Monday, December 29, 2008

Cozy by the Fire

Miss Mabel always loves to curl up by the fire and our recent dip in temperatures has given her the opportunity to partake of her great joy.

It always freaks me out that she likes being so close.
She will jump up and run to me after the logs settle but I tell her it's OK and she goes right back.

The second night of cold, it started pouring rain so I had to bring her outside bed in. I arrange them so I have a place to stand when tossing logs on the fire... and that's the spot she picks to snooze.

At some point, she did realize that her bed would be more comfy. I love how she spreads herself across both, like some rogue dog is going to run in and nap on her bed.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Seven Pounds of Doubt on Ben Button's Revolutionary Road

I got a cold Christmas Day. And I was lucky enough to get my mitts on dvds for some just released movies.

Seven Pounds (HUGE SPOILER ALERT HERE!): I actually saw this in the theatre last week with a buddy from film school. I've always been one of those annoying people that can spot holes in a plot a mile off. I'm known to lean over to my movie going partner and whisper, "The butler did it."

I was looking forward to this because there was supposedly some big surprise that would keep me riveted to my seat. There was no surprise; it was not riveting. Maybe if they hadn't told us in the first two minutes that Will Smith's character would commit suicide before the end of the movie, I could have gotten into it. But they did and I didn't.

Within twenty minutes, I was squirming in my seat and had to ask my friend, "You know where this is going?" "Yep." "Bored?" "Yep."

Once there was no mystery, there was nothing to do but sit back and enjoy the acting. Will Smith is tortured in his roll of a man who killed seven people texting while driving...including his beloved wife. Is it his best roll? Not by a mile.

Rosario Dawson was heartbreaking as a heart patient and this the only performance of Woody Harrelson's that I've ever enjoyed.

Smith's character proceeds through the movie checking out the seven people he will leave his organs to - making sure they are "good people." And midway through, you easily figure out how he's going to off himself. But the other huge plot hole for me is - I think they reject organs from a poisoned patient...

Wait for video on this one but, if you are jonesing for a good Will Smith flick, see Six Degrees of Separation. I first saw this movie because I loved the play and adore Stockard Channing and Donald Sutherland. I thought Smith was surely miscast in his first film role. He stole the show and I came away a die hard fan.

If you would rather see a movie with a less transparent plot and you are one of the seven people on the planet who hasn't seen it, rent The Sixth Sense.

Doubt
is the star of all the movies I've seen. The actors are spot on, the scenery is perfect as are the costumes. There is nothing bad to say here. I probably wouldn't have seen this in the theatre - the subject matter of a priest sexually abusing a child is disturbing to me. And yet it is wonderful and definitely worth seeing on the big screen. I usually hate stories with vague endings that let the viewer make up their own mind but this film is just beautiful.

Meryl Streep is simply on fire and certainly deserves another Oscar for this one.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was annoyingly long at almost three hours! Thank goodness I watched in stages from the comfort of my sofa! I can't imagine being in an uncomfortable theatre for that long!

The story is about a baby born an old man who ages backwards, getting younger as time marches on. While Cate Blanchett always brings wonder and depth and honesty to any performance, Brad Pitt's performance was flat. I tried to chalk it up to being born with wisdom - no need to calm down as you age. But there was never any passion or fire in him even when he won his long lost love nor when he had to leave her.

New Orleans serves as a backdrop and it was lovely to see the Old Gal in her glory. But the whole movie feels like some kind of would-be Forrest Gump. I can actually envision the studio pitch session with the lame ass studio executive listening intently: "Yeah man, it's the new Gump, only instead of Alabama, he's from New Orleans. Instead of running across the country and meeting presidents, he'll be a sailor traveling the world meeting interesting people. Instead of being an army hero, his tug boat will get commissioned into the war... Instead of 'life is like a box of chocolates' we've got......" OK, here is where I get lost! The catch phrase we're supposed to take away is COMPLETELY FORGETTABLE! It's along the lines of "You never know what's comin'" I didn't think the end of this movie was comin'.

Button is a CGI (computer generated imagery) wonder and will certainly win awards for that but it is long and tedious and despite the promised tear jerker, I only teared up a bit when he was speaking about what he wanted for his daughter. My advice: wait for video.

Revolutionary Road celebrates the first pairing of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio since Titanic. They do have a chemistry about them. Winslet's character mourns her once hoped for life as an actress, dreams cast aside when she got pregnant. DiCaprio's character is a guy just doing the right thing, working at a job he hates to take care of the family.

The movie rarely shows them in happy times so we have no idea what really binds them together. We just see the ugly, nasty fights which are really sad and mean. And the make-ups are even stranger. After a horrible fight, he will return home or wake up and she's in the kitchen and dressed and cooking and forcing happiness. "Hello dear, how would you like your eggs?"

It's an astounding juxtaposition and made me wonder if she was bi-polar or just one of those many 1950's housewives who "needed" barbiturates.

The couple comes up with a plan to recapture some of the glory of their youth, before the kids and the house in the burbs. Then an unexpected pregnancy derails it. I found myself wondering about how many people must have their lives, hopes and dreams dashed in this way.

The movie is a sad commentary on marriage but all of the performances were wonderful. The most annoying part, aside from the downer of a plot, was Winslet's wardrobe. While the other women were dressed in the 1950's, Winslet's character didn't seem to know from whence decade she came. It made me wonder if the wardrobe department or director Sam Mendes (Winslet's real life hubby) gave the actress a little too much say in the costumes.

If you can handle a depressing plot during the most depressing time of the year, this movie is worth a trip to the mega-plex for the acting alone. Kathy Bates is also terrific in her role as a neighbor and realtor.

Creekhiker's Guide to Knowing When You're Really Sick

You are really sick when you look at the clock, thinking it must be close to bedtime and realize it's not even dark yet.

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's NOT Holiday Malaise

... but I just can't seem to get any project, including blogging, completed. I've taken photos for the blog: Mabel curled up by the first fire of the season, the creek flowing again after our recent storms, a new hiking trail that I can't get out of my system, Mabel hiking with Kat's Chihuahua, Twinkie. But I can't make myself upload them.

I have undertaken other large projects: starting my taxes, giving away the thousands of rubber stamps I own to an art school, holiday baking, and cleaning out my closets. I do a bit of this and a bit of that, but complete nothing.

I am just in a state of utter relaxation. Once I realized I really can't afford to see the family and that no one would be hiring this week...and once I made my peace with the fact my future is about to change drastically - just not right-this-minute, all worry and hurry left my body.

And as luck would have it, a new book arrived. I've been a huge fan of the Daily Coyote blog for quite some time and Shreve Stockton has written a book. And while I expected it to be more of her breath-taking photos, I found instead a wonderful love story with messages about love, loss, healing, and so much more. I simply can't put it down.

So, I've been going on long walk abouts with the pup, sometimes in the rain. And coming home to a roaring fire and curling up with a good book. I feel like this is the best Christmas I've had in a long, long time.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mama Drama

Plans for Christmas have me down...there's so much drama poured into one freaking day and it's really driving me nuts!

Excuse the vagueness but I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings....

Party #1 was hosting at her big, chi chi house in the hills... it's been planned for months. Not my favorite place to go... catered food... but it's where my California family will be, so I go.

I would much rather be at my BFF's sister's house. Her family is so laid back and easy and everyone brings the best good food and we laugh and sing and just catch up. This usually takes place on Christmas Eve and we don't go because the ex hub goes with my godson and we all find it hard to watch him drink and it's more important that the godchild be with all his cousins.

Welp, Party #1 up and cancels Christmas two weeks ago because she's depressed none of her many kids will be home for the holidays. All are married with small kids and the closest one lives 2500 miles away. So she and hubby are going to a resort. Never mind the eight other people she'd invited over...

So I'm thinking we're free to go to BFF's sister's... but NOOOOOO. We somehow got committed to go to Party #2's house... people I barely know....to hang out and bake cookies. Excuse me but being with strangers is NOT my idea of fun.

I could go to Party #3, close to home, good friend with drop in potluck. Only, her friends are all old hippies and I won't have finished eating before the illegal substances come out. It's one thing to be with one friend smoking something questionable but to be with 20 when I'm the only abstainer makes me more than uncomfortable.

OR... Party #4, another close friend who will have her grown kids with her for the first time since her nasty divorce a decade ago. And her drama queen father will be there too which will mean this won't be easy or laid back either.

But then, Party #1's hubby calls up. Wifey is all depressed over the kidlets not coming. And suddenly she wants family around so her hubby asks BFF to come out to the resort. (I wouldn't be included in this one.) No way, not gonna happen thanks to the godson coming and going over the holidays BUT now, BFF is expected to throw Christmas brunch!

All this back and forth has my head spinning and I'm really thinking if I had known I would have this much Mama Drama, I would have opted for Christmas with my own mother!

Argh!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hardly Seems Worth the Effort

As I hold a spoon crusted over with garlic cheese grits for Mabel to lick... and lick and lick and...

It occurs to me, she's burning more calories licking that spoon than she will take in from the little bit of food she scrapes off it. And still she licks.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Chicken On Chicken

I know I mentioned that I rarely puke..which is why it is so shocking to my system when I do. But the thing that bugs me the most is the aversion to what ever food came up that follows and seems to last for ages.

When I was 11, a family friend we were visiting over Christmas in Washington D.C. bought these light, fluffy cinnamon / sugar/ crumb donuts. I over-indulged and to this day will only eat a Cinnamon sugar donut if it is the last in the box and I'm starving with no other options.

Around age 13, I biked over to the Dog N Suds in McComb one day that my mom and stepfather had to work late. I think it was the first time I ever ate in a restaurant by myself. I got my favorite: a hot dog. When it came, the dog was wrinkled and weird. I remember thinking something was wrong with it. I ate it anyway. It was years before I could eat a hot dog again.

I remember around age 18, being on an overnight church trip in the woods. All they fed us was hot dogs! I nibbled and swallowed and was so grossed out. I shoved the dog out of my bun and ate just the bread. I was in my twenties and living in California before someone taught me what wonderful hot dogs they have a Costco before I became a fan again. About a dozen years to get over that one!

New Year's Day of my 19th year, Mom had plans with friends and left me sitting at the large bar that separated our huge den and kitchen, gabbing on the phone with my childhood best friend Della. Della and I could have marathon conversations even after spending and entire weekend together! As Mom left, she placed a soup bowl full of her amazing toasted spiced pecans in front of me. Della and I talked for three hours and I ate and ate. The whole bowl was gone when I got off the phone. Too rich. Too spicy. And to this day, I never eat more than what I can pinch with my thumb and first two fingers. They're so delicious, it kills me to show such restraint. And it offends my mother.

And now, 26 years after that episode, I had to get sick on the most benign staple of my winter existence: chicken soup. I LOVE CHICKEN SOUP! I had bought a case of it at Costco the day before!!! That's how much I love it. I need a case to get me through winter!

But my aversion extends well past soup. I eat chicken most of the time. I live near an El Pollo Loco - a wonderful grilled chicken place with tasty, healthy and inexpensive choices. And there are three local places that also make incredible grilled chicken that I visit regularly.

And Costco has sumptuous roasted whole chickens for under five bucks. I stood in front of such a chicken counter last week and they were crating up the freshly roasted birds and people were queuing up, waiting. I gave myself a little pep talk: You love the roasted chicken. You can eat for days off the chicken and Mabel loves it. You can freeze some in little baggies for lunch. You love this. It's succulent and delicious. Just smell that....

As I was having the conversation with my head, my body turned the cart and was walking away before I even finished!

This CANNOT last for a decade. I know in my head, I had the stomach flu that so many here have had. It's no coincidence that the friend I saw Milk with got it the next day. We were both so busy, we didn't have dinner together, meeting at the movie theatre at 8.

So I keep trying to rationalize and be an adult about all of this. But, in the meantime, I think I'm gonna drop off that case of soup at a food bank.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Movie Review: Milk

The night I got the stomach flu, I was out with a friend to see a preview of Milk, starring Sean Penn. The movie is so amazing and I need to issue a Spoiler Alert for the simple reason, I doubt this movie will even get the play time it so deserves in middle America.

The Gus Van Sant helmed film about the life of seventies gay activist Harvey Milk is an incredible and surprisingly timely story. The casting is uncanny: all three major characters (Milk, Councilman Dan White and Mayor Moscone) are played by dead ringer actors (Penn, Josh Brolin and my favorite song and dance man, Victor Garber respectively).

The movie opens as Harvey Milk, living in the closet in New York picks up a younger man, played by James Franco. The two end up moving to San Fransisco and starting a business Castro Camera.

At first, conservative Southern Belle that I am, I was a bit concerned about the sex scenes... this was San Fransisco in the seventies: pre-AIDS, let's sleep with everybody, freewheeling seventies. And Van Sant is not known for his discretion. But they were really pretty mild. There is one tender moment early in the movie with Fraco's Scott Smith character sitting on a ledge in front of the camera store. Sean Penn as Milk was squatting on the ground and the two were making out. It felt so tender and personal that I felt as like I was some voyeur watching a very private moment.

While the Castro was quickly becoming a mostly gay community, homosexuals were still regularly beaten and even barred from some businesses. Milk quickly organized the gay community. They would boycott businesses that refused to do business with them. Even business owners who initially shunned homosexuals could not deny the power of their dollars.

Milk started running for public office by approaching groups who lacked representation: gays, hippies in the Height and the elderly. Still he lost several times. All the while, he has clearly become a leader in Castro and gay community thanks to a fight against Prop 6 and Anita Bryant. Prop 6 made firing of gay teachers mandatory. Even if you weren't gay but supported them, you could be fired.

How timely that the gay community is fighting a similar battle with Prop 8 here in California and in other states that refuse to give them the right to marry...even though a marriage provides different rights than a civil union would.

After one such loss, Milk gathers his inner circle and asks them if they are out. Most nod in agreement.

Then he asks again: Are you out to your parents, your siblings, your friends, co-workers, neighbors, your boss? Are you out to everyone you know? The room grows quiet. He hands a phone to one man and says, "If they know one of us, they vote with us.

I can't go into the ending and Milk's murder...I got ill and missed the last twenty minutes and will the see the movie again for that. But what I saw was beautiful and amazing.

Mr. Milk, I know many of you. I care about my friends and I love them deeply. I'm proud to stand beside you and vote for equal rights for ALL!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Lipstick: Party of Two

My best friend is a complete and utter goofball... which might explain to you why she's my best friend. She's always open to adventure and we always seem to find one when we're together. An ordinary trip to the mall (that alone is pretty rare for us) can find us at a Polynesian dance show. Or a drive to her sister's might find us stealing a handful of avocados from an orchard. And simple things can be sublime... and the sublime can get ridiculous.

Today she phoned with a rather funny request.

"I want you to come over for coffee but I have an indulgence I want you to honor."

"...Okaaaay."

"You have to wear your reddest lipstick."

"What?"

"You have to wear your reddest lipstick. I'm in a mood!"

"I will only wear lipstick if you take me Starbucks." (A deceptive ploy on my part. I hate her coffee...It puts hair on my chest!)

"But I made apple..."

I cut her off. "I'll be right over."

The BFF's Hungarian apple bars are stuff of legend at Christmastime around here. Pop into her house anytime during the month of December and you're likely to find her grating apples, cooking apples or baking apple bars. They are always wonderful. Her first seasonal batch was disappointing (to her). The apples were way too soft. I should've known she would be jonesing for another batch...

As I raced into the bathroom, I was dialing her number.

"Let me understand. Does this Lipstick Party require me to wear a clean shirt or a bra?"

She laughed and said no.

I dug through my little bag of most worn makeup. No red lipstick. I searched the little tray of "back up makeup." Still no red. I dug deep into my makeup drawer of stuff I never wear and started putting all the tubes of "not red" into the bathroom sink. I realized I buy the same shade of neutral beige over and over and over.

Finally I found a tube of something passable. It was more dried blood than red. She looked oh-so-happy when I arrived. She had Christmas music playing...trying force another mood. We laughed about how good we look wearing such bright lipstick and how she too buys the same neutral shade over and over.

And we drank her strong coffee and we ate too many apple bars and for an hour we just talked and laughed. I think it's one the best Christmas gifts I ever got.

Monday, December 01, 2008

My Sweet Nurse

I forgot to mention what a sweet little nurse Mabel was during my illness.

The first time I was sick, she came running, curious to see what was in that trashcan Momma was holding. Then...she saw me putting stuff into that trashcan and she ran to the bedroom door and cried! Oh honey, if only Momma could've run away WITH you!

After that round, I decided I needed to be on the bathroom side of the bed...Mabel's side. I rearranged my pillows, got the t.v. remote, the overhead light remote, my little box of sinus sprays, lotion, tissues, etcetera (Good grief! I need a lot of crap to make it through the night!) all within reach. I got in and motioned to Mabel where I wanted her to be.

She always goes into my tiny bathroom to be able to have a two step "running start" which means: head into bathroom, turn left into the shower so her heiny fits by the toilet, pivot until facing the bed and LEAP! (Now I realize why Mabel loves going to her granny's in Baton Rouge: Mom has a 22 foot long bedroom! Mabel can actually run to jump on the bed.)

But as I lay there dying that night, I was appalled that she was planning to leap on the bed. But then she jumped so gingerly, I hardly felt her. She was quite confused and actually tried to curl up in the six inches of the bed closest to the bathroom. Finally she moved.

We would repeat all this after the next round. I fell asleep a for a bit and realized that I needed to start re-hydrating. I got up for some chamomile, brushed my teeth for the fifth time that night and crawled back into bed. This time, Mabel went straight to her new spot.

I was so proud and told her so. She crawled on her tummy to get closer, sniffing the air. She sniffed and sniffed and zeroed in on my mouth! She took a big whiff and blew her nose up in the air. With that, she looked at me so pitifully and took her paw and placed it carefully on my shoulder.

She spent the weekend sharing my bed generously instead of crowding me for space. And she was so obedient on every walk. In truth, she was the only company I could have tolerated for the the past few days.

I'm so blessed to have her...

That's the funny thing I've found about rescue dogs. People will commend you for rescuing a dog but in truth, all I've done is give her a home. It was she that rescued me.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Lost Weekend

Several of you are aware I got really sick on Tuesday night. Along with all the stuff expelled from my body, so went my plans for the weekend. So here I sit on Sunday and my house is not clean. My laundry is still mountainous. The ingredients for cornbread dressing still sit on the floor of my dining room (except for the hen I never got around to buying). My sweet potatoes are in my oven...waiting for me to turn it on.

My other blog still has no new post. The new stamps aren't on the website. New beads never got made. The pool didn't get cleaned and my third shrub is still waiting for me to plant it.

My goals were lofty and numerous and while I didn't expect to get them all done, I certainly didn't think NONE of them would be accomplished.

The lingering side effect of the violent virus I had was a pounding headache. All I've done for days on end is sleep. While I felt the worst on Wednesday, it was blissful to be curled up in my warm house while the rain was pouring down outside.

I did venture out to the creek the past few days and, last night, I got a massage to work out the kinks and soreness from being sick. And then, I slept again.

So I guess I'm well rested and that's quite an accomplishment for me!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I Need Help

You know, I've never been a confident woman in the looks department. I'm certain that is one of the reasons I'm still terminally single at this stage of my life.

But the other day, while watching my beloved admire the object of utmost desire, I've decided that maybe, I need plastic surgery.

Does anyone know of a plastic surgeon who could make me over to look like a tennis ball?








Friday, November 28, 2008

It Wouldn't Work for Me

There is a group of three mutts in my neighborhood who are the most well - walked dogs I know. Their owner walks them in the early morning, noon and evening. He takes them up the mountain and back down and criss crosses the neighborhood each time.

The thing that amazes me is the way he travels. No matter the weather or season, he is always in his "uniform:" denim shorts, t-shirt, sport socks and tennis shoes.

His three dogs have no leashes. They are tied with a hank of rope from their collars to a loop in his belt; each to a different belt loop. He slouches along at such a casual pace, enjoying his outing with his pups.

Every time I notice see him, I just about keel over laughing because I suddenly visualize myself walking Mabel Lou in such a manner. And the next visualization is of me in my undies as Mabel tears up the mountain after some critter with my jean shorts in tow.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Life In the Creek - Part 5: Carolina and Crew

Carolina (Spanish pronunciation: care OH LEAN uh), and her family are new comers to our creek. I first noticed them last winter. Carolina is the mother of five but lost custody thanks to a drug habit. She was living in her car with the kids when the state took them away.

Still her oldest, a teen - maybe just out of high school - lives with her off and on. Carolina is considered one of the bad homeless by most in the creek because of her temper. I first became aware of her when I heard her screaming across the valley. She and her son have loud and emotional fights and he will leave for months on end.

At some point, while her boy was gone, Carolina moved an African American man into her tent. The two of them have loud and violent fights. And now she comes and goes after fighting with the boyfriend. He is a shy man and never speaks to me but I've seen him petting Mabel when she goes up to his tent.

Most of the hikers just avoid them as Carolina has just started screaming at some of them.

---------------------------
These folks I've mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg. Our homeless population has simply exploded this past year (along with the hiking population making it painfully clear that lots of people are unemployed!).

There is a teen aged boy with shoulder length hair, kind eyes and a quick smile who sometimes camps near Tim. He has a volatile relationship with his parents and when it gets too much, he comes to the creek and Tim looks after him.

I discovered three more men living in the bamboo on the north shore, one of which was camping right in the sandy river bottom! I pray they have a radio and can move to higher ground when storms move in.

Two more are living in large pipes abandoned by the Army Corps on the north side of the waterfalls. And a newcomer has pitched his tent in the large cedar just off the main trail to Walden Pond.

And there are two more tents east of Tim and Blondie's. All of these have appeared this year. Seriously, every time I'm feeling desperate and thinking I might have to move there, someone moves into MY bush!

I wanted to write about our homeless to give them a face and because I hope it makes all of us realize how lucky we are to have a roof over our heads, people that love us and food on our tables today.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Life In the Creek - Part 4 - Tim and Blondie

This Tim is technically Tim #1. He's lived there longer but he's a few decades younger than Tim #2. He lives with a cute and sweet woman named we all call Blondie. To have lived in the creek for so long, it's kind of amazing that she seems to have a dye job!

While Blondie is a good old timer, Tim #1 is a Bad Homeless. My encounters with him are rarely pleasant. Both are tweakers - meth addicts. Blondie only seems sweeter when high. Tim gets meaner.

I've had shouting matches with him and basically stand my ground, ever grateful that I'm hiking with a rottweiler. I realized after my last trip to their area of the creek a few weeks ago, that he's really just afraid I'm going to steal his stuff.

Tim and Blondie go out into the neighborhood on trash night and collect junk: wagons, bike parts and of course, cans and bottles to sell.

And some part of me admires them. They understand the number one rule of real estate: location, location, location.

They live further east than the rest of the homeless I know well. I sort of stumbled on their camp by accident. I used to park on the ridge, (for you locals, it's where Oro Vista dog legs back up the mountain to the gated community), jump the rail and hike east until I found the concrete wall. I found I needed a walking stick to get down the hill into the creek bottom. This was my normal route in for ages and I was aware their camp was off to the west of where I entered the creek.

Then, I got stronger post surgery and was finally able to go for a longer hike. I hiked up from the main levy, staying in the creek all the way. The water grew deep and still in this one area and two tributaries entered just above... small waterfalls making beautiful music. As I waded through this still pond, I realized I was standing smack in front of Tim and Blondie's tent. They weren't home so I stood there, resting in the shade and looked around.

From their front "door," there is no sign of humans save for a fence rail on a distant mountain to the west. No houses, you can barely hear the cars for the waterfalls that lead into the still pond a few feet from their tent. It is stunning. Every time I'm there with a camera, they are home so no photos of this magnificent view. It's truly the location of my dream house! Just not a tent!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Life In the Creek - Part 3: Tim #2

Tim's tent in the background with the river raging. He lived hidden in the shrubs for close to year before I knew he was there. This photo was taken after he trimmed the shrubs a bit.

Tim #2 or Good Tim was actually Mabel's friend for quite some time. In January 2005, the creek had a massive flood and the water flowed pretty high all that year and didn't dry up until mid-summer 2006. Which meant that the Creekhikers couldn't really hike the north wall of the canyon because the water was so high. But that doesn't stop part-Labrador dogs from crossing over and exploring on their own.

I had noticed Mabel kept disappearing into a clump of bushes and never really gave it much thought. She did this for close to a year before I noticed a tent in there! I yelled at her to get her out of there assuming someone had just moved in. A voice came back from the tent, "It's OK! She's my friend. She visits almost everyday and I save a bite of my dinner for her!"

That just ripped at my heart. A homeless guy is saving food for my well-fed, super spoiled pup? Wow!

As the waters receded, many of us Creekhikers got to know Tim. I had already guessed from the neat and orderly manner that Tim kept his camp and the American flag perpetually flying that he was a vet. From the work boots, I ventured he was in construction. I was wrong on the vet thing. He was 4F during the Vietnam war and like several other men I know from that era, he felt his own body had betrayed him and his country.

Tim always flies his flag.... a very proud American.

Tim had a good life and work was plentiful once. But he took in his sister when she became ill and her husband left her to raise her two small boys alone. Tim raised her boys and nursed her and kept a roof over all their heads. But as the youngest graduated, Tim lost his job and his sister's medical bills were piling up and I seriously think he had a bit of wanderlust. He moved his sick sister in with another sister that he doesn't get along with and hit the road looking for work. He lived in run down motels or "camped" his way through the great west before finally settling in our creek to be closer to his sisters. (They live 30 miles away. In LA and on foot, that might as well be 100 miles.)

Tim has a job. He works construction most days. And he drinks beer but I've never smelled liquor on him on a work day and I've never seen him drunk. But I do have to wonder if he couldn't afford to live in one of the cheap motels around here if he gave up beer and cigarettes. But he loves our creek...

He takes the bus to see his sisters and will stay away over a holiday weekend. Once back home in the creek, he admits to "being spoiled" by sleeping in a bed. But he and his older sister just can't get along for long.

While I consider Tim one of the brightest of the homeless at the creek, I also wonder about the logic of his tent placement. He is essentially on an island. When the Big Tujunga has water there is another branch that flows at the base of the north mountain. I've seen it from the eastern road or when I'm hiking to the west, I've spotted where this high stream falls into the main channel. When it's really flooded, it's dangerous going in and out. I know from my film-making days and dealing the LA river management that it only takes six inches of fast moving water to knock a grown man off his feet. I've raced out to the creek at 6 in the morning and sometimes late at night to give Tim a weather report and implore him to move camp. He never does.

When the river rages, all muddy and brown, there is no way out. He simply waits until he's comfortable enough to cross. But it's often thigh deep and still muddy. He keeps a pair of "river boots" (boots too old to work in but good enough to cross the rocky river) and rolls up his pants or carries a second pair around his neck, where he also ties a dry pair of boots and socks. Once on the levy side, he changes for work and leaves his river boots there, blending in with the rocks. Many Creekhikers check in on him during the wet months by simply observing his boot placement. "Tim's boots haven't moved in days. Have you seen him?"

After the last big flood, he had to get out to get supplies but slipped into the river. I know it frightened him because he wouldn't go back home. That was the time I've seen him drink the most, especially after work. I know someone took him in for a bit but he would come to the creek every night before sundown and stare wistfully at his tent. I'm certain he was also sleeping in the brush during this time. He seemed absolutely frantic. When I asked what was wrong, Tim admitted he was terrified someone would steal his stuff.

I pointed out that if he couldn't get across the creek, other people wouldn't work that hard to cross the creek just to see if he had something to steal. That calmed him a bit.

Tim is kind, helpful and hardworking. He loves all our dogs and saves balls for them and often engages them in a game of toss. He is the one I have the most hope for. The heat, exhaustion and the stress of living in the open may not have taken him over yet. I pray that someday, he will have a solid roof to call home.

Mabel slinking away from her friend's tent after a visit.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Life In the Creek - Part 2: Margaret.

Margaret by Sunland Don, father of Winnie, Chloe and Abby.

Margaret is the oldest - by that, I mean longest - resident of the creek. I would venture close to 30 years now according to long-time Creekhikers. Margaret would not speak to me for years so a lot of what I know is second-hand.

It is believed she has a Berkley education and that heroin took over her brain. I have no reason to doubt this. OnceMargaret finally started talking to me, I am quite impressed when she is lucid. She can spatter her conversation with "five-dollar words" like the snootiest of the snooty. I've heard her use the words apogee, perigee and juxtaposition all correctly in a sentence. The average human cannot do that and certainly not the average homeless person.

But Margaret is not lucid very often and yet, I see so little signs of drug use around her many camps.

Another Margaret rumor is that she comes from a wealthy family. Apparently they've tried to "rescue" her and institutionalize her and every time, she runs away to her creek. (It is far more hers than anyone else's!) I can't say as I blame her. It's beautiful there.

Margaret ignores most dogs... she freezes in her tracks. I have to wonder if that is the result of living with coyotes. And she rarely speaks to any but the oldest of Creekhikers. I used to hike with a wonderful man named Ron - he has leg problems and his dog died so we no longer hike together. Ron always gave Margaret money - usually a twenty. And if he hadn't seen her in a while, he'd give her much more. Once Margaret figured out I was friends with Ron, suddenly, she started talking to me and acknowledging Mabel - not petting, simply nodding her way.

Once, right after Ron stopped hiking, Margaret caught me moving fast on the shortcut trail, looked me straight in the eye and said, "People never give me any...."

Her pause made me nervous...Oh God, she's gonna ask me for money!

And then she finished it: "...time."

I stopped in my tracks. "How are you Margaret?"

"Not good. My skin, it burns."

It's true. Her face is so weathered and aged from the sun. I asked, "Do you have any sunscreen?"

"No."

I brought her some the next day and she thanked me and put it on.

Some exchanges with her are totally nonsensical and still others appear to have some deeper meaning. Once, after the coyotes had stood on the levy appearing to stalk Mabel and I at sundown, I was freaked and racing for the car when I ran into her. I told her my tale in a very excited voice and she listened with great concern. Then I asked her if she was afraid of the coyotes. Her answer: "No. They've always been very good to me."

Margaret keeps a regular schedule. She goes into town early in the morning and again in the evening. I see her coming home with drinks from the Jack N the Box or 7-Eleven. And bags full of junk food.

She goes to Starbucks and buys huge Venti coffees (instead of the far tastier and cheaper 7-Eleven coffee). Once I was in there with the BFF and Margaret was sitting outside drinking a coffee. I said hello before going in and sitting down. Margaret came in and ordered a refill and I felt sorry for her because people were standing back and I could feel them judging her. After placing her order, she walked past us on her way to the restroom. We acknowledged each other as she passed and then, her odor walked by on it's own two feet! Even though I've been close to her physically, I've never known her to smell bad except that day. It was nauseating and everyone was fanning their noses. The table next to us looked up to see what caused it and I couldn't resist. I pointed at my best friend across the table and said, "She did it!" (My BFF has an equally wicked sense of humor. She laughed.)

This past year, Margaret has taken to carrying that teddy bear everywhere. I often think she could carry more food if she'd leave her bear at home but he's always with her. I've seen her hold him like a baby, cradled in her arms. I've seen her hold him high in the air and admire him. I've heard her telling him secrets.

Margaret is the only homeless person with no shelter. She usually sleeps under a bush or tree and she never takes her garbage to town. Last year, during the creek cleanup sponsored annually by a local politician, they cleaned up her camp on a Saturday. On Sunday, trash night in town, Margaret dug through the trash cans of the residents nearest the creek and re-decorated.

There is no happy ending here. One of my greatest fears is finding her all alone and dead in a place we both love.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Life In the Big Tujunga Creek - Part 1

When I first started hiking the creek, I would seldom see another soul. But as my schedule changed from the demands of a "regular" job, I started meeting more and more people there. I must say I enjoy both scenarios. There are times I'm so inside my head and need to think, that I really enjoy the solitude. At other times, I find myself grateful to find someone to share the trail.

But this past year, things have changed.There's more hikers than ever and there's more homeless. And after making the list below, I'm sort of shocked at just how populated my little creek is!

Everyone at the creek is somehow categorized:

1) Creekhikers - those of us who hike with dogs.
2) Weirdos - those who hike alone. There is only one Weirdo that is considered OK - only because he hikes daily and vast distances so everyone knows him. However, he ignores all dogs that approach him for affection. He wears an i pod and keeps his eyes on the ground a short distance in front of his feet.
3) Family Walkers - usually a group just enjoying a pleasant day. You only see them after a large holiday meal or on a holiday weekend. There is a sub-group of family walkers called Idiots. Idiots usually have with them someone not steady on their feet, i.e. a toddler or a very old person, both of which have no business hiking in the creek with cacti and poisonous snakes and coyotes.
4) Bicycle kids - they are usually in the 8 - 15 year-old-range and are very industrious boys. They come with shovels and build jumps with for their bikes and sometimes they hide in the bushes and smoke really bad weed. (This from someone who has never smoked weed... even I know that stuff doesn't smell right!)
5) Teens - looking for a place to drink beer or have sex.
6) Punks - This group, just out of their teens, will not be around for months and then spend the night in the creek for a few days on end. Most Creekhikers hate the punks because they have three bad-ass pit bulls that hate all other dogs. And some of these kids are clean and have no weird piercings and dress well. You have to wonder if they don't have a mother or dad worried about them... But you could say that about all of these last three groups.
7) Jerks - These are the cross country motor bikers -which is illegal in our creek. Everyone hates them because the bikes tear up the trails. Not to mention that even our docile dogs want to attack them for riding so close and kicking up all that dust.
8) Horsepeople - self explanatory. Horsepeople hate everybody. They want all of us to leave their trails alone. However, Horsepeople will bond with Creekhikers if there is some cause to be won... i.e. fighting the golf course.
9) Hispanic workers - they don't hike because they enjoy it. It's just a shortcut from work in Sunland to homes in Lake View Terrace and beyond. They often gather and drink beer on Friday nights before heading on home.
10) The homeless - Three categories here: The bad homeless - these guys are trouble. Stay out of their way or wear your big boy pants. I've had to wear my big boy pants on occaision and have been very grateful for the cajones my mother gave this girl! The unknown - newcomers. I see evidence of them but rarely see them in person. And the good old timers - they've lived here for a while and are kinda like traffic cops. Good people down on their luck and find no shame in that. Nor should they.

In the creek, as in the real world, like attracts like. And while I've spent many, many hours with my fellow Creekhikers, I'm terribly ashamed to say that, when approached by one in the grocery store in town, I have absolutely NO idea who they are! Let's just say that most of them clean up well for a trip to "town," unlike me who pretty much lives in pj bottoms, a t-shirt or sweat shirt and my hair perpetually in a bun! But they call my name and stare at my bewildered look as my mind reels to place them. They finally help me out with, "I'm Chloe's dad" or "You know me! I'm Lucy's mom!" Ooooohhh. Right!

And yet, when we hike, we know each other and what's important (dogs). But I can't really tell you what any of them do for a living or their last name, save for a handful.





Saturday, November 22, 2008

Can Ya Stand Another Dog Tail Tale?


Meet Twinkie, my god-dog-ter. She belongs to Kat. Kat brought her home from doggie jail (Kat, like me, has a preference for creatures with a record!) about a year ago. And Twinks was sick as a ... dog.

Poor baby had nearly died of pneumonia! I held her while Kat bought supplies for one of the smallest creatures she's ever loved. While her mommy shopped, Twinkie and I fell in love! This girl goes berserk when she sees me and I do the same for her.

She's had a rough year. Already crippled in her hind leg (barely noticeable as she runs so fast on three legs, we'd never catch her if she could use all four!), she broke her front leg. Twinks also swallowed...something... that she was allergic to and her little cheeks swelled up. She may be tiny but she's oh, so mighty!

The other day, her mom emailed to say she was almost frantic as she realized Twinks hadn't been out of bed all day - 20 hours! She went in to wake Sleeping Beauty and ask her if she wanted "outside." Twinks eagerly pranced over to the edge of the bed...where her ramp to the floor should be. The housekeeper had moved it to clean the day before and forgot to put it back! So, good girl that she is, Twinkie never complained and simply caught up on her beauty rest. I was quite impressed she didn't make a mess in her mom's bed!

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Longing In His Heart


I wrote about Beau and his brother Bell last weekend. As I was hiking very early last Sunday in order to get to the South Bay for my class, I noticed him watching Mabel and I as we headed into the creek. There are so many days I wish I could take him with us.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Brain Fart

I'm not sure how this happens but, this is not the first time. I've "misread" my schedule. A class that I've been "thinking about" getting ready for (because, in my mind, it was next week), is suddenly barreling down upon me.

My trusty "cookie assistant" (the BFF) knew it was this Saturday. My mother in Louisiana knew it was this Saturday. The community ed scheduler knew it was this week. She told me how impressed she was that we filled a class the first time it appeared on the schedule when I saw her on Tuesday.

But for some reason, none of that registered in my brain. I was lollygagging home from the creek this morning, taking mental notes: Visa bill due 21st, go to B of A to pay that. Pay Discover on the 25th...Wait..there's something on the 22nd...yes, cookie class. That's the Saturday after Thanksgiving... Wait...no it's not, isn't today the 20th??? OH. MY. GOD!!!!! Cookie class is in TWO days and I haven't bought vases or flowers or started baking or prepping kits??? Oh crap!

Needless to say, I'm kinda busy and since I figured out last weekend that no one comments when I'm gone, I'm just going to put up some photos and hide the keyboard from Mabel. And I'll be a big girl. There's no need to comment... But - feel free to chat amongst yourselves.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Where There's Smoke

The fire Sylmar fire was just over the mountain from last month's Marek Wildfire. Luckily, the winds were blowing toward the Southwest, away from me. Still, when the wind shifted, you could smell it.


View of the smoke blowing away from the valley. Note how blue the sky is.

As I drove through downtown toward my lampwork classes in Redondo Beach, you could see the smoke hovering over the city. No more blue sky here.

The winds blew the smoke to our normally cool, clear and breezy beaches. This was taken at 1 p.m. outside The Mandrel lampworking studio.

Ash rained down both Saturday and Sunday. This is the hood of a black car with ash all over it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Choices

I'm faced with some heady choices today. I'm still really tired from being on my bad, pathetic feet all weekend and I have to teach tonight.

Since I was dealing with ebay / Paypal issues all morning and have wasted more time with them than the sale was worth, I'm still pulling beads and tools and supplies for my cab wrapping students. And I'm tired.

I'm still packing up a few orders that came in over the weekend and prepping some bead trays to take to a customer tomorrow. And I'm so freaking tired.

So it's down to take a shower before class, take a nap or write my daily blog post. As my head is bobbing while I type, I'm thinking I should've drug the computer over to the bird bath that I can hear flowing right outside the shop door and taken care of all three issues at once.

Sorry for such a crappy post!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cutie Patootie

Since I wrote my heart out to leave you folks with some scintillating thoughts in my absence and no one left this comment junkie a single comment, all you get tonight is a photo.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dining In Buenos Aires

Note: I wrote this restaurant review for a potential job as a food critic. Since I just wrote about the Mongolian Barbeque the other day (and I'm in a lampworking class all weekend), this post is a bit of a copout but I hope you enjoy it anyway!

After a few meals out in Buenos Aires, it becomes apparent that, succulent Argentine beef aside, all restaurants are the same. I find the food is adequate, even tasty, but it’s mundane and forgettable. From corner café to grand parilla, the menus are as predictable as the sunrise.

In every dining establishment, I find the obligatory steak, fantastic hamburgers, the egg dish, the fish dish and always, the Argentine version of French fries. It is as if by trying to please everyone, they fail to please anyone. Those humdrum pappas fritas are a good example. They are perfectly fried golden potatoes with dressed up with garlic and parsley – it really makes you homesick for just plain old French fries. And while salt is readily available, don’t dare make the mistake of asking for pepper – a mistake I’ve made in far too many restaurants.

No matter what type of establishment I’m in, the scene is always the same: The waiter will stare at me, dumbstruck and then utters in a high pitched voice, “Pimenta?” Wearing disgust on his face, he marches off to the kitchen, informing everyone along the way that some American idiot wants to ruin her food with pimenta. He eventually returns with pepper- the fries are now cold – and gathers the other waiters around to watch how this strange ingredient is used. Pack your own pepper; it’ll save lots of embarrassment.

The other phrase to be aware of is “con jamòn” or with ham. Everything comes with ham. No kidding. Apparently, this is where the ham in hamburger originated. Order a steak, it comes with ham. Melon? Yep. Ham. If you don’t love ham, learn this phrase and utter it every time you order: sin (seen) jamòn (without ham).

While thousands visit Buenos Aires every year and seem perfectly happy to partake of gastronomic predictability, to find an interesting meal – with or without ham- throw away the tour book and talk to some locals. If your Spanish is rusty, try British tourists as they seem to have better guidebooks.

It was a Brit that led me to Brocolino’s, clearly the best Italian restaurant in Argentina – and probably even the world. It’s that good. It is a noisy, family joint down a dark street. It’s easy to hurry past Esmerelda, as it intersects with the busy Florida shopping district. It seems like a good place to get mugged. Yet, there’s always people, huddling in the dark, headed somewhere…Brocolino’s.

It’s a really ugly restaurant. Most Argentine buildings are brown or tan and it’s shocking to walk into the most hideous bright green room off the darkened street. But the waiter’s greet you in Spanish and make you feel like an old friend. If you’re not sure what to order, they just start bringing you food.

The pasta is perfect al dente; the sauce robust with lots of garlic. Angel hair with garlic and oil (Aglio e olio) is a stinking rose lover’s delight. Be prepared to smell garlic coming out of your pores for at least 24 hours. By then, you’ll be craving more.

El Teatro should be on every tourist list – it’s located right next to the world famous Teatro Colòn opera house, a popular destination. Yet the large parilla is filled with animated and loud locals. Ah, but this grill is different. Because of the locality to the opera, El Teatro doesn’t feel like the average barbeque place. The patrons are nicely dressed and the décor is rich with green plants and lots of velvet. I was extra lucky on my visit as I was traveling with well-known actors. We were seated in the lush balcony overlooking the main dining area.

The menu has the usual assortment of grilled meats but there is lighter fare here. The salad is made from variety of greens instead of the usual hunk of iceberg. The house dressing is rich with tarragon. The grilled chicken has been marinated in a salt bath and then buttermilk before grilling. El Teatro also serves a dish that is more common at home barbeques: provoleta. A nice sized chunk of provolone, dipped in oil and herbs, grilled until the inside melts and the outside is crispy, is brought on a steaming plate with a basket of soft bread. I am certain this dish caused me to gain at least ten pounds during my extended stay, and worth every ounce.

For Sunday morning breakfast, try the Florida Café. Omelets abound at every restaurant, but the Florida makes pancakes. While they are not fluffy – more likely close cousins with a crepe –they are a wonderful remedy for the homesick. Having been in B’aires for weeks and missing my Sunday ritual of pancakes, this was a welcome find. Syrup is not to be found but the panqueques are served with a thinned dulce de leche. “Milk jam” is made from sugar and milk, cooked to a milk chocolate brown and appears in almost every sweet Argentinean dish, usually in a thick and chewy mass. At Florida, the thin caramel is a refreshing accompaniment to breakfast fare, served on toast and muffins as well as pancakes.

It is at the Florida where I notice another commonality with all Argentinean restaurants: a waiter will never pour cold milk into coffee. It must be scalding hot before being decanted from three feet above the table into a coffee cup.

In the quest for unusual fare in B’Aires led me to several Chinese restaurants, only to be disappointed with the greasy, over-cooked food. Then we heard of Mongolian Barbeque. The cab dropped us off on a wet winter eve in front of what looked like a house in a non-commercial neighborhood. Our ride was out of sight as our group discovered the door was locked. Realizing we were a good two miles off any major thoroughfare and possible taxi stand, we bundled up for a long walk in the rain. We didn’t make it very far when we heard a woman call to us in Spanish with Chinese accent.

She let us in and explained in English that 5:30 p.m. is very early for dinner in Argentina. She sat us at a fireside table and brought a fine red wine from the San Juan region while we waited for the cooks to finish setting up. There was a cold bar of meat: beef, pork, chicken and shrimp, as well as an assortment of vegetables and sauces. Simply fill a bowl, hand it to the cook and a waiter brings it to the table. The chicken was moist and tender, the vegetables crisp and perfect. By 9 p.m. the tiny restaurant was filled with the laughter of neighborhood locals and our gracious hostess called us a cab. If trying Mongolian Barbeque, plan on dining late and knock on the window if the door is locked.

If you are willing to travel a little for a great meal, Gato–Blanco (White Cat) is a destination dining experience. I wasn’t sure what to expect when a friend suggested we go to a restaurant that required traveling by boat. Located a couple hours from downtown Buenos Aires by both bus and boat, this restaurant, in Tigre, is on an island on the Rio Capitán, one of the many rivers and inlets off the Rio Paraña.

Gato-Blanco reminds me of one of the many restaurants my family used to visit by boat on lazy Sunday afternoons in the Louisiana bayous, band blaring and smells of something good coming from the kitchen. Sure, you could get there by car, but why would you want to?

The trip to Gato-Blanco is the beginning of a fun, relaxing day. The boat hums through the wide river delta and gives an up-close view of how the elite of South America live. I really loved looking at the breathtaking houses with expansive lawns that butt up to the river. Every house has a “boat elevator” that lifts a boat high into the air so that another may dock beneath it.

The restaurant also has a large dock and lawn chairs right on the river. There are interior and exterior dining areas as well as a bar and tea room. The front yard is a large, park-like garden with playground equipment for the kids. And yes, there is a white cat hiding in the foliage.

The food is filling and needed after the boat ride. Grilled shrimp with garlic is a house specialty as is a flat fish served with lemon and champagne. Red meat lovers will go for the sirloin stuffed with mushrooms, ham, cheese, potatoes and cream.

After dining on such rich food, a walk along the riverbank is needed. Or hang near the band; strangers will ask you to dance. By late afternoon, it is time to board the boat back to the bus depot. The chill coming off the water on a June winter night makes it possible to sit in the waning sun while wearing my thick coat. The warm sun, the great meal digesting and the gentle rocking of the boat make it impossible for me to stay awake. A long nap ends a terrific day and I’m ready for the more populated destinations in Buenos Aires.

Brocolino’s

Esmerlda 776

Buenos Aires (Florida District)

Inexpensive

El Teatro

Toscanini 1288

Buenos Aires (Recoleta District)

Moderate

Café Florida

Cordoba 399

Buenos Aires (Florida District)

Inexpensive

Mongolian Barbeque

Avenida Las Heras 3357

Buenos Aires (Palermo District)

Moderate

Gato-Blanco

Río Capitán nº 80 Delta del Paraná CP (1648)
Tigre - Buenos AiresArgentina

Moderate


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Beau N Bell

I have two wonderful friends I see every day at the creek. I should explain, I tend to have pet names for every dog I know and these are no exception.

Their given names are Rambo and Talon (Becky, maybe you can help me here with the spelling). Talon is Korean for Bell. Rambo doesn't fit this kindly husky. My aunt once had a Rambo. He was this little white yapper. The name fit him just fine. But this boy is such a gentleman. So I call him Beau.

I feel so sorry for these boys. I park by their house and talk and scritch them daily. Bell came first and was an indoor dog. Then came Beau and as Beau grew, they were both banished outdoors. I have seen them there in rain and sleet. They have a dog house they never use and the owners did put up a canopy tent to shield them from the afternoon sun. I have seen them out on the trails exactly twice. No other hiker has ever seen them out.

We all talk about them. We all adore them. We all feel sorry for them. What it must be like to see all these dogs head into the trails, off leash and happy, every single day.

I quickly figured out that everyone was bringing them treats... at least six different hikers I know of and the two elderly ladies who come out to watch the sunset every night bring treats. And so I don't bring them treats anymore. It can't be good for dogs that get no exercise to have that many treats!

But I bring them scritches everyday and I tell them that they are good boys. And everyday as I drive away, my heart breaks a little more.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Yep, I'm Cute!

Mom is kinda stressed out. She's taking lampwork classes with some famous bead maker all weekend so I thought I'd take over her blog, after all, you know what they say: When the mom's away, the dog will blog.

I want to talk about self esteem. You humans are just way too hard on yourselves and it seems to me you need to think more like a dog. So repeat after me:

I'm cute, I'm cute, I'm just so cute. I'm the cutest puppy in the world!

Say it, Live it, BE IT!

Hey, it works for me!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Trees and the Big Dig.

Eugenia waiting for a home.


I know I started the tale of my trees and how cutting them down has depressed me so. I immediatedly started trying to find something to block out the light from the backyards of my across-the-canal neighbors.

I talked to a nurseryman about my needs at length: non poisonous, fast grower, tall, blocks light. He sold me privet. I can home and started digging. And I dug and dug and dug. There were so many roots it took me close to three weeks before that hole was big enough. I planted one tree and by that point, I had forgotten how far apart they were supposed to be. I started reading online and found out that privet is poisonous. I called the nursery and gave them an earful. They were so nice, they let me return the four I bought.
One Eugenia in; two more to go.

I ended up with Eugenia. It does meet all my requirements and makes a nice tart berry too. I only got the second tree planted last weekend thanks to the huge root.

I dug this firewood sized root out of the hole!

I have to say, with my business in the toilet and the lack of responses I get to my job hunt, I have found the perfect frustration killer. When I'm anxious, I go out and pick up that ax and swing til I can breathe. My body has gotten so much stronger doing this! I really think it's the perfect exercise!

My favorite tools: an ax, hand pruners, vine pruners and my mother's "sharpshooter."

I also realized I should have cut down an annoying vine on the west fence. I've been whacking away at it as well and finally fixed my chainsaw last weekend and got rid of it.

After cutting the stump down on this vine, I realized it was holding up the fence! Another project!

I doubt my yard will ever look as lush as it did but for the first time in years, I'm enjoying being out there trying to make it look better!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Quick Thinking On My Pedals

I was reading Becky's post today about being propositioned in South Korea and when she got to the last few sentences, she threw in a little comment about a man dropping his pants right in front of her! It reminded me of something that happened in in Argentina. (Thanks for the post idea, Becks!)

I and the American's I worked closely with would spend our one day off, Sunday, exploring. I, unlike the others, never broke my routine. They all would sleep in on Sunday, but that threw my body chemistry way off and made the first few work days afterward difficult. So I would rise, go for a walk along the docks and eat breakfast at the only restaurant I could find with something that resembled American pancakes. When the the rest of the gang was finally awake, we'd brunch somewhere, read newspapers and make a plan for the rest of the day.

We strolled about the city on this particular Sunday, sightseeing and taking pictures until someone remembered hearing something about a Mongolian Barbeque over in Palermo, a neighborhood some distance away.

As all of us were either from New York or L.A., we were perpetually in search of a good meal. It only took a few days to realize that most restaurants in Buenos Aires were all alike: each had a fish dish, an egg dish, a chicken dish, a beef dish and a hamberguesa. We quickly grew bored. We soon learned where to go for more interesting fare both near our office and apartments but Sundays were reserved for finding new and unique meals.

Keep in mind we were all working from 14 - 18 hours a day, six days a week. We were exhausted and all suffering from that malaise that makes nothing really matter too much. If one person had an idea, the rest were likely to follow.

Off we went in taxis to Palermo. Never mind that we had no name of the restaurant; no address. We were a resourceful group managing a crew of a thousand. We could find a restaurant with no name or address in a foreign country. The taxi drivers dropped us off at a park -Parque Tres de Febrero.

This park was like nothing we had seen. We had all been to the incredible Recoleta Park. But this park was wooded and had an amazing lake and big islands. Without so much as a word, we all got out of our taxis and started walking straight for the shore, mesmerized. The park was not busy at all on that late fall afternoon in May. Some of the guys lay down in the sand. Some of the girls took off for a walk along the vast shoreline while others hit the concession stand for a snack. Me? I walked to the water's edge, drawn to the paddle boats.

I've had a fascination with paddle boats since I was child visiting Percy Quinn State Park near my hometown of McComb, Mississippi. My mother would never let us rent a paddle boat. I spent my childhood watching those boats and longing to be on one.

I petitioned all of my friends and no one was game - for good reason: a winter storm was moving in. It was starting to sleet and darkness was setting in.

Finding that restaurant and our exquisite meal are a whole other story. But that park and those boats stayed in my head. It would be weeks before I would return alone on a brisk Sunday afternoon and rent a paddle boat.

I had the best time on that lake which was quite busy and soon longed to explore a quieter shore and study the flora and fauna away from the crowd. I turned down and inlet and soon the busy shoreline disappeared.

I found myself drawn to a duck that was nesting a late fall flock of ducklings. They were curled up next to their mom and she was protecting them from the breeze that was blowing. There were so many trees here, the sun was no longer visible. I paddled so close to the shore, I could have stepped off the boat if I'd had something to tie it with.

I marveled at the coloring of those ducks and how they blended so perfectly with the fallen leaves on that shore. As my eyes scanned that shoreline and the wonderful colors spread on the ground, something caught my eye. Those look like shoes. They are shoes with a man attached!
To my great surprise, that man had his pants down and started pleasuring himself on my shock. Immediately, I realized how close I was to him; that he could step on my boat in an instant! And then, that deep sense self - preservation that many of us possess kicked right in.

I started back pedaling the boat as fast as I could and simultaneously decided if it was my shock he wanted, he would not have it. With my left hand ( I was steering the boat with my right), I pointed at his engorged member and cackled very loud. As I laughed, I screamed, "Moi poquito, moi poquito!" (translation = very small)

He quickly tucked it in his pants and ran off into the woods. I've never wanted to rent another paddle boat!


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

When All Else Fails, Post A Picture

I'm finding this daily writing thing to be quite a chore! Here's a few thousand words to hold you over.

I've written about our local peacock flock before. It's fun to head out looking for them around sunset. They tend to congregate near their roost.
In the neighbor's ivy...


On the fence...


On the window sill...

I love this guy! He doesn't have a very impressive tail yet, but don't tell him that!


This guy is just a show off!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Computer Burn Out

I almost forgot to post today! In my defense, I've been on this blasted machine all day.

I wrote a blog post for the team blog I contribute to and listed a few items on ebay. And then I got down to the work of looking for a job. Can I just state how much I HATE online applications especially when they make my resume redundant?

I struggle so with their questions. Keep in mind, all of my jobs have been in a creative field in the past. Getting a job there involved getting a meeting with someone who talked to me a bit and then either gave me job or a list of names of other people who would give me a job. Sometimes they called someone and told them to give me a job. I didn't have to know how many hours were involved in my baccalaureate, I didn't have to take any tests, and my resume was simply a list of names of companies and directors I had worked for. The name game goes a long way in Hollyweird.

Setting aside the way I feel about filling out the same information, again, redundant on my new fancy resume, over and over, some of these websites are just archaic and difficult to use.

I found myself on the City of Los Angeles website helping a friend who is out of work. He couldn't figure out WHERE the job listings were so he called me, the computer "expert." I looked and looked and couldn't figure it out either. We actually had to call someone with the city to find the link!

Once in the right place, there were different categories and I even found a few I'm qualified for. It took well over an hour and a half to fill out their forms and supplemental forms.

Then I made the mistake of looking in another category: civilian with the police department. A young friend of mine recently started working with the sheriff in such a capacity and really enjoys it. But once again, I ended up in web - circle hell. The "jobs" link led to a q&a page and none of the other links led to actual jobs. The last one led me back where I started!

I wish "someone" would realize that when job seeker is looking for a job, they expect to see a list of available jobs; nothing else. It's a case bureaucratic of efficiency at it's finest.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Winds of Change


With the sun arcing up, you almost expect to hear angels singing.


This shot is the reverse view of the sunset. I love how the pink kisses the mountaintops.

Election night blew in more change than expected. We seem to have skipped right over fall and went to winter!

Not only was it "wear your pjs" cold, it was "toss on another blanket and turn the heater on" cold! Uh - that would in the 40s (stop laughing Janet and Becky!).

We've had five days of rain since the 30th and much cooler days and our coldest night last Tuesday. But these cool, breezy nights have been really something yielding the most spectacular sunsets.



I've changed in another way too. I'm finally becoming a smart dog mommy! Sunday night was my second night of insomnia when I realized Mabel was on alert, whining and carrying on a bit. I ignored her until I heard something knock over an empty coffee can I had placed on the banister to take to the shop. Raccoons love to stand there and try to break into Mabel's trash can of food.

I jumped up and had to move Mabel away from the door physically a few times. She was hell-bent on going out. I didn't want a repeat of that raccoon fight from earlier this year! I finally slipped out of the bedroom and managed to leave her inside.

Once on the porch, I saw little, wet, raccoon paws every where! The little turds had been swimming in my pool! I had been seeing a big wet spot near the stairs for several mornings but couldn't quite figure that out! Now, I have proof.

I walked out into the yard and spied a little raccoon standing on the other side of the fence with just his head showing. I casually picked up a pool skimmer and slowly walked around the pool. As I looked down to take a step up onto the deck, the rascal disappeared but then I realized I was only a few feet from a very large raccoon! I swung the skimmer and he darted under the deck.

I stomped around a bit for good measure then went back inside and climbed in bed as if nothing happened. And that dog who would have been so fired up, I wouldn't have gotten her inside for hours??? She climbed in bed and went to sleep! Score one for Momma!!!


This night hike was almost eerie. To my left it was pitch dark save for the moon. To my right was this lovely orange glow.

Friday, November 07, 2008

At Least I Feel Better...

A reader on Velvet's blog wrote about the website Change.gov. I was shocked that they requested people to fill in a form with their vision for the government. And while I doubt my tiny voice will make a dent and all the President-elect Obama has to do (I certainly feel like there is more pressure on him to get the ball rolling way faster than any other newly elected president in my memory!), it made me feel better for writing it.

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Right now, my business is failing. I'm looking for work and even though I have a ton of skills, there are no decent paying jobs OR I'm literally one of hundreds applying.

The thing that scares me is our government wanting more and more of MY money. This is happening on a local, state and probably national level. When things are tight and I have little coming in, I have to cut back. That's what I expect of my government. Don't come asking for more when I don't have more to give.

The other thing that bugs me is our elected officials filling bills with more and more pork. A bill should be about one thing. If you need to send some money for some local pet project, fine; but make it a stand alone bill.

Re: the war. I don't think we should pull out IF it's going to leave egg on our face or leave us open for future attacks. We promised the Iraqi people we would be there for them in Gulf I, and we weren't. What have we promised them now that we can't deliver?

Finally, you folks in Washington have GOT to start dealing with our open border policy! ILLegal aliens affect EVERY social aspect of American life: Jobs, Hospitals closing, identity theft, & declining / overcrowded schools. My godson had to go to a private school in first grade because we spoke English! Imagine that in America? We had to pay for private school because we spoke the native tongue! That's a disgrace!

I can't imagine anyone is actually going to read this but I'm praying for a stronger, more successful America under Obama.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Unique Show of Support

OK, so I sort of went off on folks gloating after the election. I certainly didn't mean to offend any of my regular readers. I'm so sorry about that. I know many of you feel differently than I do and it makes for lively conversation amongst friends.

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I had meant to mention this in yesterday's post but forgot. One of the neatest (and quietest) shows of support that I saw for Obama on election day: Many, many people on Facebook added a middle name to their own on election day.

That name: Hussein.

It was very sweet and comical all at the same time. And a brilliant way to say that a man is so much more than his name.