Sunday, October 30, 2011

Life In a Small Town

A couple of years ago in a burst of creative boredom, Logan fabricated a game of "Ozarkopoly." He made men, houses, hotels, and dice out of modeling clay and then painted and baked them. From construction paper he fashioned Chance, Community Chest, and property cards. The money was made from printer paper. Names of properties were pulled out of the right side of his brain and included local restaurants, landmarks, streets, public buildings. No railroads in Ozark. Also only eight spaces to a side and capricious rents to make the game more interesting. I hate to play monopoly -- I think it brings out the worst in everyone (especially me); however, I was able play along with this game for a couple of hours tonight, enjoying the more sophisticated agitation the more mature boys provide. And then I threw over the game board (in a very sophisticated fashion). 

Today's lunch menu was a revival of one of Danny's favorite sandwiches. Andouille sausage from Trader Joe's, with sauteed bell peppers (from the CSA) and onions served on a ciabatta from Sam's Club. I'm trying very hard to use up all our CSA veggies before I go pick up some more. Tomorrow I will turn the bag of basil into pesto, and make something like ratatouille from the eggplant also incorporating green tomatoes and that should do it. Except for the purse-lane. Purse-lane is the new turnip. 
For dinner tonight, we had cock-a-leekie soup (leeks, chicken, and barley). It used up our leeks and hopefully helped cure the cold that is running through the family. Logan was pretty sick this morning, but seems to have rallied this afternoon (it was that rousing game of Ozarkopoly) and now I feel like it's my turn.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

If CSA Married TJ

 After a six-month break for knee surgery, we have rejoined Millsap's CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Today in our first pickup of the winter season we got salad greens, spinach, purse-lane, basil, a leek, butternut squash, egg plant, green tomatoes, mung bean sprouts, bell peppers, and red potatoes.
 And I made this: tossed green salad with plum tomatoes from far, far away, raw fried potatoes with onions, topped with just barely wilted spinach and served with Trader Joe's sausage. All but the sausage, tomatoes, and onion were from our CSA share.

 For the grownup in the family who doesn't have to drive anywhere tonight (football and marching band season are over!), a glass of Chardonnay/Viognier from Chile (by way of Trader Joe's).
And in the mail today, a glorious assortment of Good Earth teas to accompany my Trader Joe's triple ginger snaps.

No, we don't have Trader Joe's in Springfield. Sharon and I drove 360 miles round trip to Kansas City and spent $50+ on gas so that we could each buy $200 worth of groceries. We are hoping that a couple more people will join us on our next trip so we can spread the gas cost around a little. Let me know if you want in.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Letting Go

 When Ben and Logan came to live with me and Colleen in El Dorado Hills, I immediately got them involved in Soccer. Ben and Logan both played on the Bumblebees and wore the number 38 on their reversible shirts as did everyone on the team. Made things simpler. I'm amazed that I still have two full outfits. I never seemed to be able to find all the pieces on game day. On occasion, cut off pajamas served as shorts, fortunately, they were the right color.
 Ben out on the pitch. I'm surprised to see him there as he usually played goalie, his favorite position. He liked it because the ball rarely came his way and he could pursue his observations of the bugs in the grass without too much interruption.
 Coach Simon Eccles, a wonderful man. He and his wife Pam were so good and encouraging to me in the early years.

And this banner from the first season of little league T ball. I made the banner, not knowing that everyone else would spring for professionally made ones. I still think I like my hokey homemade one better that the ubiquitous print shop banners. Ben is at four o'clock and Logan is at one o'clock in the circle of marlin(s?) around the boat containing the coaches.

This is all that remains of the Marlin uniforms. Again, Ben and Logan played on the same team, making it much easier on a stressed grandma who didn't have to trundle off to two separate sets of practices and games.

Logan wanders around the field, hoping to escape notice of the coach. Both boys hated playing T ball.

Here's a school shirt from Lake Forest School ("A California Distinguished School"  in case you can't read the smaller print) where Ben attended through fourth grade and Logan through the second grade.  All these treasures are going in the trash. I'm having a hard time parting with them, but don't think hanging on to them makes much sense. I tried to imagine how I would feel if my mother handed me a bunch of clothes from my childhood years and immediately saw the point in throwing them out, just keeping the pictures and the memories.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

More Dumb Luck

Ben and I drove to Jefferson City after he got home from school yesterday. We arrived at the Doubletree Inn Just at six o'clock and had a wonderful meal in the Penthouse restaurant. It made me realize how long it has been since I've been anywhere at all (a couple of years actually).
And I enjoyed every minute and every morsel! I've been concerned about how my new knee would travel, but I was quite comfortable the whole way, driving and all.

I dropped Ben off for his morning of test taking and did a little exploring. At 8:00 in the morning, the light was perfect for these pictures of the capitol building (front side above, and the back is below). No one was there, it was quiet, still , and breathtakingly beautiful. I was a little concerned about muggers or bad guys, but it was so gorgeous, I decided to risk it.

A view across the "Wide Missouri" from the back side of the capitol.

After checking out of my hotel room, I realized I had forgotten my Kindle. I had to return to look for it, but didn't find it. However, I did find some other important articles I had left behind. As I returned to the car, I waged an internal debate over whether I should replace my lost reader with the same basic model, or if I should upgrade to something snazzier. I got my answer when I found the "lost" Kindle in my purse. Had I not thought it was lost, I would never had returned to the room and all the other stuff would have been left behind. Talk about dumb luck!

Ben completed the test and we headed back to Springfield for him to join his band for the competition at Missouri State. We expected he would miss the preliminaries, but arrive in time for the finals. We got there just as they were lining up for the preliminaries. He jumped into his uniform and marched off. Dumb luck!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Problem Solved!

I hate it when I can't sleep because I get tangled up thinking about problems I don't believe I can solve. Sometimes I just have to leave the issue alone to work itself out. Example:

1. My house has a few maintenance issues I have not been able to resolve. The ground is eroding under my front walk, the sewer line is held together with duct tape, weathered boards are popping off my back porch, the John Deere room floods when it rains, the down spout in the front of the house creates an ice hazard on my walkway, the grout is coming loose in the kitchen and bathroom, and I haven't been able to find anybody to fix these problems for me. And I think I need to address them before I list my house for sale next spring.

Last Thursday evening while Ben sang in a choir concert, I happened to sit in the audience right in front of the man who built and sold me my house. He's also a real estate broker which I learned when I casually mentioned my desire to sell the house next spring. So, long story shortened, he's going to fix my house woes (fixing and selling). Yay! Perfect solution. (Very nice man, too!)

2. Ben missed taking the PSAT test on Wednesday (he didn't hear the PA announcement because he was playing loud music in band). The test is only offered on two days all year -- yesterday and this coming Saturday. Schools can choose which day they wish to administer the test. 99% of locations chose Wednesday (yesterday). There are no make up options. One must have a PSAT score on record to be eligible for National Merit Scholarships. The test is really critical if a student wants to qualify for a scholarship. I was sure we were hosed and that Ben had blown all chances of a scholarship.

This morning we located a school (150 miles away) that is testing on Saturday and has an available seat and will allow Ben to test there. Yay! Problem solved and I always wanted to see Jefferson City anyhow, never been to the state capitol even though we've lived in Missouri six years.

3. Going to Jefferson City means Ben will miss participating in band tournament Saturday. I'm worried how his grade will be affected -- these events are very important and so is Ben's beautiful GPA (again, think scholarships).

I contacted the band instructor and he is accommodating Ben's situation without penalty. Yay! Problem solved.

I feel like all my problems are falling away without effort. I'm on such a roll, I'm trying to think up any other lingering issues because it seems the planets are aligned to solve whatever is eating at me. Should I buy a lottery ticket?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Robin's 50th Birthday

Robin would have been 50 years old today. She was born in the Naval hospital at Oak Harbor, Washington at 5:25 A.M. weighing 6 lbs. 10 3/4 oz., and measuring 20 inches long. I miss her most of all when her boys do something wonderful (which is every day) and when I recall wonderful things she did. Today her ashes are buried beneath a marker in Coloma's Pioneer Cemetery next to the grave of her great-great-great-grandfather, Ezra Schooley. It's a beautiful place and although it's far from where I now live, I like knowing she is there. A few tokens surround her grave: photos of her boys, a butterfly, an angel, some coins, and an empty champagne bottle.

When I turned 50, Robin and Colleen threw a surprise birthday party for me. It was lovely: champagne, a string trio playing Mozart, 50 golden balloons, wonderful friends, and the early arrival of Colleen's third child, Danny, who was on his way home from the hospital at the time of my party. I wish I could do something like that for Robin (minus the new baby part).

We tried to celebrate Robin's birthday today. Colleen and Valery went to visit her grave and brought a bottle of champagne. Because Robin loved champagne, we have developed a ritual over the years of washing off her marker by pouring a bottle of bubbly over it. While Valery and Colleen performed the ceremony, I drank a glass of champagne and talked on the phone with them. I tried to evoke joyous memories, but it seemed contrived and I just felt too sad. I' m grateful to Valery and Colleen for carrying on the tradition and taking care of my dear Robin. Oh, my God, I miss her.

Friday, October 7, 2011


This photo from the web was taken a bit before our time, judging from the parked cars, but the school looked just the same.

I didn't attend the 55th reunion of Oakland's Fremont High School, but classmate Mel McKinney did. He wrote, presented, and has generously shared his reflections on our class. I've added parenthetical comments.


We are the children of the Great Generation. Our parents grew up during the
Great Depression and went to war against Hitler and Japan.

Whether actually in uniform, or supporting the war effort at home, our parents were part of a Nation unified in its resolve to win. The enemy was clear and sinister, not ambiguous like the shadow enemies of the wars that followed. The war our parents fought ended in a conclusive victory, but one that paved the way for so much that followed. (My father was an air raid warden, his brother, Bill, a B-27 pilot in the South Pacific.)

Two things that immediately emerged from the victory of WWII were a sense of relief it was over and a very real economic prosperity triggered by the massive industrial retooling and innovations triggered by the urgency of the war. As children growing up in the ‘50s we thrived in that window of relief and prosperity.

Oh, there were some lingering dark clouds, like Atomic Bomb drills, where as elementary school (at Cleveland School) and Jr. High kids (at Bret Harte) we ducked under our desks in the naive belief imposed upon us that somehow a 1/2 inch piece of wood was going to save us from the equivalent of 20,000 lbs of TNT, or more, as A-Bomb technology rapidly developed following the end of WWII.

Somewhere off in the far distance in a little known place called Korea American soldiers were still fighting and dying as we were winding up Jr. High School and about to spend the great summer of 1953 as 16 or 17 yr olds preparing to enter Fremont High (I was 14 in 1953). Most of us knew little of this Korean War and paid little attention to it. We were focused on growing up, enjoying the fresh air, freedom and relative prosperity of the ‘50s.

Eisenhower was President, Stalin died and the Yankees beat the Dodgers in the World series, 4 games to 2.

For those of us who were 16, part of that magnificent freedom came from the fact we’d just obtained our driver’s licenses. In my case it came packaged with a Model A Ford I’d talked my Dad into letting me get when I was 15. For a year it sat on blocks in our back yard as I tinkered and toiled to bring it into shape for that big day in the spring of 1953 when I took it and my learner’s permit to the Claremont Ave. DMV and managed to scare the examiner into passing me.

But, for the most part, the magic space of the 50s spared us from what our parents had endured, and from the turbulence of the 60s and 70s that followed. For us East Oaklanders it was:

*The Laurel District,
Binks, (I don't remember Binks), the Laurel and Hopkin’s theatres
The 57 MacArthur Bus
The High street bus (the 79)
35th Avenue, with Rosie’s Hamburgers and Glen’s Hot Dogs (and the 15 bus)
38th Ave with Caeser Ancilotti’s bar and Audrey’s hose wielding grandfather driving off male intruders (must have been a guy thing, I don't remember Audrey or her grandfather)

As we left Bret Harte, Hamilton and Frick Jr. High schools to meet and unify at Fremont, our horizons widened to:
Big down town nights at the Paramount and Fox Oakland theatres (and the Roxie) (3-d movies, Bwana Devil and House of Wax)
The Plaza Drive-in, where we mingled in our scrounged together cars (and always ordered coke and fries)
with the Piedmont kids driving their Dad’s Lincolns and Cads
Groping evenings on Lake Merritt in those convertible top electric boats
Edys Ice Cream on Grand Ave.
Fenton’s on Piedmont Ave.
The Diamond District, with Casper’s Hot Dogs
An occasional lunch up the street on 47th (?) prepared by Nick’s Mom (that would be Nick Nickolas)

Len’s Body shop across from school (and the swimming pool)
Afternoons at Robert’s Recreation Area and pool in the hills (slathering our bodies with a combination of baby oil and iodine, seeking the perfect tan, but getting a perfect burn, no fears about holes in the ozone!)

Cheering Frank (Calcagno), John Hendy, Walt (Fisher), Mike (Moffett), Al Johnson, Jack Forrest, Nick (Nickolas), and the rest of our gladiators who took on Castlemont, Oakland High, San Leandro High, McClymonds, Tech, and the others.

I ran some track with Don Lee, Paul Miller, Sprague Paine and some others. No one ever came out to see us.

We were inspired by Giants like:
Mr. McLaughlin, who wove so much wisdom of life into cutting up a frog and who was putting biology to practical use with I believe Miss Yoshida.
Tudor Jones, our Counselor, (my Counselor was Mrs Griffith who was concerned that her female counselees get into the right sorority at Cal) who finally took me aside and literally shook some sense into me to quit goofing around because if I didn’t I’d end up digging ditches, which didn’t sound so hot.
Mr. Billings, who had the guts to get down and dirty about sex in our Senior Problems class and give us the straight scoop on what went where, what happened after it did and the consequences of putting it there.
And the parents of our friends:
Nancy’s parents: Mel and Anne Indelicato.
Here was a walking, talking (if you can call it that…Mel Indelicato didn’t just talk. He emoted. He broadcast. His joyful explosions got your attention a block away. I worked in the Produce Market during a couple of summers. Mel Indelicato was a Rock Star of the Produce Market.
Oh, and Nick, worked at Angeli Bros, across from where I worked at Levi Zentner. We lobbed cantaloupes at each other.
And Anne, a sweet angel of decorum and great cooking.

Bob Miller’s parents: John and I believe Martha.
Mr. Miller was the only white collar executive I knew.
They lived in a nice home up there on Atlas Ave, in the Redwood Heights neighborhood, which was a step up the ladder from where I grew up over behind Mills College. Mr. Miller’s kind, sage wisdom and humor was one of the influences that helped me see what Tudor Jones was trying to hammer into me. Quit goofing around!
And, Mrs. Miller’s tuna sandwiches got me through those long afternoons between lunch and dinner.
Many years later I cruised the neighborhood and there they were.
“Mother,” he called to her, “Open some tuna.”

I mention these few parents simply to trigger your memories. You all had friends and parents of friends that helped you grow, entertained you, put up with your feet on their furniture, fed you or tolerated you tying up their phone for hours. Remember them now as a wonderful part of your Fremont years.

(The parents I remember are John [Brooks] and Emily Rice, Linda's parents. He was a reserve colonel in the Army and so influential at Greyhound, his workplace, that he was able to get Linda summer jobs. Emily was an excellent seamstress and was always elegantly dressed in dresses she had made from Vogue couturier patterns. And I remember Janet's parents, Roy and Elizabeth Goodman -- so kind, gracious, and sophisticated.)

Came June of 1956 and Fremont cut us loose to find and live our lives.
Eisenhower was still president and the Yankees beat the Dodgers again, this time 4 games to 3. Oh a few small things were starting to wrinkle our perfect world, like:
*The U.S. tested its first aerial Hydrogen Bomb out in the South Pacific
10 million tons of TNT. We’d come a long way since the 20,000
pounds of TNT we dropped on Japan.
But we still had wonderful distractions from what was starting to pile up in China and Indo-China, which came to be known as Viet Nam.
Elvis Presley was gyrating and grinding into stardom with Heart Break Hotel and other hit singles.
Around The World in 80 Days, The King & I and Friendly Persuasion reassured us that all was well, as Woody Guthrie told us that This Land was Your Land and My Land.

I live up in Little River, near Mendocino. I get down to Oakland a few times a year. At least once a year I drive the old neighborhoods and drive by Fremont High. It’s a prison yard. There is no football field. The bleachers and track are gone. It’s hard to imagine that the kids attending school there think of themselves as being in a magic place and living in a magic time. We were very, very lucky kids.

Mrs. Viola Tweedy could have made a movie star out of any of us if we’d followed through. Our Senior Play was You Can’t Take It With You, which we proved wrong. We did Take It With Us. As the song says, “Fremont Stands Forever.” Well, there may be some buildings there with the name Fremont on them, but the Fremont we knew stands forever in our hearts and memories.

The magic of the times combined with a unique bunch of kids and caring teachers. We took Fremont with us. Is there one of us who isn’t influenced each day, or doesn’t in some remote part of our brain think each day of something or someone at Fremont?

Thanks, Mel, for giving me permission to use your words in my blog. Mel is writing more than reflections on our formative years as he says in an email:

Yes, I'm writing. A published novel...3 unpublished ones...
two screen plays (1 now sold and in pre-production) and
a Television law series I'm trying to sell.
Starting a non-fiction and another television series.
When not writing I spend the rest of my time fly fishing,
duck hunting and schlepping my wife around to craft fairs and
flea markets.