A SoCal vacation: book lust, needy pets and apartment repair
|Friday, October 26, 2018 |
Carol and I left Rexburg yesterday morning and stayed overnight at a motel/hotel in St. George, Utah. The only hitch was that around 3 am I awoke from bad dreams, feeling short of breath. I assumed the worst- that it was a heart problem, or maybe an anxiety attack. All I knew was that I couldn't seem to get enough breath, and there was no way that I was going to get back to sleep. So I dressed and took a walk outside, thinking the fresh air would help. But it didn't. I went back inside, wondering if I was going to eventually pass out, but Carol suggested I take a Claritin- that I might be suffering an allergic reaction from our pet guinea pig (that was in its tub, on the floor in our room). The pill worked, as I was able to fall asleep within thirty minutes.
The rest of the trip to Ojai was uneventful, though the 94-degree temperature was a shock. After we got to town, a surreal feeling hit me. Here we are, back where we hadn't planned on returning to anytime soon- yet now we'll be housesitting here for twelve days. I'm a little nervous about the time we'll be spending here, as we'll be taking care of a Borzoi and a cat for the duration. Katherine shared the feeding schedule with us, then took off to bring the dog back from the groomer. As Quin (the dog) exited from the back of Katherine's vehicle, he cut a back paw on something, then tracked blood all over the living room carpet. So, we'll have to take him to the vet tomorrow morning.
Took a walk this evening, right past our old house. It was a weird feeling to see the place and know someone else is living in it. Sure, we no longer own it, but all those memories built up a full bank of ownership that's hard to dispel.
Saturday, Oct 27, 2018
Relieved of the opportunity (by Katherine) to take Quin to the vet, we traveled to Bart's Bookstore. I'd brought nothing to look at besides The Penguin Guide to Classical CDs and DVDs. (What was I thinking?). Accordingly, I was starved for reading material; Carol was almost done reading what she'd brought along. So, a-roaming the aisles we went. I scored the following Ellery Queen books: "The Glass Village," "Face to Face," "The Vanishing Corpse," "The Spanish Cape Mystery," and "The Dutch Shoe Mystery." Then there were the Rex Stout books: "Too Many Cooks," "Over My Dead Body," and "Double for Death." There was the Mad Magazine book "The Brothers Mad," "Let Me Tell You" (a recently published collection of unearthed Shirley Jackson work), and "Poe: Essays and Reviews," a Library of America edition I've been wanting for quite a while. It was a great haul, considering I'd wanted many of these books for quite some time, but with no inexpensive way to buy them.
Later on, we took short naps, then visited with friends, followed by dinner at Wendy's. Went home and took Quin for a walk. After a while we stopped at Vons and then- instead of going home- I felt like driving to the church. Imagine our surprise at seeing the parking lot full. We'd arrived in time for the annual ward Halloween party. We talked to old friends outside and in the gym. It was a wonderful time.
Sunday, Oct 28, 2018
As we drove through the Santa Paula hills prior to descending into the Ojai valley, we saw signs of the December 2017 fire- charred tree trunks and barren hillsides- but nothing devastating. Nature had done a good job of obscuring the conflagration. Rain had washed away much of the ash, and the subsequent spring rains and summer grass cloaked or replaced most traces of a fire that burned so many homes, orchards and outbuildings.
Here at the house we've settled into a feeding routine for the cat (Eli) and the dog (Quin). And though Quin is a beautiful dog, he's too fragile and neurotic and pampered for my liking. He eats specially prepared food, has to be taken to a groomer, has recurring medical issues, and is incapable of sharing much affection. He can't be off a leash any moment he's outside the home or the enclosed backyard, and doesn't make for very good company- unless one's idea of companionship is a dog that's pretty to look at. Eli is much better, as he at least returns affection and will let me hold him. But he's skittish like Quinn, neither animal liking to be petted on the head.
The kitchen cupboard contains many things, but only one cereal bowl. I used it for the third time, for oatmeal this morning, and discovered that the "ring" running along the circumference of the bowl's inner surface is not part of the glazed ceramic, No. It washed off after I used it, so who knows what that ring was- though it had to be foodstuffs of some sort. C'est la vie, Appetite!
The cat's appetite is good, though. I'll be eating at the table, and then Eli will stand on his hind legs and put a front paw on the table, next to my food- then, more brazenly, pat my free hand. He also looms over Quin's food dish (from his perch on an adjacent chair), while Quin tries to eat.
The smell of animal piss is most present in the bedroom- though it's been muted by some cleaner that Katherine uses, on occasion. The real offender, though, is the long mat at the foot of the bed, for that is where Quin sleeps. He drools constantly, so the mat absorbs it and then exudes an odd, undefinable odor, but one that is "animal" all the way. Due to the dog and cat traipsing in and out of the bathroom- this being the route the cat takes on the way to the litter box that's tucked in a back closet- I refuse to walk barefooted there, or anywhere else in the house, for that matter.
In looking at the stack of books I bought yesterday, I realize I'll have to return to the bookstore tomorrow and buy more. Trying to find new or used copies of Ellery Queen or Rex Stout books is next to impossible in Rexburg.
Great to see our old friends at church. The closeness I'd developed with people here had faded from my mind with the passage of some twenty-three months, so it's been nice to talk to them and realize the relationships endure. I gave a copy of my mission book to Dave and Chet , the former having finally published his sports book on Amazon, the latter hoping to.
Went for a walk this afternoon that took us past what had been a nature preserve, with a large pond. Due to the extended drought, everything is dried up, the only creatures above ground being rabbits, gophers (and their mounds), and the occasional ground squirrel spying on us- mute evidence that some critters still dwell below. Later we took Quin for his walk, and ended up on the Taormina hilltop where the weird Krotona Institute still resides. Except for a rose garden and a few fruit trees, all is brown, dead or dying- including a few of the trees.
Monday, Oct 29, 2018
I'm starting to resent Quin, most likely due to his needy nature- but more likely because of his keeping me up last night. At 2 am he was lying at the foot of my bed. Normally the only sound he makes is that of toenails tapping on linoleum, or the grunts and groans he emits as he lies down to sleep- long, low sounds deep in his throat. But last night he decided to groom fur and lick paws, eliciting slurping sounds that irritated the hell out of me. At least the cat is locked away in the laundry room every night, thus removing him from the equation. Otherwise, he'd be on top of Carol or I in the middle of the night, or worse, sharpening his claws on the air mattress prior to its deflation.
Traveled to Rabobank so Carol could extract spending money, then to True Value so I could buy a double-plate to block a hole in Katherine's front door. Then off to Wells Fargo bank for more money business. Then off to Bart's for more libros. Ellery Queens's "The Dragon's Teeth," "Calamity Town," "The Tragedy of Y," and "On the Eighth Day." Rex Stout's "Prisoner's Base," "The Second Confession," "Champagne for One" and "Plot It Yourself."
I've finished two of the Ellery Queen books, and am finding that a combination of mental laziness and burnout are causing me to lose interest in the solution to the mysteries; I more enjoy the journey than the answer.
We grabbed some breakfast at Westridge Market; then I bought a screwdriver, box wrench and window cleaner at Ace Hardware. Back at the house, I installed the double plate, then replaced the toilet seat in the bathroom. Sometime during the day I also washed the begrimed front and back windows.
After hanging out at the house for a while, we drove the winding 150 to Carpinteria and I was shocked at how low the lake has dropped- down to 28 percent of normal, the authorities say. All the way we saw traces of the Thomas fire- charred tree trunks, fried shrubbery, and hillsides that looked as if they'd been excavated, reshaped due to an absence of grass and bushes. We arrived in town, and on a lark, I drove past my former place of employment, the Freudenberg building- even into the back parking lot, a place that used to be full of cars, but which now was half-empty. Maybe this was the external evidence of some previously rumored layoffs. As we drove toward town, I recalled the trip my new boss Allen had made on this same road in his convertible sports car, me in the passenger seat as he zoomed along at 50 on a 35-MPH street, then 80 on the freeway, as if testing my reaction. In the end I don't believe he cared, a trait with which he treated me to the very end.
In town, Carol headed for the quilt store, while I went to the library outlet/used book store, where I bought CDs of Franck, Berlioz and Bloch. I was hoping to run into someone I knew while walking around, but the main street seemed awfully quiet.
After the dog was taken for a walk, Carol and I had dinner at the McBride's' palatial home, another friend - our dentist, Dave- there as well. We talked about church and relatives and by evening's end I'd given both Dave and McBride a copy of my book.
Tuesday, Oct 30, 2018
Main event of the day was lunch with Maureen at Seafresh. It was good to see her again, though her walking with a cane was disconcerting. Her hip is giving her hell, the arthritis terrible. She recounted her adventures while fleeing the Thomas fire, and how she'd alienated some long-time friends- even her sister-in-law- due to supposedly insensitive comments she received on Facebook. She told of encounters with celebrities here in town, dispensed writing and marketing advice to me (through I steered clear of asking her what she thought about my book)- and she asked how our kids were doing. In short, we had a great time talking to her.
I've plowed through three Ellery Queen books since Saturday, and have to say that though the early books get wordy, this last one- The Glass Village- was outstanding.
11:20 pm- Lying in bed, trying to read a Shirley Jackson collection but failing to ignore Quin's dog odor, especially when combined with the slurpy sound of his licking himself for minutes on end- though when I peer over the edge of the blankets, he's staring at me, out of fear or embarrassment I cannot tell. He stares at me, then looks askance, unwilling to continue the self-grooming until I stop watching. But the sounds of his licking quickly get on my nerves and I wonder why he won't retire to the sleeping pad of his in the living room, where Carol is sleeping. Finally, Quin stops cleaning himself and he's down again, emitting a groan in the process. Beautiful dog, but an aggravating, high-maintenance pooch.
Wednesday, Oct 31, 2018
We made the rounds this morning, stopping first at a quilting/fabric store in West Ventura, then having breakfast at the Busy Bee in the old part of the town; then going to Salzers. As usual, it was fun to browse but I returned to the car empty-handed, my tastes too eclectic for that store. I'll have to settle for downloads from I-Tunes.
Upon our return to Ojai, I bought another, and hopefully last, batch of books. This crop included Roland Barthes' "Elements of Semiology," which I'm sure will result in headaches sooner than enlightenment; more Ellery Queen in "The Four of Hearts" and "The French Powder Mystery"; and yet more Rex Stout- "The Doorbell Rang," "The Mountain Cat Murders," "Bad for Business," "Fer De Lance," and "The League of Frightened Men." Looking back on all these book purchases, I chalk it up to plain old book lust. Or maybe just a basic type of gratification that comes from buying things.
This evening we sat in Maureen's driveway and handed out candy. She supplied us with chairs, crackers, cheese, salami slices, chocolate cake and water. It was nice to be back on one of the most heavily visited streets for Halloween. After the candy ran out, we walked around and looked at the elaborate displays.
Found out that we need to take Quin to the vet after all, due to the infected sore on his foot.
Thursday, Nov 1, 2018
Saw signs of emotional life in Quin yesterday. A white, fluffy-haired Husky-type dog charged the chain-link fence (behind the house), and Quin responded in kind, snarling and snapping as his teeth gnashed against the thick wire. It was the first time I'd seen him exhibit anything besides fear and meekness.
This morning his food was set out in the kitchen. While he normally won't approach it if Carol or I are standing nearby, he saw Eli the cat, with his head in the bowl. Quin trotted over, lashed out with his front left paw, and Eli backed off.
At the vet this morning, Quin didn't at first appear more than curious about the situation in the office- but after a few minutes he turned and buried his head between my knees, as well as responding to my rubbing the side of his ears and head. Turns out he'd torn off a claw on Saturday and the wound was infected, so he gets to take antibiotics for a few days.
Eli is fine, aside from his tendency to stand on the kitchen table where we eat, observing at first, then putting his head nearby, trying to take a bite, or reaching in with a probing paw, trying to snag a piece of the food. When he's at rest and sees something he might want to chase, his eyes dilate and his mouth opens and closes spasmodically, as if he can't maintain his excitement about the intriguing object in motion.
Spent some time downtown, walking around. Snapped a few pictures, visited the antique store's minuscule book section, bought some Magic The Gathering tokens at the toy shop, visited the electronics to get a phone charger.
As for Ellery Queen, I've finished a fourth book, and my comments are as follows-
"The Dutch Shoe Mystery" (1931): While more entertaining than "The Roman Hat Mystery" (the first EQ book, and one that I checked out from the Rexburg library and struggled to get through before returning it to said library in disgust), this fourth entry in the series is still heavy on exposition and light on action. The hospital setting, as well as the corpse discovered on the operating table, are intriguing, but there is so much interviewing and tiresome things like thirty pages of anti-climactic end-story, that they kill any desire to find out who dunnit. Tiresome as well is the introduction by one "J.J. McC" (a feature/gimmick in the early books), where the individual attempts to drum up enthusiasm for the impending adventure, but which comes off more as a lame effort to make the Queen's out to be more than they really are. The inclusion of manservant Djuna is another wasted effort, the Queen's adoration of him coming off as condescending, maudlin, and a little weird (when you get right down to it). Thankfully, Djuna disappears, a few novels into the series.
"The Vanishing Corpse" (1941): Though the murder isn't discovered until one-third of the way into this 126-page book, the story is a romp. Ellery Queen hides a suspect (a pretty young woman who he assumes is innocent of the crime) in the house he shares with his father, Inspector Queen. The story is loaded with humor, as well as a decent amount of action- not to mention an unexpected ending (which is also humorous).
"The Glass Village" (1954): A mystery tale which does not feature either of the Queens. Initially gripping and suspenseful, the second part of the story is very funny. A former judge, a practicing attorney, and a retired lawyer conspire to conduct a phony trial in a desperate effort to get the suspect out of town before he's lynched by the townsfolk. Very entertaining and fascinating story, despite its occasional lecture's and sermonizing about the Red Scare (and the resultant social fallout).
"And on the Eighth Day" (1964): EQ fans either love or hate this late entry, maybe because it was partially ghost-written. While not my favorite, it is atmospheric (in a hallucinatory way), and interesting, despite the contrived ending.
Friday, Nov. 2, 2018
Carol is ready to go back to Idaho. The idle time has been nice, but she, like I, isn't used to relaxing 24-7, and we're both ready to be involved in more productive activities than reading and watching TV and going to restaurants. The routine here begins in the morning with deflation of the air mattress/bed, showers, breakfast, letting the cat in from the back room, feeding him and the dog, then taking Quin for a long walk before the heat sets in. After lunch there's reading, naps, and then dinner, feeding the animals, another dog walk, outing the cat in the back room, inflating the mattress, more reading or TV, then bed time.
For two days in a row I've returned to the house to find the garbage sack torn apart- not on the kitchen linoleum but all over the living room carpet. And today there was an added bonus- puke on the carpet leading into the bedroom. As for the bedroom itself, the lingering odor of cat urine continues to lurk- impossible to locate, but equally impossible to ignore.
One of the drawbacks to staying in a distant town for one-and-a-half weeks is that it starts to feel familiar, once the novelty wears off. Then, as you start feeling at home, you realize that it's not your town any more- that while your old friends go on with their daily lives, you're only visitors. Not part of the group any more, you'll soon be gone.
Ojai has it's beautiful scenery- mountains on two sides of the town, the smell of lavender, eucalyptus and sage in the air- but the place is facing a crippling drought, the lake that provides the town's drinking water now at 28 per cent of capacity and dropping, while the cost of living continues to rise, the LDS church here in a slow decline, numbers-wise.
Saturday, Nov 3, 2018
As of this evening, three days to go.
We had an early lunch with Connor at 11 am at a restaurant near Vons. It was good to see our son again. He's doing well and about to move to an apartment with his girlfriend and a buddy of his. He paid for lunch, which was nice. I hope he did so out of respect, and not because he thought we were low on funds. While there we spoke with one of the kids who works there; he knew Connor and us from church.
Later, we drove to the Barnes and Noble in Ventura, but returned to the car empty-handed, having come to the conclusion that the information in the myriad magazines or those tempting tomes could be acquired just as easily via the Internet. But it was refreshing to stroll along the aisles for a while.
After taking Quin for his evening walk along the bike path, we stopped by our old house. The owner had questions for Carol about the solar panels and resultant electric bill. It felt strange to walk around inside our former home, very small and cramped after living in a house three times its size for the last twenty-two months. Aside from the new roof over the back porch, it was gratifying to see that they hadn't had to make many changes to the place. Then we got a tour of the back yard, where they'd had a wooden fence installed to keep their little boy corralled.
Sunday, Nov 4, 2018
Attended church today and got to visit with more of our friends. I spoke with Joey Romero prior to the start of Sacrament meeting, and during said meeting talked with Jared Dubrin out in the hallway. He's moving to Utah very soon. I said hello to Lisa (the handicapped lady I helped teach discussions to), and spoke at length with Jana, the woman who married Dylan a short time after her husband passed away. I gave her a copy of my book for she and Dylan to read. She sat on a couch in the foyer and started going through the book a short time later. (Dylan messaged me later to say thanks.) I talked with Steve during the third hour, and he asked me why I don't plan on going back to school to get a Master's Degree. I told him I'd be too old and back in debt if I did so.
Monday, Nov 5, 2018
Book-buying fever commenced again this morning with a 9:30 am visit to Bart's. There was Ellery Queen's "The Egyptian Cross Mystery," "Murder with a Past," "Kill as Directed," "The House of Brass," "Dead Man's Tale," and "Death Spins the Platter." In line with the few Henry James books I already own, there were some Library of America volumes I had to get: "Henry James Stories (1874-1884)" and his "Collected Travel Writings (The Continent)."
We couldn't seem to get away from the books. We were visiting a friend, and she gave Carol a bag of tee shirts for a quilt job. She also asked if we could deliver four sacks of clothing and two bags of books to the Goodwill store down the street. After leaving her place, we pulled into a store parking lot, where I looked through the books, and snagged the "Selected Stories of Sinclair Lewis," an illustrated copy of "Robinson Crusoe" and a 1919 copy of "The Re-Creation of Brian Kent," the latter acquired mainly because it's so old and has illustrations in it. Then we dropped the stuff off at Goodwill. Will the book-gathering ever end?
For once, we had no dinners to attend, or people to visit, reading, eating and binge-watching a British cooking show- one of the most addictive I've ever seen. As the show progressed, I noticed that the center of vision in my left eye was blurry. If it continues this way for very long, I'll need to schedule an appointment to see if I'm developing a cataract.
One day to go.
When I think about the things I need to do once we return home, I see a need to change my behavior in some respects. I must replace some of my game-playing time with writing time, and focus more effort on learning how to promote and market my books. I probably need to find a part-time job somewhere in town. I need to read the scriptures more (every day); things like that.
Tuesday, Nov 6, 2018
The dog eats "low glycemic beef," consisting of whole-foods beef, green beans, broccoli, zucchini, yams, cranberries, pumpkin, kale, and collards. How Quin keeps it down I'll never know. Eli the cat eats "digestive care" canned food.
After buying the two Henry James books yesterday, and noticing that they are part of a set, I kept thinking about the volumes I didn't purchase. So, I went back this morning and bought the story collections from 1864-1874, and 1884-1891 volumes. This means that someday I'll need to get my hands on both the 1892-1898 and 1898-1910 collections. But there are some potential obstacles to achievement of said goal. For one thing, I have trouble reading much of James' work; the prose is densely packed, the sentences sometimes interminable, which makes for slow going. But I read Henry James for the mental workout and rich verbiage. And for those times when his writing doesn't enrich, I can count on Henry James' ability to put me to sleep at night.
As for volume, there are at least one hundred-and-ten stories within the five Library of America volumes, which works out to at least 4,000 pages. Given that HJs writing ranges from fascinating to dull, I'm in for some tough sledding in the reading department. As for the twenty-four novels, clocking in at 6,800 pages- well, forget it. Life's too short as it is.
Wednesday, Nov 7, 2018
Left Ojai this morning, making it to St. George in eight hours. By this time tomorrow we'll have been gone fifteen days. And while that doesn't seem like a long time, the following occurred: Katherine's aunt died; the mid-term national elections took place; Halloween came and went; the cover art for the jury duty book is finished.
Carol said today that it seems like we've been gone for a month. I feel like I've been through some sort of weird time warp where events progressed normally in Ojai, but came to a standstill in Rexburg, the moment we left home. Maybe I feel this way because we both put things on hold. But we needed a break ...