Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Uncharacteristically early for a rendezvous with the relatives, I sat down at a large round table on the back porch of the coffee shop. There would be at least six of us. The HUBS was parking the car, no small problem. Apparently, we in the SF Bay Area like to drink the morning after a sad defeat for our San Francisco 49-ers and we drink coffee.

We had met with Patti and Bob Saturday night in San Francisco at Capp’s Corners. Capp’s is just a block off busier Stockton Street, near where Chinatown and North Beach bump up against each other like the tectonic plates along the San Andreas Fault. In this case, the plates are often more of the culinary sort and no matter which neighborhood you’re in, the food is delicious.

Capp’s is in the same block as Beach Blanket Babylon and has an almost-fixed price menu for dinner, pasta is something like $18.50 and other entrees are something like $21.50. Dinner comes with minestrone soup and a salad, both served family style on checked tablecloths. It’s like being at home in a way, but home is a place with a lot of noisy people after 7 pm.

At about 5 pm, though, I was the only one there besides a regular named Tommy who was leaving. We were supposed to meet at 4 pm but one thing led to another and we are relaxed with each other mostly. I wasn’t sure if we had reservations. I had my cell phone, checking for messages. I ordered a Zinfandel. I enjoyed it.

After a while we caught up with Patti and Bob and then Andy and his adorable friend Jeannette from New Zealand. She’s an orthopedic surgical nurse and we agreed that talking about her work in detail at the dinner table was probably not the best. She did confirm that tourists fall off mountains and drive on the wrong side of the road just often enough to keep her quite busy.

I had steak.

Andy and Jeannette had to drive to southern California the next day, so by Monday, holiday for me, breakfast in Alamo near Danville was at a place called Cherubini near the creek. It’s January after all so they had the outdoor overhead heaters on, but they weren’t really necessary.

We’re in a drought this year. Water is so low in the local reservoirs that they are talking about mandatory rationing. The newscasts are talking about the droughts in the 1970’s, before I came to California, but when I moved here in 1989 there was a drought too.

Every toilet flush, every glass of water at the restaurant, every load of laundry or shower was something to be mindful of. House-proud new homeowners in bedroom communities like Benicia saw their expensive lawns dry up to crackling. Xeriscape lawns became the rage, with stones and benches and wooden slat overhead trellises to create shady earth and the illusion of a cool retreat from the unrelenting sun.

Adding to the drought’s bad effects on tourism was the Loma Prieta earthquake in October 1989. In Monterey the following January, Cannery Row was a ghost town, the natural disasters having shooed vacationers to “safer” places. While I was there for a week, tagging along on HUBS2’s business trip, I had what everyone in California wants: I had the place to myself. I started conversations with otters and harbor seals. I continued them with gulls and ground squirrels. I watched the two scuba divers fiddle with their gear and waddle into the seaweed jungle of the bay. For a brief moment that week, time stood still again. But there was a drought, true enough. I had arrived on Thanksgiving Day 1989 in pouring rain and I didn’t see a drop until May the following year. I thought I was in heaven.

Now I’ve lived in California long enough to worry about the day-after-day of “perfect” weather, the low reservoirs, the anticipation of a bad fire season. I sat on the too-warm deck behind the coffee shop and waited for HUBS3 and his sweet family to arrive. I would wait to get something to drink. It’s a drought year.

I looked toward the creek nearby, wondering at the flowers blooming in January. I used to be startled at January flowers, having suffered too long in Missouri and Illinois winters whose only colors were white, and ice and grey and sometimes charcoal where a tarred road lay scraped and still treacherous or where dark tree trunks lined with clinging frost and snow slatted the edge of my sight. Color here in January may be white and green and pink and red and sometimes yellow. It is the time after fall and not yet summer here. It is the time when birds eat.

Art Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord
It was a quiet time, as if January had taken a quick breath and held it for a moment. A few coffee-lovers nodded at me on the way to the bathroom, questions unasked about why one person sat alone at so big a table. And yet, wasn’t this the California everyone wanted? The one all to themselves?

I read somewhere that the Ace of Pentacles was the most fortunate card in the deck. It is the big round reality, the essence of material comfort like the sun’s big gold coin in the morning sky, like the big round table all to myself on the back deck of a cozy coffee shop with its good smells that made the air taste like omelets and pastry and java or cappuccino. Being here right now, that was the Ace of Pentacles. This one thing, this disc of the world in its tactile form, this table here was the Ace of Pentacles. I reached out and touched the edge of it in wonder of the tactile universe.

“I got you a coffee,” the HUBS said, setting the Cherubini’s mug with its corseted form in front of me. “I put in the cream but wasn’t sure how much sugar you wanted.”

I was only briefly startled and smiled. I picked up the mug and sipped.

“It’s OK,” I murmured. “It’s sweet enough.”

Best wishes.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Lost Treasure

While out for a reading and running errands Saturday, I saw a big blue box where people deposit clothes and shoes for people who need them.

“Just the thing!” I thought with relief, and popped my new camel coat with the hood , tags still on, into the bin. Well, yes, there’s a story there.

Now, I don’t mean to brag about my great generosity. I would probably have given the coat to someone I knew if I thought it would fit them. But that was exactly the problem, you see. I wasn’t sure exactly who would find it the perfect fit.

I had fallen prey to optimism again, one of my favorite afflictions. I bought a coat online. By all descriptions, it seemed like it should have fit. I loved the camel color, just what I was looking for, and the hood was a real plus. It shipped so quickly, too, all the way from the United Kingdom. But it didn’t fit.

All that and it didn’t fit. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say the ship of state has a notable prow and the coat was inches away from buttoning, no matter how enormous the size tag said the thing was. In fact, I had been concerned at first it would be too big, since the company had sent one size larger than I had ordered. I think perhaps they knew something though. All I can say further is that if worn it would have provided a notable gap in coverage.

With much of the country in the grip of worst-ever cold weather and so many sad and amusing photos of pizza shops suddenly converted to drive-in restaurants by uncooperative vehicles and all, I decided I wanted a decent coat. I haven’t had one since I left Illinois and that was a very long time ago.

Just before tossing it into the bin, I checked the pockets for treasures. It’s a habit. I put things in pockets and leave them there. These were at least still sewn together, still factory fresh in its never-worn condition.

I’ve been concerned that I’ve lost some things by leaving things in pockets. I can’t be sure, you see, because if they are never found, you never know where you put them. Right? That’s some law of the universe, like socks missing from the laundry. But knowing my habit, having found enough important things stuffed in my pockets in the past, I check pockets for cash, important papers, driver’s license, credit cards, jewelry, keys, electronic gizmos. Someday I expect toads or something like a naughty child’s pockets betraying the fun of the day.

When I found that the coat didn’t fit, I did look up the information to get a refund. The seller does have a refund policy but requires that the less-than-satisfied buyer return the coat through shipping with tracking. This is inexpensive and easy when the item is purchased in my own country, but annoyingly, international shipping with tracking costs a king’s, or at least a princess’ ransom. Calculating that the cost of the return shipping with tracking would easily approach the cost of the coat, I decided it was not worth the trouble to return it with a net gain of … well, not enough to buy a pizza. People here need coats. Give it to someone who needs it. They merely have to figure out the annoyance of ignoring the size number on the tag.

I bought a new camel wool coat, no hood, alas, but nice quality from a company in my country so just in case I suffered the same fate of misplaced optimism I could at least return the thing. Coat 2 fits, just scrumptious, thank you, and as I had hoped the “mid-calf” estimate of its length, true for most mortals, is the desired ankle-length on my Hobbit-like frame. When the red gloves I ordered came in, of course I stuffed them in the pockets of the coat. I am, after all, true to pattern. I expect I’ll find the gloves there when I need them.

Online shopping has its downfalls, but for the most part I like it, except for purchasing books. So while nosing through lists of things for sale that I hardly intend to purchase I found myself in the jewelry section. I remembered I am looking for two items that have been mislaid.

One has been missing since 1998. I know this because that was the time that I cleaned out the closet in that bedroom in the rental house I was moving out of in preparation to move to my current house. I had taken that opportunity to cull some items from my wardrobe and taken them to a women’s shelter, then discovered that a pin I had had made from other jewelry was gone. I had checked pockets! I had! I had checked lapels too. Had I checked underneath a lapel? Would I have pinned a pin underneath a lapel to hide it? I might have. And is it gone? Or, did it fall into a box of doll furniture? I miss it terribly.

And the other piece, a gift from a friend far away, a lovely pendant that was a very special present. It’s here. Somwhere.

Where the heck are they??

What’s a card reader to do? Pull a card, of course. So I did. 7 of Wands.

Hmm, I thought, at least this means there is some hope of finding them because the 7 of Wands is a card of success after all. The kind of success it means is peculiar to it. I would say when I find them, optimist that I am but also reading the card, I shall find them one at a time, perhaps stumbling across them while I’m doing something else. My success will be with effort and I will not necessarily be well-prepared for the task. This should be no surprise to me as I am seldom prepared for anything in the realm of housework. Last, while 7’s have a somewhat magical quality about them, I reflect how wands are fire and specifically wood. Perhaps, in the bottom of some treasure box with other goodies, in a drawer in a dresser, in a box of…hmm, furniture for dolls… perhaps. Best to clean out my dresser drawers anyway to get rid of clothes I no longer wear, mismatched socks and all that. And perhaps, I’ll find them.

Best wishes!

&&&^^^&&&^^^**** =^-^=****^^^&&&^^^&&&

Looking for a friendly Lenormand class in San Francisco? Coming soon Feb. 22, 2014!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Welcome 2014

2013 sure had its ups and downs for me, almost the epitome of why, “May you live in interesting times” is called a Chinese curse. Yup, interesting times. There’s a lot of uncertainty out there and 2013 as the year of the Lovers was more like trying the find the puzzle pieces after the Tower fell down just to get something back together. Stability in work, relationships, finances, governments, health, even Show Biz was questionable all through the year.

Sometimes, all you’re looking for is just one more donut before you walk into Weight Watchers, you know? And yet, on the police scanner, there’s a report of someone sitting in their car for ten minutes eating donuts behind Target. Now, this in itself says a lot about life today and how the year might pan out for 2014.

When you have a New Year’s Resolution, you might want a really good swan song for that thing you’re trying to change.

I know that if I were going to give up donuts in 2014, and I haven’t quite committed to that although, in my own defense, I can’t remember the last time I had a donut, I might sit in my car for at least ten minutes savoring the last dozen or so. You can see that right? Kind of that 9 of Cups moment before the King of Swords takes over with good sense, you see?

So, yeah, I’m not doing the last dozen donuts thing but I did get this cool app for my iPhone to track what I eat. I know the pitfalls of this whole thing though. If you lie to your food diary, it doesn’t work as well. Why you’d do that is beyond me, but I recognize the phenomenon. Heck, I’ve been guilty of it myself. The levels of self-sabotage in improvements efforts are, to paraphrase one of my favorite philosophers, Sandra Boynton, without number.

Slimming down isn’t my only goal for 2014. If I had my druthers, I’d just as soon a few areas of my life regained some kind of sanity, like work, relationships, finances. Oh, and I need to gas up the car. Yeah, the mundane seems to have gotten a bit out of hand for me lately, too.

At least I’m not alone in the effort to resolve and re-resolve, refocus for better resolution and, if possible, avoid revolution. The cats’ personalities here at the compound have their own proposed 2014 resolutions.

Eleanor, who is a tremendous coward much more timid and terrified than any lion from Oz, has become a tiny bit braver lately. She’s black and white and scream all over, or she used to be. She’s still black and white but the volume of screams has reduced over time. She actually let me pick her up for a while the other day. This is a breakthrough because in the last 6 or 7 years being picked up and cuddled was obviously the precursor to being devoured by monsters. Or something. So this time she was on a purr-fest from being brushed and talked to specifically. A pet psychic said we should think more positive thoughts about her to boost her self-esteem. What could it hurt, right? And it seems to be working. So in the midst of this happy moment, I tried picking her up and I think we were there something like three whole minutes.

From this and from Eleanor’s recent ventures from the kitchen into the dining room and living room, I conclude her 2014 New Year’s resolution is, “I shall endeavor to be braver.” When you say this in your mind, you need to picture her with a hat and gloves seated for tea somewhere in the Midsomer Murders’ summer country in a sunny room waiting for the Detective Chief Inspector’s next question about what happened last Thursday.

On the opposite end of the psychopath scale in our little feline household is Pixie a/k/a Baby. All famous crime lords (ladies?) have nicknames, so it seems natural that our own little innocent-until-proven-guilty would have one too. Baby’s actually softening up in her adult years. She has only once in recent memory taken a flying leap and landed with all four paws full of claws on the HUBS’ back. He’s almost healed now, except that spot on his arm. And she only once tried setting the house on fire, knocking the iron off the ironing board and onto the floor, melting two of the floor tiles. She did this so well that the automatic shutoff didn’t engage because the iron landed plate-side down, like an iron should. One new iron and two replaced floor tiles later, plus airing the house out to get rid of that melted rubber smell and things are like new. I always did like Mr. Wolf in the movie Pulp Fiction, the guy wiseguys had to call when something unexpected happened, like accidentally shooting a guy in your car, and you need an expert to clean things up before the wife gets home.

Baby has actually gotten a lot cuddlier. She used to try to take my hand off after about the third stroke when I was petting her. She really likes the dog and the HUBS but not really anyone else. This is a heartache to me because I rescued her, one of my many little efforts to find a kitty a home that ends with the new home being mine. We naturally took her with us on vacation a scant two weeks after I took her in and I hoped it would be a bonding experience. It was, sort of. Two out of three ain’t bad, as Meatloaf sang, the dog and the HUBS. For some reason, she’s got the mother-daughter blues, a gentle reminder of the “Seven Years War” my mother and I had. Mom and I became good friends, so I hold out hope for Baby.

Lately she’s been letting me pet her more than just the three strokes and I’ve learned the subtle cues that mean enough is enough, like that banshee wail that starts out as a low rumble. And she does respond to gentle baby-talk and kind wishes, although I hasten to add that even the dog, big softie that he is, occasionally has to growl at her for eating his food or just getting too close. He does not do this to Binket, his other-species paramour; she can smear her whole self on him and he nudges her with his nose, gives her typical doggy sniff and the occasional slurp. It’s the picture of true love with those two.

Baby is destined to have more of a struggle in life, mostly because of her need to defend herself before a threat has emerged. I know people like that. But if the kitten can get better, there’s probably hope for the world.

Wherever you are on the psychopath scale, oh, let’s call it the empathy scale, hmm? That’s so much more upbeat. Anyway, wherever you are, if you make a New Year’s resolution, try to take the long view. Like the 3 of Wands, when you launch the project, look out beyond the horizon to the positive end. That way, if the boat tips a bit here and there, you’ll have something bigger and more important in mind than day-to-day ups and downs.

Happy New Year and best wishes!