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.

Ow


Still Standing

I may have been early in putting up my tree, but I am late in taking it down. Twelfth Night, aka The Saddest Day of the Year, has come and gone, but the tree is still standing, and I am still enjoying its comforting glow when I come downstairs on these dark winter mornings and during the long winter evenings*.

I was planning to take it down late, anyway, but it’s a longer reprieve than I expected. My plan was to take it down on the 8th, and at the same time do at least some preliminary organization in the Closet of Doom, starting with putting the holiday ornaments in the back, under the stairs, the least accessible part, and then assessing where the rest of the stuff should go and what could go up in the water tower.

Instead, I ended up in dental hell, where they are going to start charging me rent if I don’t look out.

Late on Friday afternoon, it started to feel like something was brewing on the right side of my mouth, the side most popular for crowns and root canals. Do I have any undoctored teeth left there? Apparently I do, because by the time I got home, it was screaming. I had taken Advil when I first felt the grumblings, but unlike during my other dental (mis)adventures, the pain just laughed at it and suggested it try again later.

Liver be damned, I took more Advil, but the pain was undefeated. At this point, I was actually crying with the pain. I texted my doctor, who responded that she would call in a prescription for antibiotics, but since the pharmacy was closed, I would not be able to get it until Saturday, aka the day I was planning to deal with the Tree and the Closet.

I texted Megan, who magically, somehow, came up with antibiotics and pain reducers (I know know that painkillers do not in fact kill pain, only reduce it, which is one of the major disappointments of my adult life), and went to meet her in town outside the ER to get them. Knowing her sister’s silliness, she also provided me with written instructions and the advice to eat something and get some ginger ale in order to keep all the pills swimming in my stomach.

It was a long night with the terrible pain – worse, somehow, than when my face was giant – but after the second dose of antibiotics, I began to feel semi-human again. A trip to the dentist revealed that the culprit was my wisdom tooth, which apparently needs to be evicted, a horrifying prospect. Stay tuned for more on that.

So far, I am unimpressed with the New Year. It needs to try harder.

*I have noticed that it’s not pitch dark at 5:30 anymore. We are returning to the light!

A YEAR AGO: An unappreciated visitor.

FIVE YEARS AGO: In the midst of a long and cold power outage.

TEN YEARS AGO: Some technical difficulties.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Carrie’s new baby. Who I now realize is, uh, a grown-up.

Glue


The Bathmat Boys

Here you see Clyde (left) and Dodge, watching me get ready to go to work. Not pictured: Audrey sitting on the windowsill, giving the Bathmat Boys the Laser Glare of Death, which they are calmly ignoring. I think Audrey dreams of a boy-free life.

Later that morning, with the cats fed and treated and my faux adult armor dutifully applied, I set off on the long drive to work. It’s like driving through a horror movie, and it seems pretty long these days. I am driving more slowly than my speedy nature enjoys on the dark, foggy roads, fearing the appearance of unexpected deer in the headlights. I managed to avoid hitting two of them on this particular morning, and I was also completely charmed by the sight of a frog leaping gracefully across the Ridge in the pool of light from my high beams. This time of year, the frogs are singing joyfully to welcome the annual rains. I love sitting in my bed on a weekend morning and listening to their song. It’s like the winter version of summer crickets.

My plans for weekend cooking went awry, and I am blaming Amazon for it.

I wanted to make more har gao and chive dumplings, so I ordered the necessary starches from Amazon. They were due to arrive on Friday, and I had them sent to the house instead of the post office box, so I could get cooking on Saturday morning. The box was waiting when I got home from work on Friday night, and I thought all cooking systems were go.

Imagine my surprise when I opened up the box and discovered…a tube of epoxy glue.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Even inexperienced cooks can see that glue is not an effective substitute for wheat starch or tapioca starch, or any kind of starch, really. Nor is glue a helpful ingredient in dim sum. I took a dim view of this.

I ventured to the Village the next day to see if I could locate the necessary ingredients, without much hope, and in this, I was sorry for once to be right. I couldn’t find them anywhere, so I reordered from Amazon after getting a refund for the original order. I tried to shop local!

I picked up a pizza for dinner instead, and hopefully I will be making deferred dim sum next weekend.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Food is love, even at work.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Have a seat.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Selecting Beaujolais Nouveau for Thanksgiving.

Updates

Cooking:

I did follow my plan of making har gao, chive and pork dumplings, and lumpia Shanghai. They turned out amazing. These are the pork and chive dumplings (triangle) and har gao (little bundles):

Here are the lumpia Shanghai:

When I sent these pictures to A, she responded, “Totally impressed by your dim sum spread. Suzy’s Dim Sum Palace.” I love thinking of my house as Suzy’s Dim Sum Palace.

I have already had to order more of the tapioca flour and wheat starch so I can make them again. They were definitely a big success. The pork and chive dumplings are easier to shape than the har gao, and they are both delicious. Cooking win!

Crime:

I am pleased to announce that Redbeard has finally been caught! I am less pleased to announce that he was caught in the environs of the family estate, which is the first driveway after the “doughnut shop” referred to in the press. For fans of Krispy Kremes and Dunkin’ Donuts, don’t get too excited. Rather than a pastry emporium, the Doughnut Shop in Hooterville is actually a big pull out where kids do doughnuts in their cars. It’s also a favored place for miscreants to deposit their heavily-used RVs and furniture, instead of taking said objects to the dump*. So maybe it makes sense that he was caught at or near such a hotbed of local crime. I’m just glad that he was not caught on the family property itself, and that no one was hurt. I hope we can go back to our sleepy, low-to-no-crime existence again.

*Speaking of the dump, the guy who works there posts some hilarious stuff about his job there on Facebook. You’re welcome.

A YEAR AGO: Heater problems. Appliances hate me. I am pleased to announce that the heater is still working. So far.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A happy Halloween with Jessica. I miss those days, and I miss her.

TEN YEARS AGO: A country Saturday.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: City scenes.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: I have never been a fan of this twice yearly time change nonsense.

Stolen

Our little corner of the world, while not crime-free, is pretty close to it. At the old house, I used to leave the doors open when I went to work, and none of the doors had locks. My current house does have locks, but they are unused. We leave the keys in the car at home (though not in town). Generally, it’s not something I worry about day to day. So it was big news that there was someone breaking into empty vacation rentals around here* and stealing food, booze, and miscellaneous items.

The miscreant was identified, and generally referred to as the “Red-Bearded Burglar” or “Redbeard”. There were sightings and incidents from Elk (home of Queenie’s and the fabulous Eggs Benedict) to Albion (home of Self and entire family). Redbeard shot at law enforcement, and was caught on camera entering houses with a camera in one hand and a flashlight in the other. Although he started his one-man crime spree in May, and has been within sight (and shooting distance) of law enforcement, he remains uncaught.

Not long ago, my sister told me that someone had gone through all the mail in their mailbox, but had left it there. She suggested that I ask on the message boards if anyone else had experienced that problem. It appeared that no one had. A couple of people unhelpfully (and somewhat snottily) suggested that we get a post office box, which we have had for decades, but no one admitted to any malfeasance in their mailbox.

Soon after that, our brother noticed that there were odd arrangements of stones and twigs on the pathway that goes between the property driveway and the haul road, like crazy art installations.

And a little later after the discovery of the impromptu al fresco art exhibit, Redbeard hit.

He took cigarettes and candy from the cars, and canned and preserved food from our brother’s van, which Jonathan was readying for a road trip. He also took Jonathan’s silk long underwear, Smartwool socks, and nearly all of the pesto, chicken, and garlic butter from the body freezer in the carport where the mechanic’s pit and washer and dryer are.

So it seems that he started by digging through the mailbox, then presumably watched for a while, and then struck. It’s scary to think of him spying on my family, especially knowing that he is armed and has used a weapon against the sheriff’s office. It seems that he is very comfortable in the woods, and gets around on a bike. So I guess he had quite a feast in the woods with all our food. The pesto is irreplaceable at this time of year. No more until next year.

My siblings called the sheriff’s office, and they responded in force, an unusual sight:

This is probably half the law enforcement on the coast. They put up cameras, but didn’t catch him. So far, he has yet to return, and I hope he never does. I’m beginning to wonder if they will ever catch him. I would feel a lot better if he were behind bars.

*Of which there are many. There has been a debate raging on the local message boards lately about how there are so many vacation homes here but so few rentals available to locals.

A YEAR AGO: The weather said summer, even if the calendar said fall.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Road Trip!

TEN YEARS AGO: Celebrating my second anniversary in Hootervile with my sister and our beloved Schatzi. I miss her and Star so much.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: The Lovely Rita was busy charming all and sundry. It was her superpower. I miss her, too. Side note: I notice all my past dogs are girls.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Missing my Sunday morning emails from Dad.

Pain

And suffering…

I once again had dental pain, though no swelling. I went to the dentist, where they took an x-ray and things looked suspicious. The suspect in question is a tooth that already has a crown on, which I naively thought meant it was sealed off from further dental horrors, but I was, as is so often the case, incorrect about this.

They gave me a prescription for antibiotics, and maybe it was all in my head in more ways than one, because I began to feel better after the first dose. I took them for the prescribed week. But a week after I finished the pills, the pain woke me up in the middle of the night*.

I got another prescription and the sad news that I needed yet another root canal, and you know how much I enjoyed the first one. The further bad news was that my dentist could not do it until October 28, and the even further news was that the dentist he referred me to was in distant Santa Rosa, meaning 5 hours of driving on top of the lengthy procedure. Also? Santa Rosa Dentist is super expensive.

What’s not to hate?

But I had no choice. It was a glorious day as I drove through the redwoods and the idyllic wine country. It would have been lovely if I weren’t scared out of my mind.

At the dentist’s office, I was greeted by the sad and shocking news that I would have to pay $1,700. Yes, you read that correctly and it’s not in some strange foreign currency where 1,700 actually means $5. It took everything in me not to cry.

The procedure was as grueling and unpleasant as you would suspect. You’d think for those Cadillac (Rolls Royce? Bentley?) prices, they’d render you unconscious, but alas, this was not the case. I tried to focus on my breathing and think about being in Maine when I was little.

Eventually, it was all over, and I was given my third prescription for antibiotics this month, this time to be taken three times a day, along with a prescription for Motrin. I took it to the nearby pharmacy, a little mom and pop shop called Tuttle’s, where the pharmacist asked, “Are you really from all the way up there in Albion**?” I admitted that I was, and he said how much he enjoyed going to Ledford House, so it seems that Megan and I are not the only ones who enjoy going there.

Sadly, I will need a new crown, since the old one was destroyed in the root canal process. Why can’t I collect the sparkly diamond kind of crowns instead of the painful dental ones? They cost the same.

*Why does dental pain always strike at night and/or on the weekends?

**Which he pronounced “Al-bee-YON”.

A YEAR AGO: Getting some computer repairs.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Audits are so fun! Also, happy birthday to Rob!

TEN YEARS AGO Little Clyde was a little under the weather. And the weather was hot.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: The joys of air travel. ~Shudder~

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Sleep mysteries in a world gone mad.

Third

What makes a Monday Mondayer? Getting a crown installed!

Faithful readers may recall that I had a sudden and inexplicable hole appear in my tooth last month, revealing its ancient silver filling. Fortunately, it did not hurt. Unfortunately, it required a crown, bringing my personal collection up to three. Crown One: a filling fell out right before a) a national holiday; and 2) a trip to Detroit to testify in front of the Grand Jury. Spoiler alert: the crown was the fun part.

Crown Two: following the first (and I hope, last) root canal of my life, so expensive and upsetting that I cried afterwards. Again, the crown was the fun part, but to be fair, almost anything is fun compared to getting (and paying for) a root canal. I also learned that getting a crown is the inevitable result of getting a root canal.

Crown Three: this one. As I have learned the hard way over the years, I never really seem to get numb. I always feel part of whatever they are doing to me. I followed Dr. Megan’s prescription of taking an omeprazole every day for a week before the procedure, but I still felt the poking around and post installation like I did last time. I flinched and made a noise of discomfort, and the dentist genially said, “It must be waking up!” Dentists are masters of understatement. When I used to get my braces tightened, the dentist would tell me that it would “be a little tender” by dinner time. Translation: it will hurt like hell before school ends, and if you’re lucky, you might be able to eat Jell-O for a week.

But the post’n’poke was a total joy compared to a new sensation called a “heart race”. Have you ever had or heard of one of these lovely things? The dentist accidentally got a vein with one of the four shots of anesthetic, and told me that it was perfectly normal to feel the way I did. Which was like I was having a bad panic attack. My hands were shaking, I was freezing, and I was freaking out. I tried to calm myself by watching the bees in their hive through the operatory window and breathing deeply. Eventually it passed, but man, it was horrible.

So far, the third time has been the worst, rather than the charm.

On the bright side, the technology was great. Instead of making me gag by jamming countless containers of glop into my mouth, they took about a million pictures in there with some kind of space age looking thing. This was translated to a sort of 3-D mill that shaped the crown. On the screen, I could see the progress (just 12 minutes!) and it was very accurate. It just needed a little tweaking to fit perfectly. The dentist said that crowns made like this were much more accurate than the old, gloppy way.

He put the crown into a kiln to be baked and hardened, again showing the progress on the screen (15 minutes!) and then cemented it in. No temporary crown or extra visit. I was back at work in less than two hours. So maybe the third time did have some charm after all.

TEN YEARS AGO: Coming home from San Francisco.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: How to get nowhere.

Encore

Endless summer continues. I guess that’s what endless things do, and its key to endlessness that you keep on keeping on. It’s still around 70 at the ocean, 10-15 degrees warmer than it should be, and in the 80s at Chez Suzy, where I personally would prefer that it never went above 70, or 75 at the outside limit of endurance.

I realize this probably sounds pretty good to those of you who are already bundling up and staring down the barrel of six months or more of winter. You might be both surprised and envious that I had the air conditioning on in the car on the way home from work this week. It does cool off in the evenings and at night. It’s probably around 50 degrees when I head to the car to go to work, checking for signs of the Bear’s having paid me a secret overnight visit (and glad when he hasn’t, since those visits tend to be messy and more enjoyable for my ursine caller than for me). When I walk to the car in the mornings, everything is still but the crickets and sometimes a neighboring rooster. The stars and planets are blazing in the clear, dark, sky, and I have to stop and enjoy the stillness and the glory before getting on with my day.

One day last week included a visit to the dentist. It seems that a piece of my tooth came off – without my noticing – and an ancient silver filling was now exposed. Happily, it didn’t hurt, but unhappily, I am facing yet another coronation. One was enough for the Queen, but apparently three time’s the charm for me. I hope this is the last time I have to face this expensive and unenjoyable procedure. At least I don’t need a root canal this time (as far as I know). Apparently, they now put in the permanent crown the first time, instead of making you get a temporary and then come back for another appointment to get the permanent one. The downside of this is that the appointment will take an hour and a half, which I think we can all agree is a long time to sit in a place no-one ever wants to be.

That hour and a half will cost me around $700, even though I have insurance. I will be able to pay it off in three installments instead of all at once, which is a big help. I was so taken aback by the crown diagnosis that I forgot to ask them for what my stepmother used to refer to as “tablets”, her term for Valium and its soothing cousins. Last time after the root canal débâcle, I took a tablet before I went for the crown, but it had the unpleasant effect of making my brain (or its two remaining cells) foggy while my body remained super nervous. So I’m not sure if I really want to try that again, or if it will be much worse without it. I have a month to figure it out, since the fateful day is November 23, unless my injured tooth starts complaining.

In the meantime, I’ll do some complaining: Why can’t I have a tiara instead of a crown?

A YEAR AGO: Even buying a couch cushion can be a thrilling adventure if I’m involved.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Vertigo, and not the fun, Hitchcock kind, either.

TEN YEARS AGO: I was super helpful.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Wildlife, even in the heart of the city.

Drinks

Megan got very little sleep during the blistering hot plague. It’s particularly difficult to sleep during the day when your bedroom is likes its very own little oven, even when you have just worked twelve fun-filled hours in the ER.

Megan got maybe three hours of sleep, and decided that she was too impaired by lack of sleep to go to work that night. She agreed to be on call, hoping that nothing would happen. Of course, something happened.

A car turning off the highway was rear-ended, and the force of the rear-ending pushed it into oncoming traffic, with predictably unpleasant results. One of the people involved was flown out from the scene and another was brought to the ER to be packaged up and flown out in turn. There was blood and chaos. The road was closed for some time as well.

Fortunately, that was Megan’s last shift of the week, and the next day, she suggested that we go to our favorite seaside bar for a well-earned drink or two.
We sat at the shadiest possible table, right outside the restaurant door, hiding under an umbrella. I was wearing SPF 100, just in case. I’m like a vampire. It’s surprising that I don’t burst into flames upon exposure to the sun. We still had a lovely view of the ocean, though I am sorry to report that it was a completely unreasonable 83 degrees. By the ocean, people. Where it should be 65 with a sweater-requiring breeze.

Although we’re not normally bourbon drinkers, we were unable to resist the blackberry bourbon smash:

It was inspired by the abundance of local wild blackberries. They are muddled and then bourbon is poured over them. The mixture infuses for four days, and when it’s cocktail time, simple syrup, a dash of lemon, and some soda is added. Garnish with mint leaves. It was delicious. I would like to try making it with vodka. Maybe even berry vodka! We could also throw in some of the raspberries from the garden. The cocktail shaker awaits!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Everyone needs a drink after a visit to the dentist. Maybe before, too.

TEN YEARS AGO: It was hot and heinous.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Riding the bus was educational, to say the least.

Change

Well, this was the Mondayest Monday ever – the day after the dreaded time change. You know, the one where they steal an hour of our weekend and then expect us to get up extra early the next day, merrily adding insult to injury. You know a week that starts with a full (super) moon right after the hour theft and ends with Friday the 13th is going to be a weird one. There was also an earthquake on Sunday night, a long, slow one that was a little alarming, but didn’t damage anything.

Oddly enough, I felt just fine the morning after, despite being a robbery victim. I actually got up 15 minutes before the alarm went off, just as I usually do. Go figure. I was trying not to think about the purloined time, much like I used to do when I went to London all the time. I just adapted to the time zone I was in and didn’t think about how it was midnight or yesterday or whatever back in San Francisco.

Whatever it was, it didn’t really bother me this year.

Back in the olden times, on Saturday, I went over to the property for a Girl Night™ with Megan and Lu. I had a peek in the greenhouse and the garden. Here’s how it looked:

The peach trees were in bloom. So were the plum trees:

The plum trees are very popular with the bees. The trees just hum with them.

Inside the greenhouse, things are rocking and rolling. There’s lettuce, bok choy, and green onions*. Also Megan’s Meyer lemon tree:

Outside, the strawberry plants are beginning to leaf out and there are still some hardy herbs, like rosemary and thyme. Most of the garden is still asleep, but spring has definitely arrived.

When Rob drove me home, the moon was so bright that I didn’t need my flashlight. It was amazing to see it beaming over the ocean.

*These always make me think of my mother’s father, who grew them and loved them. Sometimes he’d walk back to the house humming and eating a green onion, somehow looking like a little farm boy instead of a grown man.

A YEAR AGO: If there’s anything more fun than pizza in the present and gowns from the past, I don’t know what it is!

FIVE YEARS AGO: We all got plunged into darkness again. But my brother also plunged into the icy river. For a good cause.

TEN YEARS AGO: Winter was making a comeback.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: It may have been winter everywhere else, but it was spring training in Florida.

Unromantic

It was an unromantic and unenjoyable Valentine’s Day at Chez Suzy.

Once again, my sinks were full of sewage (but empty of dishes). Once again my landlord Danielle came to the rescue, helping to clean up and, perhaps more importantly, calling the septic surgeon and pleading with him to come and operate on the wayward septic system.

It’s pretty hard to say no to Danielle, and the septic wizard was no exception to this rule. It’s reassuring to know there are some things in this crazy world that a girl can count on. Whatever the septic wizard did, it fixed the situation, and he apparently needs to come back and do something to clear the roots out for good. With my limited understanding of this subject, it sounds like the issue is partly that my house is far away from the septic tank and leach field, located near Danielle’s house, and partly that the redwood trees, while beautiful and majestic, have serious roots which are seriously encroaching on the pipe leading from my house to the septic tank. So the experts will have to ream it out somehow. It sounds both icky and expensive. What’s not to hate? I’m just happy I can flush the toilet again.

It’s the little things in life.

While cleaning up the aftermath, the power went out, despite the clear skies and complete lack of wind or anything else that usually leads to power outages. It was either someone driving into a pole, which seemed unlikely, given how far down the road I live and how lightly populated it is at this point (at least by humans), or inept tree fellers employed by our frenemies at PG&E, which seemed more likely. In an attempt to restore their popularity after inflicting the days-long power outage on us, they are starting to cut back trees and do the work they should have done years ago. And in order to do this, they have been hiring people who are not as skilled as they should be.

I discovered that 30 people were affected by the outage, which made me feel really special. Later I learned the pole in question was just outside my gate. Fortunately, heat and light were restored before darkness fell, and it was high time for some sparkling pink wine. Here’s to working plumbing and electricity!

A YEAR AGO: The seemingly endless loop of being sick and the power going out.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Farewell to the jobette.

TEN YERAS AGO: The many joys of the Citrus Fair with Megan, Lu, and Jessica. Jessica was so little! And I miss her so much.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Some Florida lessons.

Phone

I got to work one morning to find a box on my desk.

I knew I hadn’t left it there, and you will probably not be surprised to learn that I like to leave my desk tidy to make the reentry to work as pleasant as possible, just like I always made sure to come home to a clean house back in the long ago days when I used to travel*.

Upon investigation, I discovered that it was an iPhone 7, with a sparkly pink case and a screen protector. Megan got it for me refurbished from Amazon! I was both surprised and touched.

I knew I needed a new phone. I had a 5S, which is obsolete by technology standards. The battery did not hold a charge, and the phone would die suddenly and then when I plugged it back in again it would be at 43% or something, never a good sign.

I was also unable to text from the house most of the time, since there is no cell reception and my phone was too old to use wifi for texting. Texts would sometimes go if I stood right by the bedroom window, but not always and not reliably. Mostly I would get a little red “Undeliverable” message.

After work that day, I took the new phone and the old one to the Verizon store (amazingly, there actually is one in the Big Town), where they tried not to laugh at the age of the old one. They charged me $21.76 to transfer my data from old to new. When I got home, I discovered that my apps, texts, and contacts had not been transferred. I went back the next day after work, but failed to bring old phone with me, so a third visit was required.

It was a different person on each visit, and on this one, they told me that my old phone was too old to transfer the apps to the new one and that I would have to download them individually from the cloud. I was more saddened than I should have been to discover that this reset my game scores to 0. At least they were able to recover the other information, though it took an hour and a half to do so. I guess the lesson here is to replace the phone before it becomes completely obsolete.

*It appears to be four years since I was in San Francisco! I am not sure when the last time was that I left the County. I’m pretty sure it’s been a while.

A YEAR AGO: Thinking about the past and how it still lives on.

FIVE YEARS AGO: It seems to be a nostalgic time of year. I’m sorry to tell you that our childhood home has been destroyed and replaced by a monstrosity, and also that most of the land has been sold off in parcels. You really can’t go home again.

TEN YEARS AGO: The beautiful June Bug (Audrey’s sister) was taking a nap. She would disappear forever just four months later. I will always miss her.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: My crazy road trip to Florida.

Ugh

As soon as the power came back on, I ran around hiding all the signs that it was ever out, madly washing dishes and putting away the lanterns. More than a week after the whole thing ended, I am still recovering from it emotionally. It’s not at all like losing power because of a storm, which is nature and an expected part of each winter. Having it wrested away from you for an extended period of time because of greed and negligence and having absolutely no recourse is not. And it’s super upsetting.

So it was in a state of emotional fragility that I woke up last Saturday morning and went downstairs to make coffee only to find both of the kitchen sinks full of raw sewage. Yes, the power was back on, but the septic system was on strike.

I let my landlord Danielle know, and while I was waiting for her arrival, discovered that the seepage was also in the closet where the washer and dryer are. I pulled everything out of there, and Danielle arrived with cloths to sop up the closet, along with a very long snake and an industrial Shop Vac to deal with the septic situation. Her son Alex, who lives in the house next to me, joined her on this mucky and unpleasant operation. They were both remarkably cheerful about it.

It took a while to deal with it, and Danielle told me that the issue is that the septic was put in many years ago, and now the redwood roots are beginning to encroach on it. Eventually it will need an overhaul, but hopefully not in the immediate future.

Once everything was done, Danielle scattered a lot of wood ash outside and I started bleaching and cleaning inside. I was very thankful that there were no dishes in or even near the sink. Everything was thoroughly cleaned and scrubbed. By that time, I was both hungry and disinclined to cook anything, so I jumped in the car and headed for Queenie’s, where I had a wonderful grilled Reuben sandwich on rye bread made just for Queenie’s. It was everything a Reuben should be.

The clocks went back an hour that night, just adding to the weekend’s weirdness. And making my sister, who had the bad luck to be working that night, have to work an extra hour.

A YEAR AGO: The state was burning up. It was scary.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The horror of looking for a job.

TEN YEARS AGO: My deer neighbor.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Viva Las Vegas!

Out(r)age

Hi! I’m back! You may have heard about a little something they’re calling the Public Safety Power Shut Off (PSPS), which was inflicted on the unsuspecting residents of our huge, underpopulated and underfunded County by Their Satanic Majesties, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E).

Now that you’re up on your California-related acronyms, let’s talk power outage, or outrage, as the local message boards quite appropriately call it.

Out of the literally clear blue sky, PG&E decided that they would cut off the power to millions of people with very little notice or time to prepare. Nor did they deign to tell people which counties or cities would be affected. They did not update their online maps or website (which crashed anyway), or realize that having a website be your prime source of alleged information when there is no power or internet is ridiculous.

Also ridiculous is my landlord receiving a call THREE DAYS after the power went out telling her that there “might” be an outage.

We had no idea how long it would last as it dragged on day after dark, cold day. I had no heat – and the temperature was below freezing on some of the days – and no light on these short days. I was so tired of the cold and dark. I went over to the family estate to shower, recharge my laptop and phone, and use the internet in a vain attempt to find out if or when the outage would ever end. My siblings are wise enough to live off the grid and rely on sun power and their own ingenuity.

Supposedly, the power was shut off because of high winds creating fire risk, but there wasn’t a breath of wind on the Coast and we were nowhere near the places that did have high winds. So there was no reason to do this to us. And the fires that did occur were once again caused by PG&E, just like the ones last year and the year before. They chose to give their shareholders $4.5 billion (yes, that’s “billion”, with a “b”) instead of maintaining equipment, cutting back brush, and burying power lines as they were supposed to do.

Basically, they chose to spend money on executive salaries and bonuses instead of maintaining their equipment and keeping the public safe. They cost the homes and lives of people who lost everything in the fires PG&E caused. Again. They cost us on the Coast thousands of dollars in lost wages, food that rotted in refrigerators, businesses that didn’t have a generator and couldn’t stay open. My cell phone doesn’t work at my house and the landline didn’t work as it usually does in a power outage, so I had no way to communicate with the outside world. If I needed to call 911, I was out of luck.

One of the therapists at the clinic where I work told me that knowledge being withheld and the knowledge that information is being withheld is very traumatic for human beings. And I can honestly say that it is. I was relieved to hear that it wasn’t just me who was traumatized by the ordeal of five days without power.

I still can’t believe it happened. And I think we are all still recovering from it in many ways. Something has to change.

A YEAR AGO: There was power. And family dinner.

FIVE YEARS AGO: There was power. And the Giants were world champions!

TEN YEARS AGO: There was power. Rob Suzy proofed the house after I fell off the sleeping loft. Thank you, Rob!

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: The power was on. And I was a bad hostess.

Cushion

It might surprise you that a girl who is as much of a sparkly princess as I am doesn’t live in a Jayne Mansfield style glory of pink and glitter. My décor is actually quite neutral. I mentioned to my long-time friend A, whose hobbies include interior design and restaurant reviewing, that the cats* were taking their toll on the beige linen upholstery on the living room chair, and she suggested that I switch out both the couch and the chair for blush velvet ones. She says blush velvet can read as neutral with the right accessories and would provide a welcome note of luxe in my country abode. Also that cats do not enjoy clawing velvet.

A did a lot of research on couches and chairs, and we narrowed down her selection to the dream couch and chair, but they will have to remain a dream for the moment, since I recently made a major investment in car repairs and have no budget for furniture or other frivolities at the moment.

So while I wait for my ever-tenuous finances to recover – if they do – I have been adding new cushions to the couch, which will be compatible with pink velvet if it ever occurs. A gave me the beautiful vintage hand-made suzani which is draped over the back of the couch, and also the hand-embroidered turquoise cushion on the left. I added the white, purple and pink embroidered cushion on the right. Allergy sufferers, beware: all the pillows in my house are feather.

My plan was to replace the dark, beaded pillows on the ends. I still like them, but they don’t work so well with the new color scheme. I’m planning to see if Megan wants them, since she has no couch cushions and a nice, dark leather couch.

I consulted with A and we chose a pretty cushion on line, thinking that if I liked it enough, I’d get another one to match it. I ordered it two weeks ago and it has yet to arrive. The tracking number said it had arrived last Monday. I checked my post office box on Tuesday on my way to work. I picked up a box, which upon opening, revealed itself to be full of little bottles**, which I had not ordered. A look at the mailing label revealed that it was addressed to my brother, who has a PO box he shares with our sister. Megan checked their PO box in case my package was delivered there instead. Nope.

I checked with the shipper, who told me to wait a couple of days in case it turned up. I did and it didn’t. I contacted them again and they traced the package. Apparently, it was delivered to my old street address. Note that this does not mean it went to my old house. Deliveries to the old address went to a sort of decaying shed at the front of the property. Sometimes, they went to the front door of the rarely occupied front house. I am guessing this is what happened on this occasion. Fed Ex told me that the driver went to see what happened to the package and whoever is currently living in the front house kept screaming at him that she was not me and he should get out of there, which he eventually did. I’m guessing the screamer kept the cushion.

Fed Ex said it was their fault for not verifying my address. I pointed out that the shipper should not have allowed me to enter a PO box address if they were planning to ship by Fed Ex. Fed Ex also said that I might be surprised by the amount of fraud that goes on around missing packages. She gave an example of someone who said she never received her treadmill. When Fed Ex said they would have to send the sheriff around to investigate, she “found” it in her garage.

Anyway, it’s been a lot of fuss for a $20 cushion and I hope I love it if/when it ever gets here.

*To be fair, none of them goes outside anymore. But even when they did, they tended to claw indoor items or the house itself rather than the giant outdoor scratching posts, which you and I refer to as “trees” or “the woods”.

[Update: It never arrived. I got a refund and have officially given up on ordering from those people ever again.]

**For home-made hot sauce, made from the peppers they grew this summer.

A YEAR AGO: A wonderful sleepover with the wonderful Jessica!

FIVE YEARS AGO: A delightful evening with Megan and Lu.

TEN YEARS AGO: Getting ready to leave Oakhampton. And not a moment too soon.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A few updates.

Gas

Spraying the garbage cans with ammonia and water seems to have deterred Mr. (or Ms.) Bear, at least so far. Either I am no longer on the regular buffet route, or he or she has started hibernating, if in fact they do hibernate here. I have no idea if they do or what causes it if so, since we don’t get snow* and don’t even get a dramatic enough temperature change to change the leaves in most cases. Maybe it is daylight (or lack of it), though. I have had a few days where it’s been dark when I went to work and dark when I went home. Winter’s here!

I am pleased to report that I managed to avoid being “de-energized”, as our frenemies at PG&E call it. The lights stayed on at work and at home, and the threat of being powerless made me revisit my power outage capabilities at home, making sure I have water and lanterns. I was concerned that I would not be able to use my stove, since it uses electricity to ignite, but a friend told me that I could use a match. He suggested a long one, I will try it out before it becomes a total necessity. At least, that’s my intention. Hopefully the threat of not being able to have coffee or cook will motivate me to actually do it.

It also made me fill up my car sooner than my designated day of Friday, even though the gas tank was close to half full. It was soon overflowing. I usually set the pump to fill and then go and put my wallet away in the car, and this time, when I turned around, gas was spurting out of the side of my car at an alarming rate. I hastily yanked out the spout and replaced it, trying to avoid dousing myself and walking in the spilled gas any more than was strictly necessary.

I went and told the gas station cashier and she put a red “out of order” sleeve on the spout and said she’d clean up the spilled gas. I washed off the side of the car and the bottoms of my shoes with the windshield wiper squeegee thoughtfully provided, but I was sure my car smelled like gas and wondered if I had gotten it on my clothes, too. I’m pretty sure some of the $41 I spent on gas was for spillage, not Wednesday.

After work, I went to pick up many barbecued pork dinners at the high school. It was a fundraiser for the school’s agriculture program, and young men don’t cook dinner for me as often as I’d like. I picked up dinner for myself, my sister, and my boss and her husband, retracing my steps to deliver the dinners to the ER to await my sister’s arrival and to my boss to take home if/when she ever left work that evening. On the way home, I wondered if my car smelled more like barbecue or gasoline.

*What, never? No, never! What, Never? Hardly ever!

A YEAR AGO: Pearls and cocktails. What could be Suzier than that?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sick and tired.

TEN YEARS AGO: Polished.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Eeek! A mouse!

Crowned

The day of my crowning arrived appropriately gloomily. As prescribed, I had taken the Valium the night before, though I failed to sleep like a baby as promised, unless babies wake up every two hours worrying about doom. Maybe they do and that’s what fussing is all about.

I was unpleasantly surprised to discover that the Valium I took for the actual procedure just made me feel messed up while leaving the anxiety in full control. So I was nervous in my body and stoned in my head, which is not an enjoyable combo platter, at least not for this girl. It somewhat saddens me that drugs are not fun for me. I hated how the Vicodin made me feel when I had the toothache from hell (and indeed, Advil was much more effective at handling the agony), and the same goes for the non-pain killing pain killers I took after falling off the sleeping loft onto the unsuspecting floor below. I have never enjoyed Mendocino’s most famous product. It just makes me paranoid. Give me a glass or three of wine any day or a cocktail at my favorite seaside bar. I’m old school like that.

Fortunately for Self and the public at large, I walked to the dentist’s office just a couple of blocks away. The lengthy appointment was as delightful as I expected. It seemed that they took about a thousand goopy and gag-inducing impressions (Why? Why? I was in no position to ask), and of course there was the fun of smelling burning bone as they sawed away at my root canaled tooth.

Theoretically, since the root or whatever had been removed, I wasn’t supposed to feel anything, but I did feel the post installation and whatever crap they were doing inside the tooth before closing it up for what is hopefully posterity. I have come to the sad conclusion that I can never be completely numbed and that going to the dentist is always going to be horrible, especially since the daytime Valium does not seem to help.

And because reality bites, and usually bites me in the wallet, I do owe the old dentist $740 and I will probably owe the new dentist about the same for the unpleasantness listed above. Once again I am mystified by how I can (or will somehow have to) come up with $1,400 in dental fees but not, say, to go to Hawaii. Would anyone like to buy a soul? Only slightly shopworn?

As they merrily sawed and gooped and drilled away at me, the dentist and his assistant compared the vacations they had just returned from in Cozumel and Oahu respectively. Not for the first time, I have the feeling I’m in the wrong line of work.

A YEAR AGO: The end of the mattress fiasco.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A day at the beach.

TEN YEARS AGO: A veritable mountain of boxes.

Madness

The time changed in the night, Edward said
and now it is different instead
Is it early or late?
Should I hurry or wait?
Perhaps I should go back to bed
— Edward Gorey

The dreaded spring time change hit me with a vengeance this year. Surveying my calendar, I realized that the day after Black Monday included a 12 hour work day and a dental appointment. Why not pack all the bad stuff into one day?

The appointment was with a new dentist. My former dentist retired rather suddenly, sending me a $740 bill as a farewell gift. It was not itemized, and since I hadn’t been there since September or October, I was mystified as well as horrified. I called and asked for an itemization, which I received, and for my records to be sent to the new dentist, which they were not. They only sent my most recent x-rays.

The giant bill included some things that were rejected by the insurance company, and my boss is going to try to get them to see reason. Stay tuned…

In the meantime, I went to meet the new dentist, filled with fear that he’d find something (or somethings) wrong and worried about the tooth that was so expensively and wretchedly root canaled in the fall. Former Dentist had put a temporary filling on it which is supposed to last a year. New Dentist said he normally does a permanent cap within six weeks of a root canal. Fortunately, everything looks OK in there and I am scheduled to have the permanent cap done in early April. Unfortunately, it is scheduled to take an hour and a half, just like the root canal, so I’m pre=worrying, despite a prescription for Valium to soften the blow. I should get another one to go with the bill.

I also had a library meeting on Friday, so it was a long and busy week for a girl who lost an hour of beauty sleep the night before it all started. I was under the impression that Californians had voted to stop the madness of daylight saving time in the last election, but apparently we only voted that someone could introduce the necessary legislation that could then be ratified by Congress or whoever runs these things, which really would stop it. I don’t know which one they would decide on as the permanent time, but I just wish they’d pick one and go with it.

A YEAR AGO: The beginning of the mattress débâcle. That lesson is learned. Still love the comforter set.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Oh, that Clyde! So naughty, and yet so cute!

TEN YEARS AGO: Some valuable lessons learned from film noir. Don’t pick up a crazed killer. Or let one give you a ride.

Update


Here it comes!

I am glad to say that the power came back on Friday night, after three powerless days. It was nice to have light, not see my breath in the living room, and be able to flush the toilet. I was planning to go home and watch an old movie with a couple of adult beverages to celebrate the long-awaited return of civilization to my humble abode, but I ended up going to bed after one drink and not even messaging a distant friend as I had intended. Have I lost the will to drink?

I’m sorry to report that the power went out yet again on Saturday night, plunging me once more into darkness and despair. I called my friends at PG&E to report it and was saddened to hear that their recording still related to the outage which ended on Saturday. So I couldn’t report the new one. I hung up, hoping that one of my neighbors would eventually be able to report it. It appeared that someone did, since it came back on about six hours later.

For some reason, I have been finding all these outages hard to take. Maybe my nerves are overtaxed with the horror of the annual fundraiser. I am in the throes of it right now, along with my regularly scheduled job and all the irregularities that go along with that. I keep telling myself, it’s all over on Saturday and I can make it if I take it day by day.

We are back to sunny days and I hope the power outage chances are minimal, at least for now.

Update: Well, that didn’t last long. Power out AGAIN Monday morning at 8 am. Third one in a week. On a sunny, clear, windless day.

Another Update: Power is back on. We’ll see how long it lasts this time. Is it really even worth setting all the clocks?

2018

When I was a kid, my Dad used to jokingly say, “When things were bad, they told me, ‘Cheer up! Things could get worse!’ So I cheered up, and sure enough, things got worse!” Well, I never did cheer up from the effects of 2017, but 2018 was even worse. I really can’t see it end soon enough.

Besides the horrors nationally and globally, Erica’s mother died suddenly and horribly just days before the equally sudden and unexpected death of the best man at my long-ago wedding. The effects of these losses continue to echo, most notably with Erica and Jessica fleeing not just the county, but the country. There was no Junapalooza this year and there never may be again without the assistance and inimitable presence of my near birthday twin and aesthetic soulmate.

Megan and Rob moved away, too, leaving me the last one standing at the property our brother first moved to 25 years ago. They lived in that little house for 20 years – the only house they ever lived in, in fact. Before that, they lived on a boat at Pier 39, and before that, Megan lived in an apartment with me. Mom spent the last few years of her life in that house, and Dad visited us there, including the Thanksgiving when he had a stroke on the driveway. And don’t forget my Christmas concussion in Megan’s living room! There are a lot of memories in that tiny place. Megan and Rob live just down the road now, but I miss having them here. Another ending.

Add in some expensive and agonizing dental hell and seemingly endless problems and drama on the property where I live, and you have the kind of year where a girl who loves Christmas doesn’t have any decorations up and in fact ignored the whole thing. I didn’t send any cards out this year, so if you didn’t get one from me, it’s not you, it’s me.

It’s probably not surprising in this underperforming year that I read only 102 books versus last year’s 114, and we have only received a paltry 10 inches of rain so far this season.

On the bright side (though not as far as Audrey is concerned), I adopted a little Siamese cat named Dodge, and he’s still alive so far, defying the odds.

Here’s to a less crappy New Year. I don’t think I can take it if I’m back here a year from now, telling you how 2018 looks like the good times.

January: I still had the plague from the old year. Not a good way to start the new one. When is a potato bucket not a potato bucket? When it’s a cat latrine, of course. Watching the surfers and ballerinas in Point Arena. The beauty of the lunar eclipse – and a perfect cocktail or two.

February: Both the weather and the mail were delightfully surprising. It was the Mondayest of Mondays and the smallest of small town days. I note that Wednesday’s engine light is still on, a full year later. A power outage at work, but not at home. Thankfully.

March: Rob’s amazing ceramic art. The most unpleasant time change of the year, and a delightful visit to Angelika’s little salon in the big woods. The beginning of the dreaded mattress saga. Not one of my finer decision-making moments. Celebrating Dad’s birthday. Stormy weather and the continuing mattress saga. Mark repaired some problems at my house. I note that he mentioned then that he was planning to move, and he eventually did.

April: Spring arrived, along with more silliness on my part than usual. Spring fever? A huge storm dumped a bunch of rain on us. Amazingly, the power stayed on. The horror of the mattress saga finally ended. Enjoying some local history and scandal. My blog turned 17 and Jessica turned 15.

May: Considering joining the library Board. A delightful dinner, a creepy play, and the debut of Lu and Rik’s first grandchild. A road trip to Willits to buy plants for the garden, and Star’s 10 birthday! Two sudden and unspeakably tragic deaths in one week.

June: A memorial service right before Erica’s and my birthdays inspired us to skip the celebrations. There was no Junapalooza either. I had taken time off for my birthday and was rewarded by getting the flu again less than six months after having it. The welcome discovery of wood-fired pizza in the Village. Despite everything, I’m grateful for the love and support around me.

July: My DNA test results. The beauty of the annual quilt show. A delightful outing to Point Arena, replete with delicacies from Franny’s and a play streamed from London. Both my back and my heart ached with the news of my former mother-in-law’s death. Rest in peace, dear Marj. The breathtaking Flynn Creek Circus and the terrifying wildfires.

August: Megan and Rob get ready to move from their home of 20 years onto the family estate. Giving away the things that wouldn’t fit in their new place. The seventeenth anniversary of Dad’s untimely and unnecessary death. I will never stop loving or missing him. The arrival of little Dodge, the beautiful little Siamese cat.

September: Megan and Rob were all moved in to their new place, and Dodge was finding his place in his new family. The beginning of Dental Hell, leading to my first (and hopefully last) root canal. The delights of the Fair.

October: The case of the disappearing landlord. Catching you up on some details. A trip to the hospital for my string of pearls. The last sleepover with Jessica. A lovely lunch and an enchanting garden.

November: The annual cider pressing. Swamped in smoke from distant, late season wildfires. In November! More updates about various things around the Manor. Hint: Not many of them are good. Remembering my grandfathers on the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. Sometimes I feel like John and I are the only people in California who wear poppies for Remembrance Day.

December: A memorable version of King Lear with the amazing Sir Ian McKellen. The great escape. The always delightful festival of lights. A lovely evening, including a live (and lively) 1940s style radio play. The Christmas that wasn’t.

A YEAR AGO: Looking back at another bad year.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Lots of trips to San Francisco, a shiny new divorce, a new car, and the arrival of Stella, among other good things.

TEN YEARS AGO: Adjusting to life in Oaktown.