Saturday, November 18, 2017


If I sneeze any harder,
I will be residing in the next county.
Or offshore, say, near the Farallones.
Maybe pee my pants in the process,
I seem to be leaking at all ends.
I'm like a crawdad shooting backwards
out of danger. I scoot into a corner, 
or prop my back for a tuck and roll.
We're not talking petite parakeet sneezes
women seem to manage in public.
But bull-roaring tonsil severing sneezes
that would threaten any crown or filling.
I've heard of people breaking ribs
or rupturing a disk. Seems extreme 
just to get a bowl of chicken soup.  
But a jumbo-sized glass of wine
seems to have quelled my sneezing fits. 
Offers me some form of respite.
Sure, I could take some Sudafed 
to dry up the dripping faucet, 
but then I can't sleep at all. 
Besides, wine's much more fun. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Dancing on the Brink

Last day of the year, 2015: the Farallones, 20 miles  from Point Reyes

On the last day of the year, the Farallones, 20 miles out from Point Reyes, seemed so close, I could almost touch them. A pumpkin sky and ominous black islands. A last gasp from a dying camera; its swan song.

Farallón means "pillar" or "sea cliff," they were once known as "Devil's Teeth Islands," for the treacherous shoals. Part of the Sierras, a block of rifted granitic continental crust thrusted up. A place where I though the dead dwelled. I had no idea that the islands were the abode of spirits, called "Islands of the Dead" by the Ohlones.

The Farallones are home to 400 species of birds, many of them rare, or endangered. I once saw a tufted puffin wing his way off Point Reyes. A small clownish football of a bird winging home with a beakfull of fish.

Vizcaíno's friar, Antonio de la Ascencion, called the islands los Farallónes, the place of cliffs. Probably why San Francisco Bay was never discovered by Vizcaíno, or Drake, who called them the Islands of Saint James. A place of treacherous shoals. A place of many shipwrecks. Not to mention the thick summer fog.

The American whalers, and Russian explorers built sealing stations there, manned by Alaskan Kodiak Islanders, until there were no more northern fur seals left. Whether Northern, or Guadalupe fur seals, we will never know. One of the largest seabird colonies in the U.S. Then the Gold Rush—millions of seabird eggs (500,000 a month) collected, led to the San Francisco Egg Wars.

When I was a child I loved the mournful sob of the bouys when the thick fog rolled in at night. Classmate Ingrid's great-grandparents, the Cains, were lighthouse keepers on the Farallones. The other lighthouse keeper's wife, Wilhelmina Beeman delivered Ingrid's grandmother, Farallon—a child named after the sea cliffs. They moved to the mainland before the 1906 quake, and lost everything. Only a photo of her grandmother in a basket on the porch, in a book, was what survived.

Then the island was Rum Row during the Prohibition. Then we turned our backs on the islands. The shoals were a nuclear waste dump during the 1940s to the 1970s; 50,000 radioactive drums, and 44,000 shipyard containers were scuttled, and are still rusting away—we still don't know what is in them. But it can't be good. Stories of massive sponges growing in the littoral zones.

Yes, and here we are, still dancing on the brink of the world. Words from the lost Ohlone language:
uxar-at kai pire.
On the cliff, on the edge,
on the brink of the world,
we are dancing.
Day of the Dead, All Soul's Day, The beginning and the end of the Celtic year. My grandmother, brother and mother all died right before Samhain. So, Samhain, All Souls' Day, and El Dia de los Muertos is a three-fold sorrow. Thinking of my mother who wanted her ashes scattered off the Golden Gate, to drift to the Farallones. Maybe I should give her back to the sea.

Fitting image for El Día de los Muertos.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

SFSU survey may have got more than an earful from me

A SFSU alumni survey may have gotten more than an earful from me, I wrote lengthy diatribes, so I saved my responses (below). (Say how ya really feel, Hurley...)

Name one person who made a positive impact: Advisor and mentor, English/ Creative Writing teacher, Prof. Dan Langton, who went out of his way to assure that I was able to transcend the process of being a returning student; he helped to keep things relevant, and offered community credit for work I was already doing; he was not a bureaucratic hoop jumper as so many teachers I encountered at SFSU have been.

Because I needed a correlative, I chose playwriting. Brighid Mullins was a fantastic Creative Writing/theater teacher, I learned a lot from her, especially a deeper appreciation of Aristotle. A good bridge. Roy Conboy too was the real deal. Relevant. A shoutout to Joe McBride who ran all the weekend cinema classes, He was fantastic. Loved the historical overview of film noir.

I found the late Justin Chinn to be an abysmal Creative Writing/theater teacher, if you could call him that—he was fine for the newbies, but not for someone with a lot of writing experience. He skated on his thin persona, and did not teach; my only B grade, out of 56 units of A grades, I might add, because I pushed for more in-depth material. But it turned me off to playwriting.

I might add that I had a profoundly disturbing experience when I first attended SFSU during the mid 1970s, I found the Art Department, and facilities to be sub-par, and I dropped out of school after a year, and finished my BA at Sonoma State.

The only bright moment was taking a class from Prof. McGrath in anthropology, which led me to a lifelong pursuit of Celtic Studies.

SFSU has made dramatic inroads since those early years, but it is still not top notch, at least in my experience.

What am grateful for: That I got my MA, but I never completed my MFA because I ran into too much obfuscation and run-arounds, and downright contradictions, from the respective deans of Humanities, and the Graduate Admissions powers that be, when I tried to file for my MFA. I was literally on the homestretch, I had completed ALL the coursework, it was merely a matter of filing papers, and turning in my thesis. But I couldn't get the paperwork completed and signed off. Tired of wrangling with bureaucrats, I left SFSU in disgust. This is one reason why I cannot wholeheartedly recommend SFSU.

I was simultaneously enrolled at UC Berkeley's Celtic Studies program, while pursuing a MA and MFA in Creative Writing, so working with SFSU English Prof. (Peter?) Flynn, whose office door was always open, allowed me to create a bridge for my ongoing learning, which wasn't offered at SFSU. It meant I was able to also pursue my scholarly interest with some of the great scholars at UC Berkeley including Prof. Alan Dundes, and Professors Dan Melia and Robert Tracy.

I find your Education Department to be the most appalling I have ever encountered. So much so that I gave up on the idea of obtaining a credential. I would not recommend them. Period.

Also, my partner, who got his credential at SFSU, got a similar monkeyhouse runaround when he tried to complete his MA in Education. Because I was witness to his Education classes, teachers and assignments, sometimes sitting in on classes, I can safely say, your Education Department is/ was awful. There is too much nepotism and concern which leads to a closed shop mentality. Probably only one decent professor in the department who had integrity, was Flores. The rest had their jobs, it was all about them keeping their jobs, not about the students' welfare, or a meaningful education. SFSU cranks out sub-par teachers who are incredibly ill-equipped to succeed in the real world. Pedagogy is not the teaching of pedagogy for pedagogy's sake. But there you have it. Mirrors reflecting mirrors ad infinitum.

I have worked in California schools as an artist in residence since 1979, so I have worked with an astonishingly wide range of teachers.  The ones from SFSU are always the sub-par ones; they are C students.

You do need to hire more stellar and inspiring teachers within the Education Department, not teachers whose sole interest seems to hanging onto their jobs until retirement. I have never seen such nepotism and cronyism in my life. Perhaps by now it's improved as that was more than ten years ago and some of those teachers have moved on (one would hope). But I kind of doubt it. It's a self-perpetuating cycle.

Advice to future SFSU candidates, given that both my experiences at SFSU were not stellar, I would choose my words carefully, and remain non-committal, rather than say what I really felt, as I do know SFSU has been a great experience for many students.

Other comments: I think I've thoroughly covered the winter of my discontent pretty thoroughly in the above comments. Sadly, I'm still angry at SFSU, and its bureaucratic and often draconic policies after all these years. It was not a good experience.

Sunday, October 29, 2017


    —with thanks to Sean Folsom for posting the painting
A woman playing a viola, Gerrit Van Honthorst

A young gambist gamboling about 
with her viola da gamba, not a viola á' amare,
caught firmly between her plush thighs. 
Titillating how that fine-drawn bowstring 
is playing more than one drawn out note
as she frets the long neck of her instrument
in the key of C.  She rubs her bow 
across the basso string, and plays underhand 
in the German style.

In a primeval dance between flame and air 

the only candle in the tavern wavers, divine light
threatens to gutter, but flares up before the finale.
The gamblers lean in as she reaches the crescendo.
Who cares what she's playing? She plays them well
with taut bow strings thrumming a primal tune
drawn on chiaroscuro and lace-nippled light.
She's about to have an epic wardrobe fail.

She's wearing the same dress in The Matchmaker.
Clearly she's hot. Perhaps she's having hot flashes.
By contrast, the Man with a Viola da Gamba
is sensibly dressed in a teal silk tunic and lined cape.
They're playing the same scroll-headed instrument.
In Musical Group on a Balcony, her chemise slips
off her shoulders in hopes that the wind will pick up,
under her skirt, a glimpse of a gartered red stocking.
Isn't that her nippled visage in Granida and Daifilo?
Is the painter's wife cavorting with shepherds too?

Dutch painter Gerrit van Honthorst was nicknamed
Gherardo delle notti, as he was in love with the night.
Gherardo Hollandese was a master of nocturnal light.
It all must be true as Rubens painted our Gerrit
as the one honest man Diogenes sought by lamplight.

I am reminded that gamba is Italian for leg, or thigh. 
As in: She had a pair of great gams. 
Also the word for ham comes from gamba. 
We can't see her gams, as she hams it up,
but she has some mighty fine yams.
Caravaggio would have been proud 

of this most opulent display of her finest fruits
escaping the fragile loom of her corselet.
And there you have the entire gambit.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Viva Che! O'Hara & Fitzpatrick!

The iconic Viva Che! image by my Facebook friend, Dublin artist Jim Fitzpatrick, is now commemorated as an Irish postal stamp, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the death of the revolutionary leader, Che Guevarra. Jim never received a dime for his print
, one of the most iconic images of the 20th century. And now it's a €1 stamp! Can't lick that.

Jim Fitzpatrick is best known for his detailed illustrations inspired by the Irish Celtic tradition. Jim produced most of the album artwork for Irish rock group, Thin Lizzy, and Sinéad O'Connor. His most recent work includes commemorative portraits of Ireland's 1916 revolutionary heroes. However, his singlemost famous piece is the 1968 iconic two-tone portrait of Che Guevara, based on a photo by Alberto Korda.
A note on the Che poster, from Jim Fitzpatrick's website:
In 1967 I was outraged by the manner of Che Guevara's execution while a prisoner of war in Bolivia and it led me to create this now world-famous image.
I have now also made this image available for free download so that it can be used by everyone -including those who cannot afford my prints or canvas of El Che: the unemployed, the oppressed, the victims of banker-imposed austerity here in Ireland, the EU and elsewhere, those who fight against the legal/political elite and the corrupt banker cartels who think they rule us -and those who rage against injustice.
This image is yours. Use it!  No resale or commercial usage please -it has been exploited enough. Please remember I do NOT ever license this image for commercial usage. Misuse this image or resell any reproductions thereof and you will be liable for a fine of $10,000 per item sold or for any violation of my copyright of this image.
Time to RECLAIM CHE! Free usage for leftist causes under Creative Commons Licence. No fee for leftist/socialist political usage.—JIM FITZPATRICK. ARTIST. IRELAND.
Jim Fitzpatrick holding up the controversial Che postage stamps.

BTW,  the postage stamp is taking some heat:
That the Viva Che! postal stamp is very much a celebration of one of the most important pieces of twentieth century Irish art, Jim Fitzpatrick’s Viva Che!, seems to have passed many commentators by.
In an Irish context, Guevara is very much associated with Fitzpatrick’s iconic artwork and the words of his father, who proclaimed following his son's death that “the first thing to note is that in my son’s veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels.” They were powerful words, even finding their way to the painted gable wall of a Derry house in time."  from  A Dubliner encounters Che Guevara in Havana, 1959.
The postal service described Guevara, killed by CIA-backed Bolivian soldiers in Bolivia in 1967, as “the quintessential left-wing revolutionary.”
It said demand for the stamp has rivaled that of its two previously most popular releases, commemorating the sinking of the Titanic and Ireland’s 1916 Rising against British rule.
But it was quickly reminded that Guevara remains for many symbol of the violent abuses of Cuba’s communist government, with one Irish senator describing Guevara as “a barbaric interrogator, jailer and executioner of hundreds of supposed ‘class enemies’.”
Cuban-American radio host Ninoska Perez Castellon joined the fray urging listeners to write to the postal service to ask for the stamp to be scrapped. Irish postage stamp homage to Che Guevara stokes criticism
Controversial or not, said Fitzpatrick, "The stamp sold out in less than a week. I'm so proud to have had this happen at all but the response has blown me away! Amazing! They say An Post are going to reprint them as the demand was 'unprecedented'." It's also selling like hotcakes on eBay.


When I wore a Ché shirt, my grandmother pointed out to me that Guevara's paternal grandmother,  Anna Isabel Lynch from Galway, was related to the Lynches of San Francisco. How did she even know that? But then, her Irish diaspora knowledge was vast. Especially the Irish revolutionaries. Her husband was an Irish revolutionary too.

Ernesto (Che) was named after his father, Ernesto Guevara Lynch, who famously said when Che was executed,  "… my son’s veins flowed the blood of Irish rebels."

From the knee I learned a radically different version of history than what was taught in our Anglocentric school I learned that the founder of the Chilean Navy was Bernardo O'Higgins. One of Ireland's famous Wild Geese, Daniel Florence O'Leary became Simón Bolívar's right hand man. Some 2,500 Irish volunteers joined Bolivar. Then there are the San Patricios of Mexico. And, I learned of the Argentinian rebel, Che's Irish roots, of course.

My grannie told me this in the late 60s, early 70s. Long before the internet. Of course, I didn't believe her at the time. She said it so matter of fact, it was old information. She must've known the Lynches. In 1919  San Francisco was a small town, and all the Irish knew each other.

My grandmother was also a big fan of both the Maureens, Maureen O'Sullivan and Maureen O'Hara. My mother was named after Maureen O'Sullivan, not O'Hara, but then, my grandmother's mother was a Sullivan. The name Maureen was a new addition to the family tradition that recycles a handful of names every generation—which creates massive family tree chaos.

Everyone thinks I'm named after Maureen O'Hara (who was really a Fitzsimmons). I don't mind. I always wanted to look like her. But my red hair of childhood turned dark as I aged,  and my brown eyes only have green flecks. Bits of Ireland trapped in them, my grannie said.


Maureen O'Hara met Che Guevara while on location in Cuba. In Our Man in Havana, O'Hara was sent to Havana to investigate British secret agent (Alec Guinness). A bit more on Che in O'Hara's own words:
'When we arrived in Havana on April 15, 1959, Cuba was a country experiencing revolutionary change. Only four months before, Fidel Castro and his supporters had toppled Fulgencio Batista… Che Guevara was often at the Capri Hotel. Che would talk about Ireland and all the guerrilla warfare that had taken place there. He knew every battle in Ireland and all of its history. And I finally asked, “Che, you know so much about Ireland and talk constantly about it. How do you know so much?” He said, “Well, my grandmother’s name was Lynch and I learned everything I know about Ireland at her knee.” He was Che Guevara Lynch! That famous cap he wore was an Irish rebel’s cap. I spent a great deal of time with Che Guevara while I was in Havana. Today he is a symbol for freedom fighters wherever they are in the world and I think he is a good one.' from  A Dubliner encounters Che Guevara in Havana, 1959.
Ché/Shay Guevara as in Seamus O' Meara? Alliterative food for thought. 


I found out after I wrote this piece that Maureen O'Hara died on this day, 2015. And another favorite firebrand, Tom Hayden, on Oct 23, 2016. May the roads rise up....

So long, Tom Hayden

Monday, October 23, 2017


Round barn, red as the setting sun,
doubly vibrant against the fresh green
of spring grass where countless horses
once grazed, tearing away the past 
with each mouthful, their hunger 
is now the fodder of sorrow
for what the eye is missing.

If I tilt my head just so, I can still hear 
the ghost horses whinnying from the stalls 
of that venerable redwood barn 
now returned to silica and ash.


Will Chubb's photo of the iconic Red Barn

Perhaps the one thing I will mourn the loss of most is the Fountaingrove Red Barn. A photographer is offering prints of it free.

Will Chubb Photography wrote: "Many of you are requesting a print of our beloved Red Barn. Just email me at, or @WillChubbPhotography, and I will send in the order to Costco, free of charge, just let me know what size you want. It will be printed on photo paper. All you have to do is go to Costco and pick it up. If you want a metal or canvas print, I'll let you pay for it."

Sunday, October 22, 2017


Some blamed the hot Santanas
while others cursed the Diablo winds.
howling at 75 miles per hour.
Whatever you call it, a maelstrom
devoured Santa Rosa de Lima's namesake.
The city blanketed in a layer of ash
so a friend left red roses on all the cop cars.
What else was there to do in a time of fire?
We became the light in a darkened land.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Facebook Rant

For all you naysayers who can't fathom the enormity of the Tubbs fire, and are making senseless remarks about people not saving their animals, you are pissing those off who actually witnessed the devastation.

In case you're impoverished in imagination, here is a description of the fire. Imagine embers the size of golf balls falling from the sky, dropped from the next county over (12 miles away). Imagine a tornado of fire touching down, lifting cars up, and tossing them around like toys. Imagine walls of orange fire that sucked all the oxygen out of the air. Imagine everything reduced to ashes in minutes.

This firestorm was so powerful it generated 157 MPH winds, flames several stories tall, traveling faster than people could run, than cars could drive. It was estimated by one of the fire scientists that the fire was traveling at 258 feet per second. Animals were incinerated in their tracks, in mid-run. 

All this happened in the middle of the night, with no warning, no official evacuation notice, and most people, who were fast asleep, had five minutes to evacuate. The Tubbs Fire is ranked as the singlemost destructive wildfire in California history.

You have no idea what it was like. No one had advance warning, no evacuation notices were issued. At midnight, the fire was still in the next county over. Twelve miles away. People had no leisurely warning of smoke. Nada. This is nothing like what anyone has ever experienced before.

Note that the terrain is extremely mountainous, there are few roads (except through the canyons—where several deaths occurred because people couldn't outrun the fire). The fire began in Napa, the next county over. It climbed several ridges and came down the other side of the mountain range into Santa Rosa, while roaring through Porter Creek. Meanwhile a vanguard of sparks and embers driven by fierce winds lit the way. The Tubbs fire moved at astonishing speed, growing exponentially larger by the minute.

I wasn't there either, but I was following the Napa Atlas fire via Mike Thompson on Facebook. At 1AM, the Tubbs/Calistoga fire hit Santa Rosa, I warned Mike Thompson that no one was reporting alerts for Sonoma Co. All hell was breaking loose, when I started posting what info I could find on his wall. Mike jumped into the fray and we posted fire and sheriff notices until dawn.

Evacuations began at 1:30AM. By 2AM the fire winds were hurricane force. By 4:30AM, entire neighborhoods disappeared. Fire tornadoes whipping faster than 100mph, super-heated roaring winds combusting everything in their path, including hurling cars over.

The fire traveled so fast, it leapt the freeway, and my cousin and aunt escaped with only the clothes on their backs, another friend wasn't so lucky. He never even made it out of bed. Cadaver dogs found his bones where his bed would've stood. You naysayers weren't there. You haven't a clue.

There should be a special kind of hell for people like you, carping on others' misfortunes. YOU WEREN"T THERE. 

Think before you post. We are all grieving and we don't need your wanky BS hypotheses, what you'd do. You weren't there. You don't know what you'd do.

Hindsight is 20/20. So bend over and kiss your own heinies goodbye before you unthinkingly post your blanket condemnations. You weren't there. You weren't there. You weren't there. You don't know what you're talking about.


Find five things you can see:
His old guitar leans on the stand,
body like a leathern curragh of the saints,
strap curled up like a cat's tail. Silent as death.

A corduroy dog my grandmother made,
something from my childhood.

A friend's mother's ornate framed mirror,
a bejewelled beveled arch, a portal to the past.

A vase of wing feathers from the wild geese
long since departed from this clement shore.

My latest gift: a soapstone carving
of Chaak-mool waiting for the sacrificed heart,
something that I already gave away long ago
to a man who didn't want it.
After the cancer scare, he cleaned out the past.
Thought I might want it as a memento mori
to remember him by.

Four things I can touch:
An old sheepskin rug on the couch,
once a seat cover I made for my first car.

The polished floorboards of an old house
built before the Crash,
built before my mother was born.

A dead poet's worn Balouch rug
hides the futon couch where I sit in the sun,
where a splash of rainbow light hovers,
an ephemeral gift from a crystal in the window.

My latest favorite tea mug, empty,
yet filled with unspent grief. I still cannot eat.

Three things I can hear:
The incessant tide of freeway traffic,
everyone hurtling down the road in all directions,
but going nowhere. Growling trucks.

The tinnitus in my ears,
like midsummer crickets,
distant caroling of bells.
Imaginary sleighs.

An early robin yelling Chock!
at the squirrel burying his acorns
in the water bowl. Again.

Two things I can smell:
Faint lavender odor from a cashmere sweater,
but the moths had their way with it.

Acrid dust, the silica souls of trees,
houses, the sum total of people's lives,
reduced to base metal, carbon and ash.

One thing I can taste:
Bitter gall on the tongue
the aftermath of fire,
mixed with salt tears.

I've grounded myself in the past.
But the muscles surrounding my heart ache,
the obsidian blade cannot sever the pain
from time present.
So I offered it up to Chaak-mool.
Then the blessed rains fell,
and the skies wept.



               —for Monte Kirven 1936-2017

We never knew what to believe:
his tall stories and epic fish tales,
cliffhangers woven into tapestries.
This man who helped to ban DDT.
After the dinner guests had departed,
the falconer shuffled off to bed, sated—
but an inferno raged, a river of fire
swept though Larkfield and Wikiup,
flooding the vast Santa Rosa plain.
No time to escape with his bird, still caged,
while my own kin fled a funereal pyre.
May the lone pern in the gyre
lead him onward to ride
the thermal updrafts
of those wide
 open skies.

Oct 20, 2017

Much love to Brian Kirven during this time of grief and sorrow.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

What is the most random thing you grabbed when you evacuated?

In the heat of the moment, people grabbed the oddest things. A cat tree. A hole punch. An eraser. Homework.

Shana Berger Van Cleave a pediatric dentist at The Children's Dental Health Center, in Santa Rosa, posted a question to a Facebook group, Santa Rosa Firestorm Update
She asked the group: What is the most random thing you grabbed when you evacuated?
The Facebook post took off like, er, wildfire. Shana got more than 2000 hits on her question in less than 24 hours. Most people's responses were hilarious. I was laughing hysterically well into the night as I read the posts, and decided to pull a few. But soon I had hundreds. Single shoes, inappropriate clothing, sex toys, electronics. These are a few of my favorite things in no particular order. (It's been shared 1.2k times, just about breaking the internet) thus proving that laughter is the best medicine.
Some of my favorites:

"The FIRST things I grabbed were my bow and a sword. Then I was like, "First aid!!" So all the medicines and healing modalities were next, then food and camping stuff. THEN I realized I had packed no clothes!!! I guess I was planning on being the naked healing warrior!
• Ran out of the house, with embers the size of golf balls falling from the sky, with my golf clubs. 
• The disco ball. 
My husband grabbed 2 tvs and both ps3 and ps4. (Quite a few hubbies did this).
• Overdue library book. 
• I took 3 pairs of slippers and 2 pairs of underwear...hum? 
• A bunch of dress shirts and no pants. 
• A pair of jeans I love but don't fit into anymore.
• I packed two pair of panties, my critters and what they needed...but remember thinking, ah hell! Let my bras burn. 
• I took a single sock, All 3 snow boards. 
• Saddle.  • wrong saddle. Tack.
• All my boots, none of my undies. COMMANDO! 
• When the Neighbors came I ran out as is; snapped out of it when they all said "grab a blanket or pants?" Then instead of grabbing clean clothes I got on my dirty jeans from camping and a bag with all my dirty camping stuff from the day before... 
• Kelsey grabbed one boot..... just one. • One black loafer and one brown sandal.
• All my clothes and no clothes for the hubby or kids.
• Grabbed the thumb drive, left the laptop. It was a LAPTOP
• An old cuban cigar box of my mother's filled with small mementos, jewelry, cards, and as it turns out, sequined pasties I bought at an artsy burlesque show in SF 10 years ago. We showed up at our friend's house in Petaluma and I had no clean underwear, but dammit I had my pink tasseled pasties! 
• Seriously Natalie, a typewriter? 
• I went back to get our roomba. It felt like forgetting a pet. I know that's ridiculous, but I couldn't bear the thought of our adorable robot vacuum trying to outrun the flames, cleaning our floors as it went. 
• Both my husband and I looked up at each other as we discovered we each had a roll of TP in our hands! Good to know what's important to ya. 
• Cash, guns, ammo, and kids. In that order.
• I asked my kids to pack their own bags (bad mistake!) My eight year old packed ALL her underwear and 3 small white pumpkins.. my fiver year old packed like she was going to the French Riviera, sun dresses and a bathing suit. 
• I grabbed one shoe. I forgot to pack socks. 
• I had the dog in one hand and vodka in the other. • i put my turtle in my bra, grabbed my dog and cat, meds and dabs. 
• my 7 year old filled our car with stuffed animals! My accordion (had it for years and never played it). 
• My tuning fork.• Harp. • The accordion! Figured i would have nothing to do for a few days, so i would finally learn how to play lol. 
• My dog's tooth brush and forgot my own!! (He can share). 
Rubber duckies that remind me of my friend i lost at the beginning of the summer. 
• Sons baby teeth. 
• The negatives from my wedding of a man I am divorcing. 
• Tickets to Spamalot. 
• Underwear, guns, prosciutto and beer. That's all I grabbed. A very humbling way to learn those were all of my assets. 
• We evacuated a life-size velociraptor for a friend. 
• When we got to the hotel everyone asked what I had brought and I pulled a loaf of bread and a big box of goldfish out of our emergency bucket. Everyone stayed silent. 
• Ukulele! Also some extra birth control packs yet managed to lose my current one! 
• His car is packed with literally no clothes to evac, just his magic cards and his guitar. 
• I don't even wear makeup and I grabbed my makeup bag. I had been trying to get back into the habit and I had just purchased brand new makeup I didn't want to lose. 
• My bowl of vegetables! • Dog bowl. • Cat bowl. 
• My husband grabbed my wand I got this summer from Universal Studios. I'm a Harry Potter nerd. 
• my husband was the weirdo! He had to pack his prized ninja fighting stick! I think it’s called a kendo. I gave him so much shit! It’s this expensive ass stick that was custom made for him (I call it his $800 closet pole) That said he also uses it at a walking stick when we hike and our 2 favorite places to hike are sugarloaf and hood, once the fires started there, I too got a little more sentimental about it so I guess the jokes on me! 
• My mom grabbed my collectible barbies. I’m 27 years old, mind you. 
• My oldest broken laptop. 
• My ukulele. It’s not even worth much, and totally replaceable, but it gives me joy and I need every little bit of that joy. 
• The grass-fed butter! Couldn't leave it behind. 
• Toilet paper and mac and cheese. 
• For some reason I put two rolls of TP in the catfood bag. 
• Hotsauce. • ground cumin! • A case of wine.
• Lol My 10x magnifying mirror in case I wanted to put makeup on at some point!!! 
• My friend grabbed her glasses and chopstick that was it lol. 
• My husband packed the rice pot. 
• My Vitamix and KitchenAid mixer! 
• Nail polish and canned tuna. No opener. • Set of 6 antique whiskey glasses. 
• My husband grabbed a OLD Star Trek book.I looked at him like he was crazy. 
• I grabbed my back scratcher. my engagement ring and all his guns! 
• My dirty clothes - they were still packed in a suitcase. • I took a suitcase full of my wife's heels from Vegas. 
• The Christmas presents I ordered online that were all delivered the day before we evacuated! I was NOT shopping again!! Hahaha. 
 • My fricken rain boots. Not hiking boots or sneakers. My floppy doppy rain boots lol. 
• My moms remote to her air conditioner. I needed to mail it to her in Idaho! 
• my neighbor laughed at the ping pong paddles he grabbed. 
• Wine I packed everything for my 3 dogs, bird and turtle and almost nothing for my husband and myself. 
• A three pack of chapstick, you know, dry air and all! 
• My wife packed an entire backpack full of sex toys. 
• My hairbrush, BUT NO other toiletries, underwear, bra or socks (I grabbed everything for the hubby and the munchkin, and hairbrush!!!!) LOL. 
• I took 6 pairs of socks...but I left with only flip flops. 
• A friend told me her friend grabbed the bottle of Patron. Mom grabbed led light bulbs. 
• An acorn squash from my garden because I'd nurtured them all summer and hadn't eaten one yet. (it was delicious). 
• Garage door opener. 
• Cats, important paperwork, some clothes, but forgot the hamster. Luckily my house is still here.
• My vintage Turkish rug. It hangs on my wall, rolls up into a small bundle in seconds and is one of a kind irreplaceable. I picked it out of thousands in the Grand Bazaar and it's my favorite piece of art. Oh also my 5 string banjo. The rug and the banjo are still snuggling together in my trunk. 
• Elmer’s white glue. Tweezers
• My blow dryer with out a roller comb. And my hair is curly asf when puffed, I looked like a fluf bichonefraise. 
• I made sure I had a jar of coconut oil. A box of rice milk
• My swimsuit. It's October, for crying out loud. 
• My co-worker told me he grabbed 2 umbrellas. One for each of his cars. And Reese’s Puffs. (He was laughing at himself when he told me this.) 
• I grabbed a random manilla folder while I was in our important drawer because it was very thick and seemed like it might be important. Hours later I checked and discovered love letters and cards. 
• 1 Croc flip flop. My favorite shoes. I couldn't find the other in the dark. We only had 5 minutes. I wish now I'd not spent the 2 minutes on looking for that and grabbed something of value... 
• One of my guns, I didn't even think why or what for. Too many zombie apocalypse movies I guess haha. I took the lock-box (sane decision) and the label- maker (questionable decision).
• My wedding shoes! Amongst all the practical items sat my sparkly, jelly wedges. My thoughts were my dress was measured to those shoes, if I don't have them, the dress won't fit right!  
• I grabbed my dog's flea medicine... never mind the family photos. 
• my nine year old son's stuffed giant octopus from his bed. 
• My 5 year old insisted on bringing a pool noodle from The Dollar Store. 
• Jacobsen sea salt and Spanish saffron. 
• I brought my teaching bag to the Vets bldg for my 9am class. Oh & no change of clothes, for any of us. 
• My brother-in-law came to help us pack & I handed him my coffee beans and creamer, that’s it. 
• I love how many people grabbed a change of underwear. Does that mean we all have our mothers ringing in our heads that we should all wear clean underwear in case we ever get in an accident?"

What would you grab In the heat of the moment?

Press Democrat turned it into a funny article. Which has spurred another spate of hilarious stories. Someone commented that it was a wonderful side road off such a sad highway.  

One of my favorite comments was  from Nicole Dunham who said: Hey, kudos to those who packed their cat's climbing trees!!! I've been stuck in a Motel 6 with 5 cats, a rabbit, a parrot, 3 chickens, and a rooster since 3am last Monday. My cats are bored and stressed in a weird place and I'm kicking myself that I DIDN'T bring a cat tree of theirs! Granted, I had no time and only could pack critters and pet food. (no clothes, no make up... it's been a stinky week. But my pets are safe.)
They're ok with the small space. We have a small home to begin with so they're used to it, plus we've been incorporating some environmental enrichment for them to make it better. When we got here, we walked up the stairs with a cage full of chickens (3 hens and a silkie rooster) past the cleaning lady. We gave her an exhausted smile and she smiled and nodded. They get it. Nobody has complained about my rooster crowing every morning either.

Brad Davis Grabbed a bottle of wine worth maybe $5, while 5 feet away in my wine fridge I had THE bottle I was saving for a special occasion...and to boot I opened the drawer and took a picture of it "just in case I lost everything." Why didn't I just grab it and go? Not a clue...
Shana Berger Van Cleave said: My favorite on the thread was a pregnant lady who grabbed an apple out of a fruit bowl in case she got hungry and, when they lost the home with the apple tree from which it grew, they decided to use one of seeds to plant wherever they go.

Monday, October 16, 2017


All is quiet on the eastern front
and no more Nixles. A good sign.
Someone said the lights are still on
in much of Oakmont, a ghost town,
which is still under evacuation.
Another good sign. There is still power.
We all live from sign to sign.

Being a Depression era baby,
one old woman worries
about all her food spoiling.
Others fret over whether or not
their homes are still standing.
The pages are full of so many lost pets.

When there was nothing else left to do,
one vintner returned to his vineyards.
and said, fires be damned,
he brought in the last ton of grapes.
Said it'll be a hell of a vintage
with smokin' overtones.

A woman said thieves stole her lawn.
How do you even steal someone's lawn?
She shrugs: They left the trampoline?
Why would looters take my lawn?
Both front and back! The only green spot.
At least her house is still standing.
Someone said: watch Craigslist
for a plotless lawn for sale.

With the news of cannabis farms
going up in smoke, I'm betting
those lawn thieves are dumb enough
to think they'll get a good price
for their grass on the open market.


After a week of wildfire, what phoenix rises?

There's no way I can even begin to process this last week of hellfire. I can only hope that the words will come. I am desperate enough to turn mindless Facebook questionaires (at bottom) into poetry. I removed all the questions and worked on that skeletal poemography. Then, I revised, tosssed some lines, and reposted it. Because it's a random assortment of bland facts, it forces the mind in different directions with odd juxtapositions. I came up with this:

Yes, I dislike blue cheese but I once shot a Luger.
It kicked my shoulder back into last week.
My ears roared for days. Like an inferno.
Forget coke. Forget Pepsi. Or Dr. Pepper.
Look, I barely passed the electric candy Kool-aid test.
Wish I could say Jack Daniels or Four Roses
but I don't like the taste of whiskey, or whisky.
I don't like hot dogs either. Give me haggis any time.
I never could shake the image of Atticus Finch
standing up to the mob like that in To Kill a Mockingbird.
I wear my Celtic necklace and amethyst rings as talismans.
I don't have hobbies, I do everything full tilt,
as if my life depended on it, I'm an artist and a writer.
Am I ADD? Yup, and/or dyslex.... What? Ohhhh. Shiny!
I can't add either. Forget long division.
Even Archie Williams couldn't teach me algebra.
I don't know which I prefer, Roadrunner or Coyote. Meep-meep.
The past week I've posted countless Facebook PSAs, and wept.
Then I wept some more. Salt tears of grief. For no reason.
Not enough to douse the flame inside.
Daily I drink tea, milk and wine. Definitely need more wine.
This year's harvest is ruined, and next year's too.
And the year after that as well. No more good cheap wine.
I worry about fire leaping across the valley,
my cabin in Forestville, and the literary memorabilia in it.
Letters from Seamus Heaney, Galway Kinnell, Dave Brubeck, etc.
Yeah, well, I dislike .45. Celebrate the new year? Why?
Didn't bother. What's the point? Like I said, .45.
Yes. I miss the mountains, and the sea. The sea, the sea.
I love violet skies, with a side bar of royal blue
tinged by distant cerulean dreams.
I would like to visit Ireland, again, and the Baltic.
The moaii of Easter Island. Maybe the Caribbean.
Go back to Angermeyer's farm on the Galapagos.
Forget satin sheets. Overrated. Give me flannel sheets
or give me a sleeping bag. Or a lawn any time.
I can put my lips together, and I can blow,
but I can't whistle. However, I can drool in tune.
Where am I? At home. The air is toxic with smoke.
The statue of the Cotati accordian-playing mayor 
wearing a smoke mask made me laugh out loud.
He was a nice guy, Jim Boggio, the mayor of Cotati,
whom I once met on a swingset in the park.
We talked until dawn rasped its fiery claw on the sky.
Yes, I love cats and horses. And red-tail hawks.
What about all the animals? Who will survive?
Someone spotted a giraffe ungulating in Larkfield.
I fear that all the birds are dead. What about the deer and mice?
When I tore my knee. When I had a kidney infection.
When I tore all the muscles on my lower back.
When I smashed my nose on a rock
doing a faceplant on the Continental Divide,
that day, my blood ran in both directions at the same time.
It all hurt. And keeps on hurting. Like this fire.
I'm an orphan. All my aunts and uncles are gone too, save one.
I'm the last generation of my family, and the eldest grandchild.
Sometimes it seems that I am channeling my grannie, 
who was both mother and father to me.
Yes, I loved to dance, but you see, my knee....
Of course I love life. Mightily. With a passion.
My advice? Become the light in a darkened land.

Oct 14, 16

(This was from Liz Haas' questionaire, Oct 11)
Then I turned it into a poem.)

Today, I cried useless tears. California is burning.
Ashes fall like daisy chains and pikake leis.
I want the soothing coolness of ice cream.
Chocolate, coffee, or vanilla will do. Or an iceberg.
I can't read, I can't write, I can't think,
even a road trip of the mind won't do.
All I can do is listen to is fire updates, and worry
about what I cannot control. Acts of God, they say.
Everybody praying, what good is that? 
Thoughts and prayers don't rebuild a life.
After a fiery sunset, the angry sun 
dipped into the ocean to cool off.
I long for the indigo supplication of clouds and rain.
My hair, redbrown embers, my eyes swollen with grief.
Even salmon, and chocolate cannot assuage this pain.
Thanksgiving and my birthday is coming soon
(but no one remembers, the turkey, center-stage, again).
I open another bottle of Chardonnay.
Why not? The vineyards are burning.
Soon the wine will run out. and the bitter harvest 
of ember and ash will be our distillation for years to come.
These days, I am both night owl and morning person,
burning the candle at both ends. Afraid to sleep.
After a week of wildfire, what phoenix rises?