Pumping and Screwing Along With The Best!

November 5th, 2019

The Best Car Ever

When I first came to the Peninsula in a full-time capacity, I was single, drove a VW beetle, and usually got gas from Chuck Munsey at the Oysterville Store or from Tommy Goulter at his little station in Ocean Park.  By the time “service” stations became “gas” stations and you had to pump your own, Nyel had come into my life and he handled all the vehicular duties — including filling my gas tank.

And so it continued for almost thirty years.  I was smugly content in the belief that real women don’t pump gas.  And then… time went by, Nyel’s health issues segued into one-leggedness and being wheelchair-bound and pumping gas was out of his network.  Ditto getting on the step stool to change light bulbs, getting things off the top shelves in the kitchen or closet, or cleaning out the chicken coop.  And so, our ideas about the division of labor in the household had to be re-examined.

For a while, I actually timed my across-the-river shopping expeditions to the needs of my gas tank.  It was worth the trip just to stay in the car and let the attendant be attentive.  When Tucker learned of my weenie ways, he offered to go with me whenever I needed gas.  Pride (and sensibility?) interfered with that idea, and it wasn’t until a friend gave us a $50 gas card at Jack’s as a welcome-home-from-the-hospital present that I decided I really had to pull up my big girl panties and pump gas all by myself.  Hard to admit, but true.

As for those pesky high-up light bulbs — if I have to climb higher than the first step of our handy-dandy step-stool, I do ask Tucker.  Although… I’m thinking that he’s not all that much younger and god forbid I should be the cause of a neighborly accident.  I know the Fire Department will come and change light bulbs — they’ve even offered when they’ve been here on EMT duties!  But… it’s the pride thing that’s the hardest to deal with when it comes to old age and living “independently.”  (And don’t even bother with the platitudes and good advice unless you were born before 1936! I’m pretty sure I’ve been there, done that, and the tee-shirt is worn out.)


Mom would’ve been pleased… I think!

November 4th, 2019

Dale Espy Little – “Mom” 2010

When my mother advised “moderation in all things,” she was speaking of indulgences, not character traits.  Or so I’ve always thought.  Not too many desserts.  Not too many drinks.  Not too many party clothes — not too many parties, for that matter.

Saturday night, however, 6×6 Art Auctioneer Bruce Peterson put a whole new spin on what mom might have meant.  Just before the bidding began, I had been asked to draw the winning raffle ticket.  As I recall, I performed that task last year as well — without incident.  But this year, when it was time, Bruce introduced the drawing with a bit of an explanation.

He reminded the crowd that, for many years, Kaye Mulvey had been the one to draw the winning ticket.  “Kaye was the most honest person we knew,” explained Bruce.  “And so now that Kaye is no longer with us, we looked for the second most honest person…”

Bruce and Betsy, Nov 2019

“Gadzooks!” I was thinking.  “I really hate to be identified as second best at anything.”  However, before I could finish the thought, Bruce said something like, “But we finally had to settle for someone who is moderately honest… Sydney Stevens!” That got a big laugh, of course, and I’m sure mine was most enthusiastic of all.  It sure put a different spin on my mother’s life-long advice.  I think she’d have been proud!

Popping Up Like Toast

November 3rd, 2019

My thoughts exactly!

Our early-morning-over-coffee discussion today deviated a little from the “normal.”  Maybe it was the extra hour of sleep that came with the changeover to Standard Time.  Or maybe not.  Certainly, we didn’t “pop up like toast” as Nyel used to describe my method of greeting the day when I was working.  Twenty years of retirement have resulted in a more leisurely approach to the wake-up alarm.

No… I can’t really account for the reason we began to talk about a line in the Toby Keith song, “Don’t Let the Old Man In.”
Ask yourself how old you’d be

If you didn’t know the day you were born

We grappled with the concept for a while and concluded that we have no idea how to answer that question.  It’s not like most of us ever have stopped along the way and said, “Oh!  So this is how it feels to be sixteen!  Or forty-two or seventy-six!”  When I’m extra tired, feel achy or lacking in stamina, I’m much more inclined to wonder if I’m coming down with something — not thinking about my 1936 birth date.

Twyla Tharp, 2015

Our conversation turned to a recent PBS News interview with the amazing dancer/choreographer/author Twyla Tharp.  She was talking about aging and urged us all to stand straight, breathe deeply, and stride on out — not to hunch over and diminish ourselves by standing shorter and walking with cautious, shuffling steps.   Not exactly in those words — but that’s what I got out of her discussion.

Tharp is seventy-eight.  She spoke at my son Charlie’s graduation from California Institute of the Arts in 1978.  I remember thinking that she was a great choice for commencement speaker — “edgy,” I thought,  as was the entire atmosphere of Cal Arts.  I don’t remember her words — only that she received an Honorary Degree at the ceremony that year and that she seemed the same age as the graduates she was addressing.

Good Morning!

But, back to those lyrics.  They actually say the day you were born — not the date.  I was born on a Friday and, as we all learned from Mother Goose:  “Friday’s child is loving and giving.”  If I didn’t know I was born on a Friday — heck even knowing the day — that’s a far cry from my perception of myself!  But, no matter.   I know what those Toby Keith lyrics mean and I couldn’t have expressed the ideas better myself!

Heady thoughts for five in the morning — even with that extra hour of shut-eye.  Time for another cup of coffee, I say.

The Best Theme Yet: “My Home Town”

November 2nd, 2019

The Announcement

Tonight is the 6×6 auction at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Foundation — the big annual fundraiser for the support of their exhibition programs.  A worthy cause but, more than that, a wonderful event starring our local art community.  Nyel and I have again reserved a table for six and are looking forward to an evening “out on the town.”

Appropriately enough, the theme of this year’s 6×6 event is “My Hometown.”  It’s a great theme, as always, and lends itself to every interpretation imaginable. It can be a literal interpretation like Jeanne Nitzel’s “My Hometown, Long Beach, Wa c. 1950s” or fanciful like Richard Schroeder’s “Mouse House” showing a big chunk of cheese inhabited by chunky little mice.  If you (like us) didn’t get to see the submissions during last month’s display at the Heritage Museum, take a look right now at the CPHM website preview:  https://columbiapacificheritagemuseum.org/6×6-art-show-and-auction/

My own preferences seem to gravitate to the historic themes — particularly as related to the bay or ocean.  And, I have to admit that I’m biased in favor of the many artists I know personally.  It’s probably fortunate that our neighbor Tucker Wachsmuth did not do a painting specifically of Oysterville.  My actual hometown done by an artist who is also a neighbor would probably put me over some edge.  And it definitely would threaten the precarious Stevens financial balance.

As it is, Nyel and I have had several serious discussions, full of phrases like:  “…we’re pretty much tapped out this year.” and “…we really don’t have any wall space left.” and “…but it’s all for such a very good cause.”  Your guess is as good as mine on what will happen when we have paddles in hand and Auctioneer Bruce Peterson starts his hypnotic patter!  Whatever the result though, it’s bound to be a great evening of elbow-rubbing with the local glitterati,  delicious refreshments, good company, and lots of laughter and enthusiasm.  (And high hopes that Security Guard Richard Schroeder remains upright and at the top of his form.)



One by One — We hear all too slowly.

November 1st, 2019

Power Lines in California

Gradually, our California friends and loved ones are weighing in.  Marta and Charlie, who live in the northern and  southern parts off the state, respectively, have been in touch right along, of course.  Neither is close to the fire zone but Marta has had no power for several days.  She has nothing kind or positive to say about PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric) — ‘nor does anyone else, for that matter.

Nan, my friend since E Street Grammar School Days in San Rafael wrote yesterday:    We were able to return home last night; cat in tow. Megan took care of us….wearing sweat shirts and hats; no heat, but hopefully P. G. and E will restore power this morning. We are grateful for all that we have; people who care for us…  

I’ve not yet heard from Bette, my friend from San Rafael High School journalism classes.  She’s in Danville and from what I can tell online, their power was turned off Saturday, Oct. 26th but was  back on again by 2:00 p.m. Monday, Oct. 28th.

Kincaide Fire in Northern California

‘Nor have we heard from Dayton and Jeanne, friends  from my teaching days in Hayward Unified School District.  I think they are probably off on a cruise — that’s their retirement program.  But it doesn’t look like Hayward has had any power outages and I’m pretty sure they aren’t in the path of a fire.

As for people in the fire zone — no word thus far.   We pray for long-time friends Averil and John in the city of Sonoma and for the Chmieleskis in Vacaville.  We hope they and their loved ones are safe and that their properties have escaped damage.

Perhaps it’s just that the fires are so horrific that the attention seems to be focused on the power outages, rather than the fires, themselves.  I’ve been a bit surprised at how upset people have been at PG&E — no one has anything good to say about these planned outages.  Plus, the  headlines are dramatic in the extreme.  Days of terrifying darkness, cold and hunger amid PG&E’s sweeping power blackouts said one.  For the Most Vulnerable, California Blackouts ‘Can Be Life or Death’ said another.  It seems to me that such reporting only fans the flames, so to speak.

Santa Clarita in Southern California

Maybe because our power is always “iffy” in winter…  Maybe because we know our outages aren’t “on purpose”… Maybe because we have emergency food and water stashes in case of  tsunami… Maybe because we know the neighbors who might need help…  I think our local experiences with power outages aren’t so scary as what I’m hearing from California.  Or maybe it’s just that we’ve never forgotten how to cope.  As in… doesn’t everyone have a flashlight handy?

One by one.  Please, please may they keep calling.



Happy Halloween!

October 31st, 2019

Happy Halloween!

Ghosts and goblins and witches, oh my!  And so the holiday season begins!  During my childhood, Halloween marked the start of the most exciting time of year!  Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas — Boom! Boom! Boom!  All in a row!  What could possibly be better?

Costumes and trick-or-treating and apple-bobbing!  Halloween was definitely my favorite!

Turkey dinner and cousins and seldom seen family members gathered once again around the table!  Thanksgiving was definitely my favorite!

Trick or Treat?

Curling ribbon and Christmas trees and secrets and Santa Claus!  Christmas was most definitely the best of all!

The darkest days of the year were punctuated by excitement for three months in a row.  What could be better!

Then came the parenting years and then the primary teaching years and the excitement always had an overlay of planning and responsibilities and… exhaustion!  But the anticipation and excitement of the little ones was still the best part.

And now?  Who’da thunk that Oysterville would have ‘nary a child in residence?  Not a single costumed child to show up at our door.  It’s a lot like living in a retirement community — a circumstance I always hoped would never be part of my old age.  Our bowl of treats is ready, though…  just in case.  And there’s always Mrs. Crouch somewhere just out of sight.  Happy Halloween, everyone!

I’m counting on you, Bill Svendsen!

October 30th, 2019

Bill Svendsen

Tomorrow, Bill Svendson (who, with his wife Sue, founded the Long Beach Peninsula Acoustic Music Foundation and operates the Peninsula Performing Arts Center) is going to talk at the Oysterville Schoolhouse.  I am SO looking forward to it!  I’m hoping to fill in a lot of gaps in my musical education.  No pressure, Bill.

His subject is “How To Hear The Music of Our Fathers” and is a response to a question from Diane Buttrell.  Diane is organizer of the very popular  Oysterville Town Hall Lecture Series and this fall’s offerings focus on “The Stories and Songs of Our Fathers.”  The question she posed to Bill:  “How can I tell what genre I’m listening to?  Is it Country or Western, Blues or Slow Jazz?  Or maybe Fusion?”

In answer, Bill promises to take us on a tour of American music, beginning with the immigrant populations who brought their native music with them.  How it changed and merged and was labeled will be the subject of his talk tomorrow, beginning at 10 a.m.  At least, I hope so.

Which Genre?

Like Diane, I feel that my music education is sorely lacking.  I know far more about the visual arts than I do about musical genres.  Diane, at least, plays and sings.  I grew up in a family that almost prided itself on being musically inept.  (Truly!)  I remember going to the Boston Pops and to the New York Philharmonic Symphony when I was twelve.  And I saw a fair amount of musical theater in San Francisco when I was growing up.

But, except for forty-five minutes a week during the first semester of sixth grade when we all went to the auditorium for “Music Appreciation,” that was about it.  I’ve acquired more musical knowledge from the musicians at our House Concerts over the past twenty years than I ever learned elsewhere.  Even the much-touted History of Western Civilization course at Stanford had far more to say about visual art genres than about music.

Schoolhouse Clock

It’s not that I’m expecting Bill to fill in all the gaps.  But I do hope I have a better understanding of what I’m listening to after tomorrow.  Plus, did I say…  he’ll be illustrating some of his information by playing his guitar!  Yay!  See you there.

The End of An Era

October 29th, 2019

“It’s a disaster for the community,” our friend Mike said this morning.  Mike lives north of Seattle.  He has a place here on the Peninsula that he gets to infrequently — especially at this time of year.  And, when he says “community,” he’s referring to the entire Peninsula and maybe even a bit beyond.

What he was talking about today was the closing of Bailey’s Cafe in Nahcotta.  In the short time that we’ve known  — we learned of it on the 10th; the last day was the 13th — we’ve heard the same outcry over and over again.  “The end of an era!”  “It won’t be the same without Jayne’s.”

Jayne Bailey

And in answer to my own lament, Jayne wrote: It happened quickly, going in circles, trying to be out by end of month.  We will take a couple of months to re evaluate.  Thanks for the thoughts..its been bittersweet…so many memories..so much hard work.

Our  community, of course,  includes all the part-timers and visitors and incidental tourists who have “discovered” and “adopted” Bailey Cafe over the years and have felt about it as if it existed for them, personally.  Yes!  We all know the feeling.  I don’t think we have experienced such group distress since Nanci and Jimella sold the Ark back in 2003.

Jayne opened her cafe next to the Nahcotta Post Office three years later — in 2006.  It filled a huge void at the North End — an emptiness food-wise we hadn’t even known existed.  There are more eating places now… but no place quite like Bailey’s Cafe.  I’ve read and re-read the note she sent — “re-evaluate” stands out.  Is that a hint that there might be a new incarnation?  We can but hope.


When I get stuck, I think of Edith Olson.

October 28th, 2019

Edith Olson, Dale Little at Edith’s 90th

Edith Olson was a life-long friend of my mother’s and, come to think of it, a life-long friend of mine.  Although she was older (by seven years) than my mom, we had a lot in common, starting with Oysterville and our roots here.

Edith was the granddaughter of I.A. Clark, co-founder of Oysterville with my great-grandfather, R.H. Espy.  Although neither Edith or I grew up here, we were associated with the village all our lives — visiting relatives, being “summer kids” and, eventually living here full-time.

In the thirties, Edith and her husband rented the Bard Heim property at the north end of town and raised dairy cows.   I barely remember her from those years — a tiny woman with a tiny voice and sparkling blue eyes and a heart bigger than all outdoors.   Edith ran the farm by herself during the forties when Martin went off to war.  When he got back they left for the wilds of Alaska to homestead in the Matanuska Valley.  My folks and I were in California but, even during those years, our families saw one another now and then.

After Martin died, Edith moved back to Oysterville — this time to Surfside, as close as she could get to her beloved ocean.  That was in the mid-seventies and, when I moved here full-time in 1978, we resumed our friendship.  First she “toured” me around to the places she thought important — to North Head but not to the lighthouse.  She wanted me to see the woods and to make sure I could identify the indigenous plants — ocean spray and red hucklebetty and a host of others.  (I could and she gave Dorothy Elliott and my years at Camp Willapa high marks.)

Edith took me in her jeep up the beach and over the dunes into the old Hines Ranch where we had a picnic and she talked to me about how it was here when she was growing up and later, when she was raising her family.  One summer we went up to Alaska so she could show me “her” Matanuska Valley and introduce me to the Wasilla Library which she had been instrumental in starting twenty-five years before.  Her book, “The Library and I,”  published in 1988, was the story of that experience — and of so much more about those pioneering years when Alaska was working its way toward statehood.

Too, Edith wrote for the Chinook Observer, much as I do today.  She wrote about happenings in Oysterville and she wrote about the history of Pacific County.  It got so she asked that I call her before coming by to visit.  Writing had become more difficult for her, she said, and if she was in the middle of something, she needed to stay focused.  “It used to be that the words would just crawl up my back and over my shoulders and land on the page,” she told me.  “But that doesn’t happen so easily now.”

Oh my, Edith!  I know the feeling!  I wish I could share a cup of tea and talk with you again — in person, I mean.  About what used to be and what is changing and about trying to capture some of it for posterity.  As it is, though, I am ever grateful for all the time we spent together and the introductions to your world, so generously shared.

Easier Sung Than Done

October 27th, 2019

Larry Murante

Larry Murante performed at the PAC (Peninsula Performing Arts Center) in Long Beach last night to a respectful, attentive audience.  Mostly he sang his own compositions, any one of which I could readily listen to over and over again — and have!

Larry’s songs aren’t exactly what I’d call ‘easy’ listening.  Not because of the music, mind you.  His melodies are catchy, his rhythms upbeat, his delivery a combination of cheerful, ironic, and always always always thought-provoking.  And they stick with you.  They cause you to think and to evaluate and to resolve.

This morning when the alarm woke me to the usual pitchy black of late October, his “Ready for the Dark” popped into my head and will no doubt be with me for a while.  When days are short and nights are longer, you gotta get ready for the dark…  

Larry Murante

Those long nights are already here.  But it’s bound to get worse — especially considering the added impact of returning to Standard Time a week from today.  Yep!  On Sunday, November 3rd we’ll get back that hour that we lost last March — a concept that I don’t think I’ve ever completely understood.

Time is time, no matter what the clocks say… isn’t it?  The best I can wrap my head around is that it will (presumably) get light earlier in the morning  and get dark earlier in the evening.  But when you get up at 5:00 a.m. and go to bed with the chickens… who cares?

I think I’m ready for the dark — I’ve got extra logs on the hearth and my honey is nearby.  It’s actually the cold and gloom of winter that I’m not ready for.  But, maybe I can segue my thoughts into another favorite by Larry,  “Point of Entry” —  …If you give the world outside a point of entry, it’ll give back to you…  

And, after all. if Daylight Savings Time is soon to be over, can the Winter Solstice and shorter days be far behind?  Thanks, Larry, for all that positive energy and for your compassionate observations about this tired old world!  You are the best!