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?"


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... 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


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.


Esmerlda 776

Buenos Aires (Florida District)


El Teatro

Toscanini 1288

Buenos Aires (Recoleta District)


Café Florida

Cordoba 399

Buenos Aires (Florida District)


Mongolian Barbeque

Avenida Las Heras 3357

Buenos Aires (Palermo District)



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


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 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.


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.


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.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election Day - Excited, Appalled, Sad & Pissed

I must say it was truly exciting to see lines of people out the door of the polling place across the street from my house. My own polling place - thanks to the lines of democracy drawn down the middle of th streets around here, I vote a block from my BFF's house and she votes across the street from me - was moved from the cramped choir practice room to a large auditorium. There were more poll workers than I've ever seen, including two teenagers too young to vote.

Outside, an immigrant voting for the first time posed in front of the auditorium and flag for his young daughter to take his picture. Ah, if we were only so patriotic.

In spite of the "record" turnout, the numbers that really have my attention are these: 37 / 32 / 29. Those are the percentages of registered voters from the Democratic / Republican / and Independent party that showed up to vote. Isn't that sad? How can you not care? How can you not see that this affects all of us? How can you be so cavalier with the voice people died to give you?

Election-wise, I feel like a loser all around. I don't think I've ever felt this way after an election. I was so caught up in prop 8. Sadly, it passed and I can only hope that we take this battle to the Supreme Court. It is nothing more than discrimination. And that can't be tolerated!

I was also suddenly aware that the Yes on 8 jerks were advertising on MY blogs! I became aware of it when I went over to Becky's Constant Crafter blog to comment and saw a huge banner! I emailed and ripped into her and then realized - she doesn't feel that way; I KNOW she doesn't. And then I remember google adsense and the box to allow political content. I raced to check my blog and right next to my No on 8 tirade, there was a Yes on 8 ad. Shaking with anger and not knowing where to turn off political content, I took the ads of this blog. I was even more shocked to find an ad on my BEAD political content there; why advertise there??? I took those down too and as I hit various websites and continued to see them, I started clicking. Why not cost the bigots some money???

Too bad the ads are not around today....

As for president, at least the year Ross Perot lost (Go Ross!), we still got Clinton and I could feel OK about that. I have so many fears about this guy that so many follow so blindly. Some rational, some not.

On the irrational side - please remember that I became a huge Obama opponent after his appearance on a Spanish radio program here - I fear he'll hang a huge Bienvenido sign at our Southern borders.

On the more rational side, I'm terrified of how he wants to pay for all his change. I somehow feel like I will be footing the bill.

And I have to wonder what all the masses that so adore him are going to think come summer when "change" really hasn't happened. It simply can't happen that fast and even he hinted at that in his acceptance speech last night.

And those of you that are so elated, please remember almost half of us more quiet voters are very sad and even afraid of what the future holds. Please don't rub your victory in our faces too much. Please, give us a little time to adjust.


I spoke to Mom this morning and she was happy at the defeat of several new taxes in Baton Rouge. There, they recently increased the values of homes in hopes that a new property tax bill aimed at homes valued over $100K would pass. It didn't. They also defeated a measure that would increase their sales tax - already one of the highest in the nation. (I am shocked each time I visit that they tax groceries there, something we don't do in expensive California.)

The bottom line is, everyone is feeling the pinch and I for one and sick of the way our politicians waste our hard earned money. I have less money coming in than ever. I'm living off savings - and very little of that is left. When I have less money, I cut down. I don't go beg for more! It's time politicians from city hall to the white house all learned, tighten the belt!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Waiting on the World to Change

For a dog, the whole world changes by simply talking a walk. For most people, it's not that simple.

So while the rest of these United States collectively holds her breath, hoping and praying for a change, I going to join that cute dog waiting in that jeep and go for a hike (right after I vote, of course). Because I honestly feel, that no matter who moves into 1600 Pennsylvania come January, I don't feel he can do much to improve my world. I really think it's foolish to expect a president to have such power.

And yet, these two men-who-would-be-king have already changed our country. It has been said that more people voted for American Idol than voted in the last election. If you look at the numbers for my state, on average only about 50% of those eligible to vote are even registered and the turnout of those folks on election day is even smaller. Those who have the right to vote are so cavalier with their power and privilege, that often only 30% (on average) chose the direction of this state with each election. That's pretty pitiful!

But this election will be all accounts be different. Numbers as high as 80% are expected at our polls! Now, that's change I can believe in (and only pray that it lasts!).

So, while I don't expect much from the new president and things are pretty bad here economically - so many of my friends are facing desperate times - I still have people who love me, people who make me laugh, food in my pantry, a creek to hike in that's guaranteed to adjust any bad mood and a fur-kid to cuddle with.

Speaking of which, I need to go change her world.

Have a wonderful Tuesday and don't forget, if you don't vote, you can't bitch about it for the next four years!

Monday, November 03, 2008

One More Time: Yes on 8 = Hate

I have been absolutely astounded at the preponderance of Yes On 8 signs in my own neighborhood. I never knew I lived in such a hate-filled place.

This is an actual conversation a friend had with one such supporter:

So you remember our old neighbors Devin and Roger? They got married. The guy I used to work for, Jim? He married his long time partner. Can you tell me how that affects your marriage? Really, what does that have to do with your day to day life?

Oh it doesn't.

Then WHY are you voting Yes on 8???

(Excited) They're going to teach it in schools.

What do you remember being taught about marriage in school?

(thinks for a minute)... Nothing...nothing at all.


At the end of the conversation, she was on the fence. Baby steps = progress.

Twenty plus years ago when my sister's nieces and nephews were all grade schoolers, I met one of their cousins. The boy (aka "Jay") was obviously gay to me. I worried a bit about him growing up with a passion for dancing in such a "he-man," sports fanatic family. The other cousins would often make snide remarks about "fags."

Now that all of these boys are young men, I asked my sister's nephew how Jay was. He spoke in glowing terms of his Broadway bound cousin. When I reminded him of his and his cousin's homo-phobic tendencies growing up, he replied, "It's different when it's someone you know and love."

That's how we change the world, one little bit of love at a time.

Re: Comment posting: Feel free to post comments IF you have a PUBLIC blogger profile and you keep the hatred to a minimum, otherwise they will be rejected. Again, MY blog is not YOUR forum. You are a visitor; please be respectful.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A Pop from Pop

In October of 2000, my Maggie May had a hip replacement surgery. Knowing she would be freaked, I pulled my mattress onto the floor in front of my bedroom's fireplace to be able to sleep near her. This scenario frightened me a bit. I was always terrified of being crushed by a chimney in an earthquake.

During this time, I had just been searching and searching for some sense of peace or fulfillment in my life. I was reading the book Something More by Sarah Van Breathnach. There was a section of the book that declared that your subconscious true self knows your future. It instructed to concentrate / pray / meditate on a question about your future for three nights an you would get your answer on the fourth day.

Surprisingly, this worked! It's how I found my house! I had sold my house and desperately needed another. For three nights I prayed...Show me my next house. For three days, I drove around looking and looking for a new home. The fourth morning, I dreamed of my feet standing on saltillo tile looking at a kidney shaped pool with mountains in the distance.

I wrote this off to nonsense. I wanted saltillo tile in my kitchen...why would I see it outside? Who puts saltillo tile on a patio? It was Monday and I went to work knowing my buyer would walk away by the end of the day. While home at lunch to take care of Mags, my phone rang. It was my BFF. She couldn't talk. She was literally so excited, she couldn't even speak coherently. She handed the phone to her sister, my realtor.

"[BFF] thinks she's found your house!"

I called my boss and raced over here. I saw the house in a daze. I knew immediately I loved it. We wrote the offer on the hood of my jeep and as I got in to drive back to the studio, I started shaking... yep, saltillo tile on the patio! (And the kitchen!)

This process had worked with several other things going on in my life. It was a heady time. And so, I got the crazy idea I wanted a visit from my father who had passed 25 years ago. Every night I prayed. Every morning, I awoke with the certainty that this was the one thing that I couldn't make happen.

One particular night, I awoke around 2 a.m. I woke up in a pissy mood. I was angry at my father.

"Dammit, he didn't come again. I ask for one lousy thing in 25 years and he can't do that for me. That's OK. He never gave a damn about me..."

As my silent tirade went on in my head... I didn't want to wake Mags sleeping in her bed right next to mine... I was aware of a "pop" in the wall.

It was a sound I was familair with having grown up in construction and the deep South. Houses settle and they pop as they do.

The house popped again on the eastern wall. Then the north side, then south. All of a sudden there were popping noises all in the walls all over the house. They were loud and scary and I was suddenly afraid we were having a quake and I was sleeping in front of a fireplace. I sat up feeling for Maggie's heiny sling so I could get her out of the house. And then I realized... the house was NOT moving.

I sat there in the darkness feeling for movement and then decided it must be a dream. But if it's a dream why was Maggie sitting alert in her bed and twisting her head toward each new pop?

I was really starting to freak out thinking my house was about to fall down around me. The popping was nonstop and getting louder and louder. And then it occurred to me: Daddy was a contractor.

I shouted to be heard over all the commotion: O.K. O.K. I KNOW YOU'RE HERE. YOU DON'T HAVE TO TEAR MY HOUSE DOWN!

And it stopped.

As I calmed down, I sat there in my bed and said, "I just wanted to have a conversation not be scared out of my wits. I guess I just wanted to know you were still around and maybe looking out for me. I wanted you to know I miss you."

With that, there was one more pop.

It took me a while to even be able to talk about this and another year or so to tell my mother. I guess I thought it would shock or hurt her. Instead, she was hardly impressed.

"Oh, I see him all the time. He's always in the mirror, just off the corner of my eye. He watches me get dressed."

So that's where he's been all these years!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

All Souls Day

Tomorrow, in addition to being my sister's 66th, is All Souls Day. The celebration of All Saints Day (Nov 1) and All Souls Day dates back thousands of years in various cultures.

It was believed that at the end of the year (which was marked by end of harvest - hence the month of October in modern times), there was an opening in the Universe that allowed the dearly departed to return for a visit.

I've posted openly about such sightings before. My hiking buddy has decided that, had I lived in Salem at the time of the witch trials with my red curls, loud opinions, strange eyes, and "visions," I would have surely been burned at the stake. But I honestly feel there is no other explanation for some of the things I've seen. And so, I've decided it is time for another "ghost story."

My father died when I was only eleven. His death put my world and life in a tail spin. I wanted to grow up to run his business. I desperately missed his kind and gentle way in my life.

Shortly after his death, his older brother, my Uncle Hugh, wrote to my mom and asked permission to be my pen pal. We exchanged letters for a few years when he again wrote my mom and requested that I come spend a week with him and his wife, Aunt Christine, at their home in Petal, MS.

I had a blissful time with these two senior citizens. They were smart and funny and in love (having married at the age of 68! They were newlyweds!). My uncle and I would spend hours working in his amazing garden, picking peaches and apples and cutting dozens and dozens of roses. When it got too hot, we would lay down under the scuppernong arbor, picking a handful for refreshment and be grateful for their shade.

My uncle stepped up to my emotional plate and fed my heart and soul. He wanted me to know what McElhaney men were like. I think he wanted me to know what it felt like to be loved and adored. And I do. I would have him in my life until he died in 1992 and was lucky enough to have spent his last day by his side.

When I bought my townhouse in 1988, I found a box on my porch shortly after moving in. It was from my uncle's favorite rose breeder. Inside was my favorite rose... the one that has a scent so amazing and distinctive, I can tell if one is in the room by smell alone... the heirloom. I've dug that bush up and moved it to every home I've owned since.

But it was the love of working the soil that was my uncle's real gift. And after he died, I could spend hours and hours working in my garden and as I would stand back and admire my handiwork, I would feel a gentle squeeze on my right shoulder.

At first, it startled me. I jumped back and looked all around me. There was no one there. After I calmed myself, I "knew" it was my uncle.

This scene would repeat many times over the years and I came to expect it. As my health declined, I stopped working in the garden and my uncle doesn't stop by anymore.

But he's not my only visitor. For many, many years after my dad died, I would find myself somewhere in that state between sleep and wakefulness. I could feel someone sit down on the edge of my bed and slowly, brush my curls off my face. It was a man's hand and I was certain it was my father. I would awaken and cry realizing it wasn't real.

The older I got, the less frequently this happened and then my father was really gone. That is, until I asked him to come back.

To be continued....