Sunday, August 30, 2015

Yet another headache...


How long is time enough to wait for a headache to just go away? Begone! I held out for three hours, it's not following directions. Sigh. Hello Advil for breakfast. Ugh.

When my head hurts, the last thing I want is food so that I can take the blasted Advil. Maybe take it with some choco-milk, instead. If only I had some more milk....

Update: Advil is not working. Perhaps some wine. Is it 5 PM somewhere yet?

I slept wrong, usual culprit. My old whiplash is paying me back. I couldn't get my head/neck comfortable last night. I thrashed so hard that the pillowcases slid right off the pillows! It was probably some odd movement I did yesterday to set it off. I've also been thirsty lately, I drank lots of water last night.

Sneezing and swigging my tea with milk and sugar but nada. So Advil, it is. Either that, or I'll gnaw on somebody's ankle. Gotta go shopping before the thundering hoardes arise. Hoards? LOL. I need MILK (said the kitten.) Hordes. You just can't hoard milk. It doesn't work that way.

What exacerbates this, is that I'm drug intolerant. Especially when it comes to pain medications. I can't abide Tylenol. My body thinks it's poisonous. I am le barfoquean, I am. Can't take Excedrin, either. Tunnel vision and general weird out of body experiences are not complimentary to a full-on headache.

Friends suggest caffeine, Coke, chocolate, cannabis, and chamomile. But I can take chocolate. If only I had some chocolate. At this point maybe some hash brownies might offer relief. Rage, rage against the light, and the noise, and the heat, and the light. I can't read, I can't watch TV, I can't surf the internet...

Still no luck. Round three for Advil. what kind of baseball game is this anyway?

POSTSCRIPT: That was a three-day headache. Finallly, some relief. I broke the back of that sucker with a lethal combo of Advil, chocolate and wine, plus gallons of tea.

Revised from a Facebook post: added 8/17

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

THE BEST REVENGE, RIGHT?

THE BEST REVENGE, RIGHT?

When I question my motives
as to why I lean so heavily upon memoir,
Pat Conroy's dark family secrets,
posing as fiction, came to mind.
He said you need to know
"...how to differentiate
between getting even
and getting it right,
telling off, and telling the truth,
and why we sometimes choose 
fiction over memoir."
That last one is where
I struggle the most,
the compulsion to tell
the truth as I perceive it,
is so enduring, so obdurate,
why it's hard to ameliorate
something as hard as stone.
Who might or might not be hurt
by my words, or if they would ever
even bother to read it.
It's always a gamble.
The dark truth over beauty.
I envy those fiction writers,
how they transcend those secrets.
But then there's always the unsaid:
Getting it right is the best revenge.
Funny, how Pat's father didn't think so.
As Pat's stories, like shining swords,
severed darkness from the past,
and yet still drew fresh blood,
he became a pugnacious apologist,
saying, That wasn't me. He said,
That wasn't me. That
wasn't me.... rubbing
salt into the wounds
of the past.


8/26/2015



Love this: challenge "how to differentiate between getting even and getting it right, telling off and telling the truth." The last one is where I struggle the most, the compulsion to tell the truth as I perceive it, is so enduring, it's hard to ameliorate.

August 26
Everyone tells you to write what you know, advice that often takes you into the perilous world of family and friends. Writer Jonathan Odell and I will talk about the perils and pitfalls of fictionalizing one’s kin, why we do it, how to differentiate between getting even and getting it right, telling off and telling the truth, and why we both sometimes choose fiction over memoir. Our literary agent Marly Rusoff will referee as we walk the tightrope that comes with this territory.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Longing/Saudade/Hiraeth


Someone asks about saudade. Yes, I answer, it's longing, yearning (melancholia/nostalgia). He is yearning for home = tá cumha air i ndiaidh a bhaile (literally, "there is loneliness on him after his home"). There are at least five words for that ephemeral state of being in Scots Gaelic.

In Welsh, it's hiraeth, a homesickness for somewhere you cannot return to, the nostalgia and the grief for the lost places of your past, places that never were.

The Breton for the French nostalgie is hiraezh. This could be a cognate, or borrowed from the Welsh. Hiraeth (first recorded in 1499) corresponds with Cornish hyreth, and Irish sireacht."

The Welsh and Breton come from the Celtic root siros, related to Latin serus.

Full circle to Saudade.


Hiraeth

Ukrainian Independence Day



A friend writes: Today, Aug 24, Ukrainian Independence Day! Слава Україні! Героям слава! синій і жовтий! He posts a Ukrainian flag.

I was transfixed by the image, then was deluged by memory. The trident and its hidden sword—I remember the day the Ukrainian flag was raised in Cherkassy. One hot August afternoon, in 1989, we attended a special cultural event, my translator explained, thinking I might find it interesting.

The old Soviet style wood-paneled hall, decorated with sheaves of wheat surrounding hammer and sickle, was oppressively hot, no air conditioning. People, dressed in their Sunday best, circa 1950, were packed in like sardines. It looked as if the entire town had turned out for the event. For us, it was standing room only. Our clothing stuck to our backs as if we'd been working in the fields. We were a rather damp cultural conspiracy.

How I got to the USSR, in particular, the heartland of the Ukraine was through a Sister City cultural exchange with Santa Rosa in California, and Cherkassy. (See my blog links below for that story).

The cultural event turned out to be a variety show. Performers dressed in embroidered peasant garb, sang ancient folksongs accompanied by banduras and balalaikas. Floral-wreathed maidens sang sweetly, and Cossacks exuberantly squatted and danced.

There were classical piano recitals, and kids reciting the poetry of Cherkassy Oblast's own native son, Taras Shevchenko. We all applauded heartily during their final bows. But something more was afoot. 

At the end the event, a grizzled actor still dressed in his cossack attire, came on stage and began to sing "Ще не вмерла Україна," the Ukrainian National Anthem. The audience hesitantly began to join in. As they found their way, remembering the old melody and words, they soon sang with vigor. It was positively electrifying. The walls resounded like the inside of a drum.

Then the actor unrolled an old Ukrainian flag made of silk, bordered with a golden fringe. A flag of blue sky and yellow wheat from 1917. The audience became still as death.

My translator was transfixed—caught up in the moment—he forgot to translate. I was lost between worlds. Something momentous was happening and I couldn't understand a word of it. He said: This is something that has never happened in my lifetime. I never thought I would live to see a day like this. I could only dream of such a day.

The actor gave an impassioned speech and saidГероям слава! Glory to the Ukraine. The crowd exploded. A cultural event suddenly turned into a political rally, my excited Ukrainian host explaining the significance of the song. Ukraine has not perished. 

People were prosecuted as criminals and arrested for merely owning the Ukrainian flag, let alone, raising it, he said. It had survived, hidden all these years. I remember shivering that hot August day—wondering if we were all going to be disappeared to the gulag.

This was before the fall of the USSR, during the heady days of Glasnost, but revolution and the idea of freedom was well on its way during the summer of 1989. The stifling heat along the vast Dnipr River Valley no longer oppressed us. 

And Neptune's trident (some say it was a hovering falcon and a cross), held aloft against a cerulean sky and endless golden wheatfields, so far from the sea, offered promise of a cool breeze at the back of our necks.

 As we walked home, the leaves of the linden trees whispered secrets, then as the breeze picked up, they applauded the sky.

A forerunner of things to come.



SWAN HAIKU



FLOTILLA

Dawn on the Black Sea
White swans emerge from the fog
riddled with streetlight.



(From this video)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Cracked my lower #31 molar

Cracked my lower #31 molar all the way down to the gumline. Owwww. I've been in incredible pain—beyond belief—enveloped the entire side of my head, since Friday afternoon. I thought it was a migraine or a stellar earache at first. Pain finally declared itself and localized on Monday, a toothache, but no abscess.

I've been to a dentist and an endodontist, next up is the oral surgeon. Everyone is very urgent. They say the tooth can't be saved—crack is too deep. I haven't been able to eat since Friday—other than swallow food whole. Not recommended. Any wisdom (or jokes) to share about getting a tooth extracted? 

I do have all my wisdom teeth, TG...they were all so sure it was a wisdom tooth issue. I said Step away from my wisdom teeth. They're mine and I plan to keep them. They laughed. I'll still have two molars in a row to grind up my food. I go in at 11AM today (cancelled yesterday, I wasn't ready...) I'm terrified. Never had a tooth pulled before. Never had a toothache either.

I'm in that slender boat. Can't take pain meds. I barf them across the room. I can't believe I can tolerate Advil this long *since Fri). but so far, so good. Oil of clove and Scotch as a mouthrinse seems to help. I've been a TMJ gnasher, I've snapped at the air, bitten my tongue, all in my sleep. Fractures occur, and the tremendous amount of pressure on our lower jaws finishes them off when you bite down wrong on a tiny little seed, etc.

It's done, I'm toothless in Gaza. Well, I'm minus one tooth, packed in gauze, but I still have more teeth than the average bear as I still have all my wisdom teeth. SO was a not very smart tooth pulled? Some silly putty.

I had to pay the dentist, the endodontist and the oral surgeon. Wisdom tooth is pretty well rooted in my jaw, so it's not going to move much, says the oral surgeon. The other molar might move but apparently teeth tend to move forward, not backward in the mouth. Who knew? In three months I can get a titanium bolt shot into my jaw and a fake tooth added. Need to price them out.

Swishing with saltwater after every time I eat. At least I can now eat soft food. It was pretty surreal getting a tooth pulled. Eating is still tricky business. I was using whisky as a swish gargle to numb the pain, followed by oil of clove, then waited for the Advil to kick in. A good thing about a whisky gargle, is that you can drink it when you're done. I whipped out my flask every time it became unbearable. It got so that I began to like the taste of whisky as it killed the pain...LOL

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Wildfires


On the day of my aunt's memorial, it is hotter than Hades, and the sky is burning. We head to the coast. Everyone else is thinking the same. It's a parking lot in Pacifica. But at least there was less smoke along the ocean. We're hours late for the memorial.

There was a fire in Terra Linda last night. Probably the fresh smoke I was smelling. This current wave of smoke is from more than the Lake County Jerusalem fire, northeast of Clearlake. I couldn't even see Mt. Tam from the East Bay. Huge roils of smoke are seething all up and down the coast—to at least Santa Cruz and beyond.
"Smoke from a series of Northern California wildfires on Saturday set a thick haze over Sonoma County and reached south to much of the Bay Area. The air around Santa Rosa smelled of smoke Saturday and visibility was greatly  diminished. Local fire officials said the smoke wasn’t due to fire activity in the county. Northern California wildfires blamed for hazy skies over Bay Area
The air is contaminated by huge fires in Northern California and beyond. There are reports that it's hazy in Santa Rosa, and you can can smell the fires burning. In Modesto there was so much smoke, it was as if the fire were burning right on Hwy 99. All that smoke slowly being pushed south by gentle winds. The wind has shifted and we're getting the brunt of it now. The smoke is supposed to be even worse tomorrow.
Fire officials said the blazes responsible for the smoke weren’t in Lake County, where nearly 150 square miles of grass and woodland have been on fire in recent weeks. Instead, the shift in winds overnight Friday pushed the heavy smoke from several fires in far northern Trinity County into the area.
When I came down from Canada, I saw how bad it was all the way down, especially in Oregon and on the California borders. Wildfires from British Columbia to Napa are raging through the night. Weird to think that we are breathing in the carbon residue from trees dying in the Trinity Alps. 

Today, the gentle wind currents brought more smoke down from Lake County. It was smoky in SF all day, and also in Oakland once I got home. Even Monterey and Santa Cruz are blanketed in thick smoke.There is that orange alpenglow in the sky, casting purple shadows on the landscape as the sun sinks lower on the horizon. Surrealistic landscape. On the day we said goodbye to my aunt Jane.


8/15/2015
added & revised
8/17

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Midgies vs Mosquitoes


Are you a midge or a mosquito? Inquiring minds need to know.

In Vancouver people kept warning us: Beware the midges! —like it was the Ides of March come to visit us all toga-ed up during the dog daze of August. Et me, you brutal midgie? Take that!  Talkin' smack, here. Fkn bloodsuckers.

I asked: Did you mean small mosquitoes? (In the Sierras, Alaska, and upper BC, mosquitoes the size of small helicopters, bloodthirsty packs have been known to drain a caribou dry in a single night). No? What were they referring to?

On the other end of the biting insect spectrum are the no-see-ums. They do bite. But not all small flies suck blood or bite. Most of them just don't. Well, it turns out that it's a case of generic mistaken identity. I always assumed midge stood for midget mosquitos, mosquitoes being a Spanish word, and we all know how the British like to masticate and mangle foreign words. (That's masticate, you durty bird).

Some of those small UFO clouds of hovering flies that try and crash-land in our nostrils, mistaking them for hangars, are also sometimes called midges too. (We called them gnats and mayflies in Marin). Nothing quite like breathing in a fresh cloud of gnats.

It also seems that folks in the UK have a pathological fear of all one thousand and one varieties of mosquitoes—especially she-who-shall-not-be-named. And they erroneously assume that all mosquitoes are tropical poseurs, and they carry all manner of deadly diseases (so not true). We'd all be dead in North America if that were so. (Well, there is the West Nile Virus.)

I found conflicting information that midges do (or do not) bite—at least in Scotland they do. Apparently all Highland midges carry small bagpipes and a big proboscis. It's not just a case of Scottish DTs in progress as no unidentified flying pink elephants were involved. 

Mosquitoes, on the other hand, are all about the meeeeeeeeeee generation. You can hear them coming in for a soft landing at 3 AM. And of course you do know that the word "mosquito" (mosca and diminutive -ito) is Spanish for little itty-bitty fly. Make that bite-y fly. All thousand and one-two-three species of them.


But do we have midges in Western North America? I think they do have midges on the East Coast. They're called 
no-see-ums or punkies. Punkies! Or is it merely a case of mistaken identity, or a case of mistaken similarity, in the case of our Vancouver midgie friends—like old and new world robins?

Have you ever seen a British robin, he's the size of a midge, er, minute, compared to our American robin red breasts. I had one boldly hop up to me on Callendar Bridge, and I was dumbfounded as to what he was, until the Robin Red Breast rhyme came to mind. A tiny bit of orange fluff on twig legs, not at all like our pigeon-sized robins.

In any case, back to the story of True Blood. Those blasted broody female midges and mosquitoes are ardent Dracula fans. I vant you for your blood! The bhoys midges and mosquitoes, on the other hand, are content with supping and sipping on flower nectar all day long, not feasting on our necks. Better 
bless those bats who are the first line of defense against the bloodthirsty mosquitos and midges.


ALL THESE GUYS ARE CALLED MIDGIES!
Will the real midgie please stand, er, fly up?

    Blephariceridae, net-winged midges
    Cecidomyiidae, gall midges  (The gall of it all.)
    Ceratopogonidae, biting midges (also known as no-see-ums or punkies in North America, and sandflies in Australia) (Take that you little punkie!)
    Chaoboridae, phantom midges  (For ghost itches.)
    Chironomidae, non-biting midges (also known as muffleheads in the Great Lakes region of North America) (They sound so Republican.)
    Deuterophlebiidae, mountain midges  (Oh, the trees they do grow high...
    Dixidae, meniscus midges   (You can't see them coming on the horizon.)
    Scatopsidae, dung midges (no shit, Sherlock!)
    Thaumaleidae, solitary midges (Sung to the tune of Solitary Man.)

My next burning question: how many toes does a mosquito have? I think maybe I've had a tad too much tea this morning.



FOR YOUR FURTHER READING PLEASURE
I know you're itching to know...

midge or mosquito

Midge

Highland Midge

Kenneth McKellar - The Midges  (song)

THE MIDGES

Chorus
The midges, the midges, I'm no gonnae kid ye's,
The midges is really the limit,
Wi teeth like pirhanas, they drive ye bananas,
If ye let them get under yer simmit!

1. The Lord put the Garden of Eden on earth,
And it's north of the Tweed, we believe,
Aye, Scotland's the place, and the whole human race,
Started of with MacAdam and Eve!
In six days or under, he finished this wonder,
Except for the Forth and Tay Bridges,
Then always a bloke for a practical joke,
He made Scotland the home of the midges!

2. Back in 1314, proud Edward was keen,
To take Scotland into his care,
But he made a U-turn when he reached Bannockburn,
Just a few weeks before Glasgow Fair!
The midges let loose by King Robert the Bruce,
Straight into the English they tore,
So they ran off in tears, and for six hundred long years,
They've been blocking the A74!

3. Now never forget, when the sun's going to set,
And the midges arise on Loch Eck,
Like the vampires you see, played by Christopher Lee,
They'll give you a pain in the neck!
You can smack them and whack them; in vain you'll attack them,
They know every move that you make,
If you manage to kill yin, another half million,
Are ready tae come tae the wake!

4. Now Torquil the piper's a giant of a man,
With a sporran as long as your arm,
And in Oban he's known, for the sound of his drone,
And a pibroch of real highland charm!
But they're sighing and sobbing, the ladies of Oban,
Torquil is not what he was,
Since a midge in Glenbranter, got hold of his chanter,
And carried it off in its jaws!


Andrew MacRae's favorite midge... 

Mosquitoes: There are thousands of species!


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

DETRITUS OF THE PAST



DETRITUS OF THE PAST

An abrupt move forced my hand.
As I packed my bags to go,
this time I thought, for good,

I assumed if I stayed still as a stone,
it would be a figment of my imagination,
perhaps a bad dream on a clement shore.

What was revealed
was the forgotten detritus of the past.
This galvanized me into verb.

I am only just now surfacing,
madly documenting whatever I can,
in a haphazard manner, scanning
my life, such as it was.

Then unpacking my bags
again. Clemency granted.
Such as it is.

8/15/2015



I am just now surfacing to this one....
I thought if I stayed still as a stone,
it would be a figment, a bad dream...
tend to galvanize me into verb.

A rather abrupt forced move revealed forgotten detritus from the past.
I'm madly scanning whatever I can,
documenting it in a rather haphazard manner, my life, as it was.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Jane Bernadette Reilly


During the late 1960s, my aunt Jane Reilly, left a job where she had been a data processor at (Southern Pacific) Pacific Fruit Express for 17 years. (After graduating from Star of the Sea Academy, Jane studied accounting at Golden Gate College.) But she decided there was more to life than crunching data.

After a long overdue Hawaiian vacation, Jane joined C&H Sugar Company in San Francisco as a claims accountant and IBM tab operator, to work with their big IBM mainframe computers, but in 1969, it was a man's world. So, she saved her pennies. In her early 40s, Jane threw it all over. Emulating Julia Child, who inspired the American public with her television series, The French Chef, in 1973, Jane followed her dream and flew off to Paris to garner her Grand Diplôme at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France.

Jane's Grand Diplôme signed by Madams Brassart, herself.

When Jane returned to San Francisco in 1975, flat broke, with diploma in hand, she moved in with my grandmother and me. She sent out carloads of resumes, but didn't get a nibble, not even as a sous chef—because she was a woman. It was pretty much next to impossible for a female chef to land a job during that era. Especially in provincial Marin. it was still the 1970s.

So Jane diversified and made friends with the men chefs. Those connections landed her an itinerant position making pastries for Marin restaurants including San Rafael's La Petit Auberge. To make ends meet, she also cooked for the Marin Civic Center cafeteria. All the lawyers would line up when she placed her prized lemon meringue pies in the glass showcase.

In order to attend the French cooking school, Le Cordon BleuJane had to learn French from scratch, she attended night school at City College. Learning French from audio tapes was difficult enough, but once she got to France, she found it wasn't easy being a woman chef at the male-centric Cordon Bleu. There is still tremendous prejudice against women chefs. Julia Child crashed that male-dominated enclave, and my aunt was right on her heels. But the kitchen door swung shut.

The irony is that Le Cordon Bleu was founded by a woman, Marthe Distel, in honor of
 courtesan Jeanne Bécu, comtesse du Barry. King Louis XV stated to Jeanne, his last Maîtresse-en-titre, that only male chefs were capable of producing haute cuisine. 

Madame du Barry (whose father was a cook called Gourmand), specialized in light flavorful dishes, said the French equivalent of Game on! and invited the king to Petit Trianon for a savory supper of pheasant consume, roast chicken with watercress salad, iced peaches and strawberries in maraschino, washed down with a vat of green walnut liqueur.

Louis was so enamored, he wanted to hire the chef on the spot for the court kitchens. Madam du Barry demanded that "he" first be awarded the coveted highest knight's award, Le Cordon Bleu, the blue ribbon. Then she introduced the chef. A woman. Alors! Said the king. Court food was forever changed. But when the king died, common-born Jeanne ran afoul with Marie Antoinette, and lost her head. So much for letting them eat cake.

Jane holding aloft some Cook's Champagne.

I learned to make Jeanne du Barry's fam
ous crème brûlée, and pâte à choux for profiteroles from Jane who was a top notch chef, and her pastries were divine. Jane used to make a killer chocolate gateau for my birthdays.... (devil's food cake kicked up several notches).

I learned many recipes from her, including how to properly make ratatouille, and who hasn't tried chicken Cordon Bleu or crème du Barry (chou-fleur soup)? But mon petit chou-fleur, my personal favorite was real French mousse au chocolat made with egg whites (not whipped cream). Jane brought me my first Sabatier vegetable knives, and a huge copper bowl for making mousse and meringues. Her lemon meringue pie was to die for. 

Jane had a secret fudge recipe she had purloined from See's Candies, a main customer of C&H Sugar, and those old IBM reels made perfect candyboxes at Christmas time. I still make a mocha variation of that infamous See's fudge during the holidays.

Jane cooked for a French family for room and board, and they treated her quite poorly. Despite their bad manners, they were her guinea pigs. and had no complaints about eating 3-star Michelin meals. When she left, they all resembled the rotund Michelin Man.

All was not a cultural desert in the realm of women chefs, in 1971, Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley. But few women chefs have shattered that glass wall. Even today, only 19% of professional chefs are women, and they earn $20k less than men.

If Jane had been able to obtain the backing to open her own restaurant, or if she had been born a few decades later, her story may have been very different. She would've been celebrated on Master Chef, I'm sure. TV would've suited her.

Jane dancing the can-can at Old St. Mary's Church in San Francisco.

When Jane was young, she danced in a few amateur musical theater shows in SF, including The Mikado, and a Barbary Coast review, The Golden Nugget, an original musical performed by the Young Adult Players, where she was the lead can-can girl. 

At nearly 6 feet tall, Jane was statuesque, and looked like Maureen O'Hara, so photographers including Peter van Nghiem sought her out as a model for their portfolios. That exposure landed her the job as a model for the Gallo ad. (She even dragged me to the Eileen Ford Agency when I was 16.) She was an avid golfer and skier, but swimming was her main sport.

Jane remained interested in musical theater (my mom was also an actress at the Gate Playhouse in Sausalito). When Jack Aranson staged his one-man monologues of Moby Dick and Dylan Thomas at College of Marin, we catered the events. Ratatouille and lamb burgers. Jack was an old friend of Jane's from way back. Irish connections run deep.

A 1950s rendering of Jane on the back pages of of funny papers & magazines. 


Jane was the first model for Gallo's Paisano wine (they had to make her look Italian), and various permutations of this ad appeared in magazines and on billboards across the nation—including in Times Square. An image I saw throughout my childhood. I thought everybody's aunt appeared on the back page of the funnies. 

This half-page front section ad appeared in the Food section of the San Francisco Chronicle, July 1, 1954. Check out the price of wine. 

I found a version of the color ad in extremely poor condition in my grandmother's damp basement. With the help of Photoshop, I was able to mend the ad and the crumpled and torn photos. But time and dampness had reduced most of her memorabilia to pulp.

Jane holding the color ad that was a billboard in Times Square.

The Paisano trademark of E. & J. GALLO WINERY patent was filed on June 8 (1953), they opened for business in 1954, so this is really the first ever Gallo ad. There were supposedly also television ads as well, but I never saw them as we didn't have a TV. Later, Piasano was given its own label Carlo Rossi. Top salesman Charlie Rossi was a Gallo relation and starred in commercials during the 1970s. I wonder if Gallo even has Jane's ad in their archives. I never found one online.

This photo inspired the Gallo ad. No one—Jane, the photographer, nor the artist—were paid much for their time.

After Paris, Jane was bitten by the travel bug, and ran Valley Travel in Lagunitas for several decades. (Maybe it was all those years working for Southern Pacific that whetted her appetite for travel.) Many West Marin folks bought their airline tickets and planned their journeys with her, including myself. She returned to France several times, and traveled to Ireland* and Tahiti as well.

(*In 1964, Jane bought a one-quarter ticket on the Irish Sweepstakes, and took my grandmother to Ireland on her winnings. The Irish government literally rolled out a red carpet when they landed at Shannon Airport via Aer Lingus, as my grandmother had left Ireland before it was a republic, and had no passport. She was so embarrassed she sneezed and broke her false teeth, on the tarmac, so her first appointment in Ireland was with a dentist for a new set of choppers.)

Jane, a staunch Republican, was active in politics, and worked on Nixon and Barry Goldwater's campaigns. We never saw eye-to-eye on politics. I found Goldwater and Nixon buttons and autographed photographs of Dr. Rand Paul  (who, like Goldwater was against socialized medicine) in her abandoned belongings. 

Jane co-chaired The Coffee Bar, a Catholic social club, with Eileen Nugent. Jane also served as an officer for the San Francisco Toastmasters (it was then called the Toastmistress Club) whose focus was to enrich lives through communication, leadership & community.

I remember Jane preparing speeches when I used to visit her in San Francisco, when I was a teenager. With regret, I dumped boxes of her Toastmistress binders, when I was cleaning out the basement. Jane was also a member of the Mechanics' Institute Library and Chess Club, and I loved visiting the library when I was writing term papers. 

Jane also donated her time to Catholic and Irish charities. One project stands out—I think it was for Project Children, bringing together Catholic and Protestant Irish kids to America from war-ravaged segregated Belfast ghettos to facilitate mutual respect and understanding. The Troubles—the sectarian violence that began in 1969, had created a vicious self-perpetuating cycle of endless violence. 

The central focus of Project Children was to break the pattern of terrorism and despair, child by child, by lifting them out of Northern lreland and placing them with American host families for the summer to offer them some respite from the ravages of ongoing war trauma. I don't know how Jane got involved with this project, probably through the church or the travel agency, but her role as a host coordinator changed a lot of children's lives for the better.

My cousin with Jane Reilly on her 86th birthday, June 26, 2015.

I last saw Jane on her birthday, June 26th, a month before she died. We brought her a pot of pink lilies, some chocolate and a Trader Joe's cloth bag. She was very good at covering up her dementia but she didn't even know it was her birthday. When we showed her all the old photos I'd scanned, including the Gallo ad, which tickled her to see it again, her memory came trickling back, and she told us stories and names to go with the photos.

She said she had a scratch on her leg. It was melanoma. The doctor removed it, found bone cancer, then, he found uterine cancer. She'd had breast cancer a decade earlier but refused to take her estrogen blockers. She also refused implants or any medical aid, she paid for it all herself. Didn't want to be beholding to anyone. But hospice came in to transition the end and took care of her, along with my cousins.

Jane's memorial service will be held in Santa Cruz on August 15th, at 2 PM. RIP Gallo Girl, you were a real blue-ribbon champion to the very end.

6/26/1929 - 7/26/2015