Yearly Archives: 2010

Going Dancing

The men in my father’s family were charmers, all of them – including Dad!  My sister recently told me a wonderful story about Dad, which I must share.  I assume this happened in the summer of 1975 because that’s the only time in the ’70s I didn’t have a job that would have kept me from taking the trip I describe.

In 1975 I was in the process of divorcing my first husband, and was living with my parents, stony broke and unemployed.  My mother worked for the local library, and planned to attend a library convention in Los Angeles; we decided I would go with her for company.  This left my sister and my father living in the Napa house together for a few days.  Dad was retired at this time and was either 67 or 68 (I don’t recall the exact date).

My sister says one evening while Mother and I were gone, Dad came into the living room all dressed up in a suit and tie (and probably a hat; Dad was a very sharp dresser).  She asked him where he was going, and he said he was going to Santa Rosa to the senior center dance.  “You can’t go to the dance all by yourself,” she objected, whereupon he said that of course he could, he was going to dance with all the widow women.  He went out the door and didn’t come back until 2 AM.  My sister complained that she had sat up waiting for him, and he said that was her payback for all the nights he sat up until 2 AM waiting for her!

When she told me this, I asked her if she went to the dance with him, and she said he wouldn’t let her – he was afraid she’d cramp his style!  I couldn’t have posted this while Mother was alive, but she’s gone, God rest her, and it’s too classic not to share.

Posted in Family Tagged |

“How to Catch An Alligator”

The explanation for this starts with cleaning out the garage.  Unfortunately, we found rodents in same, which had chewed up some of the old papers we stored there 🙁   (I think it ate the paper certificate for my bachelor’s degree but I’m not sure.  It ate something from the University of California.)  So I had to go through several boxes and sort out the things that I wanted to keep and look at, to bring in the house for safer storage.

Some of the boxes had papers from my school days (so that’s where my high school yearbooks were), which I think we salvaged when we moved my mother out of the Napa house in 1994.  Among them was a single sheet of 5 x 7 lined notebook paper, torn out of a spiral binding, covered in my adolescent handwriting.  It’s not dated; could be from high school or college, probably not before that.  Apparently I thought this was so funny that I copied it down and put it away with my college class notebooks, which I stored in the house in Napa, and my mother saved it through the next thirty years.  Mother was a major pack rat, and I come by it honestly myself.

So here is the recipe for How to Catch an Alligator, just as I wrote it down fifty-some years ago:

You need:  a beer can, a pup tent, a copy of Romeo and Juliet, a club, binoculars, and tweezers.

You beat the alligator over the head with the club so he will start chasing you.  Since a person can run faster than a ‘gator [Ed. note:  in light of later experience I don’t think this is true, so don’t try this at home!], you get to the tent first.  You wait awhile and the alligator doesn’t get there, so you start to read Romeo and Juliet, which is so dry you fall asleep.  Meanwhile the alligator arrives, sees the book, starts to read it and falls asleep.  Now, if you go to sleep first, you wake up first, so when you wake up, you grab the binoculars and look at the alligator through the wrong end.  This makes him look about 1½ inches long and you can pick him up with the tweezers and put him in the beer can.

As I copied this, I realized that no one who has actually read Romeo and Juliet would describe it as dry (certainly no one who’s seen the Zeffirelli film!), which argues that this little gem dates from my high school years, before I studied Shakespeare in college.

Posted in Personal Tagged |


It’s been a wetter December than we expected, and I suddenly realized we have mushrooms in the back yard.


These aren’t small mushrooms, either – they’re mostly about the size of my hand.  I think those are the remains of the daylilies they’re invading.


We think they may be growing on a root left over from the liquid amber tree the neighbors cut down a few years ago.


I like mushrooms, actually.  Means we have a healthy yard.



Posted in Nature, Photography

Saying Goodbye

We never know when this will happen.  My cousin Michael Maguire died the morning after Thanksgiving.

I didn’t see much of Michael as an adult, but when we were children, his family and my family and yet a third set of cousins did Thanksgiving and Christmas together, every year, at one house or the other.   He was part of my childhood, part of my growing up.  When my Dad died, and we sold the house, Michael came and spent the whole day cleaning out the garage; my sister and I unanimously agreed that he should have his pick of Dad’s tools.  He married late, about 7 years ago; I didn’t make the wedding, but I went to the party he threw afterward.  I went to his father’s funeral, and his mother’s, and his sister’s.  I probably went to his grandmother’s funeral (she was my aunt), but that was back in the ’70s and I don’t remember it.  Now I’ll go to his – a military funeral, he served a couple of hitches in Germany in the sixties, didn’t go to ‘Nam.  He was two years younger than I am.

Michael was a quiet man, not talkative; a man who liked to do things with his hands.  There was a time when he drank more than was good for him, but he stopped drinking, and didn’t start again.  Solid, reliable, and kind – not the sort you want to lose.  He died in a hospital, he’d been in one hospital or another since July.  Sometimes modern medicine just doesn’t do it.  At least he’s not in pain any more, no longer in a strange bed with tubes and machines.  Not a good way to go, for a man who liked hiking and camping and birding.  Maybe there are forests and birds where he is, wherever that is.

So goodbye, Michael – you’ve taken a small piece of my life with you.  Rest in peace.

Posted in Family

Celtic Music from my Sister-in-law

My sister-in-law, Sally, plays hammer dulcimer in a Celtic band in western Pennsylvania.  Usually we don’t get to hear them play, being 3000 miles (or so) away.  But recently she played at a local winery, and a local blogger recorded a couple of tunes on her cell phone!  You’ll find the link here:

My Life Has Gone to the Dogs and I Love It!

Enjoy the two pieces.

Posted in Family Tagged |


We just had our first rain of the season this weekend.  We have a vigorous community of spiders in our back yard, and when we went out yesterday morning, we found them all covered with raindrops.  Enjoy the spiderwebs.

Spiderweb with water

Spiderweb with water

Spiderweb with water\

Spiderweb with water - and spider!

Spiderweb with water

Spiderweb with water

Posted in Nature, Photography Tagged , |

Not My Week

I don’t know what I did to piss off the universe.  I fell again today – that’s the second time in just over a week.  The first time I don’t reckon for much.  As I said in my last post, Berkeley’s sidewalks are notorious for (a) no streetlights and (b) no maintenance since 1972 or so.  (Maybe longer.)  I tripped on a bad patch under a big dark tree, and that’s all there was to it, except the huge purple bruise on my right knee.

This time, though, I was in my own house.  OK, maybe I should have poured my tea and then carried it into the dining room, instead of pouring it while I walked in.  I caught my foot on something (the kitchen trash can, I think) and went off-balance, and my hands were full of ceramics holding hot water, and I couldn’t catch myself.  I landed on my right knee (again, but not so hard), plus my right elbow, and something gave me a fat lip, I don’t know what.   Amazingly, neither the teapot nor the teacup broke, in fact they’re in better shape than I am.

This could have been worse.  Nothing is broken, I’m no worse than sore and stiff; I didn’t hit my head.  But it’s disturbing.  It makes me feel shaky and weak.  I meant to go to the gym today to work out, and now I’m not going, and that’s 2 weeks I’ve missed because of falls.  Grump.

Posted in Personal

Dropping In on the Blues

Last Saturday night my husband and I set out for an old friend’s house, on a dark little street in Berkeley, a few blocks south of the campus.  The occasion was a “blues party” – my friend hails from Chicago and grew up listening to the blues on WOPA.   He has a collection of classic recordings and wanted an excuse to play them.  We had to park a couple of blocks away, of course; you can’t park on that block except by divine intervention.  The bad news is, walking down the almost completely dark street looking for the right house, I wasn’t paying enough attention to the awful sidewalk, and I caught my foot on a tree bulge and went down.  The good news is, I came away with nothing worse than a bruised knee, and liberal application of ice packs (starting at the party) seems to be helping.  It isn’t even very sore.  But it looks ghastly.  And it unsettled me – falls make you feel vulnerable, even when you don’t damage anything serious.

There was more on the evening agenda than a “mere” collection of classic blues recordings.  We watched the debut of a new blues singer in the old tradition:  my friend, who now has the official nickname “Chicago,” performed his own composition, the “Chicken Soup Blues!”  I loved it!  He can’t sing, of course, but as far as I can tell neither could any of the classic Chicago bluesmen; and he certainly has mastered the style and the delivery.  I was honored and charmed to be there, and I devoutly hope that one of the several people who videotaped it will post the clip on YouTube, because it was amazingly funny!  If they do, I’ll post a link to it here.

Posted in Personal

Turkeys in the Yard

It must be the season for birds.  We live in a small canyon in the Oakland hills, the upper part of which is still pretty wild.  We’ve known for awhile that we had a flock of wild turkeys living up the canyon – early morning walkers would find them foraging around the field behind the tennis club.

Last night after dinner my husband said, “We have turkeys in the back yard.”  And we did – three of them.  They foraged around for quite a while and then walked out and explored the block for awhile before wandering off up the hill.  I got some photos, click here to see a slideshow.

Posted in Nature, Photography Tagged , |

Bird on the window

We have a greenhouse window in our kitchen.  For no reason I could figure, back in July our resident California towhee spent several minutes walking around on the slanted glass top and pecking the glass, back in July.  Here he is, walking on the glass:

Towhee on greenhouse window

He even flapped around but never flew off:

Towhee flapping

Sometimes he just stood there and stared in:

Towhee looking in through window

It’s very unnerving to sit alone in a house and hear something tapping in an empty room!  Glad it was only him.

Posted in Nature Tagged |