A Charlie Brown Christmas

a-charlie-brown-christmas-16A Charlie Brown Christmas” first aired 49 years ago when I was eleven. It was a special evening for my younger sister and me. We had been invited to watch at the Biklen’s house (they had a color television).

68aee84bcc9bd0c7469a97d97b2d22f6The Biklen’s were our next-door neighbors on South Mount Vernon in Spokane, Washington.  Geography caused the street to slope upwards, which perched their Swiss chalet on a hill above our house. Our properties were separated by a stone fence. Trees and shrubbery planted behind the wall shielded their house from view. A long red brick driveway curved into their property and stopped at a small garage nestled beneath the house.

L, K, M, & Tommy Earsley 1959

One spontaneous visit where we dragged along a couple of neighborhood kids.

When we were barely more than toddlers, my sister and I wandered into their property on a warm summer day and made Mrs. Biklen our friend. We stood outside her paned kitchen window, open to the fresh air, and hollered our hellos.

She said her name was Ellamae. I asked how old she was and she said, “Forty-five.” Outside of our grandmother, she was the oldest woman I’d ever met. Her voice carried the soft lilt of contentment, but her eyes held a tinge of sadness at the edges. She had graying chestnut hair and wore a flowered shirt-waist dress.

Mrs. Bilken & dogShe escorted us home that day, but on those rare occasions when our mother lost sight of us while we were playing in the yard, we’d wander to the Biklen kitchen window and call, “Ellamaid, Ellamaid.” (This was before we were fully indoctrinated to address adults by Mr. or Mrs.—never by first names.)

It was the late 1950’s and the two Biklen daughters were in high school. Mr. Biklen worked as the accountant/treasurer at the Spokesman-Review. Mrs. Biklen was a housewife.

My family consisted of a father who was a teacher, a stay-at-home mom, and three children. Within a few years, we’d balloon to five kids, crammed into a small three bedroom, one bath house. By comparison, the Biklens were aristocrats.

Years later—when I was eight—I was in our front yard playing with neighborhood friends when Mrs. Biklen drove her Nash Metropolitan past. I paused to wave and when she waved back, I again noticed her sad eyes. The next day, I told my sister that Mrs. Biklen was lonely and we should visit her. (I was too shy to go alone.)

L & K 1965She didn’t let us in, but invited us to return the following day after school. Thus began a series of weekly visits where we sat in her kitchen, practiced good manners, and told only those stories that shed us in a good light.

Mrs. Biklen served iced Cokes in leaded crystal glasses and store-bought cookies on china plates. She treated us with respect, listened to our stories and offered gentle advice. No one had ever paid such attention to me. Our hearts intertwined to create a bond that lasted more than forty years.

The night of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” my sister and I dressed in our good clothes—skirts and blouses, tights and Mary Janes. We donned winter coats. It had snowed the day before, but a slight rise in temperature had turned it to slush. We navigated puddles, careful not to get our shoes wet on our way to the Biklen’s.

The specialness of the program’s premiere allowed us to go to the front door (we usually entered through the back). We climbed the steps to the wide veranda and rang the bell. Mrs. Biklen opened the door wearing a dark green shirtwaist dress and black heels. Mr. Biklen stood from his smoking chair to greet us—another treat for the evening. We rarely spent time with him, always leaving our visits with Mrs. Biklen before he arrived home from work.

My sister and I sat on the antique Empire sofa upholstered in gray silk and nestled into a shallow alcove. A Christmas tree covered in colored lights and tinsel stood in a corner. The massive fireplace held a crackling fire. We crossed our feet at the ankles and straightened our spines. An assortment of cookies on a Christmas plate and paper napkins printed with poinsettias sat on the coffee table.

Mr. Biklen turned us into quite the Manhattan Coke lushes.  (Here celebrating my birthday.)

Mr. Biklen turned us into quite the Manhattan Coke lushes. (Celebrating my birthday.)

Mr. Biklen, in his highly spirited way, offered to make us Manhattans—his favorite drink. He left the room and returned with two elegantly-stemmed glasses filled with Coke and a sunken maraschino cherry. He proposed a toast to the Christmas season. I felt like a sophisticate.

The television—inside a dark wood console—was on, all warmed up so we wouldn’t miss a moment of the program. The opening chords of the soundtrack gave me the shivers. For the very first time, one of my favorite comic strips had come to life. I marveled how the voices perfectly fit the characters—Charlie Brown’s forlorn tone, Lucy’s crabby edginess, and Linus’s thick-tongued toddler sweetness.

My sister and I left that night high on Manhattan Cokes and sugar cookies—infused with the Yuletide spirit of Charlie Brown and the gang. Every year since then, come Christmastime, I’m carried back to the Biklen’s sofa where I’m surrounded by warmth and elegance, and reminded how the loving attention of adults stays with a child forever.

"That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

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Lucy & the Luxating Patella

cuteAt 17 months, our puppy Lucy was diagnosed with Luxating patella, a genetic condition that sounds like a fancy hi-tech washing machine but actually refers to a displaced knee cap. It can vary from mild to severe. Her case was severe.

Surgery after-care included keeping her confined either to the living room or her crate for eight weeks. She could only go outside to potty and only if on a leash.

bedsWe were sent home with three types of drugs—from mild sedation to the doggy equivalent of oxycodone. After witnessing the dramatic way the oxy pill relaxed her, we named it after a local street drug dealer. (Don’t ask me how I know him, I just do. In my wanderings around the streets of Fort Bragg, I see things.)

In the event you ever find yourself dealing with this type of surgery, let me offer a few survival tips:

DSC03343Diagnosis: Your puppy is an orthopedic wreck. You need to subject her to a horrendous surgery and lengthy recovery. Cry and whine to anyone who will listen. When they respond with sympathy, pretend that you’re handling the situation with courage and grace.

In reality, you’re a wienie. The universe knows this and accepts you unconditionally.

You hate the universe.

Life sucks.

Surrecoverygery Day: Do not waste a moment worrying about the outcome. It will all go well. Enjoy your time away from your dog. It will be your last moments of peace for the next two months.

Rearrange the furniture in your living room. Everything that can conceivably be jumped on has to be blocked. By the time I finished, our living room looked like the morning after a drunken frat party—overturned ottomans, dining chairs blocking sofa access, an air mattress leaned against the front windowsills.

After Surgery: This is the worst. You dropped off your happy girl in the morning. Late afternoon, you pick up a drugged, confused puppy with no hair on her right leg and a sutured gash along the side of her knee.

When Lucy saw me in the waiting room, she cried and dropped to her side on the doormat. Vet tech Phil crouched down, petted her, and cooed as she involuntarily pooped on the mat. It was heartbreaking. He carried her to the car where she leaned against my husband Gary in the back seat and screamed out her bad-awful-horrible experience on the ride home.

JJ

Let her watch as much Judge Judy as she wants.

The First Night: Sleep on the floor on an air mattress next to her. No matter how many times she tries to climb onto the mattress and cuddle (i.e., force you off), maintain that this is your space by saying, “No. Leave it.”

Wake up out of a deep sleep to find that you’ve rolled onto the floor and the dog is sleeping comfortably on the air mattress. Curl up on her doggy bed and finish out the night.

Days 2-29: Life as you knew it has come to an end. Your puppy’s mobility is restricted to being in a room under your supervision or confined to her crate. Each time she has to potty, take her out on a leash and coax her to get her business done so you can go back inside. As she gets better, she’ll realize these are her only outside moments and will procrastinate as she sniffs the entire yard. This becomes even more fun when it’s raining.

Begin to longingly eye her drugs.

napDay 29: After four weeks of sleeping on her doggy bed, move back to your own bed upstairs.

Days 29-55: Each night, gently coax your puppy into her crate. (Lucy required a tractor pull to get her out from under an end table.) It helps to use candy as a bribe.

Don’t tell me that candy is bad for a dog. You’ll earn that right when you’re in the midst of an eight-week stint of recuperating puppy lock-up.

(Lucy’s “candy” was Canine Carryouts. After purchasing, I discovered the second ingredient—after chicken—is corn syrup and the thirteenth ingredient—before beef—is sugar. Ingredient number nine is something called animal digest. Yummy!)

After four weeks, you’ll be told to stop the pain killers. (This applies to the dog, not you.) However, in a couple weeks, she’ll start feeling a whole lot better. She’ll think she’s training for the circus as she races around the living room. Slip her a half Doggie Oxy in the evening so you can have some quiet television time. (Don’t tell the vet.)

She’ll also start spending many more hours in her crate. At six weeks, you won’t allow any misstep to harm that fragile knee.

VET1

Vet techs DeeDee and Phil help Lucy celebrate her recovery.

Day 56: Take your puppy to the vet for x-rays. When she shows them to you, say “Oh. Hum. Aw,” like you understand what you’re looking at. When she says, “She’s good to go,” blubber your thanks. At the car, instead of lifting your puppy, let her jump in.

When you get home, take her on a short walk. Watch her trot down the alley, tail held high, like it was only yesterday—not several weeks ago—that she sniffed along this path.

You and your spouse have risen from wienies to survivors.

You love the universe.

Life is good.

Go inside and undo the wreck of your living room.

Adventures at Sea

Two weeks before Labor Day weekend, my son Harrison and his fiancé Kasi asked to reserve space on a charter boat. I’m not a fan of ocean-voyaging (I tend to get seasick), but enjoy my kids’ company so decided to be adventurous and go. I booked us on the Telstar for Sunday afternoon of that weekend.

Somehow the reservations got messed up and I learned on Sunday morning that we’d been scheduled for the previous day’s excursion. (I could go into all kinds of explanations for why it wasn’t my fault—but it probably was.)

On Sunday morning, I spoke with Randy, the owner of the Telstar, and he suggested I call his nephew Richard, who owns the Trek II, and ask if he had any slots for that afternoon.

boatThe benefits of living in a small town were about to kick in.

Richard and Harrison had gone from grade school through high school together. Richard said that the Trek II was out and would not do an afternoon trip. However, his brother Brandon would take out the smaller boat—the Ambush—if we could get six people.

Harrison called his friend Nick who was visiting from Sacramento with his wife Elizabeth and asked if they wanted to go. They agreed.

I called Richard and said we had five. He said to be at the boat by 12:30.

fishingIt was a perfect day—warm with a slight breeze. In addition to our five, three other people showed up. We glided through the jetty and marveled at the gently rolling sea. Kasi was giddy. Harrison was happy. I was glad that I’d fortified myself with Sea Bands and Bonine.

We stopped at our first site and my head began to wobble. I caught the first fish—too small, a throwback. We stayed there for a bit before moving to another spot. I caught a second—a keeper. It would be my last.

By this time, my brain had shrunk a good two inches and turned into a lead ball inside my head. With each dip of the boat, it slammed against my temples. I tried to ignore it. Mind over matter—it would go away.

Harrison was the first to lose his breakfast over the back of the boat. Kasi was next.

I continued to drop my line in the water, determined to get more fish. An hour later, the constant slamming inside my head forced me to sit. I started to cough, lurched to the side of the boat and—yes, you know what happened.

The wind picked up and the waves grew. I put my jacket on and wondered how rough it had to become before the captain called it a day. I sat, crossed my arms against the cold and imagined the comfort death might bring.

The cockpit looked warm. I stumbled inside to sit on a padded bench. Far from bringing relief, my stomach went into a tumble and I raced outside to—well, you know. Let’s just say there are certain things, like bacon, that I won’t be able to eat for a long time—if ever. I was amazed to discover that the dark green vitamin in the GNC Women’s Ultra Mega 50 Plus VitaPack stays fully intact in the stomach hours after swallowing.

The others continued to land fish and have a good time. Kasi and Harrison didn’t feel well, but kept fishing.

Throughout the trip, one passenger guzzled cans of beer from his cooler. He even ate a sandwich. I envied his lack of seasickness until he opened a bag of Doritos and then had to stifle a desire to push him overboard.

After four hours (but what seemed like a day and a half), the captain announced we were heading in. We were just outside of Mendocino. He warned that we would travel against the wind and it would get “kind of rough.”

It was the wildest roller coaster ride ever. If I hadn’t been sick, I would have been terrified.

Waves crashed against the side of the boat as it ran parallel to the coastline. I imagined what we looked like from shore—one moment visible and the next moment vanished into the valley of a wave. At one point, the captain suddenly slowed the engine to allow the boat to surf over two back-to-back gigantic waves. From the deck, I hoped he’d radioed a distress signal to the Coast Guard.

When we finally rolled through the jetty and onto the calm river, I tried to smile and claim I had a good time. When I got home, I pitched the Sea Bands and Bonine into the trash and silently vowed to never, ever go out on the ocean again.

In the future, I’ll content myself with listening to jaunty seafaring songs like this—

 

Space Talk

Each week, the Fort Bragg Advocate News posts a question on their Facebook page. The responses are published in the week’s edition of the paper, which comes out on Thursday. Most questions, such as “What is your favorite Paul Bunyan Days memory?” and “What is the most important issue to you at the local and/or state level?” receive only a handful of responses.

But questions about whether our town should have a Dollar Store or the morality of taking down the town Christmas tree donated by Montessori students and replacing it with Paul Bunyan-type tree generate a flurry of passionate replies.

This past week’s question, “What do you think about the new Taco Bell that’s going to be built on the southeast corner of Cypress and Main?”  spawned over 100 replies. I now share my favorites. (Spelling and punctuation have not been altered.)tacobell

Critics who question the nutritional value of the menu.
I think it’s GREAT! I’m exercising my RIGHT to eat unhealthy food…….I served MY country so that we ALL can eat whatever we want, where we want and how much we want! Can’t wait for the EXTRA BIG Baja Blast soda to be here in town!!!!!!!!
They have an Extra Big Blast Soda? With Bacon I hope!
fast food aside; imagine if you went into north coast brewery and after ordering the waitress asks “would you like to supesize that”? “oh, yess i want a 64oz red seal ale…”
Dogs don’t eat that stuff! I would hope we’d support our locally owned Mexican restaurants who serve healthier versions and thus encourage Taco Bell to leave as quickly as they arrive.
REBUTTAL: hey now!! our dogs will eat it…. if we buy it and smother it in bacon…

Critics who make me smile.
Will it have drive through meth like that last one did?
And mmmmm… How appetizing for those hands to be preparing those meals. Just divine!
Speaking of cops, at least all the junkies will be in a central, convenient location
we live next to a world class coffee roasting company but allowed a starbucks to inhabit the old taco bell building… they made that heap of junk look pretty nice and seem to attract the “desert coffee” clients and tourists…
Rebuttal: seriously…what is desert coffee?
Rebuttal to Rebuttal: the foofie creamy triple choco blahblahblah….

Critics of taco prices.
We have I think 9.00 tacos here in Gualala because they are organic give me a break it’s a taco
Rebuttal: Can walk away from taco bell with a lot of food for $9.00
Rebuttal to Rebuttal: …and walkk straight to a toilet….

Fight! Fight!
No no no… We’re just living under rocks! Tweaker need jobs, too!
Rebuttals: Sure, Debbie, I live under a rock. If that makes you feel better lol.
     Are you living under a rock? The locals who LIVE here and depend on actually working jobs to make a living… If *you’re* motivated, one can get into management – more money and more benefits. Of course – one has to actually *want* to WORK…
      Debbie is right, and Erica needs to go to collage and stay off the Progressive propaganda pages found on the internet.
      Gosh, Crystal, maybe you need to find a COLLAGE under your rock, too.
      Erica Ann sounds like she’s just newly moved here and still has the ‘Bay Area” or So Cal mentality…
    Naw she is just Millionaire I bet who has never had to actually look for work in a town that was killed by out of touch progressives.
It will give jobs to which locals? Hello. The jobs it will give will benefit no one. It’s sick. About as sick as consumption of it will make everyone who eats there.
Rebuttals: You do live under a rock.
      What a doomsayer and bunker nut!

Supporters of a fast food combo.
Hope is is a combo with a KFC
Rebuttal: Now we’re talking.

Outside agitation.
yuck! we don’t live here, but plan to someday. One of the reasons we love Ft. Bragg is because of so few corporate chains.
Rebuttals: Dear Sherry. Ft. Bragg doesn’t need you here. As the other posters who actually do live here mentioned some variety/options will be appreciated in OUR Community.
      Sherry is just the kind of person we do need here to keep FB a nice place to live. There are plenty of people here with your perspective, Sherry. Welcome to Fort Bragg!
      Interesting that most of the “anti establishment” nut jobs are not the people born in Fort Bragg but those who are transplants. Theres enough of these lunatics ruining the town, they don’t need more. But here’s a suggestion. If Fort Bragg has too many chains for your taste, you could always move to Mendo or Caspar. I’m sure you’ll be more then happy there.
Sherry’s Rebuttals: First, thank you Toni Rizzo. Second, “Dear” Diver Doug, you sound like a real peach , third, I thought this was a place to express opinions, not be attacked. I didn’t know that there was such a “us v. them” attitude in this community. Why are you all being jerks just because I expressed an OPINION?oh, and if you all hate it sooo much, why don’t YOU move?

My favorite: I just can’t believe how many are acting as though it’s like the falling of the Berlin Wall. It’s a frickin Taco Bell.

(Be sure to watch the “Fast Food Folk Song” below. It’s awesome!)

911

PJsIt was one of those Sundays when three in the afternoon seemed like an appropriate time to get into my pajamas. I was worn out from a weekend of visitors and frivolity—but pajamas at three o’clock? I could have distracted myself by writing a blog post, taking the dog for a walk, jogging, or making a quilt square. But I didn’t want to do any of those things. I wanted to curl up on the sofa and watch hours of mindless television.

So I did.

About six o’clock, I went to the kitchen, poured a glass of water and looked out the window.

“There’s a big black cat in our yard,” I shouted to my husband Gary who was in the living room.

“Wait a second—it’s a dog.”

“What?” Gary cried in alarm.

In an attempt to disguise my jammies, I put on a jacket and went outside.

scottyThe Scottish terrier responded to my cooing and trotted over, tail wagging and head down. I sat to pet him and looked around to determine how he’d gotten in our yard. The front and back gates were closed and he was too small to jump the fence. Maybe he squeezed through the wrought iron front gate. Could he have flattened to the thickness of a pancake and slipped through the back gate?

The irony of a dog dumped in our yard and having a puppy dumped on given to us a year ago did not escape me. But this one we would not keep. Oh no, we would not.

I went inside and dialed 911.

“I’d like to report a stray dog in our yard.”

“Ma’am that is not an emergency.”

“It is to me.”

“All of our officers are involved in responding to crimes and arresting people.”

I made a mental note to check the online booking logs the following day to verify she was telling the truth. “I didn’t know who else to call.”

She sighed. “Give me your address and when an officer is free, I’ll send one out.”

Wait—doesn’t 911 automatically know your address? It was a bit disconcerting to be asked for mine.

I gave her the information, thanked her for her help, and let her return to the business of dispatching officers to major crimes. I went back outside to comfort the little lost dog.

A minute later, the phone rang. It was the dispatcher. “Is it a black dog?”

“Yes.”

“About a half hour ago there was a report of a missing black dog. May I call the people and give them your address?”

“Yes, thank you.”

A few minutes later a car pulled up in front of our house, a woman got out, entered the yard and yes indeed it was her dog.

His name is Simon and he lives around the block. In preparation for giving him a bath, she’d removed his collar. Then she remembered she’d forgotten to put out the garbage and recycling bins. As she was doing this, he managed to scoot out the gate without her knowledge.

She cuddled him to her and I gave him one last pet. She headed to her car, stopped and turned. “I forgot to ask if you’d like a reward.”

I chuckled. “That’s so kind of you, but no thanks. My reward was being able to spend time with your sweet puppy.”

An even greater reward was finding the owner so he wouldn’t end up being our sweet puppy.

I went back to the sofa.

Two days later, a large bouquet of flowers was delivered to our house with a note: “Thank you for harboring our little ‘angel’ Simon.” Amy & Tony O’Neill.

Two days later, a large bouquet of flowers was delivered to our house with a note: “Thank you for harboring our little ‘angel’ Simon.” Amy & Tony O’Neill.

Lucy – A Year in Review

1185822_10151983487546844_1659436086_nWhen our adult children came to town Labor Day weekend 2013—two weeks after our fifteen-year-old dog Wilson died—they despaired at our empty nest and gifted us with what they felt was the perfect “filling”—a puppy. My husband Gary was elated. I wanted to curl up into a ball and be taken to an asylum.

When Lucy was brought into the house, all I could think of—as I pasted a smile on my face and screamed with what I hoped sounded like excitement—was how much work she was going to create.

destructionOver the course of thirty-five years, we’ve raised four puppies. Gary might have forgotten, but I knew the drill. Even with obedience training and supervision, Lucy would learn about life mainly through the destruction of property—sofa pillows, socks, underwear, plants, holes dug so deeply in the yard that a visitor asked if we’d had trees removed. Given Gary’s disabilities, the majority of transforming her into a “good” dog would fall on me.

My obsession with wanting to skip the puppy stage of her development caused me two weeks of insomnia and vertigo.

559798_10152017172491844_2118415971_nThank God I found Puppy Kindergarten where every Saturday morning for ten weeks, Lucy had the chance to play with other puppies and sweet Elaine Miksak gave me direction on how to calm the hell down and enjoy my baby girl. For the first month, both Lucy and I returned home after class to take naps. After an hour, I’d awake to find my open mouth drooling on the pillow.

By January, Lucy had grown too large for the class (forty-five pounds), and we found Julie Apostolu, who convinced me Lucy was ready for AKC Canine Good Citizenship (CGC) training. I had no idea what that was, but hoped the eight-week course would help me continue to learn patience and understanding.

The CGC class was held in a clearing in the woods next to the Mendocino Coast Humane Society. The first day, Lucy kept tugging on the leash and gagging. She thought she was at a new Puppy Kindergarten and wanted to be free to play with other dogs. When that didn’t happen, she discovered the pine needles covering the ground hid buried cat poop that could be rooted out while pretending she was deaf to the command, “Leave it!” (She waited to come home to vomit on the carpet.)

CGC class is obedience training geared towards a test that certifies the dog is a bona fide good citizen of the canine community. She becomes licensed to do things like bring joy to hospital patients while having the good sense not to jump into bed with them.

The first few weeks of class were brutal. Lucy would not listen, jerked at her leash, and when she got tired, rolled onto her back and refused to move. Julie offered encouragement and direction, but I felt inept and humiliated.

dirt

After a particularly rigorous digging session in the yard.

One afternoon, as Lucy headed off for the fiftieth time in one direction while I tried to coax her into another, Julie’s assistant, DeeDee, came to my rescue and took the leash. Her expert handling and swift corrections got Lucy’s attention. I watched in awe as my dog looked at her and obeyed commands. Tears filling my eyes, I wanted to get into my car and drive away.

Eight weeks after we started CGC training—Lucy was nine months old—came the test. The dogs had to do things like heel (yeah, right), sit and stay (maybe), down (Lucy liked to lie down because it put her closer to the cat poop), and remain calm when left with a stranger (this would be easy—she loves everyone). All of this had to happen without benefit of treat reinforcement.

We were doomed.

My anxiety grew as I watched others go through the course while Lucy jerked on her leash and gagged. While we were on deck, she calmed down to watch the dog being tested. I looked at her sitting with such dignity and my heart surged with love. I crouched and hugged her, petting her neck and chest, and whispered, “I don’t care if we pass. I love you and am so proud of you. Let’s have fun with this.”

Lucy rose to the occasion, messing up on only a couple of things. At the end of the course, I had to hide behind a crop of redwoods while she stayed with a stranger for a couple of minutes. When I was called back, Julie held out her hand—“Congratulations, she passed.”

Shortly after the photo was snapped, she tried to eat her ribbons.

Shortly after the photo was snapped, she tried to eat her ribbons.

“What? Really?” I grabbed Julie in a hug and howled with laughter.

I looked at Lucy who sat wearing her calm snowy fur like a halo. “Good girl! Good, good girl!”

I wish I could say from that moment on, Lucy sprang from puppyhood to maturity, but no. She’s a work in progress, a spirit we enjoy despite or maybe because of her quirks (pretending she’s deaf to commands, the ability to destroy any toy in less than twenty-four hours, and a need to prune fuchsia bushes).

Since CGC, we’ve taken at least 30 weeks of other classes (Rally Obedience, Jumps and Tunnels, Nose Work) where we learn, have fun, and meet wonderful people and dogs.

I’m happy that our empty nest has been filled with fresh, rambunctious life and grateful to our children who filled a need we didn’t know we had.

Rally O class picture. After hundreds of dollars spent on enrichment classes, this is how Lucy interpreted the command "Sit!"

Rally O class picture. After hundreds of dollars spent on enrichment classes, this is how Lucy interprets the command “Sit!”

Yelp!

For twenty-two years, we’ve lived next door to the Mendocino Coast’s only mortuary. We’re often asked, “Doesn’t it bother you?” No, it does not. (Read my guest blog post “Neighbors.”)

In addition to the mortuary business, there are two apartments on the property—the one directly above the main building is rented to a full-time tenant; the other, above the alley garage, is unoccupied.

In recent years, the owners allow friends to occasionally stay in the vacant apartment. If they rented it for money, it could get listed on Yelp and subject to reviews, which might pose a problem.

My husband Gary is in the habit of waking early. I know the term “early” is open to interpretation. To some people, 6:00 a.m. is early, to others eight. I think we can all agree that three or four o’clock in the morning is damned early. By the time I get going—usually five-thirty or six, Gary is in mid-morning mode and delighted to have company.

I enter the kitchen to, “Good morning! How are ya?”

I groan, stumble to the coffeemaker, pour a cup and search out the nearest dark space.

Our dog Lucy is a slow riser, but usually ready to go outside by six-thirty. Today, she announces to the world that she does not like the vehicle parked in the normally empty space across the alley. Gary yells at her to stop barking while he carries a container to the alley and dumps cans and glass into the large recycle bin.

I pour a second cup of coffee and sigh.

Overall, the apartment above the mortuary garage is a great place to stay. It’s within walking distance to downtown and a short drive to the beach. It’s quiet on the east side, but not so much on the west.

If it was subject to Yelp reviews, I imagine they would read like this:

yelpThis is a wonderful place except for the cat that clawed at the front door in an apparent effort to seek asylum. We believe he’s demonic. We will never stay here again. Laine R., Oakland CA

1601274_10152360261811844_1457279366_n

yelpWe were awakened at daybreak by what we thought was a homeless meth addict flinging things while hollering in the alley. Trembling with fear, we peeked around the curtains to find the man next door dumping cans and glass into the recycle bin and yelling at someone named Lucy. We will never stay here again. Kasi H., San Francisco CA

yelpWe found the apartment well-appointed and roomy. But as we moved our luggage from the car, an albino animal with a brown patch over one eye barked incessantly from the house across the alley. Efforts to ignore it only made the howling louder. As we approached the gate to get a better look, it let out a puddle of pee and rolled in it. Each time we went to or left our car, the creature yowled. We will never stay here again. Jenn H., Kirkland, WAcloseup

yelpWhen we arrived at nine o’clock at night, all was quiet and peaceful. Little did we know this was because the inhabitants across the alley were asleep. At the crack of dawn, we were startled awake by the baying of a Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog and a man yelling, “Leave Little Mister alone!” What kind of freaks are these people? We will never stay here again. H. Riley, San Francisco CA

yelp

Kris S. (who refused to disclose the identity of his city)