kiss on Thanksgiving morning.

My sister stopped by on her way home from work to make sure I was awake. She even made coffee, and there are few things nicer than lying in bed and smelling coffee you didn’t have to make yourself.

After checking with Erica, I learned that she was bringing pumpkin pie. As a family, we are the pickiest eaters ever, and in retrospect I feel quite sorry for my parents and understand all the cocktails that feature in many of our childhood photos. Every year, my mother would ask Jonathan if he wanted a piece of pumpkin pie:

“No, I don’t like it.”

“Yes, you do.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Well, you used to.”

I know that he never did like it and still doesn’t, so I decided to make an apple pie. I haven’t made a pie in years, but it’s surprising how it comes back to you. I’d say it’s like riding a bicycle, but that is one of the many accomplishments I don’t have, so I’ll just say it was easy as pie.

I was about halfway through when I realized I was making it the way my grandmother used to. If you look carefully at the picture, you can see that I pricked the crust in the shape of an apple with a leaf, the way she did:


The turkey brining seemed to be successful. After brining it for 24 hours, I rinsed it off and let it rest for a further 24. On Thanksgiving Day, I mixed herbs from Megan’s garden with butter and rubbed it under the skin and then roasted it.

It was a pretty simple menu: turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry-bourbon relish, green beans, chestnut dressing, gravy, and two kinds of pie. We had hard cider the boys had made last year to accompany the feast. It wasn’t until we were all eating that I realized I had made nearly the whole thing.

After dinner, we gathered around the chiminea outside, laughing and talking. We all have a lot to be thankful for, especially each other.

Trash Talk

PICT0003The road to town

PICT0006The town

You have to get a lot more up close and personal with your garbage here in Hooterville.

I mentioned earlier that I invested in allegedly animal-proof garbage cans when I moved here. I say “allegedly” because so far they have remained animal-proof, but I’m figuring that it’s a case of “them that have and them that will”, and one of these days I’ll walk out with yet another armload of empty wine bottles to discover that a hungry bear or a determined raccoon has stopped by for a snack and left the leftovers all over the place.

Even when unmolested, though, the cans of garbage tend to get pretty gross pretty fast. And it’s winter (or at least winter-esque), so when I think about what it will be like to lift the lids and add to the unlovely contents in the height of summer, my tiny mind runs away screaming.

There’s no garbage collection, so when the cans are full and/or I can’t take it anymore, it’s time to haul them to the dump. You have to pay to leave your garbage there, presumably for a decent burial, but recycling is free. How’s that for motivation?

The truth is, I do actually have garbage collection. It’s yet another service provided by the long-suffering Rob, who must at least once a day reflect on the fact that the “worse” part of his wedding vows eighteen years ago was not supposed to include taking out his sister-in-law’s trash, relighting her stove’s pilot light, and answering her ridiculous questions on a daily basis.

I came home the other day to find that he had not only emptied out the cans, he had compressed them into fewer cans so it was cheaper. How’s that for thoughtful? He also puts up with my compost contributions. Compost grosses me out, so I take it over to Megan and Rob’s compost box, where I steel myself to open the lid, dump it in as fast as I can, and run away, trying not to scream. All those bugs! Eeyagh!

By the way, it’s a total mystery to me how there can be so many spiders in my house and so many bugs. Maybe my spiders are slackers. As far as I’m concerned, they can play Catch Me If You Can outside.

I went to the Rite Aid today in the big town (not to be confused with my little town, pictured above), and I have to say that my current garbage situation made me think a lot more about all that wasteful packaging. Why is hand cream inside a box when it’s already in a plastic tube? When I looked at my Chico Bag of drugstore items, all I could think of was breaking down the packaging so it would take up as little space as possible in the recycling cans.


I’ve made some fun discoveries during the un-fun process of unpacking.

I found my grandparents’ wedding announcement (they got married in a field of flowers on a summer day with one attendant each, so Nana’s parents sent out “At Home” announcements after the fact. I wonder if there was a great big noisy fuss over that wedding) and put it aside to show Megan. She was six when they died, and doesn’t really remember them, but she was charmed nonetheless.

nanahohoweddingThe best man; my obviously overjoyed grandfather; the grumpy minister; my beautiful grandmother in her home-made wedding dress; the maid of honor.

Today I came across a battered old book called Outdoorland which belonged to my father when he was a boy. His name and address are written in fountain pen on the inside cover. His schoolboy hand, to my eye, looks very little like the characteristic script he had later in life. I’m saving this one to show Meg, too. I loved that book when I was a child.


Yesterday, I discovered a Chinese brass box engraved with an elaborate design of dragons and lotus blossoms. I’ve had it since I was twelve years old.


Dad had a lot of fascinating and influential friends, and Dr. Kellogg was one of them. We went to visit him in his grand old house one day, and the brass box caught my eye and my fancy. I admired it and asked if I could pick it up to get a better look. Dr. Kellogg put it in my hands and said it was mine. I looked at him in shock, then looked to Dad as if to say, “What do I do?” Dad told me to thank Dr. Kellogg, and I did. For the rest of the visit, I held the box and made sure not to admire anything else. At least out loud.

I learned later that Dr. Kellogg and his wife had bought the box on a trip to China many years earlier. They used to keep cigarettes in its wood-lined interior. I have miscellaneous foreign money in it now, including Russian, French, and Italian, but what the box really holds is memories.


mistFrost burning off the post*

Yesterday it was raining so hard that it woke me up before 6:30. I lay there listening to the rain on the curved roof, wondering if the power would go out, and realized that the propane heater needs electricity to start and stop, just like my gas oven in Oakland. Clearly a design flaw, especially in a place where you (a) know the power is going to go out at some point in the winter, and (2) also know that your town is the lowest priority for power restoration in the area.

When Mark came by to fix the flickering lights in the living room (I forgot to ask him about the flickering porch light and the leaking washing machine, again), we talked about generators, yet another subject in the vast pantheon of rural things I know nothing about. As long as I have enough power to keep the refrigerator and heater going (ironically) and a couple of lights lit, I should be fine. But that will be another $200-300. I guess this is another country style investment, like allegedly animal proof garbage cans.

Another investment on my wish list is a heater for the studio space. Also it has come to my attention that my wardrobe is inadequate for current circumstances, since I only have one fleece and no boots, at least no boots which I’m willing to sacrifice to the muddy gods of winter. Sometimes I look at my lavender suede Manolo Blahniks and my stack of “Vogue” and “InStyle” magazines and just laugh. I wonder what their recommendations would be for a suitable country wardrobe?

*Looks like I should invest in a new camera one of these days.

La Brocanteuse

boatwoodsApparently, I have a boat.

I really shouldn’t be surprised. James was the king of the pack rats. I’m not sure that he ever threw anything away, just in case it came in handy one of these days. And to be fair, both he and my brother have shopped the junk piles in the woods while doing repairs on cars and other things.

But there are always new discoveries to be made.

The other day, Megan showed me the easy way to get to the logging road from my house. This is the same road I used to run every day when I was staying in a tent at Megan’s to help take care of Mom a few years ago.

We passed the trailer full of Rose’s pottery, and I noticed that there are also shelves on the outside of it covered with miscellaneous objets (d’art and otherwise). Then I noticed the derelict shell of an ancient VW van, also filled with things and stuff which had witnessed much wind and weather over the years. To the point that they were pretty much unrecognizable.

But wait! There’s more!

Behind that was yet another rusted out corpse of a former trailer, filled to its decaying brim with, you guessed it, still more things and stuff.

Sense a theme going on here?

Even Fred Sanford would run away. He’d be clutching his heart and yelling, “‘Lizabeth! I’m coming to join you!”

And he just might.

Past and Present

raintreesYesterday’s rain, today’s sunlight

My new house and I go back a long way.

My brother lived on this property for fifteen years or so, and my sister and brother-in-law have lived here for a decade. James and Rose, who lived here before me, were friends as well as neighbors and landlords.

Our good friend Paul, who put me up (and put up with me) in Florida and the Hamptons a few years back, rented this house while James and Rose were in Mexico one winter (I now appreciate the wisdom of this plan).

That Thanksgiving, Paul’s daughter and her then husband-to-be* were visiting from LA, and my Dad was visiting from London. The day after Thanksgiving, Dad and Megan went for a ride on the scenic Skunk Train. When they came home, he decided to head over to Jonathan’s to soak in the hot tub before dinner at Paul’s.

Several minutes after he left, Megan and I noticed that he had forgotten to take a flashlight to light his way back. We called Jonathan to tell him, and he said Dad wasn’t there. We all hung up at once and went to look for him.

Megan found him half-sitting, half-lying against a tree, making strange and horrifying animal noises. He had had a stroke.

I freaked out, and Megan, who was not yet an EMT, told me to knock it off and sent me to Paul’s house (now my house) to call 911. Dad was helicoptered, with me in attendance**, to Ukiah, and his life was saved. This experience inspired my brother to become a volunteer firefighter and my sister to become an EMT, joining the very same emergency services teams that saved our father’s life. I wrote a grateful letter to both departments which was posted at the Albion store until it became too faded to read.

Nine years later, it’s that time of year again. And every day, I pass by the tree where we found Dad on that cold night, and am so thankful. For finding him. For his being my best friend. For my sister’s strength. For my brother’s courage. For my family.

For my life.

*He’s a drum technician for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He’s known them since high school.

**I later learned my brother and sister decided to send me with Dad to “give me something to do” and keep me from driving them crazy on the long drove to the hospital. They know me well.


Swine flu* is just so passé. All the cool kids have library-itis.

Its onset can be insidious. You can have a library card for years, lurking in a drawer or making your wallet a little snugger than you’d like, but never take it out or even think about it. But when you come into close contact with a person suffering from library-itis – especially an advanced case – you’re probably going to catch it, too.

This is what happened to my unsuspecting sister. I told her about the joys of requesting books on line, how you follow their progress as you move to the head of the line, the thrill of seeing “In Transit” when you check your holds (as you do, at least once a day), and how picking them up for free is like getting a present.

Now, I went home and requested thirty books as soon as I got my shiny new card (which my sister tells me is a parvenu tourist card, whereas hers, though much less pretty, is a long time local resident’s, which clearly has much more Coast cred), and my sister only requested a half dozen or so, but she was just as excited when she learned she had three waiting for her.

She left for work early in order to pick up her books, and I kindly gave her some of mine to return. This evening, she called me on a break at work to tell me that she actually had four to pick up. Oh, and she had returned my books.

There is no known cure.

*Sorry, powers that be: “H1 N1”, as a term, is never going to catch on. It’s just like make-up: it’s more fun (and memorable) to be Cherries in the Snow than Number 42. Except for Chanel Number Five


morningaudreyAudrey on the porch

It soon became apparent that my in-house doorman* gig had to end.

The door in question is this one, which separates the (somewhat heated) living quarters from the (completely unheated) studio. The studio was where Rose created her pottery – her kilns are still there – and now is home to The Boxes, both litter and otherwise, and the cats’ dishes.

Rose must have been altogether more stoic than Suzy, considering the outdoor shower and outhouse (only recently replaced with the current, indoor bathroom) and the arctic weather in the studio. The studio has cement floors and big sliding glass doors and no heat, so it’s the next best thing to actually being outside. Throw in some grass and you’re practically camping.

Whenever the cats wanted to eat, drink, visit the salle de bains, or just explore, I had to open the door, letting Siberian winds sweep into the nearly warm living area. This is what is known of as a “setback”. When they were ready to come back into the warmth, they’d claw the door to alert me, and I’d open it yet again. When you consider three cats and the multiple reasons for going in and out of the door, you have several very good reasons to buy a cat flap.

Which is what I did. I brought it home and was surprised that Rob installed it immediately, while Megan and I were making dinner. I thought he’d save it for a rainy day, or maybe tomorrow, but he seems to feel it’s good to get things done as they arise. Probably because he knows that tomorrow, or on the rainy day, I’ll have another project/silly question/unreasonable request.

I was happy, but the cats…not so much. They seemed to find it pretty undignified. I shoved them through it a few times, and then they saw how it was. Needless to say, Adventurous Audrey was the first one to go through and come back unassisted.

I have learned a lot about Audrey since we’ve moved. I always thought she was the sweet, quiet little sister, following June around, but here she’s struck off on her own exploring, is often the last one in at night, and calmly sits beside Megan’s pit bull and Lu’s Rottweiler, completely unconcerned.

*I refuse to say “doorperson”. If “chairman” and “doorman” are the accepted words, use them, instead of coming up with some clumsy sexless form. Another of my (many) pet peeves is people who refuse to use the feminine form, such as actress, calling Marilyn Monroe an actor. What’s wrong with being a girl?