Friday, September 30, 2011

The Sooner, the Better

I admit that my Prius is not the fastest car on the block, but I chug along at the speed limit or better most of the time. In general, I have no problems on the bay area major highways. But up here in Foggy Redwood Country, they all think I'm a slow poke.

The main drag up here is called "Skyline Boulevard". Long ago, locals realized this gently curving two lane ribbon of road was their own "Autobahn". It is a favorite of bay area motorcyclists on the weekends. I hear them roar by from my humble abode and I see them in the parking lot of the local eatery if I head out to town in that direction. Bicyclists love riding on Skyline, and on downhill sections they whiz by just as fast as motorized vehicles. I have no problem with either kind of cyclist.

Its the weekday commuters who drive me crazy. I drive the speed limit, more or less, mainly because I never know if I might run into a deer or a bicyclist as I come around the bend at 50 mph, especially with limited visibility in foggy weather. But the commuters seem to think they are race car drivers on a limited access road. Seriously.

They tailgate me, at night, with their headlights on BRIGHT, until I pull over. Or they stay 10 feet from my bumper as we navigate through thick morning fog. At some point, I usually end up pulling over to let them pass. The funny thing is, when we reach the end of the road, at a yield sign at the entrance to the highway, I usually pull up right behind them. So they can't really be saving any time to speak of by streaking down the road a few seconds ahead of me.

The only thing I can figure is that an "autobahn complex" is responsible for such behavior. And, I doubt anything I do will change the situation. In the meantime, I think we should rename the roadway, to reflect the driving conditions. I propose that the name be changed to "Skyline Speedway" - immediately, if not sooner.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

68 Degrees

Its the new normal - 68 degrees.

When I was a kid, my mother used to make her children wear sweaters if the temperatures dropped below 72. Of course, once out the door, we kids would run around and get all hot and sweaty in minutes, and the sweaters peeled off in no time. But at least we walked out the door with our sweaters on, which probably made my mother think that she was being a good mama. Parents forget that kids engines run at much hotter temperatures. Kids and women with hot flashes that is.

As if I would know about things like hot flashes. Just saying, you know? (Unhhhhhuhhhh....)

They keep the air conditioning pretty cool where I work. I am very comfortable in my typical workday attire, which essentially consists of a fancy tee shirt, brightly colored, and stretchy black slacks, while my (younger) co-workers wear long sleeves and additional layers. They must have grown up with that 72 degree rule and a mother complex.

I am happy to have slightly cool-to-the-touch skin and an engine in my chest that's not on fire. Sounds like an advertisement - "Never burn with the Cool-Touch iron". Right. That's me. Cool-touch.

I used to LOVE wearing turtleneck shirts; now I cannot stand wearing them, even in the coldest winter, in Connecticut. I must have my neck open, as a major component of my ventilation system, in case I get overheated, which I do, quite easily and quite often.

I read a post on a friend's Facebook page recently, whereby she was talking about how her family was complaining because she had the A/C set to 68 degrees, and they felt cold. But 68 degrees sounds pretty comfortable to me.

When I get in my car after work, in my fancy tee shirt and no sweater, unless the outside temperature is less than 70 or so, I turn on the car A/C, to 68 degrees. (Well, until I hit the fog bank, which is a very consistent 55 degrees.)

68 degrees - its the new normal, at least for women of a certain age.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Horse Country

On top of the mountain today, our foggy weather was "dripping", all day. Regardless, I pulled on my rain jacket and set out to get the mail. In the mail box was the town newsletter, which I have not seen before. Instead of the newspaper rag pages I am used to seeing in my San Jose neighborhood free newsletter, this newsletter is printed on glossy paper and dropped in every mailbox with a town mailing address. (I live outside of the official town limits, but received one anyway.)

The newsletter appears to be issued quarterly, as this edition simply says "Fall 2011". So, what is going in Woodside these days? Let's take a look inside. There is a Rummage Sale in early October at a local church. That's pretty exciting. There is a town "clean up" day in early November. Hey, there is a Barn Dance on October 1st. Big time excitement here! And, the biggest spread of all - the Horse Fair, on October 8th at Woodside Town Hall. Whoopee-do!!! And this event is Free!! It features a Progressive Trail Ride through town, live music, and pony rides! Petting zoo and a carrot cake and apple juice social! How can I resist? This is must attend event!

I live in a converted barn. It is not unusual to see people on horseback on the trails behind my house, or even in town. I pass by the "Horse Park" on my way into town, which is a large parcel of land on which you can ride your horse and socialize with other riders. So, having a Horse Fair should hardly surprise me. In fact, it doesn't. I am actually kind of excited about the Horse Fair and the Barn Dance. After all, I live in Horse Country. I might as well embrace the local culture.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Robin's Egg Blue

As I clean up, the liquid swirls around the kitchen sink drain, the color and consistency of skim milk. At least the paint is water based and not oil.

A small patch up paint job turned in a two hour late Sunday afternoon project. There were no signs of late afternoon fog, no chill breeze whispering over the hills from the coast. In fact, there was no wind at all this afternoon. A good day for paint to dry up here in foggy redwood country.

The landlord painted my small deck two months ago, the day after I moved in. I moved my few small plants, in rust colored terra cotta pots, onto the deck after the paint had dried. A few weeks later, when I went to move them into sunnier spots on the deck, they took the paint with them. So, I thought I would patch up the bare spots with a few swipes of the paint brush.

Except, when I was done, the rest of the deck looked - well, dirty, after only two months. I ended up painting the whole damn thing. It looks nice, right now. Give it a week or two, and it will probably be covered with dirty footprints again.

Who in their right mind paints a deck robin's egg blue? (Which is basically white with a little blue tint thrown in for coloration) Especially up here in the hills, where we have dirt driveways. Dirt, people, dirt. As in "becomes mud in the rainy season". Painting the house a light color, that I can understand. But the stairs and deck will look dirty in no time.

My landlord, whose house I can see through the trees, has painted all the buildings on the land he owns up here in the same colors. The barn, the house and the garage are all the same robin's egg blue, with dark blue trim. And all the decking and stairs to the decks (each one of the three building has stairs and a deck) are robin's egg blue.

As I wielded the paintbrush this afternoon, I couldn't help thinking that maybe a medium grey would be a better color for a surface that gets a lot of foot traffic.

For now, as we head into fall, I have a deck painted robin's egg blue. Come spring, I'm going to see if my landlord will let me paint it the same color that I am sure it will have become by then - a nice shade of Sierra Foothills Brown.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fitting In

A young friend of mine, who moved to Israel almost a year ago, is having trouble "fitting in" among other kibbutz members who have lived on the kibbutz since they were born. They view her as a outsider, an "other" as she calls it. She is young, pretty, blonde and from LA. "It will take time", friends tell her. She may never be truly accepted by some people on the kibbutz, especially those who have difficulty accepting those who are different from themselves.

I cannot say that I have ever experienced similar problems. I have always lived in my home country, always spoken the native language. And yet, her situation reminds me that "home" is where we feel the most comfortable, and that is not necessarily where we were born.

I am the oldest of a large Catholic family of six kids, raised on the East Coast, in southwestern Connecticut. And as much as I love my siblings and feel that we are quite close, in some ways, I have never quite fit in with the rest of them. My five siblings always seem at ease in the mainstream of the local community; I never did.

My siblings like playing tennis, and listening to popular music on the radio, and are happy going to the movies for entertainment. There is nothing wrong with those activities, I just always seemed to be just a little different. I am a terrible tennis player, a sport my step-mother encouraged as a family activity, and I have never warmed up to popular music.

In my younger adulthood, I enjoyed playing adult soccer; I like international folk dancing and listening to world music, all pursuits I learned to love in California. These things do not exist in the small towns of Connecticut, even today. I love going out and listening to live music performances. My favorite genre, bluegrass, cannot even be found on the radio stations in Connecticut. (I have checked, as recently as a year ago.)

So, what's the problem you might ask? You live in California. True. However, I have accepted the fact that I may have to move back east someday, if one of my siblings or my dad becomes ill. It is likely that I will have to re-establish myself somewhere close to east coast family members at some point.

While the landscape will be familiar, I know that it will not be easy to make new friends. People in California are more open and accepting, since just about everyone is from someplace else. It is harder to make friends on the East Coast, especially with people who have lived there all their lives and have enough friends, thank-you-very-much. Nothing personal, just not interested.

And so I dread the day I have to leave my beloved California, although I am quite sure that one day it will happen. I will have to leave Foggy Redwood Country, and my wonderful friends, and the great bay area cultural experiences....some day.

One day, that day will come.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Long Island Voices

The dirty dinner dishes sit on the counter. The bills remain in their envelopes. Tonight is the first time I've had all week to sit down and write. But the mundane tasks can wait.

I've been looking forward to sitting down and being able to write all day. All day, in between routine household chores, I have had time to think what about I would write about when I sat down tonight. The feral pigs and goats I saw on my late afternoon hike up here in Foggy Redwood Country? The San Francisco bay during a recent unusually warm evening? My friend's foray into growing vegetables for the first time?

But today is "9-11", the tenth anniversary of that terrible day, which we as a country remember with sorrow for the victims and their families and with reverance for the first responders and with renewed patriotism and courage for our country. How can I not comment on this bittersweet day, a day that will not be forgotten by anyone who has lived through it?

I cannot do justice in a blog posting to all the wonderful articles I've read written by writers with better wordsmithing skills than I . Indeed, words fail me when I see the heart wrenching photos of family members touching a loved one's name on the wall at the Ground Zero memorial in New York City.

But reading my brother's Facebook posting after dinner tonight brought it all back to me. You see, my brother lives on Long Island in New York, only twenty minutes from New York City. While the terrorism event affected everyone in America, I think that New Yorkers felt it more intensely than most of us.

Everyone in the New York City area, which includes surrounding suburbs north of the City where my sister lives, on Long Island where my brother lives and south-western Connecticut where my dad and two siblings live, knew someone or of someone who had lost a loved one that day. In my dad's church alone, five members of his parish died that day, all family men who commuted to and worked in the City. Some of the firemen who responded when duty called that day lived in the suburbs of Long Island.

A while back, a musical director on Long Island decided to create a concert to commemorate the anniversary of 9-11. He also composed his own choral music for the concert. In addition, proceeds from the concert are to benefit local veterans, some of whom were in the audience tonight. When the veterans and First Responders in the audience stood up to sing one of the songs with the chorus, my brother said he almost lost his composure, he was so choked with emotion. My brother, who is a not only a singer but also a community theater actor and director, said that it was the first time he had ever received a standing ovation at intermission.

Even though I didn't hear the concert, I read the heart felt tributes to the choir on the choir Facebook page. It sounds like there was not a dry eye in the house. I can only applaud from afar for the Long Island Voices, directed by composer Michael Bussewitz-Quarm, who presented his own original work "Dies Magna", a major choral piece with instrumental accompaniment, written in honor of the heros of September 11, 2001 and sung with sincere emotion on this tenth anniversary, September 11, 2o11. We will not forget.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Labor Day

It is often referred to as the Last Day of Summer, although tecnnically the "summer" season doesn't end for three more weeks. It used to mark the last few days of summer vacation before school started up again in September, but these days, school usually starts sometime in August. As a child, I remember the holiday being celebrated with family barbeques, a day off from work for my dad to spend with his family. Now, it seems it is nothing more than a holiday for shopping bargains, or perhaps a day at the beach.

Do most people in the U.S. know how our "Labor Day" holiday tradition began? I doubt it; I didn't know, until I looked it up on the internet. (President Cleveland declared it a national holiday in 1894, which was an election year. Meant to appease striking workers, the gesture was obviously politically motivated.)

Perhaps knowing the exact origins of the holiday does not really matter, because the name of the holiday says it all - its a holiday for the working man. It is a paid holiday for most, except, if you work in retail or the tourist industry or the restaurant business. Ironically, those workers, mostly paid hourly and with few benefits, often do not have this day off.

Technically, I have the day off. Realistically, I do not. Accountants march to the beat of a different drummer, namely the immovable deadlines set by the SEC. Unfortunately, my company's "quarter end" is August 31st, which means we work long hours the week before and two weeks after that date "closing the books". We have another quarter end on November 30th. I don't even have to ask if I will get any holiday off time at Thanksgiving.

The labor unions in the US have long pushed for a standard 8 hour workday and over the years Congress has passed laws that limit certain industries to an 8 hour workday for their workers, unless the workers get paid for "overtime".

Considered a "professional" (CPA) I am exempt from those labor laws. I am not paid on an hourly basis, but on a salaried one. I make good money...until you factor in all the overtime hours I put in. Then, I am not so sure that I make any more money than the typical factory or retail worker.

For me, at least this for year, Labor Day is just another day to go to work. (Well, except for the two hours mid-day that I ducked out to join a friend's barbeque. Just dont' tell my boss.)