Friday, July 31, 2009

so, I bought a house

...which is one of the reasons the blog went dark for a couple of eons this summer.
It's been one of those huge, life changing/life affirming/life imploding (in a good way) events into which I found myself diving head first back in May:
"I really think you should come check out this house a few miles west of here," said my realtor.
"But I don't want to move farther west," I told her. "If anything, I want to move farther east."
"It's a good deal, and it's only been on the market for a day."
"I don't know..."
"It's a horse property."
"When can we go look?"
So, we drove out to a little subdivision I've passed hundreds of times in the past decade - on my way to church, to the store, to the Grand Canyon. And there it was:
It's an old El Paso house, which means it was built for one of the EP workers (and maybe for his young family as well) back when the natural gas pipeline was going through. There are a few more of these in the neighborhood, and a guy who lives in one of them told me they were built extra sturdy so they could be moved, if need be...farther down the line, I suppose.
Inside, there are these old oak floors which, while in need of some TLC, might just be magnificent someday. That's my monstrous wood stove in the corner. I plan to use it as our primary source of winter heat, since propane is so dad-gummed expensive:
And there's a utility/laundry/workshop/sunroom, which may just be the thing that finally sold me on the place. It's already set up as a homework and soaping center. Updated pics to come:
These are my Red Hot Pokers out front. I'm still getting used to that term "mine." I mean, it could be argued that nothing is really "ours," that it's all God's - or that the Earth doesn't belong to us, we belong to the Earth, etc. But....oh, heck, You know what I mean. These are my flowers:
Here's the view out back. That's National Forest right across my fenceline, and I can't wait to head out there on Zzari while whistling Happy Trails:
Without a doubt, Independence day took on a whole new meaning this year:
I guess when it comes right down to it, I can probably sum up the whole experience in five words: It's good to be home.

I'm pretty sure Lizzie agrees:

Friday, July 24, 2009

shun the non-believer!


Thursday, July 23, 2009

a cool writer of impressive action

One of the things I love to do while I'm in the Bay Area is to attend readings by authors I wouldn't otherwise get to see. True, we've had some great writers visit Flagstaff, from Jan Brett and Lemony Snicket for the kids to Ron Carlson and T. Greenwood for the adults. But here in Northern California you almost can't walk down the street without having a famous author whack you in the head. Figuratively speaking, of course.

Last night I attended Dave Eggers' reading at a local indie bookstore. He read from his new non-fiction work Zeitoun, which is about the horrifying experiences of a Syrian man living in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I've been an Eggers fan since his "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" and "You Shall Know Our Velocity" days, so it was a real treat to see him in person. (If you haven't read anything by him, I recommend running out and getting something today - especially AHWOSG, which, for me, was a fun awakening to some new, stylistic possibilities in writing). He seems like a very down-to-Earth person, too, and he clearly puts his money where his mouth is (profits from the books go to worthy causes like 826 Valencia and ongoing hurricane relief efforts).

This is the sort of thing I'm going to miss when it's time to head home in a couple days.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

face to face with the boy king

We headed into the City again on Monday - three generations of us - to see the current de Young Museum exhibit that's the talk of the town: Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs. It's being advertised everywhere, including down on Fisherman's Wharf, where this enormous statue of Anubis watches over all the tourists (it looks to me like he's trying to spear that seagull for lunch):
I was lucky to see this traveling exhibit 30 years ago (yipe!), when I was the same age my son is now. Then, I was inCREDibly lucky to actually see King Tut's tomb in person in the mid-80's, when my mother and I traveled to Egypt and some of the surrounding countries in what amounted to a completely life-altering trip. I got to ride a camel around the Valley of the Kings and actually descend into the tomb (which was surprisingly cold, given the searing desert temps outside). Ancient Egyptians knew the death business inside and out, that's for sure.
There is so much to see and do in San Francisco that it's sometimes a bit overwhelming. That's one the reasons I love Golden Gate Park so much. There, you can simply stop and smell the flowers:

One of the neat kids' activities on the de Young site is the "Flat Anubis." Those of you who have grade school-aged kids have probably had some sort of "Flat Stanley" experience; Well, the Flat Anubis is basically the same thing. My son wanted his FA pic taken in front of the Conservatory of Flowers.

The old, glorious de Young building was, sadly, torn down and replaced by what I consider to be an architectural abomination, but what do I know. It's nice inside, though, and they do have a cute lily pad pond out front.

No cameras were allowed inside, so I don't have any actual pictures of the items in the exhibit (which is nicely enhanced by some theatrical technology and brilliantly narrated by Omar Sharif, both as you enter and if you purchase the audio tour, which I definitely recommend). All in all, coming "face to face with the boy king" is well worth it, so if you're in the Bay Area (or if Tut is coming to your town), be sure to go. After all, your kids may be as old as you are now the next time it comes around.

Monday, July 20, 2009

angry beast: the city in pictures

A group of us headed over to the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco last week. It has just recently opened back up after a long re-building stretch, and the reviews are mixed.

There's a four-story rainforest there, full of butterflies. It's also home to little poison tree frogs that are almost close enough to lick. Note to anyone planning on visiting, though: get your Planetarium passes early. By the time we got there, all the passes were gone. I was especially impressed by the new and improved Steinhart Aquarium: The fishies and jellies are always a favorite:

Afterward, we headed down to the fish market section of the Wharf for lunch:

Behold the paragon of San Francisco cuisine - fresh, hot, crustilicious sourdough bread (Can you hear the angels singing? Can you?):

And the bowl of fresh clam chowder served in an edible sourdough bowl. I mean, seriously. Don't even get me started:

From there, it was short jaunt over to Pier 39 to check out the sights (I love playing tourist in my own town):

Adam and Steve as mermen...only in San Francisco:No visit to the Pier is complete without a pow wow with the sea lions. The fragrance is, in all ways, striking and unique.

We headed to a different part of the waterfront, where a bunch of the old Playland elements are on display. Playland was a turn-of-the-century amusement park on the beach in SF, and, let me tell you...Folks were TWISTED a hundred years ago. (Mommy? Looking at Jolly Jack gives me a bad feeling in the pit of my tummy...):
Anyone who saw the old Tom Hanks movie, Big, will no doubt remember Laughing Sal ("Terrifying Children for nearly a Century!").

"See Susie dance the Can-Can!" (Do we have to?)

"Here's a quarter, Timmy. Now, run along and play with the Opium Den like a good little boy..."

"Safety word...SAFETY WORD!!!"

Suffice it to say that one of these afterward would not have been a bad idea:

Friday, July 17, 2009


I like this song. I like that the video highlights the bridge I'll drive over this morning and the city through which I'll wander with the kids. Must remember to bring the camera.

Did I mention that a big group of us went out to Limantour beach/Point Reyes the other day, and we saw dolphins leaping in the waves just off shore while the kids were learning to body surf? It's so good to have this place to come back to now and then.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

back and breathless

A full two months has passed since I last blogged, so I figured it was time to roll up my sleeves, take a deep, cleansing breath and get back to it.

But have you ever noticed that, sometimes, just getting back to it can be a little terrifying? This is especially true - I've recently discovered - after major life changes come along and upheave (Is this even a word? Because if it is, I plan to drop it into as many casual conversations as possible) all the terra firma you once took for granted. In the past year I've lost people I never expected to lose, including, to some extent, myself. And you know that thing about how we're supposed to literally become different people every seven years (something about all the changes that happen on a cellular level)? Well, I feel like I've taken the summer session/accelerated path of becoming someone I never knew existed.

I couldn't begin to cover everything I've been up to for the past two months (much less in the last 12 months) in a single post, so I'll try to start small and keep it simple, beginning with what's been going on lately.

As was the case at this time last year, I'm back in the Bay Area, visiting all those sacred (to me) places from my childhood, running at the old high school track, skinny dipping in the old swimming pool, catching up on all the changes that have been taking place here while I've been away and visiting with some of the white-haired neighbors, a few in varying degrees of declining health, who I remember being - a long time ago - roughly the same age I am now.

I can feel how the sand has shifted every time I come back home now. It's scary, yes, but it's also exhilarating, like being a first-timer on a roller coaster that's picking up speed: You know there are thrills and spills in the immediate future, but you don't yet know if they're going to make you laugh, scream or come this close to woofing your cookies. So, whatever's waiting on the tracks up ahead, here's to raising our hands high in the air and settling in for the ride of our lives.