Monday, November 23, 2009

Yes Viginia, There is a Big Lebowski and then there's DUDE

The Dude abides man.

Bowling... It had been a long time.

Glenn and I rented "The Big Lebowski" and were sitting in our assigned seats in the kitchen watching it. I have been thinking lately about the kind of ruts we all find ourselves in, and was feeling as if, we have landed on our own.

Our house is pretty large. It was expanded to accommodate our two children and their friends. I envisioned family gatherings and big parties as the house expanded. Now, with the girls gone, and people busy with this and that, our big house sits 80% uninhabited. We spend the majority of our time in two rooms, the kitchen and the bedroom. We sit at a large table meant to sit six. We eat our meals here. We watch TV here. And here was where we sat as the Dude began his adventure.

If you haven't seen this movie, go get it. Prepare yourself for an abundant use of the the F word. (Rivalling Reservoir Dogs)

The Stranger: There's just one thing, Dude. The Dude: And what's that? The Stranger: Do you have to use so many cuss words? The Dude: What the fuck you talking about? The Stranger: Okay, Dude. Have it your way.

So anyway... the movie is about the Dude, also known as Jeffrey Lebowski, a mistaken identity, a rug that has been peed on, bowling, white Russians, porn stars and nihilists, friendship and laziness, memorial services and did I mention bowling?

After the movie was over Glenn exclaimed "Let's go bowling to pay homage to the Dude."

We grabbed our coats and headed out into the cold November night headed toward Country Club Bowl in San Rafael. The place was nearly deserted. We were assigned lane #6. With out bowling shoes in place and a drink in our hand, we completed 4 games. One of the staff came by smiling and said "you guys are having a good time." I have to say, given the circumstances, I was impressed with our showing. The barman came around and announced to us...(since we were the only ones still there) "Last call!"

As we returned home, I had a huge smile on my face. The Dude would be proud, even if we didn't drink white Russians.

Sometimes the best solution for being in a rut, is to climb out.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hiding your head in the sand... or ship in a wall

The vessel Gallieo at Fort Mason

If I close my eyes really, really hard, I won't notice that big ugly monster at the foot of my bed.

Even when it comes to make believe, even when it is an impossible nightmare, this wishful thinking does little more than increase your fear.

The current news on mammograms, breast self exam, and pap smears, has a chilling promise of sponsored ignorance, avoidance and ultimately death for many women. Women's health care, has been hard fought for, and we are far from done. The topics of breast cancer and cervical cancer are those that generations of women could never even name, the stigma was so great. In years past, women may have had breasts, but they sure didn't talk about them, not to mention admit to any defect in them. In recent years it has been as if a light has gone on. Now, these studies, threaten a retreat, the effects of which are already being seen.

I heard the other day of a woman who had breast cancer discovered in a mammogram. This 40 year old woman had a surgery scheduled to remove this cancer. She cancelled the surgery after the panels recommendation, saying " they aren't reliable anyway."
When given a chance of believing she has cancer, or putting her head in the sand, this woman is choosing the sand. I KNOW she will not be the only one.

When I woke up yesterday I had a choice. We each do every day we live. We choose how we are going to live that day. You can choose to live with your eyes wide open, embracing every day. You will find in doing this you will have moments of fear and sadness that are profound. But you also will have moments that had been lost in the haze of avoidance filled with love, and quiet beauty you had been missing. In running away from the truth in life you are running away from life itself.

Open your eyes...keep them wide open. Live like you never lived before.
You can't do this in hiding. You can't open your eyes in the sand.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sunday's walk...San Rafael to Fairfax and back

I have decided from time to time, I will bring you a little sample of walking season.

I don't plan on being religious about my training for 3-Day #2 until early spring, but I would feel cheated if I didn't carve out some walks through falling leaves and chilly air.

Glenn had a busy day ahead of him trying to catch up with work. I had one open house, but a colleague asked to hold it open leaving me foot loose and fancy free. When I woke I went through every possible direction that I could head, estimated the length of the walks and decided it was time to walk west, to Fairfax. The ideal walk for me these days is a total of 10 miles or so. Longer takes A LOT of time, less makes me worry I will lose my edge. Fairfax from Glenn's office would be the ideal distance.

San Rafael is the county seat. Back in Father Serra days, the Mission of San Rafael was founded. The Mission was totally abandoned by 1844, and the buildings destroyed by fire. The buildings standing now are meant to be built in the style of a Mission, but are authentic.
The buildings that stand now, was built in the 40s and is still used for church services.
This Sunday morning I walked past as the bells chimed out, signalling the beginning of the 10 am service. Part of the originally Mission that does survives are three bells seen here.
On this sunny morning I tried to envision the Mission of days past. The Indians trying to understand the strange ways of these cloaked Spaniards. Watching as their world transformed in front of their eyes and being moved by a current of change they could not fight.
Things are always changing.
Walking further down Fifth Avenue, I passed the city hall, Marin Academy and some of the charming older homes that have been converted to businesses.

I passed a church that the girls and I attended for a short while when they were young. Maybe if I had seen the charming bear garden on the side of the church, I would have stayed on.

I have always thought the placement of these two signs would be the stuff Herb Caen would have enjoyed. Diet Center, next to Cake Art.

Marin Academy

Many of these Fifth Avenue homes are Victorian but there are modern buildings that are mixed among them. I like these little cottages and sometimes think it would be a fine lifestyle to live downtown like this. You could walk to restaurants, walk to movies, walk, walk , walk.... I passed 2 people I knew and I don't even live in this hood!

This building is on the corner of Forbes and Fifth. They recently did a lot of work here. I believe, but I am not sure, it has been converted to a private residence. I believe it used to be a private club, but I could find no sign today, thus.... I gather, it is even more private than it used to be.

Fifth Avenue at Forbes is the dividing line between the Forbes neighborhood and Sun Valley.
Forbes has been known as one of San Rafael's "better" neighborhoods for many years. There are many larger homes set on "city" lots with tree lined streets.
Eventually I was walking down the miracle mile a main drag between San Anselmo and San Rafael.

As I neared San Anselmo there is a beauty salon who's name is
"Peace Love and Grilled Cheeses".
It got my attention!

From the junction, I headed down Red Hill (also known as Sir Francis Drake). I passed the Community Center where they were having an open studio for local artists.

Some of the homes on this road are really darling. In a good market many people would over look the road noise and traffic to have a house like this.

Drake High School is one of the 3 major public high schools in Marin.

The school has a unique program of academies within the school that allow kids to customize their curriculum around their interests.
Communications Academy
Studies of the Environment Academy
Engineering Academy

When I crossed into Fairfax all of a sudden things got interesting! The police were there gathering statements after an accident. Maybe it was a hit and run, I only saw a truck sitting there in the middle of the road.

My friend Kelly's restaurant Pancho Villas wasn't open yet. Given that it was Sunday I was hoping she was enjoying the day with her family anyway....

I decide to walk on to the town hall. I have visited the building several times getting building resale inspections ordered..etc...etc...

This great old building is the Fairfax Pavilion. The downtown may have lost just a little bit of its hippy edge.
But it still feels like a town unlike any other.

In the window of a cafe there is this display of customers in miniature.

The town retains its vintage charm, even though the old B of A building is now a coffee roastery and the old grocery store is Grilly's.

The Barefoot Cafe on SFD seemed to have a line waiting to be seated.

Peri's is an long time haunt.

I decide to walk back a different way and followed Center. I took a turn to explore a bridge that was posted with several private property signs.

Never being one who would trespass (very far) when there is a sign posted the farthest I went was the middle of the bridge to take a photo of the creek. This creek in winter can be swollen to the point the road down stream are flooded and homes inundated.

The railroad used to travel on this route making a stop at Lansdale Station, halfway between San Anselmo and Fairfax, on the way to West Marin.

I walked along San Anselmo Avenue, enjoying the fall leaves and interesting homes.

Fall leaves. Who says there is no seasons in California. We have seasons, we just don't have the icky stuff like slush or mosquitoes the size of chevys.

Reaching the town of San Anselmo, it is hard to picture how high flood waters have gotten here on some wet winters....

I knew where I wanted to go... Taco Janes. Despite the relatively cook temperatures, I wanted to sit outside and have an enchilada! They lit the outdoor heaters and then....

I had my enchilada!

The San Anselmo City Hall

I headed back toward San Rafael through Greenfield Avenue. This street is full of charm and character. Little bungalows that have been lovingly care for.

Want a 1958 chevy? Try this lot.

The lunch time crowd at a San Rafael Cafe on 4th Street.

I walked past Irwin (where Glenn's office is) because I was coming up short on my 10 miles. After picking up the making of a dinner for Glenn's Dad,
I finished my walk at the magic 10....Mission accomplished for today.
On my way back I bough a special surprise for the 2nd 3 day walk... You will have to donate to see it... I will send you a sneak preview. Otherwise, you'll have to wait until the walk itself... and then maybe... we'll see. So DONATE and be the first to see the secret of the 2nd 3 day.

They said...WHAT????????

Good news! No more mammograms for 40 year olds!

And, don't like doing self exam? No worries they don't do any good anyway.

When my daughter wrote me to ask what I thought about the latest recommendations made regarding Breast Cancer screening, I hadn't read about it yet. The recommendations are noted in this article out today in the NY Times (link below).

The people who made these recommendations are an influential group who provide guidance for coverage to insurance companies and in particular Medicare. They say that even though this may increase the number of deaths from Breast Cancer, they are lowering the standards because it will help the overtaxed health care system and that over screening has risks too. The point out specifically anxiety cause by unneeded biopsies.

Excuse me, you want anxiety, be diagnosed with advance stage cancer.

In my personal case I would be dead today if I had not done a self exam. I was 41 when I found my cancer. I had a mammogram done which confirmed my discovery. I was told I was not in a risk group because my mother died for lung cancer and not breast cancer. These new guidelines would have me wait until I was 50 to get a mammogram. By 50, you wouldn't have needed a mammogram because my autopsy would leave no doubt.

How much of this recommendation is based on cost savings? How much is real science?

In my personal opinion, if and when the insurance companies and Medicare start listening to these recommendations, these new standards will be the instrument of hundreds of thousands of women's deaths.

Angry? YOU BET!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

On the road again...

Despite a morning that saw 40 degree temperatures, I woke up with a determination to take a walk. So I dutifully donned my new shoes (pair #2 from Next Step), my long walking pants, a bright pink short sleeve tank top, under a sky blue long sleeve shirt, under a black North Face jacket. But I had one stop to make... the podiatrist.

Since the beginning of my walking adventure, I have been hampered by pain in my feet, particularly in my left foot. It begins as a numbness followed by a cramping that can bring tears to my eyes. Cyrus at Next Step, frustrated with my problem, told me I should go get my feet x-rayed and consult with a podiatrist, which I did Friday morning before my walk.

The Dr. says I have the most common nerve problem known to man... it's called Morton's Neuroma. What happens is over time the nerve between my 3rd and 4th toes has thickened to a point it doesn't really fit well in the foot any more. ( I am simplifying this to my elementary standard.) Basically, I am to avoid narrow shoes, high heels on special occasions only and then preferably platform shoes. I should wear inserts that lifts my forefoot up and pray I can control the problem with these measures before I need surgery. The good news is he feels confident we can do this and by next year, and by the time of the 3 day, we will have it all under control. He asked about my bunion on my right foot, and I told him how when I saw it for the first time I thought to myself how much my feet were looking like my mothers. Well, he said "best to start taking measures now, so I won't have to break your toe. Then you'll really be out of commission!" He says the inserts will also help with this problem too. Let's hope so.

Armed with a new pair of temporary inserts, off I headed to test the new shoes. The walking Gods have blessed us with some stellar walking weather here in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Today was the kind of day where you could see detail on the east bay hills. It seemed the perfect day for a ferry ride to San Francisco. I parked at the Sausalito Yacht Club and walked over to the ferry.

While waiting for the ferry a couple from New Jersey struck up a conversation with me. "So is the weather always this good?" "Bet those homes on the hill are expensive, bet they are over a million.""Do you have a restaurant you could recommend?""We are going to rent bikes in SF and then ride over the GG Bridge then ride over to see the redwoods."

Ok, that one made me stop in amazement and take a hard look. They seemed to be pretty fit, but you never know. "So you guys are pretty fit right?" I asked. "There aren't any hills in the way are there?" they wondered...... "Oh yes there will be a few hills. You might want to ride to downtown Mill Valley and not out to Muir Woods. There are some Redwoods there behind the town and the town is charming." I just pictured these nice people cursing at each other as they headed over to Muir Woods, up Shoreline highway or over Sequoia Valley Road, down into the woods, then coming back over trying to make a ferry for SF. It didn't seem a very pretty picture. And as we parted ways at the Sf Ferry terminal I said a silent prayer that they still would love SF after the day they had ahead of them. Me, I knew my day would be far more manageable.

There is a different feeling in the air as you walk in November. A crispness that wakes you up and energizes your walk. The stores along the way are preparing for the Holiday season. Justin Herman Plaza has the annual ice skating rink set up. As I passed Pier 39 I noticed the tree trimmers, with their cherry pickers, gingerly placing strings of lights and brightly colored red bulbs on a 100 ft tree. I looked carefully to see if it was SF appropriate and "green"... meaning not real. It appeared to be GREEN as is REAL however and I wondered if they would get grief for this.

As I wound my way through Fisherman's wharf, I found the streets less crowed. The smells however were just as intrusive. There is a sickly sweet smell in most tourist areas, as the vendors seek to lure people inside their shops with the aroma of forbidden foods. To me it smells like a county fair and makes me feel like I do when I go on an upside down ride... which is NOT GOOD!

Walking past Aquatic Park, you can see the refurbishing of the buildings and grandstand proceed at a snail's pace. In the chilly Bay Water one brave sole was doing her laps. The pelican and seals spun and dove into the water in larger than usual numbers. You can hardly imagine there was a time when the pelicans here were endangered. They are flourishing now. And by the way, who can tell me why they don't break their necks when the plummet into the Bay? And how by the way do they see little fish under the shiny surface anyway?

Walking along Crissy field, I felt bad knowing next year the 3 day will have to relocate because of the Doyle Drive reconstruction. I wonder where we will end up. I hope the grass is as soft and the view half as pretty. I know though, that will be impossible. (I just heard they found a species of madrone under the Drive that they thought had been extinct. Maybe there is hope for next fall after all! It surely will be years for them to decide what to do about this discovery.)

This little dog looked like Allison's dog's cousin!

Up and over the bridge. The wind is hardly noticeable, and that is unusual for the bridge. Once I hit the other side of the bridge, I finally took off layer # 1, putting the jacket into my fanny pack before heading down the hill into Fort Baker. Since the walk, Patti and I have regularly waled to Cavallo point on Sundays for a bite to eat. The early starts have allowed us to go on to other duties on Sundays like open houses or production work. Its a wonderful indulgence.

When I made it back to the car in Sausalito, I did my inventory. The walk proved, the inserts were helping (but not solving) my nerve issue. It also proved shoe pair #2 would be returning to Albany as blisters poised to develope indicated to me these shoes were too short. As I jumped into the car I notice the final thing on my check list.... Is the a smile on my face? Check!

PS Registration is open for the 2010 3 day - 60 mile walk. The dates are Oct 1-3. Email me if you are interested in walking with us! Or start your donations early and make one today to my walk! I was #4 in SF this year, let's go for #3! The more we do, the quicker we can all say goodbye to Cancer! DONATE

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Goodbye Jim

Saying goodbye

It was Halloween last night and the phone rang. The dogs ran barking to the door announcing one of 3 trick or treaters, we had that night. "Is Glenn there?" the person on the phone asked. "Can I ask, who is calling?" "Bob Richmond" he answered. I knew it was bad news.

Jim Richmond, had a presence. He was the kind of a person you could feel in a room, even if you never saw him enter. He talked a mile a minute, his mind moved at the speed of light. During his life he flew as close as he could to the sun. His life ended having been filled with flashes of brilliance and moments of deep despair.

Jim loved the chase. He loved the next best thing... he ran so fast, because I think, he was afraid to find out what would happen if he stood still. I have to admit, we didn't talk to him very often in the last few years. He was down on his luck and living in Hawaii. We heard he had lung cancer. We remembered his Dunhill cigarettes. We felt awfully sad, as we remembered the good times, the bad times, the thrill and the fear that came with knowing this man. A tragic hero is a literary character who makes an error of judgment or has a fatal flaw that, combined with fate and external forces, brings on a tragedy. Jim was not a literary character, but he was a tragic hero if ever there was one.

Jim was married for awhile to my very good friend Patti. Back in our twenties, he met her at one of our parties, I pulled her aside as I saw the light in her eyes. I told her, she could date him, but she could never marry him. They dated for awhile, Jim moved to Hawaii. He came back and married Patti ten years later. Glenn was the best man, I was the matron of honor. There was a bomb scare at their ceremony. It was a sign....

When I met Jim for the first time, I was engaged to Glenn. Jim was my husband's partner in law. They battled the bad guys and won a few big cases. They were mavericks. Glenn learned a lot of really important lessons about life and the law from Jim. I think when Glenn and I married, Jim was disappointed, not because I didn't measure up... but because he was losing his Glenn. But after awhile he adjusted. He drove us from the ceremony in his Cadillac with the top down, he put tuberose leis around our necks, he played Honolulu City Lights on the stereo. He lent us his condo in Kona for our honeymoon. He read to our daughters when they were little. He was a part of our lives until the day he had to chase another dream.

He died this week, Bob said. In the end it happened quickly. There was no service or memorial. The people who lived near him had gotten together.

This morning Patti and I took a walk. We brought with us tuberoses, red and orange roses and walked out to Fort Baker. We walked down the breakwater that protects the marina. We climbed down the rocks to the water's edge. We threw the flowers out to the bay and watched as they floated out toward the gate, on their way to Hawaii. The sun was bright on the water and as the flowers floated to the edge of the sun. They disappeared in the brillant blaze.

Goodbye Jim