Saturday, July 06, 2002


I have an ancient-looking, overconstructed, 25-ton monster of a picnic table that my own dear personal grandfather built back in the 1970s sitting now in my backyard. I have a lot of funky heirlooms from him, a man who took regular trips to the dump and came back with more than he took out, a haunter of junk shops and trashday curbs. I have a collection of stunning photos of San Francisco Bay taken before and after the Golden Gate Bridge (my mother's twin sister; she was born in San Francisco the day it opened to car traffic) (now she'll be mad because I've hinted at her age) was built, I have an odd little "fairy" silhouette, I have a funky mechanical bank in the form of a green elephant (the thing to do is to put a coin in its trunk and then press down on its tail to make the trunk move upward to toss the coin into the head), I have a tiny piece of Staffordshire porcelain that has survived both his life and mine... but the picnic table... the picnic table...

How many good summer gatherings has this table seen? When I was a child all of the highway patrolmen in the area used to bring their families to at least one big barbecue in my parents' yard. We'd eat at that table in shifts, the kids wandering off to run through the sprinkler or play on the swings or play badminton (nothing is better for raising a neighborhood of happy kids than at least one good big yard, and ours was it). I used one of the long, sturdy benches for sunbathing back when I was still deluded enough to think I could tan. My graduation dinner was at that table, as was my sister's.

Now the table is mine; since my father built a deck onto his house and set up new patio furniture there, the old picnic table was consigned to leaning up against the far back fence, where it would be in the way of the lawnmower as little as possible.

I'm delighted beyond words to give it a home. It was hell beyond words humping that plutonium-dense thing down the hill and across the water, but I'm delighted to give it a home.

The years have taken their toll on it, though. It's as solid as ever, but as my splintered hands told me when we moved it, it needed some TLC. Scraping, sanding, new paint.

Scraping soon seemed a redundancy; nightly gatherings on my lawn on the river saw sometimes as many as eight people gathered at the table, idly peeling off long strips of ancient redwood paint as we talked and sipped and stared out at the water or watched the birds at the feeder (more about them in a minute!) (grr!). With each passing night, my poor table was the worse for the wear, its ancient grey wood exposed to the surprise rainstorms and the targeting apparatus of the birds recycling their seed (see?).

So I decided this week to give it the care it had long needed, bought some scrapers and brushes and a gallon of paint in a color called "Warm Port" (trust me to go for the wine shade. But I fell for the color itself before the name, honest! It's a beautiful, rich hue, and I'm glad as hell I have a lot of leftover paint. I just have, now, to pick a wall...). I dropped them off, went to work, figured my summer guest, Erin-Go-Braless, the Punk Martha Stewart, and I could scrape the table Friday evening, paint it Saturday (today), and be enjoying it after the conclusion of this weekend's arts festival Sunday.

I spoke better than I knew when I called her the Punk Martha Stewart, however, because when I came home from work yesterday in a desperate rush – I had to shower and change and girl up for the arts festival gala! – my grandfather's table was almost unrecognizable in its new coats of paint. It's gorgeous. And it was already about half dry!

I might have let myself be put out that I didn't get to work on grandpa's table myself, but I realized that my friend had done this out of love for me and for my home, and in the process had given me a whole new reason to cherish this table (yes, sentimental of me, but we writers often are, you know). I'll never be able to look at it without thinking of my crazy grandfather, my best friend and his fiance who ate their first meal in Saratoga there, and the Punk Martha Stewart. That's pretty amazing.

And just as an aside, that color was really the perfect choice. I can't wait for my parents to see it, they who have forever forbidden me from choosing paint colors for their place after I fell for Teton Blue while we were getting ready to re-do their bedroom. The shade was lovely, a perfect aqua (my mother's favorite color) but what looked bright and somewhat airy on the card was very, very deep on their walls and made of their already poorly lit bedroom a cave that my father does admit was "great for sleeping late" but otherwise just didn't do at all! Perhaps I have redeemed myself with grandpa's table.

Of course, by the time they get back from vacation, it will be despicably speckled by those damnable, ungrateful birds. Do you think they'd get the hint if I cut off their seed supply for a day or two?

Friday, July 05, 2002


I often joke, somewhat darkly, that our survival as a town is still too dependent on our ability to seduce people from far away into coming here and leaving their money behind. I've often felt a little icky about this, both for what it says about the sustainability of the very enjoyable lives we've all built here and for the feeling I sometimes get that I'm picking people's pockets (then I think well, otherwise they'd be spending that money to make The Mouse's stockholders richer or something and I feel a little better).

Speaking of The Mouse, I'm sure Disneyland's hokey, sad, vaguely spooky "Main Street USA" put on a helluva Fourth of July yesterday, but it had nothing on ours. It was one of the longest parades in Saratoga history (the only two longer ones in recent memory – by which I mean my memory, of course – were the bicentennial parade in 1976 and Saratoga's centennial parade in 1986, the latter involving pretty much every single resident in the town in some fashion, 2000 people all throwing candy at like one tourist family's children. It was awesome), followed by one of the best shootouts (though perhaps not as enjoyable for some, i.e. me, who had to observe most of it out of "dead" eyes sprawled out in a very warm and heavy "period" dress on hot asphalt in the middle of the street. There was actually a puddle of sweat on the pavement when I got up after the shenanigans were over!) (yes, of course it was sweat, don't be ridiculous!). And while once again it seemed like everyone who lives here was in the parade in some fashion (most of my coffee buddies turned out with the "Saratoga Hookers and Slicers" the meaning of whose name I'll leave to your imaginations to decipher, dear readers), there were still happy throngs all along the street, and a monster crowd for the shootout.

I missed the beginning of the parade for reasons I'll get to in a moment, but I've been told by visitors and locals alike that it was very emotional for all when the American Legion's color guard started things off, and the town together said the Pledge of Allegiance at the intersection of Bridge Street and the highway. We really do have something to thank Osama for, I think, all humor aside. In a town that often acts as though the world sort of drops away at the city limits sign, it's always a remarkable and a wonderful surprise to be reminded in this way that we are, indeed, part of something larger and greater than our fun little town.

I wish I could have seen it.

Unfortunately, somehow or other some wires got crossed between me and the General (not her real name), the tall and stately, no-nonsense redhead who takes charge and gets the parade entries lined up for both this and our yearly Christmas parades. She told me I had done a pretty good job on my preliminary line-up (a copy of which I had already thoughtfully provided to our parade announcer), but there were some changes needed to be made (including the relocation of the enormous, 16-vehicle "Hoem Fleet", who lined themselves up on a different side street from the one the General and I had decided they should and so, for clarity's sake, needed a whole different position in the parade line-up). We made them, scribbling furiously on my list (thank goodness I left huge spaces between entries).

Then it was 10:50 a.m., time for the final check-over. I had my bicycle, so logically I was the one to do it. With my list in one hand and the bag with the shoot-out costume balanced on my shoulder, I began my ride from the front to the back of the 48-entry line-up. Check, check, check, oh, they're still out of order but it doesn't matter, I can explain it to the announcer, check, check... oh my god, they're moving up! They're going to smoosh one another! But no! They're turning onto the street up there! Oh god! She's started the parade already!

So, like the wicked witch of the west, I began the ride of my life, down little-used back streets, through alleys, over lawns... I actually jumped a very small jump on my bike for the first time ever, my skirts billowing outwards and showing the feral cats my gams as I flew along. I believe I even broke the speed limit, but shh!

Of course the announcer had to make a witty remark about my approach.

I didn't notice the crowds until I was ensconced in the back of his pickup, ready to be his nomenclatura. What crowds! Some familiar faces, but most I had never seen before. People had traveled from far and wide to watch us celebrate the Fourth!

And then I realized what a powerful thing it is to these people, just knowing we are here. They can only come for a week or two to enjoy what we take for granted, but the knowledge that we exist, that somewhere a real small town still functions and works together and is full of people who feel genuine friendship for one another and are ready to act quite ridiculously in public to share that... it sustains those who have to work and live far away and can only dream about us. We are the keepers of this last, semi-imaginary world that was once considered the quintessence of American life. And at no time is this more evident than on the Fourth of July, parade, shoot-out, watermelons and all.

It's good to be here.

Thursday, July 04, 2002


"Celebrate your country's independence by blowing up a small part of it!"
- Apu from the Simpsons

Well, for obvious reasons there aren't going to be a lot of fireworks in Saratoga this year, surrounded as we are on three sides by the Medicine Bow National Forest (the biggest and one of the oldest of those) and bounded on the fourth side by high, dry sagebrush flats. We get some – that summer camp for spoiled grown ups, the Old Baldy Club, has twisted some county-level arms and gotten a permit for its traditional display (which we less spoiled grown-ups watch in happy drunken comfort from the porch of the Whistle Pig Saloon south of town – a bar with a view is a fine, fine thing).

Most of those twisted county-level arms will be waving from cars of various vintages in my parade in a few hours (I say "my" parade because pretty much all I've done the last few weeks is make phone calls, fill out street closure permits, try to keep our zealous police chief from harassing the Sierra Madre Muzzleloaders plumb out of the line-up – traditionally they fire off their black powder rifles, and there is of course an anti-firearms ordinance on the books! – and persuade clubs, organizations, businesses and assorted other weirdos to enter the thing). It's an election year for two county commissioners, the county clerk, the county attorney, the county assessor, the county coroner (but strangely, as usual, no one wants his job), the clerk of district court, the county treasurer... also for Saratoga's mayor and two council seats (not mine, mercifully. I'm not sure I could run this rodeo and campaign too. How I'll do it in two years I don't know. Maybe by then my hobo dreams will have come true)... might actually be three council seats, since a third member of our council has decided he needs to be county treasurer and is running for that... but I digress.

There are five different mounted groups, but fortunately no one marching, so no one's shoes will be soiled from stepping in road apples.

Once again, I have failed to find us a marching band. The high school kids are all scattered at various sports camps and summer jobs, and the various and sundry amateur bluegrass, rock, country and jug bands that occasionally play out here could none of them be persuaded to march. Okay, I fibbed about the jug bands; there aren't any. But wouldn't it be cool if there was one?

There is a bevy of antique and classic cars. There is an avenue of flags. As far as I know, there is no one planning to wander through the parade this year with a bustle and a super soaker, but parade crashers do happen, they do...

And apres le parade, we have us a cowboy shoot-out, once again featuring your humble blogger. This year's theme is selling off surplus girls from one of the many whorehouses that comprise some of the more colorful elements of Saratoga's past. It's a whole wacky slate of amateur dramatics culminating in violent simulated death for many, including me! So far, the police chief has been too busy picking on the muzzleloaders to turn his attention to us – we use real pistols with blanks (and don't think the fate of Brandon Lee isn't on my mind as I stare down the gun barrel wielded by my tiny accountant...)

As for whom I'm playing, that is still a secret. Last year, I played the Sewer King's grandmother (I'm sure the resemblance was astonishing) (basically, I pretended I was his mom, whom everyone assures me is turning out just like dear old Pearl) in a re-creation of Saratoga's one and only bank robbery, which had taken place 75 years previously. She was a witness and kept her cool and even gave a detailed report to the ding-a-ling newspaper reporter who had been busy writing bad poetry through the actual incident (according to the script).

How in the world am I going to top that? Well, I'll tell you later. Rex Cloacae wanted to know but is blowing off the whole thing to play golf, and if he thinks he's going to find out here well nanny nanny boo boo to him and any of you others he might have deputized to spy it out!

And after the shoot-out? I've got a date with some politicos to hoist some pints in a local pub. Even I get an afternoon off once in a while... If you can call drinking with county official wannabes a day off...

Monday, July 01, 2002


Lesson to my out-of-state readers out there: If you know one person from Wyoming, you pretty much have a direct connection to everyone else from here. The old saw about six degrees of separation between one person and everyone else on the planet is maybe a two-degree pocket knife for us.

Case in point: A dude in Chicago, whom I have never met personally but with whom I've been arguing ridiculously for many years in the fabulous forum that is Secular Johnson, recently hosted an NBA draft party (I know, it's hard for me to believe, too, but some people are so sports-crazed that they organize parties to watch, e.g., contract signings for new players, press conferences about niggling little rule changes, and player drafts. And most of whom, it seems, I know in some fashion. Ironic for someone who only watches sports every four years, isn't it?), the hilarious photos from which one of the party-goers, Brickyard (not his real name), threw up on a web page for us to gape at today.

I know almost all of these people personally and do miss them very much the 51 weeks out of the year when I'm not with them, so naturally I surfed over to have a look.

There was one handsome dude in one of the pictures whom I simultaneously did and did not recognize. It drove me crazy. I know everyone on Secular Johnson (affectionatly known as "the 'J") by sight at least, even the ones I haven't met, because we're always sharing wacky photos – but this guy has never made a 'J shot yet. So he must be just some random NBA fan the guys know, right?

Well, yes and no.

See, finally I just had to know who the hell he was. There was something about him (besides his comely appearance and obvious good taste – while everyone else in the photos was drinking Rolling Rock or some similar swill, this man was elegantly quaffing a Newcastle Brown Ale).

The reply came back a while later. His name is Ron, and he's from Wyoming!


A little later, the newest member of Secular Johnson, Angie Warhol (LIANT readers may recall her as the old friend from miserable adolescence who recently tracked down this website, and thus your humble correspondent, via Google) chimed in, with something of a non-sequitir, namely, did he go to Princeton?

Well yes, yes he did. Why in the world did she ask?

Well, Ms. Warhol was more on the ball than I was. Having HSI (Nerd Camp) on the brain as she did, she immediately made the connection that I would have found absurd though I guess I shouldn't find it so these days after simultaneous surprise visits from Erin-Go-Braless, FutureGrrl, Tron and Toughpacque Bougur, right?

This guy was one of our "peer counselors" at Nerd Camp!

So, as I say, if you know one of us, chances are you know us all. Which means that you, too, can claim acquaintance and possibly ask the odd favor of our current Vice President, who used to share campaign fundraisers with my own dear personal dad back in the day.

Just do me a favor and don't mention my name when you do. Use Ron's! Uncle Richard always did like him best.