Friday, August 21, 2015

One Goose at a Time

(Published in Grievances Magazine, November, 2015)

We’d been in our new house in Phoenix less than two weeks when Thursday began. I was up early, had showered and dressed by 7 because Paul’s car was finally being delivered between 7 and 9. Our window of delivery from the transport company had come and gone four times since Monday, and we’d heard four different excuses from the dispatcher.
Paul was up as well, hoping to get the car in time to drive it to work. He had only bought the car three days before we left North Carolina. It was the nicest (and most expensive) car we’d ever owned—a one-year-old BMW 535d with only 9000 miles. While we were driving our dogs  to Phoenix in a rented SUV, my brother back in North Carolina had handed the BMW keys to the transport truck driver.
The phone rang at 7:05. The dispatcher apologized for calling so early (of course I was up, ready to get the car) and said the driver would now be at the house at 12:30. Another delay.
Paul and I were disappointed once again, but we both had busy mornings to get on with. Paul had his first quarterly board meeting at 11, and as the new president of the company, was feeling the pressure to perform. I had my first appointment in my new life—a vet visit for our dog Bailey, also at 11. I unpacked boxes until it was time to go.
I got home a little after 12 and rushed to make sandwiches. The dispatcher called at 12:27, saying the driver was 15 minutes away. Paul walked in as I was scarfing down my lunch and he did the same. I put Bailey in the bedroom with the other dogs so they wouldn’t bark and be underfoot. We sat in the living room, watching out the big front window for the transport truck to arrive. Fifteen minutes came and went.
I called the dispatcher after an hour and he was surprised we didn’t have the car. He said he’d call the driver and get right back to me.
I noticed a Canadian goose resting on the lawn next door and commented to Paul how big it was and how strange it seemed that he’d be so close to the houses. Paul said he’d noticed him there when he’d left for work earlier.
I wondered if this was normal for Phoenix. I remembered a neighborhood in Pasadena where peacocks roamed like street gangs, perching on rooftops, and thought maybe we just had Canadian geese roaming here.
The dispatcher called back. The driver was 2 miles away looking for a street on which he could unload the truck.
“He can unload on our street,” I said.
“Oh no, it’s too small.”
“Your other driver unloaded my Prius right here last week. There was plenty of room.”
Paul and I knew something wasn’t right. We weren’t buying the driver’s excuses anymore.
At 2:00 a man walked up to our door and knocked: the driver. Our car was on 15th Avenue a block away, but it was out of gas. How could it be out of gas? There had been more than a half tank when it was loaded.
Paul walked out the door and towards 15th Avenue with the driver. When he returned, he said the gas had been siphoned off (along with the gas of 3 other cars on the truck) while the driver was sleeping, and now the car was in the turn lane on 15th Avenue. Paul told the driver he’d call AAA and left him at the scene.
“We are not calling AAA,“ I said. “Until the car is delivered to us, it’s not our responsibility.”
I repeated that line to the dispatcher who called while I spoke to Paul.
“The driver feels bad,” the dispatcher said. “He’s willing to pay for some of the gas.”
“Some of the gas? Are you kidding?” I asked, my voice wavering as it does when I get upset. “You figure this out.”
Paul sat down to wait. I paced in front of the big living room window, noticing the goose next door was closer to my house and walking around.
I stepped outside to see the goose who was really quite huge and gorgeous. I still had my phone in my hand, so started videoing the bird as it walked right up to me, passing within inches of my feet, and strolled onto my front porch. His mouth was open, shining with saliva, and it hit me: he’s thirsty. The temperature was supposed to hit 107 within hours, and it was already well over 100.
I stopped the video and got my hose out—kept on the side of the porch to water plants. As soon as I turned on the hose, the goose ran to me and began drinking and bathing—really dramatically sticking his head in the stream, clearly relieved to have water.
I decided to go in and get a bowl, but as soon as I turned off the water and headed for the door, the goose followed me. I had to slide inside and shut the door in his face.
Paul was on the phone with a board member, discussing the big meeting. I returned to the porch with a Tupperware container full of water.
My goose ducked his beak into the water as soon as I set it down, drinking loudly. I turned on the hose again so he could shower some more. I could see Paul was still on the phone, but caught his eye and pointed to my bird.
I started to google what Canadian geese eat, but was interrupted by a call from the dispatcher, asking if everything was okay. Um, no.
I was put on hold again, annoyed because I needed to get back to my goose care. I crumbled some Frosted Mini-Wheats into a bowl and delivered it to the goose while waiting for news of the car.
“I’ll have to call you back,” the dispatcher said. Not good.
Paul finished his business call and headed out to see about the car. My goose enjoyed his Frosted Mini-Wheats.
As I stood observing him, I noted he held his left wing a little oddly, occasionally preening it, and he pooped an alarming amount.
Paul came back (“Watch your step! Goose poop!”) and said the car was still in the turn lane in the middle of the street, but that he now had the keys and would no longer wait for the incompetent driver to do something, so he called AAA after all.
I found a wildlife rehab place on my phone and called to report a very friendly Canadian goose with an odd wing and lots of poop.
“Can you confine it until I get there?” Cheryl the rehabber asked.
“It’s standing (and pooping) on my door mat right now. If I opened the door, he’d come in.”
When the dispatcher called, I handed the phone to Paul who had better first-hand information on the car. He’d demonstrated to the driver that the gas panel could not be opened manually unless the car was unlocked, so gas couldn’t have been siphoned unless the car had been left unlocked.
Paul hung up, clearly furious, walked out the door, stepping in fresh poop on the door mat, and stormed off cursing. The goose watched him go and then turned back to peer at me through the big window.
Paul came right back (tracking poop onto our pristine hardwoods) and said the driver and transport truck were gone, abandoning the BMW in the street. He called AAA back to let them know he’d now be waiting for them at the car, not the house, not wanting to leave the car unattended in the busy street.
The dispatcher called and I updated him. He asked if the delivery paperwork had been signed.
“Oh, that’s not happening,” I replied.
“I guess the driver can just do the final inspection then,” he said. “Your husband seems pretty angry.”
I nearly laughed, but instead answered in my trembly voice, ”The driver took off. He won’t be doing any inspecting.”
When I hung up, I turned to see my goose back in the neighbor’s yard. Cheryl had said that bread was bad for geese, but to use it if I needed to lure him into my back yard where he could be confined.
The goose was now more interested in eating grass than engaging with me, so it took a while and a lot of bread crumb tossing to get him to start following me. I had watched the woman who lived next door and her kids and two housekeepers enter the house since my front porch vigil, so I was aware that they and possibly other neighbors (none of whom I’d met yet) were likely watching me and that I probably looked like Kevin Costner coaxing the wolf in Dances with Wolves, but not nearly as cool, since my target was a goose, and I’m not Kevin Costner.
But by the time I had the goose in my back yard, I’d stopped caring.
The dogs inside the house erupted into an angry chorus of barking as the goose and I passed by the bedroom door.
I closed the goose off in the side yard, went back to retrieve his water and food bowls and left him to call Cheryl to report his confinement.
Paul returned and announced that the BMW was now in our driveway leaking the diesel he'd put in to drive the block to our house. He called BMW roadside service and a local dealer to arrange pick-up. I took a picture of the 2 maxi-pads attached to the gas tank where the diesel was pouring out in a steady stream.
It was becoming clear our driver may not have been the victim of a crime but the actual criminal himself. We hoped the gas thieves didn’t realize our car contained diesel and mixed it with the other gas, rendering it all useless.
While we waited for the BMW flatbed, Paul unloaded the trunk and I checked on my goose who honked loudly every time I approached as if to scold me for leaving him alone. Cheryl was on her way.
The vet called with Bailey’s test results and a recommendation to remove the tumor on her leg. Our previous vet in North Carolina had decided not to remove it as her recovery would be complicated by her anxiety disorder (as any and all of her recoveries had been). I promised the new vet we’d give it more thought.
The dogs had been in the bedroom since before noon, so I went to check on them. When I opened the door, I saw the remains of the blinds from the patio door strewn across the floor. I just backed out and closed the door, noting to keep Paul from going in there until after the BMW ordeal was concluded.
I was happy to see Cheryl’s car out front and went out to meet her. She unloaded the small cardboard crate in the driveway and backed out to park on the street, nearly hitting the man getting out of his truck across the street. He stepped back and watched her with a WTF stance, spreading his arms and increasing his stink eye on her second pass. I figured he was a neighbor—one who would know me now by my dangerous guest rather than my Dances with Geese lore.
When he started for my house I realized he was the salesman we were expecting (but had forgotten in the chaos of the afternoon) here to sell us a water purifier for the house.
I apologized and checked my watch.
“You’re a little early,” I said. “Could I trouble you to wait just a few minutes until we get a goose into this box?”
He went back to his truck, looking a little stunned.
I apologized to Cheryl about the terrible diesel fuel smell and giant puddle we’d covered with dog pee pads in our driveway, but I could see not much fazed her. Those rescue people have seen it all.
We got the goose folded into the box and Cheryl left with a thank you.
The sales guy came in and pitched his heart out. I had trouble paying attention. I suspect Paul did as well, and he eventually left me to learn about filters and reverse osmosis while the flat bed loaded the BMW out front.
When Paul came back in, I took a call from Cheryl while the sales guy tried to close the deal to Paul.
“Thank goodness you called us,” she said. “Not only is that left wing broken, but it’s severely broken with a bone sticking out.”
Suddenly the day seemed worth all the frustration, confusion and stress. My goose was comfortable and safe and would heal and be released—none of which was true when we’d met that morning.
Paul and I promised the water guy we’d think about his proposal and thanked him.
We ate leftovers and had a glass of wine, talked about Bailey’s surgery and the car and the goose and the big meeting that had worried Paul so much and now seemed so long ago.
We were too tired to pick up the pieces of broken blinds on the floor when we went to bed.
The Arizona sun woke us early with no blinds in place, and we got up to start another day in our new life.






Saturday, June 20, 2015

Now available on Kindle ...

All 50 columns are now in a book! Available on Amazon, soon to be available in print.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Come see me!

I'll be reading at Tryon Fine Arts Center's Peterson Amphitheater on April 23!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Sitting in a room full of talent

(Published in the Tryon Daily Bulletin, March 26, 2015)

Wednesday nights are hopping in Tryon. It’s hard to believe how busy one can be in such a small town, but as I’ve noted before, Tryon isn’t just any small town.
When I first moved here, I spent many of my Wednesday nights in Jim Cullen’s pottery class at Tryon Arts and Crafts. Once I changed to some of the day classes, Wednesday became the night Paul and I often saw a movie at the Tryon Theatre, as that night marks the beginning of the week for each new film.
When a small group of women asked me to start a women’s writing workshop—to duplicate the kind of workshop that started my writing six years ago in Los Angeles, I said yes, and we picked Wednesday nights to meet. We started with every other Wednesday, and now meet once a month.
It was on one of those Wednesday nights that Rich Nelson of Skyuka Gallery asked if I’d like to sit for a portrait class at Tryon Painters and Sculptors. I said no and cited my writing workshop as a reason, but agreed to sit the following Wednesday night.
I had sat for artists before, but it had been a long time. I once posed for a fashion drawing class at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. This was sometime in the 80s when I was working as a model. The job involved striking severe fashion poses on a stage with other models for long stretches of time in heels holding a boa constrictor (they’re very heavy and stinky). I felt certain Rich’s class would be less uncomfortable. And smell better.
I had also posed for a sculptor when a mannequin company in California made a mannequin who looked like me. That involved several 2-hour sessions over the course of a month or so at which I was mesmerized by a lump of clay that gradually evolved into my silent clone. The result of that gig sits on top of the cabinet in my laundry room. If you’ve got a better idea how to display a mannequin head of your younger self, please feel free to share it.
Rich assured me I could keep my clothes on. Nude models are like gold to artists, but the days I’d consider flashing a room full of people are far behind me.
I arrived at 7 and found my chair in the center of the downstairs studio at Tryon Painters and Sculptors new Trade Street building. There were six artists setting up their easels all around me, choosing their positions carefully.
I knew Rich, of course, and Christine Mariotti and Marie King—artists I’ve admired greatly. I was introduced to the others as we got started. Christine collected money from the group for the use of the studio, plus a tip for me.
I sat as still as I could, finding a fixed point in the room to watch while the artists began to draw. Some chatted while they worked, but it was often quiet in a kind of shared camaraderie that I’ve felt while working in the pottery studio at Tryon Arts and Crafts with my fellow potters.
Rich told me I could take breaks whenever I needed to, so when we decided to stretch our legs, I walked around the room studying the portraits so far. They were fascinating—six completely different styles, different versions of my face, different media. Watercolor, pastels, charcoal. They were all wonderful and completely unique.
I got back into my chair, finding my pose and point in the room to watch, and the time passed quickly as the artists finished their work. Several took a photo of me so they could tweak their portraits at home later, adding their final touches if inspiration followed them home. Several promised to email me photos when their pieces had been completed.
I left with a little money in my pocket, a continued awe and admiration for our local talent, and a sense of how lucky we are to have such an active arts-nurturing community here.
If you find yourself free on a Wednesday evening, you should consider posing for the group. If you’re an artist, you might want to join them. If you’re the model, all you need is a face and a little patience, and you’ll be rewarded with an experience that puts art and artists in a new light. I highly recommend it.
Portrait by Rich Nelson

Life in Our Foothills

Thank you to Life in Our Foothills Magazine for my third cover story this month!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Whining in a Winter Wonderland

(Published in the Tryon Daily Bulletin, March 12, 2015)

One of my California friends is considering a move to Tryon and asked me recently, “What are the winters like there? I mean really.”
She’s heard me brag about the Isothermal belt and use words like moderate and mild when describing the weather.
But let’s not sugar coat it. Compared to L.A., this is the North Pole. My kitschy orange glazed planters sit shattered on my patio, victims of sub-freezing temperatures. They’d survived in California since the 60s until I found them at a flea market and dragged them here only to bust in the cold. It’s a tragedy.
It’s easy to become a carefree (read: lazy) gardener when you never have to worry about your patio plants freezing. Let’s face it, I’m spoiled by California weather.
My first winter here saw no snow, but we had a power outage due to wintry winds. I was watching Chris Tinkler perform SantaLand Diaries at Sunnydale, when suddenly the stage went dark. Chris reappeared almost instantly beneath the illuminated exit sign at the back door and finished his monologue without missing a beat. I felt like I was back in L.A. witnessing experimental theater until I realized we’d lost power, and Chris was just a very enterprising actor.
Paul and I came home to a dark house that night that got cold pretty quickly and stayed that way for a day or two until the power was restored. I’m no stranger to power loss, of course, having been through two serious California earthquakes, but I’m not a fan of being cold.
I arrived in North Carolina with the right clothes because like every actor in L.A. who’s worked on night shoots (not my favorite, I have to say), I have the obligatory down coat, fake Ugg boots, and silk thermals that can easily be hidden beneath even the fanciest cocktail dresses. I’m a film set veteran, and my wardrobe reflects that.
Here, I use my warm clothes all winter long (minus the cocktail dresses that can hide long underwear). We have a winter weather car here too.
Paul bought an old Land Rover from a guy in Spartanburg for $800 when we first moved here “for winter driving.” Don’t ask me the price tag for tricking it out until it looks like it’s ready for a safari. I don’t know, and I don’t want to know.
I don’t complain though because he loves it, and it’s even handier than my fake Ugg boots when the streets are slick.
Yes, we do get ice and snow, but not a lot. It creates a stunning photo op for a day, but melts pretty quickly, and then we get on with our normal routine. It’s enough to make a sled day a very special occurrence. Enough to remind us how cozy a fire can be, especially with hot chocolate and marshmallows. And enough for Land Rover owners to get their manly-man fix looking for cars to pull out of ditches.
Sometimes pipes freeze, and make a mess. Sometimes cars won’t start. Sometimes California Chihuahuas refuse to go outside and later you might find your favorite bed skirt christened with a little something. Winters here aren’t without their challenges.
But of course, it could always be worse, and it is worse even just a few miles up the mountain. Generally, Tryon’s winters aren’t bad.
My favorite thing about winter here is that it’s temporary, and no sooner than you’ve pulled out your pretty wooly scarves, you’ll find that spring has sprung. What that season brings to Tryon will take your breath away and knock the cashmere blend socks right off your feet. Just wait and see.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Conversation with Andy Millard

I talk about beauty and my new home in Tryon, North Carolina, in this video by Erik Olsen.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Thanks to Erik Olsen!

One thing about living in an arts community--even a small one--is we have great artists!