Your roadside garbage is Annie’s treasure

IMG_20180608_112332585_HDR[1]When Annie and I walk, we have different purposes. I want to exercise, explore and clear my mind of everything happening at my desk. Annie wants to relieve herself and eat, mostly eat. To her, our woodsy roads and trails are a buffet. No doubt she remembers fondly the day she scored half a burrito. Let’s go walking. There might be another one!

Trash abounds, especially on garbage day when stuff gets spilled on its way from the carts to the Thompson’s Sanitary trucks. Some people seem to overestimate the capacity of their carts. On Friday, I watched a crow eating from the garbage overflowing at least a foot above a neighbor’s open cart. Wrappers and scraps lay all over the ground. It’s hard to keep an 80-pound dog from making a party of it.

Bears compound the problem. Not only do they cause Annie to bark into the wee hours, but they dump the trash all over the streets, making it easier for Annie to grab a bite while I drag her away, yelling, “Leave it!” and wondering what she’s chewing on.

Annie 72915I say, “Leave it!” a lot. Up and down the road, we find candy wrappers, McDonald’s leftovers, Starbucks and Dutch Brothers coffee cups, Skoal containers, cigar butts, and cigarette packs, whiskey bottles and beer cans galore. In the endless months when crews had our roads torn up to replace the water pipes, workers ate their lunches beside their trucks and tossed the leftovers into the bushes. Party time for Annie. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, hot damn.

People food is not good for dogs (and other animals). Onions, chocolate, and coffee are all toxic. Meat that doesn’t start out toxic becomes so after sitting around for a few days. Not to mention that we’re both always on a diet, with minimal success. I try to keep her from eating her roadside finds, but sometimes she’s faster than I am. She gets her treat before I even see what it was.

Annie can smell food a block away, no exaggeration. As the one who has gotten dragged halfway down the street so she can plunge her head deep into the salal and salmonberries, I can testify that there’s always something there. It could be a sandwich, a candy bar, or the leavings from fishermen cleaning their fish or hunters gutting their deer. How I wish people would not toss their garbage wherever they are, as if it doesn’t matter.

Mother Nature provides its share of edible attractions, too. Annie loves berries, especially blackberries. She knows which ones are ripe and can suck them off the vine without getting stuck in the thorns. And they’re good for her.

The roads are full of smashed mice, squirrels, snakes and frogs that didn’t make it across the road. Also feces. These, my dogs like to roll in. Inevitably, she does her drop and roll just as someone drives by. I stand embarrassed, chanting, “Get up, get up, get up,” as she rolls on her back, feet in the air, rubbing herself in ecstasy. Then she rises, smiling, weeds sticking out of her collar, and we go on.

This week we may have company on our walks. A neighbor called this morning to warm me that her next door neighbor captured a bear on his outdoor camera while the guy next door to him said the bear walked right through his front yard at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. Annie spent several nights last week barking at what we suspect are bears. Do bears like burritos?

Maybe we’ll trade the trails for the beach today.

Please put your trash in the garbage can. Don’t toss it wherever you are. It could kill my dog.

***

Watch this clever segue: Bears, elk, cougars and other critters are common sights up Beaver Creek Road, the setting for my new novel, Up Beaver Creek, on sale now at Amazon.com. Read it and find how how P.D. and her friends cope with Mother Nature, especially when the tsunami comes.

 

 

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Up Beaver Creek has been published

Up_Beaver_Creek_Cover_for_Kindle (1)My new novel is available now at Amazon.com. It’s not fully fledged yet. My official launch party is not until July 8. But you can buy it now. (I’ll excuse you for a minute if you want to go do that.) No, it’s not in the bookstores yet. Or the library. I don’t have copies to sell you. They’ve been shipped but haven’t arrived. But all that will happen within the next month.

I’ll be honest. I have published this through my own Blue Hydrangea Productions company via Amazon’s CreateSpace. I didn’t want to publish my own books anymore. It’s a lot of work. But the book needed to come out. Plenty of famous authors have self-published (Stephen King, Mark Twain, Margaret Atwood, e.e. cummings). Besides, people need to read about the imaginary tsunami before the real one happens.

Tsunami? Yes, in Up Beaver Creek, the long-awaited tidal wave hits the Oregon coast. Read the book to see what happens and hope your neighbors are as well prepared as P.D.’s are.

This book is fiction. The people are invented, but the setting is real. As everyone living on the Oregon coast knows, the big earthquake and tsunami are coming.

Up Beaver Creek is P.D.’s story. She’ll never tell you what the initials stand for. Nor does she want to be called Cissy, her old nickname before her husband Tom died, before she launched herself at 42 into a new life with a new name, a new look, and a new determination to realize her dream of being a professional musician. Am I writing about myself? No. I’m a widow and a musician, but I am not P.D. I wish I were that bad-ass. I would never do the things that P.D. does.

“P.D.” is a state of mind, a tougher, wiser, upbeat attitude that makes the former Cissy work out at the gym, cuss, and try things she would have been afraid to do before. She will not whine or give up.

For a long time, I called the book “Being P.D.,” but the general reaction was “huh?” So I changed the title.

My book launch party is scheduled for Sunday, July 8 at 2 p.m. at the Newport Public Library. There will be readings, discussion, books to buy, and a big cake. I might even give some books away. So come join us.

I welcome opportunities to read and talk about this book and all of my books. For a full list, visit my book page at suelick.com. We can discuss starting over as a widow, living on your own, what to do and not to do when the tsunami hits, how to get books published, and other topics. If you would like a guest post for your blog, I’m interested.

For information about any of this, email me at suelick.bluehydrangea@gmail.com, click on my web page at suelick.com, or visit my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/suelick. You can also find lots of information at my Amazon author page.

As always, I welcome your comments here.

My Guitar Doesn’t Fit in My Purse

IMG_20180528_110544855_HDR[1]Most women carry a purse. I carry a guitar. I have been playing for more than 50 years, starting with a Blue Chip Stamp Store La Valenciana guitar in a cardboard case, working up to the Martin I play now.

I lugged my first guitar over a mile on foot to Blackford High School and by bus to West Valley College. I have carried the others to work, on trips, and to countless gigs. I have lifted them in and out of my car so many times the edges of my cases and the edges of the car have corresponding scrapes.

Guitars in their cases are big and impossible to hide. Nobody says anything about the computer in my other hand, but everywhere I go, someone has to comment about the guitar. “Hey, are you going to play for us?” “You got a gun in there?” “Do you know how to play that thing?” Men keep wanting to help me carry it. I’m fine on my own, thank you very much. It’s funny how men think women can carry babies and toddlers but not guitars, which don’t weigh as much and rarely drool.

People comment on my case a lot these days. The edges have worn completely off. I have patched them with red and zebra-striped duct tape, which is also wearing off. It looks bad, but a wise friend tells me a guitar in a trashy looking case is less likely to be stolen. I have thought about buying a new case, but this one is still perfect inside, its plush red lining offering a safe home for the guitar.

I have used “gig bags,” those plastic or leather guitar bags you can strap on like a backpack, but I’m a klutz. I keep banging them into things, which is not good for the guitar. Also, the zippers keep breaking. The hard case weighs more than the guitar, but it’s safe in there.

When I’m on the road, I may not open my case for days, but the guitar is always first out and last in. A guitar is like a dog or a baby. You can’t leave it in the car if the weather is warm. Or cold. Extreme temperatures can ruin an acoustic guitar. The wood warps, the glue melts, and the strings pop off. The guitar dies.

Back in March, I traveled to Tucson for a writing workshop. The motel was a disaster. A Mexican guy saw me dragging my guitar upstairs as I changed rooms, leaving the one with the non-functioning toilet. “What are you going to play for us?” he called. I was so tired and so pissed, I said, “Anything you want” as I continued to my corner room with my view of the wall.

On the last day of the workshop, I had to check out of my room early. The weather was too warm to leave my guitar in the car, so I carried it around all day. Everywhere I went, people wanted to know if I was going to play for them. Mostly I said something noncommittal like “maybe.” If I were carrying a book, they wouldn’t demand that I read it in front of them, but with a guitar, they somehow think I should entertain them. You might say that I should share my musical gift. I agree. But if I don’t prepare and practice privately, you’ll wish I hadn’t. Now if you want to jam, with the understanding that we’ll both make lots of mistakes, I’m ready.

Sometimes, I just want to play my guitar in the real sense of the word “play,” to amuse myself, to remember why I love the guitar so much I would carry it for miles while people make comments. Thank God I don’t play the cello.

***

My novel Up Beaver Creek will be available at Amazon.com this Friday! I’ll post more about that in a few days. I can’t wait to share P.D.’s story with you.

Crash brings everything to a sudden halt

IMG_20180520_181911600_HDR[1]You never know when God will holler “Stop!” He did it in spades yesterday afternoon when a head-on collision brought everything to a halt on Highway 101 just before the turnoff to my house in South Beach.

It was a sunny Sunday afternoon, great beach weather, with lots of tourists making local traffic thicker than usual. For me, it was a regular Sunday. I led the choir at church in the morning, had lunch and mowed the front lawn in the middle of the day, and returned to Newport for a Willamette Writers coast branch meeting.

The meeting with writer “Tex” Thompson was great. We left at 4:15, happy and full of ideas. At the meeting, I had drunk a big cup of lemon-ginger tea. Despite my hummingbird bladder, I decided I could wait for the bathroom till I got home. After all, it’s only a 15 minute drive, 12 if all the traffic lights are green. My friend Wiley and I talked about how we might walk our dogs or mow more lawns when we got home. Plenty of daylight left.

Just south of the Yaquina Bridge, traffic came to a halt. Not good. I checked Newslincolncounty.com on my cell phone. The crash was near 98th Street, my exit. Probable fatality. People in a car in a ditch. Life Flight called. We weren’t moving any time soon.

We sat in our cars, trucks and RVs, filling the air with exhaust fumes. We took our vehicles out of gear and eased our feet off the brakes. We turned off our engines, stunned by the silence. Once in a while, we turned our engines back on to move forward a car length as people pulled out of line, turned around and headed back to Newport via the empty northbound lane. Impatience? An appointment? A full bladder like mine? On that section of 101, with one lane in each direction, ocean on one side, hillside on the other, there is no place to go, no possible detour.

Time clicked by. An hour. Two hours. I was so close to home I could have walked if I had somewhere to put my car. I told myself repeatedly that my inconvenience was nothing compared to that of the people involved in the accident. One person was dead, maybe more. The others were badly hurt. Life had changed forever for them while eventually I would get home, eat dinner, and watch American Idol.

Meanwhile, I had time to study the houses, trees, and signs I usually whoosh by at 60 miles an hour. I got glimpses of late-afternoon sun sparkling on the blue ocean. Roadside rhododendrons bloomed in every color. My God, I thought, it’s beautiful here. Not so much for the accident victims. For them, it will always be: This is where it happened.

A few northbound cars trickled by. Police cars and ambulances passed. An “incident response” truck flashed a sign that said “Highway closed one to two hours.”

People got out of their cars to stretch. One guy ahead of me launched a drone. It looked like a white box with legs. It hovered above the car for a while before he brought it back down. Two teenage girls walked back and forth chatting as if this was a parade.

I thought about leaving my car long enough to go knock on somebody’s door and beg to use their bathroom. But what if the line started moving?

It’s illegal in Oregon to do anything with your cell phone in your car, but we weren’t moving, and all the cops were busy. I kept checking my phone for more information. I answered a text. I read a few emails. I took pictures and started making notes for this blog. This was a perfect opportunity to meditate, but I’m not good at sitting still.

When cars are on the highway with no brake lights, they’re usually in motion. Now it was like the video got frozen with a bad Wi-Fi signal.

Last year in California, I waited four hours on the 205 freeway near Tracy while a truck vs. bus collision blocked the road. I hated sitting there surrounded by eighteen-wheelers, with no way out. People died there, too, while I suffered only a full bladder and bollixed schedule.

Everything we count on is so fragile. We all know—in our minds—that if something happens to the bridges that box in our part of the coast, we will be stuck. If an accident, a mudslide, or a gathering of wild elk blocks the road, we’re stuck. I had water, three leftover brownies, blankets and a good book in the car, but I never planned to get stuck between the library and home for hours. Nobody ever plans these things.

I had left the lawnmower out, assuming I’d mow the back lawn. I had left my computer on, figuring I wouldn’t be gone long. I had told my dog I’d be “right back.”

Every time the cars moved forward a little, I felt myself becoming furious at the one guy ahead who didn’t move, which meant I didn’t get to move. It was only a few feet, but I wanted to move those few feet. Move, idiot! I was losing my sense of humor.

Finally movement. 82nd Street. The airport. Cones, flaggers, a tow truck and a smashed car, a pile of what looked like clothes on the pavement, 95th Street, oh my God, 98th. I got in the left-turn lane and contemplated the solid line of northbound cars blocking my way. A man in a red car got out of line to make room for me to turn. And then there was my street, wide open, my neighbor’s house, my neighbor’s dog, my house, my dog. 6:40 p.m. Praise God and hurry to the bathroom.

Oregon state police reported  the following:

Preliminary investigation revealed that a blue 2007 Toyota Corolla, driven by Shane Larson, age 44, of Tillamook, and also occupied by Tyann Walker, age 32, from Beaver, was traveling northbound when the vehicle crossed into the southbound lane of travel on a relatively straight section of the highway.  The vehicle struck a southbound silver 2014 Buick Verano head on.  The Buick Verano was driven by Sean Compton, age 50, from Springfield.  Following the initial collision, the Toyota Corolla traveled over an embankment west of the roadway and rolled onto its top.  The Buick Verano spun across the northbound lane and came to rest with the rear of the vehicle against the guardrail facing west.  

Larson and Compton were transported by ambulance to Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital in Newport.  Larson was later transported by Life Flight helicopter to Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis due to the extent of his injuries. 

Walker suffered fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased at the scene.        

Please pray for all involved in this horrible end to a day at the beach. Be careful out there, never assume things will go as planned, be grateful when they do, and don’t drink anything and drive.

 

 

If You Give Us the Tools, We Can Do It

43947533 - red tool drawerKitchens are for girls, garages are for boys. Girls sew, boys saw. That’s the way it was when I grew up. While I was in the home economics class learning how to poach eggs and set a proper table, the boys were in the classroom next door learning how to take apart an engine and make small wooden shelves. While Mom helped me with my knitting, Dad showed my brother how to change the oil on the Buick.

That’s the way it was back in the ’50s and ’60s when I was growing up. Girls needn’t worry their pretty little heads about so-called men’s work. The man of the house would do it.

Bull pucky. What if there is no man? Or what if a woman wants to do it herself? All she needs is the skills. God, I wish there was a shop class I could take now.

Last week, I installed a new toilet seat. I took apart my sink to unclog it. My pellet stove requires constant attention. With my husband gone, no kids, and no money to pay someone, who else is going to do these things?

It has been a week for mechanical difficulties. On Wednesday, seven days after I came home from my trip to San Jose, I realized my “landline” phone had not rung in ages. I don’t get a lot of calls, but this seemed strange. I tried calling myself with the cell phone. My phone started to ring then cut off. Being me, I did this about seven times before I decided I had to call the phone company.

Yesterday, a nice man spent two hours here checking all my phones and wires. He had to get at all five phone jacks, which meant moving my dresser, crawling under my desk, and getting right in the middle of my mess, while I watched, helpless and embarrassed. I could have done most of what he did.

In the end, he fixed a short in the wires and determined that two of my five phones were dead. I sang “Taps” and put them out for the garbage, then pulled ancient “princess” phones out of a drawer and watched him plug them in. I put “buy phones” on my to-do list. Why does one person have five phones? Part of it is that with my fading hearing I can’t hear the phone ring if I’m not nearby. Part of it is just that once upon a time there were more people here.

The phone guy was observant. He asked about my guitars. He commented on the giant Styrofoam image of Fred from his retirement party. He talked about his own retirement plans. I kept talking about “we.” “We” had two businesses, “we” moved the phone jacks. I never mentioned that “we” is just me now. He might have figured it out from the shrine in the bedroom.

After he left, I set out to work on the lawnmower. Last Friday it worked fine while I mowed the front lawn. Since then, it huffs and it puffs, but it won’t start. I tried adding gas, checked the oil, turned it upside down and shook it, unscrewed the top and stared inside, and watched a video on YouTube. Okay,  the problem could be fuel, compression or spark plug. I decided the spark plug was the culprit. Apparently you’re supposed to change them once in a while. Timidly, I pulled off the rubber do-hickey and exposed the white end of the spark plug. Now, how does a body get that thing out of there? And what is this business about “gapping?”

Too much. I walked across the street to ask my neighbor. He wasn’t home, but the dog was overjoyed to see me. Unfortunately, the dog does not have hands.

Hey, YouTube.

A YouTube guy with a long beard and southern accent described the process. You get your 3/8 ratchet and your 13/16 socket and pull out the plug and . . .

Wait. What?

Somewhere in the garage were sockets and ratchets. I opened drawers till I found them lined up in their little boxes like my crochet hooks in different sizes. But which one is for spark plugs?

Later. It was almost time to start making dinner. It was going to rain soon. I still had a section of jungle I needed to weed-whack. I pulled out the weed trimmer. It hummed, but it didn’t cut. I checked the string. How different is it from thread in a bobbin? Not very. I straightened that sucker out, pushed the switch, and shouted in jubilation as the weed parts flew. No wonder guys like power tools. I cut and cut, even when the rain started pelting my hair and darkening Fred’s old green shirt. I finished the job and went in to make dinner.

I pulled a package of rolls out of the freezer. The bag broke. Bread and sesame seeds littered the floor. Seriously? My language scared the dog.

Yesterday, I conquered the weed-whacker. Today I will conquer the spark plug. If I can change a guitar string, I can do this.

Men, share your tools with your wives and daughters. We’ll show you how to bake a cake and run the vacuum cleaner. Women, go out to the garage and refuse to leave until the guys show you how to do what they do. Don’t just bring them a beer and go back to the kitchen. You need to know this stuff.

I welcome your comments.

Photo copyright: peeranat / 123RF Stock Photo

***

My new novel Up Beaver Creek is coming soon. The interior pages are complete, and the cover is in progress. It will be available next month. Meanwhile, check out my Amazon page for other books you might want to read. I’ll be outside working on the lawnmower.

Look up from that screen; it’s amazing

I stood at the threshold of Gate B1 at the Portland airport and looked down the line of passengers. Every single one was staring at a cell phone. Around the room, people stared at phones, tablets or laptop computers. As I joined the row, I itched to look at my own “electronic devices,” but I pulled out my notebook and my pen instead.

I had over an hour to kill. Flying these days is a matter of hurry up and wait. Having made it through security, I was now free to eat, drink, and stare at my phone. Or surreptitiously watch other passengers.

Across the room in a square of sunlight by the window, a little girl about 5 sat on the floor with her mother. I assume it was her mother. What happened later made me wonder.

The girl stared at a tablet while the mom combed her long blonde hair. I could hear a cartoon voice coming from the machine. Look up, I thought. Look around. Each stroke of the mother’s comb seemed like a devotion. Outside, planes warmed up on the tarmac. The Portland sky was a mass of clouds forever changing shape. Soon we would be flying above those clouds. Look up, little girl.

At least the mother wasn’t staring at a screen. As I watched, she divided her daughter’s hair into sections and braided it into a long thin braid that hung nearly to the girl’s waist.

I looked down at my notebook for a minute. When I looked up, the mother had put the comb away and was staring at her phone. Mother and daughter sat in perfect parallel, both cross-legged on the floor, all attention on the devices in their hands.

No! I don’t have children or grandchildren, but I imagine if I were the grandmother, I’d be arguing with my daughter about taking away the screens. My daughter would probably respond, “Oh Mom, she’s fine.”

Maybe it’s not so bad. After all, I grew up always staring at a book. I still don’t go anywhere without something to read. Maybe it’s just a different form of distraction. Sometimes reality is just too hard. But I worry about what all these screens are doing to our minds.

Just before we were called to board, the mother and daughter got up, approached the gate, and talked to the attendant. To my surprise, the girl ran toward the jetway onto the plane by herself. The mother gathered her things and walked away. The child was going to fly alone. Off to see her divorced dad? Visiting the grandparents? My youngest stepson traveled on his own between parents when he was young. It’s a sad thing. The flight attendants take good care of the unaccompanied children, but he was always sick with stress when he arrived.

At the end of the trip, as I got off the plane, I saw the girl again. The plane-cleaning staff were already at work as she waited for her escort off the plane. She looked so alone in her pink leggings, white top, and braid coming undone in front.

Four days later, at Gate 29 in San Jose, I waited with people of all nationalities and races. Plenty stared at their phones, but this time I noticed the man across from me was reading a book while his wife typed on her laptop. Two teens nearby carried fat paperback books. Two Asian boys huddled over what I assumed was a phone or tablet. But no, it was a Rubik’s cube.

Here and there among the gates, I saw tables and play areas set up for kids with books, games, and coloring supplies. That gave me hope. Kids get bored and cranky. Hell, I get bored and cranky. But let’s all look up. There’s so much to see.

***

My dad turned 96 on Tuesday. I had to be there. It was a quick trip boxed in by my church job obligations. My father and I sat in the sun watching the squirrels and robins. We talked and talked, and we ate so much cake—five times in three days. We also ate tamales, raviolis, and Yankee pot roast. Hand me my stretchy pants and my stomach pills. I felt my heart rip open as I climbed into the taxi to go back to the airport, leaving Dad watching from the door. But it was worth it for the time we had together.

I realize if you’re reading this, you’re looking at an electronic device. When you finish, put that device down. Look around. If there’s someone else nearby, give them a hug. Who knows when you’ll get another chance?

Fred Lick, RIP Seven Years Ago Today

We lost Fred A. Lick, seven years ago today. 5:15 a.m. Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. He was my husband, father to Michael, Ted and Gretchen, friend to all he met. Smart, funny, optimistic, and musical, he changed my life in so many wonderful ways. His death is hitting me especially hard this year. But we were all blessed to have him in our lives for as long as we did. Let’s remember him today. We miss you, Fred.

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