A Short Divide

It’s coming to that time of the year where I peer into lobbies and storefronts for Christmas decorations on my walk to the office. These are the companies with money and they spare no expense with the decor. What makes it so striking is inside you’re in fairyland, or more precisely, Santa’s attic with his elves, gawking at 10-foot trees dripping in gold and sparkles, with beautifully wrapped red and gold presents amidst the poinsettias, and soft holiday music in the background. I know because I go in and take pictures.  But outside on the dirty sidewalk you’re stepping over sleeping bodies of the homeless. The contrast takes my breath away. I wonder how many see it as they rush to their buildings clutching their peppermint mochas and early morning podcasts stuck to their ears.

I’ve noticed a woman who scoops up one of these homeless men. He sits on the street with a teddy bear. He has long grey, bushy hair and is usually reading a book. She takes him to the corner store and lets him pull down whatever he wants from the shelves. It’s usually chips, candies, coffee. I don’t know how often she does it, but she’s my hero. I know this because I’m in the same store. May her tribe increase.

I’m thinking of ways to help these people too, especially when the temperatures drop and the streets thin out because people are on vacation for the holidays.

Calvin says, “I have an idea. Send out a brigade of volunteers with their therapy dogs to give hugs and kisses. That would be a gift.”

 

 

 

Veer Right

I stood on the platform before the sun came up, waiting for the train. I looked up and saw a V formation of six pelicans. They were way off course. They belonged near the ocean, not this far inland. I concluded their GPS got muddled and they ended up at the subway station instead. Maybe they were going to go home that way. Once in San Francisco the way to the ocean was much closer. They could hop on the cable car and be at the wharf in minutes to the delight of all the tourists.

They continued to make several loops around the station in silence. Pelicans don’t honk like geese. They’re the introverts of the sky.

I kept following them with my eyes, wondering where they would touch down. All the station had to offer was a large cement parking lot, and miles of train tracks with a dangerous third rail that could kill you. I had visions of charred pelican and burned feathers. Not a pretty sight. Landing on cement wouldn’t be much prettier either. That would be a rough landing with scraped feet.

I thought of calling the firefighters to come rescue them. To pull their ladders into the sky and bring each one down to safety. But that wouldn’t work. They’d think me a crazy woman. I don’t know why. They’ve rescued a few of my cats up a tree.

Then just before the train arrived I saw them change course, come in lower and disappear behind a line of trees to the quacking of ducks at a nearby pond. Those ducks gave them their landing coordinates and saved me from a morning of drama.

Calvin says, “You should have called. I would have positioned myself in the middle of the parking lot and howled them down.”

(Un)Expected Gifts

There are three Indian families that live across the street from us. They have elementary school age children. At night they come out of their houses and talk with loud voices. It sounds like a party with everyone speaking at once. A friend of mine who visited India for the first time said, “It’s so noisy here, day and night, I can’t think.” The funny thing is they don’t talk to each other. It’s as if invisible walls were wrapped around each house with a no trespass sign. I don’t know why because they don’t talk to me either. It’s a shame because one of them has a prolific tangerine tree in their backyard and I’d like some.

On the other hand, my neighbors to the right have been friends for  years. They have fig trees. Anybody with a fig tree is my best friend for life. As a child, my grandparent’s fig trees were my daily treat. At nap time, I’d climb out the bedroom window with a chair and gobble figs until I couldn’t breathe. My neighbors give me their crop in exchange for my lemons and oranges. To the left of me, there’s not even a hello from the front door. It’s just as well. She has no fruit trees. Two doors down a Portuguese family lives with Sunshine, the American short-hair cat, Nigel, the chihuahua, nameless chickens, and a persimmon tree that is so beautiful it takes my breath away. Every year we receive a box full of those beauties at our doorstep. Across the street from them is a family with teenagers and their revved-up cars that go zoom at midnight, sending me to the ceiling and back. In the front of their house they have an avocado tree. I’ve been tempted to snag a few as a consolation prize for putting up with their noise.

Calvin says, “Lucky you. Sunshine and Nigel bring me nothing but turds.” 

Ablaze of Color

California doesn’t have trees that change color in the fall. Evergreens seem to be the look most often when you’re driving. I don’t know why. It’s a pity really. I have to cross the border into Oregon to see them. Those Oregonians planted lots of maples and they reap a riot of color in October. It’s so beautiful it takes your breath away. I can’t imagine what Canada looks like this time of year. The East Coasters got the right idea, they too have these beauties. Here are three from Oregon. Calvin says, “A tree is a tree.  As long as it’s upright, it works for me.”

 

Bring It Down a Little

They say it’s global warming. That’s why today’s temperatures are almost to 100. And this is Northern California. It’s not supposed to feel this way. We’re not Arizona. We’re in the Bay Area where the fog rolls in at night and cools everything down. Except there’s no fog. It’s crept on its silent little feet to another state where it is being warmly welcomed.

We don’t have air conditioning in the house. Alf and I have never needed it, until now. But I know how this works. The minute we invest in AC in all the rooms, we’ll have global freezing and we’ll be stoking pot belly stoves in every nook of the house.

So you really can’t win. Best to wait it out, plug in some fans, drink lots of sweetened iced tea like they do in the South, and sit in the shade. It’s a good opportunity to chat with the neighbors who are outside like you.

Like Reynash across the street. He says this is cool weather for him coming from India. Or Angela next door who is soaking up the sun because her doctor says she’s low in vitamin D. She’s from Brazil. And good old Simon, the accountant, who lives indoors with a scarf wrapped around his neck and hasn’t noticed the climbing temperatures in months. Meanwhile his cat is sprawled out and panting on the back of the living room couch.

I suppose weather changes affect different people in different ways. For me, I can’t make enough ice, I feel lethargic, and I’m certainly not walking the dog. I’ve given him a fan of his own until the temperatures drop to a normal cool.

Calvin says, “I like the fan breezing over my tummy. But I am putting on pounds, you know.”

 

 

Road Trip

I just returned from a road trip from San Francisco to Tulsa, OK with a friend who was moving there.

It took us five days on I-40. First overnight stop was Bakersfield, CA followed by Flagstaff AZ, then Albuquerque NM, onto to Amarillo TX, and finally into Tulsa OK.

The thing that caught my attention in Bakersfield was the Barnes & Noble Bookstore. It was packed with people reading in there. Gave me goosebumps.

On our way out of CA to AZ I spotted kiwi orchards, orange groves and a plane boneyard that loomed in the middle of the Mojave desert. There must have been hundreds of aircraft parked there happily decomposing in the heat.

The drive through Northern Arizona with mountain ranges of pink rock flanking both sides of the highway left me wide-eyed. The word beautiful doesn’t even come close. IMG_8258

Albuquerque was a disappointment. Old Town turned out to be a bust. It looked like a movie backdrop with stores offering goods made for the tourist trade. There was nothing authentic about it. Molly, the border-collie who greeted us at the reception desk at the hotel was the best ambassador for the city.

It took forever to get out of New Mexico. Clearly you’re not supposed to leave. Eventually we crossed the state line into Texas and were greeted by miles and miles of windmills. And when we left the hotel the next morning, we were greeted by the smell of cows and their waste. We ran out of Texas.

As soon as we got into Oklahoma the green light switch came on. Trees, rolling hills and natural grasses flanked both sides of the highway. So was the 100 degree heat.

I have crossed the country many times by plane. Now I can say I have driven most of it. Would I do it again? Probably not, but I’m glad to have done it. It gave me a greater appreciation of the enormity of our country.

Calvin says, “You could have taken me, you know. Every one of those hotels were pet-friendly and I could have announced my presence in every state.”

beagle

 

 

Iowa Is Good for Writing

My friend and her husband are driving cross country to deliver a car to their daughter in D.C.

Nevada and Utah were blanketed in snow, which made for stunning pictures. Wyoming was another matter. Flat is the only word for it. A view of the occasional cow on some green land was the only bump on the landscape.

Now they’re in Iowa, home of John Wayne and its depressing Main Street, which looks more like a movie set than a real place for real people who work, play and raise families.  

I’m so used to living on the coasts that I forget there’s a whole country in the middle of the country. It looks like a foreign land to me. I expect people to be speaking another language and living another culture. And perhaps they do. They are ranchers and farmers and people who have worked the cornfields all their lives.

I looked up employment in Iowa. The list included pizza driver, office clerk, test administrator and library assistant. I noticed there weren’t any tech jobs. That’s probably because there’s no internet. Who needs internet for herding cows? Two border collies will do.

What I did discover were a ton of bloggers from Iowa. A lot of them are food blogs. But I don’t see Iowa as a foodie destination. How many blog posts do you need for grilling hamburgers?

It’s worth mentioning that there’s the famous Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop, which has produced many award-winning authors over the years.

For some, looking at pasture lands and grazing cattle fosters the urge to write. I, for one, wouldn’t find any inspiration looking at a cow chewing the cud. I’d need some action like a line of geese following a marching band.

Calvin says, “And to think Iowa is the bellwether of American politics.” beagle