Old Post Resurrection Hop–Silkies

I’m re-posting this blog I wrote in December, 2011 as part of  Old Post Resurrection Hop:

Check out these chickens. They’re actually Silkie bantams: one of the oldest of the rare breeds of poultry. Marco Polo wrote about seeing them in the Orient in 1200 A.D.  I included the photo at the very bottom of this blog, just so you can see their fluffy little legs (and toes!), from a website run by a guy who raises them. It was his contention that Silkies are one of the most docile, sweet tempered chicken breeds he’s ever kept.

I’ll go along with that.  Not that I’ve ever raised any, I’ve just had the pleasure of seeing these two in the photo above float around the perimeter of this guy’s yard at the end of Llewellyn Drive even with my dogs and their kinetic energy around. All the Silkies do is stop for a moment, raise their magnificent little white feather-duster heads and stare down at the dogs. Their eyes are surprisingly large and dark and winsome, kinda like those of the Olsen twins. No, wait, I take that back, an Olsen stare has been called vacant and bored, the Silkies’ eyes are filled with curiosity. There’s no fence around them. And I’ve never seen them stray. Way too cool.  Don’t they just make you smile?

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Where The Hell is The Car?

At the beginning of our weekend getaway, I wrote that we were “open to serendipity.” Well, that happened on Sunday morning on our way to the Annenberg and Hammer Museums. Deciding to take a detour down Main Street, we stumbled across a Farmer’s Market, which couldn’t have worked out any better as we’d missed the big one the previous day. This one was small, but friendly and cozy with a selection of fresh vegetables and food vendors unlike I’d ever seen at any other Farmer’s Market, notably the Laguna Beach one. There was music; there were dogs, people stretched out on a strip of lawn in front and a wonderful Victorian house, which was available for civic events with restrooms for market goers. It was in front of this house at one of the tables that we read the newspaper, shared a mushroom, onion, spinach, and cheese scrambled omelet along with a fresh mango drink and coconut juice, right from the coconut before heading for the Annenberg.

Finding the place wasn’t a problem—as Laural told me when I asked if she needed my GPS for the trip, “I am a GPS”—except there was a bit of a mix-up getting into the right parking garage due to the filming of a commercial. We parked somewhere in the bowels of a structure behind the Annenberg. Instead of taking the stairs or elevator, we walked up the down. That screwed us up when we returned. Couldn’t find Laural’s bright blue Honda Element. She’d parked it right there by the staircase, hadn’t she? Space 182. Thirty minutes later, after charging up and down aisles that must’ve been numbered by some sadistic bastard, all the while becoming more and more sweaty and a tad panicky—we could be tomorrow’s headlines—we finally found the little blue gem parked in a whole other area of the parking structure that hadn’t existed before. In spot #182. During the search neither of us lost our cool; it was all part of our weekend adventure. We mused that if this had happened to either one of us with our husbands—my ex, her current—it probably wouldn’t have been termed an “adventure”.

That evening we took our limo, Santa Monica’s dollar-a-ride Blue Bus back down to the beachfront and had a glass of wine at the historic Georgian Hotel. Couldn’t resist the art deco pizzazz of the place. A celebrity hideaway during the early days of Hollywood, the Georgian used to house a popular speakeasy and is now rumored to be haunted by certain unearthly guests. So there we sat on the verandah, sipping our Syrah’s and gazing up at the half moon above the palm trees, communing with the spirits.

After our less than thrilling dining experience at Border Grill, I was a little anxious about Tar & Roses. I mean I’m the one who made all the arrangements. Would it live up to the hype? Okay, so the place rocked. Well, almost. The wood roasted asparagus with pancetta, frisee and coddled duck egg—listed as a “small” plate”—was one of those dishes where you stop midway through the first bite and explore the food with your tongue trying to decide what made your taste buds do the Blues Brothers tap dance. The duck breast with bloomsdale spinach, bing cherry chutney and hazelnuts—a “large” plate—hit all the right notes, but at the twice the price and as someone who loves little itty bitty sized meals, I can tell you this was stingy. Yes, I’m taking points away for size. Ah, but then came the dessert that we shared: Strawberry Ricotta Crostada. Holy shit! A mix of strawberry and blood orange sprinkled with thyme served on a buttery sugar dusted pastry, along with honeycomb ice cream, almost had me in a fork fight with Laural for a bigger share. I’ve got to tell you, this kind of dessert is usually not my thing, but I absolutely swooned over this one.

We ended the evening in our motel’s telephone booth-sized dry sauna—obligingly opened by the desk clerk after the 10 pm deadline—then headed for the rooftop terrace with its astro turf, bogus ferns and Greek statues where we hoped to lie on the chaise longues and gaze up the moon. It was closed for the night. We trudged back down to our room. Our adventure was over.

D is For Dog Crossing

I never noticed this dog crossing sign before. It’s up the road from me in front of a house that perches over Laguna Canyon Road halfway up a steep, half-tarred, half-concrete road paralleling the canyon. It’s the only house up there. Jake and Fergie, my Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and I sometimes take this route for a quickie hike, instead of the three-mile steeper version further down Canyon Acres. For one thing, there are no prowling rangers up here, ready to ticket me for letting the dogs run loose (Me and The Law), and for another there’s a rope swing at the top where Fergie has been pushing me from behind whenever I sit on the plank seat. I’ll have to get a shot of that sometime. Maybe that can be my “S is for Swing” blog . . . hmmm.

You’ll have to click on the photo to see the little dog crossing sign behind Fergie. Jake’s on the bench. No Jimmy today. He’s the little black mutt with cocker spaniel leanings who usually ambles from the house to bark at us. Maybe that’s why I’ve never noticed the sign, I’m too busy reining in Fergie. She’s a real pushy girl, thinks everyone is into getting some touch, some love, like she is.

A to Z Blogging Challenge

Don’t you just love this picture? That’s why I decided to take on the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge; it was the picture. Me and dogs, you know how it is? Actually, I’m excited about this venture. Starting with “A” I have to post a blog every day in April, except Sundays. From the letters “O” through “X” (April 17-27th) I’ll be in Morland, a little village in Cumbria, UK, to visit my childhood chums, Joan and Donna, from my life in Africa from a long, long, long time ago. More on that in another blog. Should be interesting, don’t you think?


Training a Nose

This is my Christmas card photo, me and the nut-jobs. Okay, I’m late. Christmas is way over, but given that the photo turned out quite well, I wanted to share an unrelated story with you.  By the way, this is only the second Christmas card photo I’ve ever had taken.  Last year’s was a lucky one-shot deal taken by a girlfriend the day I got Fergie. Hey, another tradition might be going on here.This particular photo was taken by a guy I met hiking the hill not too long ago.  On this day, he happened to be returning from a hike when I impetuously asked him to take a picture of us at the end of Canyon Acres.  Luckily, I had on red gloves to make it Christmasy.

Jake’s on the right; he just turned eight.  That’s one serious, stalwart, loving and passionate boy.  Oh, and smarter than most people I know. No. Seriously. And then there’s Fergie, just over a year old, now, with moves that would shame the heroine in the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon–the way the character runs up the side of the temple then flips over to face her enemy in a dazzling display of magic and acrobatic agility.That’s the Ferg when she plays with Jake on my couch, somersaulting off the sides and running across his back to get away before landing in front of him.  Poor Jake.  I’ve tried to catch these moves on camera, to no avail; all that dazzling speed, plus it usually happens when I’m in the middle of yoga.  The minute I leave to get the camera they’re behind me, velcroed to my ankles.

As you can see from the photo, Fergie can also be a model of poise and noble bearing, proud of her beauty, her very caramely brindle stripes, her pure-bred British lineage, as is Jake.  They should be proud of their looks.  I, on the other hand, not so much; I have issues with my nose. Take a closer look.  See that shiny flat part in front?  A tiny headlight in the flash of the camera. That’s a droop.

Back in Nkana, when I was thirteen, my best friend, Colleen Dean (where is she now?), leader of our pack at St. John’s Convent School, started “training” her nose into a point ala Sandra Dee’s pert proboscis.  She did this by pushing up the tip with an elegant tanned forefinger, chin resting on thumb and middle finger.  I immediately adopted this habit. I had enough insecurities at the time, too short, too skinny, too muscular, hair too wild (and not blonde enough, like Colleen’s).I can’t remember if I went into this campaign worrying that the droop on the end of mine was as disfiguring as Colleen believed her slightly fat nose to be. But I became as obsessed as she did, seizing every private moment to press and train: while sitting in the back row of the Astra or the Rhokana Cinemas–even with a boyfriend!–at night while reading in bed, while doing homework, while bike riding down Kantanta, Princess and Geddes Streets, and while sitting on the toilet.  Even after I went on to Kitwe High and Colleen left for boarding school in the Cape, I continued with an occasional press, but it just wasn’t the same without her. My nose has retained its little droop, but I do believe it could’ve been worse. I do believe Colleen was on to something. I also believe that there’s magic in pursuing an idea, no matter how unreasonable or how small; it’s practice for bigger and better ideas.

Over The Hill And Faraway

Yesterday afternoon, instead of taking Fergie and Jake on our usual three-mile hike up the dirt road that winds up to the Top of The World (yup, it’s called that), I decided on the “other” hill, the one paralleling Laguna Canyon Road.  Haven’t been there for awhile.  With all the rain, the meadow on the left of the steep tarred road glows with a spring-like green.  A single house halfway up, perches above the canyon.

The end of the road flattens on the left into a spot that looks like a helicopter landing pad, but is actually the remains of a foundation of a house that burned down; a white slat-backed bench and two Adirondack chairs arranged just so sit under a tree complete with rope swing.  There’s a lot of history here, evidenced by the words “1947, Don” carved into a low cement wall.  The property is now owned by someone who, unable to get permits to build on it—access problems—gave it to his dad to maintain as a kind of little park for those who discover it, or so I hear.  I’m grateful for this.

At this point, I usually let the dogs charge around while I admire the view, one of Catalina Island on a clear day, and part of Laguna’s main beach; from this angle and height, the breaking waves look like white brushstrokes.

But then I realized that the hills around me had lost their thick summer shag, revealing that path that leads up to Bermuda Hills Drive.  I’ve taken it a couple of times.  Today, I’m going left.  There’s no path.  I do love an adventure.  Though, with those giant houses peering down from the hills above I’m not exactly in unchartered territory.  It’s the feeling I’m after, the feeling that I found a new path to try.

Jake and Fergie soon take the lead; it’s grabbing-onto-bushes kind of steep.  I pass what looks like a mini acacia, Africa’s umbrella thorn tree.  Trying not to slip as I angle across the incline, I find myself thinking about the time I was nine, looking for gold in the hills around Barberton, South Africa, where my dad made bricks for a short stint.  This is an area that contains some of the oldest sedimentary rock formations in the world, site of a gold rush in the 1880s.  I didn’t find any gold.  Instead, I discovered an abandoned mine shaft filled with vines and a couple of parrots swooping in and out.

I didn’t find anything like that today, not even close, unless you count the acacia look-alike.  Still, I enjoyed an invigorating hike until I came to a gully, newly formed by the looks of it with Jake and Fergie perched on the edge looking back at me.  There’s a way around but it’s getting dark.  Another time.  I turned back, satisfied.

The Beach

I’d had it with trying to finding an ending to my latest book—why did I ever think I was a writer?  A good time to take three-month-old Fergie down to the beach for her first visit.   She’s a brindle Staffordshire Bull Terrier, golden stripey-like.  Picture a cross between a pot-bellied pig and a cartoon warthog from Lion King.  Jake, her big bro—same breed—led the way.  It’s a mile from my house in Laguna Canyon to Main Beach.

With the sky a cerulean blue, a wintery 60 degrees in the sun, 45 in the shade, we headed down the canyon.  There were still traces of the knee high river of mud that raged down Canyon Acres just two weeks earlier from our 40 days and 40 nights of rain–okay, a week–now a fine ecru-colored dust that covered the street.  Everything else was so green: bushes, trees, those clumps of grass that had appeared overnight; you want to swipe your finger to check for wet green paint.

Fergie either charged forward, or catching sight of her skinny pink leash, latched onto it with her needle-sharp teeth and slammed on brakes–tug-a-war time–forcing me to either stop and play, drag her along, or carry her.  With a combo of this and her twelve impassioned pleas to passersby for a little love, we made it down to Main Beach.  I was beginning to feel a little edgy at all the time this was taking.  I really should’ve stayed home and stuck with wrestling my story to a close.

I jumped onto the sand from the boardwalk.  Jake leapt after me, shouting in doggy dialogue, Whoa! there’s those birds again, let me at ‘em!  Fergie, still cadging for connection, came to a dead halt at the edge of the boardwalk.  A seagull squawked above.  Her head jerked up and she stared at the bird, following its flight for a moment.  Reflexively, I did the same, caught at the sight of the seagull’s effortless grace as it did wheelies in the sky.  Yow.  It had been awhile since I’d watched a seagull in flight.  Jake barked.  Let’s go.  He gets his impatience from me.

I gave Fergie’s leash a gentle tug.  She tumbled onto the sand and charged after me, head down like one of those bloodhounds on the job, sniffing loudly from left to right.  Jake made a mad dash for a clump of sandpipers at the edge of the water and I let him go—leash law be damned—while I watched Fergie on her discovery of sand and sea.  At water’s edge, she stopped sniffing, lifted her chin and stared at the expanse in front of her.  No way, her look said.  She backed up.  I sank onto the sand behind her just out of reach of the water and watched as a wave rolled in up to her knees before receding.  She froze and looking as if she’d stepped in a pile of shit, high stepped over to me and, with dripping paws, leapt onto my lap.

Jake returned with gifts of seaweed and driftwood and Fergie ventured out again, this time staying clear of the water.  In front of me, a watery mirror left behind by the receding ocean reflected a cloud above then was gone.  I stared at it willing it back, just like I’d been willing back all those story ideas that had been waking me in the middle of the night only to disappear when I opened my eyes to write them down.  I rose to my feet.

It was time to return home to face the blank page.  A little more heel-and-Fergie-dragging and I was back in my chair.  A few words haltingly appeared out of nowhere, kind of like a door had been cracked, a door whose key had been fashioned from wonder and nature.  More words appeared.  I was a writer again.