Sunday, May 30, 2010

Back from Washington (DC)

I meant to blog from our nation's capital, but frankly, I just couldn't muster the energy. It ended up being a very good conference, as good as we'd hoped, which was a relief. But I also had events to go to every night, which meant that I just didn't have the cycles to do anything fun. At all. I stayed pretty much within a 5-block radius of the hotel. Didn't even get to the Mall--what a travesty! Well, OK, there were two incidents of pleasantness. One was a fine meal the day I landed at Central Michel Richard. We were seated next to the kitchen pass-through and watched the chefs putting finishing touches on very "structured" platings. The other was a step back into the time machine, set for 1976--drinks at the National Press Club with a work friend and a couple of very old school reporters, one of whom had been the Voice of America. It was fun relaxing on the naughahyde sofa and taking in the scene, generations of reporters hanging out and drinking (including our host, who sloshed down four pints of Guinness while we were there). I also did something I've never done before: I flew home the day the conference ended. That last day was a very long one (one that also started with one of my headaches, too) but it was a smooth flight, thank goodness. We actually landed a half-hour early, didn't have to wait long at baggage claim or for the shuttle to the parking garage, and naturally there was no traffic at 11:00 at night. It was great being back home. I did go into the office for most of the day on Friday, but I felt really ready to enjoy this long holiday weekend.

PA Gals, Marin Headlands
Originally uploaded by suzipaw
Which got off to a great start yesterday. I met the Point Arena pals at the Marin Headlands for a walk along the coastal trails. It was an incredible, spectacular day--clear and warm, even right on the ocean. We had a lot of gabbing to get out, which was very nice and continued over lunch at a restaurant in Sausalito. Since I had been too beat for a date night on Friday, M and I went up to Healdsburg yesterday evening for dinner. We had consulted the list of "best restaurants" I keep on the fridge before leaving and settled on Barndiva. It was definitely a splurge, but oh we had a long, wonderful, flawless meal. They were out of tables, so we sat at the bar, which we agreed is something we both enjoy, chatting with the personable barkeep and other patrons. We strolled around the square after dinner, feeling like tourists, dreaming over the house listing posted in the windows of real estate offices. He purchased Twain's "Roughing It" at the local bookstore, and I'm sure I'll be picking it once he's done since I've apparently lost all motivation to choose my own reading material.

In other news, I took Veronica to the vet last week. She's officially 20 years old now, and had started really showing her age--losing weight and becoming very unsteady. As it turns out, she has hyperthyroidism, so she wasn't able to process her calories properly, which is why she's been losing weight. We've been giving her half a pill every day, and the change has been remarkable! She's already gaining weight and is much more active. I did feel a bit like a bad kitty-mom--I had thought that she had lost the ability to retract her claws, but in fact, a couple had just become overgrown, one so severely that it curled around and pierced her foot pad. So she also came home with a bandaged paw that didn't help with her mobility and was pretty gross when combined with a few trips to the litter box. But that's all healed up now, and she looks as though she'll be around for another 20 years.

Today M and are continuing a Memorial Day weekend tradition today--house cleaning. We used to get the carpet shampooed during this weekend since odds are the weather is warm enough to dry them quickly and we had three days to move everything out and then back in again, but since we don't have any carpeting now, hooray!, we'll be doing a thorough cleaning of walls, floors, and other items that we tend to ignore regularly instead. That should set us up for a quiet day tomorrow.

I know that this is the holiday of remembrance, but right now I'm feeling very thankful for the wonderful life I have in a very beautiful part of the world.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Back from Chico

With Grandma
Originally uploaded by suzipaw
It was a great couple of trips this week. I had a wonderful time with Grandma, as usual. We spent our time together chatting and reminiscing as we always do. I find her descriptions of her youth more and more fascinating the older I get--perhaps because technology is changing our lives more quickly now, and a non-digital life is just plain foreign these days and also something I'm really beginning to appreciate. I tried to be very good about spending money at as many different places as I could, though there's one less restaurant there now. The weather was wonderful. I got take-out at Doxie's Thursday evening and dined in my rented Corolla at the cemetery, watching the sun set over the headstones of Grandpa and other Axtells, Bauers, and Hadens. Wilbur was getting ready for Wild Goose Bill Days, which meant I got another gander at those enormous Old World oxen before leaving town Friday morning. I did miss my chance to have my photo taken with Miss Wilbur and her court, who were downtown the night before the big parade raising money for something or other.

Flying in and out of Santa Rosa is wonderful. It takes the better part of the day, but it's not taxing--no traffic long waits in airports. M collected me at the SR airport Friday late afternoon, and instead of heading right home, he took me out for a date night, a tradition we've let lapse a little. We drove out to Jenner and walked on Goat Rock beach, then had dinner at a not-bad place in Bodega Bay overlooking the water. Weather still gorgeous--it was a lovely drive through our beautiful county, down the spectacular coast and then through quaint Victorian towns (the church and school in the town of Bodega, where The Birds was filmed, were particularly striking, rising white against the deep blue sky) and oak-studded pastures with obviously contented bovine inhabitants to home.

(Photos from 1999 and 2010 date nights)

Saturday morning we got an earlier start for Chico than I thought we would, which was very nice. We got into town in time for lunch, which we ate in Hooker Oak park while watching boisterous boys from a church group splat each other with water balloons. We drove on to Upper Bidwell Park and sat by Chico Creek for a little bit before driving down to Ryan's school fair to rendezvous with Mom and Felicia, who were selling pottery.

Later we had a big dinner group, family and friends going out to a Benihana-style Japanese steak house, which was a lot of fun, followed by birthday cake back at Mark and Glori's. Note to self for next year: fifty candles make a great fire and a lot of smoke. We all thought of course how nice it would be--in theory of course--for Alyssa to give birth right then and there, since we'd all be there, but thankfully baby Sophia is holding off a bit longer.

A smaller group of us got together again for breakfast today, Mark's actual birthday, and that was also very nice to have more chances to visit, especially with Felicia who had to work last night so couldn't join us for dinner. Then another beautiful if slightly overcast drive home--reflecting a little bit of my Sunday blues perhaps.

One thing to be very thankful for, again: while at breakfast, M discovered that several of his classmates did not pass the Bar exam--again. That makes four tries for some. Things would be so different for us if he hadn't passed the first time. It's difficult to express how grateful I am for that.


One other interesting part about A Moveable Feast--I'm finding it a little tedious what with all the name dropping (gotta wonder what Stein, Fitzgerald, and Pound all thought about Hemingway), but I am enjoying his descriptions of Paris, particularly the food and café life. Apparently fishing in the heart of the city was quite common. And he describes one incident where a goatherd and his dog drove a herd through the quiet streets at dawn, stopping at the homes of customers who would bring their own pots to the street, and the goatherd would choose a likely doe and milk her right then and there. What a fabulous delivery system.


Busy week ahead, getting ready for the conference in Washington DC the following week. Memorial Day weekend looms like a mirage in the distance…

Thursday, May 13, 2010


One thing I forgot to mention last post, and was reminded of as I watched "Master and Commander" this evening: While in Seattle, milling with the other human cattle for the connecting flight to Spokane, I noticed a small, thin young man also waiting to board the plane with a military type 'do. Earlier, I had seen a young woman with her blond hair wound in a bun in her crisp Navy whites eating pizza in the food court. I wondered how it could be that we "defend" our country with such fragile youth. I was one of the last to deplane, so witnessed a scene I seem to see every time I arrive in Spokane--the same young man embracing an equally young woman who was showering him with kisses while others clasped their hands and watched or filmed the touching scene. I overheard another young woman echoing my thoughts to a member of the welcoming party: "Even though I don’t even know you, I'm getting all choked up." I fervently hope that one day we'll never have to welcome our young people home from such unnecessary danger.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Greetings from Wilbur

I write to you ensconced at the Willows Inn (nee the Settle Inn--how could they discard such a great name?), window open to the sunset and temperate breeze, the laughter of boisterous and brew-pounding young men on the rock crushing crew outside their rooms wafting in to accompany the TV shows I'm clicking through. Why is it that the crappier motels always have the better TV? Will it be Beetlejuice, Lord of the Rings, or QVC ce soir? (Speaking of the Lord of the Rings, have you seen the Leonard Nimoy/Bilbo Baggins video?)

I forgot to bring the cable to my camera, so for now you'll just have to imagine the lovely views I took in during my flights from Santa Rosa to Spokane: unusually green rolling green hills with vineyards flowing down to sparkling rivers giving way to majestic snow-topped volcanoes floating among low pompons of clouds, and finally the crazy quilt of wheat fields welcoming me to Washington. I know, it's all so trite, but really true even from the vantage of a plane. Sadly, there was not enough highway shoulder to stop and snap a pic of the sign that read "Litter and it will hurt" on Route 2, so that one you'll have to continue to imagine (blue background, white lettering).

I started reading Heminway's "A Moveable Feast" on the plane now that I've finally, sadly finished off the Richard Sharpe series I've been reading for what, the last year. I appreciated this advice that he gave to himself when he needed to start work on a new writing project: "Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know." If you wonder, like me, how he started the novel, it's: "Then there was the bad weather." When all else fails, there's always the weather. It's always true.

I saw Grandma briefly tonight (she's doing great!) then headed to The Alibi for dinner. It wasn't very crowded, so I couldn't help but overhear the disbelieving whispering between cook and barkeep over my request to leave the chicken out of the chicken alfredo. Maybe it was the antique bar and their banter, but I also couldn't help but thinking that those two women would've done a great job running the place 100 years ago. I learned that pints here are called "pounders" and the smaller glasses are "schooners." However, that would've been scandalous for me to know about a century ago, eh? Wild Goose Bill Days start this weekend, and though I'll be departing before the main festivities get underway, there is apparently a "moonlight madness" sale tomorrow evening that I'll be able to partake in.

Looking forward to a good night's sleep (I just jinxed it, didn't I? I can sense those 18 wheelers and their jake brakes coming to get me now) and more visiting with Grandma tomorrow.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mothers Day

I'm back at the Applebox for a writing/gabbing date with the Pointy Pals. It's another overcast day, which is odd for May, but makes it easier to be inside. I brought both of the poetry books I bought at the reading last week with me. I need to get more poetry back in my life. I'm feeling very blank right now, so hoping that I'll be able to take Billy's advice that blank times are the best for writing; perhaps my annual poem might make its appearance today. It's been a year since my last one, which I still haven't finished editing. On the bright side, I want to edit it still--I think it has a lot of potential, and that makes me happy. There's a fair amount of dross, but I don't think it's one of the 300 bad ones Billy Collins thinks that poets have to get out before the good ones come. The other thing I like about the poem has come with the passage of time: it has an Easter-ish/renewal theme since that's when I wrote it. A friend makes an appearance and in the poem--I imagine him letting go and finding love--and he just got engaged! It's going to be hard to edit that part wisely, not let knowing what I know now interfere with the moment it was trying to embody. We'll see how I do.

Here's one of Kay Ryan's poems:

Hide and Seek
It's hard not
to jump out
instead of
waiting to be
found. It's
hard to be
alone so long
and then hear
someone's come
around. It's
like some form
of skin's developed
in the air
that, rather
than have torn,
you tear.


I spent Monday through Thursday at a conference in San Francisco. It didn't seem as draining a show as it usually is, maybe because my stay was a day shorter than it has been in the past and I only attended two evening social events rather than the usual three or four. I stayed in a new hotel, and though my room was most pleasant (nothing quite like having the toilet adjacent to a floor to ceiling window) I just didn't sleep well. One thing was very nice: When I left home, the roses were just beginning to open. When I pulled into the driveway four days later, they were ablaze with color. The pink Victorian Spice is particularly abundant this year. I have my two largest vases filled with flowers, and the living room is quite odiferous, as M might say.


I'm looking forward to my travels this month. I'm off to Washington state to see Grandma next week, then Washington DC at the end of the month for another show. I had been toying with the idea of spending more time on the East coast, but I'm gone so much this month, I ended up booking a flight back the evening the show ends, something I've never done before. That's going to be a long day, but I know I'll be glad to wake up at home rather than spending the whole next day in transit. And then there are those birthdays this month--brother turns the big five-oh, and Sophia will be just plain oh, so there may be more festive journeys around those milestones.

I need to start knitting again. The purple baby dress isn't getting any larger, while the baby it's intended for is…

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Another Recap

It's a perfect Saturday morning. The sun isn't quite up over the hill and the greens of trees and grass are beginning to glow. I'm up early. I couldn't get back to sleep for thinking about work stuff, so I figured I'd try blogging as a way of clearing my mind. I continue to miss blogging more often. Nancy has stepped up her pace, which has been very inspiring. I'll try to follow her example.

Work was (hm, I just typo'd "war" instead of "was"--"work war" sounds about right) particularly hard this week. We've had some personnel changes and that has been difficult and sad for me to deal with. I'm hoping it will get better soon, but we have four conferences in the next seven weeks, including one next week in San Francisco, so there's going to be a lot of shoulders to the wheel for a while. So anyway, this post is not supposed to be about work, isn't it?

Our trip to Tahoe last weekend was just wonderful. I took both Thursday and Friday off, and actually managed to not check email once! It was a lovely change of scenery of the mind as well as geography. It was M's idea to go to Tahoe in the first place. I was set for some coastal-ish area, and I'm really glad we did the mountains. Thinner air! Snow! We stayed on the south shore, in a motel close to the state line, the lake shore, and Heavenly ski resort. Part of the vacation was not having an agenda--we had a couple of activity and restaurant recommendations, but I made a particular effort not to plan anything. And not to feel like we had to stick to some sort of schedule, which meant that we didn't rush to leave the motel room in the morning which felt a bit like we were squandering our limited time there--but that's part of vacation, isn't it?

We got there Friday late afternoon. The weather was much warmer than I had anticipated, which was nice. Our motel room was not fancy, but had two rooms, one with a gas fireplace and kitchenette, and both with enormous TVs. After a stroll to Heavenly Village (a mall, really) to check out the gondola (closed for the evening) and stock up on snacks for the kitchenette, we hied ourselves to the lake and sit by the shore (which was all fenced off--luckily the gate was open) and watch the sunset. Then we drove around looking for a place to eat. It seemed like fate when we encountered one of the restaurants that had been recommended and was in the same place as the paddle boat tour we were thinking of trying. We were too late to buy tour tickets and had to endure the first of several timeshare pitches, but we did get some good info before dinner, which was tasty if a little overpriced and in a noisy space. We had an angry-silence couple at the next table, which made us grateful for our own happiness. I also was complimented by the waitress on how much of the pasta dish I consumed--apparently not many women eat as much as I do. Good to know.

I started Saturday with a soak in the tub, something I don't do at home. We ventured out late in the morning, picking up sandwiches to take with us on the Heavenly gondola trip. There's an observation deck below the main summit and we spent a leisurely bit of time there, having lunch, huddled against the chill and admiring the amazing view. Up at the summit, the slopes were quite active. We wandered around watching the lift scoop up skiers and snow boarders, and the kids tubing and ski-biking down one of the gentle slopes. We thought about trying the ski bikes, but it was so expensive and was for two hours--I didn't think I could last that long, and there was only one little course to traverse. So we headed back down on the gondola, our romantic ride spoiled by a skier who jumped in our car at the last minute. Ah well.

Down from the mountain, we walked a couple of blocks to the casino that was sited just a few feet east of the state line. M played a bit of slots then stationed himself at the $5 craps table. The smoke bothered me, so I wandered through a few of the shops then found a less smoky bar and dropped my usual $20 playing video poker and nursing a Bud. I finally couldn't take the smoke but I didn't want to interrupt the fortune mojo since M was still at the craps table, so I snuck out and went back to the motel for a lie-down and shower before the paddle boat dinner cruise. Happily, he did indeed win $150! That was nice.

We cut it a little close, but made it to the dock at Zephyr Cove to board the MS Dixie just before it headed out across Lake Tahoe. The top deck was pretty full at first, but out on the water the wind blew pretty chill, and most people took shelter below decks. We toughed it out til we were called for dinner service, and were seated at a window table which was nice. We reached Emerald Bay just as the sun was leaving its last light, giving us a fine view of Vikingsholm. It was dark on the way back across the lake and the room where the cover band played was overly crowded, so we were quite ready to debark at the end of the cruise.

I had a sort of dreamy-nightmare night. I woke up around 3am to a low roaring sound and couldn't get back to sleep. I took a book to the other room, and found we had left the fire on full blast. It felt like 100 degrees and the roar was the fan that was probably trying to keep the fireplace from exploding. I turned off the fire and started reading but the fan kept on and on…just as I was convinced that I had somehow arrived in hell, the fan shut off and as the room cooled I was able to get back to sleep in a sweet silence. For better or for worse, sleeping a lot is one of my favorite parts of vacation.

We took our time checking out and stopped for disappointing waffles on the way out of town. It was such a quick trip--I'm glad we're going back in June. I liked the vibe there in Tahoe, though it was tourist-y. I can't imagine how it must be at high season with skiers swarming everywhere. It was fun seeing people clad in their festive ski attire, hauling skis and boards and poles on the streets and in the shops, passes dangling from necks and pockets. Like our trip to Hoover Dam over Christmas I noticed a lot of Indian/South Asian tourists. Why don't they seem to come to Santa Rosa? (I know there's Spanglish and Franglais--is there a word for Indian-English? Hinglish or Benglish maybe? I should know that.)

M's knee bothered him a bit during the trip and it still pains him, but he's definitely on the mend. We got the bill for our portion of his ambulance ride--that was an unpleasant surprise. And some people think there's nothing wrong with our health care system!

On Thursday, I went with my writers group to hear poets laureate Billy Collins and Kay Ryan read. They were so funny and thoughtful, bantering with each other throughout the evening. It was refreshing to attend an event that was intellectual and literary yet also lighthearted. I have a newfound appreciation of Kay Ryan's poetry. During the Q&A at the end of the evening, one audience member asked if they ever have blank times or writers blocks. Billy's (we're on a first name basis) response was that being blank or empty was actually the best time to write--you don't have any preconceived notions about the poem or where it's going. That was very inspiring for me. Another person asked about the state of poetry today--should we be worried that it's not very popular? Kay (my buddy) replied, and Billy agreed: Who cares? TV is popular and that's nothing to recommend it. Let it be appreciated by those who enjoy it. It's better as a small community anyway.

M and I are going to rendezvous with Mom in Boonville today to pick up the dog, so time to get ready for that. It's been a nice break from his intense gaze and pervasive shedding, but I've missed the little mutt terribly and look forward to curling up with him tonight.