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Well, this Hair Sunday thing is keeping me posting here at least once a week!

There’s much to tell y’all about, but I don’t feel like it right now.

Suffice it to say that James & I are back in B-ville, situated in the extreme southeastern portion of Arizona, for the first time in over two years.

It is very difficult to describe the conflicting, tumultuous feelings flowing through James and me as we experience being back in the town in which we thought we’d spend the rest of our lives.

It is strange, indeed.

We’re here to get the rest of our few belongings out of the house, and we listed it with an agent today. Next week we head to Tempe where I will play two weeks of “Phantom”.

As I wrote in a Facebook status update recently:

“Being back here is like getting together with a former sweetheart: old news, some regrets, appreciation of past beauty & good times, and they sort of got their act together after the divorce (at least as far as internet access at the RV park goes — they DIDN’T have it when we lived here!)”

The strangeness intensified on Friday when we walked up the main street of town to our house. The smell of seasoned, warm wood and old plaster hit me like a saucy, vivacious yet dysfunctional friend who’s no longer on speaking terms. The sight of bright red walls in the kitchen where James prepared many a delicious meal and I baked bread brought back pleasant and sad memories, all at once.

It feels like SUCH old news to be back here. Perhaps I am embarrassed to be so vividly reminded of past mistakes and past misperceptions. James and I fell in love with this town the moment we saw it, little realizing that the beauty was only skin-deep. From the highway, B-ville looks like the quaintest, cutest town on the face of the earth.

Well, it didn’t work out the way we’d hoped. This place definitely has a bittersweet tang of disappointment and unmet expectations. We can hardly wait to leave.

But I remind myself, and James, that we need to remember what we have RIGHT NOW — a wonderful life in Northern California, surrounded by family and friends, living in two excellent (and contrasting) environments — The Woods and The Ocean.

Now on to something more cheery and ridiculous: Hair Sunday!

This is by far the longest I’ve had my hair since 1997. Not very long at all, you’re thinking. But for me, I feel wooly and unkempt. Every morning is a Bad Hair Day until I tend to it — wetting it and/or slapping goop on it to keep it looking frightful — but NOT bad, at least.

Not exactly bad. I hope. Not quite frightful enough for Halloween yesterday, but sufficient to scare ME when I look in the mirror.

James and I often say that “every day is Christmas with us” because we give each other whatever we want whenever we want. We don’t wait for holidays to spread good cheer, spend quality time with family and friends or give gifts.

We hope that all of you are having a wonderful holiday season!

So here we are, enconsed in our little Airstream travel trailer, parked on a large stretch of concrete overlooking the Pacific Ocean on this December 25th.

James reminded me this morning that this is our ELEVENTH Christmas spent together. Truly, his presence in my life is the best present that I receive each year.

The ocean is very choppy this afternoon because of a storm which swept through this morning. Spatters of rain turned to a downpour and the winds buffeted our little silver lozenge at nearly hurricane force. Then it passed, and all day it has been sunny, very windy and a brisk beachside 47 degrees.

This is the first time since Thanksgiving weekend that this RV resort is so crowded. The row of spaces closest to the ocean were mostly occupied earlier today; usually they’re empty because they’re very expensive. The two RVs immediately opposite our site which had blocked our view of the ocean are now gone, hooray.

We had originally planned to spend Christmas with my family in Sacramento, but we’re totally exhausted from our recent near-disaster experience getting stuck in the snow in The Woods on my one day off per week, on Monday. We just aren’t up to driving through heavy holiday traffic today, so we’re staying put. (The family totally understands.)

Besides, I have two shows tomorrow and I would be very tired after such a trip. No need to add stress to an already demanding week of shows.

This six-week run of “Phantom” in San Francisco has been intense, but good in many ways. It’s been nice to be regularly employed, and to make new connections with local musicians here.

We’ve also enjoyed living in our Airstream on more of a full-time basis again, getting back into the rhythm of the show routine which is so very familiar after many years of doing it.

James takes total care of me while I play eight shows a week. I wouldn’t want to do this relentless schedule without his loving, supportive presence. James makes it possible for me to perform this job night after night, week after week. It’s a demanding work routine, and his help is invaluable.

In addition to all the homemaking duties he performs to make our lives run like clockwork, he drives me to and from the train station in Colma, only a ten-minute trip from Pacifica. Then the commute is generally 15 minutes to the Civic Center stop in San Francisco, which dumps me directly at the front of the Orpheum Theatre.

Generally the trains are dependable, although I was delayed BIG-time three Sundays ago, when track maintenance and some other mysterious event (police were dashing by the our train windows, looking in, at one station) turned a 15-minute trip into nearly an hour! I made it to my chair in the theatre pit a bare two minutes before the show started.

That commuting day was very stressful, so I’ve been leaving “home” fifteen minutes earlier to give myself a bit more of a time-buffer. I’d much rather arrive early at the theatre than late.

Such is life in the Big City.  So many people depend on services like transportation and electricity, so it’s much more dramatic when they’re not available.

We have made the eight-hour round trip back to our place in The Woods twice during this run; the first time was at the beginning of this month when I wrote my most recent blog post.

The second time was this past Monday. It turned out to be “The Day off from Hell”! Nothing turned out the way we planned.

There was a heavy snowstorm in the Sierras the previous week. Even nearby Nevada City, at slightly less than 2500 feet elevation, received six inches of the white stuff.

Our nearest neighbor Darren told us that at least a foot of snow fell in our meadow, but the steep dirt roads leading to our property were reasonably clear. He was able to get his 4-wheel drive truck up the hill without chains.

We had forgotten to take our chains back to the Bay area after our previous visit in early December (dumb!) so we hoped that we’d be able to get our little car up the hill without them.

No way! We spun out about halfway up the first steep hill leading out from town.

We needed to retrieve our chains from the barn, so we backed the car down to the campground on the main street to see our friend Rich, who had an ATV — an all-terrain vehicle which can negotiate snowy roads.

James rode on the back of Rich’s ATV briefly last summer, but had never driven one. And I’d never even been on one.

Rich showed James how to shift the gears and operate the accelerator (on the right handlebar) and I clambered onto the tiny extension just behind the main seat. With a few little jerks, fits and starts, we were off!

It started snowing as I clung to James for dear life as we buzzed up the snowy, steep hill from town. We quickly passed the point at which the car had not gotten any further, and flew on.

We reached the crest of the hill and went through the gate, then it was downhill the remaining half a mile to our place. We both whooped and hollered with excitement (and on my part, a bit of fear) as we zoomed along in the gathering dusk.

There were a few moments when the ATV slipped and slid a little on the slippery road, but basically it held fast as we flew down through the winter wonderland to our barn like birds.

We got the chains and had an equally exciting mile’s ride back up and down the hills to the campground.

We thanked Rich for lending us his ATV, and then drove the car slowly to the beginning of the road leading up the hill which was still paved, and put on the chains.

This took quite a while in the heavy snowfall and in the dark. Also, it had been a year since James had put on the chains last, so it required some time to refresh his memory.

At last, we were underway up the hill, which had never looked so steep to me as it did at that moment. I held my breath as we approached the slippery section where the car had stopped previously, then let it out with a gust of relief as we successfully passed the trouble spot.

As we approached the short driveway leading to our barn, we decided to back up the car just far enough to clear the road, as it might be difficult to drive out again in the heavy snow.

It was completely dark by this time, and James didn’t see the low bush of pampas grass (which the previous owner had planted, years ago — definitely NOT an indigenous plant!)  which was partly buried in the snow behind us.

Crunch! We backed into the bush and dislodged the right lower portion of the bumper; the clips snapped off. James told me that this part of the bumper is called the “ground effects”.

It doesn’t appear to be damaged and all that (hopefully) needs to be replaced are the clips.

Well, at least we were home, finally!

We made several trips trudging through the snow to the barn with our belongings, including a couple of barrels of kerosene for our heater. We haven’t put in last year’s new wood stove yet, and have been using the kerosene heater supplemented by a small electric space heater on the few occasions of cold weather this season. Up until a week ago, it was a very mild winter in The Woods — unlike last year when we started burning wood in late October.

When we departed The Woods a few weeks ago after our first day off, James left the water trickling so we had running water for the toilet (still no working sink in the bathroom or summer kitchen, but this will happen eventually).

We pulled out our laptops and got online. I had to laugh when I thought of what a juxtaposition of elements is present here — we live in a shack in the middle of the woods with satellite internet access!

For dinner, James boiled water in a pot on our little propane stove, and threw in a frozen bag of cream chipped beef. This is affectionately known as “S**t on a Shingle”. He put some bread slices in the toaster oven and we soon had a very nice meal, eaten in bed snuggled under the covers while watching a DVD.

Overnight, it snowed a couple of inches. We got up early on Tuesday to give ourselves what we thought was plenty of time to get to James’ dental appointment near Nevada City.

Since our car had made it home fine with the chains, we didn’t think that there would be a problem getting OUT.

This was not to be.

We got in the car at 9:20, cranked it up and slowly crept up the driveway. Before the first big curve — where the grade rises — we got stuck.

James spun the front wheels in an attempt to gain traction, and ended up dislodging the chain on the right wheel. Part of the link assembly flew into the snow; it took a few minutes to find, and then a considerable amount of time to reattach it properly and then put the chains back on.

The clock was ticking. We didn’t have much time to make the dental appointment.

Chains back on. We got stuck again approaching that curve, so I retrieved the snow shovels from the barn and cleared out tracks at the steepest part.

James managed to get past this successfully, driving up the left fork of the road instead of the steeper right, then turned around to get a running start to make the right fork.

Success. Then the steepest part of hill remained. This was just before the smaller dirt road joins the larger dirt road leading down to town.

No matter what we tried, we just couldn’t get past this section, which was steep and extremely slushy now from the additional snowfall, along with slightly higher temperatures in late morning.

We walked back the quarter-mile to the barn and called our neighbor Buck, who’s also the town’s Postmaster. He agreed to come tow us out with his 4-wheel drive truck after the mail had arrived and been sorted; he could spare a few moments from the Post Office in order to help us.

Since our laptops were still in the car, we decided to play dominoes while waiting for Buck to call.

James notified the dentist that we wouldn’t be able to make his appointment, but managed to get it re-scheduled for later in the afternoon.

Over an hour went by and then the phone finally rang; Buck said that the mail still hadn’t come in because the county road was still icy, so he had to stay at the Post Office to wait for it to come in.

So then I recommended that we call Don, who owns and operates the town’s campground (where we lived temporarily in the summer of  ’07 while we got our place ready for habitation) to see if he could help us.

Don immediately agreed — hooray!

James had to call and cancel his rescheduled dental appointment; too much time had passed by then and we just couldn’t make it.

We closed up the house again and trudged back up the slushy hill to our marooned car in the middle of the road, to meet Don.

At the top of the hill where the two dirt roads join, we saw a truck towing another truck up the hill. They had come down the road, hoping to check on their place located further down the hill than our barn, only to discover our car blocking the way. The one truck which had come down the hill tried backing up and got stuck.

Luckily the truck behind them was able to tow them out.

Don arrived at just that moment with HIS truck to help us. The other trucks managed to get out of the way and Don backed down the hill towards our car.

It seemed strange to us that Don didn’t put on his chains beforehand, but since the other 4-wheel drive truck had been able to get out without them (barely), he assumed that he could, too.

Well, he promptly got stuck himself.

So we spent the next 45 minutes trying to dig and push Don out, unsuccessfully. More time was spent putting on the chains, then he was finally able to gain some traction up the hill!

He backed up towards our car and we linked together several long sections of heavy chain. Then it took a while to find a spot under the front of our car to attach the chain to.

At last we were all linked up and ready to go! Don’s truck made it up the hill and he successfully pulled our car out.

WHEW!

We detached from Don’s truck, thanking him profusely for his help.

From there, it was a relatively easy matter for us to make it up the gently sloping hill to the gate, then steeply downhill to town.

We stopped at the Post Office at the bottom of the hill, where the mail had finally arrived at 2 p.m. (several hours late) and picked up our mail which had accumulated over the past three weeks.

It was now 2:30 and we had to drive back to San Francisco in time for my 8:00 show.

This might have seemed like plenty of time to make the nearly four-hour drive, but the highways between Nevada City and San Francisco tend to be crowded during late afternoon rush-hour. Plus, there would be especially heavy traffic two days before Christmas.

Well, we got all of that, and more!

We were delayed several times near Sacramento, then again as we approached the densely populated Bay Area.

It was 5:30 when we realized that we would never make it back to where our trailer is parked in Pacifica, south of San Francisco, with enough time for me to change into my black pit clothes, then take the train back up to the City to the theatre for the show.

I needed to find a department store to buy new black clothes, then James would drop me off at an outlying train station to get to San Francisco. This would provide me with an extra hour of time.

We remembered that there was a Marshall’s in Walnut Creek, so we struggled through the holiday shopping traffic to get to the store, found a suitable pair of black dress pants and a collared shirt, waited fifteen minutes in the checkout line and then James got me to the Lafayette train station.

Twisting and turning in the passenger seat, I changed into the black clothes as James drove.

I caught the 6:20 train into the City, and arrived at the Orpheum Theatre by 7:05 — an hour before the show started. I wouldn’t have made it in time had I tried to go “home” first.

WHEW again. What a day.

Needless to say, both James and I were exhausted. We still are.

During one of our highway-as-parking-lot-moments near Sacramento, James made the wonderful suggestion that we beg off our family visit on Christmas Day, and just stay put in our trailer parked in Pacifica instead. Neither of us wanted to travel after our recent disaster — especially with double show days immediately before and after the 25th.

Great idea!

I was thankful that James took the initiative to email my sister-in-law in Sacramento to tell her about our adventure and that we wouldn’t be there for the holiday.

My family understands completely, and the “funny” thing is, they had just returned from visiting some of her relatives who live in Pacifica (quite near where we’re currently parked at the beach) and it had taken them nearly four hours to drive back to Sacramento. This is normally a two-hour trip. It was the same day that we were driving in the opposite direction to get me to the show.

I think that it was easier for them to understand our wishes to stay put, now, after having had this experience being stuck in heavy traffic themselves!

So here we are. James has been cooking a ham in the oven all afternoon as I’ve been writing this post, he’s made stuffing per my request, and cocktail hour is quickly approaching.

We’re having a lovely day here by ourselves in our little silver cocoon parked by the beach.

Happy Holidaze, All! And the happiest of New Years.

*******************************************************************************

TODAY’S UPDATE:

The power came back on at 8:30 p.m. last night, ten hours after going out. We managed to get our car down the hill to the general store this morning and discovered that everyone’s power and phone service is still out, but the whole town is using a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. generator which is supplying enough electricity for our needs.

This is very fortunate, because otherwise, we’d be really cut off from the outside world.

There’s always more to tell, but I’ll save it for later. I want to make sure this gets posted now in case the power goes out again, which could happen at any time. Also, the snow has been falling heavily off and on since noon, and our satellite internet goes out when the snow is particularly dense.

 

Last Wednesday, James and I accompanied our dear friend L. to a Tea Room in Nevada City. It’s upstairs from an antique store; part of the same family business which has been in town for many years.

Ordinarily, James and I wouldn’t seek out such a place, but L. has been wanting us to go there with her for a long time now.

It was an honest-to-goodness tea room in the British tradition. Little round tables were covered with heavy white tablecloths, set with gleaming, substantial silverware; white porcelain teapots with tea-cosies, whose fabric exactly matched the wallpaper; little silver covered dishes with clotted cream, lemon curd and jam for the scones.

Classical music was discreetly piped into the room, which had high ceilings and crystal chandeliers. It would have been even nicer with a live harpist, I thought. In fact, I spoke to the owner after our lunch and she seemed receptive about having me play there some time, so I’ll keep you posted on that!

Our table was located near a small kitchen, where three women garbed in crisp aprons — again, matching the wallpaper and tea cosies! — prepared the light fare and set up the teapots.

There were only a couple other small groups at tables a discreet distance from ours, so the general atmosphere was private and quiet. It was lovely, really; harkening to an earlier era characterized by leisurely grace.

The little tea-sandwiches, scones and cakes were delicious, and I enjoyed my individual pot of Kensington Ceylon tea so much that I later bought a tin of it in the shop downstairs.

The waitress knew L. by name, so obviously our friend is a regular. After this thoroughly enjoyable, “civilized” experience, I can see why. We look forward to many more visits.

After lunch, we brought L. up to the land In the Woods, as we had invited her to stay overnight. In fact she is the owner of this 38 acres of property, and is very pleased with our tenancy and what we’ve already accomplished in the barn and attached rooms.

Almost every Wednesday, there is a sit-down dinner hosted at the hotel on the town’s main street. Various cooks take turns preparing the meals, which cost only $6. It is a nice opportunity for locals to eat home-cooked food and socialize.

James and I had not heard about these dinners until last week.

We thought it would be a good chance for L. to meet some of the locals, and perhaps connect with someone from her past years of coming up here, as she bought the land up the hill from town in 1969.

Although she didn’t know any of the dinner participants directly, several of the locals recognized the names that L. remembered from years past.

That week’s cook, Paul, was the same one who prepared the best chili I’ve ever eaten, at last month’s fundraiser for a local boy with cancer. So I looked forward to this dinner.

We were not disappointed. Paul himself came out to serve huge bowls of beef stew, brimming with potatoes and carrots and onions. This was topped off by homemade biscuits.

Perhaps a dozen people sat around a long table in the middle of the main room of the hotel, adjoining the historic, picturesque full bar. Many objects dating back from mining days adorn the walls and ceiling, which create a homey atmosphere.

We knew all the people at the table, some better than others; the ones who regularly attend the weekly “Saturday Trailer Trash Potluck” dinners were the most familiar, since we stayed at the campground on Main St. for a couple of months this summer.

So there was L., dressed in her embroidered Chinese jacket and adorned with gold jewelry, sitting in the midst of women in T-shirts or flannel and jeans. She remarked softly to me that she will “dress down” next time.

But no-one batted an eyelash or made any kind of judgement about L.’s obvious “class”.

Generally, James and I have found that the locals are welcoming and accepting; after all, here we are a gay couple, and no-one appears to have a problem with that.

After the delicious dinner, the three of us adjourned to the bar in the next room. This, too, contains many historical objects from the mid-1800s when this mining town first appeared in the middle of the woods, when gold was extracted from the Yuba River which is located just behind the hotel.

The young bartender “Rye” looks like a big, shaggy biker. He recognized us from our few past visits and was very amiable. We introduced him to L. and he tipped an imaginary hat while saying “Ma’am”.

There were a few familiar local guys at the bar who seemed to know us by sight, but we haven’t formally met most of them. They looked at the three of us curiously for a moment but didn’t stare. We all eventually exchanged bits and pieces of conversation as we enjoyed our drinks.

The guys didn’t seem to feel inhibited by the presence of a lady, yet I imagine that they might have toned down their usual rough language just a tad. L. mentioned this later, and hit the nail on the head when she said that mountain men are ‘often chivalrous’. Yes, I believe this to be true.

I will never forget the sight of this fine woman sitting on a bar-stool in this local, rather rough and down-home establishment, and enjoying herself immensely!

L. kept laughing about the day’s events — starting out at an elegant tea-room and ending up at the local bar. She remarked, “From the sublime to the ridiculous”, hence the title of this post.

She didn’t really mean that the conclusion of the evening was ridiculous, per se, but it was quite a contrast from our genteel lunch earlier in the afternoon.

A good time was had by all and I was pleasantly surprised when we received several genuine, nice “goodbyes” when we left.

Yes, we are liking this tiny town (population 166) and its people, very much.

And tonight is Wednesday and we’re attending this week’s sit-down dinner. Paul is cooking again, this time it’s chicken stew. Yum!