Sunday, September 30, 2012

Reunion, Part 3

The Golden Girls reunion continued with more eating, drinking, gabbing, and sight-seeing.

 On the third evening, we again enjoyed Mel's company along with bar food and a couple of bottles of wine carried back to our rooms. Feeling more comfortable with each other, our conversation drifted to more controversial topics (I mean politics) and although we did not necessarily agree, we navigated those tricky waters with grace and respect.
The Skunk Train travels from Fort Bragg half-way to Willits where passengers disembark for a barbecue lunch in a redwood grove while the train turns around and returns to Fort Bragg (after the passengers have re-embarked, of course). We enjoyed the trip to sunny weather through glorious old-growth redwood forests. The train travels through territory inaccessible by road, so it is serene and isolated. Several cabins are situated along the route, built around 75 years ago on leased land. These cabins cannot be sold, but can be inherited and so they remain family retreats for a select few families. They can be reached only by the Skunk Train, and all supplies must come in by train. They have propane, but no generators. I don't know if they have wells and septic, or if its outhouses and imported water. Seems appealing to me as a perfect writer's retreat.

 We ran into a fellow train traveler later in the day when we walked around MacKerricher State Park and he accommodated us by taking this group photo.
 The last morning we returned to the scene of our first meal at Little River Inn and enjoyed breakfast and our last meal together before departing. We said a reluctant good-bye to Janet and talked about planning the next reunion, closer to Marilyn so that she can comfortably join us.
 We made our way south once again driving through the redwoods and the Anderson Valley, turning further inland to Clear Lake, a lunch stop in Williams and then over to Interstate 5 and the Sacramento airport where Linda and I said good-bye to Merle.
Jack met Linda at the car rental agency and Valery picked me up. We returned to her house and the next phase of my many-fold reunions began.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Reunion, part 2

This second phase of my California reunions reaches back to my high school days. I get to spend four days with three of my high school girl friends. We're staying at the place owned and run by the family of a fellow classmate and his wife. The gorgeous Little River Inn is an historic Inn (built in the 1860's as a dairy farm) overlooking a beautiful cove on the Mendocino coast.

We arrived at Little River Inn and sat on the verandah watching, listening to, smelling the ocean, and feeling its cool salty dampness on our skins. It wasn't cold, just serene and calming after our six hour drive from Sacramento through the Napa and Sonoma Valley vineyards, the Anderson valley, the redwoods, and finally to the coast. We saw the best California had to offer and driving in the company of dear old girl friends made it perfect. Only with all women in the car were we able to turn around and go back to the In N Out Burger I had zipped past. A man would have kept driving to the "next" place. In fact, I zipped past it a second time, but arrived at the right place on the third attempt. And it was worth it! I haven't had an In N Out Burger in years, didn't even know I missed them, but boy, was it good! 

Our host and classmate invited us to be his guests at dinner that evening at the Inn's fabulous restaurant. It's hard to beat the combination of great food and wine while celebrating and reminiscing with dear old friends. Laughing, "do you remembers," confessions of high school hijinks and crushes, and all the "what ever happened to . . . " made the evening pass all too quickly. But by around nine o'clock we were sufficiently sated (and just a bit drunk) to toddle off to our rooms and get ready for the next day.

We eased into our first full day together by starting with room service breakfast on the verandah. We moved through the morning very slowly and then went off to Fort Bragg for a bit of exploring and picking up a few necessaries.

And a perfect day ended with another perfect meal, this time at the home of our host and his wife. He and his wife prepared wild salmon with home or locally grown veggies and served wonderful local wines. He is a trumpet player and friend Janet is a pianist, so they entertained us after dinner with an impromptu concert.

And now, we're ready for yet another day of revelry!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Reunion, Reunion, Reunion

When my 55th (!) high school reunion was in the planning stages a couple of years ago, a few of my classmates and I began exchanging emails. We really wanted to see each other, but didn't care much about all the other folks. So, we decided to stage out own mini-reunion. Much planning and fussing over dates and places ensued until we finally settled on this week at Little River Inn in Mendocino, CA. Today the fun begins!

Well, that's not entirely true, the fun truly began last Friday when I arrived in Sacramento and was picked up at the airport by sister Valery. The good times have rolled non-stop ever since!

Planning to leave gets simpler with each excursion as Ben and Logan grow up. They take responsibility for pet and plant care, their own meals, transportation, and laundry. Grandpa Steve and Julia look in on them, spend the night and provide back up transportation. I'm working myself out of a job!

I had feared travel would be arduous -- I haven't been on a plane in about three years. But in fact, in spite of a two hour delay, and a seat across the aisle from a baby-in-arms on a sold-out plane in Dallas, all went very well.

 A beautiful new terminal, a tram to the boarding gates, and a hotel that had disappeared led me to wonder if I had landed in the right city. Sacramento has really grown up. My wonderful sister circled the parking lot while we talked on the phone and figured out where to connect. From there it was straight to Trader Joe's and then I knew I was back in the land of milk and honey. A stop at Raley's confirmed it. Oh, how I miss California grocery stores!

And I miss my California grandsons (and their mom). I was so happy to see Colleen and my newly-tall sweet and funny grandson Robby. I hated to see a very long day end and I can't wait to see them again next Saturday.

Saturday afternoon was filled with friends from the San Jose days dating back to the pre-school years of my kids.  Nancy, Allen, and Elaine drove up from the bay area to visit while Nancy's son Seth and his boy, Jake came over from their home in Valley Ford. The afternoon zipped by as we reminisced,  talked about the current state of our lives, and discussed the state of the state, nation, and world. How nice to be surrounded by democrats!

Sunday morning, I reunited with Mary Maaga, the former pastor of the church we attended in California. She helped pull us through some tough times and then suffered the tragic loss of her husband to a fast-moving cancer. It was great to hear her preach again (she is the world's best preacher, bar none), to be treated to lunch, to pick up several copies of her book: The Alabaster Orphan, and to spend a couple of glorious hours sharing our stories. I love that woman! And I forgot to get a picture of us together, dang!

Mary delivered me to Lisa Cardwell's house in El Dorado Hills. Lisa and I spent some time catching up and of course, I was amazed at her teen-aged kids, by how grown-up and gracious they have become. Cameron is around 6 feet tall now and Alexandra is taller than her mom. Both are great musicians; Cameron provided some mellow background music and Alexandra performed some of her soul-felt music. I was impressed by the talent of both and touched that they would perform for us.

Valery, Lisa, and I visited Robin's grave in Coloma, where I picked up some old time-worn mementos that had been left at her grave. As is my tradition, I washed off her gravestone with champagne, and drank the last sip from the bottle. Little pink flags had been placed at many of the graves, including Robin's, but I have no idea what they signify. Lichen is beginning to fill in the lettering and make it look softer, I rather like the look.

Lisa is so good at playing the hostess and feeding her guests and last night was no exception. Along with dinner she and I drank the wine I had purchased six years ago to share with her when she visited Missouri with son Cameron. Unfortunately, she never made it to Ozark because a severe winter storm diverted them to Chicago and it never cleared in time for her to come to our house. So, she and Cameron spent the weekend on airplanes and in a Chicago airport hotel. The bottle of wine (Beringer's 2001 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon) waited in my wine cabinet until I finally brought it with me this trip.

I expect high school friends Jack, Linda, and Merle to arrive here at Valery's around noon today and then we three women will take off for Little River Inn to meet up with a fourth friend, Janet. More about all that later.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Where Were You?

The destruction of the World Trade Towers on September 11, 2001 has faded to one of those "Where were you when. . ." memories. In my lifetime, other globe-shattering events occurred December 7, 1941, November 22, 1963, and on a personal level, April 11, 2001. Here's my 9/11 story.

On 9/11/01, I had a phone call from my son telling me to turn on the TV news. Just as I tuned in, the second tower was hit and shortly after, both towers crumpled. It was 7:00 in the morning in California and I was scheduled to attend a local hearing for a permit to build an addition to my home.  I placed a phone call and learned the hearing was proceeding in spite of the events of the day. In spite of the fact that schools, businesses, and public transportation were shut down, this committee was dedicated to preserving the standards of the community. So I went and presented my plans. Unfortunately, when I presented the drawings, they also revealed that I had installed a second driveway allowing access to my backyard to park my boat. Not to be swayed from their commitment to protect the community from any ugliness, they scheduled a visit to my property for that afternoon. While the rest of the world remained glued to television sets in disbelief and shock, this fearless quartet determined that my driveway was indeed a gross violation of the neighborhood standards and  parking my boat in my backyard would cause property values to plummet.  They ruled that my addition would not be approved until the driveway was removed. Yes, they were right, the driveway was a violation and I accept that. However, the addition was an entirely separate matter and they had no business holding that approval hostage to the removal of the driveway. I  could have argued, but I was too beat down and worn out by all the really important events of 2001. It seemed surreal to me that we could be talking about such petty shit when apparently the country was under attack. I still can't believe it. That episode typifies the small-mindedness of the community I chose to leave in 2005.

Ironically, I had visited the World Trade Towers twice on 9/11 in earlier years. Once with my son, Kevin, and a second time with my grandson Bill. In May of 2006, I visited the site which at that time was still a hole in the ground. It evoked power and grief just as I had experienced visiting Omaha Beach in Normandy. The feeling of despair, lost hope for humanity, and just how, how can people do these atrocious things?

And yet, we do recover. The light does return and good outweighs evil. And my capacity for joy is restored.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Religion and Politics (Political Rant 2)

The parallels between religion and politics are just plain spooky. These come to mind, but there must be many more:
  • Both require a leap of faith.  We can't really know the candidates, we just somehow believe in them.
  • Both make ardent believers into proselytizers. If it's deep in your heart, you have to talk about it and try to make others into believers.
  • It's really hard to win converts. Don't confuse me with logic, my mind is made up.
  • Believers tend to listen to only to what they want to hear and shut out logic and divergent views. 
  • Both involve adulation.
  • Both spawn crazy acts and sometimes violence under the guise of righteousness.
  • Both compel many of the faithful to shout from the rooftops.
  • Few want to hear about any of it.
  • Few do anything about it.
  • Believers are convinced their path is the way to true enlightenment.
  • Outsiders are considered to be "the great unwashed"
  • Activity around these beliefs is focused on certain times of the week or year. The rest of the time people tend to forget their differences.
  • Both tend to relegate women to lesser roles.
  • Both believe the greatest rewards lie in the future.
  • Both stir up passion in their followers.
  • Both involve some kind of salvation . My candidate will deliver us from all the evils of the opposition.
I can see the list is endless, but even though I analyze my passion, and acknowledge divergent views may be valid, I find it so hard to understand why others can't see the issues and the path to salvation as clearly as I can!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day Labors

Twelve down, six to go. Even though there are 60 new freshmen band members this year, only 18 uniforms needed altering (36 last year). I'm so grateful for that! They will be worn for the first time on September 14, just a week before I leave for California.

If you look closely at the picture, on the left side you can see Logan shampooing the hallway carpet as his Labor Day effort. He has to get it done before he goes to football practice. The Ozark teams are off to a good start. The varsity has won both games they've played; the JV won their first game and will play their second tomorrow.

Ben is out back trimming the lawn supposedly, but looking for bugs most likely. Be sure to check out his newly launched blog: Eccentric Entomophile.