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Bill Wallace, Berkeley, CA

When I was 3 or 4 years old, my family lived in Berkeley, California, on Allston Way.  I don’t recall the house number, only that we weren’t far from the railroad tracks (and yes, we put pennies on them!) and the PG&E lot.

For a time, my family had a boarder who lived with us.  He was a college student and his name was Bill Wallace.  I recall him as being tall, but at 4 years old, probably most men were ‘tall’ to me.

I also recall that he gave our dog, Diddle, flying lessons. She was a small, shaggy dog, and Bill Wallace would go to the top of the stairs with her, support her on the bannister, and run down the stairs beside her.  Her shaggy little ears would flap in the breeze and she apparently enjoyed these ‘flying lessons’ though she never did manage to leave the ground on her own.

Bill Wallace was responsible for several rituals in our family.  At odd intervals, he would command us, “All please announce your home towns!”

And all of us kids would shout, “Cucamonga!”

I have no idea why this was so hiliarious.

At that time, there was a comic in the newspaper about The Phantom.  And at appropriate times, the line “The Phantom strikes again!” would be used.  My mother began to discover small notes around our house.  If the last cookie was gone from the cookie jar, it would be explained with a note: “The Phantom strikes again!”  Again, this was absolutely the funniest thing that could be imagined, and we kids were always delighted by it.

Time has passed.  I have never given any of my dogs flying lessons. But in the company of my siblings, if anyone demands, “All please announce your home towns!” the cry of “Cucamonga!” is still heard.

And the Phantom notes still appear in our various households, to explain anything from there being no toilet paper left on the roll to no milk in the fridge.

Bill Wallace, I don’t know where (or if!) you are these days.  I’m 58, so I’d put your age at 75 or so.   I have no idea what you went on to do with your life.

But I think it’s pretty wonderful that all these years later, I think of you and smile.  You left something with those Lindholm kids from Allston Way, and we’ve carried it with us, fondly, for all these years.

Blessings on you, college boy forever.


Pretty Covers!

wolf's brother2

Art by Jackie Morris

Art by Jackie Morris



Well, a picture is definitely worth ten thousand words!  So I don’t need I feel to say much about these except “WOW!”

Bridal Shower!

Oh, the boy across the street is getting married soon.
He’s not really a boy anymore, but he was when I first met him. I remember his mom introducing herself as I was trying to unload a big steel desk from the back of my truck. And her next words were, “Adam, get over here and give them a hand.”
And that is exactly what he did.

And has been doing every since. He is the favorite climbing toy of evey small kid in the neighborhood. A great swimmer and a great swimming coach.

And just a good person.

Now it’s 15 years since we first met him, and he is about to tie the knot. Today is the beginning of the celebrations.

Ladies, there are still guys like that out there. Honest, intelligent, honorable and hard working. And pretty darn good looking too, and takes good care of himself.

This one will be wearing a ring soon, but if that is what you were looking for, too, just remember, they ARE still around. And Ashley has found herself a prize one!

Congratulations to both of you!


Ikea, the Second Time Around

My daughter is moving. On the hottest day of the year. She has Ikea furniture. The kind that comes in a big flat box that weighs a thousand pounds, but you drag it in, follow the directions using the special little tool, and Hey, Presto! Suddenly there is a single size daybed that pulls out to queen size. Or a kid’s bed that has space for a desk under it.

Pretty darn cool.

Of course, that is the first time you put it together. When you have the directions and the cool little tool.

That was not today.

Today was Take Apart the Ikea stuff. Without the directions, and with something that might have been one of the cool little tools, helped by allen wrenches and screwdrivers. Then load it in a pickup truck in the hot sun, truck it to the new apartment, haul it all inside and reassemble. Without the directions or the cool little tool.

At one point, I was flat on my back on her apartment floor, with my forearms and shins supporting all the little bedslat thingys that had to be lined up so the plastic jobbies on them would fit in the holes in the aluminum strip. We were both certain there was a better way to do this, but neither of us could think of it.

Anyway. We got it all assembled with only two screws left over. And then we moved it around to a couple of different places. Then she decided it was just too big for the livingroom of the new place.

Do you live in Tacoma and need an Ikea daybed?


Summer days

And it’s time for a thousand small chores. Finally clean those rain gutters.  Put a cage around that rose bush, and stake those tomato plants!  And do the chores that are better done in summer, such as painting with the window open.

And of course, nothing ever goes quite smoothly.  Today I found that my hose end sprayer had cracked. Can’t find that huge ball of garden twine I bought on sale in the winter.  One of the kid’s has a broken bicycle helmet.  And what did I plan for dinner?

Too many nit-picky chores for me!  Maybe I should just sit on the steps and drink coffee instead.


Almost back to normal

We are cleaning up the soot and smoke, a room at a time, and getting very dirty in the process.  But at least I am back on my regular keyboard and my nice roomy, hand-friendly keyboard.

Time to de-clutter, too. Where did all this stuff come from?  Time to organize and refresh the house.  Anyone have any good tips for doing that.  there is so much stuff here that it seems almost insurmountable, some times.  I think I am going to start by bringing a cardboard box into the room and telling myself, “I must fill this one box today with things I am going to give away.”



In NYC my cellphone came back to life after a long period of unconsciousness in Italy. Two messages appeared right away, one from each daughter, asking me to call as soon as possible.

That is never a good sign.

It took me a short time to find a fairly quiet place in the airport.  And when I called, I heard that we had had a housefire while I was gone. 

It was a very typical incident.  A forgotten candle had set a wooden stand on fire, and the stand had ignited the television set on top of it.  When Ruth discovered it, she reacted perfectly.  She herded all the animals out of the house as she called 911 and then pounded on our neighbor’s door.  It was about 11 at night.  The Martinez’s and the fire department responded quickly.

The firemen did an excellent job.  One shot of the house changed it from an electrical fire to smouldering wood.  A second shot put it out.  Pi cat, my heat seeking feline, had of course immediately race back into the house to settle down by the nice warm fire.  A fireman rescued my dotty old cat and brought her out of the smoke. She is fine.  There is no structural damage, just a dead TV, dead VCR/DVD player, dead refrigerator (I think perhaps from a surge before the GFI kicked in) scorched smelly ceiling tiles, and lots of soot and settled smoke. 

It could have been so much worse.  In a very short time, it would have reached the gas pipes, and then I might have been coming home to a hole in the ground.

So, all in all, I am suffused with gratitude.  We have a lot of scrubbing and cleaning to do, probably at least a weeks worth as we must begin with ceilings, then walls, then every item in each room and finally the floors.  It’s going to take time.  But I think I will choose to be grateful that I have walls and ceilings to scrub!  And the firemen did not hose the fully laden bookcases to either side of the flaming television.  The books will be a bit smoky, but they have survived.

My office is in the basement, the site of the fire.  I’m going to take my big old computer in to Bryce tomorow and ask him to pop the case and give it a good cleaning.  I don’t want soot or residue on a circuit board to short anything out for me, or a choked fan to let my motherboard overheat.

So, for a time, I will still be posting from this cranky little laptop with its flat and cramped keyboard.  For this reason, please be patient if you have recently tried to contact me.  I haven’t really looked at much email or many posts since I left Tacoma on June 11.  Eventually, I will get to them, but for now I need to devote myself to restoring order from chaos.

One piece of good news.  This little room where I am now working was largely untouched by smoke.  Excellent news, as I had just painted it the perfect blue to complement the framed portrait of Sintara that hangs on he wall here.  If Jackie’s art had been covered in soot, you would have heard the howling from around the world!

Thanks for understanding as I remain largely ‘off-line’.  Whatever time I can type on this keyboard will mostly be devoted to getting the pages I need every day to move the book along.  The keyboard is a bit hard on my hands, so I’m going to limit my keyboarding hours.  Email and posts will have to wait a turn.

Today, I am counting my blessings. Children, dogs, cats, books, all fine.  The house is intact.  The wiring of the house wasn’t damaged.  I could go on and on.  I am so lucky!


My tractor and me

We own a tiny bit of acreage near a little town named Roy.  A lot of it is open meadow.  Well, we want it to be open meadow.  Yearly we do battle with Himalayan blackberries to keep it from becoming one big tangle.  And that requires mowing the meadow before the new shoots of blackberry get tall enough to flower, fruit and seed. 

Usually, Fred does the mowing, but this year he needed to take an extended voyage in order to complete his sea time to renew his license.  So, he is gone. And yesterday, while the sun was actually shining, I went down there, took out all three manuals, opened the shop door and climbed up on the tractor seat.

There are lots of things you can learn out of a book.  Knitting.  How to draw.  Even how to pick out tunes on a musical instrument.  I am confident that, for most things, if you give me a ‘how to do it’ book, I can do it with a modicum of competence.

But things are a bit different when you are learning to do things on a moving vehicle.  And all three manuals seemed to believe that I had a somewhat basic idea of what I was doing.   Which I didn’t.   The tractor manual walked me through starting it up.  Then I switched to a different manual to get the front bucket up off the ground, but not too far up.  Backing it out of the show was a challenge. The mowing deck has a single wheel and it apparently had a mind of its own.  I finally climbed off the tractor, kicked it straight and managed to back out while leaving the shop door intact.

 The third manual, the one for the cutting deck the tractor pulls, was the most enigmatic one.   “Okay, it says not to engage the mower blade until the engine rpm is up to 540.  It doesn’t say how to rev it up to that.  What lever haven’t I pushed yet?”  And thus the throttle lever is found on the illustration page and moved until the gauge says I can engage the mower.

I was more than a bit scared at the start of my experiment.  I knew I had to do this. Standing grass becomes dry grass, and even if the blackberries could be ignored for one summer, one carelessly discarded cigarette butt could set the whole field on fire.  So this was a ‘have to do’ not merely a ‘challenge myself’ thing. 

I got the back piece behind the house and out to the oak tree and the tire swing cut.  I cut the piece that surrounds the old chicken house and approaches the pond.  I tried the piece in front of the house, and cut a bit there but decided the land was still a bit too wet from all our rains.  No sense cutting when it means that later on I’d have to deal with big muddy ruts from where I’d driven on wet ground. 

And a couple of hours later, I drove the tractor back into the shop, lowered the bucket and the mowing deck, made sure the emergency brake was all set and everthing else restored to a neutral position, and shut it down.

I didn’t get the tractor stuck or tip it over.  I didn’t hit the shop or my van with it.  I didn’t run over any of my baby trees.  I didn’t hit any of the ‘iceberg’ rocks that are so plentiful on the place.  I avoided the snakes that I saw sunning in the grass.  I didn’t run over my flower bed or the hose that someone had left out last fall.

I taught myself to do something.  It felt pretty darn good. 


A day in the Life

Woke up this morning to a dome tent pitched in my living room.  This, of course, is because my teenager had to ‘make sure it still worked’ before packing it up for Sasquatch, a music festival in the Gorge at George, Washington. The tent was full of sleeping bags (presumably to make sure they worked too) and two of our cats, who have apparently always dreamed of having a tent pitched in front of a gas fireplace in a livingroom.

It is pouring rain outside.

She is taking my van for this adventure, so I went out and removed all my stuff that doesn’t want to go to a music concert.  I left in jumper cables, my tire-changing rain gear, an extra windbreaker, and a stadium blanket. Folded the back seats down and removed all the kiddie car seats. 

Then I went back in to field a phone call from my older daughter.  Someone smashed her car window this morning (because the interior of the car is still dry and it has been pouring rain all night) and tossed all the papers in the glove box and then took her stereo.  Factory installed car stereo from a ten year old Honda.  How much are you going to get for that, tweaker?

So off I went with a tarp to seal it up as best we could while the police took the report over the phone. They don’t roll on a car smash, I’m afraid. Too common in Tacoma.  While she was calling Geico, I packed up my grandson.  He was understandably upset about his ‘race car’ getting broken into, and needed to bring a veritable army of stuffed toys with us.

Got home to find my other two grandkids waiting for me.  Gave my teenager some cash to go buy supplies for camping out at the festival.  Two of the kids installed themselves on the game machine and the third decided to make brownies.  And to show me her current book. She is nine and reading a book of fairy tales by Oscar Wilde.    Cool.

Tasks still to do. Make sure I have all book stores I visited for the book tour entered into my book store list.  And make sure I send thank you notes to all the people who made me so welcome.  I need to cut up the credit card from the publisher that I was given for book tour expenses, and then neatly package up all the receipts and send them back.  Send off that note I promised. Answer all the random email, and I’d better pay all the bills that wandered in while I was off gallivanting to Minneapolis.

And finish painting the extra bedroom.  And then drive down to the old house to see how the painting is coming along there.

Maybe go see that movie tonight with the kids. What was it called?  The Magic of Kells?  Something like that.  OH, and I need to swing by University book store in Tacoma and pick up the books that Duane sent down.

And so I reach noon.

Still raining buckets outside.  Not a great day to go camping at an outdoor music festival.

Or maybe it really is.


I Give Up!

Diego surrenders (1)Some days you just have to say, “That’s as much as I could get done today.” Yes, I know there is more. A whole list of stuff with boxes unchecked.

It will still be there tomorrow.