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

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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

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

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The Day the Earth Stood Still

InternetTwo weeks ago, all internet and a lot of telephone service along the Mendocino Coast was interrupted when an auto accident on Comptche-Ukiah Road resulted in a pole struck and slammed to the ground. Apparently that pole supported a bunch of microwave ovens—or whatever it is that allows us to electronically connect with the greater world.

Twenty miles away on that Sunday evening, the scene in this house was reminiscent of clips from the 1971 movie “The Panic in Needle Park.”

I hate to admit it, but my husband Gary and I feel we have a God-given right to trouble-free internet access. (I was once told you’re only as sick as your secrets—so there you have it.) In fits of rage, we unplugged the modem, plugged it in, cursed the red light, and called friends to ask if they had service. Oddly, everyone’s phone was busy.

A radio broadcast revealed what had happened and sparked some very serious questions: Who was the driver of the car? Was he drunk? He must have been drunk. I’ll bet he was drunk.

Why are the various contraptions that provide internet, cell phone and bundled services (internet/television/cell and landline phones) on one measly pole? I suggest three poles: one for this, one for that, and one for this and that. Doesn’t this make far more sense than having everything attached to something that can be toppled and freak out an entire community of internet addicts?

After I learned that the services that connect us to the outside world are actually provided through a fancy cable, I had more questions: Why can’t the cable be buried like in civilized communities? Why must it hang from a series of polls that subject it to the perils of wind, storms and careless drivers? Why does AT&T hate us?

AT&T's ugly building in Fort Bragg

AT&T’s ugly building in Fort Bragg

Each time I pay my landline phone bill, I grumble at forking out money for something I rarely use. Now I’m grateful. Unlike many who were knocked out of all communication, my landline continued to function. But it was useless for calling my bundled-service friends and it couldn’t access Facebook.

Without use of the internet, my business came to a grinding halt. (Despite the millions I make from writing this blog, it is not enough to support my lavish lifestyle.) On Monday morning, I was unable to follow the financial markets and check on the latest charitable works of the Kardashians. I was forced to file stacks of paperwork, clear off my desk, and vacuum my office. I plucked my eyebrows, waxed my mustache, and painted a spare bedroom.

It was only ten o’clock.

sweetaffairI went downtown to soothe myself with a treat from the fabulous French bakery, A Sweet Affair. Thank goodness her ovens had not been affected. I went to Feet First to buy a pair of running shoes. I’d once read that runners should refresh their shoes every so many miles. I figured I’d finally fallen into the so many miles category. I put them on and ran home to eat my pastries.

By Tuesday, I wished I’d purchased more than one cupcake (okay, I’d bought two) to sustain me through the bleak hours ahead. (A Sweet Affair is closed on Tuesdays.)

I went downtown, stood on the corner of Laurel and Franklin Streets, and hollered that I had a working landline at my house for rent at $50 per call. Before I even closed one deal, I was arrested. The cop let me go after I allowed him to use the phone for free.

cuteThat afternoon, I studied Lucy and wondered what she would look like with eyebrows. Despite my efforts to conceal the eyebrow pencil, she spotted it and ran into my office. I noticed the red light on the modem was gone. After 48 hours it must have burned out.

I turned on my computer and clicked the icon thingy that gets me on the internet and—thank the powers that be—I was one with the world once again. I spent hours checking email, Facebook, and—believe it or not—even Twitter.

And the Kardashians? After each was fitted with a designer wardrobe, they flew to Israel to negotiate a successful peace agreement with Palestine. Afterwards, they were spotted at Fashion Week in Tel Aviv.

Seven Things Smarter Than Me

DSC025891. My Honda Civic. It has a warning light that looks like a like a horseshoe with an exclamation point in the center. The first time it came on, I panicked. Over the years, I’ve driven my share of crap cars that did odd things like overheat, not start, or get flat tires without warning.

Turns out this light is my car’s way of communicating that one or more of my tires is under pressurized.

Wow.

(I’ll spare you my issues with the car’s Bluetooth—just know that it mocked me to the point of wanting to beat it with a hammer.)

square2. The Square. As a board member for the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, I recently (make that a year ago) volunteered to set the organization up with the Square for processing credit card transactions. With a week to spare, I ordered it and attempted to download the app on my iPad2.

The app would not download because my crazy old iPad2 had an outdated operating system. It needed iOS6.0 or better. I tried several times and was denied. I Googled it and followed some lying blogger’s instructions.

It seems the outdated iPad2 cannot be updated and the Square is useless on my machine. I hate them both.

iTunes3. iTunes. On those rare occasions when I download music, it adds songs I didn’t request.

There are a few delightful surprises like “Sugar” by Imperial Teen. I love that song. I also adore “One Moment to Another” by Jon Dee Graham and “San Francisco” by Secondhand Jive. Who are these artists who help me push through the barfing sensation when I jog? I must meet them all.

On the flip side, there’s a song that I do not like—a country-rock tune about “sweet Mary Lou was left standing at the altar.” I don’t want it, but don’t know the title so can’t get rid of it. Fortunately, I know how to skip it on my iNano (or whatever it’s called).

twitter4. Twitter. I Tweet and Follow, but I don’t often go to the site because I’m busy! I believe the point of Twitter is to allow busy people access to short messages and decide whether to spend their precious time reading links.

I wonder how it makes sense to follow 100 Twitterer’s when I don’t have time to even glance at their daily Tweets? I’ve got the shakes right now—I truly do.

iPhone5. iPhone. I had a non-smart phone for years before recently getting an iPhone. This prompted iPhone cultists to ask if I loved it, if I didn’t think it was the coolest thing ever, and so forth.

I guess.

I didn’t use it much until I discovered that I could download games like Sudoku and crossword puzzles.

Okay, so I’ll admit I like being able to access Facebook and the ability to take pictures. I recently discovered Instagram, which is fun. Early on I was able to get emails until one day I couldn’t. The phone asked for my password and after I typed it, told me I was stupid. I tried again and again.

I asked my kids for assistance. They gave me instructions in what sounded like Norwegian, and when I started to cry, they advised: “Google it.”

I followed Google’s step-by-step instructions. They didn’t work. On a trip to San Francisco, I stopped by an Apple Store. A friendly employee tapped about the screen, handed it back, and looked away while I typed in my supposed email password which—yes, you are correct—did not work. I tried again and again before starting to cry. He offered a goofy smile and shrugged his shoulders. (My only consolation is that my iPhone is smarter than him, too.)

As I left the store, I stared down my phone and hissed, “I don’t care if I can’t access email on you. I’ve lived a reasonably happy existence for decades without it and will carry on just fine you smarty pants bastard.”

selfcheckoutjpg6. Self-checkout Counters. The screen asks, “Do you have a bag?” I only have two items and don’t need a bag. But if I answer No, will I be charged for one? So I answer Yes and the woman inside the machine tells me to place my bag in the loading area. But I don’t have a bag and there’s no place on the screen to change my mind.

What to do? What to do?

Mumble curse words as I leave and wait in the Express Lane while playing a crossword puzzle on my smarty pants phone.

One afternoon I went into our very busy Safeway and heard an alarm blaring at the self-checkout stand. A man who looked like Jerry Garcia yelled, “Help me! Help me!” as he shook his arms over his head. I felt a deep connection.

roku7. Smart TV/Roku. If my husband ever leaves me before switching the Smart TV from the Roku to television mode, I’ll never be able to watch television again.

I’m certain I’ll add more to this list as I continue through life. My hope is that it will force me to become a better person by learning humility—and maybe discover the title of that song about how sweet Mary Lou was left standing at the altar.help

A Ballsy Idea

It’s not often that two people get into a fight over a giant bra ball. In fact, my research suggests it’s happened only once in the history of mankind.

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Ron Nicolino

duffy1

Emily Duffy

The kerfuffle started in the mid-1990’s when San Francisco Bay Area artist Ron Nicolino began collecting bras for “Bras Across the Grand Canyon,” a performance art piece to condemn sexism. Alas, the feds would not approve the venture, and he was left with tens of thousands of bras that had been donated by women from all over the world.

What to do? What to do?

duffy2jpgHe took his plight to the San Francisco Chronicle, which published his desire to donate the bras to a worthy cause. Emily Duffy, another Bay Area artist, answered the call and offered to take a few hundred. She would use them to make a car bra for her “Vain Van.” But Nicolino wasn’t interested in giving away just a few—he wanted to unload his entire inventory.

I know what you’re thinking—right there should have been a sign that trouble was on the horizon.

Later, Duffy claimed that during their initial phone conversation, it was her idea to create a Giant Bra Ball. Nicolino claimed the idea was his. After all, most of his bras were already wrapped around a giant spool. A spool is a ball-like form, right?

Nicolino apparently didn’t get any warm fuzzies during his conversation with Duffy or from her subsequent letter where she proposed they collaborate on making a ball. He started rolling his bras toot-sweet.

At the time, Duffy had only 10 bras. How could she possibly compete with his collection of 20-60,000? (The estimates vary widely.) I’m thinking—but do not know—that Nicolino grossly misjudged her tenacity. Within weeks, she emailed a bunch of friends and quickly procured 15,000 bras.

The Giant Bra Ball War was on!

They each retained a lawyer. From that moment on, they never referred to each other by name. Duffy called Nicolino “the other artist” and he called her “the individual.” Duffy’s lawyer sent a cease and desist letter. Nicolino’s lawyer fired back a claim that a copyright cannot be held on a concept of sculpture.

nicolino2I don’t know about Emily Duffy, but I do know that Nicolino hauled his Giant Bra Ball to the Mendocino 4th of July Parade in 2001. At the time I was still adjusting—after nine years—to living on the Mendocino Coast and was shocked by the number of women who reached inside their shirts to unhinge their bras and toss them onto the back of the flatbed towed behind his 1963 pink Cadillac. I would later regret not having been brave enough to rip off my bra to donate to the 14,000 or so hooked together to form the five-foot diameter ball.

BraballWhen I happened upon Nicolino after the parade, he gallantly posed for a picture with his creation. (His smile was tempting, but I retained my bra.)

For some years—although I am unable to determine how many—Nicolino towed his Giant Bra Ball in parades and parked it outside the Pier 23 Café in San Francisco.

Nicolino died on July 7, 2009 at the age of 69, three weeks after being diagnosed with cancer. A few years previously, he’d moved to La Conner, Washington, and started a casket-making business. At the time of his death, he was working on his own casket, which featured a clown face. An artist friend finished it for him.

After he died, his mother hoped that some organization would take the 1,600-pound bra ball.

Alas, in all my research and email inquiries to strangers, I am unable to find out what happened to Nicolino’s Giant Bra Ball. Duffy’s ended up in the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

It’s unclear whether Nicolino took his Giant Bra Ball with him to La Conner. Given his mother’s wish that someone take possession of it, I imagine the ball stayed—like my son’s international Starbucks mug collection—in her garage.

The Purity Survival Guide

Tip #1: How to make a thumb splint from comfort food

_DSC8890When I think of comfort food, my mind gloms onto Cyrus O’Leary’s Chocolate Cream Pie. Then I think of The Purity. Before I know it, I’ve grabbed my car keys and it doesn’t matter if I’m in my pajamas, I’m on my way to the store.

A recent surgery to remove a hooty from my left thumb placed me in need of a mild sedative, daytime sofa lounging and comfort food. Forty-eight hours into recovery, I went to The Purity to buy a chocolate cream pie. A couple of hours after returning home, I had an epiphany—in addition to putting heft on my backside and a few dabs of plaque on my arteries, that pie could save my life.

thumb2I’d been instructed to remove the impressive-looking thumb wrapping two days after surgery. I hesitated. That covering made me look like I’d been through something horrendous and garnered much sympathy.

People exclaimed, “What happened to you?” I’d respond with a dismissive wave, “Oh it’s nothing” when it was truly something. I’d had surgery! My thumb throbbed in pain. It throbbed! All the attention made me feel like a warrior woman—so brave and strong.

If I replaced the wrapping with a couple of wimpy latex bandages, nobody would even notice. I would suffer in silence.

I obeyed the doctor’s orders and took off the bandage. My thumb, forgetting it had a major gash running the entire topside length, started to bend. Up to that point in my life, I’d not given much thought to how it might feel to have a nail driven through my left thumb knuckle.

Now I know.

PieI needed to splint the back of the thumb to prevent it from bending and tearing the stitches. But I had no splint or substitute. As I mulled over a solution, I pulled the chocolate cream pie from the refrigerator and started eating. Whatever chemicals—I mean, natural ingredients—they put in these pies to supercharge brain matter allowed me to come up with a brilliant idea.

In case you ever find yourself in a similar situation, let me share my step-by-step instructions:

1. Buy a Cyrus O’Leary’s Chocolate Cream Pie (or any other variety, but chocolate cream is the best).
2. Have surgery on or do some serious damage to your thumb.
3. Write some gibberish on your hand with purple permanent ink. (Mine vaguely resembles the former USSR flag or an upside down Ritual Coffee logo.) (If anyone asks, say it’s a tattoo you got in the 80’s while in prison.) (After a certain age people stop talking about you, so it’s imperative to devise new and interesting ways to keep yourself an object of gossip.)thumb3
4. Take the cardboard thingy off the pie. (I’m certain it has a name, but who cares?) Cut off the front section.Pie2
5. Fold it a few times.
6. Apply it to the back of your injured thumb.thumb4
7. Place some gauze on top of the wound.
8. Wrap tape around the whole caboodle.thumb9
9. Enjoy your new hokey—yet still impressive—bandage and the attention you’ll receive for another week until you go to get the stitches out and the doctor asks what the hell…?
10. Eat one Cyrus O’Leary’s Chocolate Cream Pie a day until you’re completely healed.

After I'm finished with this pie, I'm out the door to go buy another!

After I’m finished with this pie, I’m out the door to buy another!

Bye Bye Bank of America Pie

Ouppy1Members of Occupy Mendocino Coast gather in Fort Bragg every Friday from 3:00-5:00pm to wave signs in protest of corporate greed. These dedicated souls stand at the corner of Main and Laurel Streets, encouraged by occasional honks from passing cars. On Friday May 30th, they celebrated a milestone—the closing of the Fort Bragg branch of Bank of America.

They served pie.

It’d been a long time since I had pie and even longer since I hung out with a bunch of hippies. How could I resist?

Occupy2I arrived in the middle of a festive atmosphere, as protesters—like ladies at a church social—carried a variety of pies to card tables, exchanged light banter, displayed literature on an ironing board, picked up signs, and waved to honking cars—all amid the backdrop of a moving van parked beside the doors of Bank of America. Occupy5

Occupy6The hippies were a welcoming bunch and everyone I asked let me take their picture without questioning my intent. One woman allowed a photo as long as I swore I wasn’t from the CIA.

I was offered a slice of berry pie. “It’s sugar-free,” the woman said, “except for the crust.”

One woman wore a cute skirt with peace symbols stamped on it. Occupy7I asked where she got it and she proudly said she’d made it. She said she was running for State Assembly and encouraged me to take one of her home-made campaign fans.

The message on the back of the fan urges the reader to “Stop global warming & the need for war” through five points:

1. Legalize marijuana, grow everywhere for all it’s uses [gasoline, non-toxic biodegradable plastic wrap for food, hydro & nuclear energy, parents for baby trees, clean air, food, water, failing economy & environment.
2. Charge one cent state, federal, county tax every dollar transaction instead of current form to increase tax base.
3. Governments should buy what they want through private business rather than waste taxpayer’s war dollars stealing it.
4. Give business & landowners tax deductions, exemptions only for a portion money spent researching & employing people restoring our earth.
5. Divert money now wasted on taxpayer’s non-profit organizations [defense, space research, charity to other countries, unneeded building], to grants to be used only for restoring earth & Inhabitants.Occupy8

I returned home, rifled through stacks of paper to locate my mail-in ballot, and voted for her. (Sadly, she did not win.)

During my half hour spent with the protesters, no one claimed that the group was the catalyst for the closure of the BofA branch. However, their presence over the past few years has certainly highlighted the nasty practices of multinational financial institutions and encouraged people to take their business to locally-run banks.

Occupy9The flip side of the giddiness on that Friday afternoon is the economic blow to the half dozen people who will be added to the ranks of our town’s unemployed.

The loss of this branch also creates anxiety and sadness among the older members of our community who were forced to change banks. I know people in their eighties who have had accounts with Bank of America for 70 years. They were overwhelmed by the process of moving their accounts.

“What’s the big deal?” you might say. “At most, I only go into a branch a couple of times a year.”

My older friends remember a banking system far different from what it is today. They don’t do ATM’s or on-line. They do face-to-face. A trip to the bank is considered a social outing. They write checks for petty cash and keep valuables in safe deposit boxes. Of course, they can still do this, but now they must adjust to the system of a different bank.

Oh well. Times change. What’re ya gonna do?

I’m going to have another piece of pie.