Sunday, January 31, 2010

I Hate Dogs

I hate dogs.

I especially hate these dogs.

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For no particular reason. Just on general principle.

We've had a couple of blissful weeks around here with no food problems. None. Zip. Nada.

I found the secret to getting them to eat and to get each to eat out of his or her own bowl. Canned food. Now canned food isn't good for the bigger dogs because they both have a bit of extra avoirdupois and Ashley recommended not feeding them canned dog food, which they love. But then Polly came along, skinny thing who was afraid of her shadow and wouldn't eat anything because she was afraid someone was going to beat her up. The way to get Polly to eat? Canned food!

But the bigger dogs complained a lot about not getting that good smelling stuff that Polly got to eat, and dinner time was always three dogs running around trying to decide who had the best dinner. Polly got locked in the cage to eat, but that didn't solve the problem of the others scaring her trying to get her food.

So the solution was a LOT of canned food for Polly (who is now normal weight) and a teeny bit of canned food for the other dogs. I put a teaspoon full of canned food into the bowls, fill with their regular scoop of diet doggie food, stir it up so it all smells like the good stuff, and they scarf it down. And, because they know that they have the best bowl, they aren't going to risk leaving it to check out what Polly is eating. Even Lizzie starts eating as soon as her bowl is put down and doesn't follow me around to see if I'm sneaking treats to the others and leaving her out.

This worked fine for about a week. Then Sheila came to salivating so much over the idea of her canned dog food that as soon as I picked up the bowls to fill, she would take her spot where she usually waits patiently for her food and she would jump up and down and bark. "Hurry up! Hurry up! I'm going to die if you don't get me my food right now."

This wasn't too bad until Spencer decided to bark too. For the first few days it was Sheila and Spencer facing each other, barking together, both barking for their food.

But then yesterday it became Spencer and Sheila barking at each other, which wasn't bad until the food had been served but after the 10 seconds it took both to finish their respective bowls, they they began attacking each other. Or more specifically Spencer began to attack Sheila, who could easily make an hors d'oeuvre of the tiny dog.

Now there seems to be an air of constant tension in the house, meal time not. Sheila never initiates a fight, but is more than willing to participate if Spencer wants to fight. This morning timid Polly joined the action from my lap, where she felt safe, and snarled and snapped at both Sheila and Lizzie, following Spencer's lead.

Interestingly, I had a note last night from one of the adoptive moms of one of our Rainbow Pups. Remember them? We had Blue, Pinkie, Golde, and Panda (Panda was back and white). There had been 13 of them in the litter, all identical looking black and white puppies who were marked with colored string to tell them apart.

All of the puppies were adopted by Davis families and on their first birthday, we had a birthday party for them at the dog park. Fifteen familes came, the 13 adoptive families, the family that had the mother, and us, since I had bottlefed half of them. Alo the interim family that had my four when they started getting too big for me to handle (that was in the days when I actually gave puppies away when they started getting big). It was fun to see them all again. Walt and I went to the second birthday party too, but felt we had less interest in seeing them when year three rolled around, so we didn't attend the party. Apparently the families that came compared notes on their 3-year old dogs and in the past year ALL OF THEM have started showing aggressive tendencies. My correspondent said that her dog (she adopted Golde, who is now Pixie) had started attacking her older dog, a 12 year old dog she'd lived with peacefully for three years and also lunged at their 4 year old dog but ended up biting the mom instead. I suggested she contact the UCD Vet School, since it's right here and see if they have any explanation why all of these dogs began to get aggressive in their third year.

There are times when I live so closely with these dogs that I almost feel I can understand how they communicate. It's interesting, for example, that if I cook steak for dinner, Sheila just keeps sleeping in the living room but if I cook lamb chops, she sits by the kitchen table waiting for us to finish and give her a bone. If I get up to get something out of my purse, nobody pays the slightest attention, but if I go to the same purse in the same position and am going to go out, both of the older dogs know instantly that I'm leaving. If I'm sitting somewhere and thinking about giving the dogs a treat, you know that within minutes, Sheila will come in looking for her treat. It's pretty amazing.

But I can't get into their heads when aggression starts for apparently no reason, with no change in routine or anything. I had just written to tell Ashley what a special dog Spencer is, and now suddenly he's no longer Dr. Jeckyl, but Mr. Hyde.

This morning an SPCA volunteer came to take Spencer and Polly to dog training classes and what a comedy of errors that was. I wish we'd had a camera man. Polly thinks that any time she gets put on a leash terrible things happen to her, so the only time she doesn't want to be connected to my body 24/7 is when I have a leash in my hands. Spencer doesn't have those associations, but he sure doesn't want to be on a leash. Sheila and Lizzie only want OUT of the house. Sheila knows she isn't supposed to leave without my permission, but I'm always hesitant to test that out, so I have her by the collar. I let Lizzie go because she will come when I call (which Sheila won't).

Lizzie escaped and the SPCA girl had both puppies by the leash, one running off to her left, and one refusing to budge on her right. Lizzie was exploring the property of neighbors who don't talk to us and I kept calling to her, but she was ignoring me.

We got Spencer in the car, but he wanted to leap out, so SPCA girl held him back while I dumped Polly, who wanted to fly out of my arms, in with him. Lizzie saw that the other dogs were going to go on a fun ride in a car, so she came running up and I grabbed her and took her into the car while the other dogs ran off.

Spencer came back home, while Polly went to Petco. Lizzie got out again, Spencer immediately attacked Sheila. I went after Lizzie and caught her, brought her home, took Spencer off the leash and he immediately left a huge pee puddle in the kitchen.

I really do hate dogs.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Quest for Sushi

I sent this picture to Jeri last night via cell phone

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She sent back a message, "where did you find sushi?" It turns out that there are three sushi places within 2 blocks of each other in downtown Davis and when I checked the Davis Wiki this morning I discovered there are actually nine sushi restaurants in Davis! We decided that between now and May 18 we will check out four of them.

Jusco.jpg (32893 bytes)Last night we were at Jusco, which is across the street from one of the most popular sushi places in town, because of its all-you-can-eat sushi bar. It always has a long line outside it at noontime.

I don't know how long the lunch line is for Jusco, but it also has an all you can eat buffet, though not "buffet" in the traditional sense. You don't stand and choose your own food. Instead they give you a laminated menu and you mark what you want from the buffet, then they go off and get it for you.

The first thing I noticed about Jusco is that the menu of this sushi house included things like pot stickers and won ton. How that would have tickled our Japanese daughter, who thought it so funny to find Japanese items for sale in Chinatown in San Francisco. Here in this country we seem to group all Asians into some homogeneous group and think nothing odd about serving sushi with won ton. (I do admit, though, that I wonder how authentic the cream cheese wontons actually are. Do they serve them in China? I had no qualms about ordering them both before and after my sushi--I love anything fried and anything with cream cheese and when you fry cream cheese, it's like dying and going to heaven! And when it's part of an "all you can eat" menu, you don't feel guilty getting a second order.)

Jusco's decor is not plush, like Osaka was. There are booths with vinyl seats and high tables. Walt looked like he was sitting in a hole. There is no sushi bar. The counter where they collect the money has stacks of boxes of soft drink cans surrounding it. There is a nice mural of swimming fish on the wall. The lights hanging from the very high ceiling have faux orchids wrapped around the cord.

I was all prepared for a new sushi place with my "Sushipedia" for the iTouch, which shows you pictures of various types of sushi and explains what it in them.

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No need for that at Jusco. There are several plastic cards on the wall of each booth which explain what's in things like a Panda Roll, Kitty Roll or an Orange Sherbert [sic], things which I suspect are unique to Jusco (but I'll find out as we travel around some of the other sushi places).

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We ordered the cream cheese won ton and pot stickers to start with, then moved onto the sushi itself, with maguro (tuna) and ebi (shrimp). Walt ordered two types of salmon, smoked and not. I had to get spicy tuna, which has always been my favorite at Osaka and we ordered something called a Rainbow roll which had crab (probably krab) and other stuff inside it. It seemed like a lot of sushi and I was concerned we might not be able to finish. One thing about Jusco is that it really is all you can eat, but they charge you extra if you just eat the fish and leave the rice behind! Fifty cents for each rice ball left on your plate. Never heard of a restaurant with a penalty for leaving food before!

I have to say that overall it was OK, but not outstanding. I love the maguro, but where Osaka's tuna was thin, tender and seemed to mold itself around the rice, Jusco's was thicker, firm and lay on top of the rice and it was difficult to pick the two up together. The shrimp didn't seem as fresh and it was at Osaka. It even looked tired.

The biggest disappointment, though, was the spicy tuna. At Osaka it's like a tuna salad, nicely flavored, that comes on top of a nori (seaweed) wrapped bit of rice. I just love it. But at Jusco, the "spicy tuna" was a role with rice on the outside (no nori), very spicy (too spicy for me), black pepper flavored and with a chunk of celery that kind of took over the flavor. I didn't like it at all.

The edamame, however, was the best I've had. I don't know how quality of edamame can differ, since it's just cooked soy beans, but I just loved the edamame at Jusco.

It was all OK, but Jusco would not be my choice of a place to go every time we want sushi (though the price was much cheaper). Next week, for David's birthday, we'll try one of the other places in town as we continue our quest to find a replacement for Osaka.

I did learn, though, that the original owners of Osaka sold the place a couple of years ago. so the people who closed the doors and walked away were not the people who started the restaurant in the first place. Those people still run their restaurant in Woodland, 10 miles away. We may have to drive in there to see if the quality is as good as we remember, especially if I can't find the right kind of spicy tuna at the 9 restaurants left in Davis.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Mean, Nasty Me

I'm not always the sweet, lovable blogger that you see here day in and day out (stop laughing). And I came across a meme that will let me prove that!

Foods which disgust the crap out of me: Liver, beets, oysters

TV show I loathe: The Martha Stewart show. I don't know why, but the woman just rubs me the wrong way. Add to that Celebrity Apprentice and any of the reality shows which are designed to get people into bed with one other.

Movie I loathe: The Barbra Streisand A Star Is Born and what she did to Prince of Tides (which is surprising, since generally speaking I really like Barbra Streisand). And also, I know it's supposed to be the very best movie ever made, but I never "got" Citizen Kane.

Music genres I loathe: Heavy Metal

Magazine which annoys me: O Magazine because it seems to be about half ads for things I can't afford. I also hate any sort of tabloid journal. People Magazine isn't too bad and I'll read it in a doctor's office, if it's there, but when you get into National Inquirer and that ilk, I turn away.

Makes me cranky at restaurant: People who let their children get down and run around the restaurant annoying other people who are trying to eat.

Makes me cranky in public: Big stores which seem to have no salespeople around ever.

Makes me cranky in general: Going four whole months without a cousins' day!!!!!!

Pisses me off at home: Unflushed dog poop

Pisses me off in general: Homophobia. Intolerance. And bad grammar! I have TWICE this week seen sentences like "He gave the thing to whomever answered the door." Normally you would say "to whom" but if you diagram that sentence, it would be "to WHOEVER answered the door" because "whoever" is the subject of "answered the door." I applaud someone trying to remember that "whom" should follow a preposition, but....wrong. Not if the word is also the subject of a clause.

Makes me impatient at home: Grammatical typos that my brain seems to make all the time lately, typing things that I didn't mean to say and that make no sense. It's another indication that I am getting older and I don't like it.

Makes me impatient in public: Long lines. Though I've tried to develop a zen state about that lately and it doesn't bother me as much as it used to. Having the Kindle app for the iTouch helps greatly!

Celebrity I hate: I don't think I "hate" anybody (well, there are exceptions--see the very last question). But I don't think much of any of the anorexic bimbos who make headlines for their outrageous behavior. Oh wait. I might make an exception for that reality TV guy, Spencer somebody whom I had the misfortune to see on a show a couple of nights before I turned it off in disgust. I might actually hate him.

I could care less about: The sex lives of any politician or celebrity

Annoys the crap out of me weekdays: Chris Matthews. I used to enjoy Hardball, now it just annoys me.

Annoys the crap out of me weekends: Endless football (sorry, Tom!)

Blogger I hate: Well, I don't hate any blogger. I don't know them. But there are some that annoy me. I know that Douce is so popular that she has become a real time TV celebrity, but I just can't get into her blog. I've tried many times. There is also another blog I've followed for many years which is becoming tiresome because its whole tone has changed (says she whose blog has also become tiresome over the years!) and also because the writer seems to actively dislike me.

Blogger's habit that annoys you: I hate tiny grey print on a black background. I won't be back to your blog ever, no matter how well it is written. I also don't like people who routinely use either very poor grammar or write in blogger shorthand. I especially roll my eyes at older people using "u" and "r" and other such abbreviations that I associate with adolescent texting.

Feature on your blog you hate: I don't really hate anything on my blog, but I've been trying to come up with a new design for about four years now and seem to be stuck in a rut (this is for Funny the World, not for Airy Persiflage). I hate that I have so little design creativity.

Movie star you despise: I don't know any movie star personally, so "despise" is a strong word, but I will not spend money to see any muscle-bound neanderthal beating people up. (Now Jack Bauer...that's another story!)

Politician that you hate: That one's easy -- Dick Cheney. I don't care if he's nice to kittens and puppies in private, his sneer makes my skin crawl.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Vote for Cathy

On the request of my friends Shelly & Ellen, I am passing this along. It's definitely a worthwhile thing.

Singer/Songwriter Cathy Speck is a finalist in the Tom's of Maine "Hero Next Door" contest. Cathy has incurable ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (aka Lou Gehrig's disease). Cathy is fearless, but worried about her wife Linda because, even though they are legally married in California, she knows that when she dies Linda will not have access to her Social Security and other benefits.

You can vote for Cathy and read more about her at:

Please forward this email to everyone you can. It takes almost no time to vote and Cathy and Linda need our help.

Thank you so much for your support for our personal hero and the most inspirational person we have ever met.

Shelly and Ellen

Cathy's Letter to the Editor in our local Davis newspaper is below:


My family, Gene and Dorothy Speck and my zillion siblings, moved to this fine town in 1956. The Specks have many fine traditions in Davis. And although I am honored to be following in the footsteps of my brother Larry and my mom Dorothy, those steps are rapidly becoming aided by a walker and wheelchair.

I have ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig's disease. We have a rare genetic form of familial ALS running through my family. Of course, all of my family, friends and co-workers are being tremendously supportive and compassionate. I feel so fortunate to be living in the community of Davis where love and offers of help so freely abound.

My biggest concern is for my wife, Linda Duval. We were married last November, the day before the election when Prop. 8 passed. (Our state does establish trends for the other 49, so I'd been hoping that we could make progress out here on the "Left Coast.")

Linda and I have been a committed couple since 1993. We live together, love and laugh together, cry together, and make lots of music for our community - always together. Because of the lack of equal marriage rights, Linda will not be able to receive my Social Security benefits when I die. This is just one of the sad realities of what happens when our country doesn't treat its citizens equally.

Someday I hope the United States of America and the great state of California will recognize that our love and commitment are as strong as any heterosexual couple, and that we deserve the same rights and benefits. We pay the same taxes, and we die and leave our loved ones behind. Although I am the eternal optimist, I don't think marriage equality will happen before I die.

But when equality is manifested, you all will hear my booming voice bouncing off clouds and dancing with the rays of sun. And I will be singing of thanks and praise. And Love. Always remember Love - with a capital "L."

Cathy Speck

Very Long Day

It's a very long day when it begins at 4 a.m. I found myself wide awake and so caught up on one or two programs on my DVR before I finally drifted off to sleep again. It was the first time in I can't remember how long that the alarm clock (actually the alarm on my cell phone) actually woke me up. I had an 8 a.m. dentist appointment and knew that I might be in danger of sleeping too late so thank goodness I had the foresight to set it the night before..

By 8 a.m., I was flat on my back, doing my best Lamaze breathing to relax myself, letting my thoughts float where they may and almost drifting off to sleep while my teeth were being scraped. Now that's a good dental appointment! I came home and wrote "look ma, no cavities--sorta" as my Facebook status. Someone asked if that was "like being sorta pregnant" and I guess it is. When the hygienist had finished with the cleaning, Cindy did a quick once-over, poked one spot and said "I don't think I need to do anything about this now" and was gone again. I took that as a cavity-in-the-making, but too small to worry about right now.

I came home and made the rum raisin ice cream I'd planned to make (and lemme tell you, it's good!). It was pretty blatantly clear by noon that if I was going to review a show tonight, I was going to have to take a nap.

So, after I had some lunch, I settled into the recliner with a quilt and 2 dogs and drifted almost immediately off to sleep.

As so frequently happens, I had forgotten to do anything about the telephone and I had just gotten into a deep sleep when it rang. I just don't understand how I can go an entire WEEK without the phone ringing, but the very second I take a nap that I really need to take or be in trouble that night, the phone rings. And since it's so complicated to get out from under two dogs and a quilt, I'm wide awake by the time I've made it to the telephone.

The worst part was that it was a call that was coming two days too soon. It was my fellow critic, who wanted to know if I would like to carpool to Saturday night's show in Sacramento. By the time I'd made arrangements with him, I had slept too long to go back to sleep and hadn't slept NEARLY long enough to qualify as a nap.

I got some more stuff done around the house and then decided that I really HAD to get some sleep. Things are a bit fuzzy when I think about this. I know that I fell asleep, but I have the feeling that again I only slept for a matter of minutes before some sound (not the phone this time--and I don't know what sound it was--it might have been a loud commercial on TV) woke me up.

I gave up on sleep and hoped for the best. I also hoped that maybe I'd slept for enough time that I wouldn't have problems staying awake tonight.

Walt was out at a meeting until nearly 7:00 and I threw some leftovers in his general direction when he came home because we had to leave in about half an hour. I had eaten a bit earlier.

When time came, we got all the dogs "treated" and went up to the University.

Tonight was the night of the annual theatre festival (actually I supposed it happens twice a year, once in each semester) where young playwrights and young directors (and young actors) get to put on original plays, under the "artistic curatorship" of one of the professors in the Drama Department.

There are three plays each time and what I have usually found is that there is usually one real gem and two that are so-so. But there are also usually performances that stand out even in so-so productions.

Walt liked all three plays this time, I didn't find the "gem" I was looking for, but I did get the answer to my question: Did I get enough sleep during my two naps? NO! At the end of the second play when the cast came out to take its bow and I saw a character I don't remember seeing in the play at all, I knew that I had missed a chunk of it! Fortunately, I have a play synopsis and the playwright's notes about it, so armed with those and what I did see, I should be able to piece together a decent review.

As I write this it is 11:30 and the review must be at the paper first thing in the morning, so I have miles to go before I sleep again. But of course, I had to procrastinate a bit and write this journal entry first.

Thursday Thirteen

Ways to Stay Warm

1. Turn up the heat
2. Put on a Sweater
3. Wear sweats
4. Haul out the Snuggie
5. Lap dogs help
6. Hot drink
7. Big fuzzy slippers
8. Nice warm bath
9. Stick your hands in warm water
10. Hot pad
11. Thick socks
12. Move to Hawaii
13. As a last resort, exercise

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Love Those Appliances

The coffee pot exploded this morning and spewed wet grounds and coffee all over everywhere, because I had put the pot on the burner slightly askew. The worst part of it was that I had to clean it up without having my morning coffee first!

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As I was cleaning out the coffee pot, I was thinking about all my appliances. I don't have to have the biggest, the newest, the most expensive appliances and, if push comes to shove, I can do with much simpler, but I do love my electric toys.

APMixer.jpg (41084 bytes)I was looking at my KitchenAid mixer, for example. This is the real workhorse of my kitchen. I don't remember exactly when I got it. Walt must have given it to me as a gift, but I have been using it since the 1970s, when we lived in Oakland.

I got it during the years when I made all of our bread and the dough hook was just perfect. I made bread several times a week (and made lots of soup in the pot that was imbedded in one burner of our stove--loved that feature!)

When we moved to Davis I took cake decorating classes and started decorating cakes and selling them. I can't tell you how many probably hundreds of cakes and batches of frosting this mixer has mixed. I've never really had a problem with it in all these years of heavy use.

Now I don't use it all that much any more, more to blend potatoes for mashed potatoes and, more recently, to blend the cream mixture(s) for ice cream. I love this mixer and don't know how I could have done without it all these years. I wonder if they still make'em like that in these days of planned obsolescence.

APCuis.jpg (47578 bytes)This is a brand new Cuisinart, which we just got a couple of weeks ago because I was mixing up some bean soup and a bone from the ham I thought I had removed wedged itself between the blade and the container of the old machine and we were unable to remove it and get the thing functional again. However, the Cuisinart may be the appliance I use the most in the kitchen.

It was the only thing for me that I used the money in my father's bank account for after he died. I had long wanted a Cuisinart food processor and I went for the top of the line. I've never regretted it. It makes the very best pie crust (and yes, I am able to make a pie crust without it, but this just makes it easier). It works so much better than a regular blender for things like soup and it's great for chopping large quantities of vegetables. The old blender had stopped being able to grate cheese, but this new one does just fine.

APBlender.jpg (44982 bytes)I have this big cuisinart blender and the little Mrs. Kitchen food processor. I use the little one more than the big one, though the big one is great for smoothies and that sort of thing.

The little food processor was something I probably wouldn't have bought for myself, but Peggy gave it to me for Christmas several years ago and I'm surprised at how often I use it. Where the larger food processor is good for large amounts of vegetables, if you just want to chop up half an onion or mash an avocado this is great.

It has also come in handy for blending up meats for puppies who need to be encouraged to eat something and if I want just a quick pick-me-up, I toss a banana and some juice in the thing and in a couple of seconds I have a small smoothie. It's safe to say I use this little machine several times a week.

APBread.jpg (33100 bytes)I don't use the bread baker as much as I did for the first few years after I bought it, but I sure have gotten my money's worth out of it. After I bought it I got back into making all of our bread again (I think at least some of the kids were still living at home when I bought it), but when it was just Walt and me, I had to admit that I was eating too much of the bread myself, and so I forced myself to stop baking homemade bread.

I still use it from time to time, though, for making bread dough to make hockies (fried bread dough). And once in awhile I'll make a loaf of bread if I'm too lazy to go to the store to buy a loaf. It's also great for pizza dough, and cheaper (to say nothing of tasting better!) than ordering pizza from a local pizza parlor.

Two years ago, Peggy gave me another kitchen appliance.

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I'd long thought that it might be handy to have a vacuum food processor and it is! I save a lot of money on things like onions and cheese, which I don't use every day, and which go bad in the fridge. I also love it for buying in bulk at Costco and vacuum packing things before sticking them in the freezer. Somehow I can't get out of that "buy lots" mode that I was in for so many years when the kids were home. Using a vacuum seal makes all those foods last much longer and I don't throw away nearly as much any more.

Now, of course, I have a new appliance that I'm in love with Ashley gave me an ice cream maker for Christmas this year and I'm finding that it has seriously changed my attitude toward ice cream. I only let myself make one batch a week (which is three nights of a small dessert for Walt and me) but it's 100% pure, no artificial anything, and I find that I'm not tempted to buy ice cream treats in the store any more so, to my surprise, I think that it was actually a very good appliance to add and one that might actually help rather than hurt me.

(I'm not putting in a photo of the ice cream maker because I'm not making ice cream until tomorrow--testing out rum raisin this time--and won't set it up until then. Should be different from the kind you get in ice cream stores since this uses real rum...and nothing is cooked, so I think you can't gorge on it or you might have a hangover in the morning!)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Haiti: The Rest of the Story is Ours

I was so moved by this article by Joan Chittister that rather than link to it, I'm going to copy the whole article here. I hope everyone will read it.

I went to Haiti years ago. There was an earthquake going on then, too, but that earthquake was of another making. That earthquake rumbled up from the underground of a people who had been exploited, abandoned, abused and forgotten by their own government and brought to the point of total resistance.

In the midst of the fissure stood a young Salesian priest, John Bertrand Aristide, shouting like John the Baptist in the desert, for peace and justice for the poor in the face of Haiti's sinful impoverishment by the Western world. From 1845 to 1947, Haiti had been forced to pay France reparations in gold for its 1803 war of independence. This required the country to borrow huge sums of money at egregious rates of interest from American, French and German banks. Furthermore, Western corporations, our own among them, were using Haitians at slave-labor wages and paying not a cent in taxes for the privilege of doing so.

Aristide was being hunted by day and by night by minions of a corrupt regime intent on quieting the fearsome voice. Aristide's great earth-shaking crime lay in running a home for street children and speaking a lonely truth in the face of the national family secret that the country was being prostituted by its own government for its own indecent desires. The dictators Fran├žois Duvalier, or "Papa Doc," and his son Jean-Claude, "Baby Doc," were draining millions out of the country's coffers for personal use.

During that trip to Haiti, in 1989, I made a 20 minute film about the situation called "Voices of Promise; Voices of Hope," which I smuggled out of the country right through the hands of the government security team. The film was to help to raise consciousness in the United States about the deplorable conditions of the place, but nothing much happened to change things there. The infrastructure remained decrepit, the people remained underpaid, the country remained destitute.

The film, nevertheless, talked about more than corruption. It talked just as much about beauty. The country was desperately deprived but ruggedly beautiful at the same time. The people were pathetically poor but fiercely beautiful in their calm and kindness at the same time. The private civilian and religious aid agencies that sustained the poorest of the poor in the country were pathetically undeveloped and totally beautiful in their commitment to this hopeless place. The future was frighteningly dangerous but spiritually beautiful. Haitians were full of faith in God and full of faith in their own unprepared selves.

I had never seen such suffering, such beauty in my life. But now, since the worst earthquake the Western Hemisphere has ever experienced struck Haiti, I am seeing it again. The only question now is how much beauty will it bring and for how long?

For the first time in years, the lead news story in the United States isn't about war. The banner headlines aren't about suicide bombings. The pictures aren't of maimed soldiers. The sidebar articles aren't about suspicion and body scans. They aren't about the oppression of one person by another. But that doesn't mean that the news isn't about pain and suffering, about frustration and powerlessness, about God-awful deprivation and aching hearts.

Instead, Haiti is a story of 111,000 corpses being tilted from dump trucks into open graves in a public trash heap. It is the story of a small country that had 380,000 orphans before the earthquake and is now calculating that there may well be a million more children, homeless, alone, wandering through life in a place where life does not exist. It is the story of a country of at least 200,000 dead and two million homeless that is totally destroyed and totally demoralized at the same time.

But that is not the end of the story. The rest of the story is ours.

You see, Haiti is also a story of millions of dollars being poured into relief programs for Haiti by simple people everywhere. It is the story of the mobilization of planes, ships, troops, rescue crews and relief agencies from around the entire world. It is the story of reporters gone to record the event having put down their microphones to become part of the rescue scene themselves. It is about celebrities, politicians, presidents and U.N. officials everywhere stopping their own lives and agendas to take up the cause of a people whose cause has almost never been recognized before. It is the story of a world in tears for a people who are surviving their desolation by singing on hillsides together, singing about death as they are pulled from the rubble alive, singing alleluias in their ruined churches as they pray to be delivered from fates worse than death.

This scene, too, has a stunning kind of beauty and deep commitment. This time it is the beauty of the human community dedicated to shining a light through the blackest parts of the human situation rather than aiming predator drones or suicide bombs at other innocents around the world.

For the first time in history, financial aid is pouring into Haiti from every part of the globe. For the first time in history, the ugly face of human abandonment is being exposed to the caring face of human bondedness. For the first time, the human race, ironically, looks totally human everywhere.

There is another test of humanity, however, that Haiti will surely essay and which is a clear and measurable one: How long will the human community stay in Haiti, not just to rescue the few survivors or hand out emergency rations or bury the nameless, unwashed, unblessed dead but how long will we stay there to rebuild it?

After all, U.S. gratitude to Haiti is long overdue. Haiti, the first and only nation to arise out of a slave revolt not only defeated Napoleon in his attempt to retake that island nation but, in the process, foiled Napoleon's plan to then use that country as a launching pad for the invasion and conquest of the land known now as The Louisiana Territory. In other words, Haiti saved the Western United States from French rule. Saved the United States.

So how long will we ourselves, the United States, a country that occupied Haiti for our own interests from 1915 to 1934 and then put half a century into wars around the world and billions of dollars and millions of weapons into death -- stay in Haiti to save it, to repay the debts that the abandonment of an entire people incurs. How much time, how much money, will we and the rest of the global community put into becoming as much a part of Haiti's resurrection as we have been part of its burial?

From where I stand the situation is a clear one: Haiti in its devastation stands not only for the rebuilding of its own country but for the possible rebuilding of the soul and humanity of the entire human community itself.

If we see this one through, Haiti may well save us again, this time not from the loss of our land but from the loss of our humanity.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sunday Surfing

I came across another one of those puzzling Amazon recommendations. I'm thinking I should just spend some time searching for stuff on Amazon and see what they recommend I buy to go with it! But when I do that, the recommendations are pretty much what one might expect.

In this particular instance, I read a status report on Facebook from someone who said she was "loving her brie baker" and I wondered what a a brie baker was. Oh, I could pretty much guess, but I wanted to see one in the flesh. So I did a ittle Amazon search and discovered that it was, indeed, a clay pot-like thing that you put a wheel of brie in, topped with your favorite topping and then baked until the brie was soft...which sounds fabulous, if you entertain, which we don't. So I wasn't tempted to spend the money. But then I saw what Amazon thinks I will want to buy along with my brie baker.

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Yes, indeedy, everyone who wants to bake brie is going to want a preschool toy laptop to go along with it! And a special price if you buy the two together. Yippee!

If you buy the more expensive stainless steel brie baker, not only do they recommend you get the pre-school learning tote and go laptop, but you will probably also want Michael Chrichton's book, "Pirate Latitudes," because pirates love baked brie, dontcha know! "Arrgghhh, matey...pass me that there cheese stuff."

I also came across a blog today written by a woman who also participates in the "Thursday Thirteen." Don't know if I've mentioned it here, but over on my mirror blog on Blogspot, I post a list of thirteen "things" each Thursday. As diverse a list as "Names I've given foster dogs," "Favorite Star Trek Episodes" and "Things Hanging on my bulletin board," and "Things I love to smell," among others. I've done 17 Thursdays now and am having a good time with it. But sometimes inspiration is nice, so I've checked with others who are doing the same thing and came across this woman's blog.

When I got to her web site, I saw that she had visited Helsinki and St. Petersburg in 2006 and had pictures from a lot of the places we are going to see (fabulous). They didn't take the boat trip, like we will, but they did spend several days in St. Petersburg. She also seems to write well and I was going to put her on my list of blogs to read regularly when I saw that she had one entry called "All things Obama," or something like that which starts by saying "I was listening to Michele Bachmann, the lone voice of sanity in Minnesota (and the next legislator I'll support)..."

Well. I think it's safe to say that we probably don't have a lot in common and with all the blogs I follow, I probably won't be checking back with her often!

While I was doing all this, I had The Food Network (which I haven't watched in awhile) on and Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) on. She was making a couple of dishes that looked interesting, so I surfed on over to the Food Network web site to see if I could find them. I did, eventually, but in the process came upon a recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette. I'd been looking for something to do with the leftover squash from a soup I made recently and this looked tasty, so I decided to make it. Only, as I started it, I realized that out of all the ingredients listed, I only had a few. So...what the heck....I substituted "creatively."

I had the squash and "good" olive oil (the latter thanks to my sister-in-law), which was a good start.

For "pure maple syrup" I had to substitute good ol' Log Cabin. For Kosher salt, I used sea salt. I did have freshly ground black pepper. But there was no apple cider--not even any Martinellis, I figured using orange/pineapple juice was out, but we had a bottle of blueberry/pomegranate juice and I used that. I did have apple cider vinegar, but no shallots. Walt hates the texture of onion-like foods, so I just left those out.

I had Dijon mustard and cranberries, but no walnut halves (which were supposed to be toasted), but I substituted toasted pecan halves and, of course, I had no "fresh Parmesan cheese" but had plenty of the stuff in the green jar.

You pour this all over arugula, which I did not have, but I used "heirloom lettuce," which I'd picked up at Costco recently.

Oddly enough, the final product wasn't half bad. Quite tasty, in fact. Some day I might go back and make the recipe the right way and see how it turns out, but I think it's fair to say that I am NOT "the worst cook in the world," and that I can improvise fearlessly and creatively and end up with an edible product, even if the product only has one or two of the recipe's original ingredients!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Wisdom of the Ages

Well, let's see. I went to Herbert's 100th birthday last night. I reviewed Tuesdays with Morrie tonight and then came home to watch the SAG Awards which gave a lifetime achievement award to Betty White. I feel like I have all the secrets for a long and happy life by now!

Morrie Schwartz was only 78 when he died of Lou Gehrig's disease, but Mitch Albom's book about his old teacher and mentor, the man he called "Coach" became an instant hit (and spawned a number of other Albom-penned books examining the meaning of life).

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Schwartz with Mitch Albom

Schwartz achieved some fame when interviewed by Ted Koppel on what it means to die and how he was feeling about his impending death. In that interview (which I came home and watched on YouTube after seeing the play), Schwartz tells people (among many other things) "keep an open heart. Open it up further and further and further until you encompass as much as you can with your love." He also advises people to "be alert and aware to the things that interest you and then go for it. Be involved."

Betty White, who just turned 88, says that the most important thing in life is to have passion for what you are doing, and she certainly has had it throughout her long career in show business and her involvement with animal causes. I don't know that I have ever seen Betty White when she didn't have a huge smile on her face.

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In his closing remarks at the birthday party last night, Herbert imparted his wisdom for living to 100. "Keep living...keep loving...and keep laughing." He then added that two out of three wasn't good enough; you had to do all three.

Listening to all three of these people makes me understand why my mother has not only outlived, but also lived longer than any person in her family. She embodies the wisdom of all of these others. If there was every a person who "keeps living, keeps loving and keeps laughing," it's my mother. If there was ever a person who lives her passions, simple tho they may be, it's my mother. If there was ever a person who is "involved" with life, it's my mother.

I only hope that I can embody her view of life and follow the wisdom of the people who have been there and know what's truly important in life.

It's Petco day and Polly went off to Petco with all the enthusiasm of a little kid going to the dentist. She buried her head in my arm, closed her eyes halfway so she could still see, but maybe thought I wouldn't notice that she was there or something. She looked like I was taking her to the slaughter and clung to me when I went to hand her over to an SPCA volunteer, who kept her wrapped up in her lap until we came back 3 hours later to pick her up. A man whose looks I didn't like asked me "is she for sale?" when I was picking her up. Fortunately, I just waved him off in Ashley's general direction and rushed Polly to the car. My baby isn't "for sale," she's up "for adoption."

Last time she went to Petco she came home freaked out and it took her several days to get back to where she was before she went, but she was thrilled to be home and just wanted to sit in my lap. When I finally got up, she was back to normal again, so I guess she's getting feeling more comfortable here.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Herb's 100 Now

When Walt and I got home around 4:30 this afternoon, with just about 20 minutes to whip up an hors d'oeuvre, feed the dogs (and try not to confuse the two), change clothes and rush back to the Art Center, I told him I didn't remember working so hard for someone I didn't know before!

Dr. Herbert Bauer turns 100 tomorrow and I've been working on the committee to pull this party off, but in truth, I hardly know the man and have only had one conversation with him in my life (drowned out by the music of The Putah Creek Crawdads). I found out that Sue, with whom I decorated the cake yesterday, doesn't really know him all that well either.

WaltThrone.jpg (29687 bytes)But he's the heart and soul of Davis and it was a privilege to be able to help pull off this party for him. Walt and I went to the Art Center, where the party was held, at 1 p.m. to get set up. While others cleaned floors and bathrooms, put up tables and blew up ballons, and arranged chairs, Walt and I worked at putting lights around the doors and on this special throne borrowed from the City (they never lend this stuff out, but since it was for Herbert...)

My job was to hold the box of thumb tacks while Walt climbed up, down, on, and around the things to be lit. No wonder I was exhausted.

Erie Vitello, the director of the Art Center, said the place hadn't looked so clean in all the time she'd been its director, so we figured we were doing all right. Everything looked great, but the big question was whether anybody would actually come after all this work. The weather was kind of rainy, but we were hopeful.

SueCake.jpg (40469 bytes)Around 3 p.m., Sue arrived with the cake tiers and set them up. It looked just great and best of all, nobody bumped up against it or knocked it over, always my biggest fear! The reason for the flags is that Herbert is an international guy, born in Austria, escaped when Hitler came to power, has lived and worked all over the world and still, at 100, fights tirelessly for world peace. The reason for these specific flags is that they were the ones we had in our living room!

We rushed home and got back to the Art Center before the flood of guests started arriving, and in time to snag a seat for the entertainment.

When we got to the Art Center, even before the posted time of the party start, it was clear that we weren't going to have to worry about whether anybody would show up or not. The front hall was already clogged with arriving guests.

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There was a real crowd in the room with the food.

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But Herbert was beaming as he greeted old friends.

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After everyone had a chance to get something to eat, there was the entertainment part of the show. Herb was led to the throne on the stage while MC Bob Dunning gave opening remarks. The Davis High Madrigal singers each presented him with a big cookie (he loves cookies) and sang three songs, including a special birthday song. The Cal Aggie Band-uh pulled out all the stops.

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Next came Bob Bowen (with whom we have a long relationship!), who sang the song I had rewritten for the event. (It's the Video of the Day) A Davis Policeman presented Herbert with a special award for having a spotless driving record (not even a parking ticket) up until he gave up driving, at the end of December.

(The police officer also said that he was not with the fire department, so he had no comment to make on the fact that we had obviously exceeded the maximum number of people for the building.)

There was more silliness with local politicians, his mailman, and a group from the Pamela Trokanski Dance Studio, called the "Second Wind Dancers," all of older dancers (a group with whom Herb performed for many years), who danced to "He's a Rebel."

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The festivities ended with The Putah Creek Crawdads singing a special song that had been written by The Psychiatrist (remember him?). They have been friends and colleagues for decades and nobody could have written the song but Cap.

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The evening ended with comments from Herb himself, which could not have been better.

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Over the coming days, I will be posting some other videos of the evening, ending with Herb's remarks (if the video turned out all frustrating to have to shoot between two heads, but if I looked behind me it was a solid wall of people, so no place to move to!)

We're really tired tonight, but so is everyone involved with putting together this celebration of Herbert's life. It was a wonderful outpouring of love for this very special man. I'm sorry I never really knew him!

At Herb's 95th birthday party, people who saw my nametag told me they loved my letters to the editor and wondered if I ever wrote anything else (I'd been a theatre critic for The Enterprise for five years at that time). Tonight people who saw my nametag and didn't know me, told me they loved reading my reviews. I guess maybe I've finally made some sort of an impact.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Up to My Ears in Frosting

"Just when I thought I was out ... they pull me back in."

I can't remember the first cake I swore would be the very last cake I ever decorated. But I couldn't not decorate Jeri & Phil's wedding cake. I loved doing it, and I had as much fun making it special as I did making Ned & Marta's and later Paul & Audra's wedding cakes. But when that was over, I swore that was the very last cake I was going to decorate.

Then Brianna's first birthday came along and Laurel asked if I would like to make her cake. Laurel was making cupcakes and I would make the birthday cake. How could I not make Bri's cake? It was fun doing a little kid's cake again. I made so many of them in my cake decorating days.

But that was definitely my last cake (other than cakes for Bri in the future, I said to myself, thinking of all the cakes that I might possibly make for her as she grows up).

When I went to the meeting to plan Herbert Bauer's 100th birthday, I was delighted to see my friend Sue there. Many, many years ago, Sue and I worked together. I had been decorating cakes in town for awhile. There was no bakery here then, other than at Safeway and people liked my cakes better.

When I think back on those days of baking and decorating cakes in my kitchen, knowing nothing of the rules of hygiene or what sorts of permits you need to sell home-made food, it's amazing that I didn't get arrested!

CakeWedding.jpg (54511 bytes)Sue decided to open a bakery, The Farmer's Wife, and asked if I would like to be her cake decorator. I knew that I didn't have the skills of a professional, but was more than willing to work with her until she found a "real" cake decorator. I loved working in that little shop and I still remember decorating the bakery's very first wedding cake.

Sue eventually found a cake decorator and I retired from the business, only to make cakes for friends and relatives. And, in time, as things happen, I lost track of Sue. She merged her business with a restaurant, I heard, and later that she had divorced and moved out of town. I can't remember how many years it had been since I last had news of her.

It was assumed by everyone that Sue would decorate the cake for Dr. Bauer's party and she had a great idea for the design of it. But I was thrilled when she called to ask if I would like to help her with the cake. I would be the best of all possible worlds--she would do all the stuff that I don't like to do and I would help with the fun part. Besides, it would be fun to work together again.

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We have a 3-tier cake with people holding hands all around the cake. Sue drew the stick people and I started working on dressing them. In no time at all, I felt like I was ready to audition for the sequel to Avitar.

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My hands were more blue than anything else, but the little people were looking very cute. Of course I am the clutz of the world and I kept bumping the side of the cake and smearing the "clothes." "You're worse than I am," Sue laughed.

I ended up decorating the top two tiers of the cake and left Sue to do the bottom tier.

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It was the best of all possible worlds because someone else will carry the tiers to the party tomorrow (the part I really hate!) and Sue will set them up and I won't have to deal with the angst of maybe dropping the cake. It was bad enough I came home wearing most of it.

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I really enjoyed working with Sue again and I think when the cake is all set up with the finishing touches on it, it's going to be really stunning!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Reunions are a great time to find out whatever happened to your former classmates and teachers. Sometimes it's not all good news.

We are planning the 50th anniversary of my high school class of 1960. How I can go to a 50th anniversary when I'm only about 35 years old myself, I don't understand, but such are the vagaries of time and memory.

I've been in contact with the woman who apparently is the principal organizer of such events for my school. My school, of course, is a misnomer, since "my school" was bulldozed back in the 1960s. In my day, we were punished if caught fraternizing with the boys in the high school a block away. Now they have combined the two schools into one giant co-ed Catholic school. "St. Vincent" no longer exists, but Cathedral Sacred Heart is its new name.

The organizer asked me if I would like to help with plans for our big 5-0 and I said yes, though I am pesimistic about how many people will show up. We were a class of sixty and I always say we were the least spirited class in the history of the school. Nobody ever wanted to do anything and that seems to have carried over into post-graduation. I think five people showed up at our 25th, and one of those said her curiosity had been satisfied and she didn't think she'd be back.

Five more (a different five--not me this time) showed up at the 40th and it will be interesting to see who showed up this time. I didn't go to the 40th, quite frankly, because I was embarrassed about my weight. But now the hell with it. It's the 50th and what the heck--let it all hang out.

The interesting thing about talking with the organizer (or should I say listening to the organizer, since she's really a talker!) was hearing about old teachers, most of whom are dead.

My Freshman homeroom teacher, it turns out, lives in Los Angeles and I was able to get her address and dashed off a quick note to her, updating her on my life, sending her photos, and thanking her for the good influence she was on me in the two years I spent with her in that school.

There were the sisters (Daughters of Charity are "sisters" not "nuns." I used to know the distinction, but I don't any more!) who have died, many of them. They were all 95 years old (or so I thought) back in 1960, so that didn't surprise me.

But the big shock was about one of my favorite teachers, a lay teacher (whose name -- and the subject she taught -- I will not mention, in case her family would be embarrassed by it). She was always one of my favorites and I took classes from her for two or three years. I think I also was in contact with her at least once after graduation. I knew her address and probably wrote to her.

Many years ago, I happened to come across her obituary. The cause of death was not given, but as her son's obituary was also in the paper that day, I just assumed that it had been an auto accident. I sent a note of condolence to her family and received a kind of a strangely terse reply.

It wasn't until today that I discovered that this woman killed her son and then killed herself. I'm still in shock by that. If you could have lined up all of the teachers I have had throughout my life and would be one of the last I would think would snap like that. What a sad thing. She had shared other sadnesses in her life with us once, because it was necessary for a project we were preparing. But she seemed to have overcome that and gotten on with her life.

Sometimes it's not entirely wonderful to find out what happened to people in your distant past! I also discovered that 7 of my classmates have died, which I suppose is not surprising, but sad nonetheless.

We've had storms passing through here all day, including one with torrential rain and hail (which fortunately didn't last more than 10 minutes). It's been very exciting. Fortunately, I finished the song-writing project that has been plaguing me for a week (Oh how I understand poets who are so proud of having written one line in a day!) and my next project is to prepare for an interview with an old acquaintance of mine, who has recently written a book. So when you see me curled up in the recliner, with two happy dogs on my lap and a book in my hands, know that I am hard at work.

Thursday Thirteen

Favorite Star Trek (TOS) Episodes
(Not necessarily in order...except for the first two)

1. The Trouble with Tribbles
2. City on the Edge of Forever
3. Amok Time
4. A Piece of the Action
5. The Squire of Gothos
6. Shore Leave
7. Miri
8. I, Mudd
9. The Mark of Gideon
10. Requiem for Methusala
11. Bread and Circuses
12. The Devil in the Dark
13. Let That Be Your Last Battlefield

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Frantic Fears in Haiti

I know something about the loss of a child. I know something about hanging onto hope despite all evidence to the contrary (waiting in the emergency room hoping against hope that they would be able to revive Paul). I know what it does to your heart, to your head, to your stomach. I know something about grasping at straws.

So I don't feel too uncharitable in speaking about the families of the four students and two faculty members still apparently buried in the rubble of the hotel in Haiti. There may still be one or more alive, but it has been so long that the chances are so slim and there are fewer and fewer straws to grasp onto with each passing day.

I've seen the families on television two days in a row now, complaining that there has been too little effort, and demanding the Obama, as a father, take pity on these students and send "a thousand troops" to the hotel, if necessary, to rescue them.

As I said, my heart goes out to the families, but their growing anger and demands in the face of such overwhelming odds when there are so many thousands of survivors who are in desperate need of assistance does little to evoke sympathy.

How can you look at the endless photos and videos of thousands of people all roaming the area looking for loved ones, stacking up the dead bodies, crying because a parent or a child has been killed, how can you hear about the problems of getting help in to an airport that has no more room for planes to land or gasoline for them to take off again, a port that is destroyed and is unaccessible and go on television to claim that the United States must take all of its troops and go to a hotel and help find a handful of students who are, I hesitate to say it, almost assuredly dead by now.

One distraught father cried out in such pain as he pleaded, "We need government intervention. The United States of America needs to get to the hotel and get our children now!" A mother says "We're Americans. We can work miracles. We need a miracle now."

I know they are doing what they feel they must do and Lord knows if it were one of my kids, I might be doing the same thing. I hope they get their miracle, but it puts them in a bad light when they essentially demand that the United States put all of its efforts into saving six of its own when so many thousand Haitians need our assistance as well.

Sometimes, and I speak from painful experience, you have to accept that miracles don't happen just because we want them so badly, and that's when the long period of healing finally begins.

But hey...Leno's coming back to 11:30. Charlie Rose spent 15 minutes talking with Katie Couric about Haiti and 30 minutes talking with NBC's Jeff Zucker about the Leno/O'Brien dust up. At least here at home we have our priorities straight.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What Happened to Osaka?

"Did you hear Osaka Sushi closed?" Walt asked.

My jaw dropped open. How could Osaka be gone?

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But yes, it's gone. A little internet sleuthing showed that it was apparently abandoned in December and Walt says he read that there was some sort of notice about the abandoned fish in the tank. Someone else said she heard that all of the locations of the restaurant had closed...just walked away from the place(s). Immigration issues may have been to blame. Rumors flying all over the place. "They fled, possibly went into hiding. Their employees didn't even get their final paychecks, right before Christmas too."

Usually when restaurants go, there is a bit of a disappointment, but somehow I feel a real sense of loss with Osaka. I learned to eat sushi in that restaurant, which was a favorite of some of the people who worked at Women's Health. Even now if I were to call RoseMarie she would suggest we meet at Osaka (though, since she lives across the street, she obviously knows it is no more).

The office had a couple of parties there, to welcome a new doctor or midwife to the practice.

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Paul loved sushi and whenever Walt was on a business trip, Paul and I would usually go to Osaka at least once for lunch or dinner, sit at the sushi bar and talk about all the problems of either Paul's world or the world in general. I loved those Osaka times with Paul.

I remember shortly after Paul died, I went to Osaka by myself and sat at the sushi bar, pretending that Paul was back with me again, discussing the problems of the world. I still went to Osaka from time to time, but after that first time, I didn't pretend Paul was with me. I just went because I liked the food.

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I remember the year when we decided to celebrate his birthday with dinner there. We have a cluster of birthdays at the start of the new year. Paul was 1/28, David was 2/4, I'm 2/17 and Walt is 2/26. Paul and David were the only of our kids living in Davis that year, so the four of us went to Osaka for dinner. Paul flirted with the waitress that night and there seemed to be a spark between them, so when 2/4 rolled around and we were thinking about to do for David's birthday, being a good brother, he suggested we go back to Osaka so Paul could continue flirting with the waitress. But she wasn't there that night.

Being a good Mom, I also suggested that we spend my birthday at Osaka, still hoping to catch the waitress again, but it was obviously hopeless. But by now we had eaten there for three birthdays and decided to be really silly and go there for Walt's birthday too (though by that time I think that we had all switched to cooked food instead of sushi!)

I liked the spicy tuna and the inari, but I had a real fondness for the Maki, of course, since it had a big ol' juicy fried shrimp inside! I always wondered how much avocado there was in Japan (or, in the case of the Philadelphia roll, how much cream cheese!)

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On the first anniversary of David's death, we stayed at home and had Kraft dinner (his favorite--we even served a huge bowl of it at his memorial service), but on the first anniversary of Paul's death, we went to Osaka. Over the past several years it has evolved that we eat dinner each year on Paul's birthday and David's birthday, and on the two anniversaries of their deaths at Osaka.

This morning I realized we have to come up with a new routine, since Osaka is dead too, now. Wherever the former owners of Osaka are now, I'm sorry your business fell victim to the economy. I wish you well...and thanks for decades of memories.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Mother of Invention

I actually got out of Kathy's house earlier than I planned this morning. My goal was to return home in time for the Golden Globes and put in as many miles as possible before the oncoming predicted storm, but figured that realistically I wouldn't be able to visit, pack, and leave the house until 9. But to my surprise Kathy and Lynn both woke up early, so I was all ready to leave at 8. Terrific!

I didn't need the GPS to find my way home. I had the last bit of the Harry Bosch book on the iPod and figured I would finish it about 3 hours before I got home and could start a new one (I had another one waiting). The sun was shining. The sky was clear. The mountains were beautiful. And I had caught up on some sleep in the last two days, so I was really in pretty good shape.

All was going along OK until I came to the Harris Ranch. The Harris Ranch has been a San Joaquin Valley landmark for over half a century and is this big sprawling inn, restaurant and ubiquitous store, where they sell their famous beef among lots of other souvenir-type products. More importantly, it has a bathroom, which I sorely needed about that time.

The Harris Ranch is located about halfway between Ventura and Davis and was a good spot to relieve and refresh. I did my business, bought some little orange hard candies (for 25 cents--I didn't realize you could find candy that cheap any more!) to give me a pick-me-up when needed.

It had started to rain by the time I returned to the car so I figured I was in for the deluge before I got home.

I got back in the car, set up the iPod again, turned on the motor ... and there was no sound from the iPod, though I could see that it was running.

We play the iPod in the car by putting a special casette in the casette player and connecting it to the iPod. Somehow it reads what the iPod is playing and the sound comes out the car's radio speakers. This is the real low-tech way to play something from the iPod and only cost $20 when I bought it several years ago.

But apparently its time had come. When I removed the casette to look at it, the tape that runs through it was just...gone. I was going to be left high and dry right at the crux of Harry Bosch's investigation and would never know who had killed Tony Aliso, at least not until I got home. But worse, there were about 3 hours of road ahead of me, I was already feeling sleepy, and what would I listen to?

Well, it turned out that the only station I could get clearly was playing this idiotic talk show which I discovered, after some time, was Glen Beck. This guy actually has listeners? I swear in the 30 minutes I listened to him, he never finished a sentence or completed a thought. He would yell out terrible accusations and then say "but I'll explain that later" and then move on to a totally new topic.

After 30 minutes I couldn't stand any more, but I couldn't get any other clear radio station, so I had an interesting idea. The computer had been plugged in all night so it had maximum charge on the battery. Maybe I could set up the laptop and plug the iPod into it and maybe the volume would be high enough that I could hear it while I drove.

cariPod.jpg (42339 bytes)I set the computer up like this, stuffing purse, camera bag and other stuff next to it, in case the computer slid toward the floor. I plugged the iPod into it and ...voila! There was Harry Bosch again, interrogating the person who was confessing to the murder. I was in!

It wasn't quite as good as listening through the car speakers, and I was concerned that I would run out of batteries, but it worked and the battery lasted all the way.

I was rather proud of myself for figuring out this work-around! (Necessity had become the mother of invention.)

The only time I had problem was when the skies opened up. It rained so hard it was difficult to hear because of all the rain falling on the roof of the car, even with all volumes turned to high. But fortunately the hard rain didn't last too long. By the time the book had come to the end, I was within 40 miles of home--and Says You was coming on live instead of a recording, so I had no problem staying awake.

The dogs were thrilled to see me when I got home (Walt was in the Bay Area at a Lamplighters show). They were a little unhappy when I raced in and directly into the bathroom, but we had time for treats and cuddles eventually--and I was here 15 minutes before the Golden Globes broadcast started!

All in all, not a bad day!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

"The Best Party Ever"

Lynn just came to say goodnight, on her way to bed. She was still floating on a cloud and said that her birthday party had been "the best day ever."

The house was a beehive of activity. all so organized by Kathy that I felt like a bump on a log, so just stayed out of the way, watching the slide show that Lynn's brother-in-law had put together.

Lynn has two sons, the older, Andy, lives in Texas and had flown out here with Lynn for the party. Matt lives in Amsterdam with his wife and 9 month old son. Lynn had been to The Netherlands this year to see the family, but was still sad that Matt wouldn't be able to be here for the party. So it was a total shock when she walked into the living room and saw him there (you might be able to see the video here but it might not be visible until I get home to work on it).

Andy, Lynn, Matt

NOBODY except Andy knew Matt was coming, so every time someone new saw him, it was shock all over again.

The third sister and her husband arrived and we decided to take pictures before everyone got too harried.

Fran, Lynn, and Kathy (the hostess)

Gifts were opened. One gift, a beautiful ring, was a gift from all the family so they took a group photo, into which young Luke decided to insert himself.

Today was actually Andy's birthday (Lynn's is really tomorrow), so he got gifts too, especially these lovely pink underpants which they bought for him at a local massage parlor.

There are few men who could carry off this look, but Andy did it with aplomb.... and a lot of laughs.

When it was time for cake, Lynn led everybody in singing to her.

When everybody had gone home, we sat around rehashing the day--and giving some attention to Shorty.

Kathy, who had done yeomen's duty for the day was definitely ready to call it a night.

So, all things considered, it was a great success and Lynn has been well feted, which should hold her until her 70th, ten years from now!

I'm leaving here at the crack of dawn tomorrow, hoping to get as far as I can before the predicted storm hits.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

From the Southland

I have arrived in Ventura. It was a long day and, I have to admit that it was one of the hardest drives I've made in a very long time. I suppose waking up at 4 a.m. was partly to blame, but I was sleepy before I ever got out of the extended Sacramento area and must have stopped 6-8 times on the way down (nearly 400 miles) just to wake up.

Polly must have figured something was afoot and she decided she wanted to go with me, I think.

There was a bit of excitement when I went to load the car because I forgot about Spencer and as soon as he saw an open door he was gone. The other dogs know not to do that. But Spencer, being a whippet, was fast as lightning and racing up and down the block and, more scary, back and forth across the street.

Fortunately as soon as I made it a game for him, he ran toward me and Walt grabbed him and stuck him in the house, so I was finally on my way.

McDonald's was my friend and I stopped at several just to wake myself up. There was, for example, iced mocha at Flag City and lunch at the McDonald's near the Harris Ranch.

I had the Garmin GPS British voiced "Daniel" to guide me and my Harry Bosch audiobook to be read to me, for for once, even Harry Bosch couldn't keep me from getting sleepy.

I pulled off just before the Grapevine, the big hill that goes up to 4,000+ feet and takes you out of the valley, to get gas. There were hundreds of birds flying around and resting on the lawn, seeming unafraid of the cars driving very close to them.

It was also very windy here, and concentrating on that and the big semi trucks on the road definitely woke me up.

I arrived here just about 6 p.m., in time to put my suitcase inside, pee, and get back into Lynn's sister's car so we could go and visit Monica, Lynn's niece. Lynn had been here a day, but had not yet seen Monica's two kids yet.

This is Morgan, who is 3 months younger than Bri and just adorable.

After our pizza, we came home to the family dog, Shorty.

Lynn says he's 97 years old in human years. And he has almost no legs at all, but he's very sweet.

Lynn's brother-in-law is a man after my own heart.

He has his own corner with his recliner, his dog, all the TV remotes, and a computer stand on an adjustable pole, where he can work on the computer using the house wifi while he watches The Food Network. I would have been jealous, except that I have most of that stuff myself--just not quite so organized.

Everyone was in bed by 9 p.m., leaving me time to get this entry written and I might actually catch up on some sleep that I missed out on last night.