Crunch! Car Crash Changes Plans

IMG_20150828_153133529[2]I was expecting to write a very different post today, but . . . life happened.

I was all dressed up and heading to Corvallis for a Timberline Review literary magazine event. Traffic on the coast was terrible. I just wanted to get out of Newport, which was flooded with tourists. I was on Highway 20, but still in town, when my phone rang. I know. I should have ignored it. But it was my dad, and I was afraid something was wrong, so I made a sudden turn into a parking lot to answer the phone. At least that was my intention. Bang, crash! I lost control of the car, hit something on my left and was headed for a fence. I did not know until the other car pulled in beside mine that my car had been hit from the rear. The driver was local, uninsured, and in tears. Her tiny black dog was hysterical.

The front of the passenger side of her car was smashed, the headlight in pieces, wires and such dangling, radiator leaking. My back bumper was damaged. But where did the piece of car lying on the pavement come from? Big piece. It took me a while to figure out it came from the front, where the real damage was, where I ran into a metal post.

People came running out of the nearby candle shop. Someone swept up a big pile of glass and car parts from the street. We were both shaken but apparently not hurt. Our air bags did not deploy (the recalled ones I didn’t have replaced yet). A fire truck came, followed by a police officer, crew-cut, shades and all. He filled out a report. I told him I turned abruptly. I was willing to take all the blame, but the officer insisted that the law says that if the other driver hit me from behind, she was following too closely, so she would be cited and I was in the clear.

My Honda Element is drivable, but it needs repairs. The estimate is $3,000, with possibly more showing up when they take things apart. I have Cadillac insurance. State Farm will pay for repairs and a rental car, and I will be okay (although my bumper stickers are toast.) The other car, an older Honda Accord, was towed to the same place I took my car. The woman doing my estimate looked out the window and said, “Oh, that’s totaled.” It’s not fair. It’s not right. I’m sure the other driver needs her car as much as I need mine, and I doubt that she can afford a new one.

My phone has a new name: “that f-ing phone.”

It’s a knee jerk reaction for me. Phone rings, I grab it, I look away from the road to see who’s calling, and if it’s family, I answer it. Not anymore. I’m turning the phone off when I drive so I won’t even know if anyone calls.

It happened so quickly. I sometimes think about what I would do if I were about to get in an accident, how I would try to protect my face or my hands. But there was no time for a thought or a word. I just knew I was hitting things and had to get away from the fence that was coming right at me. Since then, I keep hearing the crunches and seeing that fence over and over in my mind. Driving scares me now.

When I was done with cops, insurance and repair people, I called my father. He gave me a good tongue-lashing. I deserved it. “Let the damned phone ring,” he said. “Call back later.” It turned out he was fine, just calling to see how my medical tests had turned out. I get those results this afternoon. Fingers crossed.

Today I am aware of how blessed I am, so blessed I feel guilty. I’m not rich, but I have enough. I can afford a nice car and good insurance. My body still works as well as it did before the accident. I can still write, play and sing my music, walk the dog, and go to lunch with my friends. Not everyone is so lucky.

Dear friends, turn off the phone. It’s not just texting, it’s telephone calls, email, checking the weather, fiddling with the GPS and all the other features on our Smart Phones. It’s hard to resist their allure, and you cannot safely use the phone and drive at the same time. When I slowed to turn off, I didn’t even know there was anyone behind me. I didn’t look. My attention was completely on the phone. Smart phones are smart, but sometimes we people who use them are idiots. A phone call can always wait. Always. Minus the phone, I would have spent my evening eating hors d’oeuvres and listening to poetry. Instead I was filling out a report for the DMV. It’s not worth it.

Next week, I promise, even if the house burns down, God forbid, I will offer a blog full of happiness and beauty. Or dog pictures, which are the same thing.

Leave me a message at the beep.

I Should Have Listened to My Mom

When you visit the doctor’s office complaining of chest pains and pressure, people tend to panic. Even when you tell them you’re pretty sure it’s gas. Driving to Portland, stuck in traffic, thinking I should have gone to the ER because it hurt pretty bad, I sent up a prayer for God to tell me what to do. He sent me a giant burp. Which made me laugh and say, “Thank you!” But doctors still think, HEART ATTACK. And I kept thinking of how Rosie O’Donnell described her own heart attack and how women experience heart attacks differently from men.

But I was on my way to a conference in Portland, middle lane of I-5, cars not moving. I was going to teach a class, pitch to agents, represent the Timberline Review, attend workshops and network, network, network. Meanwhile people from my church kept dying, and I would be playing music for a funeral the day I got home. I had received a scary recall notice for the car in which I was sitting. I had nonstop music activities, Writers on the Edge president duties, and a troublesome situation with a certain someone in my life. Plus I had to leave my dog behind. A little stress?

I don’t do well with stress. Neither did my mother. As I took my troubles to Google that night in my hotel room, I suddenly remembered the night she went to the hospital with similar pains. Forever after, whenever my brother and I misbehaved, my father would scold us with the words that our mother was sick because of us. Dad never beat us, but he sure could pour on the guilt.

Anyway, Mom’s pains were exactly where mine finally settled, top of the stomach just below the ribs. There’s this valve there, the pyloric sphincter, that was the source of her troubles.  When I read the name, I sat back on my cushy bed and thought, “Oh my God. That’s exactly what I have.” Yes, I’m a little bit of a hypochondriac, but I think this will turn out to be the diagnosis. It’s a chronic pain at the entrance to the stomach that happens when it doesn’t open and shut properly. Like mother, like daughter.

When we’d start to get upset, Mom used to say, “Don’t get your bowels in an uproar.” She wasn’t kidding.

So I showed up at the doctor’s office a week after the original pains had settled below my ribs. She went into hyper-drive, ordering an EKG (normal), chest X-ray (normal), blood and urine tests (normal), and an ultrasound (not till Thursday). She put me on Prilosec, one pill every morning, and took me off foods like spices, tomato sauce and—say it ain’t so!—chocolate. A week later, I’m feeling better. I’m probably going to live.

Meanwhile, Annie had to go to the vet. She had a fungal infection in her girl parts. For the last 10 days, I’ve been hiding antibiotic pills in her food and massaging said parts with cream. Fun! She feels better, too. Or at least she has stopped licking down there. Now I think she has fleas.

After the conference, I rewrote my entire novel in two weeks and sent it to two agents who were interested. Cross your fingers. I have a pile of Timberline Review submissions to read, another pile of authors to consider for the Nye Beach Writers Series, songs to prepare for church and for the kids in religious education, another book to finish writing, and a dog that wants to walk at precisely 3 p.m.

Stress? What stress? I saw my shrink on Wednesday. She upped my meds and had me do breathing exercises. In, out, in, out.

Too much information? I know. I was going to write about the fires destroying huge swaths of the western U.S., including big chunks of Eastern Oregon. The smoke has made its way to the Willamette Valley and points west. Terrifying. None of my troubles compare to this. Please pray for rain.

And if you have chest pains, don’t wait a week to go to the doctor, even if you have a busy schedule. It might be gas, but it might not. I was lucky.

County Fair: Where Else Can You Eat Elephant Ears?

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Not every fair has a tomato tasting table.

I grew up going to the Santa Clara County Fair in San Jose. Even got one of my first jobs there. That fair was HUGE. You could walk all day and not get to the end of it. Top-name acts played in the bandstand, giant halls were filled with needlework, baked goods, and people selling things like kitchen knives and Magic Fingers massage chairs. The food, the rides, the horses, the tractors, it went on and on. There were fireworks every night of the fair. It was also hot, smelly, expensive and crowded but that’s the county fair. You eat junk food, drink beer, dance to the music, play the games and pet the goats.

The fair here in Lincoln County is a little different. Billed this year as the all-new fair, it wasn’t much different from before, except that admission was free. Still no place to park, same booths selling corn dogs and elephant ears–big floppy sheets of sugared pastry, same old tacky rides, same goats and chickens, same guy playing guitar on the main stage to a sea of empty chairs. The big featured act was a couple who impersonate Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. But as they used to say in San Jose, Fair Time is Fun Time. I’ll let my pictures say the rest.

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You’ve got to have a guy selling kitchen tools.
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A new feature this year allowed kids to put on firefighter clothes and operate the big hoses.
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Writer Candace Brown, a longtime long-distance friend, came down from Washington to represent the truck and tractor magazines she writes for.

Taking a Vacation Day in Paradise

IMG_20150729_131430517[1]I live in a vacation paradise. People travel thousands of miles to visit the Oregon coast. And with good reason. It’s gorgeous here. We’ve got forests, beaches, parks, fine restaurants, lighthouses, the aquarium, fresh air, moderate temperatures, and more. But those of us who live here frequently find that we rarely pay attention to all of that. We’re too busy taking care of business at home and at work. Beach? Oh yeah, that’s nice. Maybe tomorrow.

But some days are just too fine to sit in an office staring at a computer. Plus a girl just gets tired, you know? So one day last week, I joined the tourist parade and took a vacation day. Leaving Annie sleeping at home, I got in the car and drove south, turning where the muse led me. You might want to try this trip yourself someday.

Heading south on 101 from South Beach, I turned east on Beaver Creek Road, across from Ona Beach. When I came to the fork with South Beaver Creek, I turned right. Many of the scenes in my not-yet-published novel Being PD take place in this area, and I found myself reliving some of those scenes as I drove through miles of estuaries, pastures, forests and farms. The road was smooth and curvy, the scenery beautiful, and the traffic non-existent. I had heard this road led to Waldport, but I had never tried it for fear of getting lost. No problem. Ultimately I came to a T intersection at Bayview Road and turned right. This road ran along the north side of Alsea Bay. Ultimately it came out at Highway 101.

Over the bridge and through Waldport, I came to Gov. Patterson state park and joined the tourists at the beach. I spread out my blanket, sat on the sand in the sun and wrote in my journal, looking up to watch people passing with their dogs and kids, the waves breaking white and full, the sand dotted with driftwood forts. And the woman walking along talking on her cell phone all the way to the end of the beach and back. Luckily, I had forgotten to charge my phone so it was turned off.

When I got hungry, I drove south to Yachats, a tiny town with a lot of great restaurants. Bypassing the Drift Inn, Leroy’s Blue Whale and the Green Salmon, I decided to try Ona. It’s a little expensive, a little pretentious, but the view of the Yachats River and the food are worth it. My crabcake sandwich with curry sauce was delicious. Unlike at my usual hangouts, I didn’t see a single person I knew. Everyone was visiting from somewhere else. Why not me?

After lunch, I drove around the corner to park beside a car just like mine—silver Honda Element—and take pictures. What a place. It’s got to be a sin to ignore it. When the owners of the other Element came up the path from eating their lunch on a bench overlooking the surf and saw our cars together, they did a double take. We compared years and features and shared our mutual love of the vehicles some folks call “toasters.”

Time to return to reality, but first I stopped in Waldport at Well-Road Books, a well-stocked used book store with bountiful shelves and soft music playing. One book after another called to me. I came out with a stack of novels I can’t wait to read.

This morning, looking out at blue skies and everything in bloom, it’s hard to believe it will be gray, raining and windy in a few months. Now is the time to enjoy this place. Isn’t this why we moved here?

Unleashed 19 Years and Counting

Nineteen years ago, Fred and I moved from San Jose, California to the Oregon Coast. Literally driving off into the sunset, we caravaned north with a rented truck carrying most of our possessions and a Honda Accord carrying me, the dog and my instruments. We had some problems along the way. You can read about it in Shoes Full of Sand. (Only $2.99 for the Kindle version.)

I have been here almost a third of my life. When we arrived, I was only 44, had all black hair and no arthritis. Fred was a youthful 59, and our dog Sadie was only a year old, full of energy.

So much has changed over the years. Fred and Sadie are gone. It’s just me and a dog named Annie, who is already 7 ½ years old. Both of Fred’s parents and my mother have died. So have both my uncles and all of the older generation of my family, except my father, who by some miracle is still going on his own in San Jose at age 93. My brother, who started as a recreation leader the kids called Mr. Mike, became a lawyer and then a judge in Mariposa County Superior Court. His kids are adults now.

I have often thought about going back to California. If I were on my own that first winter, I would have. The rain and wind never stopped. I was cold, miserable and homesick. But Fred loved it here, and we stayed. Now, in this unusually dry summer, I crave the rain. When the temperature gets over 65 degrees, it’s too hot for me. But when it’s in the low 60s, I lie out on the deck and soak in the sun. Come December, the days will be short and sunshine will be only a memory.

Much has happened since we sold our house in San Jose and moved to Oregon. In the U.S., we’ve gone from President Clinton to Bush to Obama. The attacks on 9/11 made terrorism a household word and led to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as undeclared conflicts in other parts of the Middle East. We started a new century. The Internet took over our lives. We got e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. We bought Kindles, Smart phones and iPads. TV screens became flat and wall-sized. Gluten-free became a thing. Saying “a thing” became a thing.

Back in San Jose, the population zoomed to over a million people, crime soared, and traffic became an impenetrable wall. The house where I grew up, a three bedroom, one-bath house with no dishwasher, no central heating and no WiFi, is valued at more than $700,000. Studio apartments there cost more than my mortgage here. Santa Clara Valley became “Silicon Valley.” It’s too crowded, and more people keep coming.

I have kept busy over the years: Five books, an MFA, transitioning from writing articles for newspapers and magazines to writing essays, poems and blogs, something no one had dreamed of in 1996. A job playing, singing and leading church choirs. More new friends than I can count, friends who feel like family. I co-founded the coast branch of Willamette Writers and am now president of Writers on the Edge.

Did it turn out the way we planned? Not all of it. I wanted to write, play music and walk on the beach. We wanted to live in a small town with no crowds where people get to know each other. We got all that. I am blessed. But I never expected to do it alone. With Fred gone, maybe I should have gone home. But to what? To who? The Oregon coast is my home now.

What will happen in the next 19 years? I don’t know. I don’t think I want to know. Today the trees are standing tall, there’s blue in the sky, I have a meat loaf sandwich waiting for lunch, and Annie’s asleep on the couch. Later today, I’m going to jam with other musicians, and later still, I’ll watch the finale of the Bachelorette. Will she choose Nick or Shawn?

What were you doing 19 years ago? Where did you live? What has changed for you since then? Please share in the comments.

Would you cross America by covered wagon today?

Longtime journalist Rinker Buck, suffering from a late-middle age slump, got a wild idea. He would travel the Oregon trail the way the pioneers did in the 1800s.


Longtime journalist Rinker Buck, suffering from a late-middle age slump, got a wild idea. He would travel The Oregon Trail the way the pioneers did in the 1800s. He would outfit an authentic covered wagon, hitch up a team of mules and traverse the country, starting at St. Joseph Missouri, traveling through Nebraska, Wyoming and Idaho and ending in Oregon. This being the 21st century, he would have to figure out how to deal with the freeways, shopping centers and homes that had been built over the old wagon ruts, but he was determined to do it. The result is Buck’s new book, The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey, published this year by Simon and Schuster.

Rinker Buck had planned to go alone, but when he asked his brother Nick for help getting ready, Nick insisted on going, too, and bringing his little dog Olive Oyl.” Both men were dogged by demons from their past and sought the “Oregon Trail Cure.” The result is a tale that’s a blend of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail and Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. It’s funny, poignant and suspenseful. The Bucks have their share of mishaps, along with a big dollop of luck, and I find myself riding with them all the way, falling in love with the men, the mules and Olive Oyl.

Of course in modern times when a covered wagon shows up on the road, people lean out of their minivans to take pictures with their smart phones, but there are still long passages of pastures, mountains and deserts with no one around for miles. Their days on the trail fill the brothers with a joy I can feel right through the pages.

Buck writes in an easy-reading style that carries the reader along. When justified, he lets the f-bombs fly. When they screw up, he says, “I really screwed the poodle this time.“ But he also describes the scenery in lines that sound like poetry. Throughout the book, he includes information about all aspects of the pioneer journey. We learn about mules, wagons, the people who died on the trail, and the entrepreneurs who gathered at the “jumping off” places to sell the travelers all kinds of necessities and junk for the journey. We learn about the Indians and the Mormons and the big role they played on the trail.

They had their share of adventures, but of course the Bucks’ trip in 2011 wasn’t as rugged as it might have been back in 1850. They had planned ahead and had contacts waiting for them. They had transcontinental communication as long as they could charge their cell phones. Trail enthusiasts rushed to help them, feed them and honor them as celebrities. They were unlikely to catch cholera or smallpox. There were no Indians. But there were still long sections with dust, mud, broken wheels, no cell phone reception, no water and nothing but Hormel chili to eat. They could have called it off at any time, but they didn’t.

Most of my ancestors came from Europe. They either came directly to California by boat, took the train across, or traveled up from Mexico with horses and wagons when the Spanish ruled the land. There’s one branch of the family that might have crossed the country by wagon, but I haven’t found any information on that yet. Me, I’d never have made it out of Missouri. As soon as they told me I’d couldn’t take all my stuff and couldn’t have iced tea with my lunch, or maybe not even have lunch, well, I’d be going home. I like my creature comforts.

My husband, our dog Sadie and I did our own migration from California to Oregon, detailed in my book Shoes Full of Sand. We did it in a Ryder Truck. On a freeway. But there were breakdowns, hunger, heat, and desperation. For all three days. And sometimes all we had to eat were donuts. I retrace that trail several times a year in my Honda, and I keep meeting new Oregonians who have followed the same path, perhaps completing the migration that began long ago when their ancestors moved to California. We’re all pioneers in our own way.

Read this book. It’s great.

Ten Ways You Know They’re Tourists

This is the time of year when the Oregon coast is flooded with tourists. Suddenly it takes twice as long to drive through town. We have to wait for tables at our favorite restaurants. They wander the aisles at J.C. Market in groups, carrying beer and tortilla chips. I look out at the people in the pews at church, and see mostly unfamiliar faces.

Among ourselves, we curse the tourists, especially those slowing traffic with their RVs laden with bicycles, kayaks and little perfectly matched cars. But in public, we call them visitors to be polite. After all, most of us were once tourists, too, before we became born-again Oregonians. And we know, in our hearts, that we are just as clueless when we go on vacation.

How can you tell the tourists from the locals?

1) License plates from elsewhere, mostly Washington, Idaho, California, Arizona, New Mexico and British Columbia. But we get people from all the other states, too.

2) They walk around in shorts when it’s 50 degrees out—with an Oregon Coast hoodie they just purchased for $50 at a gift shop because they were freezing. OR they bundle up for the Arctic when it’s 65, which we consider warm.

3) They dawdle on the roads because they’ve never seen an ocean before or don’t know where they’re going. If from California, they drive 10-20 mph over the speed limit, not realizing cops actually do give speeding tickets here.

4) They’re not white, and they’re under 60 years old.

5) They say freeway. We don’t have one. They say mall. We don’t have one of those either.

6) They want to know where Main Street is. It’s Highway 101.

7) They mispronounce Yachats (YA-hots), Yaquina (Ya-QUIN-a), Siletz (Si-LETZ) and Willamette (Wih-LAM-ette).

8) They come in bunches, filling the whole car or the whole booth at the restaurant, and they go ga-ga over clam chowder.

9) They use a GPS when all you need to know is you’ve got the ocean on the west and the hills on the east and can’t get lost. Just follow the numbers north and south or the alphabetic tree names east and west.

10) They go IN the water at the beach.

I know there are more. Feel free to add your own tourist clues in the comments. Although they clog up our traffic, our visitors keep our economy going, so we’re glad they’re here. We like to share our beautiful home. After all, Newport’s slogan is “The friendliest.” Besides, most of the visitors will flee when the rain starts. If we had spent the winter here before selling our house in California, we would have fled, too.

If You Can’t Kill Them, Claim Them as Your Garden

Vines on fenceI spent a lot of the Fourth of July weekend in hand to vine combat with wild berries. I believe in letting wild things grow, but when they attack my house and make it difficult to walk through the yard, I have to attack back. My garden pretty much consists of plants that planted themselves. Invasive plants, the rest of the world calls them, plants that grow wherever they want and keep expanding their territory. Blackberries, thimbleberries, salmonberries, huckleberries. Salal, sword ferns, foxglove, poppies, ivy. And honeysuckle. Just when I learn what those flowers are and start thinking I’m lucky to have them, I discover that they too are invasive plants. Looking more closely, I see that they’re already battling for space with the berries out front.

ThimbleberriesReal gardeners would get in here with a chain saw or a tractor and cut all this stuff out so we could plant something pretty that knows its place in the garden. But why cut out plants that are hardy and attractive just because we don’t think they should be there? Okay, I’m a little angry at the berries that are choking my big hydrangea plant to death. But in most of the yard, I have neither the time nor energy to clear, plant and tend a garden, so why not let Mother Nature take care of it? What gives a human being the right to clear a rectangle in the forest and kill anything that threatens to come in? If you can’t beat ‘em, let ‘em grow, right?

However, just like they’re choking the hydrangea, the berries were also threatening to overwhelm me and my house. They were pushing against the fence and the deck to the point where I had to fight back so that I could walk the path to my gate without thorny branches grabbing my hair and my clothes. I suffered endless thorn pricks to my hands as I cut and cut, trying to take back my one-third acre of land. I cut enough to fill the 96-gallon compost cart and more, yet it’s hard to tell I did anything because there is so much plant life.

Foxglove and berriesBack in California, they’re suffering from the drought. Only the hardiest plants will survive. My father’s planted berry vines have dried into brown strings with a few berries shriveled up like raisins. We’re short on rain here in Oregon, too. Numerous counties have declared drought emergencies. But on the coast, even after a month with no measurable rain, everything is blooming, growing, and threatening to break down the fences.

Salmonberry shootWith my little clippers, my loppers and my yellow wheelbarrow, I fight to protect my space by cutting a little here and there and claiming the rest as my bountiful garden. As for the sore muscles and the bloody cuts where the thorns got me, I consider them badges of honor. I held the enemy off again.

Meanwhile, my dog Annie is already eating blackberries on our hikes. To her, the world is one big smorgasbord. Who’s to say she isn’t smarter than we are?

Look what God grew in my garden

DSCN3955It’s a weed. Yank it out. No, wait!

What is a weed anyway? It’s a plant we didn’t put there, something that grows up on its own, seeded by birds or wind or bulbs hidden underground. Some, like Bermuda grass, are just annoying. And some get out of hand, like our wild berries that take over the garden. But many so-called weeds, especially here in our Oregon coastal forest, are a lot prettier than anything I could plant. Healthier, too, because they’re perfectly adapted to the growing conditions here. I didn’t plant any of the “weeds” pictured here.

The star of the show this year is Foxglove, technically digitalis purpurea. The name gives you a hint that it’s the source of digitalis, used medicinally for heart patients. It turns out to be toxic to animals, so if Annie could reach it or if she showed any interest in eating it, that weed would be gone, but so far, she and I just stare at it.

It started as a clump of leaves next to my deck. Feeling lazy, I decided to let it go a while and see what developed. Then I went away for 11 days. When I returned, wow! It was taller than I am and loaded with pink flowers. Two companion plants had sprouted up nearby. According to Coastal Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest by Elizabeth L. Horn, the Foxglove takes two years to produce flowers. The first year, all you get is leaves while it gears up for its spectacular show.

Botanical.com says the name Fox Glove started as Folk’s Glove and came from the fact that the flowers looked like little finger gloves.

When the flowers fall off, I plan to pull out the Foxgloves near my deck. It’s not a good location, and there are plenty of others growing up along the edges of my property, but for now, I’m enjoying the show.

DSCN3967The Foxglove is not the only flower putting on a show these days. Out front, the poppies are going crazy, the salal is at its peak, and we have honeysuckle, wild roses, daisies and buttercups along the street. The blackberries and thimbleberries have flowers now but will soon bear fruit, and the tops of the salmonberries are already showing some bright yellow berries. Soon my yard will be full of drunken robins.

I love to garden, but God is a lot better at it than I am. This spring, I’m going to go easy on the weeds and see what else develops.

This is why we moved to the Oregon Coast

Yesterday was one of those days when it was easy to remember why we left Silicon Valley for the Oregon Coast. The day had its challenges (rejections, home repairs, computer woes), but it certainly had its consolations. Let me share a quick list:

  •  The weather was spectacular, in the 70s with a sky far brighter than so-called “sky blue.” More like royal blue.
  • A screw fell out of my glasses. Within a half hour, I was able to drive to the optometrist’s office without traffic, get it fixed immediately and have a nice visit with the ladies there. Add a stop at the South Beach post office and a trip through the drive-through window at West Coast Bank and I was still home in less than an hour. That would never happen in San Jose. I’d still be sitting at a stoplight.
  • Annie and I went to the dog park and met a great group of friends with terrific dogs who played until their tongues were hanging out. A dog named Buddy adopted me and rested at my feet. Instead of being jealous, Annie adopted Buddy’s owner. 
  • After a great pasta dinner, I headed out for a meeting of the Oregon Coast chapter of Willamette Writers and saw the most spectacular sunset, with layers of red and yellow and white that had me fumbling for the camera on my phone.
  • At Willamette Writers, which branch I co-founded a few years back, I was asked to tell about my new book, Shoes Full of Sand, and welcomed to sell copies. The guest speaker, Valerie Brooks, remembered me from other WW events. They don’t call Newport “the friendliest” for nothing.
  • Fifteen minutes after the meeting ended, I was home in my hot tub looking at a sky full of stars.  

This is why we moved to Oregon.