See Ted. See Ted Go To Cancun. See Ted Get…

First came this, on February 18…

Cruz got caught.

Then, as any good dad would do, he lied, and threw his daughters under the bus:

Locals made their feelings known in front of Cruz’s home:

In the meantime, word leaked about Cruz’s college roommate being invited on the jaunt to Mexico:

But not the dog:

Cruz then utilized a phony photo op to demonstrate that in addition to being a good dad, he was a good guy, handing out water to suffering Texans:

That was fodder for multiple late night show hosts:

And Twitter:

But the best so far has to be this:

According to the article,

“Adam Jama, of Carrollton, Texas, set up a GoFundMe page for the band to rattle the embattled pol – and have donations go to Texas Children’s Hospital.”

Cool!

But even a cool Mariachi band couldn’t assuage Mrs. Cruz’s rage…

Seriously?

Heidi Cruz isn’t pissed about leaked texts.

Heidi is pissed big time because she and Ted were – big time:

Looks like Teddy, showing his usual amount of class, is pissed, too:

But then, Teddy’s big on name-calling.  Remember this, during the 2016 presidential campaign?

The article quotes Cruz, referring to Trump:

But then here’s Cruz, in 2020:

So, this is critical:

Let’s all remember all of this, just in case this nightmare happens:

Update February 25: 

When the owners of ABC Party HQ in Dallas, TX were forced to close their store for six days due to last week’s storms, they didn’t stop working.

They got to work making Ted Cruz piñatas.

The 3.5-foot-tall piñata, which sells for $100, depicts the embattled pol wearing the gray polo shirt, jeans, gray sneakers and Texas flag mask he wore on his return trip from Cancun last week:

Christened a “therapy piñata” by a wit on Twitter, and judging by the sales, it appears plenty of people want to line up, sticks in hand, and take a good, hard whack at ole Ted.

And – perhaps – not just for the candy inside.

I Encountered This New Word – But Knew Exactly What It Meant:

This word was in an article about the writer’s recent three-mile trek through the cold, slushy streets of Chicago.

Throughout her trek she encountered…

Snirt.

Piles of snirt.

I’d never heard nor seen the word, but I knew exactly what it meant.

This:

And this:

And this:

Snirt: It’s dark, yucky stuff that originally was pristine snow, but has been piled up, driven on, plowed through and thoroughly covered in dirt, de-icing salt, car exhaust, and any other available crud.

Snow + Dirt = Snirt.

If you grew up in the Midwest, as I did, you’re intimately familiar with snirt.

You have no choice, because the piles of snirt continue to grow throughout winter.  New snow is piled up onto old snirt and becomes new snirt.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.

When spring finally arrives and the ground starts showing signs of coming back to life, the snirt piles remain, adorning yards and parking lots with this:

Into, and beyond spring. 

Some snirt piles have been known to impede summer Little League baseball practice:

“Coach, where’s second base?”
“It’s underneath that big pile of snirt, Tommy.”
“What do I do if I hit a double?”
“Just run straight from first base to third, and we’ll figure it out from there.”

One factor in my move from the Midwest to San Diego County was the weather, and generally, it is all it’s cracked up to be.  This week, while people in many other parts of the country continue to suffer from the recent hellacious winter storms, our weather forecast looks like this:

So it may surprise you to know that we do get snow here – at the higher elevations – on Mt. Laguna, Palomar Mountain and so on.  The weather forecasters on the local news actually get excited when the snow levels drop from 5,000 feet to 3,000 feet and lower:

And the residents?  For reasons that escape me, hundreds of them choose to bundle up and drive – in bumper-to-bumper traffic – to those locations to experience snow and do this:

And this:

And this:

Though of course, by the time those hundreds of cars arrive at their destination, a lot of the snow has been turned into…

Snirt.

But here’s the catch: 

We don’t have to live surrounded with this:

We can visit it – if we so choose.

The city of San Diego proudly claims the title of “America’s Finest City,” and there are a number of reasons for this.

I now gladly add yet another reason to that list:

Book Review: Henry VIII’s “Rose Without a Thorn”

Publication date:  May 2020

Review, short version:  Three out of four roses.

Review, long version:

What’s left to say about Henry Tudor’s six wives?

Katherine, Anne, Jane, Anna, Katheryn, and Katharine?

After all the books – fiction and nonfiction – and feature films, made-for-TV productions, websites, plus blogs devoted to Tudor history…

Is there anything left to say about Henry VIII’s six wives?

Long-time and prolific author Alison Weir thought so. 

Weir’s list of fiction and nonfiction books is impressive:

As her books focus mainly on Tudor and other English royal history, I consider Weir something of an expert and I’ve learned a lot from her books.

So when she launched her six-books fiction series (the sixth is due out in May) about Henry VIII’s wives – one book for each wife – I thought…

Why not?

I’ve now read the first five, most recently Katheryn Howard, The Scandalous Queen.

In Weir’s Author’s Note, she describes the book as a novel based on “the revised and expanded biography…the original version of which was published in my book The Six Wives of Henry VII, in 1991.”  Weir is a meticulous researcher, and relies on sources contemporary to the period as much as possible.  She also sifts and sorts other sources and forms her own perspective, one I’ve consistently found to be credible.

Katheryn and Henry VIII, as portrayed in the British movie “Henry VIII and His Six Wives,” 1972.

With Katheryn Howard, Weir has added dialogue, and characters’ thoughts, motivations and feelings – most of which we can’t know, but again, I think credible.

And at the end – though I knew what was coming – I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Katheryn.  She wasn’t the brightest flower in Henry’s bouquet of brides, but she was used, and disposed of, by ambitious, powerful men she was too naïve and powerless to fight.

If you know Katheryn’s story, I think you’d enjoy Weir’s insights.  If you don’t know Katheryn’s story, this is a good place to start, though I’d actually recommend reading Weir’s “Six Tudor Queens” series in order, starting with Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen.

I don’t always agree with Weir, but I always enjoy her books.

Weir suggests these miniatures “can be identified on good grounds as Katheryn.”  Left:  “Portrait of a Lady, Perhaps Katherine Howard” in the Royal Collection Trust, by Hans Holbein, painted c. 1540.  Right:  “Portrait Miniature of Katherine Howard” by Hans Holbein, painted c. 1540, Buccleuch Collection.

Does She Look Like “The Most Dangerous Woman In America”?

Mother Jones, the magazine, has been around a long time – since 1976.

I only recently learned that the magazine was named after a real person:

Mother Jones.Mother-Jones-cropped

Also known as Mary Harris Jones.

Also known as “the most dangerous woman in America.”

At age 65.

Why was she the “most dangerous”?

This is not a biography about Mother Jones – there’s the 2002 book by Elliott Gorn for that, and Jones’ autobiography from 1925.  Instead, it’s a brief recap of only a few reasons I think she’s so extraordinary.

Mary “Mother” Jones was a survivor.  A doer.  And an energizer.

Survivor

Mary’s birth date is unknown but she was baptized in 1837, so we’ll use that year.

famineBorn in Ireland, she and her family were victims of the Great Famine, which caused at least a million Irish to emigrate between 1845 and 1849, and another million to die of starvation and disease.

In North America Mary received some schooling, taught for awhile, and in 1861 married George E. Jones, a member and organizer of the National Union of Iron Molders.

In 1867, when they were living in Memphis, George and their four children died during a yellow fever epidemic.  Mary relocated to Chicago, built a dressmaking business, and lost that in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

According to the National Women’s History Museum website, Mary

“…found solace at Knights of Labor meetings, and in 1877, took up the cause of working people.”

Mary had begun her career as a labor organizer.

Doer

 In 1897 Mary joined Eugene Debs’ Social Democracy and the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) national strike in the Pittsburgh district, the first UMWA victory.  She mother croppedthen joined the UMWA’s organizing drive in the Pennsylvania anthracite coal region, and was commissioned a national organizer.

 Beloved by the workers she organized, they began calling her “Mother Jones” as Mary focused on the rising number of working poor during industrialization, especially as wages shrunk, hours increased, and workers had no insurance for unemployment, healthcare or old age.

She took part in and led hundreds of strikes, scorning jail, deportation to other states and threats on her life.  She became the enemy of wealthy business owners, and in 1902 a U.S. attorney called her “the most dangerous woman in America.”

Pretty cool moniker for a 65-year-old.

And she didn’t slow down.

Energizer

 Mary was sent to survey the West Virginia coalfields in December 1900, reporting back that ‘‘conditions there were worse than those in Czarist Russia.’’

I recently watched a PBS documentary, The Mine Wars, which details a period  when West Virginia coal miners were trying to unionize.  The conflict between miners and battle of blairowners escalated, eventually leading to the Battle of Blair Mountain, largest insurrection in the U.S. since the Civil War.

The film recounts Mary’s impact there, calling Mary the “nation’s most unlikely labor organizer.”  While a newspaper described Mary as “loud, profane, and demanding,” the people she was helping called her the “miners’ angel.”

Of her efforts on behalf of the miners, Mary said, “Six months ago the men were afraid to look at me.  Today they are realizing they are men, and have some right on this Earth.”

Well into her 80s, Mary continued to agitate and actively assist in the struggle to unionize workers, and continued to organize coal miners into her nineties.

She died in 1930, age 93.

Workers_Memorial_Day_poster US Dept of Labor post 2010 I’m not a humanitarian, I’m a hell-raiser.

I asked a man in prison once how he happened to be there and he said he had stolen a pair of shoes.  I told him if he had stolen a railroad he would be a United States Senator.

Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.

Book Reviews: I Learned Something SO Important From Two So-So Books

Publication dates:  June 2016 and June 2020

Reviews, short version:  One rose each.

Reviews, long version:

Kristin Harmel’s When We Meet Again (2016) and Chanel Cleeton’s The Last Train to Key West were only so-so in my opinion.

Harmel’s lead character, Emily, 36, is so guilt-ridden that it gets wearying very quickly.  When all is resolved at the end, my main emotion was relief that Emily’s story was over.

Cleeton’s three lead characters – Helen, Mirta and Elizabeth – are all in Key West, FL in 1935 for differing reasons.  The fourth character – a weather event called “the most intense hurricane you’ve never heard of” – messes everyone up, then all is resolved.

So – so-so.

Except for the “I didn’t know that” moment in each book.

I have a lot of “I didn’t know that” moments.  What I don’t know would fill the Library of Congress and plenty of other libraries, as well.

So I love learning new information, whether it’s through hearing it, watching it or reading it.

Even when the source is so-so books.

In When We Meet Again I learned that during World War II, there were German POW – prisoner of war – camps in the United States.  (I didn’t know that.)  Part of the book’s story takes place in Florida, so I started my own research at the Museum of Florida History:

“During World War II, some 378,000 German and Italian captives were sent to prisoner-of-war camps in the United States.  Overall, about 10,000 German prisoners spent time in Florida, and it became a relatively common sight for Floridians to see POWs working on farms or in logging camps.”

Beginning in March 1944, around 2,500 German prisoners were confined to Camp Gordon Johnston in Carrabelle, FL as well as the three branch camps.

Few of these prisoners were Nazis; most were just young men conscripted into Hitler’s army, many of whom were anti-Hitler and happy to sit out the remainder of the war in the safety of U.S. POW camps.

POWs picking ornages.

Another source – PalmBeachCountyHistoryOnline – talked of how the shortage of agricultural workers created a demand for labor.  In addition to working on farms and in logging camps, the POWs were put to work in a bean-canning factory, and they…

“…helped to build the Lake Okeechobee Dike.  Others chopped sugarcane in the fields in and around the camp from before 8am to about 3pm, for which they were paid 80 cents a day in coupons they traded for items such as cigarettes and beer.”

World War II ended in September 1945 and, according to Smithsonian magazine,

“By 1946, all prisoners had been returned to their home countries.”

Though, adds History.net,

“…an unknown percentage later came back to the United States, largely because of poor employment prospects in the immediate postwar Germany.” 

And some POWs had fallen in love with American women – one of the storylines in When We Meet Again.

My “I didn’t know that” in The Last Train to Key West has to do with the U.S. government’s lousy treatment of U.S. military veterans.

That sounds timely, and it is, but this story is set in 1935, and these were veterans of World War I – a war that had ended in 1918, 17 years earlier.

According to my research,

“…in 1924 many of these veterans had been awarded bonuses in the form of certificates they could not redeem until 1945.  Each certificate, issued to a qualified veteran soldier, bore a face value equal to the soldier’s promised payment with compound interest.”

Many of the war veterans had been out of work since the beginning of the Great Depression in 1929, and in mid-1932 they marched to Washington, DC to demand early cash redemption of their service certificates.

According to public radio PRX.org, this group, now called the “Bonus Army,” consisted of:

“…more than 20,000 veterans and their families arriving in the nation’s capital.  They established a tent city and vowed to stay until their demands were met.  But finally, in a historic confrontation, General Douglas MacArthur’s Army troops routed the Bonus Army and burned their camp to the ground.”

A 2015 story in the Miami Herald says,

“President Franklin Roosevelt tried to fix the problem when he took office in March 1933 by putting the men to work in the Civilian Conservation Corps.  When the economy began showing signs of recovery, many vets headed home.  But some – written off as hopeless hobos by many but likely suffering combat-related disorders – returned to Washington to resume protesting.  Faced with another showdown, Roosevelt persuaded Florida and two other states to reopen work camps.

“By late summer 1935, about 700 soldiers were in the upper Keys building a highway bridge to link Lower Matecumbe and Fiesta Key, and open the hardscrabble Upper Keys to the flow of tourism filling coffers in Key West.”

When the “the most intense hurricane you’ve never heard of” hit the Florida Keys on Labor Day in 1935, many of these veterans died; “soldiers,” says the article, “sent to a mosquito-infested rock during hurricane season to work for the government only to be abandoned once the inevitable storm arrived.”

Some died on a long-delayed evacuation train hit by a massive tidal wave, while for others who weren’t evacuated,

“Farther south, the veteran camps – the closest settlements to where the eye passed over Long Key – simply washed away as sustained 185 mph winds hammered the flimsy tents.  Soldiers later recounted lashing themselves to trees or hanging on to railway tracks.  Some sought cover in trenches where rock for the highway bridge had been quarried, only to drown when the storm surge filled them.”

The aftermath?

Aerial view taken three days after the 1935 hurricane of the ill-fated rescue train sent into the Florida Keys to rescue veterans working on a railway.  High winds and an estimated 18-foot storm surge swept the train off the tracks.
Rescue workers search for victims’ bodies in the wreckage of one of the beachfront work camps that housed World War I veterans working on a federal highway construction project in the Florida Keys in the summer of 1935.  The workers wearing military caps are with veterans’ service organizations.  Behind them at the left is one of the hastily built cottages that housed the highway workers.  It has been turned upside down by the hurricane’s winds and storm surge.

The tragedy in the Florida Keys was yet another shameful chapter in a book about veteran mistreatment that our government is still adding chapters to:

My takeaway?

I’m glad I read When We Meet Again and The Last Train to Key West because two so-so books sent me on a research journey where I learned important information about our country’s history.  Some of it was discouraging, but all of it was worthwhile. 

Eventually, it was…

We Started Valentine’s Day In The Best Possible Way:

Like so many people in San Diego County, my husband and I were anxious to get the COVID vaccination.

And like so many people in San Diego County, we couldn’t.

“Supply,” we kept hearing.  “We’re waiting on supplies of vaccines.”

“Contact your healthcare provider,” we kept hearing.

We kept contacting our healthcare provider.

“Supply,” we kept hearing.  “We’re waiting on supplies of vaccines.”

Healthcare providers and the county kept opening vaccination sites, and I kept going online to check all of them.  And when some of the sites were scheduling appointments…

All the appointments were taken.

When you do this every day, day after day, with the same results, it gets frustrating. 

Especially when people I knew outside of San Diego County were getting vaccinated, no problem.

Family in North Carolina.  Friends in Colorado.  Family and friends in Michigan.  And a family member in Northern California, who has the same healthcare provider we do…

She got her first vaccine, and we couldn’t even get an appointment.

Frustrating!

Then, on the Thursday evening news, we heard the county was opening a new site the next day.

And the next day I was online at 4am and…and…and…

I was able to schedule two appointments.

My hands – seriously – were shaking. 

I printed our confirmations and kept reading them and rereading them, still not quite believing what I was seeing:

Two appointments at 8:20am on February 14.

When I chose that date, it hadn’t even occurred to me that it was Valentine’s Day.

It turned out that we started Valentine’s Day in the best possible way.

We got vaccinated for ourselves.

We got vaccinated for each other.

We got vaccinated for the safety of others.

Second vaccination appointment on March 7 at 8:20am.

“Mom…Dad…I Know This Is Sudden, But I Want You To Meet My New Fiancé!”

Daughter:  Mom and Dad, this is Jacob Chansley, but you can call him Jake.  Jake, this is my Mom and Dad.

Jake: How ya doin’?

(awkward silence)

Dad:  Ah…How do you do, Mr. Chansley?

Jake:  Dude, it’s Angeli.  Jake Angeli.

Daughter (whispering):  Jake, we agreed we weren’t going to get into all that right away, remember?

Jake:  Dude, I’m speaking the truth, like on the cover of my book, OK?  “The irresistible call of truth,” OK?

Mom:  Did you say your “book,” Mr. Angeli?

Jake (reaching down the front of his pants):  Yeah, I brought you a copy, see?

Mom:  Why…how…how thoughtful.  And doesn’t your…er…makeup look just like your picture?

Jake:  I created the look.  It totally speaks to my being the QAnon Shaman, ya know?

Mom:  Yes, you’re…er…Very eye-catching, especially in person!

Dad:  I, ah…I see your book is in Italian, Mr. Angeli?

Jake:  Like totally, Dude.  The title means “The Past Reveals the Future.”  That’s a direct quote from me but, like, in Italian. Like the author.

Daughter:  And Dad, the other line on the cover, that’s what Jake was referring to, it says, “The irresistible call of truth.”  Isn’t that profound?

(long pause)

Mom:  Why don’t we all sit down?  Jake – oh, watch out for the lamp, your, er, horns…

Jake (narrowly missing the lamp, sits):  We’re cool, Dude.  I speak the truth.

(long pause)

Mom:  Well, our little girl engaged – this is a surprise! 

Daughter:  And look at my ring!

Mom:  Is that…er…

Daughter:  It’s a wolf’s head!  Because Jake is also known as “Yellowstone Wolf.”  Isn’t that sweet?

(long pause)

Mom:  Ah…How did you two meet?

Daughter:  Oh, Mom, it was so romantic.  It was last month, in Washington, DC and –

Dad (interrupts):  Washington?  We didn’t know you were going to Washington? 

Daughter:  Well, it was, ah…very last minute but it was all over the news how so much was going on there on January 6 and I wanted to witness it for myself, you know, see history in the making, and there was this huge crowd there, near the Capitol, and as I got closer I saw Jake…

Daughter:  …well, I didn’t know he was Jake then, of course, but – I saw him on the other side of the crowd and our eyes met and, well…I just knew!

Mom:  Knew what, dear?

Daughter (turns to Jake, smiling):  I knew he was The One.

Jake (modestly):  Yeah, that happens a lot.

(long pause)

Dad (sternly):  You’re talking about the day a mob broke into the Capitol.  Those, those criminals are being arrested, all over the country, for breaking into the Capitol!

Jake:  I’m not really all that worried about it because, in all honesty…I didn’t break any laws.  I walked through open doors, Dude.

Dad (sputtering):  But, but – you did break the law!

Jake:  The fact that we had a bunch of our traitors-in-office hunker down, put on their gas masks and retreat into their underground bunker, I consider that a win.

Daughter:  Dad, here, look at my phone, here are some pictures of Jake…

Mom (soothingly):  Why don’t we look at the pictures later, dear – I think dinner is just about ready.

Jake:  Dude, I assume what you’re making is organic.  Like, I don’t eat anything but organic food.

Mom:  Organic?  Well, I, um, I’m not sure…

Jake:  Yeah, eating organic is part of my shamanic belief system and way of life.  Dude, I mean – I’m so strong about this, in jail I went for nine days without eating because they weren’t doing organic.

Dad (shouting):  JAIL? My daughter’s engaged to a guy who was in jail? 

Jake:  I lost 20 pounds!  And my agent is working on a book deal!  Whaddaya think of this title:  Q For You:  The QAnon Shaman’s Jailhouse Diet!  With me, looking super-buff on the cover:

Dad (mumbling):  My daughter’s engaged to a criminal.

Jake:  So my lawyer got me transferred me to the Alexandria Detention Center, and a judge told ‘em they had to do organic for me.

Mom:  I, ah, don’t know if you’d call anything I made organic, exactly, but…

Jake:  Dude, no problem.  Like I told ‘em in jail, it’s food grown without herbicides or pesticides.  Organic canned vegetables, canned tuna – wild caught – or organic canned soups.

Mom:  Well, I’ll see what I have in the pantry…

Dad (slumped, face in hands):  My daughter’s engaged to a guy who was in jail.  A guy who stormed the Capitol.  A guy…

Jake:  Dude, I’ll tell you all about QAnon over dinner.  I speak the truth!  And I know we’re gonna be great friends. 

(long pause)

Jake:  And to prove that – you can call me Yellowstone Wolf…Dad.

It’s Not the Oldest…It’s Not the Biggest…But It Is The World’s Greatest…

My library is not the oldest – that’s in Morocco:

And my library is not the biggest – that’s in Washington DC:

But my library is the world’s greatest, most recently because of…

That’s right!  Home delivery of library materials…

I am an avid reader and movie watcher, and for years my library has been my main source for books and DVDs.  If the items I wanted were on loan to another customer, I’d just put the items on hold, the library would email me as each item became available, and I’d pick it up.  My library also utilizes a statewide loan system, so if my library didn’t have the item, I could request it from another library.

It all worked so wonderfully well, and then…

The pandemic closed my library in mid-March 2020, and that meant no more books.  No more DVDs.  Right?

The amazing library team had anticipated closing, and already had a system in place to start home deliveries the very next day.

And delivering not just books, but DVDs, and books and music on CDs.

I can’t stress the importance of that enough:  the very next day.

Instead of people coming to the library – the library came to them.

To the best of anyone’s knowledge, out of the 80 or so main libraries, branches, and county libraries in San Diego county, my library is the ONLY one providing this service.

And talk about service!

Between mid-March 2020 and the end of the year, the library team had delivered more than 20,000 items to library cardholder residents.

All the more remarkable, considering how labor- and driving-intensive this service is.  As one librarian put it,

“We pull the holds each day, check them in to generate a slip of paper with the customer’s name, clean the materials, and then group them alphabetically.  The next morning, the books are checked out and bagged.  We label, then number the bags based on routes generated by an app for the most efficient delivery around the city. 

“Then, two or three of us deliver to 25 to 55 households each, often with multiple bags or boxes for a single household, while back at the library, two or three of us pull more on-hold items from as many as 19 double-sided pages for the next day’s deliveries.”

As the pandemic wore on, the library team began noticing patterns for customer requests:  how to start up a business and other how-to books; financial independence books; books about horses, outer space, backyard chicken-raising, and cookbooks; books on racism and African American history; and classics, both books and movies.

And, of course, children’s books.  Said the librarian,

“The largest number of books that went out were consistently children’s books; some households would place holds for dozens of books for their kids.  One customer told me that her kids behaved as if they had won the lottery when their books arrived!”

That emotion wasn’t limited to kids – in 2020 the library delivered more than 60 books and DVDs to my home, and whether the bag held one item or five, every time felt like Christmastime.

The pandemic went on, but my library was able to reopen a few months ago for limited in-person service.  I wondered if home deliveries would be discontinued now that people could come into the library, grab and go.

Happily, the answer is:

The library team is still pulling, checking, cleaning, grouping, bagging, numbering, and delivering, and every Tuesday at my house…

Here’s…

My husband and I were watching a food show on TV.

By the time the chef presented his very complicated finished dish, my husband had lost track of what it was.

“Is that fish?” he said.

“Ono,” I replied.

“Well,” he said, “if it isn’t fish, what is it?”

Ono (2)

Is It Time To Stop California Dreaming And Think California Leaving?

Not long ago, on a bright, sunny, San Diego day, Dave, my indispensable, he-makes-house-calls computer guy, was working on my PC.

He said, “I’ve got something to tell you.”

Words that strike fear into everyone’s heart.  Was my computer not fixable?

To prepare myself I said, “I’m not going to like this, am I?”

“Well…” he said.

I sat down.

Expecting the worst.

It was worse than I expected.

Dave said, “I’m moving to Texas.”

Shit.

I didn’t say that, but I felt it.  What I said was, “Wow, that’s big news!  Where?  When?”

“Greenville,” Dave said, “at the end of the month.”

Then he pulled out his phone to show me pictures of the house he’d bought.  “Three bedrooms, two baths, an acre of property.”

Dave grinned.  “We paid $150,000.”

His grin was understandable.

This is what $150,000 buys you in California:

Dave had been fixing our computers for 10 years.  He was smart, reliable, available – everything you need when your computer is malfunctioning.

Indispensable Dave was leaving.

This news came just a week after Chip, our wonderful handyman who’s been fixing stuff around our house for six years, told me he was moving.

To Tennessee.

“Closer to family and a better life for the kids,” he explained.

Wonderful Chip who, like Dave, was smart, reliable and available.  Two service providers I’ve been able to count on for years.

Both of them:  Leaving.

Later, I emailed my next-door neighbor, John, who had referred me to both Dave and Chip.  “Have you heard about Dave and Chip leaving?” I asked.

John had, and added, “I know seven or eight couples moving out of state.  I’d go myself if I were a younger man raising a family.”

What’s going on here? I wondered.  Is this a new pandemic – people leaving California?

It turns out there is a lot of it going around – but it’s not new, according to this December 2020 story:

The article says,

“For the second year in a row, more people left California than moved there.  The result was a net migration loss of 135,600 people.”

A net loss of 135,600 people would be as if the entire population of Charleston, SC packed up and moved out of state, and brought along some suburbanites along with them.

This January 5 article…

…confirmed that, and also confirmed that plenty of those Californians were headed for Texas (like Dave) and Tennessee (like Chip), but also to Florida, Ohio, Arizona, Nevada…basically…

These and other articles all offer reasons for the exodus, among them: 

  • The cost of housing, whether it’s buying or renting.
  • The appeal of living in states with no income taxes.
  • High taxes in general – for example, California has the highest state-level sales tax rate, at 7.25 percent.
  • Gasoline prices – this morning in California, according to AAA, it’s $3.42 per gallon, while the national average is $2.43.
  • For some, the left-wing politics – states don’t get much bluer than California.

And if all that wasn’t enough, just recently my cousin – a resident of North Carolina – emailed me and said,

“Have you ever considered moving away from CA and away from earthquakes (you know The Big One is coming) and wildfires?  And mudslides and tsunamis.  I worry about you guys being where you are.”

Well, there’s no denying California’s earthquakes and wildfires and mudslides.  But tsunamis? I scoffed.  We don’t get those here.  Obviously I’d forgotten this 2011 event…

…when a 9.0 earthquake in 2011 in Japan triggered a massive wave that traveled 5,000 miles across the ocean, causing damage up and down the West Coast as far south as San Diego. 

San Diego.  That’s where I live.

But people are still moving here, and it’s easy to find online articles with plenty of reasons why:  The weather, the diversity, the weather, the food scene, the weather, and how about our beautiful Highway 1, a 650-mile ribbon that runs along the coast and is described as “one of the most beautiful scenic drives that one can find in the entire United States.”

Well, it was…until this happened to Highway 1 near Big Sur on January 28:

“California dreaming,” indeed.

I can’t deny it:  Taken together, there are plenty of reasons to exit California.

But – at least in terms of natural disasters – exit to where?

Where in this country aren’t there natural disasters?

Book Review: Am I Giving Up On Grisham?

Publication date:  October 2020

Review, short version:  Three skunks out of four.

Review, long version:

Once again I’m in a position I’ve been in so often, it’s like a second home.

I am out of step with the book-reading public.

The book-reading public that, for awhile, put John Grisham’s latest, A Time for Mercy, at #1 on the New York Times’ best seller list:

I am out of step with professional book reviewers, who are saying the book is…

“…riveting…suspenseful.”  (New York Times)

“…a morally complex story…Grisham’s mastery of the courtroom thriller is never in question.”  (Bookpage)

“Impossible to put down…complex and surprising.”  (Booklist)

I didn’t find A Time for Mercy “impossible to put down.”  In fact, I put it down and read two other books, then reluctantly picked up the Grisham book again.

After slogging through another 50 pages, I put it down and read another book.

I ignored A Time for Mercy for so long, it looked like this:

Then I gave it one more try, and at page 248 out of 464, I put it down for good.

My own good, that is.

We were introduced to the book’s main character, Jake Brigance, in Grisham’s first book, A Time to Kill, published in 1993.  Jake’s second appearance was in Sycamore Row in 2013, and A Time for Mercy is Jake’s third outing.

Jake is preparing for a big trial, a trial that’s going to bring him the fame he really wants and the money he desperately needs.  Jake is representing a family that was killed in a collision with a train, and the railroad company has deep pockets.

Jake aims to lighten those pockets, something along the lines of $2 million.

Then Jake gets a call from his friend and mentor, Judge Omar Noose – seriously, that’s the judge’s name – who wants Jake to take on an indigent case, a 16-year-old boy who’s accused of murdering a local police officer.

The boy’s name is Drew.  He has a 14-year-old sister, Kiera, and their mom is 32-year- is Josie.  They live with Stu, Josie’s boyfriend, the cop Drew is accused of murdering.

And here, I think, is the cause of my lack of interest:

So many of the circumstances were so predictable.

Drew and Kiera have different fathers, though of course they don’t know that, and of course were born out of wedlock.  Josie is chronically broke, and while of course she loves her kids, she’s on track to give them the same (of course) crappy upbringing she had.

Stu, apparently a wonderful cop in the daytime, turns into a drunken monster at night and of course he comes home and beats up Josie – regularly.  On the night in question, Stu’s beating leads to Josie’s death, so of course, Drew takes Stu’s gun and shoots Stu, of course in the head.

In the meantime, of course Jake doesn’t want to take the case, but of course Judge Noose insists and of course, Jake caves.

In the meantime, Josie’s daughter Kiera reveals she’s pregnant, of course by Stu, who – of course – raped her repeatedly.

In the meantime, Jake and his wife have wanted to have another baby for years, so of course Jake’s wife suggests they adopt Kiera’s baby.

I figured if I kept reading, eventually Jake’s wife would want to adopt Kiera, too, and oh, hell, why not adopt Drew and Josie, adopt the whole indigent family?

Because of course, Josie wasn’t dead from Stu’s beating, as Drew had thought.

What an irony!  What a plot twist!  Josie’s not dead – who could have predicted that?

Me.

According to my research, Grisham’s books have sold 300 million copies and he’s written 28 consecutive number one bestsellers, a publishing success that’s hard to argue with.

So, I won’t argue.

I’ll just stay in my out-of-step mode along with the few naysayers – a mere 4% of the 35,000+ reviews on Amazon – who said, among other things:

“A rambling, poorly plotted narrative with threads that lead nowhere, no clear climax and a denouement that resolves very little.”

“…boringly repetitive.  Every other chapter seemed to be about Brigance’s financial problems, his desire to ditch the client that was forced on him, and even the peripheral lawsuit that he was involved in.  The ending took way too long and resolved nothing.”

And this review, my favorite: