September 30, 2008

Establishing a routine - while riding a roller-coaster

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - A week ago, we thought that once our new pickup truck was purchased - the truck we bought this past Friday to drag a yet-to-be-located travel trailer south to Mexico in a few months - everything would stabilize into something of a routine until December..

You know: Get up. Go to work. Come home. Eat dinner. Play some music. Watch a movie.

Good luck.

The Admiral's jury duty has thrown what nearly passed for a routine totally out of whack.

And moments ago, as she was wheeling to the courthouse on her bicycle for her second day as Seven of Twelve on the jury, her bike brakes locked up and she had to quickly grab a ride with an amiga, while I repair the bike this morning. She had to spike her brakes to avoid being hit by a car roaring through a red light. Yikes!

We have kept part of a routine even with that. Sunday was Farmer's Market Day (the refrigerator is full of fresh fruit and vegetables) and no matter how crazy, the Admiral and I seem to make it to the Capital Athletic Club each day, the Admiral for a workout on the machines; I jump in the pool and make thrashing motions, approximating swimming.

And tonight - after teaching column writing - I will be taking a ukulele class with the same fellow who was my uke teacher last fall. He lives in our co-housing complex - actually about 150 feet from where I am writing this. I'm bringing a song I've been practicing (Chunder in the Old Pacific Sea) for he and the other two uke players to work on with me.

Yes, chunder is an Australian expression for losing the contents of your stomach.

No, the song isn't gross... Really!

The Admiral and I have a whole songbook full of old sea chanties - like What Do You Do With A Drunken Sailor? - we hope to play with amigos Sanders and Pat Lamont (the other members of The Four Headlamps), maybe even incorporate a few of those songs into our act, such as it is.

As soon as we get our routine going, anyway...

September 26, 2008

First domino falls - we bought a new pickup truck

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - After a three hours of shopping (following two weeks of intense Craigslist cruising and analysis), the Admiral and I settled on purchasing a Toyota Tundra with an extended cab, a rig big enough and tough enough to drag another travel trailer down to Arroyo Seco.

It's out on the street right now and I am getting up my courage so I can move it and see if I can park the rig into our tiny parking space, a space that my little red Nissan barely fits it without an application of Crisco all around.

We looked (via Consumer Reports and Craigslist) at all kinds of vehicles, settling on a slightly newer version of a Tundra that brother Dan Schwartz let us use two years ago in New York to launch and retrieve the Spirit of Louise pontoon craft.

This truck feels powerful - although you can almost hear the gasoline running through the engine like a waterfall. The mileage is similar to the Isuzu Trooper we drove south last year: bad, and sometimes worse.

Sylvia and truck
Admiral with her new rig at the dealer

The purchase now sets the stage for a sequel to last year's trailer purchasing adventure: The Search for Grey Goose II.

We have several leads on trailers but will likely wait until the weather cools more and people who want to unload their summer toys get desperate. The ideal time to buy a trailer in thei part of California is the middle of winter, but we have an early November drop-dead date to find something. In the middle of winter, I expect to be on one of the beaches at Arroyo Seco, fishing, or with my amigo Chon deciding where we are going to go fishing.

Or drinking beer.

If we don't find a trailer here in California, we might fly into Phoenix in November and check in with the legions of retired, trailer-loving sun worshipers there. We could buy a rig, park it, and then pick it up on our way through town in December when we hope to visit The Carr Resort and Spa before heading south to Mexico.

The purchase of the truck culminated a week marked by medical appointments for me.

First, my dermatologist hit me with bursts of liquid nitrogen spray 37 times in about five minutes, burning off a crop of pre-cancers.

Or so she said.

Thirty-seven in five minutes. Jaysus! When I left, I felt like I had gotten a bad sunburn on my back. And by today, my face looked like I had been hit by a bad case of acne where all the blisters popped.

But the dermatologist's chamber of torture was followed by a trip to my dentist where I had two old fillings replaced and two more pulled out to make room for crowns. Two of the fillings were so old, they were likely put in more than 40 years ago.

That little episode meant nearly three hours in the chair and, by my count, seven shots of novocaine to numb everything.

But I am happy to report that except for feeling like my mouth was stretched open wider than that of comedian Joe E. Brown, the whole procedure was almost pain free and within two weeks, I'll have two shiny new crowns in place of some teeth that were on the verge of giving me some serious problems.

Joe E. Brown
Joe E. Brown

The week ahead holds some great adventures, too. Admiral Fox has jury duty - yup, she not only got called in, she is seated on the jury. That likely means I will help cover some of her classes in the next few weeks.

The Admiral is Juror Number Seven on a panel in a Superior Court criminal trial.

Or, as she is known around our complex here now, Seven of Twelve.

Seven of nine
Seven of Nine - not on the Admiral's jury

September 24, 2008

Wrapping up the fourth week of school - Mexico beckons

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The fourth week of school is wrapping up today, with two lab classes full of writers and stacks of things to read on my office desk at the university.

But my mind is already wandering south, back to Arroyo Seco, where we will be right after Christmas for the balance of the winter and spring.

Viva Mexico!

The classes are going fine - great in fact - with a crop of good students who seem to actually be interested in what I have to say about the sad state of journalism today and what they have to do in this hostile media environment to find a job. And I mean really hostile.

But what has been distracting me (in a good way) are emails from amigos who are already laying their plans for visits and also the search for the perfect four-wheel drive, extended cab pickup truck - and a nice travel trailer to drag behind it.

Possible truck
One truck that's in the running, so to speak

Last year the tow vehicle and travel trailer fell into place by accident, something I need to remind myself of daily as we struggle to find either wheeled vehicle. Prices have gone up - or it just isn't quite late enough in the fall for the travel trailers to become something people want to get out of their driveways.

And the trucks? Well, for all the talk about low prices for gas hog vehicles, they're not that low.

At least matching my budget.

But perhaps the hardest tug on my attention (towards Mexico) are the emails about when people are coming down and what we will be doing and questions like, "Will the Captain's Gig be ready to sail this year?"

The answer to that question is yes: I found the centerboard in my storage unit. The Captain's Gig sailing dinghy will launch in the laguna near Arroyo Seco this season. (NOTE TO SAILORS: the laguna does contain crocodiles so tipping over and falling in the water is not recommended.)

The Admiral and I will be scrambling to get the downtown lot sorted out as soon as we arrive. Our amiga Tia Richardson sent us some great photos of what it looks like now that the vegetation has started to kick in.

Ramada, trailer and palapa
Ramada, trailer and palapa

Bodega needs some paint
Bodega has a front door, but needs some paint

Street view of palapa
From the street

More on all of this later.

The Admiral, on jury duty at the downtown courthouse, just emailed me with a lead on a truck.

Time to get back to work.

September 10, 2008

Leaping from retirement back into the classroom

SACRAMENTO, Calif. USA - I ended my second week of teaching today and I remembered - as I dragged my butt off campus to the bus stop - why retirement most of the rest of the year seems, so, well, retiring.


My four classes are actually good: smart students, good in-class topics and even new computers in the laboratories where I teach three of the four classes.

It just that, well, there's some other things I would reallllly like to be doing instead, that I don't have a lot of oomph for when I get home.

Like blogging! Instead, I prep for classes, grade papers and read endless stories, all of which I have assigned to turn my undergrads into journalists. And the Admiral is doing the same, with her four classes.

But we are squeezing in a trips to see Sacramento granddaughters Sami and Kami Allen and hope to get up to the mountains to see Sanders and Pat Lamont. The Four Headlamps need to practice if we are going to survive open mic night at Palapa Joe's in La Manzanilla next winter.

Still, by mid-December, the Admiral and I will be catapulting our way down the highway back to Arroyo Seco in Mexico and our life there. That time should go by very fast. Hell, it already is.

Victoria Campbell
Victoria Campbell with a friend on her head

My last day in New York I sold our fabulous and loyal Jeep Cherokee to a great home. People think I am weird about my cars and boats. OK, I am. But I hate to sell something that I have to someone who won't appreciate it. That was not the case with the Jeep.

Through a Craig's List posting, Victoria Campbell popped up and after a quick test drive (a drive that included Arnold the Wonder Dog as a passenger) she was hooked and bought the car a few days later.

She will be using it as part of her rescue efforts of wild animals, a project she started herself and which is growing fast - too fast maybe - as her reputation is growing and so is the number of animals she has to rescue and then care for.
  • Wild Things Sanctuary

  • When she dropped me off at the Valois house after buying the Jeep, Victoria said it might make just the right spot for her to release waterfowl that have recovered from injuries. It might work, I suppose. We will just have to keep Arnold away next summer when that happens.

    Earlier this summer, Arnold (ok, maybe Arnold's owner Brad) gave me a great birthday card, along with several bottles of wine so I could celebrate my milestone birthday.

    I have it on the wall of my office at work now to remind me about time Seneca Lake, Red Cat wine, and of course, Arnold, Brad and all the great cousins and friends we have there.

    Arnold wishing me a happy birthday