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Posts Tagged ‘Charlize’

Charlize and I just returned from the Pacific Northwest Book Sellers Association annual meeting in Portland, OR. While there Charlize made a host of new human friends and I had the opportunity to meet and greet owners and employees of independent bookstores. It was great fund to talk about my books and to autograph and give books to them. I hope they will read the books and like them. If so they are likely to recommend them to their customers. Giving those books away makes sense to me.

When one of my books is purchased used at least three things happen:

1) Sellers of the new book, especially independent bookstores, lose out. I hate that and so do they.

2) The author and the publisher receive nothing and it competes with the a sale of the book new.

3) It actually costs the publisher and/or author out of pocket. They must pay a “set up fee” plus a monthly fee to warehouse new copies of the book with a distributor.

I’ve had people tell me that they really enjoyed one of my books. When I inquired I found they had purchased it used online or from a used bookstore. I was happy they liked my work but I had no idea one of my books had been sold in this manner and most certainly received no remuneration for the sale.

I hope that when folks are done reading one of my books they will give them as gifts. That will build an audience for my work. Every used book sold competes against a new copy for which I might be paid.

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The Phoenix I knew, before leaving in 1970, is no more. The northern suburbs now stretch all the way to Cave Creek. My brother and sister-in-law moved to Cave Creek eleven years ago. When I practiced veterinary medicine, never certain I practiced well enough or long enough to really be good at it, there was nothing between my clinic on 32nd St. and Bell Road and the town of Cave Creek, seven or so miles north. I had a few clients in Cave Creek so I drove those miles on a two-lane road full of drops down into washes then up again. Today the road is divided, two lanes to a side, no dips and the previously empty desert is full of subdivisions and strip malls. Compared to the eclectic neighborhoods of Seattle and Edmonds, the subdivisions are monotonic, ersatz adobe style, flat or tile roofs, varying shades of tan. It is early spring in the Sonoran desert and the cacti are getting ready to bloom, some already have. If I lived in one of those subdivisions, even though I still have positive feelings about the desert, I think I would need a trail of bread crumbs to find my house after a couple of glasses of Malbec.

 

The biggest change though is the shear number of people and the resulting traffic. I took Alexis to see where my clinic was and the building I built is still there. Here is a photo of the Paradise Animal Hospital in 1962:

My beautiful picture

Now the place is a Mexican furniture, knickknack and pottery store. We went in and most of the rooms of the clinic had been reconfigured and obviously repurposed. The indoor kennels have been removed and the openings to the outside runs closed. The outside runs have been removed. My old reception area is now a private office, my old office full of knickknacks for sale. Just for fun I peeked in the restroom. The fixtures have been replaced but the door to my old darkroom was still there, closed. I opened it and the room was empty but still painted black! Here is what the place looks like now:

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Charlize couldn’t have been less interested.

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While visiting with my brother and his family in the desert near Cave Creek, Arizona for a couple of weeks Charlize and I reveled in sun, warm temperatures and one “gully washer” consisting of heavy rain and hail. Then we made the now easy drive to Carlsbad, California for a visit with my son and his family. More sun and warm temperatures and Charlize and her pal Bentley were given the opportunity to play in the surf at the dog beach of Delmar.

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Charlize focused on the ball, Bentley not so much

The subdivision where my son’s house is located is full of homes with owners who care about and spend time and/or money on their front yards. While walking Charlize one morning I snapped this photo of a succulent garden next to the sidewalk. It mimics a choral reef doesn’t it? Enough to make a man and his dog smile.

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Succulent garden in a Carlsbad, CA subdivision

After a short week visiting with my granddaughters and their parents Charlize and I, gone from home for almost a month, were ready to get back on the road. I planned ahead, delaying our departure until late enough in the morning to hit the LA traffic between ten and eleven in the morning. My logical reasoning was that timing our trip in this manner would allow us to hit the LA traffic at a less crowded time. Wrong! We were stymied by heavy traffic, moving at an average of about ten miles per hour until the five lanes of freeway eventually became a parking lot.

Almost an hour later we finally cleared the accident. The site was crowded with two fire trucks, two police cruisers and three wrecked automobiles occupying three lanes. We made it to Paso Robles early enough to spot a Charlize-friendly La Quinta and check in. That evening the hotel hosted a free wine and cheese tasting with some outstanding Zinfandels that the area full of wineries is known for. Nice!

At the end of the next day we stopped at another of those 50’s motels this one in Trinity, California. A beautiful place close to Trinity Lake and on the Trinity River, an area made famous by the gold rush.

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Fifties motel in Trinity, California where Charlize and I stayed

The next day we were off early after a stop at a local coffee shop next door to the motel, the real reason that motel was chosen. Their doughnuts and sweet rolls were all made on site, fresh, warm and too delicious for my waistline. The coffee was good too. We left the town shrouded in mist and worked our way to the top of the pass where Charlize discovered fascinating scents that occupied her attention until I finally lost patience. That’s the Trinity River flowing through the memorable landscape.

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Charlize found something of abiding interest to her nose along the Trinity River

We worked our way back to the 101 and the Oregon coast, stopping often to just absorb the endlessly changing scenes of rocks, water, mist, waves, wildlife, and peace. Good for the soul. We stopped that afternoon in the little town of Yachats, Oregon north of Coos Bay and south of Newport. There are an amazing number of beach homes between the highway and the sea and numerous small towns to serve the transitory occupants. It is amazingly beautiful but I’m not convinced I would enjoy living that close to neighbors. I didn’t bother to inquire about the cost of that real estate.

The hotel/resort we found in Yachats was right on the cliff next to the ocean, very nice, welcomed Charlize and wasn’t that much more expensive than the motel in Trinity. It was a bargain and even had a good restaurant. My room faced the ocean with a great view and Charlize and I were able to take a long walk along the cliffs that evening.  The sign reads; “unstable cliffs, stay back”. Charlize only weighs seventy-five pounds and was quite interested it whatever was happening over the edge. I stayed well away.

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Charlize still hasn’t learned to read the signs

The next morning we continued north along the coast where we encountered more breathtaking scenery but, again, many small towns. Once clear of the towns we frequently encountered people driving thirty miles per hour in fifty-five mile per hour zones, taking in the views. We had been gone from home for nearly five weeks and I was getting anxious to sleep in my own bed. North of Lincoln City I spotted state highway 18 angling north and east to Portland. We drove through some interesting rolling hills and farm country, through some Portland suburbs and hooked up with I-5. The traffic was heavy, requiring hard concentration. I’m not a fan of freeway driving, much preferring the back roads, but I pulled into my driveway before four that afternoon. Home again and glad to have arrived safely!

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Charlize and I are driving through southeastern Oregon and into California. The winter landscape is much like eastern Washington; rolling hills, windmill farms generating electricity, creeks and washes home to cottonwood trees bare and stark silhouettes in the winter sky. We drive past cultivated fallow fields but the rows cut with the slope, up and down rather than terraced, perpendicular to the slope to conserve the soil.

“Why do they cultivate like this?” I ask Charlize.

She doesn’t respond but I see her perk up her ears in the rearview mirror. We slow to twenty-five miles per hour through Moro, Oregon. Proudly emblazoned on the tall outside of the high school gym is an announcement that both boy’s and girl’s teams have won state championships. Even at twenty-five miles per hour we pass too quickly to note which sports or when the students accomplished those historic achievements.

Moro is obviously an agricultural community, the supply center for a region. Outside of town are sprinkler irrigated fields, the rolling wheels and attached sections idle, resting for the spring and summer workload of providing essential water to the dark soil. I see no indication of what is grown.

At mile marker 231, still following highway 97 south, the evergreen trees on either side of the highway show the scars of a forest fire. The charred, blackened trunks of the surviving trees bear witness to the conflagration but I spot only an occasional skeleton tree, stark against the sky. Judging by the size of the new growth trees the fire must have happened eight or ten years ago. Piles of logs not far from the road indicate logging activity but it is not clear to me if the scarred logs are being harvested for lumber or firewood and there is nobody around to ask. We are still about forty miles north of Klamath Falls.

We stop in Klamath Falls. Charlize has her walkabout and I opt for a slice of apple pie and two cups of coffee. The waitress is unable to shed any light on the mystery of the piles of logs we passed. I was getting tired. I presume, correctly, that the coffee and sugar fix will keep me going for another two or three hours.

It is almost six in the evening when we stop at the “Last Resort Inn” in Adin, California. It is another motel directly out of the 1950’s. The young, female clerk who shows us to our room welcomes Charlize. She seems anxious to engage me in conversation but my answers to her questions are dismissive and she gives up. I’m too tired to relate my story or listen to hers.

There is only one place to eat in Adin. The limited menu is displayed on the wall above the counter where I place my order for an “Ortega” burger, onion rings and a diet Pepsi. As I supposed the “Ortega” burger features a slice of canned poblano chili pepper wedged between the hamburger meat and the other accouterments, enough said.

Before we leave, early the following morning, I take this photo while Charlize takes care of her post-prandial business.

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On the road early again anticipating a long drive to Las Vegas. We motor through the Modoc forest with intermittent showers, gray, dark skies, mist and low hanging clouds hugging the trees before us. The empty highway twists and turns but before too long we are in Nevada, long, empty high desert valleys separating mountain ranges as we gradually progress south and east. As we climb up from the desert valley, devoid of interesting vegetation, we reach elevations above six thousand feet and observe Joshua trees scattered occasionally amongst non-descript, ground-hugging brush.

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The photo was taken through the driver’s side window while whizzing past at 65 miles per hour, amazing and this from Rosalie’s five or six year old, small digital camera.

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On Sunday, Feb. 9 the family and I ended the official mourning period, according to our traditional upbringing, with the service for the unveiling of Rosalie’s headstone. During the process I learned something new. The Rabbi told us that Abraham started this tradition when he put up a monument to mark the grave of his beloved Sarah.

Charlize sensed my mood, as always and, along with my two sons and their families we survived the day and celebrated Rosalie’s life at her favorite Chinese restaurant. If you are interested let me know and I’ll give you the name of the place. She was, after all, a gourmet cook and foodie with high standards.

Two days later my new vehicle, “Whitey”, I’m finding it harder to be original with vehicle names, was packed and loaded. Charlize and I worked our way through early morning Seattle traffic on our way to Enumclaw. We had never been that way before and I am all about never travelled roads and new experiences. I intended to cross the Cascades via Crystal Pass. My new GPS directed us around a traffic jam on I-5 and before too long we were headed east across the plateau, filled with hobby farms, towards Enumclaw. We passed small acreages with horses and an occasional small herd of cattle. I spotted an obviously old, large, barn sticking out of the mist, probably part of the original large farm that occupied the location. I presume that original place supported a family prior to being subdivided into plots much too small to serve that function.

The GPS was programmed to take us across the mountains to Yakima. Charlize’s new habit is to keep me awake and focused on my driving by resting her head on my shoulder as I drive. The GPS warned us of traffic difficulties, directed us through Enumclaw but there was no mention of the Pass being either open or closed. There was traffic heading west and I concentrated on the dry pavement now winding and climbing west through a rain forest. Moss climbed tree trunks, engulfed downed logs, grasping at young trees forcing their way toward the light from nurse stumps. We passed a few clear-cut openings as we went up and out of the dense forest into more typical mixes of evergreens and deciduous. We continued to encounter the occasional vehicle coming from the east. We stopped in the Village of Greenwater for coffee but I didn’t think to ask if Crystal Pass was open. Surely the GPS would warn me if it was not and all those vehicles were heading west from someplace.

You guessed correctly. We found snow, then more snow, but Whitey is an all-wheel drive vehicle, no problem, until we arrived at the barricades across the highway and signs informing that the Pass was closed. I suffered minimal frustration since time was not an issue on this trip. So back we drove to Enumclaw, north to I-90 and the now not so interesting drive over Snoqualmie Pass. I ate a lunch of Mexican food in Cle Elem and filled the gas tank. The sun was out but lots of snow and slush on the ground.

After Yakima we headed south, finally back to the plan. Now we were seeing new views and vistas of country not previously travelled. The western slope of the Cascades was covered with snow from the most recent storms but the road was clear and dry. When evening caught us we stopped in Goldendale and found a motel that would allow Charlize to stay in the room with me. Two hundred and fifty dollars tacked to the credit card bill if she made a mess but my girl would never do such a thing, too much of a lady.

The owner of the motel was an Asian lady and very pleasant. I brought Charlize in with me to show how well behaved she is. I related how Charlize was helping me get through a day at a time as a new widower. The motel owner told me that her husband of forty years died three years ago, leaving her to operate the place, we were soon friends of shared experience. When I checked in there was one other guest and the next morning there were only myself and two other guests in the place. I hope she gets more business when the weather is not so ugly. The rain all night turned a foot of snow into slush in the parking lot.

Charlize’s cold nose on my cheek got me up and moving at six AM and at 6:59, Charlize fed and walked, my travelling cup filled with a two Splenda® latte, we were on the road traveling south by southeast through forested lands. Clouds hung on the road in the distance ahead of us, turning to mist as we embraced them, the heavy sky overhead. Then there was an opening, a donut hole in the dark cover and blue-gray light reflecting off puddles on the pavement rushing past.

There is something about driving back roads and empty highways early in the morning that makes me feel free and righteous, a lightness in the chest akin to watching your offspring win at something you know is important to him or her. Anyone who has experienced that feeling knows what I am talking about. If you don’t I have sympathy for you.

We arrived at the Columbia River and Charlize asked to get out to check out the view, she loves the snow.

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We stopped for lunch in Bend, Oregon, at the Big Belly Grill House. Who could possibly pass up a place with that name? I let Charlize out of Whitey for a quick walkabout then put her back in.

“That’s a beautiful dog, is she friendly”” asked the waitress.

“She’s very friendly,” I responded, “especially to good looking women.” Dating seems to have sharpened my repartee’.

“Can I pet her then? My name is Lise,” she held out her hand.

I took her hand.

“Lise, not Lisa or Alicia,” I asked.

“No, L E E C E, pronounced the way it is spelled. It used to be Lisa, but I changed it.”

“OK,” I said and let go of her hand but not before she gave mine a squeeze.

“I’m Dave.”

“Please to meet you Dave.”

“Likewise.” Again note the sharp repartee’.

It was about one-thirty in the afternoon and the place was empty except for one customer. Leece asked him if he needed anything else and he responded in the negative. She told the cook she would be back in a moment. We went out to Whitey and I opened the hatch back, telling Charlize to wait. Leece petted Charlize after asking her name. Charlize leaned into her and absorbed the attention. When both had their fill of petting, leaning, touching, licking I told Charlize to get back in and closed the hatch.

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“I was afraid of dogs for a very long time,” Leece told me.

“That so, why was that? Did something bad happen to you?”

“When I was about seven years old I watched as a Rottweiler attacked my cousin and practically chewed his arm off above the elbow. His mother was a Christian Scientist and refused to take him to a doctor and he eventually lost the arm.”

“That’s a horrific story, I can understand why you were afraid of dogs. What happened to change that?”

“Well my second husband had two Golden Retrievers and they were very sweet dogs. They were much sweeter than the oaf turned out to be. Leaving those two dogs was much harder than leaving the oaf. Anyhow I’m now a dog person.”

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So—phase I is completed and I’m ready for phase II. I know I can manage life on my own the next question is what do I want to do with the rest of it? There are many societal issues that demand attention; families who are homeless for whatever cause, health care for all our citizens, equal opportunity, the ongoing fight against any and all kinds of prejudice, responding appropriately to natural disasters, saving Puget sound, maybe all the oceans, the list is endless. These problems are all so gigantic they become overwhelming. Can one person make a difference? I hope so and am determined to add my voice and support and personal involvement at every opportunity. The first step in any journey is to actually move, commit, do something. Maybe I can even convince others to join in.

This time of the year we are inundated with requests for financial support from all manner of worthy organizations, some more worthy than others, some just scams. How to decide? Should I donate enough to one or two to possibly make a difference or give a little to as many as possible? If I win the lottery could I make all of them happy? Not likely, especially since I don’t participate in that fool’s game.

Less altruistic than the above goals and resolutions Charlize and I are ready for the next phase. It is a good thing that she is such a people dog because I am considering “dating” again.

Rosalie and I used to tease each other. We would claim the only reasons we stayed together were family, laziness and the fact that dating would be just awful.

“I cannot imagine you keeping a conversation going and being charming for a whole evening,” she would tell me. “How could you possibly date someone?”

“Well, you wouldn’t have any trouble talking,” I would respond “but if you didn’t feel anything for the person you were out with could you really continue to be charming?”

“Probably not, not much patience for that,” she would laugh. “Guess we’ll just have to keep each other.”

It was, of course, just teasing. She was always talkative and charming and wouldn’t have had any trouble dating at all. She was also much too kind to hurt anyone’s feelings. Conversely I tend to be taciturn and especially bad with “chit chat”. I can maintain a conversation of substance, if interested in the topic, but cocktail party conversation eludes me. Rosalie could and often did initiate a conversation and charm complete strangers. I expect I will have to rely on Charlize to break the ice and serve as a subject of conversation.

The good news is that given the realities of the life insurance actuarial tables there are significantly more eligible ladies than men out there. The problem is how to meet them.

Rosalie and I didn’t realize until the twenty-first century came around that we had a relationship, we just thought we were married. Still not certain I am ready for a “relationship”, however that is defined. Doesn’t seem like that much of a challenge says me, tongue in cheek. I’m relying on Charlize’s stamp of approval, of course. Love my dog, love me, or is it vice versa?  What are you laughing at Charlize?

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One aspect of growing old, for animals and us humans, is that joints wear out. Osteoarthritis is characterized by loss and/or degeneration of the cartilage in joints. The process is accompanied by osteophytes new bone growth where it is not wanted or needed, the body’s unfortunately ineffective effort to immobilize the joint and stop continued wear and tear. This is a problem I am quite familiar with having treated many old dogs, cats and horses trying to alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with the condition.

For several years I suffered from severe osteoarthritis in my left ankle necessitating the use of a cane and even with that I was unable to walk Charlize for more than a few blocks without considerable discomfort.  Two columns ago I wrote about the surgery I underwent in an effort to do something about the problem. The aftercare for the procedure involves ten to twelve weeks, or more, of no weight bearing on the operated leg.  The surgery was done on Oct. 9, the initial cast was removed on Oct. 22 and I was fitted with a plastic boot. I get around on crutches and something called a “knee scooter” that is kind of fun to scoot around on. However it is a bit of a hassle to get up and down stairs with the knee scooter, as in impossible. It is also difficult to get the scooter in my vehicle and take out again while managing crutches. I do have a problem with allowing people to help me, something my sons are constantly giving me grief about. Can’t help it, it’s the way I am.

One of the smarter things I did was to hire a very nice young lady to just be around if I need her. She helps out during the day, walks Charlize, does some chores and errands and keep me company. My regular cleaning lady also stepped up to help the old man manage. An added benefit is the sixteen-month old daughter of my helper. I was, somehow, smart enough to insist that she shouldn’t pay a babysitter, just bring the baby with her. I relate well to animals, young and old and to small children and the little girl is a happy, no joyous, child who speaks a language that not even her mother understands. She loves Charlize and Charlize reciprocates. She keeps me smiling whenever she is here with her mother almost every day.

The first couple of weeks post-op were not fun, post-op pain masked by the mind-numbing effects of the painkillers prescribed along with the side effects of those opioids. I was able to stop taking them in just a few days but the toughest part was sleeping on my back with the leg elevated for the first two or three weeks. Got past that and am now able to sleep on my side again, what a relief!

The next obstacle was getting out then back into the house negotiating the two steps down into the garage. After the weeks of not being able to get out of the house I was suffering significant cabin fever. Perseverance and practice with the crutches finally paid dividends when I realized I had to trust the crutches to hold me up, balance by holding the bad leg forward and swinging down or up instead of trying to hop. Once out of the house and into the vehicle driving is not a problem since it is my left leg and the vehicle has an automatic transmission. Maneuvering on crutches to be able to get into the vehicle also took practice but I am free again! Able to get to the Corner Coffee Café for my regular fix, take myself on errands, including grocery shopping, a chore I found to be very difficult to assign to others since my habit is to go to the store with a list of things I’m out of but to shop for inspiration of what to prepare.

Throughout this experience Charlize has been good. She loves going for her twice a day walks with my helper and I’m hoping it won’t be too long before I will be able to reclaim that time with her. When we are alone in the mornings and evenings she is very attentive and obviously concerned about me. I’ve been having long conversations with her about the resumption of our travels. I think she misses the open road as much as I do. We still have another four to six weeks of no weight bearing to get through and I’m hopeful we will be back to some semblance of normality afterwards.

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The Whale Watch Inn doesn’t have a breakfast room. At eight AM, according to my Timex, a discrete knock on the door announced my breakfast’s arrival. The time I selected the previous evening. I opened the door to find a wicker tray waiting for me. There was a tasty omelet, homemade corn meal muffins, coffee, juice and fresh fruit. I couldn’t eat it all but Charlize was happy to clean up the omelet and muffins. I polished off the coffee and fresh fruit on my own.

We continued north on Highway 1 trying to concentrate on the road rather than the distraction of one magnificent view after another. Less than pacific waves crashed against stark dark rocks sending plumes of white water and spray into the salty air. On the beaches the waves retrieved grains of sand and carried them back to the ocean floor only to replace them with the next tide.

We stopped to stretch at Manchester State Park where Charlize made friends with blonde, sixteen month old Chelsea and her proud parents. Chelsea conducted a long conversation with Charlize who was in a “down/stay”. I had not a clue about the information and/or wisdom being communicated but Charlize was completely focused and responded to probing fingers and baby pats with licks. I asked Chelsea’s parents if they understood anything the little girl was telling Charlize but they told me my guess was as good as theirs. Charlize was totally engaged but uninterested in sharing any of Chelsea’s secrets with me.

We said our goodbyes, Chelsea crying about being separated from her new best friend.  Charlize was thankfully content to stay with me.  Her loyalty is sometimes incomprehensible.

We meandered on north to Mendocino. I don’t know why that small town seemed so familiar, I can’t recall ever being there previously but it is quaint, a throwback to Hippie times. Mostly old buildings, many of them decorated with street art. I found a coffee shop, of course.  After collecting my two Splenda latte I had a short conversation about German shepherd dogs with a couple of seriously un-bathed, heavily bearded, philosophers who were occupying the sidewalk in front of the shop. Charlize sniffed each of them once and indicated she was ready to leave. I avoided getting close enough to challenge my olfactory senses content to trust her judgment.

Charlize stayed in Old Blue while I took a quick -self-conducted tour of the Mendocino Art Center followed by a slow drive-through tour of the town. Inside the art center the volunteer docent on duty indicated that there were a lot of writers living and working in the area, along with many local visual artists and musicians.  I spotted an open real estate office and went in to chat about local housing prices with one of the agents, just curious to see what living in that mecca for artists might cost. Half a million buys a thousand square foot, or less, fixer-upper without a clear view of the coastal scenery. I thought California real estate had been hard hit, apparently not in Mendocino.

Back on Highway 1 the road swung east to Drive Thru Tree Park where the road magically converted to Highway 101. We continued northward, inland from the coast and experienced several groves of Redwoods including the Richardson Grove State Park and the Humbolt Redwoods State Park. The highway was now identified as the Redwood Highway offering tantalizing samples of once many hundreds of square miles of Giant Redwood forests. Once again I wished I could have travelled with Jedediah Smith to be one of the first Americans to experience that time and place. Charlize, Old Blue and I crossed and re-crossed the Eel River continuing north past Humbolt Bay and on into Eureka where we had reservations at the Carter House Inns.

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We found the place, actually three separate buildings on the north end of Eureka’s Old Town. Our room was on the ground floor of the Victorian Bell Cottage building with a private outside entrance to the room.  I was trying for an “artistic” view of the building framed by the setting sun, didn’t get it. Our room had wood floors, a bathroom with Victorian fixtures and a large bedroom with Victorian furniture but a comfortable bed. There was an extra charge for Charlize but came with a flannel blanket and a stainless steel food bowl as mementos of our stay.

After dinner Charlize and I went for a walk past the marina where we encountered a middle-aged man riding a bike outfitted with a single wheeled trailer stacked high with his possessions. A pit bull dog was comfortable on top of the collection. We were never closer than twenty yards or so but Charlize strained against the leash and the pit bull rose to his feet, both of them with hackles up. I presume both animals were just defending their respective pack leaders. I put Charlize into a sit/stay and blocked her line of vision to the other dog. I made her pay attention only to me by touching and talking to her whenever she tried to look for the other dog. She calmed and the bicycle man and his dog pedaled away without incident.

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Charlize and I are on the road again. We spent two weeks visiting my son and his family in their beautiful new home in Carlsbad, California. Rosalie would have loved the house and the neighborhood, both idyllic.

The trip south from Edmonds was made in two and a half days traveling I-5, fast but boring, even though the drive was a new one for us. Freeway speeds and heavy traffic don’t equate to enjoyment of the experience, at least not for me.

Coming home we left early Sunday morning and managed to clear the Los Angeles traffic before eight AM.  At Santa Clarita we left the I-5 and worked our way west to US 101 and Santa Paula. Then we headed north along the coast. At about ten in the morning we arrived in Gavita and joined CA 1, the Pacific Coast Highway.

In Lompoc we found a coffee shop and I got my two Splenda latte but only after Charlize found a suitable location for a long overdue pee. Since we were in no particular hurry I occupied a table in the sun outside the coffee shop. Charlize was content to lay in the shade I created. Within minutes a lady stopped and asked if she could pet Charlize, who is always open to new friendships. It wasn’t long before I found out she had two German shepherd dogs who were also rescues.

She noticed the Washington plates on Old Blue and it wasn’t long until I found out that her father, in his mid-eighties, lives in Edmonds where she was raised. Her Dad recently had a stroke and she had to move him from his home to a private elder care home. She said the family that owns the place is very nice, very experienced in caring for the elderly and that her Dad had his own little suite in the house. She told me he seems to be happy with his situation but I had the feeling that she was trying to convince herself. After she left us I turned to Charlize:

“You see what we have to look forward to girl? Hopefully you won’t be around when that happens to me. I need to keep my act together until you are ten or twelve, I suppose.”

Charlize looked at me with the quizzical expression she gets when trying to fathom what on earth I’m talking about but only responded with a tail wag. I suppose that is about as much as I can expect in response to a morbid thought. She was happy to leap back into Old Blue.

Back on the road we made our way, twisting and turning, rarely reaching speeds of fifty miles per hour mostly slowing to twenty-five or thirty for the curves. On our left were spectacular ocean vistas, one after another. We found a place for lunch in San Simon and Charlize made friends with an adorable four-year old sitting with her family at the table next to us on the patio.

Matilda’s mother told me it was impossible to keep her away from any dog, she just had to pet all of them. I offered some grandfatherly advice about being too trusting of strange dogs but it was clear that my warning had little effect on either mother or daughter. One more thing on the long list of things I have no control over.

It was a spectacular afternoon driving on the coast highway, stopping every half-hour or so at an overlook just to gaze at the waves coming in and the surf breaking. Eventually we arrived in Monterey. After settling in to the historic Munras Hotel Charlize strolled while I limped to Cannery row where Charlize introduced me to some more friendly folks. Charlize is impatient and fickle though. If the conversation lasts more than three or four minutes and nobody is paying sufficient attention to her, she is anxious to be off to find another new friend.

That evening Charlize and I ate tapas on the dog friendly patio at the hotel and she made friends with all the service staff. I was just along for the experience, and to pay the bill.

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Wednesday was not a good day. It was time to do something about arrangements for a headstone for Rosalie. It seems nothing about losing a loved one is easy or simple. It has been eight months and I finally felt capable of dealing with this last, I hope, detail. I made some phone calls and found out what needed to be done.

First, the name of a reliable place to purchase the stone. I made a choice from two suggested and drove to the store to pick out a stone that will serve for both of us. My resting place will be on the same side of her as the way we slept for close to fifty-three years.

The first hitch in the process was that the place that sells the stones and carves the inscription doesn’t sell stones directly for people buried in the cemetery where Rosalie rests. I had to transact the purchase through the cemetery.

Another phone call and I arranged to meet the manager of the cemetery. After I arrived at his office he handed me two books. One full of various designs and fonts for the inscription and another with various symbols to adorn the stone with.  There were way too many choices. Eventually I just made them, Rosalie won’t know and I don’t really care.

But I wasn’t done. I had to make decisions about how I wanted our names inscribed. Should I have them put on Rosalie’s full middle name or just the initial, should I use her given name, Rose, or use the name she always used, should I use her maiden name?

The cemetery manager could see I was struggling and getting more upset. I imagine I wasn’t the first person he had shepherded through this process.

“Don’t worry”, he assured me, “just put it in they way you are most happy with today. I’ll send you a draft of what it will all look like and you can discuss it with your family and make changes anytime before they actually carve it.”

Next we went to the gravesite to make certain the manager would place the stone correctly and to make yet another decision; I had to choose between a concrete base and a granite base for the stone to be set on. He showed me an older grave where the concrete base was starting to disintegrate and one of about the same age where the granite was still pristine. Another several hundred dollars for the granite base.

I only visited her grave three times prior to this, all in the weeks shortly after her death. During those visits the replaced turf had not taken hold and her gravesite was clearly visible. After a wet spring and mild summer I was not prepared to see the struggling, brown-tinged turf that still clearly delineated her grave. I apologized to Rosalie, silently, and communicated my disappointment and displeasure to the manager, aloud.

During all of this Charlize was in the back of Old Blue. When we finally got home she knew I was upset and stayed very close, trying to let me know she was there for me and that everything would work out.

Rosalie often complained that I didn’t talk to her enough. Now I find myself talking to her presence in the house while Charlize cocks her head and listens intently, without judgment.  I feel Rosalie is more of a presence in the house than she is in that small plot of ground so I apologized again for the state of her grave. I promised to make certain that situation is rectified.

I’m still searching for a shred of humor in all of this.

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