Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Jambled Rumble

I'm a lefty in a right-handed world. It's fun at times, confusing otherwise.

I get Kate Bush mixed up with Kate  Wolf. I call a certain brand of corn  chip "Sandinista"

Luckily, I'm not too politically buff  or wonky, as I'd get the 2 Roosevelts confused, although I could never make that mistake with the Bushs, one of  whom may be related to Kate.

C.S. Lewis is not the author of Alice In Wonderland, nor is the Mississippi river the "Big Muddy"  although the jury is still out on that argument. Depends on how much stock you put into  Yahoo answers (answer: not much.)

My husband's face turns bright red when I confuse Ambrose Bierce with Stephen Ambrose, who, fortunately is deceased now. In fact, they are both dead I've been informed.

In school,  no one else I knew wrote their sixes backwards. The letter "C" gave me Hell too.

We won't even talk about the preference of scissor-makers for right-handed people. It's a conspiracy I tell you!

In my job as groomer, my sharpening guy will not even touch left-handed scissors saying "they don't lay right on the stone."  Well then lay them left ...  I've learned to use the right-handed ones fine but inside I'm steaming, groveling to the right-handed majority like a peasant is not my style.

And to make matters worse, I've read that lefties use the right side of the brain, in addition they say we "only use about 15% of our brain's capacity" so, I'm using less than one quarter?
How about 2 dimes and a nickel?

Going into high gear now, you ready?
You ain't seen nothing yet Yeti.
Yet I was the lover of
 English ...
 at the Gymkhana. Jim's Kana was held in the rink at summer camp called Camp Kennolyn, named after the owner's 2 kids, Kenneth and Carolyn. Snazzy huh?

Each morning, wee kiddies in our cabins would hear Cat Stevens played from the loudspeakers. I was 12 going on 13 or 21 depending on my mood.

Deep in the Santa Cruz Mountains, I'll never sing On Top Of Old Smokey again as long as I live.  No meatballs in my spaghetti either thank you.

I wasn't good at anything the camp offered; the guitar strings hurt my fingertips, the clay pot broke, my horse almost slid down the embankment.

Then I made my Real Bad Mistake ...
standing in the infirmary hallway door for the pledge of allegiance, I said something like "why do we do this, its just a cloth with colors on it." the kid next to me nodded to show he heard but the office workers on the other side of the wall heard me too and I was duly punished.

I should've let that horse backstep off the trail, we'd of been happier in and up the creek.

Brought again to Mr. Brautigan, one of the world's greatest penmen. Saddled with alcoholism and depression, pure genius flowed from his mind until he kissed that bullet and ended the pain. I don't have the guts Richard, I can't do it, at least not yet.
Wanna bet?
No I don't. Besides, I don't have a gun.

And I want to stick around for the end of this clown show in politics.

Luckily, everything changes eventually except the dust in the museums whose sole job is to keep the past frozen in

A longtime friendship has just ended  today between myself and a Deadhead over politics. We are both entrenched in the trenches and refuse to budge. He called me a "socialist" ... as if that was an insult. 
Sad, confused, but like Jerry Garcia, I let  what happens happen most of the time.
 A second civil war says Rush Limburger. Damn right, and not too soon either. Might as well face the music ... or the gun.
Bloody Rock, Eel River area, Mendocino Nat'L Forest, California


Do you have any?

Only a dime and two nickels.


Saturday, September 2, 2017

A Narc, Stormy Night

by B. T. Raven

In those times, Los Angelenos were divided into either burrito camps or pastrami camps for  takeout dining.

 A tiny contingent became drive-through burger folks who tended to be Zombies from the Midwest who mistook  'Night of the Living Dead' as a news documentary shot in L.A.

They would chance the drive-throughs in the twilight in the hopes of snagging a few tasty ladyfingers as the food passed through the tiny windows.

Greg was in the pastrami camp for at least this night. His cooking skills were limited to Bisquick variations. There were no microwave ovens, SUVs, mobile phones  or other such poppycock.

He was the lone pedestrian in a seedy North Hollywood district, that was redeemed by good burritos at one end of the block and decent pastrami at the other.

Greg was walking east across the parking lot of the Greek-owned pastrami place when things went south. He glanced to the back of the parking lot and noticed a junkie standing beside a beater Oldsmobile from an earlier decade.

The junkie had a gun.

Since L.A. is a friendly town, whose principle entertainment is serial killers, Greg complied with the junkie's command to come to the car.

"Oh fiddlesticks," Greg thought. "I'm going to be robbed and murdered without any dinner."

The Junkie produced a badge claiming he was an undercover LAPD narc, deputized Greg as a fellow narc, and ordered him to stand on the other side of the Olds to guard a prisoner laying facedown, uncuffed, on the backseat of the car.

Mr. Junkie/Narc appeared to be holding a Browning nine, the kind that carries 15 rounds. Nines have a bad habit of keeping their trajectory even when traveling through Oldsmobiles.

The suspect didn't make any furtive moves requiring gunplay, which was good.

The uniformed backups arrived, which was bad. It was  quickly obvious that the narc was not a local narc. The deal may have been setup in Hollenbeck, or Hollywood or Venice and migrated to North Hollywood.

The cops surrounded the Olds and everybody near it with weapons drawn. Greg tried to leave, but the cops decided otherwise, until the narc eventually told them it was OK.

Greg  beelined towards the restaurant to finally get his pastrami sandwich, and maybe some french fries. He passed two teen boys in a booth. "He's a narc!," sneered one boy loudly. Technically the kid was correct. The Greek counterman was as friendly as Greeks are capable of being. He tried to give the suspected cop free food.

Greg declined the offer, because of the possibility that it could screw up his sainthood application when he finally caught the bad end of a nine.

The Church requires  saint candidates to have performed a verified miracle  The miracle here was that Greg actually got his friggen pastrami on a steamed roll with just the right amount of pickles, mustard and onion. He kept the receipt to prove it.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Leaning Tower Of Glory

       This trellis is going to fall ... any day now. You can''t even see the trellis for the massive amount of Morning Glory vines draped like a solid green curtain, slowly pulling it over.

Each day I check for flower buds. A daily ritual guaranteed to disappoint, for there are no flowers, or hints of anything resembling a Heavenly Blue Morning Glory.

 I thought I was such a green thumb, an engineer of plants, a more intelligent being, ready to manipulate  nature to my will. The laugh is on me.

Why are humans so bent on changing things; rivers are straightened and dammed, bays are filled in to extend coastlines, mixed forests are clear cut then replanted with another species.

My 'design' looked beautiful in my mind's eye, yellow sunflowers peeking out among brilliant blue flowers on a green canvas.
Guppy the sailboat with last year's bounty.

Last year's garden was astounding, as it was all in pots and it produced  much food. I had to use Greg's sailboat for the tomatoes and, let me tell you, that 13-ft. sailboat is a much better planter than an actual in-the-water-type boat.

The experience in the sailboat at Clear Lake taught us so well. Being at a 45 degree or more angle is just mentally weird. My brain screamed, "Danger, danger" while I argued with it, "he'll turn us into the wind, we'll be fine."
Well, there's this small island you see, so the wind then whipped us from the other side.

Did we take sailing lessons?
 Of course not!
Nor did we wear floatation jackets because a capsize was not  possible, thus no need.

 The reasoning escapes logic, I agree.

We started the motor and removed all sail as we headed back to the harbor, the safe but boring option.

 Boring until the mast crashed down. Greg failed to see the low-hanging oak branch above the take-out. I distinctly heard a collective "gasp" from the boaters in the parking lot.

Once again, nature had the last laugh.

Guppy is the world's prettiest planter and that's that. The pots all lined up on the cockpit seats as she sits on her trailer in the parking lot.

Every residence we've lived in was a gardening challenge; first the desert of Mojave with no shade, all heat, then the dark forest of a mountain with all shade, no heat.

The desert was easiest to garden in. Spaghetti squash greened out the chain link fence and the lattice panels added shade and cut the wind blasts.  Greg would do his morning duty and hand pollinate the  golden yellow female squash flowers, a task he enjoyed, "Better then meditation and yoga."

 The mountain garden did well considering it was located in a tiny open area under the mixed deciduous forest of black oak, Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir trees.

In the  fifteen years we lived in our little 600-square-foot redwood cabin, the garden lost its spot of sunlight as the conifers grew. When we added the chipped remains of a big-leaf maple, that really did it, as the seeds in the chipped mulch began to grow, although the fall colors were delightful.

The local denizens of the forest stopped in to say hello. He had large ears framing the antlers, so I named him Prince Charles. He told his gang "look, a salad bar!" then mowed down the tomato plants to the nub. With full bellies Charles and his does paraded down the middle of the street like they owned the joint, which they do.

Other visitors included skunks, moles and bats. The 1950s-era cabin had been enlarged with a deck at some point in its life and that's where the bat show began each evening.

 As I sat in the twilight more sensing the creatures than seeing them, I'd remember that night at Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park. Never had I experienced so vicious a mosquito, not even in Biloxi. Right though the shirt fabric they attacked us, then suddenly ... Thousands of bats darkened the air over the campsite. I ducked but was too fearful to move away. They swooped and circled and flitted over and around us until all the insects had been eaten, then the bats disappeared as silently as they had arrived.
Looks like a face coming out of the ground.

We discovered the home turf of the bats on the next camping trip to Ajhumawi State Park. The area was once a volcanic field and has cinder cones and lava tubes and caves. Of course we had to explore a large cave next to the hiking trail right?
The cave of bats we entered slowly, and left quickly.

As we turned a corner in the cave, Greg stopped and said, "I'm going to take a shot of this."

It took Greg only half a nanosecond to rethink his bad idea as the whole cave was solid with sleeping bat bodies, moving now from our disturbance.
"Turn around and leave slowly ... now" he whispered. Any minute I expected to be flooded with flying bats, wondering what this experience is going to be like and will I get them out of my hair.

There are no bats around here in the potted garden with its trellis. A few turkeys will wander through, glancing at the turkey standing at the sailboat, but that's all.

Maybe by the time you read this story, I'll have success and can return to calling them Heavenly Blue and not Dante's Disappointment.

The 8th of September was a heavenly day for there appeared one single Morning Glory in all its Heavenly hue of Blue
Worth the wait.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


             The drivers speeding by on the state highway barely notice her. She is just another small pond under the tall pines in the forest. Just another body of water, one of several in the area. But Vern is a special body, unlike Boggs Lake or Forest Lake, Vern will disappear in the summer and transform herself into a flowering meadow.
If she could, Vern would tell you of the history she witnessed, going way back to the volcanism that laid ash on her bed of clay. In more recent times, she suffered baseball games, bicycling  and horseback riding from the folks at a resort on her southern flank.

The resort was completely destroyed by fire in 1967, with part of a stone wall remaining.

She will tell you of her enemies and of her rescue. Her owner began excavation in 1984 to force her into a recreational lake, but he somehow skipped getting the required permits.

About this same time, friends she had not yet met came and introduced themselves. They were seekers of rare plants, so she showed them her jewelry box.

Among her treasures they found a plant that grows nowhere else and named it the
 Loch Lomond Button Celery.  Discovered in 1941 and collected by botanist  Beecher Crampton  in 1954, two more occurrences north of San Francisco were later found. (This plant is so rare, no pictures online allow for copy. A written request for use must be sent to California Native Plant Society or the photographer.)

Loch Lomond Resort, late 1940s
By 1993 Vern had a new owner, the state of California and a new unladylike name, the Loch Lomond Vernal Pool Ecological Reserve or LLVPER. Yuck.
"Honey, me and the dog are gonna go visit Vern."

"Okay, be careful. Say hello for me"

The state agency Dept. of Fish And Game, built a post-and-rail fence with a dirt path skirting the perimeter. Next year the agency drafted a management plan, a fun read if you like  fantasy, for the interpretive signs never appeared,  neither the "repair fence as necessary" (page 16).  She was ignored and neglected..
We visited her almost daily, although in the rainy season, parts of the path were flooded, for Vern did not care about the fence.

By 1995, the fence was crumbling, whole sections had fallen over, other sections missing entirely.

    The Damage
On this warm afternoon in April of 2008, Vern was drying out and the path was muddy and full of recent and deep tire tracks. Not only was the path destroyed, the tracks went beyond a missing section of fence and into the meadow.  Vern's enemies had returned, riding ATVs. In the surrounding woods live scalawags and parolees of every type. The Chamber of Commerce will not tell you this though. They will tell you what a nice resort Loch Lomond is, all the amenities it offers, including "occasional snowfalls" at Christmastime.

"Honey we're back .. and I need your help."

   The Rescue

Knowing how much Greg hated off-road vehicles, I tried to cushion the blow he was about to receive. Rage was not going to help me in my rescue effort.

" I need your photography skills and your camera at the vernal pond. There is real bad damage and I wanna document it."

"You can take the camera, what's the big deal?" he asks.

"No, you don't understand, it's bad hon."

Finally, he agrees and again I caution that the damage is extensive, "steel yourself for this." I add.

The ruts where the path used to be are a good eight inches deep, serious ankle breakers. The mud was beginning to dry and turn to concrete already.  The damage went from the fence to the treeline.

Several photographs (seen here) were scanned onto the bottom of the letter I carefully composed,  then mailed copies to all state and federal representatives of the Cobb Mountain area. I included a 'cc' list of each name receiving the letter. Then waited.

   The Response
Two replies came back, one from U. S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and the second from Mike Thompson, California State Senator at that time. Senator Feinstein's letter stated, " ...  the land in question belongs to the State of California and is not a Federal issue."  The second reply from  Mike Thompson had, "we will look into this, my assistant will be calling you soon." Next day the call came and very soon, no trespassing signs appeared along the undamaged portion of the path. Sheriff's deputies were seen talking to people in pickup trucks, the truck bed holding an ATV.  Then came the surveyors, placing brightly colored sticks in the middle of the pond.

I put the pressure on. I emailed the state agency responsible for the property, California Dept. of Fish and Game, only to find out they were "unaware this reserve exists." I promptly sent them the 1994 Draft Management Plan they themselves had published.

Next on my email list was the strong environmental  group, the California Native Plant Society. This organization publishes a list annually of endangered and threatened native plants used as the reference by other agencies.

Then came the Great Recession. Vern's tale may not have a happy ending for by the time we moved away in 2012, nothing more had been done.  The survey markers were long gone. The gouges were tramped  down to a semblance of a path by feet and horse hooves willing to risk it.

At least the no trespassing signs were still visible, having been nailed to living oak and pine trees.

Beecher Crampton (1918-2002) is the author of Grasses of California, published in 1974.

Other Federal and State-listed endangered plants in the reserve are :
 *Many-flowered navarretia
 *Few-flowered navarretia
Wikipedia's article on the LLVPER here.
Few-flowered Naverretia c michael hogan  License
"Vern" as seen from State Highway 175.
More information on vernal ponds here

Thursday, July 27, 2017


by B. T. Raven


All lakes, at some point in their careers were once rivers.

Most rivers, against their will, become lakes. They are dammed to become lakes as some sort of punishment. River prisons. The waterfowl and fish are innocent victims of this scheme.

Rivers have no right of free speech, but the brooks often speak out. They babble, mostly, being so little.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

La Cucaracha

La Cucaracha

Living in the Deep South was like living in a terrarium. Everything seemed oversized, from  the six-inch long grasshoppers to the bullfrogs the size of my hand.

Unless you cut down the trees, bushes and vines, then paved over your land with concrete, you were on a first-name basis with nature.

Even the bugs were huge. The cockroach refused to be shown up by the famous   mosquitoes "the size of Volkswagens."

Not only were the cockroaches big, they could fly. American cockroach is the common name, although they have another, friendlier name spoken by those who can't bring themselves to say the word "roach."   Palmetto bugs. Brings a picture of beach, sun and palm trees to your mind.

The bug man never worried about unemployment , every house needed him on a monthly basis. Diana's  mom Bertha had the bug man spray their kitchen. For two days, you could not even sit at the table, the acrid, chemical smell was so strong.

 Neither could the cockroaches, they just moved to other parts of the old house. Diana and  I would play throw the shoe ... the winner was whoever's shoe came the closest to knocking the big, brown guy off the wall.

I hated that smell and tried to leave our house while the bug man sprayed each room's baseboards. Thinking back now, I always seemed to be sick when Dad made his monthly phone call to Biloxi.

Having them dead was almost worse then having them alive, for they chose the most inconvenient places to croak.  I'd pull out a frying pan to cook a nice Southern breakfast of eggs, bacon and grits, and there he was, belly up and definitely dead.

 The chemical companies have had to change their formulas, the insects adapted to the poisons.  It's a waste of money, especially in the south, where everything grows regardless of what Man does in his fight again nature.

La Cucaracha is winning.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Remembrance-Janice Beryl Shaughnessy July 21, 1923

The first time Mom told me  her middle  name, I was disappointed.

 But only because she said she hated it. She said it sounded like "barrel" even though she knew it was the name of a precious gem.

I thought having a name of a pretty blue-green stone was enchanting. Emerald is a variety of beryl.

Dad hated his middle name too and neither of them added their middle name in signatures.

Mom went traditional with my mine, although I was never sure if my first name was just Marcia or Marcialynn. It is a combination of Marcia, who was Mom's only sister and Lynn, her brother's wife, Marilyn (Dennis).

On top of that,  Deep South tradition is to preface a woman's first name with  "Miss"; Miss Betty, Miss Helen, etc.  Of course, I refused to do this and called my best friend Diana's mom "Bertha". Diana addressed my mom
as "Miss Janice".

 I was hard-headed. Even after Diana's family asked me why didn't I follow the custom, I never changed.  Our black housekeeper Alma knew it, "You a hard-headed chil, and yer moma don't whup you like she oughta." she told me sternly.

Mom had to let Alma go eventually, as the money got tight.  Mr. Jackson, the groundskeeper disappeared too. I asked her why isn't she getting retirement from her Stanford University teaching job? Seemed to me she had been a longtime fixture on campus, but was less than twenty years.

 There were good memories in Biloxi despite the rough times: Sitting on the patio listening to the tugboats on the back bay, watching her show how to make sand castles, or how to crack a crab claw open or a walnut. Reading her college textbooks and trying to decipher her hieroglyphics she called "notes."

When she wasn't trying to stop freight trains, she'd instruct me in  everything from Chinese checkers to jigsaw puzzles to how to fill out a check, or the correct way to spoon soup from the bowl. She was a patient teacher.

 Mom loved dancing the most I believe. Dancing freed her spirit, and she is dancing now and forever.

Thank you Mom for everything.

There was never, ever a doubt you loved your children, and

that is the most precious gem of all.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Waiting on a driftwood log

  Dad's house is on the extreme right with the giant tree and the cliff can be seen on the very left edge of photo. This beach is Twin Lakes State Beach, Santa Cruz, California.

    My father and Gale married in 1966, then bought a beachfront house in Santa Cruz. I fell instantly in love with it. Three sides had multi-paned windows which poured in sunshine (after the fog burned off.) The first summer visits back to California from Biloxi were to this home.

 There were many 'firsts' here; the yellow marguarite daisies lined the walkway to the alley in the rear, planted by Dad, and taller than I was. Mikey, their German Shepherd, taught me how to play fetch with his dog toy. Their VW camper bus was like a playhouse on wheels, it had a stove, sink, closet and loft. The beach was already familiar, having been on the Biloxi beach many times since the divorce.

 The Santa Cruz beach had exciting tall, scary cliffs, and giant waves, unlike the Mississippi beach of reclaimed flat marshland (and no waves taller than ten inches.)

 Dad and I went for beach-stroll one afternoon. We walked down along the water and around a prominent jut of cliff. Past that was a smaller, secluded crescent of beach with seaweed and driftwood.

 I had trouble keeping up with his long strides and had to run to catch up. I quickly tired of this, so on the return walk, I sat down on a large driftwood log and waited to see what he would do.

 He never looked back. I watched him walk around the cliff and disappear. I waited, and waited and waited.

 A voice yelled from high above. It's Dad! I yelled back and waved but don't remember exactly what was said, although I'm certain he was not happy. I expected him to retrace our path, but he was up on the top of the cliff in someone's back yard. No, he was not happy at all.

An 8-year-old teaching her father a lesson! Dad never left me behind again.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Roller coaster of the heart

Today is July 12 ...the day after tomorrow will be July 14th, Dad's birth date in 1922. He would've been 95. And as if that's not enough, the NEXT day, 15th, is both the birth date of my husband AND the date of death of mom/Miss Janice...but wait, there's more...July 21st? Mom's birthday in New Orleans, 1923.......hello! After Dad's 60th birthday at Raamwood Ranch, he turned to me and said " I will now start counting backwards, so in 20 years, you and I will be the same age." That's the way his mind worked ....Both Billy and I feel his spirit now and then. I should call Billy on the 14th ....

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


Memories ... In writing this memoir, I’ve come to believe memories have personalities. Some come bursting through the door yelling “write me, write me!” while others are shy, deep in shadow, a vague silhouette. The shy ones are the most challenging, as they must be gently coaxed out into the light, only to discover they are holding hands with another memory. Soon, I have a whole group in front of me, quietly waiting while I inspect each one, turning them this way and that, standing there mute while I ponder what to do. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ From the memoir Miss Hippie In Mississippi