Friday, September 29, 2000

Lost in Beverly Hills...and everywhere else

Yesterday proved one thing--with or without directions, with or without maps, both of us are hopeless at navigating the Los Angeles freeways. We're ready to go back to Tahoe.

It seemed like it was going to be such an easy day: wake up, eat breakfast, shower, get in the car, drive to Disneyland, drive to Huntington Beach to run an errand, find a hotel, spend the night, get up, go to San Diego. What could go wrong?

First we blew a fuse. Peggy was toasting a bagel and I was re-heating my coffee in the microwave and apparently it was too much for the house's old wiring to handle. Peggy eventually found the fuse box and we got it re-set.

Then we packed up to leave. I did a sweep of upstairs to make sure we hadn't left anything. Then, knowing me well enough by now, Peggy did her own sweep of upstairs to make sure we hadn't left anything. Satisfied we had everything, we packed up the car and, following Merrell's directions, headed up Beverly Glen to Mulholland drive. Halfway up the hill, I went to look at my watch to see what time it was and realized I'd left the watch on the sink. Back down Beverly Glen to get the watch. Back up Beverly Glen to Mulholland.

Merrell's directions seemed fairly simple: Go on Mulholland until it ends at the 405 freeway, and follow the signs from there. What could go wrong?

Well, there comes a place where Mulholland meets a couple of other roads. I could have SWORN I took the sign that said Mulholland, but after a time it became clear we were no longer on Mulholland. We wound around and around Beverly Hills (lovely to look at, at least) and up and down hills. It was like we were in a movie--Beverly Hills...Rodeo Drive...Sunset Blvd. The only thing we did not find was the 405. Somehow we ended up on the campus of UCLA and someone there told us how to find the freeway. After only an hour of wandering around we were finally on the 405 headed to Disneyland. From there it was simple: drive till the 405 hits I5, follow I5 until the signs for Disneyland. What could go wrong?

How can you lose Disneyland 3 blocks from the park? Somehow we did. The sign said "Disneyland Resort" and we assumed that was to the hotel, so we looked for a better turnoff. Many miles and many u-turns later, we finally ended up back where we'd started and the signs in the OTHER direction said "Park and Resort" so we ended up back where we started from, 3 blocks from the park. But finally we were there. Disneyland. Only 2 hours after we started.

The day in the park actually did go well. And nothing really did go wrong, except that Peggy wanted more "adventure" in her day. The attractions were entirely too tame for her tastes, though we managed to just avoid the crowds for the biggies like Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion. Tomorrowland offered more promise of adventure and we did enjoy Star Tours. I made her drive one of the cars on Autopia so she could get behind the wheel of a car on the proper side of the road (I'm not entirely sure I'm ready to hand the Honda over to her!)...

...and I agreed to go on the Matterhorn, a huge concession for wimp me. I was going to subject her to Small World, but somehow she managed to avoid it.

By 5, after the parade, we decided we'd had enough of Disneyland and we would just drive to Huntington Beach, settle into a motel, get a bite to eat, deliver our package to Peggy's friends, and come home to watch the Olympics. What could go wrong?

I'll spare you the details, but suffice to say that it's an 18 mile drive from Disneyland to Peggy's friend's house, and we put 100 miles on the car and only had jellybeans for dinner. Let's just not talk about it, OK?

We found a sleazy motel with no in-room coffee, in-room TV with 65 channels of static and 5 channels of infomercials, with closed captioning that can't be turned off, one bed, no tissues, one flat pillow each. I can't get onto the Internet, so I'm writing this in WordPerfect and hope to post from San Diego. It's called the Ocean View Motel, and I think I can see a piece of the ocean between the two buildings across the street. Barely.

We woke up at what we thought was 6:30 and Peggy was waiting till 7 when she could go down and get coffee from the office. However, we realized that it was 5:30, not 6:30 and we had another hour or so before the office opens, so she went back to sleep. I went down at 7, found warm coffee, no cream; and a choice of Sweet 'n' Low or a box of sugar that was full of lumps.

Today we are going to have an easy day. We will drive to Laguna Beach for breakfast, then get back on the 405 and drive to San Diego. We have maps. We have directions. What could go wrong?

The Raveled Sleeve of Care

This seems to be a good time to talk about sleep. It's about 2:30 a.m. and I'm sitting in a house perched on the side of a hillside somewhere in Los Angeles. I have a cat and a laptop on my lap, Jay Leno is droning on in the background, and our hostess is snoring softly.

Peggy and I left Davis around 10 a.m. this morning. I was a bit worried about the drive down here, since I'd had only 2 hours of sleep the night before and wasn't sure how I'd deal with 8 hours of driving. I had to go see Beauty and the Beast the previous night and write a review, as well as unpack from Tahoe, do laundry, repack for this week's trip to San Diego, get some transcription finished, etc., etc. It was a short night of sleep even by my standards. But except for about 2 hours in the middle of the 8 hr drive, when I was doing a lot of squirming and trying to keep myself awake, I did OK.

We stopped a couple of times to get out and walk around. First we stopped near a cotton field and Peggy got out to look at how cotton grows.

And then we stopped at the Harris Ranch feed lot, the smell of which dominates everything as you drive past it on I-5. Peggy was impressed with the seemingly endless mass of cattle all being fed for the slaughter.

Another stop was at a rest stop, where Peggy accosted a truck driver to ask if she could take a look around the cab of his truck, since all those big semi's we kept passing had fascinated her. She reported that the cab was quite nice, had space for two beds and a refrigerator.

We were meeting our hostess this evening at a Thai restaurant in Los Angeles at 6:30. I love it when I can start out 400 miles away and get to a place I've never been before, and arrive exactly on time, so I was a little disappointed that we were an hour early, but Merrell was half an hour early herself, so we ate earlier than anticipated. A delicious non-spicy Thai dinner with lots of laughter and conversation. Merrell and Peggy seemed to hit it off just fine.

After dinner, Merrell sped through the streets of LA to her house, with me trying to follow, and eventually ending up here. We all sat around pretending to make conversation, but really all nodding off, so finally at 8:30 we all went to bed. I can't remember the last time I was in bed-- and asleep--so early. But of course 1:30 came and I was wide awake..

I don't sleep much. I decided that it must have been all those years of getting up in the middle of the night with babies and toddlers that got me out of the habit of sleeping. I've never been one to lounge around in bed. When I'm awake, I have to be up and doing.

Part of my work involves typing psychiatric evaluations and invariably I come across some person who "suffers from insomnia" and who "can't get more than 6 hours of sleep." Heck-- THAT's insomnia??? I average 4 hours of sleep, with an occasional night of 6 which is a real "sleeping in" night for me. I seem to be functioning just fine on this average. Of course I read somewhere once that there should be a pre-sleep period, where you gradually begin relaxing, and if you fall asleep in less than 20 minutes, you're probably sleep deprived. If I toss and turn for more than 3 minutes before falling asleep, I consider that insomnia. I have no difficulty falling asleep, but I also don't fret if I wake after just a few hours. I either get up and work on the computer, or I come downstairs to the reclining chair, get a blanket, and turn on Nick at Night, which almost always helps me go back to sleep.

Of course "going downstairs to the recliner" is often not necessary because I sleep in the chair many nights anyway. If I'm working late at night and have a deadline to meet in the morning, it's easier to just get in the chair, set the timer on the stove for 2, 3, or 4 hours and sleep there, getting up at 4 or 5 a.m. to get the work done at that time. I seem to work most efficiently between 4 and 6 a.m.

But when I sleep, I sleep hard and nothing wakes me. In the middle of writing this entry, I decided to see if I could get a bit more sleep, and fell back to sleep around 3 a.m., waking at 6:30. By the time I woke up, Merrell was gone and I hadn't even heard her leave, though she made coffee, fed the cat, and let herself out all within feet of where I was dozing on the couch. Peggy awoke and reported that my snoring had kept her awake. It may be a long week for her, since from here on we will be sharing a motel room.

Thursday, September 28, 2000

Up, Up, and Away

What a day we’ve had! Peggy had set the alarm for 5 a.m., but I was wide awake at 2:45 a.m. and unable to get back to sleep. At 4:30 I was sneaking downstairs to take a shower before she woke up. We were out at Prosser Dam watching the fog rise off the water long before anybody connected with the balloon company showed up.

As it turned out, it was a lovely day for a balloon ride. We had booked for an hour; three other people (2 from Honolulu, one from Atlanta) were joining us for the first 30 minutes. We watched them get the "sleeve" of the balloon set up and start pumping air in it...

...then switch from cold to hot air until the whole thing finally stood upright, inviting us to hop in and start our adventure.

I expected Ray, the balloon operator, to start our trip with "I can’t come back...I don’t know how it works!" but he didn’t. He explained balloon aeronautics to us as we slowly drifted from ground zero up 1,000 feet. There is absolutely no sensation of leaving the ground. Just one minute you’re on the ground and the next you’re watching your car become a tiny speck far, far away. While waiting for wind to carry us along, we hovered over the mist rising off the water in the dam and Ray explained that he couldn’t watch it because it mesmerized him and he could easily go into a trance. It did have a kind of "lava lamp-esque" quality to it.

Shortly before the first half of the trip ended, Ray aimed us through a grove of pine trees and we were able to pull needles off the top of the trees. That was pretty kewl.

The balloon set down on a hillside and the 3 other passengers scrambled out and waved goodbye to Peggy and me as we continued our flight. Ray decided to go higher and got the balloon up high enough that we could see Lake Tahoe off in the distance. We took lots of pictures of the shadow of the balloon on the ground and on the treetops, and even reflected in Peggy’s sunglasses.

We landed in an open field and bounced a few times before coming to a halt, each time dumping condensation on my head. But we finally got out of the balloon and Peggy helped roll the sleeve back into its package while I snapped lots of photos.

When all the balloon equipment was loaded, we climbed into Ray’s beat up old van, a real classic, and were driven back to our car. Then it was time to go back to the condo, clean, and pack up (after we’d looked at all our photos first, of course!)

It was an uneventful drive home and we got here around 2. I hoped to take a nap before going to see Beauty and the Beast tonight, but alas that was not to be, as there were three tapes waiting for me to transcribe. I got a load of wash started and dinner in the oven and then attacked the transcription.

When Walt came home, we had a quick dinner, then left Peggy here while he and I went into Sacramento to see the show. I could get into this critic jazz. We had 10th row center seats for this opulent show and it was just great. The down side, of course, is that it’s pushing 1 a.m. and I’m still struggling with getting the review written, which I have to do before Peggy and I leave for Los Angeles tomorrow.

In an hour, I will have been awake 24 hours.

Wednesday, September 27, 2000

Reno at Dusk

Our goal today: take pictures of the lights of Reno at dusk. But first, Peggy discovered an ad for a place that offers hot air balloon rides over the lake and she thought we should take one tomorrow. I called, made reservations, and we have to present ourselves in Truckee at 7:15 tomorrow morning. We are very excited! But I brought with me 2 dresses and a pair of shorts, and I suspect that ain't gonna cut it in the cold mountain air. So we were on a quest for warm clothes for me...and whatever bargains Peggy could get.

I decided to drive around the west end of the lake so Peggy could see Emerald Bay. The drive itself was beautiful. We put John Denver on the CD player and didn't say much as the scenery whizzed by, both of us singing softly with John. Peggy had me open the sun roof so she could hold the camera up and try to get some photos.

There is a lot of road construction/repair going on all around the lake, we discovered. We were stopped for a long time just outside Tahoe city, waiting in a long queue, which eventually started inching forward slowly behind a truck with "follow me" hanging from its backside.

But we eventually arrived at Emerald Bay and stopped with all the rest of the tourists to ooo and ahhh and take some pictures.

Photos don't do nearly enough justice to the grandeur of the mountains, the trees, and the blue of the lake.

We eventually left and continued on to South Tahoe, where we found some factory outlet stores and Peggy bought some stuff, then on through the casinos on the Nevada side and in to Carson City, where we had lunch at a sub shop (not very good; Peggy went and bought Rolaids afterwards; we both had some). A stop at Mervyn's got some warm clothes for me to wear ballooning tomorrow.

Next stop: Reno.

Reno by day is pretty unimpressive. It looks old and tired and a bit on the sleazy side. We parked the car at the Fitzgerald's lot and did a quick tour through Harrah's, where in 2 minutes we together lost the equivalent of 2 hours salary for me. We agreed that neither of us is a gambler and the machines held little appeal for us. But we needed a validation for our four free hours of parking, so we went to Fitzgerald's. Again, too noisy, too crowded, too depressing. People sitting at electronic machines plunking in coin after coin, expression unchanged whether they win or lose. We just passed through on our way to the escalator.

We checked out the sports bar, on O's suggestion, but found nothing of interest, and continued on to the Fitzgerald's buffet (all you can eat for $7.77). Dinner was fine. We didn't eat a lot, since we had had a late lunch. As we were finishing up and preparing to leave we realized that we were probably the youngest people there. We were giggling about that when we passed a man who was probably in his 90s, hobbling toward the restaurant with his walker. We suppressed gales of laughter as we beat a hasty retreat out of the casino.

But we did get "Reno at Dusk photos before returning to the condo.

Now our alarm is set for 5 and we're about ready to embark on our next adventure...

Tuesday, September 26, 2000

Tears to Tahoe

Today was the day. Before the vet opened for customers, they let us in to have Buddy put to sleep. Peggy came with me. Buddy was so happy to be out in the car, but lay with his head near my lap as I drove. I don't know if he was just feeling miserable or if he sensed that I was. The vet was almost as upset as we were. This is our third dog in 11 months that she has put to sleep, and as she was a classmate of our daughter-in-law, Audra, she was also aware of the other family tragedies we'd been through. She had tears in her eyes when she came into the exam room.

She decided to give Buddy a sedative first and he gradually got sleepier and sleepier. If it wasn't that I knew it was his final moments, it would have been cute/funny. As the sedative took effect, his tongue started hanging out of his mouth. He'd lick his nose, but couldn't seem to get the tongue back in his mouth and it would lie flat on the floor. I sat on the floor next to him petting him. Peggy and I were both sniffling.

The vet came back in with the injection. She just got down on her knees and gave him the shot on the floor so he didn't have to be lifted to the table. Then we both held him until his heart slowed...slowed...and slowed and finally stopped. It hurt more than I expected to watch the little guy die. He was a lovely little dog, but he had been in such pain and it was a favor to help him not hurt any more. Why do we treat our pets with more compassion when pain makes life unbearable than we do our humans?

It was a little awkward leaving the exam room. There was a dead dog blocking our way. I hated to treat him like a mound of garbage, but I had to push him out of the way to open the door wide enough to let us out. If I didn't have so many tears in my eyes, it would have been kind of funny.

"Dontcha hate Mondays? Wash, clean, slaughter pets.... "

Cruel, heartless bitch that I am, I found that comment by a friend to be humorous. After all this death--you just have to laugh through the tears.

After we got home from the vet's, showered, and packed, Peggy and I took off for a couple of days at Lake Tahoe, with our first stop in Sacramento to make a drop-off to the Sacramento Theatre Company. Then onto I-80 with our wheels headed up the mountains.

We stopped in the historic town of Auburn and decided to do some meandering through some of the shops. At "The Hairy Dog," we talked at length with the owner, who tried to sell us a $3,000 diamond bracelet (we decided that even the 50% discount wasn't tempting enough) and showed us some lovely paintings, all with lovely prices.

We had better luck at Nichol's Quarters, a combination gift/junk shop, where Peggy got some zebra statues to add to her collection and I bought a Halloween gift for Mike (who doesn't read this, but I won't say what it is anyway--but it's cute and will add to his cow crap collection).

Since it was after 1 p.m., we stopped in a little diner for lunch, splitting a club sandwich (since Peggy ordered one for herself in Sausalito and discovered it was more food than she wanted). We were going to just have the sandwich, but the owner of The Hairy Dog, who had come in for lunch, stopped by our table and told us we HAD to try the pecan pie, which the owner made herself. Well, with such a recommendation, we couldn't pass up the opportunity and split a pecan pie too. It lived up to its press and was just enough to satisfy without filling.

Back on the road again, with one final stop at a scenic overlook to take some pictures of Donner Lake. It was just a glorious day. Clear, sunny, slight breeze, and no people around. Peggy said, "It doesn't matter how the rest of the day goes. Thanks for this." I was pleased.

We got here to the condo around 3:30. Our plan had been to spend tonight in Reno (tho neither of us is a gambler) so we could take some night photos, but we were both so relaxed when we got here, that we just brewed up some coffee and sat here talking until about 5:45 when we decided we should go "do something."

We drove down to a small shopping center near the lake. Walked down to the lake and watched the changing lights as the sun began to set. Then we checked out the mall. Went through a Thomas Kincaide gallery, but decided not to buy any of the expensive paintings. (We saved a lot of money by not buying expensive trinkets today. Good for us!) We ended up at Jake's restaurant, where we sat outside on a balcony overlooking the lake and watched the mountains change color as the sun set behind them. Each minute brought a new look to the vista. The air turned cold, but we were nice and warm sitting under the nice lamps, which also provided a heat source and made it feel as comfortable as sitting in the living room.

The night is ending with waiting for Australian Cathy Freeman to run her race. Then I suspect that all this mountain air has made both of us sleepy enough that it will be an early night.

This place sleeps 17 in beds and we've both staked out couches for sleeping tonight!

Monday, September 25, 2000

House of Mirrors

I lost Peggy today. It was in Macy*s. We had been at the K St. Mall in Sacramento for nearly two hours and our parking validation was about to expire, so when we finished lunch, she went to Macy*s and I ran back to move the car out of the parking lot, then circle the block and come back in again, to get another validation so we could stay another two hours. It was cheaper than worrying about $1.50/hour. We agreed that we’d meet in Macy*s.

I haven’t been in Macy*s in years. My store is Lane Bryant and other fat lady stores. They just laugh at me when I ask for things my size at Macy*s, so there’s not much point in shopping there. I figured Peggy would be looking for sportswear and I had no idea how huge the women’s sportswear department is. I made a complete tour of the whole floor and didn’t see hide nor hair of her. I realized that if she were trying to keep an eye out for me, we could easily spend the entire new 2 hours of free parking just running around in circles trying to find each other and just missing each other.

So I remembered the survival training I learned from the 6 o’clock news. I decided to pick a spot and stay in it. The spot I picked seemed a logical one. It was at the intersection of two rows, so I could look in 3 directions, it was the Liz Claiborne section, and I was standing in front of blouses with zebra prints (Peggy loves zebras). I figured that would surely do it.

But it didn’t. The minutes clicked by. Once I saw the top of a blonde head that looked familiar and left my post to go off looking for her. But I discovered that the head wasn’t where I thought it was and that I’d been looking at a reflection in a mirror. I returned to my post and began to realize how many places I could look that would be wrong because they were all mirrors. It was like being back in the funhouse again.

But finally I did spy her off down the row. Turns out she’d been on the first floor (the sportswear department is on the second floor) looking at socks and salt and pepper shakers. Whoda thunk?

But in spite of that little sidetrack, we had a great afternoon. We had planned to go tour Old Sacramento with O, but O called to say she had a migraine so we decided to go without her. To get to Old Sacramento you pass under the K St. Mall and I happened to mention that we were driving under Macy’s. Peggy’s ears perked up like a hunting dog and she sniffed the air for "sales." I asked if she wanted to do Macy*s or Old Sacramento first. It was a no brainer. We went to the mall.

It took us a long time to get to Macy*s. First we went through the Metropolitan Museum of Art store, one of my favorites, where she bought some gifts to take home. Then we found the Discovery store, where she bought a nice African print t-shirt and I started my Christmas shopping.

Of course we couldn’t pass by Doubleday Books without going in, and after extensive browsing, came away with a computer book (for Adobe PaintShop). Finally off to Macy*s, with a stop in the food court, where we both had gyros for lunch.

After Macy*s we had some yogurt and then went through a few more shops, not buying much. Finally we got back to the car around 4:10, with a few more minutes (but not many) left on the new validation.

We decided to skip going to Old Sacramento, since it was now so late, and just headed home, getting caught in the traffic returning from the direction of Reno and Lake Tahoe. (Good; they’ll all be gone by the time we get there tomorrow!)

So far we hadn’t taken a single photo, though we had bought brought our digital cameras. Peggy expressed an interest in photographing sunflowers. I remembered where I’d seen a field of them, but said it might be too late. We found the field and the flowers were all still there, but well past their peak, and now quite droopy, especially in the setting sun. But we took some photos anyway.

It was kind of nice standing out there in the middle of a sunflower field, with the sound of a outdoor concert of Mexican music floating past us from a distant amphetheatre. We took a few photos of the dying sunflowers and the harvested cornfield and then came home.

If it’s possible, Buddy looks pale. His eyes tell me how much he’s hurting. I’ve just given him his last dinner (and he’s returned my favor by filling my office with gas). Tonight I’m getting caught up on some work so we can leave tomorrow for two days touring Lake Tahoe and Reno.

Peggy is giving me a hard time for planning to bring my laptop along with us. But...but... how can I leave it behind???

Sunday, September 24, 2000

Mid-Night Musings

I'm writing this at 2:00 a.m., so don't expect me to be coherent. It's been a full day, starting with arising at 4 a.m. because I'd gone to sleep at 9:30. At 4 a.m., I should have gotten some work done, but instead I played on the computer. For an hour, since it was quiet, I played Thursday's Internet interview with Steve so I could make a tape of it to play for Walt later. Great interview, complete with some songs. I recommend it.

After Peggy woke up, we played on the computer some (the new one) and she taught me some neat stuff, as well as installed some good graphics software.

We left Peggy here for the afternoon so she could do some ironing and play on the computer. Walt, his mother and I went to Petaluma to have a barbecue dinner with Walt's brother, his wife, and visiting Irish relatives, which was wonderful fun, since we haven't seen them for about four years and they never expected they would have the opportunity to travel to California.

We got home around 11:30 and Peggy was here to show me a slide show program she'd installed on the computer, and then left me playing with it until I realized I had to put together a journal entry and get to bed.

The sad thing about this weekend is that it is to be Buddy's last. We haven't had the dog long,but his cancer is progressing and he's in a lot of pain now. The following photo shows how he holds his leg all the time. It's about 3 times normal size and he's started to whine a lot. We've made arrangements to have him put down Monday morning. He's been a sweet dog. I wish we had more time with him.

Friday, September 22, 2000

She Bought a Clothes Line

After she’d been here for a couple of days, Peggy said she wanted to rinse out a few things and asked "Where’s your clothesline?" She was amazed when I told her I didn’t have one.

"No clothesline?" she asked

"No clothesline," I responded.

I explained that I do everything in the dryer. She talked about how she preferred to hang clothes on a line, but eventually agreed to toss some things in the dryer.

When we went to the Bay Area, she said maybe she could do a wash at O’s and hang things on her clothesline.

"She doesn’t have a clothesline either," I told her, explaining that O sends her stuff to the laundry to be done.

"No clothesline?" she asked?

"No clothesline," I responded.

My mother had a clothesline. Our back yard was a concrete slab with a pathetic wannabe garden in a concrete planter box. But from wall to wall were strung several clothes lines and I remember as a kid putting up and taking down clothes from the line. Then the things you just dried outdoors had to be sprinkled to soften them a bit and then you ironed them. (I remember ironing...vaguely... Peggy irons too {shudder})

When Walt and I first married, we lived in an apartment and I did my wash across the street in the Laundromat. I remember that my first big outing after Jeri was born was across the street to do a load or two of laundry. I never dreamed doing laundry could feel so good—to get out of the house for an hour or so!

Then we moved to our first house, which we rented, in Albany, next door to Berkeley. It had a regulation clothes line. We now had two kids and these were the days before Pampers. Every day I was washing baby clothes and hanging them on the line. It was a power struggle between me and the then-family-dog, Ho Chi Mutt. Mutt would sit there with this huge grin on his face watching me hang up all the laundry. Before I had even gone back in the house, he would have that laundry on the ground and be dragging it through the dirt. I hated that dog.

We didn’t get a dryer until we moved to our first purchased house, in Oakland. There was no turning back. We didn’t put up a clothesline in Oakland and have never had one here in Davis. If something needs to be hung up to dry, I hang it from the shower door in the bathroom or if it’s not dripping wet, from the bar that Jeri and Paul installed in the family room from which to hang theatre lights.

When we visited Walt’s cousin in Ireland, she had a clothesline. Drying clothes in Ireland is a real art, because you have to know how soon to put them out, gauging how long it is before the next rain comes. If the clothes don’t get all the way dry, then you hang them over chairs, near the heaters, to continue the drying process.

There are those who prefer the smell of line-dried clothes. I am not one of them. Line dried sheets are kind of nice--crisp and fresh smelling--but the trade off of nice fluffy, fresh-from-the dryer sheets is a good one and I’m willing to make that sacrifice in the name of convenience.

However, Peggy is happy as a clam now. She went to the store about bought a clothes line. And clothespins. And she's hung the line in the back yard. Her clothes are now washed and hanging out on the line to dry. Anything to make my guests feel at home!


This morning we went in to Sacramento in search of squirrels. It’s always surprising to me when people get excited about squirrels since they are so prevalent here. But then, I suppose the Aussies feel the same way when we yanks get ga-ga about kangaroos, which are a larger version of our squirrels for them, I guess.

We went to the grounds of the Capitol, which has a lovely rose garden and trees from every country in the world, as well as the exhibits inside, and the newly refurbished capitol building itself. What did we do. We sat for an hour drinking coffee and photographing squirrels.

We were within spitting distance of the rose garden, but we were both having such fun watching the squirrels that before we realized it, the time was about to expire on the parking meter (we made it back with literally 10 seconds to spare) and we had to leave.

We will return another day. We would have re–plunked the meter and stayed longer, but we had a lunch date with a mutual friend back in Davis, so we had to be getting back. En route we drove through Old Sacramento and ear-marked it for a return trip as well.

I’ve decided that six weeks isn’t nearly long enough. I may just have to take away her return trip plane ticket.

Thursday, September 21, 2000

My City By the Bay

Peggy and I have had such a great couple of days. Be sure to read yesterday’s journal entry too. I decided to take a day off without the computer and just have fun. Peggy fainted. But I did have a great time.

We started out Tuesday morning by driving to San Francisco and going to Greens’ Restaurant for lunch. The weather, which had been predicted to be hot, could not have been more perfect. It was warm but breezy. The air was crystal clear and from our window seat at Greens we had straight shot at the Golden Gate bridge. It doesn’t get better than that.

We next stopped at my favorite building in San Francisco, The Palace of Fine Arts, remnant of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. We took a long time to walk around the lagoon and take pictures.

We drove to Golden Gate Bridge and took pictures, both in the parking lot by the bridge and below it at Fort Point. We had planned to walk across the bridge but decided to postpone it a day, so we could borrow jackets from O in case it got too cold.

Next we drove out to the ocean beach, took pictures of all the people trying to escape higher temps in the city, went through the Musee Mechanique, and then back through Golden Gate Park to the freeway, to the East Bay, and to O’s house. We were going to have barbecued steak for dinner, but the gas tank was empty, so we broiled the steak and had steak and salad while watching the Olympics. I conked out early, ‘cause I’d been up very early that morning.

Today we planned to walk the bridge. We borrowed the jackets, uploaded yesterday’s pix to Club Photo, and then, when the traffic had a chance to clear, drove over to San Francisco. I said a couple of days ago, "if you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans for tomorrow." Obviously we were not going to get great photos from our walk across the bridge. God had turned on the air conditioning and there was a thick finger of fog pointing across the bay to Alcatraz. The bridge had essentially disappeared.

The rest of the city had not yet been enveloped in fog, so we drove up to Twin Peaks, where we could look out over the whole city, and photograph the fog finger. We then drove over to the bridge itself. It was, indeed, hidden by fog, but we managed to get some photos of bits of it. And we also decided to walk across.

Peggy thought cold would be the limiting factor so we only gave ourselves an hour on the meter in the parking lot. As it turned out, we were quite toasty in our borrowed jackets and could easily have gone the whole way across the bridge, but had to get back before we got a parking ticket. It was just great, though. I was lovin’ the cold so much I even took off my sweater and just let the fog chill me to the bone. I purely LOVE feeling cold when I know it’s over 100 here in the valley!

When we finally returned to the car, we decided to go to Sausalito for lunch. Once we had crossed the bridge, the sun came out again, and Sausalito was warm enough that we left jackets in the car. Peg found some wonderful gifts at an art store and we stopped in a lovely atrium-type restaurant for lunch. We walked around a bit and finally got back to the car and headed back home.

The plan had been to go to the farmer’s market tonight, but (a) it’s too hot, (b) we were too tired, and (c) Walt had to go to a meeting anyway. So I threw a casserole together for dinner and now I’m supposedly working, Peg is watching the Olympics and Walt is at his meeting.

A great couple of days. Tomorrow we’re going off to the state capitol in search of squirrels (the four-legged kind), and then back to Davis to meet a friend for lunch.

Wednesday, September 20, 2000

Laughing Sal

I saw Laughing Sal today.

She was standing inside the Musée Mechanique below the Cliff House in San Francisco, smiling her toothy grin, bobbing up and down and laughing that bizarre laugh.

She used to terrify me.

When I first met Laughing Sal, I was a little girl. My parents would take my sister and myself out to Playland at the Beach. This was a stretch of several long blocks, which ran parallel to the ocean beach and where there were lots of rides--gentle ones like the merry-go-round and more thrilling ones for the more adventurous--a flume ride, a small roller coaster, a Tilt-o-Whirl. Pretty tame stuff by today’s standards.

You could buy cotton candy or hot dogs, or the Beach’s own special creation, "It’s It," an ice cream sandwich made with oatmeal cookies. Now you can buy them at the local supermarket, but, of course, they don’t taste the same as they did standing there with the wind in your face, the sound of the waves breaking on the sand, and the distant laugh of Laughing Sal.

Laughing Sal stood in the window of the Fun House. Laughing and bobbing up and down, her red curls bouncing as she bobbed. She probably came from some English carnival--she has the look of someone you might see in an English music hall. When I was a little kid she petrified me and I was afraid to walk past the Fun House -- I never looked at her because that was entirely too scary.

As I got older, I was less fearful of Sal, though she did make me uncomfortable, but I did go into the Fun House. It was a two story building and you entered through revolving barrels which were elevated to about butt-height. The thing about the barrels was that as you walked through them, there were holes in the floor where air would shoot up. Some guy up in a control booth would watch the young girls come in and when a skirt was positioned over one of the air holes, he would shoot off a blast of air and the skirt would go flying. We learned quickly to wear pants to the Fun House.

Other things you would find in the Fun House were the hall of mirrors that distorted your figure, a huge turntable where all the kids would pile one and try to be the last one left, when the centrifugal force of the spinning wheel shot all your friends off to the side. There was the barrel you had to walk through, hopefully remaining standing as the barrel rolled around. Some of us cheated and just crawled through. And there was a marvelous 2-story wooden slide, highly polished. You grabbed a potato sack at the bottom of the stairs, climbed to the top, decided if you wanted the straight slide or the slide with the bumps in it, sat on the potato sack, and took off down to the bottom--and then ran around to do it again.

When we finished playing at Playland, we could always climb up the hill to Sutro Baths. Years and years ago, when my father was a child, Sutro Baths was a huge building where there were huge pools, with lots of diving boards. He spent a lot of time there and told me tales.

In my day, they had closed off all but one pool, which had been frozen and turned into an ice rink. I took ice skating lessons and Sutro was where we always went to practice. I was no Dorothy Hamill -- I never even learned how to skate backwards. But I sure had a lot of fun trying.

There were other attractions at the Sutro Baths--from the street level, you descended this huge wide sweeping staircase flanked by enormous palm plants, their fronds leaning gracefully over the stairs. You imagined a king and queen and their retinue making a grand entrance down those stairs.

Once you got to the first floor (the ice rink was two floors below), there was an exhibit of old cars and then the fun part--there were old machines from the turn of the century--for a penny or a dime you could watch movies of the San Francisco Earthquake, or some woman coyly removing her clothes, you could see a diarama come to life, with intricate little figures that moved. You could have your palm read electronically by a machine that stuck flat nail-like projections into your hand and then "printed" you a horoscope. You could look at the model of an amusement park that was said to have been built by was all made of toothpicks. There were gramophones to play, and player pianos and somewhere in all that was a display of things that belonged to Tom Thumb, the "little person" who, with his little person wife was a star attraction for P.T. Barnum for many years.

Sutro baths burned to the ground many years ago. Where it once stood, there is now a deep pit with concrete foundations. You can climb down and try to imagine what this immense pleasure palace had been like in its day.

Many of the old machines were rescued and moved into the Musée Mechanique. You now pay 25 cents, instead of a penny or a dime, to play the machines--and at the back of the museum there are modern day video games, their noise drowning out the sound of "Only a Shanty in Old Shanty Town" playing on the player piano.

But in the entrance of the Musee Mechanique stands Laughing Sal. We shared a smile and remembered the good old days when Playland at the Beach was "the" place to go on a Saturday afternoon.

I put 50 cents in her slot and Sal started giggling. Her curls bounced and she leaned down toward me.

And I wasn’t scared at all.

Monday, September 18, 2000

Giraffes and Monkeys and Bees, Oh My!

We had an absolutely delightful day at the Sacramento Zoo today. I hadn’t been there in about 25 years, but Peggy is a real animal person and so we decided to give it a try. It was predicted to be hot, so we decided to go early (10 a.m.) and that proved a wise decision. We had wonderful weather throughout our tour, and it didn’t really begin to heat up until we were leaving, some 4 hours later.

We parked the car in William Land Park and walked to the Zoo entrance. On the way, we passed under a tree where there was a huge beehive.

Peggy and I both took pictures. Walt was feeling like he wanted to get outta there quickly!

We toured the entire zoo, but spent the most time watching the giraffes with their huge long prehensile tongues...

...the orangutans, having fun playing with some laundry, and the chimpanzees, chasing each other around the cage and shrieking loudly.

I decided there must be gay chimps. These two bared their teeth and kept the females at the top of the enclosure while the two of them were smooching in front of the glass that separated them from their audience!

We stopped for lunch in the mid-afternoon, with Peggy trying to decide if she liked American hot dogs or not. Of course we ended the day with some time in the Zoo shop. Peggy didn’t buy everything with zebras on it, but darn near!

When we returned home we relaxed in front of the TV (and Peggy gave me a hard time for nodding off and sleeping through the story of Celine Dion). Peggy did some ironing (a word I vaguely know the meaning of), and we had a nice dinner before the Olympics started. Peggy and Walt watched the Olympics, while I concentrated on finishing the review of last night’s show.

Sunday, September 17, 2000

O and Fry's

Peggy’s exciting vacation continues. We were expecting O to come around noon today, so we didn’t do much in the morning. About 10 minutes before noon, O called to say she had too much to do and wouldn’t be coming after all. She’s going to call tomorrow to check on plans. We had been debating about whether to stay home and watch the Olympics or to go in to Sacramento. Peggy decided she wanted to go to Fry’s.

Get this woman within 20 miles of an electronics/computer store and she begins to twitch, I’ve discovered. Fry’s has a huge store in Sacramento, so we spent an hour or so there, looking at computer programs (didn’t buy any), magazines (bought 2 on digital photography), books (bought a couple), paper (bought some), printers (didn’t buy any), CDs (too expensive for mini CDs), and disks (bought lots for our respective digital cameras). After stopping for coffee in the coffee shop, we checked out and drove on home again. She still hasn’t actually seen the city of Sacramento, since Fry’s is out on the outskirts, but we did have a good time.

We’re getting into a pattern here. We hit the house and Peggy heads for the back yard for a smoke while I head for the office to check e-mail. We tolerate each other’s idiosyncrasies.

I made an early dinner tonight--hot brie pasta--which Peggy pronounced good. I’m 3 for 4. Her first night here it was so late by the time we got home from the airport, I just threw together some risotto and I was a little worried about how the six weeks was going to go when she announced that she didn’t like it, so was leaving it on her plate. However, the next three dinners have been a hit, so I think I’ll let her stay.

Tomorrow we’re going to go check out the Sacramento Zoo. I haven’t been there since the kids were little, and I remember I didn’t like it much because it was so small and the animals didn’t seem happy. I hope it’s changed some in the past 25 years.

Friday, September 15, 2000

Jelly Belly World

Today was Jelly Belly day. We left Davis in the late morning and drove the 20 miles to Vacaville, where we took a tour of the Jelly Belly factory.

We started out with lunch in the Jelly Belly cafeteria, and my cheeseburger was jellybean shaped meat and came on a jellybean shaped bun. Peggy’s sandwich was just sandwich shaped. She forgot which country she was in, though, and ordered "chips" and was surprised when they gave her a bag of potato chips.

The tour is fun and starts with requiring everyone to cover their heads. If you don’t have a hat of your own, you wear one of the silly looking JellyBelly hats (quite fetching on Peggy, actually).

It’s difficult to wander along the maze of second floor walkways, looking down at the men in white all shuttling candy hither and thither, spraying vats with flavoring, etc., and not want to burst into a chorus of Oompa Loompa from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

At the conclusion of the tour we took pictures of jelly bean art and then got back in the car to drive to the outlet mall.

Peggy. A mall. Cheap prices. A marriage made in heaven. We spent about an hour and a half wandering around the outlet mall, looking at luggage, clothes, and shoes. We spent the most time at one of the shoe outlets, where Peggy was trying to find some sandals. A lot of laughs about the various styles and in the end when she decided she hadn’t found anything she liked, we giggled a lot as she realized she didn’t remember where she put the shoes she was wearing when she came in and we were afraid she might have to buy back her own shoes.

We had a couple of hours to kill, so we came home and relaxed a bit (e-mail for me, cigarette for Peggy, each to our own addictions) and then we were off to Dinner at the Dump. This is a Davis institution for many years and is a fund raising event, with 100% of the profits going to a local charity. You pay $12 to enter and once inside can eat and drink as much as you want. Most of the local restaurants (including fast food joints like McDonald’s) contribute food and the choices are vast and eclectic. I think my dinner consisted of French fries from Murder Burger, sesame chicken and fried rice from one of the Chinese places, fruit salad from a health food restaurant, a churro (Mexican fried pastry sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon), an ice cream cone, and then a barbecued sparerib.

Peggy holding a Mexican pastry
standing in the Davis Waste Removal yard
for "Dinner at the Dump"

We ran into several folks I know and Peggy discreetly walked away each time, in case I forgot the name of the person to whom I was speaking (as I sometimes do!). The first people I saw were in the recent production of Chess and took me to task for getting some facts wrong (I identified the American as the challenger and the Russian as the champion, when in fact it was the other way around--though the only way I had of knowing that was from the Internet, which had the identities reversed). I was also informed that the director had changed the ending. Well, how the hell is a reviewer of a show that has so many different versions supposed to know that if the director doesn’t tell her that??? I was indignant in my defense of my review, placing the blame for inaccuracies in the lap of the director who didn’t choose to give me any information whatsoever.

Walt finally showed up, but by the time he got there I was really tired of standing, so we told him we were going on home. We’ve just been relaxing around here since then, but Peggy is now in her element ‘cause we found a baseball game for her to watch (she’s an avid baseball fan).

Thursday, September 14, 2000

Day 1

I gave the grand tour of Davis to Peggy today and managed to make it last 3 hours. (Olivia didn’t believe me.) We did the "memorials to the dead Sykes kids," saw all the high points, like my dentist’s office, the supermarket where I shop, Walt’s office, most of the places where I’ve worked, and topped off the tour with a visit to Ned so Peggy could meet the pugs. We also spent some time at Office Max and stopped in a coffee shop for coffee and a cookie.

We came home and Peggy read and answered e-mail while I napped, then I read and answered e-mail while she napped.

She put her new cameras together (she has 3 new digital cameras) while I cooked dinner. (Walt was at the opera in San Francisco tonight.) Then we had a lovely dinner out on the patio, following which we turned on a National Geographic special on apes and gorillas and we both napped.

Now it’s 1 a.m. and I’m starting to do transcription before going to bed.

Can you believe she’s flown 10,000 miles for this?

Wednesday, September 13, 2000

I'm Done

This will be short. There isn't a muscle or bone in my body that isn't aching right now and it's 12:30 a.m. and I still have two projects to finish up before I go to bed. Otherwise, all is fine!

In the middle of the day today, I sent the following email to a friend:

Jeeze--I've been being a HOUSEWIFE today. I'm ready to go back to work. (just kidding, Walt) I've...

* met with the tile guy to choose bathroom tile
* cleaned off the kitchen table
* cleaned the kitchen/family room floor
* straightened up the family room
* put the couch cover on the couch
* done 1 load of wash (2 to go)
* 3 phone calls for theatre
* cleaned THREE bathrooms
* vacuumed the Pepto Room
* did two loads of dishes

I still have to:

* go shopping
* finish the laundry
* finish the living room
* do another load of dishes
* vacuum the family room
* clean up a report for Dr. X.
* do a rush report for Dr. Y
* start dinner simmering
* pick up Peggy

Hey--this is no fun!

No wonder women go to work.

Our bedroom isn't going to get touched. It's a disaster. Peggy will just have to avert her eyes on her way into the shower.

* * *

Well, it pretty much all got done. Except the work stuff, which I will finish when I post this. It's "finished" because she's here and what didn't get done is forgotten. But actually, the house didn't look bad, I have to say. Our friend O said to take pictures because she'll never get to see it looking this way if we don't. I told her she was a bitch. :)

Peggy's plane was half an hour late. She'd been in transit for 30 hours, and stopped in Singapore long enough to buy yet another digital camera. We had never met before, but slipped very comfortably into the friendship that we've had on line these past two years. She's a delight. We had a gorgeous drive home, since it was one of the most beautiful sunsets I remember seeing in this area.

We got her settled into the Pepto room. She showered (and didn't faint at having to go through our bedroom to get to the bathroom), and I cooked risotto, since it was fast and it was already nearly 9 p.m. We enjoyed dinner, she insisted on doing the dishes (she's not used to dishwashers, so did 'em by hand. by hand???

Walt went to bed and Peggy and I sat up chatting. Now she's gone off to bed and I can start working! Tomorrow I'm giving her the grand tour of Davis. If we're lucky, we might be able to stretch that to 10 minutes.

And I'm going to try to get some work done.