No Complaints

bethany

Bethany the Fierce

As my trainer Bethany puts me through exercise paces at the gym, we chat about one of my favorite hobbies—complaining. For the past several months, she has made a conscious effort to avoid the activity. “Do you know how hard it is to not complain?” she asks. I can’t imagine. Like parasailing, hang gliding, and scrapbooking, I’ve never tried it.

I take this as a challenge and declare that if I can go the rest of the afternoon without complaining, I’ll reward myself with nachos from Los Gallitos (with extra guacamole). It’s two-thirty. If I eat dinner early, I’ll only have a few hours to endure.

When I get home and click the garage door opener, the door stays closed. For several months, the door has mocked me in this way—just haphazard enough to keep me from calling someone to repair it. “Son of a—“ I suddenly remember my vow. I force a smile, make a conscious effort to not grumble, and park the car outside.

I enter the house to find my husband Gary, who’s been presenting flu-like symptoms all morning, in his recliner. He asks if I’ll go to The Purity to get him Lipton’s Chicken Noodle Soup and some juice.

A whine starts in my brain and threatens to erupt into foot stomping. (Just so you don’t think I’m heartless, this would be my second trip to the store for him today.) My tantrum is quickly squelched by the memory of my pledge. I like going to The Purity. And I won’t have to mess with the garage door opener because the car is parked outside. I happily go to the store.

cat(7)The afternoon progresses swimmingly until the cat Little Mister appears, screeching at my office door.

Oh no. I’d forgotten about the demanding cat.

I think of Jesus and how He maintained serenity despite His many trials and tribulations. (Note to self: ask a theologian if there’s mention of a fat gray cat in the New Testament.)

During the past several weeks of our dog Lucy’s recovery from knee surgery, Little Mister has been sorely neglected. Instead of my usual annoyance (I have work to do!), I muster compassion and pet him as he rumples the paperwork on my desk. When he tries to climb onto the computer keyboard, instead of yelling, I gently pick him up and spend a solid five minutes settling him on the rug.

By this time, it’s three-thirty and I’m feeling quite pure of heart. I wonder if four o’clock is too early to eat dinner, but remember that’s the time for Lucy’s second rehab walk of the day.

CGCAfter countless obedience classes, Lucy and I are pretty adept at our walks. However, her limited outside time during her weeks of recovery makes each walk a challenge. The resident blue jay taunts her, the kitten who has taken over the field in the back needs to be chased, the cat poop buried under bushes must sniffed out and eaten.

She’s very strong and singularly focused when she wants her way. Given the fragility of her knee, I have to be careful not to pull on her. I must be ever vigilant to avoid distractions and coax her with treats. A twenty-minute walk is exhausting. (Or I should say was exhausting until I stopped the habit of complaining.)

I take deep breaths and determine this will be the best walk ever. I evade the bird, kitten, and cat poop pitfalls while carrying on a stream of light chatter—telling her she’s the best girl, so smart and wonderful. We pass a guy sitting in his truck. I say hello and he offers the kind of wary smile one gives a crazy person.

At four-thirty, I receive a text from the house sitter that she’s not available over Mother’s Day weekend. It will be the first Mother’s Day in three years I won’t spend with my kids in San Francisco. Part of me wants to cry and thrash about, but the new well-honed saintly part suggests I’ll find another way to celebrate Mother’s Day.

By five o’clock, I’m on the phone with Los Gallitos. At five-thirty, I’m sitting in front of Judge Judy scarfing down nachos. By six I’m stuffed with a feeling of wellbeing—a combination of yummy food and a successful three and a half hours of avoiding the traps of self-pity and martyrdom.

I must admit this was an enjoyable afternoon. I’m thankful to Bethany for bringing enlightenment. I might even try this non-complaining thing—and definitely those nachos—again soon.angel

Giant Bra Ball Revisited

Purity copyYou know how it is—you have a Giant Bra Ball in your garage and don’t know what to do with it. You haven’t been able to park your car inside for years. It’s time to get serious about finding it another home. But where?

This particular Giant Bra Ball was made by San Francisco Bay artist Ron Nicolino in the late 1990’s. He intended it as a whimsical way to bring awareness to the serious issue of breast cancer. When it wasn’t displayed on a flatbed trailer parked outside of the Pier 23 Café in San Francisco, he hauled it behind his pink Cadillac up and down the California coast. In July 2001, it was featured in Mendocino’s Fourth of July parade.

You might think such a ball is unique, but it isn’t. During this same period, another was constructed by San Francisco artist Emily Duffy, thus igniting the infamous Giant Bra Ball War.

It all began after Nicolino was denied his vision of “Bras Across the Grand Canyon.” He searched the artistic community for anyone who might make use of his collection of donated bras. Duffy answered the call. They attempted to collaborate on an artistic piece, but were unable to agree about who should get credit for the original Giant Bra Ball idea. Nicolino ended up keeping his bras and started rolling them while Duffy sent out a plea for donated bras and began rolling her own. Except through their lawyers, they never spoke again.

Duffy’s ball is part of the permanent collection at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

nicolino3But where is Nicolino’s? My July 2014 blog post “A Ballsy Idea” attempted to find the answer.

Nearly eight months later, I received a cryptic electronic message from Nicolino’s daughter Ruby: “I know where it is.”

A tickle ran up my spine. Through email exchanges, Ruby told me that Nicolino took the Giant Bra Ball with him when he moved to Washington State in 2002. After he passed away in 2009, it was transported to a secret location in California.

If Nicolino’s Giant Bra Ball isn’t in your garage (it actually could be in mine—hiding behind a mountain of other stuff), I imagine it somewhere dark and lonely, checked on occasionally by family and friends. Wouldn’t it be great if it could once again see the light of day?

Ruby would love to see it installed in an art gallery or institution for breast cancer awareness. She also suggested that it might be auctioned off on eBay with the proceeds going to charity.

Ruby mentioned Burning Man and this got me thinking. Perhaps the organizers could plop the Giant Bra Ball down in the middle of the event. As they unroll it, they could distribute bras like party favors to people (who I understand are otherwise naked). At the very end, everyone would rip off their bras and toss them on top of a bonfire. Nicolino’s creation would go out in a blaze of glory.

All this thinking has given me a bit of indigestion, but here’s another idea:

Why don’t we buy it? By “we,” I mean Fort Bragg or Mendocino. It’s just the type of quirky, yet socially relevant art that our community embraces. I visualize it attracting attention in a number of locations.

On top of the Tip Top

On top of the Tip Top

An attempt to beautify the ugly AT&T building

An attempt to beautify the ugly AT&T building

 

After 100 years or so, I think it’s time to replace the Time & Maiden statue on the Savings Bank of Mendocino

At the head of the new coastal trail at Glass Beach

At the head of the new coastal trail at Glass Beach

At the home of my friend Marcia

At the home of my friend Marcia

In the parking lot of The Purity

In the parking lot of The Purity

Please let me know if you have any suggestions for this Giant Bra Ball. I really do want to start parking my car in the garage.

(Thanks a bunch to super talented and all around great guy Tony Arguelles for the Photo Shop magic.) (And for the photo of the Savings Bank of Mendocino.)

Notes to Younger Self

Recently, I stood in an exercise class next to a thirty-something-year old woman. While waiting for the instructor to arrive, we quipped about how even though the class kicked our butts, we kept coming back. Somehow the topic of age came up and I proclaimed that at the age of sixty-one I feel in the best shape of my life.

A look of horror melting into pity darkened her unwrinkled face. She took a step away. I believe she stopped breathing. I decided right then and there to out burpee her in the upcoming session. I did, too—even as stars flashed at the black edges of my peripheral vision and I felt dangerously close to a heart attack.

Driving home, still bitter about the young woman’s reaction to my age, I got to thinking how I wasn’t much different when I was young.

When I was four and my friend Mrs. Biklen told me she was forty-five, I couldn’t fathom such a number. I imagined it to be the infinity concept my first grade brother and his friends talked about. Twenty years later, she delighted in turning sixty-five because it made her eligible for Medicare. I wondered how anyone of such an advanced age could be the least bit happy. How could she possibly focus on anything besides looming death?

Now that I’m rotating towards Medicare eligibility and note the looks of revulsion when I confess my age to youngsters, I realize I’m only getting back what I once gave out. I still have a vague memory of what it was like to be young. While some things about growing older are downright ridiculous, many are beneficial. With this in mind, I’d like to send a few notes to my younger self.

You’ll wear shoes like this. The good news is that you’ll consider them stylish.shoes

You’ll be repaid for all the times you impatiently honked and cursed at older drivers by being honked and cursed at by impatient youth. The good news is that you won’t care.

You’ll stop going out to parties at ten at night because you’ll be asleep. The good news is that you no longer have friends who stay awake past ten.

Ninja2You’ll have a twenty-five-year window—from the ages of fifteen to forty—until you become invisible to the public eye. Before your feminine wiles and creamy good looks disappear, use them often to get your way. The good news is that once you’re invisible, you’ll realize your lifelong dream of becoming a ninja.

You’ll stop fighting your hair, cut it super short, get up each morning to run your man-comb through it, and let it have its way. The good news is that crappy hair or not, nobody notices you anyway.

You’ll take fewer things for granted—sleeping through the night, an iron-clad digestive system, and bladder control. The good news is that there are drugs to take care of all of this.

You’ll have kids who grow up and accuse you of needing hearing aids. You’ll accuse them of mumbling. The good news is that they no longer live with you so you don’t have to talk to them.

lemonsYou’ll issue proclamations to fruit in the produce section of the grocery store. “If you think I’m going to pay a dollar for you, you’ve got another think coming.” The good news is that you’ll find the act of shaming produce highly satisfying.

You’ll consider housekeeping a task done only to impress company. The good news is you don’t have to be too thorough because you’ll have stopped associating with people who complain about leaving your house covered in dog and cat hair.

You’ll look back and see that you wasted far too much time worrying about the future—your health, financial security, whether you’ll have a date for the carnival. The good news is that everything works out just fine.youngself

Parking Lot Grace

mycarI exit The Purity and walk across the parking lot towards my car. An eighties-style mini-van with patches of missing blue paint whips around a line of parked cars and screeches to a halt as if to avoid hitting me. It is several feet from making actual body contact, but screeches nonetheless. Burning cigarettes dangle from the corners of the lips of both the driver and his passenger.

The passenger jumps out like he’s late for an important interview. He takes a few sprinting steps and stops in front of me. With his thumb and forefinger, he pulls the cigarette from of his mouth. His face is bright, lit by a smile of anticipation.

Perhaps he’s a fan of It Happened at Purity.

I’m on my way home from the veterinarian where I’ve learned the sad news that our dog Lucy has to have another Luxating patella surgery. I’m in no mood to sign autographs.

He’s of slight build, about my height, short blonde hair, wears a camo T-shirt, and looks vaguely familiar. He pauses and opens his mouth. Perhaps he’ll say My buddy wanted to run you over, but I told him not to.

Instead, he says, “Ma’am?”

I’m thinking here it is—he’s going to ask for money. A couple months ago, I found a dollar in The Purity parking lot. It’s in a cup holder in my car. I keep waiting for someone to ask so I can give it away. This could be the day.

“Yes?” I say.

“Have a nice day.”

This makes me smile. “Thank you. And you, too.” I start to walk past.

He takes a drag off his cigarette and with smoke exiting his nose and mouth, says, “I really like your blouse.”

My heart fills with gratitude for him. He has lightened a very dark day.

I get into my car and pat Lucy on the head. “It’s amazing how little it takes to keep us going, isn’t it girl?” She wags her tail, looking out the front window, excited about where we might go next.1385952_10152162649041844_1036009523_n

How to bottle beer—in 22 easy steps

beer71. On a visit home, your son brings a beer making kit. His fiancé, who gave it to him a year ago, has threatened to re-gift it if he doesn’t use it soon.

beer52. Son and fiancé boil up the brew, pour it into a large jug, and top with a thingy. The instructions say to store in cool, dark place. They wrap it in a sheet and put in the downstairs shower.

3. The morning of their departure, four days later, remind son of the hooch. He’ll review the instructions and read aloud that it’s not to be disturbed for two weeks. (Two weeks!)

4. Maintain a calm, even tone while you suggest he pour it down the drain. Straighten your spine, shoulders back, head held high in defiance as he places a hand on your shoulder and uses his hostage negotiator tone (one he perfected during his teen years to defuse your bat-crap-crazy reactions to some of his antics)—“Come on Mom, you and Dad can do it.”

5. Begrudgingly admit that you can as you review the things you are no longer capable of doing—the splits, staying awake past ten p.m., recalling your mother’s maiden name. Embrace this opportunity to impress your adult child.

6. The night before bottling, son calls to remind you. It’s a good thing because you want to pretend you forgot, let it expire beyond the two-week deadline, and toss it out.

beer67. Read the instructions. Read again—and again. One more time. Learn a fun fact: the sludge at the bottom of the jug is called trub. Think about watching the suggested online instructional video.

8. Sleep fitfully.

9. In the morning, take a Lorazepam to reduce anxiety over your fear of accidentally siphoning trub into the bottles. In the meantime, sanitize the bottles and review the instructions. Think again about watching the online video.

beerinstructions10. Once the medication kicks in, enlist the assistance of your Baby Daddy. Give him the job of sucking on the end of the siphon tubing to get the flow going and inserting it into a bottle.

11. With one hand, hold the racking cane in the jug, ever vigilant to keep it away from the trub. With your other, place your thumb and finger on the tubing clamp to stop the flow when a bottle is full.

12. Baby Daddy yells, “Stop! It’s almost full! I said stop!”

13. In a panic, pull the racking cane from the liquid.

14. Baby Daddy sighs, “Damn, we lost the suction.”

15. After a couple of filled bottles, begin to enjoy the process—that is, until you start on the capping. How much pressure is too much pressure? Maybe you should watch the video.

16. Let Baby Daddy take over as you stand back and wring your hands. “You’re going to break the bottle. You’re going to….”

beerlucy17. Before you know it, you’ve got 10 bottles of beer. Let Lucy (or whatever you call your dog) sniff for quality control. Feel proud that you accomplished your task with a minimum of bickering and trub in the bottles.

18. Store the beer in a box. Place on the back porch in case one explodes. (Thank friend Larry for this tip).

19. On your next trip to see son, deliver the beer. Watch a smile cross his face as he praises you in much the same way you have always praised his successes. See that smile fade after he takes his first sip. “I don’t really like it.”

20. It’s Pecan Pie Amber Ale. Must be an acquired taste.

21. Give yourselves pats on the back. You did something you never imagined—something you’ll never do again.

22. Make son buy you dinner.

The reluctant brewmeisters.

The reluctant brewmeisters.

Life Inspires Art Inspires Life

Guest blog post by Jennifer Hotes
Author of “Four Rubbings”

DSC02589Stopping by “It Happened at Purity” is akin to walking around Fort Bragg with Kate, perhaps on the way to pick up groceries for dinner. As we wander the streets with her, we come to understand the soul of this special place and its residents.

Though seemingly tough and nonplussed on the outside, the people of Fort Bragg are tender, sentimental, proud, modest beyond belief and honest, oh God they are honest. If Fort Bragg were a presidential candidate, it’d have my vote.

There is a special woman behind those stories, someone who watches and cares for this community, then takes her observations and coaxes the details into stories—ones that make us laugh, or bawl to the point of ruining our computer keyboards and most powerfully, make us feel like residents of Fort Bragg, too. Like the groceries at Purity—cans, loaves, and bottles—they are merely ingredients until a cook lovingly crafts them into a meal. Kate is that chef.

jenn@6For decades, Kate has been feeding me. My first memory is of a bowl of split‐pea soup. It was summer in Sherman Oaks, California and we were in the midst of a record‐breaking drought. Residents were instructed to flush toilets sparingly and the grass outside was yellow and brittle.

I lived most of the year with my mom in Washington State. Even though Sherman Oaks was hot and dry, I was delighted to be visiting Kate and my dad. But I was not happy to eat that bowl of thick green soup sitting in front of me on the kitchen table. I was six at the time and green food wasn’t my thing. The soup smelled like sweaty feet and looked lumpy and odd. The water bureau would’ve certainly approved of me flushing that down the toilet.

There were countless visits after that, all tethered to Kate’s amazing cooking. At Christmas time in Fresno, she made homemade lefse filled with a pat of butter, steamed potatoes and fresh halibut. Oh golly, it was delicious the first night, but even better the next day. Homemade pastas, ice creams, salads—there was always something decadent and savory at the table. It was understood that if Kate cooked, then my dad, brother and I cleaned up. I was never happier to do dishes than after enjoying one of her meals.

Every visit I’ve made to Fort Bragg is consistent in one detail—Kate makes me feel like the only person in the world. After driving the twisty Willits road, I am shepherded into the kitchen with hugs and conversation, handed a cookie and told to sit and rest while she finishes dinner. No matter how delicious the meal, she never takes credit for the end result. Yes, she’ll concede that it was a good recipe, but she’ll not admit that she has exceptional skill in the kitchen.

If I watch Kate like she watches Fort Bragg, I notice she savors having company around the table. She delights in watching her guests enjoy her food and though it makes the tips of her ears blush red, she relishes in compliments.

fourrubbingsHer way of caring for people through food made its way into my first book, “Four Rubbings.” Don’t tell my lawyers, but Kate is the person behind Grace, the cemetery caretaker who nurtures her loved ones with food and stories. Grace bakes brownies and cookies when people feel low. She cooks meals that fill the air with heavenly scents and cause people to linger over conversation as they try to make room for seconds.

Kate is Grace, stronger than she knows, squeamish about compliments, nurturing, and profoundly wise. She is the reason we all gather around the table. She is the thing we are hungry for—the meals are simply a bonus.

There is one recipe in “Four Rubbings” that readers constantly ask for—Pioneer Cranberry Pie, a recipe clipped from The Fresno Bee by her mom Donna. Kate made it a few years ago for my daughter Ellie and me. It is as good as it sounds. pierecipe

She’ll never tell you, but I will. There is a special person behind “It Happened at Purity.” I am honored to know her and call her Mom. The character she inspired—Grace—will be in my second book. Look for it in Spring 2015.

Visit Jennifer’s website: www.jenniferlhotes.com

jennnow

Us & Them

1924362_10103430412757143_4183416246044040538_nOur daughter Laine lives in Oakland; son Harrison in San Francisco. One of the ways we stay close is through frequent phone calls.

Laine: Nitro treated us to high tea at the Fairmont.
Me: What fun! Little Mister [the cat] got another abscess from fighting and I had to drain it.
Laine: That’s gross! I don’t want to hear about it.
Me: Then you shouldn’t have asked.
Laine: I didn’t.

1620594_10103430411918823_3624933991290096877_nMe: I pulled what I thought was one beet from the garden and it was actually three that had been planted too close together and grew into a monster three-headed beet!
Harrison: I can’t talk right now. Kasi and I are about to get on a boat. We’re taking a brunch cruise on the bay.
Me: (sigh) I should have taken a picture before cutting it up.

Laine: I’m at Coachella. What’s up?
Me: I was just wondering what you were doing.
Laine: I’m sorry, but I can’t hear you. The music’s too loud.
Me: That’s music? It sounds like a disaster preparedness test.
Laine: I’ve gotta go.

Harrison: Last night, I met up with some guys I used to work with and had dinner at Plouf. It’s a restaurant wedged between two buildings in the Financial District. The food is delicious. What’d you and Dad do last night?
Me: I don’t remember.
Harrison: Liar.
Me: Okay, we got takeout from Los Gallitos and watched three back-to-back episodes of Judge Judy.
Harrison: Isn’t that what you do every night?
Me: We don’t eat Los Gallitos food every night.

10850178_10152612650162478_7497662941202048975_nLaine: I just got back from the Keith Haring exhibit at the De Young. It was amazing.
Me: That’s wonderful, sweetie. Little Mister left us some guts on the back porch this morning. No carcass, just a little pile of what looked like a stomach and intestines.
Laine: Gross! Why do you always tell me disgusting stories about the cat?
Me: I thought you liked cats.

Harrison: I’m going to Cirque du Soleil tonight. What are you guys doing?
Me: “Same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world.”