Archive for the ‘Rants and Raves’ Category

Signage: is it all in the wording?

Monday, September 6th, 2021

Whitby Abbey and St. Mary’s Church

I spent a fun few hours last night looking at slides from a 1985 trip to England.  Slides!!!  OMG!  Fortunately, they were stashed away with a little hand-held viewer so I could take a look all these many years later.  Why in the world did we have slides made?  Did we have a projector?  Did we actually watch them after the trip?  And, even more curious, did we show them to anyone else?  OMG!

But, they were fun to look at one last time.  A young dark-haired me showed up in two or three — Nyel not at all, so we know who must have been the photographer.  I’m happy to say that there were no “surprises” — I remember every view and nuance of the trip.  I even remember this sign which was posted in the vestibule of St. Mary’s Church at Whitby Abbey in North Yorkshire:

Melting Ice Cream & Lolly Sticks dropped
in the Church add to the work of the

Church Maid & make this old Church untidy.
Please leave them outside.
Dog owners too are asked to leave
their pets in the porch.
Campers are warned not to sleep
in the Church Yard or on the
Abbey Plain.


I couldn’t help but wonder as I read the words if that sign was any more effective than the informational signs recently placed on the doors of our Oysterville Church.  Our new signs basically ask those who enter the building to wear masks.  In my observation: some do and some don’t.  I wonder if we could sneak in the term “Church Maid” — so much better than “the cleaning lady” and, though it’s not in use on the current sign, is the term we usually hear.  And “lolly sticks” and “untidy” — you do have to smile.  I hope such a sign is still being used at Whitby Abbey and, even more, I hope that visitors pay attention to it.


What’s the feminine eqivalent of geezer?

Tuesday, August 24th, 2021

The third word into the Introduction was “geezer” and I was pretty sure I was going to like the book.  There’s something nostalgic — maybe even warm and fuzzy about that word — that makes me think of Clint Eastwood in “The Mule” or of Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman in “The Bucket List.”  But on the third page in Chapter One came the loooong and boring description of the mining camp near Lewiston, Washington Territory, in 1861.

My inclination to read on became a general survey.  I flipped pages to see if things would improve and when I came across the cannibalism and other horrors ahead, I took the book back to the library.  (In case that’s your particular cup of tea, the book is Snowbound Stagecoach by Lenora Whiteman.)  But I was left pondering the appeal of the word “geezer” and other sobriquets for old men.  “Coot,” “codger,”  “curmudgeon,”  “fogey,” “old-timer,” and “mossback” came immediately to mind — all with sort of affectionate overtones like “gramps.”

Clint Eastwood in The Mule

Interestingly, though, I couldn’t come up with equivalents for women.  When I asked Google, these were some of the choices: battle-axe, crone, biddy, dowager, matron, fishwife, shrike, harridan, widow, and hag.  YIKES!  No warm fuzzies there.  Nothing that conjured up Stephanie Plum’s Grandma Mazur character or any of “The Golden Girls” or even “Miss Daisy” as portrayed by Jessica Tandy.

Why is that I wonder…  Why can’t old women be called by admiring terms equivalent to those for our aged counterparts?  Or is this old broad missing something obvious?

Ruthless is not my middle name…

Monday, August 9th, 2021

Puppets and Marionettes from Long Ago

When it comes to downsizing, I’m having just a wee bit of trouble.  Not with “current-day” (meaning the last 25 or 30 years) stuff — clothes that have lost their mojo; dishes and cookware we never really liked or got the hang of; tools or implements that just need a little TLC to be useful again.  Nope — those things are easy-peasy to recycle to Good Will  or to a thrift store or even to a friend who has an art project in mind.

For me it mostly the written word — books, letters, documents, research notes, news clippings about the family — that I find difficult to part with.  For Nyel, it’s tools and “projects” that he began but has never quite finished — things tucked away in the garage that he still kinda wants to do but…  I don’t know if you call our problem “hoarding” or “inertia” or “terminal nostalgia.”  Whatever it is, our watchwords have become “Be ruthless!”

An Invitation from Gordon in Anguish Languish

The hardest of all are the Years of Whimsy — probably the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.  They were the years I was beginning to teach, that I had friends among the old beatniks of North Beach and the hippies in the Haight.  They were the years when I moved up here and oversaw the building of my house designed by Noel and constructed by Ossie and his new-to-the-area sons-in-law Wolfgang and Guenter.  They were the days of letters written in Anguish Languish, of costumes worn in and out of Peninsula Players productions, of puppets and marionettes or a jester’s marotte sitting atop the wooden toilet tank (pull chain variety) or peeking out from the books along the shelves in my office.  And they were the years when Nyel and I were newly together.

Re-reading, re-visiting, reviewing are all slowing me way, way down.  But what a lovely and re-invigorating time it is.  Ruthless or not.

Sometimes I despair…

Wednesday, August 4th, 2021

Black Lab

There I was outside in the garden deadheading daisies when a lovely looking family walked toward the church — mom pushing an empty stroller, young child toddling along, dad with camera, an older woman — probably grandma, and a nice looking black dog — maybe a lab.  They stopped in front of the church.

Out came mom’s cell phone.  Out to arm’s length went dad’s camera.  Into the church went grandma.  Into the church toddled the child.  Into the church followed the dog.  I waited for mom or dad to call the dog back.  Nothing.  “Excuse me,” I called.  Mom shifted her gaze from cell phone to me.  “Yes,” she said.

At that point I should have taken a page from my friend Pat’s book.  Years ago when someone brought their dog to the Annual Oysterville Croquet and Champagne Gala, Pat asked, “Do dogs play croquet?” I definitely should have asked that mom if her dog had gone into the church to pray.  But… you know what they say about hindsight.  I could only say stupidly, “But it’s a church!”

Oysterville Church 1902

Fortunately, about that time the dog and the toddler came out.  Grandma took a little longer.  I asked that she close the door behind her which she did.  And, without further ado (or apology or comment or acknowledgement of any kind) they continued strolling and toddling down Territory Road.

I have many dog-owning friends.  In fact, as I think of it, almost everyone I know has at least one dog in the family.  I believe that all of them are responsible pet owners and know which venues are appropriate for their four-legged friends and which are not.  I apologize to all of them for writing this blog, but… what in the world have we come to?   No manners?  No sense of propriety?  I guess a case could be made for the church not being posted with “No Dogs. No Horses.  No _____________.”  (You fill in the blank.)

As my mother often said, “I despair.”

Some things don’t change… Not really.

Thursday, July 29th, 2021

Since Mark, the CenturyLink-Internet-Magician paid us a house call, our service has been the best yet.  It’s (mostly) steady-as-she-goes. Read:  (mostly) not “intermittent.”  There is enough oomph for receiving photos from my cell phone (if the file size is small enough) and I can count on staying “connected” when I’m trying to catch up with Facebook.  Life in Computer Land is medium-to-good.

On the other hand, we are back to Square One in the Down-Streaming to TV Department.  No more Netflix.  No more Roku.  A few series we were following left in midstream, so to speak.  Our download and upload speeds are not strong enough.  Again.

Lily Tomlin as Ernestine

This is déjà vu clear back to the time Mike Challis made a house call years ago and said that our internet speed just isn’t fast enough.  How we managed to stream for a year or so is one of those cyberspace mysteries.  Mark-the-Magician suggested an upgrade to our Roku.  Amazon to the rescue, perhaps?  Today or tomorrow Nyel will work on it…

Before Mark paid us a house call, our download speed was 0.11 at best.  Now it is (sometimes) 5.37 which should be enough.  Barely.   But sometimes… it’s in the 0. 3  range… And to think that my grandparents used to bemoan all the people on their party line who picked up the telephone when our “four shorts” rang.  It made the incoming call so weak that they couldn’t hear.   The problem is still the same — our connection with the outside world is tenuous at best.

Some things don’t exactly change — they just get more complicated.

It was the heat what done ’em in!

Monday, July 26th, 2021

Marta and the Internet

For several weeks now, in the case of our internet access, download speeds, upload speeds and what have you, we’ve been in a world of hurt.  Finally, today Mark-the-Magician was sent by CenturyLink to have a look at our wiring, inside and outside.  And now, once again, all is right with the world.  The reason for major meltdowns at our house and in many other places on the coast was the hot weather we had a few weeks ago.  Apparently, the temperatures in some of the equipment kiosks reached 140° — enough to cause major damage and fall-out.   As in lucky us!  (Oh.  And did I mention the dead bats?  None in any of Mark’s kiosks but, apparently, a problem in others.  Heat prostration.)

Somehow, listening to the woes of the internet infrastructure put me in mind of “My Fair Lady” and “the gin what did her in.”  So with apologies to Eliza Doolittle and Company, who knew it would be the heat what done in our internet service?  “We just don’t expect heat like that here on the coast,” Mark said, “so we don’t have air conditioners in the kiosks.”  Understandable.

Little Brown Bats — Heat Sensitive

I was pleased to see that Marta — who is here visiting from the SF Bay Area — was incensed that the problem can’t be solved.  “But why not?” she insisted.  “If you were in a city area, it would have been fixed long ago.” I tried to explain that that’s the point exactly.  “We are rural-to-the-max and there’s no way we’ll ever have enough population (read: money) to warrant correcting this issue.”
“But that’s so unfair,” she said.  “Welcome to our world, said I.  “You’ve got PG&E where you live; we have CenturyLink…”

I don’t know exactly what magic Mark performed, but within a trice I was able to turn in the last of my Vespers article for day-after-tomorrow’s paper.  I hope it wasn’t too late…

The thing about chickens and watermelons…

Monday, July 5th, 2021

According to my Kuzzin Kris, the best part of watermelons are the black seeds.   “These wimpy seedless watermelons are no fun at all,” she told me not too long ago.  That’s because the entire point of watermelons are the seed-spitting contests!  Which she also believes every kid should learn about before they start losing their teeth.

I wish I’d known Kris a bit better when I was younger.  I grew up, much to the misplaced envy of others, an only child.  That meant watermelon was served on a plate with a fork and with several paper napkins.  Keeping the sticky juice off your hands and face and the tablecloth seemed to be what eating watermelons were all about.  I didn’t see the point.  Not much payoff.  I’d rather cool off with a glass of lemonade, thank you.

Of course, all of our watermelons had seeds in those days.  They were simply an annoyance.  I sure do wish I’d been a little younger and had known Kuzzin Kris and her seed-spittin’ comrades a lot better.  It might have changed my whole attitude about hot weather fun.

Now it seems a bit late.  And besides, we usually don’t have a choice — seedless is it.  Last night we saved all the rinds for this morning’s  chicken treats.  They gave a few desultory pecks and followed me back to the house.  Hoping for cracked corn.  Can’t say I blame  them.  It’s probably a sweet versus savory thing and they definitely prefer the cracked corn and meal worms  over watermelon.

I don’t even think the ones with seeds would help.  Chickens really don’t spit well.

The Long Agos and The Short Agos

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

When four-year-old Christian Hawes told his his Uncle Dick, “It’s not the long-agos that are hard to remember; it’s the short-agos”  I knew exactly what he meant.  But Christian is older now — maybe in his late thirties? — and we might be a bit older, too.  Though I hate to admit it, the long-agos and short-agos are beginning to blend together.

So, it was with particular delight that Nyel and I recently reviewed the scrapbooks from the sixteen years of our Annual Oysterville Champagne and Croquet Galas.  The first noteworthy thing was the sixteen (count ’em: one-six) years.  For at least a decade both of us have thought we put those galas on for twenty years.  WRONG.  Anyway you slice it, 1985 to 2000 made sixteen and we have the registrations, the score cards, the pictures, the news reports, and the scrapbooks to prove it.

How slim we all were way back then!  How un-gray and how lithe and athletic.   And energetic!  For the most part, Nyel and I did the work ourselves.  We laid out the courts, put up the tent (loaned each year by Noreen Robinson), schlepped the champagne (donated yearly by Jack’s), sent out the invitations, registered the teams, asked friends to be judges and my uncle Willard to act as Master of Ceremony.  Whatever non-profit was the beneficiary was asked to provide finger foods (always fabulous!) and the guests (who had each donated $20 toward the benefitting non-profit) came in whatever they deemed was an appropriate croquet costume. The setting was my folks’ place (now ours) in Oysterville and, often, Willard and Louise Espy hosted a potluck picnic at their Red Cottage afterwards.

There was, of course, the trophy which “lived” at the Heron and Beaver Pub at the Shelburne. Our festivities began the night before the Croquet Gala (always held on the Sunday following Labor Day) with the traditional “stealing of the trophy” from Tony Kischner so that it could be presented to the winning team the next day  Over the years, the Saturday night event gathered enough followers of its own that Tony had to have us sit in the garden area outside to leave room for other pub customers.

Sadly, one of the scrapbooks will probably have to be discarded.  It was the victim of a 1992 water heater disaster and, though I plan to work on it a bit, I don’t know if it will be worth turning over to the Heritage Museum with the others.  Some long-agos will just have to be remembered without benefit of visual aids!  Perhaps, if Christian’s theory was correct, the longer we wait, the better we will recall those badly damaged 1994-1996 years…  We can but hope!



It went by in a flash…

Sunday, June 20th, 2021

Doncha hate it when you see something online for just a fleeting moment and then you can’t find it again?  That happened to me recently when I was trying to Google something on my cell phone.  Up popped a rather confused collage which seemed to be headed with a misspelling of my name — SYNDEY STEVENS (in big blue letters) — followed by excerpts from my various Oysterville Daybook entries.

Before I could take a good look at the “site” (if that is what it was), it disappeared from the screen and, try as I might, I’ve not been able to find it again.  Disconcerting to say the least.  Is there a dyslexic person posing as me?  Why would someone repost my blogs under a misspelled name?  I’m sure my mother would have told me that imitation (or in this case, mimicry) is the sincerest form of flattery.  Or is it plagiarism?

And, the bigger question is:  what besides the spelling of my name was changed?  As a writer interested in history, I would like to feel that my blogs will “forever” be available from out there in cyberspace as they were written.  Not that I haven’t made mistakes of my own — some of which I’ve managed to correct, but probably not all.  But, I don’t like to think that someone is messing with my words as well as with my name.

I imagine others have had similar experiences.  I commiserate fully!

Speaking of holidays…

Saturday, June 19th, 2021

American Flag in front of The White House in Washington D.C. 

As of yesterday, we (the U.S. of A.) has 11 Federal Holidays!

  • New Year’s Day
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday
  • Presidents Day (Washington’s Birthday)
  • Memorial Day (Decoration Day)
  • Juneteenth
  • 4th of July (Independence Day)
  • Labor Day
  • “Columbus Day” (also observed as Indigenous Peoples Day)
  • Veterans Day (Armistice Day)
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day

“That’s quite a many,” as my mother used to say!  Especially considering that, in her youth, Armistice Day (now Veteran’s Day), Columbus Day, Martin Luther King Day, and Juneteenth did not exist.  The first four to be created (in 1870) were New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Christmas Day, and Independence Day.  We’ve been adding one or two every few decades ever since.

In Ancient Rome Every Other Day Was An Official Holiday

Still, it is reassuring to know that we don’t yet approach the number of holidays that ancient Rome celebrated — more than half of their calendar year, according to some scholars!  One wonders how they got on with the business at hand…  Oh!  That’s right, they didn’t.  Rome fell in 476 AD.  They lasted from the 8th century BC to the 5th century AD — or about 1,000 years.

Lest you worry, it looks like we may have a few holidays and a few centuries to go.