Archive for January, 2013

Honking

January 31, 2013

This morning I drove my daughter to a rehearsal. She’s been accepted to play flute in a band made up of the best in the county, and it was important we be on time.

We had enough time to get there, but we were cutting it close.

On a narrow road that leads out of our neighborhood, a woman was stopped right in the street, chatting through her open window with a woman in another car.

I waited.

My daughter said, “Just honk at them. Why won’t you ever honk?” So I told her.

My Oldest Friend and I were newly licensed at 16,  driving through a nearby small town where her grandparents had a shop. 

It was a beautiful day. We had the windows down in her hand-me-down Datsun that you could start with a nickel if you didn’t have the key.

She was driving, and she upset another driver.

He blasted his horn. My Oldest Friend threw her head back and laughed. She called, “Ah ha! I made you honk.”

I was totally impressed.

This struck me as profound. That guy gave her the power to make him angry, but she wasn’t about to give her power away. She was so cool, she was amused.

I haven’t honked since — until this morning.

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The map story

January 30, 2013

Tonight’s story was my son’s choice.

When I was in seventh grade I had Mr. Snodgress for social studies. Mr. Snodgress was one of the best teachers I had, and I remember many things he taught or said.

But he was funny about maps.

Every week he passed out a blank map with a couple of continents on it. We were to get Color-Rite pencils, color at a 30-degree angle with a light touch and rub over the finished product with a Kleenex to soften the lines.

Fine.

The he started going on about the compasses. Mr. Snodgress wanted compasses with more pizzazz. We were slow to learn he didn’t want a plain cross with N, S, E, W at the points.

Cheeky punk that I was, I drew an elaborate full-figure Popeye, arms outstretched toward east and west. It took up the whole Atlantic Ocean.

It was a masterpiece. It was shaded and detailed from pipe to shoes. It was rubbed with a Kleenex. Vigorously.

The next Monday he was handing back the maps. He made it plain he recognized the sass, but he chuckled and breathed deeply before clarifying his compass request.

I don’t remember all the words. He started with something like, “When I said to make your compass nice…,” and ended with something like “not what I meant.”

But I remember the middle exactly: Probably the best drawing of Popeye I’ve ever seen.

The answering machine message

January 29, 2013

I asked my daughter which story I should write about today, and she chose this one.

When I was 18 my girlfriend Boom Boom and I had an apartment, in which we would watch the Mel Brooks movie Spaceballs. We couldn’t get enough of the little alien who bursts from the guy’s belly, puts on a flat straw hat and sings “Hello My Baby” ragtime-style on a diner counter.

We wrote this outgoing message, which we sang into our answering machine:

Hello my baby,

Hello my honey,

Sorry we’re not at home….

Just leave your name and

Just leave your number.

We’ll call you on the phone! (big crescendo at the end, followed by our own applause.)

One night we came home to a message from Boom Boom’s father, who was never effusive with praise, “You damned crazy kids!” That was the whole message.

Boom Boom started to cry. “He liked it.”

Holding hands

January 28, 2013

My son is 16.

When he was an infant in my arms, I showed him off to one of my husband’s co-workers. Her son was 16 at the time.

Teary-eyed she told me she had realized the other day that he doesn’t hold her hand anymore.

“I wish I had known, that last time, that it was the last time,” she said.

This haunted me.

When my son was old enough to hold my hand, I ordered, “Warn me before you stop holding my hand.”

Everytime he held my hand he would say, “Don’t worry Mama, this isn’t the last time.”

I just realized the other day, one of those times was a lie.

The Twilight Zone

January 27, 2013

Today my daughter and I stayed home sick. We bundled under Granny Jane’s afghan with tea and watched a Twilight Zone marathon.

When this show is on, one of us has to say, “Remember that time…?”

Here’s what happened that time.

We were on a road trip to see everybody and everything worth seeing in the USA via minivan. We had six VHS tapes packed with Twilight Zone episodes and a portable TV/VCR in the back.

We weren’t watching it, because I was reading Tom Sawyer out loud, and whenever I tried to stop, everybody hollered for more. But on a stretch between Boulder and Mount Rushmore we decided to pop in an episode so I could eat a PB&J. It was July 21.

The first episode on the tape was “One for the Angels,” in which Ed Wynn is visited by a man — death — come to take him to the other side.

Wynn argues with him, but death insists, showing him his appointment book, “Look here, it says I am to pick up Lew Bookman, that’s you, at 1:36 p.m. on July 21, that’s now.”

Dad called from the driver’s seat, “What’s today’s date?”

Whoa!

We all looked up at the clock. It was 1:36 p.m.

Whoa! We had been changing time zones everyday, and we watched only one episode out of 70.

So we did what all red-blooded Americans do when faced with eerie coincidence. We sang the Twilight Zone theme.

The dirty bootie story

January 26, 2013

My oldest friend is who persuaded me to blog. We e-mail each other in the evenings. Last night, this educated woman who has a baby and a preschooler asked me, “How do you have time to post a blog every day?”

“My kids wipe their own asses,” I said. Oh old friend, your time will come. But this reminded me of a story.

Will you believe I have an ass-wiping story?

We used to listen to these children’s songs tapes, which included the catchy “Meet Me in St. Louis.”

One night my son was sitting on his training potty, singing this song loudly. We could hear him from the kitchen. Then it was quiet.

Then we heard, “Wipe me up, my bootie, bootie. Wipe me up down there. Don’t be rough or I’ll start whining. Wipe me up with care….”

There was more, but my husband and I were laughing and we missed it.

My son cracks me up

January 25, 2013

When my son was in first grade, and my daughter in preschool, we bought a three-story, turn-of-the-century house. It was 4,000 square feet and had ornate woodwork throughout.

My kids had heard me excitedly telling family or friends about the house we were buying, and started repeating my words in a way that made them sound a little too proud. It made me embarrassed.

One afternoon my daughter’s friend was in the car with us, coming over to play. I was afraid the kids would start in about the house, so I said, “I hope you were warned about our house.”

“It’s more of a shack,” I said, and went on to describe a pretty sad but survivable place. “In fact, we don’t have a bathroom. We use a cup.”

“But good news!” chimed in my son, who had been quiet to this point. “We each have our own cup.”

link to photos

The trumpet story

January 24, 2013

My son is walking around humming “Dust in the Wind.” I told him I have the sheet music, and that it’s fun to put the synthesizer on the violin setting and play the instrumental solo.

This reminds me of something I tried to get away with when I was 18.

I had gotten that keyboard for my 18th birthday. It’s a Roland HS-80, and has great tone quality and can do many things. I am not tech savvy enough to appreciate most of the features, but I have always had fun playing Jingle Bells in fart sounds.

There was a busboy at work who was calling me. We were getting ready to be boyfriend and girlfriend, and were in that talking-on-the-phone, finding-out-we’re-perfect-for-each-other-because-we-both-know-how-to-get-Oxy-back-in-the-tube stage.

He told me he played the trumpet.

“I can play the trumpet!” I lied. “Wanna hear me?”

I put my keyboard on the trumpet setting and played him a song. After a few measures I said, “Here’s my favorite part.”

“Hey! How can you talk while you’re playing a trumpet?”

Busted.

The weather

January 23, 2013

One day when I was subbing I asked a student to take the attendance to the office.

“Is it cold out?” she asked.

I told her, “Yes, but it’s a dry cold.”

This tickled me, particularly because it was raining.

JonBenet

January 22, 2013

CNN.com is reporting a new district attorney in Boulder is looking into the JonBenet Ramsey murder.

That murder is the reason we left Boulder.

When I was a single college student, I lived with a girlfriend in the front half of an unimposing duplex near the university. It was a flat box of a house with no personality. After I moved in, I walked over to the most impressive house on the block, took a picture, and mailed it home to California with a note saying, ‘Here’s my new place.’ It was the Ramsey house.

As a newlywed a year later, I bought my first house across the street from the Ramsey’s block. In the five years I lived in the neighborhood, I never met the Ramseys.

By 1996 I was working in the newsroom at the local paper. My parents and grandparents had come visiting for the holidays. Even on Christmas night I had to work, but I got to clock in later than usual — 9 p.m. instead of 7.

I invited my family to drive me to work, using the opportunity to drive around looking at Christmas lights. The last house I took them to see before they dropped me at work was the Ramsey home.

‘Recognize this one?’ I teased. It was about 8:58 p.m.

The murder was a big story in Boulder. It was hard to work, because every night someone was in my way — Geraldo Rivera, ABC Atlanta, Dateline, they were all in the newsroom at some point. One night I came in and Katie Couric was being filmed sitting on my desk.

There was chaos. Officers were alluding to knowledge. One reporter hung up and rolled her eyes next to me, “He said ‘I don’t want to say we have a suspect, but there were no footprints in the snow.’ ”

The paper ran with it, only to run a clarification that there was no snow on the whole south yard, which is where the broken window to the basement was.

Meanwhile, there was “a killer on the loose.” We saw it on TV. Patty said it in her first interview on CNN. “If I were a resident of Boulder, I would tell my friends to keep your babies close to you, there’s someone out there.”

Wait a minute. I was a Boulder resident. I had babies.

I was up checking on them throughout the night. The last time JonBenet was seen alive was an hour after we went by, when her mother tucked her in bed. On the nights I was home to do that, I couldn’t put that thought aside. I fought that, because I could see I was missing the tucking with all the imagining.

I couldn’t escape it. The paper more than covered this story. We smothered ourselves with it.

I had to get away. My last day at work in Boulder was eight months after the murder. Dateline NBC cameramen were in the newsroom.

Enough.

The homeless guy story

January 21, 2013

Starbucks is running a new campaign, inspired by President Obama’s call for service. If you pledge five hours of community service of any kind, you get a free coffee.

Here’s my first experience with community service. It was unplanned.

When I lived in the Bay Area, I drove into San Francisco to meet a friend after work. My friend worked in a fancy hotel. Though I lived a few minutes from The City, I avoided it because of the homeless. It tormented me. I couldn’t sleep at night when it was cold for thinking of them.

So I grimaced when my friend said he wasn’t off yet. There was a man with a guitar and a turned-up hat sitting on the sidewalk by the hotel entrance, where I was to wait.

He sounded pretty good.

I stood there a minute trying not to be noticed, but he shouted at me. He wanted to know my name.

He wrote an impromptu song about my beauty. This was his shtick, but it wasn’t very effective, based on the coins in his hat.

I didn’t have any money to give him. So on top of the pity, I had guilt.

Out of panic, I asked if he knew ‘Proud Mary.’ I thought I was brilliant. I was distracting him from noticing I wasn’t giving him money.

“Do you?” he asked. Shoot. Don’t insult me. “Sing with me,” he said.

So I sat on the ground next to him, backs against the wall, and said, “Left a good job in the city….”

We made more than a hundred bucks.

A happening

January 20, 2013

In my lifetime, today happened.

My daughter asked to miss school to accompany me to a brunch this morning, where people were gathering to watch President-elect Obama be sworn in.

It was an emotionally charged morning. I sat at a table between my parents, across from my grandmother and my daughter, and watched a black man become my president. I tried to eat, but I couldn’t swallow. I guess there was too much proud in my throat.

When the oath was finished, and President Obama said, “So help me God,” we cried. People stood and clapped. And embraced. Celebration drove a need to hold one another.

I love what happens to us during historic moments. We have happenings. People came together to watch Neil Armstrong set the first footprint on the moon. We came together to grieve on Sept. 11 2001. We came together today. We gather to watch, to rejoice, to share awe or fear, to support and to touch.

On the way home, my daughter, who is 14, said, “It must be a bigger deal than I can understand that he’s black.” What a beautiful statement of how far we’ve come.

It was only a year away from being in my husband’s lifetime that Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, outlawing racial discrimination in schools and employment — and in public. It wasn’t until 1965 that the Voting Rights Act enforced blacks’ suffrage. That was within my husband’s lifetime.

And now today happened. And my daughter doesn’t see a black man; she just sees a man.

Today, as always, I celebrate being an American. Today, as I do every four years, I celebrate the right to participate in my government. And today, for the first time, I celebrate that the people of my country chose to turn to a man for leadership, who in my parents’ lifetime would have been legally beaten in the doorway while watching his light-skinned brothers register to vote.

At dinner with my family tonight, I will raise a glass to the following people: every American soldier who has shed blood or was willing to shed blood protecting my right to vote, read a newspaper and choose my own church; Harriet Tubman; Dred Scott; Rosa Parks; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Sen. Lyndon Baines Johnson; and President Barack Obama.

I salute their courage — and as I was reminded this morning — their hope and virtue.

How we met

January 19, 2013

I just drove my husband to the airport. The first time I laid eyes on him was in an airport.

Several Rainforest Action Groups from around the country were going to Hawaii for a protest. I was going as a newspaper reporter.

It was morning, almost 22 years ago, when I lay over a waiting chair at SFO listening to a bunch a hippies panic that their friend — the responsible one — wasn’t anywhere to be found.

I hoped he wouldn’t show, because we were on the same flight and I had a friend with a standby ticket.

At the last minute, a boy in a dress shirt and slacks with great need of a haircut came running into the gate, rugby duffel bag flying from his shoulder. His eyes were almost turquoise. I licked my lips. Then I got on the plane and slept for six hours.

In Honolulu we had to change planes before proceeding to the Big Island. To do this, we rode a tram across the airport. I hung back and watched the late but responsible friend interact with the hippies. He was attentive to everyone. He smiled when he talked. He seemed to be their leader.

I was thinking, he fits the description an interviewee gave me when I did a story on astrology a week ago. If there’s anything to it, he’s an Aries. I didn’t think there was anything to it, but I walked across the tram to where he was standing, (he had given a lady his seat,) and asked him if he was.

He was.

Then I took a shot at dumb luck. I put on my confident face and announced his birthday. Who knew my luck was so dumb? I hit it dead on.

Because I hoped he would follow me, I refused to tell him how I knew. I just walked away.

It worked.

link to photos

The mansion

January 18, 2013

My goddaughter called me this afternoon. She’s planning her wedding and wanted to know the name of the mansion where I married. She was 3 then, and served as my flower girl.

I loved the opportunity to tell her the story of that mansion, because it stars her mother.

In the late ’70s Linda Blair and Vincent Van Patten filmed a movie at this mansion. It was called Hell Night. There wasn’t much story. College pledges had to spend the night in the mansion, where a family was rumored to have been massacred. They don’t survive. It’s a slasher film with generous impalings and decapitations.

My goddaughter’s mother and I shared an apartment when we were 18. We had this plan that we were going to watch the movie at night, then drive over to the mansion, get out of the car and walk around the grounds.

The mansion is technically in a park, but it’s not the kind of park with a lawn and swings; it’s a forest with walking paths and a clearing up a winding drive for the mansion and gardens.

It always went the same way. We rented the movie, (at some point the video clerk started rolling his eyes at us.)  We watched the movie. We put on our jackets. Even if it was warm, we put on our jackets. It was part of the ritual.

We drove to the park. At the entrance to the estate, we looked at each other and held hands. We drove up the winding drive. We parked in the deserted lot.

We never once got out of the car.

Finally one of us would suggest we weren’t going to get out of the car.

We went home and watched The Three Stooges.

The Secret

January 17, 2013

Monday afternoons are girls’ time at my mom’s house. We sit around the table with coffee and something fattening. Some work on scrapbook albums, some just visit.

A few months ago my grandma was telling us about a book she had just read, called The Secret, (and by ‘read,’ I mean bought, put on the bookshelf and learned all about on Oprah).

She was explaining to us that you have to decide what you want and behave as if you already achieved your dream. She said we are magnets for positivity when we put positivity into the atmosphere.

“You attract what you put out,” she said.

“It’s true,” I said. “I attracted my husband by putting out.”

My mother-in-law’s story

January 16, 2013

We got a call from the East Coast tonight. My mother-in-law is in the hospital. Something is amok with her legs. We’re on stand by.

When she was a little girl starting elementary school, her father was captured as a prisoner of World War II by the Germans. A few years ago she gave us a tour of the small Massachusettes town she and her sister stayed in during that frightening time.

She started with the house — her aunt’s — and told us about her cousins, who were teen-agers and wore make up and heels. As she drove through the town, she showed us the path she and her sister took walking to school.

“This is where I hid my shoes,” she pointed.

Somehow she had acquired a pair of heels. Cluck-clucks, she called them. She wasn’t allowed to wear them to school, but she did anyway. She hid them by the side of the road and changed en route. If I remember correctly, the cluck-clucks were much too big.

Even as I sit here, a responsible adult with a history of mischief, I am stunned by elders who admit they were once naughty.

My favorite part of this story was seeing her face as she told it. She was 7 again, excited about forbidden shoes.

The dead boyfriend discovery story

January 15, 2013

I was 17, and it was just after New Year’s. My Best Friend, three friends and I were cruising around, up to no good. I was driving.

Near to My Best Friend’s house, we saw stationary police lights.

“Hey, this is one of those checkpoints they’re doing to catch drunk drivers,” one of us said. I don’t know if this was a new practice, or just new to us, but we were curious about it.

We approached, but, being teen-agers up to no good, chickened out and turned the corner a block early. We went to My Best Friend’s house.

After a period of restlessness, we piled back into my car and went to watch the police catch drunk people. 

It wasn’t a checkpoint.

There was a motorcycle on the ground, and a boy lying very still. We couldn’t get close enough to get a good view, but we parked and stared.

“Best Friend,” I started hestitantly. “Doesn’t that look like David’s bike?” David was My Best Friend’s boyfriend.

“I guess,” she said casually, “but he’s working tonight.”

I got out of the car and walked over to an officer. I found out that the motorcyclist wasn’t carrying identification. They didn’t know who it was. I didn’t look at the boy. I acted casual to My Best Friend, “Let’s go back to your place.”

When we got there, still trying to appear calm, I suggested we call the grocery deli where David worked and see when he gets off. His boss said he got off early; he should be home by now. I said, “Hey we have nothing better to do, let’s call him at home and see if he wants to join us.”

His sister said he wasn’t home. He was at work. Was he wearing the new helmet he got for Christmas? No. Does he have his wallet? No, he forgot it on the dresser. Uh oh.

I don’t know now how I got the nerve, but I mentioned there was an accident around the corner from his house. I remember saying, “It’s probably nothing, but there was a motorcycle there.”

It was him, and he was dead.

He was hit by a Greyhound bus, the driver of which hadn’t taken his insulin and was declared to be completely at fault. Apparently this approximates driving drunk.

A few days later My Best Friend and I were alone in the mortuary viewing David. He looked different, rubbery. My Best Friend was sobbing.

It was one of my first experiences with death. It was profound. He was just there the other day, and now he doesn’t exist. Where is he? And wow, David knows what happens when you die.

But I learned something, too. If blood isn’t circulating, hickeys are forever.

Archery

January 14, 2013

Three years ago I was substitute teaching some for extra money, (my real job is as a copy editor.)

One day I was at my old junior high school taking over a friend’s English class on what I still think of as the archery field.

The children were fascinated to know PE class used to include a week of archery. I was fascinated that anyone would think this was a good thing. Archery terrifies me.

And as so often happens, I started explaining, and it started sounding ridiculous to me….

Every year in spring Mrs. Tilson marched us across the campus in our little white shorts and bright yellow — which they cooled up by calling ‘gold’ — striped T-shirts. We stood with our backs to the busy street, facing blocks of hay with targets on them, and heard about the dangers of the feathers.

That’s right, the feathers.

‘Don’t get your fingers in the way of the feathers,’ is how the speech began. ‘When they whiz by, they’re like razors. They will cut your fingers.’

And then came the worst part. Mrs. Tilson told about the kid who held the arrow too close to his face, and when he released it, a feather sliced his eyeball in half.

In preparation for writing this entry, I Googled ‘archery dangers,’ ‘feather dangers’ and ‘archery safety tips.’

Guess what. Mrs. Tilson is the only one who knows about the feathers.

Dinner talk

January 13, 2013

My son reports that his high school drama department announced this year’s musical.  It’s called, ‘Once upon a Mattress.

“I know that one,” I said. “It’s the story of The Princess and the Pea.”

“It sounds like a porno,” he said.

“That version would be the story of The Princess and the Penis,” I said.

Drinking

January 12, 2013

I romanticize the idea of having a drink.

When I picture myself at a to-do in a cocktail dress with my heels going click click and my lips all slimy with dark lipstick, I’m slinky with a glass of red wine in my hand.

I see myself having macho fun at a poker table gripping a beer bottle by the neck.

And when i imagine a cold night by the fire, it’s complete with a hot buttered rum.

But I’m a lousy drinker. More than two and I’m sleepy, dizzy and starting a headache. And if I’m having two, I’d better have water in between.

I used to work at an iconic restaurant and bar across from the university in Boulder called The Sink. Fun fact: Robert Redford was once a janitor there.

At this bar there are murals and sayings on the wall, and the bartender supplies markers for customers to add graffiti of their own.

Someone once left a gem that struck a chord with me:

One to be social

Two for the toast

Three and I’m under the table

Four and I’m under the host.

The fight story

January 11, 2013

As far as fighting siblings go, I’m a lucky mom.

But last night while I was in the kitchen I could hear those voices that get right under the nerves between my shoulder blades. They use these voices when they’re doing their little dance between outright being bad and not making any effort to keep peace. It involves a ridiculous volley of saying the other person’s name in a warning tone, and making an overly innocent expression.

I can deduce what was going on. My son adores his sister, but he makes sport of annoying her. I’m pretty sure he was doing something with her calculator he thought was funny. He’s funny, but she doesn’t always think so.

My daughter is calm, patient and smart. She stands a lot of button-pushing before she responds, and that she does with flair.

The first time she lost her temper she was 4. Her brother was 6. I don’t know what they were on about, but I walked in the room to see her tiny hands fisted and her face red.

“That’s it!” she exploded. “The next time I have poop on my finger, guess who I’m gonna wipe it on.”

Clarifying

January 10, 2013

The saying, ‘righty tighty; lefty loosey’ always confused me.

Regardless of which way you turn something, either the top or the bottom is going left, and the other is going right.

So I raised my children with this handy saying: Clockwise tighty; counterclockwise loosey.

The earthquake

January 9, 2013

I live in Southern California. Last night we had a lengthy earthquake, and both of my children were somewhere else. It was a small quake — initially reported as a 5, then downgraded to  4.5 — but still the phone lines were clogged for a few minutes. Because of this realization, I was more afraid after the quake than during.

Naturally, I have an earthquake story.

It was October 17, 1989, and I had just been named the news editor of my college newspaper in Los Altos Hills, which is just south of San Francisco.

I was in a happy bubble as I drove home through the old-fashioned downtown at 5 o’clock. There were mom-and-pop shops with picture windows on both sides of the little streets. Knick knacks, ice cream, records — Los Altos is great for shopping.

Stop signs keep the cars moving slowly through the area, but the tailgating guy behind me was impatient. He would move to the side, as if to see if he could go around me. I remember I thought, ‘I’m a real journalist now. You can’t spoil my mood.’ But I knew he was angry.

At the third stop sign, I felt the car start to idle hard. This wasn’t unusual. Then it bucked a little, and I thought, ‘That guy got out of his car and started jumping on my bumper!’

As I turned around to scowl at him, I heard, ‘Get away from the windows!’ A woman ran out of a store into the street and stopped in front of me, holding her pre-teen daughter protectively under hunched shoulders. That’s the image I hold the strongest. That woman trying to shelter her daughter in panic.

I panicked too, trying to think if I had ever heard something like, turn off the engine or your car will explode; or roll down the windows or they’ll shatter. I thought it was The Big One I’d been advised to handle my whole life, and I couldn’t remember any of the advice. I shut off the engine and rolled down the windows.

I was one block from the intersection at the expressway, and I saw the asphalt there roll like an ocean wave, toppling the red-light signal as it changed to green and flickered out.

I had to drive around the downed signal to head into the mountains going home. That made me cry, but I didn’t understand why. I cried all the way home.

When I got there, I went directly to my phone — stepping over a bookcase, tapes, my little face-down TV — and called my parents. I was surprsied to get an open line. I kept my message brief because I knew the line would clog: I’m OK; I’ll call you tomorrow.

Then I called my paper’s managing editor. I was a journalist after all. ‘Mike, you’ll never guess what happened to me on the way home from your house! I’m heading to the campus.’

Mike argued with me, but I was a real journalist.

Finally he said, ‘Hey.’

‘What?’

‘Take your camera.’

It was a darn good thing he said that.

I interviewed and photographed students sitting on knolls, riding out the aftershocks removed from the danger of buildings. I captured the aisles of the library, piled feet high with books. I got some rubble that had been a chimney.

And then the sun went down.

I had never been in darkness so total. If I hadn’t had that camera, I don’t know how I would have found my car. I made the flash go off and took a step. I went flash-step all the way to my car. I must have been the last one on campus.

As I had expected, the phone was out by the time I got home. The couple whose basement I lived in lent me a lantern. They had a transister radio going upstairs, where they listened in silence as they swept up the remains of all their colored-sand art jars.

We learned it was a 7.1.

School resumed a few days later when the power came back, but on Oct. 18 the dedicated staff met unsummoned in the newsroom. We pulled out manual typewriters to put together a special edition.

Everybody wanted to tell his earthquake story. They probably still do. Me too, apparently.

The deer story

January 8, 2013

My son is  getting his driver license. (I learned at work that there’s no apostrophe s in driver license. Who knew?)

An unpredictable driver shook him up a little bit Sunday when he was driving me to Costco, so I told him this story:

When I was 20 I moved from Los Altos Hills, Calif., to Boulder, Colo., to go attend college where my new boyfriend lived. He flew out to my place; we loaded my Camry with all my belongings, and we got on the highway.

It was afternoon when we drove through Lake Tahoe, which was beautiful. Like any 20-year-old in love, I slowed down through that area to give The Boyfriend time to have the idea of an impulsive wedding. I was practically at a crawl leaving that town.

By nighttime we were driving through a whole lot of  nothing. I had never seen places like this, and was astonished to know they existed. With developers running out of room in the Inland Empire, I had the urge to send them a note.

I was driving because The Boyfriend had something he needed to study for regarding his master’s degree.

Suddenly a deer stepped in front of us and stopped.

I must have been going at least 90 mph. I may have been sitting cross-legged and using cruise control. I know that’s how I drove a lot of that trip.

Quickly I tapped the brakes and swerved behind the deer, who galloped off.

Dr. Oz says memories are tied to emotions. This says something about my state at 20. I don’t remember any fear, or even relief at being alive after.

The reason I remember this adventure is The Boyfriend put his hand on mine and complimented my driving.

Another PTA, another ousting

January 6, 2013

When my children were in elementary school, I ran an after-school journalism program there, and taught kids how to make their own newspaper.

Based on this, the PTA made me the publicity chair. This would prove to be a mistake.

One of the first events of the year was a fund-raising effort wherein every child was told to sell lots of wrapping paper. I’m against this. It happened every year.

Children who got at least 10 orders were treated to a pizza party with a magician.

At the PTA meeting the year before, the principal — about whom I have nothing nice to say — mentioned that the party was going on in the cafeteria when she took the regular lunch kids through, and she pointed out to them that if they had sold their share, they would have been enjoying pizza and disappearing quarters.

I found her strutting distasteful. I hadn’t let my kids sell anything that year, because it embarrasses me to put friends and neighbors on the spot. That stuff is expensive. I went home from the meeting and asked my son if the principal had done and said that.

“Yeah.” He didn’t care. I make good lunches. I always put a comic strip in there.

Back to the following year, when I had a position on the board. I let my kids participate in the thing because they wanted to earn the little portable TV they could get if they got 100 orders. They were going to pool their sheets and split the prize.

My friend from work ordered some peanut brittle, and I said jokingly that his order would save them from being paraded through the party, being the 10th.

I forget my collegues have the power of the press. This particular friend was no longer at my paper. He was now a section editor at the rival one.

He wrote a section-front editorial on the shameful goings on at my children’s school.

Well, I was in charge of getting the place publicity….

Our stint as babysitters

January 5, 2013

One week the studio where I used to do my dance workouts begged a boon from all the members. They needed people to donate time in the childcare room.

My son and I volunteered to do it for one morning class.

Early in the hour a little boy came to me with untied shoes. I knelt and tied them.

He smiled proudly, reached for the laces ends and pulled them both free.

I tied them again. He untied them again. This went on until I realized I was an idiot and sent him to my son.

Toward the end of the hour he came back to me with untied laces.

“Tie shoes please.” He could speak? Who knew? I tied his shoes.

He untied them while saying, “Imp.”

I looked over my son, who was smiling proudly.

Who’s the bigger imp?

The Little League coach story

January 4, 2013

During the years my husband was the stay-at-home parent, he coached our son’s soccer and baseball teams.

Another father was a Little League coach of badness. He demeaned the boys, and encouraged bad sportsmanship. When they were in the outfield they would boo and yell insults at the batter and pitcher.

He was friendly to my husband and me, but I always dreaded playing his team. It made me sad.

One cold night I was watching practice before one of these games. His team had already warmed up on the diamond. Parents were beginning to fill in the bleachers.

One of the dads sat next to me and made small talk. “Big game tonight.”

“Yeah, and the mood will be crabby over here, you know, with the usual tsking about how mean that coach is, and how negative the team is.”

I should really look at who I’m talking to. It was the other coach, come over to wish me and mine luck.

The diet story

January 3, 2013

There is an oft-told story in my family about my mother as a little girl, overhearing Nana saying she was going to diet.

My mother screamed and ran from the room. Nana found her crying on the bed.

“Don’t die yet! Please don’t die yet!”

By the time Nana was in her 80s, we were all saying it.

The Rose Parade story

January 2, 2013

Around when my grama rounded 80 years, I started thinking that she was getting old.

She gave the illusion otherwise.

I also started taking the comments she made about what she’s always wanted to do as some manner of bucket list.

Among those comments was the annual “I’ve always wanted to go watch the Rose Parade.”

I learned there was a trip planned through her church, wherein people spent the night in a church on the route, got a pancake breakfast and were sent into the morning for float watching. That sounded nice.

We knew all the families going. It was perfect. The kids were excited. I signed us up.

This was the year the parade was on Jan. 2.

We played Chronology, which was new to us, and Taboo, of which my daughter is the master. Woo hooo, great fun all around, and our octogenarian was a sport about sleeping on the floor while teens watched DVDs of Curb Your Enthusiasm a few feet away.

In the morning everything went to pot. It was cold, windy and raining. Nana was undaunted. She piled blankets in her arms and said Let’s go.

We were not in a church on the route. We started walking and it never ended. It was more than a mile. The rain was making our blankets heavy, and Nana can’t walk far, so it was slow traveling. Our hats, scarves and sweatshirts were useless in the wet. I wanted to throw the blankets down and leave them.

Finally we found our group on cold metal folding chairs in front of a bar, which was closed. Nana and I had to pee.

Someone pointed down the route. “Go about five blocks. There are port-a-potties.” Forget it. My pants were already wet, what harm a little more? At least it would be warm.

We sat to wait. There was no way to get warmth. The rain was coming down on us hard. Time dragged. Across Colorado Boulevard I saw RVs parked at a gas station. I fantasized about going over there and offering them a million dollars to share their accommodations.

After a while, my son said, “Is it going to be like this the whole time?”

I turned to Nana. “I’m not going to make it. Shall I go get the car and pick you up?”

Hell no. She wanted to see the parade. It’s shameful to be out-hardied by an 80-something.

My 13-year-old son and I left her and my 11-year-old daughter. On the walk back my son looked over his arms and feet and said, “I could not be wetter.”

“I could not be colder,” I said back.

At the church I called Nana’s cell to see if she’d reconsidered. The parade hadn’t started yet, but others had left, including my daughter.

When The Baby walked in she said, “I feel so sorry for the kids marching in bands today.” She and my son are both marchers. They started talking about how heavy and itchy the uniforms get when they’re wet, and what the water does to the instruments.

I tried Nana again. She was finally ready to cry Uncle. She had started walking.

I jumped in my car and headed routeward. When I got to the underpass, there were pylons blocking my way, and an officer pacing in the dry.

I got out and started moving the pylons. I was frenzied knowing Nana was walking — sopping, cold and carrying that leaden blanket. She is simply not as strong as she is stubborn.

The officer made to stop me. I shook my head. “My grama needs to be picked up. You wanna stop me, you’re gonna have to shoot me.”

In hindsight, that was more dramatic than was warranted.

He squinted against the rain and made out a white-haired figure struggling our way. I got a by-your-leave and went to her.

The next year, on Jan. 2, I went over for breakfast. She was there in her chair watching the Rose Parade on TV.

She didn’t complain, just like she never complained once on that rainy day.

I could not be regrettier.

click here for photo

I’m a snubber

January 1, 2013

I see people I know, and I don’t say anything.

My mother scolds me.

Here’s my longer-than-it-needs-to-be defense.

I remember everybody.

People use my services. For instance, My Oldest Friend is on Facebook. She remembers nobody. I get e-mails everytime someone tries to friend her that say, “Who is this? Tell me everything.”

Her yearbook is no good. She doesn’t want a face. She needs me to say, “She was in our English class in 10th grade. She was a little odd and always came over with her hand out when we had food. You’ll remember her from the eighth-grade dance when her nipple was exposed.”

The problem is that most people don’t remember me.

When I go into my tiny town, I recognize everyone. Today I stopped at Rite Aid on my way to work because I lost my sunglasses. I knew the name of the lady standing next to me choosing candy, and the name of the guy ringing me up.

I see my kids’ classmates, my own high school classmates, friends of my parents, and other parents from sports teams, PTA and band boosters everywhere. I remember their names.

I don’t always remember where I know them from, which is the other problem.

Also, I’m shy.

So people in town, hear me out. I would love to say hi to you, but I don’t think you know who I am. Please say hi first.

I swear I’m friendly.

I don’t want to be a snubber.