Still Good Advice

The only reason this poster remains on the pole this long after the election must be because it’s over the heads of most of my neighbors. I never noticed it before so I’m guessing the flag-whipping, 4X4 truck drivers that roar through town never look up either.

Keeping me waiting…

I’ve heard that when you keep someone waiting, they’re counting your faults. I’m a pretty patient waiter which makes Sally, my cycling companion, and me compatible, because she can find more reasons to make a person wait than one can imagine. It’s not just that she can’t keep up on the climb (which she can because she has an e-bike, but she doesn’t like to exert herself), and she’s inclined to take her time on the descent, but she also has to stop frequently to check her heart rate monitor, apply chap stick, answer her text messages, apply sun screen, eat a snack, take a snapshot or twenty of a beautiful leaf, add a layer of clothing, take off a layer, etc. And the worst of it is, she doesn’t have enough faults for me to entertain myself by counting them.

While her dawdling can be aggravating, I’m not sure it can even be called a fault; it’s just her nature. When she perseverates about whether she will need a windbreaker or not, I suggest that, since it weighs nothing, she stuff it in the pack instead of dithering about it.

Sally with her well-stocked pack

She always carries a pack that looks like she’s doing a through hike of the Appalachian Trail, so space isn’t an issue. I never have to worry about packing food because she always has a smorgasbord of tasty snacks and generously shares them with me. Stuffed into her oversized hydration pack are jackets, shirts, leg guards, dry sports bras, extra gloves, piano bench and monkey wrench. When we stop so she can apply sun screen, everything comes out. It looks like we’re holding a trail-side garage sale.

Saturday, riding with Sally, my back was giving me fits and my patience wore a bit thin, especially as the day wore on and I got hungry. So today, I decided to ride with the guys. Guys generally aren’t inclined to dally and they certainly don’t make me wait on the descents. But, oh my Dog, their conversation is so boring! How they can carry on about the length of their cranks, how quickly their seat post rises, how much travel their fork has, gear ratios, etc! I can tell you’re bored just reading about it. So, I think I’ll go back to waiting for Sally. At least we talk about interesting things…like work, our dogs, and people who dump trash.

Found miles from any road. Size 36/32. Message me if you want them.

R.I.P.

The anniversary of my mom’s death is coming up and, while I don’t dwell on such things, certain events do bring her to mind on a pretty regular basis. For instance, our nectarine trees bore a bountiful crop this year, so my freezer is full of luscious fruit. It’s easy and delicious to pop a few into the Bullet blender to whip up a simple smoothie. All that roughage makes for entertaining sneak attacks on one’s mate or dog-startling audible eruptions, especially if you “push a little” as Mum used to say.

Now, my mom was a world class farter, though she rarely used the word. Her “whiffers” have been remarked upon by neighbors whose jaded senses never even register their own dog’s barking. So, this morning, when I pushed out a particularly melodic burst, I thought of Mum. R.I.P.

Photo by Jacob Boavista on Unsplash

Too Many Hurdles

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

What’s up with the new tedious sign-in procedure every time I want to comment on one of my subscription’s posts? Is it just me, or is everyone jumping through hoops to weigh in? That coupled with the fact that my computer seems to have contracted a bug that makes my mouse uncooperative, is severely dampening my ability to leave cheery, witty, positive comments when I’m snarling inside.

So, I apologize to my many clever and interesting blogger friends for simply hitting the “like” button on their posts. Anything more is just too labor intensive until I get my computer fixed or replaced.

So Many Books…

Photo by noah eleazar on Unsplash

Don’t you just love seeing the package delivery truck pull up in front of your house? One of the unspoken pleasures of a porous memory is that, in the time it takes for the “free delivery” purchase to arrive, I can completely forget what I ordered. It’s like a surprise birthday present (the present, not the birthday; I still remember my birthday).

My favorite add-to-cart therapy comes from ordering books from ABE.com (American Book Exchange). Place an order today, for say four books, and you can receive four packages over the next four weeks, for about $20.

Out of consideration for the livelihood of my favorite authors, I usually buy new releases when they come out in soft cover. But when I want to binge read Wallace Stegner, Graham Greene, Edward Abbey, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ernest Hemingway, or any of my favorite now deceased writers, I buy used books. If I’m perfectly honest, I’ll admit to buying used books of living authors whom I have only recently discovered. It would not be affordable for my budget to order all of Kazuo Ishiguro’s earlier novels when I ordered his latest Klara and the Sun.

But once I’ve discovered a writer who captures my attention, I’m hooked for life. Someone loaned me Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible and I’ve purchased every new novel she’s released (hard cover, no less) since I read it and every previously published novel, used from ABE.com.

My niece, who works for a pest control service is horrified to think of me bringing used books into my home for fear of bed bugs, yet she shops second hand stores for her clothes. I have a feeling that libraries would be infested with the critters if that were really a problem.

The biggest danger of cheap books is over-burdening my book shelves. It’s too easy to order books I never get around to reading, which I store for years. You know the kind: Moby Dick (started it three times), Don Quixote, or any of those classics that I thought would look good on my shelves. There they sit, nestled between the oft read and lovingly remembered volumes: Desert Solitaire, A Walk in the Woods, Black Beauty, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, The Lacuna, Bonk, and the list goes on and on.

Weekend Travels

I found this post gathering digital dust in my drafts file, having composed it sometime last winter. Since this is the time of year I grumble about triple digit temperatures, it was refreshing to read the following:

This is the time of year I brag about Southern California weather in equal proportion to how much I complain about it in the summertime. January and February are the halcyon days of sunshine, cool temperatures, and green hills. Optimistic nectarine trees burst into blossom and wild flowers rush to spread their offspring before the scorching June sun withers them.

A Desert Delight nectarine tree, cultivated expressly for this climate, needs about 200 hours below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mill Creek, once a perennial flow, now intermittently gurgles through rock-strewn channels carved by previous torrents, and lingers in clear pools to the delight of our thirsty dogs.

Friday, Sally was recovering from a bout of Covid and wanted to do something of low intensity, so we loaded bikes and dogs into our cars and drove to the upper wash trails. In the uphill direction, the dogs bound ahead, following their noses and giving happy but futile chase to birds that take flight. When the trail turns downhill, they run ahead until they hear the zzzzzzt of our coasting hubs on their tails and pull over to let us pass. The long-legged ones (Sadie and Bella, Sally’s dog) lope easily behind, while the chunkier Molly and Zena (also Sally’s dog) bring up the rear, ears flapping happily.

By Saturday, Sally was feeling stronger so we decided to hike up Morton Peak Trail again. This trail warrants repetition as it has many lovely attributes, despite there being no water. It affords several panoramic views of the valley below, and after climbing roughly four miles, the trail rounds the ridge to provide a breathtaking view of Mill Creek canyon.

The naked south-facing slope is part of the burn area of the wildfire that drove our friends from their home in 2020. Mt. San Bernardino, behind it, is also charred. The dark green in the center of the image is where the fire fighters were able to hold the fire at bay, protecting Loch Levin Christian Camp behind the fire break.
Judy, the dog whisperer, who also has treats in her pack.
Molly takes a break
Sadie at the end of the day

By the end of the day, we humans had traveled about 13 miles and the dogs probably twice that.

“Not a single one of us is safe.”

I read that the government is funding more IRS agents to ferret out tax evaders and more FBI agents to pursue miscreants of every stripe. Some folks are quaking in their boots over this news fearing “persecution” because Ted Cruz has warned that these law enforcement agents will render us vulnerable. Color me naive, but I’m not too concerned.

I’m pretty careful about filing my taxes and my CPA is a Mormon whom I trust is not going to advise me to cheat our government out of their due. (it’s that whole “render unto Caesar” thing.) So, I’m thinking that maybe those who are opposing this new spending law are not confident that their tax returns would bear scrutiny.

Similarly, I can’t visualize the occasion where the FBI would knock on my door with a warrant. And, if they did, the worst they would discover is that I’m a lousy housekeeper and my desk is a mess.

So, I can’t help but wonder about those who oppose supporting our tax collectors and law enforcement. Do they have something to worry about? If so, I advise them to clean house.

I Suppose It Could Be Worse

The local multi-cultural market had a special on chicken drumsticks last week, 79 cents a pound. I don’t eat chicken because of my aversion to the way animals are raised for food in this part of the world, but my dogs aren’t as troubled by things like ethics; so, I bought two large packages of about six chicken legs each. I did think briefly about the half dozen chickens who would struggle with paraplegia, I wondered do they even make wheel chairs for chickens or do they have to use skateboards to navigate. Career options for chickens are already limited and I don’t know if hens could lay eggs if they couldn’t squat and cocks would certainly be at a disadvantage in the fighting arena. Knowing the brutality of the chicken pecking order, the future looked grim for the six poultry who lost their legs for my dogs’ benefit.

Photo by Sahand Babali on Unsplash

My freezers are stuffed full of this summer’s nectarines and surplus tomatoes, so I put the packages of drumsticks (sounds way cheerier than chicken legs) in the refrigerator section of the little fridge in my mum’s granny flat and promptly forgot about them. This morning, when looking for something in the little freezer, I got a whiff of something. A search of the fridge exposed the 79 cents per pound chicken legs (no doubt discounted to move the already aged product).

Summer’s bounty fills the freezer

Considering that dogs think cat scat a treat, I deemed the meat “not that bad” and dumped it into the crock pot. And figuring I might as well go all in, I added the usual organic, steel-cut oats ($3.89/lb), some California-grown Jasmine rice (less arsenic than Thai), generic carrots, celery, and potatoes (all dutifully scrubbed to remove any residual pesticides). By the time the crock pot reached simmering temperature, the stench was undeniable and I decided to consult the internet about just how invincible a dog’s digestive tract is. The consensus was NOT, if it smells off, it will make your dog sick. So, since the trash doesn’t get picked up for another three days, I dug a hole in the back yard and buried the whole mess.

My day didn’t get better: I developed a new floater which has me swatting at nonexistent gnats; I got to the checkout line at Trader Joe’s and realized I’d left my credit card at home, so I dutifully returned all of my purchases to the shelves; and upon arriving home, remembered that there’s such a thing as cash that is accepted as legal tender and I had a wad of it in my wallet.

Now, some might think senile dementia is creeping up on me, but I would counter that there are many days that I don’t remember a single similar episode ever happening to me.

Living in a War Zone

Awake with the lightening sky, I look blearily at the clock on the nightstand. 5:32 it glows just as it stoically announced 4:29, 3:15, 2:30 each time another round of mortars went off. The dogs are curled up as close to the bed as they can get seeking the comfort of proximity to their peeps. They almost trust us to keep them safe from the chaos outside which began early yesterday evening.

It was the 3rd of July and in the Republic of Mentone, that means we haul out the BIG guns. Minor holidays like Martin Luther King Jr. day or Veteran’s Day are celebrated with the more modest types of almost “safe and sane” sparklers that are legal in less fire prone areas. In our area, Bic lighters are discouraged and possession of anything more entertaining is punishable by a fine. Not to be deterred, my scofflaw neighbors believe that New Years Eve is the penultimate, with the 4th of July being the pyrotechnic climax of the entire year.

Tonight, or even this afternoon, as deferred gratification is not the strong suit of this group of pyromaniacs, we will be surrounded by world class, military grade explosives that set off car alarms and drive pets mad with fear.

What screw is loose in the heads of these people who spend hundreds of dollars on something as ephemeral and potentially destructive as illegal fireworks? Why is it more entertaining to risk burning your neighbors’ house down than to watch the display put on at the local university, from the comfort of your front porch? Seriously, won’t someone please ‘splain it to me?

I guess I’ll see if the pot store is open today. I’m told they have a doggie CBD oil that takes the edge off the dogs’ anxiety.

Photo by freddie marriage on Unsplash

A Fleeting Memory

The rumble-splash of the neighbor’s diving board conjures up a long-buried memory.

Our new neighbors are putting to good use the pool that the previous neighbors rarely used. Sometimes late at night, I hear the rumble-thwump of the board, bouncing on its spring, and the memory of my dad going for his nightly dip surfaces like a dream.

I was fourteen and awakening to the interest in boys that was to plague my life for the next fifty years. The local high school had a pool that was open to the public in the summer time and I walked the 2.3 miles to the pool, sometimes in triple digit heat and always in lung-searing smog, nearly every day. It was totally not cool to ride a bike, bikes were for kids and it was totally cool to go bare foot (these were the hippie-dippie days of the sixties). We developed tough, calloused feet as we scampered across the searing asphalt to the relative cool of the painted white lines of the crosswalks.

One day as I was walking by myself, a neighbor of my aunt’s (who lived just a block away from our house), slowed his car beside me and asked me if I wanted a ride. Even and that tender age, I recognized his intent and firmly declined his offer. He persisted longer than mere altruism would dictate, cementing my original opinion of his sleazy motives. I continued walking briskly and when I left the relative seclusion of the orange grove, and approached a more populated area, he moved on. I wasn’t unduly alarmed but I did mention it casually to my mom that Aunt Elaine’s friend’s husband had approached me. Later, I was nonplussed to learn that my aunt had told her friend about the incident and the woman said that I was a slut and was trying to seduce her husband. Ewww ick! He was at least 30!

Shortly after, my folks decided to put in a pool in our back yard. The kids in my neighborhood were thrilled. I was not. The primary attraction of the public pool was the selection of boys with whom I could flirt and sometimes get to give me a ride home.

But the pool provided a respite for my dad who otherwise spent his evenings in front of the TV watching The Joe Pine Show (the Rush Limbaugh of the 60s), The Dean Martin Show, The Danny Kay Show, etc. The pool needed to be brushed and skimmed every evening and after I was in bed, he would clean the pool, then strip naked and dive into the pool to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

Needless to say, I do not peek through the fence when I hear the neighbor’s diving board at night.