Thursday, April 28, 2005

I Like Bumper Stickers

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This picture looks a little fuzzy but what it's all about is the next flippin' election. I get looks from my fellow drivers that can best be described as puzzled. I like watching their faces reflected in my rearview mirror. As we're stuck in traffic or at stoplights, I watch them. Some stay puzzled, some figure it out. Some look disgusted and shoot me a "you poor loser" kind of look. But this next election can't come a moment too soon for me and billions of other folk. Those other folk may not have a vote in the U.S. but the impact of a Republican president for EIGHT WHOLE YEARS is nothing short of devastating to so very many who share this planet. Forget all the Americans who are being left child left behind...HAH! Think for a few minutes about all the other people in this beautiful world who are being impacted by the current baboons in power and who will be affected for years to come, just as all of our children will be, by the following: THE ENVIRONMENT, FAMILY PLANNING, CLEAN AIR, CLEAN WATER, ENDANGERED SPECIES. I won't go into health care, education, gun control, Iraq or any of the other very important issues that cause the world to look at this nation with puzzlement at best, and hatred at worst.

So that's why I have one bumper sticker that reads 11.04.08. That is the date of the next presidential election. The other bumper sticker reads January 20, 2009. That is the date of the next Inauguration. Check out Cafe if you're interested in finding some similar decorations for your car.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

It's Sprinkler Season

It's sprinkler season and while that means our water bills will soon go through the roof, it also means it's time to get used to the wild things again. Coyotes hang around our place in the winter. They get high on the fallen carob pods and leave their scat all over our yard. One night they were yipping and crying so loudly and for so long it sounded like they were in the spare bedroom. They almost were in the house...they were hanging around the fountain on the back patio...drinking, fighting, flirting and just generally getting crazy on carob. But as the weather warms, other wild critters start hanging out at our house.

Look closely at the photograph. The door to the basement is visible just behind the stairs. Our house, or the part of the house that I know and live in, is up those stairs. The very charming, open rustic door leads to the 'exterior' basement. Beyond this, there is an interior basement that has flooded repeatedly during our very rainy season this year, and I dearly hope that part is rodent-free. But this exterior area is perfect for the lawn mower and garden tools and soil and ladders and...wood RATS. I don't do well with rodents, never have, never will. It's not just the surprise factor, but the way they tend to look you straight in the eye before scurrying away. If mice freak me out, then you'd better believe that rats, even big ole friendly country rats, give me the willies. I am a city/suburban girl and I am constantly trying to come to terms with the wildlife that I now live among. It's not just the rats, but the destructive ground squirrels and rabbits that snack on any plant that strikes their fancy, the snakes, the gophers that are tearing tunnels through the yard and the very big insects that hang out at my house. Yesterday I found a spider, not big/not small, in my bathroom. I called Roger to come see it since it had an interesting reddish section and he said, "Oh, that's a Jumping Spider." In my bathroom lives a Jumping Spider, I thought, and then ran to get our Southern California Insects book that told me that while the bite of the Jumping Spider isn't going to kill you or cause your skin to rot, the bite can be quite painful. Quite painful? Yikes...out you go, spider.

Last year Alejandre, affectionately known as Tita (pronounced Cheetah), lived with us for a while. He is the youngest son of our dear Brazilian friends, Nelson & Malu, and he came to L.A. in search of an internship in graphic design. He found one, but stayed with us a month while he was sorting things out and gradually figuring out the way things work. Late one evening as I was finishing up the day in the kitchen, I spied some movement...quick, silent, and eerily familiar. I knew it was a rodent of some sort and I could barely move. I ran to the door yelling, "TITA, TITA, TITA, come quickly...there's a mouse in the kitchen." He was staying in the little guest house and came quickly running up the hill to the house. I was generally acting crazy, but we somehow managed to work out how to catch the thing. He asked for a shoebox and a cookie sheet. We then saw it scoot across the kitchen floor, under the family room couch and into the woodpile under the fireplace. I screamed and ran out of the kitchen, leaving poor Tita to find the intruder. He pulled all the wood out, found the 'mouse', threw the shoebox on top of it and then slid the cookie sheet under the shoebox. A VERY LONG tail stuck out from the corner of the box and I knew then it was not a mouse but a rat...a baby wood rat. We released it not far from the house and my husband probably trapped and killed it a few weeks later. We don't want to kill them, but we don't want to live with them, either. We could trap them in a humane "Have a Heart" contraption and then release them in some other canyon, I suppose, but that's hard, too (and would require my involvement when Himself is away on biz). What we don't do is poison them. Apparently, a fair number of folk in this Canyon DO poison unwanted wildlife and that is just a crime. Poisoned animals are eaten by healthy animals who then become ill and die. Pretty obvious. I sort of love most of the critters here in Topanga, but even if I don't embrace them all, I want to see them living healthy, full lives...just not in my basement or my kitchen.

One of Roger's favorite books is Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Sometimes I feel that life in Topanga closely parallels the theme of this book. The rustic, quiet, slower-paced rural life that lives somewhat uncomfortably alongside the noisier, faster-paced life. Move over Ratty, and make room for Toad.

Monday, April 18, 2005

New Friends

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Julia & Charlotte. Pre-lunch coloring.

They met one another today. Then Julia's mother met my daughter. And now my friend Barbie and I are happy.

My Dear Friend, Kathy

Tonight Kathy and I talked...and we talked...and we talked. We haven't lived within a thousand miles of one another for OVER thirty years. It doesn't make a damned bit of difference to us. The miles fade, the years fade and we are just good friends who always have a lot of catch-up to do on the phone. We see each other every few years and we may only talk on the phone a half-dozen times a year, but it makes no difference. It never does. We just are comfortable with one another. We just love one another. And when you love another person, you want to hear the minutae of their life and you want to hear it all. And it's never boring and it's always interesting and, at the end of it all, after you've hung up, you think...and what about your brother...and his third (or is it his fourth wife)...the Russian bride? What's going on with them?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Today I Joined that Most Exclusive of Clubs...COSTCO

The initiation was quite simple. Do you want another American Express card, DottyNana? Um, not really, but thank you. I have two; one for biz and one not for biz. Then they asked for my driver's license. I handed them my Wisconsin license. Now it's out. We (hubbie and I) have lived in California for almost three years and we still don't have a California license. At this point I'm not even sure why. It's crazy.

So, what did I buy at Costco? Nothing terribly interesting: a 16-pack of AA batteries; a HUGE container of 409 cleaner that included a companion spray bottle full of 409; an ENORMOUS box of Cascade that will seriously strain my wrist every time I fill the dishwasher; the new YaYa book; two huge containers of Scope mouthwash that includes two handy travel-sized bottles; a bottle of Chianti from a vineyard in Volpaia, Tuscany...bought because my dear friend, Elissa, used to stay in Volpaia when she went to Italy; and finally, a wee rack of Australian lamb. The thing about Costco is that the idea of going to Costco is more exciting than actually going there.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Waiting for that Posthumous Miracle...

Pope, Pope, Pope...when will this goofiness cease? Cured of leukemia, botched operation and vocal chord injury reversed...the stories will get more incredible, I'm sure. The faithful are coming forward to tell the tales of their miraculous cures. Seems all you have to do is touch a rosary that the Pope has touched to get the benefit. I'm all for miracles, but timing is everything. We need two, positive posthumous miracles and we need them now! I'm looking for a Pope-touched rosary. Anyone checked E-Bay lately?

Saturday, April 09, 2005


Now they want sainthood conferred upon the recently deceased Pope. I'm really curious as to just what it takes to be a saint. I honestly thought it was more than just a good personality. I really will have to call my expert on all things Catholic, Sister Mary James, now known as Kathleen Malone. I know beatification comes first and veneration is somewhere in the mix. I also know that during Pope John Paul II's very long pontificate, the canon of saint's grew faster than under any other Pope. Maybe that gives him a leg up on the road to saintdom. The cries of SANTO SUBITO (Sainthood Immediately) that the crowd broke into were just the result, I think, of people going a little crazy after standing for so long with so many other people. They were getting bored and needed to spice up the whole experience. Santo did it.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Some Alternatives for the Faithful

I can understand why Catholics are mourning the Pope's death. They will miss him. But think how wonderful it would be if every 'pilgrim' queueing for hours and hours and hours and hours to catch but a fleeting glimpse of the Pope would only invest that amount of time in charitable activities. The money spent on travel to Rome, if only given to one's favorite charity, would be a better investment than standing in lines all day. It makes no sense to me. None whatsoever.

Fire Season, Part II: The Important Part

The curious and concerned are still seated in the semi-round shelves in the tent. There's that comfortable buzz from neighbors who know one another well and have loads to catch up on. Roger and I didn't know many neighbors yet and so were pretty quiet. All I said as hot flash after hot flash overwhelmed me was, "I should have brought that weird looking plastic water bottle with the battery-powered fan on the end." Then, just when I thought we were ready to begin, William dramatically walked to the center of the tent, turned on a gas jet and lit it. Now it was not only 105 inside the tent but we had a gas fire burning cozily just to add to the flippin' ambiance. We're at a fire safety meeting and he's lighting a fire, inside a tent, with dried stalks of bamboo and arrundo flopped this way and that outside the two of which I'm seated as close to as possible.

William then introduced the speakers. One has been active for years on a committee known as Arson Watch. Apparently they cruise all over Topanga, keeping an especially vigilant attitude towards the state parks where more visitors, as opposed to residents, hike. He told us of efforts he had made over the years and then told some particularly freaky stories (to me, anyway) about the '93 Malibu/Topanga fire. Then a fire chief spoke. He too pretty much completely freaked me out. Finally, this plumber started talking. He was taking over the position from the first speaker, who was moving to the DC suburbs because of family issues. The plumber kept going off on crazy tacks that kept me wide-eyed and on the edge of my seat. He was all about defending the home, even when the fires of hell are licking at your flip-flops. All I remember of his chat was a story of fishing line and roll-up screens and how to keep your windows from imploding. IMPLODING, I thought... IMPLODING? What the hell is he talking about??? Here's the deal: as a fashion accessory have screening hung above the outside of every window. Then roll it upwards and use fishing line to keep it up. When the flames start licking at your house (LICKING AT YOUR HOUSE???) the heat will melt the fishing line, the screens will roll down and cover your windows and this will keep them from imploding. That's not gonna happen, I thought. My husband couldn't even come to terms with a satellite TV dish being hung on our rooftop because it destroyed the visual line of the house as you drive up the driveway.

It didn't help that we were sitting next to our down-the-street neighbors, Louise & Doug. They are great people and have lived in this Canyon for 40+ years. They know everything worth knowing and are fabulous resources for us, besides being very kind, BUT they defended their home against that last big fire and have pictures on the wall to prove it. Louise, whose lungs sound pretty shot at the best of times, was outside with a wet towel turbanning her head beating the live embers that landed near the house. Doug was probably on the roof doing the same. All I know is they have told me more stories and showed me more photographs of freakin' fires than I have ever wanted to hear or see.

The meeting droned on. All I wanted to do was get the hell out of the tent, go home and sit in front of the fan. I stopped listening to fire stories early in the evening and just looked at people and thought, wow, these are my new neighbors. Bet they didn't vote for Bush, a comforting thought. That was way more interesting since I know for sure...if and when there's a fire around here, I am out of here. I'll grab the photos, the art and some underwear and then I'm gone. It's just a flippin' house.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

'They' Say It's Going to be a Bad Fire Season

All of the beauty that the greater-than-average rainfall brought to Southern California comes with a price. Even in nature, nothing is free, as I've heard over and over. So while I take picture after picture of the incredible wildflower bloom and while I revel in the bright greens that cover the normally dusty-dry Santa Monica Mountains, I am giving some thought to making my home as safe as possible, as the upcoming fire season will no doubt be a bad one. The physical practicalities of keeping the house and its perimeter as safe as possible, I will mostly leave to my husband. He has very strong ideas about this. I'm just going to take pictures of everything in the house and put that in a safe deposit box (for insurance purposes). Some friends tell me that they keep all their photographs in a firebox or big plastic storage containers in the back of their car. I'm trying to figure out what makes the most sense. If I could find all the negatives and put them in the not-as-yet rented safe deposit box then I could just stop thinking about losing precious photos in the next big canyon fire. The Malibu Fire of '93 came to within about 500 yds. of this house, so I'm not just being dramatic.

Our introduction to fire-readiness came a few weeks after we moved to Topanga in 2002. We were invited to a neighborhood T-CEP meeting. Topanga Canyon Emergency Preparedness. Sounded ominous, but we were keen to hear it all. We walked over to our neighbor's home... this entailed a 10 minute walk, almost all of it uphill. By the time we got there, I was dripping. It was a typical hot, dry summer's evening and Kathleen, the hostess, offered me a glass of echinacea juice. Interesting, I thought, and not so tasty. We stood around in the little patio area in front of their home. Her partner, William, was striding around, jovial and chatty and looking like an aging porn movie actor. He was all swept-back, dyed black hair and black beard and tightly held in belly and too-tight shorts and he just exuded oiliness...just a bit too smarmy for me. He moved the group of neighbors towards the apron around his swimming pool. It was hard to talk to anyone because the flippin' roar of the fake waterfall over the fake cliff was so completely noisy and distracting, not to mention the weirdness of the host. But then I caught movement peripherally, down the small bank beside the pool. It was a naked guy. Very Topanga(ie) I thought, no doubt an extra in one of William's 'films.'

Then William began herding us down a hill and towards a huge tent. The tent was a massive, green parachute draped over a huge frame, at least that's what it looked like to me. We had to walk about 50 feet down this path cut through the arundo. Before he led us down, though, William made a big show of grabbing a hose and watering the path. The path was covered with carpet remnants. He was watering carpet remnants. It was one of the weirdest things I'd ever seen. That's because I hadn't yet been inside the tent. The tent looked big from the outside, but from the inside it felt even bigger. About 20' high in its center, it had a diameter of about 30'. It was huge...and it was carpeted, as well. Ledges had been dug into the hillside on one side of the interior, and it was kind of like a two-tiered mini stadium. We filed in, about 25 of us, sitting on the ledges. I felt uncomfortable, almost like I needed some barrier between me and the stained carpeting. Ewww...stained a tent...owned by a porn movie guy. It was more than I wanted to digest and certainly made it hard to focus on the purpose of the meeting. W's partner, Kathleen, drifted in...trailing some whispy long scarf behind her billowy, see-throughie gypsy skirt. She is in good shape, but most definitely too old to play the ingenue.

More tomorrow...I'm tired.

Monday, April 04, 2005

RIP Pope John Paul II

The Pope is dead. I’m sure beyond doubt that he was a good man. The Pope was not only a great humanitarian, but he also came to terms with capitalism...not just for the Vatican but as a model for healthy growth. But with capitalism came responsibility and this quote, perhaps, notes the Pope's compassion for the common man.

“But profitability is not the only indicator of a firm's condition. It is possible for the financial accounts to be in order, and yet for the people—who make up the firm’s most valuable asset – to be humiliated and their dignity offended. Besides being morally inadmissible, this will eventually have negative repercussions on the firm's economic efficiency.”

These words didn't really resonate with American capitalists and it's only in America that the poorest, hardest working folk vote regularly for Republicans. My husband just read to me the shameful state of medical debt of many of the INSURED in America. These people, FOURTEEN and a QUARTER MILLION are paying 25% of after-tax income towards their medical debt. This is in addition to the FORTY-FIVE MILLION uninsured in this country. The Pope cared about poor people, and that being the case why is it that the following was also part of his legacy?

Abortion is wrong. It is quite possible to be pro-choice and against abortion for oneself. I can't understand being opposed to all abortion unless you personally undertake to care for the unwanted children of this world.

Birth control is wrong: I don't even need to talk about that one it's so flippin' obvious. You don’t have to be a complete moron to understand that the world’s population has a direct influence on natural and unnatural resources. The inability to feed and clothe one’s children, the inability to educate one’s children and the inability to keep them safe and happy makes a parent, not to mention his children, miserable. Few of these children become productive adults.

Priestly pedophilia is not good, but a do-nothing, hands-off attitude will be taken and we'll just let the affected church handle it. Hmmmm...that doesn't sound right. Priests have never been encouraged to abuse kids. Seems they haven't been all that discouraged from doing it either

The Catholic Church, until Pope John Paul II, was slowly moving towards the 20th c. That's what world religions do. They move and wiggle and continually evolve. Priests used to be able to marry. Then they weren't allowed to and now, well, let's wait 10 years and see what happens.

I should get my dear friend, Sister Mary James, now known by her christened name, Kathleen, to give me any Catholikky facts before I start spouting any more half truths. Right now, you just can't get away from Popey stuff, though and you have to admit, it's pretty fascinating.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

And they call it Poppy Love

Perfection Posted by Hello

A fallen blue petal...Poppy Love

This weekend the Theodore Payne Foundation organized a California native (plants) self-guided tour of Los Angeles area gardens. From modest homes in Eagle Rock to the hills high above Beverly, it was fascinating to see personal expression in the gardens. We're interested in lowering our water bill, attracting birds and butterflies, discouraging ground squirrels and rabbits from using our plants as the foundation for their three-squares a day and just generally creating a practical, strong garden without sacrificing beauty. We're not total purists and don't want to get rid of the hundreds of Mediterranean beauties that do so well on our property. The rosemary and lavender provide year-round beautiful scents and the bees don't seem to care that they're imports. I would, though, love to have a garden that in springtime is FILLED to bursting with California poppies. I have wild-strewn carefully hand-sown California poppy seeds from garden centers as expensive as Spurling's and the Theodore Payne Foundation to whatever's on sale at Target and Home Depot. I have planted mature potted poppies and I have NEVER had one make it past the first season. I don't believe I have ever had one seed germinate. I felt badly about this until one woman told me that she had planted over a pound of poppy seeds each year for the last five years and finally has a good crop. Do you have any idea what a pound of poppy seeds looks like? Picture a gallon-sized Ziploc bag filled to bursting. Crazy, I know. It gave me hope, though, and I shall keep on trying.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Blue Dick & Prickly Phlox in Topanga

Blue Dick Posted by Hello

Prickly Phlox

I thought these two should share a page. Man, the wildflowers are gorgeous this year.

The Pope and Terry Schiavo

So now the Pope is going to die, too. While the Catholic faithful mourn their spiritual leader, I am left to wonder why he isn't on dialysis and why he isn't on a respirator. Could it be because he actually has a living will? His kidneys are failing...couldn't dialysis help that? His breathing is shallow and labored...couldn't a respirator help that? How dignified that he is being allowed to die a natural death. How undignified it was for poor, Terry Schiavo. All those years, all that agony and for what? What parent wants to say good- bye to her child? I couldn't even bear putting my daughter or son on a train or a plane if it meant they were leaving me. How pitiful is that? But I'll tell you one damned thing for sure, I would never call that evil bastard Randall Terry for help and I'd never let someone I loved linger in a vegetative state once I had been complete assured that there was nothing that could be done that would ever bring that person back, and I don't mean 100% back...but just back in some way recognizable to me. more thought. If heaven is supposed to be so great and if Ms. Schiavo's parents (and Randall Terry who they called to help their cause) are such believers, why didn't they embrace the idea of their daughter meeting her maker? Surely they believed that in heaven Terry would be whole again and free of the misery that has been her life since she suffered irreversible brain damage in 1990. I find this issue very curious, very curious indeed.