Monday, October 30, 2000

Look to the Rainbow

We all had problems sleeping last night. Peggy woke up around 3:30 and the two of us sat up talking until time for her to take her shower and make the final preparations. Just when she thought she had everything ready to go, she opened one more drawer and found another stack of clothes she had forgotten. But most of them fit in the suitcase. I still have a box to pack and send to her with the two boxes she packed herself. But we did get the suitcase closed and Walt was downstairs by then to help load the very heavy case into the car.

The sun was just coming up as we got to the airport. We had already decided I would just drop and her leave as quickly as possible. We were both having a very hard time holding back tears and the last thing we needed was to stand around prolonging the agony. So we unloaded the suitcase, I hugged her and started crying as I got into the car. I gave one final wave and then sped off.

When I got back to Davis, I stopped by the cemetery. I hadn’t been there since I showed the graves to Peggy shortly after she arrived. If a cemetery could look “beautiful,” it looked beautiful this morning. The sky was pink, there was low-lying fog wending its way among the headstones, and the birds were coming to life. I stood there talking with Paul and David while a white egret flew overhead and some chickadees hopped about in the tree near their grave. It helped to be there.

Walt is moving Kismet into the theater this week, so he spent most of the day at the theater. I tried to get some work done and to give some thought to the review I have to write of the show Walt and I saw on Friday night. I still haven’t figured out what I’m going to do about it. I didn’t really like the script, though the production was good. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to handle it. The problem is that it’s kind of a surreal plot and I have little experience with such a thing, so I have to fake it and try not to look like an idiot. I’m told that this is how most critics start out--knowing nothing, but learning as they go. This play is definitely going to be a learning experience.

I spoke with my friend Lynn, in Texas. I hadn’t spoken with her in several weeks and it was good to hear her voice. One of the reasons it’s been so special having Peggy here is because since Lynn and her husband moved to Houston, I haven’t really had a good female friend here in Davis. I hadn’t realized I’d missed it so much until I suddenly had it again. So it was especially good to talk with Lynn this afternoon.

Peggy called from LA during her 4 hour layover before getting on the plane for Japan (her ultimate destination tonight is Singapore). When it came time for her to add more money to the pay phone, she counted it out like a pro. I was proud of her. It was hard telling her goodbye again. I won’t hear from her now until she gets back to Perth at the end of the week and gets her e-mail set up again. But at least we can go back to our daily chats and she can help me get my camera set up so we can do chats with photo accompaniment.

Before she left, we discovered that during her stay here, she’s gained weight and I’ve lost weight. This, we decided is because I’m walking more and she’s walking less. She will soon take off the weight as she gets back to eating her normal diet, running the dogs on the beach and walking around the halls of the hospital where she works as an Investigator. For my part, I promised her that I would keep up the walking habit that we started, so this afternoon I went out and walked for an hour. It was really lovely. I walked through the nearby park, over the freeway, and down by the marsh, which is home to a lot of birds. I sat on a bench where Peggy and I sat a couple of weeks ago and as I looked out over the marsh to the cumulus clouds, I saw a huge rainbow. It was so beautiful. It made me feel peaceful and happy.

When the rainbow disappeared, I walked back home again, feeling much better about things in general. They say a rainbow is a promise. I took the rainbow as a promise that the friendship Peggy and I have formed in the past six weeks will continue and that we will indeed find a way to see each other again.

Sunday, October 29, 2000

No More Adventures

We are winding down the last day. The clocks are about to be turned back, Peggy is trying to fit her stuff into the suitcase, and I'm in my office, trying not to think about a few hours from now when we start off to the airport.

We had a nice last day. We did some computer stuff in the morning. Funny, but we planned to spend most of her visit here on the computer, working together on doing new things, her showing me graphics tricks, our making CDs, etc. Ultimately we did almost none of that. Partly my problem, I suppose. I couldn't get off the machine long enough for her to really bond with it. But also because we were on the go so much we just didn't spend that much time playing at home.

I wanted to have one last walk, so we drove up to the University, parked the car, and took the footpath which winds along Putah Creek and through the arboretum. We've lived in Davis for 30 years and I've always thought I should get out and appreciate the beauty that is at my fingertips. Today was the first day I'd made that walk. It was indeed beautiful. It was grey and the wind was cold, but we bundled up. The leaves fell in front of us as we walked, and the ducks along the bank were fluffing up their feathers to stay warm while they napped. We walked as far as the duck pond, near Putah Creek Lodge, where I remember so many social events during the early years in Davis. We met hardly a soul on the footpath and it seemed we had the whole arboretum to ourselves.

By the time we returned to the car, it had started to rain. We took refuge in Borders Books and Peggy, who needed more "stuff" to fill her suitcase (like she needed a hole in her head), bought heavy books. Sigh. Only two of them, but two more than she needed. One, however, was a computer book she'd been looking for ever since she got here, so it was indeed fortuitous that she was able to find it on the last day.

We stopped for lunch at Pluto's Café, where you order salads by standing at a bin of "toppings" and letting them know what you'd like on your salad. Peggy went off in search of a table and I chose the salad toppings for each of us (hers were different from mine). I was thinking back on yesterday's journal entry and how I mentioned how nice it was to become so close that you know what the other person wants. I confidently stood there ordering Peggy's toppings, thinking how much I'd come to know about her in a short period of time.

It was pouring rain when we left the café and we drove to the supermarket to get stuff for dinner. When we were in Seattle, Peggy mentioned to Diane that if she knew she were going to die, her requested last meal would be roast leg of lamb, roast veggies, and for dessert apple pie with cream. So that seemed the logical thing to fix for dinner tonight. We bought lamb, apples, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, parsnips, butternut squash, and cream.

While Peggy packed (she had to pack 3 more boxes to mail home because the suitcase won't close), I cut up apples and got a pie ready. While the apple pie I made for Steve a couple of weeks ago was pretty good, this one was better, since I could add sugar to it (and yes, Steve, I did peel the apples. So there.) Peggy was supposed to do the veggies with the roast, but somehow in all the last minute things, that didn't happen, so I was on my own for that one. I peeled everything, cut the bigger veggies up into chunks, thought it was odd that they would roast cauliflower and broccoli with a roast, but those odd Aussies. I just threw it all in together.

Awhile later, Peggy asked me when I was going to start cooking the cauliflower and broccoli with cheese sauce. Gleep! I told her I'd put it in with the roast. She hasn't stopped giggling about that since. I managed to pull them out and steam them and add some cheese, but I'm afraid my faux pas was the highlight of the night. (On top of that, when steaming the cauliflower and broccoli, I managed to burn the water away!) I also found out too late that in Australia, they roast the veggies whole, not in chunks. Owell. Oh yeah–and I cleverly traced the outline of a map of Australia as a design on the top pie crust–and had it upside down.

But in spite of the goofs, dinner was very good and Peggy was pleased. We are all very full.

Since it had been raining, Peggy couldn't go out on the patio to sit one last time and smoke a cigarette, so she and I took a walk around the block. The stars were out and we just talked about how perfect her time here had been and how we hate to see it end. But I know she's going to be glad to get home to her "girls" (the dogs, Keno and Chippa) and back to normal again.

For me, there is a stack of dictation waiting, I have a review to write, Georgia wants me to take care of a situation on CompuServe, Breaking Barriers wants me to drive next week, we are going to Larry & Steve's for Halloween, I have a business lunch with my old boss coming up on Thursday, and the reality of "life" is going to descend all too quickly, I fear. It's been like a little six weeks of magic. For the most part, I just let everything go and concentrated on getting to know Peggy, enjoying our time together, and doing a lot of traveling. It's almost like it was my vacation as well as hers. But we both have a real life to get back to...

I'm leaving on a jet plane...don't know when I'll be back again....Oh babe, I hate to see you go....

Saturday, October 28, 2000

...Through Different Eyes

It’s the day before the last day and things were fairly routine today, so rather boring to report on for a journal. We went to Best Buy and bought stuff, we did laundry, cleaned the kitchen, I typed, Peggy ironed, we had dinner, etc. Boring stuff. So I went to look through my collection of quotes and ideas for exploration in a journal and I came across the following quote. I’m not sure who wrote it--maybe I did--but it seems appropriate to address today:

I believe that every close emotional encounter changes us. We may first be drawn to someone because we sense some kinship, but get close enough and the differences become apparent too. And over a long-enough time, we take on some of those new ideas, new experiences and we change.

It's not that we necessarily become more like the one we're close to, although we can. It's that we get close enough to almost live inside the other's skin, to see the world through other eyes.

And we cannot help but be changed by the experience.

As we are preparing to say goodbye to Peggy, I think back on not only the past six weeks, but on the effect of so many people who have come into our lives as strangers over the years, who moved into our house, moved into our hearts, and left our world changed, and whose worlds we changed as well.

I think of Eduardo, the trailblazer for the others. The first to share our life, who had me studying rules of English grammar so I could explain the finer points of the language to him, who taught us all about hang gliding, who took me on a virtual tour (80s style) of Brasil, and who started helping me to learn Portuguese by having me read letters from his mother.

I think of Caico, who was a sports buff stuck in this theatre family, who determined he was going to make the most of his time with us, and who did anything and everything. I remember his face shining as he climbed all over the battleship we toured during Fleet Week in San Francisco, and the way he'd leap over the back of the couch to hide when a scary movie was on television.

I think of Henrique teaching capoiera (the Brasilian martial art) to Tom and David, and then struggling to learn English.

I think of Nelson and Sonia, determined to get the whole family speaking Portuguese, and our nights around the dinner table all trying to learn the nouns so we could ask to have bread passed to us. I think of being the matron of honor at Sonia’s wedding several years later, as she married her Charlie, whom she met here in Davis.

I think of David and his friend Jeff setting up English lessons to teach to Victor, from Zaire, who couldn’t speak a word of the language. I remember Victor’s pained face at the door many years later when he arrived for David’s funeral.

I think of Jane teaching Seymour to “shake a paw,” and then managing somehow to get together with us nearly every year, either in England or here in this country.

I still think of Marcio whenever I hear Evita, and remember how close he was to Tom. I remember the guys who taught David how to give a speech in Portuguese when he was the Brasilian delegate at a school UN Day. I remember making empanadas with the Chileans, teaching the Japanese girls how to cook their own native dishes, and typing resumes for Felix when he decided to remain in this country rather than return to his native Yugoslavia. I remember raising Vince and seeing him through 3 years of high school, UC Davis, and his marriage to Heidi. We were his American family, filling in for his Malaysian family. So many many much love and learning.

It's not that we necessarily become more like the one we're close to, although we can. It's that we get close enough to almost live inside the other's skin, to see the world through other eyes.

And I think of Peggy, learning to see the world through her eyes, and watching her learn to see the world through ours. It’s the big things like dryers vs. clotheslines; sports vs. theatre; John Denver vs. “Stevie boy.” It’s seeing American coverage of the Olympics through the eyes of someone from the host country, whose countrymen were virtually ignored by American media. It’s discussing the upcoming elections vs. the monarchy. And it’s the little things--knowing how we like our respective coffee, knowing styles and sizes and colors (“Next time I’ll send you the money and you can just go shopping for me...”), learning to finish each other’s thoughts, laughing at the same dumb stuff. Crying at the thought of having to say goodbye.

...And we cannot help but be changed by the experience.

The past six weeks has changed me. It’s changed Peggy. She will leave with a greater understanding of Americans (even if she hasn’t been converted to the joys of eating Mexican food) and will leave behind her a greater understanding of Australians and the life down under. In this six weeks we’ve shared the pain of having a pet put to sleep, the exhilaration of our first hot air balloon ride, travel all over the west coast, sharing computer secrets, power shopping, jelly bellies, the Blue Angels, getting lost, fancy dinners in fancy restaurants, and picnics in the rain. We’ve done it without a single cross word between us, with not one moment of tension, and with a lot of laughter. It’s hard to imagine next week without her.

Good bye, my dear friend
I love you and I will miss you so much.

Friday, October 27, 2000

The Further Adventures of Thelma and Louise

Peggy and Bev have had one last escapade and what fun it was. I really did feel like Thelma and Louise as we drove down the freeway with Peggy trying to take a picture of the two of us, holding the camera out in front of her, and leaning her head practically into my lap to get the angle right. The look on my face is a combination of giddiness and terror at the thought of trying to hold that pose while trucks were whizzing by next to me on the freeway!

We left yesterday morning and did a transport for Breaking Barriers, then stopped in Old Sacramento to do some last minute gift buying. We made the mistake of going to a cafe for some food--we'd had to leave the house so early Peggy had not had breakfast--but the cafe coffee was weak and the toast cold and the cheese unmelted and the meal was pretty much a disaster. However, once we left Old Sacramento, our drive up to Lake Tahoe was very nice. Quite a change from our previous trip, when things were still green and the sun was out. It was a grey, wet day and the trees had turned color, so the riot of color we had experienced in Seattle followed us into the Sierras.

We stopped for food on the way up at a Raley's supermarket in Auburn. I've heard wonderful things about Raley's. I hope this was just an off location. We bought a "chook" (cooked chicken) that was supposedly barbecued, but wasn't. Peggy bought some eccinacea for her cold, but it had expired, she discovered too late, and the "chewable" Vitamin-C tablets were so vile I suspect they've been tossed.

We arrived at the condo somewhat late, and had a relaxed afternoon (we both took naps, in fact), had a leisurely dinner, watched the World Series, and went to sleep early. We awoke to snow. Not a lot, but enough to dust the rooftops with powdered sugar and leave the air crisp, clear, and sparkling. We had a leisurely breakfast, showered, cleaned up, packed the car, and headed off to the Ponderosa Ranch.

This is where you can tour the Cartwright house, see a lot of the paraphernalia left over from filming the Bonanza series, and also see some spectacular views of the lake. It is after the peak season, so a lot of things were closed, but Peggy was able to buy some gifts, we toured the ranch house, hiked the trail to the lake overlook to take pictures (I resisted the temptation to take a picture of "the little outhouse on the prairie," as I nicknamed the restrooms), and wandered through the old western town. Then, foregoing a "world famous Hoss Burger," we went back to the car, turned on the heat, opened up the chicken left over from dinner, and sat there eating a "picnic" lunch and talking. One of the things I will miss most about Peggy when she leaves on Sunday is our long conversations. We have found that we are quite compatible and have discussed just about everything you can possibly imagine in the past six weeks. We've laughed and cried and bared our souls. I will miss that sorely.

I decided to take Highway 50 home, since we were closer to it than to I-80, which we had come on originally. It proved to be a fantastic decision. First, however, we had our real Thelma and Louise adventure. At least we were certainly laughing a lot. There is a tunnel that you pass through which brings you out to a great view of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains. We had gone through it in the other direction a few weeks before, so we knew it was coming up. It was also raining. Peggy wanted to get a photo coming through the tunnel, but it had to be with a clear windshield, so there weren't any rain spots on the picture. It took us four tries, with me making u-turns on the highway (thank god we avoided the CHP) before she finally got what she wanted--but I think that ultimately it was worth it. Maybe.

After we passed through South Lake Tahoe and its casinos and wedding chapels, we started up toward Echo Summit. The radio was warning us of snow flurries and telling us to stay tuned for updated information. We finally turned off the radio and turned on John Denver--the perfect "driving through the mountains" music--and headed into the snow storm. There were snow flurries coming down heavier and heavier as we approached the summit. Peggy had never seen it snowing before and got out of the car to take pictures. I greatly regret not getting out to take her picture in the snow because she was glowing just like a little kid. It was the perfect end to the perfect trip.

The ride down the mountain continued to be gorgeous most of the way, until we started to reach civilization again. We returned to Davis while it was still inning one of the World Series. The perfect end to the perfect day would have been for the Mets to have won the game, but alas our luck had run out, and the Yankees won the series. Owell--there's always next year.

Wednesday, October 25, 2000

The Americanization of Emily

(or Peggy or Maureen or whatever the heck her name is)

Once upon a time there was a little girl (ok, so she was pushing “senior citizen.” Let’s not quibble) who lived in the land of Oz and who decided to take a big trip over the rainbow and halfway around the world. She packed her bags and her credit cards and her dreams and set off to find out about how people in another land, far, far away lived.

She came to a house in a quiet town and she moved in with a nice family. The first night she sat down to dinner and pushed her plate away. “I’m not eating this,” she said, of her risotto. “I don't like it.” And the family wondered if this was going to be a long six weeks.

That night she went to bed and in the morning she got up to have some breakfast. She had some toast. The people in the house had toast. When the mother in the house went to put the dishes in the dishwasher, she was aghast. “Dishwasher?” she exclaimed. “It’s only a couple of dishes. You don’t need a dishwasher for a couple of dishes. I’ll wash them by hand.” And she did. She washed them and dried them and put them away. And the dishwasher stood empty.

After a few days, she decided to wash some clothes. “Where is your clothesline?” she asked the mother.

“Clothesline?” the mother asked. "We use a dryer."

“But the clothes smell better and it doesn’t take long for them to dry,” she protested. She went to the store and she bought a rope and she ran a clothes line. She even bought “pins” (as she called them) and soon her unmentionables were flapping away in the breeze.

She asked for an iron. “An iron?” the mother said. “I haven’t used my iron in months. All our clothes are wash and wear.”

“I love freshly ironed clothes,” Peggy said, as she dragged the iron out from behind all the junk in the closet. She even set it up on the patio so she could iron in plain sight of the clothesline.

She studied her money and she tried to make sense (or cents) out of it. “What is all this rubbish?” she would exclaim as she tossed a stack of coins on the table. The mother’s coin jar got very full because she would gather all the “rubbish” and put it away, while Peggy continued to use her dollar bills. They weren’t as pretty or as recognizable as Peggy’s money, but she didn’t have to worry about making change.

Time passed and Peggy began to settle into the lifestyle of the new country she was visiting. Soon she could make change like an American. $5.49? No problem. She no longer held out a mountain of coins to a merchant and invited him to take the proper amount. She counted it out like a pro. The mother’s coin jar didn’t fill up quite so quickly.

She went on a trip to visit the mountains. She was gone five days. And when she returned, all of her clothes needed to be washed. She asked the mother if she could toss a few things into the wash and when they came out, they went into the dryer.

“These clothes look all right,” Peggy said. “They don’t even need ironing.” The ironing board stayed in the closet.

Then the mother and Peggy walked to the supermarket. They bought two ready-made salads for dinner, each in its own little disposable plastic container. They came home and ate the salads with forks from the silverware drawer. When dinner was finished, Peggy said, “I’ll do the dishes.” She put the plastic containers in the garbage and the two forks into the dishwasher.

And the mother saw that Peggy had assimilated into American culture.

The assimilation complete, it is now time for Peggy to return to the land of Oz to see if she could go back to being the same person that she was six weeks before.

And the people in the family wept.

* * *

There will be no journal entry tomorrow. My laptop is still being flaky and Peggy and I are going for one last trip to Lake Tahoe.

Today was a slow day. We went to another outlet mall, but Peggy’s heart wasn’t really in shopping. All she bought in two hours’ time was: a pair of shoes, 7 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of long pants, two pair of shorts, a couple of shirts, and probably a few other things I’m forgetting. But, as I said, it was a slow day.

Tuesday, October 24, 2000

Back to Home Base

And so it ends, our week in the Northwest. It was difficult to say goodbye to Diane today and head back to California.

We had a quiet morning. Did the usual stuff we'd been doing, but with the overtones of "last day...last day...last day..." We got the bed stripped, managed to fit all of Peggy's purchases into a box, Peggy showed Diane more stuff on her computer, the two of them got their coffee and smokes and went to the patio. I wrapped in a blanket and joined them. We watched the squirrel cavort on the lawn, eating the bread Peggy had thrown out for him.

Mary Williams, my Compuserve "other daughter" and her 3 year old Emily arrived to be our chauffeur. We got all our stuff into Mary's van and then drove down to the waterfront in Edmonds to have a last lunch overlooking Puget Sound.

We had a little time (or so we thought) after lunch, so we walked down to Mary's favorite beach. Talk about breathtaking. Mary and Emily stopped in a playground area while Peggy and I walked to the beach itself, where you get a 180 degree panorama of mountains, water, ferries, and wildlife. I took this picture of Peggy with Mt. Baker in the background, but the mountain doesn't show up too well in this size:

And then we drove to the airport. Though we arrived one hour ahead, as we had when we left Sacramento, the line to get boarding numbers for Southwest Airlines (which does not give seat assignments, so it's definitely first come, first serve) was already quite long. We were #70 and 71, which meant we'd be in the third wave of boarders. We thought we might not be able to sit together, but we were able to get seats in the "lounge" area (that means two banks of seats facing each other) right at the front of the plane. I never sit there because it means playing kneesies with total strangers, but since it was Peggy and me, it was comfortable to sit across from each other and if knees bumped, it was with a friend, not with a stranger. And the perks include getting your drink and peanuts first, and being first off the plane.

We picked up our luggage in Sacramento's new terminal. The first time I saw this place I got a fit of the giggles. Some clever architect decided that instead of putting in supporting pillers to the ceiling, he would make the "pillers" look like stacks of baggage. They are really quite clever, and it's fun to look at what's in the stacks, which may include things like golf clubs and other easily identifiable items.

We caught the Davis Airporter shuttle back home, which dropped us at the door. Kimba was quite happy to see us. And then, since Walt was in San Francisco with the car, we walked to the supermarket to get food for dinner. I am amazed at my attitude about walking since Peggy's been here. I don't get as winded, I don't mind walking--in fact, I enjoy it. And best of all, I wasn't really keeping track, but it seems that without changing my eating habits at all, I've dropped 8 lbs since she arrived nearly 6 weeks ago.

We had a nice dinner and then managed to find Diane trying out her internet connection, and using Instant Messaging. She was thrilled to find someone she knew on line at the same time. We chatted a bit and then, since both of us were exhausted from being up so late the night before, we just went to bed.

We are now in the last days here, with Peggy starting to do things like check her airline tickets, figure out which things to mail home, doing "test packing," etc. It's really coming to an end. When she was expected, 6 weeks ago, I was nervous about how we would get along. It has exceeded our wildest expectations and we have forged a very close, friendship which we expect will continue forever. It will be so difficult having her at one end of the world and me at the other, knowing that we will undoubtedly never again have the chance to get lost on the freeway, do some power shopping, or just sit together and laugh. But it's been an unforgettable experience and I will cry when I have to take her to the airport on Sunday. It's been a long time since I've had to have a gut-wrenching goodbye and send someone back to another country. Those farewells are always so bitter sweet. Terribly painful because it's the end of something, but sweet because of the joy that the brief time together has been.

Monday, October 23, 2000

I Was OK, Until I Got Arrested

A day that starts out getting arrested at the governor's mansion can only get better.

We actually got on the road before noon today. Destination: Mt. St. Helens. We had already determined that trying to do the mountain and stopping to see Gabi and Alec Clayton at night in Olympia was probably not the wisest move in the world. However, the weather was so gorgeous that we did make an unscheduled stop in Olympia to see the capitol building.

We were trying to drive around to the backside of the capitol building to see the lovely view across a nice lake when we got waved down by this officer, who said we were trespassing on private property and that we were about to drive toward the front door of the governor's mansion. He wouldn't accept our "dumb little old ladies" story, but insisted on checking Diane's license, her registration and her proof of insurance (??), and when Peggy wanted to step out to take his photo (because we were all holding back laughter), he told her she could not set foot out of the car. However, she managed to charm him and he did finally allow her to take his photo. I'm sure he'd be very surprised to find himself here on the Internet.

After our unscheduled hour in Olympia, we continued on down the road. Again, fall color was blindingly beautiful, the sky was blue, the sun was shining and Diane kept exclaiming that she didn't believe it could possibly be October in Washington.

We had lunch at the slowest-service Denny's I've ever visited and eventually ended up at the visitor center at Mt. St. Helens. It's about a 50 mile drive from the visitor center to the Johnston Ridge overlook, the end of the trail, overlooking the crater of the mountain. Around each curve was yet another gorgeous view of the mountain.

Twenty years after the fact, the signs of the devastation are still evident everywhere. The power of the explosion from the mountain can be seen in the dead trees, still lying like matchsticks everywhere, many larger trees uprooted (and this after years of clean up). There are burn scars on the walls of the opposite hills, and walls of silt/lava many feet tall seen on the floor of the valley beneath the mountain. I remember being in Portland some time after the original eruption and finding volcanic ash even that far away, covering all the greenery. It was an awesome sight seeing it up close and personal today.

We left the mountain around 6 p.m., into a glorious sunset, stopped for gas and dinner in Centralia, and returned home at 10 p.m., just 12 hours after we left Seattle. Now we are trying to pack up, finish the last of the computer stuff for Diane, and, with any luck at all, get some sleep before time to get to the airport tomorrow morning.