Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Home Buying

I am 62 years old. We are five months into the global coronavirus pandemic. Life is different in almost every way imaginable. We don’t travel. We don’t take airplanes. We stay at home. We shelter in place. Until this, I didn’t even know the government could order us to shelter in place, let alone for months at a time. It’s nerve-wracking and anxiety provoking and socially isolating. We think we had the virus in March, but we’re not certain. We both ended up on inhalers for a time. I still use mine sometimes. Initially, we were excited by the idea that we might be immune. Now, it seems it may be possible to get it again. This virus is evil. It’s very good at what it does.

In addition to selling real estate, I help out with my granddaughter whileLucy and her husband work. Childcare is tedious and boring and relentless and also incredibly rewarding. If I hadn’t been one of Lila’s main care givers, I probably wouldn’t have seen her very much. Instead, I saw her all the time. We bonded like crazy. When she was a baby we went with Mommy when she travelled for work. We went to London once and New York three times. Lila practiced crawling at the Gramercy Park Hotel. She spent her first three years, nine months in art galleries and museums and zoos. She started pre-school and was beginning to have a social life. She thrived on living in the city and loved culture and stimulation.


When COVID-19 forced employees to work from home Lucy, Greg, Lila and 6 month- old Finn fled San Francisco. They began to shelter in place in Tahoe in March. Lucy was still on maternity leave, but her return to work deadline was looming. We sat at home in Mill Valley doing jigsaw puzzles, reading and fretting. We watched far too much political news. We drank too much wine. We ate like we were on a cruise ship. At the end of every meal we thought about the next meal. We were nervous about going out to the store. I quarantined the mail when it arrived at the house. We missed seeing Finn and Lila and our other grandkids, Sally and Leo.


Lucy and Greg were planning to return to San Francisco when Lucy started her new job at Instagram. They had no childcare in Tahoe. They really didn’t want to go back to the city. Everything was closed, including pre-school. Finally, it was decided that we would join them in the mountains and take care of the kids while Lucy and Greg worked. Their house wasn’t big enough for Eric and me, two kids, a dog and two parents working from home. We rented a friend’s cabin. It was rustic, but comfortable. When the snow melted the chipmunks moved into the walls, but it was a short walk to the lake. We stayed there for seven weeks. Lila said it had“scary stairs”, but we had everything we needed, and we were fortunate to be able to land there. The lilacs bloomed and then were snowed upon. Spring comes late to Tahoe and it’s subtle. It was a shock to leave my glorious Mill Valley garden with the profusion of roses. There were three colors in Tahoe; green, brown and blue. That’s all.


Luckily for the kids and grandkids, childcare is one of my super-powers. I’ve been caring for kids for fifty years. I began babysitting when I was twelve. I was a live-in nanny at the age of fifteen, taking care of Baby Ben while living at the Gate Hill Coop (aka The Land). I moved from New York to Hollywood at seventeen and was Beck and Chan’s nanny for two years. Later I had a licensed home daycare, caring for numerous kids, including my nephew, Zach. When I got a BA, my degree was in Developmental Psych. I worked in a kindergarten classroom for three years. I raised my own three daughters, which was considerably more difficult than taking care of other people’s children. That was an ongoing surprise to me. It’s a lot easier to shape young minds when you don’t live with them.

It was a Thursday in late May when Lucy suggested it would be nice if we had a house in their neighborhood. She proposed that we could go in on a property together and to let her know if I saw anything I liked. The time was approximately 6:00 pm. Friday morning I woke up and checked for listings in Carnelian Bay. I hadn’t joined Tahoe Sierra MLS yet, so my access was the same as every other non-realtor.


I saw a new listing that looked promising. By 10:30 am we were sitting in the driveway on the phone with the agent. By 11:00 we were inside the property with Lucy looking around. The house was perfect. Beautiful and well-maintained and a short distance from the kids and grandkids. Five minutes to the lake. By 1:00 pm we decided to write an offer and sent it over to the agent. We asked for a response by 5:00 pm the next day, which was Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. On Saturday there were several conversations with the agent who was hesitant to accept our offer because we didn’t have a pre-approval letter yet. We weren’t expecting to find a house so quickly, so we did not have our ducks in a row, which is such a rookie mistake. I bullied the agent a bit and talked about how qualified we were and that we were the right buyers for the property. We had included a love letter to the Seller. It was a full price offer! By 5:15 pm the Seller had signed our offer and we were in contract. Boom! That’s the way you buy a house.


I did reach out to several mortgage brokers that day and got a response from someone I had used for clients in the past. She called me and I explained the situation. She agreed to send a pre-approval letter and follow up with the details later. It helps to have relationships in the business. We were able to send the pre-approval letter over a few minutes after the agent sent me the signed contract, so it gave them peace of mind. The inspections were a breeze, all went smoothly, and we closed in less than 30 days despite the pandemic.


I have watched this process so many times with clients, but honestly, I had no idea it was so stressful! Even though I was the agent, representing us as buyers, I was a nervous wreck. I pushed the process along every step of the way, which is what you have to do. It wasa bit of a stretch for us to close early, but it was totally doable. The final week before close we were staying in a hotel and our dog was staying at Lucy and Greg’s. We had been in some sort of limbo for over two months and were really ready to be settled. To close on a Friday instead of the following Tuesday or Wednesday was significant.

The timeline got a little tight at the end. A miscommunication between my insurance agent and the mortgage broker needlessly lost us a day. Everything was a scramble after that. We actually signed the loan docs the morning of the close of escrow, still not knowing whether we would go on record and be able to move in that Friday. In twenty years in the business I have never had buyers sign, fund and go on record all in one day, but it worked out. At 4:00 pm we got an email from the title company that the sale was recorded. We bought the house fully furnished, so by 5:00 pm we were moved in.

If we hadn’t jumped on this house that very day we would probably still be looking and living in a rental. The market changed right then. Work from home and urban flight has created such demand. The house right behind us went on the market, got eleven offers and 
went $150,000 over asking. We were not prepared to compete with that.
There are some disadvantages to living in the mountains. No newspaper delivery. We miss the Sunday New York Times. I don’t like to read the papers online. I’m on my computer enough. Hell, I would even read the local paper, but they don’t deliver that, either. Also, we don’t get mail. Our Mill Valley house is rented so we had the mail forwarded to Allie’s place which is about half a mile from our home. You may have heard about USPS and how slow they are. It’s ridiculous. Then Allie has to gather the mail and ship it to me via Fed Ex or UPS. It’s a slow process. The next time we are here for an extended period we’ll have to get a PO Box, assuming postal service still exists.


Deliveries are another challenge. Amazon does not deliver here, which is fine with me because I don’t like supporting Jeff Bezos, richest man in the world who does not pay taxes. Target may or may not be able to accomplish getting a product from Point A to Point B. It’s kind of hit or miss. The most recent order was most definitely NOT delivered. I went on the website and got a refund for all the items. Shortly thereafter, I got an email from Target. “Your package has been delivered!” Well, actually it hadn’t. And you already cancelled the order and refunded my money.


Bed, Bath and Beyond has been great. Same with Wayfair and Home Depot. I’m still waiting for my contact lenses and two dresses that I ordered from China on June 4th. We have friends nearby who do not exist on any map. They can’t get deliveries at all and have to have their packages sent to Lucy’s. It’s the Wild West in some ways.

This is a summer house for me. I haven’t had a real summer since I left New York in 1975, and I’ve loved every bit of it. Every single morning the sky is blue, and the sun is shining. There is no fog. I get up and put on a bathing suit. Most days I take a swim in the lake. I’m a fair-weather gal. I like to visit places with snow, but I wouldn’t want to live there. I’ll be out of here before the first snow falls.

We’ve been helping Lila ride a bike. She is still using training wheels, but she is confident and strong and sure. The steering and balance will follow. She only just turned four. She’s been learning to swim in the lake, and I’ve taken her out in the canoe. We played in the Truckee River and Lila rode a horse. We do whatever we can given Finn’s baby schedule. We paint and draw and listen to music. Then there is rest time. It’s camp. I never went to camp. Now I have a camp: Base Camp Gigi.

Thank you

Thank you to everyone who called or sent me comments about Allie and Denzel and the Black Lives Matter post. The conversations are happening. Awareness is growing. The protests are continuing. There is momentum. However, we have such a long way to go. The officers who killed Breonna Taylor have not been arrested. Jacob Blake was shot seven times in front of his three little boys. Now two people have been killed during protests over his shooting in Wisconsin. It's shameful. Change cannot come soon enough. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Black Lives Matter

I left town in the midst of a global pandemic. I returned to a revolution. Shelter In Place had been instituted for almost six weeks when we packed the cars and headed to Lake Tahoe on April 21, 2020. My best friend of forty-one years, Sally, had died of cancer the day before. I organized what I thought we would need for at least a month, while a shroud of shock and grief hovered all around me. As I packed a bin of food, I had the strongest feeling that although this was the first time, I would pack to live in Tahoe for the summer every year for the rest of my life.

When we returned to Mill Valley in early June to sell the car and prepare our house to rent, I returned to a different town. The Pandemic was still there, and most everyone went about their daily business wearing masks, but there was something else. It was so strong and powerful. There were signs all over town saying, “Black Lives Matter” and “Silence is Violence” and “No Justice No Peace” and “I Can’t Breathe”. Within twelve hours of arriving I joined a protest in Mill Valley. As I entered the downtown where I have lived for over forty years, much seemed the same. The Redwood trees were as regal as ever. Mt Tamalpais loomed in all her glory, but there was an energy I didn’t expect. There were so many people streaming in from every direction. Families with dogs and children holding signs: SAY HIS NAME. GEORGE FLOYD.

A cold-blooded, broad daylight, killing by cop of yet another unarmed black man, so egregious that it literally shocked the world out of complicity or compliance or complacency. Choose the word that fits you. None of us can escape this. We are all on the continuum somewhere between the victim and the brilliant white people who thought it was right and just to throw off the shackles of King George and build a new land using slaves. This new land is four hundred years old now and it is exploding with grief and fear and rage. No justice, no peace. No justice, no peace. No justice, no peace.

A killing by cop that was so blatant, so inhumane and so filmed. Racism isn’t worse now; it’s being documented. Since George Floyd’s death the world has changed. It’s about time. I have done many protest marches in my life. I started demonstrating as a child with my parents in the 60’s. We marched for Civil Rights. We protested against the Viet Nam War. We walked in our county. We marched in Washington DC. In recent years I have walked across the Golden Gate Bridge with Moms Demand Action.

It’s hard for me to chant phrases like: No More Silence, End Gun Violence. It always makes me emotional and I start to cry a bit when I’m saying the words. The Mill Valley protest was no different. We walked down Miller Avenue. My daughter, Allie, and her partner Denzel live on Miller. Denzel is one of the few black men who live in very white Mill Valley. As we walked past their apartment we chanted: BLACK LIVES MATTER. I cried even more than usual. It seemed so obvious. I wonder why we even have to say these words?

We have to say them because we all fall somewhere on the continuum. We all have bias even if we’re not overtly racist. We all have work to do. We need to face the uncomfortable truths about white privilege and what it means to be a black or brown person in our community. We need to do better. We can do better. We must do better.

When Allie and Denzel got together eight years ago I was happy for them because they were in love and they are a well-suited, compatible, dynamic couple. They’re both no drama, happy people. They have lots of friends. Their natural tendencies are to avoid confrontation, but there is no avoiding this moment. In our family we all want them to get married and have children when they’re ready, but I have had worries about their future because they’re a bi-racial couple. Not because of them, but because of the world. I thought about it in the same way I would if one of my children were homosexual. I love you. I support you. You love who you love, but I’m afraid your life is going to be harder in ways.

I worry about Denzel. I know his Mom worries about him even more. One night, years ago, we were all walking around New York City after a late dinner. It was chilly and Denzel put the hood up on his sweatshirt. Inside I was saying, no, don’t do it! But then I thought, oh how ridiculous. But it’s not ridiculous. He is always in potential danger because of the color of his skin. How disturbing is that? When they have children Allie will most likely be the safest person in their family because she’s white. How wrong is that? There are places they can’t safely go because monstrous Americans with their guns take the “law” into their own hands. How frightening is that? I worry that the town where Allie was raised, and where she and Denzel have chosen to settle and start a business, won’t be welcoming. How unsettling is that?  It’s all of the above - disturbing, wrong, frightening and unsettling.

When Allie and Denzel were still living in New York they took a weekend getaway to New Hampshire. I was petrified to think of them in pick-up driving, gun-toting, white New England. Apparently, the hotel they chose was not some backwoods, scary place. Allie texted that Cynthia Nixon and her wife and children were in the hot tub with them. Exhale. If lesbians were ok there, Denzel and Allie were probably fine. But seriously, what a way to have to think and what a way for too many Americans to live.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Waste Not Want Not

My dinner diary seems to have gone by the wayside. I know we’ve eaten, but I can’t really remember what we ate when. Self-isolation (or in this case marital “isolation”) has made time a bit blurry around the edges. With no schedule and no routine, time is a slippery concept. It’s frightfully easy to lose track of the day, let alone the time. We seem to be going to bed early and sleeping late. I don’t stress about waking up at night because it doesn’t matter if I’m tired the next day. There is nothing I have to do. I just read for a while and eventually go back to sleep. This must be what it’s like to be retired, but most retired people usually have some sort of schedule of volunteering and or exercise.

Truth be told, current circumstances are a bit distracting. It’s hard to stay away from the news, and the news is pretty scary. We were supposed to fly to New York on April 2nd to visit my friend, Sally, who has advanced cancer. She also recently had open heart surgery. New York now has nearly 30,000 cases of corona virus. We can’t risk traveling and possibly taking infection to Sally. It’s too dangerous to her, and wouldn’t be wonderful for us, either. It makes me sad that we can’t go, but what are you going to do? Now I don’t know when we will be able to see her.

Rockland County, New York, is where I grew up. They have over six hundred reported cases and five people have died, and that’s news from a couple days ago. In Marin County it’s gotten ever closer. A man we know who lives several blocks away has just recovered, but it wasn’t pretty. He went on a ski trip to BC for a 50th birthday with ten guys. Nine of them came down with COVID-19. There is still a lack of testing here, so we really don’t know what we’re dealing with yet.

Before this all started the idea of being on house arrest sounded appealing. I even went so far as to say that being stuck at home for fourteen days (while not being sick) sounded like heaven. Be careful what you wish for. This scenario messes with your mind. There’s an expression that says: if you want something done ask a busy person. I am a busy person, not in an hysterical, stressed out way. In a one foot in front of the other, let no grass grow under my feet sort of way. I get shit done. Currently, I play on several tennis teams and captain another. I am House Director at the Outdoor Art Club which takes a fair amount of time. I’ve logged almost sixty volunteer hours so far this year. I have a large family, including three adult daughters, one stepdaughter, and four grandchildren under the age of four. I have siblings and nieces and nephews and an elderly mother. I have a husband and dog. I work as a realtor, as I have for twenty years. I have clients who need and want things. My commitments are not nothing.

Now it has all stopped, and it’s very strange. The hardest part, emotionally, is not knowing when the great American timeout will end. Our president says we should all be fine by Easter. That sounds GREAT to me. However, it’s probably wishful thinking. I’m glad we live in California where our governor is taking this seriously. It’s the only way to flatten the curve of the pandemic. We will do what needs to be done, like it or not.

We’re limiting trips out, even to the store. Last week we spent four hundred dollars on groceries. It didn’t feel like we were eating high on the hog, but we had food in the frig and the freezer and some back-up stuff in the pantry. We ate what we had and tried to be creative about not wasting any food. By last night we’d had enough of “catch as catch can”, and decided to support a local restaurant. We ordered a take-out bucket of fried chicken from Bungalow 44. The sides of garlic mashed potatoes and salad we made at home, but oh, what a treat. It was scrumptious.

Fried Chicken

We’re all coping in our own ways. By last Saturday I was getting stir crazy at home. And when I say, “stir crazy”, I am ever mindful of the fact that I’m not trying to entertain little ones at home without the usual resources. I am beyond grateful that I’m not trying to wrangle teenagers. That was hard enough when they had school and sports and could hang with their friends. But, still, I was ready to feast my eyes on a new landscape, so I headed out to the beach which ended up being an unwitting faux pas of major proportions.

Eric had gone out twice during the week and he’d had such a nice time. He neglected to tell me that the beach parking lots were closed, which might have given me pause. Instead, I started driving over the mountain and could not believe what I saw. It was a mob scene. People were walking all over the place and every place a car could be parked, a car was parked. It was like the Fourth of July, although I would never dream of going out to the beach on the Fourth of July. The traffic was ridiculous, but once you’re on the narrow, winding mountain road there is really no turning back, so I forged ahead. None of the usual spots were available so I proceeded to the large parking lot. The gate was locked which explained the mass of cars all the way up the hill.

I had driven all the way out there and was determined to find somewhere to park, which I eventually did. I walked onto the beach and it was as beautiful as ever. There were lots of small groups, but everyone seemed to be maintaining appropriate physical distance. I nestled into a sand dune with my book and was at least fifty feet from the nearest other person. It was only later that my outing was revealed to be not so benign. The locals were furious that so many people had descended on the coast towns. They felt overwhelmed and frightened and worried about their own safety. I get that, but I also understand that many people live in small apartments with no outdoor space. They’ve been cooped up with their families without fresh air or exercise. To me, the beach felt like a safe place. There are no hard surfaces. I was able to park, sit on the beach, take a walk and smell the sea air without a risk to me or endangering anyone else.

Other people were lined up for ice creams at The Parkside like it was a summer Saturday. The restrooms were closed. The infrastructure couldn’t deal with the demand. Later, I understood all this, but in the meantime, I decided to take a side trip to Bolinas, which I almost never do. I was on my way home and wanted to stretch out my excursion a bit, so I went in search of a cup of coffee. Bolinas was its usual welcoming self. The first large sign read, “This is a pandemic, not a vacation. Now go home.” Around the next turn another hand-painted sign was tacked to a tree: Bernie, We Believe. And finally, in downtown, one said: Respect the elderly. Now go home.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being told what to do. I wasn’t some tourist from San Francisco. I’m a forty-year resident of the county. I’m not endangering anyone by getting a coffee. I sanitize my hands every time I get in or out of the car. I’m extremely careful about germs, even under normal circumstances. I went to the Coast Café and ordered a coffee. I bought a cinnamon donut to go with it. I was happy. The fresh air and change of scene had done me good. I sat on a curb in front of a parked truck to enjoy my treat.

About eight feet from where I sat another pick-up truck rambled in. It had bumpers held together by band-aids and duct tape. You get the idea. The driver was an older, wild looking, white haired man who looked like he wouldn’t say no to a drink. He got out of the truck and came straight for me. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, at first, but I did catch something about you may not be from around here. It was Bolinas! Of course, he would lead with that. He got so close he stood over me and I stood up and backed away. It seemed he was worried I could get hit by a car (or truck?) since I was sitting on the curb, but I don’t believe he was worried. He wanted to agitate about something. I kept saying thank you as he moved towards me and I moved away. Finally, I pointed out that he seemed to be worried about my safety, but he wasn’t keeping a safe distance from me. I took my coffee and went back to my car. I sanitized my hands and tried to let it roll off me. The experience definitely took the joy out of sitting in the sun on the curb with my coffee and my donut.

We’ve had some strange adaptations to the quarantine in our neighborhood. One neighbor began to fly his American flag and suggested others do the same. It hasn’t really gone viral. Others suggested putting Christmas lights back up and many people chimed in that they would, as well. Noooo! Some people have literally just taken them down. The fact that all the holidays are blending together is a major pet peeve of mine. It used to be that we would decorate for one holiday at a time which was wonderful. Now people layer the decorations. They don’t take anything away. First come the pumpkins and gourds and Indian corn in the fall. So far so good. Autumn wreaths go up for Thanksgiving. Then Christmas arrives and the pumpkins remain on the porch with the poinsettias. There’s no “out with the old, in with the new”. I’m not sure what good Christmas lights will do now that it’s staying light so much later, and we don’t go anywhere at night, anyway. How are we to see them?

The strangest new ritual has been the human howl. At eight pm every night people all around town are going outside to howl at the moon like a pack of wolves. I cannot believe this has caught on. There must be a LOT of frustrated extraverts out there looking for connection. Do what you have to do, but I find it a little creepy. Carry on, stay safe. As for me, I’ll be here sort of dreading eight o’clock.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Food Glorious Food

“Food, glorious, food, hot sausage and mustard.” I believe those are lines from the play, Oliver, or at least a close approximation. Food has been top of mind since we’re been on coronavirus house arrest. Our quarantine started five days early, due to Eric’s upper respiratory illness. Lucky us. We went out to dinner for my birthday on Wednesday, March 11th. The next morning Eric woke up sick and we’ve been eating at home ever since.

Unlike many of our friends and neighbors, we normally eat home for most of our meals. We both can cook, and don’t usually have dinner out more than once a week or so. We also get burritos for takeout and have Sol Food in the neighborhood which has great Puerto Rican food. We don’t have food delivered with the frequency of city dwellers. A couple months ago my daughter (who had a new baby) and her three-year old were both sick. I went to San Francisco to help take care of them. For dinner, my son-in-law ordered Indian food, and had it delivered. The next afternoon Dad was at work and Mom was napping. My granddaughter and I were resting and watching a video when the doorbell rang. It was 4:40 pm. Lila picked up her head, looked around and asked, “Is dinner here?”

That made me laugh so hard and I have relayed the story numerous times. It’s so different from the way I grew up and from the way my children were raised, but it’s her life. She lives in a city with two working parents and that’s how it’s done. Dinner arrives at the front door. Lucy likes to cook, and tries to when she can, but it’s mostly weekends. She wants her kids to be aware that food is made in kitchens, but one must do what one must do.

Now what we must do is eat at home. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. What we are going to eat for dinner has become a sensitive topic in our house, of late. Honestly, I think we’ve been in a bit of a rut. I cooked a lot for a long time. With three growing girls and all their friends streaming in, I was good at cooking for a crowd. When I started in real estate it became a lot harder. All my plans, dinner and otherwise would go out the window when I had to show property or write an offer at the last minute. The girls were up and out or on the way. I became single and it was much easier for me to pick up something pre-made than to cook for one.

When I met Eric he led with how much he loves to cook. He claimed it was his only creative outlet. I disagree with that. He can write a damn good suspense novel when he puts his mind to it. I think he mostly wanted me for my kitchen which I designed myself.  With ten-foot ceilings and lots of light, it also has a six burner Viking, an island, a walk-in pantry and LOTS of counter space. He made himself right at home. Truthfully, sometimes it feels like he took it over. When the kids were little and I was trying to make dinner, I would request (beg, plead, demand – call it what you will) for them to stay outside of the “invisible lines”. Now that Eric has proprietary interest in the kitchen, I feel like I’m the one being asked to stay outside the lines.

My regular schedule isn’t very conducive to cooking. Two days a week I’m not home from San Francisco until 7:00 pm, and my weekends can still go sideways with work demands. It took me a while to realize that I missed cooking. Being in the kitchen grounds me. I like to make my old favorite recipes. Now that we’re sheltering in place there is plenty of cooking for everyone. Here is our food diary: Week One.

Wednesday 3/11 – Dinner out at Gravity Tavern, Mill Valley. Delicious.

Thursday, 3/12 – I made Lentil Soup made from The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison. I’ve never eaten there, but Greens is a legendary vegetarian restaurant in Fort Mason, San Francisco. I kind of defeat the purpose of the vegetarianism by adding ham hocks, but it really adds to the flavor. I also brighten it up with a bit of balsamic vinegar. Soup is great on its own or paired with a salad.

Friday, 3/13 – Eric was still sick, so I got to control the kitchen. He likes a lot more meat than I do, and I figured he’d want some meat after not quite vegetarian lentil soup. I got good ground round from Mill Valley Market and a bun for the man of the house. I eat mine bun-less, because it seems that carbs are not my friend these days. I also steamed some broccoli with garlic salt and sesame oil.

Saturday, 3/14 – We started thinking about our local restaurants and decided to order two small pizzas from Vasco in downtown Mill Valley, which is our go-to neighborhood place. We got one Margarita and one sausage and mushroom which totaled $34. Eric made a salad. To be honest, the togetherness wasn’t wearing well, and we ended up eating in different parts of the house, which was fine with me.  

Sunday, 3/15 – I was busy watching the Democratic debate and Eric had full reign in the kitchen. He made amazing short ribs with polenta. Since our salad wasn’t eaten Saturday night, we ate it on Sunday.

Monday, 3/16 – Shelter in Place until April 7th was announced. We made shopping lists, and both went out to stock up. Eric went to his favorite, Safeway, and I went to my favorite, Mill Valley Market. Normally, I’ll do a big shop at Trader Joes and fill in produce and meat at MV Market. Under these circumstances I didn’t want to bother with Trader Joes. My only complaint with MV Market is that they don’t make it easy to sanitize the handles on the shopping carts. The other markets have the anti-bacterial wipes out front so you can wipe off the cart handles before you touch them. I made a request for this, but it wasn’t done. Instead, the employees began wearing latex gloves. I brought my own wipes, but this really is a fail, especially since the place was crawling with the elderly, frantically loading up on supplies.  

I made spinach, cheese and bacon quiche for dinner which really hit the spot. The recipe is one I’ve been using since I began cooking forty-two years ago. It’s from “Joy of Cooking” and the book is literally falling apart and broken open to the quiche recipe. We had some cheese that was going to get too old and I wanted to use it. I also didn’t want to use two cups of our fresh milk, so I used one and a half cups evaporated milk and the remainder was fresh. We both really liked the way it tasted. My childhood experiences of large family, little money really kicks in when it’s required. I know how to “make do”. This hunkering down may be my time to shine.

Tuesday, 3/17 – St. Patrick’s Day. No celebrations, obviously. I’d bought a cooked chicken on Monday. Eric used it and other items we had on hand and made a wonderful Chicken Taco Salad.

There you have it. One week of eating at home. My stomach’s growling. I think I’ll head down to the kitchen for some avocado toast with a fried egg on top. Stay safe, everyone!

Saturday, March 14, 2020

It's Corona Time

It’s been a wild and wooly week here on planet Earth. The World Health Organization categorized the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic. Yesterday, our government declared a state of national emergency. We’re all on lockdown in one form or another. The stock market has tanked. Other than that, everything’s coming up roses.

The response to this health crisis has unraveled in a confusing manner. We literally do not know what we’re doing. We’ve watched the way the viral epidemic has unfolded in other countries and we are trying to learn. We have learned too slowly and now it’s said we are about eleven days behind Italy, which is a frightening scenario. The official response is now calling for “social distancing”. As an introvert, this is music to my ears. Everything is being canceled? That’s absolutely wonderful.

Our life began to change several weeks ago when I contemplated our upcoming trip to the BNP Tennis Tournament in Indian Wells. I started to think about the close contact one has with thousands of people who come from all over to see the matches. We get grounds passes, which gives you access to many courts and you go from one court to another depending on who is playing. While you are waiting to get seats in one of the stadiums you stand in a crowd, literally shoulder to shoulder, with dozens of others. You are stuck waiting there until the changeover, which could be ten minutes or more. I cannot emphasize how intimate the contact is. It’s like being in a crowded elevator, except that it’s outdoors and on stairs. People bang into you unknowingly with their backpacks. You have someone’s butt in your face. It’s very claustrophobic under the best of circumstances

That train of thought was the end of this year’s tournament for me. I had splurged for two nights at La Quinta and then we were supposed to stay with friends for three nights. Fortunately, La Quinta was gracious when I told them my elderly mom had been in the hospital and wasn’t doing well. While that was technically true, and fortunately she is doing better, it seemed like the way to go. I was afraid that if I canceled due to the coronavirus they would be less sympathetic. The airline tickets were non-refundable. That’s what you get when you book with Cheapo-Air. At least they were cheap, and we saved a bundle by not taking the trip. About a week after we decided not to attend the whole event was canceled. I can’t imagine the economic ripple effects throughout the desert. The two weeks of the tournament are a boon for the area. This year it is clearly a bust. Magnify that by the worldwide economy and it's just unfathomable. 

Now the local schools are closed. All pro basketball, baseball and hockey games are on hiatus. The annual Dipsea Race, which was scheduled for June, has been called off. People are working from home or not working. I’m on the Board at the Outdoor Art Club. With heavy hearts, we canceled all events for the remainder of March and the month of April, even the beloved Teddy Bear Tea. Life is definitely different.

My birthday was on March 11th, which fell in the middle of this surreal week. I was supposed to take a two-hour horseback ride in Pt Reyes, but canceled it because I hadn't been sleeping well and was tired. Clients contacted me at the last minute and wanted to see property, so it worked out better, anyway. It was a nice day. The weather was gorgeous. I took a swim and played tennis. 

We went out to dinner at a local restaurant and the place was almost completely empty. The atmosphere was lovely, and I definitely felt like I was upholding the six foot from strangers mandate, but it was quite eerie. After dinner we took a walk around town and the other restaurants were so quiet as well. If possible, we should support our local restaurants by buying gift certificates or having takeout. We want them to still be standing when this is all over. 

Personally, I looked ahead to an empty calendar with glee. Being quarantined at home would mean time to read, write and catch up on my sleep. I could work in the garden and swim at the pool. Now it’s raining and the pool has been shut down until the end of March. My not so young husband has gotten sick, so we canceled a trip to Tahoe. We were planning to stop by to see my mother on the way, but then Eric got a sore throat and plans changed again. It seems to be a nasty cold, and nothing more, but we are taking no chances. As of now, I feel absolutely fine and plan to remain that way.

It doesn’t yet feel like a stay-cation. It’s hard to block out the news, such a temptation to tune in and get distracted. Watching presidential briefings where everyone in charge of our COVID-19 response is clumped together, shaking hands (good lord) and sharing microphones is quite compelling. How can you NOT watch this?

I’ve also been taking trips to the grocery store to procure food while not touching anything, checking Eric’s temperature and bringing him beverages so he’ll stay hydrated. I realized the dog hadn’t gotten any exercise in two days, so late yesterday afternoon I took her for a good, long walk. I was griped at by an elderly gentleman because Ruby peed on a patch of grass on the street side of the sidewalk in front of his house. Sheesh. Get a bigger problem! I guess we’re all a bit tense and manifest it in our own ways.

We've been through our share of disasters here in Northern California. We've had earthquakes, mudslides and catastrophic storms. One year our whole neighborhood flooded on New Year's Eve and our garage and everything in it was covered in mud. More recently we've had the firestorms and putrid, toxic air for weeks at a time. We had the PG&E mandated power outages which were the most frustrating of all. So far, house arrest has been easier and more pleasant than previous scenarios, but it's early times. Check back in a week or two.

I’m happy to help “flatten the curve”. I’ll work from home unless I have to show property. It’s an uncertain time in the real estate business, which is never very certain. Thankfully, I have buyers who got out of the stock market while the getting was good and are ready with cash down payments. Interest rates are low and going lower. Real property suddenly seems safer than investments. At least you can live there. One can’t crawl inside their 401k and take shelter from the rain. Still, prices are so high. Are home values going to drop twenty or thirty percent? I don’t think so, but what does any us of really know until it’s behind us? Nobody wants to be the one who buys at the top of the market.

So, on this gloomy Saturday I look out the window at our majestic Mt Tamalpais, saturated by a lovely Spring rain, and shrouded in wisps of fog and I can’t help but wonder where we are headed. Will we all be here at the end of the pandemic? Will we feel more anxious and less secure or will we be calm and gracious and just plain grateful? I don’t know.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Old, White Men

Go on. Shoo. We've had enough of you. It's not 1992. It's 2020. Wake up and smell the revolution. Hashtag Me Too. Hashtag you are no longer relevant. You're hanging on by your fingernails. Although you are in your seventies and eighties and your hands quiver and your voice shakes, you refuse to release your grasp. Your gnarled fingers clutch at power that is slipping away. 

If you can just hold on a little longer then you can get more conservative judges approved and your legacy will be solidified. You can make your mark on two more generations, as if you haven't already done enough. You’re trying to impose your will on a country that mostly doesn't agree with your ideas. We are a nation that has evolved past you. Mitch and Lindsey and Chuck. Your names sound fusty and outdated and from another time. They suit you perfectly. 

You're tone deaf and probably actually deaf, as well. You don't represent us. We're Americans, women, minorities. We're not like you and we don't want you deciding what we can do with our bodies. We have had enough. Enough with the shaming of sexual assault survivors. Enough with cronyism, enough with paternalism and, "Father Knows Best". 
We suspect you of being racist. We're certain you're misogynistic. We understand that you believe being homosexual is a choice. You're against same sex marriage and you are so adamantly opposed to abortion that you'd like to make it illegal. Like they say, if you don't believe in abortion, then don't have one. We've seen photos of conference rooms filled with white men, mostly older, making healthcare decisions for women. Memes of boardrooms filled with dogs making decisions for cats followed. It's taxation without representation. 

You may be in favor of tariffs and babies in cages, or you may just be going along with these schemes so you can get Putin's puppet to do your bidding. You've got your tax cut for the wealthy, which you spin like it’s good for the Average Joe. Everyone knows that's a scam and not any sort of equalizer.  What happened to conservative Republican values like not saddling future generations with massive deficits? What good are you doing here? Please explain. 

You have your pro-life, pro-second amendment, anti-environment, anti-regulation, pro dark money guy confirmed for the Supreme Court. Now what? As the song says, "It's too late to turn back now." You know that Judge Kavanaugh was chosen because of his extreme views on presidential powers. You know that Attorney General Barr was chosen because of his extreme views on presidential powers. You know our democracy is being battered daily by the attacks on the justice department and the press, yet somehow you can still get up and look at yourself in the mirror while you cinch that tie over the starched, white shirt. 

I've got nothing against men. I've lived with them and loved them. I've got nothing against old people. They are to be treasured. I've got nothing against white people. I am one, well aware of the inherent advantages my skin color has provided to me. I just recently realized that my hair itself is an aspect of my white privilege. My hair is smooth and straight and dirty blond with natural (and sometimes unnatural) highlights. I wash it, I brush it once and I’m good to go. Every once in a while, I get a twenty-dollar trim. For my age I have very little gray. That’s everything there is to know about my hair. I don’t have to tame it or straighten it or relax it or fight with it. I have never appreciated how easy it is to have my hair.

I've got nothing against rich people, per se, but the old, rich, white men have got to stop being our leaders. They don't represent us. My husband is an old, rich, white man, although I don't see sixty-eight as old and he doesn't see himself as rich. Fair point. We’re chump changers relative to many in our community, but compared to most people in the world, we're wealthy. He's not at all racist which is pretty unusual for someone his age, particularly someone who grew up in the South in the 50's. It's a perfect example of learning what you're taught. His parents weren't bigots. He believes in the right to choose and has evolved over time to embrace same sex marriage. I know a lot of other guys who share our demographic and they're not clueless or obtuse or racist.  

But these guys in power, they have got to go. The mid-term elections kicked their asses up one side and down the other. Don’t ever forget the power of your vote, except now we can’t even trust our democracy. We have made some gains against gerrymandered districts, but our election system is still so vulnerable. When we have a ‘leader’ who only cares about himself and money and himself and money, we’re in a heap of trouble.

There has been some speculation that the reason the current administration won’t address the election fraud problem is two-fold. If they concede there are problems, then it leads to questions about the legitimacy of the current commander in chief. Ya think?! Hello, Mueller report, that big ole witch-hunt. Secondly, if the problems aren’t addressed and Numero Uno ends up Numero Dos in 2020, he can claim election fraud. Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is now saying that if Democrats don’t win by a large enough margin in 2020, the orange one will not voluntarily step down. Then what?

In 1966 Robert Kennedy delivered a speech in which he said this: “There is a Chinese curse which says, ‘May he live in interesting times.’” The connection to the Chinese hasn’t been verified, but it’s become a popular expression. If the 60’s were interesting, these times are fascinating, and not a little frightening. For three years I have closely followed American politics. In 2016 I consoled my two daughters who were both pregnant with their first babies. I promised them Trump wouldn’t become the nominee and later, I promised them he wouldn’t win the election. I was wrong. What’s a mother to do?

I watched with emotion as Hilary became the Democratic nominee. I went with Lucy and three-month old Lila to the polls to vote for Hilary, all of us proudly wearing suffragette white. I sat, like so many others, on election night with the sickening realization of what was happening sinking into my soul. I cried that night and I cried when I woke up in the morning and by God, it has been ever so much worse than I thought it would be.

I have thought many times about what our country would be like if Hilary had won. I cringe to think about how the Trey Gowdy, Benghazi-investigating, email scandal machine would have cranked up again. The investigations that yielded no indictments. Not one, but that wouldn’t have stopped them.

Now that we are in the throes of the run-up to the preamble to the 2020 election, I realize how angry I am. We had our first woman president stolen from us. It took a lot of factors combined to make it happen and right now, I’d like to point some of those out, as I see them. Thank you, Russia for your troll farms and bots and fake social media presence.  Thank you, Paul Manafort, for sharing political polling data with Russia. Thank you, Julian Assange and Wikileaks for hacking into the DNC and your perfectly timed and coordinated document dumps. Thank you, Jim Comey, for your October surprise, the non-indictment news conference. Thank you third-party, voters! Thank you for voting for Jill Stein who had zero chance of becoming president. Thank you, Bernie Sanders, for not pulling out (when it was clear you wouldn’t win) and supporting the Democratic nominee! How perfectly selfish of you!

I have followed the politics since 2016 like you would watch a train wreck. You can’t stand to watch, but you really can’t look away. You know the train is careening off the tracks, and you know it’s going to crash, but you want to see it with your own eyes. You want to see how it crashed and why. This has stolen my time, my peace of mind and perhaps a bit of my mind. It has interfered with my concentration and my creativity, but these are the times in which we live. I cannot bear to look away.

I’m not at all excited about voting for a man for president, particularly an old, rich, white guy. Just sayin’. But I’m clear-eyed and coldly calculating. Climate change is a clear and present danger. We lose one hundred Americans a day to gun violence. Reproductive rights are threatened. The rule of law, and democracy itself are threatened. For once I’m going to think like a republican. What matters is winning. Everything else is relatively pointless now.