ColumbiaAt this point in my revision process I’m supposed to be cutting words, not adding them, but last night I pounded out a rough version of a new chapter, one of those things that I’d toyed with writing originally but never got around to. I don’t know if it will stay in the book, but I thought I’d share it here because it amused me enough that I couldn’t quite keep it to myself. 

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 Mom taught us that if we cursed with a strong enough accent, we could get away with it. Seriously, you can say shite and feckin’ in front of the whole class and no one will notice, but one futher-mucker and the whole thing goes to hell.” Alice says, leaning between the front seats so she can be sure that Sophie hears her.

 Max snorts from the backseat beside Alice, but doesn’t look up from his GameBoy.

 You taught them to curse with a Scottish accent?” Sophie asks, incredulous.

 It was my Irving Welsh period,” I say, “and to be perfectly honest, I was tired of being called to the Principal’s office.”

We’re on our way to Columbia State Park a tiny ghost town in the foothills below the Sierra Nevada mountains. I may have grown up in the valley, but I was born in the foothills and driving through them on this late spring morning still feels a bit like coming home.

We stop off in Sonora to have a quick lunch with Ruby who works in the Memorial Chapel three blocks from the apartment where my first memories are stored. It’s another ten minutes to Columbia, the main street of which has been restored to it’s 1850s charm, It’s the kind of place that kids visit on school trips, and families stop off at on their summer vacation. For my family, it holds even a more personal nostalgia as the house my maternal grandparents lived in is two blocks up from Main St. Read the rest of this entry »


JadedJuToday, I had the pleasure of lunching with my friend Jill (aka JadedJu). We met over the internet through bloggy friends a decade ago and then in person, a few months later. When I returned from our first lunchdate, on a Sunday in February of 2004, I reported back to our blog circle with the following story. Later, I found it re-posted on some random site with the title “BEST TRUE INTERNET MEET-UP STORY EVER”. The word TRUE made me laugh for quite some time, but it remains one of my favorite stories and so I’m bringing it back around.

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 Every time I meet one of my blog friends for the first time in person, there’s a bit of a blind date quality to it. How will I know him? What if she stands me up? What if they’ve brought a fistfull of friends to stand and point and laugh at me? So when I went to Pescadero to meet Jill last Sunday, I was a little edgy, not knowing what to expect.

I saw her as I approached Duartes, winding my way through the long line of Harleys that filled every parking space on the block. Leaning against a lamp post, she had a look about her that said she’d been waiting for me to arrive. Her bright green mohawk didn’t surprise me as much as the fact that she was nearly seven and a half feet tall.

“Are you . . . ?” I asked.

“And you?” she countered.

We nodded in unison and I followed her into the restaurant.

We’d already ordered and broken into the soft, steaming loaf of homemade bread when she said, oh so casually, “So you’re all packed?”

I stopped buttering.


“Yeah, we haven’t got much time.”

“Time for . . . ?” I glanced around the restaurant as if some magical answer to her question was waiting on one of the rustic walls.

“Time to catch up with them. We’ve got to be in Oregon before morning. The show opens in Victoria on Tuesday.”

I put the bread back on the plate and pushed back from the table.

“The show?”

“You ARE the Lion Tamer, aren’t you?”

Read the rest of this entry »

leaving on a jet plane


Actually it's not a jet plane. More like a little black Kia. But I'm leaving nonetheless. From Motown to Fallon, NV by mid-afternoon. Taking the phone, laptop and kindle … but will mostly be off-line until Sunday.




More than a decade ago, way back when the internet(s) were young, I came across a little gem of a webpage titled "San Francisco: an idiosyncratic guide for the goth-geek-freak-hipster-nerd" which changed forever the way I amuse myself in San Francisco when I'm there. I've branched out and discovered new favorite spaces beyond those highlighted in the guide, but it was a great jumping-off point and it virtually reinvented the city for me.

Having returned to my hometown after living in Santa Cruz County for the better part of a decade, I find myself cringing when I hear people talk about a day or weekend trip to the Central Coast and realize that they've spent their time (and money) in what locals consider "all the wrong places". For that reason (and because it is rude to admonish them in person) I thought it would be fun and perhaps helpful to put together a guide that might reinvent Santa Cruz for someone else the way the Goth-Geek-Hipster-Freak-Nerd guide changed San Francisco for me. I thought it best to begin with a couple of basic rules:

1. Skip The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

2. Since you are going to ignore Rule #1, let's have some straight talk about The Boardwalk Read the rest of this entry »

Going Home


We’re heading to Modesto this afternoon to spend Easter with our family. It’s not a popular place to be from right now, this Central Californian urban sprawl that finally made it’s mark on the map, first with the death of Chandra Levey and now, Laci Peterson.

After leaving Modesto and moving to the coast, I liked to refer to it casually as “that dirty little tweaker town”, not necessarily a fair assessment of a town with a population of 200-thousand, the majority of whom were not dirty or tweakers. Still, I’ve seen both sides of Modesto; the upper-middle class tree-lined neighborhoods, the country clubs, the Gallo Winery and accompanying wealth, as well as the crime-ridden Airport district, the crumbling Westside and the poverty under the seventh-street-bridge.

My parents still believe Modesto is a fine place to raise your children, and I suppose it is, if you’re rich. Or if your husband doesn’t kill you two days before Christmas and drive out to dump your body in the bay. And all I can think now is this: That today is one of those days where I wish I still believed in Heaven and Hell.