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. 

It’s Great Being a Famous Author–or Is It?

This afternoon Annie and were walking on our usual route down 98th Street pondering the deer leg Annie had just pulled out of the weeds when a gray sedan came up from behind us and stopped. Through the open window a woman in a tie-dyed tee shirt called, “By any chance are you Sue Lick?”

“Why, yes, I am.”

It turns out she had just finished reading my book Shoes Full of Sand and she and her husband had decided to explore the areas where I wrote about walking with our old dog Sadie. When she saw me and my yellow dog, she thought that just had to be us. Of course my picture is on the back of the book, so that’s a big hint.

I was flattered that someone would read my book and want to see the areas I described and that they were excited about meeting the author.

After I introduced Annie, she said, “Don’t tell me that Sadie passed away.”

I sighed and said, “Okay, I won’t. But she’d be about 30 years old now.” Actually she wouldn’t be that old, but older than most dogs get.

Well, they were all excited to meet me in person, and I was all excited to have such avid fans–especially fans who are not my friends or relatives, but later I got to thinking. What if people read my book and came to my house? What if they weren’t nice people? There’s a danger in being recognized and having people know where you live and what you do.

There’s another complication in that whatever you say in a book is out of date even before the book is published, unless you’re writing history. A memoir is a slice of life from a particular time. A lot has happened since I wrote Shoes Full of Sand. Sadie and Fred are both gone. Some of the trails we used to hike have become so overgrown you can’t walk there anymore, but there’s a new trail I’d love to show folks. I have published two other books, and I work as a music minister at the church now. And of course now I have Annie.

It’s a real argument for writing fiction, although I’m having trouble with the 1999 novel I’m revising for the Kindle right now because my photographer heroine was still using film, which she developed in a darkroom, and her pictures were in black and white. Suddenly this once-contemporary story is a period piece.

A body can’t keep up these days. But if you see a dark-haired woman with a big yellow dog walking down 98th Street aka Thiel Creek Road, yes, that would be me. We can pretend that nothing has changed.

The Writing Life: Sheer Glamor

 When Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City had her book-release party, the whole city turned out. She had a new dress, new shoes, a new hairdo. People drank champagne and ate caviar. She was the queen of the world for that day.

My booksignings are not quite like that. When Stories Grandma Never Told came out, the book was introduced at the Dia de Portugal celebration at San Jose Historical Museum. We stood in a booth outside, thronged by fans all day. My aunt brought me a malasada—Portuguese donut. I probably brought my own iced tea. I had help from two reps from the publishing house, and we sold dozens of books. That was the best.

For the next signing, at a bookstore in Willow Glen, I attracted about four people, two of whom bought books. At another event in Stockton, I sold one book, to the other author sharing my table.

The first event for my new book, Shoes Full of Sand, was actually better than average. It started out rough. Everything I touched getting ready, I knocked over or spilled. As I walked out the door, juggling a box of books, my purse, and a grocery bag with tea, an apple and a box of granola bars, something dripped on my pants. I attributed it to morning dew from the rosemary bush. But there were more drips when I arrived at the shopping center in Newport.

My feet thundered over the wooden planks of this nautical-themed center with more empty shops than functioning ones. Irish folk music wafted from speakers tucked into the eaves, and the neon bookstore sign said “Open.” Passing a gift shop and a hair salon, I pushed into the bookstore, scanning the window and the nearly bare bulletin board for some sign of my appearance. Nothing.

Inside, a brown card table and a single chair awaited me. “Hi, Sue,” said Bill, the owner, rushing forward to relieve me of my box of books and postcards. “Would you like some book stands?” Yes.

I reached into my cloth grocery bag and felt wetness. My tea had leaked all over, soaking the box of granola bars and the flyer I had brought to hang up for my writing group event. Now I had a wet hand, a wet chair, and was in danger of soaking the wooden floor. I went to Bill’s “back room,” a cubbyhole full of office supplies, coffee, mini fridge and such. A package of white napkins sat on the top shelf. As I reached for one, a dozen fluttered to the floor around me. Sigh. As I picked them up, I noticed a Cheerio sitting amid the dust and dirt. Nice.

I didn’t sit down for a while. It wasn’t as if people were waiting to meet me. It was just me and Bill. The bookstore owner is in his early 70s, grizzled, skinny, missing a lower front tooth, a bit of southern in his accent. He’s a talker. His first wife was Portuguese, so he always wants to talk about that. His father died in February, and he needed to tell the whole gory story. But his stories are good, and it was something to do while I avoided my damp folding chair and waited for my fans to show up.

The bookstore used to occupy a bigger space in the same center. But sales went sour with the advent of the Internet and the crash of the economy, so Bill moved into this much smaller space. As he continued the story of his life, I eased into my folding chair.

People did come, not the people who told me they were coming, but people. The owner of the center’s Champagne Patio restaurant, a Swiss guy named Joseph, not only bought a book but invited me to come by afterward for a free lunch. He sent other people to meet me and buy books. My shrink came and bought a copy of the new book. Another woman bought Freelancing for Newspapers for her boyfriend. Tourists, friends of Bill, and strangers bought books. Eight in all. My ego was pleasantly fluffed.

The hours squeaked by. My stomach grumbled. Down to my last books, I began to worry that I might run out. But I had just enough. Bill and I toted up our sales and he wrote me a check. I did some quick math. I hated to say it, but something was wrong. He refigured and discovered he had given me 40 percent instead of 60 percent. As he wrote a new check, he said, “I can see you’re a hard woman to cheat. My first wife was like that. I don’t know if it’s the Portuguese . . .”

No, it’s math, Bill.

A couple minutes after 2, I left with my box of remaining books, my soggy bag and my overstuffed purse, passed the beauty parlor, now closed, and the gift shop and put my stuff in the car. I had an appointment at 3, so I had to decline the Champagne Patio lunch.

Instead, I stuffed down a Burger King guacamole burger and French fries while being stared at by a young woman playing with a gray cat on a leash.

I think, if I remember correctly, Carrie Bradshaw, went home with a handsome man and had sex while somebody else dealt with books and money. Burger King and soggy granola bars never entered the picture.

What is that green stuff they put in the burger anyway? It can’t be avocado.
 
Copyright 2011 Sue Fagalde Lick
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Barks in the Night

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1:30 a.m. Deep sleep for the first time in a week. Barking. Barking. Barking. As I gradually swim back to consciousness, I realize this is not just making-noise barking. There’s something out in the yard. Fresh from our recent bear sighting, I peel myself off the sheets and hurry barefoot to the door.
I can’t see Annie, but I hear her doing her fiercest I’m-going-to-kill-you bark. Oh, Lord.
It’s dark, clouds obscuring any moon or stars. I can’t see anything, but Annie is under the table at the west end of the deck. Between barks, I hear something else, something growling. “Annie,” I say, “we’re not alone out here.” Bark.
I run back in to get the big flashlight and shine it around. Finally, I see something moving through the deck railing. I grab Annie and drag her into the house, then come back out to take a closer look. A raccoon stares at me, its eyes shining in the flashlight. It appears to be caught between the deck and the chain link fence of the dog pen. These days, weeds and berries have grown so thick that nothing can move in there. If it can’t get out on its own, I don’t know what to do.
I go back in, telling Annie to sleep on the sofa where she dozes most of the time. But no, she wants to share my bed. It’s like having an elephant in the bed, a panting, stinky-breathed, sharp-clawed elephant who wants to lie on top of you with its feet in your face. Pretty soon I kick her out and take another look in the backyard.
My flashlight catches the raccoon hanging off the fence, its feet clinging to the chain link, its head facing downward. Swell. I go back to bed, ordering the dog to sleep on the couch, shutting my door so I can go peacefully back to dreamland. I hear Annie pacing outside my door and decide to ignore her until daylight.
My dreams are a blend of raccoons in the yard and The Bachelorette TV show for which I just watched the three-hour finale. She chose J.P., broke Ben’s heart, walked hand in hand into the sunset.
6:30 a.m. Daylight. Cloudy and still. Annie is waiting at the door. No way am I keeping her in now. We both hurry to where we last saw the raccoon.
It’s gone. Whew. Nothing but weeds in there. Annie sniffs at the fence and deck, then jumps down to the grass and sniffs the whole yard while I go back to bed and try to sleep. No go.I’m awake.
Time for orange juice for me and Kibbles and Bits for the dog. As she does her breakfast dance, I see that she has two shallow scratches on her nose. We didn’t imagine it; the raccoon was here. For both our sakes, I hope it doesn’t come back.
Thank God it wasn’t the bear.

***
More Oregon adventures can be found in Shoes Full of Sand, my new book, available in paperback and ebook form. Click here for details.

Well, La De Da

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A parade, pies and pups filled the streets of Yachats (pop. 749) yesterday for the annual La De Da parade. With temperatures in the high 60s and a sweet breeze, hundreds of people from all over hunkered along the sides of the roads for the annual parade that is like no other.
Instead of precision marching bands, we had the umbrella drill team with actual umbrellas, a little girl in a wagon celebrating her fourth birthday, seniors doing tai chi, a string quintet playing in the back of a pickup, dachshunds wearing hot dog buns, belly dancers, ecologists dressed as trees, fire trucks, tractors and more. Marchers tossed candy and passed out cartoons and real estate ads.
Poodles, labradoodles, spaniels, greyhounds and every other kind of dog marched or panted on the sidelines, dressed, like their owners, in red, white and blue or tie-dye.
Once the parade had made its circuit from the Yachats Commons—a former school that is now city hall, community center, concert venue and everything else—down past the Lion’s Club and around the bend to where the road overlooks the rocks and crashing surf and back, the crowd dispersed to eat barbecue at the fire department or pie at the commons and shop at booths set up all around. Then they went home to rest up for Fourth of July fireworks over the bay at dusk.
My friends and I adjourned to the Salty Dawg Saloon in nearby Waldport: great burgers, sports on the TV, sea shells embedded in the tables, and a giant photo of James Dean in the ladies’ restroom.
This does not happen in Silicon Valley.
***
I hate to advertise, but I must. My new book, Shoes Full of Sand, is out in paperback this week. If you like this blog, you’ll love this book. Click here to read about it.

Help, It’s Not Raining!

 We had some freakishly hot days on the Oregon Coast last week. Saturday got up into the 80s. We figure that was summer. Seriously.

Nobody knows how to handle these days. Bugs come out of nowhere, including crane flies and flying carpenter ants as big as hummingbirds. We don’t know what to wear because we finally have to take off our fleece jackets and our fleece vests and our fleecy Ugg boots, and let a little pale skin come out. We don’t even have any suntan lotion; thank God the Dollar Tree reopened yesterday. Our bodies do this weird thing we can’t identify until someone from somewhere else explains that it’s sweat. And my dog, poor Oregon Coast pup, is dragging around wishing she could take off her fur coat.
I remember well getting into my car in California and burning my hands on the steering wheel, walking into buildings just to feel the air conditioning, and getting a new pair of sandals every year. Around here, nobody has air conditioning. What for? All we can do is open a window. I’m used to lolling on my deck as much as possible, soaking up the sun, not hiding from it. I know it was only in the 80s. The temperature got up over 100 on a regular basis from June through September back in San Jose. Eighty was a nice day. It’s all relative. After 15 years, I’ve acclimated.
Anyway, it’s cloudy today. It dripped a couple drops of rain, and I’m hoping it will rain good and hard because it’s muggy, like Massachusetts in August, and I miss my fleece.
***
On a slightly related note, Friday turned out to be a good day to take photos on the beach. We’re working on the cover for the paperback edition of my new book, Shoes Full of Sand (already available on Kindle, hint, hint) and I decided to take some more pictures. Here’s some of what I came up with. I’m sure people thought I was nuts taking pictures of sand and my own bare feet and my shoes. But hey, it’s Shoes—Full—of—Sand. And they were.