Franklin Canyon Reservoir

 

 

I’ve wanted to go for ages. I’d heard about it and read about it, but for some reason I just wasn’t making it happen. Then friends invited us to join them for a nature walk at Franklin Canyon Park and we knew we would finally see it.

 

It did not disappoint. There was actual nature there! In L.A.! We were part of a large group and we all hung out, picnic-ed, took in the sights and communed with all the beauty around us. For me, it was nostalgic, as the opening credits of “The Andy Griffith Show” were filmed there. You know – the part where Andy and Opie are skipping rocks? That’s the Franklin Canyon Lake, friends. And it’s lovely. (By the way, “Creature From the Black Lagoon” was also shot there. So was “On Golden Pond.” Heck – there’s a whole list of things filmed there, listed on the wiki page.)

 

Now that I’ve gone once, I know how easy it is and will definitely go again. For a little while, that outing made me forget I was in a crowded, concrete city. And it was just gorgeous. Truly.

 

 

Humdinger of a Hummingbird

 

 

For some reason, we have quite a few hummingbirds buzzing about the New Pad. (They’ve even flown inside the house.) Maybe it’s all the crack nectar we make and put out for them. Whatever the reason, it’s cool. I happen to like them and they’re sweet.

 

But recently a hummingbird has been thrumming around the back door. I spotted her a few times, landing atop a janky electrical socket. She didn’t seem bothered by our presence, and we weren’t bothered by hers, so all was well.

 

 

Until it wasn’t. It seems the old gal was building herself a nest in that socket, and once she’d finished, she was none too fond of our comings and goings by way of that back door. In fact, she has buzzed both my and Mister’s heads a few times, protecting the nest. We’re not too keen on that behavior, but I told Mister I’ve come up with a strategy: I keep my head down and tell her she’s the one who picked that spot, so chill the hell out! I’m thinking something is lost in translation, because she doesn’t seem to chill the hell out at all. Not even a little bit.

 

Oh well. We still don’t mind her being there. And I’m kind of excited to see itty-bitty baby hummingbird heads popping out of that itty-bitty nest. Nature is a hoot.

 

Thursday Memories

 

 

This is me in the late 1980s. Or maybe 1990. I’m not quite sure. Either way, this photo was taken before I’d learned to cook. That is apparent, right?

 

It’s funny to think about, but I didn’t always know how to cook. I always liked good food, but making it myself took time and practice. (A lot of time and practice, I might add.) I haven’t had any ravioli from a can in so long, I can’t remember when that stopped. And though I can actually imagine wanting such things (such as when I’m tired or sick), I probably wouldn’t buy them. I think the salt content alone would freak me out. I’m pretty much ruined for pre-made goods. I’ve spoiled myself with good food! Argh!

 

I guess if I really think about it, I was destined to learn how to cook. I remember standing by Granny Vera’s side and watching her make biscuits. The alchemy she practiced with flour, lard and buttermilk was astounding. And it worked every time. I never saw her measure a thing and yet those biscuits never disappointed.

 

Studying Granny Vera’s process hasn’t led to my being able to make her awesome biscuits. But I can make a mean Beef Wellington. So I must’ve learned something, somewhere along the line. And for that  I’m grateful.

Neighbors

 

 

Yesterday I got an email from one of my neighbors. She was concerned about a car that had been parked by my house – all day long – with a dude just hanging out inside the car. I had noticed the car as well, but hadn’t looked closely enough to see inside. At some point I was cleaning the deck and started throwing leaves over the railing, in the direction of the car. I wasn’t trying to diss the driver or anything. I was just getting leaves off my deck. And that side yard is still mine, so I didn’t think much of it. Not long after that, I noticed the car was gone. Maybe the driver didn’t want all those leaves on his shiny, new car. I replied to my neighbor’s email and thanked her for the heads-up.

 

A few hours later, another neighbor called to check and see if I was around. I said I was and asked how I could help. She said she didn’t want anything other than to check on me. She had noticed some lights on, but hadn’t seen hide nor hair of me in ages. I let her know that I was well and doing great. I thanked her for checking on me and said goodbye.

 

I’m not sure what was going on with all that neighborly communication, but it was appreciated. If I wanted to go nut-job, I’d say something about how my neighbors must think I’m so old I need checking-in on, but as I’m smack dab in the middle of both their ages, I’m gonna keep a cool head and assume they were simply being, well, neighborly. And isn’t that lovely?

 

I sometimes forget that there are good, decent people in the world. It’s easy to forget them, actually, as they don’t make the news in any way, shape or form. And the truth is – I live on a swell street with loads of good, decent folks. And it’s not just a good street. It’s a good neighborhood. The kind we all want. The kind we used to call the “American Dream.”

 

I may have to start spending a bit of time outside the Fortress of Solitude that is our home, and putting in some face time with my neighbors. They’re good enough to check on me, so it seems like the least I can do. Besides – I want them to see I’m not quite as old and decrepit as I think they think I am. I think.

It. Is. Done.

 

 

So I’ve been working on a fireplace wall for, well, what feels like forever. And I am happy to report that as of last week, it is done.

 

 

Let me remind you of where I started. There was a too-small mantel on the wall and it had to be removed. For anyone thinking, Mikki! I like that mantel! What’s your beef? I’ll tell ya. According to L.A. County Building Codes, that mantel (made of wood) was too close to the fireplace opening, meaning it wasn’t up to code. And while that doesn’t mean much most of the time, if I ever have to get the heck out of dodge and this joint gets inspected (which is how we do in Cali), that mantel would be a problem. Let’s face it – if I’m about to be on the run, I will likely have one-too-many problems already. Wouldn’t need another. Anyhoo – the mantel had to go.

 

 

Once I removed said mantel, the wall behind it was pretty banged up. My initial plan had been to simply smooth out the rough spots and have a clean, unadorned wall. But the rough spots weren’t cooperating. In fact, they were downright stubborn. So I gave up on the smooth wall idea and shifted my thoughts toward something in the Venetian Plaster arena. That, my friends, was easier said than done, as I had only ever heard the words “Venetian Plaster,” and certainly hadn’t tried my hand at it. Cut to me, watching vid-jas on the YouTuber and then I got started. The texture part of the process wasn’t too bad. In fact, it went pretty well and I was quite pleased with the results. But the painting part? Not so much.

 

 

I was so challenged by painting that danged wall that I was nearly brought to tears.

 

 

The base coat was easy, I admit. I simply used the same color as the rest of the room. But it wasn’t enough. I knew I needed some accents to “age” the wall and get it to where my brain hole wanted it to be. So I got after it, and failed. I tried a different approach. And failed. I went through my trying and failing process a few more times. When I was just about to give up completely and accidentally burn the whole danged house down, I leaned against a counter and bowed my head. Then, in a high-pitched, Mary Tyler Moore “Oh, Rob” kind of voice, I said aloud, “I have not failed. I have simply found 5 ways that do not work.” And I started a fresh approach.

 

 

That’s when something amazing happened. It worked! I was getting the desired aged effect, without being overly wack-a-doo. (Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes wack-a-doo is exactly what I’m looking for. Just not this time.) So I finished the wall and moved on to the final details.

 

 

If the too-small wood mantel was a code problem, imagine what a failure wooden base boards would have been had they abutted the fireplace opening. This was another time I wanted something simple. No flourish, no scroll work. Plain, straight lines were what I was after. I went to a few of the big hardware chains to check out their tile and stone selection. It didn’t take long to understand that if I got something there, I would be limited to subway  or bathroom tile. And I wanted neither. So I put on my thinking hat and decided to go to an actual stone and tile store. There I found plain marble that was almost perfect. I say almost because I needed 20-inch lengths, but the best they could do was 18 inches. Okay. I thought about it for a second and decided I could live with cuts versus a solid piece. It would only be 2 inches on each outside end, and no – it wouldn’t be perfect. But friends – sometimes good enough is good enough. They couldn’t cut the pieces for me, so I took my tile back to a big chain store and had the job done. I then went home, applied the pieces and let them set. Once that had cured, I grouted the edges and the “baseboards” were finished. (At that point, I did have to miter some new wood around the tile hearth, as the old wood was cracked. The hardest part of that process was matching the stain to the existing wood floor. And the mitering itself. And securing it and filling the gaps and blah, blah, blah.)

 

 

The last step – for reals – was the baseboards on the sides of the fireplace, which would abut the front stone pieces. I needed them to be a height comparable to the stone, and simple as well. Again – I tried the big chain stores, all to no avail. That’s when I remembered the little neighborhood hardware store I often use. Not only did those guys have what I needed, they also ripped the board down to the right height and sold me only what I needed. That’s important, as it’s no fun to drive around in my old Volvo with a 12-food board hanging out the wing windows. But I digress. I got home with the wood, painted it, jigged out a notch for the gas starter key on one side, cut a straight piece for the other side and put the pieces in place. After that I caulked the edges and let that dry overnight. Then I touched up the paint and the job was finished. Truly. It only took forever and a day.

 

Had I hired a professional, this project would have been completed in a day or two, max. And I probably could have gotten the smooth wall I originally envisioned. But I would have been out beaucoup dollars, folks. And that wasn’t an option. As it happened, I already had a lot of the tools and supplies needed to make this wall a reality. So what was my final tally? Right at $118.00. (The wood strips for the floor surround ate most of that, as they came in at just over $60.00.) All in all, I’d say that’s pretty reasonable, especially since hiring a Venetian Plaster artist can cost an arm and a leg.

 

 

My takeaway from this experience is this: I can handle some jobs myself, as long as I don’t have a strict time schedule as a guide. I think the new area is not only adequate, but also pretty. One of my friends came into this room and said, “Wow! This is a grown-up’s house!” And I suppose it is. Which is funny, since 2 dorky kids live here. But that’s okay. Every now and then we pretend to be grown-up. And now we have a lovely place to sit while doing so. And by the way, if you want the look of Venetian Plaster in your home and aren’t in any hurry, let me know. I’ll only charge an arm. Or a leg. Never both.

Beauty

 

 

The other day, as I tried to navigate my grief over the death of Prince, I found myself at a supermarket, standing before a bin of the most beautiful peppers I’ve ever seen. They were striped and gorgeous.

 

Life is like that. You can be so far down in the dumps that you’d have to climb a ladder to see daylight, and something beautiful will appear before you, almost magically, to remind you that the world is made of more than woe. The trick is to actually see that beauty when it appears, to actually take it in. Otherwise, grief can consume you. And living is so much better than stifled existence. I swear it.

 

I didn’t buy even one of those beautiful peppers. But I knew enough to take a moment and snap a pic. I was able to understand what a gift that vision was. To appreciate it and the moment.

 

This is the last week of April. I’d like to try and spy with my little eye as much beauty as I can before May arrives. And if I’m good – and lucky – I’ll keep going, into next month. And beyond.

You Know Where I’ll Be

 

 

Tonight is the season premiere of “Game of Thrones.”

 

I never thought this show would appeal to me. And to be sure, I was late to the GOT party. And yet, here I am, a full-fledged junkie. I have my fave characters (hello, Arya!), as well as characters I love to hate (Ramsay, anyone?). If I don’t see an episode during its original air-time, I obsessively avoid any and all press and chatter about said episode until I’ve caught up. Fortunately for me, fellow GOT-ers get that and respect one another.

 

So. Tonight – you know where I’ll be: planted in front of the telly. And I can hardly wait.

Listen To Your Heart

 

 

Yesterday, while I was still trying to sort out my feelings about the loss of the genius that was Prince, I found myself cycling through some not-great memories. I don’t know why. I can only guess it was because I was in a not-great emotional place. And believe me – I want to move on. It would be good for my life if I moved on. But sometimes grief grabs hold. And I think this will pass when it’s ready.

 

Anyhoo – one odd memory popped up and really caused me to think. It was many years ago, and I was waiting in a lobby for a job interview. The interviewer – who would be my boss – was late returning from lunch. I didn’t hold that against her or anything, I just sat quietly, biding my time. The interviewer wasn’t a complete stranger, by the way. I had met her a few times, and though we weren’t friends or anything, she was familiar. After quite a while of waiting, she entered the lobby, looked over at me and said, “Oh! You’re here!” She then walked over to where I sat and – I swear to God – she dragged one of her shoes across the top of one of my very white shoes, leaving a large, noticeable scuff mark. “There. That’s better. Your shoes were entirely too clean,” she said in a sober tone. She then turned and walked toward her office, saying, “Follow me.” I was in shock, but I did as I was told.

 

In that moment, before following the interviewer into her office, my gut was screaming for my attention, trying to get me to run away as fast as I could. Everything in me suggested this was not going to be a good fit. That I simply could not mesh with someone who would behave as she just had. But I needed the job. So I followed through and went to work for her. And though I wouldn’t call her a bad person, I can’t say she was very organized or that she provided necessary training. While I worked for her, I struggled to figure out most of the basic functions of her office – on my own. And every single day I spent there was awkward. By the time I left, I was so relieved.

 

After stumbling down that portion of Memory Lane, I thought about a few other instances when I didn’t listen to my gut, nor to my heart. And how each time I failed to honor my greater truth, I eventually faced ugliness of some sort. I don’t know why, when I’ve been given the gift of intuition, I’ve chosen to ignore that guidance. But I have. And I’m thinking that maybe it’s time to stop that behavior. Maybe it’s time to trust myself, at least a little bit. I mean really – how much time is left?

 

I’m hoping to ease out of the darkness soon. To switch my focus from life’s absurd brevity to life’s ridiculous joy. It’s all there, you know. Two sides of a coin. Time for a toss, I think. I call heads…

Prince

 

 

In the early 1980s, I remember my friend Chris singing “Little Red Corvette” in the Pike County High School cafeteria. Chris had no idea what the song’s lyrics implied. I know this because he was a hardcore Christian and would never have approved of such explicit meaning. His naivete was funny then, and it’s funny now.

 

In 1984, I remember another friend named Chris and I went to see “Purple Rain” in St. Louis. The movie was brand-spanking-new, and had yet to expand to major (read “white”) theaters. So Chris and I headed to a different part of town to check out the film. We were the only white kids there. It wasn’t a big deal for us, nor for the other theater-goers. We were all there for the same reason: to see a cool flick. And we did. When we left the theater, Chris and I were laughing and gushing about how awesome the movie was. She was the only friend I had who had been willing to drive out to see it. And I loved her for that.

 

By the time it was announced that the Purple Rain Tour would be coming to St. Louis in December of 1984, all my friends were excited. And we knew it would be a hot ticket. So a couple of us made plans to camp overnight outside the arena’s box office. (My parents were not happy about this, but I was allowed to go.) It was such an awesome night. Hundreds of us queued up, were given wristbands and got comfortable. Here and there people were playing “Purple Rain” cassettes on boom boxes and we were about the happiest crowd on non-sleepers you could ever hope to see. And the joy didn’t subside. It lasted all night. It lasted straight through to the appointed opening time of the box office. It lasted as the line slowly moved forward. It very nearly peaked and caused our heads to explode when we reached the point of being next in line. And then we reached the window and were told there were only a few seats left and they were all for the very top row of the highest nose-bleed section known to man. And we said yes, please, and purchased our tickets. The joy levels had definitely dipped, but only a little.

 

And then the concert happened. I was a kid. And Mister was there, too. (He was also a kid.) And we were on that top row of the highest nose-bleed section known to man and we were so happy to be there! When the lights dimmed and Sheila E. came out to open the show, we all started dancing and screaming and having the best time imaginable. Or so we thought. Because when The Man himself took the stage, all emotions crossed the line and maxed out. It was an astounding show and I’ve never forgotten it. I’ve never forgotten being there with Mister. Just 2 kids in love, hanging at a concert. Forever memories.

 

Godspeed Prince.

Yaaass Queeeen, Yaaass!

 

 

Today is the 90th birthday of Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. As merely typing that sentence tired me out, I cannot imagine what it takes to perform her job, even though she is mostly a figurehead.

 

I’m not a Royals junkie or anything, but I do find Queen Elizabeth’s reign interesting. I mean – think about what the world must have been like at the time of her accession in 1952. She had already been living a life of public service – functions, appearances and the like – but was suddenly thrown into it full-time and with more responsibility. Not to mention 2 small children. She was barely 26 years old. Remember what you were doing at 26? Me, neither. But I can guarantee I wasn’t dealing with a realm.

 

Anyhoo – today I send my own birthday wishes to Queen Elizabeth, if only because she’s been around all my life. She’s the only Queen I’ve ever known. I daresay I shall even toast Her Majesty on this day. And my sentiments shall be sincere, for her good health and long reign. God save the Queen.