Wednesday, April 28, 2010


It was a chowder kind of day. The cold, rain and then a blast of hail covering the plants on the deck. It melted quickly into this slush.
Out of the blue, A guy, or a gal by the name of Chris zapped me a great recipe for razor clams, how to prepare them and how to add them into a chowder. You cut them finely while frozen and add them at the end of the chowder. Do-Not-Boil! Chris was giving me a hand because I failed razor clam cooking 101 last year while in Washington. Thanks, Chris. whoever you are.  I just opened the can today but I'm game to try your method when I return to Washington.

   Earlier in the day, I met an old friend who spent at least 40 years running. Mel and his wife Victoria, have led this enviable, fascinating life, literally running thousands of miles across the United States, New Zealand, Austraila, England and Hawaii. Mel, (I believe he told me he is closing in on 90) doesn't have a bend in his back.  He doesn't show his age, but he does spend part of his day running around on a "portable roadster" he jokes. He and Victoria are writing their memoirs. Victoria won many races in the over 60 category, "simply because not many women over 60 run," she claims.
 I remember from many old conversations the astonishment with which people greeted them, simply because they were walking the long strip of asphalt more suited to trucks. People were warm and supportive where ever they stopped. In England, they visited the Queen's stables and visited her horses, quite by accident. In Coos Bay, they bumped into a guy who had traveled 25,000 miles in a canoe.

"O', the places we've been and the things we've seen!"  I know that's a line from a poem.
Victoria says its like living those marvelous times all over again to go through the journals and put pen to paper, that is,  fingers to keyboard.

I'll keep you posted. Mel and Victoria live in Murphys and ran with the Arnold Running Club for many years. They quit running at ages 80 and 83.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


My neighborhood has the best people. A friend from Sonora once plaintively told me, "I want to live in YOUR neighborhood." Another long time friend sold his lovely house within walking distance of the school where he taught and moved to another "friendlier" neighborhood. The quality of the neighbors can make the difference.

Ron Hayes is one of those kind of guys who will lend a hand whenever asked. I've asked him to drill holes in the bottoms of pots, clean my chimney and grade my driveway. He always offers help when he sees me struggle with anything.  One time I asked him to accompany me when I showed a rental quite late at night to a strange guy and I was feeling unsure about this guy. He never hesitates to say yes. He's a champ in my book. I offered to marry him, but, he reminded me he is already married.

Jan and Karen, are always there for me. Karen literally covers my place, my mail, my yard, my cat, when I'm on the road. I couldn't do it without her. Plus she is a good cook and is forever fixing me dinner when I'm rushed or offering to do errands for me when I'm busy.
Jan is an artist and neighborhood icon. She knows everyone, visits everyone, fields her grand kids through their problems and runs a book club, drum circle and other volunteer endeavors. We call her the "Heart of Gold."  Her hobby is panning for gold. She'll do anything within her power for you.  

Suzy Hayes is the same way. Generous, helpful. We discovered Suzy had recently celebrated her 60th birthday so we put candles on the cake and thanked our lucky stars for our entertainment. Suzy is 3/4 ers comedienne. She and Ron kept us in stitches all evening. If laughter is healing, we are all healed.

Yes, neighbors really can make a difference in the quality of your life.

Monday, April 26, 2010


That old song has many ramifications, but at home, its a myriad of tasks. Spring chores and spring cleaning have always been a pleasure for me. Getting up on the roof, uncovering the swamp coolers, hosing pollen off the solar panels, blowing the leaves off the roof, feels good. I don't enjoy cleaning gutters or rattling the chains in the chimney. Planning and planting a garden have always been high on the list.  In the house, taking curtains down, washing windows, cleaning fan blades, and in general, refreshing everything and maybe changing the furniture around, puts a spring in my step.
None of those things happened this year. Not only was the rain incessant, the weeds tall enough to cover the windows, and my time at home temporary, but I've passed into another life, ramblin' in a Motor Home. My friends and family don't really understand that I've discovered the benefits of living small, and seeing it all.

Even so, its was nice to get the ceiling repaired and repainted.

It took two days to vanquish the weeds and chop down trees threatening to fall. Everything had to be done between the storms.

 Instead of helping,  I spent my time playing cards with my sister and brother who don't visit very often.

  It makes sense to concentrate on the important things like the wonderful new card game, Quiddler, and company. The rains are coming back tomorrow and I'm in no hurry to do battle with the elements. Must be time to squeeze in a gathering of the neighbors. 

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Above is the molded likeness of a young girl who was murdered and no one reported her missing. It took detectives months of searching to find out who she was and who killed her. Her sad story is part of the Archive.

 The Alameda County Sheriffs Archive is run by volunteers. Last Tuesday, we had Vic Agapalo, an expert on Police Olympics, Donna Boyer, who knows EVERYONE in the department and can identify people in pictures for us. Al Ianarelli, a published writer, who organizes career books for us, Jim Knudsen, also a master book maker and historian, Gary Lindsey jails expert and archive coordinator, and myself. A talented crew. In our workroom above, we have the old neon sign that once hung at Eden Township Substation in Hayward that Bud Harlan, who was absent Tuesday, had refurbished for us.

Donna was NOT identifying the above gents who were once incarcerated at San Quentin. In the 1920's and 1930's most men wore hats. Thus someone decided that every man should have his mug shot taken wearing a hat. Those that didn't have a hat were given one, whether it fit properly or not. His crime and sentence were handwritten on the front of his picture.

While crime was mostly the enterprise of men, a few women were active such as this fancy dame whose specialty was GUN MOLL.

In the books, an occasional woman was arrested mostly for killing her husband (who probably mistreated her) or for prostitution, which was one of the only jobs open to her that paid decent money. The jail history reflected society then,  just as it does today.Its an interesting place.

 Working Deputy, Bill Rhodes, stopped by to make sure we all knew about the ACSO/DSA 2010 Reunion he has planned for many months to be held at he Nugget Hotel/Casino in Sparks, Nevada Friday Oct. 8th through Sunday, Oct. 10. Many pictures and artifacts from the archive will be on display at this event. Reservations can be made online at and clicking on the Nugget Hotel Casino link.

Friday, April 23, 2010


At one time I worked as a feature writer/journalist, took decent pictures of people and events of interest and enjoyed it very much, plus,  I got paid for it. Now I call myself a "blogamatic". I photograph everything I do as though the whole world might be interested in my road trip from Mendocino County to Alameda County, the sculpture I saw at the Solar Living Center in Hopland, or that I had lunch at Mimi's in Dublin. I blame and thank my partner, Jimmy the Rat,  for my addiction to blogging. Life is more fun this way, and I tend to keep in touch with people more than I used to.

I've visited the Solar Living Center several times in the past though I didn't stop this time.  Finding an artistic use for rusty metal  makes an eye-catching attraction on Highway 101 at Hopland. . If you've never gone, the center has fascinating features, including prescription bottle bathroom doors, trees growing through cars, a solar fountain that kids can operate, a straw bale building which uses no air conditioning or heating to keep the temperature comfortable. Its all about sustainability, positioning, the sun and breezes. A solar power plant, electric vehicle recharging stations, sewage treatment, natural fertilizers, all organic fruits and vegetables... the whole place is fascinating. Classes in solar installation and other sustainable practices are available. Visitors are always welcome, just drive in. You will never look at the earth in quite the same way.

My friends are a core part of my life. Joan Dailey is just a face to you but to me she is a great mother, grandmother, teacher, and friend. We trade book titles so fast and furiously, I'll probably never get to read them all.  We fondly share memories of raising kids together. Joan is a cancer survivor and taught me about her appreciation and changed perspective on life after cancer. I hadn't seen Joan in five years when we went off to see a male strip show in Tahoe, totally out of character for Joan. I guess I was always the wild one.

Faye Gebo, my high school buddy and her wonderful partner, Dave Goodwin,  always welcome me for a nights stay when I'm in the Bay Area. Faye and I lived in the same apartment complex after marriage; we bought houses in the same neighborhood until the military caused our paths to diverge. Dave and I discuss how to make the world a better place as we harangue the banks that borrow money from the Federal Reserve at one-half a percent then buy treasury bonds at 3 percent with OUR money, instead of providing loans to consumers with it.  We learn from each other about dealing with aging parents and the task of becoming the older generation.  Can we reduce lifes inconsequentials, our addiction to materialism  and make our time count? Friends are stimulating.

I left the archive to have lunch with my cousin, Terri Cardoza who is a best friend as well as a cousin. She is, always helping others, neighbors, former in-laws, me, you name it. She volunteers for animal rescue and has taken in, surgically altered, and fed innumerable strays. She taught me that stray cats are territorial. You can't adopt them all but you can alter them;  they keep and defend their territory preventing new strays from coming in. It provides a more stable population with less disease and less litters in your own neighborhood.

Life is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings. .

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Being home for a stretch, reconnecting with family and friends takes some adjusting. Going through pounds of mail, remembering where things are in the cupboards and attending to details that are of no consequence on the road is confusing at first. The last five days I met with three old "bay area"  friends, visited my daughter's "new" cabin in the woods, and worked two days at my favorite volunteer project, the Alameda County Sheriffs Archives.

The cabin sits atop a hill looking over acres of rolling hills and woodlands in every direction. A creek and part of the Eel river run through it. No electricity yet, since the solar has yet to be installed, but the place is comfortable and livable with a flush toilet and running water. Solitude is an endearing feature.

 The misty mornings were magical and remind you what life must have been like before people penetrated every inch of the forest primeval.

We hiked, explored the river bed for pretty rocks, (too cold to swim) found a couple of different frogs, watched the birds, especially the raptors floating about the valley below the cabin, and enjoyed a wienie roast and s'mores around the fire.

 Visiting a remote cabin requires you to travel over one of those Omigod bridges, since the property sits about five miles off a main road. But, we saved a turtle from extinction by moving him off the roadway and transporting him to the deep canyon under the bridge.

This bridge used to have boards that rose about three feet into the air when the back tires hit the end of the board, requiring a following car to keep its distance. A nice fix this year.
Noticeable to me is the strain on working families to balance work and play. And a getaway such as this helps renew energy and gives something to look forward to in retirement. State and National Parks serve the same function but this is more private.  We live in a marvelous country even if you consider the current disorder we live in and these laws:

A woman can't dance on a table in a saloon in Helena, MT unless she is wearing at least 3 pounds of clothes.
In Michigan it is illegal to chain an alligator to a fire hydrant.
Eating ice cream in public with a fork is strictly forbidden in Rosemead, CA.

I've lived in all three of those states. I hope this made you smile.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Sue, my CPA's assistant, handed back my tax  package and told me that when she first moved to California, she picked a California Wild Poppy and a friend told her it was against the law to pick that flower since it is the California State flower. We both chuckled because I had had the exact same experience when I first moved to California. I've yet to hear of anyone getting arrested, but given what has happened to Michigan's arbutus, Florida's corals, Louisiana's Cypress and thousands of other natural treasures, maybe our law makers had the right idea. We respect this beauty.


 I don't know what flower covers these hillsides on the grapevine, but how can one not be thrilled at this gorgeous show of tiny plants so numerous they form acres of carpet. Obviously, someone is tired of wild flowers in my blog since I received a sarcastic anonymous comment. I'm a true believer in free speech and I might have published it if the writer had had guts enough to leave a name. 

 Spectacular wild flowers are a treat that make us temporarily forget those long, wet, cold days of rain it took to bring them out. I saw the desert in bloom for the first time, but in my own backyard, there is plenty of beauty. On the way home from my tax appointment I took pictures of  the redbuds that put on a show every year on the side of the road. 

Lupines in some places were much thicker than this patch, but these were closer to the road. They are tall and full this year.

The white ceanothus is often referred to as wild white lilac around here. It contrasts beautifully with the redbud and is plentiful right now.

Poppies and deep purple vetch make a good show from a distance even in this snarl of grass. Filieree blooms, bright yellow monkey flowers, some indian paint brush and  another bright orange plant scaling the steep canyon walls where the road was too narrow to stop, made my drive such pleasure. I hope this inspires you drive slowly and enjoy the show instead of hurrying by without appreciating the beauty in your own back yard.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Everyone was up for the 1.4  mile hike into the oasis. The terrain was rough and steep but the weather was mild in the early morning. Joshua Tree has many designated hikes like this one, with well marked pathways. Hikes are designated by their difficulty and length, some long, some short.  

Everyone had hats and we carried plenty of water. You feel quite rewarded when you've hiked a hill and come around a harsh rocky corner to be greeted by a fragile beauty such as this one.

Cactus are complex and fascinating plants. Its hard to imagine that a barrel cactus less than a foot tall,  is older than the kids.

There were skinks and lizards scooting around rocks. Some lizards do "push-ups" which the boys loved to watch.

We met birders on the trail who helped us identify some of those we saw and heard.

It helps to be part mountain goat between flower or special rock sitings. On the hike we didn't see vast swaths of wildflowers. That came later when we drove through a lower elevation of the park.

Cactus blooms are showy;  the wild flowers fragile and often tiny to survive the harsh environment.

The oasis was a refreshing goal, a place to sit and rest, have an energy snack and head back. We found things we missed on the way in, just a different perspective. The hike was well worth the three hours it took to hike in and out. We met people with even younger children that our 8 and 10 year olds.

Back at camp, Theo discovered a pit viper in a little crevice of rock where he'd been climbing all afternoon. It was chilly by then and it tolerated all of us looking at it. Nearby campers to came to look at it as well.

The snake is poisonous and very small. When discovered, it was next to a rock and hard to see, it was so well camouflaged. It moved about 10 inches into some covering plant debris and stayed quite calm with the flash going off half a dozen kids and adults watching it.

Our drive into lower elevations of the park brought us a grand vista of flowers in the fuzzy Cholla garden, the ochetea were blooming, and huge yucca plants along with the joshua trees.

  We spent the evening around the campfire, eating s'mores and enjoying the day in review.

The next day we drove home past Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve.

 Room here doesn't allow for the many photos we took. For a link to more photos, Virginia's Picasa album address is: