Friday, July 27, 2012

Announcing!!!.....the boat naming contest winners!!!

Thank you all for the excellent and creative entries. I said that I would choose my favorite three, and here they are:

 First, MerSea by one of my favorite bloggers over at

 Second, Runcible Spoon by Joan from France.

And tied for third are Dancing in the Moonlight by Birdie, and Wave Wench by Suz

Being the neophyte that I am, I have no idea if people name kayaks, but maybe all of these names will be employed eventually by boats that will live at my dock (pictured above with one of my favorite visitors.) Please email me at with your snail mail address I will happily email you a copy of "Saying Goodbye." Saying Goodbye is a collection of essays, both poignant and humorous, by an international group of authors. As you might have guessed, I have an essay in the book, too.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bird of the Day: Cafe Sparrow

Yesterday's bird of the day was Heermann's Gull.

Today was the granddaughter's first day of really playing in the waves.

Who needs a shovel when you're busy in the water?

And I don't need a shovel either while I'm busy keeping an eye on the girl. I've made it a goal to get her to the sand every day. Yesterday, I think we only managed the yacht club pool, but that was pretty fun, too. I like saying the words, "yacht club." It makes me think that, one day, I will have a boat. And speaking of boats, even though I don't have a boat, tomorrow I will announce the boat naming contest winners!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Margaritaville Child Labor Report & Why I Am Going to be Cremated

It's so nice to have an extra pair of hands. Last night after dinner and a stunning sunset walk on the beach, I put the girl to work. The garage cabinets were installed yesterday, and it was the granddaughter's job to put my five million photo albums into one of the new cabinets.

 Even a ten-year-old knows excess when she sees it. Yes, there are many wonderful memories that are contained those books, but I feel saddled by the bulk of it all. And the fact that Mr. Ex took most of the photos. I have no desire to look at even a single photo of the man. This Thanksgiving I will begin to lobby my daughters to weed through and save only the photos that are still relevant. Rather than connecting with people at social events, Mr. Ex hovered on the edges behind his camera. We have photos of everyone who ever crossed our path. Do we really need them? I say listen to the ten-year-old.

This morning as we wait for the "blind man"--the guy who will be installing the blinds, we built (it was a pre-fab kit, mind you) a garden bench. The girl got to see her grandmother wielding a power drill and an allen wrench. Everyone should have a drill/driver, in my opinion. Handiest gadget ever. The bench is now successfully installed next to the hose by the back door, and there is plenty of room for three grandchildren to sit and be blasted free of sand and beach tar by their grandmother. Plus the bench is pretty gorgeous and can be moved to the patio for parties. And can I say again, how wonderful it was to have an extra set of hands?

The next project coming up after this break is a potting table. More about that later.

Oh, and the surgery on the kid's bathing suit was successful. The lining was snipped out, and a half cup of sand freed from its confines. Hello, bathing suit manufactures, are you listening?

More about the beach last night: The was a dead dolphin lying on the sand. Sea gulls were dining. I spotted it first and warned the girl. She took it in stride, and even was willing to look. Maybe a bit less squeamish than I. I delivered my standard wisdom. "Good for the seagulls; bad for the dolphin." And then we talked about how maybe it wasn't actually bad for the dolphin. Maybe it was sick or injured. Maybe it's time on earth was just meant to be finished. As we walked back to the car and saw the carcass a second time, another beach walker paused near the animal, hands outstretched, and appeared to offer a prayer. The girl and I stood silently atop a dune and honored the moment.

I've delivered the good/bad analysis of  death and animals eating other animals numerous times in my tenure as a mother and grandmother. It's a little trite, and I'm relieved that I have elected to be cremated so none of my children or grandchildren, will say,"Bad for mom/grandma; good for the worms."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bird of the Day

Black-crowned night heron. This photo is from a website and was obviously taken by a professional.

Below is my photo taken on my walk this morning. Think of it as a "Where's Waldo?" exercise. The marking above the beak is the give-away. The granddaughter did the i.d.-ing with the Audubon bird app on the iPad. We saw a second bird very much like this one--but not exactly. One is a male, the other a female, but they're both black-crowned night herons.

Beach Walk/Human Behavior

The most direct walk to the beach from my house requires a jaunt along a busy road before reaching the more serene portion of the neighborhood. Walking back single file to keep our distance from the traffic, conversation was a challenge. "I can't hear everything you're saying," the girl said. I tried speaking  a little louder. "I think humans have an irresistible urge to speak just when its noisiest,"she said. "For some reason, we want to add to the noise."

It was a good walk. Wildlife spotted: Two different yet to be i.d.'d large-ish birds. (Only one was "successfully" photographed.) A possum as big as a dachshund.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Of Birds and Girls and Mother Nature

The abandoned swallows nests were pulled down today. Bug spray was applied to neutralize any bird mites. Measurements were take for a "bird slide" in order to discourage a new colony from nesting next spring. As much as I love birds, the constant rain of bird droppings was a bit much. Not to mention the unmelodic chirp of swallows outside my bedroom window. Meanwhile, "Marina" the pigeon (so named by the granddaughter) sits on her nest on my balcony. We're waiting for baby birds. This is not a great photo, but if you look in the shadows, you'll see the nest.

Our outing today included a thorough exploration of the shops in Ventura Harbor Village, and a stop at the Channel Islands National Park visitor center. We watched a 20-minute movie about the place and looked at the exhibits. I feel a bit faint when I realize how close I live to all that beauty.
And of course, there was the beach.

The granddaughter had a rather bizarre bathing suit malfunction. After returning home, she discovered that a good 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of sand filtered its way through the lining of her suit and is now lodged between the swimming suit lining and the suit itself. I raised two beach loving daughters, and don't recall running across a suit like this one. Yes, some girls' and women's suits do have the weird little not fully sewn down crotch lining that can fill up with sand like a pocket, but in this suit the lining is a full lining and it's completely attached from the top to the bottom of the suit. It's just not impermeable. The only way to release the sand will be to snip the lining out. Clothes. So many of them are more trouble than they're worth.

The conversation today mostly revolved around sea creatures. My favorite part of the day was the silent time I spent watching the girl play. She's 10. She has a brother and a sister, but she lost herself in herself--in her imagination and the "work" of her play. It's a lovely thing how serious children are about playing. How totally they concentrate on it and don't need direction.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Desert Sunday

Driving into the dessert, the heat rising, rocks bleached white as bones, wind farm propellers churning, the ocotillo, sinuous as though it's been tossed by waves, yet now standing forsaken without its sea. I'm intrigued by the landscape, but normally would not chose to visit it in July.
Worth it though if you get to bring back a granddaughter. I remember what a revelation it was when my kids were young, to get one of them alone for a time. This girl, I've never known without the context of her family. It's going to be a fascinating week. We talked about school for a lot of the drive. She had two autistic kids and an ADHD kid in her 4th grade class. She's fascinated by their abilities and disabilities. She's interested in psychology and what makes people do what they do. She says a friend's sister might be schizophrenic. When I was 10, I liked horses and still played with baby dolls.
It's going to be a fascinating week.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Refugee from the City of Angels

I haven't moved a million miles from Los Angeles. I'm 70 miles away. I can drive there for lunch and be home in time for dinner. I can take the train, as I did on Thursday, for my regular gig on Skid Row at the DWC. In fact, there's an Amtrak train as well as a commuter train called Metrolink. I could even sail to L.A.--- if I had a boat.
But it's a different world here in Ventura County.
On Thursday I skittered along the narrow ribbons of shade through L.A.'s Little Tokyo. The village walkways and plazas are brick, and I felt like I'd been cooked in one of those clay casserole dishes by the time I got where I was going. Back at home in Oxnard that evening, when I stepped off the train I wished I had worn a polar fleece scarf instead of a cotton one.
L.A.'s smog is legendary. Any native Angeleno will tell you how much worse it was when they were kids. When I moved to Los Angeles from Minnesota in 1975 the contact lenses I wore in those days revolted, and I had laryngitis off and on for six months. The sky here in Ventura County is blue and clear and prone to the sort of white puffy clouds I used to draw into landscapes when I was a kid.
But it's not the lack of  heat and smog or even the absence of gridlock that blows my mind. It's the parking.
I went to the WESTSIDE ARTWALK in Ventura today. It's a big event. People have been talking about it all week. I planned to get an early start on the fun. Nab a prime parking spot and forego the frustration of circling through traffic or the hike from some distant outlying lot. But errands slowed me down, and by the time I left, it was just past noon. Oh well, I thought, if the parking is too far away, there'll be a shuttle bus.
Despite the crowds, there was so much parking, I didn't stay parked in the first spot I chose on a side street just across from one of the galleries on the route. I was paranoid. There must be a "No Parking/Tow Away Zone" sign somewhere where I couldn't see it. So I moved. I found a city lot even closer to the heart of the action. "Free Parking All Day," it said. That can't be, I thought as I hunted for a posted notice that might proclaim, "NO ArtWalk Parking." But I left my car there, looking nervously over my shoulder for a parking enforcement officer as I walked away. After a couple of hours I began to worry. Maybe the sign said "fee" not "free." So I went back and moved my car to a different free parking lot. At the end of the day, I couldn't find my car. Towed, after all, I thought. But no, there were two free city lots so close together that I had confused them.
I have a new syndrome: PLAPA. Post Los Angeles Parking Anxiety. Maybe if I get a little boat, learning to park it without crashing into an expensive yacht will take my mind off the incredible surfeit of automobile parking spaces. Free parking spaces. Seriously, the gods must be playing with me. Or it's some kind of Ventura County initiation ritual, right? There really can't be all that free parking--can there?

Friday, July 20, 2012

The water in the marina looks like a sheet of corrugated tin. Pathway and dock lights reflect off its ripples as I look down from my darkened bedroom. I want to sleep, but part of me is on the lookout for masked gunmen. My imagination culls my rollodex for sociopaths. How is it that a person can buy 6,000 rounds of ammo in two weeks and no alarm bells sound? I had to answer a hundred questions to get a home loan. I had to explain and prove how I'd gotten the money for the down payment. I just joined the local yacht club and was required to list four references complete with their addresses, and I had to be sponsored by two current members. I don't even own a boat. How much harm can I cause poolside or in the bar or dining room? Plenty, I suppose if I had an arsenal of guns and a free run at all the ammo I could want. And those things seem much easier to acquire that a mortgage or a membership card.
"You have the right person," the mother of the shooter said. How is it that a parent can so quickly recognize a child as a mass murderer, but not have gotten the intervention required to keep her child from hurting so many people? We ask these questions over and over again because we do nothing in our land of the free to stop these tragedies from unfolding.
We are afraid of planes and airports. Our high schools are fortresses patrolled by armed guards. Now we've lost the sweet escape of  the movies.

It's quiet here in Margaritaville. I'm not awakened by sirens, police helicopters, or gunshots. The throaty call of herons has been the only midnight disturbance. I raised my kids in the middle of L.A. for the first half of their childhoods. When I went out to walk C in her stroller her first New Year's morning, the sidewalk was littered with celebratory bullet casings. When she was just a few weeks old, I carried her across a puddle of dried blood to a theatre company meeting. M's friend, a boy we'd known since kindergarten, was shot and killed at a party when he was 17. At one point in the late 70s, most of my close friends had all been mugged at gunpoint. These are the things I know about guns. I don't know anyone personally who has warded off an attack with a gun. No one fired back in that dark theater. A well-meaning upstanding citizen with a gun would probably have only added to the carnage.

I first saw a world-wide comparison of deaths by firearms right after I move to L.A. I clipped it out and stuck it on my refrigerator. It might have still been stuck there the day the bank robber waved his gun at me while I was planting flowers with the neighbor's little boy. The robber was in a helluva hurry. We stood up to give him room to climb over the fence, but for a second, while I was on my knees in the dirt, the gun was at eye level.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

The State of the State of Margaritaville

I've seen a tern snatch a silver fish out of silver water. 
I've seen the bustle of Main Street in the next town up the coast where it seems to be fashionable to sell art and socks, books and journals, soap and scoops of French lavender, coffee, furniture, and antiques all under one chic roof.
I've seen a dog people there call "Care Bear" who trots the streets with a stuffed animal in his mouth, a free spirit seemingly belonging to no one and everyone. 
I've seen myself looking at beach beauties with envy.
I've seen people crawling through a hole in the fence by the cordoned off sand dunes and asked if they've ever been "prosecuted under the full extent of the law." No, they said. They just go to look at the great horned owls who nest in the trees. There are five, they said. I went for a look, myself. But I turned back when the third lizard raced across my sandaled feet.
I've seen beautiful historic buildings bearing earthquake bolts in their facades. My friend Ken, who used to be a building inspector, says that even after being seismically retrofitted, the buildings are still only strong enough to withstand a 5.5. I feel that I've been shored up to the same inadequate standard. 
I've seen a little boy, five or six, clutching a boogie board like a shield while barreling across dry sand until he is ankle deep in the surf and then running back. The board never touches the water.

This is Margaritaville. This is the time of my loneliness. I am the dog, the boy, the future crumpled building, and, I hope, the fish holding its silver treasure. I am not the beach beauty. I'm not sure about the owls or the lizards. Maybe I'm them, too. Hiding. Nesting. Startled and on the run.
"You're walking to the beach today if it kills you," I said aloud to my bowl of yogurt at breakfast. So I did. I broke free from my inner Stepford wife who has no husband but a zillion little chores, and I walked back to my least favorite restaurant for lunch, simply because I can get there by strolling on the sand. I sat at the bar, and I ordered a Caesar's salad and a glass of Chardonnay. Do you know the most popular cocktail that people order at a hotel bar on the beach? Yup. People are so literal. And hopeful, I suppose.

Sex on the Beach
1 1/2 oz vodka
1/2 oz peach schnapps
2 oz cranberry juice
2 oz orange juice

Seems like it should have sand on the rim of the glass, doesn't it? But no one would want it then. 

I have a beach ball-sized empty jar. I don't know why I keep moving this thing from place to place, I said to Ken as I put it on my patio. Because someone made it by hand? he said, knowing he was telling me what I already know. 

I have a book about Vermeer and his paintings, and this one called Allegory of Faith

made me think of that jar. The text says that the suspended  glass globe symbolizes man's capacity to believe in God.
I don't know anything about God, but I want to fill my jar with the shells, rocks, sticks, and plastic toys I find on the sand. Today I picked up a smooth gray rock, a rock with pink flecks, a small piece of driftwood and a blue plastic shovel. Tomorrow, if I can make myself leave the house, I have faith that I'll find more.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The State of Legal Writing Today

The documents from my divorce were on my doorstep when I awoke this morning. Sent by my attorney, they now reside in the garage of my new house, part of the jumbled mess of my recent move.
That's them on the left looming over Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. Odysseus’s adventures in the Odyssey alone spanned ten years. He was held as a sex slave by a witch goddess, battled  to escape a one-eyed man-eating giant, suffered relentless temptation by the deadly Sirens, journeyed to Hades and back, and fought a terrifying sea monster. It's a helluva read.

My divorce lasted almost five years and was its own kind of hell. But c'mon. How about some editing?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Personal Fireworks

I went back to my old place today. I scoured the fridge and ran the oven through its cleaning cycle. I packed up the things I forgot in the front closet, and the laundry room, and the powder room. I made sure the plants were watered, and picked a last handful of the blueberries I planted a couple of years ago. When I came back inside I stood in the spot where the man who loves me and I once sat on my couch after, I think, our third date. I breathed in searching for the scent of the possibility I felt back then. It was there, all right—if not in the air, inside me.

We had a sweet 4th of July, TMWLM and I, wandering the streets of my new town—a mostly Mexican enclave—while the patriotic parading went on elsewhere. Later as we sat at the dinner table, we were mystified by the popping sounds we heard. “Are those swallows pecking at my house?” I asked. It took a minute or two before we realized it was fireworks. A short amble through my neighborhood revealed a spot where we could see the fireworks over the water. We stood with a half-dozen other people, our necks craned to the sky. No traffic jam. No porta-potties. No staking out a spot in the park at dawn. Oh, I’m sure there was a crowd at the heart of it all, but it was beyond lovely to stand in the night on a quiet street with my arms around the person who helped me burst through my darkness.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Thanks for the Love

I've eaten nothing but pizza for more than 24 hours. Prior to the pizza binge I consumed mostly  coconut cake. But what's really sustaining me is family, friends, and you, dear readers.  I have been lavished with well wishes, reaped the benefits of your physical labors, baked for, and served a fabulous breakfast the morning that the movers arrived (my only nutritious meal in recent memory.)

I'm lying in bed with the heating pad on my back as I type this post, but  I feel drenched in sweetness.

Thank you.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Moving On

The movers arrived shortly before 9:00. By 4:45 all of the furniture was unwrapped and set in place. My garage is a heap of confusion. The kitchen is a mess. There may be a lamp shade missing.

I'm exhausted.
But Piper, my 18-yr-old cat, seems to have barely noticed that she's been plucked from one location and deposited in another. At my old place she hung out under the sink in the powder room. Here, she's already looking comfy under the sink in the laundry room.

My first dinner in the new place:

It just might be breakfast tomorrow, too.

The Meaning of My Name in Turkish

"You know what means 'denis' in Turkish?" asks the Russian guy as he wraps my great-grandmother's chair in moving blankets.
"What?" I ask.
"The sea," he says. "In Turkish your name, it means 'sea.'