Why I don’t move back to San Jose

Last week in Newport, it was “Dine Out for Samaritan House” day. Once a month, a local restaurant offers a percentage of its proceeds to support the local homeless shelter. That shelter was founded and is maintained by people I know, mostly from my church. Years ago, I even did a story about it for the local newspaper.

This month’s restaurant was Nana’s Irish Pub in Nye Beach. I had a hankering to try bangers and mash, so I invited my friend Pat to join me for dinner after her shift at Samaritan House. When I walked in the door and paused by the bar to scan the crowded tables, I realized half the people in there were people I knew. It soon turned into a party, complete with beer and Irish music in the background. We talked, gossiped about our priest, and compared Irish dishes. I don’t have a Celtic palate—more Mexican and Italian—but my bangers and mash were good and Pat nearly swooned over her bread pudding.

I had already been to Nana’s the previous week for the church ladies’ monthly lunch. Best Reuben sandwich anywhere.

The same thing happens at Georgie’s Beachside Grill every Sunday when friends fill the tables after church. Party time. That simply does not happen back in San Jose. People commune with their phones.

Newport has 10,000 people, fewer than fill the average professional sports stadium. Everywhere I go, I meet people I know, and that makes my life as a childless widow a lot less lonely. For example:

* I go to the hospital for minor surgery. The anesthesiologist is a music friend. The nurse goes to my church. All of my friends have the same doctor.

* When I visit one friend at the local rehab facility, another friend is just down the hall, and I pass yet another just leaving.

* When I shop at Fred Meyer, I meet at least one and more likely a half dozen friends as I peruse the vegetables and stock up on dog food.

* I go to see a play. I know the guy handing out programs and most of the cast members. One is my hair stylist; another is a writer. And I know the performing arts center so well it feels like home. I have been on stage, backstage, in the dressing rooms, and in every section of the seating area. I have sung in the lobby and in both theaters. Unlike the enormous airport-like facilities in big cities, there is no way I can get lost here.

* When Annie and I go hiking, we wave at the drivers of every vehicle that passes us, and they wave back.

* I not only know where everything is at the J.C. Market, I know what the J and C stand for: Jim and Cleo.

* My neighbors have promised to take care of me should the mega-earthquake and tsunami come. I know they will. They have already helped me plenty, feeding Annie when I go away, fixing my gutters, power-washing my house, and sharing halibut and elk from their fishing and hunting trips. My dog Annie and their dog Harley are in love.

Also:

* My mortgage for a four-bedroom house on a massive lot near the beach is a third of what people are paying to rent apartments in San Jose.

* I get paid to play piano and sing solos at church, even though I don’t have a music degree.

* We don’t have black widow spiders, yellow jackets, poisonous snakes, or poison oak.

* I can run four or five different errands in a half hour because everything is close, and there are no crowds. I can even renew my driver’s license in a half hour.

* We complain about the traffic if we have to wait for three cars to pass.

*“Nature” is right outside my door. I don’t have to drive for hours to get to it.

* I am still awed by the beauty I see in every direction. Not concrete and cars, but the ocean, hills, forests, and wildflowers.

Some of my relatives don’t understand why I stay here. Sometimes I do want to go home. I miss my family so bad it hurts, and the rain gets tiresome when it comes day after day. I’m not fond of ice and snow. It gets frustrating when I have to drive for hours to the airport or major stores. What I wouldn’t give for an Olive Garden restaurant. And I’d kill for an electric or gas heating system to replace the pellet stove. But I don’t miss the traffic, the smog, or the crowds in which everyone is anonymous. My father doesn’t even know most of his neighbors. When he goes out, he almost never meets anyone he knows, and no one gives way for an old man with a cane.

We born-again Oregonians don’t want lots more people to move here. With luck, the weather and the lack of jobs will keep out the crowds. Maybe I can claim some rights to Oregon soil. My Fagalde great grandparents settled in Oregon back in the 1800s. If only I could visit them on their ranch and talk to them.

This summer I will have been here 20 years. Fred and I lived together on the Oregon coast longer than we lived together in San Jose, and I have stayed five years since he passed away. Someday I may have to go back to California to help my dad or deal with his house. Maybe I will need the kind of health care I can’t get here. But not today. This is where I live. Like the dead hydrangea I have spent the past week trying to dig out of the ground, I have put down thick roots that would be nearly impossible to cut.

 

P.S. Somebody help me get this stupid plant out of the ground. I have company coming this week, and it looks awful. Anybody got a chain saw?

 

Who needs words when you’ve got a beach?

Recent trips between rainstorms to Otter Rock, north of Newport, and South Beach, south of Newport, yielded some stunning views last week of beaches scoured by the wind and covered with bubbles that blew around like tumbleweeds. Great for walking, meditating and taking pictures.

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All images copyright Sue Fagalde Lick. Republish them without my permission and I will send Annie to eat your computer.

Halloween photo sparks memories

Halloween at TimberwoodA few days ago, Facebook showed me a photo from 2010 of me and my late husband Fred at a Halloween party at the Timberwood Court memory care facility where he lived most of the last two years of his life. He looks disoriented. I look weary, and my glasses are askew. I wore an orange hoodie, the same one I wore this Halloween, and I can see orange and black decorations in the background. I remember bowls of candy,  somebody’s kids in costumes, and “The Monster Mash” playing in the background. The merriment was forced. Most of the residents had no clue what was happening.

After we said goodbye, I drove home through Corvallis. The trees were so brilliant with fall colors that I had to stop and take pictures. I walked the promenade along the Willamette River among kids in costume, couples strolling, and bicyclists speeding by. Mostly I stared at the river. It was always difficult to come out into the world after a visit to Fred, especially on holidays, which he used to enjoy so much. I didn’t know this would be his last Halloween, but I did know Halloweens were not the same anymore.

My mind goes back to 1997. Halloween occurred just a few days after Fred’s father died suddenly of a stroke. Perhaps it was unseemly, but we decided to go ahead with Halloween at Fred’s mother’s house in Newport. Fred’s brother and his wife were there, and we brought our dog Sadie. Mom Lick had a cold and stayed in the back room while we “kids” took turns handing out candy. In that neighborhood behind the Fred Meyer store, folks block off the streets every year and hundreds of trick-or-treaters come seeking candy. That year, they came in such a steady stream that we never really got to close the door. One of us had to hold the dog to keep her from bolting outside while the other tossed mini tootsie rolls in their bags or plastic pumpkins. It was cold and windy, but it was fun. Fred talked to all the kids, praising their costumes. Friends who knew my father-in-law had just died seemed surprised to find us doing the Halloween thing, but Mom insisted. She hung up her spooky stuffed monkeys in the window, set out her pumpkins, and we did Halloween as usual. We continued the tradition for another four years, until she too passed away.

It was a nice change from Halloween here in the woods where it’s so dark and spooky nobody ever comes trick-or-treating. I hang up orange lights, light a candle in a pumpkin and buy candy just in case, but always wind up eating it myself. I just finished last year’s bag of little Hershey bars. Now I have Tootsie Pops. You know what? They still taste great, especially when you get to the chocolate in the middle.

Our weather usually changes to winter in October. This Halloween, just before dark, it started raining like a hurricane, coming down so hard it looked like the ocean was coming to get us. I imagined the scene at many homes where the kids were set on going out and the parents were just as set on staying dry. Downtown was set up for the usual Deco District festivities where merchants hand out candy, but I didn’t see a single kid there. In Mom’s old neighborhood, over a hundred souls braved the storm. You’ve got to be tough growing up on the Oregon coast.

Growing up in San Jose, my brother and I did the typical Halloween thing. I remember smelly plastic masks, scratchy store-bought costumes and embarrassing homemade ones. I remember going door to door with our Halloween bags while Mom or Dad watched from the sidewalk, making sure we said “thank you” at every stop. As we collected Three Musketeers bars, Life-Savers, suckers, candy corn and other wonders, we never worried about the weather or had to cover our costumes with raincoats, gloves and hats. We also never worried about running into bears or cougars in the dark. Different worlds.

This Halloween, I sang at the 5:30 Mass, ate a late dinner and watched three episodes of “Gilmore Girls” on DVD. In the glow of my orange Halloween lights, Annie snored in the big chair and I contentedly sucked on a chocolate Tootsie Pop.

I hope your Halloween was good. Now it’s time to brace ourselves. It’s standard time, and winter is here. Will it be a trick or a treat? Wait and see.

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.

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.

Surf and turf poetry wave slams Nye Beach

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Scott Rosin takes us into the swells with his surfing poems

The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco,” Mark Twain said. Apparently he hadn’t been to Newport, Oregon in June. Waiting for the delayed start of the “Surf and Turf Poetry Slam” yesterday in the tree-shaded patio outside the Café Mundo restaurant, one after another of us ran to the car or home to get a coat. It was just after noon in late June, but it was overcast and cold. When I called California to wish my dad a happy Father’s Day, he said it was cooler there, too—down to the low 90s. Oh, brrr.

But being Oregonians, most of us wrapped up and stuck it out.

Only in Newport, specifically in the Nye Beach neighborhood, would you have a weekend of surf and turf poetry and art. In this case, Surf and Turf does not refer to dinner but to surfing and skateboarding. It was the brainstorm of Tom Webb, director of the Newport Visual Arts Center where we hold the Nye Beach Writers’ Series. Relatively new to the area, he thought: beach=surfing. He added skateboarding to the mix. Apparently, in addition to Father’s Day and summer solstice, June 21 was Surfing Day and Go Skateboarding Day in some alternate universe. So, the featured exhibit in the main gallery was Surf and Turf, presenting painted and decorated boards of all sorts along with sculptures and paintings about surfing ocean or concrete.

Upstairs on Saturday night, we welcomed two old favorites to Nye Beach Writers, Matt Love, author/publisher of countless books, and wildman poet Andrew Rodman. The room was packed, the readings drew smiles, laughter and applause, and fans swarmed the book sales table. I emceed the open mic, and the list was full. Poems, stories, locals and visitors, reading off phones, tablets and sheets of paper that shook with their nerves.

On Sunday, as if some people just can’t get enough, the party moved to Cafe Mundo at 2nd and Coast streets. I had had two hours sleep. My head was buzzing so fast after Saturday’s festivities that I couldn’t go to sleep despite a 6 a.m. wakeup call to go play piano and lead the choirs at church. With a visiting priest from Tanzania. Thick accent. Long sermon. God bless caffeine.

I reported to Mundo in my church clothes, climbed the steep stairs to get lunch and ran into three friends from my weekly music jam in Waldport—hammered dulcimer, pennywhistle, ukulele. They invited me to join them. Everybody knows everybody in this town. Later they joined me for the poetry.

Café Mundo restaurant used to be outside, which would be warm enough maybe 10 days out of the year. So they built a place that looks like a treehouse. You walk in, there’s a stage to the right, a counter straight ahead and stairs to the left that lead to the dining room proper. The room circles around a big opening so you can sIMG_20150621_141447397_HDRee the festivities downstairs.

Service is a little spacy, so it’s not a place to be in a hurry. The food, which leans toward healthy and natural ingredients, comes up from the bottom floor via dumbwaiter. It is unlike any other restaurant’s grub, at least in our area. My friends ordered eggs, bacon and toast, pretty normal, but their eggs were cooked with pesto and feta cheese, and their slabs of bacon were huge. You could roof a house with them. The toast carried on the Paul Bunyan theme. I ordered the “Cheeses of the World” sandwich, three kinds of cheese with tomatoes on the same mega bread, served with gardenIMG_20150621_141458071_HDR salad with a fruity poppy seed dressing.

Downstairs, the poets gathered. The event was supposed to start at 1:00, but it was more like 1:30. Coastal time. We bought raffle tickets. I won a tee shirt with surfboards on it—wearing it now. Perfect under fleece or over thermal underwear. The poets and their fans gathered. We huddled on polished stone perches, patio chairs, and weathered benches as Scott Rosin, Andrew Rodman, Mike Kloeck, Catherine Rickbone   and others proclaimed poetry on the outdoor stage, a giant fishing net and shark in the background. I could hear them several blocks away as I finally gave in to cold and weariness and headed for the car. People reciting poetry outdoors on a Sunday afternoon a block from the beach? It’s so Newport—and one of the reasons we moved here. You won’t find this in San Jose.

This is my kind of tea party

IMG_20150131_150700963[1]An ocean of hot tea, plates of itty-bitty sandwiches, sugar cookies shaped like teapots, and sorbet eaten with doll-sized spoons, plus books–what’s not to like? Saturday I was one of the guest authors at the annual Samaritan House tea in Newport Oregon. The tea raises funds to support our local homeless shelter. The ladies who organize it go all out, and it shows. The tables and walls were decorated with books and antique tea cups. The programs, thick with ribbons and more teacup images, included recipes and bookmarks to use on our next reading adventures. The beautifully crafted treats included cucumber sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, orange lavender polenta cakes, black olive and rainbow chard bars, and little teapot figures created with green grapes and frosting.

IMG_20150131_152111126[1]Held at First Presbyterian Church, the tea sells out early every year. Middle-aged and old ladies and young moms bringing their little girls jam the fellowship hall. They doll up in flouncy dresses and big hats decorated with feathers, flowers, and lace. It’s a scene right out of Great Gatsby–if it was cast with our friends and neighbors. The atmosphere is loud, giddy with too much sugar and caffeine, and generous. In addition to the tickets, the tea-goers bid on a silent auction, buy the books and teacups decorating their tables, and donate cash to the cause.

The theme varies. This year as part of “Tea and Tomes,” six authors were invited to display and sell their books and give brief talks about their work. We shared a table and swapped stories from our publishing adventures. It was fun getting to know each other and showing off our books. Besides me, the authors included: M.C. Arvanitis, author of middle grade and young adult fiction; Patsy Brookshire, author of the novels Threads and Scandal at the Willamina Quilt Show; Deborah Lincoln, author of the historical novel Agnes Canon’s War; Deborah H. Trusty, author of The Kid from Valsetz, a biography of former Newport city manager Don Davis; and Karleene Morrow, who wrote a novel titled Destiny and How to Write a Novel. Morrow passed away recently, but her friends brought her books and told her story.

Many of the people at the tea knew me only as the girl behind the piano at  Sacred Heart Church, which was where I had to go right after the tea, to play for the 5:30 Mass. They were surprised to see how many books I have published. I had five at the table, Childless by Marriage, Shoes Full of Sand, Stories Grandma Never Told, Azorean Dreams, and Freelancing for Newspapers. Info on all of them at http://www.suelick.com/Products.html.

For those who think I’m amazingly talented, I tripped over the microphone cord after my talk. I also dropped one of my little sandwiches face down on the carpet. Nobody’s perfect.

The photo above shows me on the right and my friend Pat Stern in her fancy hat.

Have a cup of tea and read a book. It feels good.

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