Monthly Archives: May 2011

She was delicious

Sometimes, you meet people in the most unexpected of ways. I’m no stranger to making friends or meeting people through the internet (after all, it’s how I met my husband, the person who married us, and the bride and groom in the Easter wedding I just took part in), but who would have thought that we’d end up becoming friends with people because I wrote about planning our wedding on a message board?

I knew Nicole as an anime character, the handle she chose to write about planning their first-part-of-2008 wedding. She knew me as a variation on this blog name. It was an alternative wedding planning site and message board, something a little different from the traditional and ubiquitous WIC-fueled Kn*t. We were planning from Colorado for a California wine country wedding, and they were planning something relatively local to their home in Sacramento. I first noticed her because she mentioned a semi-pro friend would  be shooting their wedding, and we were looking for affordable Northern California photographer options. She sent me his contact info, and we liked his style, and hired him to shoot our wedding.

It’s funny that we met and spent time with Paul long before Dan and I ever met Nicole and Tom in person; that didn’t happen until March of last year when we planned a trip to the Bay Area around our anniversary  and Nicole said they’d be spending that same weekend in SF in honor of Tom’s birthday. We’d been internet friends for three years at that point, through wedding planning and wedding having and then moving over to the post-planning sister site. I was reading and writing about trying to get pregnant, and Nicole was writing about waiting until the time was right (she didn’t want to saddle a baby with a Christmas birthday). At that point, we’d been trying for many months with no luck, and they were going to be starting the process in another couple of months. I wasn’t sure how things would go, since we knew such intimate details about each other, having shared them online with lots of other strangers, but on that sunny March day in San Francisco Nicole and Tom and Dan and I all hit it off, talking about food and the city and Lost and all manner of things. They were surprisingly small in person (I think Nicole is 4’11?) but that was the only surprising part of the encounter.

We saw them again in May that year, when we flew out for my cousin’s wedding, again had a lovely time, and a week or two later Nicole announced (on the message board) that she was pregnant. I couldn’t help but feel a bit of rage at the universe: here we’d been trying all this time with no luck and they got lucky on the first try. Their first try ended quickly, and then Nicole got pregnant again right away. It was right around that point that I decided I couldn’t read the message board anymore, right around the same time that we got our diagnosis, and Nicole and I kept in touch on Facebook instead of through the message board.

After we moved,  we tried to have them up a couple of times for a weekend visit but nothing worked out for one reason or another. Nicole and Tom invited us to their New Year’s Eve party, where we saw Paulagain,  and stayed the night because it was a 2.5 hour drive home. Tiny Nicole had a big pregnant belly but otherwise seemed her normal self, and we admired their new-ish house, their nerdy collections, and their grumpy cat. In February, when I had my job interview in Sacramento, Nicole was working from home so she was able to meet up with us at a coffee shop for a late lunch. She looked ready to be finished with the pregnancy, despite her due date being 6 weeks away.

Baby Elspeth was born on March 29, our wedding anniversary and Tom’s birthday, the third child in four generations to share the birthday. She was over 8 pounds at birth, which completely explained Nicole’s discomfort the last couple of months of her pregnancy. I’d sent a shower gift and made her a blanket, and  we figured we’d just be looking at photos for several months, but then Nicole sent me a message asking if they’d be welcome for a day trip visit with Elspeth. We were game, and yesterday they brought their beautiful, squirmy, opinionated 6.5-week-old infant two and a half hours northwest to visit us for the day in wine country. I was concerned that the weather wouldn’t work and we’d be stuck inside all day, but it turned out to be rain mixed with sun and puffy clouds. Dan made homemade chicken soup and biscuits for lunch, and then we took them winetasting at a couple of nearby wineries. Ellie mostly cooperated, though she definitely had opinions about various positions and environments, and showed her displeasure by crying, pooping and barfing a lot. Or, maybe that was what she was going to do anyway, since she is not quite 7 weeks old.

Elspeth is ready for her closeup

* * * * *

I wasn’t sure how yesterday was going to go. Elspeth is another special baby, sort of, since her parents got married right around the same time we did, used the same photographer to shoot their wedding, and her mom and I connected over both wedding planning and family planning. That their family came about exactly on the timeline they’d hoped, while ours seems permanently stalled, just goes to show that nothing is fair or balanced when it comes to things like fertility. I didn’t go to the baby shower in January not only because it’s a long drive and gas is expensive, but because I knew I couldn’t handle it, and I just about lost it for a whole day after seeing Nicole’s giant belly in February. It was so hard to be happy for our friends, growing the daughter they’d hoped for with the perfect birthday, while Nicole was pregnant, and I knew I wouldn’t (and won’t) be without months of tests, needles, hormones, and people in white coats. Would I feel weird and jealous and crazy? What would the cats think of a tiny squalling human? Would it break my heart to hold a baby that in some other universe and some other configuration of factors might have been mine?

* * * * * *

Luckily, the baby was charming and gave me gummy smiles and contented signs while I rocked and bounced her into a better mood. She was charming in Dan’s arms, and my heart only broke a little bit watching him hold such a tiny baby that looks so much like a baby we could have might look (dark hair, blue eyes). We had a great time with our friends and they seemed to have the new baby thing pretty well under control. (It doesn’t hurt that she’s a pretty easygoing baby, all things considered, who actually sleeps quite a bit at night. And her toes are mighty tasty.) They drove home, and we sat in our quiet house with two kitties who weren’t quite sure about what THAT was all about. And we’d done it. We’d survived yet another encounter with friends who have a baby. I’d just like to know if it will ever get any easier, or if that won’t happen until we have (please please please, let us someday have) a baby of our own.

A million little pieces

But I must gather knots of flowers, and buds and garlands gay

The beginning of the dance

Last week, Helen Jane kept writing about May Day on twitter. I tweeted back at her about how, when I was in 3rd grade, I’d danced the May Pole at the May Day festival in Geyserville. Someone else, who I don’t know but must live in Geyserville, responded that Geyserville still had a May Day festival. I googled, I thought, I asked Dan if he’d be up for attending a (free!) quaint small-town festival. He was game, so on Sunday we drove to the ‘ville, to the Hoffman Picnic Grounds (formerly known as the Geyser Peak Picnic Grounds), where Geyserville’s May Day festival has been held since around 1991.

Old oak tree

* * * * * * *

May Day is a long-standing tradition in this little hamlet. Geyserville’s had a May Day celebration since at least the 1920s, and from then until the early 90s it was held on private land known as the Hoffman Grove. I looked forward to the May Day festival every year when I was a kid. There were sweet things to eat, and face painting. There were pony rides, barbecue, a Dixieland band with old men and brass horns in little white hats. Prizes could be won if you fished the right duckie out of the kiddy pool, and the fire department would compete with the one from Cloverdale to see which hose could push the ball better. (Because that wasn’t suggestive.) But the absolute best part of May Day was the dancing of the May Pole. I remember being very small, probably four or five, and thinking how big those 3rd graders were (in Geyserville, it’s always the kids from the 3rd grade class who get to dance the May Pole). Each boy got a small boutonniere; each girl a wreath of flowers for her head with ribbons hanging off the back. When I was little, I was so jealous of those big kids and couldn’t wait for it to be my turn.

Geyserville 3rd graders pose in their finery

In 1987, the year I skipped second grade and into third, I was completely miserable. Skipping into a class of kids, many of whom had been held back at some point so they were two years older than I was, in a school where there was only one classroom per grade so EVERYONE knew who I was and that I had skipped a grade, did not do wonders for my social life. In fact, it wasn’t until we moved to another town that I ever felt comfortable around classmates again. But I’d been looking forward to being in third grade FOREVER, because that meant on May Day it would be my turn to dance the May Pole. All the miseries and the teasing and the taunting and the shunning were swept aside in April, because April was when our morning teacher, Mrs. Garrett, began to teach us the May Pole dance. We heard the same music over and over. We practiced the motions around a bare pole before we got to use any ribbons. I remember that it was vastly important, during practice, that one get a “good” ribbon color. And then, finally, the day came. I wore my favorite dress, and I got a beautiful wreath for my head. It’s been nearly 25 years, so I don’t remember what color ribbon I got. But I still remember how proud I was that I got to dance in front of the whole town with my classmates.

Which color would you want?

* * * * * * *

I wasn’t sure about this May Day festival. Living here these past several months, I’ve run into all kinds of people I hadn’t seen in decades, and I didn’t know how up for that I was on Sunday. I also wasn’t sure what kind of activities there might be, but the website said the May Pole would be danced at 1:30 PM so we got there around 1. The Picnic Grounds are no Hoffman Grove (the May Day festival, I learned by talking with one of the town’s patriarchs, had moved from the Hoffman Grove after Mr. Hoffman died and Mrs. Hoffman was concerned about liability issues with having hundreds or thousands of people on the land ever year), but they’re still pretty. We looked at the historical displays of photos and newspaper clippings. I recognized people with whom I’d gone to elementary school. I recognized my old bus driver. A Healdsburg resident toting a large camera and I struck up a conversation about the festival’s history and my memories of May Day Festivals Of Olde, and he was the one who introduced me to the Grizzled Town Patriarch. I even learned something less than savory about the land we lived on and the little cabin we lived in when I was growing up. Mr. Bosworth (said Grizzled Town Patriarch) mentioned that when he was young, his father and grandfather, town undertakers, had to collect the body of a hunter who had been shot in his cabin by “Indians” (his word) who were interested in robbing the man in order to buy liquor. (His story, once again.) The father and grandfather retrieved the body and brought it to town, and young men in their cups dared one another to see if they could run from the bar, across the street, to the basement where the corpse was held before burial to see how long they could stand the smell. The cabin where the hunter lived and was killed was, of course, the very same structure where I lived from birth to age 10. No wonder I saw ghosts when I lived there.

Grizzly death stories aside, we both found the event pretty charming. Everyone brought their kids, and there was a rock climbing wall and a bouncy castle. People were painting faces. People were selling ribs and other food. The fire department had a booth, but didn’t bring out any hoses. My third grade teacher, Mrs. Garrett, was there, and she remembered me (!) and told me she was still in charge of teaching the kids the May Pole Dance. We found a spot in the shade to wait, while Dan people watched and I tried to figure out whether that person over there was so-and-so’s mom, or my friend’s old neighbor, or whatever.

Then, at long last, it was time. I moved into the sun in good position for taking photos, and Mrs. Garrett went around to whisper to each kid not to stop dancing if the music stopped. One little girl said to another, in a Very Serious Voice, “It’s not like practice. It’s the REAL THING.”

Nearly ready to go

Mrs. Garrett gives last minute instructions

Two little boys sat grinning under the pole to keep it upright, and then the same old tinny music came out of the speakers.

Someday, when they're grown, these boys will remember when they held pole.

The ribbons flew, and the kids skipped, and the ribbons shook and the kids wove.

Weaving ribbons

Nearly finished!


Here’s what the dance looked like.

And here’s what they made, at the end.

Wrapped May Pole, post-dance

It was a ritual that’s been done for hundreds or thousands of years, along with the rabbits and the eggs and the flowers – all signs of fertility, spring, new life. It’s been done in Geyserville since the 1920s. And its still done, in 2011, by 8- and 9-year-olds who probably have no idea that this 32-year-old lady watched and remembered when it was her turn to shine in the May sun in front of the whole town, with the same teacher whispering the same thing in her ear: “Don’t stop if the music stops; just keep going.” Maybe when those kids are 32, they’ll remember their hair garlands and their ribbon dance, and maybe even then the third graders of Geyserville elementary school will be learning the May Pole dance.

34 turns around the sun

Oakland Skyline Park, Railroad Revival Tour

In honor of Dan’s birthday, when tickets went on sale for the Railroad Revival Tour (featuring Old Crow Medicine Show, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Mumford & Sons) back in March, we bought two. Timing-wise, this worked out well because we knew we’d end up in the Bay Area that weekend for The Wedding. We were introduced to OCMS through a friend who runs a radio show in Murfreesboro, TN, and I first became aware of Edward Sharpe when I saw this viral video. And Mumford & Sons is one of those bands that we heard someplace and couldn’t ignore, so we got their album and listened to it a whole bunch of times. So to have all of these bands playing together in the same concert, an outdoor show, right before Dan’s birthday, was an opportunity that we couldn’t pass up.

It took more than a month for our tickets to arrive in the mail…and when they did, we were blown away. I’d never seen anything like them. Covered in holograms, larger than any other tickets ever, beautifully designed: I knew we’d be in for a treat once it was time to actually go to the show.

I luff them.

A few days before the concert, I got an email listing more information about the concert. We given directions to the venue, an outdoor park at the Oakland docks (where all the shipyard cranes are), and were told that there’d be free shuttles from West Oakland BART so we could park there and not have to deal with parking around the venue. We were also given a long list of things we could bring, and a much longer list of things we couldn’t bring. Including outside food & drink, aka water. This was the only restriction that really bothered me, and I figured I could get away with a couple of energy bars and bringing in an empty water bottle I could refill at a drinking fountain, which I learned there were inside the park.

Oakland cranes look like dinosaurs

On the day of the show, we drove south, leaving later than we’d hoped, but still made it to West Oakland BART in reasonable time to catch a shuttle. Plus, we got free parking! The shuttle dropped us off at the entrance to the venue, which was great, until we saw the line of people waiting to get in. It stretched nearly a mile (I know, because I checked my pedometer when we got to the end of it). It was the longest I’ve ever had to wait to get into any sort of event, and while the line moved, the first band started at least 15 minutes before we even made it inside. Something tells me that because the venue had only recently started hosting concerts, because the entrance (and later, exit) shenanigans were a complete clusterfuck. Luckily, once we got to the front of the line, I got no grief over my water bottle, and nobody found the energy bars. Which was good, because we didn’t want to have to pay for water or overpriced concert food.

This train is bound for glory. And makes steam engine noises.

But once we were really inside, the energy was great. I had to pee, of course, having just driven an hour and 45 minutes, sat on a bus for 10, and waited in line for 45ish, but as soon as that was taken care of we wandered around a bit exploring, and then we found a spot to stand to watch Old Crow Medicine Show do the last 20 minutes of their set. Even though we weren’t anywhere near the stage, they sounded great and it looked like they were having a lot of fun. I remarked to Dan that it was obvious the 20 and 30-something hipsters had a uniform; we were all wearing jeans and t-shirts and hooded sweatshirts. I saw a few hippie skirts and a few more interesting outfits, but for the most part we all looked exactly the same. Even the kids who were there looked just like us.

What is up with tight jeans/load in pants? It's not attractive AT ALL. /old

When they finished up, and people around us wandered off to get beer or food or whatever, Dan and I found a different spot that was closer to the stage and not in direct line of the speakers. It was next to the fence, right on the bay, which turned out to be a great spot to take pictures of the San Francisco skyline and the sunset.

San Francisco skyline at sunset

Lovely.

We tried to get the skyline in the background. It...did not work.

We spent most of Edward Sharpe’s set (they, too were great, with amazing energy) here, while I silently fumed that people were using the space right next to us as a walkway, and they NEVER STOPPED MOVING. I hate being in that spot. So for the end of the set, we moved into the crowd, finding a spot that seemed more out of the path of Moving People. They played my favorite song at the very end, which happened right as the sun was going down. Beautiful.

Then came the Long Wait. It seriously seemed like the down time between ES&TMZ and Mumford & Sons was half an hour or more. Considering the venue had a 10 PM noise curfew, this kind of annoyed me. But I felt better once they finally came on the stage, and the entire crowd of 7,000 people danced, sang along, and gave thumbs up to the whole set. The best part was at the end, when they brought out the musicians from all of the bands plus some other people who weren’t members of any of the groups, and they all played a couple of songs together. It rocked.

* * * * * * *

Dan’s actual birthday was Thursday (the 28th). He slept in that morning, while I tried to think of something fun and interesting we could do. I knew we had to do our weekly grocery shopping in Santa Rosa, but I figured we could find something else to make the day more celebratory. When Dan got up, I proposed a couple of options and he decided we should go to the beach. After fortifying ourselves with picnic supplies, we headed west. The ocean is no more than 25 miles away from us, as the crow flies, but it’s across several sets of coastal hills and there aren’t many easy ways to get there. We opted for the most direct route, Skaggs Springs Road, which was absolutely beautiful but also kind of vomit-inducing because of its twists and turns. I think I was only ever on that road once before, and I must have blocked out the memory. But again, absolutely beautiful, and totally worth the slight carsickness to see what must be some of the last undeveloped open space in Sonoma County.

Pacific Coat

Once at the coast, we headed south and stopped at Goat Rock beach, where my cousin had a birthday party when we were kids and my sister nearly got washed out to sea. Our intention was to eat our picnic on the beach itself; however, when we got there, the Northern California coast struck again, and it was so windy we were getting free sandblast facials. Which don’t feel very good, even if my toes did enjoy their freedom in the sand. We relocated to the other side of the bluffs, next to the parking lot, and pulled out our picnic. I was disappointed that the MexiCoke I’d bought was warm (I was hoping drinking something fizzy would settle my stomach a bit), and Dan had a root beer, which isn’t as bad when warm. We had just started to eat our wraps when a lady from the parking lot approached and asked if we had jumper cables. Dan, ever gallant, went to our car and drove over to theirs and detangled the cables and gave them a jump, while I ate my wrap and watched the goings-on.

The water was very blue that day.

Meanwhile, an aggressive seagull took advantage of my few seconds’ inattention and picked up Dan’s wrap and dropped it in the sand. I shooed it away, but at least half of Dan’s lunch was no longer edible. I’m sure the seagull had that MO down pat – the humans will leave all the food for you if you drop it in the sand. We refused to give in to terrorism, and Dan did his best with what he had, while I gave him some of my wrap, and we huddled in the wind, the asshole seagull just waiting for us to throw food at him. I hate it when people feed wildlife, because it’s not only bad for the wildlife, but makes enjoying the outdoors suck more for the rest of us. It’s not the first time we’ve encountered an animal used to being fed by people, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

The culprit.

Once we’d run out of food to eat and warm root beer to drink, we got back in the car and drove east through Jenner, Duncans Mills, Monte Rio, Guerneville, Forestville. The river towns always look so funky to me, people living in houses on hillsides surrounded by huge redwoods. While beautiful, this part of the county seems entirely too dark to me. I don’t think I’d like being surrounded by massive trees all the time. We did our shopping, and thanks to Carissa’s help I found a good recipe for General Tso’s chicken, which I modified to fit the ingredients I had. Aside from crispy rice and slightly overdone broccoli, dinner turned out pretty well. I think Dan had a good birthday.