Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a Gypsy's Life For Me

Or maybe that's pirate's. Whatever it is, it's coming to a conclusion. Of sorts. Today our meager belongings in our 5 x 10 x 10 storage unit are being reboxed, rewrapped, insured, and prepared for their ocean voyage to the port of Hilo, Hawaii. The game plan at this point (and bits of my life have been all about the best laid plans going astray), is for our things to arrive within the same time frame as we do, which is January 15th. We have booked our 1-way tickets, and that was a bit strange, and we have booked our car a spot on the Jean Anne leaving San Diego January 11th, scheduled to arrive in Hilo on January 18th.

Our final pit stop in this gypsy journey has been Nevada City. It's really a nice little town. The folks are friendly, the trees in their fall plumage are beautiful, and the place we are in is lovely. Too bad we bought the line in the flyer about being walking distance to town. That has stuck in our craws, but que sera, sera. It's only for 6 more weeks. And it is a bit cold (my feet are not happy). Then off we go to Mountain View, just south of Hilo, a place I can leave cans in the cupboards, bandaids in the bathroom, shoes in the closet, and where my feet can finally get warm. We are hoping that Mountain View will be a place we can settle in and call home. As settled as we can get before heading back to chilly Dornoch in April. I am keeping that bit of news from my feet at the moment.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tales from the Golden State and Rants From the Land of the Perpetually Annoyed Driver

We are now cloistered in our abode for the next 3 months. It is quite pleasant, a one bedroom flat on 2 acres surrounded by Ponderosa Pines and Valley Live Oaks. We have a nice covered patio that now is serving as our primary living space, but I am sure that will change with the weather. Speaking of weather, the forecast since we arrived was for sun and more sun. The 7-day outlook has not shown a cloud in the sky. Daytime temperatures are in the mid to high 70’s with the lows dropping into the 50’s. In a word, it is perfect.

Nevada City, California, is located in the Sierra foothills about an hour northeast of Sacramento. Nevada City is a small town straight out of the 1850’s with a major detour through 1969. The town, nestled into a steep hillside, is made up of wooden clapboard buildings with broad sidewalks and streets better suited to walking than driving. It does not take much imagination to see gold miners, gun slingers and dance hall girls walking the streets. But then you are jolted back to another time with the aromas of patchouli oil, sandalwood incense and marijuana filling the air. The shops, which once housed dry goods merchants, general stores and assay offices, are now filled with holistic healing salons, aromatherapy, coffee bars and wine tasting salons. The miners’ dusty Levis have been replaced by hippies in dusty Levis and tie dye shirts which advertise the latest cause like “Angry Lesbians for Unisex Urinals” or “I Don’t Eat Anything with a Face.” Restaurants which advertised “Good Grub Cheap” now hang their hats on “Heirloom Tomatoes with Arugula, Goat Cheese and a Splash of Balsamic” or “Vegan Burritos”. Not that there is anything wrong with that. There are plenty of saloons, bars and dance halls remaining, which on a Saturday night, soon, I hope to do some recon work. The Mine Shaft looked promising with its old swinging saloon doors, but I was jolted back to the here and now with the advertising for cheap beer during football games. Signs of the times. Oh well. I had always wanted to be a good hippie, I guess just an old hippie will have to do.

I was driving one morning in the OC. Sorry, that is my ADHD kicking in. I am finished with the previous topic for now and on to something else. I may or may not return to the previous topic when I am finished ranting on the next thought that passes through my skull. Well, I was driving early one morning in the OC. I was actually leaving my father’s house in the retirement village of Laguna Woods. It was early, with very few cars on the road. I had just backed out of the covered parking stall when a car rolls up behind me and proceeds to tailgate me to the next stop sign and then was right on my tail for the 500 yards to the next traffic signal, which was the exit from Del Boca Vista Retirement Estate Phase 5. The driver behind me then throws up his arms and makes a Jackie Stewart type move into the next lane to be one car in front at the signal. The light turned green and he jumps on it only to be stopped by another traffic signal a mile down the road, still one car in front of me. I am so sorry that I happened to want to use the road at the same time as this poor old chap. If I knew he was going to wake up in such a state of annoyance I would have stayed at home and not dared to have crossed his path. I certainly meant no harm by being on the same road as him at the same time, but I was and had to suffer the waving arms and nasty glares of the Perpetually Annoyed. You know what....Honey Badger don’t give a shit. Funny thing, Mr. Annoyed got stuck behind some trucks on the Interstate and I gave him the peace sign as I cruised past. That made Honey Badger smile.

I have been golfing twice since returning from the Highlands. I finally got my new clubs and was anxious to try them. I found a special deal at a local course and went down to try some American golf. As I drove up, the bag boy loaded my clubs onto the buggy, no walking here, sir. He directed me to the golf shop where I received my leather bag of range balls, not complimentary, and met Bob and Dave, my playing companions. Now, Bob and Dave were nice guys, but the golf was so different than what I have come to know and love. The round was just shy of 5 hours, including a stop at 9 so Bob and Dave could get a hot dog, and probably some more balls. This riding business, and that is what it is, business, is for the birds. It should not be called golf, maybe cart ball is a better term. At least the cart gives you a place to store your hot dog. The second round was up in the mountains at a course where a friend of mine is the Director of Golf, so the price was right. Again, buggy golf. Are there no walking courses? Again, just short of 5 hours. At Dornoch we would have played 18 and been on our third round in the bar.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Brig O'Doon

We are leaving soon. My breath catches every time I think of it. Partly because I really don't like flying, but more because I don't want to leave. Dornoch for me is more than a place, it's a state of mind. The folks here are like folks anywhere, they've got lives and problems and worries, joy and sadness, love and heartbreak. But for me, it's like that sappy movie from the 50s, a place that magically appears and gathers me in, feeds my soul, warms my heart (though not my feet, the poor wee ice blocks). Heaven knows I don't like the cold, and I'd not last a winter here in the dark and the cold and the snow. But it's my own Brig O'Doon, an enchanted place that I return to, a constant in a world of change. With luck I will take a bit of the magic of Dornoch with me and keep the serenity that comes with it until we come back.

Cue the sappy movie music.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Adventures in Cultery

While we make many efforts to blend in here in Dornoch, there are a plethora of things that mark us as not being local folks. Partly just our appearance, we are tall, wear tennies a lot, our clothes are a bit different, and once we open our mouths there's no question. But even if we dressed the part and never spoke, our use of cutlery would give us away at the first bite.

When you sit down in a restaurant, there are various utensils at your spot. Sometimes wrapped in paper napkins, sometimes laid out in a manner that would have my Grandmother Fisk clucking in approval. Once you order, there is a very efficient whisking away of utensils that will likely not be used with what you ordered, soon to be replaced with what you likely will use with your meal. Given that I don't know what to use with what, and my little mouth makes me not use soup spoons at all if I've a choice, this can be somewhat disconcerting. The only thing I remember learning about cutlery is knife and spoon on the right, fork on the left. The rest was a mystery (said Grandmother can be noted rolling in her grave, she tried so hard to teach me manners). There are wee spoons for tea, spoons that I call teaspoons for whatever, soup spoons, dessert spoons, several varieties of forks, and knives of many different shapes and sizes, all coming and going with great efficiency during the course of a meal. And who knew that the cutting edge of the knife is to face inward?

Then there is the fish knife. The fish knife looks very much like a large butter knife. Despite the fact that there was a butter knife on the butter plate (don't even get me started on the glasses and dishes), both Stan and I proceeded to butter our bread with this giant butter knife and poke at our fish with our forks to remove the bones. At least this took place in the home of a friend and we weren't in public.

But it's our actual use of forks and knives that is the giveaway. We tend to cut with our knife, set knife aside, switch hands with the fork, and use the fork to eat. Here they are far more efficient, and it's almost an Edward Scissorhands use of utensils. No changing of hands, the knife becomes something entirely different, almost a spoonfork combo, and the bothersome changing of hands never occurs. It's a blur of effiency, something I've watched 2 year olds perform with ease. I've tried it, but I end up shooting food in odd directions and putting clothing and tablecloths in great danger. None of the smooth, utensils as extensions of hands for me.

Tonight we've been invited for fondue. Oh dear . . .

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

OK, I admit it

I'm cold. I'm cold. I'm cold. My feet are always cold. Of course, my feet have always been cold pretty much wherever I have lived, but these are some very cold feet. I've never had that good core-warming summer that my inner time clock expects in July and August. Of course, I had it in December and January, so likely my internal thermostat is wigging out on me, as the rest of my innards tend to do from time to time. I think the crocuses that have just come up in the garden are feeling the same way, though. No sooner do they poke their heads up than they start to droop, never really fully bloom. It's cold. It's cold. It's cold.

I have the right clothes. And would probably stay warm if I would just wear them. But somehow putting on a silk thermal layer in August just seems so wrong. And silk-lined, 2-layer wool socks don't even bear thinking about in August. It's a mental problem rather than a temperature problem. Though I did not have any urge to put on wool socks in Hawaii in December, so there may be a glitch in my logic. Fancy that.

That said, the end of our time here is approaching and while I feel my thought processes shifting time zones, the rest of me is loathe to leave this sweet little corner of the world and re-enter reality, despite my cold feet. Our 180 days is almost up, time to start packing up for our next stop, though I'll be leaving the silk long johns here for future use next August. I'll figure it out eventually.

Monday, August 8, 2011


That is the sound of summer in the Highlands. It goes that fast. If you blink, you just might miss it. There have been flashes of brilliance, blue sky, puffy clouds, possibly even 70 degrees. A temperature that has the locals out in shorts, flip flops, and short sleeves and children swimming in the North Sea. Though I am usually still in long sleeves and my wool blend socks. And if you are lucky, you might get two days of that in a row. This, of course, will be followed by rain and/or wind. And partially to blame for the rapid return of wet weather will have been me having decided to hang laundry on the line. There is a big golf tournament here this week and I think I should do the whole bunch of them a favor and do no laundry this week at all. Works for me. :-)

But here it is only the first week in August, and one of the trees in the backyard is starting to turn. We walked home in near dark from a party night before last, and it was only 10:15!! The baby seagulls are almost done screeching outside my window. And our friendly blackbirds have moved on. The ferns are starting to turn orange as well. But the hardest thing to swallow about the summer drawing to an end is that the train tickets for our date of departure came available and arrived in the mail last week. It's a much better deal to buy them in advance, so I did, but I immediately stuck them in a drawer so I can ignore them for a bit longer, though the tree in the backyard is a bit harder to ignore.

No melancholy this time, though. We're set for next year, all things working out, will spend 3 months close to the kids, then on to Hawaii, and then back here. Home again, home again.

Monday, June 27, 2011


I have been working as a caddy at Royal Dornoch. Not so much for the money, though that is nice, but it is good exercise, and a wonderful office and a way to meet some interesting people. Yesterday was a busy day for the caddies. We were told that there was a big group and we would be needed for a morning and afternoon round. I showed up at my appointed time and was randomly assigned two bags for a group of 20 Americans. Introductions were made and I was working for Jay and Paul. I asked the perfunctory where you are from question. Jay was from Florida and Paul was from Davis, California. The Davis that was the next city over from where we lived in Winters. Paul said he played his golf at El Macero Country Club. I told him I knew a member at El Macero, Kenny Yamauchi, who I played a lot of golf with when we lived there. His jaw dropped and he said that he knew Kenny very well and his son worked with Kenny and played golf with him all the time. Small World #1. When we got to the first green I noticed Paul’s bag had a Poppy Hills logo, which is where my son works. So I commented upon that. Paul asked me my son’s name. I said Darin Dodd and he works in Tournaments and Competitions. His jaw dropped again. He said he had just checked his e-mail that morning and had received an e-mail from Darin Dodd at the NCGA just that morning. Small World #2. We had a great fun round and when we finished I took his golf bag to load on the coach they were traveling in and Small World #3, the coach was run by the Golfing Dodds of Scotland.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Old Folks at Home

Things are very different this time around. Though we had been to Dornoch many times prior to last year's 6-month adventure, it was still new enough that it was like an extended vacation. Lots of new things, lots of pictures to take, lots of new experiences. This time, it was almost like coming home. There are still the cultural and mechanical things that I don't understand and still chuckle about. The dryers, or lack thereof. The washing machines with the tub about the size of a stew pot. No garbage disposals. Drying clothes on the line in a country where it rains all the time is such a mystery, but it's a homey thing to do, hanging laundry, and I've gotten rather fond of it. Especially since no one expects me to iron.

Stan is in Golf Heaven, golfing and caddying. He's doing all the cooking, which has been the norm since he retired, bless his heart. I'm working my 40 hours a week, joined an exercise class, enjoy the indoor bowls on Monday afternoon. I have a scone at elevensies every day, warmed with butter and jam, and a cup of tea. We've bird feeders in the yard that bring us great joy, when we aren't cursing the damn jackdaws. I'm buying yet another feeder that is "jackdaw proof." Stay tuned. We've got our blackbird that begs raisins off us at the sliding window, takes them out of our hand now. I've a garden to putter around in. We sit in the evening like we do no matter where we are, him doing his crossword, me doing some kind of needlework, in our companionable evening quiet time, savoring this odd life we have carved out for ourselves. I have so many times been whacked upside the head by the gods for commenting on my good fortune that I am hesitant to do so, so I will stop here before tempting fate any further. Suffice it to say contentment is the word of the day.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gardening in a Different Land

I am no gardener. Given good dirt, I can grow things. But I don't fuss, add bone meal, fish oil, adjust the pH or whatever real gardeners do. If it grows with a bit of neglect, that's always worked for me. Benign neglect, I think it's called. So, we clean out the backyard, with many glances at the very well manicured, lovely British garden next door, buy some flowers, put them in the ground, add water (easily done), and sun (not so easily done), and see what happens.

Apparently, here benign neglect gets you lots of trouble. Neglect the midgie threat at your own peril. Eight bites on my face that erupted with great gusto. I looked like I had chicken pox. Probably in the 18th century I'd have been thrown overboard for the pox. Crusted, oozing things. In the healing process they resembled acne scars. On a 54-year-old wrinkly face. Not a good look. I think I frightened the mail lady and I know our neighbor next door was wondering how close she should get to me. Avon Skin So Soft and hydrocortisone cream are now staples in my garden kit.

There were some interesting plants, some vaguely familiar, some completely new to my brain cells. So, let's let them grow and see what happens!! Last weekend several of my more happy flowers were suddenly lasso'd and dragged to the ground by one of the let's see what happens plants. Goose grass, as near as I can tell. Sticky thing that trails in and around, sticks to stems and drags things to the ground, apparently trying to suffocate them. Then there's the lovely pink-stemmed plant that grows on the mossy wall, quite dainty and lovely, until I discovered it ranging all over the back yard where I hang laundry and venturing into places it had no business growing. When did these things happen? The only saving grace for the last one, which I think is some kind of weedy geranium, is that the bullfinch likes something in it, so a wee bit of it is left on the garden wall. Another plant that benefitted from my daft gardening ideas was a nettle. We've a lovely 3 x 4 foot stinging nettle bush out there just daring us to try to remove it.

There are, however, the volunteer foxgloves and all variety of flowers that have popped up. Some of them weeds, no doubt. But one girl's weed is another luntatic's flower.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ghost of #3 Church Street

I am not a huge believer in the paranormal, but I cannot say I am a nonbeliever after some recent events...

Last year I bought a new pair of Ecco Golf shoes and only wore them a few times before we left Scotland. I left them here so that I would have a nice new pair of shoes upon our return. When we arrived this year they were with our other stored items. I played with them for a few weeks and all was well. Then I must have misplaced them as they were gone. I asked everybody I rode to golf courses with if I had left them in their cars. No luck. I asked up at the clubhouse if they were in the lost and found. No luck. I asked if I could look for myself in the lost property room. Not there. Julie and I turned over the house looking under beds, sofas, and chairs. No joy. I asked the golf pro if anybody had phoned about picking up shoes by mistake. Nothing. I then turned over the house again, top to bottom. No shoes. I resigned myself to the fact that I had lost a pair of $150 golf shoes. A week to 10 days passed and no shoes. Then I was locking the front door before bed one evening and there sitting on the arm of the sofa in plain view in a spot I had walked by 5 or 6 times a day for more than a week and not 10 feet from where Julie works for 8 hours a day were my pair of Ecco golf shoes. I woke Julie and asked if she had found my shoes. No luck. She had not seen them. But there they were and the eerie thing is . . they had been polished by the Ghost of #3 Church Street.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Golf God Is Cruel And Sadistic ...

But At Least He Has A Sense Of Humor

Yesterday I strolled up to the clubhouse to see how some friends were doing in the first big competition of the year, The Burghfield Cup. I met my friends Ian, Ian, and Martin, and had a pint or 2 or 3 (oh, and a dram as there were 2 aces in the tourney) with them as they recapped their round. They had played well and were in the running for some prizes. The format called for the best two scores of 3-man teams. So it did not matter if one player had a bad round as long as the other two played well. It came to light that Ian had a disaster on the ninth hole, taking 11 shots. With the beer doing part of the talking for me, I gave Ian a hard time. “How can you make 11 on #9? It’s downwind and the easiest hole on the course,” I chided. We all had a good laugh at Ian’s expense.

Flash forward to today’s round. I was off in the 2nd group. I was playing so-so into a stiff breeze and was looking forward to the turn at the 9th for some downwind holes. After 2 fair shots I had left 90 yards to the green. An easy wedge...which I promptly dumped into the front right bunker. After 3 whacks trying to get out towards the hole, I pitched out backwards only to have it roll right back into my own footprint. At this time my playing partner uttered my least favorite Scottish golf term, “Unlucky.” Debating on whether to wrap my sand wedge around his neck or continue to play, I gave it a mighty rip and watched it scuttle 40 yards back down the fairway. After raking every square inch of the bunker, I took the walk of shame back down the fairway to my ball. I then chipped on and 2-putted for a, let me count...yes, a freaking 11. I cracked up. The Golf God bitch-slapped me. I played on with a wry smile on my face and as I was playing 14, who was coming down the 3rd...Ian, Ian, and Martin. I shouted across the fairway “Ian, I am sorry for my comments yesterday...I just took 11 on the 9th.” As I played on I could hear them chuckling.

Instant Karma.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The OC, Final Thoughts

We are cozily nestled in our cottage in the Highlands, but I did want to wrap up some final thoughts on life in the OC. Southern Orange County was a great place to grow up …in the 1960s, but as with everything it has changed significantly both physically and in attitude. The physical changes are quite disturbing. Eight lanes of freeway in each direction, mini malls and mega malls seemingly on every other corner, and people, people everywhere. Did you know that there is not one producing orange grove in Orange County? The namesake of the county was sold out for a plethora of big box stores, fast food restaurants, and houses made of ticky tacky. Progress? Though the wall-to-wall people and bulldozed hillsides that now grow condos are alarming, what is far more disturbing is the attitude. A couple of cases in point.

The total lack of environmental consciousness. Preserving open space is a code word for land that is not economically viable to build upon. We will preserve this swath of land between our housing developments until we can find a way to build another BestBuyCostcoOldNavyChilisJackintheBox.

The sense of entitlement is distasteful. I am entitled to drive an earth-hating, 4-wheel drive SUV because I can. And if you have a Range Rover, then I am entitled to an Escalade that is just a bit bigger. And if I get an Escalade, then you must have a Hummer. I am also entitled to obey the laws I choose and to ignore others if they don’t suit me. The City of San Clement has built a wonderful walking path that runs along the beach for the entire length of the city. It is quite well used and is generally quite pleasant, but I am entitled to walk my dogs and have them urinate and defecate everywhere and I am entitled to not clean up after my animal if I so choose, even though the city provides cleanup materials, free of charge. I am also entitled to take as many of these crap bags as I want because they are free. To heck with the common good, this is about me. While driving I am entitled to use my turn signals only if I choose to, but if my car is larger or more expensive than yours it is not required. I am entitled to drive like an ass if I want and even more so if I have a Rick Warren Onward Christian Soldiers poor, poor, persecuted me bumper sticker on my Escalade. While waiting to make a left turn with 5 other vehicles, an Escalade with a Rick Warren Onward Christian Soldier, I am better than you bumper sticker passes all of us on the right, moves to the head of the line, cuts in front and makes a left turn. It is alright because I am going to Rick Warren’s Easter at the Bren and I will be forgiven for being an asshole.

But the winner in the I am entitled and better than you sweepstakes occurred on the residential streets of San Clemente. While pulled to the side of the road to make a phone call, I witnessed a woman in a wheelchair on her way shopping. She was using the street, as there were no sidewalks on that street. She had the audacity to be in the road when the driver of yet another earth-hating vehicle was using the same road. So, instead of letting the woman in the wheelchair pass by, he honked his horn and waved his arms (he was not saying hello) because this wheelchair-bound woman had the gall to use a street at the same time as him. Evidently people in wheelchairs are less entitled.

I think we would all be better off if I don’t return to the OC.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dornoch in April

Is darn cold! I had forgotten about that. Or maybe the time in Hawaii thinned my blood. I know I lost a layer of blubber while we were there. It's not snow, and it's really only rained once. It's just cold enough, low 50s, that I don't layer enough to be comfie when I go out. The learning curve begins again.

But we are here. The hillsides are green, the trees are blooming or budding. The daffodils and tulips are everywhere. There are lots baby sheep, but still lots of sheep moms so fat and furry they look like hay bales from a distance. Or without my glasses. The gorse is starting to bloom and the yellow fields of canola oil flowers are getting going. They will be almost electric yellow in a few weeks.

Stan took the car back to today, so we are carless in the highlands again. We made a couple of market runs, he took his bike in for a tune up in Inverness, and we picked up my bike from some nice folks in town that lent it to me last year, though I was so thoroughly jet lagged we put it in the back of the car and drove it home rather than me ride the mile in the wind. I was so tired I thought I might get blown over.

The drive to get the bike took us on the road where I actually do ride the bike, a single track road of about 3 miles or so, dotted with a few houses but mostly fields of sheep or grass. We had to pull out (or the other car did) in the passing area for 3 cars and I commented on the traffic. Snort. After the 8-lane freeway madness of Orange County, I thought 3 cars meeting on the single track road at 5:30 in the evening was traffic.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

All I can say is ...

Yay!!!!! The 18th of April is almost here! We are off, heading for home. Or at least it feels that way. After our first trip in 1998, all subsequent trips to Scotland have been accompanied by a feeling of coming home, for whatever odd reason. Genetic memory, ancestral memory, or I'm just crazy. Whatever it is, I've got it. And I'm going home. I had fully expected this sensation to decrease somewhat over time with the number of visits we've made, but it has only increased. It's in my bones, Scotland is, and I'm going home.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Inquiring minds . . .

People keep asking us why we don't just stay in Orange County. After all, we have family here, we have our doctors and dentist here, and we do keep coming back. It's pretty simple, to us anyway. We can't, and we don't have to, so we aren't going to.

We can't. We have found that we don't like it here anymore. Stan moreso than I knew the charms of this area before it became home to more people than I can count, eight lane freeways, and too much of everything. For us, there's no going back to how it used to be. San Clemente itself still has a bit of the old charm left, but when you leave San Clemente, you get into the OC and we just can't go there.

We don't have to. We have worked hard, and lost a lot, to get to the point where we can decide where we want to live, someplace that nurtures the soul rather than saps it. We have never lived in large populations. The desert, Winters, Pacific Grove, all had small town life going for them, some more than others, some with charm, some definitely not. So why would we, at our ripe old ages, suddenly live in a town of 61,000 people surrounded by freeways and malls?

So, we aren't going to. If it wasn't Hawaii, it would have been someplace in Oregon, maybe Arizona, but not in Southern California. So when golf buddies, book group ladies, friends and family can't understand why we don't just stay here, I listen quietly, smile my inner Cheshire cat smile, and hope that they can eventually understand why we aren't going to.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Learning Curve

Lest anyone think there is no peril in the lifestyle we are leading, let me tell you about our latest adventure. We made a relatively late change in plans and decided to spend the interim between Hawaii and Scotland in San Clemente, near family and friends. We scoured our favorite vacation rental site, finding very few places available due to our late timing, but did find a place, saw photos of the inside and out, and thought it would be fine, but possibly a little big for our needs. The property manager said she had a sublet in the same building that was a one bedroom that was just as nice as the rental in the pictures. Seemed a good idea, so we gave a deposit and booked it for 2 months.

Sight unseen, we arrived at our new "home" in the late hours of a Monday night, after climbing the 52 steps to the front door. We let ourselves in and . . . . Oh dear.

First we noticed the booze bottles, bag of potatoes, unopened cheese and cream cheese in the fridge, sodas and fruit, snack foods, and a fully stocked spice cupboard. There was even an individually wrapped corndog in the freezer. And a hamburger patty. =:-O We started wondering if someone was going to come home and find us in their apartment. Turns out with a sublet you are the beneficiary of what the previous person decided to leave behind. The trash can (singular) was empty, thank goodness.

We soon started feeling less and less like someone was going to come waltzing in on us and more and more like what the hell have we done? The bed, thank goodness, is comfortable, but is so low to the ground it's like doing deep knee bends to get out of the thing. Ditto for the couch. And there is no fitted sheet. There is no table in the kitchen to eat at. There are two towels. Two. There is no vacuum, no broom. There was (key word here is was) mold in the bathroom. The shower curtain was worse than useless. The TV stopped working after our third week here. We had a hail storm one night and, I kid you not, hail bounced into the living room under the gap in the front door, followed by windblown rain soon thereafter. Many of these things have been remedied by the property manager or ourselves, but the basic nuts and bolts of the place cannot be changed. It's tiny. It's uncomfortable. And there are 52 stairs to get up here from the street. We are in a friggin' crow's nest.

The bright points are the view. There is an awesome ocean view from the living room and kitchen. And the view. There is an awesome ocean view from the living room. Did I mention the view?

The true bright points are I am spending time with my mom and family and Stan is spending time with his family. The kids have both been down for a visit. That is priceless and was the reason for making the change in the first place.

Needless to say, we are looking forward to leaving for Dornoch in 37 days. But who's counting?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Six weeks out

Six weeks out from our return to Dornoch. It's so exciting to know we are going back. We've been in San Clemente for 3 weeks and while I am savoring my time with my family, Orange County still falls flat for me (both of us, thank goodness) as a permanent place to stay. We are in the process of getting tune ups, doctors, dentists, glasses, and then off we go. We left some things behind in Dornoch, but did not make a list of what they were and, seriously, who at this age can remember what you left in a laundry basket in someone's attic? We learned from both Dornoch and Hawaii that we don't need to pack as much as we do, so that's our goal this time, to each take one suitcase and have it not be over the weight limit, and hope that what we think we left in Dornoch we actually did.

After Scotland, Hawaii looms large in our future. We've found a car shipping firm, need to find some not hugely expensive way to ship our remaining stuff over. A 5x10x10 storage unit is all there is, so hopefully that won't break the bank. While I rarely gave thought to my "stuff," and when I did it was only passing thoughts of wondering what box something might be in, the lure of unpacking it all in a little cottage in Hawaii has become an oddly comforting thought. And living where it's 80 degrees every day is even more comforting. Though I will gladly suffer the eternal chilly spring that is summer in Dornoch. That's where my heart is.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Goodbye, Docent

December 11, 2010 (I think)
Chelonia Mydas basking: Can’t see yet.

Interesting Turtle Fact #4: When threatened by humans coming too close Green Sea Turtles will flee into deep water, only to return when the threat has subsided.

The throbbing of my head is synchronized to the crashing of the waves. As I open my eyes there is an otherworldly peach aura about me. I then realize I have spent the night in Docent Headquarters. My throbbing head and parched mouth tell me that I was over served on Steinlagers, or it could have been the pakalolo.. I vaguely remember wifey making an appearance and telling me she had had enough and was returning to the mainland. She said she could no longer live with a cross between Don Quixote and Maxwell Smart. She said if I did return to normalcy I could come back. I tried to explain that I’m the docent and who would watch out for Chelonia Mydas. She said you are no freaking docent, you are just some crazy ass old retired guy with too much time on his hands and she’d had it. Then off she went and off I went back to dah boys and dah Steinlager. Some times you have to make sacrifices to pursue your purpose.

Before starting my shift I needed to look somewhat professional. Perhaps a shower would remove the black sand stuck to my face and I probably should find my clothes that I seemed to have misplaced. I wrapped myself in one of the peach colored sheets that made up an interior wall of Docent Headquarters and headed off to the showers at the main parking lot.

I felt much better after running some cold water on myself. The throbbing head was improving and I was just about ready to start greeting visitors when an official looking white sedan drove up and parked. The driver got out and walked up to my newly painted sign -
Turtle Tours Donation
$1 Per Person
Preferred Parking $5

“Hello, brother. Do you know who put this illegal sign here?” the gentleman asked me.
Noting the menacing tone of voice I thought it best to fake ignorance. “No, sir. Is there a problem?”
“We had a report of someone shaking down tourists, and we would like to find him,” he replied.
“I’ll keep my eye out for him,” I said as I slowly made my way back towards Docent Headquarters.

Just then a Hawaiian County Sheriff drives up with blue light flashing.. Most deputies drive their personal vehicles with a blue light thrown on the roof, reminiscent of a K-Mart Blue Light Special. The deputy gets out and also gives the sign the once over, in particular eyeing the STOP on the reverse side.
“Have you seen the guy who put this sign here?” he queried.
“I’m looking for him as well,” the gentleman responded.
“Me too, is there a problem?” I replied.
“Well, we had a truck hauling macadamia nuts roll through what was a 4-way stop in Pahala. It swerved to miss a car and dumped 10 tons of nuts in the middle of the street. The nuts are all over the road and are rolling downhill towards the highway. A haole lady driving a gray Ford Focus on her way to the airport said we might be able to find the nut responsible here.”
“I’ll keep an eye out for him,” I assured the deputy.

I felt it was time for me to make my way back to Docent Headquarters, find my clothes, and maybe take the day off. Still wrapped in my peach-colored sheet, I made tracks across the black sand. I found my clothes hanging from a tree and quickly changed. It was then that a beat-up pickup truck pulled into the parking lot and out of the back jumped 12 partially clad, angry looking Hare Krishnas. They started running towards Docent Headquarters.

“Hey Docent, I tink it be mo bettah you find anudda beach to be Da Docent,” shouted one of the bruddahs at the other end of the beach.
“I tink you right, bruddah,” I said as I began to walk briskly up the dirt road.
I had gone a couple of hundred yards when a gray Ford Focus came to a screeching halt. Wifey rolls down the window and asks, “Can I give you a ride back to reality?”
“But what about the Honu?” The glare I received told me to get in the car and shut up.
“Aloha Honu. Aloha Punaluu. Mahalo.”

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Census for December 10, 2010
3 Chelonia Mydas basking.
9 Chelonia Mydas Actively feeding in the tide pools.

Back to Docent Headquarters after a night on the couch. My wife can’t seem to understand my new purpose. She said something about me and going off the deep end, but I told her I always stay in the shallow part of the bay when I am doing my turtle recon work. With that she closed the bedroom door with a bang after throwing out a pillow and my fluorescent yellow docent vest.

Interesting Turtle Fact #3: Though adult green sea turtles are herbivores, juveniles will eat jellyfish. One of the most serious threats to juvenile sea turtles is human waste, in particular plastic bags which when discarded in the water resemble jellyfish. These bags when eaten by green sea turtles cause them to suffocate.

I had a great brainstorm last night, as I usually don’t sleep well on the couch. What if I started a fundraising program to help finance an education and protection program for Chelonia Mydas? I could, for a nominal fee, lead guided tours of the Chelonia Mydas habitat at Punaluu Beach. Another stroke of genius!! So as I rode my bike to work, (wifey has taken the car keys from me saying that I am certifiable, deranged, and unsafe to myself and others) I pulled down another unnecessary stop sign in Pahala. When I got to Punaluu I posted the following:

Turtle Tours Donation
$1 Per Person
Preferred Parking $5

I positioned the sign strategically at the entrance from the main parking lot and took up my position. Decked out in my fluorescent yellow vest, binoculars, whistle, field guide and Respect the Honu hat, I looked quite official (if only my wife and kids could see me now). The first visitors began to arrive. The first couple approached…

“Howzit. Welcome to Punaluu Da Kine Honu beach on da whole Southside,” I greeted.
“Oh yeah, hello," was the response as they walked around my sign. I gave a quick toot on my whistle and pointed to the sign. The visitor dug in his pocket and handed over $2 and started to walk on.

“Sir, where are you parked?“ I queried.
“Just there in the lot,” the visitor replied.
I pointed at the sign. He dug in and handed over another fiver. Easy enough.
“Remember to keep your distance from the Honu because there is no refund if I have to ask you to leave for violating the Turtle Personal Space Rule,” I reminded as he walked off in a huff. "Mahalo!"
To make a long story short, after 2 hours I had collected $356, which I deposited in the Docent Petty Cash fund. Following proper procedures, because I would not want to be thought to be dishonest, I then wrote two requisitions, one for Docent Salary ($300) and one for Expenses ($56) . With the $56 I purchased 3 cases of Steinlager, which I gave to Da Boys and we talked story.
Dey was happy to see me dis time.
Dis job is turning out mo bettah dan I tot.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Taking a licking, keeping on ticking

Hawaii. Paradise. Right? Oddly enough, life still happens when in paradise. The first six weeks were a series of butt kickings for me personally, job, health, finances. I was ready to tuck tail and head for California. But, the price one pays for being a gypsy is that tucking your tail and returning home isn't so easy when there really isn't a home to go to. Snort. Where were we going to live if we threw in the towel, the storage unit? So, it became necessary to have an attitude adjustment, a career adjustment, a further downward spiral of our income adjustment, and a major crossing of fingers that my innards behave until my insurance kicks in. It took some doing, but adjustments were made, for the most part, and the innards, touch wood, are behaving.

And here we are, three weeks from our departure, and Hawaii has gotten under our skin. Not our little town, no, not Pahala, though Punaluu Beach has become our beach. Pahala is wayyyy too far off the beaten path even for us, but we are putting out feelers to come back, put down some roots, ship our car, ship our stuff (I have several gnomes in boxes clamoring for release), and make this our headquarters. It's very peaceful over here. Not to mention warm, even when it's not sunny. The swimming is amazing, the sites are awesome, the people are lovely (though there is still that niggling discomfort with cockfights and pit bulls), and the birdsong that greets us each day so good for the soul.

Who knows what the future will really hold, but for now it's fun to dream about calling this place home.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year

Recipe for a Hawaiian New Year’s Eve

Start with multiple families ranging in age from 9 months to 90 years old.
Marinate for an entire day in alcohol, mainly Heineken and Steinlager. Age in the sun.
Add a small fortune of legal and illegal fireworks.
Douse liberally with more alcohol, tequila, and rum.
Mix in firearms.
Combine with souped-up hatchback automobiles.
At the stroke of midnight add a touch of insanity.
Put all ingredients directly outside our bedroom window. And let them bake until fireworks, ammo, and alcohol run out.
Then have owner of house decide to mow his lawn at 7:00 a.m. New Year's Day.

Happy New Year from Pahala.