Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Old dog

The dog has been getting kicked out of the bedroom at night lately. He's an old dog, and likes nothing better than sleeping flipped over on his back, on the thick dog bed next to our bed, now that we all live on one floor. He spends most of the day there, when he's not following Giselle around the house--the only thing the dog likes better than his bed is Giselle. I will grant that he has good taste in this.

But the dog also likes to pace, and to fluff that bed endlessly, most of the night. The pacing I understand. When I was a temporary stressed-out insomniac, I paced too. What else is there to do at that hour? But I didn't have those long nails that scrape across the hardwood floors here in the Bear Mountain House (floors that go everywhichway depending on the room you're in), and I wasn't pacing around a space that echoed quite the same way. The pacing bounces back off the high beamed ceiling again and again until it's a layered cacophony of pacing, some sort of strange avant-garde recording devoid of beat but not intensity or staccato. It's accompanied by his own frustrated sighs, that trill out through that long nose of his in gentle rapid-fire melancholy.

And the fluffing! I'm convinced that he's convinced that there's a perfect angle for that bed, something archetypal that will remove all of his dog aches and his dog stresses and leave him in the same mellow bliss he gets with his head in my wife's lap. (I get it too.) And so he's perpetually scratching and shifting the bed back and forth across the floor and the rug, up against the nightstand or half under the bed, folded and flat, twisted up like a cheap furred pretzel, lofted like a shredded wheat nugget.

So, he's getting banned. I feel guilty, since he is an old dog. And even more so since apparently he acts as a good earthquake barometer--he moaned and groaned before we had our first California quake tonight.

But: he sleeps right outside of the bedroom door on the hardwood now. I brought him another bed from the living room to lay on, and he does, but he faces the door all night. Watching and waiting, half asleep but half alert, too, so that should that door show signs of crack open, he'll be back in.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Santa Cruz Boardwalk

It's about a half hour down the road--you wind out Bear Creek Road around a few S turns, and then head off onto Summit Road. Summit west of Route 17 is windy and narrow, down to one lane for a lot of its length, and it passes through a vineyard or two and an alpaca farm (where the hay is stored in an old shipping container), low hanging trees and a tree farm that's closed at the moment, but that has a set of train tracks that parallel the road for a minute or two and made the kids wonder.

Then it's down 17 south, to the coast. We took the kids here their first weekend, part of our California Brainwashing work: 'California has more toy stores than Virginia!' 'Wow, this California Mexican food is the best I've ever had!' (It was.) A trip to Powells Candy store in Los Gatos. You get the idea.

The kids were in a dreamy mood--the fuzzy aura of travel, where all the worries are taken care of by someone else, enveloped them, and we let them take money up to the counter and get their own cotton candy. After the rides, and more carnival food, we goofed around on the beach as the sun went down.

Overhead, the rides slowed to a stop. The ocean went calm and on the strip the teenagers coalesced into small, quiet packs, each in some sort of strange orbit of all the others. We wove our way between them to the car and headed back up into the hills.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Monterey Bay, as seen from our deck

I've been wanting to post a picture of the view here for some time, and now that the stuff has arrived, including the camera and the cables to hook it into the Mac, I can.

Here's Monterey Bay, taken this morning, looking south from the deck of the house. The dark blur in the background is Monterey, the blue in the middle there is the water, and below are the closer mountains. At night, the whole coastline is dotted with lights all the way out to the end.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


I remember the movie from my childhood, probably from a Saturday afternoon sprawled on the criss-cross brown & beige carpeted floor in the TV room: Giant Ants! In black and white! They were mutated from atomic testing somewhere in the southwest, and were attacking people. And who could blame them--if I got myself mutated I'd probably bite someone too.

It comes to mind as we prep the house for the market here, because we're having a lot of conversations about "Them." Not the ants, but those mystical future buyers of the house, a nebulous "Them,' with preferences and predilictions that we're trying to imagine and cater too without much evidence based in anything but hearsay. "They" clearly wouldn't like our downstairs bathroom with the rich dark blue paint: so it becomes beige. "They" certainly wouldn't put up with a master bath as cluttered as ours was, not to mention the (ok, I'll admit it--not our best color choice) faux-finished purple walls. So, a yellow-beige for that room, too, and we have discussions over what kind of mirror and light fixture 'They' will like best. (Our only defense for the purple--you should have seen those walls when we bought the house. Purple was a blessing.) Those cracks in the corner of the ceiling where the sheetrock tape is peeling? Yep, gotta fix it or it'll turn Them off. A bedroom without a closet? What were we thinking? (There's one there now, thanks to the contractor we call Super Bob, and it looks like it grew there it fits in so well.)

We're all becoming conditioned by those endless home shows on HGTV: 'They' are automatically assumed to have little taste or imagination, to have a perverse fetish for beige, to be unnerved by small things like that divet of no-paint on the kitchen cabinet from where I whacked it with the rice cooker in a fit of what-will-Ben-actually-eat-tonight frustration. They like hardwood floors and don't like clutter. And so we wrap our house with a veneer of normalcy that feels kinda boring. When I'm putting together the house's website, I'm not using the cool pic of the kids having fun in Giselle's cluttered painting loft and my PJ'ed feet hanging over the edge; I'm using a carefully lit picture of the bathroom cabinets with some simple flowers. I'm not using a picture of the big hippie window out back--instead it's the kitchen that's cleaner for a brief moment of a photo than it has ever been before, and likely will ever be again.

It's a shame that here in the states, the place we call ours, in which we play out our domestic lives, is also one of our most significant financial investments--and so the tyranny of the dollar weighs heavy even in bathroom fixtures. "They" are around the corner, those furry, bug-eyed giants, waiting with their checkbooks to pass judgement on our offbeat aesthetic.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Santa Cruz Mountains Ecology

The Santa Cruz Mountains are a region of large biological diversity, encompassing cool, moist coastal ecosystems as well as warm, dry chaparral. In valleys and moist ocean-facing slopes some of the southernmost coast redwoods grow, along with Douglas fir, coast live oak, Pacific madrone, wax myrtle, and California bay laurel. There do exist several small and isolated stands of old growth forest, most notably at Big Basin, Henry Cowell Redwoods and Portola Redwoods State Parks. At higher elevations and on sunny south slopes a more drought-resistant chaparral vegetation dominates: manzanita, California scrub oak, chamise, and chaparral pea. Spring wildflowers are also widespread throughout the range.

The area welcomes a tremendous number of species of birds. (see: bird list). California Mule Deer are common, as are gray squirrels, chipmunks and raccoons. Foxes, coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions also inhabit the region but are rarely seen. Rattlesnakes are also habitants, mostly in the high, dry chaparral.

--From Wikipedia

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Packing up

I was down at the apartment we own tonight, taking keys from one set of tenants and passing them on to the next ones, and I was thinking about how strange it is right now: we'll be moving out of the house we own, to go and rent someone elses house, all the while owning another piece of property that *we* rent out to someone else. It feels somehow like a constantly running shell game, where the ball under a shell keeps moving and you never know exactly where it calls its home. Here's a picture of the rental property, featuring the One Dead Bush out front. The bush is gone now, but for awhile it was the only way for me to identify the place from it's neighbors when I drove by it. Strange, too: to own a place you will never know well.

The new tenants seemed nice--two younger guys striking out in an apartment, a UHaul they were struggling to find a place to park (since there's no good place to do it--in the alley, you have to walk the stuf around to the front since the back stairs are narrow. In front, it's a busy road and you have to bump it up onto the lawn), a pack of friends and parents on hand to help move them in. I brought them some beer and stuck it in the fridge. The former tenants, two female students, seemed somewhat embarrased moving out, and we'd had a whole issue where they'd given notice on the place to move a month early, had a reference from another place call us, and then seemed surprised when we actually rented it and then they actually had to move. We were a little surprised at the number of pets they'd acquired despite the lease.

Moving is a ton of work and stress, and there's little way to avoid it. Here in the Midlothian house, we've gotten rid of a ton of stuff from the attic, the garage, a lot of furniture. Our contractor SuperBob and his brother-in-law have been putting up a closet in our daughter's room and painting the master bath and downstairs baths, and this coming week they'll put a new ceiling in the guest room. Soon, new sliding glass doors will arrive (there are five in a line across the face of the house, which you can see from this picture) and will open up the front view in a way we've never seen it, since they've been frosted over with condensation on the interior pretty much since we've lived here. We have clothes in boxes and in laundry bins, and the kids are bunking together they way they've taken to doing this summer. They like it, and they sleep fine there in Ben's room, so we like it. We have less places to sit and more things stacked around or near those that remain, such that you have to weave your way from resting place to resting place. Our son Ben has taken up carting around an empty box with him that he puts toys in to make sure they won't disappear and will come with him to California.

This week: painting kitchen cabinets, sorting more kid stuff, painting a bathroom floor, hauling some brush from the great pin-oak up at the top of the property near the road, hauling everything out of the garage to wash that floor down.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Lastly, for tonight, some pictures of the ocean. I drove Route 1 all the way up to Half Moon Bay, where I hung out with this horse for a bit, before jumping onto Route 92 back over the mountains, and then taking the freeway back to Los Gatos where I had an awesome sandwich at a French Bakery there downtown.

Some other mixed pics here. The Gate of the House On Bear Mountain (sorry for the caps, but it was hard to resist), a crazy store that was somewhere near Felton, and some deep forest pics.

Mountain Driving

So today I went driving all through the mountains, winding my way up on Black Road through deep redwood forests up to crests near the Bear Mountain House, and then plunged down the other side. The views at places was simply staggering, with a flat sea of clouds lapping up against the mountains, and the roads were crazy and winding. I'd pass in and out of clouds and fog, back into sunlight, and then down deep into the middle of a tall, ancient forest. I worked my way through Boulder Creek, Felton, Ben Lommond, and Bonny Doon, and then sped up the coast along Route 1 to Half Moon Bay. The next few posts will be pictures from the drive. The first few shots here are from the ridge near our new rental house. The town shot is of Felton, some distance deep into the woods. Use Google Maps to get a sense of the layout of all of these.

Skyler's New School

Some pictures here of Lakeside Elementary School, the school for mountain kids in Los Gatos.

Even more Bear Mountain House pictures...

More Bear Mountain house pictures

Fireball in the morning