RSS Feed

The Office Is Closed

This sign was on the restroom at the start of the Smith Mountain trail this morning. My grainy photo doesn’t show that the sign says “this office is closed due to the lapse in federal funding.” It goes on to say that the “office” will reopen when government operations resume.

We can think of another government office that that is more like a toilet due to the vulgarity of its occupant, but we won’t go into that. After all, it’s the first day of the year and everything should start on a positive note, right?

It was a glorious day, cold and windy, (well, 39 is cold for Southern California). Snow has dusted the top of Baldy.

The last bit of this trail is a vertical scramble. We logged our arrival in the register to prove we’d done it.

David gamely lugged a bottle of Champagne in his pack, so after we finished the hardest part of the hike we toasted 2019’s arrival.

As we climbed back down and neared the trailhead, we came upon a group amusing themselves by burning rubber in the parking lot. Not sure what the attraction is, but they seemed to be having a very fine time of it.

What’s in store for you this year? Whatever 2019 brings, I hope it’s rewarding!


Shipping Bolt News (with apologies to Annie Proulx)

shipping bolts“I’ve made a terrible mistake.”

These are generally unwelcome words. We’re grateful they didn’t come from a surgeon reporting an egregious slip with the scalpel, nor had either of us pronounced them as a referendum on our marriage. This declaration was from the contractor who has been working on our kitchen and laundry room for two months.

In the early 2000s, before the economy cratered and when seemingly everyone remodeled their homes from top to bottom, I would pretend to listen, rigid with boredom, as neighbors and fellow parents from Christopher’s elementary school went on endlessly in excruciating detail about their home improvement projects. Most of these narratives described various disasters.

We have lived in our house for 25 years but have done no remodeling. A couple of months ago, we decided to give our modest 1942 kitchen and laundry room an upgrade. I know, what were we thinking? Here I am, one of those tiresome people nattering on about a remodeling project despite my vow not to.

Having a new kitchen will be lovely, I’m sure. The process so far has involved a regular diet of ramen cooked on the camp stove, a wasteful supply of paper plates and cups and plastic cutlery—I refuse to wash dishes in the bathtub—and a soundtrack of the evangelical radio station the crew favors. Even with my home office door closed, I hear what sounds like a very angry preacher bellowing about the crucifixion.

This week we thought real progress was finally at hand. New appliances were delivered and installed. I was keen to inaugurate the new washer, lacking sufficient quarters for another Laundromat run. I flung in part of the prodigious mound of clothes that had accumulated since my last Laundromat trip and fired up the new machine’s complicated dashboard. A terrible, grinding noise filled the room. We listened for a moment, aghast. “That doesn’t sound good,” said David, the master of understatement. “No, it doesn’t,” I agreed helpfully. We shut it off.

Turns out that shipping bolts should have been removed. Gigantic bolts lock the drum and keep it from turning while the washer is transported. How that step was missed, why those outsized bolts that look like they’d do quite well in Frankenstein’s neck were left in place, and why we were told it was OK to use the new machine will remain a mystery.

Today’s “terrible mistake” didn’t have to do with those shipping bolts, but involved drilling the wrong holes in the new kitchen cabinet doors. The doors were taken down and spirited away, because now the mistaken holes have to be patched with Bondo, and the doors reprimed and repainted. We had a semi-finished-looking kitchen for a day; now the cabinets are agape again.

The contractor roared away in his truck, probably distraught. I’m not a contractor of course, but I am self-employed and well understand that interruptions or mistakes in a project mean that your pay will be delayed too. So along with annoyance, I feel kind of sorry for him.

Of course, in the big picture mis-drilled holes don’t constitute “a terrible mistake” or even a problem worth mentioning. We’re lucky that most errors and blunders in life, big and small, can be fixed whether it takes Bondo, an apology, an eraser, money, paint, time, or a rewrite.

When the kitchen is complete, you are all invited for dinner. Ramen will not be on the menu.




Don’t Be Scared

Beto 10-18The red check mark next to Cruz seemed to appear with startling speed last night.  When it flashed on the screen, I doubled over and let out a long “noooooooooo.”  I knew the race was going to be tight, but after working among thousands of volunteers for Beto O’Rourke in Texas, talking with hundreds of exuberant voters who love him, and witnessing one of the best-run campaigns I’ve ever been involved in, I was hopeful he’d take the Senate seat even if by a small margin.  I went to bed right after that, not watching the rest of the returns or Beto’s concession speech in which he, delightfully, told supporters he was “so f*&%ing proud” of them.

Now it’s a new day.  I don’t want to let my disappointment get in the way of appreciating last night’s gains: more women than ever in the House, Democratic control of key House committees, several of the most odious elected officials sent packing.  I’m not sure where Beto’s future will take him, but I hope he stays on the political scene.  We need his energy, his focus on what he wants to do rather than on sniveling about the other side, and even his skateboarding skill.

I’m done with Tweets and Facebook posts with the word “scary” and “scared” in them. Even this morning, I read several remarks from people who say they are “still scared” about our future.  Here’s a request:  Let’s all scrub the words “scared” and “scary” from our vocabulary when we think and talk about our world.  Quite frankly, our time for fear is long gone.  Time to be fierce, vigilant and active in holding people in office accountable—including Agent Orange—and in finishing the job of voting the rest of the Neanderthals out in 2020.  Instead of giving in to fear, let’s be “so f*&%ing proud” of the progress we’ve made and keep working hard for more.

Temporary Texan: How to Make Your Job

Today was my fifth day of walking precincts in Houston for Beto O’Rourke. The team of volunteers is from all over: Washington DC, Seattle, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston and many from California (including Alex, a young woman from my Long Beach neighborhood, coincidentally). Gerry even came from London.

The days are long and hot. Deciphering the numbering system in massive apartment complexes with names like the Phoenician or the Venetian has posed a particular challenge. Apartment 116 is next to apartment 123. Or apartment 723 is on the first floor while apartment 709 is on the second floor. Each complex is like a maze or a puzzle. I’m not going door to door, but using a phone app that lists registered voters who are likely to vote for Beto and knocking on only those doors.

Today a helpful maintenance man, probably after he saw me crisscross the same path multiple times, said to me, “I don’t want to tell you how to make your job but…” In his limited English, he kindly tried to explain the numbering system to me, something about 12 and 20. Unfortunately I still couldn’t catch on.

Even though finding the right apartment is difficult, I’ve had some warm encounters with people, many of whom didn’t know about early voting. The Beto campaign has volunteers who will drive people to the polls, so I was able to arrange that for several voters who were surprised and grateful.

Not everyone appreciates having someone knock on their door. I didn’t try to persuade this voter. I liked the addition of the “please”—must be a person with both a weapon and some manners. This is Texas after all.

Temporary Texan – Should Have Dyed My Hair

I’m off to Houston this morning to spend the last week before the midterm election block walking for Beto O’Rourke, who is striving to unseat incumbent Senator Ted Cruz.

Commit to vote

I do not wish to share my initials with Mr. Cruz, so I shall refer to him as RC, “R” being short for his Christian name, Rafael. I am sure he would be pleased.

RC claimed that Democrats want to “turn Texas into California, with their tofu, silicon (sic) and dyed hair.” I will arrive in Texas without tofu or implants, and with my undyed graying hair. I have an app on my phone provided by the campaign that will tell me where to knock on doors and convince likely voters that turning out November 6 is imperative. The margin between the candidates is reportedly razor-thin, so the party that gets out the vote will win not only in Texas, but throughout the U.S.

I thought about taking my magnetic bumper sticker with me to slap onto my rental car in Houston, but decided against it.  I’m sure all Texans are perfectly nice, but I’m slightly concerned about that random angry cowboy or cowgirl who would possibly try to run me off the road.


The bumper sticker is courtesy of Rogue Melania.  If you don’t yet follow her on Twitter, do.  Her Twitter feed makes me laugh every day, the only downside being that sometimes I forget that the real Melania isn’t subversive and witty, but a dim ex-model who walks in lockstep with hubby Agent Orange.

Stay tuned, wish me luck, and if you have a couple of extra bucks to chip into Beto’s campaign in these final days before November 6, feel free.  I support him for many reasons, but my initial attraction was based on the fact that Beto accepts no PAC or special interest money. Small donors have filled his coffers nicely, thank you very much.

You probably already know this, but his name is pronounced “BET-o,” as in “I’ll bet he is going to unseat Ted Cruz.”  His name is sometimes garbled as “BAY-to” or “BEET-o.”

See Things in a Different Light

No internet or cell access in Joshua Tree National Park, so we traded the blue glow of the screen for soft, golden desert light for a few days last week. It was such a relief to disconnect from the grim news cycle that I may wait a few more days before resuming my Twitter and NY Times compulsions.DSC_0326Along our gentle hikes – no climbing! – we saw great stone visages and cutouts where the sky leaks through the rocks.DSC_0284DSC_0294DSC_0277These fall desert blooms might have been the aftermath of the previous week’s downpour.DSC_0271DSC_0274Most startling was the lake that sprang into view after we scrambled over some rocks.  In all the decades we’ve been going to Joshua Tree, we’ve never seen a body of water like this.DSC_0281We wandered along the trail to the abandoned Wall Street Mine, which once stamped gold ore. The owners apparently left in such a hurry that they forgot the car.DSC_0315

DSC_0322For the rest of our time in Joshua Tree, we simply sat around and read, Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen for David and The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish for me.DSC_0297Neither book is exactly light reading, but we had the luxury of occasionally lifting our eyes from the page to gaze at the rocks and clouds.2018 10 20 J Tree TC phone



It’s Adequate   

Honnold El Cap

In one scene in “Free Solo,” rock climber Alex Honnold appears glumly traipsing through a big-box appliance store. More accustomed to scaling 3,000-foot vertical rock faces without ropes, he looks oddly out of place wandering among rows of refrigerators. After living in his van for years, Honnold has been convinced by his girlfriend to buy a home near Los Vegas. The scene in the movie shows them casing refrigerators.

They are all too big, Honnold says somewhat plaintively. He gravitates to a small, modest white refrigerator—the kind we all once had before kitchen appliances swelled to the size of small houses. “It’s adequate,” he pronounces.

We are on the verge of remodeling our kitchen after 25 years of living in our 1942 house. After we saw “Free Solo,” David briefly considered scotching the whole project, wondering what in the world we were doing, but we were already in too deep in by then.

Before we emptied our small kitchen to make way for the demolition, I would have claimed that we were semi-minimalists without the habit of shopping and consuming, and with relatively little cluttering up our lives.   But I was forced to reexamine that notion as I extricated a seemingly endless raft of dishes, utensils, cookware and food from cupboards and drawers.

I came across certain imponderables. Where did what appears to be a caviar dish come from? I’m certain I never purchased or received such a thing as a gift, nor have I ever served caviar in all my born days.  It’s a lovely little cut glass object with a tiny dome, but its origin will remain a mystery. The same for an ancient can of mace. It’s not the mace that fells an attacker, but the spice. According to the can, you add it to a “light sponge cake” or “a package of frozen spinach.”  I have never made a sponge cake in my life, light or otherwise, and I don’t recall macing any spinach.

I didn’t relegate the caviar dish to the trash or donate piles, but decided to keep it.  I would have included a photo of it here, but it’s boxed up with all the other kitchen stuff I shoved into Christopher’s room, and I can’t find it now.  I don’t intend to serve up caviar in the new kitchen, but the pretty little dish might tart up the mustard for some hot dogs. That will be more than adequate.