“You bought WHAT!?”

It was 1980; we had an itsy one-room apartment in married-student housing at MIT. I was an editor and Jeff was a grad-student. The only place we ate out was at Ken’s Pub and only when we liked the half-price specials.

We were saving up a to buy a house and I had spent $200—one-month’s rent—on a piece of art, a lithograph from the Cape Dorset collection.

Jeff wasn’t so much angry as shocked. Under the influence of a more-worldly arty couple we liked, I had decided impromptu that it would be nice to have something special for the house we didn’t yet have.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that was a bit of foreshadowing, of risk-taking and independent decision-making.

A few months later I took a house-hunting trip to Dallas, where we would be moving. It was strictly a reconnaissance trip, but the iron was hot, very hot indeed. At that moment the mortgage interest rate was 11%. On Monday it was going to 15%. The house was sweet, if a bit old, with a big yard and a bunch of pecan trees. I tried to call Jeff before pulling the trigger, but in those pre-cell-phone days spontaneous communication was difficult. My hand shook as I signed the offer on the way to the airport.

Jeff only saw the house only after closing. But it was a good decision, and so was buying that piece of art. Together we bought another, larger, print the next year. Over time we bought other houses and more art.

But many things have changed. My mortgage interest rate is now 3 ½%. And it is my home. Jeff and I were married for 35 years. We aren’t any longer.

A few weeks ago I took my father to PhotoFair exhibit at Fort Mason in San Francisco. Always have my eye out for fun things to do with him. I expected it to be interesting, but I didn’t expect to fall in love. I didn’t buy the piece on the spot, but it also cost more than $200. I have been wanting something special for a wall in my dining room and now I have it.

And at the very same time artist Gale Antokal contacted me asking to borrow a painting for an exhibition next month.

The new piece arrived and Gale picked up hers within an hour of each other.

So many things I never expected to be, back when I made that daring $200 purchase:


60 years old.

And loaning a piece of art for an exhibition, with my name on a little plaque and everything.

(“End Shot”, by Gale Antokal, which I’ve loaned for her exhibition in March.)

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A Book Swap…for Old People…?

Much enjoying the community at Unity of San Francisco, Sundays and other times. Music is great, lectures, and activities, and I decided it was time to give back…other than in the offering basket.

Members occasionally have get-togethers in their homes around some kind of an activity. There’s a small fee, so it’s partly social and a baby fundraiser at the same time.

“I’d like to volunteer to do a pick-a-party,” I said to coordinator David Cooperberg.

“Okay,” he said, “I haven’t gotten the calendar together for this year yet, but good.” He told me a bit about how the events work, which I already sort-of knew.

“Any idea what kind of activity you would like to have?”

“Yes,” I said, proud of my initiative, “a book swap party. People can bring books they are finished with. People take what they want. Any leftovers I can find a place to donate.”

“Well….,” he said, “we have a lot of older members who probably still read actual books, so I suppose that could work.”


I like paper books. Turning the page, the tactility. How you can make notes on an actual book with an actual pencil. And then you can share it with someone who might enjoy it.

Can’t do that with a Kindle download.

I do, though, appreciate my Kindle, which is great for travel and for when I need something right away.

My book-reading now is about 50/50 paper and electronic.

Does that mean I’m half-way to old?

Or half-kidding myself?

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Run For Your Life. What do you Grab?

Your house is may be destroyed…you have just a few minutes to escape…

(Section of the emergency spillway that gave way.)

What do you take?

“My dogs, phone, and money,” said Sabrina, “and a few clothes. Comfortable shoes and socks, because I might have to walk a long ways.”

“What about dog food…or a phone charger?” I ask…

“Less important,” says my logical sister, “someone will probably have a phone charger, and I can get dog food…dogs will eat most anything.

“And I have one drawer with important things… Alicia’s ruby ring and such, I’d try to get that.”

This is not some hypothetical example. Sunday night 188,000 people in rural Northern California were given just a few minutes to leave their homes under fear that a part of the Oroville Dam, the highest dam in the U.S., might give way, causing a 30-foor wall of water to wash away homes in its wake.

We were having birthday cake for Ariel—Happy Birthday Ariel!!—when Sabrina got texts from friends across the country asking if she was okay. She lives near Sacramento, which is 65 miles south of Oroville.

“The is not a test! This is not a test!” were the alerts ordering and mandatory evacuation.

Immediately there were huge traffic jams, and gas stations ran out of gas.

An emergency spillway, supposed to handle overflow, developing a football field-size opening. Extreme rainfall in Northern California has stressed the dam and the warm rain we’ve had is even worse, because it also melts the snow pack. Officials are releasing water at a rate of 100,000 cubic feet per second, trying to lower the water level of the dam by FIFTY FEET in anticipation of more rain scheduled to arrive on Wednesday.

Officials are trying to plug the hole with rocks. Lots and lots of rocks, bags of rocks dropped from helicopters. Residents have been told to expect to be away from their homes for two weeks.

What would you take?

(What 100,000 cubic feet of water per second looks like.)

Being a fairly new resident of San Francisco, where an earthquake is bound to happen, I’ve thought about that.

After Katrina I bought little kit for car. I Always try to keep my gas tank at least half full.

I’m with Sabrina pretty…dogs, money, and phone.

But I want my own charger!

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Sky Fall…

(Who’s car is this, anyway?”

You couldn’t have a bike accident with a nicer group of people.

Chris called her husband to come scoop me up. Nina rode back to the restaurant where we had lunch, looking for ibuprofen. Laurie B. and Silvia whipped antiseptic wipes out of their repair kits.

Nancy used those wipes…gently…on my elbow and shoulder.

After the shock and surprise….no bones sticking out anywhere, and only a few drips of blood from my elbow. I knew I was going to be okay. Wanted to encourage the gals to go on with their ride…they had another 20 miles to pedal and the wind was blowing ever harder. But I knew better. These women were definitely not going to leave me by the side of the road.

Saint Bill put my bike and Nurse Nancy’s in his SUV. Six years ago on a bike trip in France she also helped me after a fall, that one on stairs in a medieval castle…there wasn’t going to be stitches in my elbow this time, but there would probably be x-rays of my wrist.

Back at the hotel, Linda loans us her mini-van.

“I’ll drive,” Nancy says to me, “if you navigate.”

Odd to use Yelp to select an urgent care place, but 4.7 stars is 4.7 stars. They saw me in a hot minute. And were super, and reasonably priced. Only one surprise: “When was your last tetanus shot?”

When was my last tetanus shot?

I’m scratching my head on that one, pretty sure it was a few years ago—they are good for ten—and call to confirm as Nancy shepherds me back to the car. All of the hullabaloo has inconvenienced everyone tremendously and we don’t want to be late for dinner too.

Nancy opens the car door for me and even buckles my seatbelt since my good hand is holding my cell phone and bad one is wearing a brace.

Tetanus shot was October 25, 2014. BINGO.

A black man’s shirt is draped over the console. Weird. The car is dirtier than I remember….maybe I can pay attention now that I know I’m not broken.

But….the seat is really cushy…kind of old. Linda’s car…like Linda herself…is understatedly snazzy.

Nancy opens the driver’s door and gets in.

The feeling is one like I’ve sipped orange juice while thinking it was milk. Something was clearly off. “Nancy, are we in the right car?”

She turns around to look at the back and bursts out laughing.

Linda is an economist. Among the items in the back of the back of the car I’m sitting in: lumber, an air compressor, tool box, tool belt, a table saw, and a space heater.

Our best laugh of the day.

We made dinner on time. Although I’m sure there was damage to the bike, Tracy talked with the bike shop and they are giving me a $107 credit.

When you have your next bike accident, you might want to plan it for when my friends around.

(Who’s car is this, anyway?”)


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My Health Insurance Quagmire…

Do I have health insurance? Or Don’t I?

(that long divot on the right side of the road….was me before I fell.)

I’ve been paying my premiums right along. I have a United Health Care insurance card with my name on it.

And yet…

There’s a wrench in the monkey somewhere.

Every month on the first I am canceled– “termed” in insurance speak–which somehow makes it sound innocuous. It’s not. For weeks at a time I would forget about the issue…I’ve got the card, I pay my bills, the broker set me up…but then I need to renew a prescription and I’d go through the whole fandango to get reinstated again, each time being reassured that this time it is really “fixed”.

But it was more or less a bureaucratic issue, until Tuesday at 1:15 ….

when I flew tail over teacup from my bicycle onto the pavement. A little sand, and there I was, splat.

Knew I needed to go to the doctor…my hand hurt like a son-of-a gun, but I wasn’t too hurt to remember the insurance issue. In fact from the side of the road I texted the woman who was helping me most recently.

I am lucky. My hand isn’t broken.

I am lucky. I could easily pay the  doctor bill on the spot.

I am lucky the bill wasn’t large. $120 for the office visit. $72 for X-rays. $35 for a wrist brace.

Many many people are not so lucky. Any time you get slightly off the “usual” track in the insurance world you can fall through a crack.  And the cracks are not little. I am still on Cobra from my ex-husband’s employer, the company has been sold a couple of times since he left. And no one wants to take responsibility.

When my sister Alicia died on July 24 last year, her sons lost their insurance coverage on July 31. If she had died on July 30 they would have lost their coverage the very next day. Fortunately the older two could get coverage under their father. Her youngest son’s father, however, died when he was six. It took several months to confirm his coverage.

It is so easy for people with insurance coverage to to be cavalier about this…sort of like when white people don’t understand white privilege. If you’ve got something you don’t understand how important it is.

I am really lucky.

I am well educated. I am persistent in dealing with the hoops in the system. I am affluent.

And still, at this moment I still

do not–apparently–have health insurance coverage.




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