Los Angeles Women’s March 2018

 

Womens March 2018 - Still Protesting

 

The day after our ridiculously inept, single-party-led government failed to keep the lights on (way to go, fuck-sticks), I and 600,000 of my tribe got together in downtown Los Angeles for a march. We numbered about 150,000 fewer than last year’s march, but we still felt mighty. And so we were.

 

Womens March 2018 - 5 Girls on the Subway

 

Mister and I again took the subway down for this year’s march. But unlike last year, we started early. We did this because it was a flippin’ nightmare boarding a too-crowded train last year, and we wanted to maybe not be all up in someone’s breathing space during the hella-rough flu season we’re having. And, we wanted to relax. The early departure worked. We were comfortable and even met these 5 lovely teens, with their awesome signs. A couple of them are on the verge of voting status. I’m counting on them to show up at the polls in November.

 

Womens March 2018 - Breakfast of Champions

 

Since we arrived downtown with time to spare, Mister and I headed over to Grand Central Market for some breakfast. And some beer. Because, you know, we’re grown. Then we moseyed toward the designated gathering area.

 

Womens March 2018 - DTLA

 

Without meaning to, we found ourselves immobile in just about the same spot as last year, near the march’s starting place in Pershing Square. I had a brief moment when the immense crowd began to overwhelm me, but I looked up at the sky and tried to dig deep. I pulled myself together, toughed it out and stayed strong. A dude nearby wasn’t so lucky. He had an anxiety attack and hit the bricks. Nearby folks did all they could for him, and he seemed to be coming around after a while. Once the crowd started moving toward City Hall, the guy looked much better.

 

Womens March 2018 - Wild Feminist

 

Like last year, the mood was peaceful. Some signs were funny. Some were terribly sad in their honesty. The crowd was mostly female, but all comers were welcomed and plenty of males attended. I was happy to see so many fathers there with their young daughters.

 

Womens March 2018 - A Patriotic Pink Panther

 

After morning turned to afternoon, Mister and I did something we did not manage last year: we met up with friends. And it was lovely. Then we all made our way to our respective homes and collapsed. Well – that’s what Mister and I did anyway.

 

Women March 2018 - Vaginas Will Vote You Out

 

Only after we got home did we hear our numbers. Only then did we hear that, like last year, no arrests were reported. It had been peaceful. It had been powerful. It had been inspirational. I and my tribe will be focusing on getting out the vote during the coming year. We’re so completely over the racists and the sexists and the bullies and the liars and the cheaters and the predators and every other ugly asshole out there. I heard Samantha Bee say something about how women are like elephants in that we never forget. She’s right. We don’t. We won’t. And we are absolutely pissed off. We’re also more hopeful than ever before, and more committed to bringing about change than the assholes can even imagine. I would say to the incompetent prigs running for re-election “you’ve been warned,” but they’re too superior to listen.

 

Womens March 2018 - Womb Tang Clan

 

Those November mid-terms… Can’t hardly wait.

 

Womens March 2018 - Dog in a Pussy Hat

Bloom

 

Sometimes when I’m out walking, I look around and marvel at how great Los Angeles can be. Our sweet neighborhoods hold every type of house and mostly good people. I love seeing what folks have done to their homes and how they deal with drought in their landscaping. Mostly, I enjoy this city when I’m out walking. I lay claim to it, and it lays claim to me.

 

Road Closed

 

But not always. Los Angeles, like a lot of the country, is injured. And I’m not talking about nature, with her drought and fire damage. I’m referring to our staggering homeless population and city policies that have contributed to it. Rubber-stamping high-priced developments continues to diminish affordable housing here. Hell – the bunkers going up by our home wiped out the character-filled, affordable homes that once added to our neighborhood. The ugly-ass structures now towering over our street leave me wondering which hideous box will serve as the local fall-out shelter. (They really are that heinous, y’all.) And the unprofessional, callous behavior of the developers themselves is appalling. But I guess they donate to the right campaigns, as they continue to enjoy free rein in this town, regardless of their conduct or product.

 

It’s “development” like what’s taking place in our neighborhood that is tarnishing my adopted hometown. Now, when I walk around, I see the cracks. I see the failures of our leaders and the trickle-down effect. The photo above captures this perfectly. When the powers that be dump on their constituents, the constituents dump on their surroundings. It ain’t right and I don’t like it. But there’s no denying it’s happening. And no matter how sweet the neighborhood, no one is immune.

 

I’m trying hard to remember to bloom where I’m planted. And I am definitely planted, y’all. Today – like every day – will find a busload of arriving souls, starry-eyed and hopeful for dreams of L.A. And for her part, Los Angeles will deliver what she can. But she’s not perfect, and those who govern her are as flawed as anyone can be. So while those of us who choose to plant ourselves here get great weather, we also get the weight of the city. And for as long as we remain, we must carry it. That isn’t new. I’ve known that since day 1. It’s just that sometimes, well, it’s hard to bloom where you’re planted when the bloom is off the rose.

The Mercy of Nature

 

Super Moon

 

On Sunday night, Mister and I pulled out the binos to have a look-see at the Super Moon, and it did not disappoint. Even with regular old binoculars, we could see craters galore and what I refer to as the moon’s belly-button. Later that night, I had a little trouble sleeping. I blamed it on the moon.

 

Monday brought warnings of Santa Anas. Such an innocent-sounding name for such potentially deadly winds. Many of us watched and listened, but the day proceeded with little worry. On Monday night, I again took out the binos and looked in the direction of the moon. Still fantastic, still clear. But the winds were picking up and I could see a haze nearing the moon’s glow. It wasn’t clouds, really. It felt wrong. It was wrong. During the night, I woke to the sounds of the wind and struggled to get even a little sleep. I felt mad at myself, for not being able to rest. The whole of the night limped along that way. When I woke Tuesday morning, I logged on to the interwebz, read a post from The Bloggess, and realized that she had written about her own sleep struggles where nature is concerned, and in a far more eloquent manner than I might ever accomplish. I’m giving you the link to that post here, so that you might read the work of a beautiful writer, as well as get a glimpse of what some (maybe many) of us encounter while being a part of this world, even though our triggers can be quite different.

 

Tuesday also found me cleaning soot, dirt, limbs and leaves from the pool. The Santa Anas had wreaked havoc up the coast, sending fires blazing at an astounding clip. Back here at the homestead, after an hour of cleaning, I had removed most of the leaves and solid sizable debris from the pool’s water. The bottom of the pool was black, however, so I left the poor filter running for a bit, hoping a dent might be made in the sediment.

 

Fire North of Los Angeles

 

I had a few pressing engagements beyond the house, so I ventured out into the devil winds. At one intersection, I saw three separate leaf-filled funnels swirling in the street. The air was dirty and each time I left the relative calm of the car, my eyes burned and itched. News from Ventura, just up the coast, was dire. Before I could get my head around that fire’s continuing damage, news of another fire hit. This time it was just outside Los Angeles proper. I wondered about friends living in those areas. As I drove into North Hollywood, I looked up and saw smoke plumes. The winds continued. No relief.

 

Tuesday night, I went to bed and hoped for the best. The winds were still whipping, still angry, still dangerous. At just after 2am, I woke to strong smells of smoke. I listened intently, in case I could hear the whispers of flames. I heard only wind, and got up to check the area. None of my neighbors’ homes were burning, so it must have been the shifting winds – bringing the heavy smell of destruction to our street. When morning came, there was an added layer of soot on every surface. The pool cleaning began anew, this time with Mister handling the duties. More fires were reported and more damage had been done. Schools were closed. Businesses, too. Folks required to work outside were wearing breathing masks and goggles. The smoke smell was everywhere. There was no keeping it out. Morning news devoted itself solely to fire coverage.

 

I had a lunch meeting slated and while driving there, a sickening haze of smoke hung in Laurel Canyon. If it had been fog, the air would have been cooler. But that wasn’t the case. It was hot out. And this air hurt when breathed in. At the restaurant, a couple sitting nearby were intently following news updates on their phone. After a brief word with them, my table-mates and I came to understand the couple lived only a few streets over from the blazes of the Skirball Fire. They showed us video taken from their backyard, video of too-close flames and low-flying planes, doing the lord’s work by dropping fire repellent where they could. The couple could do nothing but wait. My friends and I offered prayers. Otherwise, there was nothing at all we could do.

 

As I write this, it’s Wednesday, early evening. Properties have been destroyed or are burning. Evacuations are being enforced. Freeways are closed, as fire danger is too near to risk allowing vehicles in certain areas. The Santa Anas are expected to blow through Saturday.  To say we here in Los Angeles are on edge is terribly inadequate. We are heart-broken and we are terrified. California has been scarred by fires this year (as well as years past). The damage is far from over. I don’t know how some folks will recover from this. Sadly, many will not. No matter where we live, we tend to think we control our home life. In suburban settings, we cultivate gardens and mold our outdoors into something pleasing to ourselves. In city settings, we trade home greenery for local parks. And yet, no matter where we reside, we control nothing really. Fires can spark. Tornadoes can twist. Floods can surge. The world, for all its beauty and wonder, is a tricky place. And no matter how much we love it, we will never truly control it.

 

I don’t expect to sleep well tonight. I am at the mercy of Nature.

 

London - The Last Day - Highgate Cemetery - Photo by Mister

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

 

A Few of My Favorite Things - Christmas in Hollywood

 

I have never understood why “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music is considered a holiday song. The mere mention of snowflakes hardly seems reason enough to qualify, but the song is about to be all over the danged place, now that it’s December, so I am obviously wrong in my thinking.

 

Anyhoo – I thought I’d share a few of my own favorite things to kick off the last month of the year. Bear in mind that if you ask me next week, my list will probably change. But this is today. And these are some of the things I’m digging on…

 

A Few of My Favorite Things - Squares

 

Squares. I’ve been crocheting all kinds of 9-inch squares to be made into blankets for women undergoing serious treatments at a local hospital. I don’t know how to knit, so I crochet. I don’t really know how to properly crochet either, so the squares turn out a little janky sometimes. That’s okay. It’s all done with good intentions and love, and I like to think those sentiments outweigh my lack of skill. I will likely never meet any of the recipients of the assembled blankets, and that’s okay, too. Doing something for others without accolades is ridiculously fulfilling. I highly recommend it.

 

A Few of My Favorite Things - Pearls

 

Pearls. I don’t own real pearls, but I do have a few strands of fake beauties. I wear them all the time and someone always comments about how they wish they’d thought to wear their own pearls. The large plastic baubles seen here are especially dear to me. I got them when I was 15 years old. I was at a thrift store in Griffin, GA, and when I spotted these, I knew they were destined to be mine. I can’t remember the price, but they were either fifteen or thirty-five cents. Either way, it was a bargain and I’m still smitten.

 

A Few of My Favorite Things - Sunsets

 

Sunsets. We’ve been having some real doozies lately and I’m loving them. I take as many photos as I can, for painting references. The thing about sunsets is they’re so spectacular, if I were to paint them, no one would believe it. They’re beyond anything I could come up with on a canvas, and yet I desperately wish I could capture some of what I see in the sky. I try, anyway. And I fail. And then I try again.

 

Mister! Mister!

 

Mister. He pretty much makes the list, no matter when. But it’s still nice to actually like the guy. And for some strange reason, he continues to come home every day. To me. I’m no picnic, y’all, and I know that he could change his mind about this whole till-death-do-us-part business and decide to mosey elsewhere in life. (It could happen.) So I appreciate whatever time I get with the fella. It counts. A lot.

 

A Few of My Favorite Things - First Christmas Card of the Season

 

The first Christmas Card of the Year. I always marvel that we continue to receive cards each December! Some of that awe comes from the fact that we occasionally don’t send squat, and reciprocity would dictate not receiving anything in return. But come December, that first card arrives and I start grinning. This year’s first-of-the-season greeting was from our mail carrier. She wanted to let us know that she was retiring.  I’ve liked that gal and she’ll be missed. But life keeps going (if we’re lucky and a cheet-o in a slumpy suit doesn’t get us all killed). So I wish our now former mail carrier the best as she embarks on the next part of her journey.

 

Happy Birthday, Gwendlyn!

 

Friends. The Social Season is in full-swing and I’m already tired. Grateful, but tired. Maybe it’s age, but I am in the throes of deep appreciation for my friends. I, like a lot of folks, know scads of people. But friends, well, that’s another matter. Having friends in one’s life – people we can call on in emergencies or times of need – is a blessing. I don’t get to see these friends nearly enough. But when I do, I catch myself smiling more than usual. I’d say that’s a pretty good sign of how much I care for them there folk. What a gift.

 

A Few of My Favorite Things - Christmas CDs

 

Christmas Music. Even though I don’t get the song referenced in this post’s title being a Christmas song, I still really like when all that great music rolls around. Mister and I have drawers full of Christmas CDs, and will likely add another to the mix this year. It takes a near Herculean effort just to get through them during the month of December. And that is why, Mister, we’ll start listening to them today. I really can’t believe I have to explain my reasons for this year after year, but since you seem to forget from one December to the next, Mister, consider this a written explanation. But I digress… Some songs are loved more than others, naturally, and I’m pretty excited to hear them. Yeah, sure – I may still be wearing flip-flops throughout the month, but a gal can dream. And my dreams are currently taking place in a winter wonderland. Where the soundtrack rules.

 

We’ve got 31 days left in this year, friends. Let’s make it count. I intend to live those days with some of my favorite things keeping me company. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to put on my fake pearls, load the car with a few good Christmas CDs, drop off some crocheting to be donated, visit with friends and pick up a Christmas tree with Mister and get home before sunset to start decorating the tree and stringing up the holiday card display. I may throw some Barb’s Boozy Eggnog into the mix. Why not? I’ve got to shake a tail feather though, as those flip-flops don’t do much in the way of keeping my feet warm after the sun goes down.

 

Get Smart? Not Likely

 

Yesterday I was out for a nice, long walk, when I looked across the street and spotted this sign…

 

Du-Par's Flawed Signage

 

The apostrophe in “your’s” just about killed me. I actually turned away, shaking my head, then doubled back to snap the pic. When I finally walked away for good, I started thinking about how many sets of eyes must have fallen on that text before the sign was printed. At first, I was angry. Angry that the collective we are so friggin’ stupid as to not correct such an obvious error. And then I was simply sad. Sad that we are so stupid. Sad that we don’t value education. Sad that my favorite pancake house let me down with a typo.

 

And then I kind of got over it, because really. It’s just a sign. Not a sign. Or at least that’s what I thought. And then I looked down and spotted this…

 

Get Smart

 

It was as if the spelling and grammar gods sent me a little validation. Very little, I admit, but I’ll take what I can get.

And In The End…

 

Earlier this month I wrote about saying goodbye to my old Volvo. I told of how the car’s radio, broken for years, had magically sparked to life as I took the old gal out for her last ride.  The song that was playing when the music came through the speakers? “When I Need You” by Leo Sayer. The radio station? 100.3 The Sound.

 

100.3 The Sound

 

Yesterday the FCC made it possible for only a few piggies to have all the pie in the broadcast radio and TV markets of America. I’m simplifying, to be sure, but that’s the way a lot of folks see it, and I’m one of them there folks.

 

Yesterday was also the last day an L.A. radio station served our market. 100.3 The Sound has been around for 10 years and it’s been grand. The station played classic rock, but not like some of the nationally programmed crap we’re fed. The Sound used real-live DJs, and they were responsible for providing listeners with music not found anywhere else on the dial. The DJs had distinct personalities and tastes. That used to be common. I grew up with terrestrial radio like that. But today? Nope. Up and down the dial, it’s nowhere to be found, or it’s so rare as to require a wire hanger and acrobatic maneuvers in order to tune it in.

 

The Sound knew the end was nigh, as it had been sold to one of those aforementioned station-grabbing piggies. The DJs had been preparing us – the listeners – and themselves for the inevitable last song. Along the way, I paid attention to the DJs, to the station’s ads and to the music. One of the spots referenced the fact that a lot of the songs played there may never again be heard on radio. Think about that. Will I happen to hear “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads elsewhere? Sure. But will I hear “Fool to Cry” by The Rolling Stones? Probably not. And I damn sure won’t hear “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys” by Traffic. Not gonna happen. Not in the Los Angeles market anyway. Not anymore.

 

So as 100.3 The Sound wrapped up their run yesterday, Andy Chanley (the first DJ at the station, a decade ago) said something about “…the last 11 words of this album side…” I immediately started crying. I knew what was coming: side 2 of “Abbey Road” in its entirety. For a few years in my youth, I fell asleep listening to that each and every night. On vinyl, just like they played it on The Sound. Yesterday, as I listened to the masterpiece in the middle of the day, I took care of some bid-ness and earned my keep. All the DJs and staff had gathered for the final farewell. They expressed their gratitude for each other, for the listeners, for the station, for the music. At the close of “Abbey Road,” the format immediately changed to christian pop, whatever the fuck that ungodly mess is. The now former DJs and staff are all likely searching for new jobs.

 

Speaking for the listeners, I can tell you that we are merely searching.

Frustrated

 

 

I’m frustrated.

 

Mister and I live in a nice-enough house. We love it. It’s our home. But as nice-enough as it is, as lovely as our neighbors are, we’re still susceptible to suburban woes. Maybe incidents is the right word. For example, we’ve had some things go missing from our yard. That’s annoying and as much as I hated it, there was really nothing to be done about it. Our neighborhood watch is always telling us to report any and all crimes, no matter how small, in the hopes that our neighborhood will be patrolled on a more regular basis. But when I called the non-emergency number to report the aforementioned theft, the officer on the phone actually seemed bothered by my call. Frustrating.

 

Just a few days ago, I called to report a bit of vandalism. Someone had sprayed some paint in our yard, which I cleaned and tidied. This time the officer on the phone actually lectured me about reporting something so petty. Again, I had called the non-emergency line and told him I was advised by our neighborhood watch and senior lead police officer to make the report, but it didn’t matter.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m mighty grateful I don’t have anything major to report to police and I’m aware that the crap I deal with is minor. But my neighbor’s theft of a big check from his car in his driveway wasn’t minor. And the other car break-ins around the ‘hood haven’t necessarily been minor, either. Some of that stuff leads to insurance claims and higher premiums. Hell – when I called to report a strange dude in my yard with an ax, the cops showed up, talked to him for about a minute and a half then drove away. The dude was still standing there, with the ax! See something, say something, my ass.

 

After getting nowhere on the phone with the police officer the other day, I looked online at the Los Angeles 3-1-1 site. It advises residents to report any and all crimes to law enforcement. Of course, it doesn’t give any advice as to how to proceed when law enforcement simply refuse to listen.

 

My frustration continues…

Butthole. For Reals.

 

 

When it’s 95 degrees at 7pm, a gal is justified in being less-than-herself. That’s where I find myself as I write this.

 

I had wanted to tell you about some of my summer experiences. I’m hoping heat prostration doesn’t keep me from my task. First up, I visited Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa…

 

 

It was pretty fabulous. That hour wait to get in wasn’t anything to write home about, but I guess that’s what happens when you’re the shit, and they surely are.

 

 

I also saw Miss Angie Dickinson at an event. To say I never knew how fabulous she was/is, well, that’s an understatement. The woman rules, y’all. Seriously.

 

 

And then there was The. French. Laundry. I can’t even begin to write about this meal, as it was the most mind-blowing dinner I’ve ever had. I know I’m speaking in absolutes here, but it’s true. I’ve had amazing food in my life, and I expect to have more. This was incomparable. Truly. I’m not sure it will be matched.  I haven’t fully processed that, either. For the record, Mister and I have tried for a few years to get a rezzie to this joint. It finally worked out.

 

 

Did it cost us? Oh, yeah. Big time. Was it worth it? Yes. Bigger time. (Were we our usual dorky selves? Do I really need to answer that? ) Let me tell you this – I would not hesitate to do it again. It was that magnificent.

 

 

There was also the yard project, which needs some T-L-C, as the goddamn sun is baking the hell out of it. Mister and I will work on that this weekend, though, and we’ll hope for the best. Well, I’ll hope for the best. I think Mister just believes. My inner cynic doesn’t always allow that.

 

Oh! And I had surgery. I’m still under doctor’s orders, but feeling pretty much like myself. So I’m grateful for that. The no-getting-in-the-pool part sucks, as, you know, a hundred and eleven-ty and all. But I know that this, too, shall pass. And I’ll be healthier for it. (See – Mister’s belief is catching.)

 

 

And while I was recovering from my surgery (and dealing with the heat), I watched some telly. What I finished was the third season of “Grace and Frankie.” (Loved the last episode so much. And – you have to be really good to take a photo of the screen and get both characters with their eyes closed. I’m just sayin’.) Then I started “Luther.” I had wanted to watch this for some time, so it was overdue. The first episode hooked me, so now I’m in it. Good living, don’t you know.

 

 

My summer has also taken me to Napa for the first time (not the last, I hope), Park City, Utah, where I was eaten alive by bugs – no lie, Boston, my old stomping ground, and home. I’ve been lucky to get around a bit. And even luckier to have a place to return. Not everyone has that, you know – a home. Mine is filled with love. And a ghost. I embrace it all.

 

Speaking of Miss Harmon, she asserted herself a couple of months ago. Mister said something or other about how her ghost had not been around for a while. I told him she’d popped up a few weeks prior and relayed the following tale. I was entering the front parlor, and the glass door that closes off that room was open, but not fully (it was away from the wall). I found that odd, and proceeded to close it. Or at least I tried. The door stopped about a foot and a half from the wall. As it’s clear glass, I could see there was nothing blocking the path. I leaned into it, putting my full weight behind it, and still nothing happened. That’s when I said, “Damn it, Miss Harmon! If you want to hide some place, pick a better spot than behind a glass door!” Immediately, the door opened fully and that was that. I think she just needed some acknowledgement. She got it and we all moved on.

 

There’s a few weeks of summer left, folks. Sure – school for the kids has resumed (mostly), and vacations have primarily come and gone. Personally, I’ve got some projects coming up, as well as ongoing commitments and responsibilities. That’s life. For most of us. We’re doing alright, really. Remembering that kind of helps to trigger a smile here and there. Compassion is activated, too. For me, I know that I got to live another summer. Not even one is guaranteed, so I’ll take it. Even if the next few weeks are as hot as Satan’s Butthole, I’ll take it. I may not like it, but I’ll take it.

I Did It

 

 

When Mister and I moved into the new pad, the front yard was decent. I didn’t love it or anything, but I didn’t hate it, either. We live on a corner, so you see the joint from every angle and I was regularly reminded that I wasn’t smitten with what I saw. Still, if it ain’t broke and all. So we lived with it. But then the damned drought and the southern exposure became too much for the front yard. It took a beating and it showed. Here in Los Angeles, we’re limited as to when and how long we can use water for landscape purposes. There simply didn’t seem to be a way to keep that frontage looking decent. Or alive even.

 

So Mister and I started talking about going in a different direction, toward drought-tolerant plants. (Okay – it was mostly me talking about it, but I was talking to him so I’m gonna say he was in on the plan.) And then we learned about local rebate incentives for such plantings. We became more serious about the idea and eventually we set a budget. We talked about things we’d both like to see happen – a low fence, a seating area, a dying tree removed – and rough sketches were made. With our budget in mind, I started getting estimates from a few companies and individuals who did such work. I was hopeful we’d click with someone and the job would get done.

 

 

The very first estimate I received came in at $50,000. I’m not kidding. My response to that was, “Dude! If I had $50,000 for my yard, I’d just move!” A few more estimates came in at half that amount, but they were still way outside our budget. This was last fall/early winter. The timing was right, but the estimates were wrong.

 

The yard kept getting worse, though, and I was none too happy. I can’t imagine our neighbors were happy about the sad state of things, either, but they never said anything to us about it. I kept bugging Mister, while mulling the idea of taking on the job myself. I knew certain aspects were outside my abilities and knowledge, but I thought maybe I could hire folks for those specific tasks and do the rest of the labor with my own hands. The first step I took was re-sketching the design.

 

 

Based on that, I was able to break down the budget and allot money for the various steps – demo, irrigation, fence materials, plants, etc. Once I’d collected estimates and costs for those aspects of the project, I went back to Mister and we decided it was time to begin. Time for me to begin, that is. The estimates were good, but now the timing was tricky. It was getting hot and I had precious few calendar days to complete the project to apply for that much-desired local rebate. Remember the rebate? It was important to receive it and that money would help pay for the project once all was said and done. So I had to get after it. First up was demo…

 

 

I hired a crew to take everything out of the front yard. The struggling foliage and the dying tree were gone. The dead grass was gone. We were left with a pretty magnificent blank slate. It was also daunting. Once the space was emptied, we could see just how much area we were dealing with. There was no turning back and we knew it. The demo happened on a Saturday. On Sunday, Mister and I raked the dirt and made sure everything was ready to go.

 

 

The next day, Monday, I began digging trenches – literally – so that I could put the edging in place. I immediately set a routine for myself, too, and its name was two-and-a-half-underpants per day. I got up early, before the sun could heat everything, and worked until it was too hot. That was usually around 11:30 or 12. Then I’d take off my dirty work clothes, place them on the side of the tub to dry out (sweaty, don’t you know), jump in the pool to cool down, then put on clean underpants and mid-day clothes. It was during these mid-days that I’d provision for the next part of the job. Or I’d try to take care of pertinent business that couldn’t wait. Like bills or basic grocery shopping. Then, after the big heat of the day had passed, I’d put my morning’s dirty work clothes back on and get after it again. Around 7 or so, I’d wrap for the day, take a shower, put on clean underpants and pajamas and pretty much collapse. It was a good routine, and I knew I’d stick with it, even after I burned my ass that first day. You see, I used a pick-axe (perhaps the greatest tool in my arsenal) to dig the trenches. Then I sat on the ground to secure the edging in place. As a lot of that edging paralleled the existing walkway, I sat on the walkway while working on it. After the sun had heated the bejeesus out of the walkway all day, sitting on it was more than my work pants could handle. It would end up taking a few days for that ass-burn to heal.

 

 

Once the edging was in place, I moved on to the weed barrier. I know some folks aren’t fans of landscape fabric, but I am, so there. Our hope was (and still is) that the cloth would deter weeds from taking over. We know it’s impossible to entirely beat the weeds. We just want to slow them down. We also know we’re battling one mother of a weed: nutsedge.

 

 

Nutsedge looks a lot like grass, but it isn’t. It’s invasive, with rhizomes that spread beneath the surface, sometimes as deep as two feet. Whenever I dig up a rhizome (one of a jillion, I’m guessing), I think it looks like some sort of Alien-Predator-cat turd hybrid. I detest nutsedge and it knows it. But I digress.

 

Anyhoo – we got the entire area covered in landscape fabric. Then it was time for planting.

 

My original rendering called for a lot more plants. But once you start digging holes, you quickly realize that less is more! As a few of the holes dug were for trees (which meant they were bigger), I think 98 holes was plenty. (Seriously. 98.)

 

 

Once the plants were in, the irrigation crew came to install the drip lines. That was one of the jobs I absolutely did not wish to handle myself. And I’m so glad I didn’t. The folks I hired were fabulous and they did a top-notch job. Initially, they thought it would be a 2-day job. But they were able to finish in a single day, which meant I had one day to patch the cloth around plants and to ready myself for the next big step: rocks.

 

 

The morning the rocks were delivered was my 18th straight day of working on the project. I was tired, but I felt pretty good. Actually, I felt “naively optimistic,” something I kept telling everyone who stopped by to talk to me while I was working. I had 2 days to get the rocks in place and I thought I could pull that off. In retrospect, I don’t know why I thought that, but I did. So when the rocks were delivered and jutted out into the street, my immediate goal became clearing them out of the street, as I feared I’d be fined by the city or something wacky like that. I began shoveling the rocks into a wheelbarrow and into buckets. Basically, I moved them any which way I could. But the pile wasn’t getting any smaller. Instead, it was spreading. And it was getting hot. Too hot. I thought I was doing enough to hydrate and I mistakenly believed I’d be able to work that pile down. The heat was getting to me, though. And for the first time since beginning the project, I experienced doubt. I felt like I might cry, but it turned out I didn’t have any available fluids for tears. I don’t remember praying, but I do remember saying to any god listening that I wasn’t gonna make it. That I felt lost. That I knew I needed help, but couldn’t imagine what that might look like. And that’s when it happened. I lifted my gaze from the rocks to the side street. I saw two men walking toward me, with shovels and a wheelbarrow. They said they saw me working and thought I could use a few extra hands. I was stunned. I told them I wasn’t comfortable with that, as I didn’t even know them and the job was my responsibility, not theirs. They smiled and said that they were there, so I might as well step aside. One of the guys was the foreman of the construction going on behind our home. (I’m no fan of that construction, but that guy was aces.) The other guy was a county inspector, in the neighborhood to check some work at the job site behind our house. It was their lunch break, and they chose to spend it helping me. Those guys worked damn hard for a full hour. They moved almost all the rocks out of the street and into place. I continued to try and do my part, but I was pretty messed-up. At some point, I succumbed to the heat and my vision went all white. I’m not sure, but my speech may have become incoherent, too, as I found myself answering random questions about song lyrics and I don’t know how the conversation got there. I was told – insistently – to sit in the shade for a while, and I did. It was awkward, watching these strangers do my work. After they’d put in a shift, they made me promise I was going inside to rest, and then they were gone. I kept my word and used the remaining daylight to try and re-hydrate. Only after a few hours did it hit me that I had asked for help and help had been given.

 

The next day, Friday, was tough. I was still out of it from the near heat-stroke of the previous day, but work had to get done. Those rocks needed to be settled and checked off the list and that was the only day to get through it. Mister took the day off and completely kicked it into high gear. Not only did he finish the rock job, but he made sure I didn’t do more than I should. (By the way – did I mention that Mister was working his regular job and kicking ass on the project each weekend? Because he was.) By the time we fell into bed that night, a bit of my faith had been restored. My body was still hurting, but my naive optimism was back.

 

 

The following morning, Saturday, the mulch was delivered. I’d love to tell you it was all sunshine and roses, but it wasn’t. It took 2 hard days of work to get that mulch spread and in place. By Sunday night, the mulch job was finished and the only remaining task was spreading the river rocks around two trees and by the walkway entry. And that was handled Monday evening. The next day, Tuesday, I submitted all my documentation for the rebate – 4 days ahead of the deadline. It was done.

 

 

I’m really pleased with the decision to take on this job. Yes, it was a gi-normous task. And yes, it nearly took me out. My joints are still recovering, and that may take some time. My sleep schedule is still a bit janky, but that will level off soon. It was a big project and though Mister did what he could, when he could, the rest fell to me. And y’all – I’m not a kid. This was a big deal and I’m pretty sure it will be the last time I take on something of this scale. I’m still processing that. It doesn’t feel like defeat really, but it does feel heavy.

 

 

I’m also processing all the good I experienced during this job. You cannot imagine how many folks stopped by to comment on the work being done. Some were just curious. Some told me they were proud of me and that they were rooting for me. Some asked if they could have our business card, in case they might want to hire us down the road. Some thanked me for adding this beauty to our neighborhood. I’d never even seen a lot of those folks. I recognized a few, but the rest? Who knows.

 

 

And then there was one sweet neighbor who stopped by each and every morning to say hello and to cheer me on. He’s 93 and just darling. On the last Sunday, as Mister finished the mulching, that sweet old man came by with a gift of apple cider. He told Mister he had never seen anything like me and that he was really proud of me. I drank that cider with joy.

 

 

I hope I never forget the strangers who showed up to help me, just when I needed it. I hope I never forget the strangers who told me I was their hero for doing this myself. I hope I never forget that Mister and I worked really well together (mostly) and that we accomplished our goal. I hope I never forget that sweet old neighbor who kept calling me a one-woman crew.

 

The yard is finished. I’m more proud of myself than I can convey, because I don’t have words for how I feel. I’m not a kid anymore, it’s true. But I am one hell of a woman. And though I’m not sure how long it will last, for now I keep experiencing a bit of Clark W. Griswold’s final line from the very end of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”: I did it. I really did.

 

Vignettes

 

 

While I’ve been missing – from this blog and from myself – shit is still going down. Some of it’s good. Some of it’s absolutely useless. And some of it, well, you can’t always tell.

 

 

There’s a store I occasionally visit for home improvement purposes, and said store sits smack in the middle of the ghetto. Now – I’ve tried other locations of this particular store, locations in prettier locales, and not one of them has provided the same level of expertise and professionalism as the ghetto location. So I keep going back. In the daytime. Anyhoo – a couple of weeks ago, I was at the ghetto store and heard music coming from an open window of an apartment across the parking lot. I always take note of this apartment, as its windows are covered with various photos of the Madonna. On this particular warm day, the windows were open. Beneath the strains of laughter coming from inside, I heard Christmas music. And it was blasting. The whole scene made me smile.

 

 

Mister and I have recently wrapped up a turn on the Whole 30 diet. We were “compliant” the entire time and we did a good job of adhering to the rules of the danged thang. After re-introducing various foods, drink and substances, I can tell you that I learned eating avocado by itself doesn’t sit well with me. And my body (my head, that is) prefers beer over wine. Though I have to be honest with myself and acknowledge that I’ll be getting both in the future. And when we cracked open this bottle of Bordeaux, well, we were smitten kittens.

 

 

I have a new baby cousin! Actually, that little dude is my 2nd cousin once removed. (I’d love to tell you I understand all that stuff, but I don’t. I have to look it up – every time.) Life keeps going. As it should.

 

 

I’ve started a new painting, which may not sound like much but I assure you – it’s a big deal. After my mentor retired from teaching art, I was so depressed I didn’t even want to think about painting. (That depression added to the lowly feelings about the state of my fucked-up country was almost too much to bear.) So for me to set up my easel and put paint to canvas is a mighty step. And I know it.

 

 

I will have a piece or two in an upcoming art show in Los Angeles! It’s sweet. And nice. And I’m happy to be included. If you’re local and interested in attending the opening reception (which is free, by the way), let me know and I’ll send you the RSVP deets.

 

Other activities abound (work on the homestead, addiction to “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “American Gods”) and there will surely be more to come. The depression is slowly lifting, thank the lord, and I’m feeling more and more like myself. It’s a slog sometimes. Anyone who’s been through it knows how tough it can be to live with depression. I’m just a regular gal,  with no particular gifts or tools for dealing with this. I put my flip-flops on one foot at a time. And though I get tired of hearing myself say it, I am a fan of baby steps. And distractions. And truth. And I’ll keep going, because that’s what you do. Right?