Down on A Street

January 31, 2023

I had occasion to tour the Hillel House down the street today.

Betsy and her dear friend Gail (who Betsy is now visiting up in El Dorado Hills, post her visit here), let me know they were coming to Davis hoping to catch a glimpse of maybe a plaque honoring a mutual friend of their’s contribution to the construction of Davis’s Hillel House in 2011. Their friend “Uncle Joe” (Joseph Pedott) is the uncle of a treasured friend and colleague of theirs — a physician in Southern California — and, funnily, the fellow behind the infamous Chia-Pet (remember those?). They adore Uncle Joe and just had to see what he contributed to here in Davis. (Are you with me?) Well, as it turns out, Joe Pedott is honored with more than a plaque; his name is quite prominent in numerous places around the property, inside and out, due to his sizable and timely donation (a great story worth reading about).

All I really knew about the Hillel House was that it was a big neighborhood deal back in the planning and construction phases. And a wee bit controversial, due to its size. I walk by it several times a week, at least, but had never gone inside. In fact, it’s not all that easy to get inside, due to significant security protocols. (And isn’t that a sad reality.)

Case in point… we were observed taking pictures outside and approached by staff. Once our intentions were sussed out, we were generously invited to come in to look around. We spent nearly an hour touring the place with the director, which was wonderful and so interesting!

This is a great before and after:

I completely remember this tiny house. It was next door to the tiny house of a friend (I met while studying in Sweden) where I spent a little bit of party time in 1978.

And this is it today (and since 2012, I was shocked to learn, my how time flies).

Quinn Spooner / Aggie. The Sam Len Hillel House in Davis.

Note Uncle Joe’s plaque in front (ha! now I’m calling him Uncle Joe and I don’t even know him).

And here’s a shot of the interior.. a large room, also named after him. The whole thing was beautiful, huge, and impressively featured.

It was an interesting juxtaposition… touring the Hillel House today as violence in Israel is so prominent in the news these past weeks. I listened to a lengthy interview with Netanyahu on CNN this evening (talk about dug in) and have been reading about the escalating conflicts and Blinken’s tightrope efforts to simultaneously call for peace in the region and support an elusive two-state solution. I don’t have a lot to say about all that, except that it’d be nice if the harmony and open heartedness that was so much a part of what I saw at the Hillel House today could infuse those warring factions in Israel. (And as the folks at Crooked Media wrote today, “Wasn’t Jared Kushner supposed to have solved this whole thing already?”)

You Are Loved

January 30, 2023

I ran across this statement this evening..

I love everything about what she says here. It was this fundamental idea of building a bond of trust with your child, of assuring him that he was heard, acknowledged, valued and loved that inspired me during pregnancy to read everything I could about attachment parenting. It deeply resonated then, it resonates now; nothing else makes any sense to me. She articulates another benefit of being with your child when he cries: it establishes the expression of emotions as safe, appropriate, human and does not scare me off. Your distress, your anger, your confusion.. they do not drive me away. I’m here, I will always be here, I love you. I will never invalidate how you feel. You’ll figure it out, or we’ll figure it out together.

That, to me, is the basic foundation of thoughtful, loving parenting. (I’m not saying I succeeded every time in this regard, but it was fundamental to me, a natural and obvious expression of love, and it guided me.) When I read this, I reflected on being a mom, on the urgent love we feel for our children, the grace we feel when they’re safe, when they’re thriving. Our certainty that we will be there if needed

Loving our children has been on my mind a lot the past few days with the revelations in the Tyre Nichols murder. That he was brutalized, that he cried out, that nobody came to his rescue..I can’t imagine a human doing that to another human. It’s chilling. I can’t imagine his feelings of confusion and betrayal.

I find it particularly wrenching to listen to him screaming for his mom. I’ve actually only seen that part once. I wasn’t going to watch it at all, but then did. Now I turn it off if it comes on again. Somebody said something that makes sense to me… watching is a way to be with him in his pain, to make sure he’s not alone, or maybe to make sure his pain is acknowledged, seen, understood. People need to know what he suffered, otherwise he will have suffered alone. It also feels important to bear witness, otherwise the horror of it is too easily dismissed. Maybe we watch it for his mom, so she’s not alone in her suffering.

He had his mom’s name tattooed on his arm (I think his arm). They were obviously close, connected. Everything about his murder is senseless and heinous and I hope to god those who kicked the life out of him go to prison forever. But the thing that hurts the most is what his mom is having to suffer through. (I’d say dad, too, but I’m not a dad.. so just speaking for her pain.) She could not save him, could not protect him, could not hold him in his pain. I haven’t allowed myself to imagine if I were in her shoes because even the thought of that is unbearable. It not a thought I want out there in the universe.

None of it makes sense.

Let’s hope we get further down the path this time. I’m trying to stay hopeful that compassion, decency and love will be our more powerful forces as we figure out where to go from here.

This one’s a true long-term friendship. I’m sure I mentioned it before, but as we wrap up a week of hanging out, it’s worth mentioning again: our moms met a bit before either of us was conceived — just a bit — and were friends for the rest of their lives. Betsy and I “met” in April of 1956 (her birthday, or thereabouts) — just about 67 years ago — and we, too, have been friends for our entire lives. There have been years when we were less in touch, but, safe to say, from here on out, it’ll be a pretty reliable relationship.

In the photo above, I’m second from left (as always, tugging at my hem), Betsy’s the blond next to me. (Penny Lambert and Janet Starck round out the foursome.) We’re pretty cute (IMHO), and, funnily, seem to embody the same personalities there that we do now.. me: slightly goofy and fidgety, not quite sure how to pose for the camera, and Betsy: probably took and held her position as asked, probably before the rest of us. (Penny, an older girl with a wild streak who smoked early and wore a buzz cut in college; and Janet who had strict, dark, older parents and became a violin maker).

I’ve already blogged about pretty much everything we did. On our Davis days, we took numerous walks around town, ate meals in and out, went to two movies. Taking advantage of the spectacular break in the weather and a full week of clear, sparkly sunniness, we spent a day in San Francisco, a day at Lake Tahoe, and a day in Napa Valley… which meant we did a lot of this ..

Which was totally worth it, as all the drives were pretty, too. Northern California really showed off for Betsy this week.. made me proud!

We also sat by the fire a bunch (it was sunny, but not terribly warm!), talked and talked and talked, and managed to squeeze in a few hours of this:

Games of choice were gin rummy and the dice game Farkle, a new one for me and man, I wish I knew somebody around here who would play it with me.. super fun.

And yes ma’am, that is a bottle of Fireball whisky, on hand in honor of mom, who enjoyed drinking it (spiking her Ensure is the story Betsy tells). I will note we are also drinking hot tea, so, you know, not completely wild and crazy. I still think mom would approve.


So I got pretty nostalgic this afternoon after she left. Grateful for this friendship — and its extraordinary history — and a small handful of other ones. I’m partial to the friendships that date back to PV days (I’m looking at you Judy and Sally), as they just feel deeply familiar and intimate, reaching back to childhood as they do, building on a shared past. Nowhere to really hide in those relationships… it’s all known and understood.

Feels good.

The Other Valley

January 28, 2023

Over the mountain and into the adjacent valley we went (yesterday)… for food, verdancy, beauty, art, and a bunch of upscale (sometimes overly precious) charm. Makes for a great day…

It’s kind of amazing to drive a block south of our house to Russell Blvd, turn right, and pretty much follow that one road all the way into the Napa Valley.. 5th/Russell becomes 32, becomes 128, which goes through Winters, past Lake Berryessa, over the mountain, right up to and over the Silverado Trail, and then tee right into 29. Boom, Yountville. One hour, give or take. And it’s so windy and bucolic.

I mean.

An early lunch at Mustards Grill just a wee bit north of Yountville was exceptional in every way. Superb service, lovely setting, and the food… just excellent. The owner was sitting at a table right next to us, hosting a little birthday soiree, ordering many of the same things. We had other table neighbors that were enjoying their selections as well, and we were all just happy to be deeply nestled in the foodie heaven that is Napa.

Here’s a bit of that:

Betsy with a flight of pinot noirs (I was a sauvignon blanc)… wine makes her cheeks rosy.

That was about half of the order of onion rings. We shared crab cakes, and a cod tostada that was so good, as well. But the coup de grace was the lemon-lime meringue dessert with gingered lemon peel, which was about 6 feet high..

After that two-hour meal, the rest of the afternoon was wandering around Yountville and then Napa, including the Oxbow Public Market. Then we sat in a bunch of traffic on the return trip east on 80, before bailing out and taking Pleasants Valley Road back to Winters and home.

Another nice Northern California day. A few more shots (vineyard, art in Yountville, Napa streetscape, antique shop browsing:

Honoring Tyre Nichols

January 27, 2023

A young man was killed by a whole bunch of thug cops a few weeks ago in Memphis.

I’m going to follow Heather Cox Richardson’s lead and let the media report on the details, and focus instead on the 29-year old whose life and future were taken away from him.

Among other things (a dad, a skateboarder, a son), he was evidently a budding photographer and had set up a website to show his work (check it out here: https://thiscaliforniakid2.wixsite.com/tnicholsphotography). I don’t know much else about him, but he certainly did not deserve to be murdered by those who are supposed to protect us (all).

From his website…

And a few of his photos…

Now For Some Snow

January 26, 2023

So glad the sun continues to shine upon Betsy’s visit to Northern California. After weeks and weeks of rain, the weather this week has been a real show off.

Today, our travels took us to the Sierra for lunch in Tahoe City with Karen and some time by the lake. Five hours of driving… but well worth it.

Lunch here…

We went down to Commons Beach in Tahoe City..

Then we walked around in Truckee a bit. The snow was piled high along the sidewalks. It was incredible. Some sidewalks were not shoveled, which was treacherous! I find I’m tentative on slippy surfaces because I don’t want to risk falling and breaking another wrist! I’m officially an old person now.


January 25, 2023

A few pictures on a well-feted birthday:

A walk in the ditch with Betsy on a sunny, windy day, avoiding muddy puddles:

A lovely lunch at Cloud Forest. TH upgraded my Pink Lady to a large.

A gorgeous moon in a Winters alley following superb dinner at Preserve.

Jim made our favorite lemon pound cake. Thinking about my wish, then assuring its coming true by blowing those candles out!

Happy Birthday to me!

High in San Francisco

January 24, 2023

I took a bunch-o-pics in San Francisco today. It was a sparklingly clear day and my camera just kept clicking. Betsy and I hit some great spots….. 1) Coit Tower, 2) the Marina District and Palace of Fine Arts to check out mom’s neighborhood growing up, 3) the De Young museum for Diebenkorn and lunch, 4) Grace Cathedral, 4) Top of the Mark for a sunset cocktail, 5) City Lights bookstore, 6) Tosca Cafe for dinner.

It’s too late to post a representative sampling of photos, so I’ll just post three. A clear theme emerged on our day … looking down on SF from on high.

Us at Coit Tower, with the bay in the background…

Betsy checking out the map of San Francisco on the 7th floor observation deck of the De Young museum…

And us on the 19th floor of the Mark Hopkins Hotel… the bar has a 360 degree view of the city…

Double the Beauty

January 23, 2023

In the category I Never Expected THAT, I have recently learned that I have double vision. And now that this has been determined — first by an optometrist and then corroborated by an ophthalmologist — a whole bunch of my eye issues from, say, the last year finally make sense.

Like, that cool effect I could create last summer while riding shotgun on a roadtrip with Jim, where I could make the car in front of us on the road appear as two stacked cars, clear as day (and then had a hard time bringing them/it back into focus as one. Or all the times driving at night (and increasingly during the day) when I kept having to shake my head from side to center to try and bring everything into focus, thinking it was just 1/ tired eyes or 2/aging eyes or 3/ the start of cataracts or 4/ the start of macular degeneration (hereditary) or 5/ dirty and/or old contacts. Or all the times I complained about not being able to see my screen clearly, sure it was the prescription on my contacts. Or the fact I was regularly closing one eye to read. I just never put two and two together….. or… I just never put two into one… or… let’s just say the problem is now in clear focus: I have a focus problem.

I have so, so many questions left to resolve… causes, options, solutions, long term consequences,

I am somewhat encouraged that there is at least one pretty easy workaround — getting glasses with prism lenses. In the exam room last week, I looked through a thick plastic thing that had a whole bunch of holes in it which, evidently simulates the prism effect, and everything came into perfect focus! New prism-lensed glasses seems promising, but I’m none too happy that contacts may be off the table forever. On the bright side, I was very happy to learn that I don’t have cataracts, don’t have any signs of macular degeneration, and no glaucoma. I was told my eyes are looking quite healthy and clear.. so there’s that!

For now I’ll try to appreciate that I get to take in twice the beauty, and I’ll try not to be weirded out by being a person with double vision.

First Ever Friend

January 22, 2023

When I was not even three months old, I met Betsy, who’d just been born. We hung out a lot on the floor. They called us crib-mates.

We are still friends.

She arrived today and will spend a week hanging out (not on the floor!) She retired last month, after over 40 years as an emergency room nurse and an amazing career.

Let the wild rumpus start! [smile]