February, '98 News

Monday, February 02, 1998, 12:29 AM:

--Started kneading the dough this morning. After numerous interruptions, just now got 2 loaves out of the oven. Still waiting for Scott to bring back the chainsaw. Played 3 games of Scrabble today (well, yesterday) and visited the new Glen Annie Golf & Country Club with Judy. Last night (well, the night before) went out and had munchies at Gene and Gloria's digs; did a little reminiscing and talked about the will, Mom's furniture, jewelry selling techniques, moving (or inability to accomplish same), etc.

Earlier today (Sunday) went on a wild tear (based on 6:30AM brain-in-high-gear) and re-did description of Z-Key and all of organization of NMP on-line catalog: looks pretty good now, loads fast and, miracle of miracles: it worked the first time!! List of 10 changed or new files are located within: catalog.htm

Managed to download counters, it being the first of the month and all. Have yet to add these to the Excel spreadsheet

Around 10:45AM I got a call from my sister and I said that I would try and accomplish a few of the tasks on the list of many things that need to be done to get all furniture out of Steiner street house in time for my second cousin Ed Jr. to move in around the end of Feb.

Talked to contractor and good friend Don Woods this evening (Sun. eve.) and he said he'd be in Mill Valley around the end of Feb and would be available to come help me muscle furniture hither and thither in the house and into my truck. Have yet to tell Slats about this: oughtta make her day simpler once she knows: her best bid for furniture movers was $495.- for the first hour and $80 an hour after that for 4 guys, assuming the furniture was already at curbside: sheesh!! What a life in The City!

Am eagerly awaiting the arrival of secretary Felicia who promised me she would work one solid week here, to help me get this ridiculous house and office paperwork in order at long last. Will have to pay her salary out of line of credit funds (funeral expenses to be reimbursed out of estate but that takes time).

5:41 PM:--Just got back from chores downtown, then walking doggies out to the cliffs for one last loaf pinch before nightfall. Curious weather: very windy after the fantastic rain storm last night (dumped three inches I'm told) but not at all cold: just below comfortable, I'd say maybe 60 degrees.

The old paths to the cliff's edge were completely inundated, like long, still lakes beneath the winds which were hitting the cliffs head-on creating a dead-air space at ground level. But above, wow! It was like walking between two freight trains in the field! The Eucalyptus trees were rustling with great purpose on my left and the ocean was thundering and cacophonous ahead. Careese chickened out and sat at the corner of the meadow while W.D. and I trudged to the cliff's edge, using the tallest of the still-short tufts of meadow grass to keep dry. Once there, the temptations of the forceful wind was too much and I flung out my parka-clad arms as if to catch every bit. (Curious: arms lifted aloft catch the breezes better than arms held out to the sides or even to the body. Maybe that's what prompted the delta-wing design of some slippery fighter aircraft??)

Looking like a flight of bombers with a fighter escort., I saw half a dozen pelicans and twice that number of seagulls, beating to windward, surfing the updrafts, steering from Devereux Point towards Campus Point. As I watched them pass, I saw two gonzo wind surfers thrashing about in the contemptuous waves below. All told a most excellent walkie with the critters.

Tuesday, February 03, 1998, 4:10 PM:--Just back on-line after a 14-hour power failure: a new record for my neighborhood. Got it back after I did the retail mantra, driving to various hardware stores and spending about $50.- on flashlights, batteries, propane bottles and ice. Actually we were fairly prepared for it, i.e. I had one good propane lantern ready to fire up, as well as several flashlights, but as is the way of all things, most of the good ones had disapperared just before they were needed

Last night was interesting! The wind was so strong that I had to close the doggie door, to keep rain from soaking the floor. Around 1:AM Judy woke me up to say something was beeping: it was the computer's UPS and the beeps were closer together than I remembered them being the last time the power went out and I quickly woke up enough to do a proper controlled shut-down. Power came on again twice, but only briefly each time and around 2:30 it was "lights out" for good. No electric blanket, but with warm Judy snuggles, none was needed. Morning didn't really dawn: the darkness just sort of slowly dissipated. It was 7:30 before we realized it was time to get up. I would estimate last night's rainfall to be in the neighborhood of 4in., as the "Black Lagoon" was overflowing its banks, the back lawn was a lake upon which pear blossoms were floating about and the front lawn wasn't much better. Rubber boots were nowhere to be found, but I could think of no good reason to go outside in any case, so the next order of business was coffee.

Lit the stove with a hastily-extricated potato gun ignitor and boiled last night's coffee in a pan. Hot oatmeal and coffee went quite a ways to dispelling the morning fog. It was still very dark, so I rustled up a propane lantern and used it to illuminate the kitchen. First mistake: I put it on the counter in an interior wall opening behind the stove, so that its light would penetrate to two rooms at once. That just about set the house on fire, since the clearance between the top of the lamp and the bottom of the opening was only about one foot. When I felt the top (just to be on the safe side) the wood was too hot to touch! Moved the lantern back to the kitchen table. Found a small camping lantern, one that uses a candle and tried to find a place to hang it (it's no good sitting it on anything: its compact shape means it tips over if you look at it the wrong way). The tiny hook on the end of its hanging chain is only big enough to accommodate a tent lanyard, so I had to pry it open a bit to accommodate a "new, improved" plastic coat hanger that, in turn, was big enough to hang anywhere.

Telephoned Edison: the robot answering machine accepted my zip code and said there was no news, so I navigated the numbers and beeps until I got put on hold to a human. The being at the other end of the phone was much more helpful and said that I shouldn't expect to have power back before nightfall! I went out in the street during a lull in the rain (doggies were mostly hibernating as they tend to do in rainy weather, but they were about to explode too) and told the neighbors the news from Edison and suggested they plan for the worst.

After lunch, with no sign of power returning, I went on the hardware store binge and it wasn't until just after 3:PM that the lights came back on. Well, I'm prepared now in terms of light, warmth (Judy, fireplace and doggies in that order) food (got a LOT of about-to-spoil food to eat and quickly) and ice: I filled a cooler with 3 bags of ice, topping off each with a liberal sprinkling of salt to drive the temperature down a bit more. With luck, if the power goes out again any time soon, I'll be able to stash the perishables in there for a spell of safe keeping.

Cable is still out and I'm not certain it will be on any time soon, or if it will stay fixed once repairs are done: have noticed that about Cox cable: yes, they can fix a problem in a stated period, but only after you get through: their line is frequently busy and one must first make an appointment. Corrosion seems to be a factor in sustaining a connection, too

6:28 PM:Just getting organized after the storm; answered an on-line survey about Planned Parenthood vs. the Christian Coalition. Started to build a nice, romantic fire, but before I could light it, the phone rang again. It's my sister, saying she has "the worst news you could imagine": my nephew Claxton has overdosed on heroine and died in the half-way house. I told Judy and she cried. No tears for me: no obvious emotional tugs in my chest. Nothing. I have no feelings other than despair. I went downstairs and microwaved a piece of pizza: it seemed fitting since after Mom died we went home to my sister's place and since she doesn't cook, she ordered a pizza. My bizarre family celebrates death with pizza.

I must admit to some relief: when she said "the worst possible news" I thought immediately of my niece whom I love dearly: she is intelligent, witty and adventurous and I imagined her dead in the outback of Australia in some bizarre mishap. I am more than pleased that she is the one who lives. I am filled with an urge to hasten the remains of my living family into some sort of fortress where I can at least pretend that they are safe from that terrible world out there, but what would be the point? What price safety? Assuming one is doomed, one must LIVE in the meantime and castles aren't part of the program. I am reminded of the Bhuddist philosophy which says that clinging is pointless: there is liberation in just letting go.

Small blessing Number 2: at least Mom didn't live to hear about this one. Shit.

Ah, hell! I'll drive North again tomorrow, with Judy and with the doggies. Will stay at Mom's digs (now a creepy empty place) until the future course of events is determined.

Spooky: in the kitchen a moment ago I realized that this is the second time in my life that something like this has happened: a few short years ago in a cold winter, my great good friend Melinda's mother died of cancer and I visited with her then, we talked, made plans, parted. Not but a few short weeks later Melinda herself had died in an incredibly freak accident: slipping in the bathroom, hitting her head and being knocked unconscious she froze to death because she had yet to light a fire in her house near Lake Tahoe, where the snow was beautiful and deep.
What I'd like to know is: in what way has my family so offended The Gods that they are visiting us with their wrath? Just goes to reinforce my belief that there are no gods: only unpredictabilities.

Saturday, February 07, 1998, 8:08 AM:--Couldn't find my wristwatch this morning. Went down and started to make coffee. Morning thoughts: in the Wizard of Oz, even Munchkin Land had a coroner; drive to San Francisco and throw out the rotting nephew, drive to Santa Barbara and throw out the moldy coffee grounds, the smelly butter left on the counter in my rush to leave yet again, throw out the green bread: what's the difference except that one involves a rather lengthy commute?

Following are my less-than-complete recollections of the latest (but certainly not the last) frantic dash up 101

-Wednesday, 10:AM: Got hold of dentist's secretary and cancelled appointment. Got hold of lawyer's answering machine and cancelled the meeting to re-write my will due to Mother's death. Dictated a new will into the answering machine. Contacted secretary and told her to cancel my reservation for traffic school and find me some cheaper insurance instead (for a guy who hates to drive I certainly have done alot lately: I figure it's a little over 10,000 miles since November...) Managed to get all of Judy's things, my stuff, the doggies et al stuffed into the truck and headed North on 101; don't remember the weather conditions. 2 minute pit stop at the ARCO in Grover Beach for pee break and 4 dogs for two bucks (two with ketchup, mustard, onions and pickles for me and two plain for the doggies; crimmeney! Will I ever get the chance to rid myself of the taste and smell of those things??). Drove on until King City for doggie water stop at the McDonald's, then blasted on up the road again. Just after the one-lane mess South of Soledad where they're re-building the bridge and 14 miles South of Salinas, traffic came to a complete stand-still, right there in "tarantula alley". Turns out there is a rare underpass in a small town 4 miles up and the freeway was completely flooded. We all got to steer onto an overpass and take an access road (flooded in two spots, but not so deep that we couldn't pass at s-l-o-w speeds) until we cleared the hurdle. Weather: occasional rain. Time wasted to go 4 miles: approx. 1 hour. Took 7 hours total to make the trip this time.

-Went directly to my Sister's house, went upstairs and found her in her bed, room totally dark, she awake and in quite a state. Held her hand. Did brotherly things. Went downstairs and talked to her sisters-in-law and cousins. Managed to put foot firmly in mouth a few times, having basically no verbal skills in awkward situations. But eventually Sister emerged, conversation turned to other matters and we shared a weird meal of Cousin Ed's lobster cakes (procured in a San Fran haute cuisine market trolling foray) topped with ketchup and a passable tossed salad. Other present also put together a harmless conversation and I had the wits to take little part in it.

-Somewhere along the line Judy and the doggies and I drove to my Mom's old apartment, where they remained with all our gear. I swapped cars and returned to my Sister's.

-Sister retired (with doctor-provided sleeping pills; she was in extreme grief mode) and we sat to talking about The Important Stuff some more: what the hell happened? The Guy who Knew All wasn't present but said he'd be there at nine, so we waited. Around 9:30 or so, cousins departed (early flight to Seattle the next morning) and I was left with sisters-in-law who showed basically no interest in carrying on any form of conversation with me. Admittedly my skills in this regard are limited, but one would think that two (admittedly distant) relatives would have a bit more to talk about after not seeing me for 30 years. After another hour or so of awkward and uncomfortable silence and non-arrival of the one who Knew More about What Happened, they returned to their hotel for sleep: they had the very early morning chore of retrieving niece (returning from less than a week in Australia, having just flown there after my Mother's memorial service). from airport.

-Wound up talking to my Mother's care-giver (who had graciously volunteered to stay with my sister for a while) until 11:PM.Rhonda is a real sweetheart of a person with a kind soul. Upon continued non-arrival of the Guy who Knew What Happened, I left for my flop at my Mom's old digs.

-Next morning, got over there some time before 10:AM. Sister seemed much more together and Niece had arrived and appeared in good spirits. More than I could say for Nephew's dog, who knew something was not right, but who didn't raise a ruckus about it: nice dog. Niece admitted that she had about cried herself out on the 18-hour flight back. The Guy Who Knew was there as well and here's his story as best I can remember it:

-Nephew had to have some dental surgery. Doctor gave him something to take before the surgery was performed. The rules at The Halfway House state that nobody there can have any drugs of any kind on the premises, so nephew had to spend the night before the surgery somewhere else (didn't find out where). Day of surgery he hitches a ride with this friend, who is a welder by trade. Welder had cargo to deliver along the way, so they stopped to drop it off. Nephew goes into the bathroom and doesn't come out. People get nervous after he doesn't return and doesn't answer to a knock on the door. They kick the door down, then call 9-1-1 but nephew is DOA. End of story. Nobody knows where he got the drugs. I had feared that the stuff might be in his safe deposit box, which was to be opened in the presence of sister and niece this morning, but later reports indicated that the box was empty.

-When pressed for details concerning nephew's strange behavior tendencies (mainly extreme paranoia), welder recounted stories that confirmed our fears. I also recounted another tale of a very strange phonecall that nephew made to me a few months back, which confirm the belief that he was extremely paranoid.

-Sister was preparing to go to Neptune Society with Niece (second time in a month: what a drag) and sister said "we're off to Neptune" and when I thought she was out of ear-shot I replied: I'd rather go to Mars. She heard that and I felt awkward and had to explain why I thought it best that the two girls go without me. What prompted my reluctance to "share the experience" was a remark by Cousin the night before. His exact words I can't recall, but they were succinct and telling: basically he said that they had to share the grief experience with one another and with no one else, so as to bond and to heal. One of the sisters-in-law had said the night before that whenever Sister, Niece and Nephew went to social events, they always sat together, talked and joked together and generally didn't interact with others all that much. This small "society" of theirs had just taken a major hit and according to Cousin it was up to the remaining "members" of that group to work out their sorrow without intervention from other well-meaning individuals. Cousin managed to say all of the above in one sentence, but I just can't recall it. Anyway I really didn't want to go there again.

-Once my presence was no longer needed, I hit the road once more: I had heard a weather report which had dire predictions and I wanted to get back to Stockton before more roads were closed. Judy and I left around 3:15PM and to my great surprise we were on the freeway and headed for the Bay Bridge within 15 minutes. Made the passage to Stockton in less than 2 hours, took a nap on the couch while the other inhabitants watch a soap opera (no sign of Stefano this episode). Woke up, watched the weather report, then shepherded all and sundry to Tony Roma's for ribs, etc. Picked up 2/3 of the tab (well, I talked them into going), went home, gave bones to doggies and hit the hay. Next morning, whilst I was on the way back from the bank (spent all my road money on gas yet again) Nature Called at long last and it was a close call, but I got to the toilet in the nick of time. 3 days of road food and pounding road bumps told the tale and I managed to clog their toilet. Naturally no plunger to be found in the house, so instead of getting an early start home for once, I did The Right Thing by driving to the local market to buy a plunger. Went home, un-plugged their commode, loaded the doggies and headed down I-5 towards Santa Barbara once more.

-Reflecting on all of the above, as I entered my driveway I had a Raymond Chandler flash, thinking I should title all of the above "Dead Lines", because now I am the last of my line with my last name and my Sister's family has no male heir. Two dead lines, get it? Yeah.

-Took the doggies out to the meadow straight away, since it wasn't raining and they had been cooped up for nearly 3 hours. Did not walk, but strode to cliff's edge, eager to throw myself at the winds once more and fling out my arms in defiance. But there wasn't enough wind: had I done so I would have appeared a fool to onlookers, of which there was one. Ah, vanity! How come there's never a romantic poet around when you need one? How could I sum up this ...adventure?

-The thought came to me somewhere during the evening that as long as nephew was alive he was the "black sheep" of the family, granting me limited acceptance to the halls of familial power, as I had somehow been transformed to a mere off-color sheep. Now that he's gone it appears that I have once more assumed the title and status of black sheep and I will be shunned accordingly. Reminds me of freeway driving, of which I have been doing entirely too much lately: one can travel juuust over the speed limit and get away with it, as long as there is some other damned fool driving by faster than you, who can lure the holsteins away from target you. Now I'm all alone on the highway, so to speak

Well, The Biz is on autopilot and I really had little to do with that in any case, so in one scenario I can kick back, be the harmless fool folks would rather I remain and wait for the checks to arrive. Gives one a bit of freedom, upon further reflection: at long last I may be able to do some of the things that I have wanted to do for so long, like rent an RV to visit friends scattered about the countryside, build a boat from scratch and a few other things.

But the laptop computer is no longer an option this year though and I have so wanted one. First I got $4k out of the Line Of Credit to buy one, then Mom died and I spent it all on funeral stuff. I got out another $4k and that's going to the hole in the roof (did I mention that when I left on this trip, the upstairs porch was leaking at the threshold of the doors? The water appears to have entered there, then run down the ceiling joists. Downstairs about 6ft of the joist is exposed where all of the plaster has dissolved. There is a big mess on the floor, too) and the re-repair of the porch which has already been fixed once before when this happened a decade ago, right after the second floor was built. Well, there isn't another $4k to spare for a laptop, so I'm stuck with my &quot3x5 solar laptop", aka my shirt pocket note pad for another year at least

--No food in the fridge: gave all my meager pile to Sister's household for the duration. Today's lunch is lentil soup thickened with crumbled hot dog buns and topped with fat-free pizza cheese. Am using all as a vehicle to get down a flurry of pills to rid myself of headache which began night before last around 2:AM. Cause of headache: chocolate mint yummy snack that arrived with check from Tony Roma's rib place in Stockton. Silly me: I couldn't resist. Ouch Will go to market later today, once B-5 is taped at the alternate time. Set all up to get a copy last Wed. night but good ol' Ted Turner decided to show "Gone With The Wind" in its place, with NO explanation. Called their robot last night ("press 3 for Babylon 5 information") and got another recording saying nothing was unusual and the scheduled time was to have been B-5. Harrumph!!

9:18 PM:Interrupted by a bazillion phonecalls, plus visit from Frank who helped me get porch tarped correctly to withstand the weather. Rained mighty hard, intermittently today. Walked doggies in rain, which turned torrential and soaked the three of us before we could get indoors once more. Got a call from sister and we talked briefly: big crowd of folks and well-wishers at her digs, so I made the call as short as possible for her benefit. Later, after going to market and getting food to last 5 days (until next trip North), Richard called and dropped by, after dark and is still on couch watching Olympic Games. Will have to shoo him out shortly so that I can get some sleep: the day following one of my treks I am really beat. Add to this, it wasn't until late afternoon that I became headache-free and I am doubly bushed Tomorrow I'll make a stab at making bread, which I would like to bring North and give to my Sister, for no other reason than that bread has some biblical connotations that I hope won't be totally lost on the recipients

Sunday, February 22, 1998, 8:00 AM:
I've been tinkering with the webpage again and I've made a number of small corrections in the last few days.

Judy is visiting on the occasion of daughter Serena's graduation from Teen Challenge, a sort of Christian boot camp for wayward teenagers.

Yesterday marked my return to collating with the Art/Life gang and it was a welcome change from my time on the road (but more about that in a bit). There was one new face at the table, but I've already forgotten his name (as usual for me). He had a tendency towards political thinking and struck me as something of an ecological extremist (we got to talking about times we had been caught in the rain and he mentioned that he had been chilled to the bone last week and almost got pneumonia because the bus he lives in has no heater. I mentioned my one bit of arcane knowledge about hypothermia on the road if, say, caught in one's car in a snowstorm: it is possible to make a comfy nest using a fat edition of a newspaper, by crumpling up the pages and filling the dead-air space in the vehicle. This will act as insulation and allow an exothermic human to warm up in the middle. But this guy went on about how the ink would cause lead poisoning and yada, yada, yada I countered with suggesting that he get a newspaper from someone that used vegetable inks, but that suggestion fell on deaf ears It was a fun afternoon with much free-wheeling conversation and one or two great ideas. Joe has a wooden Chinese checkers board and looking at it I had a sudden thought which I shared and which got a laugh. It occurred to me that if one arrayed a star-pattern of little plastic dildos or phallic-shaped objects on the board, the picture might be captioned "Chinese peckers". Heh.

After collating, I went and bummed around Ventura to kill time until the night's activities, which were to transpire at the Ventura County Fairgrounds Agriculture Building at 6:30PM. I drove over to Main St. and started checking out the antique stores, on the lurk for interesting mechanical contrivances. Prices of neat stuff were high, but not nearly as outrageous as prices in Santa Barbara and San Francisco. Many shopkeepers seemed pretty ignorant of what it was they had, too: always good for bargaining

-------------This portion removed: 01-06-10

--And speaking of time on the road, after I type this in, pack, do a bit of email and grab some road food I'm off again this morning, on my way to organize the disbursement of Mom's belongings from the Steiner St. apartment. Hopefully all will go smoothly and I'll be on my way back here again by Tuesday, but I have few illusions For starters, Don Wood, who said he would be able to help out can't make it after all (weather has complicated his plans). Then Cousin Ed who is executor of the estate has suggested that an appraiser look over her belongings, since some may have exceptional values. In this way, he says, future resentments will never materialize and I know he's right. Hopefully the appraiser will be on hand Monday, but if not, it's wait and wait some more I've got an appointment with The Stock Broker on Monday, so I'm committed to the drive in any case. Yesterday on my way to Art/Life I went and rented a couple of furniture blankets so if worse comes to worse I'll be able to lug a few light-weight items down to my truck, pack 'em right and slog through the weather to my digs on my own.

--I really want to get the webpage right and more close to done than it is now. I realize, however, that there really isn't anything web-oriented that is ever completely "done": they are evolving life forms, so to speak and require the occasional nudge. All must again wait for my next chance at the keyboard: I'll be stuck in that little room across from the lights of the gas station for a few more days, with little to amuse me except the TV with the washed-out color and what paperbacks I drag along.

--Eugene says that if I am still there Wednesday night he's got some sort of eclipse-related work for me to do at the Exploratoreum but I have no idea what that will involve or whether it is worth hanging around for another potential whack at making a good impression and meeting another gatekeeper. Yes, I would LOVE to have the opportunity to work in the shops at the Exploratoreum, but what are the odds? Well, "we'll see" is better than not looking at all, so we'll see

Return to News Index