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.

A Stranger In My House



Yesterday Mister and I were working in the garage. We were both wearing masks (a lot of dust was kicked up), goggles (a lot of stuff was falling from the rafters) and gloves (we have delicate hands – just kidding, there were a lot of splinters). In short, we looked like we were cooking meth. Not our best look, but who were we gonna see?


At one point, Mister was in the garage rafters and I was down below, cleaning. The garage door was open to let in some light. Just as I was finishing sweeping, a car pulled up to the driveway and the passenger called out, “Hello! I used to live here!”


I walked over and started chatting with her and her friend. Mister joined us and the conversation continued. She asked whether or not certain things were still in the house, and we told her about the changes. Then she asked, “Have you had any ghosts show up?”


Mister hasn’t experienced anything unexplainable. I’ve asked him a few times, and so far – nada. I, on the other hand, have been sitting still in the rumpus room, or folding laundry in the bedroom, and a sweet perfume has drifted through the air. No reason, and the scent’s been unfamiliar. Those few incidents aren’t too odd. But then there was that one day, when I was sitting on the couch in the rumpus room and a person moved – right in front of me. Only I was alone in the house. But the movement was so clear and so real, I didn’t doubt for a second that I’d actually seen it. At that time, I did the only thing I could. I loudly said, “Hey! I don’t care if you want to be here, but leave me alone!” I haven’t seen anything since.


When the old caretaker of the new pad heard these stories, she said there had been more than a few times when they heard strange noises in the house. She also said that once, when she was sitting still in the rumpus room, all of a sudden there was a ton of commotion on the pool table beside her sofa. She said it was as if someone was jumping up and down on the pool table, causing noise and movement. On another occasion, she said her husband woke her in the middle of the night, complaining about the old lady sitting on his feet at the end of the bed. I immediately asked which room they had slept in and when she told me, I was mighty glad we use that room as an office. She went on to tell us that an elderly lady had died in the house many, many years ago.


After sharing ghost stories, we invited her to come back some time to visit the house, then we all said our good-byes. She and her friend drove away, and Mister and I went back to garage work. It never once occurred to us that our appearance may have seemed a bit wiggy. Anh. Who cares?


But we do care about the old caretaker’s tales. And we’ve decided we’re okay with making nice with any spirits that may need to linger at the new pad. Really. It’s okay if they want to be here. They just need to leave us alone.

Ventura Ghosts



Remember the other day when I told you about a haint in my great grandparents’ old house? Not my only run-in with ghosts, friends.


Several years ago, Mister and I were in Ventura, California to see the one and only Merle Haggard. We knew the concert would end late, so we booked a room at the lovely Bella Maggiore Inn. We’d stayed there before and it had been grand. I was more than happy to be staying there again.


Anyhoo, after The Hag had finished his show, Mister and I walked back to the inn and called it a night. It was a warm evening, and our room had no conditioned air. There was a ceiling fan, however, so we cranked it and eventually fell asleep.


At some point in the night, I was awakened by a noise. (Sadly, I’m a light sleeper.) I lifted my head, strained to see around the room, and decided the noise must’ve been coming from the ceiling fan. I thought it was probably not quite level and was wobbling. Mister, a heavy sleeper, didn’t stir. I tried to go back to sleep.


But the noise grew louder. I began to understand it wasn’t coming from the ceiling fan. No, that noise was coming from the closet. The doors were rattling. In my stupor, the only rational explanation I could muster was that the ceiling fan must have been circulating the air in such a way as to jostle the closet’s folding doors. I mean, why else would the doors rattle? The noise continued for a while, then faded to silence. I fell asleep and that was that.


The next morning, as Mister and I were checking out, the girl at the front desk looked at our room key and said, “Oh! You were in our haunted room!”




She gave us the full story… Back during WWII, the Bella Maggiore had been a brothel. Soldiers in the area often frequented the establishment and one soldier in particular used to regularly spend time with a working girl named Sylvia. At some point, Sylvia found herself in the family way and thought her soldier boy would stand by her in her time of need. But he didn’t want anything to do with the unborn child, and left Sylvia to fend for herself. Distraught and feeling as if she had no other choice, Sylvia hung herself – in the closet – of her room. The very room Mister and I had just vacated.


After the desk clerk finished telling us about Sylvia and how her ghost sometimes makes appearances at the inn, I said that perhaps I could have benefited from that knowledge before staying in the haunted room. I didn’t hold it against her, though, and we finished checking out and then headed back to L.A.


Ghosts happen. And I’m okay with that. But the next time I stay at the Bella Maggiore Inn, I may request a room other than number 17. I’m just sayin’.




The other night I was thinking about my great grandparents, and for some reason my mind touched on their haunted house. Now, I’m not here to sway you toward believing in ghosts. That’s your call. But since I’ve had more than one run-in with ghost-ies in my life, I don’t doubt their existence. Not even a little bit.


By the time I was born, Granny and Papa were old. (They weren’t crazy-old, mind you. It was the south, after all.) They lived in a falling-down, ramshackle of a house, situated next to some railroad tracks. They shared the house with another old lady: Miss Brown. Y’all, if my great grandparents were old, Miss Brown was flat-out ancient. I was a wee little thing, but I don’t remember her moving around on her own. Ever. There must’ve been a walker, maybe even a wheelchair. I don’t recall. I do recollect her sitting on the front porch in the summer, but that’s it. Oh – and I was afraid of her. I never once saw that woman smile. And that freaked me out.


Anyhoo, Miss Brown didn’t make it much beyond my early life. She passed on and then Granny and Papa lived alone. At least, they did until they took my family in. Thankfully, as we would otherwise have been homeless. I was 5 or 6.


My parents slept down in Miss Brown’s old room. We 3 girls slept in Granny’s bed with her. She and Papa had separate beds, located in the same room. I know it sounds weird, but it wasn’t. It was all we knew, and frankly, we girls loved Granny and Papa so much that we were just tickled to sleep in their room with them.


Remember “Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory?” Remember how Charlie’s grandparents all slept in the same bed? Well, picture 3 little girls and one old lady, all facing the same direction in a regular full-sized bed, and that’s pretty much how it was. In the sweltering summer, we all sweated there together. In the frigid winter, we couldn’t turn over due to the weight of about 73 quilts. Granny was always on the outside, near the center of the room. We girls fought over the other 3 spots. Again, it was all we knew. And it was good.


The first time I heard the boots walking down the hallway, I was sleeping next to Granny. The sound started softly and grew louder as the wearer approached the bedroom. In the still darkness, I whispered to Granny, “What’s that noise?” She spoke right out loud, “Them are boots. It’s an old soldier – a haint – comin’ down the hall.” The boots grew louder and louder, until it sounded like they’d come right into the room with us. I was lying there, holding my breath, eyes desperately searching the coal-black night for the old soldier. I never saw him, and nothing else happened. The boots didn’t walk back down the hall, and the rest of the night was quiet. Eventually, I fell asleep, safe beside my Granny.


I didn’t like the boots, but I sort of got used to them. The sound would show up every now and then, usually without incident. I say usually, because there was that one night when the old soldier wasn’t content to simply walk into the room. On that hot summer evening, we were all trying to sleep on top of the covers. There was a fan propped up in the front window, but it only served to stir up warm air. The boots took their time coming down the hallway, slowly ambling into the room. I was relegated to the side of the bed nearest the wall that night, with my 2 sisters between Granny and me. I could barely see anything in the darkness, but I did make out Granny’s leg as it began lifting into the air. She started yelling, “Let go-a my leg! Let go-a my leg!” But the old soldier had her, and he held on for about 10 seconds, lifting her leg by the foot until it was straight up in the air.


Papa, in the other bed, was yelling at Granny to shut her yap. We girls were so scared, we just lay there, hoping we weren’t next. My little heart was beating almost as loudly as Granny’s screams. And then the old soldier let go, and her leg fell to the bed. Granny was none to happy about it, and was cussing a blue streak at the old soldier. And at Papa, as he hadn’t done a durned thing to help her. I started to breathe again, and was mighty grateful to be next to the wall. It took me near forever to fall asleep that night, I tell ya.


There were other incidents in that old house, and the boots still returned from time to time. That was the only occurrence of a ghost interacting with any of us, but once was enough.


Well, there was that time we kids held a seance. But that’s a story for another day…