on waiting for the bus

we waited 20 minutes -- and this wasn't actually our bus. I was too excited when our bus arrived to take its picture.

I’ve spent roughly 620 hours of my life waiting for buses, and at least 375 of those hours involved waiting for the number 51 bus in Berkeley, CA.  I took that bus all through grad school and law school at Cal — the stop is right across the street from a fraternity, which provided either an entertaining way to while away time while waiting for the 51, or excrutiating, depending on the day of the week, the level of drunkenness at the frat, and how late the bus was running that particular day.  I’ll let you guess how many hours fell into each category.

One clue:  I’ve never longed for the time when I could go back to using the bus for all my transportation needs.

It turns out I’ve become less impatient, and apparently I’ve seen so much public drunkenness that I don’t even notice it anymore.  As a result, when we were in Seattle, and had all the time in the world, waiting for the bus that took us from downtown Seattle to the Fauntleroy ferry terminal was not a problem.  In fact, because it was the day of the gay pride parade, it was pretty entertaining.  Although really, I think the S&M contingent could have toned it down some.  The guy with the multi-color painted penis?  Needed to stay home.  Ditto the ladies with the targets painted on their breasts.  After William and I walked away from that, and I said I didn’t think I’d be able to scrub those images out of my head, he advised me to think about ballerinas.  Apparently, it works every time.

We waited a long time for that bus.  And even though I’ve become mellower about waiting, I still love that moment when the bus comes into view.

Dispatch From The Happiest Place on Earth

Before you check into the Disneyland Hotel, they send you a little informational packet that tells you, among other things, that you should not under any circumstances bring the ashes of your loved one to the Happiest Place on Earth. Ditto firearms, and costumes on those over the age of 10. So, if you feel the urge to scatter the ashes of your beloved off the side of the Matterhorn while you, dressed as a cowgirl, shoot twenty-one rounds from your rifle, this is not the place.

Don’t say I’m not good value in the travel tip department here at BlogLily.

Otherwise, Disneyland’s a pretty good venue for your tenth birthday if you, like William, enjoy half a dozen not too scary rides, a half hour spent exploring Tom Sawyer’s island, a cheeseburger and fries, the chance to watch a little television in your hotel room and then a trip to the movies in Downtown Disneyland, a place that really does exist.

The thing I love about William, by the way, is that he’s not really put off by the immensity of this place. It’s true that you could spend a lifetime here going on all the rides, and watching all the shows, and seeing the fireworks from the perfect spot — and some people (the ones in the lanyards with all the pins, wearing the mouse ears and wishing they’d change that rule about having your ashes scattered near the It’s a Small World Ride), apparently do. But when 3:00 comes around, and it is clearly a blazing 107 degrees out, well, why trudge around trying to see a performance of songs from High School Musical when you could go to your room and drink some ice water, eat grapes, and watch tv?

I learn things all the time, you know. No ashes at Disneyland. No Disneyland after 3:00 p.m.

Hope your summer’s winding down with one or two small learning experiences. xo

PS: I was so sorry to hear about Ted Kennedy’s death. A few years ago, I wrote about his concession speech at the 1980 Democratic National Convention. It’s here.

Moving To Guilford


I’d like you to be the first to know that I’m going to move my family to Guilford, Connecticut, preferable to a house that’s right on the Green, and across the street from the Guilford Free Library, which is where I am at this exact moment.

The only trouble is that I can’t actually move, having a job I like in San Francisco, and a husband with a job HE likes in the Bay Area, and three children in schools they like in Berkeley and a dog, well, the dog could move to Guilford. Maybe. The thing is, though, he has a friend in the neighborhood, a sporty dog named Dash, who can actually play with Archie without giving in to him or getting into a big embarrassing dog fight. Archie would probably want to stay in Berkeley too, I‘m thinking.

What this is, of course, is what always happens when I travel to see friends. When I do that, I always discover thatI want to live in the places where they live. Although this isn’t possible, it is possible to list the reasons, which is what I’m going to do.

Why I Want to Live in Guilford:

If I lived in Guilford, I could be near my friend Debbie. And then I could watch her talk about her books with her beautiful long fingers making motions in the air to describe what she’s talking about and every once in a while I could even look into her office and see the drawings on her drawing table and know that here, where Debbie lives and works, wonderful books are being written for children, books that will entertain them, make them think, and make them love books even more than they already do.

If I lived in Guilford, I could be near Sandi Shelton. And then I could go for a walk with her on the beach at Hammonasset and she’d give me advice about my next book that would not only be correct but would also be inspiring. Plus, I would laugh a lot and so live a really long time, so I could take full advantage of her good advice. Also, I could watch her type, which is what I’m doing at this exact moment, and because she types fast, I’d always feel like things were good, because Sandi’s typing someone a really great,  long, funny and inspiring e-mail.

If I lived in Guilford, when spring came, I’d be so incredibly grateful that I wouldn’t quite know what to do with myself. Because after months of winter and then months of mud, flowers and green things would really mean something. I say this now, just as spring is about to arrive in Connecticut. What would it be like to actually live through these New England winters? I’m really not sure. Maybe it would be hard.

If I lived in Guilford, I could come to the Guilford Free Library, where there are just an amazing, amazing number of tables with plugs and lights and surface space. Not to mention, carrels, and little offices, and even, in the teen section, two of the kind of booths you see mostly a soda shops in tv sit-coms. Across from the booths in the teen section there’s a bunch of board games. Who ARE these people in Guilford who love library patrons so much that they even have a little table in the children’s library with a tea maker and coffee maker and an honor box where you can put in your dollar after you make yourself a cup of tea? If you were a tired parent, and it was the middle of deepest darkest winter, well, you could come here with your child and you could drink some tea and read a book because the children’s section has books for miles, plus a little yellow house where a child can sit and play for hours and hours.

If I lived in Guilford, I could walk the mile and a half down to the shore and then back again — the perfect three mile walk. I could do it every day, all year long, because that is what Gortex is invented for and so even if it was cold or icy, there are winter clothes that would make this intrepid behavior possible.

And if I lived in Guilford, my family would be wth me, and they’d be doing all these things too (well, maybe not the part about writing in the Free Library, although William might find that pretty tempting), plus W, who is a windsurfer, could windsurf out on the Long Island Sound, which is where he learned to windsurf in the first place.

I am leaving in two days, and I know I am not going to be able to move to Guilford. But I am at least able to be happy for Sandi and Debbie, and all the other people who live around here, because even though you can’t always live where your friends live, at least you can know after a good long visit that they are, in fact, living happy lives, which is pretty much why you travel to see your friends: because you need to know that they’re happy, and you need to live alongside them for a little while so when you go home their lives will feel just that much closer next time you find yourself missing them. So, I now have a good picture of the library and the Green and the way winter becomes spring, which should sustain me when I get back to Berkeley, which is a pretty fine place to live too, now that I think about it.

In Transit

On my way to the Oakland Airport this morning (I’m going to Connecticut), we were passed by — and then stopped entirely for — the longest funeral procession I’ve ever seen.  Mostly, the procession was made up of police cars.  But there were plenty of motorcycle cops, and firefighters and ambulance drivers, and park rangers, and anyone else who does a job where they protect people from harm.  All of them were on their way to the Oakland Coliseum, which is one exit before the airport.  Today’s the day for the funeral of the four police officers who were killed last week after a routine traffic stop went wrong.  

Being a cop is a dangerous job.   Mostly, I don’t think about that.  My general experience with the police as a citizen is to  feel mad about the ticket I just got for turning left when I wasn’t supposed to, or to feel grateful that someone’s directing traffic.  

But there are ways in which the police let us down and these disappointments are what you often see when you encounter the police in the media — police officers who extract confessions through coercion, hide evidence or manufacture it, use physical violence out of frustration or take bribes.  

This morning, I just thought about how brave you have to be to pull somebody over, and how much more courage it probably will take in the weeks to come to do that.  And I also hoped that the men and women going to that funeral will remember that young black men aren’t the enemy and that even when you’re afraid, you still have to do the right thing by everyone in the community you serve.  And I hoped that the young black men in the community will remember that the police aren’t their enemy and that many of them, particularly in Oakland, are not so different from they.  This is what courage looks like today:  seeing each other more clearly, and realizing that we are more alike than we are different.

Skinny Dip



I can’t think of a better book than Carl Hiaasen’s Skinny Dip to read on vacation.  I remember seeing this reviewed in the New York Times a few years ago and then I forgot all about it, until I found it sitting, absolutely free for the taking, on the bookshelf in the hotel where we’re staying.  

The trouble with vacation books is that they’re often so poorly written or constructed that it’s impossible to enjoy them. This one isn’t like that.  It’s an amusing, beautifully put together story of a woman whose husband tries to kill her while they’re on a cruise off the coast of Florida.  He’s too much of a doofus to get it right, which is good, because the rest of the book is concerned with the revenge she wreaks on him, revenge that is both funny and breathtakingly appropriate.  Let’s just say this:  if the person you want to get revenge on is someone who lives and dies by his reproductive organ, then the best revenge is to make it increasingly difficult for that organ to function properly.  Now, this could be incredibly un-funny, but Hiaasen doesn’t make a single misstep.  He manages to find redemption for a character who seems impossible to rescue, the bad are punished appropriately, the good get the things they need.  Along the way, there are pythons, and deeply tanned former police officers, and police officers from the midwest, and alligator road kill, and a whole host of Everglades descriptions, some of which make you want to weep when you see the stupidity of the people who participated in the despoilation of this part of Florida.

And now, I’m on to The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which is proving to be wonderful, but in a different way and Nothing is Quite Forgotten in Brooklyn, which is equally wonderful, but also in a different way.

The Paradise Cafe


Here at the Paradise Cafe in Baja, where we have been coming for smoothies and wireless internet for the last four days since we arrived, the two nods to Christmas are (a) a small sign on the door announcing that you can buy mistletoe on the 23rd (oops, we missed it) and kiss your sweetie (still time for that), and (b) … I guess there is no (b).  No Christmas carols, no santas, not a lot of stuff in the stores, not a lot of decorations.  It’s lovely — like being on a very healthy eating plan.  The absence of Christmas blare is amazing.  It’s very good for children.  We had a small present-opening morning on Thursday and then they all left to do things that were more fun than help their parents pack their car to drive down to Mexico.  (Charlie went to school — because it’s a party day.   Jack and William sang at a holiday party in Sacramento, where Arnold Schwarzenegger handed out hannukah gelt in a slightly grumpy way, which I liked hearing about.  He’s also not as tall as they thought.)  

We drove down last Friday morning, stopping in San Diego for a party and then after a huge, increasingly insane drive down the Baja peninsula that lasted 23 hours (note to ourselves:  don’t ever do that again), we arrived at Los Barrilles where, basically, there’s not a lot to do besides kiss under the mistletoe, and eat fish.  

It’s a nice little town.  People come down here to fish and windsurf.  Baja midnight occurs at about 10 p.m.  It took me three days to stop making lists.  

I hope you’ve stopped making lists too, and are about to settle into a beautiful holiday — no matter where you are, the whole paradise thing is, without a doubt, inside.

A Week at the Lazy S

We’ve been staying at the Lazy S Lodge, in South Lake Tahoe this week. It’s been perfect for all of us — we all love Tahoe, although for different reasons. My husband went to high school up here, and ski raced in the winter and worked at a boat rental place in the summer. This is his home, in a way, and he is perfectly at ease with things I find utterly foreign, like jumping off cliffs into icy cold water. I think it’s just the best thing for him, to spend a week here with his three boys, initiating them into that kind of thing. We’re leaving later today.

Right now, they are all out on the boat — William’s driving it, something he cannot actually believe he gets to do, given how much noise it makes and how satisfyingly fast it goes. Jack and Charlie are doing all the things you can do behind a boat driven by your younger brother, all of which are pretty fun for them, because they involve going really fast and occasionally falling off into the icy cold lake. It astonishes me that anyone would like that, but it’s absolutely clear that they do.

Me? Well, I like the way the wind sounds in the aspens when you hike up a trail, and I do like how cool it is at night, even after a very hot day. I love it that it’s fine for me to be alone sometimes when they jump off cliffs are go out on the Lake. The boys? I think they love it all — the cliffs, the lake, the boat, even the hiking. They’ve also really been into watching the Olympics (we are big fans of beach volleyball, and all of us agree that maybe they didn’t need to show quite so many diving events).

Last night, at William’s suggestion, we playing miniature golf at Magic Carpet Golf.  We each competed on behalf of a country. W was Senegal, in honor of our wonderful Senagalese friends, Jack was China, because he was pretty sure that’d secure him the gold, Charlie was France, and conducted himself in the cheesiest French accent since Steve Martin was Inspector Clouseau, William was the United States, for obvious reasons. Me? I was Canada. I didn’t expect to win, but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t embarrass myself. I did win, in fact, hitting two miraculous holes in one, which shocked everyone, including me. It’s always like that when Canada wins, isn’t it?