WANNA BUY A CAR?


I don’t understand the automobile business.  The lots stack up with cars nobody can afford to buy, and they still make more.

We witnessed the death of an automobile the other day.  The young man across the street finally said farewell to the old clunker he kept parking on our side of the street.  Sad for him, happiness for us.

He needed a ride to a car lot, so we drove him to a couple so he could look at used cars.  They don’t call them just “used” anymore though; now they are “gently used”, but the price is still ridiculous.

While he was checking them out, even taking one for a quick test drive, Dr. Advice, who is a great conversationalist, picked out a likely young salesman to talk to.  When I heard him ask the kid what kind of education he had, I thought ‘ OMG, here we go again, trying to save the young man for a better job.’

After gauging his education, home life and possibilities, he asked him for his card and said he’d see if he knew someone who he could get in touch with.  Naturally, the salesman had thought here was a likely old gent to whom he could sell a new car.  He had no idea who he was dealing with.

Of course, the good Dr. has been retired for nearly 25 years, so I’m not sure who he was having him call on.  He just can’t help trying to save the world.

I, on the other hand, am a mean spirited realist, and told him on the way home that maybe he actually liked what he was doing, or just posssibly he had found the perfect job for his capabilities.

Meanwhile, a purchase had been made, and the happy owner of a nice looking five year old Ford something-or-other had driven off.  We stopped for an ice cream cone on our way home and I smilingly assured Dr. Advice that at least we won’t have that old clunker parked on our side of the street any more.

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“I GOT NO TEETH DARLIN'”


Oldtimer, clay sculpture, KSR

It’s hard to reconstruct a life through the memory of a fifteen year old girl, but Jean Cornelier deserves more of a history than he got.

He came to America as a young race car driver in about 1909, to race against Barney Oldfield, a famous driver who was the first to drive a roaring 60 miles an hour.  Barney had built a reputation by racing for Ford Motor Co., and he was a challenge for any young and daring young driver of the new “contraptions”.

There’s no record as to how well he did on the track, and other than a few gruff references to his racing career, that was his youth as far I ever knew.

He may have met and married my Great-Aunt Hazel in San Francisco, where she had been married and divorced from a prominent lawyer there, and thus he became my Uncle Jean.

Hazel had been born and raised in Grants Pass, Oregon, and this is where she and Jean settled down on a large piece of property out in the country where they raised chickens, cows and a few sheep.

They certainly had money as they bought several buildings in town, as well as many acres of land, but they chose to live in a rough cabin-like house consisting of one large communal room and a large bedroom, with an outhouse a distance away from the house, and a long dirt road which became a mudhole in the Oregon winter rains.

My first recollection of them was from a visit when I was about 9-10 years old, and coming from a city background, it was a delight to see the farm animals and help collect eggs, etc.

They were homely no-nonsense people, and I was a quiet and curious child and somewhat afraid of Jean, whose English was a bit broken and who did not communicate well with children.  I’m not sure if he really liked them much, or maybe me in particular.

He seemed tall and skinny, and was quite weathered looking, with wild coarse grey hair which never seemed to stay put. His face was craggy, with a very prominent nose taking up the center of his face.  His eyeglasses seemed always to be slipping down and being saved from actually falling by his nose.

He was taciturn and seemingly preferred to be alone, so I was pleased and surprised when he invited me to ride down to the barn with him to milk the few cows.  We bounced along down the hill in an old open-topped truck, narrowly missing large rocks and potholes, and rolling precariously over an open irrigation ditch with no sides.

He gave me my first red Delicious apple and pointed out the infinitesimal white stars all over the shiny skin.  It was probably the juiciest apple I ever had; cold and true to its name, delicious.  With apple juice dripping down my chin and all over my new “farm” clothes, I offered him a bite, and he looked down at me and said “I got no teeth, Darlin'”.

I had never seen anyone without their teeth, and on closer inspection I was surprised to see that he really did not have any teeth!  My Grandpa and another Great-Uncle used to tease me by clicking their dentures in and out, but it did not occur to me that the reason they wore them was because of the lack of real teeth.

My next visit with them was during the War, when I was 15 and we came to live with them for a year.  He seemed older and greyer, and the farm animals had mostly gone, but I think he liked me better.  When he found I liked poetry,  he went to a bookcase in their bedroom where there were several old beautiful leather-bound books and gave me a small book of French poetry.  I have always treasured it, and though I never learned to speak French, my granddaaughter is fluent in the language, so there is someone who may love it as I do.

I have always thought there was a lot more to Jean Cornelier than we ever knew.

FISH AND CHIPS


We don’t live too far from the ocean.  Growing up I was never more than a block or two from the Pacific ocean or at one time the Thames River in Connecticut where I learned to swim when my father threw me out into the water..  But there’s something about the sound of crashing waves and the mystery of tides that keeps me captive, and I have spent many days painting it.

Yesterday we headed out down a heavily wooded road with native redwood trees hiding the sun in speckled sections,  toward Half Moon Bay, a lovely little coastal town in Northern California with a couple of friends for a relaxing day by the ocean.  Several stops along the way included a cemetery containing the remains of Union soldiers which we had passed hundreds of times and never noticed.  Interesting to see  soldiers from the Civil War buried here in Redwood City in a tiny oak-shaded memorial park.

Next stop was a funky breakfast shop in Woodside with a collection of everything including a life-sized green Statue of Liberty greeting you as you walked in the front door and an 8 ft. anaconda skin on the wall.  After that it took a few cups of great cappuccino to get us ready for the rest of the trip.

It was a brilliant sunny day with an invigorating sea breeze, so we walked to the edge of the cliff and inhaled the first pure air since we were there before.  My friend is from an island in the Azores, and he too feels right at home by the sea.  He said they took it for granted as we do, and the thrill of the day came when as boys they looked up occasionally to see an airplane which they knew was going to America from the direction it was flying.

Half Moon Bay,California is filled with nice small shops, bakeries and good restaurants, and the comfortable feel of a small town.  It was settled by Portuguese fishermen and as you walk closer to the water, there are boats and fish shops and more restaurants. The largest building in town is Cunha’s grocery store which has been there over a hundred years and seems to be the focal point of the town.  At one time there was a dance floor upstains and the downstairs was a large bar.  Easy to imagine the party when the fishing boats came in at the end of the day.

The Flying Fish restaurant was our goal and the whole purpose of our trip,  because they probably have the best fish and chips since our favorite pub in London near Paddington station, where we once happily survived for a week on fish and chips and beer for dinner.  (And perhaps Spotted Dick for dessert!)

 

PENTIMENTO


In art, pentimento is the process of old oil paint on canvas as it ages, sometimes becoming transparent.  When that happens it is possible sometimes to see the original lines intended for the painting.   The artist may have had an entirely different idea when he or she began.  A dog may become a child, a building may become the ocean.  It is called pentimento because the artist “repented” or changed his mind.  It’s a way of saying that the old idea, replaced by a later choice, is a way of seeing and seeing again.

I have a herd of caribou marching across the tundra which possibly will change into a high mountain scene when I next pick it up.  They have been marching for several months now and I think they have gone as far as I can take them.

Putting it into a human context, I think people are much like that.  How many of us retain the idealism and energy of youth?  It is Time which is our pentimento.

Our careers change, our bodies change, and even our outlook on life changes.

But is it a bad thing?  Sometimes.  But as in a painting, perhaps the end result is much better.  Or not.

I prefer to think we gain wisdom and patience that wasn’t there in the first attempt.

ALL WIGGED OUT


The ancient Egyptians wore wigs to shield their shaved heads from the sun.  I can see that was a good idea; who wants a sunburned head?  Styles have come and gone through the years, and cultures have changed.  People wore wigs for many reasons including religious, costume, cosmetic , convenience or just for fun.  It’s nice to be able to change your appearance at will.

I was cursed with wimpy hair. You might even say I hate my hair.  I always hated the color as well, but you can always change the color, which I did often.  When it finally turned a real color (grey) a grandson took a look and asked me if it was blonde or grey.  I told him to take his choice.

During the 60’s when “big hair” was the style, I was not able to achieve it no matter how vigorously I back-combed and sprayed, so I bought a wig.

It was human hair and very expensive, and had to be professionally washed and styled, and I loved it.  Until I overheard Republican great-aunt Georgia say to my grandmother
“She wants to look like Jackie Kennedy.”  What really hurt was that I did!  Jackie was an icon  of style, and had great hair as well.  I probably couldn’t carry it off anyway, being about 8 inches shorter.  Plus it really did take a lot of money to look that good.

They make wigs and hairpieces of synthetic material which through the years is hard to tell from human hair. You can wash them yourself, and change your style and color whenever the mood or the occasion demands it.  How cool is that?

Dogs like wigs too I found out the hard way once while visiting my daughter in Seattle.  I put my wig on a table in the bedroom and went downstairs with the rest of the family.  Suddenly my grandchildren came running in yelling “Mom!  Jessie’s running down the road with Grammie’s wig!”  They don’t have that dog anymore, but then, I don’t have that wig either.

 

DAYS OF DOGS AND ROSES


Pomo Indian Girl, Oil on Canvas, KSR

Dogs have many ways to get your attention .  l. When asleep.  2.When awake.  3.  By shaking, sneezing, or low growls.  4.  Sitting quietly and staring with a sweet and forgiving look on their face.  In other words, dogs are part of the civilized world’s most efficient con artists.

They have built-in clocks which if an action  has taken place at a certain time one day, it must be continued on the next, ad infinitum.

One of the best at this is the Jack Russell Terrier.  It is a given that they know what is best for them and for you, and once their minds are made up, there is no going back.  In return for all this, they are one of the most delightful and entertaining of little dogs.

Charlie took over this household a bit more than five years ago, and after frequent discussions and disagreements, he has taken his proper place in the hierarchy, which is somewhat left of center.  He is a bright light in whatever locale he finds himself and has never met a stranger.

Through the years there have been many dogs, each an individual challenge.

Max the Doberman had to vie for attention from Liza the German Shepherd, the resident perfect dog, so the bar was already pretty high.  It took about two years for Max to become a good citizen.   He spent many days lying beside Dr. Advice’s chair in the office emitting noxious odors as only a Doberman can, but he was a lovely and loyal friend and an energetic running companion each morning to me.

I’ve written about Liza before, and at each telling, she becomes more of a paragon of canine virtue.

  There were several serious little dachshunds, and once a chihuahua, who traveled everywhere with us, and they were each happy little campers, cheerfully crawling into a sleeping bag or a boat wherever we went.

Penny and Panda were an unlikely “odd couple”.         Old English Panda was stranded when her home ranch was flooded out.  As country people do, our grandson along with everyone who had a horse trailer pitched in to rescue over 100 horses.                                             The owner had a heart attack at this point, and several dogs  were left seeking new homes.

I have always loved Old English Sheep dogs since I first saw Peter Pan with the Nana nurse dog, but I told my grandson when he ended up with Panda that I could not take another dog.  But when we drove up to the ranch one afternoon, and this amazing Nana dog came tripping down the porch steps and leaped into our truck., all bets were off!      A dog is that wonderful happy roll-around thing that can be a life enhancer, and I could never be without one.  A dog is not interested in politics, religion or the local news.  They are willing to sit quietly and commiserate when we are feeling poorly.  Show me a person who can equal this quality and I’ll marry him!

Now you’re probably saying what do roses have to do with this?  Gertrude  Stein wrote “a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose”.  No explanation needed.  Because we most recently had over 120 roses to enjoy, we seem to be known as the “rose house ” even to strangers in our town.  And if you show me a person who doesn’t like roses he probably doesn’t like dogs either.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    PANDA                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   PENNY

BURNED AT THE STAKE


 How many other people have a relative who was burned at the stake?  That is, unless it was a Salem witch of course.  Once while visiting in Oxford, England, I was interested to see the memorial to my ancestor, Bishop Nicholas Ridley,  one of the Oxford Martyrs who was burned at the stake in 1555.  The Martyrs Memorial is an imposing stone monument in Oxford at the end of St. Giles Street, commemorating three Anglican bishops who were burned at the stake under Queen Mary, or Bloody Mary as she was fondly called.

Bishops Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer were tried for heresy and burned at the stake just outside city walls.  The execution was the result of King Henry VIII’s break with the Roman Catholic Church.  Archbishop Cranmer had annulled Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon,  and then married him to Anne Boleyn instead.  Catherine had been Mary’s mother, so understandingly there was a bit of bad blood to begin with.  Of course Henry in turn, chopped Anne’s head off a bit later, so you never want to disagree too strongly with royalty.

The three Bishops went along with Henry when he left the Church and started his own Protestant version, but Mary stuck with the Catholics, and cleared out a great many people who disagreed with her.  An interesting fact, is  that a good high school friend of mine, who became one of the bridesmaids at my wedding, was descended from Archbishop Cranmer.  What a small world.

So much for my ancestor.  Another time we went to a small cemetery in Northern California to find the gravesite of my husband’s Great-Grandather, who had walked across the Isthmus of the Panama Canal before the water went in, on his way to California.  The clerk in the office told us someone else had inquired about this same gentleman a few days before, so she brought out the file and we were amused to find that the fact  he had shot and killed a man had been conveniently omitted from our family history.  Nothing like a rip-roaring Wild West story to liven up the geneology.  It seems that a field hand he had recently fired tracked Grandfather down in the local tavern and drew his knife to forcibly remind him he was still owed some salary.  So Grandfather drew his trusty sidearm and eliminated that problem.  Now Grandfather was a prominent citizen in the town, belonging to the right organizations, and holding public office, so true to “honest” old West law, Grandfather was exonerated, thus assuring there was no messy history to deal with.

Martyr’s Memorial