November 3, 2010

La Ultima Vez

Dear Readers

I have spent the last 6 months in upper California and no longer am I running the guesthouse. The El Boleo mine, painfully on hold during the worst of economic times, is now about to become a reality with funding underway. The mine will bring many new opportunities for jobs and investment to the citizens of Santa Rosalia. Hopefully it will improve the town in many ways and perhaps allow them to fulfill the dream of becoming one of Mexico's Pueblo Magicos sometime in the future. As for my blog, it has served its purpose for me of describing my day to day life as an innkeeper and of the life and times in Santa Rosalia. I no longer plan to post new blogs. And so I bid you a fond farewell.

Hasta luego, La Duena de la Casa

September 9, 2010

Where to eat in Carlsbad, New Mexico

Hermana and I drove down to Carlsbad, NM to visit our Mother recently. We spent all of our time eating out, then napping and then trying to decide which restaurant to devote our attention to next. We made some surprisingly new finds and repeated old best ones—people in Carlsbad have some clever dining options now that have not always been there.

Our first night we went to the No Whiner Diner. The name by itself is enough to turn me off, but the food is actually very fresh and appealing with a diner sort of aspect, lots of options (including great salads for dieters), even though they don’t serve liquor. The thing about Carlsbad according to my cousin is that the townspeople fall into two groups: those that drink and those that oppose drinking. Every restaurant in Carlsbad has to decide which group they plan to appeal to because teetotalers and lushes avoid each other’s restaurants on principle.

The next morning as my sister and I walked down the hall to my Mother's room, we sadly discovered our Mother’s dining companion fallen on the floor in her room with a badly broken knee; she was taken off to Lubbock for surgery that couldn't be done in Carlsbad. That sort of dampened our mood to eat breakfast in the independent care dining room that day, so we hustled off to the Blue House Bakery and Cafe, a darling coffee shop and bakery with amazing artwork, excellent food and a convivial atmosphere on North Canyon Road. My sister parked in front of the vacant lot next door to the Blue House and pointed out to me that this was where my Mother had first lived as a child. Two Cyprus trees had overgrown either side of a single concrete step which was all that remained of where the house had stood, and the vacant lot next to that was where a beloved family pet, Star Puppy, was buried. I always asked my Mother to tell me Star Puppy stories over and over again when I was little.

Best place to meet and mingle with friendly locals--a must do!

That evening we had reservations at the Stock Exchange Steakhouse, one of the more pricey places. I wish they would put a new front door on the restaurant; the existing one is plywood painted a flat black and kind of sets the tone for the poor interior design in the restaurant. The facility is owned by a caterer and the food is imaginative and unique, even though the menu is somewhat limited. All of us were impressed with the fine food (and me the wine list); the desserts were exceptional. The dining furniture is beautiful, but although the restaurant is expensively decorated it is a claustrophobic space inside. A beautiful old bar dominates the end of the room, but has been effaced by the black ceiling and dark red-brown walls that take over the room and press you down. I believe they had the best food, but the interior made all of us very uncomfortable.

Thursday came and lunch was held at The Little Teapot, a very girlie spot in an old Carlsbad house, cater-corner from the Blue House. Inside the home was decorated with ladies hats, teapots and floral china, and a beautiful framed wedding dress from the ‘50s complete with pearls, handbag and photo of the bride and groom. The groom’s dinner jacket was framed on the other wall. The food was fresh and not too much, and all the meals were served on beautiful pieces of mismatched china. It was a cute place and was popular enough that a children’s birthday party was underway upstairs.

For dinner we drove 30 minutes distant to Artesia to an Italian restaurant called Piccolino which got good reviews on Trip Advisor. It turned out to be sort of your red-checkered tablecloth kind of Italian restaurant and didn’t make any claims to being fancy, though it was housed in a cute old brick building and was attractive inside. The portions were quite generous and the menu very comprehensive. I would definitely go back again. I wondered who the Italian counterpart of the establishment was since the staff seemed all to be of Mexican descent though giving the impression of being part of a large family who owned it. There were lots of unique menu items that hinted at a very Italian cook. Artesia is an oil-and-gas town, a tiny town of about 15,000 but embellished with some very impressive large-scale bronze sculptures of horsemen and cattle along the main street and highway through town.

Bronze sculpture, El Vaquero, in downtown Artesia

The next day, Friday, was our last day to enjoy each other’s company as Hermana and I would leave bright and early the next morning to catch up with Esperando in the Albuquerque Airport. I can never understand how times flies by so quickly. I convinced Hermana that we had to go to San Jose, the Mexican part of Carlsbad, to eat at Rojas Mexican Grill and Restaurant, the best Mexican restaurant in town. Their red chile sauce for chips and for enchiladas is fabulous, hot and spicy. The Mexican American citizens of Carlsbad lay claim to many generations of residence here all the way back to the Spanish occupation of Mexico; they are not ‘wetbacks’.

Our last night’s dinner was saved for the Trinity Grill and Hotel. This historic property was constructed in 1892 as the First National Bank. It once served as home to the first newspaper and headquarters of the Carlsbad Irrigation District where my grandfather had his office as Project Manager of the U.S. Reclamation Project. For my Mother, my sister and me, it evokes nostalgia of times past and some emotional claim that we have on Carlsbad as our birthplace. However it is also a wonderful place to eat, full of light and elegant interior spaces. The food is always good, the Maitre D’ knows my Mother and delights in escorting her to a table, and somehow it just always feels like home.

The old bank building these days houses Trinity, a B&B and hotel.

August 23, 2010

Canadian Border Crossings

Yesterday we flew back from Vancouver where we spent the past several days for Esperando’s work. The weather was beautiful and we ate at some really great restaurants.

Esperando tried to check us in online, but for some peculiar reason he couldn’t acquire my boarding pass. Our flight didn’t leave until 4 pm, so we waited around for one last lunch at our new favorite sushi restaurant Oysi Oysi. I am on a lowfat diet and Esperando is on the Atkins diet—Japanese food works really well for us as we can both have the raw fish and salads. The wait staff is super friendly. We ate there 5 days in a row we liked it so well.

Oysi Oysi means yummy, yummy in Japanese.

We decided to get to the airport a little early—it was Sunday and not much was open downtown. We tried to check in at the United kiosk at the airport, but again my boarding pass wouldn’t pop up. We had to get the agent to print it out for us. I guess we were just too dumb. When I finally got my boarding pass I had the dreaded four S’s on it, which meant I had been singled out for a special random security check. Lucky me. In the past when this has happened (and I seem to have had more than my fair share of times), Esperando has been excluded. But somehow in the intervening months since the last time, he was glued to my fate for better or worse. Those security guys probably felt sorry for the left out spouses and have decided the more the merrier.

When you get the four S's the wisest course of action is just to turn around and go back home.

Now we shunted off into the special high security section. Before we passed through your standard metal detector the security guy advised us we would be searched on the other side and had the option of a hand pat-down or the much maligned Whole Body Imaging Scan. On the other side we passed into the control of two guards who asked us whether we wanted to be frisked or scanned. We both elected to be scanned which took about 5 seconds. I hope those guys were blinded by my Medusa-type fat middle-aged body, serves them right I say! After that we came back to the table holding our computers, purse, backpack, shoes and wraps. A guy took our boarding passes and proceeded to check each item out with the explosive swab test, not allowing us to handle anything until it was checked, determined to be free of explosive residue, and then individually handed back over to us, a process that took about 15 minutes. We had to open our computers to show that they were not bombs and they if they had been we would have been the ones to have been blown away first.

Now Esperando and I went to a lot of trouble when we lived in Canada several years ago to drive an hour away to the U.S. border to apply for Nexus cards so could be deemed reliably trustworthy individuals who would sell all their children to the government for slave labor if we ever broke any kind of law here or in Canada. Having a Nexus card meant we could avoid waiting in long lines at immigration after gettng off the plane. We had to answer all kinds of detailed questions about our life history and residences, stuff you hope you will always remember but are afraid you will forget as your brain ages. You get a secret password that you better write down as it is super complicated—and woe to you when you can’t remember your security questions. It makes me tremble even now to think of getting on line with them. If you fail to get everything right, after the third time your access to their website is locked down permanently. Having gone through the whole rigamarole and having cards issued we thought we were now cool dudes. However the dreaded four S’s supercedes any previous cool dude status and we were next hauled off to a place that was actually labeled 'Detention Area for Baggage and Individuals' while our bags were retrieved so they could be hand inspected. Cops with guns on their hips cruised around in case anyone tried to make a break for it.

We were now seated in a room of equally criminally minded people who sat cooling their heels while their bags were likewise retrieved. We were all guilty until proven innocent.  A new couple came in and sat by us. They had been through this before and missed their flight one time because it took so long to be processed. The woman stated that the government had to keep doing this to, "keep us good and scared." Esperando and I had lots of time to wait and weren't in danger of missing our flight, but it was annoying to be treated like a criminal. Somehow our bags were not cooperating with a positive attitude, refusing to be found and since they couldn’t find them we were stuck. Finally after what seemed like forever our bags decided to make an appearance. Lots of other people had come and gone. Our bags were re-processed through the X-ray machine. We were asked if we had anything we wanted to declare, why we had come to Canada and how long we had stayed? I tell you they don't want us or our money there really. The government already has its own citizens paying for everything through the nose, why would they want Americans to come in and throw a few bucks around and lighten the load? I tell you next time you will have to drag me kicking and screaming into Canada. This time they have finally convinced me that I do not belong there, even if my forebears did land there 300 years ago, at least they had the sense to leave.

This was just a random check, but those security people are so hostile they make you feel guilty for everything you ever did in your entire life while you sit waiting. The have no sense of humor. The only thing I know for sure you must tolerate their hostility without cracking and making a snippy remark, or they will hound you across the border forever. We know—we have friends who are in that boat, too.

August 1, 2010

Family Memoirs

Confederation Bridge traveling north to New Brunswick

When we went to visit our friends in Prince Edward Island last week instead of taking the ferry back to Nova Scotia to go to the airport in Halifax, we drove back over the Confederation Bridge which crosses the Northumberland Strait to connect PEI to New Brunswick. The bridge is 8 miles long, the longest in the world crossing ice-covered water (although being mid-summer it wasn’t icy), and endures as one of Canada’s top engineering achievements of the 20th century.

Watch out for mooses crossing the road!

My mother has always told me that some of our ancestors came from New Brunswick. In fact, they reputedly left American soil during the Revolution because they wanted to remain Loyalists. The truth of the matter is that many of them landed in New Brunswick to start with. When we started driving it began to rain pretty good, and once we crossed into New Brunswick it was pouring down steadily making the dark gloomy piney forests bordering the road look primitive, vaporish and threatening, so the opposite of tidy manicured Prince Edward Island. Here and there on the highway signs warning of wildlife crossings featured the black silhouette of a moose. I wondered what life was like back in the 1700’s when my forebears lived in that God forsaken place. And then, I thought maybe it would have been the same in Maine where other family settled back then. Rushing into my mind came the silly little tune that I learned long ago when I was 12 and taking piano lessons. It goes like this: “Hear the Indians in the forest, creeping, creeping. They will not disturb you if you are sleeping, sleeping.” The thought of the woods being full of Indians sort of made my scalp prickle, and it didn't sound like a very comforting lullaby.

Historic American Buildings Survey Print of Old Photo Showing Remains of Junkins Garrison (Built about 1700 in Maine.) The Tozier Garrison may have been something like this.

As we drove along I googled “Richard Tozier” on my Blackberry whose name I knew as one of my ancestors. He lived in Salmon Falls, Maine and was murdered by the Indians there in 1675 during the French and Indian wars. My mother has a copy of a pencil drawing of Tozier Garrison, a blockhouse that he constructed after one Indian attack. It was in country just such as this that he lived and died. His story has always captured my imagination, and the account goes like this:

“September 24th, 1675, the Indians first attacked the settlements near Saco, and then proceeded towards the Piscataqua River, intending to make an assault upon any defenseless place. The first place to be assailed was the dwelling house of Mr. Richard Tozier. It was situated one hundred and fifty rods above the mills and garrison at Salmon Falls. Tozier and sixteen men in the neighborhood had gone with Wincoln, captain of the town company, to defend or relieve the distressed inhabitants of Saco, and left his household unguarded, consisting of fifteen persons, all women and children. The attack was led on by Andrew, of Saco, and Hopehood, of Kennebec, two of the bravest warriors in their tribes. A girl of eighteen discovered their approach, shut and stood against the door until the others escaped to the next house, which was better secured. The Indians chopped the door to pieces, knocked her down, leaving her for dead and pursued the rest. Two children who could not get over the fence were captured. The unknown heroine recovered.

In October the garrison was attacked again. A letter addressed to two gentlemen at Dover communicates the distress of that place. 'To Richard Waldron and Lieutenant Coffin: These are to inform you that the Indians are just now engaging us with at least one hundred men and have already slain four of our men, Richard Tozier, James Berry, Isaac Bottes and Tozier's son, and burned Benoni Hodsdon's house. Sirs, if ever you have any love for us, show yourselves with men to help us, or else we are in great danger of being slain, unless our God wonderfully appears for our deliverance. They that cannot fight let them pray.'

Richard's son Richard, Jr., was captured, but returned after some Months Restraint.' Lieutenant Roger Plaisted, one of the signers of the above letter, was killed in the attempt to rescue his friend's body. Richard Tozier, Jr. returning from captivity, inherited the house and lands of his father where he lived many years with his wife, Elizabeth. Tradition gives two Canadian captivities to Richard and three to Elizabeth his wife.

It is said that the Indians came once while she was boiling (lye) soap and she, throwing it upon them, caused their retreat. Again, dressed in man's clothes with gun in hand she acted as sentry while the men were in the fields. Of her last capture the Genealogy says that when Richard saw the Indians coming he told his wife she must do the best she could; he preferred death to another captivity. If she were taken he would redeem her if he lived. So covering himself with a feather bed he ran out of the back door to the frozen river. The ice was thin and he broke through. The Indians seeing the hole and the bed believed him drowned and did not follow. They pillaged and burned the house, carrying off Elizabeth and all its inmates. Meantime Tozier was watching from the river's bank."

Hear the Indians in the forest, creeping, creeping . . .

July 27, 2010

Prince Edward Island

Driving onto the ferry to cross over Northumberland Strait.

Esperando and I spent this past weekend visiting The Storyteller, an old friend, who lives on Prince Edward Island in the Canadian Maritimes (that includes Nova Scotia and New Brunswick as well). We journeyed from San Francisco to JFK Airport changing planes to Halifax, Nova Scotia and arriving late. We spent the night in Halifax and traveled several hours to the car ferry crossing the Northumberland Strait.

Mystery sandwich with pink filling finally revealed to be lobster. Yum!

While standing in line at the little cafeteria on board the ferry I tried to decide what my lunch would be and settled on one of those simple pre-made white bread sandwiches in a clear plastic container that you are bound to find in that kind of place. Looking at the condensated bin door I tried to visually decifer what my sandwich choices were since the sign listing menu items was posted in such a way that the line of hungry diners was blocking it from view. I could see egg salad and chicken, but a third option with a pink filling didn’t register. Finally I realized that option was lobster, oh my, oh my! I had to have lobster and every bite was delicious.

Gourmet Magazine pick, the Queen Street Meat Market in the capital Charlottetown. Here is the local butcher with a pretty big lobster.

Prince Edward Island (PEI) is known for the fictional heroine Anne of Green Gables created by the author Lucy Maud Montgomery who wrote about her and the Green Gables house, a real house that the novelist placed her in and built 16 novels around her life there. Although most tourists come for Anne of Green Gables, we didn’t spend much time on her as we were busy touring and investigating other well known island phenomenon such as the fabulous lobsters, Malpeque oysters, scallops and mussels—as well as PEI potatoes in various forms. If you go to McDonalds here you can get a McLobster sandwich and not to be outdone, the local Subway Sandwich store also features a lobster sandwich too. Only in PEI can you live and breathe lobster at a reasonable price. Yes, I had arrived in lobster land where the roads are lined with lobster traps and the lobster sells for $8/pound. Esperando and I struggled to down several dozen oysters and wondered if we’d died and gone to heaven. I was ready to move.

Tidy countryside and carefully manicured small farms. This is the Storyteller's 1888 home from across the vale.

The island dates back to earliest occupation by the French in 1605 when it was known as Acadia. It remained in French hands until 1755 when the British drove the French out to New Orleans at the culmination of the French and Indian wars with the Peace of Utrecht. These days PEI is a rolling hilly country richly patchworked with fields of potatoes, alfalfa and waterways. It is littered with lovely old farmhouses set in tidy gardens with expansive mowed green lawns,scenic fishermen’s huts flaunting fishing boats and lobster traps with a nautical New England air, and old clapboard churches with graveyards and one room schoolhouses.

Row of early colonial homes in historic Charlottetown

July 16, 2010

Rules for the dog

1. The dog is not allowed in the house.

2. Ok, the dog is allowed in the house, but only in certain parts.

3. Ok, the dog is allowed in all rooms, but has to stay off the furniture.

4. Ok, the dog can get on the old furniture only.

5. Fine, the dog allowed on all the furniture, but is not allowed to sleep with the humans on the bed.

6. Ok, the dog is allowed on the bed but at the foot of the bed only, and only when invited.

7. The dog can sleep on the bed whenever he wants, but not under the covers.

8. The dog can sleep under the covers by invitation only.

9. The dog can sleep under the covers every night.

10. Humans must ask permission to sleep under the covers with the dog.

Yes, this is what we have come to in our house. We have a king size bed but Lupita takes up more of it than the rest of us do. We are pushed to the edges of the bed. Lupita is a very small dog but when she sleeps she expands to her full length which is 2 feet. We are lucky there is any bed left for the rest of us to use. This is what dogs do best.

July 10, 2010

Things That Prickle and Bite

Esperando and I are in Denver for the next few days for various appointments and we can’t overlook the necessary tidying of the yard. In addition to all the trimming back and replacing of plants that froze to death this past winter, we have serious weed patrol. Unfortunately we seem to have our share of daytime and nighttime mosquitos which made a meal out of me while I was trimming our rose bushes.

It also seems our yard has been overwhelmed by these giant horrid prickly thistles trying to take over the lawn and the garden. They are worse each time we come back; it is obvious that they are putting out runners, because they cluster together and grow like aspen trees in a grove.

Nasty thorns and indominitable growth habits

Our neighborhood rag, Front Porch recently ran an article on them, “Canada Thistle Requires a Weed War on All Fronts” which is pretty discouraging for people who live here year round, let alone folks like Esperando and I that are here so infrequently. Apparently they reproduce by runner and seed. Once established they put down 15 foot roots! Just a ¼ -inch piece of root is enough to get them started. If you start pulling them out and chopping up the roots that just stimulates more plants to develop. They recommend a combination of stressing them by mowing them and applying 2,4-D combination herbicides. Then in 2 years they may go away. Yeah good luck, last time I was here I carefully squirted a spot where they were coming up in the lawn with Roundup because I was tired of bending over and pulling them out and by the time I was back to California the lawn service was calling me up to ask if I had sprayed something on the lawn as I had killed a large patch of grass. Yip, that would be me, lawn killer par excellence. The thistles just thumbed their collective noses at me and grew taller.

Denver is rife with hornets in the summer. My mother called them buzzy-whizzies as a child.

Talk about not giving up--in addition to hardy thistles we have obstinate hornets. I noticed hornets flying in and out of my antique watering can’s nozzle. I decided they must be building a nest and figured if I opened the closed hatch on the top of the watering can maybe they would abandon hive to move somewhere else like a bird might. The can was right next to some lawn chairs we were wanting to sit on. I opened up the watering can, but added daylight didn’t seem to bother them any. Finally from a distance I used the hose to start pouring water in to the can. Seven or eight hornets came roaring out of the can and hovered by the stream of water coming from the hose. They were unhappy with the water entering the can but fortunately didn’t seem to realize that I was the one directing the flow. Once the can was filled they kept hovering over it wanting to rescue the infantile hive.

I figured after 20 minutes they would get discouraged and go away, but oh, no, they were hard-wired. I never saw such righteous mothers. Finally I went into the house and returned armed with a can of Raid and sprayed them. The fumes were scented and I inhaled a lot of them. It didn’t seem to have much effect on the hornets, but I am sure I poisoned myself. When I directed the spray at them they would fly away, then came right back again. About 5 pm they began to settle on the lip of a nearby flowerpot to spend the night so they could take up their vigil the following day. Then I really nailed them with the Raid. A couple escaped but didn’t return again. I felt like the General George Armstrong Custer of wasp killers, except I was still standing. I had drowned their nest and murdered all the moms except a couple who escaped with their scalps. And you wondered if the Wild West still exists? I tell you here in Denver it really does. We have lots of things that prickle, sting and bite.

General Custer--he bought his lunch at the Battle of Little Bighorn

July 5, 2010

Scenic Highway 1 to Big Sur

View from 17-mile drive near Pebble Beach

This past weekend Esperando and I set our sights for Paso Robles and a little wine tasting adventure in a region with which we were not familiar. We drove down Highway 1 with a diversion through 17 Mile Drive at Carmel, and then on south down Highway 1 to Big Sur where we had never been before, stopping for a delightful lunch on the deck overlooking the river at Big Sur River Inn.

Hotel guests enjoying the lawn chairs set into the cool stream.

After eating Esperando trotted over to the Valero gas station to see if they sold diesel fuel, but they did not. On the way out of town he checked at a different gas station and same story. They thought the nearest diesel fuel was about 40 miles down the road at Gordo, or maybe Ragged Point. Thinking we had enough to get that far we traveled on enjoying the breathtaking views of California’s rugged south coast. Looking at the craggy coastline and steep mountains reminded me of the Kingston Trio song, South Coast:


South Coast, the wild coast, is lonely. You may win at the game at Jolon,
But the lion still rules the barranca, and a man there is always alone.
My name is Juan Hano de Castro. My father was a Spanish grandee,
But I won my wife in a card game, when a man lost his daughter to me.
I picked up the ace. I had won her! My heart, which was down at my feet
Jumped up to my throat in a hurry- Like a warm summers' day, she was sweet.


Her arms had to tighten around me as we rode up the hills from the South.
Not a word did I hear from her that day- or a kiss from her pretty red mouth.
We came to my cabin at twilight. The stars twinkled out on the coast.
She soon loved the valley- the orchard- but I knew that she loved me the most.


Then I got hurt in a landslide with crushed hip and twice-broken bone.
She saddled our pony like lightning- rode off in the night, all alone.
The lion screamed in the barranca; the pony fell back on the slide.
My young wife lay dead in the moonlight. My heart died that night with my bride.

Romantic, sad, life in another time but the place is still the same. Although artists and tourists flock to Big Sur and the breathtaking views along Highway 1, it is still a very isolated place and doesn't change. There is no room for new construction between the sheer cliffs and tiny slices of valley. It is so amazing that a stream can even find a place to run along parallel to the highway and then create a spectacular waterfall that drops thousands of feet into the ocean for a brief glimpse as you barrel along the road.

Beautiful Highway 1 out in the middle of nowhere.

At Gordo we pulled over, but no fuel; same story at Ragged Point. Esperando continued on down the highway, me snapping pictures nonchalantly. Ahead of us a road grader was working on the side of the road and Esperando rapidly pulled off the highway in front of him. Out he bounced from the car and approached the driver. In the secret language of men he managed to buy enough fuel for us to continue on down the road to Cambria where we would be able to fill the tank.

Now just why might you want to name this 'Ragged Point'?

What an amazing drive, but you better have your camera pointed and ready at all times because you won’t have the opportunity for that second shot. And if your vehicle uses diesel fuel, make sure your tank is full before you start the journey.

June 25, 2010

Cowboy country

Last weekend Esperando and I took a short spin over to Watsonville, a small farming community on the central coast of California just south of Santa Cruz that was featured recently in Sunset Magazine as a getaway destination for strawberry picking and its great beach.  We drove along winding roads through wooded coastal glens of sunlight and shadow to break out onto waves of rolling hilly farmland that is Watsonville. Besides major crops of strawberries, we saw row after row of lettuces waiting to be picked. I only vaguely remembered driving through Watsonville on my way to Carmel in past times. I was always so eager to get to Carmel and shop, and Watsonville was just in the way.

You will see this kind of view from any narrow road in Northern California leading to the coast once you get away from the houses.


This time Watsonville got its full due. We drove around and took photos of farm acreage, took the very photographic road to the beach lined with old Monterey pines, but turned around because we didn’t want to pay to get into the beach.

A great swooning Monterey Pine looks a bit lonely in the midst of the strawberry fields

Back in town, around the town square we saw a large Hispanic population enjoying the afternoon in the park like you would see in anywhere in Mexico. I surfed on my Blackberry phone to figure out where we might eat and we settled on a popular Mexican restaurant, El Alteño, I supposed stealing its name from ‘Alta California’ versus ‘Baja California’ but I don’t really know. I guess we needed a Mexico fix having been away from Baja now for the last 2 months. The food was so-so, but the streets were full of Hispanic cowboys wearing Stetson hats. After lunch we went next door to a western clothing store and Esperando bought a fancy shirt while I photographed the Stetson hats on their display. One hat was marked for sale for $400. I guess if you are a wealthy farmer you wear an expensive hat, not a Rolex.

This fancy hat is waiting for a home.

As we rambled along we drove by the Redman House, a beautiful old Victorian home, facing the highway, that had seen better days. It had been set up on blocks and looked like plans were afoot to move it elsewhere. A little investigation on the internet revealed an interesting history. Designed by renowned architect William Weeks, this huge home was built for James Redman in 1897. When the James Redman family died out in the 1930s, the house and property were sold to the Hiraharas, one of the first Japanese-American families to own farmland in the nation. Unlike other Japanese families, the Hiraharas managed to retain control of their property during the WWII period of internment. Only in the late 1980's was the land leased to a strawberry grower, the home abandoned and left to deteriorate. The house was added to the National Registry of Historic Places to hinder demolition while the Redman-Hirahara foundation pursued funds for preserving and restoring the property. It seems the plan was to make a small farm around it and make it a visitor’s center, leaving it in its current location. The foundation had owned the home until September 2009, when it lost it to foreclosure. Now, without access to the site, the group continues to toil, working on plans and waiting for what will come next, though it doesn’t know what or when that will be. If you are interested in donating money for a worthy cause this one certainly deserves some attention.

She greets the Pajaro Valley's visitors and passersby like a grand lady fallen on hard times. The interior of the home was finished in eastern oak, birds eye maple and natural hardwoods.

June 21, 2010

Indelible Ink

On Friday I laid down for a few moments to nap. My brother and his wife were coming to go out to dinner with us soon, and I was worn out. Esperando and I had been hustling around all day. A few minutes into my doze I realized that Lupita the Wonder Dog was lying on the floor by my bed in the sunshine, chewing on one of her chew sticks. How endearing that the little dog wanted to be near me.

I got up 30 minutes before our guests were to arrive. I looked at the floor where Lupita lay demolishing a Bic pen, not a chew stick. She had pretty much shattered it and was casting tiny bits of marigold colored plastic on the rug. I panicked. Had she eaten the ink cartridge. No, there it was, but oh dear it had been punctured in several places and ink had oozed onto the pale beige carpet in about five different spots. Oh no, oh no, oh no. Dollar signs fluttered before my eyes as I thought about the $500 pet deposit on our apartment.

First I raced to the laundry and found some Spray and Wash that I applied to one of the stains, then I used a paper towel to rub it around. The ink blossomed like a water color painting and where I had rubbed it around, the rug had taken on a 4-inch square blue sheen. I charged out of the room and sent Esperando packing to the grocery store to buy some Resolve Carpet Cleaner. Fortunately it is a short half-block walk to Safeway from where we are living now. While he was off on his mission I checked on the internet and it said, isopropyl alcohol—but blot, don’t rub. So I called him on the cell phone, he was almost home, and sent him back to the store again for alcohol.

In the meantime I went to my small personal travel supply of rubbing alcohol and carefully poured the tiniest amount onto the ink. Let me explain, as the carpet looked with only the ink stains on it before it was treated, it was though someone had drawn long blue skinny lines on it. When I poured the alcohol on the lines they feathered out into big puddles of blue ink. I kept pouring and blotting and the rug looked horrendous. Finally big pools of saturated blue covered about 12 square inches of the carpet in blotty floral patterns. When my brother and his wife arrived, I left off so we could go out to dinner. I wouldn’t be able to really tackle it until the next morning, but I had a big knot in the pit of my stomach.

The next morning I started in again in earnest. When I could not longer blot out more blue with the alcohol, I started spraying Resolve onto the carpet and more blue coloring came out. It seemed that the Resolve was pulling ink up from the bottom fibers. And so I alternated, alcohol, Resolve, alcohol, Resolve—blot, blot, blot. I went through a whole roll of paper towels. Then I waited several hours to see if it had improved. And gradually it did improve, but there were still pale but noticeable blue marks on the rug.

Esperando and I went for a drive looking for an Ace Hardware store where we could hopefully find some petroleum distillates. Back in the good old days you could buy Energine and it pretty much took any stain out. We never did find an Ace Hardware, but we found Draeger’s Market instead in Black Hawk, that gourmet foodie store you get lost in and lie down on the floor and drool yourself to death over the millions of amazing food items you will never find anywhere else; that is if you don’t get lost in their china and cookware department first and collapse over fine casserole dish.

The real heros of the day.

The really cool thing about Draeger’s is they have all the neat cleaning products that Ace does besides the cool food stuff, and that is where I found Goo Gone Citrus Power and Folex instant carpet spot remover which I never heard of before. I bought a bottle of  both. How I decided on Folex over all the other cleaning products on the shelf is only serendipitous for it was the crowning blow to the ink stains. Goo Gone did nothing. Over the next two days I kept reapplying Folex and now you would never ever know a pen leaked on the rug. It is truly truly a miracle!
Lupita developed bad habits in the hotel. She learned how to climb up on tables and get ball point pens to chew up.

June 14, 2010

You move me, baby

This past Friday was the eagerly awaited big move-in day to the new apartment. We had been living in a hotel, albeit a nice one, for the last 3 weeks. Every day we had a different maid—that seemed so strange to me that in 3 weeks I never saw the same maid maybe twice.

Our new apartment was rented sight unseen. It is difficult to rent anything when you want a short term lease and have a pet besides. We knew generally what the apartment would look like, but it is much much smaller than we had envisioned--only 800 square feet. It is across the street from Esperando’s office so he can walk to work. For me the nicest part is that we are directly over a nice shopping center featuring a Peet’s coffee shop. Although Starbucks is the largest coffeehouse company in the world with 17,133 stores in 49 countries, it is nothing compared to Peet’s. Long before Starbucks ever even thought of being the gleem in some entrepeneur’s eye back in 1971, Peet’s was pouring coffee for the denizens of Berkeley and San Francisco in the mid ‘60s. In the last couple of years, at least in the West, you can now buy Peet’s off the shelf in the grocery store. It took them a long time to start marketing their coffee very aggressively like Starbucks has but I am so glad they made the transition to at least getting it into the supermarkets. Their coffee is the best, and you can buy it on-line too. My favorite flavor is Major Dickenson’s, a very full-bodied, complex, rich, and smooth blend.

When we moved in we left Lupita overnight at Camp Bowwow, "where a dog can be a dog", so we didn’t have to juggle her and moving in besides. This was a good warmup exercise for when we go on vacation. When I delivered her there the other afternoon they put her in a small enclosure called ‘Tiny Paws’ whose only other occupant was a small Yorkie trying to take a nap on a small bed. Lupita was yap, yap, yapping, not at all happy at being left. I think Lupita thinks of herself as a small person rather than a dog.

One of the lowlights of our move was finding places to stash all the odds and ends we had collected in just 3 weeks of living. At the last moment I shoved a large bottle of Scope mouthwash into my big airplane carry-on purse which had about 15 packets of Kleenex, my passport and five Atomic Fireballs, those hard-to-find superhot cinnamon jawbreakers you remember from your childhood. By the time we manuevered the luggage cart down from the 4th floor to the car I started smelling that minty mouthwash scent. I had never checked to make sure the lid was secure on the mouthwash bottle and my apparently airtight bag was a awash in Scope. Yuck! I raced back up to our room. Fortunately my passport was undamaged as all the little Kleenex packets had soaked up much of the mouthwash. The cinnamon candies were bleeding inside their wrappers. Its going to take a long time for my purse to smell normal again, if it ever does.

June 7, 2010

You can't turn your back on them

You know this about your pets especially when they are still young--never leave them alone for too long. So what did I do? I slipped out of the room to do laundry and while I was out Lupita got a hold of my computer and started her own blog spot at  So far it seems to be more of a diary, but we'll see what kind of talent she develops. It must be the Northern California air getting into her blood.

June 6, 2010

How did we get to this?

I have looking for a place to board Lupita when we have to be away. This is not Baja and I don’t have those fantastic muchachas here that baby my pets there as much as I do, take them into their hearts, give them way too many treats and pamper them while we are gone.

First I called a local Yelp-recommended vet to see what they preferred for boarding in my area. They gave me the name of a traditional style kennel, Dublin Creek. I did a little research and found the high marks carried over to Yelp as well. So I called the kennel to talk to them. This is not one of those places where the doggies mingle, it is instead a confinement type thing, but with generously sized runs, and it is fastidiously clean and tidy. They beg you to come tour the facility. They charge $32 day, then if you want a 1-on-1 playtime break each day it is another $5/day. This all sounded fine and good until Esperando and I went out for dinner in Pleasanton.

When we got to downtown Pleasanton. we couldn’t help but notice that Main Street was closed for a mid-week fair. After a wonderful dinner at The Oasis Grill we strolled along the street with Lupita in tow. Downtown Pleasanton has drastically changed since I lived here 30 years ago. Main Street now has lots of beautiful leafy trees planted and many of the restaurants have sidewalk tables for serving lunch or evening meals. It makes for a very delightful ambiance. Eight blocks of the street had been cordoned off. A hodge-podge of profit and non profit local businesses were touting everything from various kinds of home improvements, local summer entertainment such as Shakespeare in the Park and ballet, food, live music, Boy scouts, and yoga—to dog boarding at Camp Bowwow. Here the doggies run free and play all day in Livermore, just 10 minutes down the highway from us. Camp Bowwow has facilities across the U.S. We have a Camp Bowwow just around the corner from us in Denver, but we have never gone there. It seems they have been featured on the national news. With all of Lupita’s energy and love of playing this seemed like an ideal solution for boarding her right now.

The next day I trotted her over to Camp Bowwow for a socialization interview. This meant that Lupita was required to spend 3 free hours at the kennel playing with other dogs so they could observe her interactions. The dogs are divided up into small dog and big dog groups, and the kennel has live webcams of all the doggie activities so you can check in on your pet while you are out of town. Camp Bowwow is pricey--$32 for doggie day care and $45 for overnight. Their literature is cleverly themed—like you are sending your child off to camp, i.e., “Our overnight campers are tucked away each night in their cozy cabins where they will sleep on cots with fleece lining. . . As the sun sets, each camper unwinds by enjoying a delicious Campfire Treat . . all day play, snooze the night away.” It seems she passed with flying colors because they sent her home with a diploma and invited her back. I am going to take her to day care this week so I can meet an old friend and go shopping without the worry of her sitting in the hot car melting. Since we are still in  a hotel, I don't want to leave her all day in case she gets into a barking jag and I am not here to curb it.

May 31, 2010

Tales of the City

Memorial Day weekend arrived, our first weekend in the Bay Area, a splendid three days for us to relax. Yesterday Esperando and I met with Youngest Daughter and took a picnic to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. When I was growing up in the City, my best friend in high school and I would cart a loaf of bread, Italian antipasti, cheese and peanuts in the shell off to the Arboretum and laze most of the day away on the lawn eating our food, feeding the squirrels and pondering life. Yesterday we couldn’t get near the Arboretum without great effort, so we ended up taking our picnic to Speedway Field. It is a grassy area sporting about 20 scattered picnic tables with adjacent restroom. We got there around 10:30 so we could grab a table, by 11:00 am we were ravenously consuming our Semifreddi bread and cheese, it was too early for wine, and we forgot to bring the cherries and grapes I bought to round out our meal. We ALL forgot our cameras—how could we be so stupid!

This is similar to what our picnic area looked like.

I made a visit to the restroom shortly after our arrival and a flood of memories came rushing back to me. I think every school and public facility in San Francisco is tiled with the same little beige-gold floor tiles, small tiles formed in a complicated matrix pattern. The bathroom was relatively clean, although a few bits pieces of graffiti clung to the stalls, and the stall door had been removed from the handicap stall. That transported me back to the women’s bathroom at Forest Hill Station when I was a teenager taking public transportation back and forth to high school. Then, all the doors were off the stalls and a bunch of tough girls skulked around on the bathroom smoking. I only ventured in there once and after viewing that lot, you couldn’t have drug me in there again with a team of wild horses. San Francisco holds a lot of memories of growing up for me.

When I returned to our picnic table it was in time to view a couple of women advancing down the sidewalk toward our table pushing an 8-foot-tall many branched jointed metal tree on wheels. They almost had a head-on collision with a Parks and Recreation truck that was approaching from the opposite direction. The women got the truck driver to back up a little, pushed the tree against the edge of the sidewalk, and bent its branches away from the sidewalk while the truck driver edged as far over as he could to drive forward again, mangling the bushes growing on the opposite side of the sidewalk as he went, but clearing the women and their tree. Once clear of each other, the tree resumed its progress down the sidewalk toward a busy picnic area to join in the festivities at a group of tables set with white tablecloths and canopies.

Then a Hispanic man, his wife, two excited young boys and other family members arrived at the table adjacent to ours. In several trips they brought a mega stack of paper plates, big aluminum baking pans full of food, soft drinks and beer—and a party jump house with compressor, one of those giant blowup tents in which kids jump up and down inside. They started the compressor repeatedly but it began to look like the whole point of the party wasn’t going to take shape. But, finally the compressor took hold and an enormous jumper began to take form. It was blue and red and featured Spiderman on the roof. The two little boys clung to each other, barely able to suppress their excitement at being the first ones to get a head-start on jumping at what was undoubtedly going to be THE birthday event of the season.

It looked something like this but much larger, and had a big slide on the side besides.

About that time a man with picnic basket in hand came up to us wanting to know what number our table was. We pulled our tablecloth back to discover the number “10” painted on it. Then the Hispanic man came forward to set us all straight that he had rented that and the two adjacent tables for his party. We now understood, if you didn’t reserve a table, you didn’t sit at one. It made sense and we would know better next time. At least we had been able to enjoy the table for several hours and eat our lunch before it was time to go.

It seemed destined for me to have a nostalgic sort of day. We spent the next 2 hours driving all over the City, up to Mt. Davidson to see where my family lived while I was growing up. There we encountered Rob Anderson, step grandson of our old next door neighbor Mrs. Anderson who was 82-years old at the time we arrived. Rob grew up in that house next to ours. He moved in after his grandmother died, probably as a 10-year just about the time I left to away to go to college. So although we never knew each other, we exchanged memories of the neighborhood, and the neighbors who had lived and died there. I was 10 myself when we first moved in and I found Mt. Davidson park itself to be a creepy place. It was known then in the City for its annual Easter Sunrise Service. I remember my father and I often planned to go but we could never quite leave our warm beds in the dark just to climb up the mountain to view the sunrise on Easter morning. After that we drove on to Twin Peaks to admire the beautiful view, then to the Palace Legion of Honor passing through that ritzy manicured area of the rich, Sea Cliff, and then on to the Presidio. Finally we returned Youngest Daughter to her lair and headed back for a well-deserved nap to the East Bay.

The steps up to Mt. Davidson, still the same, still creepy, like approaching some kind of ruin.

May 27, 2010

Graduating from CalArts

Youngest Son had an exuberant graduation ceremony in LA last week to receive his BFA in film animation. Since many of his classmates were theater or dance majors it made for an exciting evening as each one had a few seconds to have his/her selected song played and to act out whatever fantasy they desired while accepting their degrees. It also made the evening a very long one—three hours.

Degree candidates awaiting their turns.

We had a great time people watching. We saw a fully costumed chicken carry a boy up to receive his degree; a fabulous Tahitian dancer with a very long black dreadlocks wig and painted face performed an amazing dance for her degree and turned out to be topless underneath when we saw her off stage later; any number of girls did the hoochy koochy just before accepting their degrees; and a pink painted man-lady who appeared to be naked but really wasn’t sat waiting in the bleachers for his turn. It was hard to know at times who was more remarkable, the students or the audience--from surfer dads to beautifully attired sari-ed women, all with their buttons ready to burst in pride for their children who had accomplished great things.

Audience being equally outrageous.

Considering that all these kids had made it through four years with their noses to the grindstone it was a portentous moment for all. Teachers hugged their students as professors for each discipline went on stage to award degrees to the students. It was obvious that you weren’t just a number here at CalArts, even though the graduating class was huge. I know Youngest Son is really happy to have no more classes, but I think a part of him will miss CalArts and the support he received there.

Bouquets and kudos to the graduates!

May 25, 2010

Day 1 in the Bay Area - Alternative VISA advertisement

Amount of hotel soap used taking a shower while Lupita the Chihuahua consumed two 5-gram dark chocolate candies that the hotel left on our pillows the previous night = $0.02

Amount of gasoline used to race Lupita to the Tri-Valley Emergency Clinic = $1.00

Amount of vet bill to induce vomiting and new red scarf given for being a wonderful patient = $150.00.

Having Lupita the dog still be alive = Priceless

May 17, 2010


My sister Hermana drove up from Taos to stay with me after my mother’s birthday last week. Denver was cold and rainy and snowy, not much of a welcoming reception—but that didn’t stop us from have oodles of fun.

Serious shopping was the order of the day.

We spent the next 5 days combing our favorite bargain and not-so-bargain stores for hours: Target, Tuesday Morning, Hobby Lobby, TJ Maxx, City Floral, and Chicos. We left with our arms full of merchandise, those merchants must have smiled all the way to the bank when we drove off. We filled our nights with take-out and dine out opportunities and enjoyed every bite. And after that we watched old movies until late at night—unusual since we are both go-to-bed-early types.

Lupita modeled all of her clothes and was fully enchanted with Hermana. Hermana decided that Lupita looked like a small deer, maybe Falene who was Bambi’s girlfriend, so now Lupita has two nicknames, ‘Pookie’ and ‘Falene.’ Sadly, Hermana left with a sore throat this morning which we still hope is only allergies.

Bambi before he met Falene

After she left, Lupita and I ran a few errands including returning some items to Target, and then stopping off at King Soopers to buy a few groceries. When I came back to my car an elderly Mexican lady was sitting in the passenger seat of the car next to mine on my driver’s side. I opened my door and greeted Lupita with ‘how are you, have you been enjoying sun bathing?’ Since Lupe was in her little crate on the passenger side she was not visible and I think the lady thought I was nuts talking to myself.

Lupita sunbathing.

Then up on the lady’s lap jumped Lupita’s twin, except aged about 10 years--a mature dog with a turning-white muzzle. I let Lupita out of her crate and showed her the other dog. They both started barking rabidly at each other. And here I thought they could be friends just because they looked alike—goes to show what I know. However as I backed out of the parking space, my little dog jumping up and down in my lap barking, my elderly comadre waved goodbye to me even though her dog was doing exactly the same thing Lupita was. We both loved our little Chihuahuas, they were exactly the same color and size. We were sisters in the bonds of Chihuahuahood, a deep liking recognizing our devotion to our pets. We could be friends even if our dogs couldn’t.