Thursday, November 2, 2017

I kept my mother's binoculars after the crash. Thirty years later, her friend still recognized them.


I kept my mother's binoculars after the crash, though at the time I was still a teenager who resented the passion I blamed for her death. And I was very glad to have them when I finally saw one of her birding pals again 30 years later and her binoculars brought him to tears.

That was cool.

Cool not because I like to make people sad. Cool because I knew how much he missed my mother, too. 
It was healing for me to learn what bird they were all looking for that day, a Spotted Redshank. And that he still agonized over how my mother had been riding with the newest and youngest member of their bird club because his car was full.

One of the few things that can truly ease the grief of losing someone is being with another person who feels their absence. They understand that no matter how long it has been, no matter how fine you look, you are still among the walking wounded.
Losing a loved one in a sudden event feels like someone ripped out your lungs and told you to breathe a different way.
You find a way to adapt, but you never forget how it felt to be whole. And the pain never really goes away, though you soon stop talking about it, because the only thing worse than feeling pain is having to explain it.
But you don’t have to say anything to someone with the same scar. You don’t have to paint your mother in their head: she already lives there.
As you both picture her, your pain feels lighter and her image grows brighter. Maybe it can even grow bright enough for her to see it, and know we still think of her.

Of course, it was even cooler that my grandfather saved the binoculars for me in the first place.
They were damaged in the crash that killed her, but my grandfather retrieved them and had them repaired before returning them to me.
I don’t keep them tucked under my driver’s seat as she did, so she could whip them out whenever she saw anything other than a turkey vulture flying overhead. They now sit on a shelf where I can look at them and smile, but sometimes I do take them out to look for birds. And when I see one, I like to think that she can see it, too. 
And maybe some day I will see a Spotted Redshank for her.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Sometimes you just want a cup of coffee. And to pretend that everything's normal.


A few days after the recent fires erupted in Mendocino County, three of us who work for the Ukiah newspaper were decompressing in Black Oak Coffee when one of the owners walked up to our table.
“I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ for all that you guys are doing,” he said. “You probably aren’t getting a lot of sleep right now, so I appreciate all the information you are providing.”

That was cool.

Photo by Chris Pugh - Ukiah Daily Journal
But what was even cooler was how much space in the coffee shop had been devoted to making sure that anyone who needed help would know where to find it.
Outside, a sign invited evacuees to enjoy a free cup of coffee. Inside, much of the free counter and wall space was devoted to signs explaining where to find food, clothing, toiletries, a place to sleep and even a place for kids to play indoors.
For those without a way to access the internet, an iPad was set up on the counter for anyone to get the latest information on the fires, since at the time they were nowhere near under control.
All of these were small gestures to be sure, but I find the small, unobtrusive gestures – ones that don’t require you to ask for or even accept them – to be the most comforting. I know one of the first things I’d look for a day or two after being chased from my home would be a calm place where I could sit and drink some good coffee while everyone went about their normal lives.
Seeing people eating, gossiping about their day and yes, even buried in their phones, would be a much-needed reminder that the world was still spinning and eventually my life would return to normal as well.
But in the meantime, I’d know exactly where to get some shampoo and toothpaste, all without anyone knowing I had needed anything more than a cup of coffee.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Why pick up other people's trash? Because I feel so much better when it's gone

I want to look at a yellow slug, not a yellow "M."
I pick up trash whenever I walk. And one day on my way up a
trail I found some bottles and cans that I couldn't carry up the hill, so I put them in a spot I knew I’d see on the way down. But by the time I returned, someone else had picked them up.

That was cool.



What’s even cooler is that has happened more than once, so I know it wasn’t a fluke. I also know the man hired to pick up trash at the park isn’t doing it, because he only goes up as far as he can drive. So it’s up to us hikers to keep the trail up above clean, and I love knowing there are others on my trash-picking team.

Many people can't understand wanting to pick up other people’s trash, while I can’t understand how anyone can walk by litter without wanting to pick it up. I don’t care who left the litter or why. I just know that unless I pick it up, I’ll be looking at it again and again. And I don’t walk on trails to look at McDonald’s and Starbucks cups. I walk outside to look at trees and flowers.

Sometimes I wish I could just toss something on the ground and not give it another thought, like the person I saw get in their car after buying a fancy coffee drink and take one sip before tossing it out the window while driving away. But I can't throw away something I just spent money on, and I can’t litter.

And now in August of 2020, I've found that picking up trash is one of the few things that gives me any control over the world around me. Four years ago, the presidential election made me feel as if I was living in a snow globe suddenly flipped upside down. Then four months ago, nearly everything else inside that snow globe disappeared behind Covid-19 curtains.

But as long as I can still go outside and pick up trash, keeping the paths I walk every day clean, it makes me feel a bit better. And knowing there are others doing the same helps even more. Because feeling a bit of control, and a bit less alone, are things I really need right now.

Plus, I've found some great things while picking up litter, such as mushrooms and flowers I wouldn't have seen otherwise. But my favorite find was definitely a tiny frog I saw in a creek bed next to a McDonald's cup, because the frog then led me to a banana slug!




Thursday, August 24, 2017

Teen learns the hard way that his mom was right. (And is nice to reporter documenting his lesson!)


I got a report one day that a car had driven into a house and dashed over to find instead that a teen’s Honda had rolled down the hill and onto his neighbors’ lawn after knocking over their mailbox.
“I guess my mom was right about always leaving the car in gear,” the boy told me soon after I arrived.

That was cool.

Not only because he quickly admitted that his habit of leaving the car in neutral to save him from having to pop it out of gear before he could start the engine was bad, but because he was so calm about a reporter arriving to document his embarrassing afternoon.
“I was just in the paper last week,” he said, explaining that his sports accomplishments had earned him the earlier attention. Maybe that positive coverage helped him accept my presence; whatever the reason, I definitely appreciated his willingness to talk to me.
Understandably, that’s not always the case when people’s lives are disrupted, particularly during much more traumatic events.
Another time, I was taking pictures of a home engulfed in flames while the resident stood crying in a friend’s embrace. When I asked the friend if either of them wanted to talk to me she stiffly declined, then after a pause added, “You know, I never understood why you guys never have more details about stuff like this. But I get it now.”
I appreciated her realizing that while many of us feel entitled to as many details as possible when things happen to other people, when those events happen to us, we usually want them to remain as private as possible.
I also appreciated her calmly asking me to give them privacy, which I did.
And although the teen whose car had rolled onto the neighbor’s lawn gave me his name, I decided not to print it and instead let his sports achievement dominate his press coverage.
As I turned to leave, he steeled himself for a conversation with someone he wanted to talk to even less than a reporter: his mother.
“This should be a fun one,” he said with a sheepish grin as he sat down in the car to dial his cell phone.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Some kids don't want to leave their hometown. And you know what? I think they might be happier.


At a high school graduation one year, I was talking with a teacher about the kids who don't want to move away. While so many of their classmates can't wait to leave, some kids are happy to stay right where they are. “They’re minimalists,” he said.

That was cool. And it got me thinking that maybe the kids who stay will be happier than the kids like me who left their hometown as soon as they could. Why? Many reasons:

They must be easygoing
Someone who wants to stay in their hometown likely gets along with their parents, and most everyone else. I figure they aren’t easily annoyed by people. And even if they are, they don’t hold grudges.
“Living in a small town taught me a lot about forgiveness,” a friend told me. “If someone pisses you off, but you know you’re going to keep running into them at the grocery store or your kids’ soccer games, it’s a lot easier to just let stuff go.”
It took a lot of time and effort for me to learn to let things go. I have to imagine that people who could always do that have had a lot more fun and gotten a lot more sleep in their lives.

• They likely have a built-in support system
One of the hardest things about moving to a new city is not having anyone else to call for help, even for the really small things. You wake up without creamer for your coffee or get halfway through a batch of cookies before you realize you don’t have enough flour. If you’re where you grew up, those things are likely just a couple of doors down.
And so is someone to help you bring home new furniture and take the old furniture away, take care of your animals when you go out of town and drive you home from a medical appointment.
And when you have a baby, you likely have a babysitter you already trust. You also don’t need to spend all your vacation time dragging a grumpy toddler along with its car seat and stroller onto a plane to see their grandparents. Or your child’s grandparents don’t have to spend their retirement fund flying to see you.
Starting over in a new city can be exhilarating. But when you get a cold and you pull the soup pot from the top cupboard and the thick ceramic plate you forgot was on top of it lands on your head, you realize that having someone nearby who could bring you soup is pretty great, too.

They have a built-in sense of belonging
All humans want to feel understood and appreciated. Not feeling like they belong is a reason why many people leave their hometowns, especially those not wanting to suffer emotional or physical abuse for just being themselves.
So imagine how nice it would be to have that feeling from day one. To spend all stages of your life in a place with the same people, who know all the cool things and accept all the dumb things you’ve done. And later it’s really nice to have people around who remember what you were like before all the wrinkles and gray hair.
Every day would feel like how one young woman described returning home to work on a television set with her family, her childhood friends and her teachers.
“Growing up I was always focused on going elsewhere to work, but getting to come home and work in my hometown with the community that raised me was something really special. My second-grade teacher was there with us all week, girls I grew up doing ballet with were there, and my mom and brother were there.”
For kids who stayed in their hometown, days like that aren’t special events. They happen all the time.

If my family lived in my hometown after graduation, I might have stayed.
• They have simple needs
Wherever you go, there you are. And unless you’re experiencing torture or deprivation, if you can’t make yourself reasonably happy wherever you are right now, there’s a good chance you will never be happy.
And that’s not to say we don’t need people with the desire to explore and achieve, to invent and discover. We certainly do. But when it comes to being happy, I think the people who have always been content with who and where they are have the best odds.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

How I learned to love Lucy, the cat with the baboon butt


A few weeks after we adopted her, our cat Lucy got locked outside and began screaming at the top of her lungs.

That was cool.

Cool because her panic melted my heart, and for the first time I thought I could love this creature I hadn’t wanted in our home since the day she arrived.

Lucy quickly learned to love the outdoors.
She used to belong to my husband’s friend, but he moved to a new place where he said he couldn’t bring her. To prevent her from going to a shelter, my husband agreed to take the cat.
I didn’t want another cat, and all I saw when he brought Lucy home was how inferior she was to our kitty Stella, whom I could not have been more in love with.
Stella was a sleek silver tabby who spent most of her time exploring outside. Lucy was a chunky indoor cat with dull black fur flecked with dandruff and a skinny tail that looked like a rat’s.
And it just got worse when she started losing that fur in big patches mostly around her rump until she looked like a bare-assed baboon.

It also didn’t help that she was clumsy and always getting her claws stuck on things. One time I emerged from the shower to frantic wailing from the bedroom and found her hanging upside down with all four paws wrapped up in the blinds. I tried to untie her but she bit and scratched me, so I finally had to cut up the blinds to free her.

Then we started finding piles of vomit everywhere. She’d yell to be fed, then promptly yak up everything she ate on anything that happened to be nearby. Before we found one pile she was yelling to be fed again so she could make the next one.

But the final straw was the anal squirts.
Few things are more pleasant than a warm, soft cat purring away, so I decided I could forget Lucy’s faults by inviting her onto my lap. It worked at first, with her gratefully purring and soon enthusiastically kneading away at my stomach.
But then I felt some drips on my bare leg and found a brown substance smelling like rotten fish which I realized dripped out of her behind – yes, poor Lucy has a tendency to expel from her anal glands when she gets excited.
I felt then there was no hope for us. A lifelong cat person, I had easily found things to love about every one I knew. Until Lucy.

And then she got locked outside. 
A strictly indoor cat before, Lucy seemed afraid of the outdoors so I never thought she would follow me when I took out the garbage one day and get herself trapped outside when I closed the garage door.
But soon I heard this strange yowling and looked out the window to see her in the driveway, totally consumed with panic and wailing like a car alarm that was getting louder and louder.

It reminded me of my grandmother’s stories about how terrified I was of getting lost as a kid, especially the time we were in a store and she merely stepped around the counter. Since I was too short to see over the counter, I thought I had been abandoned and began screaming in panic, humiliating her.
So I knew how Lucy felt, suddenly cut off from everything she knew and with no idea how to get back inside to the voices and smells that had barely become familiar. All my other feelings disappeared and I felt nothing but empathy and compassion for her.
Because everybody deserves a place where they feel safe. Even a cat with a baboon butt who squirts from her anal glands when she’s not throwing up.

So I brought her inside with a hug and talked to her sweetly for the first time. I started calling her Lucy Liu, her hair grew back when we got rid of the fleas and I eventually found a thing or two to love about her.
I especially love that not once in the six years since she got stuck in the blinds has she bitten or scratched me even a little bit, no matter how many times a day I pick her up without warning, squeeze her until she squeaks, then drape her over my shoulder for a quick dance around the house.
I guess she’s decided that’s a fair price to pay for feeling safe, and even loved.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

You will never achieve happiness if you let others define it


A fresh high school graduate was talking to some middle-school kids recently about being a firefighter cadet and acknowledged that while some might recognize him from calls he responded to with the local fire department, they might also have seen him mopping and emptying trash cans. “Yes, I am the evening janitor here.”

That was cool.

I so admired him for saying that. Because while at his age I was also still in my hometown working a job that others might look down on while most of my classmates had gone off to college, I was nowhere near secure enough in my situation to point it out to a room full of twelve-year-olds.
 
But he was. While still in his teens, he already appears to know most of us struggle our whole adult lives to absorb – you shouldn’t let what others might think of you affect how you feel about yourself.
 
We all know how to be happy with ourselves from the start. But then we change. Usually right around the time we start school.
 
For me it was slumber parties, where I was trapped with girls from another planet who made it painfully clear that everything about me was wrong the way I dressed, the way I acted and especially what I wanted to eat.
 
The hostess of my first slumber party wasn’t like that, however, and she started things off by bringing out a big bag of Starburst for us with a huge smile on her face. Since I wasn’t allowed to eat candy at home, I wanted nothing more than to return her huge grin and reach into that bag and pull out as many of those squares my hand could hold.
 
But the other girls all shook their heads and waved the bag away. And when the hostess offered it to me, I let their judgment fall on me like a net. I shook my head at the bag, her smile vanished and I looked down, both of us now miserable because I let those other girls decide what I should want.
 
I don’t remember anything else about that party, only how it felt to deny myself something and upset that sweet girl because of what some strangers would think. It seems too ridiculous to even fathom now.
 
But that scene played out again and again in the years to come, each time with stakes much higher than me not getting a handful of Starburst and a young girl not understanding why her guests didn’t want the candy she bought for them.
 
When I was the age of the fire cadet, I was working at a pizza place in my hometown to put myself through community college. 
 
Most of the time I was pretty happy with myself. I was already living on my own and paying all my bills, something my classmates wouldn’t do for years, maybe decades. But when they came home during school breaks and I stood behind the counter from them in my sauce-stained apron, I let what (I imagined) they thought of me affect that satisfaction. 
 
And my finally moving away didn’t solve that problem, because by the time I transferred to a four-year school most of my high school classmates had finished college and were on to the next stage. As proof, one of them showed up as the fresh-faced professor of one of my history classes.
 
I was mortified. And while a younger me would have dropped the class in shame, I remember deciding to not resent her accomplishments but appreciate them, and maybe learn something from those accomplishments. 
 
And I’m glad I did, because she was a great teacher – the kind you get a lot from because they also expect a lot from you. She impressed me. And, funny enough, I managed to impress her, too.
 
Because at the end of the class she told the rest of the students that we had grown up together, and that she wanted to commend me for handling an uncomfortable situation with humility and grace.
 
I started the class proud of her, and ended it proud of myself as well. Because I knew I was learning what was really important making yourself and the people who matter happy, and ignoring the people who don’t.
 
Oh, and when someone offers you Starburst, or something else you want to eat. just take it!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Hike through history on Mt. Konocti, where a tragic piece of Ukiah’s past still sits


A recent hike up Mt. Konocti offered the great exercise and stunning views of Clear Lake I was expecting. But it surprised me with fascinating glimpses into the past, including the former home of a determined widow and a tragic piece of Ukiah history I knew nothing about.

That was cool

The Wright Peak Summit Trail is about three miles and begins after a short drive up a winding dirt road in Mt. Knocoti County Park near Kelseyville.
Sure, the trail is technically a fire road, but it does take you through an apple orchard and offer you bathrooms every mile or so, which I found to be a rare and most-welcome treat. There is no water available, however, and the trail gets very hot, so bring plenty to drink.
Most descriptions of the trail I found explain that a short side trip will take you to the home of Mary Downen, which is a cabin built in 1903 that the homesteader refused to leave even as an elderly widow.
According to the historical marker at the site, she didn’t want to live with her family in Lakeport, but every day at 2 p.m. she would walk to the side of the mountain and use a mirror to reflect the sun as a way to tell her daughter she was OK. When her daughter signaled back, Downen went back to her cabin.


But I knew nothing about the plane crash wreckage I found just before the summit.
The plane wreckage can be seen in the distance.
According to the interpretive sign nearby, Mervin and Julia Enzler of Ukiah were flying home from Santa Rosa on Jan. 26, 1970, in their small plane when it crashed on the top of Wright Peak during bad weather.
The Enzlers were in their 60s and had recently retired as owners of the Model Bakery, which is now known as Schat’s Bakery in downtown Ukiah.
The wreckage of their white and turquoise 1946 Navion A is still there, lying just a few feet from the panel describing the crash, which was built and dedicated in June of 2016 in a ceremony attended by the Enzlers’ son Ed and his children.

A bit more of the site can be seen in this video: https://youtu.be/_jj6ekURcl0

Or read more about the crash and the trail here:

Friday, May 5, 2017

A Scrub Jay passed out in my hand one day so I could free it from my garden


My resident Scrub Jay.
I got to hold a Scrub Jay once when it got trapped in my garden.

 
That was cool. And especially cool that I found it all, because it was winter and I hadn't been in my garden for weeks.
 
But something made me walk out to it that evening. And I saw the jay, frantically trying to fly away but never leaving the fence because the netting I used months earlier to protect my cherry tomatoes (from thieves like jays) was wrapped around one of its legs. 
 
I put on my gardening gloves and reached for the bird. After a few tries I got my hand around its wings and felt it go limp immediately, likely collapsing from exhaustion and fear.
 
I cut off the netting easily with scissors, but still couldn’t free the jay because the talons of its foot were closed around the top of the fence. I had to carefully open those long, sharp talons before lifting the jay away from the fence, relishing being so close to a bird’s foot while still keenly aware that at any moment it could awaken and injure me.
 
Once the bird was free from the fence, I saw that the netting was digging into its leg, so I laid it down in a pot of dirt to perform surgery, carefully cutting off as much of the black netting as I could.
 
But I couldn’t get it all, some of it was just too tight. I stopped and stood over the still bird for a few moments, trying to decide if should get my seam-ripper and try to remove more netting, though I would be risking injuring the leg even more.
 
Deciding it was worth a try, I reached to pick the bird up again to carry it with me, but it was done with my help and scrambled up to fly away clumsily, dropping into the bushes as soon as it cleared the fence. 
 
Worried the jay might not have survived its ordeal after all, I checked the bushes the next morning but it was gone. And now every time I see a scrub jay at my feeders I scan their legs for a tiny black bracelet. 
 
But I haven’t seen one yet. And yes, I cut the rest of the netting off the fence and never used it again.

Monday, May 1, 2017

I saw a skunk tail in all its glory ... right before it sprayed my dog in the face


I saw a skunk tail in all its glory last night, sticking straight in the air and fluffed out like peacock feathers.

That was cool.

Unfortunately, that was seconds before my dog ran straight at the skunk and got sprayed in the face, so it ended up not being cool.

Even less cool, I’m pretty sure that was the fifth time she has gotten sprayed by a skunk. I think I’ve lost count. But I’ve definitely lost hope that she will ever learn to leave them alone.

However, one of the cool things about the Internet is this recipe I found to help get rid of the smell. (Don’t even bother with tomato juice. Didn’t do a damn thing but turn my dog and me into a wet blob of skunk-smelling tomato sauce).

Here is what works: one quart hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup baking soda and one teaspoon dish soap.

These instructions from the Humane Society of the United States take you through the rest of the process. (Funny enough, the canine culprit in their photo looks a lot like mine).

I now keep those ingredients on hand at all times just in case, but the Humane Society suggests that you can use vinegar diluted with water in a pinch.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Staging a fake crash? Make it as shocking as possible, please.


One of the student actors is put through the car's windshield.
I recently watched a group of teenagers act out a fatal crash in front of Ukiah High School, and one of the organizers made tons of fake blood to cover the kids and cars with because she wanted to make the scene look as real as possible.

That was cool.


Because while some might think such displays are too graphic, I think they can never be graphic enough.

When I was in high school, my mother was killed in a car that a 17-year-old boy had driven into the path of a semi-truck. Overnight, the “Hamburger Highway” films we had been giggling at in Driver’s Ed went from silly to unwatchable. But just for me, not for my classmates.

So as I stood next to hundreds of teenagers watching a staged DUI crash last week, many of them laughing as I once did at carnage we knew wasn’t real, I couldn’t help thinking that no amount of fake blood or fellow teenagers writhing in pretend pain could come close to having the impact needed.

Unless you’re in a crash yourself, or you visit an accident scene to find your mother’s shoe on the side of the road, I’m not sure what other visuals could bore the tunnels of pain necessary to keep anyone, let alone teenagers, from making stupid decisions behind the wheel.

Because only six months after seeing the twisted metal that crushed my mother’s legs, I too felt the rush of freedom and power that comes from driving as soon as I got my license. I had it maybe a month before I got pulled over. All it took was two friends in the car and the radio blasting for me to start acting stupid.

But as futile as most attempts to make teenagers grasp the dangers of driving will be, I fully support all of them. Just please make them as shocking and painful as possible, because only those will have a real chance of making a difference.

Such as one aspect of the events staged at Ukiah High School I think might have the necessary impact. It won’t be the wounds oozing food coloring or the boy sprawled on the hood after crashing through the windshield. It won’t even be the boy who gets handcuffed by a California Highway Patrol officer because he was drunk while crashing into another carload of teens, killing two of them.

No, it will be the letters shared between some children and their parents after their deaths.

Twenty-four Ukiah High kids will have “died” after the fake crash when the Grim Reaper pulls them out of their classrooms and their lives for 24 hours. They will make their own tombstones and exchange good-bye letters with their parents.

And those letters might actually make a difference. If their parents can make them understand what a hole they will leave behind, how the adults will grieve for the years they expected to watch their children grow into adults themselves, that might be heartbreaking enough to make some of those children take the responsibility of driving a little more seriously.

And then if they look at all of the other faces in their car and imagine those children’s parents waiting for them to come home as well, maybe they’ll take it even more seriously.

So I say bring on the fake horror. If it saves just one person from the real horror of a fatal crash, it will be worth it.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Got something you don’t want anymore? Bet a Trading Time listener will take it.


When our microwave died, I put in the garage and figured it would sit there about a year before I dragged it to the dump. But less than two weeks later, I heard a man on a local radio show who wanted it.

That was cool.

Jay, left, and Alice hosting Trading Time with me listening in.

The show is called Trading Time, a Mendocino County original that airs on KZYX&Z every Saturday morning at 11 a.m. When I first moved to Ukiah several years ago, I wondered why anyone would ever willingly listen to it. Now I never miss it. 
Which is why two Saturdays after the little motor that rotated the glass plate inside our microwave died a fiery death, I heard a man announcing that he was looking for microwaves, working or not, because he wanted to use their parts.

So I called him. “How much do you want for it?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I said. “You’re saving me from taking it to the dump. You can have it.”

My husband didn’t want me to call microwave man. He didn’t think it was possible that some stranger would come to our house, pick up the microwave, and then both would disappear from our lives forever.

But I had listened to Trading Time enough to get a feel for the type of people who called in. And I had a feeling that this man would do what he said.

And he did. I gave him our address and told him I’d leave the microwave in the front yard when I went to work. When I came home that day, the microwave was gone. And I never heard from microwave man again.

So, got something you don’t want anymore? Call Trading Time. I’ll bet someone who listens does.

Read more about how the show started and some of its former hosts in this Ukiah Daily Journal story: “The weird, wonderful world of Trading Time.”

Monday, March 27, 2017

Blue Jay: a funny, touching movie about how sad it can be to grow up

 
Watched a movie recently that I’ve been thinking about even more than Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight, even though I thoroughly enjoyed both of those films as well.
It’s called Blue Jay and was written by Mark Duplass, who stars in it with Sarah Paulson.
The plot is spare, and there’s really only two characters: a man and woman who dated as teens, then moved away from their hometown to live separate lives.
The movie begins 20 years later when they run into each other at the grocery store while each has come home for a bit. They’re very awkward at first, but then they begin opening up and remembering how much fun they had together. 
I really enjoyed just watching them interacting and waiting to find out why they ever broke up, which the movie takes its time in revealing.
A warning: the movie could serve as a heartbreaking reminder of how deeply sad it can be to become an adult. But it’s an admirable piece of work and a fun time, especially if you like both actors and you were in high school in the early 1990s.
Need another plus? You can stream it on Netflix!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Miss Mendocino contestants deserved more time on stage in their own event.


Four young ladies competed for the title of Miss Mendocino 2017 Saturday night in Ukiah, where they sang, danced and shared their thoughts on current events.

That was cool.

Unfortunately, after watching all two-plus hours of the pageant, I knew little more about the contestants than what was written in the program.
That’s because so much of the ceremony was devoted to the “celebrity guests,” one of whom had no ties to Mendocino County. In fact, the professional opera singer admitted she was visiting the area for the first time to attend the pageant held Feb. 4 at Ukiah High School.
No matter your opinion on what assets are being celebrated, the purpose of local pageants is to celebrate the attributes of local residents. And since there were only four contestants this year, the organizers had the perfect opportunity to give each young lady more time in the spotlight.
Instead, they seemed to focus on the visitors rather than the home team. I didn’t keep track with a stopwatch, but I’d bet each celebrity guest was given at least twice as much stage time as each contestant.
Chris Pugh - Ukiah Daily Journal
For example: instead of giving the professional opera singer, who spends her daily life on stage, at least twice as much time to sing than any of the contestants were given, I think each contestant should have been given more time to showcase her talent. And instead of shuffling the local girls off the stage as soon as they finished performing to give more time for “visitations” with the celebrities, why not ask each girl why she chose the skill she wanted to share, and perhaps let her explain how hard she worked to perfect it?
And when I consider how much money each of the girls’ families spent on multiple outfits, especially an evening gown, I can’t help but think that a few more minutes could have been spared to give each girl more time to wear those outfits with her family watching, providing the “Cinderella Moment” that was the theme of the event.
And while one family member is invited to escort each lady in her evening gown, there was also plenty of time to ask that family member what makes them the most proud of the contestant, and why they feel she should be representing Mendocino County.  
Again, in stark contrast to the life of the opera singer and the other celebrity guest, this might have been the last time some of the contestants get an opportunity to stand on stage at all, let alone with their families and their town cheering them on. Why not give them as much time up there as possible?
I mean, that’s the whole point of a local pageant. Right?

Friday, February 3, 2017

We don't need a woman president. We just need a president that respects women.


I didn’t march the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, but millions of other women did.

That was cool.

I took great comfort and inspiration from their peaceful demonstrations of strength and courage, and saw their actions not as merely protesting the fact that Trump is our president, but communicating that it is not acceptable for any man, let alone the President of the United States, to say he can grab any woman’s crotch any time he wants. Period.
And to those who say Trump’s words were just “locker room” talk from more than a decade ago, I say I am still waiting for him to officially declare them as such in a sincerely apologetic manner that assures all women he does not fundamentally believe our greatest value to society is as sexual playthings. Unless, of course, we’re not attractive enough to be.
To those who say we should laugh those words off, just as men would laugh it off if Hillary bragged that she could grab the crotch of any man she chooses, I say that is not an apt comparison, and there can be no apt comparison. I don’t believe men can ever truly understand what it feels like to share half the earth with humans who are consistently bigger, stronger and can often do whatever they want with our bodies.
And even if you take all fear of sexual assault out of the equation, you can’t tell me that a man who believes he can grab my crotch without my permission also believes that what I think, feel or say is important, let alone anywhere near as important as what he thinks, feels or says.
And, lastly, to those who say that the women marching were just upset that a woman was not elected president, I say we don’t need a woman to be president. We just need a president who respects women.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Dog owners chip in to improve Ukiah dog park


At the dog park in Ukiah, one of its regular users started an impromptu work party Saturday morning.

That was cool.

While their dogs ran around, some owners cleaned up their play area.
The recent onslaught of rains had turned the lower part of the park into a swamp, caking dogs and owners in mud on their way in and out.
So the user spent his Saturday bringing a wheelbarrow and shovels to the park, then set about moving wood chips to the mucky entrance to create a drier platform.
When other dog owners saw what he was doing, a few of them chipped in to help, turning one man’s idea into a community effort.
Their actions reminded me of my favorite line in Barack Obama’s farewell address: “If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing.”